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The Old Jerusalem Gospel

By Apostle Joseph Luff

Chapter 1—Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man.

"For we are also his offspring."—Acts 17:28. "All ye are brethren. ...One is your Father, which is in heaven."—Matthew 23:8–9.

Apostle Joseph Luff
Apostle Joseph Luff
Apostle Joseph Luff
Apostle Joseph Luff

For the contents of the Bible we of today are in no sense responsible; the Book was here before we came. Only for the treatment it receives at our hands can we be held accountable. Pleasing or painful, winning or repelling, rigorous or lenient as its aspect and implied requirements may appear, they must forever stand to us, severally, as the expression of whatever will we perceive behind them. To modify its phraseology will in no sense affect the fixedness of whatever purpose it was intended to serve. To modernize its recommendations will not release us from whatever of obligation they were intended anciently to impose.

Between it and us human creeds may interpose to relieve us from the arbitrary force of its decrees, but when these creeds are dead, this law will live, and we in future days may sadly find that we have not escaped, but simply deferred, arraignment before its inexorable bar. It may be, too, that what we then shall lack will tell the tale of blessings missed between the now and then, because of such postponement.

We approach this Book today with reverential feeling, for to us it tells the will of Heaven. Its story is the God revealment. Hence,

"Where its voice is heard all controversy dies, And human skill is wasted that aims at compromise."

Anxious to know our origin, our mission, and our destiny, we consult its pages. It is important that we shall know what part in life's great drama our Creator intended or desired we should play, that thus performing, we may stand acquitted finally, and gain promotion at His hand. Life can be a success only in so far as this purpose is served. Hence we ask:

  1. To whom are we indebted for present existence, and what are our Creator's attributes?
  2. What is our heritage here under His design?
  3. Upon what conditions is the enjoyment of our heritage dependent?

Opening the book, our first question is answered in plainness:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, ...hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.—Acts 17:24–26.

Our Father which art in heaven.—Matthew 6:9.

Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?— Malachi 2:10.

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him.—1 Corinthians 8:6.

One God and Father of all.—Ephesians 4:6.

For I am the Lord, I change not.—Malachi 3:6.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.—James 1:17.

For there is no respect of persons with God.—Romans 2:11. (Also see 1 Peter 1:17; Acts 10:34.)

Three points are thus settled; namely, God is our Father, He is unchangeable, He is impartial, or no respecter of persons.

Faith in these declarations pledges us to an acknowledgment of the common fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. It fastens upon Him the responsibility of our existence as to time and place, as fully as it does the existence of Paul, or Moses, or Abraham, and their surroundings, for it declares that He "determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation," of "all that dwell upon all the face of the earth." In view of this foreordination, when we also consent to the foreknowledge claimed in Isaiah 46:9–10 and Acts 15:18, it is but reasonable to expect that a Father who never intended to change, and who was no respecter of persons, would so ordain from the start, that not one member of His family would ever be deprived of any good He made possible for another. We are justified from these declarations in looking for one universal provision for the entire family; so far, at least, as relates to the interests of the soul He had assigned a tabernacle here.

It is with gladness, therefore, that we hail the announcement of Ecclesiastes 3:14–15: "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it that men shall fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past."

God's original gospel provision was commensurate with the moral exigencies of the race, and neither time nor circumstance has ever increased or decreased human necessity in that direction. "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth" and always will require of men the same as He required in the past, as a condition upon which His infinite provision shall cover those necessities. We have neither need nor disposition to apologize for the character of that original, ancient, divine provision. If it represented God once, it must represent Him for ever, for He cannot change. "Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it," for with any addition to it or subtraction from it, it would cease to represent His invariable mind. To lessen its obligations or increase its exactions would indicate a "respect of persons," which His eternal fatherhood is not chargeable with according to the Book.

Again we open the Book, and in answer to our second question read:

Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father!—Galatians 4:6.

Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.—Acts 2:38–39.

The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.—1 Corinthians 12:7–11.

These signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."—Mark 16:17–18. (Also see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–15.)

"I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit." —Joel 2:28–29.

Glorious heritage, indeed, and worthy of such a Father. By means of this we are to cry, "Abba, Father!" By this we are to know that He is our Father and prove His unchangeability and impartiality. His spirit is to be in us. That spirit is life (Ezekiel 37:14 John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Peter 3:18; Revelation 11:11), and that life, being one with God (1 John 5:7), is eternal. Eternal life is our heritage even here. It is to be given us, first, that we may know our Father and our elder brother, Jesus Christ, for "this is [the object of] life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3.) This knowledge cannot be obtained except by this agent, (1 Corinthians 12:3; Matthew 11:27.) It is given that we may commune with Him through the exercise of the gifts enumerated. It is given that futurity may be unveiled, and we may gaze on things to come. It is given that we may be preserved from the treachery of enemies who seek to inflict evils upon us. It is given to heal our diseased bodies. It is given that we may abound in righteous fruit. (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5 :g.) It is to redeem our bodies from the grasp of death at the resurrection morn. (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:44.) It is made accessible to us through the suffering endured by Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3 :13–14.)

