The Peace of God

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:7.

PEACE is defined to be a state of quiet, or tranquility, freedom from disturbance or agitation – calmness, repose. Such a state of mind our text affirms of God. His is a mind tranquil, calm, undisturbed, never agitated, nor even wearied nor perplexed by any of the cares of His vast dominion. Yet this perfect peace of God, the Scriptures show, is due neither to the fact that there are no disorders in His vast domain, nor yet to any stoical indifference to pain or pleasure, but rather to that perfect poise of His glorious attributes which makes Him Master of His situation as Sovereign of the whole universe.

Have we admired the coolness and calm self-possession of a great general, such as Grant or Napoleon, in the midst of the confusion and smoke of battle? or of a great statesman, such as Gladstone or Bismarck, in the midst of national perplexities and perils? or of skilled physicians or others in critical times and places? These are only faint illustrations of the peace of self-possession and self-confidence which rules in the mind of God. He is never confused, bewildered, perplexed, anxious or care-worn, nor in the least fearful that His plans will miscarry or His purposes fail, because all power and wisdom inhere in Him.

The scope of His mighty intellect reaches to the utmost bounds of possibility, comprehends all causes and discerns with precision all effects; consequently, He knows the end from the beginning, and that, not only from philosophical principles, but also by intuition. As the Creator of all things and the originator of all law, He is thoroughly acquainted with all the intricate subtleties of physical, moral and intellectual law, so that no problem could arise the results of which are not manifest to His mind. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” – I John 1:5.

God, the Creator of all things, is also the competent Sustainer of all things. In silent grandeur, from Age to Age, the whole physical universe fulfils His will, without a suspicion of disorder or mishap; and the same Power is pledged for its sustenance throughout the eternal future.

Thus from His own vast, inherent resources of Power and Wisdom, springs the peace of God. But not from this source alone is the Divine peace; for peace is the certain concomitant of inherent goodness. God is the impersonation of every virtue and every grace; and consequently He has the blessed satisfaction and peace of conscious moral perfection as well as inherent Wisdom and Power.

GOD’S EMOTIONAL NATURE

Yet we find this peace of God coexisting with much of disorder and trouble. As a Father He shows us that He bears a father’s love to all His intelligent creatures – “the whole family [of God] in Heaven and in earth” – and that for His “pleasure they are and were created.” (Eph. 3:15; Rev. 4:11.) He created them in His own likeness – with the same mental and moral attributes, so that He might have communion and fellowship with them as sons, and they with Him as a Father, that thus, in mutual fellowship and communion, the Creator and the creature might find pleasure, happiness and delight.

This likeness of God includes in all not only the same mental faculties, but also the free exercise of the same in the formation of character. A creature incapable of thus forming character would not be in God’s likeness. And for the purpose of developing character, the alternative of good and evil must be placed before him. The right and the wrong principles of action must be discerned and the individual left free to his own choice in the matter, that the pleasure of God may be realized in the virtuous character resultant from the free choice of righteousness.

Since the love of God for His newly created and innocent creatures is akin to, but much stronger than, the love of an earthly parent for an innocent infant; and since that loving interest and solicitude does not grow cold as the creature advances in years, but earnestly watches for the development of the principles and fruits of righteousness, it is manifest that, like an earthly parent, God experiences the sense of either pleasure or pain, according as His free, intelligent creatures choose the right course or the wrong. Of this we are fully assured, not only by thus reasoning from the fact of His Fatherhood, but also by all of those Scriptures which speak of some things as abominable, displeasing, hateful and despicable to Him and as giving Him no pleasure; which say that His anger burns against them, and that His indignation and wrath wax hot, even to their destruction. Other Scriptures speak of His pleasure, love, joy and delight in pleasing things – in the principles of righteousness and those who obey them – the appreciation of pleasurable emotions of an opposite character, for pain and pleasure may properly be considered the ebb and flow of the same emotion.

These exhibitions of the mind of God indicate clearly an emotional nature in the Divine Being, of which fact we might also judge from the realization of our own emotional nature, since man was created in God’s image. No, dear friends, God is not a God of stoical indifference, insensible to the emotions of pleasure and of pain; but the perfect poise of His attributes preserves the equilibrium of peace under all circumstances, whether of pain or pleasure.

GOD’S PEACE UNBROKEN BY EXTERNAL DISCORD

With this thought, then, let us consider the circumstances under which the marvelous Peace of God has been perpetually maintained. The deep-laid Plan of God in all His creative works required long aions [ages] for its accomplishment. Across the vista of ages He saw in His purpose the glory of an intelligent creation in His own likeness, established in righteousness and worthy of His gift of eternal life. He therein saw the mutual pleasure of the Creator and the creature, and with a peaceful patience He resolved to wait for the glorious consummation.

As the Plan developed and time rolled on, the free moral agency of His creatures, misused by some, was enabling them to develop evil characters. By this means discord was introduced into His family – “the family [of God] in Heaven and in earth” – all His creatures, angels and men; and the family was divided, some holding to righteousness and some choosing to do evil. But such a contingency was one of the foreseen necessities of the far reaching Plan, the glorious outcome of which, was, in the Divine judgment, worth the cost of all the trouble and loss which He foresaw.

What a dreadful thing is family discord! How a prodigal son or a wayward daughter often brings the gray hairs of the human parent down with sorrow to the grave! Ah, the Heavenly Father knows something of such sorrow; for He saw Satan, one of His sons (Isa. 14:12), an angel of light, fall as lightning from Heaven. (Luke 10:18.) For six thousand years, at least, that son has been in open, defiant rebellion against God, and most actively and viciously engaged in inciting further rebellion and wickedness. He saw many of the angels leave their first estate (Jude 6) and become the allies of Satan, and then He saw also the whole human race fall into sin. Did ever any human parent find such a conspiracy – so virulent and hateful – spring up in his family? Surely not!

Then God found it necessary to perform the unpleasant duties of discipline. In His Justice He must disown the disloyal sons and deal with them as enemies. Though all the while His Fatherly Love was preparing to bless the deceived and fallen ones when the purposes of redemption should restore the repentant to His favor, Love must be veiled, while only stern, relentless Justice could be manifested. This has been no happifying duty, nor has the attitude of the sinner been pleasing to Him.

