ANSWER.—Well, it is very difficult to explain that, because there are so many different ideas as to what faith is. Now, if you are referring to faith as meaning a belief in the things that you do not see, and the things that you do not know, and the things that God has merely revealed to us in His Word, that kind of faith will he very limited indeed in the Millennial Age. Why? Because everything will be made so clear and manifest that it will not belong to faith, but it will then be sight. It is faith now because God is choosing a peculiar people, and He is testing those who have the hearing ear and the eye of faith, who can walk by faith and not by sight. And so He represents that we are walking in the narrow way, and the light is on our pathway, and by and by, instead of having a pathway that is dark, and merely lighted as we take these steps, the Son of Righteousness will arise with healing in His beams. A man will not need to carry a lantern when the sun-light is shining. Just now, the lantern of God's Word, and the carrying of it, represents our faith coming from it, but they will not need that in the Millennial Age, because knowledge will be everywhere, and instead of faith, knowledge will be required, and it will be possible for people to come to know all about God and about His plan. Is knowledge better than faith? Yes, indeed. Wouldn't you want absolute knowledge if you could get it? Yes, indeed. But you are now walking by faith, are you not? Yes. God says that is the way He wants us to do now, and He does not furnish any more than that now. He gives us enough knowledge to have a basis for our faith and does not give us anything stronger than would be a basis for faith.
ANSWER.—"By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." The Apostle seems to intimate that grace is God's favor: in fact, the word "grace" has the signification of gift, or that which is favor. Our salvation is of Divine favor—not of any necessity on God's part, not because Justice required it, not because anyone could have demanded it from him, but it is his own merciful, gracious provision, and this salvation in our case is through faith. And the faith is not of ourselves, as a matter of course. Hence we think that when the Apostle says "it is not of ourselves," he must refer to faith. However, faith, in a very important sense, is of the individual; we are urged to ''have faith unto God." One cannot have faith for another. The individual must exercise his own faith in God; and yet in this text we are told that our faith is of God.
In what sense could this be of God? We answer that it is of God in the sense that every good and every perfect gift comes down from the Father. Our faith must have a foundation, must have a basis. We must have knowledge of a matter in order to have faith in it. We have knowledge of God, and this knowledge which is [Page Q267] granted us as a grace or favor brings us to the place where we are enabled to exercise the faith. The faith in a great measure rests upon the knowledge. The knowledge reveals God's character; the Divine Revelation makes known to us certain facts respecting God's purposes, and we see the purposes thus outlined to be in harmony with the character of God, and this enables one to believe the promises; and believing them, we are enabled to act upon them; and this is faith.
ANSWER.—No. The Lord does not wish us to walk by sight and have no difficulty in discerning His will. He wishes to put the matter in such a way that there will be a test of our obedience and perseverance—we are to walk by faith and not by sight. How?
I will tell you how to do it. Every day, of course, and in all particular matters, I try to take everything to the Lord, I would not wish to undertake anything, without seeking to know the Lord's will respecting it. But, I am not always able to know the Lord's will. I have no miraculous insight to know God's will. My judgment is not sufficient, I am not to tax my mind that way, it is out of the power of my mind. I will leave it to the Lord. If He wishes me to go this way or that way, He can direct the course. So, my mind and heart are satisfied, if, at the beginning of the day, I say, Lord, here am I; I thank Thee for the privilege of another day and what I hope will be full of opportunities for serving the Truth and the brethren. I ask you to direct all of my thoughts, words and conduct, that I may serve Thee. Then I go forth and use my best judgment. If the Lord wants to lead me in one way or another, that is His part, not my part. I have solicited His guidance. My eye is alert to know and to do His will at any cost. I rest easy in this yoke, knowing that God is able and willing to overrule all things for His glory and for my profit.
When a child I noticed that some people had a certain way of going to the Lord with their affairs. They would open their Bibles at random, and whatever verse their thumb happened to be next they would say was the Lord's message and they would follow it, too. That was not for me to find fault with. It seemed remarkable to what texts they would sometimes open and they should have such remarkable answers to prayers. But, I said, Lord I am really afraid, and if it pleases You, I would rather be directed by my judgment than by this method, for my mind does not seem capable of accepting it. The Lord seems to have taken me at that prayer. I do seek the Lord's guidance in studying the Word, taking all of the verses, trying to find the principles of God's dealings and teachings on every subject. There is surely a reason why right is right in every matter, and I desire to know it. I desire to know the reason why [Page Q268]God wishes a matter this way or that way—not that I doubt His wisdom, but so that I may enter into the spirit of the Divine regulations. I have much more happiness than I would otherwise have. Could I know whether God, the devil or chance would open the Bible for me in that other way? I much prefer and believe it the Bible's teaching that I commit all to God, ask Him to guide my judgment and reason and then go out and use that judgment and reason the best I know how. The Lord may allow me to use my judgment in some way that afterward appeared not the best; but if so, He may use it to bring some great blessing or instruction anyway. Our judgment, of course, means our understanding of our Father's Word and of His providential leadings. Thus doing we know that all things shall work together for our good.
ANSWER.—Moses was imperfect, because the Bible tells us there is none perfect, no not one. When we say God could not make a covenant with fallen man, the thought is not that He could not, but He would not. It would be a useless matter to make a covenant with fallen man, because they could not keep it. In the case of Israel, God said I am going to bless the seed of Abraham, and you, the natural heirs of Abraham. Would you like to have Me take you to be My people? Then if you would, if you think so I will give you a chance to try it. I will give you a law, and if you can keep that law I will agree that by virtue of keeping it you are perfect, and if perfect you will be able to go on keeping it and live forever, but if you fail you will die. So there was a tentative agreement, a provisional agreement. God had a right to do that. Not that Moses was perfect. God said if you would like to try I will treat you as though you were perfect. I will give you sacrifices to represent the true sacrifices, and these offered year by year will cover you typically; you will be counted as though you were righteous for one year and in that year you may show Me how you can keep My law. If you can keep the law I will fix all the rest.
