The welfare of the church as a whole, and of its individual members, is inseparably bound up with believing and heeding God's prophets. These, as we have seen, are His chosen messengers, His appointed spokesmen, to His church on earth. As we have also clearly shown, this plan of communication has been God's chosen, uniform, and beneficent provision for revealing His will to man, ever since the separation caused by sin. Through this means, God counsels and instructs, He cautions, entreats, and warns, as need may occasion and as divine love indicates. The presence of the prophet among men is not, therefore, something new or unusual, something strange or fantastic. God is the author of this provision, and wayfaring man is its beneficiary. It is as old as the human need, and as constant as the divine love that prompted and instituted it.
The vicissitudes of the church in all ages have been gauged by its allegiance or its disloyalty to the gift of prophecy, and its safety measured by its response to these heavenly leadings. Through the centuries spanning the patriarchal, Mosaic, and apostolic eras, we have seen this inviolable rule in operation, as revealed in the pages of Holy Writ.
Then after the death of the apostles, the tragic march of events in the Christian era begins, is told in blood and tears, and is blotched with drift and apostasy. Steadily the nominal Christian church veers from those foundation principlesthe precepts and practices, the letter and the spiritthat characterized the apostolic church. The departure centered in perversion of the law and the gospel, though it permeated every truth of Christianity.
Tragic has been the lot of those who stood for the primitive faith. Hated and maligned, persecuted and isolated, they witnessed to the truth. But from time to time prophetsmen and womenarose at the call of God, and denounced the iniquity
of the disloyal. They encouraged the fidelity of the faithful, and guided and guarded the adherents of truth through the weary centuries.
Now in these divinely denominated last days, God's great plan of redemption and the mad course of the human race approach their climax together. Iniquity so abounds among men, human philosophy is so defiant, man's independence of God and of the provisions of redemption are so affronting in this supreme conflict between good and evil, that it was imperative for the gift of prophecy to be conspicuously manifest in the ranks of the remnant church.
If ever in the course of the race man needed divine guidance, it is surely in these last days, when all the forces of iniquity have broken loose to confuse and to ruin, when the secular world has gone materialist, and the religious world has turned to modernistic teachings. If ever in history the church needed to have divine guidance, that time was reached at the crisis hour of the advent movement, just following the disappointment of 1844, and throughout the decades following. Far-reaching were the issues; but adequate was God's guidance.
The last conflict comes over allegiance to God, and reaches its consummation in our day. The perfect law of God, with its Sabbath seal, is the object of Satan's hatred, and he would swing the world to his side in the conflict. The full salvation provided through faith in Christ is equally the object of his relentless attempts to deny His incarnation, His atoning death, His priestly ministry, and His imminent return in power and glory.
Satan's wrath is focused on God's remnant church, the supreme object of divine love and guidance. This church will finally stand as the sole defender of God's trampled law, to which are joined the full provisions of redemption. Not only is the church as a whole the object of the evil one's attack, but the individual member as well is harassed, because of maintaining the integrity of the law and the gospel. Through injecting
doubt, carelessness, defiance, or repudiation, Satan likewise seeks to turn allegiance from the counsels of the gift of prophecy. Hence the three great issues at stake in this last hour are as clearly and sharply defined as inspiration can disclose them. But these have all become confused in the beliefs and practices among the masses of Christendom.
But now, in bringing this volume to a close, the question of individual and church relationship to God's gift stands forth as of supreme importance. My closing words are therefore a plea for the recognition and heeding of this divine provision for the counsel of the church. They are an appeal to the church to keep these matters ever in mind, and to follow them faithfully in practice.
Mark well, in retrospect, what this gift has meant to this people through the decades of the past. Mark well, how crisis after crisis has been met, and how issue after issue has been successfully faced. Time has vindicated the heavenly counsels in every instance. Consider, by way of impressive comparison and admonition, the days of Israel in the time of Moses, and then ponder our own times as a parallel. Here are the words of Israel's great leader of old:
I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days. Deut. 30:15, 19, 20.
Realizing that he was soon to lay down his responsibilities, the aged patriarch, Moses, was giving his final charge to the people whom he had led for forty years, from Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land.
He had great hopes for the future of his beloved people. But knowing, by long experience, their frailties and their weakness
at times under temptations and hardships, he also cherished grave fears that they might meet national disaster and defeat. Recognizing that their destiny for weal or woe was conditioned upon their relation to the instruction sent from God, he graphically, and at considerable length, set before them the blessings, temporal and spiritual, that would be theirs if they were obedient, and the curses that would be consequent upon their disobedience. (See Deuteronomy 27, 28.)
