Resisting the temptation to water down the truth
It is easier to tear down than to build up. It is far easier to trig [brake] the wheels of reform than to draw the chariot up the steep ascent.1
In the days of Martin Luther, there were those that came to him and said, “We do not want your Bible, we want the Spirit.” Martin Luther said to them, “I will rap your spirit on the snoot [nose].” However great their pretenses, they are not the children of God.2
In earlier ages the righteous felt that it was impossible to affiliate with Rome, and, though their antagonism to this system of error was maintained at risk of property and life, yet they had courage to maintain their separation, and manfully struggled for the truth. Bible truth was dearer to them than wealth, honor, or even life itself. They could not endure to see the truth buried under a mass of superstition and lying sophistry. They took the word of God in their hands, and raised the standard of truth before the people, boldly declaring that which God had revealed unto them through diligent searching of the Bible. They died the cruelest of deaths for their fidelity to God, but by their blood they purchased for us liberties and privileges that many who claim to be Protestants are easily yielding up to the power of evil. . . .
The voice of Luther, that echoed in mountains and valleys, that shook Europe as with an earthquake, summoned forth an army of noble apostles of Jesus, and the truth they advocated could not be silenced by fagots, by tortures, by dungeons, by death; and still the voices of the noble army of martyrs are telling us that the Roman power is the predicted apostasy of the last days, the mystery of iniquity which Paul saw beginning to work even in his day. . . . Protestants are losing the mark of distinction that distinguished them from the world, and they are lessening the distance between themselves and the Roman power. They have turned away their ears from hearing the truth; they have been unwilling to accept light which God shed upon their pathway, and are therefore going into darkness. They speak with contempt of the idea that there will be a revival of the past cruel persecution on the part of Romanists and those who affiliate with them. . . .
Popery is the religion of human nature, and the mass of humanity love a doctrine that permits them to commit sin, and yet frees them from its consequences. People must have some form of religion, and this religion, formed by human device, and yet claiming divine authority, suits the carnal mind. Men who think themselves wise and intelligent turn away in pride from the standard of righteousness, the ten commandments, and do not think it is in harmony with their dignity to inquire into the ways of God. Therefore they go into false ways, into forbidden paths, become self-sufficient, self-inflated, after the pattern of the pope, not after the pattern of Jesus Christ. . . .
While it has been demonstrated that a day of great intellectual darkness was favorable to Romanism, it will also be demonstrated that a day of great intellectual light is also favorable to its power; for the minds of men are concentrated on their own superiority, and do not like to retain God in their knowledge. Rome claims infallibility, and Protestants are following in the same line. They do not desire to search for truth and go on from light to a greater light. They wall themselves in with prejudice, and seem willing to be deceived and to deceive others.
But though the attitude of the churches is discouraging, yet there is no need of being disheartened; for God has a people who will preserve their fidelity to His truth, who will make the Bible, and the Bible alone, their rule of faith and doctrine, who will elevate the standard, and hold aloft the banner on which is inscribed, “The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (). They will value a pure gospel, and make the Bible the foundation of their faith and doctrine.
For such a time as this, when men are casting aside the law of the Lord of hosts, the prayer of David is applicable—“It is time for thee, Lord, to work; for they have made void thy law” (3). We are coming to a time when almost universal scorn will be heaped upon the law of God, and God’s commandment-keeping people will be severely tried; but will they lose their respect for the law of Jehovah because others do not see and realize its binding claims? Let God’s commandment-keeping people, like David, reverence God’s law in proportion as men cast it aside and heap upon it disrespect and contempt.
That voice of 500 years ago
Luther had refused to exchange the yoke of Christ for the yoke of popery. This was his only offense; but it was sufficient to imperil his life. The attention of the whole empire had been directed to this one man, and all their threats and entreaties had failed to shake his fidelity to God and His word. Luther had not without help maintained his steadfastness. A greater than Luther was with him, controlling his mind, sanctifying his judgment, and imparting to him wisdom in every hour of peril.
Had the Reformer yielded a single point, Satan and his hosts would have gained the victory. But Luther’s unwavering firmness under the iron hand of the pope was the means of emancipating the church and beginning a new and better era. The influence of this one man, who had dared to think and act for himself in religious matters, was to affect the church and the world not only in his own time, but to all future generations. His firmness and fidelity would strengthen all who should pass through a similar experience, to the close of time. This was the work of God. Luther’s defense before the diet of Worms was one of the grandest scenes recorded in history. The power and majesty of God stand forth above the counsel of men, above the mighty power of Satan.4
Where are we now?
Satan’s manner of working against God and His word has not changed; he is still as much opposed to the Scriptures being made the guide of life as in the sixteenth century. In our time there is a wide departure from their doctrines and precepts, and there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle—the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty. Satan is still working through every means which he can control to destroy religious liberty. The antichristian power which the protesters of Spires rejected is now with renewed vigor seeking to re-establish its lost supremacy. The same unswerving adherence to the word of God manifested at that crisis of the Reformation is the only hope of reform today.”5
The masses of the people turn away their ears from hearing the truth and are turned unto fables. The apostle Paul declared, looking down to the last days: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (). That time has fully come. The multitudes do not want Bible truth, because it interferes with the desires of the sinful, world-loving heart; and Satan supplies the deceptions which they love.
But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in its support.
Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will.6
The test of doctrine
The prophet declares a truth by which we may test all doctrine. He says, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (7). Although error abounds in the world, there is no reason why men need remain in deception. The truth is plain, and when it is contrasted with error, its character may be discerned. All the subjects of God’s grace may understand what is required of them. By faith we may conform our lives to the standard of righteousness, because we can appropriate to ourselves the righteousness of Christ.
