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January 1919 IBSA Convention Report


3:30 P. M. — Discourse by Brother W. J. Thorne


WE direct your attention, dear friends, to the words of the Apostle John, I John 1:3. And there he says: 'That which we have seen and heard declare we unto "you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ."

This world's fellowship, dear friends, may be considered in the light of partnership. I believe the Greek gives that thought, and therefore we could read it like this, "for we have partnership with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord."

The thought seems to be that during the last six thousand years there has been extensive business on the earth. The name of that firm is "Satan and Sons." And I am sure you will all agree, dear friends, that they have been doing a flourishing business. They have been substituting the counterfeit for the real thing. They have watched very carefully the workings out of God's plan and especially along the lines of God's dealings with the Church. But it seems that now, especially since 1874, that Satan begins to realize, as well as those with him, that there is a new firm coming into existence, and the name of this firm is to be "Jehovah and Son." And they are going to deal with the things that are true, and are going to establish the world on a firm basis. There is a great deal of opposition between these two firms, and evidences are that odds arc very greatly against the old firm, and the new firm will become established in business and will never go out of business. The other, however, will have to go completely out of business. We are very glad to see and to know that this is true. Jehovah tells us that at that time "Righteousness will encircle the whole earth," and the "judgments of the Lord will be abroad throughout the whole earth, and the people will learn righteousness."

Now, dear friends, in a partnership such as suggested in the Bible, we can see how necessary it is that those who are taken into this business with Jehovah and with His dear Son must meet certain requirements. One of the requirements will be loyalty to the firm, and to its interests. And if there is any quality that is appreciated by men of the world, it is the quality of loyalty; and we believe Jehovah and His beloved Son also appreciate loyalty. That is what God is looking for in those who are endeavoring, or striving to be members in that wonderful firm which is going to do business on the earth for a thousand years.

"Obedience" then, in the Bible, is made a very important matter. Indeed the Bible even indicates that in God's estimation it is more important than "sacrifice." You know sometimes we are apt to go to an extreme in thinking that God is looking for sacrifice. That is true, dear friends, but the Lord also tells us that "obedience is better than sacrifice." And we have no more faithful example or pattern than our Lord Jesus Himself: and you remember the Apostle, speaking of Jesus, uses these words: "That though He were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which He suffered." Isn't that a wonderful statement? Does that statement suggest that at any time in our Lord Jesus' experience — either in His prehuman existence or earthly existence — He was disobedient? No! But it does suggest the thought that when Jesus was in His pre-existent state with the Father, it was easy to be obedient because the conditions were perfectly satisfactory. But the thought of the Apostle here seems to be that it would be harder to be obedient in the earthly experience when every condition of life was against our Lord: even His dear Apostles could not understand Him.

We find also that on one occasion the Lord even tested their loyalty and obedience by saying something very strange to them. He began to talk to them on one occasion about eating "His flesh" and "drinking His blood," and He said to them "except ye eat My flesh and drink My blood, ye have no life in you." We are told that "many of the disciples no longer walked with Jesus." The thought seemed to be in their minds: "We have heard enough! We propose to go no further with you." We think that it affected their materialistic minds, believing Jesus was teaching them something born of a cannibalism. "Eat His blood, and eat the flesh? That is enough, we don't want to hear any more." So many ceased to "walk with Him." But the "Apostles turned not back." And Jesus turned to them and said: "Do ye also turn away?" They said, "To whom shall we go, Master? Thou hast the words of Eternal Life." And although they didn't understand any more than the others what His words signified, they stayed by the Lord, and after Pentecost, when the Spirit came to them and illuminated their minds and gave the significance to the Lord's words, they said they were glad to stay with the Master. They were rewarded. And so the Holy Spirit came upon them, and it says they caught the true meaning. And except we appropriate the merit of the sacrifice we have no life, nor will anyone have any life.

But what a wonderful truth that was! Jesus then was obedient under the adverse conditions, and He learned "obedience by the things which He suffered." He was always loyal to the Heavenly Father, even unto death, —  even the death of the cross. "Wherefore, Cod hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue confess the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. 2:9, 10.)

