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General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1

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    THE WORD OF GOD - No. 10


    AT the close of the last study upon the infallibility question, we were considering the interpretation of the Scriptures, and viewing it from both standpoints, the true and the false. There is a word further that I would like to add before we leave that phase of the subject. I will first read the position taken upon this question by those who advocate a false infallibility as set forth in one of the decrees of the Vatican Council. Page 139:—GCB April 1895, page 497.8

    In matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise, contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.GCB April 1895, page 497.9

    We have called attention to the true position on this question, that Jesus Christ is the interpreter himself, but there is the danger that we shall fall into the error of speaking contrary to Scripture in principle, although not in outward form. And it may be worth while to call attention to some instruction that has been given of late bearing upon this very point and again bring out the contrast between the true and the false.GCB April 1895, page 497.10

    The people of God have educated themselves in such a way that they have come to look to those in positions of trust as guardians of the truth, and have placed men where God should be.GCB April 1895, page 497.11

    This is from the The Review and Herald, August 7, 1894, and it is this very principle that we have been bringing out, — putting some one who stands at the head of some work as guardian of the truth. That is exactly the papal principle that the bishops and the pope were the depositories of the truth, and they were to guard it and give it to the people as they thought best. Now the principle is just as evil and works just as evil results when it is followed in another form, or another name; and the thing that we have been urged to do is to study principle until we recognize principle, no matter what the name may be, because there will be every effort to bring in error, and in some way to turn us away from the right path. Hence this instruction, these warnings.GCB April 1895, page 497.12

    God removes his wisdom from men who are looked up to as God.GCB April 1895, page 497.13

    Just the moment they take that position themselves, or the people put them in that position, that moment it becomes necessary for God to remove his wisdom from them, and so we in putting them there contribute to that very thing.GCB April 1895, page 498.1

    It is a mistake to make men believe that the workers for Christ should make no move save that which has first been brought before some responsible man. Men must not be educated to look to men as to God. While it is necessary that there be a counseling together and a unity of action among the laborers, one man’s mind and one man’s judgment must not be the controlling power.GCB April 1895, page 498.2

    When Jesus went away, he entrusted to men his work in all its varied branches, and every true follower of Christ has some work to do for him for which he is responsible to his own Master, and that work he is expected to do with fidelity, waiting for command and direction from his Leader.... We must do our work through a diligent use of the intellect which God has given, gaining in knowledge and efficiency as we make progress in our work. God never designed that another should do our thinking, while we leave our mental powers to rust through inaction. God never designed that one man should be crushed under the burden, should be loaded down with various kinds of work as a cart pressed beneath the sheaves, while another should go free of all burden and responsibility. The president of the Conference is not to do the thinking for all the people. He has not an immortal brain, but has capabilities and powers like any other man. And to every man God has given his work. When men place the president of the Conference in the place of God, and make him the depository of all their difficulties, the advisor in all their plans and in all their perplexities, they are doing that which is exactly opposite to what Christ has told them to do.GCB April 1895, page 498.3

    It may be a good place here in view of this admonition to call attention to this fact which must be apparent to you from the instruction that has been given from time to time, and that is the contrast between the union which God would have in his work and the union which comes in some manmade arrangement. There will be the fullest union in God’s work.GCB April 1895, page 498.4

    Now it is very likely that some one who is looking for a chance to work independently will say, “That is just what I believe; I shall carry that plan out whether the president of the Conference says so or not.” He is wrong. God’s plan is that when all submit to him, and Jesus Christ is given his place as head of the individual, and head of the church, he will not destroy the individuality of any man, and yet he will have union throughout. God can do that, but man cannot. The union that is manmade is simply outward union in putting all in the same mold, but there is no unity. God’s plan of union is that the individuality of every worker shall be preserved, and there shall be mutual counsel, yet there shall be no one-minded plans, but many minds, while all are brought into unity by the action of the Spirit of God.GCB April 1895, page 498.5

    The people of God can be united only through the power of the Holy Ghost, and this is the union which will stand the test.GCB April 1895, page 498.6

    Now when the instruction which God gives us is carried out, there will be no breaking up; there will be no running off on side issues; there will be such union in diversity as we have not seen in the work yet; that will be God’s plan. Notice one reason why it is dangerous to put too much confidence in men and to look to men.GCB April 1895, page 498.7

    Satan exults as he sees men looking to men, and trusting in men to be wisdom for them. The soul that looks to men as to God, is left exposed to the temptations and assaults of the enemy, and the evil one sees to it that human defects shall mar the work of God. Satan will make the man whom the brethren look up to as to God, a target for his fiery darts, and will ply him with his fiercest temptations.GCB April 1895, page 498.8

    Certainly! because if all look to them as to God, and Satan can cause them to fall or make them to err, then all follow. It is a sort of premium held out to the enemy to bring his fiercest assaults upon some man.GCB April 1895, page 498.9

