ANSWER—We are going to have a sermon on that very subject before long, and you will get the answer there, perhaps. But just briefly I will say the mystic Euphrates would represent people according to the explanation given us in the Scripture. Thus the waters upon which the woman sitteth are peoples and nations and tongues, and the turning away of the waters of the mystic Euphrates from the antitypical Babylon, or from the mystical Babylon, would signify the turning of the people away. And they are turning away a good deal now, according to what we read in the newspapers. Very small congregations are to be had everywhere. By the way, about three weeks ago when I was in Boston, the assistant editor of the Boston Congregationalist came to me on Monday after our sermon on Sunday and said, "Pastor Russell, may I ask you a question."
"Yes." "I am assistant editor of the Congregationalist, and I was out on Sunday at the Boston theater, and it was a hot day, and as I looked over that audience and saw four thousand people there under that roof on a hot day and sitting for that length of time, I began to wonder why it is that our largest churches in Boston here, and our most eloquent preachers, and finely paid choirs, only have from twenty to forty or fifty to seventy at a meeting. How is it? Will you tell me what you say about it?"
I said, "I think, my friend, that the Bible explains that by saying there was a famine in the land—not a famine for bread or for water, but a famine, saith the Lord, for the hearing of the Word of the Lord." I said, "I think those people wanted to hear something about the Word of the Lord."
ANSWER—I think not, why should you? I am going to be specially hearty to those who are specially like my dear Redeemer, marked with the character likeness of my Redeemer. I would not be so hearty with those who have left the class, just to let them see that there is a difference, otherwise they might think they were better than those in the class; because they had become obstreperous in some way. They should be greeted according to the Apostle's words, "Mark those who cause divisions and offenses." Mark those who are tending toward division, and don't make them your bosom companions, don't elect them as elders, etc., for that is just the wrong thing. Don't encourage anybody who has a strifeful condition. Lay him on the shelf and let him have strife to himself. Let us be careful that we do not cultivate anything in our own hearts, of their spirit. Let us be gentle, but firm. If any such should approach me, I would shake hands with him. I would not say, No, I will not shake hands with you. But I would not make of them my bosom companions. We want to remember what they said of the Apostles in the early church, "They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." We want to make our bosom companion our Lord Jesus. We want to be with Jesus, and those who have most of His character likeness will be most like Him. They are all those who have the spirit of Christ. He spent more of His time and chose those who should be near Him from among those who had most of [Page Q31] His spirit, Peter, James and John. These three were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and they were nearest Him in the garden of Gethsemane. Counsel with those who have the spirit of the Lord.
ANSWER.—First, that is the formula given in the Scriptures, and secondly, because it is the right thought. We do not baptize in our own name, or in the name of the Baptist Church, or in the name of some other church. But what authority do we recognize? Do we recognize the Father's authority and sanction to baptize? Yes, indeed. Do we recognize the Son's authority and sanction to baptism? Yes, indeed. Do we recognize that the Spirit sanctions this matter of baptism? Yes, indeed. Well, then, we perform the baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as representing that which is the will of God, and in every sense the spirit of the Lord's will and teaching. The thought is, the matter of baptism is approved by the Lord Jesus, approved by the Heavenly Father, and approved by the spirit of holiness, the spirit of God, the spirit of the truth.
Why, in the authority, not in the likeness of the death of the Father and of the Son and Holy Spirit because the Father and the Holy Spirit did not die, and we are not baptizing them into the Father, and into the Holy Spirit. We are baptized into Christ, but in the name of, the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. It is not merely something that our Lord Jesus instituted and wished us to commemorate, but He wished us to know that when we did that we were doing something in harmony with the will of the Father, and of the will of the Holy Spirit, as well as in Harmony with His own Spirit.
Q31:3 QUESTION (1909)—3—(Acts 2:38,39), "Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." If, according to Peter's command, all the called must be baptized for the remission of sins in order to receive the Holy Spirit, how do you harmonize this with the Scripture that the Jews only were baptized for the remission of their sins?
ANSWER.—I answer that the Scriptures do not say what you think they do here. Read it over a dozen times. Most people have to read anything over a half dozen times. You need not feel hurt, because others have to do the same. How many Scriptures have you read a hundred times? A great many. [Page Q32] Now, what Peter does say is, that those who were before him should be baptized for the remission of their sins, that they might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then he goes on to prove that he is right in the statement because the promise is unto you, and to your children, and also to them that are afar off, but he does not say that those afar off needed to be baptized for the remission of their sins, for they were the Gentiles. The promises were not only to you and to your children. Peter, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as the mouthpiece of God, said, "Also to them afar off," but he was not saying how those afar off could be received, nor what kind of a baptism was necessary for them.