Dear friends, we will have to learn that same lesson. Every one of Christ's followers and disciples must learn the lesson of implicit obedience to God's will. And when God asks for the human will to be obedient to His laws, He is not asking any more of us than He would require of Himself. What a wonderful God we have! And then you remember, too, that Jesus in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, verses twenty-eight and nine, gives us a very wonderful lesson when He says: "Learn of me," for I am proud and haughty? No! It doesn't say anything like that. He says: "Learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."

Are you ever troubled with pride, dear friends? Perhaps nearly every one of us are troubled with this quality. Perhaps there may be one or two who are not, but I would like to get acquainted with you and find out what you look like. I am ashamed to tell you that I have a good bit of it sometimes. Brother Russell told us at one time that whenever you find that your backbone is straightened out, and you are walking up and down the streets thinking you own the place, then place yourself in a corner and give yourself a good talking to. Did you ever talk to yourself? Try that!

I talk to myself a good many times just as a father would talk to his boy: "Look here, young man, I want to have a talk with you. What are you getting proud about? Are you getting to the point that you are so important in God's plan that He can't get along without you? Don't you make any mistake about that. The Lord will carry out His plans just as well without you, and really better, perhaps. You are really in His way, but He just permits you to have these privileges, not that it helps Him out, but it gives you an opportunity to show your love and zeal."

How many mistakes we make! Most everything we do has to be done over again. When I reason with myself like that I have two verses in Isaiah 40:15, 17. You will find them reading something like this: (The Lord tells us how He regards the nations) "Behold, the nations are as a drop in the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity."


I thought I could describe "nothing," but if I attempt to describe something "less than nothing" that would be pretty hard. And so I say to myself: "Young man, if the Lord looks at the nations that way, and regards them as small dust, etc., then what are you? You must be a speck of dust." And I say, "You little speck of dust, don't forget that." When I get out of that corner, I feel pretty small. Let us remember that! (Laughter.)

Someone says, "Now, Brother, of course those words apply to Jesus when He was on earth. They were so appropriate to Him, because He was not exalted at that time, but do you suppose that it is just true of Him today —  'meek and lowly of heart'?" The Apostle' answers the question in these words: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever." (Heb. 13:8.) He is just as meek today. Jesus in His glorified state would not think of having His will done in anything. It is not the will of Jesus which is done in Heaven. It is the will of the Heavenly Father.

What did Jesus say? Did He say: "Learn of Me for I try to please all with whom I come in contact"? Oh, no! Jesus could not please even His disciples. And you know that at one time I made a great mistake along that line. I used to try to please the brethren, but I got in bad, and I tried to please the sisters, too, and I got in bad. And I found out, after careful consideration, that the Lord Himself could not please all the Bible Students. I said to myself, "If the Lord cannot please them, I don't see how I can." And did Jesus say: "I do always those things pleasing to the disciples"? Oh, no! Jesus did not make any mistake about that. He did some things very displeasing to them. On one occasion, when He was going up to Jerusalem, He talked about the things He was going to suffer, and one of the disciples said: "Lord, be it far from Thee," What did Jesus say to this man? Did He say, "I will be very frank with you, you are certainly very wise. I will follow your directions, thank you"? Oh, no! He gave him a very sharp reproof, and said, "Get thee behind me, Adversary." He did not say "satan." That is a bad translation. And do you know, dear friends, that if our Lord had followed St. Peter's advice, it would have led Him into the Second Death? I think that if some of the advice which is often given by the Bible Students was always followed, would frequently lead to the same place. And therefore, when the friends come to me for advice I give them as little as I can. I say, "Well, you will have to think that matter over for yourself; you will have to come to your own decision." The time has come when you and I cannot go to the brethren any longer and say, "Brother, what would you do?" Because after they have told you what they would do, you find out that you will have to do just the way you think best after very careful consideration. The time has come for faith to be exercised. If you go to a brother or sister all the time and follow the advice of each one you are going to be in bad most of the time. More than that, if you followed Brother Smith's advice all the time you would be following Brother Smith instead of the Lord, and you would not be developing the character pleasing to the Lord. You would be another Brother Smith. THAT IS WHAT YOU WOULD BE.

