Overland Monthly / OV149 - "A Clean Thing Out of an Unclean"
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OV149 "A CLEAN THING OUT OF AN UNCLEAN"
BY C. T. RUSSELL
Pastor London* and Brooklyn Tabernacles
*Pastor Russell, on the occasion of a recent visit to London, England, accepted the pastorate of the London Tabernacle Congregation. The call was given with the full understanding that Pastor Russell would not think of leaving his large work in America, which centers at Brooklyn, N.Y. It was urged, however, that his acceptance of the pastorate would insure his giving them a goodly share of his time. He promised about four months in each year. He has able assistants there as well as in Brooklyn. Really, London will have about as much of the pastor’s time as he gives to Brooklyn, because in America his Sundays are scattered over a considerable area. Brooklyn having the first Sunday of each month so far as possible. Pastor Russell travels much in Great Britain also, but gives his Sundays to London and his week days to the other large cities. Reports indicate that he has large audiences at all his meetings—besides the still vaster audience reached weekly through his sermons printed in more than a thousand newspapers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia.
PERHAPS the most difficult thing for people in general to believe respecting Jesus is the claim of the Bible and of all orthodox creeds that He was born of a virgin—that He was born differently from the remainder of the race, and that, on account of this miraculous birth, He was perfect physically, mentally, morally—"holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Some can exercise a simple, child-like faith and accept this proposition set forth in the Scriptures, and progress in the building of a faith structure thereupon. Others of different mental construction find faith more difficult and inquire for the reason, the philosophy and, if possible, to know the processes by which Divine power was thus exercised, as well as the reason why such a stupendous miracle was required to be wrought. The subject is not only a delicate one, but very abstruse, and, as a matter of fact, the philosophy of it is rarely if ever thought of or attempted. The point, however, is fundamental.
No one can Scripturally believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without believing in His miraculous birth. No one, therefore, can be a Christian, in the Scriptural sense, without this belief. So long as we held that only true, saintly Christians would be saved, and that all others were foreordained to eternal torture we properly enough felt a delicacy in mentioning particularly the items of faith necessary to the obtaining of a standing with God as a true Christian. Now, however, since we see that only the saintly few will be members of the elect Church, and that through these (in their glorified condition) will come a great blessing of restitution opportunities to human perfection and to an earthly Eden to all the non-elect, we may feel free to treat all matters very candidly.
Belief in the Miraculous Birth Necessary.
By and by, when all the darkness and clouds of ignorance, superstition, etc., shall have passed away, and when clear knowledge of God and clear Revelation from Him will be freely granted to mankind, all, of course, will understand the philosophy of this great fact of our Lord’s immaculate birth. But in the present time such knowledge is withheld, because God is seeking a special class which will trust Him where they cannot trace Him—a class which will be willing to walk by faith and not by sight. To such faithful, trusting ones God will grant special privileges and blessings as the Bride of the Redeemer and joint heir in His Kingdom and glory. To these it is given to know something respecting the mysteries of the Divine arrangement in connection with the Kingdom class, which are still hidden from the world in general. These are guided by the Divine Revelation of the Bible and aided by the illumination of the mind through the Holy Spirit, which they receive at the time of their full consecration. Only these may be expected to see very clearly on many of the important subjects of Divine Revelation
OV150 in the present time—others must wait until the night is passed and until the morning of the New Dispensation shall have been ushered in with its rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Meantime, as we near the glorious day, the illumination of the early dawning gives clearness of vision on every subject and enables honest minds, even amongst the worldly, to grasp certain great doctrines and principles of Truth as never before. The importance of the doctrine is acknowledged by all creeds, though many of those who hold to the creed fail to see the connection—the reasons—the necessity. The erroneous view held by some that Jesus was, at the same time, the Heavenly Father in Heaven and the Heavenly Son on earth—equal in power and glory and "one in substance"—has made confusion worse confounded in many minds. We must leave all the unscriptural rubbish on the subject and confine ourselves to the Bible teachings, directly and indirectly. It was necessary that Jesus should be perfect—"holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners"—because the first man Adam had been all that. Jesus left His heavenly glory with the Father, as the Logos, and took the human nature for the very purpose of redeeming the first man Adam, and thus Adam’s family and his estate. Since sin and hereditary imperfection have tainted and blemished every member of Adam’s race, "There is none perfect, no, not one," and "hence none is able to give a ransom for his brother"—neither for Father Adam nor for any man.—Psalm 49:7. If there had been a perfect son of Adam, God could have made to such a one the very offer that He made to the Logos, "the Only-Begotten of the Father." He could have offered him glory, honor and immortality as a reward for the sacrificing of His perfect earthly life to be a price for Father Adam’s life, and thus a ransom price for his race, etc. But no perfect man could be found. God could have made the proposition to Gabriel or one of the inferior angels—to become a perfect man and to redeem Adam and his race. But instead of so doing, Divine Wisdom chose to make the proposition to the Only-Begotten Son of God, the Logos. He gladly accepted the undertaking to be transferred from the spirit plane to the human plane and to carry out to the full the Divine will, as step by step it would be revealed to Him.