Consider the Love against which these recreants sinned. Though from God cometh every good and perfect gift, His favors have been despised, His love spurned, His righteous authority conspired against and defied, His character maligned, misrepresented, made to appear odious, hateful, unrighteous and even despicable. Yet, through it all the peace of God continues, and for six thousand years He has endured this contradiction of sinners against Himself. And still, O wondrous grace! His Love abounds; and it is written that He so loved the world, even while they were yet sinners, that He gave His Only-Begotten Son to die for them; and that through Him judgment (trial) is also to be extended to those angels that fell, with the exception of Satan, the leader and instigator of the whole conspiracy – the father of lies. – John 3:16; I Cor. 6:3; Jude 6; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:10,14.

GOD’S PEACE COMPATIBLE WITH SORROW

This gift of Divine Love was another indication of the cost to our Heavenly Father of His great and marvelous Plan. Not only did He behold the fall into sin of a large proportion of His family, but their recovery cost the sacrifice of the dearest treasure of His heart, and the subjection of this beloved One to the most abject humiliation, ignominy, suffering and death. Again the illustration of a parent’s love assists us in comprehending the cost of this manifestation of Jehovah’s Love. With what tender and yearning emotions of Love must He have made this sacrifice of His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased! In addition to all the graces of character manifested since the very dawn of the being of the Logos, was now added the further grace of full submission to the Divine will, even when the pathway pointed out was one of humiliation and pain.

Ah, did the Father let Him go on that errand of mercy without the slightest sensation of sorrowful emotion? Had He no appreciation of the pangs of a father’s love when the arrows of death pierced the heart of His beloved Son? When our dear Lord said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” and again, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt,” did it touch no sympathetic chord in the heart of the Eternal? Yea, verily; the unfeigned love of the Father sympathetically shared the Lord’s sorrow. – Matt. 26:38,39.

The principle taught in the Divine Word, that true love weeps with those that weep and rejoices with those who rejoice, is one which is also exemplified in the Divine character. The immortal Jehovah could not Himself die for us, His Divine nature being proof against death. And even if He could have died, there would have been no higher power to raise Him out of death. Thus all creation would have been left forever without a Governor, and only disaster and ruin could have ensued. But God could and did sacrifice at great cost to His loving, fatherly nature, the dearest treasure of His heart; and thus He manifested (I John 4:9) the great Love wherewith He loved His deceived and fallen creatures. If this sacrifice cost Him nothing, if it were impossible for His mind to realize any painful emotion even under such a circumstance, then the gift of His Son would be no manifestation of His Love; for that which costs nothing, manifests nothing.

Our Lord Jesus also manifested His great sympathy for the Father in the misrepresentation of His character which He has so patiently endured for ages. It was the one effort of His life to glorify the Father and to rectify among men the false impressions of His glorious character – to show to men His goodness, benevolence, love and grace, and to lead them to love the merciful God who so loved them, even while they were yet sinners, as to seek them out and to plan for their eternal salvation.

GOD’S PEACE SELF-CENTERED

Yes, there has been great commotion in the disrupted family of God – commotion in which the Lord declares He has had no pleasure (Psa. 5:4); but, nevertheless, the Peace of God has never been disturbed. In the full consciousness of His own moral perfection, His unerring Wisdom, His mighty Power, and with the fullest appreciation of Justice and the keenest and most ardent love of the beauty of holiness, patiently and peacefully, and even joyfully in the midst of tribulation, He has endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself for six thousand years.

But during the seventh millennium, according to the Divine purpose, it will be the joyful privilege of our Lord Jesus fully to manifest to all creatures in Heaven and in earth the Father’s glorious character. Then will the Father rejoice in the grandeur of His finished work and in the everlasting peace and happiness of His family in Heaven and on earth, “reunited under one Head.” – Eph. 1:10. – Diaglott.

This blessed consummation will not be realized, however, until the incorrigible fallen sons of God, disowned and disinherited because they loved unrighteousness and would not be reclaimed, shall have been cut off. This will be the last unpleasant duty of the Creator and Father of all, who positively declares that it is a sad duty, yet nevertheless one which He will have the fortitude to perform in the interests of universal righteousness and peace. Hear Him: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” – Ezek. 33:11.

Thus we see that the Peace of God is compatible with great commotion and with sorrow and pain of any kind; for it is not dependent upon outward circumstances, but upon the proper balancing of the mind and the conditions of a perfect heart. Such peace – the Peace of God – was enjoyed also by our Lord Jesus in the midst of all the turmoil and confusion of His eventful earthly life. And this brings us to the consideration of our Lord’s legacy to His disciples, when He was about to leave the world, as expressed in His own words:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth [in stinted measure or in perishable quality], give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27.

OUR LORD’S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

Thus with abounding compassion and tenderness, did our Lord, on the last night of His earthly life, bestow upon His beloved disciples His parting blessing, His legacy of Peace. It was the richest legacy He had to bequeath, and was one of priceless value. It was the promise of that tranquility of soul, that rest and ease of mind, which He Himself possessed – the Peace of God. It was the same peace which the Father has Himself always enjoyed, even in the midst of all the commotion which the permission of evil has brought about; but it was not derived from the same source. In Jehovah this peace was self-centered; He realized in Himself the omnipotence of Power and Wisdom; while the peace of Christ was centered, not in Himself, but in God, by faith in His Wisdom, Power and Grace. So also if we would have the Peace of God, the peace of Christ – “My peace” – it must, like His, be centered in God by faith.

Yes, the peace of Christ was a priceless legacy. Yet how quickly the stormcloud of trouble, which was even then growing very dark, burst in its fury upon the heads of those very disciples to whom the words were directly addressed. It followed almost immediately the gracious bequest, and struck consternation, bewilderment, confusion, to their hearts and shook their faith from center to circumference. Then, where was the peace? While the Lord was speaking the words, the foul betrayer, Judas, was out on his murderous errand. Then followed the agony in Gethsemane, and the terror and consternation among the disciples as they began to realize the fate of their beloved Lord. Soon their almost breathless suspense deepened into more fearful forebodings as He stood alone before His merciless accusers and persecutors in the Hall of Pilate and the Court of Herod, while they were powerless to shield Him. Then came the tragic end – the horrors of the crucifixion.

WHAT HAD BECOME OF THE PEACE?

