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    Chapter 2—Accepting or Rejecting the Prophets

    In this study I wish to call your attention to one phase of the study on prophets. I like to think of it in terms of accepting or rejecting the prophets, but as a Scripture lesson turn with me to this favourite text of Ellen G. White found in Hosea, the sixth chapter, and we shall read beginning with the first verse:DGRGC 24.1

    “Come and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets.”DGRGC 24.2

    As I mentioned in the first study, the chief work of the prophet is to bring a message, or the message from God, a message which is designed to mould and to fashion and to make us after the pattern that God has set for His kingdom. This thought is also expressed in the seventeenth chapter of John, the seventeenth verse, which says:DGRGC 24.3

    “Sanctify them [or make them holy] through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.”DGRGC 24.4

    So the words of the prophet are designed to make us a sanctified or a holy people. It is thus that we are to be moulded and fashioned and hewed by the Word of God according to the pattern of God.DGRGC 24.5

    In 2 Timothy, the 3rd chapter, is a very familiar text, one which we frequently read, but I should like to give it here, in just a little different context:DGRGC 24.6

    “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Verses 14, 15.DGRGC 25.1

    The purpose of the Scriptures then is to mould us and fashion us and make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.DGRGC 25.2

    “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”DGRGC 25.3

    Here again is stated the work of the prophets to hew, to Fashion, to mould, to “make us wise unto salvation.” The Scriptures, as given through the prophets, are good for doctrines, good for reproof, good for correction, good for instruction, and the object is “that the man of God may be perfect.” Verses 16, 17.DGRGC 25.4

    In these few texts of Scripture we have set before us the very purpose that God had in mind in sending prophets to the church.DGRGC 25.5

    “God ... spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” Hebrews 1:1.DGRGC 25.6

    Since that is a fact which we must accept, the purpose for which He spoke is likewise a fact; and that makes us ready now to enter into the thought of this second study.DGRGC 25.7

    As mentioned at the very beginning, it is a question of accepting or rejecting the prophets, and you and I personally and individually must make that decision. I cannot make the decision for you; you cannot make the decision for me. I must accept, or I must reject. You must accept, or you must reject.DGRGC 25.8

    We go back in the history of the prophets, and find in the introduction to the The Spirit of Prophecy 1:7, these words by James White:DGRGC 25.9

    “Once, man walked with God in Eden. With open face he beheld the glory of the Lord, and talked with God and Christ and angels in Paradise, without a dimming veil between. Man fell from his moral rectitude and innocency, and was driven from the garden, from the tree of life, and from the visible presence of the Lord and His holy angels.”DGRGC 25.10

    In the beginning it was God’s plan to talk directly to man, to come and speak to him face to face, in order that man might have direct access to God and be in the very presence of God. If man had not sinned, that relationship would have continued, but sin erected a barrier between God and man. Isaiah, the 59th chapter and the verse 2 tells us that very plainly. That which stands between man and God is sin, and when sin came into man’s life, God did not henceforth speak to him directly. Thereafter, because of sin, man could not come and talk to God face to face, so to overcome that barrier God arranged another plan, and He began to talk to men through those whom He called “prophets” in Genesis, the 20th chapter, verses 6 and 7; and through “priests,” Genesis 14:18; and at times through “angels,” Genesis 16:7-13.DGRGC 26.1

    The term most commonly used in connection with those who are God’s messengers is the word “prophets.” That word occurs more frequently in the Scriptures than any other. In the Introduction to Great Controversy, Ellen G. White has put it this way:DGRGC 26.2

    “God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was intrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.”DGRGC 26.3

    Now here is a thought that we must not forget. When God chose human agencies, men, or women, He did not take their hands and force them to write His words. He did not, except in rare instances, put His words in their mouths and say, “This is the very word that you must use;” but, rather, He gave them the thought, the message, and then allowed them to express it in their own words. Ellen G. White speaks of, “the imperfect expression of human language.”DGRGC 26.4

    Immediately this forces us to a conclusion that it was not “verbal inspiration” but, rather, as Elder F. M. Wilcox always put it, it was “thought inspiration” expressed in human language, which is subject to the imperfections of the man who speaks. Therefore, the language is not the important thing, but it is the message contained in those human words which are at times imperfect because perfection is not with man. I shall come back to that a little later, but I wanted you to catch that thought so that, right from the very beginning, we shall not think in terms of verbal inspiration for any one of the prophets, Mrs. White included. We should not think in terms of verbal inspiration because the Spirit of prophecy in speaking of the work of the prophets stated it in these words,DGRGC 27.1

