We can never tire of looking at the prophetic picture of this advent movement. We watch its rise, in the fullness of prophetic time. It bears to the world the definite message that is "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:17.
The message gathers up every truth of "the everlasting gospel." And every feature of the gospel in this judgment hour takes on the color and glow of the swift-approaching, glorious appearing of the Saviour. Every truth has special meaning in the setting of the definite advent message committed to us.
The Spirit of prophecy has said: "The return of Christ to our world will not be long delayed. Let this be the keynote of every message."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 406. Not that the; topic of the second advent is always presented. There is a wonderfully full list of Bible themes pressing to be heard, every one pointed like an arrow to fly straight into the hearer's heart. But it is the advent idea that is the arrow's point. In every message the keynote of the advent is to be heard. And it will be so if in the preacher's heart is always the overmastering conviction that the Lord is at the door, and these people sitting there before the platform must be made ready. If the advent note vibrates in every fiber of the preacher's being, it will strike an answering chord in truth-loving hearts.
And really, in this time of the closing judgment hour, any doctrine that we preach comes in the fullness of its power only as we give it its place as a very part of the advent message. This has been illustrated again and again in the history of our cause. This preaching of truth in the setting of the message is no mere theory. We are Adventists, with the definite message of the prophecy. Every truth is to come from within the message, a very living, vital part of the one whole system of truth that is "to make ready a people." The spiritual lifeblood of this advent message circulates through every Bible truth today, vitalizing it, and carrying the inspiration and power to make the believer and receiver ready. No truth stands by itself in our movement.Perhaps words do not make my effort very clear. But here is something concrete to illustrate what I am trying to say in this suggestion about the setting of the advent message. In the sixties there was a confusing movement in one conference, a sort of drawing apart based on teaching that should have aimed to draw together. When labor and toil by early pioneers had checked the wrong influence, Sister White wrote that the trouble had come from a wrong presentation of the essential doctrine of holiness. It was, as she phrased the distinction, "a holiness not dependent upon the third angel's message, but outside of present truth." "Testimonies," Vol. I, p. 322
There is a world of meaning in that. The teaching did not get its framework and inspiration from within the message. It was something apart, by itself. In the same testimony it was said that the promoters "made this theory of holiness or consecration the one great thing, and the important truths of God's word were of little consequence."—Ibid.
They presented an unbalanced message, and became unbalanced in their experience. In our time, even these essential doctrines of the Christian life—of faith, righteousness by faith, holiness, sanctification, and all experience of the power and grace of Christ in the soul—derive their fullness of power when they come to the advent people as a very part of the message of the judgment hour.
In those days of the sixties there was another illustration of the need of making the advent idea "the keynote of every message." One brother, it seems, had erred by pressing "a false theory of sanctification, which is outside of the third angel's message."—Id., p. 334.
It should have been the doctrinal sanctification inside the message. Evidently we must hold every line of teaching closely within the third angel's message. It is in its place in the setting of the message of Revelation 14 that every truth for this time is given its power to build up the people who are to be made ready, prepared for the Lord.
We see it in the Sabbath truth. The Sabbath truth means more inside the message than it ever can mean outside. That was a discriminating declaration that Joseph Bates made in 1853 when he came back to his old home at Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and found the home company holding fast. Rejoicingly, he wrote to the Review: "They have neither doubts nor fears with respect to the certainty of their position. They know full well that they are keeping the Sabbath in the message of the third angel."—Dec. 6, 1853.
There is a great difference between "keeping the Sabbath in the message of the third angel" today, and holding the Sabbath outside the message. In those early sixties, again there came a testimony regarding the course of one brother who was evidently starting out on a side path. Sister White wrote:
"As far as the Sabbath is concerned, he occupies the same position as the Seventh Day Baptists. Separate the Sabbath from the messages, and it loses its power; but when connected with the message of the third angel, a power attends it which convicts unbelievers and infidels, and brings them out with strength to stand, to live, grow, and flourish in the Lord."—"Testimonies," Vol. I, p. 337.
We have seen it in party after party and in faction after faction, for that matter, all these years. The power of the Sabbath-reform truth comes today from the place of the Sabbath as the testing truth in the definite gospel message of Revelation 14.
In 1869 our pioneers invited the old Seventh Day Baptist body to give attention to this prophetic message. The leaders of that body replied that while it was a glad surprise to them to see observers of the Sabbath increasing so rapidly under our preaching, they did not attach the same importance that we did to the doctrine of the near second advent of Christ. They felt they would be better off to hold to their advocacy of the Sabbath apart from any relation to advent teaching.
Then, in 1869, they numbered something over six thousand. The last government census I saw gave them about the same number. The preaching of the Sabbath as a part of the message of preparation for the coming of the Lord has for years been bringing us far more than six thousand new souls every quarter. The power of the Sabbath truth in our evangelism has come from giving that truth its place in the setting, or living framework, of the one advent message of the prophecy.
"The return of Christ to our world will not be long delayed. Let this be the keynote of every message."