No. 151 Robinson St., Allegheny, Pa.
C. T. RUSSELL, EDITOR.
This paper will be sent free to the interested of the Lord's poor, who will send a card yearly requesting it. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat – yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you who have it – "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently – and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." – ISAIAH 55:1,2.
This paper is dated to represent two months, October and November, but numbered as one issue. From this you will know not to expect another issue until December. Your subscription year will be estimated as extended one month beyond the date at which it would otherwise have expired.
This has been found necessary to enable us to use our type for M. DAWN VOL. II., which we hope to be able to announce as ready in our next issue. The first edition will be in cloth binding only and it is questionable whether it will be worth while to get out a paper bound edition; because it will probably be of interest only to the deeply interested, who will prefer it in cloth binding for preservation as a book of reference.
WE HAVE gotten out a new lot of ARP TRACTS – slightly changed. These we have now in both English and German. They are supplied FREE, in any quantity, postage paid by us, to those who will promise a proper distribution of them. IN ordering say what quantity you can judiciously use.
A cheap, popular edition for loaning, etc., greatly desired by some of the friends, has finally been decided upon. The first thousand is now about read and orders will be filled in rotation as received. The price will be 25 cents each the same as the English edition, that being the popular limit. The same "expense allowance" as on the English edition will be granted. See June '88 TOWER, page 1. Order at once.
Our Lord said to the nominal Jewish church, "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made ye make him twofold more the child of hell [gehenna – the second death] than before." (Matt. 23:15.) The fault on the part of the Jews lay not in the zeal, which prompted labor and expense for others (Rom. 10:2), but in the false ideas by which the zeal was inspired, which evidently was in great measure sectarian pride rather than love. The damage done to the Gentiles did not consist in the introduction of immoralities; for the Jews, and the Law of Moses which they took with them, favored morality, and doubtless had thus a good tendency in this respect. The evil consisted in the false ideas which they spread among the Gentiles. They taught that circumcision and the keeping of Moses' law justified to life. They raised their own imperfect lives as standards or illustrations of the demands of the law. By thus raising false standards of righteousness before the Gentiles, and telling them that they could keep the Law and justify themselves by (imperfect) works, they were breaking the very effect the law was designed to have, viz., to show human imperfection and thus point to Christ as the only perfect one, whose sacrifice for our sins was all-necessary. They were thus (ignorantly) opposing God and injuring the Gentiles; for, as many of the Gentiles as received their teachings, were in a worse condition, less likely to receive Christ as their Redeemer, than if left in heathen darkness.
We fear that our Master would offer a very similar reproof to much of the missionary effort of our day, done in his name. Even if the moral tone of the heathen people is elevated to some extent, and if education and civilization of manners and customs follow as the good results of missions, it would still be proper to inquire, Is the result favorable to pure Christianity or not? Do the doctrines taught tend to bring the people into fellowship of spirit with the Master and the [R1072 : page 1] true plan of redemption and salvation, by and through the great Life-giver; or, do they tend to a spirit of fear, and lead to trust in a gloss of morality, as a basis for hope of escape from a vengeful God and a burning hell? Ignoring the question of morals, which may be practiced by infidels as well as by saints, we ask, Is the religious tendency of mission work as now carried on, favorable or unfavorable as a whole?
On this point we have an undesigned answer, given by a Presbyterian missionary, J.C.R. Ewing, D.D., who having spent nine years in mission work in India, is certainly qualified to give an opinion on the general results of mission work there. While on a visit home recently, he delivered a lecture on the subject, before the Y.M.C.A. of this city, from which the following was reported in the local press. He said: –
"India owes more to the direct and indirect influences of Christianity than to any other one thing. It has done much to break down the old idea of material gods, and in its stead set up the idea of a single supreme God, but not the same idea of a God that the people of the West [Europe, etc.] entertain.
Among the 263,000,000 of people in that country there are 10,000,000 young men who speak the English language and who are instructed in the Western ideas that we are taught. The higher caste are thoroughly learned in the literature, the religion and the sciences that are the basis of the education of the people of this country. The old idea of a vengeful God, who must be propitiated by numerous gifts and many prayers has given way to the modern spirit of infidelity. The educated men of the East no longer believe in the gods of their fathers. They have abandoned them forever and replaced them with the teachings of Colonel Robert J. Ingersoll, of Paine, of Voltaire, of Bradlaugh and of every other atheistical and pantheistical teacher. This skeptical age will soon pass away, and the West, just as it has given India her ideas, will give her the religion of the Christian God, and the people will no more bow down to the God Vishnu, or Corla, the goddess with the necklace of skulls.
The young men of India are well educated, acute observers, intelligent, well posted in all the affairs of other nations besides their own, and though it may seem strange, well acquainted with our Bible. Indeed they know it so well that none but a man thoroughly conversant with its teachings, and the Christian theology, could hope to be able to successfully answer all the objections that they bring forward against it. The popular idea that a missionary sits in the shade of a tree and teaches naked savages who gather around him, is an exploded one. In India the missionary meets intelligent and educated men, and he must be well equipped to influence them. They are, besides being intelligent a fine looking people, amiable, courteous, gentlemanly, and treat all foreigners with the greatest consideration and respect."
Thus, while telling us of his great hopes, this gentleman honestly confesses that missionary influences tend far more toward infidelity than toward Christianity; and that it is the intelligent class who become infidels, and only a few of the ignorant and young that accept of Christ, is to be implied from his statement, as well as from the more direct testimony of other missionaries.
Where is the fault? It is with the doctrines taught, which are neither Scriptural, nor truthful, nor reasonable. The effect of these false teachings is to embitter one class against Christ and every thing connected with his name, and to prejudice and enslave another class by fear, to the service and spread of error. Thus, while perhaps morally elevated, those people are less ready to receive the truth than if they had never seen or heard the false gospel.
Nor is the effect very different nearer home. Here too, we see the same bad fruit of false doctrine. As knowledge increases, it is rapidly driving the thinking class into either active infidelity, or passive doubt and unbelief. The majority of the young people brought into the various sects are merely credulous and deluded unbelievers. Calling themselves Christians, and supposing that they are such, they are really nearly as ignorant of the doctrines, and words, and spirit of Christ, as the heathen. They are really farther from the kingdom of God, by reason of their delusion, than if they were totally ignorant of Christ.
It is far from our thought to intimate that all who are zealously engaged in promulgating the false doctrines referred to, are destitute of the spirit of Christ. Quite the contrary; there are such, who hold on to Christ by faith, notwithstanding the tendencies of false doctrines, handed down from Papacy, to overthrow their faith in God.
To some of those to whom the Lord had said, "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made he is twofold more the child of gehenna than yourselves," Peter said, "I wot that ye did it ignorantly, as did also your rulers." (Acts 3:17.) So now many of God's children who teach falsely, and thus exercise an injurious influence on the world, do it as unintentionally as did Saul before he saw the great light in the way and found that he was opposing the Messiah whose cause he before supposed he was serving.
Mr. Ewing has a hope without foundation, when he believes that the infidelity of India is a step nearer to God and Christ than their former conscientious idolatry. Not so; they have been injured deeply by these false doctrines; just as infidels here are injured. They are farther from Christ and harder than ever to reach. Bible truth can convert an infidel, but sectarianism never. Although the Millennial age shall bring all to a clear comprehension of the truth, these infidels will, we doubt not, be far slower to receive the truth than if they were still in heathen darkness. And many of those young and ignorant converts are injured also, they are prejudiced against the truth and in favor of errors to such an extent that it will be more difficult to convert them to the truth than if left in total ignorance of Christ until the truth in its purity, simplicity and grandeur shall be taken to them.
And when the gospel shall be preached to every creature, during the Millennial age, we have no doubt that many simple, unprejudiced ones, who make no profession of Christianity, will hear and receive the truth much more readily than some who have been Christians in name, but not in deed and in truth. – Matt. 7:22.
Who can look around him, and consider the state of the world in which we live, and not be obliged to confess that clouds and darkness are now on every side? "The whole creation travaileth in pain." Rom. 8:22. Look where we will, we see confusion, quarrels, wars between nations, helplessness of statesmen, discontent and grumbling of lower classes, excessive luxury among the rich, extreme poverty among the poor, intemperance, impurity, dishonesty, swindling, lying, cheating, covetousness, heathenism, superstition, formality among Christians, decay of vital religion – these are the things which we see continually over the whole globe – Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
But there is a good time coming which David saw far distant, when this state of things shall be completely changed. There is a kingdom coming in which holiness shall be the rule, and sin shall have no place at all.
Who can look around him in his own neighborhood, and fail to see within a mile of his house that the consequences of sin lie heavily on the earth, and that sorrow and trouble abound? Sickness, and pain and death come to all classes, and spare none, whether rich or poor. The young often die before the old, and the children before the parents. Bodily suffering of the most fearful description and incurable disease, make the existence of many miserable. Widowhood, and childlessness, and solitariness, tempt many to feel weary of life, though everything which money can obtain is within their reach. Family quarrels, and envies and jealousies break up the peace of many a rich man's happiness. Who can deny that all these things are to be seen on every side of us? There are many clouds now.
