AN OUTLINE OF MY LIFE - CHAPTER 14
AN OUTLINE OF MY LIFE
SELECTIONS FROM A FIFTY YEARS' RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
BY JAMES ANDERSON, EVANGELIST
LECTURES AT UDDINGSTON ON "MILLENNIAL DAWNISM" WITH DETAILED REFUTATION OF ITS PRINCIPAL DOCTRINES
In 1893, a few of our members who lived in Bellshill began to meet as a Church there. After some time, this Church moved from Bellshill to Uddingston. These places being in the district round which I laboured, I now and again helped them in Gospel work. But I had not many uncommon experiences in connection therewith. I may mention one thing. The Millennial Dawn people tried to make themselves felt in Uddingston, and I was asked to give a few lectures in reply to them. Our people engaged a hall, and I delivered four lectures, in which I touched upon the main points in Mr. Russell's plea. It is better named Russellism than Millennial Dawnism, for beyond all question Mr. Russell is the inventor and promoter of the whole thing. I left myself open for questions for an hour at the close of each lecture. They went in for questioning with some vigour the first evening, but they became milder as the lectures went on. When we got to the "Future of the wicked," though it is such a favourite subject with Mr. Russell, I passed very easily out of their hands. We have a Church at Overtown. They called upon me to review a lecture by a Dr. Edgar from Glasgow on "Where are the dead?" They took a hall for me in Wishaw for this purpose. I gave an hour for questions at the close of this lecture also. I had large audiences at all these lectures. These are the only times which I have required to pay public attention to Millennial Dawnism. I have often had to deal with it privately and have often come in contact with its literature.
Its literature is its main feature. Mr. Russell is more anxious about selling his literature than he is about preaching the Gospel, converting sinners, or establishing Churches. All this is quite consistent on Mr. Russell's part. His God does not wish to have sinners saved at present. He only wishes Mr. Russell and a few others just now, and he is willing that Satan should blindfold the rest. It is too much to expect, if we expect Mr. Russell to do better than his God. Why should he put off his time, trying to have sinners saved, when he believes that it is not God's will that they should be saved? In this respect Mr. Russell is as far from the first preachers of the Gospel as darkness is from light. It is very hard for me to look upon Mr. Russell's day-dreaming as a religion of any kind; you strike nearer the centre of it if you look upon it as an American bookselling speculation. The bulk of Mr. Russell's actions gather round that centre.
It is not my intention to give outlines of my lectures, I shall only touch upon a few of Mr. Russell's errors for the sake of those who do not understand his teaching.
An outstanding feature in his teaching is that mankind, with few exceptions, will have an opportunity of salvation after the resurrection. If it had pleased God to say this as plainly as Mr. Russell says it, then no one who believes the Scriptures would would have any fault to find. But that is the trouble, you search the Scriptures in vain for a distinct statement of that kind. It does not seem to be any trouble to Mr. Russell to speak positively where the Scriptures do not speak, nor does it seem to be any trouble for a number of his followers just to accept his word without any clear Bible statement. If Mr. Russell believes the Bible to be the Word of God, he is one of the most stupid or most daring of men.
He knows that the Bible makes no clear statement that any sinner will have the Gospel preached to him or have a chance of salvation after this life. He has to depend upon reason and inference to make out his case in regard to this, his foundation principle. The man must have a large amount of daring presumption who asks another to risk eternity upon his deductions.