ANSWER—I have just said there was nothing in the law whatever. What John did was something special for the occasion, that Jesus said if they had believed John and would have taken what he said, they would have been ready and would have believed him. John's was a special message, a special baptism for a special purpose, and not such a matter as contemplated getting outsiders in, for he did not assume to get anyone in. When Jesus came to John, John knew that Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. John objected and said, "Not so, Lord. If either one of us should be baptized, if either one of us is a sinner, I am the one, not you, and you should baptize me rather than I should baptize you." But Jesus did not baptize John and he did not explain to John the philosophy at all. He said merely, "John, suffer it to be so now; I will not explain to you why." Now we may know the why. Jesus did not have any sins to wash away, therefore it should not be as our friend has suggested, that this is an example for all sinners, that they shall wash away their sins, for how could Jesus who had no sins, be an example to all sinners to wash away their sins? The answer we have to make is that what Jesus did is something new, and peculiar and special, different from anything that John had done at that time, or before or after. He was performing something that John did not understand at all. Jesus was laying down the foundation for a new order of things and by his baptism he was symbolizing not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, not the putting away of sin, for he had no sin, but he was symbolizing the full consecration of his life, even unto death. And as he thus laid down his life, in the picture, by a baptism into death, not by washing away of sins but by baptism into death, as Saint Paul says, so all believers whose sins are forgiven are privileged to be baptized into death with him, because they have no sins to be washed away, but they are to be baptized into his death, as St. Paul declares in the sixth chapter of Romans, "So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, into this glorious body of the Messiah, of which he is the head—so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death—not baptized for the remission of sins, not baptized into water, but baptized into his death." And then so many of us as were baptized into death with Christ, giving up our wills to do the will of the Father, even unto death, as he did—so many of us as take this position, the Scriptures tell us it is pleasing [Page Q33] in God's sight, and that we should symbolize this matter, symbolize this consecration, by a water immersion as Jesus symbolized his consecration by a water immersion. So we will follow his example.
Q33:1 QUESTION (1911)—l—"Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Would it be right to say that this implies three baptisms in one—namely: in the name of the Father for our justification, in the name of the Son for our sacrifice, and in the name of the Holy Spirit to be baptized for our Spirit's begetting?
ANSWER.—We answer, "No." To my understanding that would not be the thought at all. We are baptized in the name of—that is, by the authority of; not merely that Jesus says, This is something of mine that I give you, but he would give us the understanding that this baptism that he enjoined upon the church was a baptism in the name of, that is, by the authority of, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; just the same as if he were using a firm name, Smith, Jones and Brown, and Smith was talking about the matter, he would not merely say, Go and baptize in my name, but do it with the full authorization of the whole firm, Smith, Jones and Brown. So Jesus says, Go and baptize in the name, by the authority of, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
ANSWER.—We know about the Apostle Paul, that he received water baptism, but he did not receive water baptism in the same sense that converted Gentiles receive water baptism. He was a Jew and there were different conditions for the Jews. The Jews, by virtue of the law covenant which applied to them only and not to the Gentiles, were already in relationship with God and when a Jew therefore would believe in Christ, Christ, so far as his mind would be concerned, took the place of Moses, stood instead of Moses to that one who was a Jew and who believed in Jesus. And if he as a Jew was already in Moses, then as a Jew, when he had recognized Christ as the antitypical Moses, he was already in the antitypical Moses, by faith. Therefore he did not need the same kind of baptism into Christ that a Gentile would need, and none of the Jews did have such a baptism at that time. The baptism that the Jews observed was a symbolic washing away of their defilements, as Jews. That is to say, it represented merely a cleansing of their flesh, coming back into harmony with the divine law and putting away the filth of the flesh.
John did not preach the baptism that you and I observe now. He preached a baptism especially for the Jews, especially to them as sinners, saying, "Repent, reform, and be baptized." Did he say he baptized into Christ? Oh, no, they were already baptized into Moses. But, repent and be baptized and wash away your sins. What sins did they wash away? Why all things against the Mosaic covenant, against the law covenant, all the outward transgressions they had committed that they could have avoided. Thus they were to indicate that they turned from them, repented of them, and [Page Q34] put them behind them. They were going to walk now in a clean, pure life to the extent they were able. That is what all of those Jews did who came to John for baptism. We have no reason to think that any of the disciples participated in that baptism, or that John the Baptist did himself. Why not? Because they were not of the class that were called sinners at that time. John the Baptist was not a sinner. He was seeking to walk as best he could in harmony with the Lord. Neither were the disciples sinners. They were all striving to walk as near as they were able as holy men, walking according to the standards of the law ; they did no willful sin against the law. Therefore we see why there is no record whatever that any of the Apostles, except Saint Paul, were immersed. There is no record that John the Baptist was immersed. When Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized, John said, "Why no, I would not think of baptizing you ; you are not a sinner, you have no sins to wash away. You have not been living in open violation of the law; I am not calling such as you. If either one of us needed to be baptized, why I would be the one, rather than you. You are holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. I am not so perfect as that, but still I do not need to he baptized either."
So all the Jews stood in a peculiar condition, different from any others. The Gentiles, however, were totally out of relationship with God; it was necessary that they should be brought into relationship with him. As long as they were not to go into Moses and be transferred from Moses to Christ, they were brought directly by baptism and faith and obedience into Christ direct, instead of going through the channel of Moses. I am not sure that I make this plain. It would take at least an hour to discuss baptism. If there is any question on this point I will entertain it, but if you are all clear, I need not go further into the matter.
ANSWER—It was for the remission of avoidable sins, gross sins, and the godly Jews were not intended nor expected to come to John to be baptized. It was for the sinner class—for all classes that realized they were out of harmony with God. He said, "Now come, if you want to get ready for Messiah's kingdom, and try to keep the law the best you are able and take this water immersion, accepting this as a sign of your putting away sin and starting a new course of life. This is all that baptism meant to the Jews. That was not a regular institution. It was a peculiar thing that belonged just to the end of the age, and John tried there to especially prepare a people by this preaching of holiness and putting away of sin for the Messiah; for the testimony is that if they had believed John they would have believed Jesus. If they disbelieved John and disregarded what he said, and were not careful to come back into harmony with God, and become as holy as they were able to do, then they were not in a condition to receive the message God had to give.
