Collective!—The theory that the church could make no mistake, and is obligated to defend or explain every statement made by a past or present leader, is unsound. We are not called to defend every position advocated by individual leaders throughout our history. Men in the pioneer days were rather independent-minded in their search for truth. They sometimes held divergent opinions on details and saw light from different angles. A great many things can be "proved" by their individual writings and personal opinions—if that be the methcid of proof. It is the general or collective teaching of the body that is the criterion in ascertaining any fundamental position held.
Unifier!—The human mind, unaided by the guidance vouchsafed this remnant people through the gift of prophecy, cannot traverse the mass and maze of church history, systematic and historical theology, with its often contradictory details, without inevitable confusion on doubtful points—just as we find it tragically existent in the denominations about us. The divergence and division of the equally eminent and sincere is pathetic. And such would be our plight were it not for this unifying agency that places all factors in right relationship because it represents not merely the human mouthpiece, but the divine Mind behind it all. Happy the lot of this people as they follow the counsel of the gift. But sad the plight and the finale of those who choose their own fallible wisdom as the final arbiter on disputed perplexing points.
Music!—Some musicians contend that the majestic hymns of the Reformation will supply our every need today, as they were brought forth in the period when those Protestant bodies constituted God's true church for the hour. But that is spurious and faulty reasoning. Were that wholly true, then the doctrinal beliefs and teachings of that glorious day would likewise suffice for this hour; and no need would exist for the separate remnant church of today. It was because of their clinging to so much papal error that we were compelled to separate from them when the hour came for the completion of the arrested Reformation. Surely, some of the hymns of the ages that are the heritage of all God's children belong also to us. But we likewise need new songs keyed in vision, spirit, and doctrine to this specific hour and message, just as verily as the Reformers had to produce a Reformation hymnology embodying their recovered truths and fundamental positions for that time. We have failed to encourage or to produce such, commensurate with our needs today.
Builders!—A heavy majority of the critics of sermons, articles, books, reading courses, executive policies, or evangelistic methods, could not begin to equal, much less to improve upon them. It is comparatively easy to conduct a "post-mortem" dissection and analysis, but far more difficult to create originally. When events are past, the element of time and perspective give to the expressions of the critic, in his analysis of defects and weaknesses, the flair of a wise man; but his real test would lie in a foresight that intuitively sweeps in all the problematic elements, and in an ability to construct without those advantages upon which he depends for his acumen. We need builders today, not wreckers, men of understanding hearts and sympathetic minds, who would rather take a less perfect plan and make it succeed than to demand an idealistic perfection that rarely comes in this defective old world.
Sincerity!—No man should preach or write upon a point which he does not personally and sincerely believe. Never should he merely repeat a denominational position in a purely professional sense, with mental reservations. Intellectual honesty forbids it, and self-respect likewise. It is far better to remain silent upon a point that is still blurred, than to play the hypocrite. How can one invite or expect the Spirit to bring conviction to another if he himself does not truly believe his own words? Or how can he trust the words of another if he has no confidence in his own assertions. Honesty in all points is foundational.
Expression!—There are those who feel that untrammeled utterance of honest thought by our workers is dangerous, that it should be controlled by restraining limitations. Let such never forget that in the free expression of opinion this advent movement was born, and in such expression of opinion every advancement has been made. It is our historic heritage, and constitutes the vindicated method of arriving at sound and united conclusions, and of achieving effective and concerted action. Thank God for free expression in the advent movement.
L. E. F.