To slight this proffered seal of sonship is to trample on the blood that made it available. He is an unworthy son who lightly esteems a heritage so divine and dearly bought. Eagerly we turn again and press our third question: "Upon what conditions can we enter and enjoy this heritage?" Will the Book answer this important question as plainly as the others? Let us open and see:

He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.—John 5:24.

Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.—Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.— Matthew 28:20.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.— Acts 16:31.

This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.—1 John 3:23.

God ... commandeth all men everywhere, to repent.—Acts 17:30.

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.— Acts 2:38.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; ... and these signs shall follow.—Mark 16:16–17.

They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.—Acts 19:5–6.

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. ...Through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given.—Acts 8:17–18.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.—Hebrews 6:1–2.

What could be plainer? By creation I am God's son, but the possession of my inheritance depends upon my obedience. Here I am clearly informed as to what was required of other portions of the common brotherhood of man, and our Father has not changed. He is not partial. Hence, if I would enjoy that heritage, He "requireth [of me] that which is past," or, what He demanded of others.

We frankly admit that these spiritual gifts are not to be found among what are commonly known as evangelical Churches today. We grant that the popular educators of the age have long pronounced them unnecessary; but these same teachers have put this Book in our hands and insisted that we abide its counsel. Acting upon their advice, we have opened and read of what our Father in Heaven has done for man, and found that "whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." Hence, as a part of His family we claim under the ordinances that provide for the race and protest against human proscription. Right here an objection is urged, that our admission as to the absence of these things in the modern Churches is against this argument. In reply, we invite the objector to go with us on a tour of investigation among those religious bodies, to examine well their articles of faith, their creed formulas, and to listen carefully to their public and authorized enunciations. Let him, with us, catechise those theologians who are supposed to voice the popular religious sentiment, and then answer us one question: "Are the conditions being observed upon which this divine pledge was to hold good to the race?" If not, the objection fails.

It would be the extreme of folly to claim exemption from duty and at the same time expect the reward of service. The divine law has been given for our government. "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, AND CONTINUETH THEREIN, he being not a forgetful hearer, but A DOER OF THE WORK, THIS MAN SHALL BE BLESSED IN HIS DEED."—James 1:25. But, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."—Proverbs 28:9.

The Church we represent has suffered ostracism since its organization in 1830, because it could not affiliate with Christendom on any terms that involved a compromise with the divine law. It may be that baptism is not "for the remission of sins"; but, if so, the misconception originated with God. It may be that the laying on of hands, as an ordinance, is unworthy the notice of men who can frame creeds and confessions; but it comes to us direct from Him who made the world and all things that are therein. Our folly, like Paul's heresy, consists in "believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets," and in conscientiously observing what they enjoin. (See Acts 24:14–16.) If we hope for as full a salvation as was promised the ancient saints, we should claim no exemption from the obligations imposed upon them, and we should not esteem that Church an enemy to us that clings most closely to God. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."—2 John 9.

This is no truer of men than of Churches, and if a Church has not God and Christ, what can it confer upon man? This scripture means, if it means anything, that God will stay with His doctrine; hence he who stays closest by that doctrine lives nearest to God. The importance of the conditions already referred to is thus magnified, in that they tell us what this doctrine is that God and Christ stand so closely by. As already shown from Hebrews 6:1–2, it embraces faith, repentance, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. He who feels disgraced or offended when asked to contend for a faith that reflects the best wisdom of God ought to be ashamed to own God as his Father, and deserves to remain forever destitute of the Holy Spirit by which that faith shone so gloriously resplendent in Bible days. For God to confer that Spirit and Its gifts on those who reject those principles of ancient law would be to cast dishonor on the law itself, and forfeit claim upon the respect and love of martyrs long since dead, whose blood, like that of their Master, was poured out in expression of their faith in Him who authorized the proclamations, "I change not"; "I am no respecter of persons"; "My purposes shall stand"; "The word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word, which by the gospel is preached unto you."—1 Peter 1:25.

Where the law is dishonored by man, the Spirit is fenced out, and the Church is dead. A dead Church can transmit no life to its adherents. A human body may be preserved after death by chemical processes for a long time, and thus be made to serve a purpose in demonstrating human skill; but for the purposes of its original creation it is useless. A Church may exist for ages and command the support of millions who admire its ingenious escape from ancient Bible obligations; but where those doctrines are not, neither is the Spirit, and that Church is powerless to perform the functions that alone can confer life on those affiliating.

Who wants a Church for ornament or religion for a show? Who wants the Bible for a means to prove that his wisdom has outstripped that of his God? Who wants to pray merely because it is pleasant pastime?