The Lord wants you to be yourself. He does not want you to be any different from what you are, so far as your individuality is concerned. He wants a variety. He does not want everyone to be the same. By way of illustration: Supposing the Pilgrim brethren were all alike, the friends would get so tired, they would say, "They are all alike; they have the same mannerisms, the same phraseology, etc." But is it not nicer, dear friends, when the Pilgrim brethren are all so different? One has one way of presenting the matter, another has still another way, and thus the variety is so pleasing; and that, too, is pleasing to the Father. God wants you to be yourself; not Brother Smith, or Sister Jones, — but YOURSELF. Keep your own individuality.

Now to show how difficult it is to please the Bible Students, we note the Lord is not trying to do so. You remember the case of 1914: We, as the Lord's people, were expecting the Church to be glorified and the Gentile Times to close. The latter was fulfilled, for in 1914 the Gentile Times did close; but the Church did not pass beyond the vail as expected. Then we also expected that there would be a great deal of persecution on account of the Truth, but that did not occur. And some became disappointed, and when 1018 came, and the very things we were looking for did come to pass, those same Bible Students became disappointed because they did come to pass. Therefore, I have learned this lesson. Try to please the Lord just as Jesus did, and then we will have no trouble to please those Bible Students in harmony with the Lord. I can't even please myself. Sometimes I am so disgusted with the things I do; I don't feel able to please myself. I think we all feel that way. The great lesson is, as the Bible says, "God resisteth the proud." "They are an abomination unto the Lord." (Jas. 4:6; Prov. 16:5.) And so we want to be very wise along these lines.

Speaking of the matter of loyalty, our Lord Jesus followed the course outlined for Him. He pursued that course to the very end! He followed the Father's will, and came out all right. So the Lord has given to you and to me a certain course, and if we follow that we are going to come out all right. We are going to notice, dear friends, that dear Brother Russell, under the Lord's guidance and providence, was permitted to organize the watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. This organization has been in existence for over forty years and has accomplished the work up to the present time. We do not think or share the opinions with some that the Society is going to be smashed to pieces. We believe there are indications that the Society is going to continue its work throughout the Millennial Age, and we think there are some Scriptural proofs which will be found in the thirty-eighth and forty-second chapters of Jeremiah. And if you will just study those chapters you will find that the word "Mizpah" occurs there. And it means "WATCH TOWER." It goes on to say, "And they came to Mizpah." If we read the Scriptures aright, we believe there is yet a tremendous work to do for the Church this side the vail. But I think the Lord will not trust us with the great work yet, because if the Truth were to become popular and the millions of people (of the Great Company class) would say, "We find that you have the Truth now, and the clergy is wrong." If this were to happen, I think Bible Students would get proud about it. "We are the only people who are right after all." I suppose not one of us could be touched with a fifty foot pole, if that were to happen now. So the Lord is permitting all these humiliating experiences to remove from our hearts all pride. There is a lot of it in us yet. It is going on.

Dear friends, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society is going to be the means or channel the Lord will probably use during the Millennial Age. I think it is good enough for us to work on, and if Pastor Russell founded the work under its auspices, I think we can do the same.

You remember the Lord permitted us to undergo a tremendous trial to test our loyalty. When Brother Russell was alive he was so strong that we would naturally lean upon him. And all with him were pretty strong characters. You would rub up against one another, and say sometimes, "It does hurt, doesn't it ?" But the Lord permits these things just to see if we are patient. And the thought seems to be in our hearts, as we express it sometimes, "While Pastor Russell was alive everything went along all right." And everything did go along all right, for he was a very able man and a righteous man, indeed. As we come to understand the Scriptures, dear friends, we are beginning to recognize this fact.

