The Nature and Calling of Free Grace

Written by J.C. Philpot

I admire and love the grace of God; and the longer I live, the more do I love and admire it.

My sins, my corruptions, my infirmities make me feel my deep and daily need of it; and as its freeness, fulness, suitability and inexpressible blessedness are more and more opened up to my heart and conscience, so do I more and more cleave to and delight in it. What, in fact, is there which you can substitute for it?

I assume that you have some concern about religion; that the solemn realities of eternity press with more or less weight on your conscience, and that you are awakened to see the evil of sin and your own evil case as sinners. I speak not to stocks and stones; I speak to you who desire to fear God and to have your hearts right before Him. If you have no concern about the salvation of your soul, you will love many things far beyond free grace. Money, dress, amusements, the pleasures that present themselves on every side, though hollow as the tomb and vain as a drunkard’s mirth, will so charm your mind and occupy your thoughts that Christ and His gospel will have no place in your conscience. But if you have any anxiety about your eternal condition, and are brought to cry, “What shall I do to be saved?” then I ask you, what can you put in the place of free grace? Surely, you cannot be so foolish as to put your own works in its stead. Surely, you cannot be so ignorant of your ruined condition before God, and of what is revealed in the Scriptures of the way of salvation by the atoning blood of Jesus, as to substitute the words and works of man for the words and works of the God-Man?

You may doubt your own interest in His atoning blood; but you do not doubt that salvation is all of grace, and that if saved your soul can be saved by grace alone.

And why not YOU be saved? What countless trophies has grace already at the Redeemer’s feet! What hosts of ruined wretches, of souls sunk beyond all other help or hope, has free grace sought out, rescued from their destructions, plucked from the jaws of hell, and ransomed from the hand of him that was stronger than they, so that they have come and sung in the height of Zion, and flowed together to the goodness of the Lord!

Look at Paul. Where can we find among the sons of men a parallel to the great Apostle of the Gentiles? What a large capacity! What a powerful intellect he naturally possessed, but how subdued and subjugated it became by grace, and how devoted to the glory of God and the advancement of His Dear Son! How grace arrested him at Damascus’ gate, cast him down body and soul at the Redeemer’s feet, translated him from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and changed a bloodthirsty persecutor of the church of Christ into a minister and an apostle, the greatest ever seen. As such, what a deep humility, thorough disinterestedness, noble simplicity, godly zeal, unwearied labors distinguished him from first to last-a course of more than thirty years.

How in his inspired writings he pours, as it were, from his pen the richest streams of heavenly truth! With what clearness, power, and savor he describes and enforces the way of salvation through the blood shedding and obedience of the Son of God, the blessings of free grace, the glorious privileges of the saints, and the things that make for their happiness and holiness! How in every epistle it seems as if his pen could hardly drop a line without in some way setting forth the infinite grace, the boundless mercy, and unfathomable love of God, as displayed in the gift of His dear Son, and the blessings that flow to the church through His blood and love.

But look not at Paul only. View the jewels on every side that grace has set in the Redeemer’s crown out of the most depraved and abject materials! Who, for instance, were those Ephesians to whom Paul wrote that wonderful epistle? The most foolish and besotted of idolaters, so infatuated with their image which fell down from Jupiter-most probably some huge meteoric stone, that had fallen from the sky-that they spent two hours until they wearied out their throats with crying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians; ! men debased with every lust, ripe and ready for every crime. How rich, how marvelous the grace that changed worshippers of Diana into worshippers of Jehovah, brutal howlers into singers who made melody in their heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19), and magicians, full of curious arts and Satanic witchcraft, into saints built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets!

Now cannot the same grace, that did so much for them, do the same or similar things for us?

Is the nature of man now less vile, or is the grace of Christ now less full and free? Has the lapse of 1800 years raised man out of the depths of the Fall, eradicated sin from his constitution, cleansed the foul leprosy of his nature, and purified it into holiness? Let the thin sheet of decent morality and civilization be taken off the corpse, and here it lies in all its hideous ghastliness.

Human nature is still what it ever was dead in trespasses and sins. Or has time, which changes so many things on earth, changed things in heaven? Is not God the same gracious Father, Jesus the same compassionate Savior, the Holy Spirit the same heavenly Teacher? Is not the gospel the same glad tidings of salvation, and the power of the gospel the same to everyone that believeth? Then why should not we be blessed with the same spiritual blessings as the saints at Ephesus? Why may not the same Jesus be to us what He was to them, the same Spirit to do for us and in us what He did for and in them, and the same grace save and sanctify us which saved and sanctified them? Here and here alone is our strength, our help, our hope, our all.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Joseph Charles Philpot (1802 – 1869) was known as “The Seceder”. He resigned from the Church of England in 1835 and became a Strict & Particular Baptist. While with the Church of England he was a Fellow of Worchester College, Oxford. After becoming a Strict and Particular Baptist he became the Editor of the Gospel Standard magazine and served in that capacity for twenty years.

Educated at Oxford University, he was elected a fellow of Worcester College, and appeared to have a brilliant scholastic career before him. But he was brought into solemn concern spiritually and the Lord led him into the ministry. He first preached in the Established Church at Stadhampton (Oxfordshire). In 1835, however, he was constrained, for the truth’s sake, to sever his connection with the Church of England and to resign his curacy and his fellowship. The letter to the provost stating his reasons was published and went into several editions.

The same year, he was baptized by John Warburton at Allington (Wilts). The rest of his life was spent ministering among the Strict Baptists. For 26 years, he held a joint pastorate at Stamford (Lines) and Oakham (Rutland). In addition for over twenty years, he was editor of “The Gospel Standard”, where many of his sermons first appeared.

–Theopedia

Regeneration through the Blood of Jesus

Taken and adapted from, The Blood of Jesus
Written by, William Reid, 1814-1896.

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Necessity of Regeneration

Jesus spoke of regeneration as being essential to salvation, and it is possible you may feel as if that this experience stands between you and the “precious blood of Christ ” (1 Peter 1:19). It seems as if it does, but it really does not—for we are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is “shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6).

It can do you only good to consider the necessity of being born again, for it will show you at once your utter helplessness and the all-sufficiency of the blood of Jesus alone to give you peace with God and a new heart.

We do not shrink from the fullest statement of the truth of Scripture on this point, for it will be found that it does not clash in the very least with the truth, which I am specially desirous to impart, that we are not accepted as righteous in God’s sight otherwise than in Christ; for, says the Word, “He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The necessity of being born again will show us only the more clearly that we must be saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Turn to and read the third chapter of the Gospel by John, and then ponder the following thoughts on this vitally important subject and see how you are stripped of every plea for mercy arising from yourself, and laid down as a lost sinner at the cross of Christ, needing to be saved by “grace” alone.

Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, asserts the absolute necessity of regeneration when He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). And farther on He says, as solemnly and decidedly, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). He gives a fact as the reason of this necessity: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). “Flesh” or corrupt human nature—man as he is—is unfit to enter God’s kingdom, and will ever continue so. No self-regeneration is to be expected. The total depravity of human nature renders a radical spiritual change of absolute necessity. The whole race, and every individual “man,” is utterly depraved in heart, his will averse from good; his conscience is defiled, his understanding is darkened, his affections are alienated from God and set upon unworthy objects, his desires are corrupt, his appetites ungoverned. Unless the Holy Spirit impart a new nature, and work an entire change on the whole faculties of his mind by “the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:26), cleansing away his filthiness of spirit as water cleanses away outward defilement, he must remain an unfit subject for God’s holy kingdom.

Our Depravity

And observe that Jesus spoke of two classes only—those who are “fleshy” and those who are “spiritual.” We are naturally connected, as are all mankind, with those who are “born of the flesh,” who, on that very account, cannot even so much as “see the kingdom of God”—and we can get out of our natural state only by a spiritual birth, for only “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). All of us being born of parents who were themselves fallen and corrupt, are necessarily infected by the hereditary taint of depravity of nature. Besides, “the carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8), and cannot enter into His kingdom.

Attempts at morality are of no account with God.

A moral Nicodemus was told he required something deeper and more comprehensive than conformity to a certain standard that passes with the world for morality (John 3). God’s standard of holiness is not morality, but spirituality.

But some may say that, by publishing such extreme views, we may make many well-meaning persons feel disgusted at religion, and go off from it altogether. But it is not our fault if they do so on account of the insufferableness of divine truth. Are you convinced that Scripture is right when it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9)? Do you believe that, as a man in the flesh, you are more like Satan than God?—incapable of knowing, loving, or serving God, and, although in reputation for the highest morality, utterly unfit for entering into His holy kingdom?

It is, no doubt, hard to believe that one’s own self is so bad as I have indicated, and none but the Holy Spirit can truly convince us of it; but does not Jesus represent our condition as utterly depraved, as “flesh”? Does He not solemnly say that, without a new birth from above, not one—no, not even a moral, learned, inquiring Nicodemus—can see or enter the kingdom of God? He does not say that he may not, but that he cannot enter—leaving it to be inferred that it is morally impossible.

And this arises from the fact of its being a kingdom, as well as from the fact of our depravity. An anarchist has a decided dislike to constitutional and settled government; so a man, who hates the laws by which God’s kingdom is governed, cannot be a loyal subject of His holy administration. God would require to change His nature before He admitted any of us into His kingdom with our nature unchanged. But as God cannot change, we must be changed if we would see or enter His kingdom. Before we can be happy and loyal subjects of it, we must be “born again”; and, being new creatures, have its laws written in our minds and hearts. “It is a principle of our nature that, in order to happiness, there must be some correspondence betwixt the tastes, the dispositions, the habits of a man, and the scene in which he is placed, the society with which he mingles, and the services in which he is employed.

A coward on the field of battle, a profligate in the house of prayer, a giddy worldling standing by a death-bed, a drunkard in the company of holy men, feel instinctively that they are misplaced—they have no enjoyment there.”

And what enjoyment could unregenerate men have in God’s kingdom, on earth or in heaven? Even the outward services of the sanctuary below are distasteful to them in proportion to their spirituality. As long as preachers keep by the pictorial and illustrative—and speak of the seasons of the year, the beautiful earth and the ancient sea, mountains and plains, rivers and lakes; fields, flowers and fruits; sun, moon, and stars—they comprehend the discourse and applaud it. But when the deeply spiritual and eternally important form the theme, they feel listless, and characterize it as dull, prosy, and uninteresting. But if we cannot enjoy a highly spiritual discourse, it must be because we are “carnal” and want the spiritual “sense” that always accompanies the new birth; for “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Being Made New

And is it not an alarming truth that this being “born again” is not a making of ourselves better, but a being made anew spiritually by God Himself! This appears evident from what Jesus said during His conversation with Nicodemus. His words are these, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This great change is effected by the Holy Spirit, through means of the living “water” of the Word of God—the testimony of Jesus—and is of a spiritual nature, “for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It consists not in outward reformation, but inward transformation. We must be regenerated in soul in order to be truly reformed in life. The change is of such a nature that it is sure to be manifested outwardly if it exists inwardly. If you wish to have a holy life, you must be born again. Praying, weeping, striving against sin, and obeying God’s laws, is just so much labor lost unless you have in the first place this “born-again” experience.