Q268:2 QUESTION (1910)—2—If any fall away, who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, will their failure to receive the crown lead to the second death? Or is there a chance that a place may be found for them among the Great Company?
ANSWER.—I do not think that anyone is competent to answer that question. It is beyond our depth. We ought to fear to pass judgment on anyone who gives evidence of still having love for God or for righteousness. We do not mean that we might not fear for some, as the Apostle says we should fear, and that we should strive to pull them out of the fire—pull them out of places of temptations, and trials, and strive to recover them from the snare of the adversary. That fear is proper enough, but for us to decide that such a one has been given up of the Lord, and that [Page Q269] he has been sentenced to the second death, is not ours to judge, and we do well to seek to avoid passing judgment upon others.
Q269:1 QUESTION (1909)—l—"Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." Please explain and apply these words.
ANSWER.—Well, these words in the first place were written especially to the Jews, and there was quite a period of time when they were without a prophet or teacher and a great many Jews were seeking the Lord but were so blinded that they could not see Him as the Lord, and as represented in the parable where the rich man begged for the cup of water. They are kept in that condition that the mighty works of God might be fulfilled. The nation of Israel itself is a most wonderful thing. To think that there are some who are of the seed and stock of Abraham still in the world is a most wonderful thing; all other nations are mixed up. But the Jews have an independent nature, so that God could show in His dealings with them what He would do later. How long they shall thirst and hunger I do not know.
I must tell you that I have recently had some experiences with the Jews. I bought a coat not a great while ago, and the man who sold it to me was a Jew, and after I purchased it, he said, "I read your sermons every Monday morning and I am pleased with them, I have been reading them for over a year."
Later on, I met a gentleman on the street in Pittsburgh; he was a Hebrew, and he said, "Mr. Russell, I keep track of you, I read your sermons in the paper." The Jews are hungering and nibbling around the edge, but they will have to wait a little longer.
Q269:2 QUESTION (1912-Z)—2—"For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water." (Isa. 3:1.) What does this mean?
ANSWER.—There was a famine which came upon Judea. The people did not have enough to eat or to drink. They are still in very much the condition of Ishmael at the time when Hagar laid him down to die. During the Gospel Age the poor Jews have been famishing. They have been without any communication whatever with God.
The same Prophet, from whose inspired writings the above text is taken, tells us of another class whose "bread shall be given them, whose water shall be sure." (Isa. 33:16.) They will be well cared for, well protected, and will have both bread and water. This text may have applied to the Jews at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and may apply to any Jews and others who, since that time, have put their trust in the Lord and to whom He has supplied what was needed for the strengthening of their lives. As we look about us today we find many of nominal Israel [Page Q270] hungry, thirsty. They endeavor to make themselves think that they are well fed; and the majority of them do not realize that they are poor and naked and unfed and blind. In the meantime the Church of Christ is in the protected place. Everything is working together for good to them. Their bread and water is sure. "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly"; "the meek will He guide in judgment; the meek will He teach His way."
Q270:1 QUESTION (1909)—1—Kindly explain Matt. 18:10: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones: for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
ANSWER.—I presume that the conditions beyond the vail are so different from the conditions this side the vail that it is difficult to explain the conditions there. Our Lord said to Nicodemus, if I tell you of earthly things and you do not understand, how will you understand if I tell you of heavenly things? He did not tell him much about heavenly things.
In this I would understand the thought suggested to be that when we pray to our heavenly Father we are to realize His careful attention to all the affairs of the weakest and most ignorant of His children. If they are His, that means that His providential care is over every one of them.
The suggestion that His angels do always behold His face, is that He is always ready to receive their messages. He is ever ready to hear, to give attention, and it pertains to every one of His little ones. On this Scripture has been built the thought that each individual child of God has an individual guardian angel, which specially takes care of him. Now I say that is a theory, and I do not know that it is right, but whether it is a living spirit being that interposes for us and guards us, or whether influences or powers of God, it makes no difference to you or to me, because whatever God is pleased to use to protect us, what difference does it make to us, so long as we are assured that we have protection and that we have communion with Him?
Q270:2 QUESTION (19l2)—2—"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." What fear is here referred to, and how does perfect love cast out fear?
ANSWER.—Fear is a quality of the mind that is begotten generally of uncertainty. There are certain things which we ought to fear, and certain things that we need not fear. The Adversary would seem to take advantage of our fallen condition, the condition of sin, and cause us to fear our heavenly Father; because whoever we fear we keep away from. We all realize that by nature we are sinners, and that there must be some penalty for sin. We seem to know this instinctively and naturally have a fear. We are told, You are a sinner, You are a sinner and there is a penalty for sin. A fear comes—of what kind and how severe will the penalty be? Satan would try to give us, through his various theories, a dread or fear of God, and of torture. He pictures before our imperfect minds a God unjust, over-severe in His dealings with sin and the sinner.
As we come, gradually, to a clearer knowledge of God and His principles for the regulation of His universe, we have that fear cast out. Instead we have a love for God, and realize that He has a love for us. We love Him, and in proportion as we realize that He loves the world and has made provision for us and the world. By and by, when we get to the place where we love God perfectly, all fear is cast out.
But this knowledge and love would not cast out the fear of displeasing God; because that is a proper reverence, and that is never to be cast out. The more reverential love we have, the more of that fear we will have—who would not fear to offend a brother or neighbor whom he loved and appreciated. This is the same principle that exists, more or less, between father and children, husband and wife. The wife who would fear her husband would not be in as happy a condition as if there were perfect love, and vice versa; also with children. Yet each should the more fear to wound or offend the other.
ANSWER.—We are to remember that our physical condition has much to do with our feelings, and one might be in such a nervous condition that a trifling noise would affect the nerves. Perhaps you have been in the condition that even a slight thing would jar your nerves and make you very uncomfortable. You can see that some persons might thus have a great fear. But that super-sensitive condition would not prove that they were not true children of God. So I do not know that we should think it an evil or a sin for some to have a fear of death. Some people naturally have more fear and dread of death than others. The organ of vitativeness—love of life—is much stronger in some than in others.