And lo, and behold, about October 31, 1916, the great newspapers of the world announced the fact that Pastor Russell had died. Pastor Russell gone? What will it mean? It will mean that the work will not progress. The Watch Tower will no longer be as it has been in the past. "What shall we do?" We did get disheartened, more or less. Well now, dear friends, have you missed a copy of the Watch Tower yet? No! It is just the same. And then the work continued, too, and there were some wonderful things done after our dear pastor left us. God raised up those noble brethren who came along to conduct the Society's affairs. Once more we felt en-


couraged, and said, "We are all right." But the Lord permitted something to come to us again, and these dear brethren have been taken away, and in more or less dismay the cry went up, "Now what is going to happen? What are we going to do?" Dear friends, the work went on The Watch Tower publications continued and you have not missed a number yet. Are they not even getting better all the time? Yes, indeed! And we wondered what he lesson was! I believe, dear friends, if I can read the lesson aright, it is this: that God wants to teach us that his great work which the Society is doing is not man's work at all. It is not Pastor Russell's work. It is the work of the Lord: and the Lord could use anyone whom He is pleased to raise up.

There is an invisible presence. It is CHRIST. And He has been appointed by Jehovah as the Head over all the Church, which is His body, and the Lord would have us remember this more and more, that He is at the helm directing the affairs of the Society. When our dear brethren were taken away, they went in such a hurry that those who were left in charge said, "It is difficult to bring the ends together." They said to themselves that they were "greenhorns." We marvel at the Lord's wonderful providences and arrangements. We are learning the lesson that the PILOT is our Lord, and the good old Ship Zion is not going to be wrecked on the rocks: but rather, that with its pilot on board, it will he brought to its "desired haven." So it is all a test of our faith.

For my part I have been connected with the Society and its great work for about thirty years and I have not gotten tired yet. And when dear Pastor Russell was alive, I endeavored under the Lord's blessing to be just as obedient to the arrangement as I possibly could for I recognized the Lord was back of it all. And then when Brother Russell passed away and the other brethren came in, then I said I am going to be just as obedient and loyal to the Society as when Pastor Russell was here, because that would be showing loyalty to the Lord and the friends. Then when they were taken away, I said: "I am going to show the same spirit to the other brethren who are put in there, and give them no trouble, or as little trouble as possible. I am going to fall in line with their arrangements and work with the Society, because it is still the Lord's arrangement." Therefore, I have received a blessing. Likewise, if you have done the same thing, you have received blessings.

Now we find that after a while some dear brethren were not pleased with what was going on, so they formed a new society. We are not going to condemn them. This is a free country and there is plenty of room for them, and for all. God forbid that we condemn. They have that privilege if they want to do so, but I for one would not have dared to do anything like that. It is a very daring thing to do. For we know of incidents where men were not pleased with God's arrangements. You remember that it was so with Korah, Dathan and Abiram and his company. "They gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them. Ye take too much upon you." And so they rebelled. You know what became of them. You notice how these dear brethren formed this new society and issued a new paper which is very much like the Watch Tower, very deceptive indeed. There is very good reading in it too, but the front of it is not the Watch Tower. It has a very pretty front. It represents a man blowing his horn; and there are several spirits around that also are blowing their horns. It is very suggestive! But if you look at the Watch Tower, you will find there that beautiful illustration of the INVISIBLE PRESENCE. And it tells us plainly it is the Lord behind it all. I could not think of a better design than that which we have on the front page of the Watch Tower.

Dear friends, the Lord is looking for loyalty. Are we going to be loyal to Him? As our Morning Resolve suggests, "I will neither murmur nor complain at what the Lord's providence may permit, because faith can firmly trust Him come what may." If we remember that Morning Resolve daily, dear friends, I am sure we will get a great blessing out of it.