Mr. Russell affirms that no one can be saved till they hear the Gospel of Christ and accept it. The acceptance of this affirmation is essential to Mr. Russell's reasoning on the point in question. Accept it and he gets along so far with a fair show of reasoning; deny it and he stumbles at the beginning. As this is a foundation stone in his building, let us ask, "Is it true that no one can be saved unless he hears the Gospel of Christ and accepts it?" We call attention to the fact that there is no passage of Scripture which says so. When you call for a passage of Scripture which makes this pet affirmation of his, it is not forthcoming. This single fact should stop him from making it. That the Bible does not plainly say what Mr. Russell wishes it to say is a small matter in his eyes, he goes on confidently affirming it all the same. Here is the use which Mr. Russell makes of the affirmation referred to. "There are millions of heathens who have lived and died without hearing the Gospel, it is impossible that any of them can be saved until they hear and accept the Gospel. If they never get an offer of the Gospel they must all be lost. But it would be unjust to condemn the heathen without giving them an opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel. They did not get this opportunity while they lived, therefore they must, in justice, get it after the resurrection." Mr. Russell often reasons after this fashion, and many of his dupes believe that there can be no mistake about his reasoning. We have pointed out that this reasoning rests upon the affirmation that no one can be saved until he hears the Gospel of Christ; and we have called attention to the fact that the Scriptures do not contain this affirmation. But not only is there no Scripture for it, the second chapter of Romans proves that it is not true. Paul there informs us that "As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law, ... in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel" (Romans 2:12-14). Here you have three different standards by which men shall be judged in the same day. Those who have no written law, shall be judged by the law written in their hearts. The Jews, who had a written law, shall be judged by that law, in the same day that those who have heard the Gospel shall be judged by that Gospel. This puts it past doubt that God will judge all men according to the light which lay within their reach. We can all see the justice of this principle. But it puts an end to Mr. Russell's theory: for it proves that some will be saved under all three standards of judgment, and therefore some will be saved who did not during their life on earth hear the Gospel of Christ. "Therefore, if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who with the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?" (Romans 2:26,27). This passage makes it certain that God will commend the heathen who has lived up to his light. But this is the very thing which Mr. Russell denies. The second chapter of Romans moves the foundation from beneath this part of Mr. Russell's theory.
To be consistent, Mr. Russell should deny the possibility of any Jew being saved before the time that the Gospel of Christ was preached. If no one can be saved till he hears and accepts the Gospel, no Jew heard or received the Gospel till after Christ came, therefore all the Jews who lived and died before Christ came, lived and died in a lost condition. But though Mr. Russell, to be consistent, should push the Jew to the front just as much as he does the heathen, he is more cautious about the Jew. If he were to tell the people that Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah and Daniel would all rise from the dead as lost sinners, and Mr.Russell and his friends would require to preach the Gospel to them before they could be saved, that story would not tell so well. He can run his theory better by keeping the heathen to the front. I do not see how Mr. Russell could get along without the heathen. If you took the heathen and hell and the devil out of Mr. Russell's writings, you would make a great gap.
When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ it is to "receive the things done in the body" (2 Cor. 5:10). That any one will have the gospel preached to them after this life is a delusion. When Christ comes again, He comes to reward the righteous and to punish the wicked; that is abundantly certain. But there is not a single hint that He is coming with a message of mercy to any one who has lived and died in sin. When Christ comes again, He is coming "In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power: when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thes. 1:8-10). If this takes place when He comes, what room is there left for mercy to any sinner after that?
Let us look at another quotation of the same kind: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). If Christ comes as a thief in the night and does what is here stated, who shall be saved after that? When Christ comes again the state of every man, good and bad, is fixed for ever. It is impossible to harmonize the speculations of Mr. Russell with these and many other passages of a like nature.
We might look at this subject from another standpoint. Four times in the sixth chapter of John we are informed that the saints will be raised up "at the last day" (John 6:39,40,44,54). According to Mr. Russell, the saints are to be raised from the dead at the beginning of the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20. Then there has to be a dispensation of wickedness after the thousand years, then comes the end. That is, Mr. Russell teaches that the saints will be raised from the dead two dispensations before the "last day". But when Jesus says that He will not raise the saints until the "last day", most people will conclude that Mr. Russell is mistaken. If Mr. Russell be not raised up till the last day, he will not have time to carry out the programme that he has sketched for himself and his home-made "Little Flock." In I Cor. 15:52, it is said that the saints will be raised at the sounding of the "last trump." But if the saints are raised at the time Mr. Russell states, that will mean that the "last trump" is to be sounded two dispensations before the end. Ordinary mortals will be apt to think that this is too early to sound the "last trump." If the saints are not raised till the "last trump" sounds the chance of salvation after the resurrection preached by Mr. Russell is a dangerous delusion.
