Pittsburgh Gazette'July 25, 1904


Rev. Charles T Russell, of Allegheny, Pa., appeared before a crowded house at the Valentine theater yesterday afternoon, delivering his widely celebrated discourse on "Jehovah's Oath-bound Promise to Abraham and His Seed."

Mr. Russell, the author of the "Millennial Dawn" series and the editor of Zion's Watch Tower, is forceful as a speaker as well as a writer, and while many of his hearers were not able to coincide with his teaching, all recognized the depth of his scholarship and admired the lucid way in which he set forth what he had to say.

He is emphatically a "no hell" man. He believes that the teaching of the Bible to the effect that "the wages of sin is death" Rom. 6:23. that "the wicked shall be destroyed," etc., are to be taken for just what they say. He believes that the "second death" is literally that, extinction, rather that eternal life in torment. He teaches that the "judgment day" is a thousand years, the millennium, wherein the peoples of the earth shall be tried and tested to their final salvation or doom. He said in full:

Only those who have strong living faith in the Almighty God and in his Son Jesus could have much interest in the words of our text. To the evolutionist these words have little meaning, as he is looking to a natural development rather than to any supervising power of God to bring the blessing which the world so greatly needs. To the higher critic, the apostle's reference to God's dealings with Abraham are nonsensical, believing as he does that the statements of Genesis are without authority and were written many hundreds of years after the death of Moses.

However, some of God's true children whose eyes of understanding have not yet been opened to a clear apprehension of the divine plan of the ages, may be inclined to question what interest we could possibly have in God's oath to Abraham given more than 3,000 years ago. Such are inclined to say to themselves, "That event was helpful to Abraham, but has nothing whatever to do with us or our day." It is our hope that an examination of this covenant, which God attested with His oath, as stated in our text, may be helpful to many of the Lord's people present, enabling them to see that God had a plan in Abraham's day; that He is still working according to that plan and that its completion will be glorious a blessing to His creatures and an honor to Himself.

The context shows distinctly that the apostles and the early church drew comfort from this oath-bound covenant and clearly implies that this same comfort belongs to every true Christian down to the end of this age to every member of the body of Christ. The apostle's words imply that God's promise and oath were intended more for us than for Abraham more for our comfort than for his.

Note the apostle's words: "That by two immutable things (two unalterable things), in which it was impossible for God to lie, we (the gospel church) might have a strong consolation; (we) who have fled for refuge (to Christ) to lay hold upon the hope set before us."


Doubtless Abraham and all of his family, Israel after the flesh, drew a certain amount of blessing and encouragement from this covenant or promise, and the oath of the Almighty which doubly sealed it gave double assurance of its certainty of accomplishment, but the apostle intimates in the words quoted that God's special design in giving that covenant, and in the binding it solemnly with an oath, was to encourage spiritual Israel to give us a firm foundation for faith. God well knew that, although 3,000 years from His own standpoint would be but a brief space, "as a watch in the night," nevertheless to us the time would appear long, and the strain upon faith would be severe; hence the positive statement, and the still more deliberate [HGL223] oath that bound it. We can not but wonder at such descension upon the part of the great Creator that He should stoop to His fallen creatures, and above all that He should condescend to give His oath on the subject. An upright man feels that His word should be sufficient in any matter, and, therefore, would hesitate except under special conditions to confirm His word with an oath. How much more might the Heavenly Father have so regarded the matter! But our text explains the reason for such condescension. He was "willing more abundantly to show the unchangeableness of His plan."

It was not God's intention to show His plans to everybody to the world in general nor has He done so. The world by wisdom knows not God, understands not His great and gracious operations which for thousands of years have been gradually unfolding, and which are now near of accomplishment. God wished to show the natural seed of Abraham something of His plan, and, hence, they were granted an external glimpse of it; but the apostle points out that the clear showing of the matter was especially intended for the "heirs of the promise."


Our Lord Jesus was the great heir of the Abrahamic promise, and the faithful of His consecrated people of this gospel age are declared to be His joint heirs in that promise, which is not yet fulfilled. For its fulfillment not only the church is waiting, as the bride or fellow members of the body of Christ, to be participants with the Lord in the glories implied in the promise but additionally the whole creation (the entire human family) is groaning and travailing in pain together waiting for the great fulfillment of that oath-bound promise or covenant. (Rom. 8.)

