By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles "Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness, and Princes shall rule in judgment."—#Isa 32:1.
COMING events cast their shadows before. Startling shadows are all about us. A great change in the affairs of men is indicated and acknowledged by all thoughtful, intelligent people. The world’s pace during the past fifty years astonishes everybody.
New conditions meet us on every hand. The majority of books written half a century ago along scientific lines are considered rubbish to-day. Rules and customs and theories of the past, supposed to be immovable and absolute, are abandoned as worthless—in chemistry, in manufactures, in art, in finance and commerce. All these changes necessitate a new view of social conditions and a re-examination of the relationship of religion and the Bible to man and his conditions, as seen from the present viewpoint.
The business and social world have been compelled to keep pace with the steps of progress; some of them have yielded gladly and some of them reluctantly. But religionists have been placed in a most awkward position. Religion and moral sense constitute the backbone and fibre of the best progress in civilization. The perplexity of religious thought, and its manifest inability to adjust itself to the changed conditions, is working a serious disadvantage to all disposed to look to the Almighty for guidance in life’s affairs.
The increase in worldly wisdom, the improved human conditions, the advancement along scientific lines, in material prosperity, have turned many of the world’s brightest intellects away from God and from the Bible. Many of these, still professing Christianity in an outward, formal manner, have really abandoned it in favor of a theory of "civilization." They have wandered from the Divine Revelation, the Bible, into paths of speculation—their own and other men’s. They have cogitated that the reverse of the Bible statements is the Truth—that instead of man falling from the image of God into sin and death, he is rising from a brute or monkey plane upward, gradually, to Divine heights. Instead of looking for a great Deliverer, Messiah, Savior, Life-Giver, they are hoping to be let alone by any outside influence, that certain fancied laws of Evolution may help them upward and onward to glory, honor and immortality.
The result is that religious thought to-day everywhere and in all denominations, is chaotic. The whole of Christendom has practically become agnostic—admitting that they do not know the Truth nor how to adjust their reasoning faculties to present conditions. They are in an expectant attitude—seeking light. Nevertheless many fear the light lest it make manifest cherished errors or selfish hopes and ambitions which must be abandoned. But they are still pretending to know many things which we and they know that they do not know. Daily the strain becomes more intense. Gradually everybody is recognizing that a great crisis is impending along every line—that the people are awakening and thinking, and will no longer receive errors, as formerly.
Converting the World to God.
Fifty years ago Christian people, full of faith in the Bible, which they seriously misunderstood and read with sectarian spectacles of various colors, were fully agreed that God had given His Church the commission to convert the whole world and to establish Messiah’s Kingdom, when the nations would learn war no more, but beat.
OV319 their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Zealous Christian people urged that the heathen were going down to a hell of eternal torment at the rate of ninety thousand every twenty-four hours.
Noble men and women sacrificed their earthly interests for the assistance of the heathen—to prevent that awful catastrophe, to help the very program of God which some other Christian people of an earlier day had declared was predestinated and foreordained as unalterable. Good was certainly attempted—we trust that some good was accomplished. We know that some harm was done, in that fallacious conceptions of the character and plan of the Creator were promulgated amongst the heathen, which have hardened and embittered some of them.
But by and by, practical people sought for statistics, and now know that there are twice as many heathen in the world as there were a century ago. Of course, there are unthinking and unstatistical people who refuse knowledge, and who are to-day claiming with a commendable zeal, but a reprehensible ignorance, that large contributions of money would enable them to capture the whole world for God.
Nevertheless, the masses no longer see the matter as they did, and can no longer be swayed to the same extent. Thinking people refuse to believe that God for centuries has sat calmly viewing the situation, allowing millions to go to eternal torment. They refuse to believe that their hearts and sympathies are more tender than those of their Creator.
Even the heathen are getting awake to the inconsistency of what has been given them under the Gospel label. They are finding out that the word Gospel signifies "good tidings," and that what has been preached to them is the most awful message conceivable—that all of the heathen and the majority of their civilized neighbors and friends and relatives have been decreed, sentenced, foreordained, to eternal torture because of ignorance, because of a misbelief in respect to which they were thoroughly honest. Perplexed, the missionaries ask, What shall we preach? The message of Damnation does not sound good to the heathen, and they do not run after it nor feast their souls upon it.
The question comes to the ministers and professors of colleges throughout Christendom, and they are perplexed what answer to give. The majority of them have become Higher Critics and no longer accept the Bible as the Word of God; they are Evolutionists and no longer believe the Gospel which the Missionary societies were organized to proclaim. They are in perplexity, and many of them are prepared to abandon the former theory of Missions, and to continue their work henceforth merely along humanitarian lines. Indeed, within the last twenty-five years missionary effort has turned gradually to secular education and medical practice in the interest of the heathen, with little religious doctrine—and so much the better.
Everybody is agreed that the Kingdom of Messiah cannot be brought about by the wholesale conversion of the world. And logical people see that larger numbers have been lost to Christianity in civilized lands during the last twenty-five years than were ever claimed to be converted amongst the heathen. We say lost to Christianity, because why should any one be called a Christian who has lost all faith in the Bible—in the Law, the Prophets and the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles?
The great cloud of bewilderment which encompasses Christendom is realized by all earnest people—churchmen and others. And no wonder there is a certain dread associated with the dark cloud! People are wondering What kind of a storm will result? And what will be the effect upon the great religious systems of civilization? It is to join hands against these ominous conditions that the clergy of all denominations have aroused themselves in favor of Church union, or Federation. But the people.
OV320 feel comparatively little interest in the proposition, which they will not oppose, however.
