The Pittsburgh Gazette, February 22, 1904


Large Audience in Bible House Chapel, Allegheny, Listens to Sermon INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY

"Wars and Rumors of Wars" was the subject of Pastor Charles T. Russell's discourse in Bible House chapel, Arch Street, Allegheny, yesterday afternoon. Notwithstanding the unpleasant weather a large audience was present. The text and discourse follow: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass, but the end is not yet." Matt. 24:6 Our text is a part of our Lord's great prophecy respecting this gospel age – from the close of His earthly ministry, in giving Himself as the redemption price of the world, to His second coming in power and great glory as the king of the world, to establish righteousness amongst men and to lift up and bless so many as will accept His favor, of all the families of the earth. Some have misunderstood our text to signify that every war rumor may be regarded as implying the end of the age. The proper understanding of it, however is the reverse of this – that when the Lord's people shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, they are not to be alarmed or confused thereby, neither to anticipate that necessarily this meant the end of the age. As we look back and see how wars have been of frequent occurrence during the past nineteen centuries, we see the propriety of our Lord's warning to his followers that the mere fact of war would prove nothing to them respecting the question He was discussing in answer to their inquires.


The Lord had referred to Daniel's prophecy saying that Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled, and the minds of his followers being thus directed to that prophecy, they would naturally be impressed with the two great visions therein recorded, which pictured the history of earthly dominion to its close:

(1) The great image whose head of gold represented the empire of Babylon, whose breast and arms of silver represented the kingdom of Medo-Persia, whose belly and sides of brass represented the empire of Greece, whose legs of iron represented the Roman empire, and whose feet and toes represented the present divisions of the Roman empire in Europe. In thinking of the close of this age, the end of world power and the establishment of the kingdom of God, they would be particularly interested in Daniel's description of how the new kingdom would supplant present institutions. The symbolical picture is that of a stone, representing God's kingdom, smiting the image of earthly government in its feet – "in the days of these kings" representing Europe in the present time. The description shows a total wreck of earthly government, which becomes "as the chaff of the summer threshing floor" which the wind carried away, no place being found for it, while the "stone," symbolizing the "kingdom of God's dear Son," is pictured as enlarging until it fills the whole earth. Naturally enough, such a graphic description would lead the reader to expect some kind of a terrible war in the end of the age, accomplishing the complete destruction of present institutions. In another vision recorded by Daniel these same earthly governments are represented by successive wild beasts: the first a lion – Babylon; the second a bear – Medo-Persia; the third a leopard – Grecia; the fourth a terrible monster – the Roman empire, whose ten horns represented the continuing of power down to the present time – corresponding to the ten toes of the image. Here again the climax, the end of earthly governments, is tragically pictured. One like unto the Son of man assumes command, the beast is slain, etc., representing the fall of present institutions at the inauguration of the kingdom for which we pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven."

We can readily see, then, that the early church – left without any definite information respecting the time for the establishment of the heavenly kingdom – needed our Lord's caution that they should not think that each new war signified the end of the age. He would have them look in other directions for the evidences of the consummation of the present time and the inauguration of the new dispensation. We will not here undertake to trace and show the signification of the Lord's great prophecy and that its various features have met fulfillment. The majority of you already have this in one of the chapters of Millennial Dawn, vol. 4. The scriptural evidence we have already presented, showing that we are nearing the time of the great consummation – that the end of Gentile times [NS58] will be reached in 1915 – is not dependent upon "wars or rumors of wars," but is established and we believe strongly entrenched by various lines of scriptural testimony which, although wholly different, concur in their testimony.


But while "wars and rumors of wars" are not the signs to which we are to look as indications of the end of the age, nevertheless when the signs do indicate that the end of the age is near, the scriptures, we believe, imply that we may expect wars to be connected with inauguration of the new dispensation. One thing is certain: The world is not ready to vote Jesus as their king. Emperors, kings, presidents, governors, captains of industry and finance, no more than the religious leaders, are prepared to surrender themselves and their stewardships to the new king. As Jesus was rejected by the Jews at the first advent, because they were not in heart readiness to appreciate the object and manner of His coming, so likewise and the scriptures indicate that it will be with nominal spiritual Israel, Christendom, at the second advent. "He shall be for a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to both the houses of Israel."