Those who follow the apostle's argument and realize that we as Christians are still waiting for the fulfillment of this promise, will be anxious to know what are the terms of this covenant which is the hope of the world, the hope of the church, and the object of so much solicitude and care on the part of God, in that He would promise and then back His word with his oath. We answer that every Christian should know what this promise is, since it lies at the very foundation of every Christian hope. The Christian who can not understandingly call to mind this oath-bound covenant or promise evidently lacks information very necessary to his spiritual strength and development. This is clearly indicated in the apostle's words in the context, for, after telling us that it is to give consolation to us who have fled for refuge to Christ, that we may lay hold on the hope set before us in this oath-bound promise, he adds, "which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither our forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." (Verses 19, 20.) Now how can this hope be an anchor to our souls in all the storms and trials and difficulties of life, in all the opposition of the world, the flesh and the adversary, if we do not know what the hope is, if we have not even recognized the promise upon which this hope is based?


This is the pitiable condition of many of God's true children; if they are merely babes in Christ, using the milk of the word. They have need of the strong meat of God's promises, as the apostle speaks of it, that they may be "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might;" that they might have on the whole armor of God, helmet, breast plate, sandals, sword and shield, and be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one able also to help the weaker ones in this day when the adversary is assaulting the Word of God, the citadel of the truth, with various infidel arguments in the hands and mouths of those who profess to be ministers of the Word. Let us awake in time, dear friends, before the poisoned darts of infidelity strike us and wound us and poison our minds, and blind the eyes to the glorious things of God's Word which have hitherto comforted us, and which have strengthened and comforted God's true people in all past ages. Let us now seek for this hope which we should have as an anchor to our souls to hold us in the storms of life, and especially in the stormy times of unbelief now and in the near future coming upon us. Let us start at once to investigate this wonderful promise which the apostle implies contains the very essence of the gospel. Let us investigate the promise which God, foreknowing present conditions, foresaw that it would be difficult for our faith to grasp, and therefore assured us by His oath in addition to His word.

Need I quote the promise the one so repeatedly referred to in the apostolic writings the one which is the basis or anchorage of our souls? It was made to Abraham and reads thus: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." It was a promise for the future and not for Abraham's own time. The world was not blessed in Abraham's day, nor did he even have a child at the time this promise was given. Isaac did not fulfill the promise! he was merely a type of the greater seed of Abraham who in due time would fulfill it. Jacob and his twelve tribes, fleshly Israel, did not fulfill the promise, but still looked for a greater Messiah to fulfill it, to bless them and through them all, the families of the earth. The Apostle Paul referred to this very promise, declaring that the seed of Abraham mentioned therein is Christ. All Christians agree to this, even though they have not distinctively and properly associated it with the declarations of the promise. But the apostle makes clear to us that, in saying that Christ is the seed of Abraham, he had in mind not only the Lord Jesus as the head of the body, the head of the Christ, but also the overcoming saints of this gospel age as the body of Christ. This he distinctly states in many places, for instance, Gal. 3:16-29. Here he declares the matter expressly, saying: "If ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise."


The "seed of Abraham" is the gospel church, with her head the Lord Jesus, as the apostle states again saying: "We brethren, as Isaac was (typified by Isaac), are the children of promise" (Gal. 4:28), it follows that the seed of Abraham mentioned in the promise is not yet complete and will not be until the full close of this gospel age the harvest time of which we believe we are now in. But what a wonderful thought is involved in this plain interpretation of the Divine word, it is big with hope for spiritual Israel, the spiritual seed, and no less it means a blessing to the [HGL224] natural seed, fleshly Israel, and ultimately the millennial blessings to all the families of the earth. Let us examine these three hopes: The hopes for these three classes center in this great oath-bound covenant. Let us thus obtain what the apostle tells us was the Lord's intention for us, namely strong consolation strong encouragement.

