By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"The creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God."—#Ro 8:21.
THIS text, one of the grandest promises for humanity, does not relate to true Christians, but to mankind in general. True Christians are already set free, so far as their hearts, their minds, are concerned. Saintly Christians are a rarity to-day as they have always been since the Master declared: "Fear not, little flock; it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."—#Lu 12:32.
Not until these shall be perfected by the glorious change of the Chief Resurrection will the time come for delivering the groaning creation from its bondage. In other words, the world’s blessing tarries until the completion of the saintly company gathered out of every nation and denomination during the past nineteen centuries, and called in the Bible "The Church of the Firstborns," "The Very Elect," "The Lamb’s Wife," "The Body of Christ," and so forth.
Jehovah is a God of order. All His good purposes will be fulfilled in a most orderly manner. Six great days of a thousand years each have already passed over us, according to the Scriptures, and have been periods of darkness under a reign of sin and death. During this time God has allowed our race to experiment with sin and to note its bitter results—to experiment also in endeavors to recover from sin and its penalty, death, with its concomitants of sickness and sorrow. The long schooling of six thousand years is not to be in vain. The lesson that "the wages of sin is death" is not to be lost. Mankind is not to be left to destruction, but is to be recovered. Earth’s billions, lying as unconscious in death as the brute, are nevertheless subjects of Divine interest, sympathy and provision. In the Seventh Thousand-Year Day, earth’s great Sabbath, assistance will come to our race.
Broad Foundation for Human Salvation.
According to the Divine Program, Christ will then be the great King over all the earth, and the great antitypical Priest, to uplift all the willing and obedient. He will be the Antitype of Melchisedec, who was a priest upon his throne. If the Divine purpose had merely been that the Lord Jesus Christ should do this work alone, there would have been no need of His coming into the world nineteen centuries ago to die; for He could have accomplished the entire work at one time. Now, at the beginning of the seventh thousand years, He could have died for man’s sins, thus redeeming all from the curse that came through Adam; and then, risen from the dead and glorified with the Father’s power, He could immediately have begun His great work of setting free the prisoners of Sin and Death.
OV388 But the Heavenly Father had a better Plan. He had purposed the selecting of the saintly few amongst men, to be associated with our Lord Jesus in His Kingship and in His priestly office. God has laid a broad foundation for a great work for humanity in providing not only the necessary kings and priests for the Millennial Kingdom but also valuable experiences for mankind through the reign of Sin and Death, and through human endeavor to overcome these. By now all should be satisfied that life everlasting must come as a gift from God.
A Race of Slaves.
During Messiah’s thousand year Reign the groaning creation, which from Adam until now numbers twenty billions, will be delivered from bondage into full liberty, proper to sons of God. Behold what terrible bondages are upon mankind! Look at their ignorance, their superstition, their fears, their weaknesses, mental, moral, physical and the sum of these disabilities—death.
This does not signify universal salvation, except in that the Bible promises that "as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive, every man in his own order"—class. (#1Co 15:22,23.)
The giving to all mankind the full opportunities of the Millennial Kingdom will fulfill God’s promise. Those who shall intelligently refuse God’s gift of everlasting life, by refusing His reasonable requirements, will die the Second Death. But those who at the conclusion of the Millennial Age shall have profited by the Messiah’s Kingdom will be received into God’s family and will be granted all the liberties and privileges proper to the sons of God.—#Re 21:4; 22:3.
Although we should understand what God has promised of Restitution to human perfection for the groaning creation in general, it is still more important that Christians recognize the share of liberty which has already come to them. (#Ga 5:1.) Do not misunderstand me to refer to the great mass, Catholic and Protestant, noted in the statistics of 400,000,000 Christians. Alas, no! That great mass is deceived. According to Bible standards, and their own confessions, they have neither lot nor part in the Church which is the Body of Christ.
This great mass is well represented in the nations of Europe warring for commercialism, the one to obtain, and the other to hold, the key of power and access to world wealth. Saints there undoubtedly are in all the warring nations; but they are so few that they have virtually no influence, but are forced by the others into the struggle.
The mass of these nominal Christians neither know Christ personally, nor give evidence of having come into God’s family through the begetting of the Holy Spirit.
As truly as the heathen of other lands, they are "without God and having no hope."
