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    April 20, 1891

    “Effects of Erroneous Opinions” The Signs of the Times, 17, 16.

    E. J. Waggoner

    It is very common for those who are quite loose in their belief, or who do not believe much of anything, to ease their consciences by saying, “God will never condemn a man on account of his opinions; it is how a man lives that determines his condition at last.” How these people acquired such intimate knowledge of God’s plans, so as to be able to speak so definitely of what he will or will not do, is not apparent, for it is very evident from the Bible that a man’s opinions have a good deal to do in deciding his final destiny.SITI April 20, 1891, page 115.7

    It seems never to occur to those who use the expression quoted above, that they are strangely inconsistent with themselves. The very ones who use such language will speak very slightingly of one who “has not the courage of his convictions,” that is, one who holds opinions which he dare not act out. Such a man they justly accuse of leading a double life; and yet they seem to think that God will be perfectly satisfied with a man who leads such a life.SITI April 20, 1891, page 115.8

    But the great mistake is in supposing that a man can hold opinions which will not to a greater or less extent influence his actions. The statement by Watts, the “the mind’s the standard of the man,” is but another way of expressing the truth uttered by Solomon that as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” A man cannot entertain vile thoughts and still have all his actions pure. Neither can a man entertain erroneous opinions without acting in accordance with them, unless his circumstances hinder him; and in that case he is entitled to no more credit than the thief in prison is to be commended for not stealing.SITI April 20, 1891, page 115.9

    In times past people have suffered severely on account of their opinions. When Paul says, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace,” he says in effect that the inhabitants of Jericho perished because they believed not. If they had believed, they might have been saved as well as the harlot Rahab. But they were of the opinion that their gods were stronger than the God of Israel. Somebody might have said to them, “It doesn’t make any difference what ideas you have about God; it is your actions that will determine your final lot.” But their ideas of God had everything to do in shaping their actions, and their erroneous ideas led them into practices which caused their ruin.SITI April 20, 1891, page 115.10

    Again we read of the children of Israel: “For some, when they had heard, did provoke; howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he [Christ] grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:16-19. Here we have the plain declaration that it was the unbelief of the Israelites that shut them out of the promised land. “They could not enter in because of unbelief.” But would they not have been allowed to enter in if they had not sinned?—Certainly; and they would not have sinned but for their unbelief. Their sin was a necessary consequence of their unbelief.SITI April 20, 1891, page 115.11

    How was it with the inhabitants of Sodom? When Lot, who believed the warnings of the angels, went out to tell his relatives that God was going to destroy the city, “he seemed as one that mocked.” They regarded him as a fanatic; very likely they thought he was losing his mind, and would have to be cared for. But the Lord did destroy the city, and all those who disbelieved perished with it. It was their opinion that they were safe enough, and in consequence of their erroneous opinion they perished.SITI April 20, 1891, page 115.12

    We may learn a lesson from them. Indeed, their case is recorded for our admonition. Christ says: “As it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Luke 17:28-30. All over the land the coming of the Lord is being proclaimed. The sure word of prophecy foretells that his coming is now very near. Yet these things are to thousands as idle tales. Those who preach the nearness of the second advent are regarded as fanatical. It is the common opinion that the world is just in its infancy. Men say, “Well, it doesn’t make any difference how we believe in regard to the coming of the Lord, if we only live right.” But still the truth exists that only “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:28. Why will this be so?—Simply because those who do not believe that his coming is near at hand, will not be getting ready for it.SITI April 20, 1891, page 122.1

    Let no one delude himself with the idea that he has “a right to his own opinions,” and that he can believe what he pleases and still be safe at last. It is true that so far as other men are concerned he has a right to his own opinions; that is, he is not answerable to any man for what he believes; but all men are answerable to God for their opinions. No man has a right to hold an opinion contrary to what God has revealed in his word. And those who will cling to their self-assumed right to believe what they please, will find at the last that it was a dearly-bought privilege. Among those who “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” the unbelieving occupy a prominent place. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” E. J. W.SITI April 20, 1891, page 122.2

    “The Working of the Mystery of Iniquity” The Signs of the Times, 17, 16.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Among ancient church Fathers, Origen stands at the head. Mosheim says that he “unquestionably stands at the head of the interpreters of the Bible of this [the third] century;” and Farrar says of that century and the one following, that “half the sermons of the day were borrowed, consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, from the thoughts and methods of Origen.” This being the case, it becomes a matter of the greatest importance, in studying the change that took place in the church, to know what were the thoughts and methods of Origen, especially in regard to the Bible. These we find very plainly set forth in the first chapter of his fourth book, “De Principiis,” in which he treats of the inspiration of the Scriptures. Having stated his theory of the “threefold sense” of Scriptures, he says, in section 15:—SITI April 20, 1891, page 122.3

