Theories as to a Future State
2. C. T. RUSSELL: "OVERCOMERS"
I do not know that those of whom I have now to speak would
claim the title of "Overcomers" as distinctively theirs. It is, however, a
popular name for them, which has evidently its ground in some of their known
doctrines. I use it thus for the body of people not long since arisen whose
headquarters are in Alleghany, Pennsylvania. and whose monthly organ, edited by
C. T. Russell, is "Zions Watchtower."
Mr. Russell himself seems to be not merely the head but the whole inspiration of the movement; and the books which contain its principles are but reprints from the "Tower." These principles are fearlessly stated, and challenge universal acceptance, being pressed by diligent colportage and very active tract-distribution upon the attention of the masses. They are professed to be purely scriptural - indeed to give the full explanation of Scripture - to settle all difficulties and to solve all problems. "Be it known," says Mr. Russell, "that no other system of theology even claims, or has ever attempted, to harmonize in itself EVERY statement of the Bible; yet nothing short of this can we claim for these views." This is no slight assumption, and that many are examining it may be inferred from the fact that my copy of the volume which contains it purports to be one of the seventieth thousand, a number which it must by this time have far exceeded.
The views are evidently, as are Mr. Bakers, an evolution from Mr. Dunns. Redemptive resurrection; full and equal trial for all by a gospel to be announced after resurrection to the unsaved; and the annihilation of the finally impenitent: these are the cardinal points. But Mr. Russell has in other respects, as we shall see, gone far beyond Mr. Dunn and the rest of his disciples, as he is far beyond them in assumption. What they timidly advance, he asserts with the fullest assurance; and this is a well-known element of success. The Watchtower principles are gaining ground in many and unlocked-for places, if we may trust its frequent notices of accessions from the ranks of denominations accounted orthodox.
In our review of them, we shall have to go beyond our usual range, and take up points which may not seem to be within the scope of our present undertaking; but the system is a well-compacted one, and can only be considered properly when taken as a whole. As a whole, therefore, we shall consider it, although many points will need but brief discussion. We may divide what this system brings before us into three main topics:
1. The Saviour;
2. The present salvation;
3. The final salvation of those here unsaved.
1. The Saviour
Mr. Russells creed is a peculiar form of Arianism. His Christ is but "the chiefest of all Gods creatures" ("Food," p. 139), or, as he quotes it for his purpose, "the beginning of the creation of God" ("Millennial Dawn," vol. 1, p. 226). He was "in a form of God - a spiritual form, a spirit being" (p. 174). For the angels are not the highest form of spiritual being, and Jesus was higher than the angels, yet not so high as He is now (p. 174).
The whole foundation of Christianity is thus taken away at once; but thus, thank God, the system is revealed at the start as antichristian, and its power is broken for those who know Christ. "The beginning of the creation of God" is not said of Him as what He was before He descended to the earth, but as what He is as man having gone up again. For so Colossians teaches (chap. i. i8) - "He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence." For Gods good pleasure is, "in the dispensation of the fullness of times, to gather together" - literally, "head up," - "all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth" (Eph. i. 10). And thus He is the "first-born* of every creature" in this wide sphere of eternal blessing.
*"Firstborn" does not necessarily speak of priority in time, but in dignity sometimes, because of the privileges attaching to birthright. Thus God says to Pharaoh (Ex. iv. 22), "Israel is My son, even My first-born;" and in Jeremiah (xxxi. 9), "I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My first-born;" thus also of David, the type of Christ (Ps. lxxxix, 27), "1 will make him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth," So also Christians are "the Church of the first-born ones, whose names are written in heaven" (Heb. xii. 23),in contrast to Israel, Gods first-born upon earth, and the "spirits of just men made perfect" - Old-Testament saints.
His primal distinction from all creatures is emphatically asserted in Scripture, and the same scripture as we have just quoted: "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him" (Col. i.). He is Creator, not created, and all created things are not only by but for Him. Did He, a creature, create all things for Himself? What is left then for God?
Nay, He is openly owned, and from eternity, as God. The babe in Bethlehem is He whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Mic. v. 2). The Man smitten upon the cross is Jehovahs fellow (Zech. xiii. 7). The glory of Jehovah upon which Isaiah gazed (chap. vi.) was the glory of Christ (Jno. xii. 41). The "form of God" which was His before He came in the flesh involved as truly His being God, as the "form of a servant" which He took involved His becoming one. And if He were one all through, how could He become one (Phil. II. 7)?
So He whom John sees (Rev. i.) as Son of Man, yet with the glory of the Ancient of Days (comp. Dan. vii.), declares Himself "the First and the Last." Thomas worships Him unrebuked as "My Lord and my God" (Jno. xx. 28). Yea, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jno. i.).
