“Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)
So-called “higher criticism”1 is rapidly effacing all Bible doctrines, discrediting them and claiming that they are unnecessary to the Christian life. We hold the opposite view that sound doctrinal faith is essential to proper Christian living. The unchristian persecutions of the Dark Ages were founded upon false doctrines, the traditions of men, which made void the word of God. Over time the faith returned to some extent to a proper scriptural foundation, and to that extent better Christian living and the cessation of persecutions resulted.
The tendency today is in the opposite direction, toward the loss of all scriptural faith, hope and love. Today it is claimed that education will take the place of a divinely inspired faith and will promote righteousness and love. This is a misleading claim. So long as selfishness constitutes the basis of the fallen human nature, it cannot be trusted to lift itself into the realm of loving righteousness. The calamity of this error will soon manifest itself in selfishness and lawless anarchy.
In the meantime, all true Christians should seek earnestly for the old paths and for the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), not standing in the wisdom of men, no matter how highly they may regard their own wisdom as Higher Critics, Evolutionists, etc. The true Christian, if at all logical, will quickly discern that if the Bible is a divine revelation, its testimonies should be received absolutely. If its divine inspiration is denied, it should be accredited no more honor than any other book. Thankfully, as the eyes of our understanding open more and more widely, we discern internal evidences in the Scriptures which demonstrate their truthfulness and establish our faith more and more firmly.
The Bible is commonly judged, not on its own merits, but on the erroneous doctrines of the Dark Ages which are in reality perversions and misrepresentations of the divine message. When these unreasonable and false doctrines are exposed, the faith of God’s true people will be strengthened, standing in the power of God as revealed to us in His Word.
1“Higher criticism” (also called “historical criticism”) treats the Bible as texts created by human beings at particular historical times and for various human motives (in contrast with the treatment of the Bible as the inerrant word of God). It originated with anti-Christian writers whose goal was to discredit and ridicule the Bible and Christianity, but eventually liberal (and some mainstream) theologians began to adopt higher criticism analysis techniques. It is distinguished from “lower criticism” (also called “textual criticism”) which endeavors to determine what the texts of the Bible originally said before they were altered through transcription and translation errors, intentional or unintentional. We have no objection to this type of analysis.
AN INTELLIGENT CREATOR
The Bible does not attempt to prove the existence of a first great cause; on the contrary, it assumes and declares that the whole universe demonstrates God’s existence and intelligence: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psa. 19:1-3) The Bible declares, and mankind almost universally admits, that the one who at heart denies the existence of a God is of unsound mind – non compos mentis. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psa. 14:1)
If we knew no Bible, no revelation of the divine plan in connection with our earth and its inhabitants, we would instinctively look for one. Reason would teach us that the great system, the universe of which we are a part, could not have come by chance, and that the One so great, so powerful, must be correspondingly wise, correspondingly just, correspondingly loving. Such being His character, He must have created the human race with some good, just, wise, loving intention, which He would not be ashamed to have His creatures know. Moreover, having endowed us with mental powers and aspirations, He must know that some at least of the human family would be deeply interested in every feature of His plan, even though other minds might be able to satisfy themselves with the earthly things of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
May we not assume then that the Almighty would be pleased to note the interest of some in His great plan, and that He would have pleasure in making known to them its provisions for their blessing and comfort? The very qualities of the divine character that reason points to would seem to imply that divine justice, wisdom, love and power would provide a revelation, a Bible. Our question then should be “Does the Bible furnish satisfactory proof of its divine authority, so that we can rest our faith upon its testimonials?”
THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES
Disbelief usually attacks the Bible from the outside, claiming lack of evidence that it came from God, asserting that it is of merely human production. No other book bears stronger outward evidences of the sincerity of its writers. The complete harmony of these writings, spreading over eighteen centuries, well corroborates their testimony that they spoke and wrote under divine inspiration. What other collection of writings covering so long a period could be found in absolute accord, one with the other? We know of none, and assert that this harmony of the sacred writings corroborates their old claim that they were all composed by the Holy Spirit of God.