The clear intimation of Malachi's prophecy (Mal. 4:6) is that, if Christendom were in the proper attitude of heart, the Lord's second coming would be effected in a peaceful manner, and the kingdoms of this world would be gladly transferred to Him whose right the dominion is – to Him who bought the world with His own precious blood, and whose reign is designed to bless and uplift mankind. But the same prophecy indicates that, because of the unreadiness of heart, our Lord's coming will be to "smite the earth with a curse" – with a great affliction – "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." Dan. 12:1

The climax of this "trouble" or "curse" is clearly set forth as anarchy – the most awful calamity that could befall the world. Leading up to this anarchy, the scriptures clearly put commercial strife and combination, "every man's hand against his neighbor" – every man selfishly seeking merely his own interests. We already see clear evidences that such a condition of things is rapidly approaching. We have seen this in the light of God's Word for 30 years, but as we get nearer and nearer to the climax the matter becomes more and more apparent to all, whether enlightened by the Word of God or merely guided by their own judgments. In one sense of the word this social strife and anarchy will be a great "battle," the skirmishing of which is already beginning. This may be "the battle of the great day of God Almighty," and possibly the only kind of battling intimated in the scriptures as connected with the closing of this age. But we think not. In our judgment a great war amongst the nations of Christendom is to be expected – a war which will sap the vitality of Christendom financially and undermine the power and influence of its aristocracy and ruling classes, and will awaken more and more the lower classes to grasp, through socialism, what they esteem to be their rights, liberties, advantages, etc. Possibly civil war and ultimately anarchy will thus be precipitated, for we are not to expect that the ruling classes, the wealthy and the aristocracy will quietly submit to having their so-called vested rights, their social position and their political power wrestled from them without a struggle – a struggle which will be to the death.


The Revelator, when picturing the conditions that will prevail at the beginning of the sounding of the seventh symbolical trumpet (which we understand began its symbolical sounding in 1875 and will continue for a thousand years), says, "And the seventh angel sounded. . – and the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldst give rewards to Thy servants the prophets, and to Thy saints and to them that fear Thy name, small and great, and shouldst destroy them which corrupt the earth." (Rev. 11:15-18)

This does not say that there will be war amongst the nations in connection with their overthrow, yet the expression "the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come," seems to give color to the thought that there will be contention amongst the nations – war. Again, the Lord seems to imply the same thing when addressing His faithful church, He says, "To him that overcometh and keepeth My words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers." Rev. 2:26, 27 Joel's prophecy seems to describe matters in the end of this age, and seems to picture a general war amongst the nations at this time. Another prophecy tells us of the abandonment of war and the turning of swords into plowshares and of spears into pruning hooks, and that the nations shall learn war no more. But Joel's prophecy locates itself in the end of the age, before that great time of peace shall be inaugurated, and it implies a general war amongst the nations as being one of the matters pertinent to the end of this age. The particular portion to which we refer reads, "Proclaim ye this amongst the nations: Prepare war, wake up the mighty men let all the men of war draw near let them come up. Beat your plowshares into [NS59] swords and your pruning hooks into spears let the weak say, "I am strong... Let the nations bestir themselves and come to the valley of Jehoshaphat (judgment) for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread ye, for the winepress is full, the vats overflow for their wickedness is great." (Joel 3:9-13)

Similarly the Lord describes in Revelation (Rev. 14:18-20) the harvesting of the vine of the earth, differentiating it from the "true vine," which is Christ. (John 15:1)

The Revelator says, "Thrust in thy sickle and gather in the vine of the earth (nominal Christendom), which is fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth and cast it into the winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as one thousand six hundred furlongs."

From all these scriptures, and others as well, and from our general judgment of what might be expected to be the Lord's method of weakening the nations preparatory to their overthrow in anarchy, we are inclined to anticipate that the war so recently begun between Japan and Russia may prove an entering wedge for a general conflict amongst the powers of Christendom. Were Russia wise she would undoubtedly ask the mediation of others and patch up a peace speedily on the best terms obtainable; but the Russians are a very arrogant, self-conceited and proud people, and we fancy that it would be quite impossible for them, so large a nation, to humble themselves to so small a nation as Japan. It is far from our intention to prophesy respecting the future. Indeed, as we have already shown, prophecy in general is meant to be understood after its fulfillment, and to be a demonstration to us that the Almighty knew of the world's affairs in advance, and that men have not shaped events according to prophecy, nor could they, because they understood not the prophecies. When, therefore, we speak of a general war, we must be understood as merely speculating – merely giving our guess, the only foundations for the guess being the bare outline statements of the scriptures we have already cited.