Through Christ

Ah! but you say, as you read this hard saying, “This lays me entirely prostrate before God, a sick and dying sinner; and I may give myself up to despair at once, for such an experience is utterly beyond my reach.” No, not at all! You may well despair of self, for self is incurably bad, but you are by this shut up to trust in “Jesus only” (Mark 9:8). For remember, Jesus continued to lay before this Jewish ruler atonement through Himself, lifted up as a Mediator and God’s free love to a perishing world, embodied in the gift and work of His Son. You want to be born again? Well, Jesus would have you look to the Son of man lifted up, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-9), and you will thus be pardoned and made to live. You say you are prostrated and helpless, with the poison of the serpent coursing through you, sick and dying—and you want to live, to experience such a new life as shall prove not only a present counteractive to the virus of this terrible death-poison, but also an enduring spiritual reality? Well, Jesus says, in this conversation with the inquiring ruler, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God sent His Son not to condemn the perishing men of the world to lie in their corrupt and diseased condition and to perish forever, but that He Himself might die that they might be pardoned and saved! 

And those who are recovered from the disease of corruption, tell us that they were “born again” not by lying in their corruption and crying for a new nature, and expecting it to come in some arbitrary and different way from that of faith; but their uniform testimony is, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (James 1:18). We are new creatures, “being born again by the word of God” (1 Peter 1:23); and “whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1).

The realization of regeneration being by faith in Jesus, you must fill your eyes with the atoning cross if you would have your guilt removed, and you must direct your eyes to the risen Living One at the right hand of God; and through Him get out of the old creation with its condemnation and death, into the new creation with its justification and life, if you would know what it is to be “born again” and have your heart filled with divine life (see Rom 6 and Ephesians 2). This is the truth that Jesus taught in His conversation with Nicodemus; and the whole drift of the Gospel in which it occurs is a copy of the mind of Christ on this point—for the writer says, towards its close, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

If you still feel that you know nothing of being “born again,” bring your mind into broad and immediate contact with the whole of this conversation. Do not moan over the misery of your state, as it is now discovered to you by the awakening truths contained in John 3:3-9; but go on until you take in the discovery of the plain, gracious, free, and righteous way of getting out of your death and misery, as you have it laid down by Jesus, when He speaks (from John 3:14-17) of His own all-sufficient sacrifice, His Father’s unexampled love and gracious purpose towards perishing sinners, and His willingness to save and give eternal life to everyone who believes in Him. “He that hath the Son hath life”(1 John 5:12).

The Natural Man, and the Offensive Doctrine of Regeneration

Taken and adapted from, “Regeneration”
Written by William Anderson,
Published 1875

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There is no other doctrine in the whole compass of our faith so offensive to the unbeliever and formalist,

…and which they have assailed so virulently with their mockery and scorn, as the doctrine of Regeneration.

There are to be found some with whom the doctrine of Christ’s sacrificial Atonement obtains sufferance and a show of respect, who yet observe no measure in their abusive treatment of the doctrine of the renovating agency of the Holy Ghost. The natural heart has substantial reasons for making this difference: first, a partial acknowledgment of sinfulness –such a qualified confession as may consist with a considerable degree of conceit and self-importance, is sufficient for a kind of belief in the propriety of the divine government being vindicated by a substitute’s endurance of the penalty; especially when account is taken of the accumulated guilt of the whole world. But no such partial acknowledgments will satisfy the doctrine of Regeneration. It demands the most prostrate and unreserved confession of a personal and thorough depravity of the heart; and this so virulent, that no power less than divine can rectify it. The doctrine of Regeneration is thus a more humiliating one than that of Atonement, and consequently more offensive to the pride of the natural man.

Secondly, it inculcates holiness of life with greater force. With much cogency, indeed, does the doctrine of our Lord’s substitutionary Expiation of sin make its appeal on behalf of righteousness; when it pleads with the pardoned criminal, that he is not his own, but bought with a price,and bound by all ties, not only of gratitude and generosity, but of equity and justice, to live no more to himself, but for the honour of Him who died for his redemption, and who, having risen again from the dead, waits on his throne for this reward of the travail of his soul. (2 Cor. 5:14, 15.) In this case, however, the pardoned one’s obedience is rather a consequence than a principle of the doctrine –rather a corollary or inference than the primary demonstration: and many there be who affect to hold by the demonstration who object to being held by the inference.

On the other hand, in the case of the doctrine of Regeneration, there is no possibility of escape. The lesson of personal holiness is taught by it directly and immediately, without any circuitous deduction. Holiness is the very essence of the doctrine. We can imagine subsequent obedience separated from Atonement, but we cannot imagine it separated from Regeneration. Logically, there is nothing inconsistent in the supposition that after a man is pardoned he should proceed in a course of wickedness; but it is a contradiction in terms to speak of a regenerated man continuing impure and disobedient. It is thus that the doctrine of Regeneration, through inculcating practical holiness more forcibly than the kindred one of Atonement, is more distasteful to the natural heart.

Nor is this all: I remark, thirdly, that the doctrine of Atonement may be entertained in some measure by a heart which has no desire for any nearness of intercourse with God. The sacrifice of Christ manifests the Deity at work only at the distance of a remote antiquity and in a foreign land; or, at nearest, as working separate from, and only by the side of, the sinner. But the doctrine of Regeneration reveals Him at work at the present day, in close contact with its object, yea, in the innermost chamber of his soul. Is it anywise surprising that, from such a doctrine as this,t he natural enmity of the heart should shrink with fear and abhorrence?

Therefore, observe that, though it be so far well if you find your hearts entertaining with sentiments of satisfaction the doctrine of Christ’s having died for the remission of sin, yet is the requisite examination far from being complete.

It is comparatively an easy trial through which you have passed, and a more searching one awaits you: How are you affected by the doctrine of the regenerating and sanctifying operation of the Holy Ghost? Not before you have found the state of matters satisfactory in this, as well as in the other direction, are you warranted to pronounce on yourselves a favorable judgment.

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Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage:  William Anderson, LL.D. (1799–1873) was a Scottish theological writer and preacher.

Anderson was born on 6 January 1799, at Kilsyth, near Glasgow, where his father, Rev. John Anderson, was minister of a congregation of what was then called theRelief church, afterwards merged in the United Presbyterian. William Anderson became a minister in the same communion, having been ordained in 1822 pastor of the congregation in John Street, Glasgow, an office which he held till his death, though for some years he had retired from its more active duties. Very early in his career Dr. Anderson manifested an eccentricity which procured for him the sobriquet of ‘daft Willie Anderson.’ He showed much resolution in his early youth in insisting on his right to read his discourses in the pulpit from manuscript, and in his vindication of the use of the organ in public worship.

As a preacher he was popular, but his powers were more forcibly displayed on public platforms. He was an uncompromising opponent of slavery, an enthusiastic supporter of oppressed nationalities, an eager advocate of political reforms in the interest of the people, and a cordial supporter of liberal measures generally. He was likewise a strenuous advocate for the separation of church and state. On one occasion in London, in pleading the anti-slavery cause, he appeared on the same platform with Daniel O’Connell, and made so favourable an impression that O’Connell and the audience urged him to continue his speech when the time allotted to him came to an end.

Dr. Anderson was a great favourite with the community of Glasgow, and, in a sense, held a similar position to that of Dr. Chalmers before him, and that of Dr. Norman Macleod after him. He encouraged independence of thought and action, and had no was a strenuous opponent of the Church of Rome. He was a strong millennarian, and in early life had come under the influence of Edward Irving and Mr. Cunninghame of Lainshaw.

On the necessity of regeneration, and the impossibility of salvation without it

Excerpt taken and Adapted from, “The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit”
Written by James Buchanan

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‘Except a man be born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

–John 3:3

In affirming the necessity of regeneration, and the impossibility of salvation without it, our Lord proceeds on the supposition, that in our natural state we are fallen and depraved, a supposition which is uniformly assumed in Scripture, and abundantly verified by experience and observation.

It is implied in our Lord’s words, for unconverted men are there spoken of as being out of the kingdom of God, and incapable of entering into it unless they be born again; and it is clearly stated in the 6th verse: ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ In this comprehensive sentence, he places in vivid contrast the two great classes into which all men are divided in Scripture, I mean the regenerate and the unregenerate; but he does so in such a way as to intimate that all men belong naturally to the same class, and that if any have been restored, it was by their being born again. When he speaks of the flesh, he does not refer to the body, but to the soul; for, although the term is sometimes used to denote our corporeal frame, as when the apostle speaks of his ‘living or abiding in the flesh,’ it is more frequently, and always when contra-distinguished as it is here from the Spirit, employed to denote our whole nature, as naturally fallen and yet unrenewed; as when the apostle says, ‘So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God; but ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.’ In this sense it corresponds to the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,’ and to the natural man, which receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;’ and is distinguished from the ‘new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’

Hence we read of ‘sinful flesh,’ and ‘the fleshly mind,’ of which it is said that the ‘carnal mind is enmity against God.’ When he says, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh,’ he intimates that every human being, as he is born of the flesh or of fallen parents, is himself flesh, fallen, corrupted, and depraved; that is his natural state, his state as he is born, and in which he remains until he is born again; so that every man, without any exception, may say with David, ‘Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.’ And when he adds, ‘That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,’ he intimates, indeed, that there are now two classes of men in the world, the one natural, the other spiritual, the one regenerate, the other unregenerate; but that this arises not from any original difference, still less from any spontaneous separation, but from a change which has been wrought on some, while the rest remain as they were, a change which is directly ascribed to the regenerating grace of the Spirit of God. But naturally all belong to the same class and partake of the same character; and although there may be, and doubtless there are, manifold diversities of disposition and innumerable degrees of guilt among unconverted men, yet in the one, the only point of essential importance, ‘there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’

Such is the supposition on which our Lord’s statement rests, the supposition of the universally fallen and corrupted state of human nature; and did we really believe this truth, did we receive it in its full scriptural import, and in its application to our own souls individually, we should have little difficulty in perceiving the necessity of a great spiritual change, and the impossibility of our being saved without being born again.

But this doctrine of natural depravity, although uniformly assumed in the Bible, and frequently asserted in express terms, and abundantly verified by the experience of our own hearts, as well as by the universal history of the world, is so offensive and alarming to every unconverted man, that he is prone, if not to deny its general truth, at least to mitigate and soften its meaning, in so far as it applies to his own case; and hence many a one who admits in general terms, because he cannot decently deny, that he is a sinner, shows by his whole spirit and conversation that he has no idea of what is implied in this confession, and no heartfelt conviction that he needs to be born again. He admits that he has some imperfections, some natural frailties, some human infirmities; he may even charge himself with a few occasional delinquencies, with the omission or careless discharge of duty, and perhaps with certain acts of positive transgression. But while he admits his imperfection to this extent, he is unwilling to believe that he is so utterly fallen as to be unable to restore himself, or to stand in need of so great a change as is implied in being ‘born again!’

