Bible Studies

05-1895 General Conference Sermon by A.T. Jones

You are here

    Our lesson closed last night with the example and the action of Christ, which He gave to us when solicited to cross the line defining the boundary of ambassadorship. We will begin this evening with John 20:21.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

When Christ was solicited to perform the office of a judge and a divider over men, He refused. Now He says, "As My Father hath sent me, even so send I you." And we read in another verse telling what the situation of the Christian is in the world. 1 John 4:17, "As he is, so are we in this world." These verses, however, are only saying in another way the same truth which we studied last night. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. And from the experience which we have heard this evening from Brother Holser and Switzerland, would it seem to be going too far to take all these scriptures as they read and accept the principle that is involved in them as it there lies? As stated in the present week's Review and Herald, our publishing house was founded in Switzerland for the reason that there was supposed to be the most liberty and that there we would have the most opportunity to do our work for the longest time. Also in the United States it has been considered that this was the home of liberty. That is true, it was. But now the United States and Switzerland are the two countries where there is more persecution and where more of these evils go on than in Russia itself. Does not that of itself, from the experiences we have heard tonight, demonstrate sufficiently, as a lesson to us, that when we have any connection with these as they appear to us and lean in any respect upon them, we are leaning on a broken reed,  and that the sooner we find that our only refuge, our only confidence is in God and our only allegiance is to His kingdom, to His laws, and to the principles which are there given, the better off we will be?

This principle, stated in another way is, not how near we can conform or connect ourselves with earthly governments and kingdoms, but it truly is how far we can keep away. We are not to see how near we can go without compromising, but how far we can be away to be perfectly safe. That is the principle. The ten commandments are prohibitions. One of them says, "Thou shalt not kill," and in saying that the commandment does not describe to us the line which tells how near we can go to killing a man without doing it, but in telling us that we shall not kill a man, it tells us that we shall not think a thought which, if carried out to its logical conclusion could hurt a man at all. In saying, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," He does not tell us just how near we can go to that without doing it, but He tells us that we cannot think on that subject without doing it.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment, but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without cause [the Revised Version leaves out "without cause"] shall be in danger of the judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother,  Vain fellow, shall be in danger of the council, but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

A man who goes so far as to think of another that he is a fool and decides the question that he is a fool and then passes the sentence in words, "Thou fool," has committed murder, and the only thing that waits for him is hell fire.

But what is the Savior talking about? He is teaching them what it means when it says, "Thou shalt not kill." And when God said, "Thou shalt not kill," He forbade the thinking of a thought or the speaking of a word which if carried out to its utmost possible limit, could lead to killing or to doing harm.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already.

Has done it. What? All he did was to look and think. That is all. But he has committed adultery, so that in forbidding to commit adultery, He forbids a look or a thought which, if followed up, could possibly lead to it.

The law of God is intended to control the actions, by controlling the very spring of the thoughts. That is the principle upon which the Bible deals with mankind. And in this principle that we are studying--the separation of religion and the state, God expects us to take our position upon a principle, which it is impossible to push by any possible means to a union of church and state or of religion and the state. If we take a position upon that subject which, if followed, could possibly lead to a union of church and state, then we are wrong--we have not the true principle. If we accept a point or make a statement which, if carried out to its utmost possible bearing, could lead to a union of church and state, then that thing is teaching a union of church and state. And if we, therefore,  would be exempt from it, if we would keep clear of it, in such a way that our words, our teaching, our proclamation to the world, shall be the testimony of God against the beast and his image and the testimony of the truth as it is in Jesus, we are to find a position and hold it, which it is impossible, by any sort of dealing, to cause to lean toward a union of church and state.

Now we have found, and you agreed last night, and everyone must agree, that if the principles which lie in these texts which we read last night had been followed always by all who name the name of Christ, it would have been impossible for there ever to have been a papacy in the world, and if the principles involved in these texts had been followed by Protestantism from the day that Luther sounded the trumpet of God until now and should continue so, it would be impossible for there ever to be such a thing as the image of the beast.

Well then we all know that the violation of the principle lying in the texts which we read last night, made the papacy; it makes the image of the papacy, and it is impossible for the violation of the principle ever to make anything else. The first step over the line involves all that ever has come, from the first step that was taken in the development of the papacy until now.

There is another verse that we might read in this connection. Mark 12:29,30. When asked which is the first commandment in the law,

Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength.

That takes all of the man, all the time, to be devoted to God. How much then is there left with which to serve Caesar? "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." A little money from the Christian--the levied tribute--belongs to Caesar. The Christian himself belongs to God. How much of the Christian is God's, by the Christian's recognized right? Of course all men are God's by creation and by purchase, but the Christian recognizes God's right to him, and it takes a complete surrender to God to be a Christian. To get into that position a man has to be born again or else he cannot see the kingdom of God, and that kingdom is not of this world. Then as certainly as obedience to the commandments of God calls for all the man to be surrendered to God, so certainly there is none of the man left for the service of Caesar.