That we are in a state of probation in this life and that our condition in the world to come will depend upon the use we make of our time here, is beyond all dispute taught in the Bible. But nowhere does the Bible clearly and intentionally teach that there will be a time of probation after the resurrection. If in this life only we have the opportunity of putting ourselves right with God and therefore right for eternity, how terrible is the responsibility of the man who makes light of or teaches men to trifle with this their only chance of making sure of eternal bliss! I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Russell is the most guilty man in creation in this respect. The whole trend of his teaching lies in the direction of misrepresenting and undervaluing man's present responsibility to God. He is all the time pressing upon men that they all, with few exceptions, will have at least a hundred years of an opportunity of being saved after the resurrection. They will have better natures then than they have now, more knowledge and better preachers, and the chances are that very few will then reject God's offer of mercy. That is a Gospel that a great many people would like to believe, and when people wish to believe a thing they can often be satisfied with very questionable evidence. Mr. Russell is constantly leaving the impression that men are not disinclined to do what is right, but Satan is blinding them and God is willing in the meantime that it should be so; he will therefore not hold them responsible for the mistakes of this life, but will give them another chance.
The very reverse of this is true. The Prophets, Christ and His Apostles charged men's guilt and responsibility home upon them as Mr. Russell never does. The Bible from beginning to end rises in rebellion against Mr. Russell's preaching. Every sane man is conscious of his responsibility. Notwithstanding this very few men have made up their mind to live in harmony with that responsibility. This consciousness of responsibility is not confined to any one class of men - heathen, Jew and Christian are all alike conscious of it. Personally I have no fear for the man who, taking advantage of all the light that has come within his reach, does his best to live in harmony with his responsibility. Let that man be heathen, Jew or Christian, God is not unjust, He will take every man's circumstance and ability into consideration. But the man who shirks responsibility and lives as he pleases, the Bible holds out no hope of mercy to that man. I do not mean that only the perfect man can be saved. John says: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (I John 2:1,2). The propitiation of Christ looks back to Adam and forward to the last man. But it is only those who earnestly seek to serve God who will receive the advantage of it. But all those who have done their best to live up to the light within their reach, their defects will be covered by the death of Christ. This view is in harmony with all the teaching of the Scriptures. But the idea that the saints of the Old Testament will require to rise from the dead to have the Gospel preached to them by Mr. Russell and his followers before they can be saved, is not only absurd, it is a presumptuous shocking absurdity.
Mr. Russell's Christ is a very long way from being the Christ of the New Testament. Mr. Russell says that Christ was the first and highest of all creatures. He existed before He took human nature upon Him. In nature he was higher than an angel but lower than Deity. When He became a man He was nothing but a man, there was no mixing of natures. After His resurrection he became Deity and nothing but Deity, nothing of the human remained in Him. If you ask what proof there is for all this, we have to inform you that Mr. Russell says so; and whatever Mr. Russell says is just "as sure as anything." Ordinary men find that they are unable to conceive of even the highest of creatures becoming "Deity" or "part of Deity." But Mr. Russell can quite easily do what is impossible for ordinary men. To the ordinary thinking mind, there is a gulf between Creator and creature which cannot be crossed, even in imagination.
