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HARVEST GLEANINGS III

Pittsburgh Gazette'November 28, 1904

O GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD, FOR HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOREVER

Pastor C T Russell of Allegheny, Pa., spoke twice here today to large audiences. His afternoon discourse was explanatory of the Hebrew and Greek words, Sheol and Hades, rendered Hell in our English Bibles. He declared that the laity generally have a total misconception of the meaning of these words that their use in the original is equivalent to the word tomb, signifying the death state. The text of the morning discourse was: "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever." Psa. 139:1. Pastor Russell said:

In accordance with the recommendation of the president of the United States and the governors of the individual states of the union, 75,000,000 of people have celebrated with more or less sincerity a day of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of temporal prosperity enjoyed. A precious sentiment is associated with this custom, inaugurated by the Pilgrim fathers more than a century ago. The influence of the arrangement is certainly in many respects beneficial, drawing the minds of the people toward God as the giver of every good and perfect gift. Nevertheless it is painfully evident that to the great majority this annual observance is but a form, because, explain the matter as we will, only a small proportion are sufficiently well acquainted with the great Creator and His wonderful plan, and the laws which govern His dealings with the children of men, to be able to logically reason out and comprehend their proper causes of thanksgiving. We will enumerate some of the matters which hinder an appreciation of the Lord's providences, and which correspondingly choke and restrain true heart-thankfulness, true gratitude to God. If we, under the Lord's blessing, succeed in removing from the minds of some these obstacles to faith and gratitude, we feel sure that a blessing upon such hearts will follow, for gratitude and thankfulness to the Creator imply appreciation, and the appreciation of that which is good surely tends to the upbuilding of righteousness of character and fuller obedience to the divine standards.

Approximately 1,082,000 deaths occurred in this favored land during the past year, at the rate of seven every two minutes. The kindred and friends of these represent a much larger number, many of whom being ignorant of the nature of their calamities, why they were permitted, are perplexed as well as grief stricken and often the very reverse of thankful. Millions living under the favors and blessings of this land are, nevertheless, physically and mentally ill to such a degree that they cannot and do not feel thankful. Many notwithstanding the bounties of providence lavished upon this land, are in considerable poverty, and not always because of profligacy, wastefulness and indolence. It can-not be wondered at that these appreciate only in part the spirit of the Thanksgiving day.

Another class of unthankful ones enjoy the privileges and blessings of life to a considerable degree, but have awakened from the superstitions of the past, when all were taught that they had great reason for thankfulness to God that they were not burning in eternal torment. Convinced of the [HGL280] unreasonableness, the absurdity of such teachings, these have become skeptical in respect to all matters religious more so than they are generally inclined to declare. From their standpoint they have been either lucky or unlucky during the year past, and have their own energy or the kindness of friends or luck to thank for whatever prosperity they have had; to them there are no thanks due to the Almighty. They know Him not. The eyes of their understanding, while open to the errors of the past, are still closed to the actualities of the divine character and plan.

HELP FOR THE UNTHANKFUL

In the interest of all such unthankful ones, for the assistance of all such to a position where thankfulness will be possible nay, more, genuine and spontaneous let us briefly investigate the true situation from the standpoint of the divine word, the Bible. Let us divest our minds of everything that would prejudice our judgment of its teachings for instance, the various creeds and theories which have been handed down from the dark ages let us set these aside temporarily to examine the word of God. When once its statements are clearly seen we will be the better prepared to compare them with the various statements of the various creeds. The result, we are sure, will be to our benefit, to an increase of our appreciation of the divine character and plan, and to the increase of our thankfulness correspondingly.

We are to remember, however, that full, clear views on these matters, the scriptures explain, can be had only by consecrated believers, whose appreciation of divine things will be quickened and assisted by the Holy Spirit. While others cannot see, in the sense of appreciating the deep things of God fully and distinctly, they can, nevertheless, see in a general way the outward form at least; hence we trust that our remarks on this subject will be applicable not only to the sanctified in Christ Jesus but also to some who have not yet come into this position, but who may be enabled to see more clearly than in the past, and thus be led to sanctification and ultimately to still fuller appreciation from that standpoint, under the guidance of the spirit.

