The Spirit of the Word


     A brother asks, "What do you think of  the Salvation Army work? The most of our advent believers here are running after them: they have got it into their heads that it is the compelling message."

     Anyone who thinks that the fundamental church is giving the compelling message is very much in the dark, it seems to me. The "church" is doing some good, of course, and the members of it are for the most  part, I suppose, honest, sincere, zealous Christians. And from their standpoint they are much more consistent than most of the churches; for surely if the impenitent are momentarily  in danger of falling into  endless hell, then the apathy and indifference of the majority of Christians is criminal, and the extravagant and grotesque zeal of the Salvation Army is mild in comparison to the intense earnestness that ought to characterize Christians in their efforts to seek and save the lost. If this doctrine of endless torment is true, then any measure however extreme; beating drums and tambourines, parading the streets with banners and songs, turning a prayer meeting into a circus, any thing and every thing that will attract the people and bring them under the influence of Christian teaching, might be justifiable and even commendable, and the churches instead of finding fault with this extravagant zeal ought to bid them God-speed, help them all they can and imitate them as far as possible.

     To me however the Salvation Army appears to be in the same business as the rest of the Christian church, viz. "beating the air." They are beating the air a little harder than some other Christians, but it is only beating the air after all. They make converts, and these converts are reclaimed from bad habits for the time being, and lead better lives, etc., and so far they do good; but what are these converts converted to? And what are they fed on after conversion? They are converted, not to an intelligent understanding of God's truth, but to a notion, to a man-made system, to error; and they are fed on sensation, excitement, a vast amount of doing and very little knowledge. The life of a Christian is faith; (Gal. 3:11) the foundation of faith is knowledge; (Rom. 10:17). Knowledge of God, or the truth, is the only thing that will establish, and advance, and keep steady, a disciple of Christ.  The Salvation Army, in common with the churches, does not  possess this knowledge of God, hence the converts do not have it; hence though for the most part they are doubtless sincere, yet they are only pseudo-Christians after all, or at the best, mere "babes in Christ."  One fact, if nothing else, would indicate their lack of true knowledge of God, viz. their invariable method of endeavoring to frighten the unconverted into a profession of religion; the false doctrine of endless hell-torment is constantly made to do duty as a lash whereby to whip in the careless and indifferent. God is thus misrepresented, the truth is obscured, error is made prominent, and where a few feeble minded, timorous people are influenced by this sort of harangue, the majority are hardened by it all the more, and thereby driven away from, rather than drawn toward, God. No one can know God truly while they believe in this unreasonable, unscriptural and utterly hideous dogma of endless torment; and yet this doctrine is the principle stock in trade of the Salvation Army. Their publications, their songs and prayer meeting talks have more in them about the devil than they do about Christ, more about hell than heaven, more about the wrath than the love of God, and so the various clans of the nominal church fare on; pounding away, beating the air, mere "bodily exercise," sweating and straining to do something great, and really doing nothing to any purpose, in ignorance and unbelief of the blessed truth of God, which did they but know it, would immediately give them rest and peace and quiet in Him. "For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His." God is indeed using the Salvation Army, to further his own plans, just as he "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," (Eph. 1:11) and yet it is a part of "Great Babylon" that is waxing so mighty in these last days, and is destined soon to fall to be "found no more at all."

     Several have asked questions concerning the Second Death. I have briefly considered this subject in the pamphlet, "Endless Torments not Scriptural," beginning on page 27. It is a question that cannot be turned off with a few words, so I will not attempt to answer it further now; an article will perhaps appear in the paper soon on this theme.

