Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
CREED IDOLS OF CHRISTENDOM
"The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort."
When in India, China and Japan last year, I was forcibly struck with the intelligence of many among these peoples. I visited their idol temples for the purpose of noticing the degree of reverence exhibited and the status of worshipers, and was favorably impressed. Many seemed sincere, absolutely unmindful of any other matter than their own worship. I made inquiry as to what importance was attached to the idol. Was it regarded as the god, or merely a reminder of their god? They assured me that the idol itself was known to be of metal, or stone, or wood, and was used merely as a reminder of their god, in much the same way that Catholics use the crucifix—not as worshiping the image or the picture, but merely having these before the mind to assist in fixing reverence and the spirit of worship.
OUR CREED IDOLS WORSE
At first I felt disposed to chide the heathen for the horrible features which they give their images. I said to myself, Why do they not make graceful, beautiful idols instead of horrible ones? But a little reflection brought me shame and confusion. I said to myself, Look at the creeds, the idols, the images of God, set up in Christendom.
We have not attempted to picture our Deity in wood or stone or mineral, but we have written out a description of His character—our Christian creeds.
These creeds stand before our mental eyes with exactly the same hideous features that the tangible idol has before the natural eye of the heathens. Each different creed shows a slightly different image of God, but they are all horrible. They all picture God as a most
atrocious character, more hideous by far than are any of the idols of heathendom.—
#Ec 7:29; #La 5:7
How could anybody carve, or cast, or model, a mute image, or idol, that would speak such horrible things as all of our creeds portray by description? Where is the artist who could picture a God deliberating upon the creation of the human family, and before beginning His work planning and arranging a great place called Hell (and some say another called Purgatory), creating fire-proof devils to man these, laying up fuel for use therein through all eternity, and then starting the human race with procreative powers, with the foreknowledge that billions would spend eternity in those horror chambers!
Who could picture or model an image representing a God who would, after preparing such a place, inject new life and vigor into the poor sufferers so as to prevent them from dying—so as to insure that they must live everlastingly under those horrible conditions! No heathen was ever capable of such an imagination; and hence none was ever able to picture such a God, either in clay, or stone, or metal, or wood, or with the pen. It remained for the most cultured and civilized peoples of the world, who had enjoyed most of God’s favors and blessings and enlightenment, to misunderstand Him most, to misrepresent Him worst, and to carry those misrepresentations to the heathen, in the name of the God of Love.
THE HEATHEN KNOW IT, TOO
Missionaries have indeed reached a few people and brought them under a measure of Christian influence, but their number is small; so also their intelligence. Like some true Christians here, they have a reverence for God sadly encumbered with error. The more intelligent classes are agnostics. Christianity, so-called, has led them to doubt their own religions, but it has not given them anything in their stead.
When some of the higher caste natives learned that my preaching was different from that of the missionaries,
and that it presented a God of Love, and an ultimate opportunity to all mankind to come into harmony with Him, the matter spread among them. Committees were sent to me to inquire if I could not stay longer, assuring me of audiences of the higher caste natives. They explained that as much as they appreciated the intelligence of the white man and his Christian religion, they could not receive it because it pictured a God so terrible and so unjust as to be repugnant to their minds.
"Why," said they, "our gods and our religion teach us to be kind, even to the dumb brutes, and to cause them no unnecessary pain. How, then, could we worship the God of the missionaries? They tell us that He has consigned our forefathers, from the remotest generation, to everlasting torture because they did not believe in Jesus, whose name is the only name by which any can be saved.
We cannot believe in so unjust a God. The slightest degree of justice would have obligated Him to send our forefathers the Message in no uncertain terms."
I felt it obligatory to apologize, not only for myself, but for all Christendom. I said: We Christians have erred. We neglected our Bible, and thus brought on the Dark Ages. Since then we have been trying to get nearer to the light as the days go by, and some of us have made a little more progress than others. I am preaching the God of the Bible, "the God of all grace, the Father of mercies," whose name is Love, and who is perfect in all His ways. Certain parables and symbolic phrases have been misunderstood, misapplied, mistranslated; and thus, while we had the best of intentions, the great Adversary, Satan, has kept Christendom considerably in the dark, and has led us to picture in our creeds a God who is fierce, unjust, unloving, unwise, and who is using His Power contrary to every principle of righteousness. Now the dawn of the New Age is about upon us. The thousand years of Christ’s Reign is shortly to begin. God is getting us ready for it by sending blessings of every kind.
Furthermore, we see that we are in the Day of the Lord’s preparation, and His faithful people are finding a better light shining on the Bible, and are gradually coming to a better understanding of it. Cling to the Bible!
We are endeavoring to arrange so that yourselves and all people who are hungering for a God of Righteousness, Justice, Wisdom and Love may learn what the Bible really teaches.—
MISSIONARIES OPPOSE THE TRUTH
I am sorry to say that although the missionaries are free to confess that the conversion of the world is an absurd proposition, they are not ready for the Bible teaching on the subject. Although they know there are twice as many heathen today as there were one century ago, they are bound, fettered by their creeds. True, they are seeking federation, co-operation; but the co-operation includes only those who are colaboring to get the heathen to cast away his graven and molten images, and to take instead a written creed image that is worse. Of course, few of the missionaries believe in these creed idols themselves; but they were sent to foreign lands to put these fetters upon the poor heathens, and they are not at liberty to do otherwise than they have been instructed.
One would think that even then they would rejoice to have somebody else proclaim the Message of a God of Love, and one chance of salvation to every member of Adam’s race. But they do not; they oppose our teachings at every step. We cannot read their hearts; we must therefore imagine some of them are still fettered by the ignorance and superstition of the Dark Ages and are thoroughly conscientious in their endeavor to put these fetters on others, thinking thereby to do God service.