Mr. Russells Christ is but a creature, not even possessing immortality before He came into the world, and only "guaranteed everlasting life as long as obedient" (" Food," p. 139). It is a creature, then, who created, and a creature who re-redeemed us. There is no movement on Gods part; the unexampled self-humiliation we had dreamed of never took place. Our gratitude, our praise is due to another. It is not He who ordained the penalty who has stooped under the penalty. God merely planned what another executed; stayed up in heaven, and looked on only while another moved. God is shut out from the whole work of atonement!
What moved, then, this Christ of Mr. Russell (not mine, thank God!) to become man for mans redemption? Not simple, disinterested love, you may be sure. This is conspicuous as a motive, that "as a reward for his faith in Gods promise and obedience to His will, he would be exalted to the right hand (chief place of power), and have inherent life (life in himself,) the divine degree - immortality" (" Food," p. 142)!
No doubt beside this there are other motives given, "to ransom a race of beings from sin and death," and to "bring some of the human race to the higher plane of being - the spiritual." But the characteristic of love is not found - "love seeketh not her own," - and the glory of God is consistently enough omitted.
Here, however, is creature-obedience; and it has power to set the one who fulfills it on the throne of God! He seeks his own glory, though the Lord contrasts that with His object (Jno. vii. 18). But now let us look at how this being becomes man.
We must not imagine anything like what we call incarnation. We think of One who in becoming man did not cease to be God, - in whom, as incarnate, were two natures - a divine and human. Mr. Russell refuses this. His Christ, when down in the world, was a man, and nothing more; except that he brought with him, in a way Mr. Russell thinks he can account for, the memory of heavenly things! We do not propose to study this problem now. We propose rather to ask this man of "all mysteries and all knowledge," who can "harmonize every statement of the Bible," with an emphasis even on the "every," - how he would explain a few passages that strike us here.
What, for instance, of that statement of the apostle, as it really reads, "The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory; glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"? Here the reference is very plainly to the tabernacle of old in which the divine glory dwelt. it was in flesh the Word tabernacled, and displayed its glory, was it not? Was it only perfect manhood that was seen then, or was it really divine glory that dwelt and could be seen?
Or WHO was the "child born," the "son given," whose name should be called "The Mighty God" (Isa. ix. 6)? v
Or how could He upon the cross be the Man that was Jehovahs "fellow," as Jehovah Himself declares?
Or who is it that says God is His Father, "making Himself equal with God" (Jno. v. 18)?
Or of whom is it that the apostle says "Esaias beheld His glory" when he saw the vision of the Lord of Hosts (Jno. XII. 41)?
Or who is it that says to Philip, "Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, then, Show us the Father "?
These texts apply to the Lord when He was in the flesh amongst us, and here is a mystery which no wisdom that Mr. Russell is master of can read for us, while the simplest believer in the Lords twofold nature understands them without difficulty. The Jews, too, who charged Him with blasphemy for it, knew that being a man, He made Himself God. Was it all a mistake on their part? and did He let them go on in their self-deception?
But we must pass on to consider His work: what was it that He suffered for us? What was the work of atonement? Mr. Russell says it was simply death, though elsewhere he mixes it up with His life-work. He gave up His life, he tells us, "His human existence. This giving up was at the time of His baptism, and His death was typified in that act. But after giving up or consecrating His life as a ransom, He was three and a half years in actually giving it up, - spending it in the service of others, and finally ending it on the cross" ("Food," p. 140). We shall find the meaning of this definition in a little while. Elsewhere the ransom-price is stated to be simply "death;" which is understood in the materialistic sense - "extinction." Thus, we are assured, Christ died, as man eternally, and in resurrection He is a man no longer - "no longer a human being in any sense" ("Food," p. 113; Mil. Dawn, p. 227). Concerning this, we shall inquire directly.
But we are particularly warned to remember "that not the pain and suffering in dying, but death - the extinction of life - in which it culminates, is the penalty of sin. The suffering is only incidental to it, and the penalty falls on many with little or no suffering" (Mil. Dawn, p. 149). Thus it should be death, and death only, apart from suffering, that was the penalty the Lord endured - the ransom-price.
This, however, is not what Scripture teaches. It teaches, indeed, that "Christ died for our sins." It does not teach that death alone, the simple giving up of life, was what the Lord endured, or had to endure, for us. Far otherwise.
Why, then, that death of shame and aggravated suffering - the death of the cross? Was this but incidental - a mere circumstance? Strange indeed would it be to imagine this!
Look at Gethsemane, and contemplate the Lords agony there - a sorrow so great that the ministry of an angel is needed to give Him physical strength to sustain it. Is all this overwhelming sorrow simply at passing through death, as all men meet it?
It is not, assuredly. The death of the cross is an infinitely greater depth than death alone would be, and the death of the CROSS is what is needed for our redemption. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a CURSE for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that " - dieth, merely? No; but - "dieth ON A TREE"!
