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EXTRACTS FROM INTERESTING LETTERS
Nicholas Co., W.Va.
EDITOR Z.W.T.: I happened to get Food for Thinking Christians, and it has done for me what I have been trying to have done for fifty years, till I was weary of trying, and almost weary of myself. Now you may know why I could not sit still after reading that blessed little book. Though very poor, I would be willing to spend fifty years more, if it were the Lord’s will, in circulating the good news; and I would consider myself well paid if I could find a few to whom it would do as much good as it has done for me. I have placed four copies of Z.W.T. in one Baptist church, and there are more wishing to read in that church, but they are afraid of being turned out of the synagogue. I send a list of names; please send me more samples. Yours truly, __________.
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Virginia, June 1, 1886.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—As I know you must receive and answer many letters, I thought best not to trouble you unless I had somewhat to write. For the last sixteen years I have been an elder in the Christian Church here. About three years ago, seemingly providentially, my attention was called to a paper published by you, in which you clearly set forth the plan of God. I read it carefully and tried it by the only infallible rule, and have found it as far as I am able to decide, equal to the measure, and none have been able to prove the contrary. These truths have done my soul good. They seem to have become a part of my being. I have circulated them among all who would receive them, and to-day I find myself standing with a little flock of about fourteen, who are not ashamed to own their Lord nor to defend his cause, maintain the honor of his Word, the glory of his cross.
A few months ago some of them proposed to withdraw from the Church. I advised not, in-as-much as our brethren, the disciples, had neither name nor creed to which we could object. But as they claim the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible as their creed, it is our duty to speak the truth with boldness, and if they object let them act accordingly. I made an appointment to speak on the subject of the ransom, but owing to sickness I could not attend. A large crowd met to hear myself and brethren of like faith denounced as heretics and disturbers of the peace of the community. On the following Sunday we renewed our appointment and filled it; but the opposing brethren engaged the resident Baptist preacher to meet me and reply. The fire was kindled; the next Sunday we met to search the Scriptures to see if these things were so. The Baptist preacher was present, and the search did not lead in the right direction for one who had been preaching the immortality of the soul and eternal torment for forty years, therefore he objected to the results, but failed to offer any proof, though we gave him an opportunity.
The Church was next called together by my brother Elders to put a stop to this business. We complied with the summons and when arraigned we stated our position as plainly and simply as we could, and then asked them to prove us guilty before they condemned us. Finding themselves powerless to act, they deferred the case until the fourth Sunday in June, at which time we are told we will be tried by six Disciple preachers.
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In the meantime the community was called together at the Disciples Church to hear the Baptist preacher preach our funeral and bury our doctrine beyond the power of a resurrection. The decision, so far as I have been able to learn is, that there is danger in preaching live men’s funerals. He proceeded first, by throwing a stone at my character; second, by reading from a secular paper the horrible crimes and the dreadful threats attributed to the Nihilists, Socialists and Communists, and tried to fasten them with an iron bolt of slander, to what he was pleased to call Russellism, and as a result of their teaching; third, he found it more easy to misstate and misrepresent our position than to make the least attempt to prove it false.
When he closed, he found we were ready to help him prove false all he had attempted to prove false, and it only remained for us to restate our position, fortify it with Scripture, and ask him to prove that false, before he condemned it. Now, Brother Russell, a man may slander my character, but he shall not slander the truth of God and go entirely without rebuke.
Am I correct when I assert that you have never in any of your writings alluded to the crimes committed by Socialists, Communists, and Nihilists in any other light than that they are the works of Satan and the result of his unrighteous reign, save that you refer to them as an unmistakable prophetic sign, of the presence of the heavenly king? Please state in the next issue of the TOWER, that all who desire to know, may know how to render under unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (though he may be ashamed of them) and to God the things that are God’s.
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Now Brother, I have a request to make of you—Although the truth has suffered no loss in all the fiery trials through which it has passed, but has come out pure and brighter, and we have been made stronger in each attack thus far, and while we are sure that the Lion of the tribe of Judah being present will defend his cause, yet we are compelled to look upon the fourth Sunday as a time of much interest to the cause of truth in this community, and knowing that those six preachers before whom our brethren would like to have us tried (though they have another object in coming) are all college students, and as I have not had the benefit even of a common school, I would like you to advise us as to the best course to pursue; and if you think best state for us our position as clearly, strongly, and simply, as possible, that we may compel them to prove us guilty of violating their creed (the Bible) before they condemn us; for from what you have already shown us, we have full confidence in you and will follow as closely as the occasion will allow, any advice you may think proper to give.
Your brother in Christ. __________.
DEAR BROTHER:—Yours of June 1 came duly and gave us much pleasure, as it always does, to hear of the spread of the truth and the blessing of the Lord’s children with the liberty and joy which the truth affords.
I am glad to see that you and the brethren with you, so fully appreciate the truth, and that for the time you have enjoyed it, you have been so strengthened and faithful as to be able to take the bold, firm stand your letter outlines.