All who believe that the Church, religion, the Bible, and prayer are of divine appointment and too sacred to be made the toys of human caprice, please go with us a little farther and look through "nature up to nature's God"; judge of His design in providing for spiritual man by His arrangement for physical man and nature throughout. "The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."—Romans 1:20.

From Genesis 1:14–17 we learn that God "set" the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament of the heavens to rule by day and night, to give light and to be for signs and seasons, and days, and years, as well as to separate the day from the night. All are agreed that not only our well-being, but our very existence itself, is made dependent upon these orbs—life, light, heat, vegetation, the tides, and in fact almost all things material are the result of their service. Who can imagine the anarchy of matter that would be entailed by the cessation of their functions for a single second?

When, therefore, God "set" them in the firmament, He did not seek to provide merely for Adam or the people of any favorite generation, but for the race of man and the earth as man's habitation. One general provision was made for all time, and nothing in the line of human necessity has since arisen for which that provision has not been found commensurate. In the line of physical necessity "that which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been"; and^to meet that necessity what God once did "shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." As long, therefore, as human life is to be continued and the products of the soil, atmosphere, and tides, together with light, are essential, so long will their original causes continue.

Nor will the Almighty ever attempt an improvement upon those orbs with a view to better serving the purposes unto which they were originally ordained. His wisdom at the commencement was as great as it now is, and was manifest in appointing a means commensurate with all the existing and subsequently recurring exigencies of physical creation forever. Should I, therefore, be asked why these orbs shine as they shone centuries ago, I should find ready and full answer in the fact that the same necessity that called for their first appointment continues. God's ordinations were to meet necessities, and not to confer exceptional good upon certain favorites. Wherever the need exists, those involved therein are comprehended in the provision once made. Hence, no man has ever found occasion to complain of, or apologize for, any of these orbs of day or night because of their being inadequate to the service assigned them. Nor has human ingenuity ever suggested as good or better means of accomplishing the work. It was Godlike, not only in the fullness of its efficacy, but also in the perpetuity of its adaptation and design. It was a Creator's supply for the needs of creation—the provision of a Father for His family.

Follow the entire work of creation through, and the same principle holds good. The organs of which the human body was composed when Adam was created are the organs essential in man today, and the functions remain unchanged. The eyes to see, the ears to hear, the feet to walk, the hands to labor, the tongue to speak, and the brain to think. The external agents and influences which operated upon, excited, or inspired those members in early man still exert their power upon man of today, and will do so while the race continues. God set them in the human body, and the lapse of centuries has never shown a need for improvement. Physical man is "of the earth earthy," and his framework was ordained as a means of adapting him to the conditions of earth life. Hence, while light remains the eye as an organ will be affected thereby, and the ear by sound. While labor is required, either mental or physical, the brain and hands will exhibit the wisdom of the God who adapted them thereto; so with the feet for travel and the tongue and mouth for speech, the nose for smelling, etc. Never has the thought entered the mind of man that these organs will ever cease to be essential while light, and sound, and odor, and motion, and labor, and communication are associated with mundane conditions. Just as he decides regarding the sun, and moon, and stars in the firmament, so he concludes concerning these organs in the body of man—they were ordained of God with specific objects in view, and while the ancient necessities continue unchanged the appointments hold good, and will never be extended or modified either in character or design.

All of this clearly emphasizes the wise man's words, already quoted, "What God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it." If, then, as already shown, "the invisible" or spiritual things of God "from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made," what conclusion must we reach as to the perpetuity of His appointments for spiritual man? Let us read:

God hath SET some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.—1 Corinthians 12:28.

Let us now learn of the purpose to be served by this:

He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.—Ephesians 4:11–13.

Let us remember that the same word is employed here as in Genesis regarding the sun and moon—God "set" them in the Church. What was the necessity? "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

Let us not forget that "what God doeth, it shall be for ever." This was a provision, not to favor a few members of His family, but for the entire family. No man will dispute that the necessity still exists. Saints need perfecting, the ministry work is in demand as much if not more than ever, and the Church needs edification. Who, then, can be so foolish as to believe that what God once ordained to meet this necessity is no longer required; that the Church can as well get along without apostles and prophets as with them? As well might we conclude that a man can get along without eyes and ears and other members as with them, or the earth and its inhabitants without the sun and moon. The argument of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:1–27 is directed against such position.

As in the physical, so in the spiritual realm—the necessities have never changed. "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." To meet those necessities, "whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever" —what He once required of man He still demands. Man today should not be satisfied with less assurance of sonship to God or certificate of inheritance than was enjoyed by children of the same family and Father centuries ago; but while this is true, he should not expect those tokens on any other terms than were declared in the Father's will at that time. He who appreciates his Father's provision will be satisfied with nc less favor. He who honors his Father's wisdom will ask no easier terms. While, therefore, we spread our hands and cry, "Our Father, which art in Heaven," let us be consistent in our pleading, remembering the pertinent question of the Savior: "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Let us heed the counsel, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith," and to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

All above references are to the King James Bible.

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