To Mr. Russell, when Christ was here He was only a man. Mr. Russell has the same idea of the constitution of man that the Christadelphians have; that is, man is not a twofold being, the body and its attributes make up the whole man. So when Christ died, the dead body that was laid in the tomb was the only individual thing of Him which remained in existence. Mr. Russell says that the body of Christ never was raised from the dead. It was hid away somewhere, Mr. Russell does not know where, but he does know that the body of Christ never rose from the dead. In Uddingston, while delivering the lectures referred to, in one of them I said that the Millennial Dawn people virtually denied the resurrection of Christ. In a moment one of them was on his feet calling my statement in question. I said, "You question the truth of my statement, friend? "Yes," he replied. "Well, will you just keep your feet, please, and answer a few questions to me?" He consented, and I proceeded, "You believe that when a man dies, the body is the only individual thing of him which remains in existence?" "Yes." "When Christ died His dead body was all that remained of Him?" "Yes." "Mr. Russell teaches and you believe that Christ's body never rose?" "Yes." "If that dead body was all that remained of Him, and that did not rise, what rose?" I got no direct answer, but he stammered out, "There is nothing impossible with God." "Oh yes!" I said. "It is impossible even for God to resurrect nothing." He then took his seat and I pressed upon the audience the fact that when Mr. Russell spoke about the resurrection of Christ he meant the resurrection of nothing. I at that same time pointed out that the Christ that Mr. Russell believed in was a deliberate fraud. His Christ, after the pretended Resurrection, showed his hands and side, making people believe that his body was the body which was nailed to the cross, though that body never was on the cross (John 20:24-29). I then addressed the friend who called my statement in question and said, "Friend, what kind of conduct do you call that?" He did not answer, but some one at the far end of the hall shouted "Fraud." "Yes," I said, "that is the correct word, 'fraud;' Mr. Russell's Christ is a fraud."
Mr. Russell's belief about Christ makes havoc of the Atonement. He believes that Christ was only a man when here, and he tries so far to bring his theory into line with that. We have all to admit that the stream cannot rise above the fountain. In like manner Christ could not by His Atonement raise men higher than He was Himself. So Mr. Russell teaches that the Atonement of Christ cannot raise men higher than Adam was before he fell. Any height you rise above that you must rise by your own merit. Mr. Russell and his "little flock" expect to rise up to Deity by their own merit. That is a long way to rise, but of course Mr. Russell is a very great man. Those who believe in the Christ of the New Testament expect that then will be in glory with Christ through the merits of Christ (Col. 3:1-4). But Mr. Russell says no, that if you get to glory you must get there by your own merits. The Scriptural conception of the merits of our Lord and Saviour is thus degraded by Mr. Russell.
And not only so, but if Mr. Russell is right, and Christ was no more than a man when he was here, then it is impossible that the Atonement of Christ can even do as much as Mr. Russell says. When we read in Heb. 10:4, that "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins," we instinctively grasp the truth of it. To redeem is to buy back. The word has value in it. A bull cannot redeem a man, and price is not in it - the value is not there. If we give man for man, we have value; but bull for man will not do, the price is not in it. But it requires man for man to give value, one man could not redeem two men, he is only value for one. But Mr. Russell teaches that Jesus died for all men, and by His death all men can be raised to the state which Adam was in before he fell. This is impossible. Jesus was without sin, that being so He might if He was just a man redeem one sinner, but that was all, as one man, He was value for; He could not redeem two sinners. You can no more think of one man redeeming the whole world than you can think of paying a debt of a million pounds with a shilling. Mr. Russell's theory of the Atonement is absurd.
That Christ was Divine before He took our nature upon Him is distinctly stated in the New Testament (John 1:1; Heb. 1:8). And it is clearly implied in hundreds of places where is is not distinctly stated. In John 1:3, we are informed that Christ made "all things." In Gen. 1:1, we are told that "God created" the heavens and the earth. These two passages alone prove the Deity of Christ, and the number of such passages could be greatly increased. The evidence for both the Deity and humanity of Jesus is so abundant in the New Testament that the man who denies either of them has a wonderful amount of wriggling and twisting to do before he can find a way through. As to how the two natures were united I form no theory. I do not know how my own soul and body are united, but that does not lead me to deny the fact. The Deity of Christ lies at the very foundation of the Chrsitian religion; Mr. Russell's error in denying it is enough to shatter his whole system.