To suppose the whole world of mankind to be children of God, recognized by Him as such and treated from that point of view, is to induce in our minds skepticism. Who can contemplate the calamities of even this year by fire, flood, storms and tempest, and not feel that if God considers mankind His children He certainly deals with them as no kind earthly parent would treat his posterity? The same reasoning would hold true as applied to sickness, sorrow, pain and death. Hence the unscriptural claim held by some respecting the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man evidently disproves itself, at least in respect to the former part of the statement, for we see no evidence of the fatherhood of God as respects our race, nor that He is exercising a parental care for the world's welfare. Not only so, but such experiences have been the lot of mankind for now six thousand years. We cannot ask intelligent people to believe that they are children of the Almighty and receiving not only reasonable

parental love and care, but a superabundance of this, to the extent that they should feel especially thankful, unless we can give them the true situation show them the real condition of things as the word of God sets it forth.

Hearkening to the word of the Lord we find its declaration to be that only a comparatively few of our race can properly call the Almighty "our Father," or are recognized by Him as children of God. The scriptural testimony is that the great mass of mankind are "children of wrath," under the curse, under the sentence, aliens from God. The apostle in speaking of the matter declares to Christians, "Ye were once children of wrath" even as others still are (Eph. 2:3); and again he declares to these that they have "escaped the condemnation which is on the world," implying that the condemnation still rests upon the world as a whole. 1 Cor. 11:32.

What is this condemnation upon the world? Why are mankind under the curse or sentence, and called "children of wrath?" The Answer'is that all God's work is perfect; that when He had created man in His own image and likeness in Eden, man was perfect and in full harmony with God, and Adam at that time was recognized as a son of God. The scriptural explanation is that he fell from this relationship, from this fellowship; he gave heed to the voice of disobedience and came under the sentence, the curse which made him an alien, which deprived him of his fellowship and was expressed in its ultimate force in the words, "Dying thou shalt die," "Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground, for dust thou art and unto dust shall thou return." The Apostle Paul sums up the matter in few words thus, "By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death as a result of sin, and so death passed upon all men because all are sinners." Rom. 5:12.

A RACE OF CONVICTS

From this standpoint we perceive that Adam and his race are a convict race serving out a death sentence, and this accounts to us for the Lord's permission of conditions unfavorable to life, droughts, floods, storms, cyclones, plagues, pestilences, etc. We would not be understood to mean that all these calamities are directly the Lord's work, but rather that the present unsettled and unsatisfactory conditions of nature are permitted of the Lord to be man's experience because of sin and because of the lessons necessary to be learned during this penal period. From this standpoint in view of the fact that all human right to life was long since forfeited we get a new view of the blessings and favors of even the imperfect conditions under which we live.

We must acknowledge that as a race we are not worthy to be called sons of God, nor to be treated as sons should deserve; we must acknowledge that the race as a whole is in rebellion against God, unworthy of His blessing or any favor from His bounty, and hence every temporary blessing should be esteemed a mercy, an extension of our privileges and prolongation of our condemned lives. It is from this standpoint that we read that the Lord causes His sun to shine and His rain to fall upon the just and the unjust, upon the evil and the good. The great majority of mankind are still in this alien attitude, not sons but sinners, rebels, "not subject to the law of God," not even desiring [HGL281] fellowship nor seeking to please the Lord to the extent of their ability.

Present conditions, then, are such as are suitable to the majority, and not such as God would be pleased to give to those who, through Christ have been adopted into His family again as sons of a new order a new creation. Furthermore, so far as these are concerned, it is a part of the divine program that their faith shall be tested as well as their obedience, and hence, while the true condition of things is explained to them, they are treated in all general particulars, outwardly, the same as the world in general. Thus a part of their testing is that they must, during the present life, "walk by faith and not by sight." 2 Cor. 5:7.