It is true there are other books from which wise and just sayings may be quoted, but we believe that no one thoroughly acquainted with those writings would for a moment claim for them a parity with our Bible. Those who claim that the Genesis account of creation is not sufficiently ample and scientific will not appreciate the reasonableness and simplicity of the record until they begin to compare it with the statements of other religions. Take for instance the ancient Chinese teaching upon this subject as an illustration. It depicts the great god and his son in a skiff. To prevent grounding, the son-god put out his hand to push off from the shore and shallows and incidentally caught a handful of pebbles and mud, which he shaped into a ball and tossed out upon the waters, and the ball grew and grew until it became the present earth. The most obstinate critic who will turn from this record of creation to the one given in our Bible must admit that the Genesis account is sublimely grand, clear and explicit in comparison.
It is when we examine the internal evidences of the Bible’s credibility as the word of God that we find ourselves astonished. Its testimony is so satisfactory and so far superior, not only to the creeds of the Dark Ages, but towering high above the theories of its modern critics. Even its opponents must admit that it has been a torch of civilization and liberty. Its influence for good in society has been recognized by the greatest statesmen, even though they for the most part have viewed it through the various glasses of conflicting creeds which grievously misrepresent its teachings.
The central figure of the Bible is Jesus of Nazareth. Every promise and every prophecy of the Old Testament points to Him as the one through whom comes hope for a fallen and condemned race. Every testimony of the New Testament points to Jesus alone as the one whose sacrificial death atonement has been effected, and they all point also to Him as the coming one, at whose second advent the blessing of God will be poured out in harmony with all the prophecies of the past. They give us the assurance that the work of this Gospel Age has been the selection from among believers of a “little flock” of fully consecrated followers of Jesus. Through disciplines and trials these faithful followers shall ultimately be perfected in the first resurrection, constituting with their Lord Jesus the long promised Kingdom of God. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through the just and loving rule of this Kingdom, and those who will come into heart accord with righteousness shall obtain eternal life.
A plan of salvation so deep, so broad, so just, so kind, so far beyond the scope of human ingenuity, demonstrates that those who proclaimed this Gospel with such absolute unanimity and with such absolute faith in it themselves, were indeed supremely directed.
The sincerity of the Prophets and the Apostles is demonstrated by the fact that their faith was not to their earthly advantage. On the contrary, it brought them trials, testings and in many cases persecutions even unto death. The Apostle Paul sums up the experiences of Abraham and of all the faithful who walked in his steps down to the time of Jesus, saying, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented, (Of whom the world was not worthy).” (Heb. 11:37-38)
The writers of the New Testament give similar evidences of their sincerity. Their advocacy of Jesus as the Messiah did not bring them wealth and influence and honor of men, bringing instead self-denials, persecutions, etc. According to all reasonable rules of evidence such men must be considered truthful, honorable, upright, witnesses of the highest character. No other history in the whole world stands upon such unimpeachable foundations.
Having established the sincerity of the writers, let us examine the character of the writings claimed to be inspired, to see whether their teachings correspond with the character we have reasonably imputed to God, and whether they bear internal evidences of their truthfulness.
The first five books of the New Testament and several of the Old Testament are narratives of historical facts known to the writers and vouched for by their characters. It is obvious that it did not require a special revelation to simply tell the truth with reference to matters with which they were intimately and fully acquainted. It in no way invalidates the truthfulness of certain books of the Bible, such as Kings, Chronicles, Judges, etc., when we say that they are simply carefully kept histories of prominent events and persons of their times.
The Hebrew Scriptures contain history, as well as the law and the prophecies. Their histories, genealogies, etc., were explicitly detailed because of the expectancy that the promised Messiah would come in a particular line from Abraham. Knowing this, we see a reason for the recording of certain facts of history. For instance, a clear record of Judah’s children is given, of whom came David, the king, through whom the genealogy of Mary, Jesus’ mother, as well as that of Joseph, her husband, is traced back to Abraham. (Luke 3:23,31,33,34; Matt. 1:2-16)
Since the king of Israel, as well as the promised Messiah, was to come of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), it was necessary to thoroughly establish this genealogy. Hence the minutiae of detail not given in other instances. (Gen. 38)
THE BOOKS OF MOSES
That the Bible contains no positive statement that these books were written by Moses does not disprove the thought; for had another written them to deceive and commit a fraud, he would surely have claimed credit.
The distinguished law-giver Moses did not seek to perpetuate or increase his own power by placing the government of the people under the control of his direct relatives of the priestly tribe, to use their religious authority to fetter the rights and liberties of the people. On the contrary, he introduced to the people a form of government calculated to cultivate the spirit of liberty. The histories of other nations and rulers show no parallel to this; in all other cases, the rulers have sought their own aggrandizement and power, even in instances where they have aided in establishing republics.
