Why are there so many denominations within professed Christianity when all profess to derive their doctrines from the Bible? I was really glad to see the reason for many denominations answered so clearly from the Spirit of Prophecy and work of the pioneers. Here then is:
THE REASON FOR MANY DENOMINATIONS
The Great Controversy PG 291-292
When first constrained to separate from the English Church, the Puritans had joined themselves together by a solemn covenant, as the Lord's free people, "to walk together in all His ways made known or to be made known to them." --J. Brown, The Pilgrim Fathers, page 74. Here was the true spirit of reform, the vital principle of Protestantism. It was with this purpose that the Pilgrims departed from Holland to find a home in the New World. John Robinson, their pastor, who was providentially prevented from accompanying them, in his farewell address to the exiles said: "Brethren, we are now erelong to part asunder, and the Lord knoweth whether I shall live ever to see your faces more. But whether the Lord hath appointed it or not, I charge you before God and His blessed angels to follow me no farther than I have followed Christ. If God should reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth of my ministry; for I am very confident the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy word."--Martyn, vol. 5, p. 70. "For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no farther than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; . . . and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God, but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received."--D. Neal, History of the Puritans, vol. 1, p. 269.
The Great Controversy PG 297-298
The great principle so nobly advocated by Robinson and Roger Williams, that truth is progressive, that Christians should stand ready to accept all the light which may shine from God's holy word, was lost sight of by their descendants. The Protestant churches of America,--and those of Europe as well,--so highly favored in receiving the blessings of the Reformation, failed to press forward in the path of reform. Though a few faithful men arose, from time to time, to proclaim new truth and expose long-cherished error, the majority, like the Jews in Christ's day or the papists in the time of Luther, were content to believe as their fathers had believed and to live as they had lived. Therefore religion again degenerated into formalism; and errors and superstitions which would have been cast aside had the church continued to walk in the light of God's word, were retained and cherished. Thus the spirit inspired by the Reformation gradually died out, until there was almost as great need of reform in the Protestant churches as in the Roman Church in the time of Luther. There was the same worldliness and spiritual stupor, a similar reverence for the opinions of men, and substitution of human theories for the teachings of God's word. The wide circulation of the Bible in the early part of the nineteenth century, and the great light thus shed upon the world, was not followed by a corresponding advance in knowledge of revealed truth, or in experimental religion. Satan could not, as in former ages, keep God's word from the people; it had been placed within the reach of all; but in order still to accomplish his object, he led many to value it but lightly. Men neglected to search the Scriptures, and thus they continued to accept false interpretations, and to cherish doctrines which had no foundation in the Bible. Seeing the failure of his efforts to crush out the truth by persecution, Satan had again resorted to the plan of compromise which led to the great apostasy and the formation of the Church of Rome. He had induced Christians to ally themselves, not now with pagans, but with those who, by their devotion to the things of this world, had proved themselves to be as truly idolaters as were the worshipers of graven images. And the results of this union were no less pernicious now than in former ages; pride and extravagance were fostered under the guise of religion, and the churches became corrupted. Satan continued to pervert the doctrines of the Bible, and traditions that were to ruin millions were taking deep root. The church was upholding and defending these traditions, instead of contending for "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Thus were degraded the principles for which the Reformers had done and suffered so much.
The Great Controversy PG 520-522
The vague and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, and the many conflicting theories concerning religious faith, that are found in the Christian world are the work of our great adversary to confuse minds so that they shall not discern the truth. And the discord and division which exist among the churches of Christendom are in a great measure due to the prevailing custom of wresting the Scriptures to support a favorite theory. Instead of carefully studying God's word with humility of heart to obtain a knowledge of His will, many seek only to discover something odd or original. In order to sustain erroneous doctrines or unchristian practices, some will seize upon passages of Scripture separated from the context, perhaps quoting half of a single verse as proving their point, when the remaining portion would show the meaning to be quite the opposite. With the cunning of the serpent they entrench themselves behind disconnected utterances construed to suit their carnal desires. Thus do many willfully pervert the word of God. Others, who have an active imagination, seize upon the figures and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret them to suit their fancy, with little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own interpreter, and then they present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible. Whenever the study of the Scriptures is entered upon without a prayerful, humble, teachable spirit, the plainest and simplest as well as the most difficult passages will be wrested from their true meaning. The papal leaders select such portions of Scripture as best serve their purpose, interpret to suit themselves, and then present these to the people, while they deny them the privilege of studying the Bible and understanding its sacred truths for themselves. The whole Bible should be given to the people just as it reads. It would be better for them not to have Bible instruction at all than to have the teaching of the Scriptures thus grossly misrepresented. The Bible was designed to be a guide to all who wish to become acquainted with the will of their Maker. God gave to men the sure word of prophecy; angels and even Christ Himself came to make known to Daniel and John the things that must shortly come to pass. Those important matters that concern our salvation were not left involved in mystery. They were not revealed in such a way as to perplex and mislead the honest seeker after truth. Said the Lord by the prophet Habakkuk: "Write the vision, and make it plain, . . . that he may run that readeth it." Habakkuk 2:2. The word of God is plain to all who study it with a prayerful heart. Every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth. "Light is sown for the righteous." Psalm 97:11. And no church can advance in holiness unless its members are earnestly seeking for truth as for hid treasure. By the cry, Liberality, men are blinded to the devices of their adversary, while he is all the time working steadily for the accomplishment of his object. As he succeeds in supplanting the Bible by human speculations, the law of God is set aside, and the churches are under the bondage of sin while they claim to be free.