Will nothing end this state of things? Is creation to go on groaning and travailing forever after this fashion? Thanks be to God, the second advent of Christ supplies an answer to these questions. The Lord Jesus Christ has not yet finished his work on behalf of man. He will come again one day (perhaps very soon) to set up a glorious kingdom, in which the consequences of sin shall have no place at all. It is a kingdom in which there shall be no pain and no disease, in which "the inhabitants shall no more say, I am sick," (Isa. 33:24.) It is a kingdom in which there shall be no more partings, no moves, no changes, no good-byes. It is a kingdom in which there shall be no deaths, no funerals, no tears, and no mourning worn. It is a kingdom in which there shall be no quarrels, no losses, no disappointments, no wicked children, no bad servants, no faithless friends. Where is the Christian heart that does not long for this state of things to begin?– Bishop Ryle.
Like the great majority of those who have caught glimpses of the Millennial kingdom, this brother's mind settles upon the final results to be obtained at the close of the Millennium; and his view consequently is rather that of the perfection to follow, than of the Millennium itself.
There will be pain and sighing and trouble and death all through the Millennium, down to its close. But there will be a vast difference between now and then. Now, both saints and sinners suffer, and the former generally suffer most; then, only the wicked will suffer. Now, all who serve God are disadvantaged – "whosoever will live godly, shall suffer persecution;" "in the world ye shall have tribulation;" "marvel not if the world hate you." Then, "ye shall turn again and discern [a difference] between him that serveth the Lord and him that serveth him not." It shall not be as now: the wicked shall no more "spread himself as a green bay tree;" no more shall it be true of them that "their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish," while the just are led as lambs to the slaughter. – James 5:6.
The tears and pains and sorrows of the overcomers – the good soldiers of Christ who endured much and bravely for his truth's sake – will be at an end then. They all end with the present age of the Church's trial. The tears and groans and pains of the coming age will come from the ungodly. All wickedness will meet with a just and speedy punishment then, and every effort toward righteousness will bring blessings and releases from present imperfections which now cause pain, suffering and death.
Now the penalty of sin rests heavily upon all because of Adam's sin. The fathers ate a sour grape of sin and all the children's teeth are set on edge; but all this ends with the present age. Pain and death will then be an individual matter; only the sinners will suffer, as the prophet explains. (Jer. 31:29,30.) There will be death then too, but not as now, the Adamic death upon all; "the soul that sinneth, it shall die," and no others. (Ezek. 18:4,20.) None but willful sinners will die then, but such shall surely die. Some, after coming to a full knowledge, and after a hundred years of trial, because still wilfully rebellious following the example of Satan and loving sin rather than righteousness, will die at a hundred years of age, and yet be but children. Others, who will make some progress under the Millennial trial, and continue to live down to its close, will be proved by a trial at the close of the Millennium, to still love sin, notwithstanding all their knowledge and experience with it – its cost, etc., and such too will be cut off from life, in the Second Death as clearly shown in Rev. 20:14,15. [See TOWER of Oct. 86.] Hence we see that sorrow and pain and death will still be known until the great Redeemer and Restorer has finished his great work of judging the redeemed world in righteousness, – to test which of them are worthy of everlasting life upon the condition of free, willing, glad obedience to all of God's requirements – which are all righteous.
So then, the Millennial reign of the great Restorer is the "times of restitution," a time in which imperfection will still continue, but in which it will gradually give place to perfection in the obedient. It will be the time for making all things new; but all things will not be perfectly restored and new until its close. It is to be the great schooling time for earth's billions, in which they shall all come to a knowledge of the truth; the great restoring and perfecting time both for man and for the earth, both so far from being perfect or very good now. It is the great Day of Judgment in which Christ shall "judge the world" and "judge angels" (Acts 17:31; Psa. 96:13; and 1 Cor. 6:2,3) rewarding with restored perfection the willing and worthy, and cutting off from life, forever, all willful sinners. This "righteous judgment" of all, necessitates the fullness of knowledge and assistance promised to all, then.
Hence, we say the Morning without Clouds is that of the perfect age beyond the reign of Christ. The Millennial morning will be specially cloudy – "Behold he cometh with clouds." (Rev. 1:7.) "Clouds and darkness are round about Him." (Psa. 97:2; 50:3.) The Millennial dawn will be amid "clouds and thick darkness," – a "time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation," in which the new and rightful King of earth will rule and correct the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel – debasing the high and the proud and exalting the humble lovers of righteousness. – See, "The Plan of the Ages," chapters xiii, xiv, and xv.
DEAR SIR AND BRO.: – I have been reading and investigating your book DAWN, and must confess to some interest and also curiosity. I know very well that in such investigation many important things are liable to be overlooked as well as brought out, and your book, or some other of your published conclusions may contain information on the very question I am going to ask you, viz.: – Do you teach the Scriptures on baptism (as well as faith and repentance), as an essential to forgiveness of sins? If not, why not?
I like much of what you say, as far as I have read it; but must confess that it is decidedly revolutionary. No matter for that, if it is the truth; for revolutions never go backward. I have met and heard Bro. Adamson, and expect to hear him again.
Sisters H. and M. of this city and I are friends, and we have been together in the same church, and I was curious to know what had led them and so am reading your book and paper. Yours for all the truth.
[Your questions with reference to baptism, I trust, are satisfactorily answered in the May TOWER and others to some extent in other TOWERS sent you.
With reference to your query – "How do you justify your efforts to induce people to accept what we believe and discuss to be the truth, if you do not believe in evangelizing the world?" – I answer, we believe in the evangelizing of the world; but we do not believe in converting the world; that is, we find that God neither intends his truth to convert the world in the present age, nor has he told us to expect it to do so. He has commissioned us to go into all the world and declare the good tidings and thus to witness to the truth, and he has told us to expect only here one and there another, a little flock in all, to receive it. He shows us that his plan is, that when this little flock is selected under the trying circumstances of the present age, he will then make use of them in the age to follow this (the Millennium) as his agents in blessing all the families of the earth, and that under more favorable circumstances, than the present.
This promise to raise up an Abrahamic seed to power and glory, and through it to bless the world, was the gospel first preached to Abraham; it is the good tidings of great joy for all people which must be fulfilled. Our Lord Jesus came as the head of this seed; and the Apostle Paul tells us (Gal. 3:29) that all the faithful church are members of this seed, and heirs with Christ of the promise made to this Abrahamic seed, that through them all shall be blessed.
Besides, we understand that now we are living in the closing period of the Gospel age, called "the end" or "harvest." – "The harvest is the end of the world [age]." This being true, it follows that the character of the work now to be done is harvest work – reaping rather than sowing. We, therefore, are engaged in dispensing the stronger truths not to the world but to the wheat and tares (Matt. 13), the professed church. These truths as harvest sunshine are warm and strong and tend to ripen the wheat; and they also lead (through a clearer knowledge of the truth) to a separation between the wheat and tares. In this, these harvest truths are the Lord's sickle. The separation of the true wheat from the mere professors, the tares, goes on as quietly but as surely as a similar separation did in the end of the Jewish age – which was also called a "harvest." – John 4:35-38.
I trust dear brother, that these things may be indeed good tidings to you, as they are to be to all the meek eventually; and let me hope that you will not only have the grace to see the truth and receive it into an honest heart, but also the courage when seen to confess it, and to give your entire life in its service. – EDITOR.] page 2
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – I feel greatly benefited by the July number of the WATCH TOWER. I have read and re-read the rich truths contained in it, and have been wonderfully blest. It was food indeed to my hungry soul; it made the subject of prayer very plain and comprehensible. It is a lesson worthy the study of every saint; if we pray to God let us pray aright. I needed just such a lesson on how to pray, and when to pray, and what to pray for. Many thanks for it.
When I read the letter from the dear lonely brother, J. W. B. found on the seventh page, it filled my heart with joy; and tears of sympathy flowed from my eyes, for his opposition will be great. We will pray for, and sympathize with him.
"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love,
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."
God bless you in all your labors of love. Your brother in harvest work.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: – I have long wanted to write to you, but feared you were almost too busy to read. I am a farmer and belong to the Missionary Baptist church. I am sixty years of age and have been preaching thirty-five years, devoting part of my time to that work and refusing any pay. So you see I am quite free.
Only last fall I received Millennial Dawn, and read it with delight. I had long been seeking for more light on these deep subjects, and it was like the rising of the sun after a dark night. With my knowledge of the people hereabouts, I knew but few could stand the light all at once; so I have begun giving it to them [R1074 : page 2] just as they can bear it. The plan I adopted was to select about twenty of our very best men, without regard to their church creeds, and place in their hands M. DAWN for careful examination. The result is, about one half endorse it freely, and the rest seem undecided. I find it requires prudence to avoid a raid of persecution against it before it is understood. I am moving, but slowly and safely.
May God bless you in your glorious work.
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – I am again out on the road selling DAWNS. I could not be contented to settle while there is such a favorable time to be at work. I believe there will be time enough to fold our hands when we cannot find work, but now is the harvest truly ripe, and laborers few indeed. I have been on the road since the latter part of last week and have sold nearly half of the one hundred Dawns I had left, and will now order more, (order enclosed). I tell you it is a pleasure to me to scatter those tracts and Dawns. I would rather do it than anything I ever did. Of course there are lots of disadvantages about traveling in a covered wagon, but I cannot travel by train on account of my children, as I have no one to leave them with. I am very happy when I work just as hard as I can for the Lord, and in no other way. So as long as I can I shall sell Dawns. I have to stop now and then to clean and mend, and then go again. When winter comes I shall be compelled to settle, as did Paul, to winter. With great love to you and Sister Russell, I close by asking you to pray for my full deliverance into that blessed kingdom. I remain yours in Christ.