Another mystery which Mr. Russell cannot explain to us. Why should redemption be the fruit of dying on a tree? Why should that be the curse of the law? Yet it is plainly taught "For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so also must the Son of Man be LIFTED UP, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jno. iii. 15). These are His own words; and again: "I, if I be LIFTED UP from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (Jno. xii. 32).
The last chapter of Hebrews adds another particular: "For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered WITHOUT THE GATE. Here again is a point we never should have thought of. Why must it be, that if the people are to be sanctified by the blood of Jesus, He must suffer without the gate? Is not His blood any where the same precious blood? Is it not the blood of the spotless, peerless Lamb of God? Place, position, - outside the gate, lifted up from the earth, hanging on a tree, - how can this add any thing to, be any element in atonement?
Certainly, in themselves, these things are nothing. Shall we, then, turn from them as meaningless? We dare not; Scripture insists too emphatically on them. If as mere outward things they are nothing, then we must look for something deeper in them. The apostle prepares us for this by linking the "outside the gate" with "outside the camp" in what we know had a typical, spiritual meaning. With hanging on the tree he associates also the "curse of the law." And now the meaning becomes apparent. The curse is wrath, separation from God, and all that He owns as His. See now the darkness that settles upon the cross! Is not God light? The light is withdrawn! Listen to the anguished cry of the Sufferer: does He not declare that God has forsaken Him? Yes, not death alone is the penalty upon the sinner: "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." And this appointed, judgment - inconceivably more than death - is what the Lord bears for us when He bears our sins in His own body on the tree.
Mr. Russell is at fault, then, grievously. The atonement that he imagines, would not atone. So unitedly affirm the epistle to the Galatians and the epistle to the Hebrews. So affirm, in a somewhat different way, the gospel of John and the gospels of Mark and Matthew. Read the twenty-second psalm in the light of the Lords forsaken cry, and the same thing will be traced throughout. "Be not far from Me" is the desolate wail : "Thou hearest not;" "but Thou art holy," if - solitary exception to all Gods ways with men - the righteous One is now forsaken.
The penalty is not death alone, and the penalty is not extinction. Christ was not extinct in death, and to say He was is to deny the glory of His person. "This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise" negatives the dreadful thought. But we have examined elsewhere what death is. Let us see now how the truth of atonement tells upon Mr. Russells system.
For whom was this penalty paid? Christ, Mr. Russell affirms, was "Adams substitute or representative before the broken law, and thus gave Himself a ransom for all" (Mil. Dawn, p. 151). This he supposes to be got from Rom. v. 18, 19, "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one mans disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
This is not just according to the original, as Mr. Russell ought to know; but yet, taken as it stands, his doctrine is not in it. There is a comparison as well as contrast between the effect of Adams trespass and Christs accomplished righteousness, but no statement that Christ was Adams substitute or bore Adams sin. Nor is such a statement any where to be found. He says, -
"The proposition is a plain one: As many as have been condemned to death because of Adams sin shall have life-privileges restored because their penalty was paid by Jesus, who became Adams substitute or representative before the broken law, and thus gave Himself a ransom for all."
Here is palpable confusion. Adam is "the figure of Him that was to come," says the apostle (v. 14); and that is the key to the present passage, in which he compares them. That Christ was Adams substitute is Mr. Russells invention only, and no where said.
And before what "broken law" was He a substitute? Had Adams law any curse for him that hung upon a tree? This was what Christ bore, as we have seen; and we have seen its profound significance. Dying merely was not the curse, and simply to have died would not have been atonement.
Moreover, while the consequence would follow which Mr. Russell puts, supposing his view were true, that the whole world would get without fail all the blessing of atonement. Scripture declares that the propitiation is "through faith, by His blood" (Rom. iii. 25, - R. V.), therefore assures this to none except in this way. Whereas, according to Mr. Russell, it is not through faith at all, and no question of faith. Eternal salvation, he contends, may still be by faith, but not the fruit of atonement, which all alike must share.
Nor are the consequences of atonement "life-privileges restored," - i.e., a condition like Adams, and a new trial; but eternal life, without possibility of perishing, along with justification and a standing in grace, of which Mr. Russells scheme knows nothing. But at this we shall have to look again.
He asks, as others have asked before him, -
"If Jesus redeemed mankind, died in our stead, as our ransom, went into death that we might be set free from it, is it not evident that the death which He suffered for the unjust was of the same kind exactly that they were condemned to? Did He, then, suffer eternal torture for our sins? If not, then so surely as He died for our sins the punishment of our sins was death, and not life in any sense or condition" (P. 154).
Now "as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," death and judgment were what our Lord took for us - the exact, full penalty of sin. Thus He glorified Gods righteousness in bearing just what He had pronounced upon sin. To have borne any thing else would not have glorified Him in inflicting that.
