“As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
The heart is one of the most important organs of our body. If it ceases to work, death is sure to follow. The blood that flows through the heart constitutes the life, the energy of the body. If the blood current is interrupted for a little while, a clot is formed. This is so much of a preparation for death. There must be a continual stream of blood circulating through our bodies to keep life there.
In view of this important function of our natural hearts, the Bible very properly uses the heart, the center of life, as a symbol of the center of our affections, including the will. Our will has to do with everything we do. Whoever of the Lord's people wills to seek more and more to purify himself becomes more and more alive. If we are pure in heart, we resolve to live righteously and soberly in the present life. Whoever appreciates the principle that right is right, and wrong is wrong will desire to live right ─ whether Jew or Gentile or the consecrated.
All elect classes, including Youthful Worthies, having accepted God's terms, have made a consecration of their lives to him. They have engaged to fight a good fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. They are under special obligations as consecrated classes. Their hopes and ambitions are separate from those of the world. They are therefore doubly responsible in respect to their hearts, which represent their inmost sentiments.
According to a man's innermost sentiment, so is he. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is his real character. What is your real will? What are your real sentiments? Not, What words do you use? not, What are your actions, but, What is the motive underlying all these?
They, as consecrated members of an elect class, are to be God-like, spiritual, eventually of the spirit nature in glory ─ perfect. But before it attains that perfection, their heart is required to prove its loyalty. Some will attain in a higher sense than others, but none will attain except those who are true, loyal, pure. If, therefore, we have made a consecration to God, it should be our endeavor that our hearts, our desires, our motives be perfect. The only proper attitude is to confess our imperfections, if we are wrong. God expects us to be loyal of heart. And that loyalty of heart should reach out and control the whole life.
If our thoughts are not according to our ideals, we should endeavor to make them so. We should put away anger, malice, hatred, strife, and all such works of the flesh and the devil. With some people, in some conditions, these thoughts go very deep. It is not the transitory thoughts of the mind ─ the passing thoughts ─ that are meant in our text. Even people of very bad character may at times have deep emotions. The eyes of some persons will be suffused with tears over some trivial matter. This makes them appear to be very tenderhearted, and yet their lives may show that they would as easily be moved to some vicious deed as to sympathy.
We see this fact illustrated in the conduct of mobs. The people who hailed Jesus as king were five days later crying, “Crucify him!” Those who shortly before had seemed to be so appreciative of him appeared to lose that appreciation.
IMPORTANCE OF RIGHT THINKING
In rea1ity a man is not always what on the surface he seems to be. His real character is deep down below ─ the purpose of his life. These are not the mere transitory thoughts, but the deep fissures of thought, if we may so designate those which involve the whole life. The Scriptures bring to our attention the fact that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds ─ by having them made over (Rom. 12:2).
The Apostle, speaking of some very vicious traits of character, says, “And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11) This cleansing, this sanctifying, comes not merely through the reading of the truth, or the mental application of the truth, but through the heart-thinking on the truth. This heart-thinking, these deep resolutions, are ours as Christians, and are to be guided by certain principles. These have to do with the real man whom God is considering ─ not the old person, more or less blemished, according to the degree of depravity. God looks at the new “man.”
These deep heart convictions and purposes constitute a transformation of character. This is the man's real condition, and so is he. If he have some transitory emotion of anger or of malice, it would not be his real thought, his real intention. Therefore it would not be he, but his old nature, temporarily asserting itself. He is to watch his words, his thoughts, his actions. If a transitory, wrong thought should pass through his mind, it would not be the thought of his heart. And he should stop it, put it away, so that it may not take root in his heart, and choke out better sentiments.
This right thinking of the heart has very much to do with the whole life. The Apostle says that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, to know what is the perfect will of God. This is the Christian's standpoint. How glad we are that our heavenly Father is judging us from this standpoint! How glad we are that he is able to read the heart, that he knows our hearts, that he knows our inmost thoughts!
At one time we might have thought that we were doing God service when we were not. We show our loyalty to God by giving attention to his Word, that we may know what is his will. The more we study God’s Word, the more we receive the spirit of the truth, and the more we appreciate it. And in proportion as we understand God's regulations and desire to be guided by them, our hearts will become purified. Then the more care shall we take of our hands, what they shall do; and of our tongues, what they shall say. Thus we shall keep our hearts ─ submit our wills to the will of God.