     Some of the readers of this paper are Seventh Day Keepers, and two or three of these brethren have written to me, not exactly asking questions, but rather lecturing me on this point, and taking it for granted that I believe certain things in regard to this and other questions, which they have no means of knowing whether I believe or not, and which, as a matter of fact, I do not believe. I will simply state my position briefly, and thus answer these brethren. There are three principle views upon this question. Some designate a particular day of the week as the Sabbath, either the first or the seventh. Some say there is no Sabbath at all in this dispensation. Some take the view that all the time is a Sabbath of rest, the rest of faith now, until we experience the "rest that remaineth" by and by. (Heb. 4:3-10. The latter view is the one I sympathize with. I readily concede to our seventh-day brethren that there is not the slightest authority for calling the first day, the Sabbath, or keeping it as such, excepting that of the church of Rome. I think that if there is any particular day of the week that we should keep especially holy, that day is the seventh, and not the  first; but I recognize no such special obligation.  What is  wrong for me to do, or say, or think Saturday or Sunday, is wrong Monday, and what is right and proper Monday is equally right and proper any other day in the week. I would refrain from doing certain things on Sunday that I would do other days, simply out of consideration for the feelings of others; and if I was living in a community of seventh-day Adventist or Jews, I would show the same respect for Saturday. I meet with those who love the truth for religious exercises on Sunday because that day is most convenient under existing circumstances; not because it has any claim to special sanctity; and so far as I am personally concerned I would just as leave it would be any other day in the week, as the first day. "One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom. 14:5). I'm of the number who esteem every day alike, every one of them a rest day (Psa. 37:7). The apostle says, "we are not under the law but under grace;" that he includes the ten commandments under the general term law as he uses it in his epistle to the Romans is positively evident from 7:7, where he quotes one of those commandments as a sample of the teachings of the law that he was talking about. The distinction that seventh-day believers make between the "Ceremonial," and the "Moral" law, is convenient enough for purposes of  reference, etc., but the Bible makes no such distinction but includes the whole law, ceremonial and moral, under the one general name of law.  Paul declares,  that the law,  which was "written and engraven in stones," i.e. the ten commandments, was the "Ministration of Death," and was to be "done away," to give place to the "Ministration of Righteousness," "which remaineth." (2 Cor. 3:7-11). What is the "ministration of righteousness?" Not the law, "for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Gal. 2:21).  Righteousness comes by faith, and "the law is not of faith." (Gal. 3:12). "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:3-13).  But I will not pursue this subject further now.  I intend to consider it more at length soon in an article on "the purpose of the law." Meantime let us endeavor to "fulfil all the law in this one word," Love. (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8,10).

     Some of the readers of the paper are very much exercised over the doctrine of endless torment, and Probation after death. One person writes thus:  "Why do you oppose endless punishment? if that goes, endless salvation of necessity goes with it. Why rob Christians of their hope for the sake of comforting and hardening sinners in their sins. The age is drifting away from all restraint and you will help it along. If endless punishment is not true, then 99-100ths of all God's people have been mislead by Christ's own words."

     I do not believe that there is another reader of this paper who would endorse the above sentiments. The writer evidently is not at all familiar with the controversy waging over this doctrine of future retribution at the present time, and has considered the subject very superficially. My answer to these sentiments I have already published in the pamphlet, "Endless Torments not Scriptural." I insert the above not for the sake of arguing against it, but that our readers may see how utterly in the dark many sincere Christians are. It is indeed sad that this hideous and false dogma of an endless hell has so blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of God's dear children, that many of them have come to think that if there is no endless hell there can be no endless heaven, and in a spirit of utter selfishness, as unlike Christ as it possibly could be, they stoutly contend for the former doctrine for fear of weakening the evidences of the latter; they are sure to go to heaven, they think, and rather than have their pious complacency disturbed they are perfectly willing that, side by side with their heaven of eternal joy, there should be a hell of everlasting woe. May the time speedily come when this awful slander against God shall be obliterated from the hearts of all his "offspring!" (Acts 17:29).  For my own part, I confess that I feel that even heaven purchased at such an appalling cost as the existence of an endless hell would be too dear; and I hesitate not to declare that it seems to me it would be better that there should be no future life at all, than that any soul should suffer eternally. I thank God that the Bible teaches no such doctrine.  So far as "hardening sinners in their sins" and releasing them from "restraint" is concerned, I would ask what effect does the preaching of the doctrine of endless torment have? Does it soften the heart and restrain from sin? Does not everyone know that the preaching of this dogma hardens the heart, and makes the sinner reckless and defiant? Infidelity and godlessness would not be so rampant in these days as they are if it had not been for the preaching of this false doctrine; it is not too much to say that there would be no Col. Ingersoll to-day going about the country undermining the people's faith in the Bible, if this doctrine had never been promulgated; and I for one, feeling sure as I do that the dogma is false, contrary to scripture, and an outrage upon reason and common sense, am resolved to do all I can to disabuse the minds of the people of this awful misrepresentation of God and his Word. In regard to the statement that 99-100ths of God's people have been misled by Christ's own words, I would say that there is nothing new in that, for God's nominal people as a whole, in every age, have invariably erred from the truth. Those who have had the most advanced light, and the purest truth, have always been in the minority. So it was in Elijah's day (1 Ki. 19:14,18), so it was in Jeremiah's (Jer. 1 & 2), so it was in the days of the first advent, "He came to his own and his own received him not." So it was in the days of Martin Luther; and so also in this final, Laodicean phase of the gospel church (Rev. 3:17,18). If  you follow the majority of the church in any age (except it be, perhaps, during the lives of the apostles) you will be led into many and serious errors; whereas if you would find the truth you must seek it, not among the most popular and numerous branches of the Christian Church, but among the little companies, the faithful few who have "gone forth unto Him without the camp bearing his reproach," (Heb. 13:13, compare Ex. 33:7), the "Comeouters" as they have been called, and well called too, for though the name has been used as a term of reproach, yet those who have thus applied it have thereby unwittingly borne testimony to the scriptural character of these "little flocks," for even so hath the Lord commanded, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing." The fact that the majority of the nominal church have accepted any particular doctrine would, according to ecclesiastical history, be a stronger argument against that particular doctrine than for it. However this tremendous doctrine of everlasting woe is not one to be decided by a majority. Our appeal must be to the teachings of the Bible, and we must be content to abide by that, whatever others, either few or many, may think. I am perfectly satisfied with its teachings. I thank God that the Scripture is not burdened with any such monstrous doctrine, but that from beginning to end it is in perfect accord with that golden declaration of holy writ that "God is love."