While sometimes spoken of as a type, strictly speaking it was not a type. Sometimes words are used in a loose way. It was a symbol, not a type. If I ever used the word type in connection with it, it was because the right word slipped me, and the wrong word came in.
ANSWER—The account seems to imply that God made the manifestation of the descent of the Spirit on Jesus after His baptism. Jesus was baptized into death before He went into the water, in the sense that He had given up His own will, in the sense that the Apostle quotes from the Old Testament, "Lo, I have come as it is written in the volume of the book, to do Thy will; I delight to do Thy will, O my God." He came to do everything written in the Book concerning Him. He was already dead to His will, otherwise He would not have come to John. But God's manifestation of His acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice of Himself apparently waited until after Jesus had performed the symbol. So we read that it was after He came up out of the water that the Spirit came, and God gave that outward sign. This outward sign was not for all, but for John—John saw, John bore record, etc.
ANSWER—We do not understand that the Israelites indeed had any need of John's immersion, because John was not notifying the saintly of the Israelites to come to his immersion. He was inviting those who were living in a condition of sin to come. There is no evidence whatever that John the Baptist was ever immersed by his own baptism, and when Jesus came along he objected and said, Why you are not a sinner, why should you come to me? I am baptizing sinners, telling them to get out of disobedience and come back into harmony with Mosaic Law. Jesus did not stop to argue the matter with John, because John could not have understood; it was not due time for John to understand, he was not of those begotten of the Holy Spirit; none were begotten of the Holy Spirit until Pentecost. Therefore, Jesus did not argue the matter with him, but merely said, John, permit it to be so now; I know what I am doing. Jesus was making a type of a new thing. He was not joining in John's baptism at all. He was not washing away His sins in order to come back into harmony with the Law, because He had never been out of harmony with the Law.
ANSWER.—You will notice that they are on broad lines—questions which any Christian, whatever his confession, should be able to answer in the affirmative without hesitation if he is suitable to be acknowledged as a member of the Church of Christ:
(1) Have you repented of sin with such restitution as you are able, and
are you trusting in the merit of Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of your
sins and the basis of your justification?
(2) Have you made a full consecration of yourself with all the powers that you possess—talent, money, time, influence—all to the Lord, to be used faithfully in His service, even unto death?
(3) On the basis of these confessions, we acknowledge you as a member of the Household of Faith, and give to you as such the right hand of fellowship, not in the name of any sect or party or creed, but in the name of the Redeemer, our glorified Lord, and His faithful followers.
ANSWER.—The Scriptural account of our Lord's baptism at Jordan seems to imply that God made the manifestation of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus after His baptism in water. He was baptized into death before He went into the water, in the sense that He had given up His own will; in the sense that the Apostle quotes from the Old Testament—"Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of Me; I delight to do Thy will, O My God." (Psa. 40:7,8; Heb. 10:7.) Our Lord came to do everything written in the Book concerning Him. Our Lord was already dead to His own will; otherwise He could not have gone to John at Jordan. But God's manifestation of His acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice of Himself apparently waited until after Jesus had performed the symbol. So we read that after He had come up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. God gave that outward sign, not for all, but for John', who "saw and bare record," as the Scriptures declare.—(John 1:32-34).
Q36:3 QUESTION (1916)—3—Take the case of a young brother who is not certain that a consecration symbolized sometime ago was complete, and is not certain whether he is spirit-begotten, or not. What would be your advice in such a case?
ANSWER.—I advise you to make certain. If anyone is uncertain about a matter of that kind, I think the best thing to do is to make certain of it. This would be my advice on all such matters. In this case, I would make a full consecration of my whole soul, mind and strength to the Lord, and ask Him to graciously receive this through Christ, and I would believe that He would do so. If nothing be left out I know this to be exactly what God requires, and by faith I would lay hold upon that proposition and say, I am the Lord's and He is my Father. With respect to evidences of my having received the Holy Spirit, I would look for them in various ways: in a growing desire on my part to know the Lord, to be acquainted with Him, and therefore [Page Q37] the study of His Word that I might become acquainted; and my desire to serve Him, and to seek opportunities in which I might serve Him; all of these would indicate that I had the same spirit that was in Christ Jesus, the same as prompted and moved Him, that led Him in doing the Father's will. I would expect that the eyes of my understanding would get clearer and clearer, so that I might be able to comprehend with all the saints the lengths and breadths, heights and depths of God's great love and plan, and I would go on in that way, and believe that in doing so I would obtain the prize.
ANSWER.—There are various interpretations given to this. I am not specially prepared to say all about my view of the matter, except that I believe it would represent the title of papacy. There are three Latin words inscribed on the Pope's crown, Vicarius Felii Dei, the Vicarious Son of God. This title attached to the Pope would seem to be an illegitimate one. He is not the vicarious Son of God; he is not the vicar of Christ ; he is not reigning instead of Christ ; and therefore every intimation to the effect that he is the substitute or representative of Christ in reigning power would seem to be that much of a blasphemy. Not that the Pope and the Catholics understand that they are blaspheming. I presume they feel fully confident that this is all very true of him. But to our understanding it is untrue, and he is in a false position, and is really anti-Christ, or the counterfeit Christ, as the Bible would express the matter.
