My dear Brethren: Grace and peace through our Beloved Master!
"I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings", says Hos. 6:6. This subject of knowledge, especially so with the "knowledge of God", has been bandied about by all classes from the least unto the greatest; and a little reflection readily makes evident that it must be embellished with copious qualifications if it is to be retained in proper balance. Almost every virtue becomes a vice when overdone; therefore, almost every virtue requires a companion virtue if it is to be maintained in good perspective. This is certainly true of knowledge, because St. Paul says that "knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up." The great Apostle is not here putting a slur on knowledge, because no one can have too much knowledge if that knowledge is given proper balance by the grace of love. "The spirit of a sound mind" implies that such a person has all four of the Divine attributes in reasonable proportion – each companion to the other three prorated to its correct position. Knowledge is acquaintance with fact, clear perception of truth; and wisdom is the correct application of knowledge. Thus, a man who is gifted chiefly with knowledge may be said to be an intellectual man; one with knowledge and power, an austere man; one with knowledge, power and justice, a righteous man; and one with knowledge (wisdom), power, justice and love is a "good man." And to one possessing these four the promise is sure and certain that his "steps are ordered of the Lord."
We often hear the remark that "knowledge is not the essential thing"; but this statement is only a half truth, and – Half truths are more misleading than whole errors. St. Paul does indeed say that love is the principal thing – that "love is the bond of perfectness" (Col. 3:14). And none with that "bond of perfectness" will ever be rejected by the lord, will never fall from the Class in which he finds himself. No Saint ever lost his crown so long as he retained that "bond"; and no Youthful Worthy will ever fall from his Class if he has and retains that bond. As Brother Johnson has so well stated, it is not required of Youthfuls that they develop Agape love; but they should certainly do so if they have the capacity to do so. Some may not be able to do this; but it should be readily evident that if they can and do acquire it then they have also the "bond of perfectness", which none can give nor take away – the possessor of that "bond" can never encounter shipwreck in his walk by faith.
Above we quoted St. Paul's statement that love is the principal thing, but here also qualification is necessary, because no one ever developed Agape love without patience, and none can retain it without that adorning grace. It is of such importance that St. Paul mentions it last in Titus 2:2 in his admonition to be "sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience." Jesus had perfect love, but this He retained only through His perfection in patience – "He steadfastly (in full patience) set His face to go to Jerusalem." But we must go beyond patience in our qualification of Agape love. Before patience must come faith; and before faith must come knowledge – "the knowledge of God." This is emphasized in Romans 10:14-17: "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard (received sufficient knowledge to enable them to believe)? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?.... So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Clearly, then, in the primary sense the "knowledge of God" is the principal thing; without that knowledge there could be no faith; without faith "It is impossible to please God", and without faith none could possibly gain that principal thing – Agape love. It has been our observation that those who would discount the virtue of knowledge – "not the essential thing" – are those who possess very little of it; and their contention is simply a lame alibi for their glaring incapacity – "My people perish for lack of knowledge." We are instructed to "study to show thyself approved unto God"; and we are to account those elders ''worthy of double honor ... who labor in word and doctrine (the knowledge of God)" – l Tim. 5:17.
And with such servants abides the assurance of faith – they know that they know. Nor need such assurance "puff up" if that knowledge is moderated by Agape love. The Egyptians have a proverb: ''He who knows, but knows not that he knows, is timid – encourage him. He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is ignorant – teach him. He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool – shun him. But he who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise – follow him." Surely, the last two Principal Men knew, and knew that they knew; the Scriptures specifically state of one of them that he was "wise"; and our trust was well placed as we followed them. Neither of them deemed it essential to be "as the actors", to use the tricks of oratory, or the flummery of the stage, much of which is simply humbug. A pleasant anecdote is related of Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist: Some neighborhood boys attempted a prank upon him by catching a grasshopper, tearing off its wings and long hind legs, then substituting the wings of a wasp and parts of several other bugs. They then showed him their artifice, asking him if he could tell them what kind of a bug it was. "Did it make a humming noise when you first caught it out in the field"? he asked. "Oh, yes; it made a very loud humming noise when we first grabbed it.'' 'Then'', replied Mr. Darwin, "it's a 'hum'-bug."
