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    September 7, 1888

    “The Work of the Church” The Signs of the Times, 14, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Last week we answered a question in regard to the Sabbath; but there was an expression in the question, to which we wished to call attention, but as it had no special connection with the Sabbath question, we left it for separate notice. We therefore reprint the question:—SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.1

    “If that particular day [the seventh day of the week] is essential, is it possible that God would have permitted the Christian church, whom he designed for such a glorious work, through all these eighteen hundred years to make such a great mistake?”SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.2

    The point which we wish especially to note at this time is the statement that God designed the Christian church “for such a glorious work.” We do not question this in the least; but we fear that our correspondent has the too common misapprehension of what that glorious work is. We suspect that he holds the popular view that the work of the church is to gather to itself all the people of the earth, so that when Christ comes he will find the inhabitants of the world all at peace with him and each other, and waiting to receive him. If he does not hold this view, it will do no harm to give it a brief notice for the benefit of others.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.3

    That all the people of the world will not accept the gospel, is one of the plainest things. The Bible states it, and observation confirms the statement. When Christ shall be revealed from Heaven, it will be “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8. This could not be the case if all men were obeying the gospel.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.4

    Again, our Saviour said:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.5

    “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also 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 17:26-30.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.6

    This certainly is very different from a temporal millennium to precede the coming of the Lord, in which all shall know the Lord.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.7

    The days that will immediately precede the coming of the Lord will be perilous days for the righteous, because of the wickedness that will abound. Says the apostle:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.8

    “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-4.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.9

    Here we have the description of wickedness that is almost inconceivable; and although in Romans 1:29-31 we have almost the same sins ascribed to the heathen, the latter times will be worse than the former, in this respect, that whereas the heathen were abominably wicked, they had not the Bible, and did not pretend to know God, while in the last days the wickedness will be in the church, anon, “those who profess the gospel of Jesus Christ.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.10

    Look out over the world to-day, and what is seen? Fraud, deceit, embezzlement, forgery, theft, licentiousness, murder, adultery, drunkenness, and every species of vice running rampant, and justice seems to have far more than the proverbial amount of blindness, so that she cannot see it. And what does the apostle say? “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:13. Surely these things do not point toward the conversion of the whole world.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.11

    Moreover our Saviour has given us an exhortation based upon the fact that the mass of mankind will follow evil rather than good. Said he: “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14. Under these circumstances, an exhortation to zeal and faithfulness is very necessary; for when the current is toward destruction it requires a struggle to go in the right way. In the last days, more than any other, it will be the most natural thing in the world to do wrong, and extremely difficult, and out of the ordinary course of things, for one to do right.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.12

    Now if there is no probability, nor even a possibility, that all men will receive the truth, then most certainly it cannot be the duty of the church to accomplish the conversion of the world. God does not ask the church to do impossibilities. But this does not mean that God has nothing for the church to do, nor that its work is not a glorious one. Its work is to hold up the light of truth to the world, so that “whosoever will” may rally to the standard. Surely this is a glorious work. Let us read a few texts. Says Paul:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.13

    “Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.14

    The work of the church is to hold forth the word of life; and it can do that only by being blameless and harmless. For while the truth of God is a light, the members of the church are not merely to hold that word forth in their hands, but are to let it shine forth from themselves, so that they themselves shall be light. As the Saviour said:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.15

    “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.16

    The church is the light of the world only when its members are the workmanship of God, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and these works are constant, so that the light burns with a steady flame.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.17

    Those who are in this condition are “workers together” with God. 2 Corinthians 6:1. This is indeed a glorious calling. But those who are not in this condition are not of the church of Christ at all.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.18

    Some will say that this view of the subject has a tendency to discourage the church in its evangelistic efforts. But this is not so; it is the view that the Lord himself gives, and we most certainly allow that he knows better than men can, what will be for the best. For our part, we cannot see what could be more discouraging to evangelistic effort than the attempt to convert the world. The only reason why utter discouragement has not come ere this to those who hold that doctrine, is the fact that their standard of what will constitute the millennium has gradually been lowered to meet the circumstances of the case. Next week we shall show some of the dangers attendant on the belief in the conversion of the world before the coming of the Lord. W.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.19