I do not profess to know all about the Atonement, any more than I know all about the union of the two natures. But though I do not know all about the Atonement, that does not hinder me from believing that "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Nor does it keep me from being sure that in Him "We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Eph. 1:7). The union of an Infinite Being with the humanity of Jesus makes an infinite difference, and makes room for infinite possibilities. I therefore do not feel that my reason is outraged when Jesus is spoken of as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; but when Mr. Russell says that Jesus was nothing but a man when He was here, and though nothing but a man he was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, reason rises in rebellion and declares that it is not true.
There is an imaginary "Little Flock" which plays an important part in Mr. Russell's fanciful system. There is a "little flock" mentioned in the Scriptures, but that has very little in common with the "little flock" invented by Mr. Russell. According to Mr. Russell his "little flock" is all that God wishes to save in this dispensation. It is according to God's plan that the devil should blind all the rest. This "little flock" is raised by the death of Christ to the state in which Adam was before he fell. That is all that Mr. Russell's Christ can do for them, of course. But they do not stay in that comparatively low condition. They, by their own merit during their life on earth rise up to Deity. From man up to God by their own merit during their short life on earth is very wonderful climbing; but then you must remember that this is Mr. Russell's little flock, and Mr. Russell is a very wonderful man.
Christ is not a complete Christ at present, He is only a head without a body. At the beginning of the millennium the "little flock" is to become the body of Christ and remain part of Him. None of the rest of humanity will ever have a chance of rising to the height of Mr. Russell and his "little flock", they will top creation to all eternity. The blasphemy, presumption and absurdity of all this shock one beyond all expression.
Mr. Russell is far more concerned about looking after the comfort of sinners than he is in trying to convert sinners. It is an awful thought to Mr. Russell that the dear people who reject God and Christ and wilfully live and die in sin, should suffer pain here or hereafter on account thereof. A fellow feeling makes him wondrous kind, and he enters his strong protest against these dear people being caused to suffer, he cannot allow more to happen to them than that they be quietly put to sleep. And there can be little doubt that when the millennium comes, Mr. Russell then being "part of deity," he will make his power felt as well as his protest, and he will see to it that no such thing as suffering will be allowed. This is Mr. Russell's most popular subject, and it gets a large share of his attention. It takes better with the careless and thoughtless than anything else that he preaches. There was a time when preachers gave more attention to the punishment of the wicked than the New Testament gives to it. That extreme produced the opposite, and now preachers say far less about the punishment of the wicked than the New Testament does. That suits Mr. Russell's purpose and he takes full advantage of it. But though there was a time when preachers said too much on this subject, there never was a time when preachers believed all that Mr. Russell is constantly charging them with. There can be no real excuse for the caricature and misrepresentation in which Mr. Russell indulges on this subject. But there is a class that it pleases, and he seems willing to condescend to it. The present extreme will not last. When people say either less or more than the New Testament says on any subject, there comes a time when they regret it.
That Jesus said a good deal on this subject is beyond question. If any one will carefully read the four Gospels and take note of all that Jesus says about the wicked, if he believes what Jesus says he will never again doubt that "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The New Testament is a dreadful book to read on that subject. I can best account for Mr. Russell's preaching by doubting that he believes it.
Mr. Russell is pretty much in line with the Christadelphians in regard to the punishment of the wicked; that is, he believes that extinction of being is the punishment of the wicked. He also tries to prove his case in much the same manner that they do. The word death generally plays a part in the proof; "The wages of sin is death," they say (Rom. 6:23). We say that "We admit that." They affirm that "death is extinction of being." We say, "prove that." You hardly meet a man belonging to that school of thought who does not try to take it for granted that death means extinction of being. To assume the point in debate is a very handy way of reasoning, but it is not a safe one. Whenever you call for proof on this point you soon find that the other side has a very weak case. They have nothing that can be called proof; it is only confident assumption. Jesus said, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matt. 10:28). Jesus here teaches that man can kill the body. I know of no one who denies that when the body is killed death has taken place. But Jesus here teaches that the soul is not killed when the body is killed. If the soul is not killed it exists, for it could not live without existing. We have thus the authority of Jesus for saying that death does not put the soul out of existence. And if the soul remains in existence, extinction of being has not taken place, though death has taken place.
