AN EXCHANGE quotes epigrammatic statements from various addresses delivered before the "Ecumenical Mission Conference" held recently in New York City, and among them all none impressed us so much as the following by Mr. Benjamin Harrison, ex-President of the United States:—
"The natural man lives to be ministered unto—he lays his imposts upon others. He buys slaves that they may fan him to sleep, bring him the jewelled cup, dance before him, and die in the arena for his sport. Into such a world there came a King, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." The rough winds fanned his sleep; he drank of the mountain brook and made not the water wine for himself; would not use his power to stay his own hunger, but had compassion on the multitude. He called them he had bought with a great price no more servants but friends. He entered the bloody arena alone, and, dying, broke all chains and brought life and immortality to light."
The "Ecumenical Conference" on Missions recently in session in New York City, considering ways and means for preaching the gospel to Brahmins, Buddhists, Confucians, Greek Catholics and Roman Catholics—in its very name ignoring Romanism as anti-Christian, since its missions were not recognized or included under the comprehensive term Ecumenical—was of course "orthodox." At the same time there was in session in the city of Boston another and quite different convention or Religious Congress, which being under the lead of the famous "orthodox" preacher, Heber Newton, supported by many other notable reverend gentlemen and Doctors of Divinity also "orthodox," must be considered equally as "orthodox" a conference as the one which met in New York City. Yet note the wide difference in these applications of the term "orthodox;" for the Boston Convention accepted and heard all religions—Christian, anti-Christian, Buddhist, Brahmin and Confucian on a common level.
As a matter of fact this word orthodox, which signifies "correct or sound doctrine," is claimed by everybody; for no one could conscientiously hold to anything he considered unsound or incorrect. But in applying the term to others is the difficulty: how for instance can a Methodist agree that Presbyterian doctrine of foreordination and predestination is correct or "orthodox" and still refuse to accept it? Or how can a Presbyterian agree that Methodist doctrine is "orthodox" when it differs so radically from his own? And how can "Disciples" and "Baptists" recognize as "orthodox" or correct and sound other doctrines which ignore water immersion, which Baptists and Disciples strenuously claim is absolutely essential to a membership in the Church of Christ, and to the salvation which they claim is provided only for the Church?
The fact is that the various sects were much more consistent when they each denied that the other was "orthodox" and each claimed that itself alone was the "orthodox," the correct and doctrinally sound church.
(1) Religious doctrinal convictions have softened, tho the professions continue as hard and stout as ever. Instead of conviction has come uncertainty, doubt, skepticism and the general feeling that "nobody knows—we may be right, you may be right or all may be wrong."
(2) Not knowing who is right we will simply stick to our own church [not to Christ's one, true Church "whose names are written in heaven"] as being as good as any other man-made church, and merely recognize all others claiming the name of Christ and having influence, wealth and numbers as being also "orthodox," correct also—for all we know to the contrary. But in preventing any advanced thought being known as "orthodox" all are agreed—they have already sufficient confusion unavoidably covered by that term: unavoidably, because to deny the term "orthodox" to any popular system would be to invite it to denounce yours as "unorthodox," and thus to raise a doctrinal discussion which neither cares to risk before the people, lest the weaknesses and fallacies of all be disclosed to those now "at ease in Zion," dozing, if not sound asleep, on all such subjects.
This is the meaning of the general opposition of all denominations to what we are presenting from the Scriptures as present truth: they see that it is a positive doctrine and that those who receive it have convictions: they see, too, that these appeal to the Bible and apply its statements in a manner that brings order out of the hitherto confusion and babel of the sects: they perceive, too, that it is reasonable (which they know none of the others are) and they each individually and all collectively fear that if heard upon its merits it would sweep all theories before it into oblivion. It is therefore "Self-preservation, the first law of nature" which incites the so-called "orthodox" against the glad tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people. For just the same reasons the various sects and parties of the Jews, however diverse, united against the true Light as God revealed it in the close of the Jewish age.
We of course claim that the WATCH TOWER presentations are orthodox, correct, sound doctrinally—otherwise we would not promulgate them. And we go farther and deny that the various inconsistent, unreasonable and unscriptural doctrines of Babylon are orthodox. We claim that altho almost all the creeds of Christendom contain some grains of truth, they contain much more error, which quite beclouds and nullifies their elements of truth.
