Outward Signs Compared to Inward Witness

Posted Apr 10, 2011 by Russell Unterschultz in Christian History Hits: 8,666

Recently, a story came to my attention that I will paraphrase in the following words. The details will not be one hundred per cent accurate, but the thoughts expressed will sufficiently relate the event from which some questions will then be asked concerning it:

A present day Seventh Day Adventist related that he knew God was working on his behalf in leading him to a knowledge regarding the true identity of God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit of God. This Brother seemed to be confirmed that God was working on his behalf due to the fact that while he was trying to reach a place where this message of God’s truth was being preached, the engine of a vehicle that he was travelling in, broke down on him. This Brother stated to the effect that “Satan was angry with this situation and so he was trying to hinder God’s working by causing my vehicle to break down.”


(1) Does this story give sufficient evidence that God was leading this person into the truth regarding His identity?

(2) Does the fact of an engine break down en route to such a meeting reveal that Satan was angry at what was happening and was therefore the perpetrator of the engine failure?

(3) Rather, does the engine trouble in fact reveal perhaps ignorance and resulting neglect on the Brother’s behalf for proper maintenance of his vehicle?

In this situation, the last question asked seems to be the most likely scenario for the cause of this Brother’s engine trouble. Perhaps the Brother was even too poor to maintain his vehicle properly, but it is a dangerous thing to blame others for your own ignorance or neglect if such is the case. God certainly was working on this Brother’s behalf to lead him into present truth, but outward signs as he expressed should not necessarily confirm him in his belief as such.

Are you looking at outward signs or miraculous happenings for evidence of your standing with God? The Lord warns us  very plainly in such scriptures as Matthew 24:24 and Revelation 13:13,14 that the enemy of God and men has power to perform great miracles, signs and wonders; deceiving if possible, the very elect!

Or are you relying on the true sign as explained in chapter forty four of the book “The Desire of Ages”?

To illustrate these last two points in further detail, the following two excerpts from historical records are reprinted in order to evaluate the differences between:


Outward Signs Compared to Inward Witness


Outward Sign

The youthful Philip, landgrave of Hesse, was the first of the princes who took up arms. His knights and soldiers swore to live and die with him. After pacifying his own states, he directed his march towards Saxony. On their side, Duke John, the elector's brother, Duke George of Saxony, and Duke Henry of Brunswick, advanced and united their troops with those of Hesse. The peasants, terrified at the sight of this army, fled to a small hill, where, without any discipline, without arms, and for the most part without courage, they formed a rampart with their wagons. (Thomas) Munzer1 had not even prepared ammunition for his large guns. No succors appeared; the rebels were hemmed in by the army; they lost all confidence. The princes, taking pity on them, offered them propositions which they appeared willing to accept. Upon this Munzer had recourse to the most powerful lever that enthusiasm can put in motion. "Today we shall behold the arm of the Lord," said he, "and all our enemies shall be destroyed." At this moment a rainbow appeared over their heads; the fanatical host, who carried a rainbow on their flags, beheld in it a sure prognostic of the Divine protection. Munzer took advantage of it: "Fear nothing," said he to the citizens and peasants: "I will catch all their balls in my sleeve." At the same time he cruelly put to death a young gentleman, Maternus von Geholfen, an envoy from the princes, in order to deprive the insurgents of all hope of pardon.

The landgrave, having assembled his horsemen, said to them: "I well know that we princes are often in fault, for we are but men; but God commands all men to honor the powers that be. Let us save our wives and children from the fury of these murderers. The Lord will give us the victory, for he has said: Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." Philip then gave the signal of attack. It was the 15th of May 1525. The army was put in motion; but the peasant host stood immovable, singing the hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost," and waiting for Heaven to declare in their favor. The artillery soon broke down their rude rampart, carrying dismay and death into the midst of the insurgents. Their fanaticism and courage at once forsook them; they were seized with a panic-terror, and ran away in disorder. Five thousand perished in the flight. {J.H. Merle D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation Vol. 3, Book 10, Chpt. 11, P. 383}

1Thomas Munzer was considered by Martin Luther and the reformers of his day to be a fanatic. Concerning this man, “Munzer's teaching appealed to men's desire for the marvelous, while it gratified their pride by virtually placing human ideas and opinions above the word of God. His doctrines were received by thousands. He soon denounced all order in public worship, and declared that to obey princes was to attempt to serve both God and Belial.” GC 191 – Also, see pages 190-193 in this book for more details on who this man was.


Inward Witness

And now in 1651 three Baptist ministers, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, and John Crandall, went from the Providence plantation to Lynn, Massachusetts, to visit an aged Baptist. They arrived on Saturday, July 19, and the next day they worshiped together in his private house. While Mr. Clarke was preaching, two constables entered the house with a warrant to arrest "certain erroneous persons being strangers." The three ministers were carried off at once to the tavern, and were notified that they must attend worship at the parish church in the afternoon. They protested, saying that if they were forced into the meeting-house, they should be obliged to dissent from the service. The constable told them that was nothing to him. He was ordered to bring them to church, and to church they must go. As they entered the meeting-house, the congregation was at prayers, and the three prisoners took off their hats; but as soon as the prayer was over, they put on their hats again, and began reading in their seats. The officers were ordered to take off their hats again.