Moses was a champion of freedom, putting the government of the people completely into their own hands. Although it was stipulated that the weightier cases which the governors could not decide were to be brought unto Moses, yet they themselves were the judges as to what cases went before Moses. Thus we see that Israel was a republic whose officers acted under a divine commission. And to the confusion of those who ignorantly claim that the Bible sanctions an imperial rule over the people, instead of “a government of the people, by the people,” be it noted that this republican form of civil government continued for over four hundred years. It was then changed for that of a kingdom at the urgent request of the people themselves.
The instructions given to those appointed to civil rule were a model of simplicity and purity, as from God. Moses declared to the people, in the hearing of those judges: “I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger [foreigner] that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.” (Deut. 1:16-17)
In view of these facts, what shall we say of the theory which suggests that these books were written by knavish priests to secure to themselves influence and power over the people? Would such men for such a purpose forge records destructive to the very aims they sought to advance, records which prove conclusively that the great Chief of Israel, and one of their own tribe, at the instance of God, cut off the priesthood from civil power by placing that power in the hands of the people? Does anyone consider such a conclusion reasonable?
Again, it is worthy of note that the laws of the most advanced civilization of our time do not more carefully provide that rich and poor stand on a common level in accountability before the civil law. Absolutely no distinction was made by Moses’ laws. And as for the protection of the people from the dangers incident to some becoming very poor and others excessively wealthy and powerful, no other national law has ever been enacted which so carefully guarded this point. Moses’ law provided for a restitution every fiftieth year, their jubilee year. This law, by preventing the absolute alienation of property, thereby prevented its accumulation in the hands of a few. (Lev. 25:9, 13-23, 27-30)
All the laws were made public, thus preventing designing men from successfully tampering with the rights of the people. The laws were exposed in such a manner that any who chose might copy them; and, in order that the poorest and most unlearned might not be ignorant of them, it was made the duty of the priests to read them to the people at their septennial festivals. (Deut. 31:10-13)
Is it reasonable to suppose that such laws, and arrangements were designed by bad men, or by men scheming to defraud the people of their liberties and happiness? In its regard for the rights and interests of foreigners and of enemies, the Mosaic Law was many centuries ahead of its time. Indeed, the laws of the most civilized nations of today do not equal it in fairness and benevolence. We read:
“Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger [foreigner], as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 24:22; Ex. 12:49)
“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land … thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19:33,34)
“If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again….” (Ex. 23:4,5)
Even the lower animals were not forgotten. Cruelty to these as well as to human beings was prohibited strictly. An ox must not be muzzled while threshing the grain, for the good reason that any laborer is worthy of his food. Even the ox and the ass must not plow together, because so unequal in strength and tread; it would be cruelty. Their rest was also provided for. (Deut. 25:4; 22:10; Ex. 23:12)
The priesthood may be claimed by some to have been a selfish institution, because the tribe of Levites was supported by the annual tenth, or tithe, of the individual produce of their brethren of the other tribes. To state that the priesthood was a privileged class is an unfair presentation too common to skeptics. It was, in fact, founded upon the strictest equity. When Israel came into possession of the land of Canaan, the Levites certainly had as much right to a share of the land as the other tribes; yet, by God’s express command, they got none of it, except certain cities or villages for residence, scattered among the various tribes, whom they were to serve in religious things. Instead of the land, some equivalent should surely be provided them, and the tithe was therefore this reasonable and just provision.
Furthermore, though the tithe was a just debt, it was not enforced as a tax, but was to be paid as a voluntary contribution. No threat bound the people to make those contributions; all depended upon their conscientiousness. The only exhortations to the people on the subject are as follows: “Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.” (Deut. 12:19) “And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee” (in the land). (Deut. 14:27)
Moses, the pious and noble law-giver, denied that the laws were his own, and attributed them to God. (Ex. 24:12; Deut. 9:9-11; Ex. 26:30; Lev. 1:1) In view of his general character, and his commands to the people not to bear false witness and to avoid hypocrisy and lying, is it reasonable to suppose that such a man bore false witness and palmed off his own views and laws for those of God? Although Moses’ successors included bad men who did seek their own and not the people’s good, it is evident that they did not tamper with the sacred writings, which are pure to this day.