"I am often so weary of sorrow,
So weary of struggling with sin,
So timid concerning the morrow,
So faithless of entering in
To the beautiful rest that remaineth
Secure in the city of God,
Where shall enter no evil that staineth,
Nor ever the spoiler hath trod.
"But aye when the struggle is sorest,
And dark are clouds on my soul,
Dear Lord, the sweet cup that thou pourest
Has balm, and I drink and am whole.
From the quenchless old well of salvation
I quaff the pure waters divine,
And a sense of triumphant elation
Is thrilled through this spirit of mine.
"No hand but thine own, blessed Master,
Could comfort and cheer in the day
When the touch of a sudden disaster
Has cumbered and tangled the way.
No look but thine own could illumine
When night gathers black o'er the land,
And strength that is failing and human
Lies prone on the desolate strand.
"But ever thy help is the nearest
When help from the earth there is none,
And ever the word that is dearest
Is the word of the Crucified Son;
And aye, when the tempest-clouds gather,
I fly for sweet shelter and peace
Through the Son to the heart of the Father,
The terror and tremor doth cease.
"He restoreth my soul, and I praise Him
Whose love is my chrism and crown;
He restoreth my soul; let me raise him
A song that his mercy will own.
For often so weary of sorrow,
So weary of fighting with sin,
I look and I long for the morrow
When the ransom'd their freedom shall win."
"As the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many are one body, so also is Christ; for by one spirit are we all baptized into one body."..."There is one body, and one spirit; even as ye are all called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all."... "After the way which they [many] call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers."..."Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" [If so, then,] "I have become a fool for Christ's sake." – 1 Cor. 12:12,13; Eph. 4:4-6; Acts 24:14; Gal. 4:16.
That during the Gospel age God has been selecting a church, is admitted by all Christians except Universalists; and that all thus selected constitute the one church, and that God recognizes only the one church, and that a membership in that one church can only be secured during the present life – during the Gospel age – is also generally admitted to be the teaching of the Bible.
And many will admit also, that our present union with Christ's body, the church, though precious, is but a probationary membership, which will only be confirmed and made everlasting by introduction into full membership in the church triumphant, at the close of this probationary period of the present life. – John 15:5,6; Phil. 3:12-16.
We hold, that the conditions of the present trial, of all accepted as probationary members of the heavenly church, are much more severe and exacting, and that the selection is consequently much smaller than Christian people generally suppose; – a "little flock" only, is now being selected. (Luke 12:32.) Many suppose that the object of our God in calling and highly exalting the church was merely to save them from everlasting torment. We claim, and find and produce abundant Scripture proof of it, that God's object in this selection, training, discipline and final exaltation of the church, is for the ultimate purpose of blessing all his fallen, sin-stricken creatures (human and angelic) through them; by granting to all a full perfect judgment or trial under most favorable conditions, of which perfect knowledge and sufficient help, will be the chief elements of favor. Thus seen, the church is being selected for the great work to be accomplished during the Millennial age, of restoring "whosoever will" of the fallen ones back to their former estates, and consigning the wilfully unholy to the second death – everlasting punishment – everlasting destruction.
Nor can it be denied, that this Scriptural view is much more elevating than the common selfish view which originated in the great Apostasy. Those called out by the hope of sharing in God's plan for doing good to others – blessing all the families of the earth – are sure to be both fewer, and spiritually above the masses, who are only moved by a selfish hope of escaping torment.
We also differ from most Christians in regarding the church in its present condition as merely in a probationary state. And we further claim that there is only one church now, even as there will be but one church in glory; that our Lord and the apostles never recognized any but one church on earth; that so far from establishing many, or recognizing many, they denounced all efforts to separate into different parties and under different names, as schismatic, sectarian, and contrary to God's will, and as injurious, and an evidence of carnality in all who consented to, or aided such divisions of the probationary church.
Paul's able and pointed reasoning upon this subject is partially obscured by the common translations, yet even in it, when the attention is called to it, the trend of the Apostle's reasoning can be clearly discerned; much more so in that valuable and generally very faithful translation, the Emphatic Diaglott. He exhorts that those teachers who favor divisions in the flock of Christ, be "watched" and turned away from; because they are not following the Lord's will, but their own. And he adds, "by kind and complimentary words they mislead the unsuspicious." (Rom. 16:17.) He reproved the Corinthian church because of a tendency toward sectarianism among them. (1 Cor. 1:10-13; and 3:3-6.) They were dividing into Paulites, Apollosites, and Peterites, while a few rightly clung to the name Christian.
Each of these teachers had his peculiarities of manner in teaching, which caused some to esteem one, and others another, most highly. But they all had the one gospel – the one Lord, one faith and one baptism. The spirit of favoritism, which led to factions and divisions, and to the exaltation of sectarian or party names, or the name of an individual teacher, to be the standard around which to rally, the Apostle declared was an evidence of carnality – proof of a worldly spirit.
While the taking of different names was wrong, it was an evidence of a deeper wrong – of a selfish, party spirit. It was an evidence that those Corinthians, who took the party names, had never really appreciated the oneness of the Body of Christ; that they did not really appreciate that Christ is the only head, leader and standard; and that his is the only name by which his followers should recognize themselves and each other. Where scoffers apply a name in derision, it is not the fault of the faithful. But the true, loyal soldiers of the cross, should never own or recognize such a name. Instances of names so originating are Methodists and Baptists, both of which were first given in derision, but were afterwards adopted as party names, representing sects, factions, or divisions in the body of Christ. All true teachers are not only sent by Christ but receive their instructions from him; and any man who attempts to put his own or any other name upon all or any portion of the church is an opponent, an adversary to the true and only Lord and Head of the church. He is a misleader and evil doer, no matter what his claims or motives may be.
The Apostle upbraiding the Corinthians, and seeking to show them their error in owning any other teacher besides Christ to be their head and standard and leader, asks, "Has Christ been divided?" Are there several seeds of Abraham now, each an heir of a promise? Is this the reason you countenance divisions into different parties? Or, is it because each of these leaders – Paul, Apollos, and Peter, have done some special favors to you and put you under obligation to them, you requite them by calling yourselves their servants and followers, bearing their names? – Was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in his name?
Nay, nay, dearly beloved; one, and only one deserves all the honor of the church, both now and forever, and that one is her true Lord and Master; and His name only she should own in any manner. He leads, he teaches, he feeds; and the various human agents used by him, as channels for his blessings to his espoused, should neither take his place in her heart nor share his honor before the world.
For a long time, in fact until very recently, Christians recognized this true principle, that there is but one body or church on earth, even as there will be but one in glory. And following this idea, each sect claimed to be that one, the only true church, and persecuted others. But by and by each began to see in the other certain good features of doctrine and practice, and gradually their ideas changed, until to-day they claim boldly, and in opposition to the word of our Lord and of the apostles, that sects are a decided advantage; that the human mind is so constituted that a common faith, which Paul urges upon the church, is an impossibility; and that the various sects of to-day with their contradictory diversities of faith are necessary accommodations to human prejudices and imbecility.
Yet, still clinging to the idea that somehow there should be but one church, they are anxious to reunite all the larger sects so as to make (nominally) one church, while each sect therein may retain its own special features of faith or disbelief as at present. All in such a union (of which the Evangelical Alliance is a beginning), merely agree to disagree, to live and let live; and to recognize each other, in this general way, because of an increased influence and power and protection which it will bring to each sect thus associated; and because it would detract from the influence of others not so associated, and thus hinder independence of thought. This would serve to fix and establish an "orthodox" boundary line, inside of which there would be bounds to individual liberty, and yet a measure of freedom – to choose a preference among the forms and doctrines of the various sects thus acknowledged as "orthodox."
This is in fact the case now, among the so-called "liberal minds" of all denominations; and it is being urged of late that an organization of this sort, already founded in the Evangelical Alliance, be fully consummated; and that an attempt shall be made to have such a composite church in some degree recognized by the government.
The first danger against which the Apostle warned the church, was sectarianism. He evidently was heeded at the time at least; for no great sect of Paulites or Apollosites developed. But, as usual, the great enemy thwarted in one direction moved to the opposite extreme, and attempted to insist upon a oneness very different from what the apostles or our Lord ever taught. This attempt was to have every recognized member of the church think exactly alike, on every minutia of Christian doctrine. This attempt finally headed up in Papacy, where every matter of doctrine was decided by the popes and councils; and every man who would be considered a church member was obliged to accept such decisions fully, and to profess that such decisions were his belief, his faith; whereas they were not his in any sense, but that of adoption. They were generally either blindly received or hypocritically professed with mental reservations.
This was not at all the oneness urged by Paul. He urged a oneness of heart, and of mind and not a thoughtless, heartless, or hypocritical profession. He urged a oneness such as naturally results from the proper exercise of the liberty which we have in Christ – to search and believe the Scriptures, and to grow in grace and in knowledge, every man being thus fully persuaded in his own mind, and firmly rooted and grounded in the one faith as set forth in the Scriptures. The oneness of faith which Paul urged, was not that elaborate faith which touches and embraces all subjects, heavenly and earthly, human and divine, revealed and unrevealed. Quite the contrary: Paul's letters, weighty with logical reasoning, do not even mention the subjects upon which sectarians do most insist, and which are generally made tests of fellowship by them.
Paul said nothing about an everlasting torture for sinners; he said nothing whatever about a mysterious trinity, in which three Gods incomprehensibly are three Gods and at the same time one God; he said not a word about man being of a nature such as could not die but must live, either in a place of pleasure or woe, everlastingly; he said nothing, either, about the present life ending all trial for all classes; and he entered into no entangling discussion about the bread and wine used in commemoration of the Lord's death, – as to transubstantiation or consubstantiation; yet it can easily be discerned that he was not in harmony with any of these errors.