Some even who have been taught the doctrine of eternal torment seem to have little fear of death. We read the accounts of the soldiers of Europe going down to the trenches, where fully half of them may never come back alive, and yet they go down there with a great deal of courage, apparently fearless of death. I do not quite understand it. I would think that the natural condition of mankind would be to fear death. We find that this was true of our Lord Jesus. He had a fear and dread of death, and this lasted until He had a message from God to the effect that He was acceptable and would have a resurrection.
When He came down to His last night on earth, the night on which he was betrayed and apprehended, you remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane He began to be very sorrowful. He became very, very sad and heavy-hearted, thinking, "Now tomorrow I am to be crucified. It looks, too, as though I am to suffer as an evil-doer. I would be glad if that need not be. It is a terrible thing to die under any conditions, but it is an awful thing, after living a righteous life, to die as a blasphemer against God! O, if it might be possible that this part may pass away from Me!" Then the thought came, "Perhaps I deserve that experience; perhaps I have committed some sin. I do not know anything I have done that is wrong, but perhaps I have transgressed in [Page Q272] some manner. If so, I will have no future life!" The thought was terrible to one who knew the perfection of life before He came into the world and who had a full understanding of the possibility of the future glory, honor and immortality.
And so we read of Jesus that "in the days of His flesh when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, He was heard in that which He feared" (Heb. 5:7). He did not pray to be saved from dying; for He had consecrated His life unto death; but to be saved out of death, by a resurrection'; And He was heard. The Father sent Him some message or assurance that was strengthening to Him, that gave Him to understand that He was fully acceptable. The passage concerning the appearing of the angel to our Lord is not contained in the oldest Greek Manuscripts; but the Scripture cited from Hebrews proves that the Father in some manner heard His petition. As soon as the fear of annihilation was removed, the Master was the calmest and most courageous of all. His quietness of soul returned when He once had the assurance that He was pleasing to the Father.
Now I believe that when we have a fear of death we should seek the Father in prayer, should seek the assurance that we have the Father's approval. The Bible enables us to know when we are acceptable children of God, and as Christians we should seek to drive away our fears, giving heed to God's Word, having it before our minds and considering the precious promises concerning the Lord's love and care and sustaining grace in every time of need. I believe that as we do this we will find in our hearts more and more a loyalty and a willingness at any sacrifice to walk in the footsteps of Jesus unto the end. And we can say, "I will not fear; God has promised that "all things shall work together for good" to me. Why should I fear? What or whom shall I fear? I will fear nothing, "for Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." Rom. 8:28; Psalm 23:4.
So far as my expectation was concerned, I thought it would be years ago. I am surprised that it has been so slow. When I first called attention to the matter, none of the churches were thinking of it, but way back in 1880 we saw it clearly in the Scriptures, and we were naturally inclined to think things would come more rapidly than they do. It has been slowly developing, however, and it is right here now. If it had developed more rapidly, something else would have gone wrong. It is for you and me to learn to trust the Lord to manage his part, and for us to try to manage our part. It is all coming around, dear friends, and will be here at the proper time, but whether next year or two years after that, I would not begin to say.
I might remark in this connection that to a certain extent this recognition has already been given; viz.: that two years ago the Episcopal church rescinded that feature of their church creed which barred other ministers from speaking from the Episcopal platform. It used to be the case that if any other minister occupied the Episcopal pulpit, it would practically have to be fumigated. Our Episcopal friends now think this is foolish, so they have abandoned that feature as a step toward the union. They have practically recognized all other denominations today, by allowing them to speak from their pulpits.
ANSWER.—They had formed a trust or federation, so to speak, and rarely made an attack upon each other, although their doctrines were directly opposed. The Pharisees acknowledged God and the prophets and the Law, and believed in a future life by a resurrection from the dead, and believed in a coming Messiah to exalt their nation and through it to bless the world. The Sadducees believed nothing of the kind—they were agnostics, Higher Critics. They were making the best of the present life, doubting any future existence. The Pharisees opposed Jesus because He did not acknowledge them but criticized them and showed the hypocricies of their claims to be perfect and holy in the keeping of the Law, and reproved them for their lack of sympathy with the poor and less pretentious.
The Sadducees opposed Jesus because, from their stand point of unbelief, he was a fraud. But even as a fraud they would not have bothered themselves to oppose him, only that they perceived that he was gaining an influence with the people—an influence which they feared might, sooner or later, lead to some disturbance of the peace and unfavorably influence the conduct of the Roman Empire towards the Jews. So, while the Sadducees and Pharisees both opposed Jesus, their opposition was for different reasons.
The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the crying of the multitude, ''Hosanna to the Son of David, "the Messiah! awakened envy in the minds of the Pharisees. But in the Sadducees it produced a fear that the common people should become so aroused as to involve their nation in some strife with the Empire. The Pharisees strove to turn away the sympathy of the people from the Great Teacher, and, to this end sought to catch Him in his words by putting the question, "IS IT LAWFUL TO GIVE TRIBUTE?"
They reasoned that if Jesus would say, It is not lawful, they would have little difficulty in having him arrested as a leader of sedition and thus compel Pilate to put him to death. They reasoned further that if Jesus should answer that it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar he would thereby alienate the sympathy of the multitude, which cried "Hosanna!" after him; for the Jews held, almost superstitiously, the idea that they, as God's Kingdom, must not pay tithes to any earthly Kingdom—that it would be irreverent to do so, excepting under compulsion. We notice how artfully they endeavored to ensnare the Master by complimenting him upon his truthfulness, saying, "Master, we know that thou art true!" Not only so, but they sought to impress [Page Q274] upon him their appreciation of him as a Teacher—that he would teach the light, the Truth, at any cost. And so they said, "Thou teachest the way of God in truth!" And further, they fortified their position by saying, "We know that thou regardest not the person of men!"