     Another brother writes a lengthy and very decided letter against the doctrine of Probation after death. I will give a few extracts from his communication to show how carelessly and thoughtlessly men read the Bible, and what flimsy, shallow talk is advanced and accepted by many as sound reasoning. The brother seems to be quite satisfied that he has presented a very formidable argument against the "foolish doctrine" (as he calls it) of posthumous probation; he says, "the texts I have given you will find very   troublesome for you to deal with; and I deny that you can make them agree with your theory without quibble." Now, although the brother seems to think that I shall be almost overwhelmed by the might of his logic, yet the fact is (and it is almost laughable) that many of the texts he quotes as against the truth he opposes, are the very ones that I have used again and again in my writings and preaching to prove that doctrine, and the brother misses the point because he has not studied close enough. Now for a few specimens of his reasoning.

     At the beginning of his letter he says that although the word probation is not in the Bible yet its equivalent is there, viz.: trial. I accept this, and was intending that the next Supplement should be on this very subject; let the reader bear this statement in mind, that the word trial is equivalent to probation, as I shall have occasion to refer to it again.

     The writer quotes from my article where I say that the sinner is already dead and lost, and then asks, "How dead and lost? Not literally surely, for Christ in addressing the same dead class says, "Ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins, and where I go ye cannot come." To tell dead men that they should die is strange logic.  From this sentence it is very clear that the brother does not understand the Bible teachings on the great subject of life and death (1-3-54).  I would ask him, what did Jesus mean when he said to a certain one, "Let the dead bury their dead," to tell dead men to bury dead men "is strange logic," is it not? But I will not stop to notice this point further now.