Notice particularly, however, that without so much as mentioning a single one of these sectarian tests of fellowship, Paul declares, – "I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27.) From this it is very evident, that none of these points, which are to-day regarded as the very essence and substance of Christian doctrine, and the tests of faith, are the "one faith" or in any sense or degree parts of "the faith once delivered unto the saints." – Jude 3.
The one faith which all should hold, was a very simple one; one so simple that all, the learned and the unlearned alike, could grasp it and comprehend it, and be [R1074 : page 4] "fully persuaded in their own minds" concerning it. It was not a dose of incongruous mysteries, inconsistent with themselves and inharmonious with reason as well as with the Bible, to be swallowed by the ignorant with credulity, and by the learned with hypocritical mental reservations; but it was so simple, and clear, and reasonable, that any and every honest follower of Christ could be fully persuaded in his own mind concerning it.
What was this one faith? The basis of it is stated by Paul thus: "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received [first of all – as a foundation truth or doctrine, upon and in harmony with which all other doctrines must be built], how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3,4.) "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
This in a word, confesses sin and utter helplessness; it acknowledges God's loving plan for our redemption; it owns that our Lord's death was our ransom price; and that forgiveness (justification), and reconciliation to God, and the restitution of man, come as a result of faith in this Redeemer, when in due time it is made known to each and all.
These brief statements contain the whole gospel, in the same sense that an acorn contains an oak tree. Without this gospel kernel, the true gospel can never be possessed; hence this must be insisted on as a test of Christian fellowship. This must be received else the gospel is not received. When it is received the gospel is received. Then a work of growth begins – a development of this gospel; it may vary in rapidity of growth according to the temperament and surroundings; it can develop into a twig, a sapling, a sturdy oak successively, but if developed from the one sort of seed the nature of the seed will appertain to it in every stage of its development. So is faith – the true faith; it must begin with the one kind of seed-faith in all, no matter what stage of development each may attain. This one gospel acknowledges man's fall and sinfulness, and God's mercy and love manifested through Christ's great work of redemption, forgiveness and final restoration; and all theories which omit any of these items are spurious: and they are many.
Some deny God's love in the matter, and claim that all the love was Christ's and that he interposed and thwarted the Father's original plan; but the one faith is guided by the Apostle's testimony, that God so loved the world that he devised the plan as it is being carried forward, and sent his only begotten Son to do what he has done and is yet to do for the world. Others deny that any redemption was accomplished by the death of our Lord Jesus, deny that his life was substituted as a corresponding price or "ransom for all," and claim that the Father does all by simply pardoning the sinners. But again the one faith is clearly pointed out by the words of Paul "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom [corresponding price] for all." – 1 Tim. 2:5,6.
When received into honest hearts this simple gospel, the true gospel, will gradually open up and spread its roots of reason and its branches of hope in every direction, feeding upon the promises of God and building itself up as He designed, grasping the "one baptism" [See, May '88 TOWER], and every other feature of the gospel in its fullness as it progresses.
Note the difference between this, God's test, on the simple first principles of the gospel, and the wrong course of men who attempt to enforce upon all an entire system of faith, and that when they are the merest babes in Christ; so fettering them then, that they are hindered from growing. To ask babes in Christ to assent to thirty or forty articles of faith arranged by fellow-men, and to agree to take those as the infallible truth, and to promise never to believe either more or less than they contain, is like as if in an orchard one gnarled and crooked tree were selected as a standard, and all the other trees were required to be padded out to make them look as thick and as gnarled as the sample and bound with iron bands that they might never grow larger or straighter.
This true gospel, this simple faith, easily understood and confessed by the weakest babe in Christ, must also be, and always, and equally, the faith of the most developed sons of God. This one faith (and not the endless ramifications and details of faith which lead out from it) Paul placed as a standard or test of all claiming the name, Christian. All the consecrated who agreed on this one standard, or foundation truth, Paul counted as in and of the one church. While each member was to grow in grace, knowledge and love, if all growth were kept in line and harmony with this foundation truth, there would always be harmony and oneness in the faith and fellowship of the church.
Here was a perfect basis of union which allowed for all the various stages of individual development in the truth; and which guarded against errors most effectually. For if this simple creed were made the standard by which all doctrines would be tested to-day, it would speedily lead to the discarding of every error and to the true union of the church in the "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism."
The endeavor to compel all men to think alike on all subjects, culminated in the great apostasy and the development of the great Papal system; and thereby the "gospel," the "one faith" which Paul and the other apostles set forth, was lost; buried under the mass of uninspired decrees of popes and councils. The union of the early church, based upon the simple gospel and bound only by love, gave place to the bondage of the Church of Rome – a slavery of God's children, from the degradation of which multitudes are still weak and suffering.
The Reformation movement of the sixteenth century, came as an effort to regain liberty of conscience; but deluded by the idea of an elaborate creed, insisted upon for so many centuries, the reformers and their followers formed other systems of bondage very similar to that of papacy; with slight modifications, giving liberty to fuller ideas on some subjects. And so it has been ever since, each new reform movement has made the failure of attempting to make a creed just large enough for its prime movers.
But while divisions in the Church of Christ are very wrong, and very contrary to the will and word of our Lord, they are better far than a union of bondage under Papacy's system, faith, etc. Instead therefore of attempting to get all the sects to combine in a sort of "Church Trust" an image or likeness of the Papal system of oneness (though on a higher plane), to regulate and restrict further investigation and further growth, we need to do the very opposite, – to abolish all sects and all elaborate creeds and confessions of faith. Instead of being further bound (by such a Church Trust Union – or wheel within a wheel, double imprisonment), all bondage should be set aside, except the simple tests first imposed in the one faith once delivered to the saints; and all party sectarian names should be repudiated, and the name of Christ should be the only name borne by his Church.
Such a breaking down of sectarian fences would leave the true children of God willing to accept the original and simple test – "all one in Christ Jesus;" and this is what is needed. It would destroy sectarian pride, which so often counterfeits true Christian zeal and love, but it would tend to develop the truth, and thereby to develop the real zeal for the truth which our Lord desires in his followers. The term Church of Christ would no longer mean to any "our denomination," but the one true and only church, when they would sing: –
"I love thy church O God
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye
And graven on thy hands."
Under such conditions, recognizing the true and only test, as above quoted from Paul, those who formerly championed opposite sides of the various questions of doctrine would join heads and hearts in carefully weighing the various statements of the Scriptures; and truly seeking the divine plan they would ere long, as promised, be guided into all truth.
They would join hands and hearts as Christians, and while their heads, on certain points might not at once agree, it would only be a question of a short time; for the unbiased study of God's plan with no sectarian theory and organization to uphold, would bring the heads of all into union and general harmony, even though as at first the growth of faith in roots and branches might vary. All would believe the "same things" even if some could see and believe more elaborately than others.
This freedom, and yet harmony and union, which is the result of a full acceptance of God's will and word, will not be attained except by the few, the "overcomers" in the present age. Others the Scriptures show, will continue in sectarian bondage and even increase their bondage-union by a Church Trust or "confederacy" (See Isa. 8:12), until all this is corrected in the close of this time of trouble by the fall of sectarian monarchies as well as of present political governments. – Dan. 12:1; Rev. 18:2-5.
Let the dear saints who now walk the narrow way, and whose names are "written in heaven" as probationary members of the one true church of Christ, patiently persevere in worshiping God after the manner which others term heresy – closely studying and believing all that is written in the inspired Word, however it may conflict with human creeds, and the opinions of so-called great theologians. Be simple enough to take God at his word, however church monopolies or trusts may seek, either willingly or unintentionally, to wrest it to their own advantage.
Flee all so-called unions which are merely bondages. What is needed is less of such unions, not more. Each individual needs to feel and exercise the same liberty on doctrine that each sect now claims. In this sense and view the bondage-union of the church under Papacy was the worst and most complete enslavement of the individual Christian; and the full breaking up of all sectarianism, so that no two persons will be bound to hold one faith (except on first-principles), is the most desirable condition. The breaking of Papacy into a hundred sects, each free from the other, was a good work; tending to the realization of the liberty wherewith Christ makes free. Though at first regarded as a calamity, it soon came to be known as the Reformation. And now the breaking up of these numerous sects, so that each individual will be free, is essential to a fuller growth in grace, knowledge and love than is at present possible. This breaking up of sectarianism, now regarded as a calamity, will by and by be truly recognized as the greatest of all religious reformations. The signs of the times indicate that such a reformation is impending, and the Scriptures declare it. A little more light, a little more knowledge, and these sectarian shackles upon the individual conscience will fall. Then whatever union shall exist will be upon right principles, – a union of hearts and principles and not merely on creeds and confessions. Recognizing each other's personal liberties, each disciple of Christ will be bound to the other by his love of the Lord and of his word alone; and others will be separated.
Sectarianism has woefully distorted that beautiful figure of Christian union given by our Lord, recorded in John 15:1-6. To fit it to sectarianism, and to make their error in this appear to be supported by God's Word, it is claimed that the "Vine" is the whole church and the various denominations of "Christendom" are the branches. But that the Lord's words will bear no such construction must be evident to any one who will give the passage candid consideration. The branches are the individuals, and any branch is defined to be "any man" by our Lord's own words. Let this, our Lord's illustration of the true proper union of all the branches in one vine, connected and nourished by the same sap, from the same roots, teach us of true union and personal freedom in the body of Christ.