We see every opportunity for the enkindling of such a war, notwithstanding the fact that every civilized nation dreads war. If they engage in it at all it will be because it has been practically forced upon them as the result of previous action, and pride – which will not permit them to retract. For instance, we see that during Russia's engagement with Japan, Great Britain is improving her opportunities for satisfying her land hunger and extending her empire of India into Tibet, China. Possibly, also, she may make some advances into Persia, which Russia also covets. How the matter will eventuate no one can certainly tell, but it would not be at all surprising if the bitterness and opposition enkindled by adverse interests and selfishness might bring these two nations into conflict, especially as England is already allied to Japan. On the other hand we see France and its excitable, volatile people greatly chagrined at the defeat of their friend and ally, Russia; and while not willing to precipitate a conflict which might bring great disaster upon themselves, we can readily surmise conditions which might bring the French into the same conflict. The German emperor's activity and ambition and general disposition to present "the mailed first" is well known, and we can hardly understand why he is not already thrusting himself forward in some manner in connection with the present conflict. We may be sure that, unless ill health prevents it, he has in mind some project for satisfying Germany's "land hunger" in the vicinity of China. Meantime China, awakening from her long sleep, is becoming infused with the spirit of war, and, either independently or as an ally of Japan, she is prepared to be a great factor in the world's affairs in the near future, though just how may not be apparent at the present time. Her millions of people under the guidance of Japanese officers would certainly be a power that would require counting.


It may appear strange to consider religious ambitions a factor provocative of war; but it is true, nevertheless, that misguided emotions, supposedly religious, have been potent factors in many wars. Just now the apathy of the public of Christendom on religious subjects is noted. All the more those of religious proclivities are looking for another issue more popular than personal redemption, faith in the precious blood and consecration to the divine service. They have been seeking it in "social uplift" schemes, which have been more or less successful; and now the "civilization" of the uttermost parts of the earth is a popular scheme. We are told that the conversion of the world is merely a question of dollars, yet no explanation is offered as to why the lands of discontent, of murders, of suicides, etc., are specially lands of dollars – the lands in which money is plentiful. Christianity does not wish to acknowledge that it is not progressing with leaps and bounds toward the goal it has set for itself, contrary to the word of God, namely, the conversion of the world. Hence, when individual conversions at home become scarce, and [NS60] real vital Christianity is at a low ebb, the more ado is made about affairs in foreign lands, and the impression is given and received that civilization is Christianization, and that Europe and America, being civilized, are therefore Christianized! Populations are counted en masse as Christian, and they look abroad to foreign lands as "other worlds to conquer."

We should be glad, indeed, to see the blessing of true Christianity carried all the world around; but since this is evidently not practicable, we should be glad to see the lesser blessings of civilization spread everywhere. But when we reflect that with its blessings go also its blights and evils, we incline to believe that for the few years remaining between now and the setting up of the Kingdom, the heathen world would be just as well off if left alone in its blindness, and contentment therewith, as if confused and made discontented by modem civilization, and Christianity with its unscriptural teachings and creeds brought down from the dark ages. But our opinion on this subject is not the popular one. Those who very rarely preach about eternal torment in their own pulpits become enthused for mission work, and enthuse others on the score of saving the heathen from an eternity of torture. The heathen are easily pictured as being in great danger, or as crying out to Christianity for help, and public sympathy is easily aroused. A "holy war" for the opening up of China to the gospel would evidently be a very popular movement, and would attract many volunteers from even those who make no religious pretensions themselves, and live little better than heathen under much more favorable conditions.


That such a carrying of the war to foreign countries would not be harshly thought of is evidenced by the following extracts from Bishop Fowler's (Methodist) "Great Missionary Sermon," recently delivered. He said: "If the storm breaks upon the world too suddenly, and all the other powers stand back and leave the contest to the English-speaking peoples, we even then can defend our rights, save the world from Russian absolutism and meet the high obligations thrust upon us by a friendly Providence; provided, that the strife is like the old Talke-Knife strife of the Swedes, where the contestants were bound together by a rope around their waists and, each armed with a stout knife, fought the mortal combat to the finish; provided that we understand its decisive character and have but one argument, and that, war to the bitter end; that we have but one plan, and that, victory or death, and that we have but one purpose, the absolute control of the Pacific, cost what it may. With such convictions and purposes we can help liberty to her final triumph, and secure civil and religious freedom to mankind forever. "So God has made ready his channels, and can easily cut the leashes of storm and tempest about the centers of English-speaking peoples, these homes of liberty and Christianity. It is for us to merely use the defences offered us."

The bishop then proceeded to say to the assembled mission-workers that the great Methodist church is only "playing at saving the world."

