Overland Monthly / OV117 - God's Chosen People (XII. Should Jews and Christians Unite?)
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OV117 XII. Should Jews and Christians Unite?
BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle
AMONG THE MORE than a million Jews of New York City quite a commotion has been raised by the celebrated Rabbi Wise of the Free Synagogue. His congregation has recently been holding union services with some Unitarian congregations. This has opened a discussion in every quarter, not so much amongst the Unitarians as amongst the Jews. The question is asked: What does this signify?
Should it be encouraged or discouraged? Is it a step in the right or in the wrong direction? Naturally, "orthodox" Jews object to it; yet they scarcely know what argument to use against it. They believe in progress, but feel that this is illegitimate progress. But in what respect would it be wrong for Jews who believe in the one God, Jehovah, to meet with Christians who believe in one God, Jehovah, they do not know; especially as the Unitarians and the Jews both believe that Jesus was merely an imperfect man, had no pre-existence, and accomplished no salvation—that he was merely a prominent Jew of his time whose teachings have made a great impress upon the most progressive peoples of the world. We have been asked to discuss this subject and to give the reason for such opinions as we may express.
We are pleased to do so. Without intending the slightest disrespect to Rabbi Wise and his congregation, nor to the Unitarians, we must frankly state that we see nothing that either of them can ever gain or lose by the kind of "union" services they hold; nor by the admixture of what they would designate as their several "faiths." As we understand, Rabbi Wise is an agnostic, and has no Jewish faith. As we understand, he is a "higher critic," an "evolutionist," who rejects the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and relies entirely upon his own wisdom and the wisdom of other scholarly men of our day. And to our understanding, the faith or lack of faith of the Unitarian denomination is exactly the same. Hence we say, that union between these people who are purely agnostic moralists could neither help nor injure either party to the union. People who have no faith have nothing to lose along theological lines. And does not this truthful and not unkindly criticism apply to thousands of Jews and Christians who are not affiliated with either Unitarianism or Rabbi Wise’s Free Synagogue? Alas, it is too true that the majority of those who profess the names of Jews and Christians are really neither; because they have abandoned the faith and hopes which those names represent.
Christian Hopes Not Jewish Hopes.
If Christians and Jews rightly understood
OV118 each other’s hopes, according to the Scriptures, the conflict between them would instantly cease; because their hopes are totally different. The hope of the Jew is the hope of mankind in general—an earthly hope—a hope of restitution, restoration to a Paradise condition and perfection. The hope of the Christian is not the hope of the world, but a very different one—it is the hope of an "elect" or select class which God is gathering out of the world from every nation—English and Irish, French and German, Scotch and Scandinavian, Jewish and Italian. All through the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, search as we will, we find not an invitation to the Jews or to the world to become spirit beings like unto the angels. Every promise, every invitation, every hope held forth, on the contrary, is earthly; the desert is to blossom as the rose; solitary places are to be glad; springs are to break forth in the desert; the earth is to yield her increase; every man is to sit under his own vine and fig tree with none to make him afraid. They shall not build houses and another inhabit; they shall not plant vineyards and another enjoy the fruit; but they shall build houses and plant vineyards and perpetually enjoy the work of their hands in Paradise restored. This is the testimony of the Prophets. This testimony, given particularly to the Jew, informs us that he will be first in prominence in the world in the time when the Lord will do this—in the time when the Lord will "pour out his spirit upon all flesh"—in the time when "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God." Israel’s blessing, therefore, implies the blessing of all nations, the seed of Abraham being first among those nations in the Divine favor which will be brought to mankind by Messiah’s Kingdom. The Law of Moses tells the same story, namely, that the Divine arrangement is that Israel shall keep the Law and become instructors of the world in respect to the keeping of the Law; and that he that keepeth the Law shall live thereby—everlastingly enjoy all of the blessings of God for his portion. The Covenant given at Mt. Sinai did not secure these glorious results promised; because it was merely typical of a new and better Covenant to be established through Messiah (#Jer 31:31.) The sin-offerings which were the basis of the Law Covenant never really cancelled sin, but