In Zech. 13:7 we read, "Awake, Oh sword, against My shepherd and against the war, sayeth the Lord of hosts, smite the shepherd and I will turn My hand upon the little ones." Who are the Lord's humble followers? Those who do not think themselves great in their minds, but who like Jesus are learning more and more to be meek and lowly of heart. Has the Lord turned His hand upon His little ones? Dear friends, during the last year I suppose there never has been in all the history of the Society so many conventions; nor have the Lord's dear saints been so refreshed before the year 1918, — in spite of the trials and tribulations.

All these persecutions are for what purpose? To make you and I take deeper root so that we may become grounded in the Truth; so that we will get to the point where the Apostle intimates we should: "Be ye steadfast in the Lord, immovable, abounding always." Dear friends, all these things, if rightly experienced, are designed by the Lord for our highest good, — for the establishment in character, and God is going to make us partners to the fullest extent. God wants those who will stick. He wants those to be loyal: and not be moved. The Apostle warns us in I Cor. 14:20, and also gives us some very good advice. I am going to read it from the Weymouth translation. "Brethren, do not prove yourselves to be children in your minds." What does that mean? The Lord reminds us that for forty years He has been dealing with us as people, and the Lord would seem to speak to us like this: "My dear people, don't be children any longer, but more matured. Don't be moved about with what one brother suggests to your mind. Come to the point where you may be matured men. Do not prove yourselves to be children in your minds." "As regards evil, indeed, be utter babes, but as regards your minds, prove yourselves to be men of ripe years." "In understanding be men," —  as the other versions render it. The Lord would have us go over His leadings and providences in the past; and learn to think for ourselves, learn to be men, and understand things. Then, dear friends, if we think for ourselves and go to the Lord prayerfully and commit our ways unto Him, He says He will direct our path and then we won't be shifted about from pillar to post. We will think for ourselves.

We want to notice, too, that today Satan, realizing that the Lord's dear people have a better understanding of God's plan than they ever had, is trying to work upon the emotions of the dear friends; and if they are guided by their feelings on any matter, he will work upon their passions; and then judgment will go, and justice also. We cannot afford to do this. Do you remember anybody who went by their feelings and got left? You will find that in the Bible. When Isaac went to bless one of his sons, he was guided by feelings to such an extent that he didn't seem to regard the Lord's dealings. Feeling favoritism toward his elder son, he was going to grant the blessing handed down from Abraham. He told Esau to go and prepare him some venison. And in the meantime Jacob and his mother got their heads together and it was suggested that Jacob knew something that would get him the blessing. And so, you remember how Jacob was brought into Isaac's presence by Rebecca. She had been careful beforehand to take the skin of the goat and put it around Jacob's neck and around his hands, and then when he came his father said: "Are you Esau?" He says, "Yes." "It is the voice of Jacob, but the hands of Esau." So he went by feelings and got left. (Laughter.)

You see, it is a very easy thing to go by feeling. The religion of Christ is not the religion of feeling. God would have us to use our heads, and common sense. As the Bible tells us in Isaiah 1:18: "Come let us reason together." What does that mean? Some call it gray matter. Others call it brains. The Lord wants us to use our brains. "Be no longer children, but be men."

Now then, dear friends, if we are not very careful, we will go by our feelings, and the next thing, we will be trying to steady the ark. Some of the brethren feel that way about the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. Like the literal ark, when they were taking it to its destination it so happened that it tipped a bit as they were transferring it over the road. There was one instance


when it seemed as though it would fall. Someone said, "I will go and steady it." He did and we know what happened. He was struck dead. If you and I interfere with God's matters to steady the arrangements unduly, we are going to suffer: perhaps it will be an eternal loss.

We want to remember the lesson that God impressed upon Moses' mind when he came to the burning bush. Brother Russell suggests the first thing that Jehovah had to do with the man of whom the Bible tells us was the meekest man of all the earth. Jehovah had to remind Moses of the necessity of humility by telling him to take off his shoes: "Take off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Dear friends, that is the lesson for you. We are standing on holy ground, and it is well for us to remember that. In the Watch Tower of recent date we notice the "burning bush" is used to represent God's people in their present earthly experiences. The bush was not consumed: and the fire would represent the great tribulations, and great trials through which the Church is passing today. And still it isn't consumed. Why? Because "God is in the midst of her." And so the more we realize that, dear friends, the better will it be for us, indeed. Do you not think so? I certainly do.

