By C. T. Russell Pastor Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"What is man?"—#Ps 8:4.
WE HAVE chosen for our topic on this occasion what we believe is an important, yea, a vital question of deep interest to all humanity: "What is Man?" This great question the Bible alone answers distinctly and satisfactorily, as we hope we shall be able to demonstrate. The answer of Science to our query is at least in one respect right and in full accord with the Bible. Science tells us that man is an animal of the highest order—genus homo. The Bible agrees with this, and declares man distinctly different from the lower animals, and also distinctly separate from angels and spirit beings. He is terrestrial, "of the earth, earthy" —he is not spiritual, not celestial or heavenly. The earth, not heaven, was made for his home.
The Bible does tell of man’s fall from Divine favor and of his Divine condemnation, but his fall was not from a heavenly condition to an earthly condition, but from an earthly condition of perfection to a dying condition of imperfection. The Bible teaches that if man had not sinned, his life would have been everlasting, in earthly perfection, and that his home would have been an earthly Paradise in which he would have enjoyed the blessing and fellowship of his Maker.
The death sentence did not alter or change his nature, but merely forfeited his life and all of his blessings and rights which were dependent upon life. The penalty was not, "To eternal torment shalt thou go, to suffer eternally at the hands of demons," but, "Dying, thou shalt die;" "Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth unto thee;" "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread until thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." And of the faithful execution of this Divine penalty against the sinner we are all witnesses.—#Ge 2:17; 3:17,18.
And Yet How Grand is Man
As we stood by the ruins of ancient Memphis, where Joseph rose from being a slave to being the Governor, next to King Pharaoh, we were impressed with some of the mighty monuments which persist despite the ravaging hand of time. We said to ourselves, What is man? What a king of earth he is, and has been, notwithstanding his deterioration through sin and the fall! As we noted the sculptures of thirty-five hundred years ago we said, Truly the Bible is right when it declares that God made man in His own image—that to man, the highest earthly creature, the great Creator, Himself a spirit, imparted an impress of His own character and a measure of His own power, so that man really was created a god of earth toward the lower creatures which were put under his care, as his Creator is the God of the universe.
Our admiration for our race and its skill was greatly enhanced as we thus cogitated.
The pyramids, and especially the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, near Cairo, impressed us similarly. When we considered the wonderful accomplishments of that long-ago period and reflected that we could scarcely do more to-day with our most improved
OV289 machinery, our appreciation of our ancestors was enhanced, and we said, It would be very difficult for many to accept the modern scientific theory that our forefathers but a short time ago were cousins to the ape.
Some of the temples of India and China similarly impressed us. Athens, too, with its museums and ancient structure, similarly said to us, Truly man in his original perfection must have been created in the image of his Maker! Our visits to Rome impressed upon us the fact that although the work of death has progressed in our race, nevertheless, in a measure the decay of the masses has by Divine providence found compensation; for although we have no Michael Angelo to-day, we have legions who are inspired by his example, and who have copied him with wonderful success, so that to-day our treasures of art are not only multitudinous but grand beyond those of any previous day.
The great St. Peter’s at Rome is itself a treasury of art such as never before was known in the world, besides which all the great capitals of Europe abound with art galleries which illustrate the power of the human mind and the skill of the human hand in the appreciation and execution of the beautiful. And in this connection we must not forget the similar treasures of our home land, America.
Utilities of Our Day.
But, dear friends, you and I are living in a specially utilitarian age. The skill of humanity has during the last century been turned into a new channel, which is making for us a new world. Instead of the narrow streets and lanes of a century ago, we have broad asphalt avenues and boulevards; instead of ordinary houses of a century ago, our cities are replete with handsome and commodious residences that in comparison are palaces. Beautiful, graceful bridges span our great rivers and serve to consolidate our interests. Wonderful tunnels pierce our mountains and facilitate the movement of luxurious railway coaches. Palatial steamers with regularity connect port with port.
Often of late we have found ourselves admiring some of our grand hotels and palatial capitols and engineering feats of bridge work and tunnels, saying to ourselves the while, What is Man? Then we reflect, If man in his fallen condition has learned gradually to accomplish so much, what may we reasonably expect would have been the ultimate capacity of perfect man had not sin entered into the world, and had the experience of centuries been accumulating in many brains! By now, how wonderful a being Father Adam might have been
Times of Restitution.
Then our mind reverted to the great Creator and the message He has given us in His wonderful Book, the Bible. We remembered the inspired message of consolation, that God looked down in pity on us as a race in our fallen condition and that He planned even before our fall for our recovery as a race from the curse, from sin, from death.
We hearkened to St. Peter’s words of encouragement respecting the glorious blessings to be ushered in by the great Redeemer when at His second advent He shall take unto Himself His great power and begin His Messianic reign for the blessing, recovery and uplift of our race. We will remind you of His words although you are familiar with them. He said, "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you, whom the heavens must retain until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."—#Ac 3:19-21.