Suppose that the salaries and "livings" of all ministers, bishops, priests, etc., were cut off, all churches, chapels and cathedrals destroyed, all theological seminaries broken up, and their professors turned to other pursuits, all religious guilds and societies broken up, including all sectarian organizations – what would the effect be?
Who can doubt that it would be a real blessing under the disguise of a great and terrible catastrophe? The effect would be to bring true Christians together as the family of God, and not as sectarian bands, to study God's Word and not human traditions and creeds formulated in the darker ages. Very soon, unhindered, God's word would be heard by all truly his; and one Lord, one faith, and one baptism would soon be the result, while the worldly mass would speedily drift apart and the true distinction between the church and the world would be discernible. The Scriptures seem to indicate that very much of this sort of destruction of present systems must take place before all the "wheat," the true church, will be separated from the "tares" – the mere professors. Party spirit and love of sect is so strong that, apparently, nothing short of a complete wreck of them all will suffice to set free all of God's children now bound and blindfolded in and by them.
This catastrophe, – sectarian destruction, the fall of Babylon, is what is referred to in the Book of Revelation under the symbol of the seven last plagues. [R1074 : page 5] (Rev. 15-18.) The pain from these will consist largely of mental chagrin, from the disappointment of sectarian hopes and plans, and the wounding of sectarian pride. When the Master said, "Watch ye that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things coming upon the world," it included the pain of these plagues, as well as other annoyances which the world will be subject to, because of ignorance of the real plan of God. It is of escape from these plagues that the Revelator (our Lord – Rev. 1:1) speaks to us, saying, "Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues." – Rev. 18:4.
"There are two conceptions of the Church, which for convenience I shall designate as the Protestant and Catholic conceptions. The Protestant idea of the Church is that it is a voluntary association of believers in Christ; that those who think alike upon religious subjects join together in a society and choose their pastor, who derives his commission and his authority from them. Consequently they are at liberty to prescribe what he shall and shall not teach, or to unmake their church and make another, precisely as the members of a club, or of a political party have a right to withdraw and form a new organization. The Protestant theory of the Church is that of an aggregation of individuals, 'who can rearrange themselves at will, and thus create new churches at every re-arrangement.' (Ewer.) The Catholic theory, on the other hand, is that it is an organization which God Almighty has founded once for all, to last to the end of time, and into which he invites men: it is His family, His household, His kingdom, His city. Its officers are commissioned by Him and hold their authority as teachers only from Him. In a word; the Catholic Church is not a democracy but an empire, not a republic but a kingdom. As such it comes to man with divine authority: its officers are under oath to the Eternal King, and they are to minister to man in His name and for Him."– The Living Church.
In presenting the true view of the Church, we labor under the disadvantage that for fifteen hundred years people have been taught one or the other of the above views and combinations of both, while the true idea has been generally lost sight of since the second century. The true view, as we conceive it, is as follows: –
God's church when completed and organized will be all that is given above as the Catholic or Episcopal view. But it is not yet completed, and hence not yet organized. When organized it will be clothed with power, and will be, "not a democracy but an empire, not a republic but a kingdom. As such it [will] come to man [the world – during the Millennium] with divine authority [and with power to back up that authority]. Its officers are [then, to be] under oath to the Eternal King, and they are to minister to man in His name and for Him." All this, it is to be noted, fits exactly to the coming reign of the church, when it shall "bless all the families of the earth;" but it will not fit at all to the present state or condition. There is no organization to-day clothed with such divine authority to imperiously command mankind. There is no organization doing this to-day; though we are well aware many of them in theory claim that they ought to be permitted to do so; and many more would like to do so.
This was the fatal mistake into which the church began to fall in the second century; and the effort to realize this false conception culminated in the boastful imperious counterfeiting of the coming kingdom in Papacy, which for centuries sought to dominate the world, by claimed "divine authority." This idea has more or less pervaded and poisoned the ideas of all the "Protestant clergy" as well, who, copying Papacy's false ideas of the Church, claim also that the Church of Christ is now organized, though they make less boastful claims to "divine authority" to teach and rule mankind in general, than Papacy does.
God's church is not yet organized; on the contrary the Gospel age has been the time for calling out and testing the volunteers willing to sacrifice and suffer with their Lord now, and thus prove themselves worthy (Rev. 3:4,5,21; 2 Tim. 2:11,12; Rom. 8:17) to be organized as joint-heirs in his kingdom at the close of the Gospel age, when he shall "set up" or organize his kingdom in power and great glory, to bless and rule the world with "divine authority."
In the meantime, these unorganized but merely called out ones, who are seeking to make their calling and election sure, that they may obtain a share in the kingdom (2 Pet. 1:10; 2 Cor. 5:9), are "a voluntary association of believers" drawn together for mutual assistance in seeking to know and do the Master's will, that they may be accounted worthy the honors and glories promised, and not to rule men by divine authority; for they have no such authority now. In this "voluntary association" of the consecrated there is no imperial authority of one over another; and no lording it over God's heritage should be permitted; for the one and only Lord has left the instruction, "Be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." – Matt. 23:8.
Instead of the kingly and lordly rule prevailing in the customs of the world, the Master gave all another and an opposite rule, saying, "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister [literally, servant]; and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all [or greatest servant]: For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto [served] but to minister [serve], and to give his life a ransom for many." – Mark 10:42-45.
The Lord was chiefest servant; and among the apostles those who served the church at greatest cost to themselves – Paul, Peter, John and James – are esteemed, by those who have the spirit of the truth, in proportion to their service and not in proportion to their titles, gowns, vestments, praise of men, etc., of which they had none.
The Church, or company of believers, probationers for coming glory, in its "voluntary association" was indeed to recognize "teachers," "helps," "apostles," etc., but not to make them. If they recognized a man "mighty in the Scriptures," "apt to teach," able to make clear the divine plan, and specially qualified to build them up in the most holy faith, they gladly acknowledged God's favor in raising up among them such a servant of all to assist them in the understanding of his word. But they should be careful always, even while rejoicing in and thanking God for such a servant, to require a "thus saith the Lord" for every point of doctrine, and to search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things be so – whether the deductions and arguments of the teacher agree with the whole testimony of God's revealed plan.
Thus, the Lord is the teacher of his followers, sending them now and again, in their own number, certain ones to call attention to truths being overlooked, or to injurious errors being entertained. The "meek" among the probationers will hear the Master's voice by whomsoever he speaks; and these will be guided into the truth, and prepared in due time for organization as his kingdom. "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." – Psa. 25:9.
Thus seen, both the Catholic and the Protestant views of the Church are erroneous. The Catholic view gets the future organization applied to the present time, and the Protestant view, though ridding itself of some of that error, carries along enough of it to injure itself; for instead of admitting all consecrated believers into a "voluntary association," in which God would raise up his own teachers, Protestantism attempts also to organize and bind with creeds and confessions into various sects, each of which anxious to perpetuate itself and its ideas, selects and makes its own teachers in its own seminaries.
To-day there are many organizations claiming to be the church, and having various bonds of union; but we wish now to show upon the authority of God's word, what church, our Lord established, and what are its bonds of union; Secondly, we wish to show that every Christian should belong to that church; thirdly, the injurious effects of joining the wrong church; and fourthly, having joined the right church, what would be the results of losing our membership.
First, then, the church which Jesus began to gather during his ministry, and which was recognized by the Father at Pentecost after their ransom price was paid, was the little company of disciples who had consecrated earthly time, talents and life, a sacrifice to God. Theirs was a "voluntary association" for mutual aid; and this society was under the laws and government of Christ, its head or recognized ruling authority. The bonds were bonds of love and common interest. Since all were enlisted under the captaincy of Jesus, the hopes and fears, joys and sorrows and aims of one were those of the other; and thus they had a far more perfect union of hearts than could possibly be had from a union on the basis of any man-made creed. Thus their only union was of the Spirit; their law for the government of each was love, and all as a whole were put under obedience to the "law of the Spirit" as it was expressed in the life, actions, and words of their Lord. Their government was the will of him who said, "If ye love me keep my commandments."
There are two senses in which the true church of Christ may be considered: All who like the early church were fully consecrated to the doing of our Father's will, amenable only to Christ's will and government, recognizing and obeying none other – these, the saints, from the beginning of the Gospel age down to its close, when all of this class are sealed, constitute the "CHURCH OF THE FIRST BORN, whose names are written in Heaven." These are all one in aim, hope and suffering, and in due time will be joint-heirs with Christ Jesus to the great inheritance – heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised for them that love him.
The other sense in which this same class is recognized, is by counting a part for the whole; thus all the living of this class may be spoken of as the church; or, again, any part of this class of living followers who may meet together may properly be called the church; for, wherever two or three are assembled the Lord has promised to be among them. Consequently that would be a church meeting – an assembly of the "Church of the First Born." The general assembly will be, when all the church are made like, and glorified with, their Head.
Such, then, is our definition of the church of Christ. It is perfectly illustrated by Paul (Rom. 12:4,5) when he compares the church to a human body. In this figure the head represents our Lord, and all who are his constitute the body, over which the head rules. Jesus has been and always will be the head over his church as a whole; he is likewise the head and ruler of the entire living church, and in every assembly where two or three meet in his name (when his word is sought and heeded), he is the head, ruler and teacher.