That, if an earnest effort were made to straighten the traces, the M. E. church alone, instead of struggling to raise one million and a half, could raise more than three hundred million dollars a year for missions. "But with even one-third of that amount of holy consecrated money what could we not accomplish!" exclaimed the bishop, and added, "The world's salvation is reduced to a question of dollars and cents! We have the blood of the atonement; we have the resurrection of the Son of God; we have the gospel; we have the experiences of saving grace; we have the theology and a host of scholarly believers; we have the material agencies, Bibles, presses, steamboats, railroads, and an open world – everything ready and waiting – all we lack is money."

And yet he concludes – "This generation of believers will see the salvation of this generation of sinners, and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ."

This last remark will be noted as in sharp contrast with the Methodist view presented recently by E. L. Eaton, D. D., who assured us that these things would not occur for "fifty thousand years – yet."


All good and benevolent people must surely deprecate war as being in a large degree a relic of barbarism and totally opposed to the spirit of love. Nevertheless, wars have done their part in breaking the chains of superstition and teaching valuable lessons to our poor fallen race. From our standpoint, there was nothing unreasonable in our Lord's commanding Israel to war with the surrounding nations, for we see that, according to the scriptures, the slaughtered ones went not to a place of eternal torment, but into the death-state, "sheol," "hades," the grave. We see that in God's plan arrangements have been made whereby "all that are in their graves shall ultimately "come forth," be awakened, that they may be brought to a knowledge of the truth to the intent that by obedience to it they may yet regain all that was lost by the fall, and eventually become possessors of eternal life in the paradise God has promised to establish throughout the world during the [NS61] millennium. From this standpoint the loss of life in war is not more serious than its loss in pestilence or fire or flood or any disaster. But from the standpoint of the majority of Christian people, the soldiers are usually recruited from those who are not Christians, and who, according to all the creeds of Christendom, would at death pass into indescribable – torment of everlasting duration. One might suppose that we would feel free to encourage war or at least feel no serious opposition to it; that the chief opponents would be those who hold the eternal torment theory for all except those who are "born again of the Lord's Spirit," and whose sons are enlisted in these wars. But, strange to say, the reverse is true. It is ours to advocate peace and concession in every possible manner, while enthusiastic advocates of the eternal torment theory have been war promoters and advocates and defenders in nearly every instance for centuries. This inconsistency shows that at heart those who profess the eternal torment doctrine do not believe it. Otherwise, surely, none would be recruited for the armies except the young saints. And, by the way, it does look as though this were the thought of some in the organization of "Boys' Brigades" in the various churches, and the drilling of them for the slaughter that is coming. Nevertheless, so far as we know, morality and not Christianity is the test or standard for membership in the "Boys' Brigades."

It would be easy to fill a volume on the cruelty of war, the sufferings it entails not only upon the fighters, but also upon their loved ones at home, and in this connection its degrading influence should not be lost sight of. Unquestionably, to those engaged in warfare, unless under very peculiar circumstances, fighting for a just principle, war must certainly be very brutalizing. Nevertheless, wars have served a great purpose in the divine plan. They have stirred up nations and kindled ambitions, and have had much to do with social uplift. We can even see some particulars in which the present extensive military establishment in Europe has proven advantageous, notwithstanding the momentous cost entailed upon the nations and the maintenance of so many men in an unproductive pursuit. For instance, the peasantry of France and Germany and Austria, as notable examples, have been awakened from their lethargy, brought into contact with the outside world, and been taught lessons of great value to them, not only from books but also from the experiences of life through which they have passed. As an educative process alone, the present army arrangements of Europe are working wonders for the people. Far better, you may say, that these youth should have been educated otherwise than in army life; but we reply that they would not otherwise have been educated at all. People can, will, must pay for army expenses, while they will not as a rule pay with the same liberality for educational matters – the United States being an exception to the rule.


In the scriptures the true believer, justified by faith, and wholly consecrated to the Lord, is sometimes spoken of as a soldier who is expected to "fight a good fight;" but the apostle is careful to inform us that these are not to battle with carnal weapons, but are to be armed with the whole armor of God's word and to be skillful in the use of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. These are the only Christian soldiers known to the scriptures. They are comparatively a little flock, a small company; their captain is Justice; their fight is not with carnal weapons, neither is it against flesh and blood. Instead of seeking to destroy men's lives, these soldiers of the cross are pledged to lay down their lives for the brethren (1 John 2:16), to fight a good fight against sin in themselves, to defend others, to help others likewise to overcome sin – "to do good unto all men as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10)