But these two things He bore in the reverse order of that in which man would bear them. It was not for Him "after death, the judgment," but before death, so that with death close at hand, He could say, "It is finished," and depart to paradise.
The wrath He bore could not be "eternal" - granted. He was saved out of death, heard for His piety (Heb. v. 7, Gk.) Gods holy One could not even as to the body see corruption (Acts ii. 27). Doom is eternal for the sinner only because he is eternally a sinner. The wrath borne for the saved sinner could not be that.
But Mr. Russell is quite wrong in supposing that "God hath laid upon Him the iniquities of us all" applies to all the world. It is what faith says, and true for those who have faith, - "a propitiation through faith."
And what shall we say of the argument with which he supports his theory of Christs being Adams substitute, that "one unforfeited life could redeem one forfeited life and no more"? "The one perfect one," he says, "the Man Christ Jesus, who redeemed the fallen Adam (and our losses through him) could have been a ransom [corresponding price] for all, under no other circumstances than those of the plan which God chose" (p. 130).
The shred of Scripture here is in "a ransom for all," which we are told means "corresponding price." Nor need there be any objection, so long as this is not supposed to necessitate just "one life for one life" - a supposition which is indeed the "commercial theory of atonement" pushed to its fullest extent. The glorifying of God in view of sin is not here the great point, but the simple giving Him so much for so much, - a dreadful estimate or blasphemy of the divine nature, and in which Christs life is valued at just the worth of any other mans! So much so that as actual value it could not redeem two persons of the sons of Adam! Yet, by a bold stroke of jugglery this is actually made to redound to the credit of the system, and, atonement being made for Adam himself, what could not otherwise have availed for two, avails absolutely now for the whole human race! All their sins are heaped upon Adam; no one is guilty (or should be, at least,) but he; so that to atone for Adam covers all the rest! It is simply a clever plan for making a very large purchase with a very little money; and this traders wit Mr. Russell credits to God as divine wisdom.
He does believe that "it is appointed unto men once to die," but not "after this the judgment." On the contrary, the wicked sleep awhile in nonentity, and then awake in happiness, restored in resurrection to the lost Adamic condition, from which indeed they may still slip and be lost; but "resurrection of judgment" there is not. The text should read, one would think, "They that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of life also !" There is an attempt to escape from this, however, which we shall consider later.
"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" must have, therefore, no meaning, or refer to repentance in an afterlife, or to - Mr. Russell knows what. Perhaps, as he certainly must know, he will explain.
The passages commonly used by Universalists, it is natural, of course, that he should press for his own view, though it is not needful here to take them up again. He would have us remember, however, that "the ransom for all, given by the Man Christ Jesus, does not give or guarantee everlasting life and blessing to any man, but it does give and guarantee to every man another opportunity, or trial, for life everlasting" (p. 146). He gives no text for this, and does not explain some texts which we have been accustomed to think teach the opposite. As even our Sunday-school children have them in their memories, it would have been as well if he had taken some notice of them.
Such is atonement and such its object for Mr. Russell. Being the work of a creature, and for his own benefit largely, it would avail but little, as even he allows, but for an ingenious plan of making it stretch beyond its measure. Let us now trace the result for the creature-saviour, who, strangely as it would seem, made all things for himself, and has purchased Mr. Russell with his own blood. He has gained, it seems, as to himself, the prize he aimed at; he is become immortal, and possesses the divine nature, life in himself, and a source of life to others.
We have seen that originally Christ was, according to this conception, the highest of creatures, "in a form of God - that is, possessed of a spirit-nature." This He gave up to become a man, and was thus a mere man, although a perfect one: -
"When Jesus was in the flesh, he was a perfect human being; previous to that time, he was a perfect spiritual being; and since his resurrection, he is a perfect spiritual being of the highest or divine order. It was not until the time of his consecration even unto death, as typified in his baptism - at thirty years of age (manhood according to the law, and therefore the right time to consecrate himself as a man,) that he received the earnest of his inheritance of the divine nature (Matt. iii. 16, 17). The human nature must be consecrated to death before he could receive even the pledge of the divine nature. And not until that consecration was actually carried out, and Jesus had actually sacrificed the human nature, even unto death, was he a full partaker of the divine nature. After becoming a man, he became obedient unto death: wherefore God hath highly exalted him to the divine nature (Phil. ii. 8, 9). If this scripture be true, it follows that he was not exalted to the divine nature until the human nature was actually sacrificed - dead. Thus we see that in Jesus there was no mixture of natures, but that twice he experienced a change of nature" (Mil. Dawn, 175, 176).