If it be asked, In what sense does he teach? we answer, by exercising the qualities of the head, or teacher; by using one or more of those present as His mouth-piece in unfolding truth, strengthening faith, encouraging hope, inspiring zeal, etc., just as the head of your body can call upon one member to minister to another. But here a word of caution: If one becomes as useful a member as a right hand, he should take care that he assume not the position and authority of the Head, to put forth his own words and ideas as truth. He must ever remember that his highest honor is to be an index finger to point out, or a mouth-piece to express the will of the one Lord and Master. Be not puffed up; pride will paralyze and render useless. "Be not ye called Rabbi [master, teacher], for one is your Master [head] even Christ, and all ye are brethren." And let not the least member despise his office, "for if all were one member, where were the body?" "Nay, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary" – "God hath set the members every one of them, in the body as it hath pleased him."
This brings us to our second proposition, viz.: that all Christians should be joined to this association or incipient organization. In the light of what has just been said as to the class constituting the church which our Lord is calling, it is evident that if you have given up all your will, talent, time, etc., you are recognized by the Lord as a probationary member of the church, of which he is the head; and whose names are written in heaven. Thus, by consecration, we join the true church and have our names recorded in heaven. But says one: Must I not join some organization on earth, assent to some creed, and have my name written on earth? No; remember that our Lord is our pattern and teacher, and neither in his words nor acts will you find any authority for binding yourselves with creeds and traditions of men which all tend to make the Word of God of none effect, and bring you under a bondage which will hinder your growth in grace and knowledge, and against which Paul warned you, saying, "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." – Gal. 5:1.
But say some: If it is not proper to [R1074 : page 6] unite with any of the present nominal churches, would it not be well to form a visible association of our own? Yes, this is what we have – a society modeled after that of the early church. We think we have come back to primitive simplicity. The Lord Jesus alone is our head or law-giver; the Holy Spirit is our interpreter and guide into truth; our names are all written in heaven; we are bound together by love and common interest.
Do you inquire – How shall we know one another? We ask, how can we help knowing one another when the Spirit of our Master is made manifest in word and act, and manner and look? Yes, the living faith, the unfeigned love, the long-suffering meekness, the childlike simplicity coupled with the constancy and zeal of maturity, make manifest the sons of God, and we need no earthly record, for the names of all such are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Do the sick need visiting or assistance? These stand ready with consecrated time. Does the Lord's work require money? – These stand ready with consecrated means. Does his work bring upon them the reproach of the world, and of a degenerate nominal church? – These have also sacrificed reputation and all else to God.
But again, do you inquire, How shall we deal with one who walks disorderly in our midst? if we have no organization such as we see about us, how can we free ourselves from such, as the Lord requires us to do? We answer: Do just as Jesus and Paul directed.
Now, as in the early church, there are various degrees of advancement among the individual members, and Paul says (1 Thes. 5:14,) some are feeble-minded, comfort them; some are weak, support them; but while you should be patient toward all, warn the disorderly (those who are drifting away from the true spirit of Christ). Don't mistake the disorderly for the weak, and comfort them; nor for the feeble-minded, and support them, but patiently, lovingly, warn the disorderly. Whom does he call disorderly? Doubtless there are many ways of walking disorderly, but in 2 Thes. 3:11, he speaks of some who work not at all, but are busy-bodies, and says they should do as he did – work, that they be not chargeable to any; and if any will not work, neither should he eat. Thus he said he did, that he might be an example to others. He warns us also against immoral and unjust persons, and those who wrest (twist) the Scriptures and thus turn the truth of God into a lie. Then again, verse 14, after you have warned such a one, if he "obey not...note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed....Yet, count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
Again, our Lord gives explicit directions where there is a matter of offence between two brethren, Matt. 18:15,17: "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother; but if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church (the company of brethren who assemble together); but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." If, under the captaincy of our Head, we heed his commands, which we will do if we love him, how few will be the misunderstandings and difficulties among the brethren.
This association has its evangelists, pastors and teachers, appointed and directed by the Lord. They need no laying on of hands by the so-called Apostolic succession; for the "Spirit of the Lord hath anointed" all the members of the body "to preach," etc. (Isa. 61:1), and it is the duty of every member of the body to exercise his office for the edification of the other members. The true church are all priests, an association of priests and not an association under the control of a clerical or priestly class. (1 Pet. 2:9.) There is one great Bishop or overseer, who raises up and sends from time to time, his own special messengers to uncover truths, over-throw errors, etc. – Luther seems to have been one of these, Wesley another. But our Lord retains the Bishopric himself, as saith the apostle. (1 Pet. 2:25.) How complete is the voluntary union of the church of Christ with its heaven-written, love-bound and Spirit-ruled membership, and how sad the error of mistaking the nominal for the real church!
The importance of our fourth proposition need not be urged. It would indeed, be a dreadful calamity to lose our membership in the true church or body of Christ. And no member is out of this danger except when keeping a vigilant watch over the old nature, counted dead, lest it come to life again, and assert itself in the form of pride, selfishness, envy, evil-speaking – or what not? But if filled with love (the love that prompts to sacrifice) and clothed with humility, and under cover of the redeeming blood, we are safe in the church (the body), having the assurance that it is our "Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom."
Yes, the kingdom is the glorious destiny of the true church – the "little flock" – now treading the pathway of humiliation and drinking the bitter cup of death. The glory that shall be revealed in us, doth not yet appear, except to the eye of faith, but the temptations and trials, are very apparent on every hand. "Let us, therefore, fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." – Heb. 4:1.
Thus Paul warned others and thus he feared, lest (even after) having preached to others, he himself should be a castaway. (1 Cor. 9:27.) We may have our names cast out as evil by those of the nominal church, and yet "rejoice and be exceeding glad because our names are written in heaven." They may frown upon you and despitefully use you and say all manner of evil against you falsely; or they may seek to win you back by flattery, saying they cannot afford to lose your influence, you could do so much good by remaining among them, etc. Oh, how necessary in this "evil day" is the faith –
"That bears unmoved the world's dark frown,
Nor heeds its flattering smile;
That seas of trouble cannot drown,
Nor Satan's arts beguile."
Dearly beloved, let us again repeat the warning: "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage" – not even in the slightest degree.
"He that hath received His testimony hath set the seal that God is true." (John 3:33.) "A friend gives me for the Orphanage a check, which runs thus: 'Pay to the order of C. H. Spurgeon the sum of L.10.' His name is good, and his bank is good, but I got nothing from his kindness till I put my own name at the back of the check or draft. It is a very simple act: I merely sign my name, and the banker pays me; but the signature cannot be dispensed with. There are many nobler names than mine, but none of these can be used instead of my own. ...I must myself affix my own name. Even so, each one must personally accept, adopt, and endorse the promise of God by his own individual faith, or he will derive no benefit from it."– Spurgeon.
"It is probable that we are to be forced, ere long to the serious consideration of how closely Christianity, as taught and practiced, is in accord with the actual spirit of its Founder. Somehow it is meeting with unexpected opposition in the world, which raises the question of whether Christianity is really Christian. We shall have to confess that it is not satisfactorily so, says an exchange. If the question were put in this form, Is Christianity Christ-like? we should readily admit that it is not. It has lost, or grown weak in some of the main characteristics of its Founder. It does not adequately preach the Gospel to the poor, not do its members seek first the kingdom of God; they do not love their brethren as themselves, nor are they touched with the feeling of others' infirmities to the degree which impels them to adequate measures of relief.
While it has gained much, Christianity has also suffered in its contact with the world – it has lifted the world up immeasurably beyond its old position, but it has also been dragged down from the sublime ideal established by Jesus Christ. It must return. It cannot stoop and conquer. Its only hope of acceptance lies in maintaining itself as the one thing pure, to which men may give themselves with the assurance that there is nothing better. It seems unnecessary to say that current Christian practice does not conform to such an ideal as this.
It is easy to say that Christianity is to be judged by its ideal precepts and not by the actions of its adherents. But in the practical world it is not judged by its ideal precepts – it is judged by its fruits. It will continue to be judged so. Therefore it is impossible to see how it is to succeed in extending itself much further without our broadening our conception of human brotherhood, deepening our sense of human wrongs, miseries and sins, and without a larger degree of self-sacrifice, sympathy, and purity of life. As Canon Wilberforce says: "The only thing Christianity needs just now is Christians." And these sooner or later it will have to find. We shall be driven by increasing skepticism and indifference to raise our standard of personal fidelity to Christ and His commands. Nothing will eventually be found to answer except that every Christian shall try to be a Christ. Christianity will learn to be not only Christian, but Christ-like, else it cannot venture to offer itself as a remedy for human wrongs, an antidote for human fears and sorrows.
It is a fact that Christianity has always made most rapid progress in those periods when its theology has been simplest and its practice purest. The creed of Christendom has never been so simple, nor its life so pure and Christ-like, as in apostolic times, when it spread so rapidly around the Mediterranean. The great Wesleyan revival originated in the feeling that the age had drifted, both in theology and in practice, very far from the teachings of Christ, and its entire strength lay in the emphatic call to greater simplicity of faith and purity of life. The Church was compelled to raise its standard of living by the same causes that are operating now, the spread of atheism among the learned, and indifference and immorality among the ignorant. The Wesleyan revival was the only answer that was ever needed or could be given to the infidelity of the eighteenth century – only it did not go far enough. There is a degree of beauty and completeness in the example of Jesus Christ never dreamed of by Wesley and his followers, and this it belongs to the Christians of our time to discover and illustrate in their lives."