The Great Controversy PG 375-390
In preaching the doctrine of the second advent, William Miller and his associates had labored with the sole purpose of arousing men to a preparation for the judgment. They had sought to awaken professors of religion to the true hope of the church and to their need of a deeper Christian experience, and they labored also to awaken the unconverted to the duty of immediate repentance and conversion to God. "They made no attempt to convert men to a sect or party in religion. Hence they labored among all parties and sects, without interfering with their organization or discipline." "In all my labors," said Miller, "I never had the desire or thought to establish any separate interest from that of existing denominations, or to benefit one at the expense of another. I thought to benefit all. Supposing that all Christians would rejoice in the prospect of Christ's coming, and that those who could not see as I did would not love any the less those who should embrace this doctrine, I did not conceive there would ever be any necessity for separate meetings. My whole object was a desire to convert souls to God, to notify the world of a coming judgment, and to induce my fellow men to make that preparation of heart which will enable them to meet their God in peace. The great majority of those who were converted under my labors united with the various existing churches."--Bliss, page 328. As his work tended to build up the churches, it was for a time regarded with favor. But as ministers and religious leaders decided against the advent doctrine and desired to suppress all agitation of the subject, they not only opposed it from the pulpit, but denied their members the privilege of attending preaching upon the second advent, or even of speaking of their hope in the social meetings of the church. Thus the believers found themselves in a position of great trial and perplexity. They loved their churches and were loath to separate from them; but as they saw the testimony of God's word suppressed and their right to investigate the prophecies denied they felt that loyalty to God forbade them to submit. Those who sought to shut out the testimony of God's word they could not regard as constituting the church of Christ, "the pillar and ground of the truth." Hence they felt themselves justified in separating from their former connection. In the summer of 1844 about fifty thousand withdrew from the churches. About this time a marked change was apparent in most of the churches throughout the United States. There had been for many years a gradual but steadily increasing conformity to worldly practices and customs, and a corresponding decline in real spiritual life; but in that year there were evidences of a sudden and marked declension in nearly all the churches of the land. While none seemed able to suggest the cause, the fact itself was widely noted and commented upon by both the press and the pulpit. At a meeting of the presbytery of Philadelphia, Mr. Barnes, author of a commentary widely used and pastor of one of the leading churches in that city, "stated that he had been in the ministry for twenty years, and never, till the last Communion, had he administered the ordinance without receiving more or less into the church. But now there are no awakenings, no conversions, not much apparent growth in grace in professors, and none come to his study to converse about the salvation of their souls. With the increase of business, and the brightening prospects of commerce and manufacture, there is an increase of worldly-mindedness. Thus it is with all the denominations." Congregational Journal, May 23, 1844. In the month of February of the same year, Professor Finney of Oberlin College said: "We have had the fact before our minds, that, in general, the Protestant churches of our country, as such, were either apathetic or hostile to nearly all the moral reforms of the age. There are partial exceptions, yet not enough to render the fact otherwise than general. We have also another corroborated fact: the almost universal absence of revival influence in the churches. The spiritual apathy is almost all-pervading, and is fearfully deep; so the religious press of the whole land testifies. . . . Very extensively, church members are becoming devotees of fashion, --join hands with the ungodly in parties of pleasure, in dancing, in festivities, etc. . . . But we need not expand this painful subject. Suffice it that the evidence thickens and rolls heavily upon us, to show that the churches generally are becoming sadly degenerate. They have gone very far from the Lord, and He has withdrawn Himself from them." And a writer in the Religious Telescope testified: "We have never witnessed such a general declension of religion as at the present. Truly, the church should awake, and search into the cause of this affliction; for as an affliction everyone that loves Zion must view it. When we call to mind how 'few and far between' cases of true conversion are, and the almost unparalleled impertinence and hardness of sinners, we almost involuntarily exclaim, 'Has God forgotten to be gracious? or, Is the door of mercy closed?'" Such a condition never exists without cause in the church itself. The spiritual darkness which falls upon nations, upon churches and individuals, is due, not to an arbitrary withdrawal of the succors of divine grace on the part of God, but to neglect or rejection of divine light on the part of men. A striking illustration of this truth is presented in the history of the Jewish people in the time of Christ. By their devotion to the world and forgetfulness of God and His word, their understanding had become darkened, their hearts earthly and sensual. Thus they were in ignorance concerning Messiah's advent, and in their pride and unbelief they rejected the Redeemer. God did not even then cut off the Jewish nation from a knowledge of, or a participation in, the blessings of salvation. But those who rejected the truth lost all desire for the gift of Heaven. They had "put darkness for light, and light for darkness," until the light which was in them became darkness; and how great was that darkness! It suits the policy of Satan that men should retain the forms of religion if but the spirit of vital godliness is lacking. After their rejection of the gospel, the Jews continued zealously to maintain their ancient rites, they rigorously preserved their national exclusiveness, while they themselves could not but admit that the presence of God was no longer manifest among them. The prophecy of Daniel pointed so unmistakably to the time of Messiah's coming, and so directly foretold His death, that they discouraged its study, and finally the rabbis pronounced a curse on all who should attempt a computation of the time. In blindness and impenitence the people of Israel during succeeding centuries have stood, indifferent to the gracious offers of salvation, unmindful of the blessings of the gospel, a solemn and fearful warning of the danger of rejecting light from heaven. Wherever the cause exists, the same results will follow. He who deliberately stifles his convictions of duty because it interferes