Such is much the case with much of our present-day estimation of the "knowledge of God." A very prominent Evangelist recently said to his audience, "Coming to Christ is not dependent on understanding. I don't understand the digestive system) but I eat." The superficiality of this statement is readily apparent. The Evangelist himself may not understand his digestive system; but other human beings do understand it, and this enables him to go on living. Had the human race not learned early in history that same articles are deadly poison which destroy the digestive system, none would have survived onto this day. The Evangelist's physician understands the digestive system, and he hires that physician to keep his digestive system in proper condition. And by the same rule of measure the preacher should understand what he is feeding the flock – and should feed them the true "knowledge of God" – if he would save them from spiritual indigestion. Presumably, they are paying him to do just that just as the Evangelist pays his doctor to keep him physically well.
Of course, the tendency of the times is to discount the "knowledge of God" – it doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you are headed in the right direction. Therefore, take no exceptions to your neighbor's beliefs; they are just as good as knowledge and talent, as some mistakenly think, but, if sanctified, uses them advantageously for His cause, yet He certainly does not put the main emphasis on them, which main emphasis He lays upon characteristics of the heart." Yet St. Paul so often remarks, "I would not have you ignorant, brethren." Also, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." It was by His knowledge that He explained the types and shadows of the Old Testament and "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." And at the very time He was doing this the critical statement was given to the Jews, "Israel hath a zeal, but not according to knowledge."
In Detroit at present there is a reciprocal understanding among many of the ministers of the different sects regarding 'mixed' marriages to this effect: If, say, a Lutheran comes to his minister to be married to a Methodist, the Lutheran minister performs the service; then advises them to determine both to attend the same church. If the bride doesn't like the minister who has just joined her in wedlock, or if she cannot accept the Lutheran faith, then the minister advises his own member to follow his bride to the Methodist Church; or vice versa; Thus, in the overall figures, all is balanced up – and every one is happy. This means there is no longer controversy over what is the "knowledge of Cod"; if there be any conflict, it is now chiefly over personalities – "there is no live coal to warm them", no living doctrinal Truth in its purity to stir their icy spiritual blood (Isa. 47:14). "They are shepherds that cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter" (Isa. 56:11). Don't expose my ignorance, and I won't expose yours, they say; and each of us will prosper in our own bailiwick. (See Berean Comments on Isa. 56:11.)
But, if we would be better used of the Lord, it is essential that we have a certain amount of knowledge, although some with limited knowledge and inherent wisdom (the proper application of knowledge) often accomplish more than others with greater knowledge but endowed with less wisdom. Therefore, Solomon says, 'Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding." Companion thoughts are excellently expressed by both Star Members in the May 14 Manna comments: "What is it to grow in grace? It is to grow in favor with the lord through an intimate personal acquaintance and fellowship of spirit with Him...To grow thus in grace and not in knowledge is impossible.... If, therefore, we love and obey the lord and desire to grow in His favor, His written word is our daily meditation and study; and thus we grow in knowledge."
Errorists and superficial teachers offer just the reverse of the foregoing to their devotees. When the Church of Rome was in its heyday it is well stated that its motto was: Reading is doubt; doubt is heresy; and heresy is Hell. That is, any who endeavored to inform themselves were doubting the infallibility of their leaders; and such must certainly be only the course of the heretic. This was indeed the "doctrine of Balaam .... the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate." (Rev. 2:14-15.) Such are the antitypical Baal worshipers, who endeavor by sleight-of-hand and great oratorical shouting to overawe the "unstable and the unlearned." It should be noted that Baal was the Sun God – Lord of the Day – a fitting type of power-graspers and clericalists. At night the Heavens are filled with millions of stars, many of them much larger than our sun; yet they are all completely obscured during the daytime. They are still in their respective places, of course, but they are not visible to the human eye because of the daytime splendor of the sun. And such is much the condition of Gospel-Age power-graspers; they have outshone the true Star Members; have "cast their brethren out" and built up Great Babylon; yet the promise is sure to all the fully faithful – "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father." And this exaltation will be one without end!