These treacherous compliments were intended to ensnare him, but he promptly answered, "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" Why do you veil your base designs under guise of speaking for the Truth? "Show me the tribute money." This was, literally, the census coin in which the tax was to be paid. They handed him a denarius, the usual wage for the day laborer, corresponding in value to about seventeen of our cents. Jesus asked, "Whose is this image and superscription?" They answered, "Caesar's." Jesus replied, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and unto God the things that are God's." No wonder the wily Pharisees were troubled to know how to catch him in his words! On the contrary, they were caught; for all of their complimentary remarks stood to his credit in the minds of the common people.
Q274:1 QUESTION (1909)—1—(2 Tim. 4:6,7,8.) "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." At what time in the Christian's experience should he be able to give such a testimony?
ANSWER.—Well, I think, dear friends, we should be able to give a good testimony from the time we reach what we sometimes call the mark. When we speak of the mark we are merely speaking of the mark of character, which is that which the law of God places as the smallest condition which would be acceptable to Him, and the least He will accept of you or me or anybody, now or in the Millennial Age, which is, "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy mind and heart and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself." When you have reached that mark you may properly say you have reached the mark of perfect love. Nothing less than this will do.
You may not have reached this in your body because your body is imperfect. This is a mark of the heart. The Jews under the Law Covenant were obliged to come up to that mark in the flesh, but we who are spiritual Israelites are required to come up to that law in our minds and hearts. If you find that you have blemishes in your flesh you are to ask the Lord to forgive you, but your heart must always be perfect. Like the needle of a compass, if you swerve, then like the needle when released, it comes back to the pole; so your heart must always be loyal. So regard your neighbor that you would love him as yourself, would do good to him as you would have him do good to you; do justly, generously, righteously to your neighbor. It might be that through some temptation you might not do just as you would wish to be treated, but just as soon as you find out that you have treated him in any manner that was not right it would be your duty to make amends not only to him [Page Q275] but to God, for you have injured him to this extent. In the Millennial Age a person will be required to act perfectly, but at this time, during the Gospel Age, the Lord has made a higher requirement for the Church, which is that we should love the brethren as He loved us, that we should lay down our lives for them. Christ has made this requirement upon all who would be His disciples. They must love their enemies also to the extent of being ready to do good to anybody. As soon as you find in your heart that you have that perfect law of love, then you are at the mark of perfect love and in that condition, if you should die, you would have every reason to think that you would be acceptable to God. He may not take you as soon as you reach that condition, for He may leave you here to do good to others and to be tried and tested yourself. But when you are in that condition of heart and mind and someone should say that your life is in jeopardy, you could say, I have reached the mark of perfect love and I am ready to be offered.
This reminds me of a Welsh brother who had a long walk home from meeting one night and on the way met a highway robber who demanded his money or his life, and he replied, Take my life, take my life, I have no money. The robber turned and ran; he was afraid of being near a man who was ready to die. I hope your heart condition and my heart condition is such that if at this very minute something would occur to demand your life that you would be able to say, "I am ready to be offered." I should be very pleased if the Lord should want me now to pass beyond the vail. We should live in that condition of heart every day and hour, and should not be satisfied with any thing short of that.
Well, first, the fact that he has been unable to pay, and unable to make good past favors, would not necessarily constitute a ground of objection, because you have had past favors from the Lord and you have not been able to pay, and if he stopped giving you any more it would be pretty hard on you, wouldn't it? However, dear friends, in the matter of giving to the poor brethren, or to anybody, it is an occasion for the exercise of judgment and prayer. To give unwisely might be to encourage somebody in a wrong course, and to give wisely might be the means of helping someone to see a proper course. If you have any advice to give anybody, it is usually pretty good to put it in the "sandwich" form, and to give the advice when you are giving the money, rather than when you are refusing the money. Put the advice in with the money, suggesting, kindly, to the brother or sister. Now I do not like to criticise you, my brother, but it would seem to me that you might do this or you might do that; I am going to help you to such an extent, but I hope you will do thus and so with it, because I feel as though I [Page Q276] am a steward over whatever I possess, and that I ought to use it as I feel would be to the Lord's pleasement, and not merely because you would get it. But we are not to forget what St. James says, that if we should see a brother or sister suffering want, it would be an un-Christian course on our part to refuse aid, no matter if they have been foolish in some respects in the past. Perhaps they were not born with as level heads as you have been. But it is true the majority of people do not have level heads on the use of money. That is my experience—I am in trouble with people all the time. Perhaps my head was made too tight and stingy, I don't know. But I believe it would be entirely wrong for us to permit anyone that we recognize as truly a brother in the Lord to suffer lack of the necessaries of life. Now, how many of the luxuries should be added to that is another question. I have known instances in which I thought the friends had perhaps undertaken to do for some persons more than would have been, in my judgment, the wise course; but I said to myself, it is none of your business, mind your own business, and let them attend to their matters; and perhaps the Lord will be better pleased with their course than with yours. We live in a day, you know, when things are considered necessary that would not have been considered necessary a short time ago. We all have more comforts and blessings temporally than our grandfathers had, I am sure, and these blessings become almost necessities to people—or at least with some. Really a person can live on very little when it comes down to necessity. Potatoes are always cheap; so is salt; so are oats; and really the absolute necessities of life do not cost a great deal. We are to consider matters in as broad a light as we please, and we are to remember in our day civilization has adopted methods for dealing with people that it did not adopt in times past, and I think very good methods. Instead of having the blind beggars sitting by the roadside, as in our Lord's day, civilization says, No, let us take these blind beggars, and put them comfortably in a nice home where they won't have to beg, where they will not have to sit in the sun all day, where they will not have to be without proper nourishment and care; let us put them in a nice suitable asylum. If I were in their place, I believe I would prefer to go to some institution of that kind that had been specially prepared for me, rather than to sit out on the curbstone or any other place to solicit alms. However, this is a matter which each one must decide for himself. The broad principles of the Lord's teaching is, that we should not see anybody go hungry, whether friend or foe. If thine enemy hunger, feed him, and if he is naked, give him something to cover his nakedness. But that does not mean you should give him your best robe, or anything of that kind.