Others, we must assume, feel their responsibility in respect to the reports they will make to the home Boards of Foreign Missions. Their reports in the past have been colored to the very limit to show progress and to encourage contributions to the missionary funds. The
very thought brings terror—that any of their followers would get more light, more knowledge of God, and thus cease to be counted in as worshipers at the shrine of the hideous creed idols of the various denominations.
Apparently for the past few years, missionary activity has been chiefly with the native children. Apparently very little religious information is being imparted. If only the missionaries had read the Bible to the people, many more in heathen lands would know about Messiah’s Kingdom and appreciate the import of the prayer, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in Heaven."
GOOD TIDINGS TO EVERY NATION
My visit to foreign lands was not a pleasure jaunt, but strictly in the interest of the true Gospel, of which the angels sang—"Good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people." I had heard reports which led me to believe that there were sincere people in heathendom who were feeling after the true God, if haply they might find Him. I believe that God wishes us to carry the Message to these. I have far greater interest in such, whether at home or abroad, than in the vast majority of people, who are utterly careless, utterly indifferent, utterly faithless, and who do not wish to know God.
Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will deal with all such, and open their eyes of understanding, and through chastisements develop the peace of God in all who will. The present Age is merely for the electing of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Finding such in heathendom I, as President of the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, promptly took the necessary steps for sending the Gospel of God’s Love and Justice and Wisdom and Power all over heathendom.
Our association has had sermons translated into the languages of Japan and Korea, and into the principal languages of China, and into the six principal languages of India; and millions of copies are in the hands of the
people. Considerable fresh interest in Christianity has been aroused. Peoples in those lands who had begun to doubt everything religious have begun to take courage, and to think and study their Bible. If the missionaries could but catch the same spirit, what a blessed opportunity would be theirs! But, alas, not many of them are so inclined! Very generally they seem to be bitter, hostile, slanderous, doing everything in their power to oppose the light, even as Jesus declared that the darkness has always hated the light, because the light makes manifest, or shows up the darkness.—
HOW TO KNOW GOD
Jesus said, "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." He knew we could not come into personal touch with the Almighty. He knew that we could learn respecting Him only through the Bible, as He said, "Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth." There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. The beginning of faith is to believe that there is a great Supreme Creator. It is another step to learn that He is wise and powerful, as indicated in the great Universe that He has made, and in our human organization with its wonderful powers for thought and action. Truly "There is a God— All Nature speaks!"
At first it may occur to some that knowledge of God simply means to come to know that there is a God, and that He has provided a Savior, His Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. But the knowledge of God means far more than this. To the advanced and developing Christian it signifies an intimate acquaintance with the Father and with the Son—a knowledge of "the mind of Christ," which is a full and clear representation of the Father’s mind.—
We grow in this knowledge by the study of the Word of God, by discerning through that Word the principles which govern the Divine conduct—as to how Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power operate. These are progressive studies. Something may be learned along this line on the very first day of our Christian experience; but the end of the first year should show considerable progress in the knowledge of the Divine mind; and so to the end of the Christian’s course.
It is only as we realize something of the greatness and the perfection of the Divine character that we are properly able to estimate our own littleness and imperfection.
Only as we see the beauties of His gracious character can we become intimately acquainted with God, with His graces and virtues—His glorious attributes.
Then we come to investigate the more subtle qualities of the Divine Being, His Justice and Love. Who can imagine a real God who is devoid of Justice, devoid of Love? So surely as it is true that no human being could be really great without the qualities of justice and love, so surely is it true that there could be no real and great God without the same qualities. Wisdom and Power without Justice and Love would picture to us a demon, and not a God—not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But what can we know respecting God’s Justice and Love? We answer that there are two ways of ascertaining: The first way is to wait and see how His plans and arrangements will be ultimately carried out. If it is true of humanity that "by their fruits ye shall know them," the same must be true of the Almighty—by His fruits, His workmanship, finally completed, He may be known to be either good or bad, just or unjust, loving or vicious.—
The other way of knowing the Divine character, in advance of the finished work of God, would be along the lines of faith; and faith, in order to be intelligent, must
have some basis or foundation. The Bible is God’s Message, to those who have the ears and eyes of faith. In it He tells us in advance what He purposes to do; and from what we thus hear we must determine whether He is just, loving and good, or whether worse than ourselves.
If the creed idols which we have been worshiping truly represent God, then the consummation of His Plan will be awful in the extreme—enough to make all creation shudder. It would mean thousands of millions in everlasting torture without the slightest hope of any glory coming to God, or of any good coming to the sufferers or to anybody else. The only purpose to be served by such torture would be the satisfaction of a devilish disposition to witness the torture of others. Is that creed idol which we have worshiped a real picture of the God of the Bible? We know that it is not.
The God of the Bible on the contrary declares that He has permitted the reign of Sin and Death, which is entirely just. He tells us that from among the sinners He will first gather out a saintly handful to be associates with their Savior and to participate with Him as members of His cabinet, or Kingdom, for the administration of the world’s affairs, to lift humanity up out of sin and degradation and death back to human perfection, and ultimately to destroy all of those who prefer sin when they shall be brought to a full appreciation of it.
The outcome of this Divine Plan of the Bible shows us a reclaimed humanity, in a world-wide Eden, blessed with a knowledge of God, and with experiences which will make them happy to all eternity. Our Lord tells us that then God’s will shall be done on earth, even as now it is done in Heaven; and that there will be no more sighing, crying and dying on earth, even as there is none in Heaven; and that every creature in Heaven and on earth will everlastingly praise the Creator and the Redeemer.
Hallelujah, such a Savior! Hallelujah, such a God!