It is sad, but true, that those unprepared by long and comprehensive study in the field of history or science, doctrinal or prophetic interpretation, or the ancient languages, are often the most forward and dogmatic in their conclusions and assertions in these respective fields. Such not infrequently rush into ardent oral or printed defense of their preconceived understanding of the faith. The immature, unbalanced, or erroneous statements resulting only add to the difficulty and create more confusion.
For example, for one who is not an expert in ecclesiastical Latin or Greek, and scarcely reads it, to argue upon the technical content of a passage in the Latin or Greek, is both foolhardy and ridiculous, and would be laughed out of court in any other place than the church. Similarly, to dabble a little into church history for the exposition of prophecy, zealously seeking some bit of evidence that merely supports a preconception, is unscholarly, unsafe, and unsound. The fallacy of such a procedure should be apparent to all. Context, setting, background, the full historic picture—these, all and each, are imperative. No one is a safe guide who speaks in any serious way without them. Without such an equipment, modesty and a recognition of the solemn obligations of Christian scholarship would indicate the eloquence of silence.
Moreover, many a foolish and futile interpretation of prophecy or Biblical exposition, could have been avoided had the projector had knowledge of the history of prophetic interpretation through the decades or centuries past. He would then see how others had conceived the same ideas (there are few really original conceptions), and how these were later exposed as fallacious. But more important still, he would have discerned the underlying basis for these errors. And that is the important thing. There are underlying principles and misconceptions that lie beneath all fallacious reasoning and conclusions. These we should ascertain. Then the relationship of cause and effect becomes clear and decisive.
Not a few of our minor doctrinal differences would dissolve under the revealing light that a mastery of systematic and historic theology would throw upon the subject involved. Individual truths do not stand alone, unrelated, in independent isolation. They are interrelated and interdependent. They are influenced by the positions held previously, and in turn influence those that follow thereafter. There must be harmony and symmetry in all doctrines if they be true and sound, both collectively and individually.
Knowledge of the fallacies and pitfalls of the past .-the digressions and tangents, and the heresies that frequently resulted—will safeguard against their repetition or reception today, and aid in the detection of kindred errors as they appear. We need resolutely to set ourselves to master these safeguards, and in this historical pursuit no greater help or surer guide will be found than that afforded by the Spirit of prophecy.
L. E. F.
Selfishness is a subtle, insidious thing.
It blights everything it touches, shifting its basis from golden motives to baser impulses. It poisons the secret springs of life and service, chilling and killing that prompting love without which all exploits for God become null and void, and all pious words for Him but hollow, empty phrases.
Selfishness relentlessly seeks the spotlight. It substitutes its own achievements or advancement, its own records or glory for that spontaneous, altruistic love to God and man that alone makes service acceptable to either. Selfishness seeks to achieve for selfish achievement's sake. It fosters activities for the sheer sake of records, personal standing, or advancement. Though never admitted, it calculatingly courts the favor of leaders, and attempts to create a favorable impression upon nominating and auditing committees.
Selfishness views everything in the light of advantage to itself. It seeks to get departmental secretaries to foster the branch for which they are responsible, for the sake of recognition of growth and advancement under their leadership; it seeks to have evangelists labor professionally for fame, prestige, and records in souls, irrespective of sound conversion or thorough instruction of the converts; it seeks to make treasurers look at increases in souls in the metallic terms of financial returns, administrators to labor for a good conference showing and progressive personal advance from local to union and higher responsibilities. It seeks to get all who labor to do so for self-aggrandizement. Yes, selfishness attempts to prostitute every motive of life, and to degrade every phase of it to unworthy ends.
Let us not be deceived by this devilish thing, for it springs from the evil one himself. Selfishness is suicidal, and will prove the undoing of all who succumb to its seductions—unless it be confessed and repudiated. Let us search our hearts to see if there be any of this wicked way in us. If it be found, let us confess it to God, repudiate it, crush it, cast it from us, put it out of the camp. Let us pray constantly for genuine love to supplant all self and selfishness.