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The Divine Program--Bible In the Light of Reason






This is the third article in the series by Pastor Russell of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. There is no gainsaying the importance of the theme, and, too, in view of the fact that Mr. Russell is so widely known, these articles have occasioned wide discussion and comment, as has been evidenced by the vast number of communications that have come to the Overland Monthly from all parts of the country. --THE EDITOR.

HAVING established to our satisfaction: I. The fact that there is a supreme, intelligent, wise, just, powerful and good Creator; and

II. That he had special reasons for keeping certain features of his program secret (a mystery) and in revealing some gradually to those in fellowship with himself, we now proceed.

III. To consider to what extent the Bible furnishes reasonable evidence that it is a Divine revelation worthy of acceptance by those who are capable of heart accord with their Creator and his great program of the ages. The Bible is the only book in the world which in a logical and rational manner sets forth the order of creation in respect to earth, and shows man as its Lord and ruler and his Divine authority over the "beasts of the field, the fowls of the air and the fish of the sea," giving a detailed account of the processes of the creative epochs. The Bible alone gives man a proper standing as the Son of God, made in the Divine image and likeness as respects mental and moral qualities. The Bible alone explains to us how and why sin and death prevail amongst mankind and not amongst the angels. We find ourselves "born in sin and shapen in iniquity," "prone to sin as the sparks fly upward;" yet the Bible only explains to us how and why this is our condition and how and when and what relief God has provided for our race. The Bible alone gives an orderly record of the first man and his descendants to the flood. The Bible alone gives an explanation why the flood came and what purposes it served in the Divine program. The Bible alone gives a record of the epoch immediately following the flood and carries a genealogical line from Adam to Noah, to Abraham, to the nation of Israel.

It is true that other so-called sacred books do in some degree effect to give an account of creation, but the story they tell is so wildly absurd as to be unworthy of the slightest credence. The Chinese, for instance, relate that the elder God and his son in a skiff together grounded, and the son in shoving the boat free caught a handful of earth and shells which he moulded in his hands and tossed out upon the surface of the water, where it grew and grew until it became this earth. Who will compare such an absurd statement with the orderly and logical presentations of Genesis? We grant that the Genesis account is not as full and complete as we could have wished for, yet later on when [OV9] we shall take up this subject of creation we shall find a perfect agreement between its brief, epitomized statements and the most accurate deductions of the most careful geologists of the Twentieth Century.

In studying the Bible we should remember that it was written neither to the world nor for the world, nor yet concerning the world, except as the world is related to the Divine program. From the time of Abraham, the Divine program attached itself to him and his posterity, natural and spiritual Israel--proposing a blessing for Abraham and his seed and recovery from the sin and death conditions, and that these blessings through Abraham's seed shall in due course extend to and bless "all the families of the earth." Only from this standpoint can the Bible be rightly viewed or judged.

While the Bible claims no Divine inspiration in respect to the history of affairs from creation to Moses, a Divine supervision of that history is unquestionably implied and is explained as proper, necessary, because of the relationship between God's dealing through Abraham and Moses under the Covenants and his previous dealings with the race, leading up to these Covenants and properly making them necessary to man's recovery from the dominion of sin and death. Divine interposition and revelation to Abraham is directly claimed and the ground therefor is explicitly stated--God's time had come for beginning the work of rescue for our race and Abraham's faith marked him as the appropriate one through whom the good tidings (Gospel) of Divine mercy should be made known, saying: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." That promise became the basis of hope, the magnet for faith and the inspiration for righteousness to all those who foreshadowed, typified the blessings to come through the Abrahamic Covenant. The prophets merely foretold certain details connected with the fulfilling of that promise made to Abraham and his seed, and encouraged the favored nation to whom these promises were made to stand firmly for the Lord and continue to be his typical people.

It is that Covenant that St. Paul referred to as the oath-bound Covenant, the Divine promise of a future blessing to mankind through Abraham's seed, firmly bound by the Divine oaths to the intent that all believers might have strong consolation in fleeing from sin, in resisting its allurements, in denying self, in taking up the cross, in seeking to be affiliated with God, and to be accounted worthy of association with the great Messiah promised --the seed of Abraham to bless the world. (Heb. 6:10-14.) The Apostle assures us that by it the twelve tribes of Israel continually serving God were inspired and held in loyalty to him and separated from the nations surrounding them. "Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come." (Acts 26:7.)