Where was the promised peace under such circumstances – when, overcome with fear and dread, they all forsook Him and fled; and when St. Peter, although anxious to defend Him, was so filled with fear that three times he denied his Lord and with cursing declared that he never knew Him? The explanation is, that the peace had not yet come; for as the Apostle Paul tells us, “Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament [a bequest] is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” (Heb. 9:16,17.) But as soon as the tragic scene was over and the cry, “It is finished,” fell upon their eager ears, strange as it may seem, there is evidence that peace began to steal into their grieving hearts. The darkened heavens, the quaking earth, the rending rocks, the torn veil of the Temple – all spoke to them a message of comfort which the world could not receive.

To the world (Jews and Gentiles, both participating in the crime) the language of these events was that of Divine wrath and indignation against them. And as fear fell upon the people, and the clamor and excitement of that awful day died away, they smote upon their breasts and returned to their homes. The Roman centurion and they that were with him, fearing greatly, said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

But to the disciples of the Lord these events spoke a very different language. The cause of their blessed Master was their cause and it was God’s cause. To them these supernatural demonstrations were evidences that God was not regarding this matter with indifference; and though through the veil of darkness they could not read His bright designs, in these events there was to them a whisper of hope.

Three days later hope was revived by the news of our Lord’s resurrection, confirmed to them by His appearance in their midst. Again forty days later hope was strengthened by His ascension after His parting counsel and blessing and promised return, and the instructions to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of adoption, not many days thence – at Pentecost. Then the peace of Christ, the Lord’s rich legacy, began to be realized, and the tarrying days of prayer and expectancy were days of abiding peace – peace which flowed as a river. But when on the day of Pentecost the promised Comforter came, the river of their peace found a deeper bed; and their joy knew no bounds!

“Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its glad increase.
Perfect; yet it floweth fuller every day;
Perfect; yet it groweth deeper all the way.”
OUR RICH LEGACY OF PEACE

But not alone to the early Church was this legacy of peace bequeathed. It is the blessed inheritance of the entire Church, even to the end of the Age. The Lord showed His thought for us all on that very day, when in His prayer He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for all those who shall believe on Me through their word.” – John 17:20.

The peace promised, observe, is not the short-lived peace of the world, which is sometimes enjoyed for a little season – while fortune smiles and friends abound and health endures, but which quickly vanishes when poverty comes in and friends go out, when health fails and death steals away the treasures of the heart. “My peace,” the peace of God which Christ Himself by faith enjoyed, who, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor, who lost friend after friend, and in His last hour was forsaken by all of the few that remained – His peace endured through loss, persecution, scorn and contempt, and even amidst the agonies of the cross. This peace is something which none of the vicissitudes of the present life can destroy, and which no enemy can wrest from us.

What richer legacy could the Lord have left His beloved people? Suppose He had bent His energies during His earthly life to the accumulation of money; and that in so doing He had amassed an immense fortune to leave in the hands of His disciples wherewith to push forward the great work of the Age when He should be taken from them; money to pay the traveling expenses of the Apostles and to defray the numerous expenses incidental to the starting of the work in various places, such as the renting of lecture rooms, the payment of salaries to traveling brethren, etc., etc. How soon would it all have vanished, and how poor would be our inheritance today! “The Man of Sin” would surely have gotten hold of it in some way, and not a vestige of the legacy would have reached this end of the Age. But, blessed be God, His rich legacy of peace still abounds to His people!

The peace promised is not such as the world can always recognize and appreciate; for the possessor of it, like the Lord Himself, and like the Heavenly Father as well, may have a stormy pathway. Indeed, that it must be so to all the faithful until the purposes of God in the permission of evil are accomplished, we are distinctly forewarned, but with the assurance that through all the storms this peace shall abide – “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace.”

FAITH THE BASIS OF PEACE

If we would know the foundation and security of this abiding peace which is able to survive the heaviest storms of life, we have only to look to the teaching and example of the Lord and the Apostles. What was it that held them so firmly and gave them such rest of mind while they suffered? It was their faith – their faith in the Love, Power and Wisdom of God. They believed that what God had promised, He was able also to perform, and that His righteous and benevolent Plan could know no failure. By the mouth of His Prophets He had declared, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure….Yea, I have spoken it and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” “The Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?” (Isa. 46:9-11; 14:27.) On the assurances of God they rested. In Him their faith was anchored; and it mattered not how fiercely the storms raged or how they were tossed by the tempests of life while their anchor still held fast to the Throne of God.

The language of our Lord’s faith was, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee; but I have known Thee.” He had been with the Father from the beginning, had realized His Love and His goodness, and had seen His Power, and had marked His righteousness and His loving kindness and Fatherly providence over all His works. And so it is written, “By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isa. 53:11.) The knowledge which He had of the Father gave to Him a firm footing for faith in all God’s purposes concerning the future. Hence He could and did walk by faith. And that faith enabled Him to overcome all obstacles and to secure the victory even over death.

So also it is written for our instruction – “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” – that faith in God built, in our case, upon our Lord’s testimony of the Father; and again it is written that, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is only through steady, unwavering faith that the peace of God – the peace of Christ – will abide with His people. While the Lord was with His disciples, and they saw in Him the manifestation of the Father, their faith was strong and they had peace in Him, as He said, “While I was in the world I kept them.” But not until after He had left them was their faith anchored in God. After Pentecost they experienced the same peace that Christ had enjoyed – the blessed peace that came from a knowledge of the fact that God acknowledged them as sons and heirs, and joint-heirs with Christ, if they would continue faithfully to follow in the steps of the Redeemer.

CULTIVATION OF UNWAVERING FAITH

Herein is also the basis of our peace. No matter how fiercely the storms of life may assail us, we must never let go our anchor and allow ourselves to drift, but always remember that “the foundation of God standeth sure”; that “His Truth is our shield and buckler”; that “what He has promised He is able also to perform,” notwithstanding our human imperfections and frailties; that covering these we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, our Surety and Advocate; and that “the Father Himself loveth” us, “He considereth our frame and remembereth that we are dust,” and so has compassion for the sons of His Love and is very pitiful and of tender mercy. Indeed, “What more can He say than to us He hath said,” to assure our faith and to steady and strengthen our hearts to patient endurance in the midst of the trials and conflicts of the narrow way of sacrifice.