Hence, when his conscience is at any time impressed, he thinks of nothing more than a mere outward reformation, a little more attention to duty, a little more circumspection in his ordinary conduct; and thus ‘cleansing the outside of the cup and platter,’ he looks for acceptance with God, and admission into his kingdom, although, inwardly, no change has been wrought, none that can, even in his own estimation, correspond with, or deserve to be called, a new spiritual birth. If any such shall read these lines, it should be a very solemn reflection to them, that the Lord Jesus, when he spake to a self-righteous Pharisee, a master in Israel, made no account of his exterior decency, but insisted on the necessity of his being born again; and that, too, in terms which declare that this necessity is alike absolute and universal, there being no man of whom it is not true, that he must be converted or condemned. If you imagine, then, that you may enter into the kingdom in some other way, and that you have no need to undergo that great preparatory change, I beseech you to remember that the Lord Jesus is of a different mind, that he makes no exception in your behalf, but affirms, without qualification or reserve, that ‘except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ That solemn statement rests on the fact of our universal depravity; and even were it more difficult than it is to discover the grounds and reasons on which it is founded, such a declaration, coming from him who is at once the only Saviour and the unerring judge, should impress our minds with the conviction, that the matter is finally settled and determined by an authority which no power in heaven or on earth can challenge or resist. His authority in this matter is supreme, and one distinct statement of his will should be received as a final and irreversible decision; but the same testimony is often repeated, and in great variety of language. At one time he tells you, ‘Except you repent, ye shall all likewise perish;’ at another, ‘If ye believe not, ye shall die in your sins;’ at a third, ‘Unless ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God.’ But in his words to Nicodemus there is a remarkable peculiarity; he does not merely declare that no unregenerate man shall be admitted; he affirms that he cannot – that it is impossible he should be; and it is to the grounds on which this impossibility is affirmed that I now proceed to speak.

In the Scriptures, we read of some things that are impossible with men, but which are not impossible with God; and of other things that are impossible both with God and man. Some things that are impossible with men are possible with God, and to these the angel referred, when he said to Mary, ‘With God nothing shall be impossible;’ and our Lord himself when he said to the disciples, ‘With God all things are possible.’ But while, in respect to any mere natural difficulty, God’s almighty power is more than sufficient to overcome it, there are certain things which may be said to be impossible with God himself – not from any defect of power on his part, but from their repugnance to his essential attributes, and their opposition to his unchangeable will. Hence we read, that ‘it is impossible for God to lie,’ that he ‘cannot deny himself,’ and that ‘without faith it is impossible to please him,’ the things supposed being in their own nature contrary to the essential character of God, so that he cannot be as he is – he must cease to be God before these things can come to pass. It will be found, that to this class of moral impossibilities, the salvation of an unregenerate man belongs.

There is a very remarkable difference betwixt the statement of our Lord to Nicodemus, and the deliverance, which he pronounced on another case of great difficulty. In reference to rich men, and the difficulty of their entrance into the kingdom, he had said, when the young man mentioned in the gospel ‘went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions,’ ‘I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven: and again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than fora rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ But when the disciples said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ he answered, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,’ thereby intimating, that although naturally impossible, by reason of the manifold obstructions with which a rich man has to contend, it was not impossible for him to remove these obstructions, nor anywise inconsistent with his character to put forth his power for that end; and accordingly, although ‘not many rich and not many noble are called,’ yet some in every age have been converted, and made signal monuments of the efficacy of his grace.

But mark the difference when he speaks of an unregenerate man; he does not say that his entrance into the kingdom, although impossible with men, is possible with God; but he pronounces absolutely, that remaining in that condition, he cannot see the kingdom of God, thereby representing it as one of those things which are impossible with God himself, and which would be alike inconsistent with his declared will, opposed to the essential perfections of his nature, and subversive of the unchangeable principles of his government.

It is possible, indeed, – oh! it is very possible – that an unconverted man may be converted, that an unregenerate man may be renewed, for this, so far from being opposed to God’s will, or character, or government, is in unison with them all, and a fit object for the interposition of his grace and power; but that a sinner remaining unconverted should be saved, that a man ‘born of the flesh’ should enter the kingdom without being ‘born again’ of the Spirit, – this is an impossibility, and must be so, so long as God is God. That it is so will appear from the following considerations.

No unregenerate man can see the kingdom of God, because it is impossible for God himself to do what implies a manifest contradiction; and there is a manifest contradiction in the idea that a fleshly mind can, without any radical change of character, become a subject of God’s spiritual kingdom. The expression here used to denote the state of safety and happiness into which God brings his people is deeply significant and instructive. It is not spoken of, you will observe, as a state of mere safety – mere exemption from punishment, or immunity from wrath – but as a kingdom, a kingdom in which they are safe, because they are protected by his almighty power, and happy, because they are cherished by his infinite love, but still a kingdom, in which, besides being safe and happy, they are placed under rule and government, and expected to yield submission and service, as his obedient subjects.

And so is it with every one who really enters that kingdom, whether on earth or in heaven; he cannot so much as enter into the outer sanctuary here, and far less obtain admission into the holy place there, without laying down at its threshold the weapons of rebellion, and returning to his allegiance and duty. There is indeed an external kingdom of grace in which many an unregenerate man may be placed; but the true spiritual kingdom is ‘not in word but in power.’ ‘The kingdom of God,’ says Christ himself, ‘is within you;’ and, says the apostle, ‘The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ It mainly consists in the setting up of God’s throne in the sinner’s heart, subduing his will to God’s authority, and winning over his affections to God’s service; and to say that any man remaining in an unregenerate state can be a member of that kingdom, were to affirm that he might be at one and the same time both an alien and a citizen, a friend and an enemy, alive and dead. Everyone must see, that if, when God saves men, he brings them into his kingdom, and places them under his own holy government, it is impossible, in the very nature of things, that they can enter it without undergoing a great change; and in this light, there is a self-evident truth and certainty in the words of our Lord, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

No unregenerate man can see the kingdom of God, because it is impossible for God to lie; and he has expressly said, nay he has sworn, that we must be converted or condemned. ‘The word of the Lord endureth for ever.’ ‘Heaven and earth may pass away, but one jot or tittle of that word shall not fail.’ ‘God is not a man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

It is very true that we read in Scripture of many occasions on which his ‘repentings were kindled together,’ and he refrained from the execution of his threatened judgments; but if we consider these cases we shall find that they are perfectly consistent with the general doctrine, that he can neither change, nor lie, nor repent, so as to leave his word unfulfilled, or to depart from the principles of his righteous government; and that they afford no ground of hope to an unconverted sinner that he may enter into the kingdom without being born again.

God is said to repent when, in consequence of the repentance of his people, his dispensations towards them are changed; but this change in his dealings with them is only a consistent and suitable manifestation of the unchangeable and eternal principles on which he conducts his holy administration.

Thus, when Rehoboam ‘forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him,’ the king of Egypt was sent up to Jerusalem with his army to chasten them: and ‘the Lord said, Ye have forsaken me, therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak. Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The Lord is righteous. And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance.’ Again, when wicked Ahab, of whom it is said, ‘There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord,’ ‘rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly: the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.’ And when the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and proclaimed a fast, saying, ‘Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?, ‘God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not.’

These, and many other instances which might be mentioned, are so many proofs of the precious doctrine, that, under the scheme of grace and redemption, it is perfectly consistent with the truth and faithfulness of God, and the unchangeable principles of his government, to refrain from the infliction of threatened judgments, when ‘the sinner forsakes his way, and returns unto the Lord;’ but they afford no evidence that a man may be saved without being changed, or that God’s threatenings against the impenitent will not be carried into effect. He will repent of the evil only when we repent of the sin; for otherwise, he must falsify his word, and act in direct violation of those eternal principles which make it ‘impossible for God to lie.’

No unregenerate man can see the kingdom of God, because it is impossible for God to ‘deny himself,’ or to act in manifest opposition to the infinite perfections of his own nature, in order to save those from suffering who obstinately remain in a state of sin. ‘If we believe not,’ says the apostle, ‘God abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.’ Even were God’s determination in this matter purely arbitrary, yet being framed by his omniscient wisdom, sanctioned by his supreme authority, supported by his almighty power, and declared by his unchangeable truth, it should command our reverential attention; but it is not arbitrary; it flows, like every other part of his counsel or procedure, from the essential and immutable attributes of his divine nature. There are some things that cannot be otherwise while God is God, and this is one of them: he cannot admit an unregenerate man into his kingdom, for this were to ‘deny himself,’ and to act in direct opposition to every principle which regulates his procedure as the Governor of the world.

The supposition that a sinful man may enter into his kingdom without being born again implies that God must deny himself in three respects: that he must rescind the law of his moral government; that he must depart from his declared design in the scheme of redemption itself; and, that he must reverse the moral constitution of man, or, in other words, alter the whole character of his kingdom.

Jenny Geddes War: A Young Christian’s Struggle to Find Christ in War, and Guthrie’s Glorious Final Hour. Part 5

painting1

About a year before Guthrie left Lauder…

…Livingston came to Ancrum. This proved a great benefit to the young Christian, Pringle, who found in him a minister after his own heart, and one well able to deepen and enforce he impressions of divine things he had already begun to feel. Livingston, in addition to his more substantial gifts, had the gracious manner of the Court, where indeed he had often been, and commanded respect alike by his birth, his breeding, his intellect, and his piety. His manner of preaching Pringle found very impressive, as that of one who had seen the glory of God in some divine vision, and who spoke out of that hidden knowledge things which himself had both seen and heard. The young laird traveled from Stitchel to Ancrum every Sabbath-day, thinking the pains of his journey well spent for the sake of such company and privilege.

In his Memoirs, from which most of these particulars are derived, Pringle speaks of an event which gave him much concern, and made Livingston’s advice peculiarly valuable to him. He had been engaged at the fatal field of Dunbar, where he took such a prominent part that it became unsafe for him to remain in his own house while Cromwell and the English army occupied Scotland. He accordingly fixed his dwelling at Torwoodlee, paying visits to his wife and family at Stitchel as he found opportunity. It thus happened that returning thence one night in his brother-in-law’s company, he met one of the enemy’s troopers, who attacked him very fiercely. Pringle stood on his defense, and, proving the better swordsman, killed his opponent out of hand, –the man asking no quarter, and it being impossible to get any prisoners carried thence to the army in the north while the Lothians were held by the English.

This violent action, however necessary and justifiable, left him under serious apprehensions. He now reflected more than ever on the sins of his past life,and so nearly fell into a settled melancholy that it was a matter of the greatest moment to him, and one on which he ever afterwards reflected with thankfulness that he now had the guidance and help of his new spiritual teacher to save him from despair. Under the winning and able ministry of Livingston his unquiet spirit found peace, and henceforth the bond which united him to his chosen pastor was one of the closest and most enduring kind. It is singular, indeed, to remark the number and quality of the natures over which the minister of Ancrum exercised this commanding influence. He owed his preeminence to the art he had of bringing men to a greater Leader, even to Jesus, Whom he himself constantly owned and obeyed. His influence was perhaps the highest of that time in our country, and may be clearly traced in not a few of the events which followed.