Q276:1 QUESTION (l907)—1—Lev. 16:14:"And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward." Is there any special typical significance attaching to the finger of the High Priest?
ANSWER.—I do not think of any special significance in this word "finger" as it is used. It would be more convenient to sprinkle with his finger than with his whole hand. There may be some force or significance to the word "finger," [Page Q277] but I never thought of it. If any of you think of it, I would be pleased to have you mention it to me.
ANSWER.—This did not mean that our Lord had finished all the work of the Divine Plan, for both the work of calling out the Bride aud presenting her blameless and the work of the Millennial Age were yet future. Our Lord had come into the world to do a work of personal sacrifice. When He was thirty years of age, He presented Himself in consecration at Jordan. During the three and a half years of His ministry He continued to offer Himself; and this course, figuratively, became a sweet incense ascending before God beyond the veil. This work was one which could not be accomplished in a day. It required three and a half years. To this He referred when He said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50.) He was anxiously awaiting its completion, which was reached at Calvary.
ANSWER—We see that the fire used in all three of these different places represented our Lord's dying, or death process. The fire outside the Camp represented the destructive influences which came against him and caused his death, as viewed from the world's standpoint. The fire in the Court represented the same destructive influences came against him and caused his death, as viewed from the standpoint of believers. To those outside the Camp the burning of the flesh and hide and hoofs and horns had a very evil odor, bad odor. To those that were inside the Court the burning of the fat—it was practically all fat in the sin-offering that was offered on the altar at this time—represented that which is not a bad odor, as the burning of fat does not give off a bad odor when burned under proper conditions and circumstances, as it is almost pure carbon. As has already been suggested, the fat could represent the love and zeal which would characterize the sacrifice. In a lean animal there is very little fat; in a fat animal there is much fat to be put on the altar and correspondingly could augment the zeal, the flame, with which it would burn. But entirely aside from the burning of the fat and of the animal outside the Camp is the fact that fire was used to start the flame of sacred love and self-sacrifice.
The coals of fire upon the altar, that which caused the burning of the fat, would not seem to represent anything that our Lord had or did, but rather experiences from the ordinary affairs of life. Wood doubtless was used upon the altar, as we read in some places, and the glowing embers from this fire upon the altar were taken inside the vail to constitute the basis of the offering on the Golden Altar, the offering of the incense. This shows, therefore, that the fire was of the same kind in all three of these pictures—wood-fire that that burned the animal outside; wood-fire that burned the fat in the Court; and wood-fire or coals of fire, that burned the incense upon the Golden Altar.
What does fire here represent? We answer that, as usual, fire represents destructive influences. Was there anything peculiar about these destructive influences that would mark them as separate and distinct from many other destructive influences. Our thought is that the fact that they are connected with the altar and were typified by the fire which burned only on the altar, implies that they were destructive influences which were connected with the sacrificing; not the destructive influences which might come against mankind in general, as disease, or war, or famine, or pestilence, or from some other such general source of fire, trouble, destruction, but rather here a sacrificial fire, sacrificial influence, something connected with what was being offered; therefore such adverse influences as would be of the Father's appointment and for the very purpose of accomplishing this test or sacrifice; as our Lord expressed it, using another figure: "The cup which my Father hath poured for me, shall I not drink it?" It was not the Jews that poured that cup for him, it was not the Pharisees that poured that cup; it was not the Romans; it was not the people nor the hypocrites; it was not the scribes that poured that cup; but it was the Father who provided the cup.
We would understand, then, that all these coals of fire represent those classes of circumstances and conditions which the Father provides for the very purpose of proving the character and the loyalty and the genuineness of our devotion. Carrying the coals into the Holy would thus seem to identify those two altars as expressing to us in symbol or type that the spirit of devotion which believers see consuming the sacrifice that is voluntarily offered to the Lord and which, while in line, in harmony with righteousness, is not commanded by the Divine law, is the sacrificing principle which is so acceptable in God's sight. It was in harmony with this, therefore, that our Lord offered up himself, in the sense of crumbling the incense upon the fiery coals. Thus day by day he laid down his life, allowed himself to come in contact with these experiences, which served to destroy his earthly nature and sent forth a sweet fragrance to God. It was not any and every tribulation, as before intimated, but simply those which the Father had provided and were connected with his sacrificial experience.
ANSWER.—The first-borns of Egypt represent the Church of the First Born, as the Apostle calls our attention to the matter—the Church of The Firstborn whose names are written in Heaven. Now the Church of the First-born includes two classes, the Little Flock class, the Bride class and the Great Company class—the virgins, her companions. How could they all be in the Church of the First-born? Because this First-born Church is the first fruits unto God of His creatures; it represents all of those begotten of the Holy Spirit during this present time. Everyone now begotten is the first fruit as compared to the world, because the world is to be regenerated by and during Messiah's Kingdom, and all of those who now believe and accept God's terms and receive the begetting of the Holy Spirit, their birth must take place before the world's work can begin. So we are [Page Q279] all the little flock and the great company; namely, all of those who come unto the Father through Christ, all who were accepted, all who are begotten of the Spirit belong to this one Church of the First-born. Then there are the two classes, some more than conquerors, and some merely conquerors, but they are all the one church. Just so in the type, the first-borns of Israel were represented by the whole tribe of Levi; the whole tribe was consecrated to God, but out of that tribe was selected the Royal, priestly company, that they should especially minister and have special nearness to God—special service to God. But the whole tribe was a holy tribe, they were all dedicated, and the whole tribe of Levi typified the Church of the First-borns.
ANSWER.—We have just one moment, and it is quite a short time for so large a text. Briefly stated we understand that the Lord was addressing here His disciples and that He was there speaking to the class who are to have life in themselves, inherent life, immortality, and that only these who would eat of His flesh, that is, partake of His justification and also drink of His cup, that is, share His sacrifice, only those who would do this would have light in them, and be of the class who would have immortal life and secure the glory and honor as well as the immortality. This refers merely to the Church; the world are not to drink of the cup of the Son of Man; it is given only to the Church. The world will indeed eat of the flesh in the sense that they will be justified and eat of the merit of His sacrifice, and the bread from above will be the food for the world, but none will drink of the cup, except those who drink during this Gospel Age. The Master gave it to His disciples and said, "Drink ye all of it." There will not be any of it left.