with his inclinations will finally lose the power to distinguish between truth and error. The understanding becomes darkened, the conscience callous, the heart hardened, and the soul is separated from God. Where the message of divine truth is spurned or slighted, there the church will be enshrouded in darkness; faith and love grow cold, and estrangement and dissension enter. Church members center their interests and energies in worldly pursuits, and sinners become hardened in their impenitence. The first angel's message of Revelation 14, announcing the hour of God's judgment and calling upon men to fear and worship Him, was designed to separate the professed people of God from the corrupting influences of the world and to arouse them to see their true condition of worldliness and backsliding. In this message, God has sent to the church a warning, which, had it been accepted, would have corrected the evils that were shutting them away from Him. Had they received the message from heaven, humbling their hearts before the Lord and seeking in sincerity a preparation to stand in His presence, the Spirit and power of God would have been manifested among them. The church would again have reached that blessed state of unity, faith, and love which existed in apostolic days, when the believers "were of one heart and of one soul," and "spake the word of God with boldness," when "the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 4:32, 31; 2:47. If God's professed people would receive the light as it shines upon them from His word, they would reach that unity for which Christ prayed, that which the apostle describes, "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." "There is," he says, "one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Ephesians 4:3-5. Such were the blessed results experienced by those who accepted the advent message. They came from different denominations, and their denominational barriers were hurled to the ground; conflicting creeds were shivered to atoms; the unscriptural hope of a temporal millennium was abandoned, false views of the second advent were corrected, pride and conformity to the world were swept away; wrongs were made right; hearts were united in the sweetest fellowship, and love and joy reigned supreme. If this doctrine did this for the few who did receive it, it would have done the same for all if all had received it. But the churches generally did not accept the warning. Their ministers, who, as watchmen "unto the house of Israel," should have been the first to discern the tokens of Jesus' coming, had failed to learn the truth either from the testimony of the prophets or from the signs of the times. As worldly hopes and ambitions filled the heart, love for God and faith in His word had grown cold; and when the advent doctrine was presented, it only aroused their prejudice and unbelief. The fact that the message was, to a great extent, preached by laymen, was urged as an argument against it. As of old, the plain testimony of God's word was met with the inquiry: "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed?" And finding how difficult a task it was to refute the arguments drawn from the prophetic periods, many discouraged the study of the prophecies, teaching that the prophetic books were sealed and were not to be understood. Multitudes, trusting implicitly to their pastors, refused to listen to the warning; and others, though convinced of the truth, dared not confess it, lest they should be "put out of the synagogue." The message which God had sent for the testing and purification of the church revealed all too surely how great was the number who had set their affections on this world rather than upon Christ. The ties which bound them to earth were stronger than the attractions heavenward. They chose to listen to the voice of worldly wisdom and turned away from the heart-searching message of truth. In refusing the warning of the first angel, they rejected the means which Heaven had provided for their restoration. They spurned the gracious messenger that would have corrected the evils which separated them from God, and with greater eagerness they turned to seek the friendship of the world. Here was the cause of that fearful condition of worldliness, backsliding, and spiritual death which existed in the churches in 1844. In Revelation 14 the first angel is followed by a second proclaiming: "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Revelation 14:8. The term "Babylon" is derived from "Babel," and signifies confusion. It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion. In Revelation 17 Babylon is represented as a woman --a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church. In the Bible the sacred and enduring character of the relation that exists between Christ and His church is represented by the union of marriage. The Lord has joined His people to Himself by a solemn covenant, He promising to be their God, and they pledging themselves to be His and His alone. He declares: "I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." Hosea 2:19. And, again: "I am married unto you." Jeremiah 3:14. And Paul employs the same figure in the New Testament when he says: "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2. The unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in permitting her confidence and affection to be turned from Him, and allowing the love of worldly things to occupy the soul, is likened to the violation of the marriage vow. The sin of Israel in departing from the Lord is presented under this figure; and the wonderful love of God which they thus despised is touchingly portrayed: "I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine." "And thou wast exceeding beautiful and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee. . . . But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown." "As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord;" "as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!" Ezekiel 16:8, 13-15, 32; Jeremiah 3:20. In the New Testament, language very similar is addressed to professed Christians who seek the friendship of the world above the favor of God. Says the apostle James: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." The woman (Babylon) of Revelation 17 is described as "arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness:...and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots." Says the prophet: "I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." Babylon is further declared to be "that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Revelation 17:4-6, 18. The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom is Rome. The purple and scarlet color, the gold and precious stones and pearls, vividly picture the magnificence and more than kingly pomp affected by the haughty see of Rome. And no other power could be so truly declared "drunken with the blood of the saints" as that church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ. Babylon is also charged with the sin of unlawful connection with "the kings of the earth." It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot; and Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the