It might have been supposed that the part which Pringle played at Dunbar, and in his midnight rencontre, vouched for by the fact that his family had paid a hundred pounds as indemnity for the trooper’s death, should have saved this tender-hearted, brave, and loyal gentleman from the sufferings endured by so many of his rank on the king’s return. On the contrary, however, he was marked out as one of the first victims, being cast into the castle of Edinburgh on the 26th of September 1660, where he lay for fifteen days in the company of Sir Andrew Ker of Queenhead. The charge on which the Committee of Estates proceeded against these gentlemen was that of ”aiding ,assisting, and partaking with the remonstrators and seditious persons”: so close a correspondence had Pringle kept with Livingston, and so soon was he made to suffer for that friendship. Two years later he shared the general losses of his party, being fined 3000 Pounds by Middleton’s Parliament.

Most of those whom the Committee of Estates had laid in prison on the 23rd of August were in a few weeks; but their leader, Mr James Guthrie, remained still in confinement, being reserved as an example to the rest. He had indeed, like Pringle, been a sufferer for his loyalty to the king,” the Commonwealth quartering soldiers upon him for some time in Stirling, because of the uncompromising way in which he upheld the cause of the monarchy. This, however, did not suffice to save him from the malice of his enemies. Middleton was now in power as the Royal Commissioner in Scotland, and Middleton had never forgotten that his excommunication of ten years before had been pronounced by the minister of Stirling. He perceived that the time was now come to execute his long cherished purpose.

On the 20th of February 1661, Guthrie stood at the bar of the Estates to answer a charge of treason involving capital pains. It is significant that of the five articles in the indictment four refer to affairs of ten years before,when Middleton himself was so highly concerned in what took place. Guthrie was accused of venting treasonable matter tending to the strengthening of the usurper Cromwell, and the confusion of His Majesty’s cause, a charge so utterly contrary to the truth that nothing but malice could have suggested it.

He had, it was said, drawn up a paper called the “Remonstrance”; he had followed it by another publication of the same kind in “The Causes of God’s wrath,” which appeared in 1638; he had contrived the petition lately drafted for presentation to the King, and had also presumed to design the calling together of the lieges in support of that paper: such were the main articles of the indictment. As it were by an afterthought, his declining the Civil Authority in 1651 was further alleged against him; and, to render the prisoner more odious in the eyes of his judges, the extraordinary assertion was made, that in 1660, or the following year, he had moved in a meeting of ministers that the King should be secured in the castle of Stirling,and that, upon the objection being offered that to do so were as good as to take away His Majesty’s life, Guthrie had answered that the time for that was not yet ripe, but that imprisonment might be a step to that conclusion.

To the first and last particulars of the charge the accused gave an absolute denial: he had not composed the remonstrance, nor had he spoken a word against the King’s life or liberty. It is unnecessary to speak of the rest of his defenses in detail. They were very able, for not only had he the help of good counsel, but himself showed such knowledge of the law and acuteness in applying it as to make his advocates wonder.

In another place, or at another time, no doubt, he would have been absolved, but in the Court where Middleton presided his death was already determined on. The King, it is said, would have spared Guthrie, and expressed some resentment at his doom, but the High Commissioner was of another mind, and pushed affairs relentlessly to the end he had designed.

When sentence came to be pronounced in the Estates, many rose and left rather than record their votes against such a man, or become accessory to his death. Lord Tweeddale ventured to move for a sentence of banishment, a measure of favor to the prisoner which was taken notice of and represented to his Lordship’s disadvantage with the King. This was overruled, however, and doom was voted in the harshest terms to which Middleton could secure the assent of the House. Guthrie had meanwhile waited without in great calmness, notwithstanding the confused crowd of soldiers, officers of the Courts and others among whom he was kept, and the critical posture of his own case. He was now recalled, and heard sentence of death pronounced against him. He said very simply in reply, “My Lords, let never this sentence affect you more than it does me, and let never my blood be required of the king’s family.”

A number of affecting circumstances occurred during the prisoner’s last days. He was led back from the Court to his place of confinement in the Tolbooth, and, as the time allowed him to prepare for death was short, he desired his secretary to draw up a fair copy of his dying testimony that it might be given to his son when he should become of age. His estate indeed was forfeited, and he had no other legacy to bequeath his children than the assurance thus given under his own hand that he had died a faithful Covenanter and Martyr for the Truth. When this was done, and the paper signed, taking his boy on his knee, he said “Willie, they will tell you and cast up to you that your father was hanged, but think not shame of it, for it is in a good cause.”

The sentence further ordered Guthrie’s coat-of-arms to be defaced. In humble submission to this indignity, he sealed his testimony twice, turning the seal, so that the impression of the coat was lost, and that of the cross appeared instead. “I have nothing more to do with coats-of-arms,” he said.

One more act of humility remained to be performed. His birth, which was noble, conferred on him, at least by prescription, the right to die as the Marquis of Argyll presently did, by the axe and not by the cord. His sentence, however, condemned him to the gallows instead of the block. Speaking to his wife of this extraordinary severity, he took occasion to glory in it. “Argyll,” he said, “is to be beheaded, but I am to die on a tree, as Christ did.”

It was indeed this thought of conformity to the sufferings of Christ, never absent from his mind, and sometimes rising to the pitch of a longing he thought sinful,which now returned in all its force to sustain Guthrie during the supreme hours of his life and martyrdom. He was uncommonly cheerful in prison, and received with unfailing courtesy the many visitors who came to bid him farewell. Rising early on the morning of his execution, he spent some hours in private devotion, after which he saw his wife for the last time, and bade her adieu.

The orders ran that his hands were to be bound as he went to the scaffold, but his infirmity of body made this pretended precaution not only ridiculous but impossible, and the cord was loosed so that he might have the use of his staff Bent with age, and weakened by months of prison and sickness, but filled with an inward peace which made his heart light, the martyr passed slowly down the few yards of causeway which separated the Tolbooth from the Cross. The High Street was densely thronged with people, and from the lofty windows on either hand, many looked out to see him die. He is said to have mounted the scaffold with such surprisingly lightness of foot, and bearing so bright a joy in his looks, that, to the apprehension of those who saw him, he seemed half-way to heaven already, a notion which the spirited words and manner of his dying testimony, now delivered,did much to increase and impress.

“I saw him suffer,” says Bishop Burnet; and adds, “He was so far from showing any fear, that he rather expressed a contempt of death. He spoke an hour upon the ladder, with the composedness of a man that was delivering a sermon rather than his last words.”

It was a great hour, and never, we may feel sure, either at Lauder or Stirling, had Guthrie addressed such a crowd, or spoken with so much conviction and power. His last words were heard as he was actually in the hangman’s hands, and fell upon his hearers with that power of surprise which is the supreme secret of effective speech. All eyes were bent upon the martyr, and every breath stilled in a silence which could be sensibly felt,when Guthrie, raising suddenly as in a rapture the napkin bound upon his face, broke that awful stillness with a cry of triumph, as of one who in the very article of a great agony had wrestled with God for a blessing and had prevailed.

“The Covenants,” he cried, “the Covenants shall yet be Scotland’s reviving,” and so passed to his incorruptible crown, leaving with his latest breath a testimony which Scotland was not soon to forget.

——————————————

Thoughts and excerpts taken and adapted from, “The Covenanters of the Merse”
Written by, James Wood Brown

Adventist Involvement With Nazi Germany, Part 3: The Not Very Apologetic Apology…

Church Leaders Say “We’re Sorry”
German and Austrian churches apologize for Holocaust actions
BY MARK A. KELLNER, assistant director for news and information of the General Conference Communication Departmentoting the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Seventh-day Adventist church leaders in Germany and Austria have released a declaration saying they “deeply regret” any participation in or support of Nazi activities during the war. The church bodies “honestly confess” a failure “in following our Lord” by not protecting Jews, and others, from that era’s genocide, widely known as the Holocaust. Millions of people perished from war atrocities, including more than 6 million Jews who were exterminated in Nazi persecutions during the 12-year period of 1933 to 1945.The declaration was initially published in the May 2005 issue of AdventEcho, a monthly German-language church magazine, and also will appear in other German publications, said Günther Machel, president of the South German Union Conference and one of three signatories to the statement.

A copy of the statement has been provided to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel, added Rolf Pöhler, a former North German church area president who is now that region’s theological advisor and was involved with the drafting of the declaration.

“We deeply regret that the character of National Socialist dictatorship had not been realized in time and distinctly enough, and the ungodly nature of [Nazi] ideology had not clearly been identified,” the statement, as translated from German, reads. The church says it also regrets “that in some of our publications . . . there were found articles glorifying Adolf Hitler and agreeing with the ideology of anti-Semitism in a way that is unbelievable from today’s [perspective].”

Church leaders also expressed regret that “our peoples became associated with racial fanaticism destroying the lives and freedom of 6 million Jews and representatives of minorities in all of Europe” and “that many Seventh-day Adventists did not share the need and suffering of their Jewish fellow-citizens.”

A paramount regret, the statement indicated, was that German and Austrian Adventist congregations “excluded, separated and left [church members who were] . . . of Jewish origin to themselves so that they were delivered to imprisonment, exile or death.”

Under various racial decrees, some Adventist congregations expelled members of Jewish heritage. One, Max-Israel Munk, was placed in two concentration camps by the Nazis and survived and returned to his church after the war. He said he did not wish to act toward his congregation in the way in which he had been treated, according to Daniel Heinz, a church archivist at Friedensau Adventist University who has studied Adventist activities during the National Socialist era.

Along with Machel, the other leaders who signed the statement were Klaus-Juergen van Treeck, North German Union Conference president, and Herbert Brugger, president of the Adventist Church in Austria. Pöhler and Johannes Hartlapp, church historian at Friedensau, drafted the statement on which the declaration is based. All three church geographic areas voted to approve the text, Pöhler said.

In the statement, the three assert that the “obedience we owe to the state authorities does not lead to giving up biblical convictions and values.” They said that while only God can judge the actions of prior generations, “in our day, however, we want to take a decided stand for right and justice-towards all people.”

Brugger, in a telephone interview, said, “Our church members really appreciated the publishing of this document.” No indication of a reaction from Austria’s Jewish community has been received, but Brugger said the Adventist Church is not as well known in Austria as some other movements are.

Asked how a church that considers keeping the Sabbath as one of its core beliefs could forsake Jewish Sabbath-keepers during a time of persecution, Brugger suggested that it was political, not theological, considerations that may have led to the strategy.

During World War I a portion of the German Adventist church had split off, opposing any military service. This led the National Socialists in 1936 to ban the so-called “Reform Movement” during their time in power. Brugger said concern over a Nazi closure of the main Adventist churches may have weighed on leaders in that era.

“I think during these times the official leaders of our church were afraid of losing the control over the church and losing the church because the political authorities had already . . . [confused] our church with the Reform movement,” he explained. “I think our leaders were afraid to lose the official recognition of our church, so therefore maybe they were not [as faithful] to our beliefs as would have been necessary.”

The main Seventh-day Adventist church in Germany was also briefly banned under the Nazis, notes Pöhler. A quick reversal by the regime led to relief among Adventists but also to a level of cooperation with the government that was unhealthy.

“We not only kept silent, but we also published things we never should have published. We published anti-Semitic ideas that, from our perspective, weren’t really needed,” Pöhler said in a telephone interview.