Your position is a correct one, in my judgment. The so-called Baptist and Christian denominations claim the Bible as the only standard of faith and practice, and in by-gone years laid great stress upon this in their discussions with other denominations. But the spirit of the world has crowded down their simplicity and spirit of Bible study about as with others to-day. It is now a freedom of name more than anything else, I think.
Your faithfulness in not keeping your light under a bushel is bringing some of them face to face with the truth and with their claim to the Bible as their only creed. The responsibility is thus upon them. Let us hope that the meeting for the examination of your views may be marked by candor and honesty on their part, with a sincere desire to ascertain from a Bible standpoint what is truth. Let me suggest that, so far as possible, you allow this view of the matter to control your feelings toward them, and your utterances. A danger under such circumstances is to feel that it is a battle. Should they treat it thus, let your words be seasoned with grace. (Col. 4:6.) Let the spirit of the glorious truths you now see, so fill your heart that out of its fullness your mouths may speak to the Lord’s praise, and to the enlightenment and profit of your opposers as well as the hearers.
It would not be well that I should attempt to give you details. These must be found at the time, and must depend somewhat upon the course of your opposers. While preparing, as much as possible, by studying the subject and arranging plans of thought, for it is our duty to have the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God, which is able to make us wise—well in hand, so that we shall be able to give to him that asketh us a reason for the hopes that are within us, yet back of all this, our strength and confidence should be in him who declares, „I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” The TRUTH is his and you are his—his ambassadors. He will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your adversaries shall be able to gainsay or resist. (Luke 21:15.)
I will venture a brief outline of the ground of our belief and confidence, which we believe gives absolutely no room for opposers of our faith to stand upon. They must either reject the Bible or accept its truth, or else evade the issue by sophistry, cutting short further Bible investigation.
Protestant denominations generally still hold, at least in theory, to the Bible doctrine of the fall and condemnation of the entire race through the sin of their representative Adam and the redemption of all through the obedience and sacrifice of Christ. In this we rejoice, for while they cling to this sure foundation, there is good basis for scriptural reasoning; and for hope that they may be led into further and fuller truth. That the remedy will be co-extensive in its results with the evil, is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 15:22,—”As through Adam all die, even so through Christ shall all be made alive.”
Adam’s one representative disobedience, brought the condemnation of God upon all. That condemnation was not to torment, but to DEATH. (Gen. 2:17.) Sin forfeited the right to life God had given mankind, and brought the actual literal death, no matter how many figurative deaths may be conceived of as attending it. By one man’s disobedience death passed upon all, in that all partook of his imperfection and sin. (Rom. 5:12.)
Christ Jesus (by the favor of God) gave himself a ransom for ALL, (1 Tim. 2:6,) so that as through Adam’s disobedience, all were condemned to death, so through Christ’s obedience unto DEATH all are redeemed, all are justified to have life.
The only condition upon which any may ever have everlasting life, is obedient faith—faith in Christ’s work as Redeemer, and obedience to God’s law which his redemption and aid will make possible to all. Hence to be saved through Christ, each human being must hear in the sense of understanding or appreciating perfectly God’s plan, and his responsibility toward it. And hence, also, unless all thus „hear” (John 5:25), all would not receive the benefit which Christ died to secure for them. And this God guarantees shall not be.
Since many who occasionally see a Bible or hear a church bell are blinded and bound by „the god of this world”—Satan, so that they cannot hear and see (understand or appreciate) the truth, it follows that unless there be a future age in God’s plan in which Satan’s power to deceive will be restrained, and the knowledge of the Lord caused to fill the whole earth, the ransom secured by Jesus will never be co-extensive with the evil and condemnation upon all through Adam’s fall.
But God’s Word declares that Christ’s sacrifice was the full equivalent of Adam’s sin, and that the blessings flowing from his obedience will be co-extensive with the evil flowing from Adam’s disobedience. It recognizes the necessity of another age to come, and promises that the Redeemer shall reign and bless all, and fill the earth with knowledge and bind the deceiver. Thus God’s plan provides every condition necessary to the saving of all—knowledge and ability—and declares not only that Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, but also that it shall be testified in due time.—1 Tim. 2:6. The Scriptures never intimate that the Gospel age is the due time for the world to hear, and be blessed by Christ. They teach that now only a „little flock” is sought by the Lord, and these are promised explicitly that they, as the Bride of Christ, or the members of his body, shall reign on the earth to bless all the families of the earth. And in the last revelation of God’s plan, given by our Lord Jesus himself, he points us in symbol to the new order of affairs, and tells us that there and then, the Spirit and the Bride—the Church—shall say, „Come! and that whosoever will, may come” and partake of life as of a fountain of water, and by obedience live forever.
For six thousand years God has permitted evil to reign and triumph; in the seventh, he will give power and dominion to Christ and the Church as his own representatives in the earth, to cleanse and bless all, and bring all, or as many as will, into perfect harmony with himself, whom to thus know will be life eternal. The basis of this plan is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord, begun at his consecration at baptism in Jordan, and completed on Calvary.
