Solemn and timely was the devotional hour led by Elder Wilcox at the Battle Creek Autumn Council. It was a message of rebuke and entreaty, a call to repentance, making a deep impression upon all present. A portion is here reproduced. By authorizing action of the General Conference Committee, the entire address is being printed in leaflet form for distribution among our world force of workers. If you fail to receive a copy, place a request with your employing conference. institution, or mission, and you will be supplied.—Editor.
May I mention some of the dangers threatening the church? Many are putting afar off the coming of the Lord. They are saying by their lives, if not by word, "My Lord delayeth His coming."
Some are treating not only with indifference, but with unbelief and even contempt, the instruction that has come to us in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy.
Some, even leaders in local churches, are patrons of the theater and the movie. The radio in the homes of many of our people has become an agency of great evil, bringing within the sacred precincts of the family life the spirit of jazz, not alone in music, but in lectures and theatricals. Questionable popular lectures and theatrical moving pictures are even brought into some of our institutions, thus breaking down in many minds conscientious objections to attendance at the world's playhouses.
The Sabbath, in the lives of many Seventh-day Adventists, is a day for social visiting and pleasure. And some are even accorded membership in our churches who continue to devote the Sabbath to their usual weekly employment.
The popular bathing resort is another one of Satan's agencies in these last days whereby morals are being corrupted, even in the lives of members of our own church. Card parties and private dances among select groups are invading the homes of some of our people.
The slimy trail of impurity may be traced in the lives of some even who should be high examples of virtue and integrity. Many are readers of fiction, with its sex appeal so demoralizing to purity of heart. We have members in our churches who in the matter of marriage and divorce are living in plain violation of the seventh commandment.
The world is making a strong bid for the youth of our denomination. The daily contact that some of our young people make with the world in the way of employment, attendance at worldly schools, and in social life, brings to them constant temptations of a peculiarly fascinating character. The situation which requires our teachers to go to some of the great universities for advanced degrees, will always be a menace to our schools and a constant danger to the denomination.
The sin of extravagance, of lavish spending, is seen in many lives and homes. Many are becoming self-centered in their interests, and the appeal of gospel needs is growing dim in their ears. There is danger that the spirit of extravagance will intrude itself into the administration of our conference and institutional work.
The tendency to colonize in our leading institutional centers is a growing source of danger, and is accentuated by the lack of church housing facilities found in many places. Will our believers scatter of their own accord, to give the gospel to those who know it not, or will they settle "on their lees" until persecution does to them what it did to the early believers centering in Jerusalem? Heaven wants no modern Jerusalem centers among Seventh-day Adventists.
Remnant Israel has indeed sinned, strayed far from God, departed from the simplicity of the gospel, and wandered into worldliness. The spirit of covetousness has taken possession of many hearts, and tens of thousands of dollars are squandered in speculation. Scores are lost in the mazes of worldly pleasure. They have turned their backs upon Canaan, and are retreating toward Egypt. There are found in many of our churches those who have a name to live, and yet are dead in trespasses and sins. Their names are upon the church books, and they go through a formal service; but the oil of grace has leaked out of their hearts, and they are as widely separated from the saving knowledge of Christ as the open sinner.
Why do I point out these evils existing in the church? Is it because Seventh-day Adventists are sinners above all men? Is it because our church ranks lower in the scale of spirituality and Christian living than other denominations? Far from it. Probably no church body in the world possesses a higher grade of communicants than those in our, own church. But God has given to us great light. We believe in Christ's soon coming, and are preparing to meet Him. In view of this, our responsibility is correspondingly greater, and our standard of Christian living and experience should be correspondingly higher. Heaven rightly expects more of us.
There is needed a call to repentance. There is need for a revival and reformation in the remnant church, and we as ministers of Christ, as shepherds of the flock, should recognize this need. And only as we do recognize it and call the church up to a higher plane of Christian living and back to a higher standard of righteousness, shall we be true to our sacred trust.
Shepherds of the Flock
But in this call which we extend to the rank and file of the church, we must be sure that we ourselves are living examples of the message we proclaim. If our preaching is not exemplified in our own lives, our words will fall as a lifeless message upon the ears of our hearers.
To be more specific and to emphasize my thought, let me inquire, If we ourselves are not careful in the observance of the Sabbath, how can we preach true Sabbath reform to our churches?
If we ourselves are careless in our social activities, if we attend worldly parties of pleasure, even though they are given in the homes of our leading church members, how can we cry out against this evil?
If we ourselves use the writings of the Spirit of prophecy only as an argument to promote some feature of church work in which we are particularly interested, and disregard those writings in relation to other questions, how can we make our course of conduct appear consistent to those who look to us for leadership ?
If by lavish living, if by satisfying our every desire in house building and home furnishings, in costly apparel and expensive automobiles, we apparently place little value on money, how can we call our people to simple living, strict economy, and sacrificial giving in support of the work of God?
If we knowingly solemnize marriages between men and women divorced for other than Bible reasons, because, perhaps, they are our personal friends, how can we in our preaching uphold the sacredness of the marriage relationship?
How can we cry out against impurity and the lowered moral standards of this sinful age, unless we ourselves who bear the vessels of the Lord are pure and uncontaminated?
I raise these questions because they are vital for me and for you to consider. If I exhort you, I exhort myself as well. If any of you have failed in meeting God's standard of leadership, I have failed more greatly than have you. It is not for us to act the part of prophets of doom. The situation is not such, I hope, as to demand that we act the role of Jeremiah of old. If so, we should mingle with our instruction the hope and cheer of Isaiah's messages to Israel. But we cannot afford to close our eyes to actual conditions which need correction. God expects us as His watchmen to sound the alarm when danger threatens the church, to speak His word faithfully in warning the flock when they stray from the fold of the True Shepherd. Otherwise, God will count us unfaithful to our sacred trust, and will charge to our account the loss of souls resulting from our neglect. I am glad to believe that the very large majority of our ministers exemplify the principles of this message in their own hearts and lives. A few unfaithful watchmen may bring defeats to Israel today, as did falsehearted Achan at the siege of Ai.
God has endowed us with a high commission; He has entrusted us with a great and solemn message. It is the message of His soon coming, and the preparation of a people to meet Him when He comes. We must never let the advent hope die out of our own hearts. We should never yield to the suggestion of the enemy that we cease emphasizing the nearness of the Lord's return.
If we lose the spirit of this message out of our hearts, then our preaching will become tame and lifeless. When we cease to proclaim the peculiar doctrines which belong to this advent movement, which created the advent people, then we have no logical right or claim to an existence as a separate denomination.