“We had to realize that one wrong statement, one wrong move by a person meant he could end up in a concentration camp,” Pöhler said of that era. “[That was the] reason why we excluded and disfellowshipped Jewish-born Adventists from our midst: If a local church had not done this, [the Nazis] would have closed the church, taken the elder to prison, and it would have meant the whole church would be forbidden.”

While some European Adventists took courageous stands to protect Jews, others went along in part because of concern for their families and churches. It would be difficult enough for an individual to reach out to a Jewish person, Pöhler explained, but to risk the lives of those in a congregation was an added burden. Such caution was even reflected in the nomenclature used by German Adventists, he said.

Daniel Heinz, director of church archives at the Adventist university in Friedensau, Germany, said his research into the stories of Adventists who helped Jews during the war led to his discovery of those who acted less honorably.
Resistance to Nazi policies, as well as the compassionate yet brave response of many Christians, among them Seventh-day Adventists, to protect lives of those under Nazi persecution, have been documented throughout Europe, including Poland, Hungary, Holland, and Denmark.

“I found some very impressive stories of Adventists who helped Jews in the Third Reich, risking their lives, and I found the opposite,” Heinz said. Among other church members, one Latvian Adventist family took in a Jewish man, hid him during the war, and survived. The refugee became an Adventist believer and church pastor after the war ended.
According to Machel, “Sixty years after World War II is late-but we saw it as the last chance for a declaration.”

Young adult church members reacted positively to the statement’s expressions of concern and contrition.

“To humbly reveal our sins and failures is the most important thing God wants us to do,” said Sara Gehler, 25. “And even though 60 years have already passed, I think it was necessary for us as [the Seventh-day Adventist] Church to take a stand on the Second World War.” She added, “It is our duty as Christians to protect and help those who are weak, helpless, and in need.”

Said John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Adventist world headquarters, “For those who believe in God’s love for every member of the human family, against any kind of discrimination based on race, religion, or gender, this declaration written by a generation which had no responsibility in the Holocaust and the war, but endorse the responsibility of their parents, will stand as a positive landmark and great encouragement.”



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Adventist Involvement With Nazi Germany, Part 2: The Brainwashing of the Children

Source material taken and adapted from
an unnamed article written by a
B. Skillet, August 2009.

nazi-child-image Adventists like to impugn other Christians for allegedly believing in “cheap grace”

They say that Christians merely use grace as an excuse to avoid keeping the Law. But there’s a funny thing about the term “cheap grace.” It entered the mainstream Christian lexicon in a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer said that, “cheap grace was grace divorced from discipleship.” It was a false grace that did not call the recipient to submission to Jesus Christ. It was forgiveness without repentance, a justification that didn’t lead to transformation.

Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship in 1937. It was, in a sense, an indirect response to the way the state churches had embraced Hitler and Nazism. They had consented to racial purity laws within their congregation, and generally supported and even worshiped Der Fuhrer. Bonhoeffer, in contrast, had already made himself a source of scorn when, two days after Hitler was installed as chancellor, he tried to deliver a radio address calling German Christians to oppose the Nazi regime. He thought Germany had succumbed to a horrible idolatry. He was right.

But the German state church wasn’t the only denomination that gave itself up to Nazi evil. Adventists like to criticize the Catholic church for its alleged complicity in the sins of Nazism. But they conveniently gloss over the fact that, though several private SDAs tried to help the Jews, the denomination itself, and most of its adherents, were an active supporter of Hitler’s regime.

Dr. Zdravko Plantak, one-time head of the religion department at the SDA Columbia Union College, wrote a book called The Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist Social Ethics. In it Plantak describes how the Adventist church became an active participant in the Nazi regime.

According to Plantak, Adventists schools embraced the Nazi brainwashing of children, incorporating Nazi symbols, nationalistic observances, and teachings into their curriculum. More, the President of the Seventh-day Adventist Eastern German Conference declared, “under no circumstances did any Adventist have the right to resist the government, even if the government prevented him from exercising his faith.

Adventist writings took on the call of Nazism with Der Adventbote; the official periodical of the German Seventh-day Adventist church, wrote that “the National Socialist Revolution was the greatest of all time, because it made the maintenance of a pure inheritance the basis of its ethnic life.”

In their Morning Watch Calendar, the German Adventists shamefully wrote:


Trust in his people has given the Führer the strength to carry through the fight for freedom and honour of Germany. The unshakable faith of Adolf Hitler allowed him to do great deeds, which decorate him today before the whole world. Selflessly and faithfully he has struggled for his people; courageously and proudly he has defended the honour of his nation. In Christian humility, at important times when he could celebrate with his people, he gave God in Heaven honour and recognized his dependence upon God’s blessings. This humility has made him great, and this greatness was the source of blessing, from which he always gave for his people. Only very few statesmen stand so brilliantly in the sun of a blessed life, and are so praised by their own people as our Führer. He has sacrificed much in the years of his struggle and has thought little about himself in the difficult work for his people. We compare the unnumbered words, which he has issued to the people from a warm heart, with seeds which have ripened and now carry wonderful fruit.


For those of you who don’t notice, the Calendar referenced Hitler’s sacrifices for “his struggle.” Hitler’s famous book that laid out his philosophy was called Mein Kampf, or, in English, My Struggle. Clearly, this is an open endorsement of Hitler’s philosphy by the German Adventists of the day.

Plantak continues:


It is ironic that while Adventists had insisted upon religious liberty, they did not raise a voice against the persecution of countless Jews. Instead, they even disfellowshipped those of Jewish background. At a time when German Adventists were publishing the religious liberty magazine Kirche und Staat [English: Church and State] (an outside observer noticed its primary purpose as being the opposition to the Sunday laws), they kept quiet about the 1933 purges when hundred were murdered, and they said nothing against the persecution of Jews or about the occupied territories.


Because Adolf Hitler let them keep their precious Sabbath, most Adventists didn’t oppose the Nazi Regime.

Corrie Schroder, student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote a seminar paper dealing with Adventist complicity in the holocaust.
Schroder details several interesting facts:

1) The official SDA church in Germany encouraged the Nazi government to investigate and ban the rival SDA Reform denomination because, in Schroder’s words, the views of that SDA splinter group were “were far from German.” So much for “religious liberty.”

2) In exchange for being allowed to keep their precious Sabbath, the German SDA church offered to help cultivate a better image for the Nazi regime among their counterparts in the United States. The SDA denomination sent Hulda Jost, head of their church welfare system and leader of the Adventist Nurses Association, to the U.S. to convince American Adventists to support the Nazi regime. Now, to the credit of American Adventists, when Hulda began touring the U.S. spouting Nazi propaganda, they basically told her to cut out the propagandizing.

3) Though Adventists claim to believe in “separation of church and state,” they allowed their well-organized welfare system to be taken over by the Nazi government. The Adventists actually welcomed this take over. And, without any pressure from the Nazi Regime, the Adventists required that no members of the SDA Reform movement were to benefit from its welfare program.

4) In welcoming the Nazi government’s take over of their welfare program, they also had to consent to the application of racial purity laws to their welfare system. As such, they agreed to give no help to “Jews, anti-socials or undesirables.”

5) The SDA church referred to the law requiring forced sterilization of the mentally ill the mentally disabled, epileptics, drug addicts, and alcoholics as, “a great advance in the uplifting of our people.”

6) Adventists saw fit to remove “Jewish words” from their denominational lexicon. They changed “Sabbath School” to “Bible School” and “Sabbath” to “Rest Day.”

7) German SDA leadership wrote, “The pastors and members of our Church stand loyally by their Volk and fatherland as well at its leadership, ready to sacrifice life and possessions.” Writes Schroder, They were willing to sacrifice their life and possessions for the fatherland, but they were unwilling to do the same for their religious beliefs.

Many German Christians supposed that, because they were under grace, they could compromise their integrity by winking at, or even taking part in, the sins of Nazism. Adventists, in contrast, believed that in order to maintain their Sabbath and the existence of their special remnant denomiation, they had to sacrifice everything else to the Nazi ideology.

So next time an Adventist starts to lecture you about “cheap grace,” give them this article.

Three Great Words of Jesus

The “Three Great Words of Jesus” were taken from the “British Monthly,” 1904.
Written by William Robertson Nicoll.

luz_mundo

The most careless reader of the Gospels…

…cannot miss the significance of such great events in the life of Jesus as the Baptism, the Transfiguration, and the Agony. Everyone knows them as the cardinal points in the story of the evangelists; everyone must have sought in them a key to our Lord’s purpose and work. But there are outstanding moments in His life of a more incidental kind,moments which have an interest all their own, because we see in them the sudden emotions of the Savior’s soul. At such times there is an abrupt and, if we may reverently say so, an unusual and startling grandeur in His words ; the thrill with which He saw and spoke of certain things vibrates across all the centuries, and we seem to know Him for an instant with peculiar reality.

One of these high moments was that in which He encountered the centurion, at whose faith He marveled. Unbelief excited His wonder, but it depressed Him and restrained His power; He could do no mighty works in presence of it, and it froze in a manner both His heart and His speech. But the unexpected faith of the centurion was a wonder which moved and exalted Jesus. As He looked upon the Gentile, whose faith had surpassed that of Israel,the air seemed to become clear and transparent around Him; the future broke in upon the present; the magnificent vision rose upon His mind of multitudes coming like this foreign soldier from the East and the West and the North and the South, and sitting down with the fathers of Israel in the Kingdom of God. The word in which He foretold this issue of His work is one of the most sublime and, w-hen we realize the access of feeling under which it was uttered, one of the most moving in the Gospel; it gives us a glimpse into the soul of Jesus of priceless worth. If anything is characteristic of Him, it is this,that He sees in a single instance not merely the possibilities of the individual soul, but something prophetic of God’s kingdom, and that His heart leaps up to hail the glorious outlook.

Despairing views of men and races are often based upon their circumstances, but this great word of Jesus reminds us that circumstances are not omnipotent. Underneath their constant pressure, let it be as malign as it may, as malign as that of paganism in the first century, the soul of man still lives “a soul made originally in God’s image” still in blind dark, striving-seeking God, and capable when it finds Him of immense devotion. The finding does not depend upon outward advantages, and when Jesus meets with faith in unexpected places, it is an unanticipated joy, and uplift seven His speech to a more poetic and prophetic tone. It is a great thing,and it acts with great power upon Him. It evokes the keenest and most triumphant emotion. And though one cannot exactly speak of Jesus as an example in this respect ” for we cannot attempt to copy what can only come into being spontaneously “He is nevertheless a test.

A true Christian will be more deeply moved, he will feel that he is in contact with a far more divine and hopeful reality, when he remembers, for instance, the two boys who carried Livingstone’s body from Bangweolo to Zanzibar, than when he considers the most reckless exploits of fortune-seeking adventurers in Africa. The faithful hands that did that last service for the dead are a prophecy of the future of the dark continent worth more to Christian eyes than any prospectus or report ever issued. Possibly Christ still marvels that He finds in Livingstonia and in Madagascar what He fails to find among us” a deeper penitence,a stronger faith,a more passion and longing for purity of heart, and more self-denying love. Certainly nothing can be more alien to Him than the temper which sneers at the results of missions, but has no knowledge and no conception of what faith can be even to the most degraded of men. There are prophecies of heaven among the heathen, there are black men in whose hearts there is that which unveils to Christ the universality and glory of His Kingdom, and draws from His lips the loftiest words He ever spoke. Who can afford to be on the other side from Him ?