When he counseled them to love the Lord God, and to obey His voice, he was thereby exhorting them to heed the messages of counsel and instruction that he, as God's messenger had delivered to them. Save for the Ten Commandments, all the laws and testimonies and statutes enjoined upon them had been spoken through Moses. That they should see or hear only the human instrument in nowise lessened the guilt of their rejection of these divine requirements. That is true also, not only of the generation that he personally addressed, but of the men and women of all time.
Moses made provision for these solemn adjurations ever to be kept in remembrance. Parents were to teach them to their children, speaking of them when they were sitting in the house or walking by the way, as well as in the evening and in the morning hours of worship. (Deut. 11:19, 20.) They were to be written for a memorial in a book, and placed in the side of the ark. Every seventh year they were to be taken out and publicly read before the concourse of pilgrims assembled at the Feast of Tabernacles. For this solemn rehearsal of the prophetic writings, they were to gather the men and the women, not forgetting the stranger who was within their gates. The children who were coming to years of understanding were especially mentioned. They were also to hear, and learn to fear the Lord. (See Deut. 31:9-13.)
In view of the failure of Israel of old thus to keep in remembrance the solemn messages that had come through God's chosen
messenger, should not we upon whom the ends of the world are come see to it that the instruction that has been given to the remnant church shall be kept vividly in mind?
Drawing a present-day lesson from the directions of Moses (in Deut. 6:20-25) to rehearse to the children, as they came to the age of inquiry, the signs and wonders wrought in their deliverance from Egypt, Mrs. White wrote in 1882:
Here are principles that we are not to regard with indifference. Those who have seen the truth and felt its importance, and have had an experience in the things of God, are to teach sound doctrine to their children. They should make them acquainted with the great pillars of our faith, the reasons why we are Seventh-day Adventists,why we are called, as were the children of Israel, to be a peculiar people, a holy nation, separate and distinct from all other people on the face of the earth. These things should be explained to the children in simple language, easy to be understood; and as they grow in years, the lessons imparted should be suited to their increasing capacity, until the foundations of truth have been laid broad and deep.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. V, p. 330.
The story of the birth of the nation of Israel, of their deliverance from cruel bondage and their final entrance into Canaan, could not be told without relating the work of Moses as a prophet. Interwoven with every phase of the history were the messages that came from heaven through the great prophet of that period. He was the mouthpiece for Jehovah, making known His will, guiding them in their organization and in their movements; reproving their sins, rebuking their rebellion, and entreating them as a father.
It is likewise impossible today to tell our children the reasons why we are Seventh-day Adventists without familiarizing them with the prominent part played by the renewed gift of prophecy in the laying of a scriptural foundation, and building thereon, in guiding in the principles of organization, in fostering every cardinal feature of the advent movement, and in bearing messages of counsel and reproof, or of hope and courage.
It is possible to believe nominally in the gift of prophecy, to accept the messages of former prophets, and yet reject and oppose a contemporary messenger chosen of God to give instruction to His people. In Christ's day the words of the ancient prophets were read every Sabbath in their synagogues, yet the religious leaders rejected John the Baptist, and crucified the Prophet who came direct from heaven,the greatest who ever appeared on earth. The reason why they closed their ears against Heaven's messengers, together with the existence of modern Pharisaism, is well set forth in these words:
The reproofs, the cautions, the corrections of the Lord, have been given to His church in all ages of the world. These warnings were despised and rejected in Christ's day by the self-righteous Pharisees, who claimed that they needed no such reproof, and were unjustly dealt with. They would not receive the word of the Lord through His servants, because it did not please their inclinations. Should the Lord give a vision right before this class of people in our day, pointing out their mistakes, rebuking their self-righteousness and condemning their sins, they would rise up in rebellion, like the inhabitants of Nazareth when Christ showed them their true condition.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. V, p. 689.
It was Christ's rebuke of specific sins in their life that caused the Pharisees to reject His claim of being the Son of God. There is today, as there has always been in the past, a direct relation between the cherishing of some sin and a doubting of the messages of the Lord's chosen servant.