ANSWER.—I think that question had better be asked of the Almighty. I will tell you, my friends, the person who approaches the Bible in this fighting way is not likely to get any blessing. I know from experience, for I had my experience in fighting with the Bible, trying to make it foolish; but that book is not foolish, and all the wise people of the world have not proven it foolish. If we had plenty of time we could go into all these questions very much in detail, and the questioner would seem more foolish than the book.
Q279:4 QUESTION (l910-Z)—4—Why did the disciples forbid the man whom they found casting out devils? Why did they not allow him to go on and do the best he could in casting them out? What was the ground of their objection?.
ANSWER.—Evidently the Apostles when sent forth had very similar sentiments to those which prevail today. Our [Page Q280] Catholic friends, for instance, would say, You do not have the Apostolic ordination; therefore, you cannot preach. You cannot serve in any religious capacity. Our Episcopalian friends would seem to say, No, you did not have the holy hands of the Episcopal Bishop laid upon you.
A little disposition of the same nature is manifested by nearly all of the denominations—What authority have you ? So the disciples, finding a man who was casting out devils in Jesus' name, said, What authority have you to cast out devils? Jesus did not send you out as one of the twelve; he did not send you out as one of the seventy. You have no business in this work.
Our Lord's answer to them showed that they were laboring under a mistaken view. While they were specially commissioned to perform miracles, yet if anyone else could do the same things, it was not their province to hinder or object in any sense of the word, but rather they should have taken the broad, sympathetic view, and said, My dear friend, I see you are casting out devils. You are doing a good work. We are glad you can cast them out because of all the poor people you can relieve. The fact that you have not followed with us indicates that you do not know our Master, and we should be glad to have you come and get acquainted with him, too.
And so, we think, it should be with us. Whenever we find anyone doing a good work, helping the world in any sense of the word, whether it be by keeping a mission or helping the heathen or helping a newsboy, or by some other work, to oppose sin or relieve suffering, we should be sympathetic to the extent that we see they have good hearts, good intentions, good desires. Instead of working against them or hindering them in any manner, we should speak an encouraging word and endeavor to lead them to fuller light. This does not mean that we should follow with them and leave our special commission of teaching the Truth which the Lord has given us, but that we should not object to the Lord's using various agencies for accomplishing his work. We should not think that we alone have the privilege of engaging in his work; that we have patent rights on his work, and can hinder others from doing what they may be able to do and take pleasure in doing.
Q280:2 QUESTION (1912-Z)—2—"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9.) How comprehensive is the word "all" here used?
ANSWER.—Except sin against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31,32), all manner of sin amongst the sons of men shall be forgiven, either in this Age or in the Age to come. The Holy Spirit here denotes a light, an intelligence, respecting God's purpose. Whoever wilfully and intelligently would sin against Jesus, would be guilty of [Page Q281] blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But if he blaspheme the name of Jesus, being deceived in some way, then the sin is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and may be forgiven. In the case of the Church, these forgivable sins will be forgiven through the Advocate, who has appeared for us in the Heavenly Court and can restore us to favor with the Father, unless we sin against full light and knowledge. To do this would be to take ourselves out of His hands.
But there might be a sin partly wilful—a sin in which both superstition or weakness and a certain amount of wilfulness had a part. As to how this would be possible we answer that there is a difference between the forgiveness of the moral obliquity and the sin. For instance, a child has committed some trespass and the parent says, "I will punish you for what you have done." There might be two parts of the punishment, one corporal punishment, the other the displeasure of the parent.
With some children the latter part of the punishment, the cloud between the child and parent, would be unbearable. Then the parent might say, "Since you tell me that you are sorry and that you will never do it again, I forgive you. But I told you that there would be a penalty attaching to disobedience. I will make the penalty as light as would seem best in my judgment, but you must still bear punishment." And that which would be proper for an earthly parent we may consider might be done by the Heavenly Father.
In the case of the Prophet David: he committed two very serious, grievous sins—one in respect to Uriah and Uriah's wife, and the other in respect to Uriah's death. But we remember with what perseverance David pleaded with the Lord; and though the Lord indicated His forgiveness, yet there must be a punishment. David's child died.—2 Sam. 12:15-22. Again, Satan provoked David to number Israel, contrary to the command of the Lord: God was displeased and smote Israel.
Again David repented and prayed earnestly for forgiveness. The Lord offered him three things, one of which be must choose as the punishment for his sin. "Thus," said the Lord, "Choose thee either three years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel." (1 Chron. 21:10-14.) Realizing his own weakness, David, in humility declined to make a choice. The three days' pestilence was sent upon Israel, and there fell seventy thousand men; but in the meantime before the punishment reached David, he had received the Lord's forgiveness for his sin.
So with the sins of the Lord's people. If there is more or less of ignorance, then the punishment is in proportion to the amount of wilfulness. Temptations come to us and to all mankind. Christ died for man's sin, from which He freely absolves the whole human family—the Church now, and the world in their day of trial.