    “The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language.” The Great Controversy, Introduction, vii.DGRGC 27.2

    I like this thought in Education, 46:DGRGC 27.3

    “From the earliest times, prophets had been recognized as teachers divinely appointed. In the highest sense the prophet was one who spoke by direct inspiration, communicating to the people the messages he had received from God. But the name was given also to those who, though not so directly inspired, were divinely called to instruct the people in the works and ways of God.”DGRGC 27.4

    This, I think, makes it quite clear that, so far as God is concerned, He is interested in giving the message, or the thought, to the human instrument or agency, and then allowing that individual, aided by the Spirit of God, to express the thought in his own words.DGRGC 27.5

    The question now comes as to what we shall do about the prophets, or those who claimed the gift of prophecy. Let us think of this question in the light of 1 Thessalonians, the fifth chapter,verses 19, 20, and 21:DGRGC 27.6

    “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”DGRGC 27.7

    So your business and mine is not hastily to say, “I will have nothing to do with it. I do not want anything to do with a person who claims to have revelations from heaven, or visions, or dreams.”DGRGC 27.8

    Our attitude on the contrary should be, I shall try it, I shall test it, I will prove it, to see whether there is anything in it or not, and then come to a conclusion. In other words we must test and try and prove before we come to a conclusion rather than coming to the conclusion first and refusing to have anything to do with it. This has been a question for God’s people all through the years. John says:DGRGC 28.1

    “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1.DGRGC 28.2

    If there are many false prophets, it becomes all the more important to try them, test them, prove them. The other day over in the Middle East, I talked on this subject, and after the meeting a young lady came to me. She said, “I am not a Christian, I am a Moslem, and I did not like some things you said this morning. You intimated that my prophet might be true or might be false, and that all I had to do was to test and to try and to prove Mohammed.” “Why,” she declared, “that is unthinkable!”DGRGC 28.3

    Not wishing to offend, or argue the question, I asked, “How did you come to this conclusion? Did you ever investigate, to really prove your prophet true or false? or did you just accept it without a question?” She replied, “Well, I guess I just accepted it as my mother, my father, and all of my people have believed without any doubt or any question whatsoever. Why, of course, he was a true prophet.” I replied to that sweet, sincere, honest young lady, “What I am trying to do is to apply the Bible tests. I am applying them to one whose name is Ellen G. White.”DGRGC 28.4

    “Now,” she came direct to the heart of the matter, “do you want me to take the texts that you have given us and apply them to Mohammed?” I replied, “I suppose if you want to know whether Mohammed were true or false, you would have to apply those tests.” Then she came to a very vital conclusion, and said, “That being the case, it would be very difficult to do.”DGRGC 28.5

    I would not want to force anyone into a conclusion without first examining the evidence, but let me put it this way. Our business is not to declare that Mohammed was false, but rather our business is to test and to try and to prove Mohammed as a prophet, and if he should stand up to the test, then we would have to conclude that he was true. If he did not meet the test, then we would come to the conclusion that he was not a true prophet.DGRGC 28.6

    The same is true with Ellen G. White. If she does not stand up to the four tests given in the Scriptures, we would have to conclude that she was a false prophet. I think above all things we must be reasonable, we must be fair, we must have a sense of balance and proportion in dealing with the prophet of the Mormons, or the prophet of the Moslems, or the prophet of the Remnant Church. We must be equally fair, and equally sincere and honest. That brings us now to the question, What are the tests?DGRGC 29.1

    I wish to deal with the tests in the next study, because that is a subject all of its own. In this particular study I wish to call your attention to what we should do about prophets in general, and what has been done about the prophets in the past. Perhaps we should read a text of Scripture which will help us to know the attitude of people in the past in regard to prophets.DGRGC 29.2

    We shall begin with this word in 2 Chronicles, the 36th chapter, verse 15:DGRGC 29.3

    “And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”DGRGC 29.4

    Jeremiah repeats the same thing. He said that God from time to time sent His messengers with messages for the people. Some accepted, many rejected; and of the rejecting we find an outstanding example in Jeremiah, the 36th chapter, where we have the experience of King Jehoiakim. You remember in that chapter God said to Jeremiah, “I want you to take a scroll and write on that scroll the words that I have given you. Put on that paper the messages which I have given to you from time to time.” So Jeremiah took the roll of the book and he called his secretary, Baruch, and said to him, “You sit down and write and I will dictate the record which God has given.”DGRGC 29.5