THE PROPHETS OF THE BIBLE
Glance now at the general character of the Prophets of the Bible and their testimonies. A rather remarkable fact is that the Prophets, with few exceptions, were not of the priestly class. In their day their prophecies were generally repugnant to the degenerating and time-serving priesthood, as well as to the idolatrously inclined people. The focus of their message from God to the people was generally reproof for sin and warnings of coming punishments, intertwined with promises of future blessings that would come once the people were cleansed from sin and returned to favor with God.
In some instances, their true character as God’s Prophets was not recognized until years after their death. We should remember that there was no priestly intervention in the giving of the law to Israel; it was given by God to the people by the hand of Moses. (Ex. 19:17-25; Deut. 5:1-5) Furthermore, it was made the duty of every man seeing a violation of the law to reprove the sinner. (Lev. 19:17) Thus all had the authority to teach and reprove; but as in our own day, the majority were absorbed in the cares of business, and became indifferent and irreligious. Accordingly, comparatively few fulfilled this requirement of reproving sin and exhorting to godliness; and these preachers are termed “Prophets” in both the Old and New Testaments.
The term prophet generally signifies public expounder, and the public teachers of idolatry were also called prophets. Out of the large class called prophets, God at various times made choice of some whom He specially commissioned to deliver messages, relating sometimes to things then at hand, at other times to future events. It is to the writings of this class, who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God, that we are now giving attention. They are properly designated as divinely commissioned Prophets or seers.
When it is remembered that these Prophets were mainly laymen, drawing no support from the tithes of the priestly tribe, and when, added to this, is the fact that they frequently not only reproved kings and judges, but also priests (though they did not reprove the office but only the personal sins of the men who filled it), it becomes evident that we could not reasonably decide that these Prophets were parties to any league, of priests or others, to fabricate falsehood in the name of God.
Let us next inquire whether there exists any link, or bond of union, between the records of Moses, those of the other Prophets, and those of the New Testament writings. If we find one common line of thought interwoven throughout these writings, which span a period of eighteen hundred years, this in connection with the character of the writers will be a good reason for admitting their claim that they were divinely inspired. This is especially true if the theme common to all of them is a grand and noble one, conforming well with what sanctified common sense teaches regarding the character and attributes of God.
THE BIBLE ONE AND HARMONIOUS
This we do find: One plan, spirit, aim and purpose pervades the entire book. Its opening pages record the creation and fall of man; its closing pages tell of man’s recovery from the fall and its intervening pages show the successive steps of the plan of God for the accomplishment of this purpose. The harmony, yet contrast, of the first three and the last three chapters of the Bible is striking. The one describes the first creation, the other the renewed or restored creation, with sin and its penal curse removed; the one shows Satan and evil entering the world to deceive and destroy, the other shows Satan’s work undone, the destroyed ones restored, evil extinguished and Satan destroyed; the one shows the dominion lost by Adam, the other shows it restored and forever established by Christ, and God’s will done on earth as in heaven; the one shows sin to be the cause of degradation, shame and death, the other shows the reward of righteousness to be glory, honor and life.
Though written by many pens, at various times and under different circumstances, the Bible is not merely a collection of moral precepts, wise maxims and words of comfort. It is much more; it is a reasonable, philosophical and harmonious statement of the causes of present evil in the world, its only remedy and the final results as seen by divine wisdom, which saw the end of the plan from before its beginning. It also marks the pathway of God’s people, upholding and strengthening them with exceeding great and precious promises, to be realized in due time. (2 Pet. 1:4)
Genesis teaches that man was tried in a state of original perfection in one representative, that he failed, and that the present imperfection, sickness and death are the results. But it also teaches that God has not forsaken him, and will ultimately recover him through the Redeemer, born of a woman. (Gen. 3:15) This teaching is kept up and elaborated all the way through the Bible. The necessity of the death of a Redeemer as a sacrifice for sins, and of His righteousness as a covering for our sin, is pointed out in the clothing of skins for Adam and Eve, in the acceptance of Abel’s offerings, in Isaac on the altar, in the death of the various sacrifices by which the patriarchs had access to God, and of those instituted under the law and perpetuated throughout the Jewish Age.
