Keep Thyself Pure
The "present hour sees the moral standards of a former day trailing in the dust. The daily press, a whole flock of magazines that vitiate the morals of the youth who read them, many of the modern books, the motion pictures, the automobile, the radio, the frequency of divorce, and the prominence given to crime of every kind, create a world undreamed-of by our Puritan forefathers. The whole tendency of modern life is destructive of the high moral ideals and standards which Christian parents of a generation ago sought to instill in their children.
Especially is the social evil pervading society of every grade, a hydra-headed monster that strikes the fairest homes as well as the lowest, and leaves human wreckage and broken hearts where it strikes. Something must be done to lift up the Bible standard of morality, or modern civilization will revert to the low level of paganism.
Surely Seventh-day Adventist ministers, of all Christian workers in the world today, should shun this sin. Unless the ministry is pure, there are dangers ahead of us that we cannot estimate.
The letters of the great missionary apostle to the youthful minister Timothy set before us a high ideal of what every minister should strive to be. Among other excellent exhortations we find this, given with the earnestness of a command: "Keep thyself pure."
The value set upon purity is emphasized in many places in the word of God. Christ Himself said: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." To the church at Ephesus Paul wrote: "Fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints." Again, in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul was bold in his statement: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
Through the wise man, God dealt with the sin of impurity in a very plain way, as we read in Proverbs 6:
"The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: to keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbor's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; but if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away."
Again, in Proverbs 7:
"With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, 0 ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death."
"Many . . . cherish impure thoughts, unholy imaginations, unsanctified desires, and base passions. God hates the fruit borne upon such a tree. Angels, pure and holy, look upon the course of such with abhorrence, while Satan exults. . . .
"As Christ's ambassador, I entreat you who profess present truth, to promptly resent any approach to impurity, and forsake the society of those who breathe an impure suggestion. Loathe these defiling sins with the most intense hatred. Flee from those who would, even in conversation, let the mind run in such a channel; 'for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.' "—"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 146.
The minister is to be a pattern to his flock. He ought to be able to say, "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me." We are exhorted, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." Never should we forget Isaiah's solemn admonition to the priests, "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
The minister should be pure in heart. His mind should be a trained mind, that can be centered upon a line of thought, and held to it. Impurity weakens the mind, and makes the thoughts muddy, wandering, weak. Many a man has incapacitated himself for serious study and efficient mental labor by impurity. The prophet Isaiah describes such sinners in these words: "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." What sadder picture could be painted of the condition in God's sight of an impure soul?
Pagan nations have always attributed impurity to their gods and goddesses. When the people understood that the deities were unchaste,—that impurity itself was deified,—they loosed all restraints, and lived lives of the grossest indulgence. When an ambassador for Christ falls into this social uncleanness, he becomes a menace to Christianity, and poisons the waters of life which he gives to the people.
It matters not how impure and degraded men may be, nor how much they make light of immorality among themselves, one thing they ever hold in scorn and can never regard but with contempt, and that is impurity in a minister. A minister guilty of the sin of immorality may repent, and deplore its effects; God may forgive, and so may many Christians; but the scar remains, and time itself can hardly hide the fault. He may travel far, and settle in some remote place; he may assume a new name, and labor untiringly and unselfishly; still the influence of his sin follows him, and is seldom forgotten. Even the grave itself does not hide his shame; as long as his memory survives, or the story of his work is told, the blight of his fall will be remembered.
The gospel minister is engaged in a serious warfare against the flesh. Physically he is like other men, with appetites and carnal desires against which he must wage a constant warfare; but no one who has taken upon himself the solemn vows of an ambassador for the court of heaven can afford to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. Constant watchfulness and earnest prayer must be his daily experience if he gains and keeps the victory over the flesh. The minister who cannot, by the grace given to him from heaven, keep from falling, is no physician for others to consult. Purity of thought and life is the divine right of every ambassador for Christ. "Keep thyself pure."
Evangelism's Broader Meaning
There is danger lest we circumscribe the term "evangelism" or at least confine it to some large, spectacular effort, involving a heavy expenditure of money and the assemblage of an evangelistic company. Impressive public efforts are essential. We have by no means reached the acme in this legitimate field. Our cities should be stirred by powerful public appeals.