    As the message was written on the scroll, it became available to the people to read, and Baruch himself took the message out and began to read the words of the prophet to the people. Some of those who heard were princes from the king’s own palace, and they were so much impressed with these words that they decided the king himself must hear this. Thereupon they took the scroll into the palace and began to read to the king. The record at this point says that Jehoiakim was sitting by a fire on the hearth.DGRGC 30.1

    Today I can understand that situation a little better, for only a few days ago I was over in Beirut, and the weather was perfect. Then all at once the sky changed, and what they call the “early rains” began to fall; I mean it really rained in torrents. In fact, we had rain and hail and sleet, and on the mountains to the east heavy snow, for it was not only wet but very cold. The change was so sudden I told the people there that I could then appreciate why Jehoiakim sat beside the fire on his hearth trying to keep warm.DGRGC 30.2

    He was sitting there warming himself when the princes brought in the scroll and began to read the message. As he listened he became interested, but he did not like what he heard and shouted, “Give that to me.” He took the scroll, began to read it for himself, became more and more angry, for he did not like the words. He reached into his pocket, took out his knife, and declared, “I will show God what I will do with things like that,” and before the startled princes he began to rip the scrolls all to pieces. Then, of course, after he had ripped the messages to pieces, he added, “I shall even get rid of them.” Whereupon he put them into the fire and burned them. This is the attitude of some people to the messages of God’s prophets.DGRGC 30.3

    Honestly now can you get rid of God’s message by ripping it to shreds? or tearing it all to pieces and casting it into the fire? You cannot get rid of God. You cannot get rid of God’s message, nor can you get rid of God’s messenger in that way. Some people even today are inclined to treat the prophets and the messages of the prophets in that way.DGRGC 30.4

    An example comes to mind in the old story of one whose name was Stephen Smith. You may have heard it. Stephen Smith was a man in middle life who accepted the Sabbath message back about 1850. He really believed in the second coming of Christ and he loved the Sabbath. He was a very promising man, so gifted with words that he could speak and cause everybody to enjoy hearing his messages. Even the good old church paper, the Review and Herald, commented that here was a man, who, they hoped, would go out and do a great work as a preacher. Of course this idea of the Spirit of prophecy was soon called to his attention, but he said in his heart that he could have nothing to do with one who claimed in our day to be a prophet, a messanger of the Lord. Stephen Smith shook his head and declared, “Well, the Sabbath I can believe. The second coming of Christ I can believe and preach, but when it comes to visions and dreams and revelations through a woman like that, I shall have nothing to do with it.”DGRGC 31.1

    Not very long after that Stephen Smith received in the mail a long envelope with his name upon it, bearing the name of Ellen G. White, and he said, “There it is. She thinks she is going to give me one of her testimonies. I will have nothing to do with it.” He took the envelope to his home. He opened the door. He went into the room and looked around to see where he could put it, and there was an old trunk. He unlocked it, lifted the lid, and put that envelope down at the bottom but did not open it. He said, “I will have nothing to do with that.” So it was out of his way.DGRGC 31.2

    But Stephen Smith had a rather strange experience; for every strange idea that came along, he absorbed it just like a piece of blotting paper absorbs the ink, and he was off with this movement, and off with that. In fact, he was given to fanaticism. He had nothing to guide him. During those days when these different offshoots arose, Ellen G. White was there to guide our people, but Stephen Smith had nothing to do with her. He did not like the idea of taking messages from a woman. That was just too much for him. So he went on his way, and it was not very long until he was out with all of our people. He did not agree with them on much of anything and, of course, they had to dismiss him and he went out of the church.DGRGC 31.3

    Stephen Smith became very bitter. That tongue of his which was given to speaking words so fluently and so fast, turned to speaking the most blistering, the most sarcastic, the most bitter words that you could ever imagine any individual speaking. He became known throughout that whole country as just a vicious old man.DGRGC 32.1

    He grew old of course, and about 1884, twenty-seven years after he received that envelope, he was sitting one day in his living room. His good wife had remained faithful all that time, and week by week she had put the copy of the Review and Herald on the living room table. This man who was growing old and gray and bent, sat down by the table and looked at the paper when she was not around. Thus he began to read the Review. He read one article by Ellen G. White, and said, “That is the truth.” The next week when the paper came, he found himself back by the table and he looked at it. Nobody around, he read another article by Ellen G. White. He said, “That is very good. That’s God’s truth.”DGRGC 32.2