We are stating the matter simply, just as set forth in the Scriptures. It is for the Evolutionists and Higher Critics to explain away their difficulties. Ignoring the Bible account and claiming man's origin to have been primordial protoplasm, they trace his ascent by evolutionary processes to Adam, the first "monkey-man." The intelligence displayed by Moses and the Egyptians of his time they find it difficult to account for, and so in defense of their theory they surmise thousands or millions of years, regardless of the fact that in so long a period the world would be vastly over-populated. Moreover, they have another difficulty, inasmuch as the intelligence displayed by Moses and recorded in the Bible is far beyond the intelligence of the masses of today and even of broader basis than the most intelligent of today; so that in the most learned circles and in courts of justice the words and laws of Moses and Israel are cited as standards of wisdom and justice. Indeed, it is safe to say that the laws of the most civilized nations of the world today have either been constructed out of the so-called Laws of Moses or have been diligently compared and revised in the light thereof.

Pause for a moment to consider some of the features of that Law. Notice that some of its accepted provisions have modified Latin laws, much to their advantage, and that other neglected features of the Mosaic Law are being cried for by Socialists today, and, not being forthcoming, in the estimation of many our present civilization is beset with danger from anarchy. [OV10] We refer, for instance, to the Law of Moses respecting debtors and creditors--that a debt could not extend beyond fifty years-- that the fiftieth or Jubilee year wiped out every responsibility, personal and financial, and permitted each estate to come back to its original possessors, and each family to recover from its disasters and financial difficulties. It is the neglect of this very provision which has been recognized to some extent and been offset somewhat by the "Laws of Bankruptcy," which in the last few years have been adopted by all civilized nations--limiting the duration of the debt--hindering it from crushing out hope and ambition.

Unlike all other Governments that instituted by Moses recognized God himself as the ruler, and the nation as his people. The "holy of holies" of their Tabernacle was the Divine meeting place, and around it circled in order the various tribes. The sentiment of personal responsibility to God was maintained in all of their laws, and the spirit of the Decalogue is today recognized as the very best statement of human obligation--"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, being, and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself." Thirty centuries have failed to improve upon this statement. The Government instituted by Moses was in many respects a model of fairness and justice as between brethren, and even the rights of the stranger, the foreigner, were stipulated.

Israel was in many respects a republic whose officers acted under the Divine Commission and law, and so continued for over four hundred years. Then at the request of the Elders it was changed to a monarchy by the Lord's permission, but without his approval. He said to Samuel who acted as a representative of the people: "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me." Under Divine direction, the prophet explained to the people how their Divine rights and liberties would be disregarded by the kings and they would lose their liberty in a considerable measure by this change.--1 Sam. 8:6-22.

Considering the anxiety of the people to have a king, how evidently Moses might have taken that position amongst them without the slightest opposition! The judges were representatives of the various families and tribes. Respecting them, Moses declared "And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's."--Deut. 1:16-17.

The laws of the most civilized peoples of today do not more carefully provide that rich and poor shall stand on a level in accountability before the civil law. The Jubilee arrangement, as we have seen, is in this order; and all the laws were made public, thus establishing the poorest in a knowledge of his rights. Respecting the rights of the foreigner, for instance, we read, "Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God." (Lev. 24:22.) "And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself."--Lev. 19:33,34.

The laws protected the weak, the stranger, the servant. For instance, "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless." (Ex. 22:21-24; 23:9; Lev. 19:33,34.) "Thou shalt not oppress him that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren or the strangers that are in the land, within thy gates. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it, for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it; lest he come against thee to the Lord and it be sin unto thee." "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head and honor the face of the old man." (Lev. 19:13,14,32.) All of this, yet not one word of special honor for the priestly tribe. [OV11]

Note again the equity: "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee, lying under his burden, wouldst thou forbear to help him? Thou shalt surely help him." (Ex. 23:4-5.) Mark how dumb animals were not forgotten: the ox must not be muzzled while threshing the grain, because any laborer is worthy of his food. An ox and an ass must not be hitched together, because so unequal in strength and tread; it would be cruelty. Their rest was also provided for.--Deut. 25:4; 22:10; Ex. 23:12.