    “Heathen Philosophy” The Signs of the Times, 14, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Last week we considered briefly the wickedness of the ancient heathen world, and now we wish to investigate the primary cause of their degradation, and inquire concerning the influence of heathen philosophy. In this, as in the former article, the Bible must be our guide. “Then they [the heathen],” says the apostle, “knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Romans 1:21-23.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.20

    “They became fools.” That is, they lost that knowledge of God which they had possessed; for it is the fool who says, “There is no God.” The gods of the heathen were of their own making, and had no influence over them, to keep them from evil, and so, while the heathen believed in the gods, and had forms of worship, they acted as though there were no God. Now it is not necessarily with his lips that the fool denies the existence of God; he may deny God in his heart, and actions are the language of the heart. So, in the sight of Heaven, the heathen, in spite of their philosophy, were fools. We may here remind the reader that these words of the apostle are not necessarily confined in their application to people resident in heathen lands. The inhabitants of so-called Christian countries, if when they know of God, do not glorify him as God, but, professing themselves to be wise, glorify themselves are, in the Bible sense, heathen. And if they persist in their course, there is nothing to prevent them from sinking to the same depths of vice that the ancient heathen did.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.21

    In spite of the wisdom of their philosophers, the heathen were counted as fools, or, more properly speaking, their professed wisdom was the direct cause of their foolish degradation. Paul says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” In order to demonstrate this, is will be necessary to take a brief glance at ancient heathen philosophy. In so doing we shall take as a sample of the world, not the poorest, but that which is universally acknowledged to be the most elevated in its tone.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.22

    Plato was the most illustrious philosopher of ancient times. He is regarded as, in a sense, the father of philosophy, for he was the first philosopher who founded a school. After his death he was worshiped as a god, and many of the Athenians sacrificed to him.SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.23

    Although Plato is said to have developed and systematized the philosophy of Socrates and of others who had preceded him, it is well known that he himself had no real “system.” That is, he had no fixed principles of truth by which he tested, and around which he gathered, new ideas. Says Prof. G. F. Holmes (McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia, art. Plato): “There is little in Plato of a dogmatic character,” and “much of tentative, skeptical, and undefined exploration.” Again we read, in the same article:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.24

    “Very few of the treatises of Plato are constructive or dogmatical. Nearly all of them are simply negative or inquisitorial. The latter do not seek to maintain any dependence on the former.... His object was not the establishment of a doctrine, but the stimulation of candid investigation, in order to free his hearers from the stagnation of thought and the obsession of vulgar or treacherous errors. He was not a doctrinaire, but an inquirer; or, rather, he taught the need and practice of investigations, not a body of conclusions.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.25

    The testimony which we quote is from a source prejudiced, if in either direction, in favor of Plato, so our readers may be sure that we are doing him no injustice. Now let us notice the above paragraph. First, Plato’s treatises are nearly all negative. Second, there is no attempt at uniformity. Third, it would naturally be supposed, he did not seek to establish any doctrine, but only to stimulate inquiry. Now we would not appear to deprecate the “stimulation of candid investigation;” but when the “investigator” has no fixed principles of truth as the basis of his investigation, and his investigation leads to no definite conclusions; when one thought is not in harmony with that which preceded it, and is itself contradicted by that which follows,-we cannot look upon it with much respect. We cannot see that such investigation is good for anything; indeed, we think it can be shown that it is worse than nothing. When a person is so “unprejudiced” that he regards everything as equally good, and is not certain that anything is good, he certainly is not a safe man to follow. The position of modern “agnostics” is precisely the same as that of Plato. Indeed, Plato deserves the name of the “first great agnostic,” rather than that of “philosopher.” While calling himself a philosopher, “lover of wisdom,” he did not profess to know anything, and he held no idea with sufficient firmness to be willing to be held responsible for its promulgation. Says the author above quoted:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 550.26

