The following are six pointed statements made in the Spirit of prophecy concerning the condition of the church.
1. "It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner."—Christian Service, p. 41.
2. "To-day a large part of those who compose our congregations are dead in trespasses and sins. They come and go like a door upon its hinges."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 426.
3. "We see large churches gathered in different localities . . . content to hear the word of life without seeking to impart light. . . . Therefore they are weak in faith, deficient in knowledge, and children in experience."—Ibid., pp. 424, 425.
4. "Here is our great sin. We are years behind. . . . The members of the church have not done a hundredth part of that which God requires of them."—Ibid., p. 425
5. "When the churches are left to inactivity Satan sees to it that they are employed. He occupies the field."—Ibid.
6. "O that God would set this matter in all its importance before the sleeping churches!"—Ibid., p. 434.
Do these statements fully apply to us today? I do not know. We may be better or worse than when the statements were written. The work has made great advancement. That is one good omen. I am perfectly willing to grant, as some suggest, that the percentage of "one in twenty" may be only a figure indicating our desperate need. In any case, let us face the picture squarely and fairly. Church members un prepared . . . dead in sin . . . like a door swinging on its hinges . . . receiving light, giving none . . . "weak in faith" . . . "deficient in knowledge" . . . "children in experience" . . . "years behind" . . . asleep. "And yet the general opinion is that the church is flourishing, and that peace and spiritual prosperity are in all her borders."—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 217.
It is well known to most of us that in those sections of the field where per capita financial income is greater per capita freewill offerings tend to be lower than in less-favored parts, judged on financial ability. This is just as true in regard to general spiritual privileges. The more spiritual privileges we have, the greater the tendency to accept them as signs of God's pleasure, rather than as indications also of greater responsibility to impart to others.
STATISTICAL MAGIC.—We dare not trust too much to statistics. One wonders sometimes how much wisdom there is in being so concerned over who gets the credit for what. We dare not forget that had we been faithful, we would long ago have been in the kingdom.
Inflation is a dangerous thing, especially when dealing with figures relating to our deeds. Truth is the gold standard. And when it comes to statistical riches it is better to be thought poor when we are rich, than to be thought rich when we are poor. Comparing ourselves among ourselves may be as unwise today as it was in the days of Paul. Dwight Morrow, one-time American ambassador, is reported to have said to his son, "The world is divided into people . who do things and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the first class— there's far less competition." The pulling engine wastes little steam through the pop-off valve. It is the standing engine or coasting en gine that breathes like an asthmatic giant, and blows off steam without turning a wheel, or while slowing down.
Christ, the true witness, found it necessary to say to His church, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. . . . Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Rev. 3:15-17.
It is a good thing to take courage from good reports of things already done. It is then wise to survey what yet remains to be done, together with the agencies for its accomplishment and the shortness of the time.
GOD'S WARNING.—The Lord in His mercy has given us many warnings. Here are three: (i) "Let the churches awake before it is ever lastingly too late."—Ibid., vol. 6, p. 437. (2) "Those who are 'do-nothings' now, will have the superscription upon them, 'Weighed in the balance, and found wanting.'"—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 237. (3) "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Rev. 3:16.We will awake, or perish. We will do something, or be found wanting. We will experience a change of temperature, or be spewed out.
GOD'S PROMISE.—Thank God, a change is coming! He has promised it. It is a thrilling certainty. Mark these familiar words, repeated so frequently that we can all say them in our sleep, and often do: "The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church-membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 117.
Every one of us believes that the work will be finished. And God has declared that before it is finished the church members will "rally." Therefore, we take it as a promise and a certainty. Our people will rally. It is only a matter of when they will rally, and how the rally may be brought about and maintained. The rally is long past due, but it is bound to come. When it does come the ministers will be the center of the rally, for the church members are to "unite their efforts, with those of ministers." God's plan is a minister-trained and minister-directed program. This calls for a happy and close coordination of those departments of our work touching ministers and laymen in this united endeavor.
Here is another striking and oft-repeated statement: "When the reproach of indolence and slothfulness shall have been wiped away from the church, the Spirit of the Lord will be graciously manifested."—Ibid., p. 46.
This is not to say that activity alone brings power, but it is to declare in full assurance that God's abundant power is being held for those who in consecration go forth to save men. It will not be given to those who "are idly waiting for some special season of spiritual refreshing by which their ability to enlighten others will be greatly increased."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 54.
Yet there is to be a promised revival. "A revival and a reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit."—Christian Service, p. 42. "In visions of the night representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. . . . Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families, and opening before them the word of God."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 126.
(Next installment: "The Place of Preaching in Revival and Rally.")