Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
God’s Justice and Love Perfectly Poised
By C. T. Russell
Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"Mercy rejoiceth against judgment."
LOVE has gained a victory over Justice, according to our text. Mercy is an outward expression of Love. Let us reason as to the way in which Divine Mercy, or Love, gains the victory over Divine Justice. In so doing, I believe that we shall be learning something as to our proper attitude; for we should copy God’s character. We should study His methods, His ways, that we may have Heavenly wisdom. When, therefore, we see how God’s Love gains the victory over His Justice, we shall see how it should be with us, in order that we may become like Him.
In considering Divine Love and Divine Justice, we are to remember that God is perfect in all His attributes. Both His Justice and His Love are perfect. But inasmuch as these are inherent, invisible qualities of the Divine Nature, we could not study them unless they were manifested. Thus far they have been manifested only to a faithful few. It is the manifestation of these qualities that especially interests us. Let us note how these attributes manifest themselves, that we may thus learn valuable lessons.
Justice the Foundation of God’s Throne.
Undoubtedly there is no lesson that the people of God need to learn more than this particular one of the relationship of justice to love, in order to know how to exercise these qualities as God exercises them, and yet with some variations; for He has some rights which we do not possess. We see that God’s Love operated in the very beginning, when He created His Son to be His Logos. His Love was afterwards seen in His creation of angels and men, in His own image. Then we see that the fall of our race brought into operation Divine Justice; for it was Justice which decreed that man, because of his disobedience, should not live.
"Dying, thou shalt die," was the fiat of Divine Justice (
.) When Justice decreed that death must result from transgression, Divine Love agreed the sentence was altogether proper, not only because it is right for God to be just and in harmony with His own Law, but also because it would not be good for men to live everlastingly in a fallen condition.
If God had permitted men to live on in imperfection, we can scarcely imagine the tremendous power he would have had by this time. As it is, we see that some of our race in three score and ten years are able to cultivate such qualities of mind and character as to give them an ascendancy over their fellows; and were they allowed to live on indefinitely in sin, they would undoubtedly bring all others into captivity to themselves. Except man should exercise the attributes
OV406 of his character in harmony with the Divine character, he should not be permitted to live, because of the great injury which he would do to others. Thus, in the Divine arrangement, we see Love agreeing with Justice that sinful man should die.
Why God Permitted Sin.
Again, when our race came under the death sentence, God might have cut us off more quickly than He did had He not had in mind the very Plan of which we are now leading—the Divine Plan of the Ages. (
, Diaglott.) Man was to learn certain lessons during the present life in order that he might profit by them in the future life.
We see, then, that God has arranged a very reasonable and loving way in dealing with the sinner race. In His wonderful Purpose He planned to redeem man from this death condition, and to restore the race in due time.
All the experiences of the present life will have a bearing upon the members of the fallen race during the period of their restoration, in the incoming Age. God planned that mankind should have experiences of pain and death, thus to learn the needful lessons.
For six thousand years the world has been getting its education along the lines of sin—lessons as to what a terrible thing sin is, how hard it is to control, how ruinous are its effects, how hardening of the heart and that final death will inevitably result from its continued practice. Thus twenty billions of our race have had a great schooling-time during the past six thousand years.
Love Plans Man’s Redemption.
As we study the matter, we can see great wisdom in God’s course. Love was not indifferent, though for a time God could not show man His interest. Love had beforehand arranged a Plan whereby redemption would come, whereby Love would triumph over Justice. In God’s due time a purchase price for man would be given.
Then, after Justice should reign for six thousand years, during which the world would learn its needed lessons with respect to the heinousness of sin in all its manifold forms, Redeeming Love should become Restoring Love, calling mankind forth from the tomb, during the thousand years’ Reign of the One who purchased them..So ultimately, when death and hell (the grave) shall have delivered up all that are in them, and when the curse of death shall be no more, Love will have triumphed over Justice. Thus we read, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?"
"Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"—
This is one of the most wonderful things that we see in the Bible—the more wonderful as we understand it the more. God always maintains His Justice, and He always maintains His Love; and we are blessed by both. Justice, having triumphed over the world for six thousand years, has brought our race down to Sheol, Hades—the tomb.