were typical of the better sacrifices which the Mediator of the New Covenant, Messiah, offers. Moses himself, the Mediator of the Law Covenant, was only a type or foreshadow of the greater Prophet, Messiah, who will be the Mediator of the New Covenant, under which all the blessings foreshadowed will become accomplished facts. The Jewish Sabbath Day commanded by the Law brought blessings indeed; but that rest was merely typical and prophetic of the coming restitution and peace and blessing which Israel and the whole world will be privileged to enter into and to enjoy during Messiah’s reign. And for all the faithful ones, who keep that Sabbath, there will be an eternal Sabbath to follow. The Jubilee Year established by Moses, the Mediator of the Law Covenant, was merely a type or picture of the great Jubilee of the world to be inaugurated by the antitypical Mediator, Messiah, during the period of his Messianic reign, the world’s great Jubilee. Ah, yes! the whole world will be full of jubilation, as every man shall return to his former estate, to his original patrimony, to Edenic conditions, to human perfection—to all that was lost through Father Adam’s disobedience, and all that was redeemed through the obedience of the great Second Perfect Man, who has since been highly exalted, a "Prince" and a Deliverer—Messiah. —#Isa 9:6; #Da 9:25. These earthly restitution blessings are so tangible and so glorious that many noting them have said to us, Why tell us of the intangible, heavenly things? The earthly blessings described in the Bible more fully meet and satisfy the cravings of our hearts than could anything of the intangible and spiritual kind, which must be received wholly upon faith. We answer that this is so, that the Divine blessings promised to the Jew, and, later, to all nations, as they will come into Covenant relationship with God through Messiah, are the most wonderful that the natural heart and mind can possibly conceive. Undoubtedly mankind, after receiving the Divine provision through Messiah, will be
OV119 more than satisfied. But the Christian’s hope is different from this. It is intangible, indescribable. It can be received only by faith. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath in reservation" for the spiritual class—the saintly few now being called and selected from Jews and Gentiles of every nation. The blessings promised to this saintly class are all spiritual. They are to be like unto the angels and like unto Messiah himself, invisible to men through the First Resurrection "change" which they all will experience. They know not, because as the Scriptures declare, it is impossible to explain to them the character of the blessings which shall be the portion of this faithful few. What to them will take the place of beautiful flowers and luscious fruits, hills and valleys, brooks and mountains, clouds and sunshine and rainbows, they know not. They cannot understand. It is kept a "mystery." They are required to "walk by faith and not by sight." This class, typified by Aaron and his tribe of Levi, will have no inheritance in the land—no inheritance in the earth. They must sacrifice all earthly things and gladly, too, if they would be accounted worthy of the heavenly things. Theirs is a great test of faith. No wonder that few are attracted by this invitation when properly set forth and informed that it means a life of sacrifice and self-denial, faith and obedience even unto death, in order to be accounted worthy to enter into the heavenly glories to follow. From what we have said, it must be manifest that we are not holding up any denomination of Christendom as being this spiritual class, the Royal Priesthood. Rather, as the Scriptures do, we hold up this class to view as gathered to the Lord and not into sectarian systems from every nation, kindred and tongue. Thus is it written of these: "Gather together my saints unto me; those who have made a Covenant with me by sacrifice." (#Ps 50:5.) "They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels." (#Mal 3:17.)
It will be after the selection of this jewel class for the spirit plane that the Divine blessings under the New Covenant with Messiah as Mediator will be poured out upon Israel and through Israel, represented in their ancient worthies, "princes in all the earth," (#Ps 45:16) upon all people.
No Competition in This.
To those who thus see the Divine program, there is no room for competition or strife. The saintly few will get their exalted blessing first, and such Jews and Gentiles as have appreciated the privilege will participate in the glories of that class. Then this class, as the "Bride" of Messiah (Psalm 45:10-16) will share with him his spiritual nature and exaltation and Kingdom. Then will come the earthly blessings to Israel first through the patriarchs, and through them it will extend to all of the earth—to every creature. Thus the blessing of the Lord will "fill the whole earth as the waters cover the great deep." Where is there room for competition here, when once we rightly understand the matter? Those who choose the heavenly portion and the sacrifices necessary to obtain it should be admired by all mankind.
