Evangelist Cardey has presented an article of unusual interest and importance on the work of the evangelist in properly instructing his converts before baptism. This topic has been discussed many times, and its importance is shown by the plain words of counsel given us in the "Testimonies." Workers bearing the credentials of the church should hold themselves in honor bound to follow the counsel and practices of the church in this matter. Those who disregard the counsel are surely setting a limit on the period of their own service, for we have found that conference committees are becoming more cautious in calling evangelists who have acquired a reputation for careless work in this matter. The evangelist who first interests people by his preaching is the one to instruct his converts in all our doctrines and principles. It is not fair to converts to baptize and receive them into church fellowship before they have a full and comprehensive knowledge of what the church stands for. Nor is it fair to the church to leave it to struggle over a group of newly received members who are really not in fellowship with our faith. Our counsel to every evangelist is to follow the admonitions set forth in Elder Cardey's article. In doing this, fields of service will remain open where otherwise they will close.--J.L. McElhany
The question frequently arises, Does baptizing alone make one a disciple? Our commission specifies, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Now, should this "teaching all things" precede or follow the act of baptism? And does it take both the "teaching" and the "baptizing" to produce a disciple approved by the Master Teacher? Upon the right answer and its application depends the future success of the advent movement, even as preceding movements and churches have succeeded or failed.
The early church used great care in selecting those who should be members of the new communion. The first three thousand bap-tized as a result of the Pentecostal blessing were fully instructed in the "apostle's doctrine and fellowship." (See Acts 2:41-47.)
Apollos, a man "mighty in the Scriptures," yet knowing only the baptism of John, must have "expounded unto him [Apollos] the way of God more perfectly" before he could be accepted into fellowship and be recommended by the church of Christ. Acts 18:25-27. This carefulness in baptizing new converts into the church of the first century was largely responsible for the church's being called "Ephesus," or desirable.
But in the second century the doors of the church were more easily opened. The writings of the early "Fathers of the Church"—Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and others—indicate how rapidly and laxly the door was opening in order to receive many members into fellowship. And how disastrous was the result upon the faith and practice of the church! Within a few centuries, millions professed to belong to the church of Christ. Tens of thousands had been "baptized" by sprinkling, or by marching into rivers, with practically no knowledge of the meaning of the teaching of Jesus, and consequently, no evidence of conversion. Then followed, of necessity, the Dark Ages, and the church in the wilderness.
"The churches no longer looked to a holy and living. God for the free gift of salvation. The sufferings and merits of Christ were looked upon as an idle tale, or as the fictions of Homer. There was no thought of the faith by which we become partakers of the Saviour's righteousness and of the heritage of eternal life."—"History of the Reformation," D'Aubigne, bk. 1, ch. 3.
Such was the result of bringing into the church multitudes of uninstructed and unconverted souls.
To say that spiritual life is at a low ebb in the world today in the so-called Christian countries, is but to repeat a fact conceded by the most thoughtful people. Yet we observe no lack of increasing church memberships. In the United States, there has been a twenty-five per cent increase in the past seventeen years. Many churches formerly placed converts on probation for a number of months before accepting them into church fellowship. That practice was far safer than the loose, irresponsible way in which persons are now generally received into membership by many Protestant bodies. The doors have been opened to church fellowship, and the standards of that fellowship have been greatly lowered, with the consequence that the line of demarcation is now scarcely discernible between the church and the world.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, this must not be so. Those responsible for enlarging our borders and increasing our membership should see to it that the lofty purpose of this movement is maintained at a high level. Ministers and evangelists who are chiefly responsible for accepting new members into this fellowship, should zealously guard the citadel of God—the church of the advent movement—against the encroachments of evil, destructive forces seeking entrance into that citadel in the form of uninstructed, unconverted new members. Unless we do this, we shall go the way of all other reform movements of the past.
The third angel's message is a call to return and obey all the teachings of Jesus. This message is gloriously to proclaim and carry to all the world every command that He gave, every word of instruction that He left, every practice that He sanctioned by His own life of obedience. The ministry of this movement should instruct the converts in "all things whatsoever" He taught. We must tear away the rubbish of false doctrine that has been heaped upon the truth of Jesus' teaching during the past centuries, that a people may be made ready "to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord." Eze. 13:5.
Our call is to make disciples of all nations. We are consequently to instruct new converts in all the vital truths of this message as set forth in the Scriptures, so that when they are baptized they may become fully one with us in belief and practice upon entering the church. We cannot therefore rightfully baptize any one unless we baptize him into church membership. Baptism and church membership are together needful to make a disciple. One does not bring the fullness of grace without the other.
In that remarkable parable of the sower, given by the Lord Jesus, we have a cross-section picture of every audience to which an evangelist sneaks. The first class hear what is said, but it "goes in one ear and out the other." The second class come once in a while, hear, assent to what they hear, and if a call is made, they, quickly move forward. They readily consent to be baptized, but have little knowledge of the message. If they are baptized and are accepted on their small amount of knowledge, .they, soon drop out because they have "no root in themselves." The third class need much help also, for though they seem to "have root in themselves," nevertheless hardship, loss of work on account of the Sabbath, ridicule, and even persecution, often choke out the growing plants, and they soon die. The fourth class represents, of course, the solid, well-instructed converts who progress daily in Christian growth and grace.
It has been my practice to segregate all interested ones into classes according to their progress in learning and accepting the truth. When the Sabbath test is presented, I, find that there is a large number who will at once assent to its binding obligations and put their names on cards, promising to keep the seventh day. Immediately one wonders, Who of these are "stony-ground hearers" or "thorny-patch hearers," and who are "good-ground hearers"? The first two classes would consent to baptism almost immediately, were they asked. We know this to be true, because through the years we have had many in these classes make request for baptism before they were at all instructed, or before they had proved whether they would stand for the Sabbath truth in face of ridicule and loss of work.
I have rejoiced to find, as these classes have formed themselves and work is done for them, that many in the first two classes move up to become "good-ground" hearers. But time is required for this development, and we do not begin baptizing until at least three months after the Sabbath question is presented. There is no reward promised in heaven, and but little to be given on the earth for taking large numbers of "stony-ground hearers" into the church. The real and abiding fruits of our labor will be seen after a few years of toil and test when the "good-ground hearer" has developed the divine nature.
_________ To be concluded in May