All through the prophecies the Lord foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow; nevertheless the glories to follow have been granted much more space in the Divine revelation than the sufferings of the present time. The implication suggested by the apostle is, that when the glories of the future shall be realized, the trials and sufferings and difficulties of the present time will be found worthy not to be compared, but those glories and blessings have been veiled from our mental vision, and instead a great pall hangs over the future in the minds of many of the Lord's people. With some it is merely a mist of doubt and of uncertainty, with others it is the smoke of confusion, blackness and despair as they think of their own friends in connection with an eternity of torture, and the probability that a large majority of those whom they love will spend an eternity of horror in torment. We know that these clouds and dark forebodings come to us from the dark ages, and through theological twistings handed down from time to time. Many of us have learned to distort the simple language of God's word in such a manner as to cause us anguish and distress. For instance, destroy, perish, die, second death, everlasting destruction, etc., terms used by the Lord to represent the ultimate complete annihilation of those who will not come into harmony with Him after a full opportunity is granted them, are interpreted to mean the reverse of what they say life, preservation in torture, etc. It is high time dear friends, that we should learn that God's book is not the foundation of these horrible nightmares which have afflicted us, and which in the past hindered many of us from a proper love and reverence for our Creator. It is high time that we should take the explanation which the apostle gives us of this matter and of all the errors which assail poor humanity respecting the future. He says: "The God of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not lest the glorious light of the goodness of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord should shine into their hearts." 2 Cor. 4:4.


Now, what hope and interest has the church of Christ in this promise made to Abraham? To us belongs the very cream of the promise, "the riches of God's grace." The promise implies the greatness of the seed of Abraham which seed is Christ and the overcoming church. This greatness is so wonderful as to be almost beyond human comprehension. The overcomers of this gospel age, who "make their calling and election sure" in Christ, are to be joint heirs with Him in the glorious millennial kingdom which is to be God's agency or channel for bringing about the promised blessings the blessings of all the families of the earth. How great, how wonderful is to be the exaltation of the church is beyond human conception, as the apostle declares, "Eye hath not seen, neither ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man (the natural man) the things that God hath in reservation for them that love Him" that love Him more than they love houses or lands, parents or children or any other creature more than they love themselves and who show this by walking in the narrow way, in the footsteps of their Redeemer. Again the apostle speaks of the great blessings coming to the church as the seed of Abraham. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be (how great we shall be made in our 'change'), but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him." (1 John 3:2.) the Apostle Peter has a word on this subject of the greatness that shall belong to the church, the spiritual seed of Abraham, saying "God hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Pet. 1:4.) To whatever extent we are able to grasp the meaning of these wonderful promises, they speak to us of blessings, favors, privileges, "exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask or think." Eph. 3:20.

It is for this reason, we are told, that Christ died for our sins to release us from their penalty, and thus to have the right to release us from present sinful tendencies and conditions. He has already redeemed the world; it remains for him to become the great physician, the life-giver to heal the world of its sin-sickness and to raise up to life and to perfection, mental, moral and physical, all the human family who accept of His provision of the grace of God. And whosoever will not be obedient shall be cut off from amongst the people in the second death. The wages of sin was death in Adam's case; and the whole world having been redeemed from that sin and death is to be granted blessing through Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the opportunity for return to harmony with God. Only for deliberately rejecting this favor, will any come again under divine sentence and by becoming willful sinners bring upon themselves again the wages of sin, the second death.


The great blessing of forgiveness of sins which are past, and even the blessing of being awakened from the sleep of death, would profit mankind but little if the arrangements of that future time the millennial age were not on such a scale as to permit a thorough recovery from present mental, moral and physical weakness. Hence we are rejoiced to learn that in that time Satan will be bound, every evil influence and every unfavorable condition will be brought under restraint, and the favor of God through the knowledge of God will be let loose among the people- "the knowledge of our Lord shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the great deep." Blessing! Ay, favor upon favor, blessing upon blessing, is the Lord's arrangement and provision. All shall know Him, from the least unto the greatest, and none shall need to say to his neighbor or brother, "Know thou the Lord?" (Isa. 11:9, Jer. 31:34). The prophets spoke repeatedly of these blessings due to the world in the future. Mark how Joel tells that, as during this gospel age, the Lord pours out His spirit upon His servants and handmaidens, so after these days, in the millennial age, He will pour out His spirit upon all flesh. There will be worldwide blessing through the knowledge of the truth. Mark how Moses, the prophet, spoke of these coming blessings, and told how God would raise up a greater law giver than Himself, a greater teacher, a better mediator, [HGL225] and under the better covenant of the Lord would bring blessings worldwide. Mark how again He represents the atonements for the sins of the whole world in atonement day sacrificial arrangements. Mark how again He typically foretold the blessings of the millennial age, representing it in Israel's year of jubilee, in which every man went free and every possession was returned to its original ownership thus representing the blessings of the future, man's release from servitude to sin, to Satan, and the return to Him of all that was lost through Adam. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, have spoken of these coming times, so that the Apostle Peter, pointing to the future, could truthfully declare that the coming times of restitution of all things have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-23).