    “But since, if the usefulness of the legislation, and the sequence and beauty of the history, were universally evident of itself, we should not believe that any other thing could be understood in the Scriptures save what was obvious, the word of God has arranged the certain stumbling-blocks, as it were, and offenses, and impossibilities, should be introduced into the midst of the law, and the history. In order that we may not, through being drawn away in all directions by the merely attractive nature of the language, either altogether fall away from the (true) doctrines, as learning nothing worthy of God, or, by not departing from the letter, come to the knowledge of nothing more divine. And this also we must know, that the principal aim being to announce the ‘spiritual’ connection in those things that are done, and that ought to be done, where the Word found that things done according to the history could be adapted to these mystical senses, he made use of them, concealing from the multitude the deeper meaning; but where, in the narrative of the development of super-sensual things, there did not follow the performance of those certain events, which was already indicated by the mystical meaning, the Scripture interwove in the history (the account of) some event that did not take place, sometimes what could not have happened, sometimes what could, but did not. And sometimes a few words are interpolated which are not true in their literal acceptation, and sometimes a larger number. And a similar practice also is to be noticed with regard to the legislation, in which is often to be found what is useful in itself, and appropriate to the times of the legislation; and sometimes also what does not appear to be of utility; and at other times impossibilities are recorded for the sake of the more skillful and inquisitive, in order that they may give themselves to the toil of investigating what is written, and thus attain to a becoming conviction of the manner in which a meaning worthy of God must be sought out in such subjects.”SITI April 20, 1891, page 122.4

    In order that the reader may see a practical illustration of Origen’s thoughts and methods in regard to the Bible, we quote further, from section 16:—SITI April 20, 1891, page 122.5

    Nor even do the law and the commandments wholly convey what is agreeable to reason. For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.... And the attention reader may notice in the Gospels innumerable other passages like these, so that he will be convinced that in the histories that are literally recorded, circumstances that did not occur are inserted.SITI April 20, 1891, page 122.6

    “And if we come to the legislation of Moses, many of the laws manifest the irrationality, and others the impossibility, of their literal observance.”SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.1

    When we are told that Origen stood at the head of Scripture interpreters of his age, the question naturally arises, With such a view of the Bible, what need was there of interpretation? Why not let the Bible go entirely? It would, indeed, have been better if Origen had utterly repudiated the Scriptures, instead of undermining their authority while professing to believe them. But before we call attention to the inevitable result of such teaching, we wish to quote a short passage from another renowned Father of the same school, namely, Clement of Alexandria. Says he:—SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.2

    “For many reasons, then, the Scriptures hide the sense. First, that we may become inquisitive, and be ever on the watch for the discovery of the words of salvation. Then it was not suitable for all to understand, so that they might not receive harm in consequence of taking in another sense the things declared for salvation by the Holy Spirit. Wherefore the holy mysteries of the prophecies are veiled in parables—preserved for chosen men, selected to knowledge in consequence of their faith; for the style of the Scriptures is parabolic.”—Miscellanies, book 6, chap. 15.SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.3

    We have not quoted these things for the sake of holding those men up to reproach, but that the reader may learn a lesson from the past that will keep him from wandering from the right way at the present time. Let us, therefore, see what was the inevitable result of such teaching in regard to the Bible.SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.4

    First, the acceptance of these views naturally tended to discourage the common people from attempting to study the Scriptures. Why should they trouble themselves to try to understand a book that was purposely couched in language that none but philosophers could understand? So Neander tells us that as early as the time of Clement of Alexandria there were those who, when exhorted not to follow certain heathen practices, replied: “We cannot all be philosophers and ascetics; we are ignorant people; we cannot read; we understand nothing of the Holy Scriptures; why should we be subjected to such rigorous demands?”SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.5

    Second, the key of knowledge being thus taken away, the people would naturally take men for their authority, instead of the Bible. Not only would they unquestioningly accept the statements of men as to the meaning of Scripture, but, not having any incentive to read the Bible for themselves, they would soon have no knowledge of its contents, except as retailed to them by their teachers. And in a short time the Bible would sink entirely out of sight, and those self-constituted interpreters of the Bible would stand in its stead.SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.6

    Third, human reason being thus placed above the Scriptures, and put in place of them, there would necessarily arise a demand for some ultimate authority, to whose decision final appeal could be made. For, while the common people were resting with calm and unthinking confidence in the superior knowledge of their philosophical teachers, those teachers, having each one supreme confidence in his own wisdom, would naturally fall to disagreeing among themselves. Thus, from this setting up of human reason above the Bible, arose church councils and finally an infallible pope. Thus the Saviour’s statement that the truth of God was revealed unto babes, was ignored; and the Scriptures being by a natural process removed from the people, there was nothing to hold them, and gross immorality and licentiousness inevitably resulted. And this tide of evil, instead of being checked by knowledge in the sciences and the arts, was rather accelerated by it. The truth of the words of Paul concerning the heathen was again demonstrated:—SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.7

    “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man; ...wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts.” Romans 1:22-24.SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.8

    In the above recital the reader can see that we have simply traced in brief the rise of the Papacy, with all of its abominations. But what of it? What similar danger is imminent at the present time, which we may avoid by considering the above facts? The story is quickly told, and the thoughtful reader will see that the saying is as true as it is trite, that “history repeats itself.” E. J. W.SITI April 20, 1891, page 123.9

    (Concluded next week.)

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