There is nothing which puts the Christian at greater disadvantage in the presence of his foes than for him to let go, even temporarily, his grip upon the anchor of faith. Let him do so for a moment, and of necessity darkness begins to gather round him. He cannot see the brightness of his Father’s face; for “without faith it is impossible to please God”; and while he grapples again for the anchor, the powers of darkness fiercely assail him with doubts and fears. These attacks are generally based upon his human imperfections, which he should ever bear in mind are covered by the Robe of Christ’s righteousness.

If we would have the peace of God reign in our hearts, we must never let go our anchor, “nor suffer Satan’s deadliest strife to beat our courage down.” The language of our hearts should always be, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” With this faith the peace of God, the peace which the Master bequeathed to us, ever abides. Thus “the peace of God which passeth all understanding will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”; for it is written again, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

In the midst of the Christian warfare let our hearts be cheered and our minds be stayed, not only with such assurances that all the Divine purposes shall be accomplished, but also with such promises of personal favor as these:

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him; for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” “Can a woman forget her sucking child?…Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have engraven thee upon the palms of My hands.” “The Father Himself loveth you,” and “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” “Such as are upright in their way are His delight.” “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” – the peace of God, even in the midst of storm and tempest.

 

Charles Taze Russell Is Not The Founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses

russellpicContrary to some publicity made concerning “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Pastor Charles Taze Russell is not the founder of this religious group. He was never associated with them, nor did he ever claim the name. Pastor Russell died in 1916, while the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” did not come into existence until 1931. Linking Pastor Russell with “Jehovah’s Witnesses” leaves the decidedly mistaken view that their teachings and beliefs are alike. Such is not the case.

Pastor Russell founded what has been called “The Bible Student’s Association.” This movement had its beginning in the 1860’s in Allegheny, Pa. when earnest Christians formed a Bible class for advanced Bible study to meet the then rising wave of infidelity. In 1879, Zion’s Watch Tower Society was formed, later knows as The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. This Society did not become the central authority for the Bible Students, for all cooperating congregations of Bible Students held strictly to congregational self-government. The Society only served to coordinate the activities of the various congregations.

After the death of Pastor Russell in 1916 the purpose of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society changed completely. The teachings of the six volumes of “Studies In The Scriptures” were discarded. The congregations in harmony with the Society relinquished congregational rule. The Society became the central head and authority over all congregations willing to yield their sovereignty. Basic doctrines of the Society seriously digressed from the teachings of Pastor Russell, and before long Judge Rutherford declared that those associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were “Jehovah’s Witnesses” on this earth. Here is where the name emerged — certainly not in Pastor Russell’s time.

After Pastor Russell’s death, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society began to rise as a hierarchy over the once independent congregations. Many refused to surrender their Christian liberty and here started the work of separation. As early as 1917 this exodus from the Society began, and those who appreciated the wonderful harmony of the Bible as taught by Pastor Russell are today known as “Associated Bible Students.”

The following doctrines are an example as to how Bible Students still retain the basic teachings of Pastor Russell in contrast with “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” who do not.

BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell was led to believe in a future probation because millions have died and continue to die without hearing the Gospel. Of those that do hear, uncertainty and confusion exists in their minds because Christianity of today is burdened with contradictory beliefs and teachings.

JW’S: “Jehovah’s Witnesses” see no further probation for any of the present generation who do not subscribe to their teachings – which means that a large percentage of the world’s population is to perish eternally in Armageddon. In this respect their views are less generous than most established Churches. They not only see no hope for those who live today, who do not subscribe to their teachings, but they entertain no hope for a large percentage of the millions who have gone into the grave since the creation of man. For example, JW’S believe that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. have perished eternally, with no hope for a resurrection.

BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to the Scriptures, such as Ezek. 16:55, where it declares that these are all going to return to their “former estate.” And our Lord, in Matt. 10:15, confirms this thought when he said, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city”- (speaking of the Jews). Thus our Lord pointed forward to a day of judgment for those people who died centuries ago. And again it says, in Acts 17:31 that, “He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.”

JW’S: “Jehovah’s Witnesses” deny that Adam will ever have a resurrection, while the Scriptures plainly state that Jesus Christ tasted death “for every man.” Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.

BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to these scriptures and many others such as 1 Cor. 15:22 – “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Also Hosea 13:14 – “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be they plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”

Pastor Russell taught, according to the Scriptures, that now is “the day of salvation” for those who are to be the Bride of Christ, the Little Flock; and that another day – a day of salvation is awaiting mankind in general, in the Millennial Age – “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

One of the main teachings of Pastor Russell was that all would be enlightened with a knowledge of God’s Truth before they are placed on trial and judged for their final destiny. For the majority of mankind this would be when they are raised from the dead at the time of the general resurrection. Their final judgment would be based on their conduct while enlightened, not while in ignorance. This teaching separated Bible Students from all other religious groups. Now it separates them from “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as well. This view broke with the concept of salvation current in his day. At that time nearly all evangelists taught a literal hell of torment for those who did not accept Christ in this life. They felt hell-fire threats were necessary to restrain evil and, if need be, to bring salvation by fear. Many theologians have since broadened their concept of salvation beyond this life, but “Jehovah’s Witnesses” hold strongly to the position that those who reject their message are rejecting salvation.

Contrary to our Lord’s Word, every “Jehovah’s Witness” becomes a missionary of life or death, using the fear of eternal destruction or second death as their final appeal.

The Jewish People: Israel, and the Jewish people, present another major difference between Pastor Russell and the JW’s. After applying the Scripture, “Ye are my witnesses saith Jehovah” (Isa. 43:12) to themselves, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” declare that the Jewish people have no special role in the Divine Plan since the death of Jesus. On the contrary, Pastor Russell taught that the Jewish people and nation have a leading role in the Divine Plan for man, and accordingly during the year 1910 he spoke to vast Jewish audiences, comforting them according to the Scripture, Isa. 40:2 – “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” He encouraged them not to join the various churches of today but to wait for the fulfillment of the many Old Testament promises that they would be blessed as a nation.

While they were yet a scattered and dispersed people, he said, upon the basis of these promises, that they would be regathered to Palestine and established as an independent nation. Time has proven this to be so. Although denied by “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Bible Students today teach that the new state of Israel emerged in Divine Providence and is a precursor to the fulfillment of God’s promise to that nation that, – “Lo the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” (Jer. 30:3)

And again, Jer.24:6, 7, says, – “I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them and not pull them down; and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”

And a further promise in Jer. 31:27-34 was that, – “Like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to destroy and to afflict; so will I watch over them to build and to plant, saith the Lord… and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in that day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they break… but this shall be the covenant that I will make… I will put my Law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts… and they shall be my people… I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”

From these facts it can be seen that Pastor Charles T. Russell was neither in principle nor in spirit, the founder of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Abiding in Divine Love, Conditional

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” – John 15:10.