Nevertheless, we claim that our standard of "orthodoxy" is not narrow when applied to Christian people, tho it is so exclusive as respects all the creeds of Christendom. It is just as broad as the Bible will permit: and who that acknowledges its authority has a right to ask for more or to accept less?
Our standard of orthodoxy as applied not to sects but to Christians, personally, recognizes as correct and sound in doctrine all who acknowledge the following points. (1) That he is by nature a member of the fallen, condemned race and hence a child of wrath even as others, and justly under the divine sentence of condemnation. (2) That Christ died for the ungodly, for Adam and all his condemned race; and hence God can now be just in justifying him and all who believe in Jesus. (3) That his justification is the basis of his call to full consecration in self-sacrifice, and that he has thus devoted his all to the Lord, in exchange for the share in the Millennial Kingdom which the Lord has promised to all such "overcomers."—Rev. 2:26; 3:12,21.
All the above described class are properly recognized as "orthodox" and "brethren," however they may differ on minor details in the correct knowledge of which they may be expected to grow under the Lord's guidance;—building one another up in [the details of] their most holy faith, as revealed in the Word of the Lord, which, as they come more and more to understand it, will make them wiser and wiser respecting the good and acceptable and perfect will of God,—unto salvation,—until salvation actual, the "crown of life," with glory, honor and immortality, shall be the grand outcome of the finished race.
Who knows any fault to find with this Bible standard of "orthodoxy"? No one! But this is the chief ground of objection to it in the eyes of churchianity: it antagonizes and would speedily destroy not only one but all sects: hence all oppose it:—the far-seeing preachers leading their ever-confiding flocks into the battle against the Lord and his truth,—in which through temporary success they eventually are the sad losers.
It was expected that the General M.E. Conference would be asked to take some stand for or against "higher criticism;" but so far we have seen no mention of it. The expectation was based upon the protest made by a few students against "Higher Criticism," Evolution, etc., being taught at the M.E. Boston Theological Seminary. The students resigned, intending to go to other M.E. colleges presumed to be sound on the Scriptures; but to their surprise they found a solid denominational front against them, which conspired so successfully that they were refused admittance to any. This means that infidelity to the Bible, under the name of "higher criticism," is being impressed upon every M.E. minister now issuing from these seminaries. And it means that the greatest power of Methodism, its ministry, scattered all over the land, is to be exerted to the gradual undermining of the faith of Methodists. And, "like priest like people," it means that Methodism will soon be fighting God's Word stealthily, covertly, from the inside—inside [R2647 : page 181] the house of its professed friends. However, this will only awaken some of the Lord's true saints in that house and show them that it is high time for them to come out from Babylon—and from its confusion of false doctrines.
Zion's Herald publishes the results of an investigation respecting the number of "conversions" made by two hundred M.E. ministers, educated in the Boston Seminary since Higher Criticism and Evolution began to be taught there fifteen years ago. The results are reported with great satisfaction as giving evidence that Methodism is prospering exceedingly under the diet which repudiates the doctrine of the ransom and makes void the Word of God. These two hundred ministers report 6,023 "conversions" during the six months preceding March 1, 1900. The argument drawn from this is that M.E. prosperity lies in that direction, and that the sooner the old fogy believers in the Bible and the Cross wake up and abandon these the more rapidly will Methodism prosper. Hence it was taken as beyond question that the General Conference would certainly not raise its voice to interrupt successful procedure.
But to what were these 6,023 persons "converted"? To Methodism! Possibly a very few of them may have been converted to the Lord. Yet when one remembers that nearly all such so-called converts are children of from eight to fifteen years it seems amusing to credit their "conversion" to either truth or error or to call them "conversions" at all.
Principle seems to be disappearing in respect to religious matters. Churchianity of all denominations seems to be getting to be a business governed by "rules of trade" and "laws of supply and demand." What do the people want? What will draw the crowd, add to the church list and treasury? Evidently these are the queries which cause preachers most of their anxious thoughts rather than—What message does the Lord's Word give me for his people? What is the Truth and how can I best make it plain to the Lord's sheep?