ANSWER.—I answer that the begetting of the spirit is to the spirit nature, but in the case of our Lord, it is, must be, to the divine nature or nothing. Why? Because if He had failed to be more than a conqueror and worthy of the divine nature, according to the divine plan, then He could not have been acceptable at all. He could never have come into any secondary place. His begetting of the spirit must eventuate in the divine nature or nothing. But in the case of the church, we may say it is a little different; that while our begetting is of the spirit, and while the Lord intends that this shall be the highest form of the spirit nature, if we are faithful and follow in the footsteps of the Lord, yet there will also be some of this class begotten of the spirit who will never reach the divine nature, but will be, so to speak, sidetracked from the divine nature; therefore, we prefer to put it that the church is begotten to the spirit nature, and some of them get beyond this to the divine nature. The Great Company will reach the spirit plane yet not be of the divine nature.
ANSWER—I would say that in comparing the spiritual begetting with the natural begetting, we would not expect much of any kind of manifestation at the begetting. It is a fact that it does take place, and the demonstration is found later, and so, if we are begotten of the Holy Spirit, we may have some consciousness of it, but the outward demonstration would not be very marked to anybody else; there would possibly be some manifestation to others; it would be the quickening, the energizing motion that would be the indication of a personal life. So when we are begotten of the Holy Spirit it quickens our mortal bodies, energizes us in the Lord's service, and we begin to have the love that moves and wants to serve God and the brethren, and to do good to all men as we have opportunity.
Q38:1 QUESTION (1909)—1—Is the spirit begetting a real or a reckoned condition? Will there ever be any in the great company who have not at some time as individuals been appointed a place in the little flock?
ANSWER.—We answer, there never will be in the great company, so far as we know, anybody who did not have an opportunity of entering the little flock and failed to get in because of not fulfilling their vows of consecration.
The only exception to this would be that we understand the Ancient Worthies really belong to the same class, and in this sense of the word, they never were invited to this high calling. They voluntarily sacrificed much and suffered much, and they have great honor of God, and this is the only part of the great company or antitypical Levite class that does not have an opportunity to come into the little flock.
As to whether the spirit begetting is a real or a reckoned condition, I would say that it is a real thing. What do you mean by a real thing? Some people think that a real thing is something that you can put your hands on or see. Not real in the sense of tangible, but real in the sense of being bona fide and not a theory—a fact. How do we know it? This way, dear brother: The Lord's provision is that any of these who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit must be born of the Spirit or die the second death. You have actually given up the earthly nature, you must do that before you could he counted at all. 'Whoever gives up restitution rights is dealing with God, and He is not to be trifled with. It is so real that if you give up the earthly rights, you can never get them back again.
ANSWER—I answer that the divine nature is a spiritual nature. In the first volume of the Scripture Studies we had originally written that we were begotten to the divine nature, but finding so many of the Lord's dear people seemed to have difficulty in the matter, we thought it would save difficulty in the matter if we substituted the words "spiritual nature," instead of "divine." That change does not mean that there has been any real change. We believe that that was a proper statement to make that we are begotten to the divine nature, and that is a spiritual nature. The Scriptures prove that we are begotten to the divine nature. Peter said, "Unto you are given exceeding great and precious promises that by these [Page Q39] you might become partakers of the divine nature." These precious promises of the divine nature, of glory, honor and immortality are the begetting power that enters into our hearts and that the Lord uses through His Holy Spirit to work in us to will and to do His good pleasure. He assists us all along the way that we may make our calling and election sure. We are called to the divine nature. Are we begotten to the same? Yes, you are all called in the one hope of your calling—whether you get to it or not, it is one hope.
Very well, Brother Russell, how is it that the Great Company does not attain to that nature and yet both are begotten to it? It could be this way, dear friends. Take an illustration from nature: This matter of the begetting of the Holy Spirit is founded upon the begetting of the natural being. In the case of the natural birth, the begetting is the same, whether that which is born is male or female. Here are two classes that God is developing from the same begetting, the members of His Body and the Great Company. To carry the matter further, those who have made it a study say that there is no perceptible difference until after the third month from begetting, whether the child is to be a male or a female. Just so with the spiritual; after the begetting, no one can tell for a while whether he is one that will attain to the divine nature or not. The matter is in the balance; it depends upon himself how he has received the engrafted word. If it causes you to will and to do, then you will be of the Little Flock.
ANSWER.—There was no Spirit-begetting indicated in connection with entering the tabernacle. The Spirit-begetting was indicated in the anointing oil. It nevertheless was a fact that only the anointed priests were allowed to enter into the tabernacle. The Holy of the tabernacle stood for and represented the condition of consecration into which you and I have entered now. Since and at the time we became priests, and the time we were begotten of the Holy Spirit, that moment, that instant, we passed from the one condition into the other condition, into the Holy—and now since our begetting of the Spirit we are said to be seated with Christ in the holies, in the heavenlies, in this higher position represented by the tabernacle, itself.
ANSWER.—No. We answer that all who are called at all are called in the one hope of their calling. All who are begotten of the Holy Spirit at all, are begotten with a view of their being priests. All of those who will enter the great company class, typified by the Levites, or such as have had this opportunity and have failed to make good the opportunity and are therefore as far as the prize is concerned castaways, or not found worthy of the priestly office, therefore are merely granted as a favor a share in the Levitical service.