SINCE ALL MANKIND are alienated from their Creator through sin and its condemnation, the application of the text by any individual implies that previously he has come to a knowledge of God’s grace in Christ, and has accepted his share of the same through faith and has thus had access to the love of God, as one of the sons of God, begotten by the holy spirit. This is an important matter overlooked by very many who think to keep themselves in divine love and under divine protecting care without first complying with the conditions of admission to membership in the Lord’s family. There is but one doorway of entrance “into this grace wherein we stand and [as sons of God] rejoice in the hope of the coming glory,” and that is the doorway of faith in and acceptance of the atonement, accomplished for us by our Redeemer at the cost of his own sacrifice at Calvary. Anyone attempting to climb into the family of God otherwise “the same is a thief and a robber” – a rejector of the only way and name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. – Rom. 5:1,2; Acts 4:12.

But our text, like all of the holy Scriptures, is addressed to the Lord’s people, who once were “children of wrath even as others,” but have come into divine favor through the appointed way; and it calls our attention to something that is necessary to us beyond, after our full conversion or consecration to the Lord. It implies that getting into God’s love is by no means the end of the Christian way, but merely the beginning of it: after we are in the way the Lord gives us commandments as his sons, and expects us to manifest the spirit of loyal sonship by obedience; – full obedience so far as the heart or intention is concerned, and as complete obedience as possible so far as the control of the flesh is concerned. Whoever neglects either to learn or to obey the commandments of the Lord, thereby manifests a lack of the true spirit of sonship, and thus condemns himself as unworthy to be longer reckoned or treated as a son of God. Thus seen the commandments of the Lord to those who have consecrated themselves and enter his spirit-begotten family, are tests, proving them either worthy or unworthy of the divine favors and promises assured to the faithful overcomers.

The object of these tests is manifest from the time we come to understand the divine plan of the ages – to comprehend how the Lord is now making selection of a royal priesthood to be joint-heirs with Christ the great King, and to join in the work of succoring, ruling, blessing and uplifting the world of mankind in God’s due time, the world’s “day of judgment,” the Millennial age. We can readily see that divine law is necessary, in heaven and in earth, in order that God’s will may be done – that righteousness, truth and love shall prevail; and it is manifest that whoever is not sufficiently in sympathy with the principles of righteousness expressed in the Lord’s commandments, so as to will and to strive to obey them, would not be a fit person to be used of the Lord in enforcing the divine laws during the Millennial age, and assisting mankind in discerning their righteousness and the blessing which will follow their observance.

WHAT ARE THESE COMMANDMENTS?

Properly, we inquire, What are these commandments, the keeping of which is attended with such momentous results, and the neglect of which would mean the loss of our Redeemer’s love and favor, – and hence, the loss of all the blessings specially prepared for those who love him? We answer, that our Lord’s statement of these commandments briefly comprehends them all in one word, Love. Dividing the matter, we find that it has two parts – love for God and love for our fellows. Without this quality or characteristic, of Love, being so developed in us as to be the controlling influence of our minds, we cannot hope to abide in the Lord’s favor. True, he does not expect to gather ripe grapes from the new vineshoot when first it makes its appearance; rather, the great Husbandman (I Cor. 3:9) waits for the gradual development of the fruit, if after the shoot has come forth he sees upon it the bud of promise, which quickly develops, manifesting itself as the flower of the grapes. Nevertheless, manifestations of a coming fruitage of love are expected of the Lord, quickly after our union with him; and any smallness of development of this fruitage would indicate a corresponding lack of love and appreciation on our part, and would mean correspondingly small love for the truth and its principles: hence, the Lord’s love for us would be correspondingly less than if more rapid progress were made.

Love would, necessarily mean the according of justice; because the law or requirements of the Lord are based upon justice, “the foundation of his throne.” We are to view the commandments of the Lord from this standpoint, therefore, and to see first that our love for God is just, – must recognize that we owe him love, devotion, appreciation, because of what he has done and promises yet to do for us. Justice calls for our loving, reverential obedience to the Lord. It is the same with respect to our love for our fellowmen. Justice, as well as respect for our Heavenly Father’s regulations, calls on us to do right to our neighbor, – to do toward him as we would have him do toward us. This is not more than absolute justice, and yet it is the very essence and spirit of the divine law of love. But while justice is the first feature of the commandment of love, it is not the end of its requirements: it requires that going beyond strict justice, our love shall prompt us to the exercise of mercy and forgiveness. And in thus exercising mercy, we are again but copying divine love; for our Heavenly Father not only deals with all his creatures according to justice but going beyond the lines of justice, in great compassion and mercy he provided in Christ Jesus a Redeemer for sinners. True, he did not provide this in violation of his justice; yet so far as we are concerned it is just the same as though, out of love and compassion, he had overridden justice in our assistance. Hence in our dealings with others, who like ourselves, are fallen and imperfect, we are to remember this feature and not only be just toward them but additionally to be merciful, generous, kind, even to the unthankful, – that thus we may be children of our Father in heaven.

The Lord through the Prophet expresses this thought of how the law of love is divisible and covers all the requirements of Christian character; he says, “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.) That these are very reasonable requirements will be conceded by all; that God could not require less from those whom he is educating for the future judging of the world, is evident: and, yet, all three of these qualities specified through the Prophet, are comprehended in the one word love. Love requires that we shall deal justly with our neighbors, with the brethren, with our families, with ourselves; that we shall seek to cultivate our appreciation of the rights of others, – their physical rights, their moral and intellectual rights, their liberties; and that, appreciating these, we shall in no sense of the word, seek to abridge or deny them.