Look a moment at the verse we have just read. "With all thy mind." When that law is fulfilled in me, I want to know how much of my mind I am going to have left for running politics, for wire-pulling in municipal affairs, for working to elect this man or that man or to see who will nominate me for office or to see what position I can have in the city or in the state?

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . with all thy mind." But if I divide my mind and put part of it on these things and give the rest to the Lord--what about the double-minded man? "Unstable in all his ways." "Let not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord." "No man can serve two masters." Ye cannot serve God and this world; ye cannot serve God and Caesar.

As before suggested, this is not saying that the tribute is not to be rendered to Caesar; Christ has commanded that, but that is but a little money which itself is coined and stamped by Caesar, but our service, ourselves, all there is of us, belong to God. Christians are subject to the powers that be, but they serve only God. And even this subjection to the powers that be upon the earth is out of conscience toward God. It says so. God must have all the heart.

Now I am talking still on the subject of the beast and his image and all these movements that have been set before us is the first two lessons, which show the standing of the beast and his image as they are in the United States. We are studying the reasons why these things are wrong which these persons are doing; why it is that the churches interfering in the political workings of the cities and through that of the country and through this proposing to control the nation--we are considering why it is and studying why it is wrong. For, as I stated before, it is not enough for us to tell people that it is wrong. We must show to them that it is wrong and show them by the Word that it is wrong, that they may know from God which is the right and by that which is the wrong.

Now there is another consideration that we shall study in this connection. In the Scriptures you know that the church is called the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the church. We need not take time to turn and read those scriptures; there are so many of them and you are all familiar with them. Then with the church being the body of Christ and He the head, is not the church, practically and indeed literally, Christ in the world? But Christ taught, the Scriptures teach, a separation of church and state. Christ says, "I am not of this world."

This blackboard happens to be standing here, so I will use it, taking the figure we had last night as between the darkness and the light. This world is darkness, the rulers of the darkness of this world. "Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Walk as children of light." Now let that blackboard represent the dark world without this white mark upon it. When Christ came into the world, the light shone into the world. From Galilee there was the word of the prophet: "The people which sat is darkness saw a great light." Let that white line on the blackboard represent the line between the darkness and the light. On this side is the light. Here is where Christ is. There is still the dark world, the world of darkness. Now He says His kingdom is not of this world. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of light and of glory. He is the King there, and "the kingdom of God is within you."

Now on which side of that line is the church? Wherever Christ is. For we found that He is the church. The church is Himself in the world. So then here in the light is the church, here is Christ. Over there in the darkness are the states, the governments, that are altogether of this world. No government that ever was on the earth will enter heaven. Now Christ is separated from them. He refused, absolutely refused, to exercise the office of judging or dividing, to do the thing that pertains, and by right, to these.

Another thing. He had "all of these kingdoms of the world" offered to Him once, anyway. Why didn't He accept that offer and thus become the head, by gift, of all the governments and kingdoms of this world and then manipulate them and by political means "regenerate society," "redeem cities," reform the mayors, governors,  presidents, kings and emperors and thus "save" the world? Why not? That would have only confirmed the world in eternal ruin.

Christ did not accept them. He could not do so. He was offered the governorship, the possession, of all the kingdoms of the world once. He would not have it. But lo, here we find these church leaders in our day actually grasping for it and working to obtain it. If all Christians from the day of Christ until now had acted in that respect in regard to the kingdoms of the world, in their measure as Christ did in His, could there have been a papacy? No.  Could there have been an image? Impossible. Then where is the place for Christians to stand on that question?  Where He stood, refusing to have anything to do with the kingdoms of this world.

Now there is one other consideration we must notice tonight, and that is that these church leaders, these National Reformers, are doing all this to "regenerate the city," to "redeem the State," to "save the nation in the interests of society for the prosperity of kingdoms and nations and the advancement in civilization, and this in turn is to rebound to the prosperity, the glory, and the exaltation of the church." And they say, If this clear-cut line that separates between the church and the state shall be maintained, what will become of civilization? Then how is the church to influence the world?" They argue that the church certainly is in the world to do good to the world in some way. Here are these cities, states, kingdoms, and nations, that are corrupt, and the church must have some influence upon them, and if she is to be completely separated from them, how is she to influence them in any way for good? These are the queries that they raise, and the arguments which they make.

Well, the answer to all that is, that by totally separating from them is the only way in which she can ever possibly influence them for good. The church will influence the world; it will influence kingdoms; it will influence nations and the peoples thereof when, and only when, it is faithfully the church of Christ and is not of the world,  even as He is not of the world. When she is not this, she will influence them--that is true--but only to their undoing.