    While brethren should counsel together at special seasons, yet they should individually seek for higher counsel than that heard in the assembly. It may be argued that the Lord gives special wisdom to those to whom he has intrusted grave responsibilities. The Lord does give special wisdom to him who has sacred trusts. If the human agent, moment by moment, makes God his only helper, and walks humbly with him, God will then give light and knowledge and wisdom, in order that his human agent may be able to guide his brethren who would look to him for counsel as to their duty.GCB April 1895, page 498.10

    That is a very different thing from what it is to look to man as to God.GCB April 1895, page 498.11

    In a clear and forcible manner he will point them to a Source that is untainted and pure from the defects and errors that are so apparent in humanity. He may, for it is his privilege, refuse to be brains and conscience for his brethren.GCB April 1895, page 498.12

    Then do not ask him to do that, and do not form the habit of asking, “What shall we do now? Must we do this way? Must we do that way?” and make a man conscience. Do not make any man your conscience. Man is not to be put in the place of God, and yet in every step there should be mutual counsel. If this is the case, there will be no trouble. But those who are looking for some excuse for running off on an independent line, will see in all this great reason for doing as they are of a mind to do. That is the way we are apt to use instruction.GCB April 1895, page 498.13

    The danger in trusting to men is, that men are liable to err.GCB April 1895, page 499.1

    That is what the true voice says, not infallible, but are liable to err.GCB April 1895, page 499.2

    The education that should be given to all is that they should exercise faith, that they should go to God in earnest prayer, and learn to think for themselves. To meet difficulties and plow through them by the help of God is a lesson of the highest value. If men and women do this, they realize that their help has not come from a human source, but from the living God, and that, having sought wisdom of God, they have not sought in vain. It is the privilege of every soul to go to God for himself, and to have a personal connection with the Source of all power.... Those who are partakers of the divine nature will not manifest forwardness and self-exaltation, but will be filled with the spirit of discretion, and their characters will be fragrant because Christ is enthroned in the heart.GCB April 1895, page 499.3

    That is sufficient to bring out the point to which I wish to call attention, and that is this matter of attributing infallibility to men. As we lose the power to see Him who is invisible, we turn to see some one who is visible. As we lose the power to take counsel with God, we turn to man in place of God, and put man where God belongs. Now that is just as dangerous a thing to do in this church as in the Roman Catholic church. The point is that God is the one to whom we are to look, that man is fallible, and liable to err, and we must learn to take counsel of God, and to follow his leading and guidance. The gifts in the church are designed to bring us into the unity of the faith, and there are many who know by practical experience what the Spirit of prophecy has done to bring about unity among this people. We have had practical illustrations of it since we have been in this Conference; and over and over again in the history of this people it has been the Spirit of prophecy that has brought union into the ranks, but that union has been a union of the spirit and not of outward force; and that union, still regarding the idea of diversity, and while being united, is not this man-made union which is brought about by a set of rules and regulations.GCB April 1895, page 499.4

    I may add that although the Catholic Church makes its boast that there is unity in its church, it is false; there is no unity, to say nothing of the many orders that are in the church that are just as bitterly opposed to each other as the different denominations of Protestants. It is also true that there is a division in the church as a rule upon this very idea of infallibility.GCB April 1895, page 499.5

    We may use the remaining time in a sort of summary, and in calling attention to some things that are still before us in the development of this infallibility doctrine. Infallibility is the distinctive feature of Romanism. It is that feature which distinguishes that church from every other church upon the face of the earth. And it is not only true concerning that one point but this doctrine puts a peculiar and a special coloring upon every error that the Roman Catholic church holds. It renders it impossible for the church to reform in any respect, because infallibility is put upon every act like a seal and it is not subject to change and cannot be changed. It is irreformable upon the ground that Protestants generally have taken on this question, only seeking to meet this doctrine in infallibility. It does not do to claim for one’s self what is denied to some one else, and it does not do to claim for a church what is denied to some other church, and it does not meet it to deny the thing altogether.GCB April 1895, page 499.6

    It is a true doctrine that infallibility belongs in the church of Jesus Christ; and we are to know where it belongs in accordance with the will of God. But a slight error upon this question, and the real weakness of the doctrine of infallibility in the Roman Catholic Church will appear. The Lord has told us in what manner he communicates his word - through visions and dreams and by prophets. And does it not seem to be the logical result that they will be forced to seek somewhere for prophets to meet this demand? And how far will it be necessary to look to find them? Protestantism and Romanism have already joined hands. The two-fold union is formed. How far will it be necessary for this two-fold union to look to find prophets through whom to manifest this infallibility idea? — Only to Spiritualism. And thus we will have the threefold union of Protestantism and Romanism and Spiritualism. So we may easily see what the outcome will be when the true doctrine of infallibility is presented to the world.GCB April 1895, page 499.7