ANSWER.—We are not wise enough to say, dear brethren what might be the result. We know that this is a picture of the spiritual plane drawn from natural conditions. We know that any child begotten and never quickened will never mature; it will die. So on the spiritual plane; we would suppose that anyone begotten by the Holy Spirit and never reaching the point of quickening, or activity, would never have spiritual life, either in the present time or in the future, and would fail to be born of the Spirit. But there is a possibility that the Lord might deal with such; that having been begotten of the Spirit and failing to be quickened, that person might come forth on the natural plane. But we think the figure is against it. Therefore we would not wish to set it forth as a doctrine or teaching.
ANSWER.—I don't know what that question means. Jesus does not do the begetting of the Church, and yet the begetting comes through Jesus. I make a double answer. Our begetting is of the Father, as the Apostle says, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has begotten us." That tells us who begat us; and the condition upon which we were begotten of the Father was the work of Jesus—through His death, and through the application (imputation) of His merit we were counted worthy to be begotten of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has something to do with it in the way of bringing us to the state where we could be begotten, but He is not the One who begets; and yet, "All things are of the Father and by the Son, and we by Him." This would correspond with what we find recorded respecting the day of Pentecost: when the Apostles were there in the upper room they were waiting for that which Jesus had promised them, and Jesus said it was the promise from the Father, and then St. Peter said the Father gave it to Jesus and Jesus shed it forth upon the Church at that time; so, that was the begetting of the spirit. We want to take in the whole scope of the matter.
Q40:3 QUESTION (1909)—3—(John 1:2), "The same (Logos) was in the beginning with God." What beginning is here referred to? Does it refer to the beginning of all things which were made by the Logos, or to the beginning of the Logos himself? If it refers to the beginning of the Logos, how could he have been with the Father before he existed?
ANSWER.—The word "beginning" is rather an indefinite word. When we think of our Heavenly Father, the Word tells us that He had no beginning. It would be difficult to imagine that He had a beginning, and it would be difficult to imagine that He had not a beginning. The difficulty is that our minds are finite. There is a difference between our minds and God's mind, just as there is a difference between our mind and the mind of a dog. I might have an intelligent dog and I should say, Jack, go and get the sheep, and he would get every one of them. But suppose I should say to him, Jack, I want to talk to you about astronomy, [Page Q41] or about God. Jack would not know anything about God, because his brain is not up to the capacity to receive it. God has not given the dog ability to reason beyond a given point. God has given us a wide range of reasoning, so that we can reason about moral questions and scientific questions, but none of us have such a mind as will grasp the eternal one. You will be in difficulty if you try to think of God having a beginning; it is beyond our capacity. Take as an illustration: Suppose you had a cannon that would throw a cannon ball at great speed for thousands and thousands of miles and never stop. O, you say, it would have to stop. Why? It would come to the end of space. What is the end of space? You can't imagine what the end of space is, and you can't imagine a cannon ball going forever and never coming to the end of space. So we will have to conclude that we have limitations to our brains. I cannot explain the beginning of God, for the Scriptures say that He had none.
ANSWER.—I understand it to be from John to a private individual. What is true of one individual, however, would be true of a number of individuals in the Church of Christ, since we are members of the one body. The epistle to the Corinthians was not written to the Church at Saratoga Springs, but since the Church at Corinth and the Church at Saratoga Springs are under the same rules and regulations, the epistle is applicable to both. Likewise the second epistle of John.
ANSWER.—The Bible does not tell of the creation of the material of the earth. It begins by saying, "Now the earth was." It already was, but it was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the creation that is mentioned for the six days is not the mention of the creation of matter, but the bringing of order out of the matter.
ANSWER.—I believe the Bible as God gave it is without error. It would not he grammatical to say that the Bible is infallible. I will say that the Bible is unerring. Only a person can be infallible, you know, and I will make the explanation here that there are passages in the common version of the Bible that are not in the old manuscripts of the Bible, and some of these passages have caused confusion.
ANSWER.—There are certain parts of the Bible that are purely historical. The Books of Kings and Chronicles and the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are purely historical, and there is no particular need of inspiration in regard to these, unless it would be that divine providence would guide them so that they would not leave out what should be in. But where a history is written, it is not of necessity that it should be inspired, because all truth is good. If Saint Matthew, for instance, wrote that Jesus said thus and so, he is merely telling what he heard, what he knew to be the facts. He did not need to be inspired to tell the truth, any more than you need to be inspired to go out of here and tell what I have said: you should tell it straight; so there is no need of any inspiration about it. Now, I would say there are passages in Kings and Chronicles where evidently an error has been made. These are historical books, and there are little slips somewhere in the way the thing has been recorded. Both books cover the same period of time, but one gives it a little different from the other. We may see some day just how they can be harmonized, but at present we do not.
ANSWER—Ministers are less able to interpret the Bible than any other class of people in the world. The Theological Seminaries do not teach Bible interpretation, but instruct the student how to defend the various creeds, and how to choke off investigation, and to make the investigator feel foolish. Nothing troubles a minister more than Bible questions.
Our advice to those who want to know the Truth is to search the Scriptures and use Concordances and every Bible help that will assist them in a proper and rational understanding of the Scriptures. But be sure that the subject is approached honestly and prayerfully, with a desire to know the Truth and without sectarian prejudices. Remember the words of the Master, "Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth."
