St. Paul Enterprise, December 24, 1915


Harrisburg, Pa., December 19 Pastor Russell preached a Christmas sermon here today to a very attentive audience. His discourse was based upon the text, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." (2 Cor. 9:15) He said in part: [HGL781] There is an appropriateness in the general good cheer of the Christmas season. The happy custom of giving tokens of love and friendship prevails wherever the story of Jesus has gone. Surely this is just as it should be. While some may have been injured by receiving bounties, but few, if any, have been other than blest in the giving of them. Herein we see corroborated our Savior's words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." In proportion as we attain Godlikeness, in proportion as the Spirit of Christ dwells richly in us, in proportion as we possess the holy Spirit, in that same proportion shall we appreciate more and more our Lord's statement.

In our dealings with God it is necessary that we realize our dependence, our own insufficiency, and His greatness and beneficence; and that we learn to go to Him as His "dear children," to whom He delights to give His favors, and who receive them and appreciate them with gratitude of heart. In every sense of the word we are debtors to God and always shall be. We can never dispute the obligations under which His mercy and loving kindness have placed us. The sooner we realize this fact the better will it be for us. Some possessed with a false pride declare that they ask no favors from God or man that they pay their way and wish always to do so. As respects our dealings with our fellow men, something of this spirit is praiseworthy; but the entire proposition is inconsistent with our relationship with the Almighty.

As we did not create ourselves, neither can we maintain our being, as the Scriptures assert: "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) This would have been true of us whether born on an angelic plane or as perfect human beings, for we could not have created ourselves, directly or indirectly. Through the arrangements of His providence in nature, God was responsible for our birth, and He is the Provider for His creatures on every plane. The fact that He causes His sun to shine upon the just and the unjust, and sends His rain upon the evil as well as upon the good, and thus provides for the world of mankind that in general is in rebellion against Him and His authority, does not prove that the laws of nature are autocratic and that the results could not be otherwise than they are.

Rather, as the Scriptures show, these mercies of God scattered broadcast tell of a provision on our Creator's part for the necessities of His creatures. That He allows these laws to be interfered with at the present time and permits adverse conditions upon our race He fully explains to be because of its sinful, rebellious attitude, because the sentence, the curse of death, has been justly pronounced against mankind, and because He sees a way by which present lessons of adversity and tribulation may be made instructive as respects "the exceeding sinfulness of sin."


Two of the great lessons for us to learn are (1) our complete dependence upon God, and (2) His loving kindness and tender mercies over all His Works. But these lessons can be learned only from one standpoint and by one class. Those who view matters from the outside only will surely misunderstand, misinterpret, many of the operations of Divine providence.

"The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence Him, and He will show them His Covenant" His future plans, His agreement. (Psa. 25:14) In order to see, to understand, to appreciate them we must accept certain matters by faith: (1) "That He is" that there is an Almighty Creator; (2) "that He is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6) Seeking the Lord diligently, we find in the Bible that which commends it to our hearts as well as to our heads.

But right here we are beset by a danger and a difficulty, for while it is possible to receive great assistance from fellow-believers in the understanding of the Divine Word, yet there is much danger of our becoming even more confused by such assistance by the creeds and theories of men, particularly those handed down from the Dark Ages. Whatever, therefore, we receive from men we must accept tentatively for examination, for proving and testing by the Word of God. Thus we "try the spirits," or doctrines, as the Apostle admonishes. (1 John 4:1) Thus we permit God to be His own Interpreter and to make the matter plain to us. Those teachers who refer us to the Word of God, who point out to us its harmony with itself and with reason, giving the citations and showing the relationship between text and contest these are the teachers who are really helpful. All others are apt to be injurious, whether they address us orally or in print.


Only after we have been for some time in the School of Christ can we comprehend the force of the Apostle's words, "Every good and every perfect gift is from Above." (Jas. 1:17) Then we begin to look about to find some of these good and perfect gifts. We soon find many gifts and blessings, but very few of them perfect, purely good. Everything connected with our present condition is imperfect. Even the sunshine and the rain, which are common to all God's creatures, are evidently not furnished under perfect conditions. Imperfection seems to be written upon everything we have as well as upon ourselves.