The second class to be blessed under this Abrahamic covenant is fleshly Israel. We are not forgetting that the Jews were a rebellious and stiff-necked people; that they slew the prophets and stoned the Lord's ministers and caused the crucifixion of our Redeemer. Nevertheless, the Scriptures clearly hold forth that after they have had a period of chastisement, which they have been undergoing as a nation since the Lord's crucifixion, and after spiritual Israel shall have been glorified in the kingdom then a blessing from the Lord will come upon natural Israel; they shall be saved or recovered from their blindness and, as the prophet declares, they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him, because the eyes of their understanding shall be opened. We rejoice, too, that the promise is clear and distinct that the Lord will pour upon them the "spirit of prayer and of supplication." Zech. 12:10.

The Apostle Paul elaborates this subject. In Romans, chapters 9 and 10, he points out how Israel failed to obtain the special blessing of this Abraham's covenant by rejecting Christ how only a remnant received the great blessing and the mass were blinded. In chapter 11 he proceeds to explain that their blindness is not to be perpetual, but only until the church shall have been gathered out, and that then the Lord's blessing will come to fleshly Israel saving them from their blindness and granting them mercy through the glorified spiritual Israel. I trust that every person in the audience will feel interested enough in this feature of the divine plan to examine carefully on his return to his home verses 25 to 33 of the 11th chapter of Romans. The apostle expressly points out that the Lord will do this for the natural seed, not because of their worthiness, but because of His promise made to the fathers- "for this is My covenant with them when I will cancel their sins."


But if God is to have mercy upon the natural Israelite, whom He declares to have been stiff-necked and hard-hearted and rebellious, would it surprise us that the divine, benevolent intention should be to bless others than the Jews others who had not in the past the favors and privileges of this favored nation and whose course, therefore, was less in opposition to the light? It should not surprise us, and so we find in this great oath-bound covenant a blessing for all nations all peoples. Let us look at the promise again remembering that our Heavenly Father made it deliberately and subsequently bound Himself to its provisions by an oath so that we might not only be sure that He could not break His word, but doubly sure that He could not break His oath, and that therefore without peradventure this promise shall be fulfilled. It reads: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." What is the blessing so greatly needed by all mankind? We answer, it is the very blessing that Jesus declared He came to give, saying: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Ah, yes. Life! Life! It is life that the whole world needs, and our Lord Jesus declares Himself to be the great life-giver. Indeed, in the Syriac language, in which probably our Lord discoursed, the word life-giver is the equivalent to our word Savior. Jesus came to save man from sin, and from the penalty of sin namely death. It is a human invention of the dark ages to attach eternal torment as the penalty of sin; it is the divine arrangement to attach to sin a reasonable and just, but an awful penalty Death! It is because we are sinners that we are all dying creatures, and for the Lord to give life implies that He will take away the sin and all necessity for its penalty.


But so accustomed have we all become to measuring the divine plan by our narrow minds that I doubt not there may be some in the audience ready to say, "I believe, Brother Russell, that in your love of heart you would delight to do good in this manner to the whole world of mankind, and so would we; but God's ways are not so grand as our conceptions would be." Stop, my dear brother; you are looking at the matter from the wrong standpoint. Remember that God is all-wise, all-just, all-loving, all-powerful, and that it is His own word that declares that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His plans higher than our plans, and His methods higher than our methods. As the poet has expressed it-

"We make God's love too narrow By false standards of our own."

It is time for us to wake up to the fact that we are no better than our God, but that we are poor, imperfect creatures of the dust, fallen by nature, and that it is time for us to stop misconstruing the Divine character and plan as against His creatures, and to hearken to the Lord's own word when He declares, "Their fear toward Me is not of Me, but is taught by the precepts of men." It is time for us to be praying for ourselves and for each other as the apostle prayed for some, saying, "I pray God for you that the eyes of your understanding may be opened, that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths to know the love of God which surpasseth all understanding." (Eph. 1:18; 3:18, 19).