ANSWER.—Jesus said, "If any man will be my disciple." He was inviting a special class. The Gospel at the present time is good tidings, the very best tidings that could come to the elect class that is being called out. God is not forcing anybody, He is merely inviting them. When Jesus said, "Let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me," which is the narrow way, he was inviting whoever wanted to be his disciple, his follower, to walk in this narrow way, and said, "Where I am, there will that disciple be." Jesus, you remember, took up his cross, he laid aside every weight and faithfully laid down his life, and the Father raised him up to glory, honor and immortality. And so, Jesus said that any of us coming along who desired to do these things might do so, but no man can do them unless he first hear them. "No man can come unto me except the Father which sent me draw him," said Jesus. You see the drawing is of God, and through his word. Those of mankind who have no ear to hear, or who never hear the message, are not drawn, they are not called; not any more than if there were twenty people outside the door there, and I went to the door and suppose that of the twenty, ten were deaf, and I shouted aloud, "Every one of you that will come in I will give a ten dollar bill!" How many did I call? Only those that had the ear. The other men that had no ear, that were deaf, were not called. It would be foolish for me to say they were all called. Only those that had the ear were called. Now, as a matter of fact not one-half of the people have an ear to hear. There are various things which fill the ears of mankind. With some it is pleasure; with some, money; with some, weakness of the flesh, etc., everything else than the voice of God. But the voice of God is inviting a little flock to walk with God and be joint-heirs with Christ, associated with him in his glorious kingdom.
The Jews, you know, are a very intelligent people, the very highest at that time in religious attainment. No other nation was so well advanced. The law that God had given them for several hundred years had brought the Jewish people up to a very high development, and I should not wonder if there are more Jews proportionately in the little flock than of any other class. But now they got the first call—to the Jew first—so in the next age, then comes the restitution, and it is the Jew first. The Scriptures clearly intimate that the blessings will come to the Jews immediately after this Gospel age ends; that the blessings from Messiah will come first to natural Israel, all that God promised them. He never promised Israel spiritual things. If you will read all through the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, you will see God never made a suggestion to the Jew of anything of a heavenly kind. To the contrary, the blessings promised to them were all earthly. For instance, after telling about the renewed earth, after Messiah's reign would commence, God said through the prophet, "Ye shall build houses and inhabit them, and shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them, and you shall long enjoy the work of your hands." These are earthly blessings, and do not belong to us at all. They belong to the restitution times when the blessings of the Lord will be to all mankind, beginning with the Jew and extending to all nations and kindreds and tongues.
Q774:1 QUESTION—In Matt. 17:20, Jesus said to his disciples "if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Could one have faith to remove a literal mountain? (A.C.D.)
ANSWER—The question would seem to be a preposterous one, but when we reflect upon the meaning of the word faith; that it is not imagination or blind credulity, but, as defined by the Apostle, "Faith is a basis of things hoped for; a conviction of things unseen." (Heb. 11:1.) We can see that our Lord's teaching here is in agreement with what he taught on another occasion (John 15:7) where he set forth that the request must be in harmony with the Divine will. But since there is no basis of evidence for faith that the will of God is to remove literal mountains in answer to any idle or self-willed, or ignorant commands of men to do so, a genuine faith in his willingness to do it now is an impossibility. But regarding the mountain as a symbol of difficulty and obstruction in our individual Christian course, or in the course of God's work, we know that "Miracles" are wrought for those who exercise faith; and they going forward in the strength of the Lord, are permitted to overcome difficulties and to work righteousness otherwise impossible.
ANSWER—Faith may be cultivated as any other mental [Page Q775] quality, and is increased in proportion to knowledge and reliance upon that knowledge. To have faith in God we must learn His character, plans, and purposes. This we acquire by a study of His word and relying upon the promises and truths therein stated. False doctrines have made God's character appear hideous. "Fear (dread) of him is taught by the precepts of men." A true knowledge of his character and plan greatly increase our faith in and love for him. Faith is scripturally defined as "the understanding of things hoped far, the proof of things unseen." Man hopes for eternal life in happiness. A basis for that hope is found in the word of God. A doubter may become a most earnest and tenacious believer upon receiving proper evidence. "Life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ." (Rom. 6:23.) His word is the only evidence pointing out clearly the way of obtaining that gift. To increase our faith we must, therefore, study God's word in a humble and prayerful manner, with the desire to know and do His will, and to rely upon His word. One who knows the letter of His word and fails to rely upon it has little faith. Another both knows the word and relies upon it and strong faith results. This is illustrated by the following incident; A man doubting the strength of the ice to bear his weight crawled across the river an his hands and knees, and just as he reached the opposite shore he was overtaken by a man, who had confidence in the strength of the ice, gaily driving a team of horses hitched to a sled loaded with pig iron.
ANSWER—A word for word rendering from the oldest Greek manuscripts of the quotation given above is as follows: "But the Son of Man coming, indeed, will He find the faith on the earth?" The "faith" in the text would have the meaning of system of belief or doctrines, as expressed in the Bible statement, "The faith once delivered to the saints." The Master's words imply that the existence of the true faith at the time of His second coming would be somewhat doubtful. The Lord's words are remarkably fulfilled in the conditions of the present day. We see that, owing to the hundreds of conflicting creeds and doctrinal systems; the many "isms," and the strong delusions and multiplied errors; so that if it were possible the very elect would be deceived; not many are holding to the true faith—only the "very elect." (Matt. 24:24.) The object of the Lord's return is to put aside all of the evil and the error, and to fill the whole earth with the true faith and knowledge of God and thus to bring about the blessing of all mankind.—Habakkuk 2:14.
ANSWER—In the larger sense, the Universe is God's home or house, and this earth is His footstool. We know not [Page Q776] how many angelic orders there are, but the Scriptures intimate that there are spirit beings of various grades, of different nature, each perfect, but differing one from the other. The Divine Plan, in connection with their creation, made full arrangement for their comfort and happiness to all eternity. Similarly, when God created man He provided for his welfare to all eternity, giving him an earthly home, mansion, or apartment in the great House. Our Lord, in calling His Church, invited them to become God's "New Creation." He promised those who would become His footstep followers, bearing their cross after Him, that eventually they should be with Him, sharing His glory on the heavenly plane. They should be like unto the angels, but higher than the angels—His Bride. There is no place yet for this "New Creation," except in the Father's purpose, or plan, in which provision for the Church, as the Bride of Christ, had already been made. But it needed to be prepared for them, and they needed to be prepared for it. This preparation has gone on from the time our Lord said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2,3).
