Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times, vol. 23

“The Great Three-fold Message. God’s Remedy for the Ills of Christendom” The Signs of the Times, 23, 46.

E. J. Waggoner

It is a sad yet well-known fact that the professed Christian churches are terribly backslidden from God. This no earnest, observant Christian will deny. One testimony on this point will suffice. It is from Dr. Moore, editor of the Western Christian Advocate (Methodist Episcopal), of Cincinnati, Ohio, and appeared in that paper in its issue of May 19, 1893. It is headed, “To the Church of Methodists Write.” We can not quote it entire. That which we do not quote is as striking and pointed as that which we do quote. We also apprehend that the Methodist Church will average fairly with the other great Protestant denominations. Dr. Moore says:-

The class-books are filled with names of unconverted men and women. Official members may be found in box, dress circle, and parquet of opera and theater. Communicants take in the races, and give and attend card parties and dances. The distinction between inside and outside is so obscure that men smile when asked to unite with the church, and sometimes tell us that they find the best men outside.

When we go to the masses, it is too often with such ostentatious condescension that self-respect drives them from us.

And yet we have so spread out, under the inflation of the rich and ungodly, that they are a necessity to us. The enforcement of the unmistakable letter of the discipline for a single year would cut our membership in half, bankrupt our missionary society, close our fashionable churches, paralyze our connectional interests, and leave our pastors and bishops unpaid and in distress. But the fact remains that one of two things must happen,-the discipline must purge the church, or God’s Holy Spirit will seek other organized agencies. The ax is laid at the root of the tree. The call is to repentance. God’s work must be done. If we are in the way, he will remove us.

Division—Confusion—Unbelief

It is a sad and undeniable fact that the great numerous Christian church is hopelessly divided. Human federations may in a way bring them together, but human federation is not divine union. Human compacts or agreements are not bonds of divine life. All that the human can do is to confederate around a human standard called a creed. But God’s method is to unite all in one by the divine indwelling life. Jesus thus expresses it: “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” John 17:23. Consideration about a human creed is but the worship of an image on paper. Union in and by and through Jesus Christ is the worship and power of the living God.

It is a sad and undeniable fact that the many divisions in the great professed church and in the several churches are a stumbling-block to worldlings and unbelievers. It is seeking unholy justification for an abnormal condition to say that all this division is unity in diversity, and all are well-organized parts of one great army under the One Leader, when the greater part of the vital strength of the church is absorbed in the very churches themselves, which, instead of growing better, are growing worse, and, instead of being the pastor’s force to second him in aggressive work, are his field of labor. Jesus Christ said that union, not division, was an evidence of his divine mission. Hear him pray: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21. Neither is this union to exist in mere sentiment, but in teaching, in doctrine, in purpose. Thus the Spirit speaks through Paul: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10.

It need scarcely be said that the only mind which will thus unite mortal man, with all their limitations of early environment, education, habits, prejudices, and sins, is the mind of Christ. Therefore “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5.

A Whole Christ

To thus be united to Christ and by the means of Christ’s life to each other, means to accept Christ in the fullest sense. To accept Christ as a Saviour, a redeemer, a way of life, an example, or a teacher, will not suffice. He declares, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6.

To accept Jesus Christ as the Way is to give up all our ways and yield all, willingly (for he will never compel), to his way. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh [renounceth] not all that he hath, he can not be my disciple.” Luke 14:33.

To accept Jesus Christ as the Truth, means to accept the Word of God, as God’s message through Christ to this world. For Christ is the Word, the one through whom all the Word was given. John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6. It was his power that created all things; it was his Spirit which spake through the prophets. Colossians 1:16; 1 Peter 1:10, 11. He it is who has in all times and ages declared the Father to the children of men, whether as the Angel of the Covenant, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, the exhaustless Rock-fountain in the desert, the Man Christ Jesus in Judea, the Inspirer of the Holy Writings, or the Sender of the Comforter, his representative. The Holy Word, with its one law and one Gospel, its one Spirit and one object, is the message of God through Jesus Christ to the sons of men. So Christ prays of those whom he would make one, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth;” for by that Word was he sanctified, “that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” John 17:17-19.

He therefore who receives Christ, the Truth, will receive his Word in law and Gospel, in precept and promise, with all the heart. No tradition will make void in his heart the commandments of God to render vain his worship. Matthew 15:6, 9. No sophistry of man will be allowed to nail upon the cold, dead, irresponsive arms of a cruel creed the life-giving truths of that Word. He who truly accepts Christ will take the Word of Christ into his heart, and there let its vital principles live and grow, fashioning him day by day like the Master. That Word will be the Christ revealed in writing. And Christ will be that Word revealed in character.

He who receives Jesus Christ as the Life will not cut off the life which is in Him by the old serpent fable of Eden, “Thou shalt not surely die.” In the light of God’s presence in his Word the humble soul will acknowledge his sinfulness, and thereby his mortality, and look to Jesus Christ alone as the Source of righteousness and eternal life to the believer now, the Bestower of immortality at his coming.

This acceptance of Christ does not mean that all Christ’s fullness must be seen and realized if we are to become one in him; for that can never be, because he is infinite. But it does mean that the believer is to accept Jesus Christ as he is, as he is revealed in his Word. He must allow no civil magistrate, no mitered priest, no human creed or council, no worldly ambition, no arts of the evil one, to come between his soul and Jesus Christ, and he will leave to prayer, study, experience, and the goodness and wisdom of Christ, to supply the fuller knowledge.

Thus accepting Jesus Christ made the early apostolic church what it was, united in heart and purpose, in word and doctrine, in worship, in life. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship;” “and the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; ... and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all.” Thus it was in that early church. How precious to them were the truths and hopes of the resurrection, the second coming of Christ, the atonement in its fullest and strongest sense, the power of the simple Word and Holy Spirit of God in those days! Now these very doctrines are scoffed at and ridiculed and “spirited” away by those high in church councils, with but little or no protest from pulpit or press.

God’s Plan Ever the Same

And God’s plan for saving men has ever been the same. With him “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Human nature has always been the same, and the Gospel of God’s grace has ever been effectual to save. Types and symbols and shadows have changed, but the holy law and the divine Saviour have remained the same. “I am the Lord, I change not.” “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.”

Confusion—Babylon

Departing from God’s way, erecting human standards, following man’s way instead of God’s way, adding to his Word, subtracting from it, have always brought division and hence confusion. The would-be wise men of the land of Shinar,

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