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    December 2, 1886

    “Items from the General Conference” The Signs of the Times, 12, 46.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The twenty-fifth annual session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists convened in Battle Creek, Mich., Thursday, November 18, at 9 A.M. As this body has the oversight of all the missionary work done among Seventh-day Adventists, its proceedings indicates the extent of the spread of the Third Angel’s Message, then we therefore design to give our readers some of the main features of this session.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.1

    The first meeting was chiefly taken up with organization and the appointing of committees, of which the following were named: On Nominations-J. Fargo, J. R. Goodrich, C. L. Boyd; on Resolutions: R. A. Underwood, E. J. Waggoner, A. B. Oyen; on Licenses and Credentials-S. N. Haskell, R. L. Whitney, G. G. Rupert; on Auditing-Harmon Lindsey, D. T. Jones, D. R. Oviatt, J. Fargo, J. H. Morrison, H. Grant; on Distribution of Labor-G. I. Butler, S. N. Haskell, R. A. Underwood, D. M. Canright, A. J. Breed, Lewis Johnson, M. C. Wilcox; on Religious Services-R. M. Kilgore, L. McCoy, G. C. Tenney.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.2

    The President, Elder Geo. I. Butler, then made an address, in the course of which he gave the following items of interest: The last year has been one of marked prosperity to the cause; the publishing houses have sold more denominational books than ever before; our institutions of learning are attended by more persons who are preparing for the work, than at any previous period in their history; and there was never before so great an interest in the matter of education among our people as that the present time. There is also a greater willingness on the part of people to listen to the truth than ever before.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.3

    At the second meeting additional delegates presented their credentials. The Conference, as organized, is composed of delegates representing the following Conferences and Missions:Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, California, Dakota, New England, Minnesota, Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Colorado, Vermont, Maine, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Canada, Texas, North Pacific and Upper Columbia (Oregon and Washington), the Central Europe, England, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, North Carolina, and the general Southern field.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.4

    The greater part of the second meeting was devoted to the consideration of the Sunday law presentations in Arkansas and Tennessee. In this discussion the following facts were brought out: In Arkansas everything that a man has, even to the smallest particle of household furniture, is liable to be levied on in payment of a fine for laboring on Sunday. Although the sentence usually runs that the convicted person shall pay a certain fine and the costs of prosecution, with the alternative of one day in jail for each dollar of the fine and costs, lying in jail the specified time does not satisfy the judgment. After a man has served out his time in jail, his property may still be seized, or he may, if he has no property, be compelled to work out the fine. Besides this, the prisoners are treated as convicts having no rights whatever. They are considered as having any conscience, and may be compelled while in jail to labor on the Sabbath, with the alternative of the most barbarous punishment if they refuse. It will then appear that the law violates every principle of justice, and is most inhuman and cruel. And this appears, still more plainly when we learn that offenses such as stealing are not punished with anything like such severity.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.5

    More than this, these prosecutions are conducted against only those who keep the seventh day of the week, “according to the commandment.” Brother Armstrong, who served out one sentence in jail for doing a little work in his garden on Sunday, stated that when he was brought before the grand jury to testify in another case, he was asked if he knew of the parties who had done labor on Sunday. He replied that he did, and when asked for the names, he mentioned the employés of the railroad companies. Then he was asked if he knew of the others. In reply he mentioned the hotel keepers. In like manner he cited the jury to delivery men, hackmen, barbers, and the saloon keepers. Finally he was asked if he knew of any Seventh-day Adventists who labored on Sunday, and when the names of some of them had been obtained, the jury was satisfied. The Seventh-day Adventists were indicted, and the others were not molested. In some cases the brethren have been told that they would not be molested, or that they would be released from the remainder of their term of imprisonment, if they would promise not to keep the Sabbath anymore.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.6

    Thus it appears that these Sunday law prosecutions are nothing else than the meanest kind of religious persecution; and that the persecutors are moved, not by a regard for the Sunday, but by a hatred for the Sabbath. This is still further shown by the manner in which the testimony has been gained which has convicted these persons. In some cases two persons, one a professed Sunday observer and the other a Sabbath-keeper, have transacted certain business together on Sunday; the Sunday-keeper would then go and tell of it, and his companion would be arrested, while he would not be molested.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.7

    In the face of all these things there are people who have the unblushing effrontery to say that there is no danger of there being any persecution for conscience’s sake in this country, and that Sunday laws do not interfere with any man’s religion! The fact is, and every candid person must admit it, that Sunday laws as they are executed in this State of Arkansas, are unjust and inhuman, and utterly subversive of every principle of civil or religious freedom. And the people of Arkansas are no different from the people of other States. The law is administered there no differently from what a similar law would be administered anywhere else. The fault is not primarily with the law, but with the people; and when the National Reform movement shall have triumphed, the Arkansas persecutions will be repeated with tenfold severity all over the United States.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.8