support of worldly powers, receives a like condemnation. Babylon is said to be "the mother of harlots." By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world. The message of Revelation 14, announcing the fall of Babylon must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt. Since this message follows the warning of the judgment, it must be given in the last days; therefore it cannot refer to the Roman Church alone, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries. Furthermore, in the eighteenth chapter of the Revelation the people of God are called upon to come out of Babylon. According to this scripture, many of God's people must still be in Babylon. And in what religious bodies are the greater part of the followers of Christ now to be found? Without doubt, in the various churches professing the Protestant faith. At the time of their rise these churches took a noble stand for God and the truth, and His blessing was with them. Even the unbelieving world was constrained to acknowledge the beneficent results that followed an acceptance of the principles of the gospel. In the words of the prophet to Israel: "Thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God." But they fell by the same desire which was the curse and ruin of Israel--the desire of imitating the practices and courting the friendship of the ungodly. "Thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown." Ezekiel 16:14, 15. Many of the Protestant churches are following Rome's example of iniquitous connection with "the kings of the earth"--the state churches, by their relation to secular governments; and other denominations, by seeking the favor of the world. And the term "Babylon"--confusion--may be appropriately applied to these bodies, all professing to derive their doctrines from the Bible, yet divided into almost innumerable sects, with widely conflicting creeds and theories. Besides a sinful union with the world, the churches that separated from Rome present other of her characteristics. A Roman Catholic work argues that "if the Church of Rome were ever guilty of idolatry in relation to the saints, her daughter, the Church of England, stands guilty of the same, which has ten churches dedicated to Mary for one dedicated to Christ."--Richard Challoner, The Catholic Christian Instructed, Preface, pages 21, 22. And Dr. Hopkins, in "A Treatise on the Millennium," declares: "There is no reason to consider the antichristian spirit and practices to be confined to that which is now called the Church of Rome. The Protestant churches have much of antichrist in them, and are far from being wholly reformed from . . . corruptions and wickedness."--Samuel Hopkins, Works, vol. 2, p. 328. Concerning the separation of the Presbyterian Church from Rome, Dr. Guthrie writes: "Three hundred years ago, our church, with an open Bible on her banner, and this motto, 'Search the Scriptures,' on her scroll, marched out from the gates of Rome." Then he asks the significant question: "Did they come clean out of Babylon?"--Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, page 237. "The Church of England," says Spurgeon, "seems to be eaten through and through with sacramentarianism; but nonconformity appears to be almost as badly riddled with philosophical infidelity. Those of whom we thought better things are turning aside one by one from the fundamentals of the faith. Through and through, I believe, the very heart of England is honeycombed with a damnable infidelity which dares still go into the pulpit and call itself Christian." What was the origin of the great apostasy? How did the church first depart from the simplicity of the gospel? By conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the heathen. The apostle Paul declared, even in his day, "The mystery of iniquity doth already work." 2 Thessalonians 2:7. During the lives of the apostles the church remained comparatively pure. But "toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form; the first simplicity disappeared, and insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their children, along with new converts, . . . came forward and new-modeled the cause."--Robert Robinson, Ecclesiastical Researches, ch. 6, par. 17, p. 51. To secure converts, the exalted standard of the Christian faith was lowered, and as the result "a pagan flood, flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols." --Gavazzi, Lectures, page 278. As the Christian religion secured the favor and support of secular rulers, it was nominally accepted by multitudes; but while in appearance Christians, many "remained in substance pagans, especially worshiping in secret their idols."-- Ibid., page 278. Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself Protestant? As the founders, those who possessed the true spirit of reform, pass away, their descendants come forward and "new-model the cause." While blindly clinging to the creed of their fathers and refusing to accept any truth in advance of what they saw, the children of the reformers depart widely from their example of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. Thus "the first simplicity disappears." A worldly flood, flowing into the church, carries "with it its customs, practices, and idols." Alas, to what a fearful extent is that friendship of the world which is "enmity with God," now cherished among the professed followers of Christ! How widely have the popular churches throughout Christendom departed from the Bible standard of humility, self-denial, simplicity, and godliness! Said John Wesley, in speaking of the right use of money: "Do not waste any part of so precious a talent, merely in gratifying the desire of the eye, by superfluous or expensive apparel, or by needless ornaments. Waste no part of it in curiously adorning your houses; in superfluous or expensive furniture; in costly pictures, painting, gilding. . . . Lay out nothing to gratify the pride of life, to gain the admiration or praise of men. . . . 'So long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak good of thee.' So long as thou art 'clothed in purple and fine linen,' and farest 'sumptuously every day,' no doubt many will applaud thy elegance of taste, thy generosity and hospitality. But do not buy their applause so dear. Rather be content with the honor that cometh from God."