When the service was over, Elder Clarke asked permission to speak. His request was granted on condition that he would not speak about what he had just heard preached. He began to explain why he had put on his hat, saying that he "could not judge that they were gathered according to the visible order of the Lord." He was allowed to proceed no further, and the three were shut up for the night. The following Tuesday they were taken to Boston and put in prison. July 31, they were tried before the court of assistants, and were fined, Clarke twenty pounds, Holmes thirty, and John Crandall five, "or each to be well whipped." At the beginning of the trial Elder Clarke had asked that they be shown the law under which they were being tried, and now he made the same request again, but Endicott broke in, "You have deserved death. I will not have such trash brought into our jurisdiction. You go up and down, and secretly insinuate things into those that are weak, but you cannot maintain it before our ministers; you may try a dispute with them."

As they were sent away from the court to prison, Elder Holmes says, "As I went from the bar, I exprest myself in these words: `I blesse God I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus; whereupon John Wilson (their pastor, as they call him) strook me before the judgment-seat, and cursed me, saying, `The curse of God . . . goe with thee;' so we were carried to the prison."

The Baptists were ready to defend their doctrines as well as to attack the popish ceremonies of the Puritans; therefore Elder Clarke, as soon as they had arrived at the prison, wrote a letter to the court, and proposed to debate the Baptist principles with any of their ministers. He was asked in reply what the Baptist principles were that he would debate. Clarke drew up four propositions, the first stating their faith in Christ; second, that baptism, or dipping in water, is one of the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that a visible believer or disciple of Christ Jesus (that is, one who manifests repentance toward and faith in Jesus Christ) is the only person to be baptized or dipped in water etc.; third, that every such believer in Christ may in point of liberty, and ought in point of duty, to improve that talent which the Lord had given him, and in the congregation may ask for information to himself; or if he can, may speak by way of prophecy, for edification, and upon all occasions and in all places as far as the jurisdiction of his Lord extends, may and ought to walk as a child of light; and, fourth, "I testify that no such believer or servant of Christ Jesus hath any liberty, much less authority, from his Lord, to smite his fellow-servant, nor with outward force, or arm of flesh to constrain, or restrain, his conscience, nor his outward man for conscience' sake, or worship of his God, where injury is not offered to any person, name, or estate of others, every man being such as shall appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and must give an account of himself to God; and, therefore, ought to be fully persuaded in his own mind for what he undertakes, because he that doubteth is damned if he eat, and so also if he act, because he doth not eat or act in faith, and what is not of faith is sin."

There was at first some talk, or rather a bluff, that Cotton would debate with him; but after consulting together, Cotton declined, and as Elder Clarke's fine had been paid by his friends, he was released, and ordered to go out of the colony as soon as possible. They all three refused to pay the fine that was imposed. Crandall was admitted to bail, but they resolved to hold Elder Holmes, and make him an example. What happened to him he himself tells in a letter to his brethren in London, as follows: -- "I desired to speak a few words: but Mr. Nowel answered, `It is not now a time to speak,' whereupon I took leave, and said.’Men, brethren, fathers, and countrymen, I beseech you to give me leave to speak a few words, and the rather because here are many spectators to see me punished, and I am to seal with my blood, if God give strength, that which I hold and practice in reference to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. That which I have to say, in brief, is this although I am no disputant, yet seeing I am to seal with my blood what I hold, I am ready to defend by the word, and to dispute that point with any that shall come forth to withstand it.' Mr. Nowel answered, now was no time to dispute; then said I, 'I desire to give an account of the faith and order which I hold,' and this`I desired three times; but in comes Mr. Flint, and saith to the executioner, `Fellow, do thine office, for this fellow would but make a long speech to delude the people,' so I, being resolved to speak, told the people, `That which I am to suffer for is the word of God, and testimony of Jesus Christ.' `No,' saith Mr. Nowel, `it is for your error, and going about to seduce the people; 'to which I replied, `Not for error, for in all the time of my imprisonment, wherein I was left alone, my brethren being gone, which of all your ministers came to convince me of error? And, when upon the governor's words, a motion was made for a public dispute, and often renewed upon fair terms, and desired by hundreds, what was the reason it was not granted?' Mr. Nowel told me, it was his fault who went away and would not dispute; but this the writings will clear at large. Still Mr. Flint calls to the man to do his office; so before, and in the time of his pulling off my clothes, I continued speaking, telling them that I had so learned that for all Boston I would not give my body into their hands thus to be bruised upon another account, yet upon this I would not give an hundredth part of a wampum peague to free it out of their hands; and that I made as much conscience of unbuttoning one button, as I did of paying the thirty pounds in reference thereunto. I told them, moreover, that the Lord having manifested his love towards me in giving me repentance towards God, and faith in Christ, and so to be baptized in water by a messenger of Jesus, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, wherein I have fellowship with him in his death, burial and resurrection, I am now come to be baptized in afflictions by your hands, that so I may have further fellowship with my Lord, and am not ashamed of his sufferings, for by his stripes am I healed. And as the man began to lay the strokes upon my back, I said to the people. `Though my flesh should fail, and my spirit should fail, yet God would not fail;' so it pleased the Lord to come in, and to fill my heart and tongue as a vessel full, and with an audible voice I break forth, praying the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge, and telling the people that now I found he did not fail me, and therefore now I should trust him forever who failed me not; for in truth, as the strokes fell upon me. I had such a spiritual manifestation of God's presence, as I never had before, and the outward pain was so removed from me, that I could well bear it, yea, and in a manner felt it not, although it was grievous, as the spectators said, the man striking with all his strength, spitting in his hand three times, with a three-corded whip, giving me therewith thirty strokes. When he had loosed me from the post, having joyfulness in my heart, and cheerfulness in my countenance, as the spectators observed, I told the magistrates, `You have struck me with roses;' and said, moreover, `Although the Lord hath made it easy to me, yet I pray God it may not be laid to your charge." {The Two Republics, A.T. Jones, Chpt.23, Pg. 626-629}