JESUS IN PROPHECY
The Prophets, though credited with understanding but slightly the significance of some of their utterances (1 Pet. 1:12), mention the laying of the sins upon a person instead of a dumb animal. In prophetic vision they saw He who was to redeem and to deliver the human race led “as a lamb to the slaughter,” that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” and that “with his stripes we are healed.” They pictured Him as “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and declared that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:3-7) They told where this deliverer would be born (Mic. 5:2), and when He would die, assuring us that it would be “not for himself.” (Dan. 9:26)
They mention various details concerning Him: He would be righteous and free from deceit, violence, or any just cause of death (Isa. 53:9-11); He would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12); He would be numbered among transgressors in His death (Isa. 53:12); not a bone of His body would be broken (Psa. 34:20; John 19:36); and though He would die and be buried, His flesh would not corrupt, neither would He remain in the grave. (Psa. 16:10; Acts 2:31)
The New Testament writers clearly and forcibly recorded in simple terms the fulfillment of all these predictions in Jesus of Nazareth. By logical reasoning they showed that such a ransom price as He gave was needful before the sins of the world could be blotted out, just as predicted in the Law and the Prophets. (Isa. 1:18) These New Testament writers traced the entire plan in a most logical and forcible manner, appealing not to the prejudices or passions of their hearers, but to their enlightened reason alone, furnishing some of the most remarkable and compelling reasoning to be found anywhere on any subject (see Rom. 5:12-19, and onward to the 12th chapter).
In the law, Moses pointed not only to a sacrifice, but also to the blotting out of sins and a blessing of the people under this great deliverer, whose power and authority he declares shall vastly exceed his own, though it should be “like unto” it. (Deut. 18:15-19) The promised deliverer is to bless not only Israel, but through Israel “all the families of the earth.” (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 26:4) And despite the prejudices of the Jewish people to the contrary, the Prophets continued the same strain, declaring that the Messiah shall be also “for a light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 49:6; Luke 2:32); that the Gentiles should come to Him “from the ends of the earth” (Jer. 16:19); that His name “shall be great among the Gentiles” (Mal. 1:11); and that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (Isa. 40:5; 42:1-7)
THE INSPIRATION OF THE APOSTLES
The New Testament writers claimed a divine anointing which enabled them to realize the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the sacrifice of Christ. Though prejudiced as Jews to think of every blessing as limited to their own people (Acts 11:1-18), they were enabled to see that, while their nation would be blessed, all the families of the earth would be blessed also, with and through them. They saw also that before the blessing of either Israel or the world, a “little flock” would be selected from both Jews and Gentiles. These being tried, would be found worthy to be made joint-heirs of the glory and honor of the Great Deliverer, and sharers with Him of the honor of blessing Israel and all the nations. (Rom. 8:17) They point out the harmony of this with what is written in the Law and the Prophets. The grandeur and breadth of the plan they present more than meets the most exalted conception of what it claims to be, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
The theme of all the Prophets was Messiah as the ruler, not only of Israel, but also of the entire world, as suggested in the books of Moses. The thought of the Kingdom was uppermost also in the teaching of the Apostles; and Jesus taught that we should pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and promised those a share in it who would first suffer for the truth, and thus prove themselves worthy.
This hope of the coming glorious Kingdom gave all the faithful ones courage to endure persecution and to suffer reproach, deprivation and loss, even unto death. The worthy “Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 5:12), the worthy overcomers whom He will make kings and priests in His Kingdom, and the trials and obstacles which they must overcome to be worthy to share that Kingdom, are all faithfully portrayed in the grand allegorical prophecy which closes the New Testament.
The blessings to come to the world under that Millennial reign are then introduced: Satan shall be bound, Adamic death and sorrow wiped out, and all the nations of earth shall walk in the light of the heavenly Kingdom, the new Jerusalem.
THE BIBLE UNIQUE AMONG BOOKS
The Bible, from first to last, holds out a doctrine found nowhere else: that a future life for the dead will come through a resurrection of the dead. All the inspired writers expressed their confidence in a redeemer; one declares that when God calls them from the tomb and they come forth, the wicked shall no longer rule over the earth for “the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.” (Psa. 49:14)
The resurrection of the dead is taught by the Prophets; and the writers of the New Testament base all their hopes of a future life and blessing upon it. Paul expresses it thus: “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain… Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished... But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept… For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:13-22)
Like the works of a clock whose many wheels might at first seem superfluous, but whose slowest moving wheels are essential, so the Bible, composed of many parts, and prepared by many pens, is one complete and harmonious whole. Not a single part is superfluous, and though some parts take a more active and prominent place than others, all are useful and necessary.