In this connection, be it noted that the orbit of the sun is from the East to the South to the West. But those who follow Baal cannot ever receive any exaltation from the true God. Therefore, it is written, "Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south" – that is, no promotion from God to those who follow the course of Baal. In 1 Kings 18 is recorded the experience of Elijah with Jezebel's prophets of Baal – one against 450. There had been a long drought in the land, the country was blistering under the unrelenting rays of the burning sun. Therefore, Elijah gave those prophets of Baal every possible advantage when he told them to try their hand first – to kill their bullock, put it on the altar, and call upon Baal, their Sun God, at high noon to ignite the wood under their sacrifice. Well did they realize the mockery that would come upon them if they failed under such advantageous circumstances, which prompted them to call out, "O Baal, hear us...And it came to pass at noon that Elijah mocked them...and they cried aloud and cut themselves after their manner with knives." Then, when they were forced to admit failure (about three o'clock in the afternoon – vs. 29, "the evening sacrifice"), Elijah instructed that twelve barrels of water be poured upon his offering) after which fire came from Heaven and consumed his sacrifice. While the Gospel-Age Elijah has always had the assurance that "Thou hearest me always", fortified as they have been by the knowledge of God, which gave them a ''mouth and Wisdom which none of their adversaries were able to gainsay nor resist", seldom were they given the spectacular outward approval which came to the Prophet Elijah in his encounter with the Prophets of Baal that fateful day. In fact, in many instances during this Gospel Age the Baal worshipers (power-graspers) have gained the ascendancy – as instance the victory of Calvin over Miletus Servetus, etc.; yet the fully faithful have striven with the strength of Samson and the skill of the warrior David in their use of the knowledge of God. It should not be expected, of course, that all would demonstrate the ability of the Star Members in the use of this knowledge – although many have assumed they could do so. We recall the occasion when a gainsayer gave us the argument that Christ died and rose again "according to the Scriptures" – that this proved it was not actually true, but was only "according to the Scriptures", which were unreliable in their records.
It has been contended by some in our midst that the Truth has always come first, then followed by error. This is only a half truth; and half truths are more misleading than whole errors. In the broad sense, the Bible, which is the Truth, has been first, of course; but Micah 5:5 clearly states that ''When the Assyrian (the errorists) shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise up against him seven shepherds and eight principal men." This is in keeping with Prov. 24:16 – "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again." The "Just man" of this Gospel Age has been the fully faithful justified Christ Company, which fell into obscurity as much error sprang up about them after the death of each Star Member. We need only look at the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the Adventists and others to note the force of this contention. If the Star Members came back who originated those movements – Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Miller – they would be unable to find their teachings in those organizations that now claim to be their followers. In our time we have the instance of Brother Russell, and with what speed the falling occurred after he died. Jehovah's Witnesses bear no more resemblance to the truths he espoused and the organization he set up than does a vulture to a swan. The measurably faithful made quick havoc of his good work just as uncleansed Levites are doing all about us, some more, some less. And, as we observe this state of affairs, it behooves us all the more to equip ourselves with "the knowledge of Cod" to the extent of our natural and acquired providential circumstances. The world in general, of course, "knows not God"; and the great mass of Christian believers quite evidently have very little of the "knowledge of God." There is the constant and irrepressible conflict, the battle of darkness against light, and "The darkness hateth the light because it is reproved by it." But the "knowledge of Cod" is for "the children of light", who zealously try to pass it on to others, but with very limited success against the opposition of the "god of this world." Therefore, it confers its greatest blessing upon its possessor; hence, the world of Solomon, "Buy the Truth (the knowledge of God), and sell it not." To such, and to such alone, applies the promise of Psalms 91:10 – "Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." Such are the members of that "one Church, which in its entirety is the steward and administrator of the Truth (the knowledge of God), to preserve and defend it from error and to administer it for the benefit of the responsive." (E-8-253) And such will be in full agreement with the slogan on Brother Johnson's letterhead as respects the Knowledge of God – "The noblest science; the best instruction."