The will is a part of our heart, just as the rudder is a part of the ship. The new will is the rudder to steer us this way or that way. The more we understand the Word of the Lord, the better we understand how to guide our lives. Therefore we are to keep our hearts and purify them by the knowledge of God's truth, the study of God’s truth. To do this, the will must ever be on the alert, watching with prayer and thanksgiving.
Some one may ask, Why should we do all this? In a general way we might answer, that we may do right ─ because right is right. But that reason is not sufficient for us. While all appreciate the superiority of right over wrong, yet in our fallen condition we need to have some inducements to action. So the Lord puts certain inducements before us. He says, “If your heart is right, I desire to give you everlasting life. If your heart is wrong, then you will not be of the kind to whom I will grant this boon.” Six thousand years ago there was a trial. Our first father, Adam, was tried, and failed. Consequently we have no right to life. But God has arranged through our Lord Jesus that every member of Adam's race may have another trial. The Father is willing to give life everlasting to all who love righteousness.
So we thankfully accept this provision, and say, “Heavenly Father, wilt thou indeed give us another opportunity for gaining everlasting life? We would love to have that life! We are very thankful for the opportunity! We love righteousness! If we are loyal to the principles of righteousness, shall we get everlasting life? It is our desire that Thy will be done in us ─ even that we love righteousness and hate iniquity.” “Very well, then,” the heavenly Father says, “I will put you into the school of Christ, where you will learn righteousness.”
Day by day we are learning in the school of Christ. Our different experiences are a part of the general instructions for those who love righteousness and who desire to be taught of the Lord. The issue of our trial will be life or death. The world is not now on trial. There is no possibility for the world to gain life as yet. During this Gospel Age the Church were the only ones who are under this covenant of sacrifice ─ who are on trial, therefore, for everlasting life or everlasting death. In the next age, the world will have their opportunity for learning obedience. Then the issue for them will be life or death.
God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing or cursing.” There is a curse for everyone who loves unrighteousness; there is a blessing for everyone who loves righteousness. So during the thousand years of Christ’s reign the world will be on trial for everlasting life or everlasting death. All who are obedient will get everlasting life. But all who have the spirit of Satan will be destroyed in the Second Death.
Let us keep our hearts with all diligence. Let us watch our hearts. If they are in full harmony with God's will, we shall have little trouble with our tongues. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34)
Our heart is the most wonderful organ of our body. The tongue is the most subtle of all our members. The Lord takes our words as an index of our heart condition. But since we are imperfect, it is not possible for us to be faultless in word and deed. Yet we are diligently and faithfully to seek to attain the perfect mastery of our words. We should be especially on guard in respect to evil speaking. Every tendency toward slander is to be checked. Whoever of us is reviled is not to revile again. These tendencies belong to the old nature. To be pleasing to the Master, we are to keep our hearts free from every form of evil. If this be done, the heart is rightly instructed of the Lord. Then we will know that we must make good whatever is wrong. We are bound, thoroughly bound, to make it good to the best of our ability. Our heart must keep itself right.
DEFICIENCY IN MODERN EDUCATION
This same principle is applicable to the whole world, though not on a scale so far reaching. Mankind is influenced by thought, by experience. So vicious children may be trained up under favorable environments to become useful citizens. We have seen where, even with people of the world, good resolutions to live honestly, justly, soberly, have had a blessed influence on the life, making noble men and women, although these may not be Christians.
We have also seen the reverse of this ─ those who were criminals, but not so of necessity. Some of them were born under good conditions; but have read bad books and meditated upon sinful things. Thus the thoughts of their hearts have been evil instead of good. Thus they have become inclined toward evil. As they allow their minds to run in a certain direction, and allow these thoughts to become deeply rooted in their hearts, some of them become very vicious.
We are deeply impressed with this fact in noticing the photographs of the gunmen recently who have gone into schools and other institutions and committed murder. Had we seen their pictures before knowing who they were, we should have said, “Those are strong characters.” Their hearts had gone wrong, doubtless because of wrong education and a failure to appreciate the principles of righteousness. This seems to be largely the case at the present time. Very few see the principles of righteousness at all. The majority are swayed by superstition, by fear and by hopes which are more or less ephemeral, more or less deceptive.