Such can give thanks in spirit and in truth, and the hearts of such should and do overflow with gratitude. Their words, their acts, their looks, all testify to the new relationship into which they have entered and to the thankfulness which invades their hearts. To such, earthly blessings are quite secondary; their chief concern is the heavenly treasure, and their prayer is,

"Oh, may no earth-born cloud arise, To hide Thee from thy servant's eyes."

Let us glance very briefly at God's provision for the world of mankind. It is revealed in His word, for the benefit of those who receive the spirit of adoption through faith and obedience, that they may know how to sympathize with the world from the divine standpoint, that they may know how to appreciate the divine dealings with the world, and that they may sorrow not even as others who have no hope in respect to dear ones of earthly relationship whose eyes are still blinded by the god of this world, and who as yet have never seen with the eyes of appreciation and understanding the need of a Savior whom God has provided. Indeed, the majority of them are so blinded that they cannot appreciate the testimony of God's word respecting their need of a Savior and so great a salvation as is in Him.

ERROR OF THE DARK AGES

The people of God under the blinding influences of the adversary during the dark ages fell into the delusion that all the "children of wrath" were on their way to an eternity of torture, and in proportion as they possessed sympathy and love they were tortured with the thought. We thank God that in the light which is now shining upon His word we can view its teachings in a more reasonable light. We can see, as the prophet declares, that "their fear of me is taught by the precepts of man" (Isa. 29:13); we can see that, under the delusion of the adversary, the simplest words were twisted into the story of the awful theory which burdens so many hearts, and which to so large a degree hindered true thankfulness and love toward God for so many centuries. We see the simple words "die," "perish," "destruction," wrested from their true literal meaning and interpreted to mean the very reverse, in support of error, to the further blinding of the Lord's people, and to the destruction of their own rest and comfort and peace and thankfulness.

We rejoice now that in the light of God's word we can see that, although He justly sentenced our race to death and although they are justly treated as convicts, nevertheless God, full of mercy and compassion, provided a great redemption price paid by our Lord Jesus at Calvary. We can see that the mercy of God is applicable only to believers, so that there is none other name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved but by the name of Jesus. But now we see further that, instead of God's mercy ending with those who now are granted the blessing of the opening of the eyes of their understanding and the ears of their appreciation instead of divine favor ceasing in the selection of the church of this gospel age, it is really only beginning with these, and that, ultimately, the same grace of God which has now brought salvation to us will bring salvation also to every member of our race. We are not in this claiming universal salvation, but we are claiming that the divine program is to give a universal opportunity for salvation to every creature, and that it was to this end that Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man, and that He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Heb. 2:9 ,1 John 2:2.

What a revolution of sentiment toward the Lord comes over our hearts when we get a convincing glance of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God which passeth all human understanding. Even a glance moves us to appreciation, to gratitude, to thankfulness; and day by day, as we go onward growing in grace and knowledge and love toward God, our appreciation of His wonderful love and wonderful plan increases until it fills more and more every crevice of our hearts, driving out more and more everything contrary to the divine standards.

But some one will say, if God designed ultimately to grant a knowledge of Himself and His plan to every creature, why did He not do this from the first? Why did He allow 4,000 years to elapse before He even sent His Son to be a ransom price for our sins? And why has He allowed nearly 2,000 years since to pass without making known to any but a mere fragment of our race His loving kindness, His tender mercy, His real character, His wonderful plan? Why should we hope that the Lord in the coming age would reveal Himself to all mankind since He has not done so in the present age nor in the previous ages?