Love, in the meantime, began to operate, though in harmony with Justice; and it has given the great sacrifice of Jesus, and has arranged that at the time of the Second Advent of Christ, and through His Reign of a thousand years, He shall awaken all humanity from the sleep of death.
How One Could Purchase a Race.
We can thus see in the Bible what a great equalization, or balance, God has arranged.
Since twenty thousand millions of souls have sinned, it would, in any other way than God’s way, have required twenty thousand million redeemers. But when we see how God is operating, we wonder at His arrangement. He provided that only one man should be condemned to death, and that through this one man condemnation should come upon all men while still in his loins. Thus one man could pay the penalty for all.
"For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Jesus) comes the resurrection of
OV407 the dead." (
.) One man was a sinner; one Man was the Redeemer.
Beautiful! We never heard of anything like this except in God’s Plan. Think of a great Plan, covering six thousand years, in which the salvation of twenty billions of human creatures is involved, and yet all so easily and perfectly poised! Justice will never be cheated out of its dues; yet Love gains the victory and provides the way out of the difficulty, and does this at the expense of the One through whom the whole Plan is consummated—our blessed Lord Jesus.
The penalty resting upon mankind was met by the sacrifice of Jesus’ life. But was not that unjust? Oh, no. The Bible assures us that God stated the proposition beforehand to the Son, and that the Son was in full agreement with it—not the Man Jesus, but the Logos, the Word, the Messenger—Michael, the Godlike One. The proposition was made to Him that by the purchase of the whole race of man through His sacrifice He might obtain the honor and glory of Messiah—the opportunity of delivering and blessing the thousands of millions of humanity who had been condemned to death in Adam.
And then, what more? Oh, much more!—that He should be supremely exalted, even to the Divine Nature, for all eternity—far above angels, principalities, powers and every name that is named. (
ALL THIS IS THE GREAT TRIUMPH OF LOVE OVER JUSTICE.
While Justice remains forever inviolate, yet Love is the Victor. "Mercy rejoiceth against Judgment" —Justice.
God’s Wonderful Plan of the Ages.
When we see the Bible teaching concerning the Divine Plan, it gives us a confidence in the Bible that we can get from no other quarter. It is the study of the Bible from the outside, by those who try to tear it into shreds, and the employment of their brains against the Bible, that proves the professors of our day the worst of all times. Only when we perceive from the inside can we see the strength of the Bible. No human mind ever originated such a Plan. It is surely Divine, surely Biblical. We did not discover it, but it was shown to the faithful "in due time."
We know that this great Plan is of God; and the Book that contains such a wonderful Message is surely the Word of God. It must be that those "holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." The Spirit of God indited this wonderful Message. The many men, in various times and places, who uttered the words did not know what they meant. The understanding was not then due. But their words constitute a harmonious whole, and "were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."—
Nor could we understand their words until we received the begetting of the Holy Spirit with its consequent enlightenment. This brought these things to our attention in God’s due time, and enabled us to understand their meaning. So the Apostle Paul writes to some, "After ye were illuminated, ye endured." (
.) We now understand what it means to be illuminated. The illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit; which we received at the time of our consecration unto death. This illumination of the Church had its beginning at Pentecost. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given—
The Church is a special class, called out in advance of the world. The early Church had to wait until Jesus had finished His sacrifice for sin, had ascended up on High as the great High Priest, to appear in the presence of God for us (the Church, not yet for the world), to sprinkle the blood of His sacrifice upon the Mercy-Seat on our behalf, and had become the Advocate of those who would follow in His steps. (
.) Having made satisfaction for the sins of the consecrated, He imputed His own merit to them, thereby making them
OV408 acceptable to the Father. Not until then could they receive the begetting of the Holy Spirit. Ever since that time the Holy Spirit has been with the Church, begetting each one who came into this class.
With this begetting comes the illumination. We are then sons of God. Not only does this illumination enable us to understand things previously hidden from our eyes, but thereafter all the Word of God becomes food to us, that thereby we may grow in grace, in knowledge, in justice, in love, in all qualities of the Divine character, that thus we may become more like our Father who is in Heaven.