There is a hope for them, but they know not of it; they are bound hard and fast in ignorance, superstition, misunderstanding of God and fear of the future.
Responsibility of Clergy and Laity.
Where lies the responsibility for present conditions—that the millions of Europe are fighting like devils, each army deceived into thinking that it is the Lord’s army, fighting for God and righteousness? We believe that the responsibility lies close to the door of the churches of all denominations, and especially close to the door of the religious teachers, who assume great responsibility in calling themselves the clergy and setting themselves above their fellows, whom they style the laity.
These ministers of the civilized world, more than a quarter of a million in number, represent a highly favored class of humanity. The majority of them have much above the average of time for study and thought. How are they using these wonderful opportunities and privileges, and the influence which goes with their positions and
OV389 which is accentuated by the superstition of the masses?
I freely acknowledge that they are not responsible to me; as it is written, "To his own master each servant stands or falls." It is quite proper, however, that we remember the Master’s words, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked and slothful servant." (#Lu 19:22.) What a fearful retribution apparently awaits these professed ministers of God and of Christ who, instead of using their great opportunities for emancipating the people from the slavery of ignorance, superstition and error are using them to promote mental bondage!
Moral Cowards Everywhere.
The clergy neglect their opportunities for educating the people to a proper conception of the rights of man. They have fostered the fallacy that the kingdoms of the world are kingdoms of God, and that serving the king is serving the Lord. They have not taught the people the broad patriotism that "The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof," which He hath given to the children of men; and that national barriers of selfishness and national aggressiveness are contrary to the rights of man. The clergy of each country, supported by the governments, have in turn upheld these governments; and if they have not told the people that the voice of the emperor or the king is the voice of God, they have certainly not disabused them of that idea, which the clergy of past generations inculcated.
Now that the war has come, and the misdirected people are blindly fighting for their errors and misconceptions, what is the attitude of the clergy? Under the pay or the protection of the governments, are they not supporting the governments from which they receive their pay? Are they not intent upon encouraging the ambitions of these governments and stirring up the people to war? Do they not approve the legend on the belts of the German soldiers, "God with us?" Do they not follow the lead of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in England, in encouraging the thought that all who enlist are engaging in a holy war for God? The Archbishop is credited in the press with urging the boys and the girls of Great Britain to marry early and bring up large families, that there may be more such soldiers to battle for church and State..Policy and hypocrisy are written all over the affairs of the world falsely called Christendom—Christ’s Kingdom. These are not Christ’s Kingdom, nor are these Christ’s ministers, if we judge by the Savior’s statement, "His servants ye are to whom ye render service"—whether God or Mammon.
The clergy of lands not directly involved in the war are praying and urging the people to pray to God to stop the war; but we hear no suggestion from any quarter, of proper preaching and teaching to show the people the brotherhood of the human family and the sin of murder, whether committed by commands of kings, emperors, or otherwise.
Where is the courage? Where is the moral stamina? It is lacking. Why? Because true Christianity is lacking.
Christ’s true followers are courageous. Jesus refers to them all as overcomers, not sycophants; as lovers of peace, who contend not with carnal weapons. His followers must, nevertheless, be true heroes, copies of their Master, not afraid to speak the truth and not afraid to die for their courage. What a power a quarter of a million professed ministers of Christ might be if they truly took their stand on his side, lifted up their voices, and even now confessed how seriously they have misled the people in respect to earthly things, as well as regards the things of the hereafter!
Hypocrisy the Greatest of Sins.
Judged by their utterances, the great mass of those professing to be ministers of Christ are hypocrites. In private conversation, if cross-examined,
OV390 they confess that they do not believe in the Bible, and declare that no educated person could believe it to be a Divine revelation. Asked whether they believe in a future life, they answer that they have some hopes of a future life, but that these are built, not upon the Bible declaration of a resurrection of the dead, but upon the platonic philosophy that nobody is dead. Asked whether they believe in eternal torment, they reply, Certainly not! Indirectly, however, they have given the inference that they believe it; and surely they have not done anything to take from the people that nightmare invented during the Dark Ages, when for twelve hundred years the few Bibles that were relegated to the cloister and the closet, and the world was taught by self-styled apostolic bishops, who claimed the same authority of inspiration as the Twelve Apostles whom Jesus named as His only mouthpieces.