It is becoming popular among the so-called “advanced thinkers” and “great theologians” of the present day to treat lightly, or to ignore if not outright deny, many of the “miracles” of the Old Testament, calling them “old wives’ fables.” Among these are the accounts of Jonah and the great fish, Noah and the ark, Eve and the serpent, the standing still of the sun at the command of Joshua, and Balaam’s speaking ass.
These wise men seemingly overlook the fact that the Bible is so interwoven and united in its various parts that to remove or discredit these miracles would destroy or discredit the whole. For if the original accounts are false, those who repeated them were either falsifiers or dupes, and in either case it would be impossible for us to accept their testimony as divinely inspired. To eliminate from the Bible the miracles mentioned would invalidate the testimony of its principal writers, as well as that of our Lord Jesus.
Miracles are with us daily. Those miracles not common to our experience find parallels about us every day which, being more common, are passed by unnoticed. We plant two seeds side by side; the conditions, air, water and soil, are alike; they grow, we cannot tell how nor can the wisest philosopher explain this miracle. These seeds develop organisms of opposite tendencies; one creeps, the other stands erect; form, flower, coloring, everything differs, though the conditions were the same. Such miracles manifest a power as much beyond our own limited power and intelligence as do the few miracles recorded in the Bible for special purposes, and as intended illustrations of omnipotence, and of the ability of the Great Creator to overcome every obstacle and to accomplish all His will, even to our promised resurrection from the dead, the extermination of evil, and the ultimate reign of everlasting righteousness.
Here we rest the case. The depth, the power, the wisdom and scope of the Bible’s testimony convince us that not man, but the Almighty God, is the author of its plans and revelations.
(The above is based on an oral address by Pastor Russell, published in the Pittsburgh Gazette, October 16, 1905. Reproduced in Harvest Gleanings, Volume 3.)
STRENGTH IN THE LORD PROPORTIONATE TO KNOWLEDGE
No one can grow strong in the Lord unless he grows also in knowledge. We properly esteem most highly those whose love for the Lord and for His Truth are evidenced by their zeal in the study of His Word, and whose favor with God is manifested by their being guided more into the deep things of God.
Nevertheless, the weaker ones of the household of faith are to be cared for and loved and helped that they may grow strong in the Lord. And just here the Apostle offers another word of counsel, saying, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Rom. 15:1) This does not imply that we should not expostulate with such a one and endeavor to help him get rid of his infirmity. This we should do, in the spirit of meekness and kindness, while we endure with gentleness the trial of our patience, not seeking to please ourselves, but rather to help a weaker brother or sister. “Let every one of us,” as the Apostle enjoins, “please his neighbour [brother] for his good to edification” (Rom. 15:2), i.e., not by simply ignoring his fault as though we considered it all right, but, while kindly urging him to strive against it, still humbly and patiently submitting to the discomfort it brings to us.
If this spirit prevails among the members of the Lord’s Body, the members will all have a mutual love and a mutual care one for another, a care which seeks to encourage and strengthen all that is good and to discourage all that is unbecoming, and a love which throws its mantle over a deformity and endeavors to conceal a fault, rather than to expose the weaker brother to the reproach of others.
For such self-sacrificing love how necessary is the spirit of humility and gentleness and patience and faith! How forceful are the Master’s words, “Except ye be converted [from the spirit of the world to the Spirit of Christ], and become as little children [in meekness and teachableness], ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:1-6)
We should not only have this love, but we should have it with fervency, warmth, ardor; not with a semi-indifference, but with a real interest in each other’s welfare, the rich as well as the poor; the educated as well as the ignorant. Our love should go out to these as we see any lack in them that we could supply rendering assistance of any kind; using always, of course, discretion, for love learns to be wise, and to take into consideration our motives while we endeavor to do them good.
The Apostle suggests that we see to it that this is our own experience; not merely that it is a principle which we recognize, but that we should give heed to ourselves that this should be accomplished in us, in our own lives. It would not be natural to have that benevolence of mind which would practice forgiveness of those who trespass against us. But when we think of the fact that the whole race is fallen and degraded through heredity, it should make us sympathetic; if some are more depraved, we should have the more sympathy for them. As we think sympathetically along those lines, our sympathetic love will increase; as we practice sympathetic love the New Creature develops.
(Written by Pastor Russell. Originally published under the series title People’s Pulpit. Reproduced in Harvest Gleanings, Volume 3. It was of course addressed to the Little Flock, but the thoughts are appropriate for all of the Household.)