To “love mercy” is to go even beyond loving justice, and signifies a delight in yielding personal rights and privileges in the interest of others, where no principles are involved. It implies readiness to forgive the faults of others – a disinclination to be too exacting in respect to others, as well as a desire to be very exacting in respect to our treatment of others. The humble walk with God is included, also, in the commandment of love; because, whoever loves his Creator and appreciates his provisions for his creatures, in natural and in spiritual things, will love and appreciate God in return. And having such a proper conception of the greatness of the Almighty and of his own littleness and insufficiency, except by divine grace, he will be disposed indeed, to walk humbly with the Lord – not seeking paths of his own, but, trustingly, seeking to walk in the path which the Lord has marked out – in the footsteps of Jesus.

The same Apostle John who recorded our Lord’s words of our text, commented further upon this subject of the love of God and of Christ, saying, “This is the love of God [i.e., proves or demonstrates our love of God], that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:3.) This gives us the suggestion that the Lord not only expects us to keep his commandments of love to him and to the brethren, but that he expects also that in keeping these we should become so filled with an appreciation of the commandments and the principles that underlie them, that we would delight therein; not merely because they are God’s commandments, but, additionally, because they are right, good, proper. This thought the Apostle expresses in the words, “And his commandments are not grievous.” It is one thing to keep the divine commands or to seek to do so, all the while feeling more or less of restraint, lack of liberty, compulsion, duty, etc.; it is another thing to obey joyfully.

It is not improper to expect something of this spirit at the beginning of our experience as the Lord’s people, seeking to keep his commandments; but we should expect, also, that as we grow in grace and grow in knowledge and grow in love, all these feelings of constraint, duty, etc., would disappear; so that, instead, we should delight to do the Lord’s will, delight to keep his commandments of love, delight to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with God, – and that there should be a total absence of the feeling that the Lord’s commandments are grievous, burdensome, irksome. This is the higher Christian development, and can only be found where the individual has become truly “a copy of God’s dear Son,” where the Father’s spirit has developed and brought forth the ripe fruits of the spirit in abundant measure – meekness, patience, gentleness, brotherly kindness, love.

Recurring to our text, we note that our Lord’s words also imply the same thing; – the necessity for obedience to the commandments of love, and to such a growth ultimately as would separate them from any feeling of bondage or grievousness. Our Lord’s words, showing this, are in the latter part of the text – “even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

As we look back at the beautiful character of our Lord Jesus and see his love for righteousness, for truth, and his willingness to be obedient to his Father’s arrangements – even unto death – we can perceive readily that our dear Master had a love for the principles which lie back of the Father’s commandments. He obeyed the Father, not through restraint, not through fear, but from a perfect love. Recognizing the Father’s commandments, but not as being grievous, using the language put by the Prophet into his mouth, his sentiment was, “I delight to do thy will, O my God, thy law is in my heart.” (Psalm 40:8.) We are to understand the Lord, therefore, to mean, that in order to abide in his love we must reach such a heart condition as this which he had; – a love for the Father’s ways, for the principles of righteousness and truth. We may abide in his love at first under other conditions, feeling through our love the restraints of his commandment of love, but as we grow in knowledge, we must grow in grace, and outgrow those sentiments, and grow up into the Lord’s spirit and sentiment in this matter; so that obedience to the Lord will be the delight of our hearts, and any failure to do his will would cause a pain, a shadow, an earth-born cloud, to hide us from the Father’s smile.

Seeing the depths of our Lord’s requirements, many will be inclined to say, Ah, yes, it is true that we must attain to such character-likeness of our Lord, but that transformation and renewing of the mind is not our part of the work but the Lord’s: He must do this for us, else it will never be done. Partly right and partly wrong, we answer. It is true that when we consider ourselves, how weak and imperfect we are according to the old nature, according to the flesh, we have good cause for despairing and deciding that we never could accomplish such a great transformation from selfishness to love, in our own strength. It is true, also, that the Lord proposes to work in us – “both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13.) But it is just as true that we have a burden of responsibility in respect to this matter of overcoming. It is the Lord’s part to provide the way, the truth, the life, – the means by which we may attain unto the condition to which he has called us; but it is our part to use the means and thus to attain the prize.

The Lord has provided for our justification, our reconciliation to himself, our acceptance to sonship, our anointing with the holy spirit, our instructions with the word of his grace, the word of promise: He works in us, to will and to do, through these exceeding great and precious promises and the glorious prospects and rewards that attach to them; but the amount that he will work in us and the results that will be worked out through these promises, depend upon us. As it depended upon us whether or not we would come into the grace which he has provided for us, and as we could have kept ourselves out of the love of God by refusing or neglecting the offer of his mercy and love, so we could neglect the word of his promise, neglect the various means of grace which he provides for our strengthening, establishing and upbuilding in the knowledge and grace of the truth. And thus neglecting his provisions we would proportionately fail to abide in his love – fail to obtain the promised favors. The Apostle intimates this, saying: –

“KEEP YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF GOD.” – JUDE 21.

What, then is the essence of what we have foregoing found to be the divine instruction upon this subject? It is this.

(1) Our hearts from the very beginning are to appreciate the imperfections of our own flesh and to look away to the Lord for the needed assistance to abide in his love.

(2) The exceeding great and precious promises must be studied, earnestly, that we may thus have them constitute in us “the power of God” for good – keeping us in the knowledge of the Lord and, through obedience, in his love.

(3) This knowledge will profit us only as we put it in practice and seek to regulate our minds, our thoughts, our words, and so far as possible all our actions of life, according to this standard which God through his Word, established before us as an ideal. We are to remember that if we had all knowledge yet had not love, it would profit us nothing, but we are to remember, also, that in the divine arrangement it seems to be impossible that our knowledge should progress much in advance of our obedience to what we already know.

(4) We are to appreciate every evidence which we find, in ourselves or others, of such growth in obedience to the law of God, – the law of love with its connections of justice and mercy and reverence.

(5) We are not to expect the full results of joy in doing the Father’s will in the beginning of our experiences, nor are we to feel discouraged if in the beginning the motive be, to a considerable extent, duty-love instead of a love for principles. We are to seek at the Lord’s hand further blessing and further filling of his spirit of love. We are to seek to study and to appreciate the basic principles upon which the Lord governs the universe, and are to seek to bring our hearts into sympathetic accord with that law and principle and spirit of righteousness. We are to remember that much of our lack of appreciation of the principles of righteousness is due to our ignorance; and we are to expect that as we come to know the Lord and to understand his plan better, the eyes of our understanding will open the wider so that it will be possible for us not only “to comprehend with all saints,” but to appreciate with all saints, the principles underlying and constituting the divine law of love.