Our Catholic friends go a step beyond the Scriptures and claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was miraculously born; that she was perfect, and that this had to do with the perfection of Jesus. We cannot accept this, because there is no Scripture for it. Besides, if Mary could be thus miraculously conceived and born free from the taint of heredity, why would it be necessary, since Jesus could be born in like manner of an imperfect mother? And this is the Scriptural proposition—the one we are discussing—the one that is so difficult for some well-meaning people to grasp and believe. Its importance lies in the fact that a sinner could not redeem himself, and that, unless Jesus were miraculously born, He would have been partaker of the blemishes of Father Adam. The secret of the matter lies in the fact (which is daily coming to be more fully recognized by science) that all life comes from the father, and that the mother merely furnishes the nourishment for that living organism which comes from the father, by which it is developed and becomes a creature of the same nature as the mother, although its life is wholly from its father. Thus the word father is synonymous with the word life-giver.
Divine Life Transferred.
We must not be wise above what is written. God has not revealed to us the particular process by which life originally given to the Only-Begotten, the Logos, was transferred without cessation to the womb of Mary, the mother of Jesus, for her to nourish and develop it to birth on the human plane.
OV151 of existence. This great fact we accept for two reasons:
(1) Because it is the statement of the only Book which bears the stamp of Divine Revelation.
(2) Because we perceive that just such a condition of things is necessary to the working out of the Divine Program as originally intended—a Program which the Almighty Father could have arranged otherwise had He desired. The point of special interest to us is: How could this clean thing, this life of the Logos, be nourished in the womb of an unclean, imperfect, mother not separate from sinners? The Prophet inquires, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" and replies: Not one.
No man would have such power. But this is the very power which God possesses, and claims to have exercised in the miraculous birth of Jesus. Science for some time has been closely approaching the solution of this question. Science is finding that a perfect creature can appropriate to its own use such elements of nutrition as are necessary, advantageous and healthful, and can reject and pass by the unhealthful nutriments. More and more this principle is recognized, not only in laboratories, but also in daily life. A healthy man may eat almost anything with impunity. His system will reject and purge of unhealthful, poisonous elements and retain, absorb, appropriate the healthful. This is in harmony with the old proverb, "One man’s meat is another man’s poison." And in proportion as one is bodily weak and degenerate, he is susceptible to diseases of every kind. In proportion as he is strong, full of vitality, vigor, the various microbes and bacteria are repelled by his system. Applying this principle in the case of Jesus, it solves the riddle; it shows us how the perfect germ of life from the spirit plane could appropriate to itself the necessary nourishments for its own perfect development. Thus we are better enabled to-day to see the philosophy of the immaculate conception of our Lord than were any of our forefathers. And to-day also we understand the philosophy of the Atonement better than they: we may the better see why Jesus must needs have been perfect—why no imperfect one could have been the Redeemer.
Not a God, But a Man.