Saul consented to Stephen's death (Acts 8:1). But Saul was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6-8). The Pharisees believed that the soul exists after death. Saul believed that Stephen died, but Saul, as a Pharisee, did not believe that Stephen had gone out of existence. That is Paul did not believe what Mr. Russell does. The man who undertakes to prove that the word death as used in the Bible always implies extinction of being has an impossible task before him. If you put a man out of existence, he is dead; but a man may be dead and not out of existence. Our friends on the other side will never be able to prove the extinction of the wicked by the word death.
But when the Scriptures say that "The wages of sin is death," it must be the second death which is in view, for both saints and sinners die the first death. If the first death does not put people out of existence, Mr. Russell cannot be sure, just from the use of the word, that the second death will. Let us read something about the second death. "And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14, R.V.). We here learn that it is the second death to be in the lake of fire. Not that the lake of fire will produce or bring about the second death, but it is the second death to be in it. Mr. Russell may think that it is certain that the lake of fire will put sinners out of existence, but let us turn to Rev. 20:10: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." We are here informed that there will be sinners in the lake of fire tormented day and night for ever and ever. That proves that the lake of fire will not, for certain, put sinners out of existence. You have instead of that the very thing which Mr. Russell makes such wonderful fun of, that is, the everlasting punishment of sinners. No man can read that verse without everlasting punishment being present to his mind. Of course, Mr. Russell does not come to this verse when he is making fun of everlasting punishment. It takes better with the people to make fun of John Calvin than it does to make fun of the Bible, and Mr. Russell knows that and acts accordingly. But the man who makes light of Bible ideas will one day have to stand before a greater than John Calvin; the fun will be taken out of him then. We learn then from Rev. 20:10, that the devil is to be tormented in the lake of fire for ever and ever. And Rev. 20:14 informs us that it is the second death to be cast into the lake of fire beside the devil. This agrees with Matt. 25:41 where we are told that Jesus will say to the wicked, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." This does not differ from the second death described in Rev. 20; but it all looks in the opposite direction from the second death being the entrance on a state of non-existence. The wages of sin is death, but the bottom idea in death is separation rather than extinction of being.
Our English word "hell" is now almost exclusively used to mean a place of punishment for the wicked. This was not always so; in Old English it had a broader meaning than this. It could then mean any concealed place. And it was often used for the abode of departed spirits, whether those spirits were good or bad. Old creeds represent Jesus, after His death, as descending into "hell." But those creeds never intended to convey the idea that Jesus descended into a place of punishment for the wicked. Perhaps I cannot do better than make a quotation from the preface of the Revised Version of the Old Testament. "The Hebrew Sheol, which signifies the abode of departed spirits, and corresponds to the Greek Hades, or the under world, is variously rendered in the Authorised Version by 'grave,' 'pit,' and 'hell.' Of these renderings, 'hell,' if it could be taken in its original sense as used in the creeds, would be a fairly adequate equivalent for the Hebrew word; but it is so commonly understood of the place of torment that to employ it frequently would lead to inevitable misunderstanding. The Revisers therefore in the historical narratives have left the rendering 'the grave' or 'the pit' in the test, with a marginal note, 'Hebrew, Sheol,' to indicate that it does not signify 'the place of burial;' while in the poetical writings they have put most commonly they have put most commonly 'Sheol' in the text and 'the grave' in the margin." The foregoing brings out the fact that even where our translators have rendered Sheol or Hades by "grave," that even there "grave" does not mean "the place of burial." "Grave," as we commonly use it, does not exhaust the meaning of Hades. Hades is the name for the unseen world which we enter at death. Death and the grave are closely associated, and death is the gateway to Hades. But Hades has no plural, as "grave" has; it is a name for the invisible world to which all spirits go at death. But Mr. Russell does not believe that you have a spirit that can separate from the body, and go anywhere at death, so he must get quit of both Sheol and Hades as our translators define them. He thinks that he sees a loophole by which he can escape. Our translators sometimes render Sheol and Hades by "grave." So Mr. Russell tries to hold them to "grave," and says that Sheol and Hades mean "grave" and nothing but "grave." That is, our translators say that these words do not mean "the place of burial," and Mr.Russell says that they never meant anything else.