It seems almost doing too much honour to this to refute it. Where is the descent of the Spirit upon our Lord said to be the earnest of His inheritance? Where is this inheritance said to be the divine nature? The first is an unwarranted application of what is said as to us (Eph. i. 13, 14). The second is never any where said at all. All this is human conjecture and invention merely. But the passage in Philippians is still more perverted: "Wherefore, God hath also highly exalted Him" is said indeed; "to the divine nature" is a fraudulent addition.
But the passage does say, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly, earthly, and infernal beings, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Does this assert or imply the assuming of the divine nature then? Mr. Russell should show us how.
Instead of this, he goes on to discuss the nature of spiritbeing, confounding this with the "spiritual body" of the resurrection, and from the example of angels (who, he decides, have spiritual bodies), affirms of these power of invisibility. a human appearance and a glorious, bright condition: all which makes plain to him that the spiritual and human natures are separate and distinct, and that there is "no evidence that the one shall evolve or develop into the other," though a few will be thus changed.
He then examines the terms "mortal" and "immortal" defining the first to be "liable to death" and the other "not liable" and then assures us that "nowhere in Scripture is it stated that angels are immortal, nor that restored mankind will be immortal." In fact, Satan is to be destroyed! "Immortality pertains only to the divine nature" (Mil. Dawn, 177-83). Jesus is alone now immortal; and "at and after His resurrection was a spirit, a spiritual being and no longer a human being in any sense" (227).
Thus the "One Mediator between God and man - the MAN Christ Jesus," (1 Tim. ii. 5) is taken from us. He does not comment upon this text, that I can find; nor upon the appearance in Luke after the resurrection, when the Lord expressly calms the fears of those who "supposed that they had seen a spirit" with the words, "a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have" (Luke xxiv. 37, 39).
A spirit and a spiritual body are not, then, the same, clearly; and the passage in Corinthians equally assures us of this, for the word for "natural body" in the same place is "psychical," as we have seen elsewhere - "soulical" if we barbarize it into English: and you might as well say that the body that now is is a "soul," as that the resurrection-body is "spirit."
Nay, a man apart from the body is a "spirit," which decides also two things more against Mr. Russell: First, that death is not the complete extinction of man, as he believes; and secondly, that a spiritual nature is a normal part of humanity, instead of being, as he thinks, incompatible with it.
Now, if we add another thing, we may leave him to pick out of the ruins of his system any thing that is left of it. The angels, he tells us, are "mortal;" yet the Lord says of the "children of the resurrection" (Luke xx. 36), "Neither CAN they die any more" - that is, as Mr. Russell would allow in their case, immortality; but read on - "for they are EQUAL UNTO THE ANGELS!" Immortal, Mr. Russell, because they are equal to the mortal angels!
Yet all this is of the very foundation of his system. With its overthrow, the whole is gone. But we shall follow out now his theory of "the present salvation," and show how equally unscriptural it is throughout.
2. The Present Salvation
And first, briefly, as to the nature of man himself. He is, we learn, simply "a combination of life and body," and this is what "soul" means : it is his being or existence. This, too, it is that dies, or is dissolved: not the life, nor the body; but the life returns to God that gave it, the body to the dust, and so the being is dissolved, or gone ("Food," p. 126).
But not so says Scripture. It is the "earthly house of this tabernacle" which is "dissolved" (2 Cor. v. 1), and the Lord speaks of those that kill the body (which, if "Scripture cannot be broken," conclusively proves that the body does die), while He adds that those who can kill the body "are not able to kill the soul" (Matt. x. 28). An equally conclusive proof that (in ordinary death, at least,) the soul does not.
Of the "spirit of man," which alone knows the things of a man (1 Cor. ii. 11), Mr. Russell says nothing. It is an awkward matter for his theory of spiritual being, as we have seen. For man in death - just when he ought to be extinct, according to Mr. Russell - becomes a "spirit;" and the death of the spirit is unknown to Scripture.
But if the "soul" stand for the being of man, what would our author make of "destroying being and body in hell"? Or of Elijahs prayer, with the marginal reading which is literally exact, "Let the being of this child come into his inward parts again" (1 Kings xvii. 22)? Or of much else fully as incomprehensible as this?
We come now to look at what salvation is, as reached by men at the present time. The first thing necessary for us is, to be justified. This is by faith, not works, Christ having died for us; and being justified by faith, we have peace with God, "and are no longer enemies, but justified human sons, on the same plane as Adam and Jesus, except that they were actually perfect, while we are reckoned so of God. . . We stand in Gods sight absolutely spotless, because Jesus righteousness covers all our imperfections . . . and brings with it all the rights and blessings originally possessed before sin entered. It restores us to life and to fellowship with God. The fellowship we may use at once by the exercise of faith, and the life and fuller fellowship and joy are assured in Gods due time " (Mil. Dawn, pp. 228, 229).