    We do not believe, however, that the time for the triumph of this movement has come just yet. We believe that the Constitution of the United States is the best and most just document ever made by men, and that it will condemn the iniquitous proceedings that are being carried on under the mask of the law; and when the Constitution has thus spoken, it will henceforth be so clear to all the world that none need be mistaken, that the work of the National Reform party is a direct attempt to overthrow the best charter of human liberty that is in existence, and to bring in religious oppression.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.9

    The greater part of Friday, the 19th, was devoted to the consideration of the wants of the foreign missions. The great want is consecrated laborers. We have only a few items of interest concerning the foreign workers presented by Elder B. L. Whitney, who spoke for the Swiss Conference and Central Europe, Elder M. C. Wilcox, who spoke for England, and Elder A. B. Oyen, who spoke for Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The Swiss Conference has three ordained and seven licensed ministers. The Conference has fifteen churches and about three hundred members. These churches, however, are not all in Switzerland; two are in Germany, four in France, two and Italy, and one in Romania. Elder Whitney stated that he knew of only three Seventh-day Adventist families in Switzerland who own the houses in which they live, and many of them are in the extremest poverty. Yet notwithstanding this, they have paid into the Conference treasury during the past year, nearly $10 per member.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.10

    In England hard times are still a greater obstacle to the spread of the truth than in Switzerland. In every city there are thousands of skilled workmen who are unemployed. If a man began to keep the Sabbath he is quite sure to lose his position, and if he once loses it, there is little prospect of regaining it since scores as competent as he stand ready to take it. Still, in spite of these things in the way of living out the truth, many conscientious persons are found to take their stand for God and his truth, and they do not starve to death either.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.11

    During the year, 8,154 ships have been visited by the ship missionaries in England. These ships carry the truth to every nation under heaven. Through this agency a gentleman in Finland received papers and books and began to keep the Sabbath, and through his efforts a company of twenty Sabbath-keepers has been raised up, who will soon be visited by Elder Matteson.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.12

    Many other instances were related, showing how the truth of the Third Angel’s Message cannot be hid, but we can mention only two. A gentleman, a Baptist, received part of a copy of Present Truth, wrapped about some goods. He became deeply interested, and called at the office and bought the back numbers of Present Truth, also of the pamphlet “Truth Found,” and the tract “Who Changed the Sabbath?” which he saw advertised. He is much awakened over the Sabbath question.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.13

    Elder Whitney also mentioned a very interesting circumstance. Brother Vuillenmier baptized a company of twenty-two persons at Neuchatel. A report of this was published in a religious paper in Paris. This report was read by some French Baptists in the Argentine Republic, South America, and awakened their interests. One of this company had been in Switzerland, and he told the others that the people who performed this baptism keep the Sabbath. As a result of this six of the company had begun to keep the Lord Sabbath. They have sent for Les Signes des Temps, published at Basel.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.14

    In England there are now three organized churches of Seventh-day Adventists, containing eighty-one members. There are besides this forty who are not yet church-members.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.15

    In Norway the people are religiously inclined, and are willing to listen to the truth. It is quite easy to convince them of its binding claim, but quite difficult to induce them to take their stand, owing to their limited means of obtaining a living. Still poverty does not deter all. In Norway there are three churches and 175 members. The Swedish Conference has ten churches and 250 members, besides 100 Sabbath-keepers not yet connected with any church. Denmark has nine churches and 250 members.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.16

    These facts but poorly show how the truth is spreading. Still there is a great work to be done. This does not indicate, however, that it will be a long while before it is done. The work will all be done within this generation, for “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Before this generation passes away the Lord will come, and the work of warning the world will have been completed. Therefore the only conclusion is that if those who come to work have been intrusted are unfaithful to their trust, God will set them aside and put his work into the hands of those who will connect with him and follow his opening providence. The cause will go on to triumph whether we do or not.SITI December 2, 1886, page 726.17

    The religious services thus far have been interesting and profitable. Yesterday morning (Sabbath, Nov. 20) at 5:30 A.M., Elder Butler delivered a most impressive and instructive discourse to the ministers and missionary workers. At 10:30 Elder Haskell delivered a sermon on the Judgment which made a solemn impression on many minds. In the afternoon there was a social meeting, and in the evening a large congregations gave careful attention to a lecture by Dr. J. H. Kellogg, on the “Religion of the Body.” The meeting has only just begun, and more items of interest may be expected next week. Battle Creek, Mich., Nov. 21. W.SITI December 2, 1886, page 727.1

    “Good and Bad Gifts from God” The Signs of the Times, 12, 46.