The difficulty with the present situation is that we have stupidly and blunderingly misread the Bible. We have twisted what we did read and picked out certain portions which best pleased our fancies and supported best our various creeds. We have neglected the honest, truthful study which we should have given to our Heavenly Father’s Message. The confusion of Christendom is the result. This confusion and perplexity the Scriptures portray, assuring us that we are in the midst of a great falling away from faith in God and in His Revelation. We see fulfilled all about us the wonderful prophetic and symbolic picture of Psalm 91. A thousand fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand—only the "Israelites indeed," in whom there is no guile, will be kept from stumbling in this evil day. The chaos, which we already see everywhere in evidence, is only beginning.
God’s Great Remedy at Hand.
The fault of Christendom has been the rejection of the Divine Plan and the acceptance instead of a human plan. The Church was going to convert the world—going to "conquer the world for Jesus" and present it to Him as a trophy! Alas! we have not been able to convert ourselves, which is the particular work the Master gave us to do. Greater humility would have shown us our folly long ago.
Bible students do not need to be reminded that all through the Old Testament Scriptures God’s promises abound, telling Israel and all who have ears to hear of the glorious reign of Messiah and of the success of His Kingdom, and how the result will be that "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God;" how "all the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped;" how the blessing of the Lord will be with Israel, restored to His favor, and operate through Israel to the blessing of all peoples. We remember the prophecies which picture earthly governments and show us their termination and the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on their ruins. We remember the Jubilee picture repeated by the Israelites every fiftieth year, proclaiming liberty for the people, and typifying restitution of all that has been lost through sin, and which is to be restored through Messiah’s Kingdom.
Bible students know also how the New Testament abounds with references to the Kingdom! the Kingdom! the Kingdom! Nearly all the parables that our Lord gave were in illustration of something connected with the Kingdom or the class called out of the world to inherit the spiritual Kingdom. All such know, too, that the Great Teacher proclaimed that Kingdom and taught us and all of His followers to pray, "Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven!" They all know, too, that all of the Apostles refer to that Kingdom and point the Church to its establishment for the realization of her hopes—the time when the "marriage of the Lamb" will take place—the time when God’s New Covenant with Israel will go into effect. The time when He who scattered Israel will also gather them, and when the Law shall go forth from Mt. Zion, the Celestial Kingdom, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem, the Capital of the earthly Princes. God’s remedy is just what humanity is coming to realize it needs. In its establishment, as the Scriptures declare, "the desire of all nations shall come."—#Hag 2:7.
Bible students are more and more coming to see that this Gospel Age is the time in which Messiah is selecting from amongst men—of Jews and Gentiles—a saintly class, and is testing and proving their loyalty to God and to righteousness. These are to be Messiah’s assistants—the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife. As Abraham typified the Heavenly Father, so the Messiah was typified by Isaac. And Messiah’s Bride and joint-heir and co-laborer in His Kingdom was typified by Rebecca..
OV321 Thus seen the great Plan of God has progressed well.
Our neglect of the Word of God and our study instead of the Talmud and the Creeds of the Dark Ages have been our undoing. Under all this wrong influence we have failed to cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit—meekness, gentleness, patience, longsuffering, brotherly kindness, love. Instead, we cultivate pride, ambition, selfishness. We have done those things which we ought not to have done, and we have left undone those things which we ought to have done. Our help must come from God. According to our understanding of the Scriptures, help is near, but coming in an unexpected way. Pride and selfishness have blossomed and brought forth a fruitage of strife. The bad example set by Christian people has extended to the world, and has been thoroughly appropriated. It has become the spirit of the world—of all classes.
The Great Day of Wrath.
Now, as faith in the Bible is waning and respect for God and His Word is proportionately waning, what could we expect but that which the Scriptures declare is at hand, namely, the "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation?" The selfishness which both rich and poor, learned and ignorant, have cultivated will, in that time of trouble, be represented in conflicts between labor unions and capitalistic trusts.
The Bible declares that then "every man’s hand will be against his neighbor"—all confidence will be lost—the bond of human sympathy and brotherhood will be utterly snapped in riotous selfishness.
The Scriptures identify this trouble with Messiah’s taking to Himself His Kingdom power and beginning his reign. (#Da 12:1; #Re 11:18.) Thank God! The intimations of the Scriptures are that the conflict of that time will be short. It must, however, last long enough to teach humanity a lesson never to be forgotten—that God and His arrangements must stand first and must be obeyed, if blessing is sought.
When it is remembered that Messiah’s Kingdom is not only to bless those living at the time of its establishment, but gradually to awaken the dead from the slumber of the tomb, and to give all of our race a full opportunity for attaining life eternal or death eternal, then it will be seen that the Kingdom must be a spiritual one. Then, too, Messiah’s Kingdom of Light is represented as superseding Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness—both spiritual. With this thought our text is in full accord—"A King shall reign in righteousness." (Messiah will be that Great King, His Bride being associated with Him.) And "Princes shall execute judgment in the earth," carrying out the decrees and regulations of the Heavenly Messiah. This is the meaning of the Lord’s promise to Israel, "I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning."—#Isa 1:26.
The Princes who will execute judgment will all be Israelitish and all perfect men—tried and approved of God. They will be the Ancient Worthies—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Prophets. These men, great in faith and obedience to God, will be known to the Jews as the "fathers," as the prophecy respecting them declares, "Instead of the fathers shall be the children, whom Thou (Messiah) mayest make Princes in all the earth." They will be the children of Messiah in the sense that they will derive their resurrection life from Him, the Great King. Indeed, the Scriptures assure us that eventually the whole world shall receive new life from Messiah, in offset to the life received from Adam—forfeited through sin. Thus amongst the various titles of Messiah mentioned by the prophets we find that He will be the "Age-lasting Father," as well as the "Prince of Peace and mighty Elohim and the wonderful Counselor. "Of the increase of His Government and Peace there shall be no end."—#Isa 9:6,7.