It was another such moment in the life of Jesus when, as He sat by the treasury watching the people cast in their gifts, there came a poor widow who cast in two mites. They were all her living. Her offering was not an act of generosity only it was an act of the most heroic faith. The woman left herself with nothing but God. Trust like this in the Heavenly Father was dear to the Savior’s heart, and He could not refrain from calling the attention of His disciples to it. He had been depressed by the want of faith in those who represented Israel officially; the temple in which He sat, and in which He had just been pronouncing woes on the hypocrisy of Scribes and Pharisees, must have seemed to Him the citadel of all that was irreligious and hopeless in His people. Yet even here faith not only lived but flourished, and, applying the measure of God to what the world passed by as an act too small for consideration, Jesus declared that the poor woman had cast in more than all the worshipers. There was more in her act that spoke of God, more that signified reliance upon Him, more that attested His gracious presence and fatherly providence in the world, than in all the liberal offerings of superfluity; and therefore Jesus rejoiced in it with great joy. Faith like this may be most within reach of the poor.

A man who has money in the funds does not so easily trust in God; almost inevitably he trusts in the empire. But the poor, who have nothing behind them but God, when they are generous at all, are generous on another scale, and at another risk. The help they give to each other has often been remarked, and probably it is the best help which can be given; the sacrifices they have made for the Kingdom of God have never been adequately appreciated. The self-denials of poor people, who at real cost, in small places, have maintained the Christian Church, with its worship and all its ministries, are even yet perpetually disregarded; yet, if the warm praise which Jesus bestowed on the widow means anything, can we doubt that the hardly won savings of laboring men and women, freely given in country chapels, have been a greater joy and hope to Him than most benefactions of pious founders, than all the restorations of cathedrals by millionaire distillers and brewers?

Another of the lofty words of Jesus had also its impulse in the unexpected act of a woman’s devotion. There is no lovelier story in the Gospel than that of the anointing at Bethany. The feast in Simon’s house can hardly have been a very festive occasion. The end was too near, the shadow of death was
falling too sensibly over the company. The soul of Jesus was never more alone ; there is no point in the Gospel history at which the disciples seem to have been less at one with Him. They were not alienated, but they did not understand the situation in the least ; and though they were not without love, it was not for the moment intelligent enough to yield Him sympathy. But at this very moment Mary came with the alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and broke the box, and poured it on His head. The passionate, loving action needed no words for its interpretation; it was the appropriate expression of an emotion for which words were too weak. And it is characteristic of Jesus that this strong expression of emotion evoked a sublime response from Him. It moved Him as He had been moved by the great and unexpected faith of the centurion. A moment before, He might almost have despaired of His work; now, if we may say so, He felt that its success was assured. Love which could command devotion in human souls like that which revealed itself in the anointing at Bethany might well be confident of the future.

Upon the instant, therefore, the future was unveiled; Jesus saw the Gospel, in prophetic vision, preached in all the world, and wherever it was preached the anointing at Bethany was told for a memorial of Mary. Perfect love never met a more perfect reward. And divine as it is, nothing brings our Lord nearer to us, nothing makes Him more truly human, than this susceptibility so,to speak,to strong and sudden emotions in which a world that is ordinarily more or less latent comes into quick and vivid consciousness. It is not the temperament of the poet which explains this, though probably poetry crystallizes under just such impacts as these. There is more than poetry here. There is faith, the assurance of a divine presence and a divine purpose in the earth, liable, no doubt, to be disheartened by much, but capable also of heavenly visions, and with a power of sublime prophetic speech, when it meets that to which it is spiritually akin.

The Seventh-day Adventist Involvement in Hitler’s Nazi Germany

Seventh Day Adventists
Text written June 2002 by Corrie Schroder
Last Updated January 1, 2003
This Page Part of the UCSB Oral History Project

Nazi Germany was a horrible place for small denominational churches…

…because there was no religious liberty. One small denomination that survived was the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, the German Seventh-day Adventist denomination (hereafter referred to as Adventists) believed it was time for a strong leader in Germany. Hitler seemed to be the best candidate because of “his personal dedication and his abstinence from tea, coffee, alcohol and meat, practices shared by the Adventists, [therefore] he was welcomed as a savior.”[1]  I hope to point out, because of the willingness to compromise the decent of the German Adventist denomination from the moral issues listed below, to where they ended at the end of World War II.  They ended in compromise, loss of personal integrity, and denominational integrity, splitting of the denomination and were racially damaged as a Christian organization because they were unable to hold fast to the tenets of their beliefs.  They tied the denomination to the German State giving up their religious freedom in attempt to survive through compromises.  This position of compromise brought shame upon the German denomination as well as the worldwide denomination after the end of World War II.

The Seventh-day Adventists evolved doctrinally from the interfaith Millerite movement of 1831. Adventists believe in religious liberty, to such a point that church and state are to remain separate. They are also conscientious objectors. When Adventists are required to join the military they apply for positions where they do not have to bear arms, for example the medical corps. There are 27 fundamental beliefs that the Seventh-day Adventists believe. The following four fundamental beliefs listed are the ones that pertain to my topic:

  1. The “Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God.”[2]
  2. The God Head or Trinity: “there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.”[3]
  3. Spiritual Gifts and Ministries, “God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts which each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity.”[4]
  4. Christian Behavior, “We are called to be godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven.”[5]

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination was not officially organized until May 21, 1863, even though the name had been chosen in 1860. At that time, the movement included 125 churches and 3,500 members.[6]  The Adventist church spread first throughout North America. After 1874, the denomination spread throughout Europe. In 1888, L.R. Conradi became the founder of the German Adventist church. He established headquarters for the Adventist Church in Hamburg, Germany in 1889.[7]  Conradi also established the first Adventist school in Germany near Magdeburg, called Friedensau Missionary Seminary.

A Seventh-day Adventist – in Germany – had many difficulties. The two main difficulties were their children had to attend school on Saturday, which is considered the Sabbath by Adventists. The second difficulty was the mandatory military service.[8] Refusing to send their children to school and not joining the military were punishable by imprisonment. The problem with the schools was solved by a compromise. The government authorities allowed Adventist children to study their bibles while in school on the Sabbath.[9]Military service posed two problems, working on the Sabbath and bearing arms. These problems were never truly solved, but “army medical examiners began to find all manner of excuses for rejecting Seventh-day Adventist recruits.”[10] This rejection of Seventh-day Adventist men ended with the start of World War I. This caused a problem within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Germany.

The Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement

The Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement came about because of the controversy over military service. During World War I, the German Seventh-day Adventists churches belonged to different Unions, North, South, East, and West, but all were under the guidance and control of the European Division. The European Division’s headquarters was located in Hamburg, Germany. The main problem was that most of the members serving as Division leaders lived outside of Germany and because of the war, travel and communication were difficult.[11]

With the outbreak of the war and the mobilization of troops in Germany, the German Adventist leaders decided, “Adventist men could enter the military and serve as combatants and even ignore traditional Sabbath observance.”[12] This caused major problems within the Adventist community, because they had always served in the military as non-combatants. The rank and file members believed that actively participating in war broke the fourth and sixth biblical commandments.[13] The fourth commandment is “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” When entering military service, keeping the fourth commandment is no longer a priority, because the warring sides do not take into account what day it is. The sixth commandment is “You shall not murder.” If you take a combatant role in war it is nearly impossible not to kill someone.

During the American Civil War in 1864, the Seventh-day Adventists declared,

The denomination of Christians calling themselves Seventh-day Adventists, taking the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, are unanimous in their views that its teaching are contrary to the spirit and practice of war; hence, they have ever been conscientiously opposed to bearing arms.[14]

But during World War I, the German Seventh-day Adventist denomination went against the General Conference and decided to become combatant instead of remaining non-combatant. This caused a small group of Seventh-day Adventists to split from the main body of the German Seventh-day Adventist Church. This small sect called itself the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement (hereafter referred to as the Reformers). The Reformers believed they were remaining “faithful to the law of God, upholding the original position, as taught and practiced up to that time.”[15] They were remaining faithful, because they refused to be combatants during WWI. It was acceptable to the Reformers to join the military as non-combatant, but to join as combatants was against God’s law and the doctrines of the Adventist Church.

After the World War I, the German Adventist leaders admitted that they had been wrong when they said it was not against God’s law to join the military in a combatant role. During the European Division meeting at Gland, Switzerland, on January 2, 1923, the German Adventist leaders, to show that they believed in a non-combatant role, stated that,

they were in complete ‘harmony with the general teachings of their brethren of that denomination throughout the world.’ But this declaration was weakened by the additional pronouncement which read: ‘We grant to each of our church members absolute liberty to serve his country, at all times and in all places, in accord with the dictates of his personal conscientious conviction.[16]

The leaders of the German Adventist denomination told the General Conference they were wrong in their policies during World War I. They had realized their mistake and were once again in “harmony” with the teachings and doctrines of the Adventist denomination. But they believed their members had a right to choose their own path. What this meant was the German leaders believed that Adventists should remain in non-combatant roles, but they believed their  members could decided on their own whether or not to be combatant. This statement would cause problems in the future.

There was still the breach between the Seventh-day Adventists and the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement after this meeting, which needed to be healed. L.R. Conradi, the president of the European Division, tried to justify the actions of the German Adventist leaders by explaining that the General Conference had “given German Adventists tacit approval.”[17] This tacit approval was to allow German Adventists to work on the Sabbath and bear arms. This explanation only made matters worse between the Adventists and the Reformers. Soon after World War I, the General Conference sent a delegation led by A.G. Daniells to try and heal the growing breach between the Adventists and the Reformers. A.G. Daniells stated that the “German [Adventist] leaders of the church have been wrong, but he also criticized the Reformers for setting up a separate organization and using misleading tactics to promote their views.”[18] In the end, the Reformers were disfellowedshiped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[19] The Reformers decided to create their own church where they “refused all military service and insisted on a rigid Sabbath observance”[20] and they would “continue with original teachings and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”[21] The Reformers no longer believed it was acceptable to be non-combatant during times of war. They believed the Seventh-day Adventists were no longer following the original teachings of the Church. In Gotha, Germany, July 14-20, 1925, “the SDA Reform Movement was first organized, officially, as a General Conference, when the ‘Principles of Faith and Church Order’ were drawn up and the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement’ was adopted.” [22]

Support for Hitler

In the Adventist town of Friedensau, Germany 99.9% voted for the Nazi parliamentary state. Even though the Adventists wanted a strong Fuhrer and supported Hitler, that support varied. The reason was because of Hitler’s contradictions about religious liberty. The departmental secretary of the South German Union Conference, M. Busch, was in support of Hitler and “approvingly quoted Hitler’s statement in Mein Kampf  that ‘for the political Fuhrer all religious teachings and arrangements are untouchable.’”[23] The Adventists believed that Hitler was for religious freedom, while the Nazi Party was against it. “Still, point 24 of the Nazi party program stated that the Party supported positive Christianity, without tying itself to any particular confession.”[24] This was a debatable problem among Christian groups because no one knew what “positive” Christianity was. This problem was never clarified and the contradiction remained. When Hitler became dictator of Germany the discussion on the contradiction ended and very soon Christian groups would know what Hitler meant by “positive” Christianity.