Thus we may daily and hourly keep ourselves in the Lord’s love by obedience to, and a growing love for, the principles of righteousness. And we are to rejoice in every experience in life, – its trials, difficulties, sorrows, disappointments, etc., no less than in its pleasures, if by any or all of these means the Lord shall instruct us and give us clearer insight into our own deficiencies, and a still clearer insight into that perfect law of liberty and love which he has established, and to which he requires our full and loyal heart-submission.

 

“The Glory to Follow”

The Future Inheritance of the New Creation
“If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” – Romans 8:17.

THE DIVINE PROMISE is that the Kingdom of God will be amongst men – “under the whole heavens.” The Scriptures state that both our Lord and the New Jerusalem, or glorious Kingdom of Messiah, are to come down from heaven to earth; and they call our Lord, therefore, Immanuel (God with us). During that thousand years God will in this sense dwell with men, walk with men. We already have this to some extent in our experience as Christians. God is with men, and Christ and the Church are with men, more or less contradicting and putting to shame the things of darkness of the present time.

But with all these suggestions it is not necessary for us to suppose that the Kingdom will be earthly. On the contrary, the assurance of the Scriptures is that the Church must become spirit beings before they can inherit the Kingdom: “We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” while those of this class who have been previously dead will have an instantaneous resurrection; and thus we shall be “forever with the Lord” – not forever with the Lord on the earth, but always in the spirit condition. The angels are always in the heavenly condition, whether they are in heaven with the Father or on earth, and we shall always be in the heavenly condition – the spirit condition.

Nothing in the Scriptures indicates that there will be a restriction upon the Church, that she should remain in one place more than another. The intimation seems to be that, after she shall have experienced her change, the Church will be for a short time absent from the earth and in the presence of the Heavenly Father. We read in the forty-fifth Psalm that the Bride is to be brought into the presence of the Great King, arrayed in glorious clothing of wrought gold – “in raiment of needlework.” The members of the Body of Christ will all be on the spirit plane, whether they are afar off or near the earth. This is what our Lord meant when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” – in the Divine family. This particular place is one that has never been filled by any others.

The various orders of spirit beings created by the Father occupy each its own sphere. But there is no Church of Christ amongst these. The Church of Christ is invited to occupy a place next to the Lord, next to the Father, higher than all the other planes of spirit beings. At the first advent this place had not been prepared for the Church, although the Lord had it in mind. Our Lord ascended up on high to prepare this place. He did so by making an application of His merit to the Church class, by imputing His merit to them and permitting them to become participators with Him in His sufferings in the present time, that they might also become sharers with Him in the divine nature. Thus He prepared the way to enter into that highest of all spirit planes, the divine.

We are not sufficiently informed respecting the spirit condition to know just how it would be possible for the Lord and the Church to remain in the Father’s presence and maintain the government of the earth. Perhaps this course is possible. Yet again, such would perhaps not be a wise arrangement. Perhaps it would be necessary for them to be absent from the immediate presence of the heavenly Father and to approximate the earth, just as with Satan and his angels, who are in tartarus – cast down, separate because of sin. But Satan is to be bound for a thousand years; and the position which he has occupied is to be vacated. The entire Church is to be “caught up in the air” to be with the Lord forever – not necessarily in tartarus, but “forever with the Lord,” that where He may be there they may be also, in harmony with the Divine will, to execute the Divine purposes.

Our thought, then, is that The Christ will be very closely associated with our earth, just as Satan’s kingdom has been; and that they will be equally invisible to men, who will not see them during the thousand years, just as men have not seen Satan and his fallen angels. But as Satan and his angels have been doing an evil work, so Christ and His Church will be doing a powerful work, a good work, a work on the spirit plane; and associated with them will be various agencies, one of which undoubtedly will be the “great company.” The members of Christ are the ones that are mentioned as “kings and priests unto God,” who shall reign on the earth.

THE EARTHLY PHASE – INTELLIGENT, WILLING MEN

Then there will be earthly agents of this Kingdom, just as Satan has his agents, who are sometimes under his control through ignorance and superstition, sometimes from mesmeric power, all of which will be removed at that time. But the agents of Christ will be intelligent and willing. At that time the Ancient Worthies will be “Princes in all the earth.” All mankind will gradually come into fellowship with the Kingdom and, proportionately, indirectly, become associated with the Kingdom itself. Just as any good man helps a government, so all mankind will be blessed in proportion as they approve and uphold the Divine arrangements.

Thus the Kingdom will be spreading for the thousand years, not only from one individual to another, but gradually bringing them back to full perfection. We read that “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” It will conquer everything before it. Nothing shall stop it. Every evil thing having been destroyed, every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth will be heard praising God. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess; and His Kingdom will be without an opponent “from the river unto the ends of the earth” – having accomplished its purpose.

The Kingdom will then cease, in the sense that Christ will deliver the authority over to the Father. (I Cor. 15:24-28.) This does not mean that the Law of God will be disregarded, as it has been during the reign of sin and death. To meet the exigencies of the fallen condition of mankind, and to bring back as many as possible into harmony with the Divine arrangements, a special Kingdom will be established – the Messianic Kingdom – which will come in between the Divine government and mankind, because mankind in its weak condition will be unable to meet the requirements of the Divine Law. But when this Kingdom has restored mankind to perfection, it is the Divine purpose for Messiah to relinquish this subordinate Kingdom, which will merge into and become a part of the great Kingdom of Jehovah. Justice will then operate. There will be no place for mercy, and the Heavenly Father is not then represented as being a merciful King to His creatures. The Heavenly Father will then have made them perfect, so as to need no mercy, and they will be glad to meet all the requirements of the Divine Government, and will be blessed in so doing.

THE CHRIST TO BE ASSOCIATE RULER OF THE UNIVERSE

Having terminated this work our Lord will not be without an occupation; but, according to the Scriptures, He will continue to be at the right hand of the Majesty on High – next to the Father. He will relinquish the oversight of the affairs of earth, and will assume again the general position as Associate-Administrator of the affairs of the Universe in connection with the Heavenly Father. We are not to suppose, however, that the Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus will be kept busy hearing and deciding cases and administering Justice, for the equilibrium will be such that there will be no necessity for such a course. The whole Universe will go on practically without any head; and yet there will be the Head. The Son will be next to the Father in authority; and next to the Son will be the Bride. The work that will thenceforth progress is not revealed to us except in a very indefinite manner.

