This is an excerpt of an address given by Charles H. Watson, General Conference president, at the Autumn Council, Louisville, Kentucky, October 29, 1935. The full address was published in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, November 21, 1935. This excerpt has been edited for space.—Editors.
The Bible is the story of a great eternal purpose; of the efforts made to defeat that purpose; and the means ordained, employed, and available to fulfill that purpose.
The foundation laid at the beginning has stood. Man, by his own choice, took himself off that foundation. But man’s moving off did not move the foundation. That foundation is the will of God, which is the essence of all truth. In order to build on that foundation, man must live and labor within the will of God. Life lived and service rendered outside of that divine will are not established upon that foundation.
Man has persistently failed to appreciate the opportunities and possibilities within God’s purpose for him. The first section of the Bible story ends with the fall of man, the second ends with the Flood, and the third ends with Babel. Each of these periods in human experience ended in human failure. After that, the story tells of God’s efforts to have His will done on earth by a family.
THE OPPORTUNITY OF ABRAHAM
Through the family of Abraham, God ordained that His eternal purpose would be fulfilled. He gave the literal children of Abraham a wonderful opportunity. But their story ends with them all in bondage. What happened?
God gave that family the knowledge of His will. Obedience and disobedience were clearly marked in the experience of their father, Abraham. But his children chose to depart from the Lord’s will, and they found themselves in bondage. Instead of being made rulers by doing God’s will, they were made slaves by their departure from His will.
ISRAEL AS A MONARCHY
When God delivered Israel out of Egypt, He made them a nation. He was that nation’s king, but they were determined to be like the world and were obstinately determined to have their own way.
At God’s direction they were cautioned and warned; they were reproved and told that a human king would enslave them, take away their liberties, and require their first and best for himself. It began wrong and continued to be wrong, ending in captivity and failure.
There is, of course, the story of the restoration. But, except for a brief moment, those that came back were never able to throw off the yoke of foreign rulership. They built up their city and raised its ruined walls, but they did it by the consent and under the patronage of foreign kings.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CHRISTIANITY
The story then brings us to the establishment of Christianity. Its founder is the Lord Jesus, and its foundation is the eternal truth given in His teachings. His life was a manifestation of the will of God. He came as man to fulfill God’s purpose, and after He won the right by His sacrifice on the cross, His victory over death, and His acceptance for us by the Father, He commissioned His church to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
THE CHURCH WENT FORTH
Endued with power from on high, the church went forth, conquering and to conquer. Observe that the attitude of its leaders toward the will of God was very definite. They were determined to obey God at all costs. While this attitude of adherence to the will of God was maintained, the church was a conquering power. When it was forsaken, the church became a persecuting power.
After the first century a change came into its experience. The church first became worldly, then cruel. It forgot the will of God and began to enforce its own will upon the people, blasphemously claiming it to be God’s will.
Then came the Reformation. Sect after sect rose to proclaim some phase of Protestant truth and lead God’s people onward. Many have been used to stir the hearts and minds of people with living truth. Each one had some definite truth to proclaim, or some important principle to make clearer. These truths, with all that they had previously received, became their founding principles. They were to remain firm on those founding truths and principles, and on them embrace new revelations of God’s will.
Have they done this? In general, Protestants have not only failed to progress in Christian faith and power, but have, almost without exception, failed to keep within sight of those founding principles.
Why is this? Is it because those founding truths and principles were found to be wrong and untrustworthy? Not at all. It is because the people listened to the world’s voice instead of God’s voice. They have fallen in love with the world; and as their love of the world has increased, their love for God and His truth has decreased. They have become conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the renewing of their minds.
THE FINISHING WORK
The final section of the story is pictured in the last part of Revelation. At a specific time, a movement begins that finishes the work begun during the Reformation. This work is to be done in the judgment hour. It is done by people spoken of as “the remnant.” It is to be done at a time when faith is failing, when the world is in confusion and distress, when unbelief is prevalent and arrogant.
The message of this movement is to be preached with power. By belief in that message, its adherents will be separate in life, purpose, principle, belief, and hope from the world. That movement will succeed by its people holding fast to the peculiar truths and definite principles upon which it was founded.
There are two very important facts that we should consider. First, that this movement, if not directed according to God’s will, is just as subject to failure as any previous movement of God’s people this side of Eden. Second, the Bible foreshows that this movement must meet the most tremendous efforts of Satan and his agents to overthrow it, and to cause it to fail of fulfilling God’s purpose.
REASONS FOR FAILURE
Looking back, we find the reasons for failure are very definite. Briefly, those reasons center in one thing, “Love of the world.” God’s people have never been victorious while surrendered to the world. They have had victory only when surrendered to God, to have His will done in and by them. It must still be so. The remnant people can no more have success by loving the world and surrendering to its allurements, claims, and calls than did Israel of old.
When this movement began, the faith of its people was rugged. They were simple-hearted, trusting, and unworldly. They were self-sacrificing and intensely earnest. Their hope was buoyant. Their courage was invincible. We cannot succeed if by any means we lose these qualities. The world and all worldly things are soon to pass away. If we are to succeed in that to which God has called us, we must keep love of the world out of our hearts. We must successfully resist the world and make God’s will first and foremost.
What we need just now is a large reception of divine grace to enable us to do God’s holy will at any cost. May the good Lord come to us and open our hearts and make us willing to receive it. We have to do the work of God in an age of doubt, and for a world sinking altogether in sin. Let us not trifle with that work at such a time and in face of such need. Foolish indeed shall we be if we seek from the lost world the power, the help, the equipment of mind and heart that we need to be God’s messengers of salvation to that same ruined world.
Our need is great; far, far too great to be met by anything that the world can supply. We must go to a source of help higher than the world, where our need can be reached farther in and deeper down than ever the world can penetrate. Oh, shall we not now “search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord”? Shall we not “lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens”? He will have mercy on us. He will lead us in the way of His purpose, and according to His divine will. Walking in that way, and living only to fulfill that unchanging purpose, this people will finish the work victoriously; and when the world, which now would allure and ruin us, shall go down in its own ruin, we shall be crowned with life eternal, and enter into our reward.