Thus seen, the Redeemer was not a mere man in the sense of being on a common plane with the remainder of mankind, imperfect, fallen. He was a man, nevertheless—a perfect man, an image of God in the flesh, as was Father Adam before he sinned. The Divine Law stipulates "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a man’s life for a man’s life." And it was the requirement of this Law that Jesus came to meet on man’s behalf. He became a man. He became flesh and dwelt among us, because this was necessary. It was not necessary for Him to become a man to utter the words which He uttered during His earthly ministry. True, indeed, "Never man spake like this Man," yet He spoke to the people in parables and dark sayings—"without a parable spake He not unto them." Our Lord’s words could have been otherwise conveyed. The explanations of His words are given by the Apostles. Without His enlightenment through the Apostles His words would to-day be dark and not understood. Jesus came into the world, not to be a Teacher, but to be a Savior—a Redeemer. Thus it is written, "A body hast Thou prepared Me" "for the suffering of death." (#Heb 10:5; 2:9.) Had it not been necessary for Jesus to suffer death, "the Just for the unjust," He would not have come into the world. His death as a spirit being would not have redeemed mankind, for the same reason that the death of bulls and goats, under the Law Covenant, could not take away sin. It was necessary that He should give Himself a ransom-price for all. The word ransom, as used in #1Ti 2:6, signifies in Greek a price to correspond. And the only price that would correspond
OV152 to the life of the perfect man who sinned in Eden was the life of a perfect man who had not sinned. It was this ransom-price that Jesus gave and on account of which it is written that He bought us and bought the world. Strictly speaking, the purchasing is not yet accomplished. The price is ready in the hands of Justice, but not appropriated to the world. It is to be appropriated or given to Adam and his race under the New Covenant arrangements of Messiah’s Kingdom. Meantime, the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice, which is in the hands of Justice, is imputed to His disciples, to all who turn from sin and accept Him as their Savior. After making full consecration of their all they are begotten of the Holy Spirit. The imputation of the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice to His followers continues all through this Gospel Age.
And not until the last member shall have passed beyond the veil victorious will he be ready to appropriate His ransom sacrifice fully for the cancellation of the world’s sins. In harmony with this the Scriptures tell us that "the whole world lieth in the Wicked One"—only the Church is now being delivered. The Apostle says, "We (the Church) were children of wrath even as others (still are.)—#Eph 2:3.
In a word, two salvations will result from the faithfulness of the Logos in doing the Father’s will. The Undefiled One’s sacrifice is sufficient for the sins of the whole world. The Church class, through the imputation of His righteousness, obtains now their share of the merit of that sacrifice and are thereby enabled to be justified freely from all sin and to join with the Redeemer in His sufferings, in His sacrifice, and thus be prepared to share in His coming glory. The reward to this class is glory, honor and immortality, the Divine nature—"far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named."
The World’s Salvation.
The human nature which Jesus laid down sacrificially He did not forfeit. The Divine nature to which He was raised on the third day was not in exchange for His human nature, but as a reward for His sacrifice. He, therefore, still has that right to human nature, and it, in harmony with the Divine Plan, He purposes to give to the world of mankind. This will constitute the world’s salvation. It will be given, however, only to such of mankind—after being brought to a knowledge of the Truth—as during Messiah’s reign, will gladly and heartily accept the Divine terms.
The uplift of humanity from sin, degradation, meanness, death, to perfection and all that was lost in Adam, will be conditioned upon obedience to the Divine requirements. Assistance out of sin and death conditions will be supplied by the great Redeemer and His glorified Church, His Bride. Thus seen, the Church’s salvation will soon be completed in the First Resurrection and the world’s salvation will then be ready to begin. It will be participated in by all to a certain extent, but all who eventually reject Divine favor will be destroyed from amongst the people in the Second Death. (#Ac 3:23; Jude 12.) We note another difference between these two salvations. The first, as we have seen, is a salvation to heavenly or spirit nature by a process of "change," "begetting of the Holy Spirit," and the sacrifice and death of the fleshly nature. The other, the world’s salvation, will not be by sacrifice, will not be by change of nature, but by obedience and resurrection—the human nature retained will be gradually restored and brought to perfection in all the willing and obedient. They will get to the full the earthly life rights, privileges, etc., of Jesus, which the Church gets only in a reckoned or imputed sense, not to keep, but to assist them by making their sacrifices holy and acceptable in God’s sight. In view of these things, we see the importance of this great fact of the immaculate conception of Jesus—"holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."