The thought has recently been suggesting itself, that as the sphere of Christian women differs somewhat from that of our brethren, a few observations in the TOWER bearing upon the duties, privileges and obligations of Christian women, and how we may best fulfill our mission might prove beneficial and helpful.
The sphere of Christian women is by no means a narrow one, as many seem to regard it; and if we would properly fulfill our mission, it behooves us as members of the Church of Christ, and in the earthly relationships of wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, as well as neighbors and friends, to consider it with care in the light of the divine revelation and particularly in the light of our present position as the prospective heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. As stewards of God we all have some of his goods – some talents – however great or small, entrusted to our care. And if we would be wise stewards and meet the Master's approval when we come to render up our accounts, we must study the best ways and means for investing our talents so as to have them yield the largest possible increase.
A merchant who simply invests his capital, be it large or small, in business, and pays no further attention to it, will never succeed. If he would be successful he must study to learn the best possible ways of turning everything to account. So must we do if we would be faithful stewards of God.
As members of the church, we, in common with our brethren, are even now privileged to be co-workers together with our Lord and Head. The question therefore naturally arises first of all, What department of Christian work may properly engage the activities of Christian women?
To rightly judge of the matter we need first to observe the natural position to which God has assigned woman; and secondly to inquire whether the new relationship into which we are called as members of the church of Christ, in any degree modifies our duties and responsibilities under the natural order. Let us therefore first consider the divine order of headship as expressed by the Apostle Paul – 1 Cor. 11:3.
"I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." – 1 Cor. 11:3.
The Apostle Paul here uses the human body as an illustration of God's order and arrangement among his intelligent creatures. The symbol is an apt one, and [R1075 : page 7] suggestive of perfect harmony. The head is the director and care-taker of the body; every interest of the body is taken into consideration by the head, and every possible provision made and applied to meet those interests. And in turn, the members of the body are always at the prompt and willing service of the head. And such is the sympathy between the various members that if one is disabled the other members, are ever on the alert to execute the plans devised by the head for its recovery.
The headship of Jehovah was expressed to Adam in his perfect condition in Eden, when God said: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die." (Gen. 2:16,17, – margin.) Here was an expression of Jehovah's rightful authority, his loving care and generous provision – his headship. Man in turn should have expected to reverence, respect and obey the authority, to reciprocate the love, and to gratefully accept and enjoy Jehovah's bounty. In the obedience expected, the idea of base servility was absent. Love commanded, and love should have delighted in obedience.
Even Christ Jesus, highly exalted as he is, delights to acknowledge the headship of Jehovah, saying, "My Father is greater than I;" "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." And again: "I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psa. 40:8). In harmony with this thought of the headship of Jehovah, the prophet Isaiah represents Christ as the "Arm of Jehovah" (Isa. 53:1; 59:16), and in obedience to Jehovah's will he was active, prompt and willing, even unto death. Thus our Lord set us an example of the true relationship which should exist between himself as head and the members of his body.
Since Christ has redeemed mankind from death, all judgment, authority and power is given unto him. The office of the head is now vested in him; hence Paul declares: The head of man is Christ. And whatever is implied by this term in expressing the relationship between our Lord Jesus and Jehovah, his head, is also implied in that relationship between Christ and man. He, then, who would be perfect, must find his chief delight in learning and doing the will of Christ, even as Christ Jesus delights to do the will of Jehovah. It should be his constant aim to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) And to do the will of Christ is to do the will of Jehovah; because the will of Christ is to do Jehovah's will.
The next step in God's order indicated by the Apostle, is, man the head of woman; or as shown in Eph. 5:23, the husband the head of the wife. Many who see clearly the headship of Jehovah, and the headship of Christ, fail to see the headship of man in the domestic relation. Prejudice, public sentiment and the abuse of power, have made this and similar expressions of the faithful Apostle quite unpopular. And this is not surprising, in the present fallen and disordered condition of humanity. Because of his teaching on this subject, the Apostle Paul is variously charged with being a despiser of women, and as speaking without divine authority; and this even among Christians. But when rightly viewed, Paul, as usual, is found to give faithful expression to the divine order dictated by unerring wisdom for the highest good and happiness of all.
If the husband is the head of the wife, it implies exactly the same responsibilities on the part of each as named above. The husband should be the protector, provider and director in the affairs of life, and the wife the cheerful, willing co-worker in harmony with his will. He, therefore, who would assume the position of husband, should see that he is capable and willing to fill it after the divine pattern; and she who would become a man's partner in life, should see that she is ready to fill such position according to the divine arrangement.
Yes, says some dear sister, that would all do very well if men were perfect, but we know that it not unfrequently happens that the wife has more ability and judgment to act as head than the husband. That is doubtless true in many cases, but that should be considered before such contracts are made. If unhappily it has not been considered in time, such wives should make the best of the situation and quietly assist in the office of head, with as much modesty, and as little appearance of doing so, as the circumstances will admit. It also happens, says another, that the husband's will often runs counter to the Lord's will; how then? We answer, If the husband is consecrated to the Lord, and yet his will appears to be out of harmony with the Lord's will, he will be very ready, either to prove his course to be in harmony with the Lord's will or to change it. And here we see the wisdom which dictates that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). But if such contracts have been formed before we became consecrated believers, we must bear in mind that our first responsibility is now to our Lord, our Heavenly Bridegroom. The worldly husband is not the head of his wife as a "new creature" espoused to Christ. Her first allegiance, is, therefore, to her real though invisible Lord, but in so far as may be consistent with this new relationship she should endeavor to fulfill the old also – a thing not possible in every respect. For one of those consecrated to God as living sacrifices to thereafter become unequally yoked with one of the world's children, is to violate the direct command of God (2 Cor. 6:14), and to take a long step toward ignoring union with Christ, "for what communion hath light with darkness?" The children of this world strive for the things of this world and delight in the world's approval, while the consecrated child of God has renounced all these and should be striving only to obtain those things which are beyond and entirely unknown to the world. But if both are united in the Lord, studying to know and do his will, and walking after the Spirit, to do the will of the consecrated husband is to do the will of Christ.
The consecrated wife sustains the same relation to the consecrated husband that the husband sustains to Christ, and that Christ sustains to God who is head over all. Should submission on the part of any be regarded as mere servility? By no means. Christ did not so regard it; why should we? There is neither servility nor tyranny where love rules. Love is neither boastful of its authority nor ashamed of its submission. The true Christian husband will delight to honor the wife as the weaker vessel, and the wife will reverence her husband. The wife will look up with a lawful pride in her husband's manly strength and goodness, while he will regard with admiration and affection her womanly grace. If the relationship between husband and wife in the divine order stands thus, it cannot be true as some claim that man and woman are exact equals in every respect. They are not equal in all respects, but each possesses and should recognize those qualities of heart and mind which make them companions for each other. Under such circumstances the wife will be subject to the husband because she recognizes such to be the divine arrangement for their mutual good; and further, because it will be her delight to serve for love's sake. And the husband will delight to honor and bless the wife. [R1076 : page 7]
God never makes one the head over another exact equal. Jehovah is superior to Christ, Christ superior to man, and man superior to woman, the weaker vessel. Man's superiority consists mainly in his greater strength, both physical and mental. These various steps are in God's order. True, in the present fallen, imperfect condition, many women are superior to many men, but such women should be very sure not to become wives of such men; for in so doing they must either violate the divine order (Eph. 5:22), or else submit themselves to an inferior which is also out of harmony with the Lord's design.
When after the fall God said to Eve, "Thy husband shall rule over thee," some claim that he there established domestic slavery. Truly domestic slavery has followed; but God did not establish it. Man, created to bless by his power to rule, too often falls into the error of tyrannical misrule, and the desire of the wife toward her husband – for his love, appreciation and approval – alas, too often ends in bitter disappointment just as God foretold.
In view of these considerations, let us note the instruction of the Apostle Paul, and see that its object is the very same as that contemplated in the union of the first perfect pair in Eden: "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church, and he is the Savior [preserver, care-taker] of the body. Therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word [the truth]: that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies" (Eph. 5:22-28). Children may then obey both parents, since each will be in harmony with the other and with the Lord.
In recognition of the same principle, the headship of man, Paul further states: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over man, but to be quiet" (1 Tim. 2:12). Surely Paul does not mean that a woman's lips must be forever sealed that she may not declare the good tidings of great joy to others. Does not the same Apostle say: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all ONE in Christ Jesus. And does not the prophet Isaiah teach that all the anointed, are anointed to preach the good tidings. It is in harmony with these, then, that we must understand the above words of the Apostle.
His idea, therefore, seems to be, that in no case, however important the truth we are commissioned to bear, is woman to assume a position of authority or headship over man. She may tell the blessed tidings of great joy and teach the principles of truth anywhere and everywhere, and to whomsoever she has opportunity; but always with becoming modesty, stating the truth so clearly that of itself it may carry conviction with it and her own individuality be lost sight of. This element of character is one which naturally belongs to woman, but is generally very soon lost by those who attempt to work in a public way. The work for the majority of women is the individual, quiet and none the less effective work. Her greatest influence is that exerted strictly within her divinely appointed sphere. If necessity, opportunity, and ability should indicate a more public sphere of usefulness, she may fill it as long as such necessity and opportunity lasts, if in so doing, she bears that modest, quiet demeanor, in action, word, and apparel, which becometh women professing Godliness. By emphasizing necessity, we mean that never should she seek or prefer publicity to the less obtrusive and equally effective ways of making her influence felt for truth and righteousness. It is the assumption of authority and dictatorship, which is so unbecoming.