    E. J. Waggoner

    “And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.” Ezekiel 20:11.SITI December 2, 1886, page 727.2

    “Wherefore, I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.” Ezekiel 20:25.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.1

    These two texts have been the subject of a good deal of controversy, and the latter one has been used by infidel cavilers as an argument against the goodness of God. The two verses, occurring as they do in such close connection, and referring to things so directly opposite in their nature, are worthy of a careful consideration. Fortunately the data for the explanation of both verses is supplied in the context. A misunderstanding of these texts, as in all other cases, arises from not considering the connection and not comparing scripture which scripture.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.2

    As to the meaning of the first verse there can be no difference of opinion. It evidently refers to the ten commandments. These statutes and judgments were delivered to the people when they had been brought out of the land of Egypt into the wilderness; and the statutes are the only ones “which if a man do, he shall even live in them.” Some one may object that no one can live by keeping the commandments, but that is only because no one has done them. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:24), therefore no man can be justified by the law in the sight of God. Nevertheless it is a fixed and universal truth that “the doers of the law will be justified.”SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.3

    If the judgments “which if a man do, he shall even live in them” are the perfect and holy ten commandments, then the “statutes that were not good,” and the “judgments whereby they should not live,” must be something directly opposed to the ten commandments. This will more readily apparent by reading the entire connection, which we quote:-SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.4

    (7) “Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt’ I am the Lord your God. (8) But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me; they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt; then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. (9) But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. (10) Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. (11) And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. (12) Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. (13) But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.... (15) Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands; (16) because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my Sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols. (17) Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness. (18) But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols; (19) I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; .... (21) Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me; they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.... (23) I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; (24) because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols. (25) Wherefore I gave them also statutes [that were] not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; (26) and I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord. (27) Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me. (28) For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink offerings.” Ezekiel 20:7-28.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.5

    No one, after reading the above scripture, can fail to see that the “statutes that were not good,” and the “judgments whereby they should not live,” were the heathen statutes, and the rites of heathen worship. If any additional evidence is needed, read verse 31, which says, “Ye pollute yourselves with all your idols,” and verse 39, which says: “As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.”SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.6

    In this last verse the whole matter is summed up. God gave them laws of truth, good laws, the doing of which would lead to life. But the people hated these holy commandments, and turned to the worship of dumb idols, which is expressly forbidden by the commandments, and the end of which is death. Therefore God gave them up to their own desires, and allowed them to have their own way.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.7

    As still further proof, we have the testimony of Stephen. In his speech before the council, he covered the same ground that is covered by the prophet Ezekiel in the 19th chapter. Said he:-SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.8

    “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” Acts 7:41-43.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.9

    Here it is expressly stated that because they refused to worship God, he turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, and the figures made to represent the heavenly bodies.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.10

    Again, the psalmist covers the same ground, in the following words:-SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.11

    “Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee; O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; there shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt; open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts; lust; and they walked in their own counsels.” Psalm 81:8-12.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.12

    The dealing with Israel is but a repetition of God’s dealing with the heathen, who, “when they knew not God, they glorified him not as God,” “and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts;” he also “gave them up unto vile affections;” “and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” See Romans 1:21-28.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.13

    Moreover it is just in this way that God will deal with all who despise him and his truth. Of those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” the inspired apostle writes:-SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.14

    “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.15

    God always gives people just what they want. If they really want righteousness, he fills them with it, as it is written, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6. But if they deliberately choose to do wrong, and hate the good, God gives them up to be “filled with all unrighteousness.” Romans 1:28, 29.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.16

    Of the twelve spies, ten brought back in evil report, and two good report. Numbers 13 and 14. Ten of them said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” The other two said, “Let us go up at once, possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” The ten rejected God and his promises; the two trusted him, and relied upon him for aid. The sequel was in harmony with the principle commented on in this article. Those who said they could not go up, never did go up; all those who said they were able to possess the land, did possess it.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.17

    God will not force anybody into the path of righteousness. If men wish to walk therein, he makes the way very plain. But if they refuse and rebel, he gives them ample scope for the exercise of their own will. We conclude, therefore, if that it is best for a man to walk in the way of the Lord, and to keep his commandments. It is a terrible thing for a man to be given up to the pursuit of his own way. “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Proverbs 1:29-33. W.SITI December 2, 1886, page 728.18

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