The Scriptures declare that ultimately this will be the case. "He (Messiah—Head and Body) will be admired by all them that believe in that day." Nor need the Christian envy the Jew his share in God’s favor and blessing and promises. We have failed in the past to rightly divide the Word of God—failed to see its different parts and different classes; hence the strife of words and persecutions unto death.
The saintly class, grasping its heavenly promises by faith, prefer not the earthly good things. The earthly class prefers the blessings to be accomplished through restitution and desire not the heavenly things. Thus all strife between intelligent.Jews and intelligent Christians should be at an end. Their hopes are different and yet they interlock and intertwine. The fulfillment of the one is vitally connected with the fulfillment of the other.
Avoid Christian Sects.
Jews in the past have avoided Christian sects, chiefly the Catholics, because they counted them their enemies and recognized that much of their persecution came from professed Christians. Slowly they are coming to realize that the civilizing
OV120 influences of the past century are accomplishing changes with the rising generation and thus destroying, to some extent, the ground for their former bitterness against Christians. This is proper. Superstition and bitterness and strife, based upon the things of the past, should be set aside. No one can afford to nurse either the superstition or the bitterness of the past. Would it, then, be proper for Jews, now forgetting and forgiving the past, to intermarry with Christians and to participate in "union" services or to become members of Christian sects, Catholic or Protestant?
We answer that such a course would assuredly be wrong: because Christian sects neither represent the Christian hope nor the Jewish hope. Here and there (in all the denominations of Christendom, so far as we may know) are members of the saintly class, the Bride of Messiah. But they are out of sympathy with the institutions with which they are connected. Even while attending their services, their hearts are on a higher plane than the masses. These nominal Christian sects are merely the outside; the saintly few are the kernel of the inside. The saintly few would be far better separated from the sects and would make much better progress in the study of God’s Word and in the development of saintship if they stood entirely free from human institutions. This being the case, we assuredly would not advise the Jews to join these institutions nor to accept their confusing doctrines, which the Scriptures symbolically refer to as Babylonish—confused. God has separated the Jewish nation from the remainder of the world that they may be his witnesses to men. Their national preservation for more than thirty centuries, in harmony with the Divine promise is itself a miracle. God has indeed led them by a way which they knew not, even as he foretold. Their very perversity, as he foretold, will in the end witness to his Divine supervision of their affairs. Their stubbornness, or, as the Scriptures say, their stiff-neckedness, will eventually show the mercy of God through his dealing with them. He has not brought them down through the long period of three thousand years of separation with a view to their now amalgamating with either Christians or Gentiles, with either Catholics or Protestants. Israel’s promises are not only earthly but Jewish—they are to be the first of the earth or world peoples to experience the blessings of restitution favor. In order to be ready for that favor, they must continue Jewish up to the time of the manifestation of Messiah, as the Scriptures foretell. As the elect, saintly few gathered out of all nations to be Messiah’s Bride are a people for a purpose, so also the small nation of Israel in an earthly people for the Divine purpose and to show forth the praises of Jehovah and of Messiah in due time. The few of their number who, by saintly and sacrificial lives, will become members of Messiah’s Bride, will in no way invalidate the blessings that are subsequently to come to the bulk of their nation, if they continue Jews indeed—inspired by the faith of Abraham and the Messianic hopes of the Prophets. But if they abandon Abraham’s faith and their share in the Abrahamic promise and their hopes set forth through the Prophets, then, whatever their lineage, they are not Jews in the Scriptural sense of the term; and their practise of circumcision is merely a farce. And the perpetuation of a worship in which they no longer believe is sacrilege. Thus, Jews who believe nothing of the Divine testimony—who have repudiated Abraham and the Prophets, Moses and the Law, and who are agnostics and who merely observe forms and ceremonies called Jewish in a hypocritical manner, might just as well, and without any greater hypocrisy, join.any of the different Christian sects, with which they are just as much in harmony and just as much out of harmony as with the Law and the Prophets. But those Jews who believe in the Abrahamic promise, in God’s testimony through the Prophets and in the message of Moses and the Law, must not, cannot, identify themselves with any other nation or with any other religion. To do so would be to stultify themselves and to discredit themselves as Jews, and to cut themselves off from those special earthly promises which, in the Divine arrangement, have been theirs since Abraham’s day, and which are now about to be fulfilled.