However, we must not understand this word "assured" too strictly. Any one may enjoy "all the blessings due them on account of Christs ransom," and fall from all, and die the second death (" Food," p. 53). Nay, it is actually only for Christians that there is any present liability to this. "None but the little flock have as yet sufficient light to incur the final penalty, the second death" (Mil. Dawn, p. 142).
Then, though one who believes in Christ is justified by faith, yet this does not involve his being sanctified or begotten of God. This is a further step, and is by works, by consecration and self-sacrifice (Food pp. 115-6). The majority of the nominal church do not go on to this: "they are justified, but not sanctified, not entirely consecrated to God, not begotten, therefore, as spiritual beings." "This class receive the favour of God [justification] in vain (2 Cor. vi. 1); because failing to use it to go on and present themselves acceptable sacrifices, during this time in which sacrifices are acceptable to God. This class, though not saints, not members of the consecrated body, are called brethren by the apostle (Rom. xii. 1)" ! (Mil. Dawn, pp. 232-3). These, however, will attain to merely human perfection in the future state, in the image of God as Adam.
Let us examine this before we pass on. Does Scripture speak of such a class of justified ones, who are neither sanctified nor begotten of God? Surely not; nor does Mr. Russell attempt any serious proof. Scripture assures us that "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 Jno. v. 1); while Paul bids us "follow peace with all men, and sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. xii. 4); and Peter writes to Christians as "elect through sanctification of the Spirit unto the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. i. 2). Thus there can be no justification without sanctification, or apart from being born of God.
According to Mr. Russell, the great use of justification now is simply to enable some to make the acceptable sacrifice and join the class which are members of the body of Christ. (Mil. Dawn, p. 233.)
"The gospel-age is the period during which the body of Christ is called out of the world, and shown by faith the crown of life, and the exceeding great and precious promises whereby (by obedience to the calling and its requirements) they may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. i. 4)." (Mil. Dawn, p. 210.) "During the gospel-age [God] has been calling for the little flock of joint-heirs, saying, my son, give me thy heart; that is, give yourself, all your earthly powers, will, talents, - your all to me, even as Jesus has set you an example, and I will make you a son on a higher plane than the human; I will make you a spiritual son, with a spiritual body, like the risen Jesus - the express image of the Fathers person. If you will give up all of the earthly, consecrate it entirely, and use it up in my service, I will give you a higher nature than the rest of your race - I will make you partakers of the divine nature - make you heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ; if so be that ye suffer with him, that you may be also glorified together." (pp. 229, 230.)
Here, then, the principle of works comes in, and grace and the blood of Christ having lifted you to a lower level, you are to use it to take wing to this immensely higher one to the glory of your own performances ! But where is the scripture for this offer and its conditions? There is reference implied to two texts - Rom. viii. 17 and 2 Pet. i. 4 but the first declares that if children of God, we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, though it be true that suffering with Him is the way to the glory; and the second declares the effect of the exceeding great and precious promises in producing moral conformity to the divine nature. The latter is not the thing promised, but the thing produced, and produced by the promises, as received in faith, delivering us from the corruption that is in the world through lust. It is a present effect, not the prize of good conduct.
But here is the real bottom of these assertions (one can scarcely call them arguments), that Christ is not in resurrection a man any longer; that the human nature cannot be possessed along with the divine; that the divine nature implies immortality and a divine body (Mil. Dawn, p. 196); things which are all unscriptural inventions, and not truth at all. We have-only to hold fast the truth that Christ is man - the Man Christ Jesus, - and yet God over all blessed forever, and all this system of error falls to the ground. Think of a man daring to say, in his blindness as to the glory of the Lord, that the prize held out to men now is, to be what He is - "the express image of the Fathers person"! "Ye shall be as God could not have been more plainly uttered since Satan destroyed man in the garden with it.
Will they sit, as Christ does, on the Fathers throne?
As children of God we have, blessed be His name, the "divine nature;" not "divinity" (Food, p. 13), nor (as yet) immortality even; but eternal life in the Son of God (1 Jno. v. 11). This has to be denied in the system before us, which teaches that for any to enjoy everlasting life is for them to possess the right and means of continuing their life (by eating, etc., - Ps. lxxviii. 25) as long as they continue obedient to Gods laws" (Food, p. ii). Adam had everlasting life, we are told, but lost it when he fell; and he that believeth in Christ has not got it, spite of the Lords words, emphasized as they are by the statement, "is passed out of death into life" (Jno. v. 24; vi. 53, 54).
Thus the present possession is denied, in order to swell to blasphemous proportions the prize of the future. In the act of "consecration" (as they call it) to the pursuit of their own interests after the fashion already shown us, they hold, however, that a kind of spiritual life begins. They are then "begotten of God" - not "born," for new birth is only in resurrection.