On November 26, 1933, the Nazi state banned the small denominational churches. Among those prohibited were the Seventh-day Adventists. The Seventh-day Adventists decided to seek legal advice on what to do about the ban and within two weeks, the ban was lifted on the Adventist denomination.[25] After this, it was decided within the denomination that “positive” Christianity meant support for the Nazi state. To show their support for the Nazi state, the Adventists sent a letter to the “Nazi Ministry of Interior an official memorandum on Adventist teachings, church organizations, social activities and attitude to the government.”[26] The Adventists also informed the Interior that there church “members hold ‘German attitudes.’”[27] Pointing out that the government’s suspicion and concern should be to a “rival schismatic group, the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement, whose attitudes, the Adventists insisted, were far from ‘German.’[28] It seems that the Adventists were more concerned with holding German attitudes then holding Adventists attitudes.

It was because of this letter that the Nazi government noticed the Reform Adventist denomination. In trying to distance themselves from the Reformers, the Adventists led the Nazi government to them. The government investigated the Reformers and decided that they held different views from the acceptable Seventh-day Adventist denomination.[29] The Reformers were then banned on April 29, 1936.[30] The Seventh-day Adventists believe in religious liberty, but instead of voicing their outrage over the persecution of the Reformers and the Jews, the Adventist leaders decided to take action against these two groups. The Adventist leaders “issued directives to prevent the Reformers from joining the Adventist Church.”[31]  And they expelled Adventists who had a Jewish background from the Church.[32] The Adventists were unwilling to even protect their own members if they thought the Nazi government would disapprove. The state was able to control the Church because there was no religious liberty. This is not to say that individual Adventists did not help Jews or other undesirables. The Adventists were notable, for the private and individual help they gave to Jews, for not only were Jewish converts cared for and hidden, as they were in some other sectarian and church circles, but help was also given to unbaptised Jews with whom Adventists happened to come in contact.[33]

In 1935, the privileges enjoyed by Adventists, such as keeping the Sabbath, selling religious literature, money transfers that were necessary for missionary work, and certain publications were forbidden.[34] This made the German Adventists reconsider their position on religious liberty of keeping church and state separated. They knew Nazi Germany was receiving a bad public image abroad because of its treatment of small denominational churches whose home base was in the United States. If the smaller denominations were willing to help improve the Nazi image abroad, the Nazi government was willing to allow those denominations some leniency. This was the starting point of the German Seventh-day Adventist denomination sacrificing integrity and basic denominational principles. The denomination “worked with German authorities to cultivate a better image for Nazi Germany in America in order to get better treatment at home.”[35] This was accomplished through the Adventist welfare program.

The Seventh-day Adventist welfare system was considered the best in Germany. Their organization in welfare made the Adventists stand out. Through their welfare system, the Adventist Church was able to show their “Christian principles and [their] patriotic loyalty to the state.”[36]  The Nazi government was satisfied with the work the Adventists were doing but not with the language. Instead of using “Christian” it was renamed “heroic.”[37] The Adventists welfare program was incorporated into the state’s National Socialist People’s Welfare Department. The incorporation went against their belief that church and state are to remain separate. The German Adventists welcomed the incorporation of their welfare program. They believed they could accomplish greater things and help more people. But with the incorporation, the Adventists had to obey the state’s laws, which were, no Jews, anti-socials or undesirables were to be given welfare.[38] The Adventists – on their own – added that no Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement members were to receive help.[39] The Adventists were not helping more people, in fact they were discriminating against the people who needed their help the most. Along with the welfare programs of the Adventist, the health reforms and racial hygiene became important.

The Adventists believed that along with their welfare program, their health ideals were leading the way for a new Germany. Adolf Minck, soon to be president of the German Adventist Church, said, “We are not unprepared for the new order. After all, we have helped prepare the way for it, and helped to bring it about.”[40] The problem with supporting the Nazi government in their health program was the government’s belief in the principles of Darwinism. The Adventists denominational stance was against Darwin’s principles. The German Adventists sacrificed this principle for the Nazi government. In order to gain favor with the Nazi government, the Adventists changed what was written in their publications and reformed their health message. The Adventists “frequently print[ed] negative comments about the Jews.”[41] They also tried to show that even though the Adventists teachings about the Sabbath seemed Jewish, they were not Jewish.[42] The Adventists also believed in the sterilization program. Direct statements and the reprinting of non-Adventist articles showed their support for sterilization.[43]

The mentally weak, schizophrenics, epileptics, blind, deaf, crippled, alcoholics, drug addicts – all were to be sterilized. ‘This law,’ an article in the Seventh-day Adventist paper Jugend-Leitstern said, was ‘a great advance in the uplifting of our people. [44]

The position of the German Adventists changed from “caritas, the caring for the less fortunate and weak, to elimination of the weak, as the work of God. Their strong right arm had led German Adventists to a volkisch position.”[45] The Adventists had built a “well organized, efficient welfare system that seemed particularly well suited to work with state authorities.”[46] This system allowed Hulda Jost to be recognized by the Nazi regime.

Hulda Jost was the director of Adventist welfare and the leader of the Adventist Nurses Association. The Adventist Nurses Association operated several nursing homes and provided staff for numerous hospitals within Germany.[47] In this position, she was able to establish contacts within the Nazi government and outside Europe. She was also a big supporter of Hitler and his regime. Because of her contacts, she was able to help the Adventist denomination survive during the early years. This also made her the best candidate to travel to the United States and speak on behalf of the Nazi government.

Hulda Jost’s trip to the United States was planned for 1936 because the General Conference quadrennial session was going to be held in San Francisco. An invitation was sent to Hulda Jost from the Adventist Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Between the Adventist Headquarters and the German Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Jost’s itinerary for her trip was planned. Jost arrived several months earlier to travel throughout the United States to speak on the German welfare services.[48]

Once in the United States Jost met with the General Conference vice president J.L. McElhany and her interpreter Louise C. Kleuser. Jost also had a meeting at German Embassy where she was told to avoid political controversy by speaking only on the achievements in the social service sector.[49] Jost spoke on the achievements of Germany under Hitler’s control to Adventist and other various organizations. It was not until April, that problems arose over Jost’s lectures. The problems started over a meeting with a pro-Nazi organization called Friends of the New Germany, which the German consul had set-up. The Chicago Daily News ran a story about Jost under the headline “Hitler Doesn’t want War, says Woman Leader.”[50] In the article she is quoted as having said that Hitler did not want war and the Germans were rearming because they feared Russia. When asked about the Jews, Jost said, “Hitler has merely wanted to take leadership away from the Jews but he doesn’t want to hurt them.” [51] This was the beginning of the General Conference problems with Jost.

The problems increased while in Denver, for Jost had alienated many of her listeners at a lecture by speaking so much about Hitler and the Jewish question.[52]  It seemed to the Adventist leaders that Jost was giving propaganda speeches about Hitler and his regime. She was no longer focusing on the Adventists or the welfare system in Germany. While still in Denver, Jost was pulled aside and asked by the Boulder sanitarium administrator to keep her lecture to the gospel because they did not want to hear any Hitler propaganda.[53] After her lectures in Denver, the General Conference decided it would be a good idea to keep a close rein on Jost. They gave warnings to each person Jost was to contact for her lectures. Even though the General Conference felt that Jost had become a liability towards the end of her lectures in the United States, the purpose of her mission had been accomplished. That mission was to “correct the distorted image of Germany.”[54]

Jost and the German Adventist leaders believed they had done their duty in the United States and hoped the Nazi government would be more lenient towards the Adventist denomination. But while they were in the United States, the German government passed a new decree requiring all school children to attend school on Saturday and the Adventist children were no longer allowed to study their bibles in class[55] There were also soldiers who were having difficulties in keeping the Sabbath.[56] Jost wrote a letter complaining to the high officials she knew about this new decree. She stated how the Adventists had been supporting the Nazi government and the work she was doing in the United States to improve their image. Joseph Goebbels even wrote a letter of his own to the Reich Church Ministry, but the decree was not revoked.[57] This was one case where Hulda’s connections and the trip to the United States did not help the Adventists. Yet there are other cases that show that having a powerful ally was useful.

One such case was about the investigation, by the Gestapo, of nurses belonging to the Adventist nurses association who had been dismissed because they were considered politically unreliable.[58] Jost became upset over their dismissal and did not believe the Gestapo’s report was correct, so she asked her friends in the Propaganda Ministry to look into it. The Propaganda Ministry’s report found the nurses to be “politically cleared.” Another example of Jost’s connections occurred in 1937, when a friend in the Church Ministry – who had a connection with the Gestapo – warned her about plans to dissolve the Adventist denomination.[59] With the help of her friends, Jost was able to contact higher officials in the Gestapo and stop the effort to dissolve the Adventist denomination.[60]

In March 1938, Hulda Jost passed away. Jost believed she helped the Adventist denomination survive the early years of Hitler’s regime. Jost knew she was lying while in the United States, when she said that the “Nazi authorities respected liberty of conscience as a matter of principle, and that [her] church enjoyed complete religious freedom.”[61] But she believed all her efforts and compromises to the Nazi regime would make her denomination free from the harassment of the Gestapo. The Adventist denomination was no longer separate from the state, because of Jost’s connections and actions. The Adventists believe in  the separation between church and state, but Jost went against this principle. Even with all of the compromises made in the early years, the Adventists had no security from the Nazi government. They sacrificed a main principle, separation of church and state, for nothing. Without security from the Nazi regime, the Adventists continued to make compromises with the regime.

World War II

The Second World War began when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  The previous year the Adventists began to remove “Jewish words” from their denomination. The word Sabbath School was no longer allowed and was replaced by the word Bible School.[62] Another word no longer allowed was the word Sabbath; this was changed within the denomination to Rest Day.[63]  With the outbreak of WWII, the government issued an ordinance preventing pastors from taking an offering in church or house-to-house.[64] There was a loophole to this ordinance, which said pastors were allowed to “levy fees on their members.”[65] This allowed small denominational pastors and churches to survive during the beginning of the war.

The Adventists in Germany continued to believe in Hitler and his regime. The publications in the late 1930s were about how Hitler was strengthening Germany and taking back the lands that had once belonged to Germany. They believed that God, himself, was leading this war and the readers of the Adventist journals could take comfort in that.[66] The East German Union president, Michael Budnick, informed the other conference presidents that Adolf Minck had been taken in by the Gestapo and informed that it was unacceptable conduct not to work on the Sabbath.[67]

The Church leaders believed that in order for the Adventist denomination to survive they needed to give instructions on April 30, 1940 to their pastors in a circular stating that “‘in total war there can only be total commitment and sacrifice.’”[68]  The problem with total war was the Church leaders did not want another split in the denomination that had occurred during WWI. In order to prevent this, the circular also told the pastors to instruct their members of the duties owed according to the Scriptures.[69] One of the Adventists’ fundamental beliefs is that the Holy Scriptures is the word of God.  The document stated that on Biblical grounds the church members should submit themselves to armed forces, because “God had commanded: ‘Submit yourselves, for the Lord’s sake, to every authority,”[70] which was quoted from 2 Peter. Along with 2 Peter, the German Adventists used Romans 13 to justify their continued support for Hitler and his regime. Romans 13 deals with the issue of submitting oneself to government authorities. The president of the East German Conference, W. Mueller, has been quoted as saying:

Under no circumstances did any Adventist have the right to resist the government, even if the government prevented him from exercising his faith. Resistance would be unfortunate because it would mark Adventists as opponents of the new state, a situation that should be prevented.[71]

This shows that German leaders did not want to resist the Nazi government. They did not want to be seen as opponents to the Nazi government. It was important to the leaders not to cause trouble in the Nazi regime. Even if the Nazi polices went against the denominational beliefs. The German Adventists leaders ignored or forgot the fact that they were supposed to submit first to God and His authority before submitting to a worldly authority.