Many who have backslidden from the truth assign as a reason for their course, that they do not have faith in the testimonies. Investigation reveals the fact that they had some sinful habit that God has condemned through the testimonies. The question now is, Will they yield their idol which God condemns, or will they continue in their wrong course of indulgence, and reject the light God has given them, reproving the very things in which they delight? The question to be settled with them is, Shall I deny myself, and receive as of God the testimonies which reprove my sins, or shall I reject the testimonies because they reprove my sins?Testimonies for the Church, Vol. IV, p. 32.
In the early part of this volume it is asserted, with corroborative evidence, that next to the gift of Christ to our world, the gift of prophecy is God's most precious bestowal upon the church. It is therefore certain that Satan, the great adversary of God and man, will have an intense hatred for every manifestation of the gift. Its possession by the remnant church is given in the Scriptures as the explanation of the dragon's wrath against her. Rev. 12:17. Knowing this, we shall not be surprised that the testimonies of God's Spirit are the object of bitter and ceaseless attack. The most subtle arguments that can be devised by a master mind trained in guile and sophistry will be presented as reasons why we should disbelieve them.
I counsel you who may meet with objections to the claims of the testimonies given for the remnant, to regard a proper balance between the trivial and the great, between that which is difficult of understanding and that which is plain. Here are clear, guiding principles:
You need not go in uncertainty and doubt. Satan is at hand to suggest a variety of doubts; but if you will open your eyes in faith, you will find sufficient evidence for belief. But God will never remove from any man all causes for doubts. Those who love to dwell in the atmosphere of doubt and questioning unbelief, can have the unenviable privilege. God gives sufficient evidence for the candid mind to believe; but he who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things which he cannot make plain to his finite understanding, will be left in the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and questioning doubts, and will make shipwreck of faith.Id., pp. 232, 233.
Those who train the mind to seize upon everything which they can use as a peg to hang a doubt upon, and suggest these thoughts to other minds, will always find occasion to doubt. They will question and criticize everything that arises in the unfolding of truth, criticize the work and position of others, criticize every branch of the work in which they have not themselves a part. They will feed upon the errors and mistakes and faults of others, until, said the angel, the Lord Jesus shall rise up from His mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary, and shall clothe Himself
with the garments of vengeance, and surprise them at their unholy feast; and they will find themselves unprepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Their taste has been so perverted that they would be inclined to criticize even the table of the Lord in His kingdom.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. V, p. 690.
The words of Moses, linking blessing with obedience and disaster with disobedience, were predictive. They were spoken when Israel was just beginning her national history. The future of the nation was marked with the correlation of prosperity and obedience, and of ultimate captivity and destruction following persistent disobedience. The calamity came sooner in Israel, who rejected the counsels of all her prophets, than in Judah, whose day of doom was repeatedly postponed because of occasional reformations.
The lesson is no less meaningful for our time. Our day of deliverance has been delayed because of our failure to measure up to the wholehearted consecration called for in the heavensent messages committed to us. We are still in this troubled world because we have not gone forward in faith, sacrifice, and earnestness to finish the work of God in the earth to which we have been most solemnly urged by God's servant. Had we fully heeded the admonitions and counsels that have come to us, we might now be enjoying the glories of heaven. This we have been clearly told:
Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. VI, p. 450.
If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. While men have slept, Satan has stolen a march upon us.Id., Vol. IX, p. 29.
Nothing could impress our hearts more, perhaps, than these solemn words. The coming of the Lord for which we have longed
and prayed and labored for so many years, might now be an accomplished fact, and the people of God have entered upon their reward, had we only lived up to the high privileges and responsibilities that are ours by the favor of God.
Through the words of Scripture, God has given every essential saving truth. He has marvelously preserved that word, and has so multiplied copies of it that everyone may now have it. The characteristics of our day are outlined in that word. The testimonies of God's Spirit, as given to the remnant church, are in harmony with that word, and lead us to that word. But in them is to be found that wealth of detail, needed by those who are living in the time of the end, those who must stand against the subtle and supreme wiles of Satan, and perfect a character befitting those who are to be translated. As the telescope reveals, but does not create, details unperceived by the unaided eye, so the reading of the messages sent us does not add to but rather magnifies the eternal word of God.
As we prayerfully and diligently study the counsel and instruction God has so graciously given to His remnant church, bringing our lives into conformity to the standard of character there revealed, and striving diligently to finish the work allotted to us, we shall thereby prove that we are looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God. 2 Peter 3: 12.
Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper. 2 Chron. 20:20.