    Of course, he did not want anybody to see him reading those papers, but week by week he read and, in one of those papers early in 1885 he saw that Eugene Farnsworth was coming back to Washington, New Hampshire, where Farnsworth had grown up as a boy and where Stephen Smith had known him as a friend. They knew each other well. Elder Farnsworth was sent back to Washington, New Hampshire, our first Seventh-day Adventist church, to conduct a series of revival meetings in the old church building. Stephen Smith said to himself, “Well, I think I’ll go and hear what Eugene has to say.”DGRGC 32.3

    Friday morning he walked fourteen miles from where he lived over to Washington, New Hampshire. During the meeting Sabbath morning, he was very much impressed by the message given by Eugene Farnsworth. When the speaker sat down, old Stephen Smith shuffled a bit and stood up. As he arose the people all gave a sort of a sigh and thought, here it comes again. We shall have to listen to another tirade. They had heard that old man so many times during the years, but there seemed nothing to do but let him talk. So they sat back and waited.DGRGC 32.4

    This time when Stephen Smith got up, he said, “I don’t want you to be afraid of me, brethren, for I haven’t come to criticize you. I have quit that kind of business.” Then he went back and reviewed the past. He told how he had opposed the church organization and most everything else. He referred to his connections with different parties, the “Messenger party,” and this group and that group. He told it all. Finally he said, “Facts are stubborn things. But the facts are that those who have opposed this work have come to naught, while those who have been in sympathy with it have prospered, have grown better, more devoted and godlike. Those who have opposed it have only learned to fight and to debate and they have lost all their religion. No honest man can help but see that God is with them and against us. I want to be in fellowship with this people in heart and in the church.”DGRGC 33.1

    They had not heard anything like that from Stephen Smith for a long, long time. He attended the meetings from day to day, and thought about his own condition. On Wednesday he happened to remember the letter in the bottom of his trunk. So Thursday morning he walked the fourteen miles back to his home, entered the house, unlocked the old trunk, lifted the lid and went down to the bottom of the trunk, and sure enough there was the envelope, a bit yellow from age, for twenty-eight years had passed. He opened the envelope and began to read. It was a most interesting message. It told him that God loved him and that God was anxious to save him, and further if he would do so and so, and so and so, his life would be—and she outlined exactly what his life would be. Then she outlined in detail what his life would be if he rejected the message.DGRGC 33.2

    As the old man read it, he said, “That is a picture of my life, just exactly as I have lived it for these twenty-eight years, and here is what I might have been.” It made quite an impression on the old man’s mind. He folded up the letter and started back that Friday morning to Washington, New Hampshire to attend the meeting the next day.DGRGC 33.3

    Sabbath morning Elder Farnsworth preached on the subject of the Spirit of prophecy in the Advent Movement and, no sooner had he finished his sermon than Stephen Smith was on his feet again. This time he said, “I received a testimony myself twenty-eight years ago, and I took it home and I locked it up in my trunk and I never read it until last Thursday.” He said he had been afraid to read it for fear it might make him mad, but then he said, “I’ve been mad for these twenty-eight years,”—mad at everybody and everything. He said, “Brethren, every word of that testimony for me is true and I accept it and I have come to that place where I finally believe that they are all of God. And if I had heeded the one God sent to me as well as the rest, it would have changed the whole course of my life and I should have been a different man. Any man that is honest may say that they lead a man toward God and the Bible always. If he is honest he will say that; if he will not say that, he is not honest. If I had heeded them it would have saved me a world of trouble. The testimony said there was to be no more definite time preached after the 1844 movement, but I thought I knew as much as the old woman’s vision’ as I used to term it. May God forgive me. But to my sorrow I found the visions were right and the man who thought he knew it all was all wrong—for I preached the time in 1854 (that is when the little group thought that Christ would come) and I spent all I had, when if I had heeded them, I should have saved myself all of that and much more. The testimonies are right and I am wrong.” Then he added, “I’m too old to undo what I’ve done. I’m too feeble to get out to our large meetings, but I want to tell you to tell the people everywhere that another rebel has surrendered.” And old Stephen Smith sat down.DGRGC 34.1