All articles of faith, all doctrines and creeds, however sacred they have been regarded, are to be rejected if they contradict the plain statements of the word of God. If the Bible supports the doctrine we have held in the past, we are justified in retaining it; for the word of God gives us foundation for our faith.
The holy oracles should be studied with humble hearts and earnest prayer, in order that we may bring the truth which we see plainly stated into our practical, everyday life. Thus we shall make it evident that we conform our life to the teachings of God’s word. Jesus presents to us two classes who have been blessed with an understanding of divine truth. One class not only hear His sayings, but they also do them, and another class hear, but do them not. . . .
Those who see evidences of truth, and yet refuse to walk in its light, because they see that in so doing they would be obliged to make some sacrifice of opinions, of business, or of some other temporal advantage, who put aside their convictions, and reject the plain “Thus saith the Lord,” and turn from the truth unto fables, misapplying and misinterpreting the Scriptures in such a way as to make them appear to sustain their errors—these persons come under the woe pronounced upon Chorazin and Bethsaida. In the days of Christ it was this class who were approved by His words when He said, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (8).
Experience to be tested by the Word
There are many who claim that they have been sanctified to God, and yet when the great standard of righteousness is presented to them, they become greatly excited, and manifest a spirit which proves that they know nothing of what it means to be sanctified. They have not the mind of Christ; for those who are truly sanctified will reverence and obey the word of God as fast as it is opened to them, and they will express a strong desire to know what is truth on every point of doctrine. An exultant feeling is no evidence of sanctification. The assertion, “I am saved, I am saved,” does not prove that the soul is saved or sanctified. Many who are greatly excited are told that they are sanctified, when they have no intelligent idea of what the term means; for they know not the Scriptures nor the power of God. They flatter themselves that they are in conformity to the will of God, because they feel happy; but when they are tested, when the word of God is brought to bear upon their experience, they stop their ears from hearing the truth, saying, “I am sanctified,” and that puts an end to the controversy. They will have nothing to do with searching the Scriptures to know what is truth, and prove that they are fearfully self-deceived. Sanctification means very much more than a flight of feeling. Excitement is not sanctification. Entire conformity to the will of our Father which is in heaven is alone sanctification, and the will of God is expressed in His holy law. The keeping of all the commandments of God is sanctification. Proving yourselves obedient children to God’s word is sanctification. The word of God is to be our guide, not the opinions or ideas of men. Let those who would be truly sanctified search the word of God with patience, with prayer, and with humble contrition of soul. Let them remember that Jesus prayed. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” ().
Christianity is simply living by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. We are to believe in, and live in, Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. We have faith in God when we believe His word; we trust and obey God when we keep His commandments; and we love God when we love His law. Believing a lie will not put any one of us in the way of being sanctified. Should all the ministers in the world tell us that we were safe in disobeying a single precept of the holy standard of righteousness, it would not lessen our obligations, nor make our guilt less, if we reject a plain “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not.” We need not think that because our fathers did a certain way, and died happy, we may follow in their footsteps, and be accepted in rendering the same service, and doing the same works, that they did. We have had more light than they had in their day; and if we would be accepted of God, we must be as faithful in obeying the light and walking in it as they were in receiving and obeying the light that God sent to them. We must accept and improve the light that shines upon our pathway, as faithfully as they accepted and improved the light that fell upon their pathway in their generation. We shall be judged according to the light that shines into the soul-temple in our day; and if we follow the light, we shall be free men and women in Christ Jesus.9
A call for reformation
There is a day coming, and it is not far distant, when an account will have to be rendered for wasted opportunities, misspent hours, and neglected privileges. The nature, the effect of all our past life is registered in the books of heaven. We cannot change the figures, cannot undo the past, nor erase the record of good done or ill committed. Day by day the deeds done in the body make our record above, and in the judgment the books will reveal our evil course, unless through sincere repentance, through thorough reformation, our sins are blotted out by the blood of the atonement. We shall be judged, every man according as his works have been. Let everyone think upon the character of his works, and repent, and become transformed by the power of Christ.
In these perilous times, when a form of godliness is popular in the world, and a profession of Christianity is fashionable, only a few will discern the living way of self-denial and cross-bearing. “Watch and pray” is the injunction of Him who endured temptation in our behalf. Christ knows our danger, for he has contended with our powerful foe. He knows that our enemy is on the track of all who are striving to do the right. . . .
The washing of the robes of character must go on from day to day, that at last we may be found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but blameless before Him with whom we have to do. This work of purifying ourselves even as He is pure must be taken up individually. We should examine our motives, our actions, in the light of God’s holy law. We should ever ask, “Is this the way of the Lord?” . . . Angels of God are watching to see the development of our character; they are weighing moral worth; and may the great day of God reveal the fact that we have not been weighed in the balances and found wanting.”10
Unless the church, which is now being leavened with her own backsliding, shall repent and be converted, she will eat of the fruit of her own doing, until she shall abhor herself. When she resists the evil and chooses the good, when she seeks God with all humility and reaches her high calling in Christ, standing on the platform of eternal truth and by faith laying hold upon the attainments prepared for her, she will be healed. She will appear in her God-given simplicity and purity, separate from earthly entanglements, showing that the truth has made her free indeed. Then her members will indeed be the chosen of God, His representatives.
The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. When this reformation begins, the spirit of prayer will actuate every believer and will banish from the church the spirit of discord and strife. Those who have not been living in Christian fellowship will draw close to one another. One member working in right lines will lead other members to unite with him in making intercession for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There will be no confusion, because all will be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit. The barriers separating believer from believer will be broken down, and God’s servants will speak the same things. The Lord will cooperate with His servants. All will pray understandingly the prayer that Christ taught His servants: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (11).