--Wesley, Works, Sermon 50, "The Use of Money." But in many churches of our time such teaching is disregarded. A profession of religion has become popular with the world. Rulers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, merchants, join the church as a means of securing the respect and confidence of society, and advancing their own worldly interests. Thus they seek to cover all their unrighteous transactions under a profession of Christianity. The various religious bodies, re-enforced by the wealth and influence of these baptized worldlings, make a still higher bid for popularity and patronage. Splendid churches, embellished in the most extravagant manner, are erected on popular avenues. The worshipers array themselves in costly and fashionable attire. A high salary is paid for a talented minister to entertain and attract the people. His sermons must not touch popular sins, but be made smooth and pleasing for fashionable ears. Thus fashionable sinners are enrolled on the church records, and fashionable sins are concealed under a pretense of godliness. Commenting on the present attitude of professed Christians toward the world, a leading secular journal says: "Insensibly the church has yielded to the spirit of the age, and adapted its forms of worship to modern wants." "All things, indeed, that help to make religion attractive, the church now employs as its instruments." And a writer in the New York Independent speaks thus concerning Methodism as it is: "The line of separation between the godly and the irreligious fades out into a kind of penumbra, and zealous men on both sides are toiling to obliterate all difference between their modes of action and enjoyment." "The popularity of religion tends vastly to increase the number of those who would secure its benefits without squarely meeting its duties." Says Howard Crosby: "It is a matter of deep concern that we find Christ's church so little fulfilling the designs of its Lord. Just as the ancient Jews let a familiar intercourse with the idolatrous nations steal away their hearts from God, . . . so the church of Jesus now is, by its false partnerships with an unbelieving world, giving up the divine methods of its true life, and yielding itself to the pernicious, though often plausible, habits of a Christless society, using the arguments and reaching the conclusions which are foreign to the revelation of God, and directly antagonistic to all growth in grace."-- The Healthy Christian: An Appeal to the Church, pages 141, 142. In this tide of worldliness and pleasure seeking, self-denial and self-sacrifice for Christ's sake are almost wholly lost. "Some of the men and women now in active life in our churches were educated, when children, to make sacrifices in order to be able to give or do something for Christ." But "if funds are wanted now, . . . nobody must be called on to give. Oh, no! have a fair, tableau, mock trial, antiquarian supper, or something to eat--anything to amuse the people." Governor Washburn of Wisconsin in his annual message, January 9, 1873, declared: "Some law seems to be required to break up the schools where gamblers are made. These are everywhere. Even the church (unwittingly, no doubt) is sometimes found doing the work of the devil. Gift concerts, gift enterprises and raffles, sometimes in aid of religious or charitable objects, but often for less worthy purposes, lotteries, prize packages, etc., are all devices to obtain money without value received. Nothing is so demoralizing or intoxicating, particularly to the young, as the acquisition of money or property without labor. Respectable people engaging in these chance enterprises, and easing their consciences with the reflection that the money is to go to a good object, it is not strange that the youth of the state should so often fall into the habits which the excitement of games of hazard is almost certain to engender." The spirit of worldly conformity is invading the churches throughout Christendom. Robert Atkins, in a sermon preached in London, draws a dark picture of the spiritual declension that prevails in England: "The truly righteous are diminished from the earth, and no man layeth it to heart. The professors of religion of the present day, in every church, are lovers of the world, conformers to the world, lovers of creature comfort, and aspirers after respectability. They are called to suffer with Christ, but they shrink from even reproach.... Apostasy, apostasy, apostasy, is engraven on the very front of every church; and did they know it, and did they feel it, there might be hope; but, alas! they cry, 'We are rich, and increased in goods, and stand in need of nothing.'" --Second Advent Library, tract No. 39. The great sin charged against Babylon is that she "made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." This cup of intoxication which she presents to the world represents the false doctrines that she has accepted as the result of her unlawful connection with the great ones of the earth. Friendship with the world corrupts her faith, and in her turn she exerts a corrupting influence upon the world by teaching doctrines which are opposed to the plainest statements of Holy Writ. Rome withheld the Bible from the people and required all men to accept her teachings in its place. It was the work of the Reformation to restore to men the word of God; but is it not too true that in the churches of our time men are taught to rest their faith upon their creed and the teachings of their church rather than on the Scriptures? Said Charles Beecher, speaking of the Protestant churches: "They shrink from any rude word against creeds with the same sensitiveness with which those holy fathers would have shrunk from a rude word against the rising veneration of saints and martyrs which they were fostering. . . . The Protestant evangelical denominations have so tied up one another's hands, and their own, that, between them all, a man cannot become a preacher at all, anywhere, without accepting some book besides the Bible.... There is nothing imaginary in the statement that the creed power is now beginning to prohibit the Bible as really as Rome did, though in a subtler way."--Sermon on "The Bible a Sufficient Creed," delivered at Fort Wayne, Indiana, Feb. 22, 1846. When faithful teachers expound the word of God, there arise men of learning, ministers professing to understand the Scriptures, who denounce sound doctrine as heresy, and thus turn away inquirers after truth. Were it not that the world is hopelessly intoxicated with the wine of Babylon, multitudes would be convicted and converted by the plain, cutting truths of the word of God. But religious faith appears so confused and discordant that the people know not what to believe as truth. The sin of the world's impenitence lies at the door of the church. The second angel's message of Revelation 14 was first preached in the summer of 1844, and it then had a more direct application to the churches of the United States, where the warning of the judgment had been most widely proclaimed and most generally rejected, and where the declension in the churches had been most rapid. But the message of the second angel did not reach its complete fulfillment in 1844. The churches then experienced a moral fall, in consequence of their refusal of the light of the advent message; but that fall was not complete. As they have continued to reject the special truths for this time they have fallen lower and lower. Not yet, however, can it be said that "Babylon is fallen,... because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." She has not yet made all nations do this. The spirit of world conforming and indifference to the testing truths for our time exists and has been gaining ground in churches of the Protestant faith in all the countries of Christendom; and these churches are included in the solemn and terrible denunciation of the second angel. But the work of apostasy has not yet reached its culmination.
