Overland Monthly / OV004 - The Divine Program (II. Why A Mystery?)
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THE DIVINE PROGRAM BY C. T. RUSSELL
PASTOR BROOKLYN TABERNACLE
II. WHY A MYSTERY?
HAVING SEEN in the light of reason that we have a personal Creator, infinite in wisdom, justice, love and power, and having claimed that the Bible is the Revelation of the Divine Purpose, the question properly arises: Why is it, to so large a degree, a Book of parables, symbolisms and dark sayings? Why is it not so open and clear that the way-faring man need not err therein? Why is it that Doctors of Divinity find it perplexing, mysterious, incomprehensible? What excuse can be offered for mysteries in connection with a subject in which all should be interested? The answer to these questions opens the outer door to the temple of truth, to a proper appreciation of the Bible as the Word of God. And we note at the beginning that the Bible most distinctly declares itself to be a Book of Mysteries. The four Gospels of the New Testament, supposed to be the simplest and plainest portion of the Book, mainly records of our Lord’s deeds and words, declare, in harmony with the Prophecies, that the Great Teacher himself delivered his message in parables and dark sayings, and that "Without a parable spake he not unto the people," that "Hearing they might hear and not understand; and seeing, they might see and not perceive."—Mt 13:14.
Wherever we go, whether in heathen or in civilized lands, we find the most intelligent people associating themselves in various secret societies. They do indeed make prominent certain general objects, which these societies profess to serve—but more than this, the public are not to know. Their secrets are carefully guarded by grips and signs and pass-words and vows. There is a reason for this secrecy, too. It is to prevent the methods and operations of the societies becoming known to those not in sympathy with them, who might seek to frustrate them. What shall we say if we find that our Creator, for similar reasons, has kept secrets from alienated mankind many of his purposes? And would it seem strange if we should find that those in fullest harmony with their Maker should proportionately be granted a knowledge of the Divine purposes hidden from others? We hold that these are the facts—that the Bible so declares. In a word, from the Scriptural standpoint, Jehovah God was the organizer of the most remarkable secret society known
to men up to the present time! The Jewish Church was a kind of Junior Order and prepared the way for the Gospel Church, which for nearly nineteen centuries has constituted the great Divine Secret Society. True, there are many nominally associated who are hypocrites and who have neither part nor lot in the Society, its privileges, its blessings and its secrets. Then there are others who have taken the first step or degree, and who are thus privileged to know the merest rudiments of the Divine Purpose. Others have taken the second and subsequent degrees, and have grown in grace and knowledge, having become wise with the wisdom which cometh from above. Let us prove from the Bible that there are such secrets of the Divine Purpose, and that they are revealed to some and not possible to be understood by others. Do not the Scriptures declare that "The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence him, and he will show them his covenant?"—Ps 25:14. Did not St. Paul declare: "The mystery hid from all ages and generations is now made manifest to his saints?" (Col 1:26.) Note well that this mystery is not made known to the world, but unto the saints—and in proportion as they are saintly. Note again that our Redeemer, addressing the Father, said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Mt 11:25-26.) Hearken to his words again when asked of his disciples why he spoke to the people in parables and dark sayings; he responded, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand."—Mr 4:11-12. There is one prominent difference between the operation of the Lord’s Secret Society and the worldly ones. The latter have great difficulty in preserving their secrets, while the former has no difficulty.
While the Lord’s people are advised not to cast their pearls of knowledge before the swinish, it is not because the latter might understand and thwart the Divine Purposes or reveal the Divine Secret, but, as he expressed it, "Lest they turn again and rend you." Otherwise God’s people may tell anything and everything they please, to the extent of their knowledge, respecting the Divine Mysteries, but the while should know that none can understand these mysteries except the initiated—the spirit begotten. Mark the Apostle’s clear expression on this subject: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world. ...We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory....God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit: for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." —1Co 2:6,7,10,14.