There were murderers, thieves and drunkards in Jesus’ day, as there are to-day; yet the Master denounced as still greater sinners the religious hypocrites of His time who made void God’s Word, substituting for it human tradition—deceiving and misleading the people—"blind leaders of the blind." Were He to speak forth to-day His strongest condemnation would be expressed against the clergy, who seem intent upon keeping the people in darkness respecting the true teachings of the Bible—teaching them evolution and unbelief if they are educated, or delusions of the Dark Ages if they are uneducated. Policy seems to take the place of honesty. The Apostle speaks of such as having their consciences seared—toughened, hardened. Lying usage in deception, in trifling with the Word of God, in toying with human tradition and in pleasing kings and princes, has apparently seared many clerical consciences.
As a result, nearly all ministers will say: "We do not believe in the doctrine of eternal torture. We would not think of torturing anybody ourselves; we do not know any human being so depraved that he would wish to torture his fellow creature everlastingly. We do not believe that God would do so. We doubt whether any devil would long take pleasure in such sufferings." Asked why they support creeds which so teach, and why they give such inference to the public, some reply, "It is required of us by our denominations. We would much prefer to tell the truth about the Love of God and His arrangement for the blessing of the non-elect during the Times of Restitution. (#Ac 3:19-21.)
But we are bound hand and foot. Our support and our honor amongst men depend on our adherence to this doctrine. If we could see a way out of the difficulty, we would be glad to be liberated."
Others answer that they give their consciences no concern, that their denomination takes the responsibility for its creed and for its teachers. Others answer that they are Higher Critics and Evolutionists, who believe that they must not tell the people their heart-sentiments, but that they hope that soon public sentiment will outgrow the influence of the Bible, and that then they will be called upon to teach a Christless, and, if necessary, a Godless morality.
After the Example of Judas.
Such bartering of the honor of the Almighty for honor of men and an easy living is as difficult to understand as that of Judas, who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. So seared are the consciences of these educated men that they seem not to realize that blasphemy is the most serious of sins; and that directly or indirectly giving the inference that the God of all grace, the Father of Mercies, is roasting 999 out of every 1,000 of humanity is the worst blasphemy that could be concocted. How much allowance God makes for these blasphemers I do not know, but I feel that theirs is a terrible position. Would that some word of mine might assist in awakening their consciences; and that even yet nobility and manhood,
OV391 not to say saintship, might gain the victory!
And does not the pew share this responsibility? Has it no meaning to intelligent men and women that they have subscribed to a creed that blasphemes God’s holy name, totally misrepresents His character, and throws an utterly false light on the Bible? Is it sufficient that these should say, "We no longer believe these creeds?" Do not their names on the rolls, their presence at church services, and their contribution to the up-keep of these creeds and their clerical defenders constitute a responsibility in the sight of God and in the esteem of all honest men and women? How long shall intelligent people halt between creeds of hypocrisy and one of honesty? How long will they bow down before creed idols more horrible than any worshiped by the heathen?
While mankind is celebrating to-day the birth of this great nation which stands for liberty, freedom, emancipation from the thralldom of church and State, let us personally make fresh resolutions that we will stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ makes free, and be His servants, loyal, faithful unto death, hoping to receive "the Crown of Life, which fadeth not away."
LORD, GIVE ME THIS!
O HEAVENLY Father, Thou hast told Of a gift more precious than pearls and gold; A gift that is free to every one, Through Jesus Christ, Thine only Son.
For His sake, give this to me.
O give it to me, for Jesus said That a father giveth his children bread, And how much more Thou wilt surely give The gift by which the dead shall live!
For Christ’s sake, give this to me.
I cannot see, and I want the sight; I am in the dark, and I want the light; I want to pray, and I don’t know how; O give me Thy Holy Spirit now!
For Christ’s sake, give this to me.
Since Thou hast said it, I must believe It is only "ask" and I shall receive: Since Thou hast said it, it must be true, And there’s nothing else for me to do!
For Christ’s sake, give this to me.
So I come and ask, because my need Is very great and real indeed.
On the strength of Thy Word I come and say, Oh, let Thy Word come true today!
For Christ’s sake, give this to me!