We reply that our confidence in the full revelation of God's love and mercy to every creature in the coming age is based not upon speculation but upon the positive statements of the divine word. Time will not permit us to here discuss these momentous subjects in their details. Indeed we cannot hope on such occasions as this to do more than merely attract the attention of those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Such as are of this class will hunger and thirst, seek and knock, for further instruction respecting the divine plan, and we will be more than pleased to hear from such and to put within their reach full and clear testimonies answering every question and clearing every doubt, which will cause their ears to ring anew with joy and praise and thankfulness to God. Limited in time, we can here throw out only the barest suggestions respecting the opulence of our heavenly Father's plan as it shall ultimately reach the whole world of mankind, and give to every individual of our race a full opportunity for returning to fellowship with God as his Father in spirit and in truth. [HGL282]

FOR HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOREVER

The wisdom of this world, unwilling to submit itself fully to divine direction, errs sometimes on one side of the question and sometimes on the other. Few seem willing to take the Lord's own word respecting His purposes at par value. The usual disposition for each one is to measure divine mercy by his own standards instead of by the word. The cruel and merciless think of God on their plane as cruel and merciless, and these have little difficulty with the teachings of the dark ages, that all not favored with a knowledge of the Lord and ability to appreciate righteousness are thereby marked as subjects for eternal torture. Some have even argued that a person who has lived in a civilized community, has heard church bells ring and seen a Bible, has, because of this contact, become so responsible that any deviation on his part from saintliness would promptly and justly merit eternal torture. Others go to the reverse extreme and contend that all must be saved; that God could not rest satisfied with His own work until every human being shall finally attain to glory, honor and immortality. How much better the scriptural proposition than either of these.

The plan of God set forth in the scriptures proposes that none shall be saved in ignorance but that eventually all shall be brought to a knowledge of the truth- "in due time." It proposes that each individual's responsibility shall be only in proportion to his knowledge, and that until he knows clearly and distinctly his responsibility is only partial. It proposes that all shall come to full responsibility each for his own acts; that to the world eventually shall be granted the necessary assistance, that good intentions may be carried forward to a full development of character in accord with the divine standards, and that the reward for such shall be everlasting life and blessedness; but that, on the contrary, all who are brought to a clear appreciation and fully assisted in every necessary way shall be responsible, and if they love sin and follow it willingly they shall die the second death everlasting destruction.

Thus the mercy of the Lord, which is now extended to those who, exercising faith, lay hold upon the Lord Jesus as their redeemer, will by and by through the church glorified, a royal priesthood, be extended to every creature, and shall continue to be exercised until every member of the human family shall have had the full, necessary, proper, reasonable knowledge and opportunity for attaining the gift of God eternal life. Many attack this position and declare that there is no mercy for any beyond the tomb. We are not pleading for mercy for those who have now sinned willfully after they have received a knowledge of the truth, but we are urging that our God in His mercy and love has provided a redemption for every member of the human family, and that those who do not have the opportunity for learning of the grace of God in this life will have such an opportunity during the millennial age by being awakened from the tomb.

As our Lord declared, "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth. They who have done good (who have passed the divine inspection along the lines of faith in the present life, will come forth) unto a resurrection of life" perfected, glorified; while they that have done evil those who have not come up to the standard of faith and obedience will come forth unto a resurrection by judgments. (R V)

MILLENNIAL JUDGMENTS PROMPT

The entire millennial age is set apart for this resurrection by judgments. The judgments of the Lord will be abroad in the earth then and the inhabitants will learn righteousness, as the prophet declares. Every sin will receive its just recompense of reward, and every effort toward righteousness shall receive a blessing, and the effect of such a prompt dispensing of rewards and punishments for all the acts of life will cultivate obedience and be helpful to the whole world. The obedient shall rise up, up, up out of sin-and-death conditions until, by the end of the millennial age, they shall have attained to full perfection of being their raising up or resurrection being completely accomplished through the judgments or disciplines of that millennial period.

On the other hand, those who will refuse to make progress in that time, as the scriptures expressly declare, will be cut off from among the people in the second death. Acts 3:23.

To many it seems beyond belief that God should be thus merciful to the race, and grant to each member of it a full opportunity to benefit from present experiences with sin and death. Such should notice our text, and the entire psalm of which it forms a part. It declares that God's mercy endures forever, and this is 26 times repeated in this psalm, What an assurance God has given us that his mercy is not limited to the present life or to present opportunities and privileges! What an assurance we have of His goodness! He is not only able to save to the uttermost but willing to do so. Not only is this provision open now to whosoever cometh unto the Father by the Son, but we have the assurance that in God's due time, after the little flock, the church, shall have been completed and glorified then all shall come to a knowledge of the truth, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, and each and all shall have fullest opportunity of tasting of the mercy of God under the new arrangement of the millennial age, even as all now taste of the sorrow and pain and death which are the curse or penalty of sin.