ANSWER.—Of course I am not sure that I understand the questioner's full meaning, but I would say, my dear friend, God declares that when our Lord Jesus ascended upon high, he gave gifts unto men. Then tells us what those gifts were: "And to some he gave apostles, and to some he gave prophets, and to some the working of miracles." Now then some of these gifts are with us today. There are some that have a natural teaching ability, but all have not the same ability as teachers. So the apostles ask. "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?" No. Then he goes on to say that God gave these to the church for a certain purpose. What is the purpose? For the edifying of the saints, [Page Q43] for the work of the ministry, the work of service, serving the body of Christ, "Until we all come to the full stature of a man in Christ." That is to say, Jesus is the head, already glorified; now he has given these gifts to the church that they may develop one another as the various members of the body of Christ, until the whole body will be completed. Now if God, through Jesus, gave these special gifts to the church, we understand that it is a part of the duty of the church to use these gifts wherever they find them. So then it would not be the wisest course for a Bible student to study the Bible by himself. If many have been studying the Bible for years without making much out of it, we must look to see how the Lord is leading, what is the Lord's providence. We are not to take anybody's word or judgment in the matter; we are to have the thing proved to us, and the Word of God is to be standard for everything we receive; but whether it comes to you in a few seconds through somebody else, is another matter. Whenever it comes to you, it is for you to prove that which you receive, and to see that it is in harmony with God's Word.
ANSWER.—"Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a lantern to my footsteps." And the reason we need the Bible now as a lamp and a lantern is because we are in a dark time, until the day dawn, and the day-star arises. After the day-star arises you will not need the lantern. The world will have something better than the lantern. But I think the Bible will always be with the world, just the same as you have a history of France. Do you need the history of France? You are not going to live a hundred years in the past, but it is interesting for you to read the history of France. Do you need the history of the Jews? You are not going to be a Jew, are you? No, but it is interesting for you to know the history of God's dealings with the Jews and His providences and how these things work out. So I think the world will get a great blessing from the Bible when they see how the prophecies were written aforetime, and how they were fulfilled. I think it will be a great text-book of learning for them, but they will not be dependent on the Bible; it will not be their instructor then as now. It will be a sort of side-light, or as a picture of the times gone by, that will help to make them have greater reverence for the Lord and for His promises, and for all of His dealings of the past.
ANSWER.—There will not be anybody else here to use it; they will all be the world, except the Ancient Worthies. They may refer to it occasionally, and also the Dawns, but it will not be their guide, because the Ancient Worthies will be under the direct supervision of the Spiritual Church; all [Page Q44]the instructions will come direct from the Church to the Ancient Worthies, and from the Ancient Worthies to all the people, and they will not be dependent upon the Bible. But you can suppose that Abraham, for instance, will be very pleased to read the account in Genesis, and the prophesies, and will be very pleased to read in the New Testament where Jesus said He was before Abraham. Abraham will look at that and say, Jesus said that; how true it was; and how little I expected anything like that! And he may, for all I know, be interested in reading the Dawns, and a lot of other books—perhaps the history of France, and see how they used to think it was a glorious thing to butcher each other; and he may go and look at some statues and war monuments and say,
Yes. So in the future they will be looking back at these histories of the wars with very peculiar interest to see what kind of madness could come into the human family, how crazy people could get, to kill one another—over some trifling matter,—whether they should be Democrats or Republicans; or whether they should be Methodists or Presbyterians. We are only beginning to get the spirit of a sound mind; we have not a sound mind yet, we are getting the spirit of a sound mind, the disposition of it, and it is coming to us more and more every day. Thank God for it!
Q44:1 QUESTION (1911)—1—"Knowing this, that the old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed; that henceforth we should not serve sin." Does the "old man" and the "body of sin" have reference to one and the same thing?
ANSWER—No. My understanding is that the apostle meant here by "old man" in your case your "old man," or your "old woman," as the case might be; that is to say, your old human nature—that which you gave up when you came to the Lord, that which he accepted as your consecration, and my body, if the Lord accepted it. This is our "old man." This used to be the man, but we have become new creatures. Now, this old body, all the interests of the flesh, are crucified with Christ. We have given them all up. As Jesus' flesh hung literally on the cross, so your flesh was given up in consecration, that the Lord may use it in any way pleasing to him—whether upon the cross or in some other way, it is none of your concern, since your human will is fully submitted to death. "Not my will, but thy will be done"—this is the "cross" will; this is the will that is dead; this is the will that is crucified with Christ, and all of the body's interests were given with that will; all of these interests are likewise crucified. But now, what for? What did Christ die for? Well, he died that the body of sin might be destroyed. What do you die for? That the body of sin might be destroyed. How many bodies of sin are there? Only one. There is but one body of sin. What do you mean? I mean that sin is personified. We are living under a reign of sin. [Page Q45] It is not a person, it is not a man. Sin that is reigning is here used as a figure of speech, and the apostle says that Christ died with a view to destroying this body of sin in the world. And what are you giving your life for? Where does your life come in? You also are obliged to destroy this body of sin, this great sin system with which we have to do. As the apostle says, "You have given up your very life with Christ that you might share with him in destroying this great body of sin that has been reigning as a great king over mankind. If ye have given up your life and consecrated yourself, how could you any longer live in harmony with sin? Not at all. You are bound to be in opposition to sin in every form in which you find it; that is part of your covenant; that is part of what you have done with your body. It has been taken away from being a servant of sin, a servant of this great principle now ruling, and have become a servant of God and righteous; and the battle is on between righteousness and sin. Righteousness is one figure, representing the Lord and his kingdom, sin is the other figure, representing Satan and his kingdom, and there is a conflict on between the two; and we are in with Christ for the destruction of the sin, of this body of sin, this great ruler that has ruled the world for the past six thousand years; and the fight will be on for yet a little while, and to some extent the fight will be on for a thousand years yet, because all through that thousand years Christ, and you, and I, with him on the plane of glory if we are faithful, will all the while be putting down, bringing into subjection, until the last enemy shall be destroyed, which is death. The body of sin, the whole sin system, will then be wholly overthrown, utterly destroyed.