    But there is another phase at which I can only hint. We have not been studying it from that standpoint, but there is the phase of political infallibility, and it is worth while simply to note that really in the whole question of Sunday laws and the interpretation of the code upon Sunday laws is found also this infallibility idea, and those who nobly remonstrated early in the history of this government against the magistrates’ taking any ground with reference to religious matters, touched the true idea.GCB April 1895, page 499.8

    In Romanism we have this side which we have been studying, — infallibility in the papacy, — and on the other side in the attitude of degenerate Protestantism, we have the same idea in another form. But these two are working together, and you see how easily they can unite, and how easy it will be for the infallible church to make the infallible decree, and then for the magistrate and his court simply to carry forward this same idea of political infallibility for the enforcement of that same decree, and so it all works together.GCB April 1895, page 500.1

    What are we to do to meet this doctrine of infallibility? Is it not to let the true light shine concerning the real doctrine of infallibility in the church? That will meet it, and nothing else can meet it.GCB April 1895, page 500.2

    One more thought with reference to it; that is, the contrast in the way in which the true and false infallibility is manifested. God always chooses the agent through whom he will speak, and he speaks when he will and not at the will of the agent. And this instruction that comes to us from God through the agent which he chooses is not at the will of the agent.GCB April 1895, page 500.3

    There is a passage in the 42nd chapter of Jeremiah that illustrates this idea that God speaks when he will. The people were in great distress and trouble, they were in danger for fear of the enemy of the Chaldeans. We will begin with the last of the 41st chapter: “For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.” Then they all came to Jeremiah the prophet “and said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us).... Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.... And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah.”GCB April 1895, page 500.4

    There seemed to be a pressing case. Great danger threatened the people, and they came to Jeremiah, and he said, I will seek the Lord, and whatever counsel the Lord gives, I will give it to you. In ten days the Lord spoke to them. The Lord not only speaks by whom he chooses but when he chooses, and not at the command of any human being.GCB April 1895, page 500.5

    The whole principle through it all is this principle that runs through all doctrine, that God is controlling those things, and that man is not to be put in the place of God. It does not make any difference whether we call him by the name of pope or by the name of elder, man is not to be put in the place of God, and man is not to be looked up to as God or feared as God, because it is wholly contrary to God’s order, and it is the surest way to bring in error and difficulty, because man is fallible, liable to err, and God alone is infallible.GCB April 1895, page 500.6

    If the study of this question has resulted in calling our attention especially to this phase of the subject from this standpoint, and if it will result in placing a higher estimate upon the Spirit of prophecy in the church, and in seeing more clearly the place which God would have it occupy in the church, and its relation to errors that have come in through human agents and through human exaltation, it will have met its purpose.GCB April 1895, page 500.7

    I would like to read just in closing a brief description of the scene when the papal dogma of infallibility was declared on the 18th day of July, 1870. This extract is taken from the New York Tribune for Aug. 11, 1870, and was written by one of the editors.GCB April 1895, page 500.8

    Before leaving Rome I send you a report of the last scene of that absurd comedy called the Ecumenical Vatican Council.... It is at least a remarkable coincidence that the opening and closing sessions of the Council were inaugurated with fearful storms, and that the vigil of the promulgation of the dogma was celebrated with thunder and lightning throughout the whole of the night. On the 8th of last December I was nearly drowned by the floods of rain, which came down in buckets; yesterday morning I went down in rain, and under a frowning sky which menaced terrible storms later in the day.... Kyrie eleison we heard as soon as the mass was said, and the whole multitude joined in singing the plaintive measure of the Litany of the Saints, and then with equal fervor was sung Veni Creator, which was followed by the voice of a secretary reading in a high key the dogma. At its conclusion the names of the Fathers were called over, and Placet after Placet succeeded ad nauseam. But what a storm burst over the church at this moment! The lightning flashed and the thunder pealed as we have not heard it this season before. Every Placet seemed to be announced by a flash and terminated by a clap of thunder. Through the cupolas the lightning entered, licking, as it were, the very columns of the Baldachino over the tomb of St. Peter, and lighting up large spaces on the pavement. Sure, God was there - but whether approving or disapproving what was going on, no mortal man can say. Enough that it was a remarkable coincidence, and so it struck the minds of all who were present. And thus the roll was called for one hour and a half, with this solemn accompaniment, and then the result of the voting was taken to the Pope. The moment had arrived when he was to declare himself invested with the attributes of God - nay, a God upon earth. Looking from a distance into the hall, which was obscured by the tempest, nothing was visible but the golden mitre of the Pope, and so thick was the darkness that a servitor was compelled to bring a lighted candle and hold it by his side to enable him to read the formula by which he deified himself.GCB April 1895, page 500.9

    Is it any wonder that when the prophet viewed that scene, he said, “I beheld because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake”? Infallibility is an attribute of God, and any one who claims for himself infallibility, puts himself in place of God; and any one who puts another man there, puts another man in the place of God, and that is the fulfillment of the prophecy saying, “Sitting in the temple of God, he shows himself off that he is God.”GCB April 1895, page 501.1

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