    “He never appears in propria persona [in his own person]. There is nothing to connect him before the Athenian dicasteries with any tenet in his writings. There is a constant avoidance of definite doctrine, a frequent censure of written instruction, a continual reference to the ‘obstetrical procedure,’ and a deliberate renunciation of all responsibility.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.1

    This was the man who had the chief influence in reaching the minds of the heathen for several hundred years. How could it be expected that they would have any fixed moral principles? If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch? What shall we say then, when we learn that, by multitudes of professed Christians, Plato has been regarded as little less than inspired? and that many of the “Fathers” of the first centuries regarded the Platonic philosophy as preliminary and even paramount to Christianity? Must we not conclude that such “Christianity” would have radical defects? We might cite as proof of the demoralizing effect of the writings of Plato and other philosophers, the condition of the church in the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, when philosophy took the place of the Bible in the theological schools. It was against this soul-withering “philosophy” that Luther struck some of his hardest blows; and, but for the influence it had gained in the church, the Reformation would not have been necessary. It is because of Plato’s great influence on the Christian church, as well as on the heathen world, that we devote space to the characteristics of his philosophy. Again we quote:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.2

    “The imagination of Plato was the commanding facility of his intellect, and he followed its beams too far.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.3

    “The philosophy of Plato is essentially mystical, and consequently unsubstantial; and, though mysticism may inflame, spiritualize, and refine natures already spiritual and refined, it is heady and intoxicating, and apt to justify willful aberrations, and to awake every fantastic conviction on the same level with confirmed truth.”-McClintock and Strong.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.4

    But the fatal defect in Plato’s philosophy was the position he took concerning the mind, and its relation to the body and to the whole universe. He held that the mind or soul holds the same relation to the body that God does to the world. The preexistence of souls was a cardinal point in his philosophy, and it is to him that the Mormons are indebted for the theory which is the foundation of their polygamy. Like the Mormons, he held that not only men, but plants and all inanimate objects also, have souls, which existed prior to themselves. Thus, Prof. W. S. Tyler, of Amherst College, says:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.5

    “There is no doctrine on which Plato more frequently or more strenuously insists than this,-that soul is not only superior to body, but prior to it in matter of time, and that not merely as it exists in the being of God, but in every order of existence. The soul of the world existed first, and then it was clothed with a material body. The souls which animate the sun, moon, and stars, existed before the bodies which they inhabit. The pre-existence of human souls is one of the arguments on which he uses to prove their immortality.”-Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, art. Platonism.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.6

    And that was the only means by which he could conceive the immortality of the soul. If the soul is by nature immortal, the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls must be true. Like modern scientists, however, who invent a hypothesis upon which they build a beautiful structure, and then proceed as though their hypothesis were a fact, Plato did not bother himself with proving the pre-existense of souls. So, also, Christians who adopt from Plato the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, have conveniently lost sight of the absurd and atheistical doctrine on which it rests. Some of the most eminent of the “church Fathers,” however, and especially Origen, accepted without question all the vagaries of Plato concerning the pre-existence of souls.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.7

    In a preceeding quotation, mention was made of Plato’s frequent reference in his treatises to the “obstetrical procedure.” The following extract from McClintock and Strong (art. Platonic Philosophy) will serve to explain that term:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.8

    “The midwifery of the mind which Socrates professed, and which Plato represented him as professing, necessitated the assumption that truth was present potentially in the mind, and that it only required to be drawn from its latent state by adroit handling. It could not be latent, nor could it be brought forth, unless it lay there like a chrysalis, and descended from an anterior condition of being. It was in a superterrestrial and antemundane existence that souls had acquired [ethereal sense], but before their demission, or return to earth, they had been steeped in oblivion. The acquisition of genuine knowledge was thus the restoration of the obliterated memories of supernal realities.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.9

    This theory was the logical outcome of the theory of the pre-existence of souls, and there is no abominable wickedness that could not find shelter under it. It absolved the possessor of it from all sense of obligation to God, or of necessity of looking to him for wisdom; every man thus became his own god, his own lawgiver, and his own judge. The consequence would most naturally be the conclusion that whatever is, is right; and since “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” evil came to be regarded as good. This theory and its results are directly pointed out by these words of the apostles:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.10