The Bible declares that before the coming of the Lord, Satan will work "with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness;" and they that "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," will be left to receive "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11. Not until this condition shall be reached, and the union of the church with the world shall be fully accomplished throughout Christendom, will the fall of Babylon be complete. The change is a progressive one, and the perfect fulfillment of Revelation 14:8 is yet future. Notwithstanding the spiritual darkness and alienation from God that exist in the churches which constitute Babylon, the great body of Christ's true followers are still to be found in their communion. There are many of these who have never seen the special truths for this time. Not a few are dissatisfied with their present condition and are longing for clearer light. They look in vain for the image of Christ in the churches with which they are connected. As these bodies depart further and further from the truth, and ally themselves more closely with the world, the difference between the two classes will widen, and it will finally result in separation. The time will come when those who love God supremely can no longer remain in connection with such as are "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."
Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6-12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message
is the last that will ever be given to the world; and it will accomplish its work. When those that "believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:12), shall be left to receive strong delusion and to believe a lie, then the light of truth will shine upon all whose hearts are open to receive it, and all the children of the Lord that remain in Babylon will heed the call: "Come out of her, My people" (Revelation 18:4).
THE GREAT NATIONS OF TODAY CHAPTER XIV. THE THREEFOLD MESSAGE: WHAT IS IT AS TO BABYLON THE DAUGHTERS? A.T. JONES
GOD would have healed Babylon, but she would not be healed. In the Reformation He sent a balm for her, if so be that she might be healed; but she would not receive it, and, therefore, the Lord was obliged to leave her to her own ways.
In the Reformation the Lord sent His gospel anew, and with power, to all people. At that time all the people, except the scattered few of the "Church in the wilderness," were in Babylon, because all nations were under the dominion of Rome. Multitudes received the gospel, and walked in the light as it was then revealed. But as that was the first step out of darkness, there were other steps to be taken, to reach the fullness of the gospel: there was advance light in which to walk.
And here again history began to repeat itself: Many of those who had come out of darkness, and had taken the first steps into the light of the gospel, stopped there, being satisfied with that: they counted themselves sufficiently rich, and increased with goods, and therefore in need of nothing. And, as the consequence, they grew proud of what they had, exalted themselves upon
what they had, and became exclusive. Then, as the gospel must go on, as the light must increase more and more unto the perfect day, it followed that all those who would walk in the advancing light, all who would receive more truth, -- the fuller gospel, -- were excluded from the company of those who were self-satisfied, and were obliged to go forward as had the others at the first.
Then, in turn, these became satisfied with what they had, grew proud of it, exalted themselves upon it, and became exclusive. But as the gospel must still advance; as the light must shine yet more fully; and as those who would walk in the advancing light, and would receive more truth, could not do so and be recognized as of the company of those who had taken the former steps, they must, in turn, inevitably go on in a separate company.
On this subject Mosheim says: -- "The doctrine of the Lutheran Church remained entire during this [seventeenth] century; its fundamental principles received no alteration, nor could any doctor of that Church, who should have presumed to renounce or invalidate any of those theological points which are contained in the symbolical books of the Lutherans, have met with toleration and indulgence."
And again: -- "The method . . . observed by Calvin . . . was followed, out of respect for his example, by almost all the divines of his communion, who looked upon him as their model and their guide." Instead of continuing to be reformers, they became respectively Lutherans, Calvinists, etc.