You wonder that a man who has any claim to scholarship can venture to say that Sheol only means "grave." Turn to Job 11:8, "It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than Sheol; what canst thou know?" Put "grave" in here instead of Sheol, and you make nonsense. "Deeper than a grave; what canst thou know?" As if a grave was the deepest thing known. To like purpose is Amos 9:1-3, "Though they dig into hell (Sheol), thence shall Mine hand take them; and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down." Here as in Job the depth of Sheol is contrasted with the height of heaven. In this same context the top of Carmel is contrasted with the bottom of the sea, but nothing but the height of heaven will do for a contrast to the depth of Sheol. Our friends sometimes tell us that we do not read about souls or spirits going to Sheol; but who ever read of any one digging down that depth to bury a corpse there? To translate by "grave" here is out of the question. "Hell (Sheol) and destruction are before the Lord; how much more then the hearts of the children of men?" (Pro. 15:11). Here you have the thought that it is more difficult to look into Sheol, than it is to look into the hearts of men. As our translators define Sheol, you can believe that. But take Mr. Russell's explanation and you have the thought that it is easier to look into and read the hearts of men that it is to look into a grave, which is absurd. Mr. Russell's meaning of this word will not make sense in quite a number of places. I question if these words ever just mean "the place of burial"; and even if it could be proved that Sheol and Hades do sometimes mean "the place of burial," it is certain that they do not always mean that, and Mr. Russell has got the passages to deal with that will not admit of "grave," no matter how often "grave" may pass as a rendering.
Though the Scriptures teach that all go to Sheol or Hades at death, they do not teach that the wicked and the righteous will be mixed together there as they are here. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), both the rich man and Lazarus are in Hades, but there is a gulf between them and they are in different circumstances. The Lord does not require to wait till the day of judgment to know the saint from the sinner, though neither will enter upon their full reward till then. In this story the word Hades occurs, but it could not be translated "grave". To say that the corpse of the rich man lifted up its eyes in the grave being in torments, is not only nonsense, it is ugly nonsense. But again, take the definition of the translators and you have sense. There is another passage which suggests that the wicked will be in a place by themselves in Sheol, Ps. 9:17, "The wicked shall be turned into hell (Sheol), and all the nations that forget God." This cannot just mean the grave, for good and bad go there, so it does not suit Mr. Russell. There is a threat in the verse; it means that the wicked have something to face in Sheol that the righteous have not. Take the light which the 16 chapter of Luke throws upon it, and you understand it. The wicked go to where the rich man is described as being, and the righteous go to the place to which the angels carried Lazarus. We have thus Luke 16 helping us to understand Ps. 9:17.
In the New Testament, the Revisers have not translated Hades; they have passed on the Greek word to us. But that has not relieved Mr. Russell from seeing the word "hell" in the Revised Version of the New Testament. The Greek word Gehenna is used as a name for the place of punishment for the wicked, our Revisers have, therefore, translated by the word "hell." Take one occurrence of it. "And I say to you, my friends, be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell (Gehenna). Yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke 12:4,5). Mr. Russell has trouble in trying to get clear of a passage like this. Punishment after death gleams out from it. Mr. Russell would like to persuade people that Jesus only meant, that if you do not behave well, after you are dead your body may be cast into the Valley of Hinnom. What difference does it make what is done with the body after death? Think of any one daring to put a childish threat like that into the mouth of Jesus!
