By C. T. Russell Pastor New York Temple and Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"When they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name. ‘And they shall be Mine,’ saith the Lord of Hosts, ‘in that Day when I make up My jewels.’"—#Mal 3:16,17.
A VERY important trait of character in any one is humility, and especially in the Christian. If we do not possess humility and meekness, the Lord cannot use us, and we cannot make any progress. We do not know what may be one another’s difficulties; but we know that we all have imperfections. We should fight a good fight with ourselves.
If we get ourselves into full line with the will of the Lord, He will help us by His providences.
Should our imperfection be especially along the line of lack of meekness the Lord will try us in this respect, to show us our need in this direction. Or, it may be along the line of a lack of gentleness. We may be rude, and may say and do things in an unkind manner. The Lord may therefore permit us to have certain trials in order to give us an opportunity of developing this quality of character. We may have tests of love for the brethren, for our own family, for our neighbors. The Lord might even hide His face from us for a time to give us a test of love for Him.
All such experiences "work together for good to them that love God, to the called according to His purpose." These are the ones who are desirous above everything else of becoming copies of God’s dear Son. With these the Lord is now dealing.
The Loyal May Have Confidence.
This matter of our testing and trying as New Creatures begins with our begetting of the Holy Spirit, and ends when we die. But one may be sure he is an overcomer; one may have confidence, "full assurance of faith." (#Heb 10:22.) When we entered into our covenant with God (#Ps 50:5), we gave Him our time, our talents, our influence, our strength—everything that we had. In return, He gave us the begetting of His Holy Spirit, His providential care, and His exceeding great and precious promises respecting the future. If we are still seeking to walk in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, then all is well with us. Therefore we need not fear. If any one breaks the contract, it will be ourselves. God will surely carry out His part.—#1Th 5:24.
Thus we may have confidence, in accordance with the Divinely appointed conditions.
As the Apostle says, "If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." (#1Jo 3:20,21.) But if our heart condemn us, then it is not well with us. If we have not been living faithfully to the full extent of our ability, then our hearts will condemn us; and what our heart condemns in us God will also condemn. This means that if we wish to become members of the Bride class, we must be more diligent, more zealous. We must study our character, and see to it that we develop the necessary qualities for a position in the glorified Church.
Ask yourself, "How much have I cultivated these Heavenly fruits and graces—the faith, the patience and the brotherly kindness that go with Love?" Then say to yourself, "This.
OV423 day I shall keep watch over myself and note what my hands are doing, how my time is spent, what my words are, what my thoughts are." Whoever has a proper love for our Lord, a proper appreciation of what He has done for us and of what He will yet do, will not find this careful scrutiny of thought, word and deed a hard thing. It brings before us continually thoughts of God and of Christ, and of the glorious things which He has in reservation for those who love Him more than anything else.
Those who thus study their character are the class mentioned in our text when it says, "They that reverenced the Lord spake often one to another." They speak to one another in Bible studies, in prayer meetings, every Sunday at worship or in the home. They wish to have all the helps the Lord is providing in these last days. They desire to know all the various parts of God’s Plan. They have become separated from the masses of nominal Christians and have been brought together through the knowledge of His Word.
So now they converse about the good things that the Lord has shown them. They have a fellowship of spirit.
This desire for fellowship with those of like precious faith is not selfishness nor an impropriety. This class are especially anxious for fellowship with those who have characters similar to their own, similar faith in the precious blood of Christ, similar consecration, those who are passing through similar experiences at the hands of the great Polisher of the jewels. Their conversation, therefore, will be respecting "the things which belong to their peace"—the things which are uppermost in their hearts; for this class are all seeking first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and in earthly things are content with whatever the Lord’s providence shall arrange for them.
God’s Book of Remembrance.
When "the Lord hearkened and heard" this class who spoke often one to another, He had a book of remembrance written for them. It is not that the Almighty had to write down this information so as not to forget, but that this statement gives us the thought that He does not forget and that He loves this class. God loves the world with a broad, sympathetic love; but He has a special love for His true Church, those who have consecrated themselves fully to Him during this Gospel Age. To such the Master says, "The Father Himself loveth you." They are as dear to Him as the apple of His eye.—#Joh 3:16; 16:27; #Zec 2:8.