    You know, dear friends, it may be that we have not received personal messages in that way, but I am convinced that most of us have on our shelves at home the messages bound in red cloth, or red leather. I hesitate to ask how many of us read the messages. My name was not written directly in any of those messages so far as I have been able to read, and I have read a lot of them, but I find my situation described in so many of those messages that I believe the Lord intended those messages for me as well as for you. The trouble is that while you and I keep the messages and do not rip them all to pieces nor throw them into the fire as did Jehoiakim, yet I am inclined to think that perhaps some of us allow them to stand on our shelves day after day and we never read them. I am inclined to think that in many cases we are about as guilty as was Stephen Smith.DGRGC 34.2

    That, however, is not the only kind of record we have. There is quite another type of record to which I like to turn in the Bible. I refer to the record of David. You will remember when David was the king that he did a very strange thing. The incident is recorded in Second Samuel, the 11th and 12th chapters. It is hard to understand how such a good man of God could stoop to do such a terrible thing as he did. In brief, he wanted another man’s wife; and to get rid of the man, he put him right out in the very front line of the battle, knowing exactly where the battle was to be heaviest and where the danger spot would be so that he might be killed. Then David took the man’s wife. I consider that to be very low down trickery, about as despicable as anything you can find in the records. Now what did God do about it? The Bible says, that God spoke to His servant, and said something like this, “Nathan, I have a little errand for you this morning. I want you to go over to see the king, and I want you to go right into the king’s palace and tell him a little story.”DGRGC 35.1

    Nathan was a man of God, and when God told him to do something he did it. Under such circumstances it was not very pleasant to take a message to the king, but God showed him exactly what had happened. When Nathan went into the presence of the king he did not come right out and say, “Now, King David, you have done a very wrong thing,” because that would have been a very poor approach. Nathan was very tactful, so he gave his message in a story. David listened very attentively, and as Nathan reached the climax he demanded, “O king! what do you think should be done with a man who would do a thing like that?”DGRGC 35.2

    David’s response was quick and decisive. He was really angry when he responded, “Why, that man should restore fourfold. He should be dealt with summarily.” He was very ready to give a verdict, a judgment in a case like that. Then Nathan pointed his finger at the king and said, “Thou art the man!” Immediately the king recognized himself as the one whom he had judged.DGRGC 36.1

    In such a situation the king might have taken the prophet out and had him put to death. He could have gotten rid of the prophet very quickly. David might have become very angry and thrown him out of the palace, and said, “I will have nothing to do with you and your message.” But what did David do? The Bible records exactly what we would expect of a man like King David: “I have sinned. I have done wrong. I have made a mistake.”DGRGC 36.2

    For a king to admit that he had made a mistake was, I think, pretty good evidence of the kind of man he was at heart. Oh yes, he made mistakes. He did some very strange things. At times even we do things that we ourselves cannot understand, nor can our very best friends understand them. But I am so glad that there is a God in heaven who understands the frailty of human nature and the weakness of human flesh. When we on our part manifest an attitude of humility, repentance, sorrow, and when we recognize we have made a mistake and repent in tears, we have a God who is ready and willing to forgive.DGRGC 36.3

    The Bible does not tell us all that was said and done in connection with that experience, but the 12th chapter and the 13th verse closes the incident with these words, “And Nathan said unto David, the Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” Our hearts should rejoice in words like that.DGRGC 36.4

    You see, when we accept the messages of the prophets, the messages that come from God to us, they produce a change; a reformation takes place in the heart and life of the individual. We have before us these two outstanding examples—King Jehoiakim, who rejected the messages, tore them up, and burned them up; and King David, who accepted the messages, the reproof, the counsel, and profited by the instructions.DGRGC 36.5

    Brethren and sisters, our prayer today should be that somehow we shall not be like Jehoiakim and Stephen Smith, but that we may be like David. May we have courage not only to read but to accept and believe the words of the prophets, and then those messages will work in us and bring about a marvellous transformation.DGRGC 37.1

    Someone asks, “How is the prophet called to his office?” “How may we know that a man is chosen of God to be a prophet?” God does not select a prophet by having just any person rise up and declare, “From now on, I’m going to be the prophet.” That is not God’s way. The prophet is not chosen by a committee, nor is a prophet confirmed by committee action. There is a text of Scripture which reads something like this concerning the priests, and I believe it must be true of a prophet, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Hebrews 5:4. We thus come to the conclusion that the prophet is the one who is called of God. He is chosen by God, and not by a man himself.DGRGC 37.2

    It is God, through His Holy Spirit, who moves upon men. We must remember what Amos said, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herd-man, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto My people Israel.” Amos 7:14.DGRGC 37.3

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