In seeking to prove that extinction of being is the final punishment of the wicked, the word "destruction" is often made to play an important part. They quote such passages as Matt. 10:28: "Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna)." They call attention to the fact that the punishment is destruction, and then add that destruction means extinction of being. We admit that the punishment is said to be destruction, and we admit that if you put a person out of existence, that person is destroyed; but we deny that "destroy" always means to put out of existence. A person or thing may be destroyed without being put out of existence. Let us look into this matter a little. The Greek word which is translated "destroy" in Matt. 10:28, is translated "lost" in the sixth verse of the same chapter. "The lost sheep of the house of Israel." They were away from God, hence "lost," "destroyed," but they were not out of existence. In Matt. 12:14 we have, "Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him." Here we have the same Greek word and it is again rendered "destroy." But observe that it is the Pharisees who took counsel to destroy Him. The Pharisees believed that the soul exists after death, and they did not believe that they could put any person out of existence. The Pharisees took counsel to destroy him, but the Pharisees never did take counsel to put him out of existence. This proves that the word "destroy," in the New Testament, does not always mean to put out of existence. That being so, it cannot, as a word, prove their case. More proof of this kind could be advanced, but this is enough.
Mr. Russell and those who agree with him in regard to the punishment of the wicked use the word "perish" in the same manner and for the same purpose that they use the word "destroy." They say that the Scriptures teach that the wicked will "perish." We admit that. They say that "perish" always means to "put out of existence." We deny that. We admit that any person or thing put out of existence has perished. But we say that "perish" does not always mean "to put out of existence." Suppose we admit that "perish" may mean to put out of existence, that is no use to them for what may be, may not be. Unless they can prove that "perish" always means to "put out of existence," it does not prove their case. It is not what may be but what must be that is of any real use as proof. "Perish" occurs in Acts 5:37, but it does not there mean to "put out of existence." It is used by Gamaliel with regard to Judas of Galilee. Gamaliel says that Judas "perished." Gamaliel was a scholar and knew the meaning of the words he was using. But he was a Pharisee, and the Pharisees believed that the soul exists and is conscious after death. Gamaliel believed that Judas "perished," but Gamaliel did not believe that Judas of Galilee had gone out of existence. Again more might be said, but this is enough to spoil the case for the other side in so far as the word "perish" is concerned.
We have followed the arguments for extinction of being with regard to the wicked, and have found that there is nothing solid or certain with regard to any or all of them. We again call attention to the responsibility of those who misrepresent, minimize, tamper or trifle with what God has said in regard to the punishment of the wicked. There can be no doubt that such words as "perish" and "destroy" mean "utter ruin," but the nature of the ruin must be learnt from the context, or from what is said elsewhere, the words themselves do not settle that. And not only do these words fail to prove extinction of being, but you search the Scriptures in vain for a passage which distinctly says that the wicked will cease to be. It is not easy to explain why men dare so persistently affirm what the Bible does not say. On the other hand, we have already pointed out that Rev. 20:10 distinctly teaches endless conscious suffering. This is in harmony with Matt. 25:46, "And these shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life" (R.V.). The duration of the punishment of the wicked is expressed by the same word as the duration of the reward of the righteous. And you cannot punish that which does not exist. It is as certain that God is just as it is that He is merciful. Those who reject God's mercy will be forced to accept His justice, and what punishment a rejection of God and His offers of mercy deserve, we are in no position to judge, and we can only know what God has been pleased to tell us. It is God and not Mr. Russell who will fix the punishment of the wicked. And Mr. Russell's inexcusable misrepresentations of the Bible and religious people on this subject, will not save those who have allowed themselves to be deceived by him in that day when Christ will say to the wicked, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).
I have perhaps paid more attention to Mr. Russell than he and his absurd system deserve. To touch upon all his errors would be almost an endless task, and there is no need for it. His teaching is not well known, and his literature is pushed in a number of places, and my object is to point out a sufficient number of errors to prevent those who believe in Christ and in the Scriptures from having anything to do with Russellism. And I consider that the errors which I have called attention to are quite sufficient for that.
JAMES ANDERSON INDEX