But evangelism also embraces that quiet, unostentatious type of personal work that proceeds without blare of trumpet or glare of newspaper publicity. Such the Spirit-filled man of moderate public ability can do most acceptably, and now is a good time to stress it because of financial pressure.
L. E. F.
A Plea for Scholarship
In the pursuance of our appointed task we necessarily meet all classes and creeds. We cannot avoid contact and conflict with evolution, higher criticism, philosophy, skepticism, and the various religious sophisms and errors active throughout the world. And we must meet the scholars advocating these positions, as well as the uninformed.
What kind of contact are we making? What sort of impress are we leaving upon them? Is their respect for truth enhanced? Are they sobered, troubled, convicted, by our candor and our acquaintance with the facts of truth? Or are they disgusted, and confirmed in their satisfaction with error?
Through the centuries past, learned, loyal-hearted stalwarts have made pope and bishop tremble as they defended the faith. And now as never before we must meet an informed as well as a hostile world. Consequently we must know our ground reasonably well. Our working bases and the reasons for and against fundamental issues should ever be above reproach.
The subtle errors of the enemy we may not need to know, for positive truth will meet and vanquish all the negations of error. But we must know the truth. We must understand its foundations. And we must be prepared as well to avoid both the fanciful speculations of defenders of truth and the dogmatic assertions of the ignorant or the pseudo-scholars. We are solemnly enjoined to study to show ourselves approved unto God in rightly dividing the word.
L. E. F.
Loyalty to Leadership
L. E. F.
The Balance of Truth
It is sometimes asserted that the reason people leave our faith is because they are not thoroughly indoctrinated in our distinctive teachings. This is unquestionably true in some cases. But this statement, if made in sweeping terms, cannot escape lawful challenge, for it is not the cause in all cases. It is one, but only one, of the factors. It is an incontrovertible historic fact that most of the notable apostates who have developed into opposers and enemies of the cause we love, were conspicuously well informed in the doctrines of the faith. D. M. Canright, just before he left us, had a brilliant double debate on the Sabbath and the nature of man, winning in one or both. A study of our history through the years will disclose the fact that many of those who have gone out from us were fully as well informed as those who remained in the ranks. In the rebellion in heaven, Lucifer was the best informed of all the created intelligences. So we must recognize other causes of defection.
Only recently this writer conversed with one of his former college teachers, a man of brilliant, scholarly mind, thoroughly informed, and twenty-five years ago carrying important General Conference responsibilities. His disaffection could not be charged to lack of information upon our teachings. But he did disclose the fact that he had from the first kept back part of the price in consecration. Still more recently there was an interview with a worker of years of foreign service and of responsibility in the homeland, who was dropped for cause, and who brokenly declared the reason for his plight to be the fact that he had never been converted; but like Peter, while having forsaken the world and all its emoluments, he had not been remade by the Master of men, and in that condition was unfit to feed either lambs or sheep, and had himself been in utter discouragement periodically.
Every soul who is led into the baptismal pool should have an adequate, vitalized understanding of our doctrines. It is due him. He needs it, and should never be deprived of it. We are straitly charged to hold fast the form of doctrine that has been delivered. 1 Tim. 4: 16; Rom. 6: 17. But doctrine alone is insufficient. The apostle Peter says, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God?" 2 Peter 3: 11, 12. "Persons"—that refers to life and godliness, victory and power. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews strongly admonishes us, "Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." Heb. 6:1. We are not to consume our time forever in simply laying and relaying the foundations of doctrine. Doctrine must be applied to life, or it will be of no real and eternal avail. It must change character and control conduct, or it is largely futile.
On the other hand, practical Christianity, if unrelated to doctrine, may lead to fanaticism, or to forgetting the unique and divinely appointed place we are called to fill in time's last hour. Let not crimination and recrimination be bandied back and forth between the proponents of doctrine and the expositors of life. Balance calls for both. The demoniacal hosts are against us. The godless world is against us. The historic branches of the Christian church who refused to go on into the advanced light of God's last message, are against us. There must be no division of interests, no working at cross purposes, no pulling in opposite directions, no undercutting. We must blend in increasing unity of heart experience and purpose. We must strongly press together as we march forward in balanced step.
L. E. F.