Again, we see that in this relationship of husband and wife, is prefigured the beautiful relationship between Christ Jesus and the church. And as in the type, so in the antitype, the church, the bride of Christ is to be subject unto him in everything; earnestly seeking at all times to know, and then delighting to do his will. As the woman is not to assume authority and direct her husband, so the church is not to assume authority and to attempt to direct the Lord's work, but is to be "quiet," searching diligently to know his plan and methods, and then endeavoring faithfully to execute them.
When God's plan shall be brought fully into execution, we see that loving authority and joyful submission will fill the universe with blessed peace and everlasting joy – and "God shall be all in all" – Head over all – his will done in earth as it is done in heaven. (1 Cor. 15:28.) Seeing this to be God's ultimate design, it should be our endeavor, so far as it is in our power, to carry out and illustrate that purpose now. It can only be fully illustrated, however, by those who are "united in the Lord." The covering of the head by the woman (1 Cor. 11:10), signifies submission to authority; a recognition of God's order of headship. It symbolizes the relationship between the church and her head, Christ Jesus. The same thing was illustrated in the attire of the priesthood: the high-priest wore a mitre or crown and the under-priests (representatives of the church, the bride), wore "bonnets" or head coverings, indicating that they were not the head but under authority to the Chief-Priest.
The Apostle's high regard for woman and woman's work is shown by his mention of several faithful co-laborers and helpers among them – see Rom. 16:1-6,13; also Phil. 4:3: "I entreat thee... help those women which labored with me in the gospel...whose names are in the book of life." And Acts 1:14: "All continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women." And 1 Cor. 11:5: "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth [teacheth]."
These scriptures show that women did a work in the Apostles' days which was approved and appreciated by them and by the Lord. Yet women usually spoke only at the smaller gatherings; and when Paul said, "Let the women keep silence in the congregations," he probably had reference to the public gatherings at which it was the custom to have more or less debating. In these public debatings, Paul [R1076 : page 8] thought a woman's voice would be out of place, and this is the opinion of most thinking men and women to-day, though it has by many been carried to an extreme, forbidding them to pray or teach on any occasion, even in more private assemblies of Christians; which certainly is an error.
When Paul urged that the women keep silence in the churches, and if they would learn anything to inquire of their husbands at home, he must be understood as referring to a principle to be observed only so far as practicable – and possibly to curb some unwomanly women who were a disturbing element in the church then. To rigidly apply the rule would do violence to the general spirit of Paul's teaching. Where the spirit of Christ is there is liberty – not liberty to violate God's law and order as expressed both in nature and Revelation, but liberty to progress and to grow in grace and knowledge under the wholesome restraints of God's law and established order.
Because God has arranged that the man and woman are representative of Christ and his bride, the church, probably this is one reason that men have always been given the more active and public work of the ministry, and women the work of assisting and the more private teaching, which is equally acceptable to God. So Christ is the active agent in carrying out God's plan. He is the great minister of all, and we as his Church are permitted to be helps meet for his use: to do an humbler part, and yet an acceptable part, well pleasing to God.
"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." – John 11:26.
The first statement – "He that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live," teaches, that only believers shall be resurrected i.e., made to LIVE. This may appear out of harmony with other statements of our Lord, to the effect that ALL in their graves shall come forth, until we recognize the full force of the words, resurrection and life. We have heretofore shown that the word resurrect, signifies to lift or raise up again to perfection; and that since man's fall was from perfection, as represented in Adam, his promised resurrection implies a bringing to perfection again. But, many scriptures indicate that, while the gospel Church will be lifted to the perfection of the new nature in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the world of mankind will be gradually resurrected, or brought to perfection of human nature, from which all fell in Adam; – the entire Millennial age being "the times of restitution," resurrection, or restoration. [R1077 : page 8]
By recognizing this fullness of meaning in the word LIVE, in the scripture under consideration, we have the statement clear, and easily understood, in harmony with all other declarations of the Scriptures.
TO LIVE means a great deal, in its full import. Adam and Eve lived, i.e., they had life in perfect measure, before sin entered. When sin entered the dying commenced, and it was a process of ceasing to live. So death, the opposite of life, passed upon all men. From the standpoint of God's sentence, all are now dead. (2 Cor. 5:14; Matt. 8:22.) So then, though it is true that all in their graves shall "come forth," they will come forth with only a small measure of life, such as men now have; they will still be measurably in death as all now are, and will be gradually advanced to perfection, through knowledge and acceptance and obedience of the truth.
That believing in Christ [including hearty obedience], is in the Bible made the condition of perfect resurrection to life, is a fact; and its reasonableness is evident; for why should the Redeemer continue to lift upward toward perfection, those who, when they came to a full clear knowledge of his character and plan, wilfully fight against it? The mistake generally made is, in insisting that this belief and obedience is limited for all to the present life-time. On the contrary, it is as true of the Millennial age as of the Gospel age.
In the present age, only a few come to that fulness of knowledge which brings fullness of responsibility; and how shall the many believe on him of whom they have not heard? And since only believers are to be fully released from death, it is evident that all must come to a knowledge of the truth that they may be saved – "in due time." – 1 Tim. 2:4,6.
Though our Lord is the great Life-giver in whom is vested all the resurrection or life-giving powers, and though he has promised perfect LIFE, full release from death, to believers, yet we see that now believers die as well as unbelievers. And we at first wondered as Mary did why the one who has the power of life should let his believing friends die, when he tells us that his special mission is to "destroy death." (1 Cor. 15:26; Heb. 2:14.) The Lord's words show us that though his work as the Life-giver belongs to the next age, yet he will not neglect the believers who die before that age; and that though such are permitted to die, it should not be understood to imply lack of power or willingness to serve, on the part of the Life-giver. "He that believeth in me though he die, yet shall he live."
That "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish [in death] but have lasting [perfect] life," is as clearly stated in the Scriptures, as that all shall come to a [full] knowledge of the truth, – when the knowledge of the Lord shall be caused to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. And it is equally true that whosoever believeth not [when given full knowledge and ability] shall be condemned.
In perfect accord with this view, is that peculiar statement of John 5:25 – "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming* when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall LIVE." According to the general conception, this should read, They that live shall hear, but this would not have been strictly true: hence the peculiar and guarded expression used, which is only appreciable as we come to see more deeply into God's plans for that coming age. All are dead (under death's dominion) until entirely freed. The Redeemer has come, the ransom has been paid, and in due time all the dead race shall hear [be brought to a clear conception of these facts], and they that hear [heed] shall [in due time] LIVE, reach perfection.
A few, who were of the dead class, in this age heard thus of the ransom price given for our release; and those who have heard [understood and heeded] it, could also afterward hear, of a prize or high calling offered during the Gospel age to believing sacrificers, and have "had access into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." But the due time in which the great mass of the dead shall hear, will be when this "little flock" of sacrificers and heirs of God, has attained the glory. As members of the great Prophet they shall teach and bless the people, bringing them out of their graves and opening sin-blinded eyes and prejudice-stopped ears, as it is written. – Isa. 35:5.
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36.) This is further testimony on the same line: that only believers in and accepters of Christ and his redeeming work (as their ransom) will ever attain to life, i.e., get fully free from death. Only the little flock, the church, thus gets life during the Gospel age; and they get it only by promise – in hope – in faith. Their life is hid now, in God's promises. See Col. 3:3.
The Millennial Day is the time for life-giving actually. The church will get hers first, in the early morning of that day. The Lord will give to his overcoming Bride the crown of life that fadeth not away. (1 Pet. 1:4; 5:4.) Hers will be like her Lord's – life on the divine plane of being. Then will come the life-giving to such of the world as will believe and obey; when they all shall then stand trial for life, being brought to a full knowledge of God's character, plan and righteous laws. The gradual resurrection to perfect LIFE, step by step, will be of believers only; for, as clearly stated, the disobedient shall perish without attaining to life – they will never see perfect life, but as willful sinners shall be destroyed. – Acts 3:23.
The wrath of God will abide on such thus: The whole world was condemned, sentenced to death, in and through Adam; "the curse" [See Sept. TOWER] was upon all; and God had provided only one way of escape from that curse of death – through the Redeemer, by the remission of sins through faith in his blood. Some (the church) get free from the curse now, through faith in Christ, and will be received of the Father (actually) at the close of the Gospel age. Others, the great majority, will believe and get free from the curse by faith during the Millennial age and be (actually) received of the Father at the close of that age. But such as reject the only "way" to God remain under the curse or condemnation of death (wilfully, for they must all be made fully aware of the conditions of life and reconciliation to God) and shall never see [experience] LIFE.
In the light of the previous statement, this one becomes very clear and simple. It is the Lord's assurance, that all who reach the condition of life, in its fulness, may retain it forever by continuing to believe and obey. It is the promise that the perfect life once attained may be held forever.
"I girded thee though thou hast not known me." (Isa. 45:5.) A little boy sat in front of his father, and held the reins which controlled a restive horse. Unknown to the boy, the reins passed around him and were also in his father's hands. He saw occasion to pull them. With artless simplicity the child looked around, saying, "Father, I thought I was driving; but I am not, am I?" Thus it is often with men who think they are shaping a destiny which a higher hand than theirs is really shaping. They do their own will, but they also do the will of God. A stronger hand guides them; a mightier power holds the helm of their vessel and saves from rock and wreck. Happy are they who quietly yield to the guidance of an Almighty hand.– Sel.