As we glance down through the different items enumerated by the prophet in this psalm, we find therein food for thought. We read:

"To Him that smote Egypt in their firstborn; for His mercy endureth forever." "To Him that smote great kings; for His mercy endureth for-ever; and slew famous kings; for His mercy endureth forever." "Sihon, king of the Amorites; for His mercy endureth forever." "And Og, the king of the Bashan; for His mercy endureth forever."

Ah, here we have the key to what otherwise would be a great mystery! The Egyptians, the Amorites, the Amalekites, the Perizzites, etc., slain before Israel, are unexplainable from any other standpoint than the one we are considering, namely, that God's mercy is not limited to the present life, but endureth forever. In God's due time His mercy through Christ shall bring all these from the tomb, and shall enlighten them all through the true light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world. The mercy, still continuing, will make it possible for every [HGL283] member of the race to come back into harmony with the Lord, and to gain eternal life lost in Eden.

GOD'S LOVE CONSTRAINS US

"For His mercy endureth forever," is, we say, the key explaining all the difficulties and trials of this present life, and assuring us that the lessons learned here shall not be without their meaning in due time. All the world is now learning of God's inflexible justice under His sentence of 6,000 years ago, "Dying thou shalt die." Only the church has yet the ear to hear the message of salvation and reconciliation through the precious blood, but eventually all shall know, from the least even unto the greatest, the mercy of God in and through Christ Jesus and the great High Priest, who has already purchased our race, shall bless and heal and uplift all who have the desire to come unto the Father through Him. O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endureth forever!

Nothing in this can be understood as sanctioning a deferring of repentance from sin and turning to righteousness. On the contrary, those who now hear the voice and obey receive the great blessing, the great salvation, the spirit begetting to a new nature which will be perfected in them in the resurrection. This view of God's mercy, extending into the future and reaching every member of the race, shows us divine love co-operating with divine justice for the eradication of evil and sin along reasonable lines. It maintains the standard of righteousness and holiness as the only grounds for eternal life; it puts to the blush the various theories that half converted and unconverted and ignorant and superstitious and savage peoples are to be taken to glory in the present life. This theory also puts to the blush the prevalent purgatorial theory that the world is to be for centuries and centuries in torment until finally it works out its own salvation. On the contrary, this Bible view shows the mercy of God operating along the lines of reason and justice, bringing every creature to a mental and moral responsibility and to a full and complete deliverance, if they will, into all the blessings and privileges and liberties of the children of God.

On the other hand this mercy is not without its limitations, though the common version seems to so imply. The Hebrew word which in our text is rendered forever is "olam," and signifies, not forever, as without end, but more literally to an end to a completion. In this proper rendering our text declares, "His mercy endures to a completion." How grand! How sublime! There will be a completion, and the scriptures tell us that it will be at the conclusion of the millennial age, when Christ shall have put down all insubordination, all sin, and shall have lifted up all willing and desirous of being restored to the divine character and likeness. After stating this the apostle adds, then cometh the end, the completion. Mercy shall have its full opportunity in the thousand years of the millennium, even as justice had its long reign over the world during the 6,000 years of the past.

"Then cometh the end," when all insubordination having been brought under control, the kingdom, the dominion of the world, shall be delivered up to God, the Father. The work of grace begun at Calvary in the great atonement sacrifice will have then been completed by the reign of the Redeemer, for the binding of Satan and the overthrow of evil, and the uplifting of whosoever wills to accept divine favor under the knowledge and opportunities then afforded. Surely, in proportion as we come to know our Heavenly Father's character and plan, in that same proportion can we appreciate all the precious promises of His word. To the consecrated our text has its deepest meaning, "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endureth forever."

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