Deliverance of the World Now Due.
Having, then, seen how Divine Justice has operated till now for the future blessing of mankind, we look further, and see that Divine Mercy is now about to gain a great victory for the whole world. As soon as the Church is glorified, the merit of the Redeemer is to be applied for all the human race. But it will require the entire thousand years of Messiah’s Reign before Mercy shall have fully triumphed over Justice. We now perceive what Love will be doing for the world throughout those thousand years.
It will be awakening mankind from death and lifting them up from degradation to holiness and life.
This will all come through the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be God’s Agent, the Agent of Justice and of Love. The faithful Church will be associated with Him in all His Kingdom glory and honor. In order that we may be of this class, not only must we be begotten of the Spirit of God, but we must also manifest the fruits of that Spirit, we must be quickened by it. Then in the First Resurrection we shall be born of the Spirit, and shall share with our Lord this work of love for all mankind, and shall also share His glory forever. At the conclusion of the Millennial Reign this glorious work of Divine Love will have been accomplished. Through all the outworkings of this wonderful Plan, the principles of absolute Justice and absolute Love will be observed, operating in full harmony.
In what manner will God’s Justice operate during the next Age toward mankind? may be asked. Some have difficulty in seeing how the world in the future will have their sins forgiven? Will the murderer have the same opportunity as those who have been more noble in their lives? How will Justice then be represented?
We believe that God’s dealings will be in full harmony with Justice; that while love will be especially operative or manifest during the Millennial Age, yet Justice will never be violated. Will mankind, in the future, then, be punished for their sins in the present life?
Yes, and no. They will not be punished in the sense of being held legally accountable for sins of the past—for this would nullify the work which Christ accomplished in His death in providing satisfaction for Adamic sin. Christ having made satisfaction for the sins of believers, this class are no longer legally responsible for them. The same principle will operate with the world in the future.
How Justice Operates.
For the present we will consider the Church of Christ. Suppose one had lived in such a way as to have gotten himself into a bad condition of body, mind or morals. These things will be more or less as a penalty upon him after he has become a Christian.
Although God has forgiven his sins and cleans him from all unrighteousness, nevertheless such a one will have in his body or in his mind certain natural penalties resulting from his previous sinful course. If he had lived a sinful life for many years, the evil would be so much the more deeply entrenched; and he will have all the greater fight to overcome these deeply imbedded tendencies to sin. One who has lived a conscientious, moral life will have just that much less to overcome.
If through evil thoughts or evil
OV409 deeds the mind of that person has become poisoned, he may have to battle all his life against the seeds of sin, not in the way of direct punishment for his wrong doing, but through natural law; for the New Creature is to be developed while tabernacling in the flesh wherein the evil seeds have been sown. It is like a piece of land which has long been given over to weeds, in which case the roots would have become deeply entrenched in the soil. This land may afterward be changed into a wheat-field; but we know from experience that the weeds will be there also, and that the wheat will not flourish so readily, because of this fact.
It is even so with our hearts and our bodies. After we have given them to the Lord the fleshly tendencies are still there. God has accepted us as New Creatures; His grace has covered our sins; and they are no longer chargeable to us. But whoever has had a larger planting of sin in his former life may have to his dying day a great battle against these poisonous weeds; and that will be a proper and natural punishment for his past course.
So it will be in the future. The world will get retribution for their sins, just as we do for ours, and it will take many years to get entirely free from the effects of sin.
THE WORD OF GOD
OH, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
True wisdom its pages unfold; And though we may read them a thousand times o’er, They never, no never, grow old!
Each line hath a pleasure, each promise a pearl, That all if they will may secure; And we know that when time and the world pass away, God’s Word shall forever endure.
Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
The lamp that our Father above So kindly hath lighted to teach us the way That leads to the arms of His love!
Its warnings, its counsels, are faithful and just; Its judgments are perfect and pure; And we know that when time and the world pass away, God’s Word shall forever endure.
Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
Our only salvation is there; It carries conviction down deep in the heart, And shows us ourselves as we are.
It tells of a Savior, and points to the cross, Where pardon we now may secure; And we know that when time and the world pass away, God’s Word shall forever endure.