"The Greek word gennao, and its derivations, sometimes translated begotten, and sometimes born," says Mr. Russell, "really contains both ideas, and should be translated by either one of these two English words. . . . When the active agent with which gennao is associated is a male, it should be translated begotten; when a female, born. Thus in 1 Jno. ii. 29; iii. 9; iv. 7; v. 1, 18; gennao should be begotten, because God (masculine) is the active agent. Sometimes, however, the translation is dependent on the nature of the act, whether masculine or feminine. Thus used in conjunction with ek, signifying from, or out of, it should be translated born. So in Jno. iii. 5, 6, gennao should he rendered born, as indicated by the word ek - out of water out of flesh, out of spirit" (Mil. Dawn, p. 276. n).
This looks like accuracy, has a measure of truth in it as to the use of the word, and yet, like all else here, is a deception. Would it be imagined, from what Mr. Russell says, that in every one of the passages in which we are told gennao must be rendered "begotten," the preposition ek is used, although the agent is masculine? Or that in Jno. 1. 13 it is "not out of blood, nor out of the will of the flesh, nor out of the will of man, but out of God"? Is it "begotten," or "born" here?
And in Jno. iii., 3, why should it be "begotten," when two verses further on it is "born"? Is not the Lord explaining the being "begotten from above" (as Mr. Russell renders the first passage, p. 276), as being "born of water and of the Spirit"? And here, where two elements combine, the (typical) water and the Spirit, is it not certain, if there were a difference; it would be "begotten," not "born"?
The truth is, it is the same expression all through, whether you say "begotten" or "born," and there is no ground for any difference.
Our author has some supplementary arguments as to the meaning of this new birth. He contends that to "enter into the kingdom of God" here means to share the ruling power, not to be "under" the kingdom as subjects! (p. 278, n.) A new and curious phraseology to cover an unscriptural thought; I cannot find at least the expression in Scripture, of people under the kingdom. The tares are gathered out of it (Matt. xiii. 41), not out from under it, as we are bidden to read, and the parables of the kingdom in general have nothing to say ordinarily of the ruling power.
But still more unfortunately for the argument, the Lord is undoubtedly referring to Israels entrance into the kingdom of God as prophesied by Ezekiel (chap. xxxvi. 25-27), in which these expressions "water" and "spirit" are found. And thus He could express His surprise that a master (or teacher) in Israel should not know upon what the blessing of the nation depended. Only He puts it here as a necessity, not merely for Israel, but for all; while the indubitable reference to Israel shows clearly that what is said does not refer to any thing peculiar (as Mr. Russell puts it) to the saints of the present "gospel-age."
But the most notable argument is derived from the eighth verse - "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." This refers, our author tells us, to the risen saints, who "will all be as invisible as the wind; and men not born thus, of the Spirit, will neither know whence they come nor when nor where they go" (p. 278)! It is a physical fact that provokes Nicodemus wonder, not the spiritual mystery, as we thought it, that whosoever is born again is born by the subtle operation of the unseen Spirit! Yet his question, which the Lord is answering, is plainly, "How can a man be born?"
That it is Israel to whom Ezekiels words have reference is again sufficient, moreover, to show how groundless is this interpretation.
To return to the act of consecration, in which spiritual life is said to begin. Those thus consecrating themselves "present their justified humanity a living sacrifice, as Jesus presented His perfect humanity a sacrifice - laying down all right and claim to future human existence, as well as ignoring present human gratifications, privileges, rights, etc." "Those thus transformed, or in process of change, are reckoned new creatures." They have bartered earth for heaven, humanity for divinity, - shrewd merchantmen, with their eye on eternity, and gain to self. They run for the highest honours, "sacrifice" the present to the future, and this sacrifice is of such efficacy as not only to raise its offerers (supposing they fulfill their obligations,) to the heights of glory, but even to supplement and perfect Christs atonement for the world!
"As the man Christ Jesus laid down or sacrificed his life for the world, so these become joint-sacrificers with him. Not that his sacrifice was insufficient and others needed, but while his is all-sufficient, these are permitted to become his bride and joint-heir if willing to serve and suffer with him" (Mil. Dawn, p. 208).
And yet though the sacrifice is "all-sufficient," the price is not yet fully paid: -
"But the price is not yet fully paid. . . . With her Lord the wife becomes a part of the Christ - the anointed body. She now fills up the measure of the afflictions of Christ which are behind - Col. i. 24. With him she bears the cross here, and when every member of that body is made a living sacrifice, has crucified the fleshly human nature, then the ATONEMENT sacrifice will be finished, and the bride being complete will enter with her Lord into the glory which follows, and share with him, in the joy that was set before him, and which he set before her - of blessing all the families of the earth, thus completing the AT-ONE-MENT between God and the redeemed race" ("Food," pp. 13, 14).
The sacrifice of Christ is all-sufficient, and yet the price is not fully paid till the Church has made her sacrifice! There is to be an over-payment beyond what is all-sufficient, and the price is put correspondingly too high. This is very well for the Church, however, which thus by sufferings which are for her own benefit, can raise the sacrifice to more than "all-sufficient," and fully pay an over-payment for the world!