This book of remembrance was kept for those who thought upon His name. In olden times the name stood for the character. Now we too often give names at random. Too many times an ignoble character bears a noble name. But in olden times people were very particular to attach a name that would fit the person’s character. For instance our Lord was named Jesus because He was to save His people from their sins. (#Mt 1:21.) Jesus means Savior. God’s name stands for His character, glorious in righteousness.
Not very many think highly of the character of our God. There is a reason for this. For centuries the religious teachers have described the Divine character in such a way as to make it very undesirable for any to think much about Him. To many the name Jehovah God stands for One who is to be feared for His mighty power, for One who will throw him over to the Devil, rather than for one who is to be loved because of His great love for all His creatures.
But with God’s dear children this is not so. They love God and delight to study about His name, His character, and to think of His care for them. They are trying diligently to be like their Father in Heaven; and He is showing them His character more and more.
Something of the lengths, the breadths, the heights and the depths of His wonderful love has been revealed to this class; and they are still longing to know more about Him.
OV424 By and by the world will be made to know about God’s wonderful character and Plan.
The light of the knowledge of the glory of God will then fill the whole earth. (#Isa 11:9; #Hab 2:14.) But the Church of Christ get this knowledge beforehand. In coming into the family of God we have entered the School of Christ, and He is teaching us all these things. They are written in the Bible "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come," in order that by thus knowing Him we may be prepared for our glorious inheritance with Christ Jesus our Lord and Head.—#1Co 10:11; #Col 1:12.
The Lord’s Precious Jewels.
God’s promise to this class that reverenced Him and thought upon His name is that they shall be His in that Day when He shall make up His jewels. As one who cares for precious jewels, so God cares for His saints. The man who handles the jewels sees to it first that they are properly cut and polished; and afterwards he mounts them. They would not look well except they were mounted; for the mounting has much to do with the beauty of the jewels.
God is now cutting and polishing these saintly jewels of His. The first and greatest of these was our Lord Jesus Christ. The twelve Apostles were twelve large stones, fine grained and beautifully cut. Throughout the Gospel Age jewels of different sizes have been found and cut. Presently God will mount all the jewels that remain unmounted.
This mounting is done in the First Resurrection.
Of His jewels our God will make a beautiful diadem, set in the gold of the Divine nature. Is He to wear this royal diadem? Oh, no! Jehovah needs no diadem to add to the charms of His Person. To the jewel class the Prophet declares: "Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God." (#Isa 62:3.)
The Church will be in the HAND of our God, to be exhibited to angels and to men, as a marvelous piece of workmanship, which God has wrought.
In preparing these jewels the Lord has not used force, coercion. Originally they were some of the poor sons and daughters of Adam. God did not compel them to leave their father’s house, but simply led them by His Spirit and by the exceeding great and precious promises of His Word. Ultimately they will be diamonds of the first water—pure, stainless. They are to be faultless in love before the Father; and perfect love casts out not only fear, but also selfishness, animosity, evil surmisings, evil speaking, pride and self-love. As they daily think upon the character of God, His goodness, His infinity, His Plan, His love, they come to know Him more and more intimately, and to realize His grand perfection more clearly. Thus they are gradually changed into His character-likeness—"from glory to glory."—#2Co 3:18.
God’s Jewels are His Sons.
The Lord presents to us in His Word great truths under figures of speech which even the least learned can comprehend. For instance, instead of telling us that He has knowledge of His faithful ones and will never forget those who are His, and who diligently endeavor to know and to serve Him, He pictures the information, telling us in His Word that He has a "Book of Life" and a "Book of Remembrance." Through these figures we get the thought that He would have us get; namely, that He takes full knowledge of them that are His.
Then He encourages this class with the assurance that their love and devotion shall one day have its reward; that a great change is coming in His general dealings with the world of mankind; and that then every sigh, every tear and every sacrifice for righteousness’ sake and for love of the Lord, for His Cause and for His brethren shall be rewarded in a manner that is beyond our present comprehension. This class, however, serve not for selfish reasons, but from devotion,
OV425 from fidelity and consequently from love; hence they shall find that the light afflictions of the present, which are only for a moment, are working out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, as they look not at the things now seen but at those now unseen—the eternal things.—#2Co 4:17,18.