Do not misapprehend us; we are not teaching that heathen and imbeciles and the unregenerate in general shall be taken to heaven, where they would be utterly out of harmony with their surroundings and require to be converted and to be taught. Such an inconsistent view we leave to those who are now claiming that the heathen will be [HGL226] saved in their ignorance. We stand by the Word of God, that there is not present salvation without faith in Christ Jesus, and hence that the heathen and the imbeciles have neither part nor lot in the salvation in the present time. We stand by the scriptures which declare that any who are saved in the present time must walk in the narrow way, of which the dear Redeemer says they be few that find it. We stand by the scriptures, which say that salvation at the present time is only for the little flock who through much tribulation, shall enter the kingdom. We stand by the scriptures, which say that this kingdom class now being developed is the seed of Abraham under the Lord their Head, their Elder Brother, the Bridegroom. We stand by the scriptures, which say that through this Christ, when complete, a blessing shall extend to every member of Adam's race the blessing of opportunity to know the Lord, to understand the advantages of righteousness, the opportunity of choosing obedience and by obedience obtaining everlasting life.


The blessings of the future will be of such a kind that every individual who does not have his full opportunity in this present life will have it then. Not an opportunity to become members of the little flock. Not an opportunity of becoming members of the seed of Abraham. Not an opportunity to have part in the great "change" from human nature to divine nature. Not an opportunity to sit with the Lord in His throne. But an opportunity to obtain that which was lost human perfection, everlasting life under human, earthly, paradisiacal conditions. An opportunity of coming again into the divine likeness, almost obliterated in the human family through the 6,000 years of the fall. This period, in which this opportunity will be granted to man, is in the scriptures termed the day of judgment a thousand year day the millennial day. It will be a day of trial, a day of testing, a day of proving the world to see whether, with a full knowledge of God and of righteousness, which He requires, they will choose, it in preference to sin, choose life in preference to the second death. Thank God for that wonderful judgment, the trial day for the world, secured for all through the precious blood of Christ. "When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Isa. 26:9.

Before we close, dear friends, we wish to call attention again to another feature of this great oath bound covenant, of special interest to us who by the grace of God have been invited to be of the spiritual seed of Abraham, and who are seeking to make our calling and election sure as members of that seed which is, Christ. We have already referred to the high exaltation that the Lord designs for us, by which we shall be "changed" no longer be earthly, but heavenly or spirit beings. We have already noticed the privilege of participation with Christ in the glories of His kingdom, "to sit with Him in His throne." Now we notice the great additional privilege of association in the great work of uplifting the world from the sin and death conditions in which it now is. What Christian does not feel his heart beat fast with interest as he thinks of the glorious work of the millennial age and the uplift of the human family by the bringing of all to the favorable conditions then prevalent and to the knowledge then universal. And whose heart does not beat faster with the thought that it is the divine arrangement that he who is faithful shall have a share with Jesus and all the saints in this blessed work of uplifting the world!


As our hearts go out with sympathy toward the poor groaning creation in heathen lands and in home lands, and as we take pleasure in doing the little now possible for us to do, what is our joy when we think of that future glorious opportunity that is to be ours, and of the great results that are to accompany it. Surely the hearts of the Lord's people are stimulated as we contemplate the meaning of this great oath-bound covenant! Surely, as the apostle declares was God's intention, we have strong consolation in our ineffectual efforts to bring the majority of mankind to an appreciation of God's mercy and love now, but it gives us consolation also in respect to our neighbors and friends and members of our own families who are not saints, who are still blind to the grace which has brought salvation to our hearts in the present time, and which eventually is to bring salvation to the uttermost in the resurrection. It encourages us further, as the apostle points out, to lay hold upon the hope set before us to take a firmer grasp of the divine character and plan. It gives our souls encouragement beyond the veil when we see how gracious is the character of our Heavenly Father, how wonderful is the plan which He has devised and how He has been carrying it forward step by step up to the present hour, and that by His grace we are what we are, and have been called to joint-heirship with our Redeemer as members of the seed of Abraham. We reason that if the Lord so loved us while we were sinners that much more does He love us now that we have accepted Christ and are under the robes of His righteousness and seeking to do those things in harmony with the divine will.

Let us then take courage and hold fast to the Divine Word, and feed upon it more and more, and use all the various blessings and promises which the Lord has designed to fit and to prepare, to mold and to fashion, to chisel and to polish us for places in His glorious kingdom. Let us resolve that knowing our Heavenly Father better than before, we will be more faithful than ever as His children and servants more loyal to the truth and to the principles of righteousness, and that, copying Him and His generosity, we will be more kind even to the unthankful and to the unholy. Let us, then, accept the preparations, for the kingdom privileges, and by the grace of God make our calling and election thereto sure.

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