Thus each phase of advancing truth developed a separate denomination. And this is the whole philosophy of the principal divisions manifest in the different denominations of Protestantism. Primarily, of course, it should not have been so; yet, under the circumstances as they developed, secondarily it became essential that it should be so. If those who started in the Reformation had continued to walk in the light as it shone more fully, if they had received advanced truth as they grew in the knowledge of the gospel, it is plain enough that there never could have been any new denomination; they would all have been reformers in one continuous and progressive reformation.
And that is as it should have been. But when, instead of that, those who had received light and truth refused to receive more, when they held that they had all the light and all the truth; and grew proud, self-exalted, and exclusive because of it; and when they excluded from their company those who would receive increased light and advanced truth, -- then, in the nature of things, there was nothing else for these to do but to associate together in the fellowship of the light and truth that they had received, and in the spirit of the gospel to spread it to all people.
Then, history further repeated itself. These successive denominations, each in turn refusing to go further, and so rejecting truth, were turned from originally the "Gate of God" to "confusion." Each one, in turn, as the mother at the first, joined herself to another man: they accepted kings of the earth as their head, in place of Christ, the true Head, and thus entered into illicit connection with the kings of the earth.
The Emperor of Germany to-day, as king of Prussia, is the head, the supreme pontiff, of the Lutheran Church in Prussia. In the Scandinavian countries also the Lutheran is the State Church, and there the head of the State is the head of that Church. In England the sovereign is head of the Church of England; and in Scotland the same sovereign is head of the Church (Presbyterian) of Scotland. And so, because the same person is sovereign of both countries, the same person is head of one Church in England and of another in Scotland: is an Episcopalian when in England, and a Presbyterian when in Scotland. The Independents, or Congregationalists, who had not joined themselves to the State in Europe, did so in the New England colonies; while the Church of England was the established church in all the Southern colonies. Thus it came to pass that in the "New World," Church and State were united in every colony, except only Rhode Island, and the whole influence of these churches and of the colonial governments was enlisted in sustaining the illicit union of professed Protestantism and the State, after the very example of "Babylon the Great, the mother."
But in Virginia, immediately after the Declaration of Independence, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Quakers took the lead in a movement that became universal and even national on this side of sea. That movement was the total separation of religion and the State, bringing the churches back to the original "principles on which the gospel was first propagated and the Reformation from popery carried on." After a contest of nearly ten years, this splendid task was accomplished for the State of Virginia, "with the hope that it would endure forever."
The long and universal discussion of this great subject in the State of Virginia had drawn the attention of all the other colonies to this great principle; and when, immediately upon the triumph of the principle in Virginia, the convention was called to form the Constitution, and frame a government, for the whole nation, this principle of the total separation of Church and State was established in the National Charter, and was recognized as a fundamental principle of the nation. And from this the influence spread, and caused that "in every other American State oppressive statutes concerning religion fell into disuse, and were gradually repealed."
Thus, in the great nation of the United States, Protestantism was placed in its original attitude, as in the beginning of the Reformation,and as the first principles of the Reformation required; and also in the original attitude of Christianity as it was preached by Christ and the apostles, and as the fundamental principles of Christianity require. Thus Protestantism -- the Church, even in its different denominations -- turning once more to her own true Lord, became clothed with a power that made her once more, and rightly, the "Gate of God." And the benign influence of this excellent example acted upon all the nations of the Old World, and led them forward in the path of light and liberty, which is the path of true Protestantism, which is the path of true Christianity, which is the path of the total separation of the Church from the State: the path in which the Church walks only with her true Husband, her dependence solely upon God.
Then, in 1840-44 there came the time when, "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people," God would send the message of "the everlasting gospel," proclaiming to all men: "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Rev. 14:6, 7. The Church in this great nation, standing in an attitude the purest and the closest to God of any in the world, -- in the nature of things, this Church would be the chosen instrument by which God would spread that message of blessing and of warning to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." Also, in the nature of things, this nation would be the place where that Message would rise in its power, and from which it would spread to all nations.
Here was a wonderful blessing that God had for His Church at that time, -- a blessing by which she would have been indeed the "Gate of God" to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" on the earth. Here was a Message from God that opened up to the Church the length and breadth and depth and height of the glory of the everlasting gospel as it had never been seen since the days when the apostles preached it in the fullness of its living power. In this Message was "the mystery of God" revealed in all its fullness, -- God manifest in the flesh, -- Christ in men "the hope of glory." And all this blessing and glory was to be proclaimed to all the world in view of the fact that "the hour of His judgment is come;" and in order that men might be fitted to stand holy and without blame before God, ready in all respects to be translated without seeing death, at the coming of the glorious Lord.
But lo! instead of receiving this wonderful blessing; instead of rejoicing and being glad that God had sent to her a message that would clothe her with such power as would make her the instrument of God's greatest work for the salvation of the nations; she refused the blessing, rejected the message of God, and would not walk in the light that had come to her and to the world.
Then history again repeated itself. By thus rejecting the message of God, there was a "falling away" again. from the truth, and she that had been the "Gate of God" became "confusion," and of her it had to be said, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen."