The Bible explanation of this state of affairs is that, while God's work is perfect (Deut. 32:4), our race today are not really samples of His workmanship, but are depraved, fallen, imperfect through the original sin of Father Adam and its entailed weaknesses and blemishes upon his posterity. The good and perfect gifts of God are to be seen only by the eye of faith only by those whose eyes of understanding have been opened to see by faith Jesus, the great Redeemer. By faith this class see accomplished in God's due time His great work of Redemption, the wiping away of all tears from off all faces and the re-establishment of every thing on the plane of perfection the destruction of death and everything connected with it, and the establishment of perfect life conditions, such as God has promised.

Those whose eyes of understanding have to some extent been opened see more and more of the riches of God's grace, and appreciate more and more all of His gifts and favors, especially the great gift, the unspeakable gift, mentioned in our text. What this gift is the entire Scriptures set forth in various presentations. Of these statements one of the most forceful is St. Paul's declaration, "The wages" [HGL782] "of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23)


False theologies have diverted or taken away from this Bible statement that eternal life is the GIFT of God, and that He will supply it only to those in fullest harmony with Himself. False theologies have taught us that eternal life is a natural quality yea, that it is a persistent one, that not even God Himself can destroy our lives or being. This erroneous thought has distorted all our reasonings, and has left the issue as between an eternal life in torture or an eternal life in bliss. But the Scriptures clearly define a different issue, namely, as between extinction, destruction and a life in harmony with God, a life which Divine Love and Mercy had provided for those who are in accord with the Almighty.

Let us hearken to the testimony of our Lord, the Apostles and the Prophets on this subject, and see that God is now proffering the Church a gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us note that Scriptural proposition that if we are willfully, deliberately, intelligently rejecting this gift it will be withdrawn, and that the effect upon us will be the Second Death, everlasting oblivion, from which God offers no hope of recovery.

Let us note that this is the general dealing of God, and hence that when His time shall come for dealing with the world of mankind in general, during the Millennial Age, the offer then to be made to them will be a similar proposition of life or death everlasting. Those who will accept God's gift upon God's terms are welcome to it. He is pleased to give it to them. Those who will then reject it shall die the Second Death. Acts 3:22-23

"Though Jesus Christ our Lord," is the Apostle's statement. The gift is not offered to us by the Father directly, but indirectly through the Son. To those whose eyes of understanding have been opened the Apostle says, "This is the record, that God has given unto us eternal life; and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 4:12) Other Scriptures inform us that this life is merely reckoned to the Church now, and that they will not get it until they shall experience the change of the First Resurrection, at the Second Coming of our Lord. Of these it is written, "Your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) Thus every suggestion of God's gift is bound up similarly in Christ. Only as we become united to Him, related to Him, can we have this unspeakable gift of God. Hence it is not improper that we should sometimes both think and speak of Jesus Himself as being


Both Jesus and the eternal life which the Father has provided through Him are unspeakable in the sense that it is impossible for us to present fully to others the richness and the glory which inhere in both. Who can describe life eternal on either a spirit plane or as restored and perfected humanity? It is beyond all the powers of our mental comprehension. Even the thought of it can only be imperfectly communicated and imperfectly grasped. It is beyond all the powers of our mental comprehension. Even the thought of it can only be imperfectly communicated and imperfectly grasped. It must gradually dawn upon us, grow upon

us in appreciation and comprehension. Similarly the wealth of grace Divine represented in our Lord Jesus is unspeakable. We cannot tell it, and the natural man cannot receive of the things of the Spirit of God, neither know then. 1 Cor. 2:14

Only those who are especially favored of God can get even the first glimpse of the riches of God's grace in Christ. If this glimpse be appreciated, it leads to clearer and still clearer views, for all who will appreciate either our Lord Jesus or the gift of life must be "taught of God." (John 6:54) As our Redeemer said to St. Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father in Heaven" (Matt. 16:17), so all who would grasp spiritual things must be taught. All our teaching and preaching cannot overcome the blindness of the natural fallen mind in respect to God's gift and the Channel through which it comes.