A priestly tribe was indeed indicated, but so far from being selfishly put into power, the reverse was done, in that no political power was given to the priesthood. They were to teach the people and to minister holy things, but not to be their rulers. Moreover, they were cut off from an inheritance with the other tribes in the land and made dependent upon the voluntary offerings of their brethren. Nor was their position fortified by threats of present or future calamity. If they were negligent of their teachers, the simple exhortation was: "And the Levite that is within thy gates: thou shalt not forsake him: for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee." (Deut. 14:27.) To say that this arrangement was selfish or that the scheme was concocted by "priests and knaves" is to declare one's ignorance of the institutions of Israel. On the contrary, if the Bible were more thoroughly studied there would be many to inquire with the celebrated attorney who made a study of the Jewish law: "Where did Moses get that Law?" The answer surely would be that it was not the product of a "monkey-man," and more, that it gave evidence of a Divine authorship as well as of a highly intelligent, humble, patriotic, noble instrument.

We must leave for future consideration the typical features of Moses' Law, competent understanding of which serves an important place in the instruction of spiritual Israel concerning spiritual things. This the Apostle declares, saying that the "Law is a shadow of things to come," (Col. 2:17), and that as cleansings were made with the blood of bulls and of goats, these prefigure antitypical cleansings through "better sacrifices."-- Heb. 9:23.

Who can reasonably or truthfully say that these laws and regulations were the work of crafty, designing men animated by selfish desires? And the same principle applies to the historical books and to the prophecies of the Scriptures. Everything tests the sincerity of the writers and their loyalty to God and men. The messages which they delivered often cost them popular disfavor and sometimes their lives.--Heb. 11:30-40.

The very fact that the sins and weaknesses of prophets, kings and priests are laid bare in the Scriptures, yet without any apparent animosity or any desire to color or whiten them, indicates fairness and a loyalty to Truth beyond anything we are accustomed to today. Indeed, although many bad men of influence are criticised in the Scriptures, there is no evidence whatever of any endeavor to tamper with the records. Apparently the sacred writings held the reverence of the people to a remarkable degree.

Much along the same line could be said for the New Testament writings. They are simply told. Unfavorable truths are not ignored. It is freely conceded that Jesus died between two thieves; that he was betrayed by one of his own disciples; that they all forsook him and fled; that one of them even denied him with cursing. The humble origin of the disciples is stated, yet without parade, and in narrative form it is innocently declared that even when the apostles Peter and John preached under the power of the Holy Spirit their learned hearers could "perceive that they were ignorant and unlearned men." (Acts 4:13.) What biographies or other writings of today display as much candor as we thus see at a glance as we open the Bible?

The Bible Itself a Miracle.

When we consider the fact that the Bible is composed of sixty-six books written by thirty-eight different pens, during a long period of nearly two thousand years it is a miracle surely that these writers are in full accord, telling the one story. This cannot be accounted for except upon the lines which the Scriptures themselves lay down, namely: that these various writers [OV12] were supernaturally guided in respect to their utterances. To get a view of how stupendous this miracle is, let us suggest that an equal amount of writing from any thirty-eight men living contemporaneously, members of one denomination, influenced by one general shade of thought, would be found widely conflicting and contradictory--even if they were the most learned men in the denomination and picked for the very purpose of this demonstration.

Permit another suggestion along this line, namely: that amongst those who reverence the Bible as a Divine revelation, we find such dissimilarity of thought that it has developed hundreds of denominational creeds which contradict and oppose one another in a most violent manner, so that the peace-loving of today are constrained to avoid doctrines as much as possible in the interest of unity. More than this, what shall be thought of it if we find that all the creeds of Christendom not only antagonize each other and antagonize reason, but that they violently antagonize the Scriptures themselves? What shall we say to it if we find the Scriptures alone harmonious with themselves and with reason? Will not this demonstrate that the Bible is the most wonderful Book in the world--assaulted both by friends and foes, it has withstood them all and still stands the great Divine monument and record of the purposes which God purposed in himself before the foundation of the world?