Faith is the strength and salvation of the Church, as of the individual. Faith is the breath of life of the Church, as of the individual; and, like the breath of life, it must be constantly and momentarily used, in order to live by it; because "the just shall live by faith;" and faith comes by hearing the word of God. Since, then, faith comes by hearing the word of God, whenever any word of God, any message of the word of God, is rejected, faith itself is rejected; because it is impossible to retain faith while rejecting that by which alone faith comes. Further: when any advance light or additional truth is rejected, in that there is not only a rejection of this advance light and truth, there is also the rejection of whatever light and truth was formerly possessed. A person refusing to breathe, rejects not only renewed life, but loses the life that he already has.
This is strongly illustrated in the words of Jesus concerning the people of His day on earth, who rejected Him: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin." John 15:22. Before Jesus came, these people were walking in the light of faith as they then had it, and Jesus testifies that they were accepted in it. If those persons had died before Jesus came, they would have been saved, because "they had not had sin." But when He came with such light and truth and glory; when He spoke to them such words as had never been spoken to them; when He did among them such works as none ever had done; and when they rejected it all and refused Him; in so doing they rejected all true faith; not only the present faith in Him and His message, but also the faith which they had before He came, and which made them accepted before God in their day before He came. Accordingly, Jesus further said: "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." Verse 24.
Men can not reject the truth of God, and still retain the truth of God: they can not refuse to walk in the light, and still walk in the light: they can not hate Christ and God, and still be the brethren of Christ and the children of God.
Consequently, when in 1840-44 God's wonderful message of the everlasting gospel of light and blessing and of truth, to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, came bringing to them the presence, the power, the righteousness, of God, which would prepare them to stand in the judgment, -- when this was rejected, and when God's messengers whom He sent to give it were hated and persecuted, then she which had been the "Gate of God" in her day, ceased to be the "Gate of God," and became only "confusion."
As long as a person walks in the light of God, loves and accepts the truth of God, however that truth may come to him; so long the presence and the power of God will accompany him, and he will have influence with men. When Jacob knew that he had no strength against Esau, who was coming with four hundred armed men, he earnestly sought God all night, until the break of day; and when the angel exclaimed, "Let me go, for the day breaketh," Jacob said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." "And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Gen. 32:26-28.
Thus the abiding presence and power of God is the only true source of legitimate power and influence with men. And continuing to walk in advancing light, the receiving of additional truth, is the only true means of having this abiding presence and power of God; because this is the only way of faith: and faith is the only means of God's dwelling with us, or we with Him. Therefore, in the nature of things, whenever advance light or additional truth is rejected, the power and presence of God are lost; and, in this, the true source of legitimate power and influence with men is lost. And whenever this is so, whether in the case of an individual or of a church, this loss is discerned by that individual or that church: and then resort is invariably had to inventions of their own, to external and worldly means, to secure power and influence with men.
In all the instances in all this course of history, from the apostles' days until now, whenever a church has refused to walk in the advancing light, has refused to receive additional truth, she has separated from the presence and power of God, and then has invariably resorted to inventions of her own, and to external and worldly means of securing power and influence with men. And ever since 1840-44 it has been so with this collective Church of Protestantism in the United States. She rejected the message of God; and so separated herself from the presence and power of God, and thus lost power and influence with men.
But power belongs to the Church of God. That is settled. And power she will have: power she must have, or perish. But it is only the power of God that can keep her alive. By any other power, however great it may be, she will surely perish. The power of God, as manifested in the true gospel of Christ, draws men; for it is written: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." And, in the nature of things, when the Church has rejected the drawing power of the everlasting gospel of the crucified Christ, she is compelled to resort to other means of drawing men. And when she resorts to other means to draw men, again, in the nature of things, she draws them not unto Christ, but unto herself: there is a "falling away;" she exalts herself, in the place of God, and draws disciples to herself.
Everybody knows that the Protestant churches in the United States have followed this very course. Beginning with strawberry festivals in summer, and oyster suppers in winter, they have passed through the successive stages of "grab-bags," "fish-ponds," "kissing bees," "auction sales," "ring-cakes," "crazy suppers," lotteries, raffles, etc., etc., etc. All this is too notorious to need any sort of proof.
And this bad gradation, from the milder to the more intense sort, is all perfectly logical: because when the churches had resorted to such means of drawing the crowd and "influencing the masses," the milder forms of entertainment soon grew stale. And these having lost their drawing power, other and more novel devices had to be invented. As these, in turn, grew stale and lost their power to draw, still others had to be invented. And at last they were brought to their wits' end for any such sources.
But there was one source of power and influence with men that still had not been touched: that was -- the State. And true to the logic of the case, and true to the whole course of history, this power of the State was at last not simply invoked, but under threats of political perdition to legislators, and "bull-dozing their congressional representatives," they actually seized the power of the United States government, and since have boasted that they hold the government of the United States in their hands. And by their own statements and the acknowledgment of the leading statesmen of the nation, the power of the State and the influence of the law are the only power and influence depended upon by the Church to control the masses, even of her own membership.
And thus these churches have run the whole course, after the example of "Babylon the great, the mother:" and, by rejecting truth, separating