Only as the Heavenly Father shall grant His blessing may fruits to our labors be expected. It is written, "As many as the Lord your God shall call," and "No man can come unto Me except the Father who sent Me draw him." (Acts 2:39; John 6:44) Hence we see that our present appreciation of Divine goodness implies three gifts: (1) The Divine provision of eternal life, (2) Christ the Channel, and (3) the knowledge by which we are enabled to appreciate both the Gift and the Channel.


As we look out over the world and perceive 1, 200,000,000 in heathen darkness and the remaining 400,000,000 of nominal Christendom in the dull, foggy light of superstition and ignorance, our first thought might be that the world in general has rejected God's gift and hence has sealed its doom for the Second Death. Then we find relief in the Scriptural assurance that the present world-wide darkness is the result of Adam's sin and condemnation to death; that, although Christ has come and offered His sacrifice for sin, and thus made possible the removal of the curse and the bringing back of Adam and all of his race to harmony with God and to the possibility of accepting His gift of eternal life upon His terms, nevertheless the offer of this opportunity to the race in general is still future.

How glad we are that in God's due time all the blind eyes shall be opened, all the deaf ears unstopped, and the fogs of superstition and error all flee away before the rising of the Sun of Righteousness the glories of the Millennial Kingdom!

The few who now see and appreciate God's gift are indeed, as the Scriptures declare, a "little flock" (Luke 12:32); and although generally disowned by men, and "counted fools for Christ's sake," they are rich in that they have become, in advance of the world, the recipients of God's favor by faith. Even now they may think of themselves as being possessors of life eternal because of their joy and confidence in Him who has promised.

There is a superlative blessing of eternal life on the spirit plane, "far above angels, principalities and powers." Those who attain that blessing will indeed be "partakers of the Divine nature." (2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2) Surely "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9) Those who have now accepted [HGL783] Christ as their Redeemer and their Bridegroom possess also all the riches of God's grace that center in Him; and when He shall appear, they shall be made like Him, sharers in His glory. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!"


God Himself is the great Pattern set before us in His Word. In proportion as we have received of God's gift and have appreciated it, in that same proportion are we so privileged to be so "taught of God" as to become more and more like Him in spirit, disposition desirous of giving generous. Since man was created in the image of God, all men would have possessed this generous disposition had it not been for the fall of Adam; and we find that the fall has especially blighted some in one particular and others in another. Hence amongst "natural men" there are some who are generous, and who to that degree have perhaps more Godlikeness than have some of the children of grace especially until the latter have been trained in the School of Christ.

For we are to remember that God's Message and His drawing power affect the less honorable of mankind. (1 Cor. 1:26-29) Thus opportunity is afforded for the Lord to demonstrate the power of His grace in the transformation of character. But so surely as we have become God's children, recipients of His blessing and of the instruction of the School of Christ, this quality of benevolence will grow in us; and the more ripe we become as Christians, the more will it abound in our thoughts words and deeds. But any other condition, any failure to progress, any turning toward greater selfishness, would be sure signs that we are faced in the wrong direction, that we are walking after the flesh, not after the Spirit.

Thousands on Thousands in the world are needy; and those possessed of the Lord's Spirit will feel an intense desire to give to these. But here the difficulty arises. There are so many needy ones, and our abilities are so limited, that we mus discriminate. What lines shall we draw? We answer that as comparing spiritual and temporal gifts we should prefer to give the higher, the spiritual, wherever we have opportunity not forgetting the other, however, as occasion may demand or opportunity offer.

Since the judgment of each will be according to his light, it follows that many more can appreciate the privilege of giving earthly blessings, comforts, succor, solace, etc., than can understand the still higher privilege of giving Heavenly gifts, blessings, counsel, succor, consolation, comfort. Whoever, therefore, has spiritual ability to give further spiritual favors should rejoice to engage in this service of blessing others.

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