But then again, how could we expect these wise "higher critics" to lay much emphasis on the words of our Lord and the apostles and prophets when they have concluded themselves to be wiser than they—claiming that our Lord and the apostles made numerous and grievous mistakes in quoting from Moses, David, Isaiah and other prophets, words which these modern wise men declare were never uttered by these prophets. The conclusion is that if the Lord and the apostles erred in these matters they were not infallibly inspired respecting others: and if they, the "higher critics," could correct them on these points they could give them general instruction, and are surely more competent authorities themselves.
Alas for the poor sheep! How many may be expected to follow the pernicious ways of these false shepherds! None too extravagant is the prophetic declaration, "A thousand shall fall at thy side"—only the sanctified in Christ Jesus, copies of God's dear Son, will be able to stand complete in him. These will be the "very elect," and it will not be possible for them to be deceived and ensnared; for God will give his messengers a charge [a message] for them [present truth] and thus these "feet" of the body of Christ shall be upheld that they stumble not.—Psa. 91:1,7,11,12.
That education is valuable no one will dispute, nor is it to be denied that it frequently puts a refined polish upon the actions and words of men and women who are therefore known as gentle -men and gentle -women. It is a mistake, however, to confound this kind of surface polishing with the "begetting of the spirit," "a new heart." The one is a gilding of the surface manners, the other a transformation of the entire being affecting the sentiment as well as the conduct.
As a painful lesson on this subject, proving that fine education may leave men still savage at heart and only needing opportunity to develop it, we quote below an article from the Literary Digest. It relates specially to college bred men of two nations, both of which combine religious and secular education—Protestant Germany and Roman Catholic Belgium: the representatives of the former probably were three-fourths Protestants and one-fourth Catholics and of the [R2648 : page 181] latter all Catholics, corresponding to the populations of those countries. Both claim to be "Christian nations," kingdoms of God, and their coins declare that their rulers reign "by the grace of God." We are glad that we hope for a very much better Kingdom for which all the more we pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth even as it is done in heaven." The article follows:—
"While it is customary to speak of the African natives as 'savages,' and to deplore the cruelty of the Sultan of Turkey, who permits the slave trade to flourish between his dominions and the east coast of Africa, late revelations prove that men of more civilized nationalities can be quite as cruel. The Brussels Petit Bleue relates the following:
"The rise of the Bundja tribes against the Kongo authorities was caused by Belgian tyranny. Hundreds of men died with Lothaire and other Kongo agents in defense of the cruel practices there. The agent Moray says: 'The rebellion of the Mongalla region is due solely to the cruelty with which the natives are treated. Rubber is the booty of the white invader now. If, in [R2648 : page 182] a village of 100 male inhabitants able to work, only 50 appear with the required amount of rubber, soldiers are sent to kill the other fifty. The 'loyal' natives are used to fight against the 'disloyal,' and as all are man-eaters, it is easy to reward the loyalists by promises of feasts on the corpses of the slain.
"CONGO STATE, DISTRICT BENGALA: Before me, Agent of the Antwerp Trading Society, appeared at Mandika, the sergeants Massamboko and Mulanda, and the privates Mutuana and Pongo, all of the Station of Mandika, who swore as follows:
"'White Man! We have returned from the war. We marched thirty hours' distance with the white man Imela (Van Eyken). He ordered us to enter the villages, to see if the inhabitants had gathered enough rubber. If they had not, we were to kill them. In one village we told him we had fulfilled his orders. He told us we had not done enough. He told us to cut up the men, placing the pieces on poles; the bodies of the women and children we were to put in a big scaffold in the shape of a cross. Returning through N'Dobe we found all the natives treated like that. We swear that this is true. Follow marks and agent's name: Moray.'
"According to other reports hundreds of natives have had their hands chopped off because they did not furnish the required quantity of rubber. Similar cruelties are reported from the French Sudan. Several high officials formerly in the German employ have also been punished as offenders of this kind. The Dutch papers remark that the French, English and Spaniards have a great advantage in the patriotic discipline of their newspapers, for while the Dutch and German papers will report an outrage of their countrymen immediately, Frenchmen and Englishmen will exercise patriotic prudence."