Harmony from Genesis to Revelation.

We hold and shall endeavor to make plain that the Bible is not, as is generally supposed, a collection of wise and unwise rules, regulations, statements, etc., but that it is a Divine record so arranged that when its various parts and their relationship to each other is discerned, it reveals the wonderful outlines of the Divine purpose.

Notice briefly what we will more particularly outline and develop later, namely: that from the opening statement to the closing one the theme is The Divine Program:

(1) Creation;

(2) The Fall;

(3) Suggestive promises, intimations and types of recovery for the fallen race through the mercy of the Creator.

(4) The development of the thought that sin is unholiness and that it must be abhorred and repelled and put away, in order to approach harmony with the Holy Creator.

(5) That this is not possible to us because of our inherited weaknesses.

(6) That God foresaw this and provided for it by sending his Son to be man's Redeemer and Reconciler.

(7) That since one sinner could not redeem another, the Redeemer must be "holy, harmless and separate from sinners," and that to this purpose Christ was peculiarly begotten by the transference of his life in a miraculous manner from the heavenly condition to the earthly.

(8) That he "died, the just for the unjust," that thus the sinner's penalty being paid, the sinner himself might ultimately go free.

(9) The necessity for co-operation on the part of the sinner, if any grace be accomplished in him and for him.

(10) The call of the Church class to be associated with the Redeemer in the sufferings of this present time, in self-denials and sacrifices in the interests of the Cause of Truth and righteousness.

(11) The incentive, the reward offered to such as will now emulate their Redeemer and thus become "copies of God's dear Son," and thus "make their calling and their election sure" to a joint-heirship with their Redeemer in his coming Kingdom.

(12) A trial and testing of the Church as to love and loyalty to the Lord and to the brethren and sympathetic love toward mankind in general, yea, even for their enemies.

(13) With the conclusion of this elective or selective purpose will come the resurrection of the Church, their change from earthly to heavenly conditions, their entrance into the joys of their Lord, "changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," to glory, honor and immortality.

(14) The work will end with the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom in which he and his faithful Bride, the "elect" Church, will supervise all the affairs [OV13] of earth to the intent that Satan will be bound and all evil influences will be restrained. The knowledge of the Truth will be widely proclaimed until every creature shall appreciate it fully. The stopple of death to those who then, during the Millennium, shall come into harmony with The Christ and be obedient to the laws of the Kingdom.

(15) Next in order will come the awakening of the thousands of millions who have died, the bringing forth of these, "every man in his own order," that they may be brought to a complete knowledge of the Truth, to a full opportunity of deciding for righteousness and its reward, eternal life; or contrariwise, the penalty of the Second Death.

(16) The full restitution of man to his original perfection and the bringing of earth to the glorious estate of Paradise restored will be the culmination of this Divine program, because by that time "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess" the Messiah, and only the wilfully disobedient will have been cut off, "destroyed from amongst the people."-- Acts 3:23.

(17) Then, at the end of the Millennium, the perfected race will be turned over in its completeness and perfection to the Father, without any mediatorial interposition or covering of sin or weaknesses; then according to Rev. 20:7, the Father will permit a strong temptation to come upon the entire human family to prove the loyalty or disloyalty to God and to righteousness of these favored people for whom so much will then have been done through the operation of Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power.

The Book which thus teaches in contradiction to the various and varied traditions of men, which for centuries have surrounded it, is certainly worthy of universal acknowledgment and acceptation as the Divine Message respecting "The Divine Program."


THE Word of Truth is like a stained-glass window rare,
We stand outside and gaze, but see no beauty there,
No fair design, naught but confusion we behold;
'Tis only from within the glory will unfold,
And he who would drink in the rapture of the view
Must climb the winding stair, the portal enter through.
The sacred door of Truth's cathedral is most low,
And all who fain would enter there the knee must bow
In deep humility. But once inside, the light
Of day streams through and makes each color heavenly bright,
The Master's great design we see, our hands we raise
In reverent ecstasy of wonder, love and praise!
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