So we see that the general education of our day is lacking in a very important respect. Although the schools have taken away to some extent the veil of ignorance and superstition, yet they are not giving instead the full, proper view of righteousness. This is because in a general way the Divine character and the Divine laws are being ignored. There is an attempt to teach morality entirely aside from the Divine law. But this course seems to be undermining faith ─ separating the pupils from faith in a Supreme Creator. Thus we see that while the world is making wonderful progress in education, yet it is not reaching its own ideals. The human mind in its fallen and perverted condition, is unable to see the subject of morality from a standpoint which educators would put before it.
The human mind needs the influence of its higher organs to assist the lower organs. Hence, although these educational influences are beneficial in many respects, yet they are very injurious in others. They do not inculcate veneration for God and for the Divine will. Therefore people are unable to grasp the best principles. The only persons who are in the right attitude are those who are seeking to have new thoughts, to have thoughts conformed to the Divine arrangement, taking the mind of Christ instead of their own imaginations and judgment, and thus growing up into him in all things. This is our happy position.
INFLUENCE OF THOUGHT UPON HEALTH
There is another view of the text ─ “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” ─ given by Christian Scientists; namely, that according to our minds, so be it unto us. They get some good out of this view. They say that if one thinks about kind, noble things, he will be influenced thus. We think our Christian Scientist friends are partly right and partly wrong. They hold that if one thinks himself to be well, he will be well; that if one thinks himself to be sick, he will be sick. There is a measure of truth in this view.
One-half the people in the world are sick because they think they are so. If they thought, not about their aches and pains, but about more helpful things, they would no doubt be better and stronger in every way. The mind has something to do with our condition. Whoever mopes about a headache will undoubtedly make it worse. Whoever tries to put the thought of his condition away and to give attention to other things will undoubtedly help himself.
The less we think about our aches and pains the better for us. If we talk about them we aggravate them. It is also bad to exercise too much sympathy with each other. Of course, there are times when it would be cruel not to show sympathy. But it is not wise to encourage those who are weak to complain about their condition. We become stronger in proportion as we try to avoid thinking of our ailments.
The mistake made by our Christian Scientist friends is that they carry this principle too far. Thinking ourselves sound will not make us so. And it would not be right to lie about the matter, and to say that we have no aches and pains when we have them. The middle line is the one which the Bible encourages ─ not to say that we have neither aches nor pains, not to say that death is “mortal error,” and that there is no death. But we can help the dying process along, or we can seek to cultivate the more helpful thoughts, and thus exercise a helpful influence upon ourselves and others.
One notices this principle in action in a sick room. Some people will go into the sick room, express a great deal of sympathy, and leave the sick person under the impression that he is in a much worse condition than he really is; whereas they should have helped the person by encouraging remarks. It is not necessary to say to the sick, “You are looking extremely bad!” But we might say, “Are you feeling better this morning? Have you had a good rest?” Many people do not know how much they do rest, and do not feel thankful enough. So we might suggest, “I hope you are feeling thankful to the Lord, and that you are glad because of this beautiful day. See how the sun shines into your room! Hear the birds sing!” The condition of some people when they are sick is that of “groanings which cannot be uttered.” Sick people need some one to bring sunshine into the room.
So, then, dear friends, let us resolve that since we have covenanted with the Lord to become dead to the old life, to the old ambitions, to the things of the past, these are to be all given over. We will wish to think as the Lord would have us think, to view all the affairs of life as he would have us view them, and to be influenced by the ambitions which he sets before us in his Word. Thus doing, we shall, as consecrated Christians, grow into the character likeness of the Lord.
(Excerpts with updates from Pastor Russell’s writings)
THE TWO SALVATIONS
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Some apply the first text only and think of the Divine Program as being merely an endeavor to rescue mankind from sin and death to righteousness and eternal life in the present time. Such as hold this view are much confused, because it must be acknowledged that comparatively little has been done, or is now being done, for man's uplift. After six thousand years it is still true that “The whole world lieth in the Wicked One”; “Darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the heathen.” In order to have any confidence at all in this theory, those who hold it are obliged to greatly lower their standards. They are forced to hope that God will admit millions of unfit people, crude, rude, ignorant and wicked to eternal life and happiness, or perchance provide for them Purgatorial experiences, to make them fit, righteous and acceptable for life eternal. As a whole, Christian people are greatly bewildered. The tendency of their bewilderment is toward doubt, skepticism, atheism.