ANSWER.—Our Lord was giving them a pantomimic teaching. He wanted them to understand that in sending them out they were not to exercise power belonging to themselves, but the power of God through them, therefore, he gave them the illustration of breath, or his spirit, which he wished to communicate to them. He did this as a sample of his spirit power, influence or mind in them, by which they would cast out devils, heal the sick, etc., in his name.
ANSWER.—I hope not, my friends. I have no inside information, but I hope we are still permitted to hope that we may make our calling and election sure by walking in the footsteps of Jesus. I have no reason to think that the bride class is complete.
ANSWER—I would think it is as plain as the nose on a man's face. If I knew how to make a proverb like that, I would feel insulted if some one asked me to explain it. I am not bright enough to make it, and I am not stupid enough to [Page Q46] try to explain it, except to explain the obsolete words of the text. A forward man is a bad man, whose acts and words tend to produce envy, bitterness, misunderstandings, strife. A whisperer is a busybody or slanderer.
ANSWER—The pre-human existence of the Lord Jesus is clearly established in the Scriptures. His own testimony of Himself was that He is "The faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." Rev. 3:14. We find then that our Lord became the "only begotten Son of God" at the time of his creation, which was before the foundation of the earth, and before the existence of any other thing in creation with the exception, of course, of God Himself, who created or begot Him. In agreement with this thought of our Lord's pre-existence from the very beginning we read, "He is the image of the invisible God—first born of all creation; because by Him were all things created, those in the heavens and those on the earth, visible and invisible—whether thrones, or lordships, or governments, or authorities: all things were created by Him and for Him, and He precedes all things, and in Him all things have been permanently placed." (Col. 1:15-18.) The thought conveyed by the title, "The Only Begotten Son of God," is that the Lord Jesus was Himself the only direct creation or begetting of the Heavenly Father.
ANSWER—There are seemingly many contradictory statements contained in the Bible, and these are due to several causes. One of which are the errors of translation from the original languages in which the Scriptures were written, into the various modern tongues. It is claimed that the Authorized and Douay Versions of the Bible are amenable to twenty thousand amendations! The Revised Versions, both English and American have corrected many of these errors but not all. No one would claim that the translators were inspired. Another fruitful cause for seeming contradictions is, that many Scriptures texts have been taken from their proper connections by Bible expositors and interpreted to mean just opposite to what they do signify. In [Page Q747] this way the Bible can be made to support any theory. For instance: in one place it says Judas "went out and hanged himself," and then in another place "go thou and do likewise!" To those who "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15) there is not a single contradiction in all the sacred writings.
Q747:1 QUESTION—How shall we harmonize the apparently contradictory expressions found in the following Scriptural quotations—"Thus have ye made the commandments of God of none effect through your TRADITIONS "? (Mat. 15;6; Mark 7:13.) "And profited in the Jew's religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the TRADITIONS of my fathers"? (Gal. 1:14.) "There fore, brethren, stand fast and hold the TRADITIONS which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15)?
ANSWER—The Savior's words addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day, have reference to the theories and opinions that had been formed and handed down from the past that were not based upon the inspired testimony of the Prophets and the faithful servants of the Lord. Many of these teachings were in direct opposition to the instructions contained in the Holy Scriptures, and because they were being set forth by those who had been appointed to teach the people the true understanding of the message of the Lord, they were received as being true. In this way the commandment of the Lord had been made void. The Apostle's words had reference to the teachings of the Scriptures and also to his own instructions, which he had presented to those that he was addressing. In other words, there are true traditions and false traditions. All of those which are in harmony with the teachings of the Divine Word are true, and all those which are not in harmony are false and not to be accepted. We cannot be particular in our efforts to get the truth.
ANSWER—Since God invites man to reason on His Word (Isa. 1:18), we must know that His Word is reasonable. The quotation in the question is unreasonable. But is it a part of God's Word? We answer, No. St. Mark's Gospel originally ended with verse nine, chapter sixteen; the additional verses (10-20 inclusive), which includes the above quotation, are not found in the old manuscripts of the Bible. All scholars are agreed that the addition was made about six hundred years after St. Mark's Gospel was written, and hence the quoted words are no part of the Gospel, and we know them to be untrue. To sanction them, now that we know about them, would be to join with those who wrote them in adding to the Word of God (Rev. 22:18,19). Human experience shows that not even the best of Christians can, with impunity, "Take up serpents and drink deadly poison."