Proceeding, the Apostle shows the necessity for this secretiveness as respects the Divine Purpose—shows that if it were generally known amongst men, the Divine program would at times be interfered with. He tells us that none of the princes or prominent ones of the world understand this wisdom of God—for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. It is with them, as it was previously foretold by the Prophet Isaiah (Isa 64:4). "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit.... We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the holy spirit teacheth."—1Co 2:8-13. We shall assume that we have established our point; that there is a mystery connected with the Divine purpose, and that it can be understood only in proportion as any shall come into harmony with God, and is understood completely only by the spirit-begotten and fully developed saints of God. We may proceed to show from the Bible additionally that the Revelation of this mystery, even to the "saints" was to be a gradual one, whereby the mysteries,
the secrets, would become "meat in due season to the Household of Faith." (Mt 24:45.) For instance, our Lord at his first advent declared to his followers: "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." (Joh 16:12.) In the same connection he promised that in the future, as due, these still hidden things would be gradually revealed according to the necessities of his followers. A full knowledge of the mystery of the Lord was not promised until the end of this Gospel Age, when, under the sounding of the seventh symbolical trumpet, "the mystery of God shall be finished," which he hath kept secret from the foundation of the world.—Re 10:7; Ro 16:25. Our Lord pointed to this culmination of knowledge, when he said to his followers that in the future the holy spirit "should show them things to come." (Joh 16:13.) It is in full harmony with this that special visions and revelations were given to St. Paul, not for the benefit of himself alone, but for the blessing and encouragement and assistance of all the members of the Church of Christ, God’s Secret Society. For although the Apostle tells us that he was forbidden to make known the secret things revealed to him, nevertheless by Divine intention the knowledge given to him greatly illuminated his writings and made them specially helpful to the saints throughout the Age. And St. Paul’s writings, be it remembered, constitute more than one-half of the New Testament. Thus did God provide a storehouse of spiritual food, to be gradually dispensed to the Household of Faith throughout the age, as "meat in due season" —dispensed by the holy spirit. We remember, furthermore, that the Law and Prophecies given to typical Israel were clothed in figurative, symbolical language, and these also constituted "meat" for the Household of Faith, the understanding and appropriation of which would be possessed gradually, as the holy spirit would guide them and grant the necessary enlightenment, that the spirit-begotten ones might understand "the deep things of God." Moreover, the writings of St. Paul constitute a key to the understanding of the many features of the typical Law Covenant. This principle of keeping secret the Divine purpose, yet providing a key to its understanding, which would unlock it in due time, reminds us of the time-locks now in common use for the protection of the treasures of our banks. The combination will not operate until the due time has been reached, and then it will yield only to those who have the combination, and who will use it. As an illustration in point, note the statement of Daniel’s experience and the Divine message to him. The Prophet had been given a vision and a part of it had been interpreted to him, but the remainder perplexed him. He plead with the Lord, he tells us, with fasting and prayer for weeks, and then obtained a further interpretation of a portion of it, but was told respecting the remainder, "Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end (in the time of the end of the present order of things.) Many shall run to and from (by steam and electric power), and knowledge shall be increased (through compulsory education.) And then the wise (with heavenly wisdom) shall understand." (Da 12:4,9-10.) As a further illustration remember our Redeemer’s words to the disciples when they asked at his first advent, "Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?" he answered and said unto them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." (Ac 1:6,7.) "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but my Father only." (Mt 24:36.)
There is nothing here to intimate that the Son would never know the time, nor that the angels in heaven would never know the time, nor that men would never know the time; but merely that the time for the knowledge was not yet due. It was still in the Father’s hands, unrevealed even to the Son. Another illustration of this fact that there are great secrets connected with our subject—the Divine Program—is shown in the Book of Revelation. That Book itself is full of signs and symbols, evidently designed to barricade its mysteries from all except a certain class, the saints, and from them, also until the time was due
for the secrets to be revealed. Note the words, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear (understand) the words of this Prophecy." (Re 1:3.) The very reading of it will bring a blessing, and, as its mysteries gradually dissolve, the understanding thereof will bring still additional blessing. Note again in the introduction of the Book the statement of its mysterious and symbolic character. Its name, Revelation, signifies the uncovering, and implies something hidden. The opening sentence is, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him to show unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass: and he sent and signified it (revealed it in symbolic form) by his messenger."—Re 1:1. We close this testimony respecting the mystery, the secret enshrouding the Divine purpose, with the account of Revelation, Fifth Chapter. Here a beautiful symbolism represents our Creator, Jehovah, upon his Throne of Glory, holding in his hand a scroll of manuscript, written within and on the outside, and sealed with seven seals. That scroll pictured the Divine Purpose respecting our race. Not a seal had yet been broken. This confirms our Redeemer’s words that the Father had kept all things pertaining to his Divine Purpose in his own hands or power. Then we note the proclamation made throughout heaven: "Who is worthy to be granted the custody of the scroll, to open its seals, to know its mysteries, and to be entrusted with the honor of carrying them to completion?" A hush prevailed—silence in heaven! Apparently none was found worthy of so high an honor as to interpret and execute the Divine Purpose. The Revelator John says, "I wept much." He had great grief that the wise and gracious Program of the Almighty must remain sealed and unfulfilled, because no competent agent was to be found. But the scene changed. An angel touching the Revelator, said: "Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the scroll, by loosing the seals thereof." St. John wiped his tears and looked again. A fresh symbolic picture met his eye. He beheld a lamb as it had been slain, to whom the scroll was entrusted, and he heard in symbol the united voice of the heavenly host declaring the Will of God, "Thou art worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof." Here we see, then, that great and honorable as our Redeemer had been before he left the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, he had not then proven himself worthy of this great glory and service, represented by the giving to him of the scroll of the Divine Purpose, with authority and power to carry the same to completion. Nor did he reach this climax during his earthly ministry. It was after he had finished the Sacrifice, after he had died on Calvary as the Lamb of God, after he had ascended to heaven. Then he was highly exalted. In the Apostle’s language, he was "Given a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."—Php 2:9-11. Then all the heavenly host hailed him, as he was entrusted with the execution of the Divine Program, "Worthy the Lamb."
But he had not yet executed the Divine purpose, which was still immature, undeveloped. He had, however, begun the execution of it in the organization of his Church. At Pentecost he sent forth the begetting spirit, which since has represented him in the world, and through it he has begotten to newness of nature the faithful, consecrated believers throughout this Age. Soon this church, which is called the Mystery of God, shall have been finished—when the last member shall have been accepted, chiseled, polished and made ready for association with himself, as the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife, and Joint-Heirs in the Kingdom, which Kingdom, by the grace of God, will bless all the families of the earth, by a release from the powers of Sin and Death, which now hold it in slavery.