     The writer continues thus, "You make the bold assertion that the entire teaching of the Bible, both in its general scope and in its special precepts and declarations is in full harmony with the doctrine of posthumous probation. I deny it."  Yes, I do make this bold assertion (if it is bold) and I reiterate it, and thank God!  No amount of denial can change the truth. But assertions do not amount to much one way or the other.  Let us notice some of this brother's proof against this doctrine.  He says, "The doctrine that teaches that God will destroy people and then raise them from the dead and give them another chance to practice the same wickedness again, to my mind, is a very foolish doctrine; to punish men first and then raise them from the dead and make then holy and happy in his own image and likeness is to my mind monstrous in the extreme." Strange language this! To raise people from the dead simply that they may practice the same wickedness again would be foolish.  I know of no one who entertains any such foolish idea; if the brother does I hope he will do all he can to enlighten them. But would it be foolish to raise people from the dead to deliver them from their wickedness, and to bring them to a knowledge of the truth, would that be foolish? Whether such an idea were true or not, there certainly is nothing foolish about it. But the last part of the quotation is the most remarkable; to punish men first and then raise them from the dead and make them holy and happy in God's own image and likeness seems to this brother "monstrous in the extreme; now to me it seems blessed in the extreme. I hardly think the brother read this sentence over after he wrote it or he would not have allowed it to have gone so. Why, does not the brother claim to be a Christian? And has not the Lord punished him some time? (if he has not then is he a bastard and not a son; Heb. XII. 8) and if he dies before the Lord comes, does he not expect to be raised from the dead and made holy and happy in God's image and likeness? And is this monstrous? The brother says it is, "monstrous in the extreme." But see again, he quotes, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to, have Probation? no, no. My Bible does not read that way, it puts in the word punished and thereby spoils your theory." Nay, it thereby sustains my theory, and makes it fact. This text is one of the strong ones in favor of Probation after death. Who does the Lord punish? And what does he punish them for? He punishes those he loves, (Heb. 12:6; compare Amos 3:2) and he does it for their good, that they may be "partakers of his holiness." (Heb. 12:10). I do not suppose that this brother knows that the word here rendered "punished" really means corrected, but such is the fact; the passage then would read, "to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be corrected;" compare Jude 14, 15. This passage properly understood is a positive proof of probation after death. The brother goes on to quote some passages that he thinks teaches that death fixes our eternal destiny. The first one he quotes thus, "Heb. 9:27; and as it is appointed unto man once to die and after this, Probation? no indeed." I say yes indeed, that is just what it says, "after this probation." The original word means trial, as well as judgment; trial would be a perfectly correct rendering of the word. But according to this brother, as we have seen, trial is equivalent to probation, hence the correct rendering is as above. This passage is one of the strongest passages in the Bible for a probation after death, because it expresses that doctrine in the plainest language possible. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this PROBATION." Here is the doctrine in just so many words; without any "inferences," or "twisting," or "quibble," or anything of the kind, but the exact words the apostle used. I shall try to consider this subject fully in the next supplement.

     Again to prove that death fixes our eternal destiny, the brother quotes Heb. 10:27; but this passage says nothing about death whatever, not a word. The question is this, is our eternal destiny irrevocably fixed at the moment of death? A passage that makes no reference to death at all, like the last one mentioned, surely can have no bearing upon this question, and to present such an utterly irrelevant passage shows the carelessness and superficiality of the writer. The next passage urged to prove the same point is Matt. 12:31,32; of this we say the same as of the one just considered, it says nothing about death at all; whatever it proves, or however it is understood, it does not touch the question under consideration, and hence proves nothing one way or the other concerning it. It was to guard against such carelessness as this that I wrote the paragraph in the last paper on page 77, beginning, "I would call attention," etc. In that paragraph I say, "if you examine carefully, and adhere closely to the one point under consideration, you will see," etc., and yet this brother quotes texts that do not make any reference at all to the point under consideration.  After quoting this last passage he adds, "If death does not fix the eternal destiny or the blasphemer, then words fail to convey ideas." But there are no words at all in this passage to convey any such idea; death is not referred to in the passage; again I say, the question is, does death fix our eternal destiny? How can a passage that does not say anything about death at all have any bearing on this question? O how blind and befogged men must be thus to talk round and round a point and never come any where near it! The brother goes on to quote again, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of  temptation and to reserve the unjust to be punished," and then he asks, "Does punishment mean probation?"  I reply, punishment is a very important part of probation, as I have already noticed, and can this brother deny it? Does not God always punish to benefit the one punished? Just as a good parent punishes his child. Is it possible that the brother is so ignorant of the Bible that he does not know that punishment is one of the most essential parts of our trial? "The Lord scourgeth EVERY son whom he receiveth." (Heb. 12:7). The statement that certain ones were to be punished would be a proof that their period of probation had not expired, rather than the contrary (see also Psa. 119:65-72).

     The brother goes on to refer to many other passages, every one of them as wide of the mark as those we have noticed; and then he undertakes to explain away the force of Ezek. 16:44-63. This part of his letter I will consider in the next number.

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