The other view, briefly stated, is that God never intended the salvation of the world, but merely the salvation of the Church. “elect according to the fore-knowledge of God through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the Truth,” Those who hold this theory have great confusion also, because it seems incomprehensible that God would make no provision for “thousands of millions” of Adam's race, but arrange for them to be born in sin, shapen in iniquity, and to go down to the tomb (or worse) without a clear knowledge of God and His Purposes and Will respecting them.
As we have already frequently set forth, both of the described theories are erroneous. The Scriptures set forth two salvations, entirely separate and distinct. They are different as respects time, in that the one “salvation began to be spoken by our Lord” at His First Advent, and began to be applicable to His Church at Pentecost, and will wholly cease at His Second Coming in the end of this Age. The other salvation neither applied before our Lord's First Advent nor during this Gospel Age, but will apply to all mankind, except the Church, during the Millennium ─ the thousand years of the reign of Christ and the Church, specially designed for the blessing of the world and its uplifting out of sin and death conditions.
These two salvations are distinctly different as to kind, as well as respects their plan of operation. The salvation of the Church during this Gospel age ─ since Pentecost ─ means not only a deliverance from sin and death conditions to eternal life, but provides that the eternal life will be on the heavenly or spiritual plane and not on the earthly or human plane of existence. Thus the Apostle declares that our “inheritance is incorruptible and undefiled and fadeth not away and is reserved in heaven for us, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (1 Peter 1:4,5) Our Lord also told that in the resurrection we shall be like unto the angels. The Apostle also declares that at that time we shall be partakers of the Divine Nature and like our Lord and Redeemer.
The world's salvation which will follow will be wholly different from this. It will not include a change from earthly to spirit nature. It will mean a rescue from sin and death to the earthly perfection of the original man, in the image and likeness of his Creator, and surrounded by every necessary blessing for his comfort. Human perfection and the Eden home were lost through disobedience to God. The Divine arrangement is that the merit of our Lord's obedience unto death, when ultimately applied for mankind, shall fully cancel the death sentence upon him. More and better than this, God has promised that the same Sin-Offering shall seal a New Covenant between himself and mankind. The blessings of that New Covenant arrangement will then immediately begin. The great Redeemer will thenceforth be the great Mediator of that New Covenant. The whole world of mankind will be fully under His supervision and government for their blessing, their correction in righteousness, their uplifting out of sin and death conditions ─ back, back, back to all that was lost in Eden. All of this was the original design of the Great Creator. All of this will be outworked through the Great Redeemer. All of this was secured or suretied by His death, finished at Calvary (Heb. 7:22).
St. Peter, pointing down to that glorious time of the world's blessing, calls it "times of refreshing and times of restitution." He tells us that all the holy prophets described the blessings of those restitution times ─ the thousand years, the Millennium. (Acts 3: 19-21) When once we get the eyes of our understanding opened, we find the Apostle's words thoroughly corroborated by the Divine records, which describe the wonderful blessings that are to come when the earth shall yield her increase. Then Paradise Lost shall be Paradise Regained. Then God will make his earthly footstool glorious. Then the blessing of the Lord shall make rich and He will add no sorrow therewith. Then streams shall break forth in the desert and the wilderness and solitary places shall be glad. But most glorious will be the change in humanity. The Lord promises to turn to the people a “pure message” ─ instead of the contradiction of creeds of heathenism and Churchianity. He promises that Satan shall be bound for that thousand years, that he may deceive the nations no more. He promises that then all the “blinded eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped.” (Isaiah 35:5; 2 Cor. 4:4).