    “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.” Romans 1:22-24. W.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.11

    “Back Page” The Signs of the Times, 14, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    In answer to inquiries that have been made, we will state that Mrs. E. G. White and Elder W. C. White will both attend the Oakland camp-meeting. More definite plans have been laid for this meeting than for any camp-meeting ever held in this State, and there ought to be a larger attendance than ever before.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.1

    The Jewish Tidings, of Rochester, N.Y., is an advocate of the transfer of Jewish worship from Sabbath is Sunday, and says: “It is better to worship your God at a convenient time than to make unnecessary sacrifices.” There are thousands who profess to be Christians, who hold no higher views of religious service.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.2

    On Thursday, the 30th ult., Brother C. H. Jones, president of the Pacific Press Publishing Company, started for the East in company with his family in a party of friends. His principal business East is the establishment of a branch office in New York City. He will return immediately after General Conference.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.3

    The old saying about “carrying coals to Newcastle” may be replaced in California by the one, “carrying fruit to Newcastle.” This little village of Placer County now claims to be the largest shipper of local fruits in California. It is estimated that 15,000,000 of fruit will be shipped from that place this season.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.4

    Any of our friends who contemplate going East soon, will do well to correspond with us. Another party of our people will leave Oakland for the East on Thursday, the 27th inst. Those who go on this excursion will have many advantages that they could not have if they went along. Write at once for particulars to the editor of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.5

    We are in receipt of a good-looking poster all the way from Basel, Switzerland, announcing that a camp-meeting of Seventh-day Adventists will be held in Tramelan, September 22-26. Our Oakland camp-meeting will also be in session at that time. We believe that this will be the first camp-meeting ever held in Switzerland, and the second in Europe, and we pray that it may have abundance of success.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.6

    The reason which Doctor Dowling, of Cleveland, gave for renouncing close communion, is the following, which he gave in an interview with a reporter:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.7

    “I cannot longer appear even to unchurched the vast majority of God’s people because they and I may differ as to the historical administration of an ordinance. If there is any question at all, I would rather err on the side of charity.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.8

    The National Baptist very pertinently inquires if he would receive into his church, without baptism, the members of Padobaptist Churches. If he would not, then he would be unchurching them as much as by non-communion with them. This simply shows that when Baptists practice open communion they at once particularly say that baptism is not essential to church-membership, and so show that there is no reason for their separate organization.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.9

    A correspondent of the Golden Gate asks the following question:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.10

    “If Satan can really turn himself into an angel of light and fool people, as our friends tell us, why not give him a permanent employment in that direction at once, and so benefit humanity.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.11

    For the simple reason that we do not think that it is of any real benefit to people to be fooled. We do not love to be deceived, and therefore the golden rule demands of us that we should do all in our power to keep other people from being deceived. However, there are so many people who are willing to be fooled by Satan, that he will not lack employment while they live.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.12

    The following editorial statement of present Jewish belief, made by the Jewish Times and Observer (San Francisco), will be read with interest:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.13

    “Judaism does not recognize any mediator between God and man.... The Messianic idea with us does not refer to a personal Messiah, but to a period of time when, through education, toleration, and enlightenment, mankind will live in peace and happiness with each other. The distinctions and rivalries of creeds and religions will be forgotten in the common desire to promote human happiness and welfare. Religions will continue to exist, not as antagonists, but as aids to one common and glorious result. This is the sum and substance of the Messianic idea from a Jewish standpoint.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.14

    Every reader of the Old Testament well knows that this is a wide departure from ancient Judaism; but it is not so far removed from the “faith” of the mass of professed Christians, as the editor of the Times and Observer thinks it is.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.15

    The Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America has just held a session in Tremont Temple, Boston. The Rev. Frederick Campbell, writing an account of it, speaks of the incongruity of a Catholic convention in a Baptist house of worship, and says truly that no Catholic Church would be open to a similar Protestant organization. It is indeed noteworthy that in all the hobnobbing of so-called Protestants and Catholics, all the concessions are on the Protestant side. Mr. Campbell’s report closes with following statements, which needs no comment:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.16