Regarding Anarchism: No well-balanced mind could favor it, or conceive it an advantage to any class. Nevertheless God’s Word clearly reveals the fact that this extreme of evil will be the means by which present empires will fall. Hence these will, in a measure, be God’s instrumentality, even as he has often caused the wrath of man, as well as of Satan, to work out his plans. Another side of the question would show that there is a measure of right on the part of Labor, the ignoring of which is leading on to Anarchism. But this we must leave for a fuller consideration at another time.
California, June 3, 1886.
DEAR FRIENDS:—I hope your list of workers in the vineyard have reported success so frequently that mine has not been missed. I have been working as all must every day and hour, wherever they are, but not in the wide field I would choose if it were mine to make choice. As I am not mine own, I accept all as the ordering of my never erring—Master. My dear parents are becoming feeble with age, and have been sick, lingering along and gaining strength slowly, till now they are able to go around, but cannot be left alone long. I am losing none of my interest, but watch the opportunities, and have used with care the precious „FOODS.” I am intending to gather them in, to use again as soon as possible. Most of them were given to persons I met at different times, who seemed to be ready for the feast and were going to various parts. With this explanation, you will understand why my apparent success is small, and yet I am needing a fresh supply. I found a Swede who is a constant student of the Word. He comes around once a week with fish. The first time he came I gave him a Swedish TOWER, and next time he said he found it taught Bible doctrines all through, and I gave him a FOOD and some English TOWERS.
Yesterday a physician’s wife came here for the first time, and she said at once, and boldly, she had come to see what there was in the strange doctrine we taught, and she left with the promise to come often, and said she thought she was ready for the truth as never before, and would make it her study. She took my very last FOOD and two TOWERS.
As soon as I can leave home I want to go to Sacramento to work as you have suggested. So please send me what is necessary, that I may be prepared to improve time on short notice, and I shall be grateful.
I have no better way to give you an idea of how little time I’ve had than to say it took me three days to read the last precious TOWER, when usually I „literally devour” it almost without stopping, after which I leisurely re-read and turn to all the references.
I had hoped that by examining the subjects carefully with my parents, they would be ready to „keep the feast” as commanded with me, but they could not see that it was an anniversary, and I kept it again alone, and yet not alone. One fully consecrated need never feel lonely. I knew the ones and twos would be remembered by the loved ones in congregated capacity.
I am so anxious to contribute to the Tract Fund, but strange to say I have not a half-dollar, nor have I purchased an article of that value for six months. Yet I am perfectly contented—yes, so happy. God bless you. Good-bye.
I am trying to hold myself in readiness to go especially with German TOWERS to San Francisco when the way is clear. I should have no other business only to „to do good and communicate,” and would not be able to do much in short time without FOODS, TOWERS, etc. It only costs one dollar to go to San Francisco, over one hundred miles. Opposition steamer on now. I can rent a room and take meals at a restaurant cheap. May the Lord bless you is my constant prayer. Your sister, __________.
Iowa, June 6th, 1886.
DEAR FRIENDS: In your last TOWER we notice your method for distributing the German Tracts. We are willing to do all we can for the spread of the „glad tidings”, happy if we can help in the great work, but how to go to work we hardly knew—this being a large town, and with many churches. We went to one German minister to find the number, but naturally he wanted to read the work before having it distributed. Now would it be right to distribute them at church doors without permission? and if we ask permission, will they not invariably want to read it first? and if they read it, will they not refuse?
Please tell us what is right. It seems as though we were greatly hindered in doing any work in this way. Perhaps we yield to hindrances too easily. Pray for us that we may be upheld in this trying hour, only in the strength of the Lord can we stand.
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Spiritism is at work in our neighborhood. One of my friends has turned that way, and she fain would have me go too, but I thank God that it has been made clear to me from whence this power is. Therefore I have had strength to resist it as well as to whisper a word of warning to others that perhaps would have been taken in the snare.
Yours, in hope of eternal life.__________
In reply:—We are glad of your zeal for the cause of truth. Persevere, God will bless and help you, though the adversary may seek to hinder and discourage at every step. God’s favor is sufficient for us; and he will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to resist, but will with temptations, difficulties, etc., provide a way of escape if we are in earnest, and will but do what we can.—1 Cor. 10:13.
Do not ask permission of any one to give the truth to the Lord’s sheep—professedly our brethren. God sends the truth to such of them as the „god of this world” has not blinded with prejudice and traditions (2 Cor. 4:3,4), and you are God’s messengers or ministers when thus serving him. His permission and approval alone we should expect. We live, thank God, in a land where we have the right—the liberty—to give to the people in their hands, food which they cannot get of the professed pulpits and oracles of truth.
We suggest, then, that by visiting the various German Protestant churches you could judge of the attendance. And, that when ready and supplied with the reading matter by us, you could engage some to assist in the distribution, serving one or more churches each session until all have been served. If the church is a large one, it would probably require two or three to hand to each person without delay, as they dismiss. Take your stand at the curb so as not to be upon the private property of the church, and thus give no occasion for offence.
— June, 1886 —