But the proof? Well, you heard the scripture, Col. i. 24, clipped at both ends a little, to be sure, to make it fit in Mr. Russells system. For it is Paul who, according to the passage, was filling up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ - not of His atonement - for His bodys sake, which is the Church. How this can be the Church atoning for the world does not after all seem clear, and we should like a better explanation.
Our bodies a living sacrifice - is that atonement? Atonement was with a dead sacrifice, not a living one. And our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is that too atoning, because a sacrifice?
The whole of this is as morally low as it is a perversion of Scripture, and mentally incongruous. The "love" which "seeketh not her own" is not in it as a principle; and though Mr. Russell claims to "understand all mysteries and all knowledge," yet without "love" this is nothing. Yea, and "though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing."
According to this scheme, the love that came out after us was not in God: God is not the Saviour. It is a creature who has brought salvation, and he as a means of reaching a place beyond his original one. While his work puts us only on our own feet, to pursue the same pathway of self-exaltation, and add our mite to the already self-sufficient ransom for the world! What wonder, then, that the apostles words, the principle of his life - "the love of Christ constraineth me" - should not be found in this entire system? I may have overlooked something in some corner of a page, but I have not found it, and the omission is perfectly characteristic and decisive.
3. The Final Salvation
The eschatological views of Mr. Russell will not long detain us, as there is little that is peculiar to them except that raising of men to divinity - to be as God - which we have already looked at. How really this is so may be seen by such statements as the following: -
"Further, we learn that Jehovah, who alone possessed immortality originally, has highly exalted His Son, our Lord Jesus, to the same divine immortal nature; hence, he is now the express image of the Fathers person (Heb. i. 3). So we read, As the Father hath LIFE IN HIMSELF [Gods definition of immortality - life in himself, not drawn from other sources, or dependent on circumstances, but independent inherent life), so he hath given to the Son to have LIFE IN HIMSELF (Jno. v. 26). Since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, then, two beings are immortal; and, amazing grace! the same offer is made to the bride of the Lamb, being selected during the gospel-age" (Mil. Dawn, p. 207).
"Thus we see that the new gift is that held out for the bride - immortality - divinity" (" Food," p. 13). "In a word, as already scripturally expressed, it is to have life in himself, to be a fountain of life, a means of supplying life to others" (p. 139).
"The great work before this glorious anointed company - the Christ - necessitates their exaltation to the divine nature. No other than divine power could accomplish it" (Mil. Dawn. p. 287).
Here is the old lie in a more developed shape than ever presented, I believe, elsewhere. The glory of Christ is annulled that men may be exalted to His level. Where is it said that the saints are to have life in themselves? No where. "God hath given us eternal life, and this life is IN HIS SON" (1 Jno. v. 11). If, as Mr. Russell claims, eternal life is only ours in resurrection, then it is only plainer, if need be, that eternal life is always "in the Son." Moreover, as these tracts, with the common version, read, that "to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and immortality" God will give "eternal life" - eternal life in the Son is therefore at least the equivalent of "immortality."
And Christ was ever "that Eternal Life, which was with the Father; and was manifested unto us" (1 Jno. i. 2). As man, He is "given" to have "life in Himself." No one who was mere man ever could:
But we have looked enough at this, and there is little beside to detain us. The Scripture view of national restoration we have looked at already with Mr. Dunn (Ante p. 391) and again with Mr. Baker (App. p. 556 seq.); The latter has also given us the arguments as to the sheep and goats and the judgment of the great white throne, which Mr. Russell somehow omits. He never fairly endeavours to meet these scriptures, although quite aware that they stand in the way of acceptance of any such views as he maintains.
There is but one point more which needs, perhaps, a passing notice. It is the doctrine that Christ is already come, although not manifested, but is making Himself known by intimations of His presence, such as faith alone can understand. We have only to put this along with i Thess. iv. 13-18 to discern its falsity: for when the Lord comes, He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. Then the dead in Christ shall rise; and then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
In conclusion, it is very plain that this system is not Christianity. As with Unitarians, the true deity of the Son and the personality of the Spirit are denied. Christ was not God come down, nor is He man gone up. God is not the Saviour-God. A creature created and a creature redeems us; and salvation is putting us in a condition to save ourselves. We are not under grace, but law; and the constraining motive in life is not Christ, but personal aggrandizement. Satans lie becomes Gods truth, - "ye shall be as gods," have life in yourselves and be a source of life to others! Yea, ye shall be the saviours of the world, helping Christ to make an atonement "all-sufficient" without your help. With this are united the doctrines of annihilo-restorationism; and the whole comes to us certified to be the solution of every mystery in Scripture from end to end!
Go To Appendix Seven
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