Two Salvations ─ One Savior
Both of these salvations, according to the Bible, result from the death of Jesus our Redeemer, who died in obedience to the Divine will, “Died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) The Scriptures clearly show not only the two salvations, but also two parts of the Redeemer's work, distinctly separating His work for the Church from His work for the world. In His death there was a Divine general provision for the sins of the whole world and a special provision for the sins of the Church. The two thoughts are frequently brought out in the Scriptures. One text distinctly declares, “He is the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins [the Church's sins], and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) His death constituted the satisfaction price. The Redeemer applied that merit for the Church's sins, “for us,” long ago, eighteen centuries before we were born. Only when we became believers and entered into a Covenant of sacrifice did we obtain our share in the merit of that great sacrifice. The world has not yet received its share of that promised blessing, but the operation of the Divine Plan is sure and will bring it to them “in due time,” as St. Paul declares.(1 Tim. 2:6)
The drawing and calling of the Church has not been along the lines of human perfection, for all are sinners and none righteous or perfect. And many of those drawn of the Lord were by nature much more fallen and depraved than some who give no evidence of the work of grace in their hearts. The Lord's calling and drawing seem to be along the lines of justice, love of righteousness, faith, humility and obedience. These qualities will all belong to the perfect man. But all have lost them in varying degrees. Such as respond to the Lord's call now are accepted as being in the right heart-attitude which, if they had perfect bodies, would constitute them perfect men. In other words, they have qualities of heart which, if brought to a knowledge of the Truth, would prove some of them to be pure in heart and such as the Lord would desire should have eternal life and all of His favors.
Terms of Salvation Differ
Of course, these different salvations imply different terms or conditions. God's requirement of Adam, that he might continue to live forever and everlastingly enjoy Divine favor, his Eden Home, etc., was obedience to reasonable, just requirements. It was his violation of the Divine Law that brought upon him the sentence of death ─ “Dying thou shalt die” ─ with all that this has implied to him and his posterity of mental, moral and physical decline, weakness, death. The requirement of God for the world of mankind during the Millennial Age will simply be ─ obedience to God's just, reasonable regulations, laws.
Whoever then will render obedience may with proportionate rapidity go up on the highway of holiness toward perfection at its end. Whoever refuses obedience to the extent of his ability will fail to make progress and ultimately die the Second Death, from which there will be no redemption and no resurrection.
Such obedience as will be required of mankind in the great Mediator's Kingdom will include their co-operation in the resistance of their own fallen weaknesses. It will include the exercise of patience and kindness towards their fellow-creatures, fellow-sufferers. The Divine Law of love to God with all the heart, mind, soul, strength, and for the neighbor as for one's self, they must learn fully. As they will realize their own blemishes and strive to overcome them and ask, not the Father, but the Mediator, for forgiveness, they will be obliged to follow the Divine rule of exercising towards others similar mercy and forgiveness to that which they desire for themselves.
The conditions governing the salvation of the Church are wholly different from those which will appertain to the world. The Church is called out of the world under a Divine invitation to suffer with Christ in the present life and during this Gospel Age and then to reign with Christ during the Millennial Age, participating in His Mediatorial Kingdom for the blessing, uplifting, salvation of the world. It is not in vain, therefore, that our Lord and the Apostles, in setting forth the call of the Church, during this Age, specified particularly and frequently the necessity for all who would share in this salvation to participate with the Redeemer in His sacrificing, in “His death,” and consequently participate in “His resurrection” and in His reign of glory. Hark to the words, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life;” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne.” (What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 252-254))
“BY MYSELF HAVE I SWORN”
What means the oath that God hath sworn?
Have Christians from their Bible torn
The great Jehovah's seal?
When Christ shall bring the world's reward,
Will not each tongue confess him Lord-
Each knee in homage kneel? - Psa. 82:8
Will every kindred, every tribe,
To him all majesty ascribe,
And glorify his name?
Yet while the nations bow so low,
Will vengeance hurl the bombs of woe,
To blast with endless shame? - Psa. 86:9
Will God his lowly creatures cheat-
Or call the nations to his feet,
To feel a tyrant's rage?
Then will he scorn their prayerful breath-
Will nothing but a deathless (?) death
His stern revenge assuage? - Rev. 15:4.
What being do you worship then?
What unrelenting foe of men
Has chained you to his throne?
What form of error doth supply,
Your awful views of God Most High
To sacred truth unknown? - Mal. 1:11.
Our God is love, of Gospel mould;
Who sent the Shepherd of the fold
To seek his sheep astray,
With yearning still his heart will burn,
Until the countless lost return,
To see the "Living Way." - John 12:32.
The love that brought salvation nigh,
Will heed the bruised sinners's sigh,
And soothe away his pain,
While "whosoever," great or small,
Upon Jehovah's name shall call,
Will never call in vain. - Acts 2:17, 21.
G. M. Bills