Ours is a skeptical age. It is a time of unprecedented waning of faith in, and surrender of, all that heretofore has been considered fundamental in religion. It is considered "modern" to be skeptical. A man is regarded by the world as profound in his thinking if he questions what has been held as foundational. On the other hand, "orthodoxy" is considered old-fogyish. It is taken as evidence of a sluggish, unscientific mind; as indicative of lack of original research and of real thinking powers.
This tide of skepticism has well-nigh engulfed many of the Protestant bodies, and one by one they have witnessed either the submergence or the removal of their basic beliefs. Their creeds are so far out of date that they serve only as a monument to the past.
We are indeed happy that the rank and file of both workers and members in our own church have withstood this onrushing spirit of doubt and skepticism, so that Seventh-day Adventists are recognized today as fundamentalists of the Fundamentalists. But it is not improbable that in the midst of such grave peril some will be snared and taken. The individual who has not built solidly upon the Rock of Ages, and who is not firmly and fully established in present truth, is liable to go down under the lash and fury of the storm. In fact, we know that the "remnant" which keep the, commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ are to become the special target for the enemy's darts as he wages relentless warfare against this people.
We have already had our experiences with the Korahs, Dathans, and Abirams. Enemies from without and doubters from within have arisen, and have sought to "set the church straight" on some of its fundamentals. Some have questioned this and others that. Now and then individuals or small groups have left us, as some of Christ's disciples left Him, and have sought to draw away disciples after themselves. They have believed themselves possessed of new light which completely negated certain doctrines that before had been considered light. They have made strenuous effort to remodel the faith of the church.
But in all this they have signally failed. This church has long since passed the experimental stage in the development of its fundamental doctrinal belief. We have had incontrovertible evidence that the foundation pillars are sound. For over eighty years a hostile religious world has battered away in a frantic endeavor to destroy the foundations of our faith, but without success. Every new assailant has been silenced by a "Thus saith the Lord." So thorough has been the effort to find evidence against some of our more prominent doctrines that every conceivable argument has been brought to bear against them, with the result that later opponents could find nothing new, and have had to content themselves with a restatement of the threadbare arguments used by their predecessors.
Either God has led this people in the formulating of the system of truth which is the "present truth" for this generation, or we are tragically deceived. If He has led, then it is a certainty that increased light will yet be revealed, for it "shineth more and more unto the perfect day;" but such increased light will not lead to a denial of light that we have already received. It will, on the contrary, serve to confirm and strengthen the light previously revealed.
In the early days of the advent movement, a message came to this people through the revelation of God's Spirit which tells how solidly and surely the foundations of our faith were laid. Said the servant of God:
"I saw a company who stood well-guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps,—the first, second, and third angels' messages. Said my accompanying angel, 'Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received.' I was again brought down through these messages, and saw how dearly the people of God had purchased their experience. It had been obtained through much suffering and severe conflict. God had led them along step by step, until He had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform. I saw individuals approach the platform and examine the foundation. Some with rejoicing immediately stepped upon it. Others commenced to find fault with the foundation. They wished improvements made, and then the platform would be more perfect, and the people much happier. Some stepped off the platform to examine it, and declared it to be laid wrong. But I saw that nearly all stood firm upon the platform, and exhorted those who had stepped off to cease their complaints; for God was the Master Builder, and they, were fighting against Him. They recounted the wonderful' work of God, which had led them to the firm platform, and in union raised their eyes to heaven, and with a loud voice glorified God."—"Early Writings," pp. 258, 259. (Italics mine.)
How many times we have seen this prediction fulfilled! Every now and then someone arises who decides that some essential "block" or "pin" in the message is wrongly placed, and begins to find fault or tries to make improvements in the foundation. But such efforts have signally failed, and those who have persisted in their divergencies, doubts, and skepticisms have lost their way and gone out to walk with us no more. Some were powerful witnesses for God so long as they stood solidly upon the platform of the message, but to their great surprise they found themselves shorn of their power when they departed from it. They harbored in their hearts the idea that the power which attended their work was in themselves, rather than in the truth which they presented. This led them to conclude that their genius was so great and their strength so mighty that they held the cause in their hands, and that they therefore could turn aside or recast the entire movement.
The result has ever been the same. When men have cut themselves off from the truth which had made them all they were, they have very soon found their level. Again and again have we seen demonstrations of the truthfulness of the statement often made by one of our former leaders, "It is not the man in the message that matters, but the message in the man."
Very few of those who have repudiated the doctrines of the advent movement have taken that step suddenly. Their trouble had its first beginnings in some small doubt which Satan suggested to the mind and which was harbored there, perhaps lying dormant for years before it became vocal, or was even admitted to exist. But gradually, and often imperceptibly, the cherished doubt, however small it may have been at the beginning, grew until it bore the full fruitage of the apostasy.
The rail at the switch narrows down until it is as thin as a knife blade. At first it causes only the slightest deviation from the main line. But if it is followed, it may in the end lead to an entirely different destination.
Our own safety as ministers who are responsible to God for the safety of His flock, is to avoid that first slight deviation. Orthodoxy, in the sense of loyalty to this message, is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. This does not mean that we are to discourage honest research. We should encourage it both in ourselves and in others. We do not yet know all the truth. As ministers and gospel workers we must ever continue to study and search for wisdom as for hid treasure. We should constantly seek to bring forth things both new and old front the storehouse of the Scriptures. Our research should not be. undertaken with ,a view to investigating the old' fundamentals to see whether they need to be revamped, but with a confidence and faith in what God has already revealed and an ardent desire to find added confirmation that will bring new force and beauty to those vital truths that have made us a people.
"Ministers who have preached the truth with all zeal and earnestness may apostatize, and join the ranks of our enemies; but does this turn the truth of God into a lie? 'Nevertheless,' says the apostle, 'the foundation of God standeth sure.' The faith and feelings of men may change; but the truth of God, never. The third angel's message is sounding; it is infallible. . . . It is as certain that we have the truth as that God lives."—"Testimonies," Vol. IV. p. 595.
Washington, D. C.