ANSWER—The Bible is generally conceded to be one of the most difficult books in all the earth to understand. The brightest minds of the world for centuries have differed as to its teachings. Whole libraries of books have been written by authors whose views have conflicted woefully with one another. The entire Christian world today is divided up into more than six hundred factions whose ideas as to the teachings of the Bible are at variance with each other. Yes; the Bible is hard to understand, and few there are who do understand it. It is plainly evident that its Great Author did not wish it to be understood by all, and the Bible itself testifies in harmony with this thought. The disciples came to the Master on one occasion and asked Him, practically the same question that we are now considering. They said "Why speakest thou unto them (the people) in parables (dark sayings?)" In other words: Why Lord, do you not teach the people in clear, plain, and simple language, so that all can understand? "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you (my followers) to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given." (Mat. 13:10,11). The "mysteries of the Kingdom," the Divine plan of the Ages revealed in the Scriptures, the knowledge of which, is only for those who come into harmony with the Divine will of the Almighty God, the Sovereign Lord of all creation. The Bible is a sealed book to all others, no matter how intellectual they may be. See 1 Cor. 2:7-14.
ANSWER—The Bible was not written for the unbelieving, nor was it written in such a manner that the world could understand its teachings. In order to understand the Bible we must come into the attitude of pupils of Christ and must be taught of him. The Bible is like a telescope; it is not sufficient that you see the outside of it, its pedestal and joints. It is not even sufficient that we even look through the telescope. Many have looked down a telescope merely along its shining barrel without seeing out at the other end at all. Even when we look through the telescope properly and out at the other end, still we must have it properly adjusted so that we may obtain the best results and discern objects accurately. So it is with the Bible; as we draw nigh to God, he draws nigh to us; and thus we are enabled to appreciate more and more the deep things of his Word. But only the saintly Bible student is able to understand and appreciate the "breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ" (Eph. 3:18) which passeth knowledge, but which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. St. Paul gives us the key to the proper understanding, saying, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the [Page Q749] spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." But God hath revealed them unto us (the Church, the consecrated) by his spirit. (1 Cor. 2:14,10.) Even the deep things of God are made known by our acquiring more of the spirit of God, the spirit of Truth, the spirit of the Word.
Q749:1 QUESTION—What does it mean to be born of the spirit? What happens when that takes place? Some have said that I am not saved unless I have been born of the spirit, and received some miraculous evidence of this. This has made me a trifle anxious, as I earnestly desire to be saved, and thus far haven't experienced anything remarkable in the way of supernatural demonstrations, although I am endeavoring to live a Christian life.
ANSWER—The Scriptures abound with illustrations which were intended to portray the varying conditions of the Christian's experience, and, unless we give careful attention to the details of these word pictures, we are liable to become confused as to their true significance. In the conversation which Nicodemus had with our Lord Jesus (John 3:1-8), the Master, in explaining the matter of spiritual regeneration, used the natural order or arrangement to represent the spiritual—"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." Just as there is the begetting of the fleshly being, then the quickening and finally the birth, so also with the spiritual ones. The Christian is first begotten of the spirit (Begotten again—1 Pet. 5:3), then quickened by the spirit (Rom. 8:11) and then having attained to full development as an embryotic "New Creature" he will be "born of the spirit" in the resurrection—"changed" from a fleshly, human being to a heavenly spiritual one—See 1 Cor. 15:50-53. All who experience the new birth will be invisible, powerful, even as are the angels and all spirit beings. Observe the force of the Master's words—"Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the spirit."
Q749:2 QUESTION—How can we prove to the extremely critical that the people taken for the Lord's name (Acts 15:14) are the ones referred to, in the Scriptures, as the "Bride," "the Lamb's Wife," "The New Jerusalem," etc.? (H.J.K.)
ANSWER—The "extremely critical" are the very ones to recognize the reasonableness of the doctrine of election so positively outlined in this passage. It is the thinking, critical minds that are rejecting the antiquated, obsolete theories of the past, and now are coming to see the truth concerning the Divine purpose. How reasonable, then, to those who view the facts and reason critically, are the Bible teachings relating to the selection of "a people for His name," and that this election has been in process of development throughout the entire Christian Era! Naturally, [Page Q750] the mind would seek further enlightenment as to the identity of this special people, or class. The various passages of Scripture relating to this class would logically fit into place, and it would be recognized that it is the Church of Christ the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, the "New Jerusalem," etc. And then how reasonable and consistent the teaching that following this election the Heavenly Father, who is all love and compassion, and goodness, will through this glorified Class—Christ and His Church—rebuild the ruins of David, which are fallen down, restore the Jews to their own land—and "after this," invite all the Gentiles upon whom His name is called"—the world of mankind—to come back into harmony with Himself and receive eternal life and joy and peace. See the verses following the one cited in the question.
ANSWER—This will he fulfilled in the future for the following reasons: There is no "Bride" now. Jesus during the Gospel Age has been preparing a place for the Bride as he declared (John 14:2-4). The union of the Bride and the Bridegroom takes place at the second coming of our Lord (Rev. 19:6-8). During the Gospel Age the prospective members of the Bride class have the Lord's spirit in them. Each true follower of Jesus is "a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." (John 4:14.) Bye and bye when these well-springs are all brought together and united with our Lord, then the Bride and the Bridegroom will constitute the great "river of life," or "water of life" which shall flow out from the throne of God and which shall bless and heal all the nations of the earth, in harmony with the promise which God made to Abraham saying, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Then all who will, may come, and take of this "water of life" freely. The water of life means the message of truth setting forth the means of blessing. All who will accept may have its blessings, but those who do not accept and render obedience to the Lord shall not receive a blessing.