Ah, God is better than all our fears! During the Dark Ages a terrible nightmare became associated with the glorious gospel of God’s love and mercy revealed by Jesus and the Apostles. Under that nightmare we lost sight of
OV290 all the glorious promises of the Bible and lost our confidence in God because of the terrible propositions declared to us to be His intentions toward our race. True, all acknowledged the hope that a saintly few would attain an eternal weight of glory on the heavenly plane, but all the remainder except the saintly ones, the elect, were consigned either to a terrible purgatorial fire or to an eternal holocaust of torture. What blasphemies against our God, the God of Grace, we thus unwittingly, undesiringly entertained The effect of these teachings in all parts of the world, in every religion, has been to convert man’s natural quality of reverence for his Creator into a terrible fear, and this fear has more and more separated us from God and the Bible.
Mankind and the Church.
We are now coming to understand more fully the Bible doctrine of election, and we see it to be not unjust and cruel as it once appeared, but beautiful and blessed, for both elect and non-elect. The Divine Plan was, and still is, a universal plan—a plan granting universal opportunity to Adam and to all his race for a recovery from the penalty of sin—for a recovery from sin and death to all that Father Adam had in the beginning, and which he lost through disobedience, and which Jesus redeemed for him and his race at Calvary, and which all the willing and obedient may have back again at the hands of the Redeemer, if they will, during the period of His Messianic reign.
This is the restitution which St. Peter tells us God spoke "through the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." And the blessing will not be merely restitutionary, but indeed all the experiences of the present time with sin and sorrow, pain and death will be blessed, helpful lessons for the future—guards against any repetition of the scenes of disobedience against the Divine regulations made for man’s comfort, happiness and everlasting joy.
The work accomplished by our Redeemer at Calvary was merely a preparatory one.
His death provided the ransom-price for Father Adam, and hence for all Adam’s race who share his condemnation. The work of Divine grace which has progressed since Jesus’ death and resurrection is also a preparatory work. During this period of more than eighteen centuries God has been gathering out of the world a special class, willing to pass through specially severe trials and testings of faith and obedience, under the inspiration of certain "exceeding great and precious promises" (#2Pe 1:4) —of a share with Jesus in the Divine nature and glory, honor and immortality.
This selecting work began with natural Israel, and has extended now gradually the world around, gathering from every nation samples and representatives, but all saintly; all in heart, at least, copies of God’s dear Son, the Redeemer. With the dawning of the Seventh Great Day—the Day of Christ—this work of electing or selecting a special class of saints to constitute His bride and joint-heirs in the kingdom will be complete. Then will begin the salvation of the world—the reclamation or restitution of the world from sin and death conditions, made possible by the great redemptive work of Calvary.
Glory in the Highest.
From what we have seen of the Divine provision for man’s recovery we grasp the force of the prophetic declaration following the question of our text—"What is man, that Thou art mindful of him—the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" When we think of the greatness of our God, and the littleness of ourselves, even in our best estate, and especially when we think that we are all sinners, we are amazed that our great Creator was mindful of us—mindful of preparing a great plan of salvation—willing to provide for our redemption, and making preparation for the Kingdom which is to bless the race.
Can we doubt that He who
OV291 has so loved the world while they were yet sinners will bring His plan to a glorious consummation? Can we doubt that He will do all that He has promised, exceeding abundantly more than we could have asked or thought?—#Eph 3:20.
Do not understand us to say that the Bible teaches a universal salvation of our race to life eternal. No, that would be unreasonable. That would imply Divine coercion of the human will, and such a coercion would be contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures—that man is created in God’s image and likeness. An essential feature of the Divine likeness in man is the freedom of his will—his body may be coerced or enslaved, or what not, but the human will is indomitable, like that of man’s Creator.
It is evidently not the Divine intention to destroy the human will, but to educate it—to allow it to develop as a will, along the lines of experience, so that it may be voluntarily submitted to the Divine will because of appreciation of the wisdom of all the Divine arrangements, regulations, laws, etc. The Divine proposition, therefore, is that as all mankind shared by heredity the sentence of death which came upon the first man, Adam, so the redemption accomplished by the Second Adam shall be co-extensive with the fall, so that all Adam’s race who will do so may return to God and be abundantly pardoned and finally restored to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed at Calvary.—#Mt 18:11-13; #Lu 19:10.
And what, you ask, will be the fate of those who willfully, deliberately, persistently, intelligently resist the Divine will and refuse the glorious opportunity of restitution?
The Bible answers that all will be on trial for life eternal or for death eternal, and that those who refuse the conditions of heart loyalty and obedience will bring upon themselves afresh the sentence of death. But this second sentence will differ from the first, not in the kind of punishment, but in the duration thereof.
The first or Adamic death God from the first foreordained should be set aside, and from the very beginning He made preparations for the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, and to consequently make possible for our race a resurrection from the dead and a further opportunity or trial for everlasting life. Wilful sinners under the light and opportunity of the New Day, when condemned to death, will die no more thoroughly than before, but their death will be a hopeless one; no Redeemer has been apportioned for them and none will be apportioned; no redemption for them will be effected and no resurrection will be granted. As St. Peter declares, they shall perish "like natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed."—#2Pe 2:12.
JESUS only! In the shadow Of the cloud so chill and dim, We are clinging, loving, trusting, He with us and we with Him; All unseen, though ever nigh, Jesus only—all our cry.
Jesus only! In the glory, When the shadows all are flown, Seeing Him in all His beauty, Satisfied with Him alone; May we join His ransomed throng, Jesus only—all our song