Without attempting to detail the riches of grace in reservation for them that love God, the Scriptures use two figures that are quite expressive to the eye and ear of faith—God’s jewels, God’s faithful sons. These two phrases suggest a full explanation of present experiences. The proper father will instruct, correct and discipline his son, although he may pass by the greater faults and blemishes of those who are not his children. As respects jewels, we all know the necessity for cutting and polishing them, to the intent that their real qualities may be developed. Thus the Church class see themselves in their Heavenly Father’s School of discipline, in preparation to be His heirs—joint-heirs with Christ in His Kingdom. They see the necessity of the trials and perplexities and the persecutions of this present time, that they may be polished and prepared for the glorious future.—#Ro 8:17; #Ga 3:29.
The time for making up these jewels is the close of the Gospel Age. The faithful followers of our Lord Jesus from His day until now will all have part in the First Resurrection. All of the jewels now living will, when polished and found worthy, be "changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," to be with their Lord—the moment of their death being the moment of their change. These have no need to sleep in death; for the gathering time of the saints has come. They will be spared from passing through the culmination of the great Time of Trouble already begun.
Our Day the Close of the Age.
According to our best knowledge of the Word of God, we have now come down to the close of the Gospel Age. All about us we can see the foretold signs of our Lord’s Second Presence and the end of the Age. To His Church our Lord Jesus said, "When ye see these things begin to come to pass, then lift up your heads; for your deliverance draweth nigh." (#Lu 21:28,31.) We see "these things" coming to pass in the great war in Europe, in the mutterings of revolution among the nations, in the world-wide Zionist movement of the Jews, etc. The Church, the Bride of Christ, is almost complete. But we do not yet know how long it will be until we shall have finished our earthly course.
That is for the Lord to determine.
"Faithful is He that hath called you, who will also do it." Our eye of faith has sighted the Prize of glory, honor, immortality and joint-heirship with Christ. "God hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might become partakers of the Divine nature." (#2Pe 1:4.) And we have been able to receive these promises. There is nothing that compares with them. The more we know of the great Divine Plan of the Ages and of the privileges which we may have in that Plan, the more we are enthused, the more we would glorify the Father and the Son, the more we rejoice together as brethren in the Body of Christ.
Those who have comprehended this Divine Plan for human salvation have an abundant theme, a never-ending theme, a theme which above all others will fill their hearts and their minds, and which will crowd out all worldly topics as not worthy of comparison.
It will crowd out all complainings and murmurings, as wholly improper on the part of those who have been recipients of so many Divine favors and who have "much advantage everyway," in that they have delivered unto them the Divine Oracles.
Especially is this true in view of our adoption into the family of God as sons, "joint-. heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together."
Let us, then, as true sons of God, remember
OV426 the importance of honesty—"truth in the inward parts"—when we come together to study the Divine Word and to help one another as members of the Body of Christ. "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory," but let each esteem the other greater than himself in saintliness, seeking to see in each other so far as possible, the noble, the good, the true; and let each seek to watch his own heart and to know his own blemishes.
Thus shall personal humility and brotherly love keep pace with our growth in the knowledge of Divine things.
HOW READEST THOU? #Lu 10:16.
’TIS one thing now to read the Bible through, Another thing to read, to learn and do; ‘Tis one thing now to read it with delight, And quite another thing to read it right.
Some read it with design to learn to read, But to the subject pay but little heed; Some read it as their duty once a week, But no instruction from the Bible seek; Whilst others read it without common care, With no regard to how they read or where.
Some read it as a history, to know How people lived three thousand years ago.
Some read to bring unto themselves repute, By showing others how they can dispute; Whilst others read because their neighbors do, To see how long ‘twill take to read it through.
Some read it for the wonders that are there, How David killed a lion and a bear; Whilst others read—or rather in it look—Because, perhaps, they have no other book.
Some read the blessed Book—they don’t know why, It somehow happens in the way to lie; Whilst others read it with uncommon care, But all to find some contradictions there.
One reads with father’s specs upon his head, And sees the thing just as his father did; Another reads through Campbell or through Scott, And thinks it means exactly what they thought.
Some read to prove a pre-adopted creed, Thus understand but little what they read; And every passage in the Book they bend To make it suit that all-important end.
Some read the Book to find that God is love, Whilst others read—the opposite to prove Some people read, as I have often thought, To teach the Book, instead of being taught.