Very evidently, anyone who would belong to this little army of the "King's own" would of necessity be separated from the world in its main objects and purposes. We are not to expect that the world in general will understand and appreciate the privilege of enlistment in this army. The joy which comes to these through victory over self and sin would partake largely of a torment to the worldly, who have not become acquainted with the captain, who are not interested in the glorious objects ultimately to be attained, and whose aims are of the earth earthy. Truly, the apostle declares, "The world knoweth us not, even as it knew Him not" – our Captain. It is difficult for many of the Lord's true followers to learn that they must not expect everybody to enlist with them; that they must be content to let the world enlist in its own warfares, fight for its own projects and fight out its own ambitions, and that the soldiers of the cross must take a different path and fight under the command of the Captain of our salvation, and be content so far as the world is concerned to give the word of counsel and advice only "to him that hath an ear to hear" – not to expect all to hear and obey and to enlist with us, but to remember that the "King's own is in all a little flock to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom in due time. (Luke 12:32)

We must be content with the Lord's promise that by and by, after our testings and trials are over, after we shall have demonstrated our loyalty to the Lord, His word and the principles of [NS62] righteousness, after we shall have fought a good fight and shall have finished our course and have attained the crown of righteousness laid up for them that love the Lord's appearing, then we shall be privileged to bring to the world of mankind what shall ultimately prove to be the "desire of all nations" – the dominion of the heavens.


"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

It will not be very long, dear fellow soldiers of the cross, until the battle will be over, the victory won; for the "King's own" are called to victory and not to defeat. Our enlistment is in accord with the great plan of the ages which our Father previously mapped out, and we know that all His purposes shall be accomplished, that His Word which went forth for the calling of this little flock to joint-heirship with Jesus in the kingdom which is promised to be established and to bless all the families of the earth – that word cannot be broken, its fulfillment is sure. Yea, its fulfillment is nigh, even at the door. Though we are in the world, but not of the world, we, nevertheless, are more or less affected by every matter which affects our neighbors; and hence in the great battle that is now impending between truth and error, between princes and people, between money and labor, and with more or less of right and wrong on both sides of all questions, the "King's own," the soldiers of the cross, will have some very trying experiences. It is the present time that the apostle emphasizes as "that evil day" – the period of special trial in the end of this age, saying, "Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand in that evil day, and, having done all, to stand."

Analyzing these words, we see them to signify that in the end of this age there would be special trials of severe testing; but the apostle's language also implies that the Lord will make special provision for the protection of His faithful ones, and that this will be an armor of truth, of knowledge, of information granted to them from the great armory, His Word, the Bible. The exhortation that we should take it implies that the Lord will not force it upon any, but to those who are in the right attitude of heart the doors of the armory will be open, and the proper armor supplied in due season, and that they must demonstrate their loyalty and obedience to the Captain by seeking this armor and putting it on. Those who do not thus yield obedience to the Captain's word will not have the protection necessary for this time, and, as intimated in the text by the apostle, they will not be able to stand in this evil day. Soldiers of the cross in previous times had not so much of the armor supplied, neither did they need the special armor that is needed now. They did not live in "this evil day."

The head knowledge that our grandfathers had respecting the divine plan will surely prove insufficient in this day of so-called higher criticism of the scriptures, evolution theories, theosophy and Christian Science. Whoever has not the proper armor necessary for the present time will be pretty sure to fall in this evil day, this day of special trial and testing; but he who puts on the armor of God, he who possesses the fruits of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul assures us shall never fall, but so doing an entrance shall be abundantly administered unto him into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Many of the tests of this evil day are already upon us, and, as the prophets have foretold, "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand." (Psa. 91:7)

These are falling away from the faith because in many instances they were not spiritual Israelites indeed, but as the Lord declares through the prophet, "Wherefore, because this people draw nigh to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me."

The Lord wants as members of the "King's own" those who are at heart loyal to Him, loyal to all who have His Spirit and loyal to righteousness and truth. If we are ashamed of Him, ashamed of His brethren, or ashamed of His Word, we are not of the kind that He is seeking now. Those who are to be with Him, to share His throne and glory and to join with Him in the great work of emancipating the world from the power of sin and death during the millennium, must all be loyal at heart, to the core, and the various trials and testings now permitted will demonstrate the degree of loyalty. Let us, dear brethren, be loyal; and even if the time should come when we shall be misunderstood by our neighbors and friends, the children of this world, let us put our confidence in the Lord; let us fight the good fight of faith against sin and error and selfishness within and without, and thus doing lay hold upon eternal life.

There is never a path so hidden, But God will show us the way, If we seek for the Spirit's guidance, And patiently wait and pray.

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