As we study the matter further we will get some more help. You remember in Matt. 24:12 we read these words: (I will read from Weymouth) "Many false prophets will rise up and lead multitudes astray (as the Apostle says, "men from amongst yourselves"), because of the prevalent disregard of God's law, the love of the great majority will grow cold; but those who stand firm to the end shall be saved." In other words, the Lord suggests that there will come a spirit of lawlessness amongst God's people —  that some of the dear brethren would manifest the spirit of anarchy. Isn't that a sullen test? — That God's people could manifest the spirit of anarchy? And any brother or sister who fails to recognize the headship of Christ, and who does not hold to the head, has the spirit of lawlessness; and such individuals, the Bible informs us, will never be on the Divine plane with the dear Redeemer. It is absolutely necessary that we all act in harmony and thus recognize the prayer of our dear Redeemer: "I pray that they all may be one in us." (St. John 17:21.) Where does the Lord manifest His headship? At headquarters. And you remember when the Seventh Volume was banned, we were all perplexed what to do; but the Society said "Stop! We see that this is the voice of the Lord, and find that it is very wise." So we believe the Lord is still leading the Society and directing in all His affairs, and we may trust Him implicitly.

Next, we will notice Psalms 89:5-9. There the Lord teaches us the great lesson of reverence. "And the Heavens shall praise Thy wonders. Lord: Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. For who in the Heaven can be compared unto Jehovah, who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord." You know, dear friends, when I read anything like this it makes me tremble, I tremble at God's Word. And do you not? Yes! "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of His saints." (Psa. 89:7.) It is a very solemn hour. You and I are making headway, and later on the world is going to look into your history, and going to find out everything you do. You are making and determining your own destiny. Think before you act to do a thing. Oh, we cannot be too careful. We ought to tremble indeed at God's words, "for who in the Heavens can compare Jehovah." "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of His people." If there were more of this there would not be so much electioneering going on. Some of the dear saints are afraid. They haven't learned the lesson yet. I am afraid I haven't learned it as I ought. I am trying to have the reverence for God more deeply implanted in my heart. This is my earnest prayer for you and myself.

I think, dear friends, that one of the things that will help us more than anything else will be to see to it daily that our wills are completely dead. How important it is! How easy it is after we have once made a consecration to the Lord and submitted our wills, to take up the will of another. Don't you notice that is illustrated in the pyramid? It suggests the individual passes under the granite leaf in order to get into the ante-room and into the King's Chamber. The granite leaf looks as though it were going to fall right down. And our dear Pastor suggests that even after we have done that, there may be a time when you and I will take up the will of somebody else. Perhaps we will be following Brother Smith, or some Pilgrim Brother instead of following the Lord. Oh, how careful we should be.

And then, as Joshua said in his closing days: "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. — but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." (Josh. 24:15.) So let us suggest, dear friends, that we renew our consecration to the Lord daily. I so often say this. Perhaps some of the friends think I have got it on the brain. But I see the necessity of the daily renewal of consecration. I have it on the brain, indeed.

Jesus followed the Father's leadings. No matter where the Father led he followed. He said, "I delight to do Thy will, 0 My God. Yea, Thy law is within My heart." How sweet. No wonder the Father loved Him, and honored Him so greatly. And if you and I will so do the same thing, do you know, dear friends, the Lord will honor us, too?

Won't it be wonderful when the guardian angel introduces us to the Master, and to the Holy angels? Oh, that will be a wonderful thing!

May the Lord help us all to be faithful and earnest and loyal to the Lord that we will not turn to the right or to the left, but go straight ahead as did Jesus; and then we will be saved, if we endure to the end. May the Lord bless these suggestions to our hearts.

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