Sincerely your brother,
John J. Hoefle, Pilgrim
Questions of General Interest
QUESTION: – A sister recently wrote to me that you are out of harmony with Brother Russell and Brother Johnson on the doctrine of Baptism. Is this true?
ANSWER: – No, it certainly is not true. We adhere to the purpose, performance and understanding of this doctrine for our day exactly as they gave it to us. For five years now R. G. Jolly has been conducting a "whispering campaign" against us on this matter, in which he has been joined by his "cousin" J. W. Krewson, who attempts to conduct the same sort of "unclean" campaign against us, much the same as he tried to do with respect to our Pilgrim status. Both Star Members adhered to the belief (an opinion only) that the twelve men in Acts 19:1-7 were Gentiles; but we have raised a question about this, because there is no direct Scripture to support it, and because the record in Acts 18 and 1 Pet. 3:21 appear to dispute their thought. We have treated this matter in quite some detail in our paper of July 1, 1957 (copy free upon request); and we have asked both "cousins" to desist in their sneaking ways, to came out openly and offer their explanation of Acts 18 and 1 Pet. 3:21. To date neither of them has done so; and it is our opinion that they won't, because they can't. Brother Johnson followed the practice of holding to Brother Russell's opinions unless time or plain Bible passages disproved them; and we ourselves accept that position toward both Star Members. If the two "cousins" want to believe the men of Acts 19 were Gentiles, we would not argue the point; it makes just no difference at all in our present belief and performance of Baptism. Nor would we now be using more space on this item, except that they endeavor to berate us – after the manner of Azazel – on this insignificant point in their underhanded desperation to find at least a little something to bolster their weak position generally.
QUESTION: – Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51 state, "Upon you may come all the righteous blood shod upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zecharias...whom ye slew between the temple and the altar," Bro. Jolly says these Scriptures clearly prove that Bro. Johnson was the last Saint –that there cannot possibly be any more left on earth. Will you please publish your comments on this?
ANSWER: – R. G. Jolly uses a part of those Scriptures – and only a part. This in itself is always unmistakable evidence of the weakling and the perverter – (Azazel means Perverter). Until he can offer a clear explanation of the clause, ''whom ye slew between the temple and the altar" – the clause specially put there by Jesus Himself he is simply manifesting Azazelian impudence to quote these Scriptures at all as a part of his "proof" that Brother Johnson was the last Saint. Let him explain how Brother Johnson was 'slain between the temple and the altar" if he wants to use these Scriptures in his argument. We have given a clear explanation of it in our writings; let him give a better one if he has it.
Also, the typical Zechariah died about a thousand years BC Thus, there was other "righteous blood" shed after his death – John the Baptist, probably Jeremiah and others. If the antitype is to be consistent, why should not the same thing be true here in the end of the Age with the Little Flock – just as it was true with the Ancient Worthies? It is all very well to say Jesus used Zechariah because that record is found in 2 Chronicles, which is technically the last book of the Hebrew Bible; but, as we have outlined previously, the real reason Jesus chose Zechariah in His statement was because Zechariah was the last officiating High Priest to be martyred, so far as the Bible reveals. This made him the last Ancient Worthy who could make an all-embracing type of the Gospel-Age priesthood – and especially so as the official Eye, Hand and Mouth of the Lord. But this would not mean that the Epiphany Zechariah had to be the last Priest, any more than it meant that the typical Zechariah was the last Ancient Worthy.