We understand by the power of telescopes that the suns have each a planetary system. If God made this earth a planet to be inhabited, it is only reasonable for us to infer that all the planets of the Universe will be inhabited, and that The Christ will behold the Heavenly Father and His wonderful Universe. The Power of the Heavenly Father is boundless, so far as we can understand. If after we have considered the hundred millions and more of suns and planetary systems beyond the power of human mind to contemplate – if then we realize that the Heavenly Father has made the position of Christ illimitable, and He has exalted the Bride of Christ with her Lord, then it is reasonable to assume that the work of Christ and the Church will be limitless, and that some blessed work for creatures not yet born is the work of all eternity. We simply wonder in amazement! We wonder at the greatness of His goodness to us, which is to lift us – the faithful few who make their calling and election sure – from our low condition to future glories interminable!

 

Our Lord’s Glory Shared With Church

Our Lord declares, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” This seems to carry with it the thought, elsewhere suggested in this prayer, that our Lord had by this time come to a full realization of the Father’s plan, namely, that his disciples were to be developed for the purpose of becoming his joint-heirs in the Kingdom, sharers in his glory. At first thought such a sharing of the great glory of the Kingdom might appear to be a lessening of the great glory of Jesus, just as the appointment of the seventy elders of Israel to be associates with Moses in judging Israel seemed at first to be a contraction or diminution of the dignity or authority of Moses.

But as Moses in the type was very meek, and gladly welcomed all the elders to joint-service, saying, [R3553 : page 138] “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:29), so the Lord Jesus, so far from feeling that the gathering out of the Church to be his joint-heirs in the Kingdom would diminish his glory, joined heartily in the divine plan, and declares here that he set himself apart, he separated himself from that feature of the glory and dignity of the Father’s reward that his followers might have a share in it, that they might become his joint-heirs, being set apart and brought to this honor through the Truth, through the great and precious promises bestowed upon them. This same thought seems to be presented in the words (vs. 22,23) – “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one: I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

The love of God pervades our hearts so that selfishness has no room there, and thus it was that our dear Redeemer, instead of feeling jealous that any others [R3553 : page 139] should be exalted to the divine nature, participators in the Kingdom, in this prayer to the Father declares his full acquiescence in the plan, his hearty cooperation, his joy to have it so. What a thought this gives to us as the prospective Bride, already espoused to the heavenly Bridegroom. He is pleased to exalt us from our lowly estate to be one with himself in his Kingdom, in his throne, in his Father’s love.

Wonder of wonders! Where will the divine compassion cease! While we were yet sinners, under divine condemnation of death, we were loved and redeemed at a great price; and now, having been redeemed, we hear the voice celestial saying, “Come up higher,” yea, even to the throne, to joint-heirship with the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Could we keep ever before our minds this grand display of love and unselfishness how thoroughly it would scatter from the minds of all who are seeking to be copies of God’s dear Son every thought of rivalry one with another. How it would cause us to rejoice in the growing usefulness and advancement in the Lord’s service of every member of the body. How we should more and more feel what the Scriptures describe as “in honor preferring one another,” and which rejoices in the prosperity of a brother, in his growing usefulness in the Church, in the growing evidences of his favor with God and man. Those who can thus rejoice in the prosperity of the fellow-members of the body have another evidence of their growth in the likeness of our great and glorious Head. Those who are without this sentiment should strive for it and be very discontented until it is attained.

Our Lord’s prayer, “That they all may be one,” has been fulfilled throughout the age. All who have been truly his have had a oneness of heart, a oneness of purpose, a oneness of spirit, with the Father and with the Son – a fellowship divine which cannot be produced by earthly creeds and fetters. So it is to-day, and so it is always between those who are truly the Lord’s. They know each other not by outward passwords or grips or signs, but by the touch of faith and love which it gives and which each recognizes. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, in that ye have love one for another.” “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” True, we love all men and seek to serve all as we have opportunity, but, as the Apostle explains, “especially the household of faith,” especially those who love the Lord and are trusting in the precious blood, and are fully consecrated to him and, so far as they are able, doing his will and seeking to further know that will day by day.

WITH CHRIST, SHARING HIS GLORY

Our Lord’s words (v. 24), “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me go with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.” This is not a petition, but a declaration of the Lord’s will, as though he were saying, Father, I understand that this is thy will in respect to these my followers, and I will it also, acquiescing in this great and liberal arrangement which thou hast made. I will be glad to have my followers ultimately on the same plane of glory with me, and that they may there be blessed by seeing and sharing the glories thou hast conferred upon me whom thou hast loved always even before the foundations of the world – even before the arrangements were made for these my disciples.

The closing words of the prayer are beautiful and give us an insight into the Lord’s confidence in the Father and fellowship with him. He knew the Father, and so he has declared respecting us that this is the highest evidence that could be granted us of our acceptance with the Father and of our participation in the life eternal which he has provided, namely, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Our Lord declares, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” And I have made known unto them thy name, thy character, thy greatness, thy goodness, thy love, thy benefactions, and will make known still further as they are able to bear it, as they grow in knowledge of the Truth, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.

How wonderful is this love of God and love of Christ! How impossible it seems for us to measure its lengths and breadths and heights and depths! Those who have accepted the Lord as their Redeemer and have entered into covenant relationship with him, giving him their little all and accepting from him a participation in all these blessings of his provision, if ever cast down because of weakness or opposition or what not, should call to mind this great love which the Father has for us and which the Son shares, the love which not only redeemed us while we were yet sinners, but which since then has called us to such wonderful blessings and privileges, making us joint-heirs with Christ our Lord, if so be we suffer with him; – this love will not be lightly turned away, this love would chasten us rather than permit us to fall away into the second death; this love will [R3553 : page 140] finally deliver, either in the little flock or in the great company, all who continue to trust in Jesus and continue to hold the faithful Word. But in proportion as this love of God dwells in us richly, in proportion as Christ is enthroned in our hearts, in that same proportion we will have a responsive love which will delight to do those things which are pleasing in our Father’s sight and acceptable to our Lord, and in the same proportion we will be loth to do anything which would bring a cloud between the Lord and our souls. Let us, then, have fresh courage because of what we discern of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of love divine, and let this love of God constrain us to greater zeal and devotion to him and to his cause.