    “The sessions of the convention opened and closed with prayer; all knelt; then the president repeated the words, ‘In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost,’ while all crossed themselves; a few petitions followed, with the Lord’s prayer, and the repetition of the opening words with the same crossings. At the close of Thursday morning’s session, the assembly was breaking up in confusion, when the president shouted, ‘Kneel in prayer; we need it;’ a heated dispute having just closed, down they dropped, laughter prevailing all over the room and continuing until the close of the devotions, the President, ‘Father’ Conaty, losing control of his voiced by reason of his merriment as he pronounced the closing words, ‘In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.’ Such is the devotion of Rome.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.17

    The question of “liberality” comes again to the front in connection with Dr. Dowling’s action in regard to the Lord’s supper. He says that he cannot any longer seem to unchurch those professors who do not believe as he does in regard to baptism. In other words, he dare not any longer hold to a principle for the sake of the principle, when so many hold an opposite position. The charge of exclusiveness and illiberality is an old one against those who adhere closely to the plain instruction of the Bible. But “charity” is a much abused word, and has of late years been made to cover a multitude of sins, in a sense which the Scriptures never contemplated. No man has a right to be “liberal” with that which is not his own. He may invite to his own table whosoever he chooses, but the Lord’s table does not belong to him, and he has no right to invite to it anybody who has not complied with the conditions which the Lord has set. Every man has explicit conditions, without compliance with which he will not admit people to his own table, one of which is that they shall have clean hands and face. When water is abundant and free, he would esteem it a gross insult if one of his servants should invite to his table a lot of people whose hands had been four days guiltless of water. Then why should he take liberties with the Lord’s table? The whole of the great apostasy in the early centuries resulted from the fear on the part of the Christians, of seeming to set themselves too much about other people, by a close adherence to the precepts of Christ. So they lowered the standard. True charity consists in instructing people in the perfect way of truth, and not in taking concessions which will only confirm them in error.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.18

    At the annual convention of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America, recently held in Boston, the irreverence of which is elsewhere referred to, there was not perfect unanimity. Mr. Elliott, a priest from New York, gave utterance to some plain sentiments about liquor sellers, characterizing them as enemies to liberty, and the deadliest venom of politics, and denying that the liberty of the Christian has anything to do with the liberty of those who sell drink. At the close of this speech, Mr. Hogan, a priest from Trenton, N.J., arose, and set the seal of Catholic approval upon liquor-selling in the following manner:-SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.19

    “In the first place, before condemning anything as unworthy of liberty, it should be shown that it is wrong. I say, it is not wrong per se. I say, with all proper consideration for the reverend father who presides here, and for all others in this convention, that it is not wrong and will not be condemned by the church. It is wrong, decidedly, as saloons generally are carried on. I favor Catholic total abstinence as much as anybody here, but it is not our duty to come here and denounce the saloon keeper to whom we give the sacrament every week. I ask, if I am not speaking what is Catholic, that we are going too far and trespassing on Catholic teaching when we denounce saloon keepers indiscriminately. We must make a distinction. It is those who oppose the sale of liquor whenever, who must be denounced and be avoided, and who are committing sin, and are not worthy of liberty. But where the sale is carried on, according to Catholic tradition, I say these men should not be denounced. We should not be allowed to drift from teaching that is Catholic to that which is non-Catholic.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.20

    It is but just to say that there were many expressions of disapproval of the sentiment; but we think that Mr. Hogan had the strongest position. And if the Catholic Church gives the sacrament to saloon keepers every week, as it does, it must certainly approve of their business.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.21

    We have already noted the fact that the Congregationalists and Presbyterians in Japan have united. Now the news comes that they call the ministers bishops, thus, as the Congregationalist says, taking “the stiffness out of prelacy by a single crushing blow.” That is exactly in accordance with the custom of Seventh-day Adventists, who call all their ministers elders. Elder and bishops are according to the Scripture, different names for the same official.SITI September 7, 1888, page 560.22

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