Q776:1 QUESTION—What kind of fire must that be which is to burn up the earth at the end of the world, when it is written of that very time, "THERE SHALL NOT BE A COAL TO WARM AT, NOR FIRE TO SIT BEFORE?" See Isa. 47:14.
ANSWER—The Scriptures in many places refer to the time of destruction in the end of the present order of things under various symbols or illustrations such as "fire," "earthquake," "whirlwind," etc. The literal earth or planet on which we dwell is not referred to in connection with these statements, but the present social order, with all of its selfishness and evil, is to be destroyed in a destructive time of trouble "such as was not since there was a nation." The earth itself will never pass away, for the Bible declares the Lord formed it to be inhabited and will eventually "make the place of His feet (His footstool—the earth) glorious." The expression of the Prophet, "there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before," we understand to signify that during the time of trouble and distress that shall come upon the nations in the last days, there will be no place or source of comfort and consolation for the class of false prophets or prognosticators of the preceding verse.
ANSWER—An improper conception of the Scriptures has led to many ludicrous conclusions concerning the destruction of the earth by fire. A man in western Pennsylvania became so thoroughly imbued with the thought that the world will be burned up by the Lord in the last days, that he vigorously protested against the great consumption of coal, [Page Q777] gas and oil now being mined and removed from below the earth's surface, declaring, "that the Lord will not have enough fuel with which to burn up the world when the time comes to do so, if this thing keeps up." Others have had the thought that even the literal heavens will be consumed in that dreadful conflagration. If the heaven is to be destroyed, where would even the Lord find a habitation?
The Apostle's words in 2 Pet. 3 are cited as authority by those who hold the theory of a literal destruction of heaven and earth. But let us observe that the Apostle is using figurative language. He mentions three worlds and three heavens, clearly meaning dispensation or ages each relating to a different social order and a spiritual rule. One of these ended with a great flood and the present is to pass away with a "great time of trouble" (Dan. 12:1). The prophet (Zep. 3:8,9) points out that after the present order of things passes away "then the Lord will turn to the people a pure message that they may all call upon the Lord," thus showing that the people remain. The Lord "made the earth to be inhabited" (Isa. 14:18) (Isa. 45:18). "The earth abideth forever" (Eccl. 1:4). It shall yet be a fit habitation for man. (Psa. 67:6.)
But one instance of straying from the path of rectitude and sobriety in a long life of fidelity to the principles of righteousness will stand out with startling distinctness and will be the subject of more consideration than all of the individual's noble acts and traits combined. However, we shall not leave Noah defenseless, but will call attention to the fact that his intoxication was after the flood and was wholly unintentional. The flood wrought great changes in the atmospheric conditions of our earth; to our understanding the deluge was produced by the precipitation to the earth of an immense quantity of water which previously had surrounded the earth at a distance as a cloudy canopy. The dissolution of this canopy or envelope of water not only produced the flood, but altered the conditions of nature so that storms, rains, etc., resulted, things which had never been before. (Gen. 2:5,6.) Another result, we believe, was the development of an acidulous condition of the atmosphere tending to produce ferment, which directly affected human longevity, so that according to the Scriptures the average of human life decreased from eight and nine hundred years to one hundred. This ferment from the changed atmosphere, affecting the grape, generated "mold," and hence the alcoholic condition which produces drunkenness. According to the record, Noah's drunkenness was the result of the first vintage of grapes after the flood, and it evidently was contrary to all of his experiences preceding the flood. We are justified, therefore, in supposing that this one instance of Noah's having been intoxicated was the [Page Q778]result of ignorance respecting the changed character of the grape product fermented.
ANSWER—The Bible (Gen. 6:15) gives the dimensions as follows: Three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits broad and thirty cubits high. The length of the cubit is variously estimated. The modern cubit is 18 inches, linear measure; the sacred cubit of the Jews is 21.88 inches. According to the latter the ark was 547.3 feet long, 91.2 feet wide and 54 feet high. The capacity, 2,730,782 cubic feet. Tonnage, 81,042. It is impossible however, to do more than merely to estimate the dimensions as no one can be absolutely sure as to the length of the cubit according to which the ark was constructed. There are some modern vessels of greater length than the ark, but the capacity of the ark was three times as great as any vessel afloat. It provided plenty of room for Noah and his family and pairs of all the 244 species of animals, taken in, as scheduled by the Buffon, together with all supplies needed for the long voyage. The design has been found in actual practice to yield the best results for safety and stowage.
ANSWER—Scientific thought is coming more and more into harmony with the Scripture teachings as to the occurrence of an actual flood at about the time indicated in the Genesis account. From the latest investigations and researches, the conclusion has been formed that this earth was, in times remote, a part of the sun, and that it was thrown off, or detached from the central orb in the form of gas. In course of time, this whirling mass would cool and condense, and resolve itself into solids and liquids with the central mass as a nucleus around which several canopies or rings, similar to the rings of the planet Saturn, were developed. These would condense and in turn would eventually be precipitated to the earth one by one. Science and the Bible agree that there were six of these "canopies," and these, coming to the earth in their regular order, formed the six creative "days" or epochs as narrated in the first chapter of Genesis; the last one, being of water, brought about the deluge, or Noah's flood.
ANSWER—The Apostle Paul, because of his zeal and earnestness in the cause of Christ, had suffered opposition and persecution of various kinds and had even endured hunger and thirst and hardships, as he proceeds to narrate in this same chapter. To those without faith in Christ and His teachings this was all foolishness on the part of the Apostle. To them he seemed to be a religious fanatic—a [Page Q779] fool. And evidently some of the Christian brethren at Corinth got this same idea, deeming it needless to endure so much contempt and hardships for the Master's cause. These conditions have prevailed all down throughout the Christian Era, the consecrated, devoted people of the Lord, who have given their all, sacrificing ease, comfort and worldly fame and riches in their desire to serve Him who endured so much for their sakes, have ever been ridiculed and despised by the common lot who, because of their diminutive mental and moral caliber, could not appreciate the grandeur and the nobility of the characters and teachings of these who truly deserve the name of Christian. Well has one expressed the matter in the following lines—