Now I lay it down as a principle that the aim of Christianity is not to civilize anybody. Christianity aims alone at Christianizing men. And it is better, a thousand times, to have one Christian savage, than to have a whole nation of savage Christians. This appears paradoxical, I admit. Therefore allow me to explain, for it is correct. The great boast of the papacy is that she is the civilizer of nations--even the mother and the ground and the stay of civilization. Let a papal missionary go into a tribe or nation of savages. He may get the king or the chiefs to accept the Catholic teaching. He may indeed succeed in getting them to put on clothes and in turning them to the building of houses, fencing fields, and tilling the ground, thus turning them to a civilized instead of the savage way of living. He may even get them to forego warfare--except for "the faith." In this sense they are civilized. And upon this she calls them all Christians. They are taught to consider themselves Christians. Other heathen and other savages look upon them as Christians and count them so. And so here she has "a Christian nation." But as a matter of fact, in essential disposition they are unchanged. In heart they are still savages and upon occasion, especially in behalf of "the faith" will show themselves absolutely savage. There is abundance of evidence of this, for never was there on the earth more savage savagery, even among savages, than there was for ages in the Roman empire in the height of the dominion of the papacy. It is impossible for men to be more savage than were those champions of orthodoxy. And that is what I mean by the phrase, "savage Christians."

Now on the other hand, let a Christian minister or a Christian individual go into a nation of savages, as they run wild in the forests and present the gospel of Jesus Christ in the love of God. Let one of those savages be converted to Jesus Christ. He may still wear his savage clothing or lack of clothing; he may not know anything about building a fence or building a house or anything of this kind, that is signified in the term civilization, but he is a Christian. The savage is taken out of his heart. Yet as the world goes, as men look at things and as relates to civilization, he would pass only as a savage. But he is a Christian and in being Christianized, in the very nature of things, he is civilized, and as certainly as he continues to live the outward forms of civilization will appear in due time. That is what I mean by the phrase "Christian savage." And that is what I mean when I say that that one Christian savage is worth more than a whole nation of these savage Christians.

If civilization were the aim and the object of Christianity, then there was no place for Christianity in the world where it started and at the time it started. I want you to think of that. Were not the Jews civilized?

But if it be counted that the Jews were not up to the proper standard of civilization to suit these National Reformers, then let us turn to Greece and Rome. What was the position of Greece and Rome at that time with regard to civilization? They had such a standing in civilization and all that pertains to civilization as that today civilized nations are but copyists of the civilization, the art, the splendor, the laws, and forms of government of the Greeks and the Romans. And for that reason I say that if civilization is the subject of Christianity, if that is, in any sense, the aim of Christianity and of Christian work, then there was no place for Christianity in the place and at the time when it started in the world; for there was a stage of civilization that the world has never since reached. But what were the people? They were heathen. And the gospel was sent to those civilized heathen as much as to any savage heathen that was upon the earth. And if there could be any difference, these civilized heathen needed the gospel more than did the savage heathen.

Now as a matter of fact, the gospel will have a great deal to do with civilizing people, provided that no effort is made by means of the gospel to civilize people. That is to say: If the gospel, which is put in the world solely to Christianize men, is used only to civilize men, you will not even civilize them; whereas, if that which is put into the world solely to Christianize men, shall be used solely for the purpose of Christianizing men, it will both Christianize men and as a consequence, it will civilize them.

It is the same old story all the time. If you take the things that God has given for the most supreme purpose that could be mentioned or thought of and use them for another purpose, you will miss the purpose for which you use it; while if you will use them solely for the purpose for which God gave them, then you find that purpose accomplished, and you get all the blessed fruits of that and also all those other things in addition. The Bible is full of illustrations of this principle, but it is all summed up in this word, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

Therefore Christians are not to aim at civilizing men but solely at Christianizing them, and then the civilizing will take care of itself. Christians are not to seek to civilize men in order to Christianize them. The Christian seeks to Christianize people in order to save them. And I say again, these National Reformers, in working for what they call the advancement of civilization, in the interests of civilization, trying to have the state connect with the church, are simply working for the ruin of civilization that is already here. This effort will end only in turning the elements of civility, even as far as they are, into the most savage deviltry, in the image of the beast.

Then we are never to allow ourselves to be deceived by any such argument as that. Point out the fact and show by holding steadfast to the straight up and down line, heaven high, between the church and the state, that the church of Jesus Christ--Jesus Christ working in the world by all members of his body, which is the church, for the Christianizing of men, for their salvation.

Teach all, that with the church devoting all her powers, all her mind, and all her strength, to that one thing, she will influence the world and nations and kingdoms--I was going to say, infinitely more than she will the other way, but she will not influence them at all the other way for good. In this way she will influence them only for good, whereas to go a hair's breadth awry from that only turns the influence which would be for good into nothing but that which is bad.

The one is Christ, the other is antichrist. The work of the church, the aim of Christianity, is not civilization but salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus alone.