This circular seemed to have worked, for in 1940 the government sent out a report naming the religious sects that would be allowed to continue to work in peace because they had limited themselves to religious teachings. The Seventh-day Adventists were one of the sects named.[72] Still this did not make the Adventists feel safe and they continued to compromise with the Nazi regime.

In 1941, the German government once again banned the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, but only in certain districts in the east.[73] These districts were Silesia, Danzig, and Lower Silesia. This caused some alarm within the Adventist communities, but there was nothing to be done to rescind the ban. In order to still have meetings, the Adventists met privately in members homes.[74] The S.D. noted that the Adventists in these districts were ignoring the ban, but little action was taken against the Adventists.[75]

The German Adventists continued to support Hitler and his regime until the end of World War II. The Adventists served loyally in the armed services, but most served in combatant positions and rose within the ranks.[76] This went against the denomination belief that if Adventists participate in war it must be in a non-combatant position. The Church leaders claimed, “the pastors and members of our Church stand loyally by their Volk and fatherland as well at its leadership, ready to sacrifice life and possessions.”[77] They were willing to sacrifice their life and possessions for the fatherland, but they were unwilling to do the same for their religious beliefs. The racial policies of the Nazi regime went against what Adventists believe, but the Adventists did not voice their concern. They also did not voice their objections about not having religious liberty in Nazi Germany. The German Adventists may have served their fatherland loyally, but they did not serve the Seventh-day Adventist denomination loyally.

After the War

The German Adventists continued to believe they had done the correct thing by compromising with the Nazi government. The survival of the church was what was important to the German Adventist leaders, and in order to survive they needed to compromise. Only in May 1948, did the General Conference take a closer look at the German Adventists’ actions during the Nazi regime. The reason why the General Conference took interest was because of a letter written by Major J.C. Thompson, chief of the Religious Affairs Section of the American Military Government in Berlin.[78] The letter wanted to know why the Adventists had not removed all the Nazis from their leadership positions within the denomination.[79] It also compared the Adventists to the Catholics, saying that the Catholics did not have to remove many people because of their strong opposition during the Nazi regime. There was no opposition from the Seventh-day Adventists.

The German Adventist leaders were upset with the General Conference for ordering members to step down from their positions because they had joined a Nazi organization. In order to survive in Nazi Germany, they argued, people had to join Nazi organizations. The German leaders believed the General Conference had no right to make judgments about them because of their actions during the Nazi regime. They were especially upset because the General Conference had “adopted and enforced a policy that prevented publication of any commentaries about Nazism or even fascism,”[80] in order to assist the German Adventists. The German Adventists did not like the fact they were being blamed when the General Conference was assisting them in their survival.

The General Conference had become alarmed in 1939, when they estimated that 10 percent of the German Adventists were working on the Sabbath.[81] The Sabbath is one thing that defines the Seventh-day Adventist church. With the start of World War II there was nothing the General Conference or the German Adventists could do. The German Adventists had sent out a circular telling its members to submit to the authority of the government. While this did not meet the demands of the Nazi government, it was used as evidence in the General Conference case against the German Adventists.[82]

There were several issues the General Conference had with the actions of the German Adventist leaders. Membership in a Nazi organization was of concern but not the greatest concern. The greatest concern of the General Conference was that “the denomination had been misled in its attempt to accommodate the demands of the Nazi state.”[83] The erosion of the Sabbath keeping in Germany led the General Conference to pass a resolution in 1946 on “Faithfulness and Sabbath-keeping.”[84] The German Adventists were still unwilling to admit they had been wrong. They still believed what they did was good, because it allowed for the survival of the denomination. The German leaders did not believe they had compromised any biblical principles.[85] The president of the German Adventist Church, Adolf Minck, wrote to the General Conference president, J.L. McElhany, stating, they had obeyed God’s law and the Ten Commandants. He also said that “‘they might have lived out the one and the other commandment a little different’ than in times of peace. ‘But holy did they remain to us.’”[86] This kind of reasoning of the German Adventist leaders made it hard for the General Conference to show that what they did was wrong. The German Adventist leaders interpreted the Scriptures to suit their situation. They believed that just because they were working on the Sabbath did not mean they had not kept it holy. They believed that “Scripture and Jesus taught clearly that the application of the law, rather then being absolute, was dependent on the circumstances.”[87] Their circumstance was either to work on the Sabbath or go to prison. This was not a viable choice for the German Adventist leaders. The German Adventist leaders never admitted that they made any mistakes, it was against their National pride and their continued rationalization of their actions during the Nazi regime.[88]

In conclusion, the German Adventists connected the Adventist denomination to the German state, which went against their belief of separation of church and state. They did this by allowing the Nazi government to take over the Adventists welfare program and dictating the policy. The Adventists were suppose to help those in need, instead they discriminated against those groups of people who needed their help the most. They refused to help the Jews, undesirables, and the Reformers because it would have cause trouble with the Nazi regime. The Adventists defended the Nazi regime and lied about the regime having religious liberty. Instead of speaking out against the Nazi regime and its treatment of the Jews, the Adventists remained silent. They remained silent to protect themselves. The Adventists also worked and sent their children to school on the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is one of the beliefs that make the Adventists different. This is one of the fundamental principle of the Seventh-day Adventists and when times got tough, they willing sacrifice this principle. The German Adventists willingly became combatants during WWII. The Adventist denomination understands that governments have a right to draft people during times of war, but the Adventists have always refused combatant roles. The German Adventists went against this policy and willingly accepted combatant roles. The Reform Adventists were not willing to sacrifice this principle and were sent to concentration camps or executed. In order to survive, the German Adventists sacrificed the standards and principles, which made them Adventists. The German Adventist leaders said they had to make the compromises in order to save the church. It is the standards, principles, beliefs, and integrity that make up the Adventist Church. By sacrificing the standards, principles, beliefs, and integrity of the Church did not save the Church, it weakened the Church. It showed how far the German Adventists were willing to go against what they believed and taught in order to save themselves. I believe the German Adventists leaders made these sacrifices in order to save themselves, not the Church. If they had wanted to save the Adventist church, the German leaders would not have compromised its integrity or gone against the church’s beliefs. It is always easier to make compromises then maintain integrity.

           

[1] Christine E. King, The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non- Conformity, (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1982), 92.

[2]  Seventh-day Adventists Believe… A Biblical Expostion of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, (Maryland: Review and Herald, 1988), 4.

[3]  Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 16.

[4] Seventh-day Adventists  Believe, 206.

[5] Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 278.

[6] “Our History,” http://www.adventist.org/history/ (24 February 2002).

[7] Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, (Nampa: Pacific Press, 2000), 212-213.

[8] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 213.

[9] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 213.

[10] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 213.

[11] Seventh-Day Adventist Encyclopedia M-Z, ed. Don F. Neufeld, (Maryland: Review and Herald, 1996), 592.

[12] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[13] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 110.

[14] Cited from F.M. Wilcox, Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War, p. 58.  “Origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement,”<http://www.sdarm.org/origin.htm> (6 February 2002).

[15] “Origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement,” < http://www.sdarm.org/origin.htm >(6 February 2002).

[16] Erwin Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” Spectrum 8 (March 1977), 12.

[17] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[18]  Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[19] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[20] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 110.

[21] “Origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement,” < http://www.sdarm.org/origin.htm > (6 February 2002).

[22] SDARM Good Way Series-Study 13- The SDA Reform Movement Origin <http://www.asd-mr.org.br/sdarm/way/gws-13.htm> (14 February 2002).

[23] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 14.

[24] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 14.

[25] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions,  96.

[26] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 15.

[27] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 96.

[28] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 96.

[29] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 110.

[30] Hans Fleschutz, ed., And Follow Their Faith!, (Denver: International Missionary Society ), 19.

[31] Roland Blaich, “Divided Loyalties: American and German Seventh-day Adventists and the Second World War,” Spectrum 30 (Winter 2002), 44.

[32] Zdravko Plantak, The Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist Social Ethics, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 20.

[33] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 101-2

[34]Roland Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad: The Case of Hulda Jost,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 35, number 4, Autumn 1993, (United States: J.M. Dawson Institute), 808.

[35] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 807.

[36] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[37] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[38] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[39] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[40] Adolf Minck, “Reformation,” Jugend-Leitstern, (April 1933), quoted by: Roland Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene: Adventists and the Biomedical Vision of the Third Reich,” Chuch History, Vol. 65, (Pennsylvania: Science Press, 1996), 427.

[41] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 16.

[42] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 16.

[43] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and the Nazi Temptation,” 19.

[44] R. Sulzmann, “Erbkrank,” Gegenwarts-Frage, vol. 9, nr.1, 1934, p.8, quoted by: Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and the Nazi Temptation,” 19.

[45] Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene,” 437.

[46] Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene,” 427.

[47] Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene,” 427.

[48] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 809.

[49] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 810.

[50] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 811.

[51] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 811.

[52] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 811.

[53] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 812.

[54] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 820.

[55] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 820.

[56] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 820.

[57] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad ,”821.

[58] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 823.

[59] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 824.

[60] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 824.

[61] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 827.

[62] Jack M. Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble: German Adventists Under Nazi Rule,” Spectrum 8 (March 1977), 4.

[63] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 4.

[64] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 7.

[65] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 7.

[66] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 44.

[67] Roland Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism: The Case of the German Adventist Church,” Central European History, vol. 26, number 3, (United States: Humanities Press, 1994), 270.

[68] Mr. Blaich does not say who this quote is from, but it seems to be from G.W. Schubert to the General Conference Committee, Feb. 7, 1937. Or it is from the Circular to the Conference Presidents of the East German Union, Mar. 27, 1940. Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[69] Blaich “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[70] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[71] “An unsere Gemeindeglieder in Deutschland,” Der Adventbote, vol. 39, nr. 17, August 15, 1933, pp. 1-4. quoted by: Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 15.

[72] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 7.

[73] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[74] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 108.

[75] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions,108.

[76] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 47.

[77] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 47.

[78] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 225.

[79] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 225.

[80] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 266.

[81] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 270.

[82] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 271.

[83] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 274.

[84] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 274.

[85] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 275.

[86] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 275.

[87] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 275-6.

[88] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 280.

UCSB Oral History Project Homepage > Research and Teaching Homepage > Pro-Seminar Papers > Seventh Day Adventists
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The Decay of Conviction

Written by, J.G. Stevenson,
of Union Hall, Brighton, 1904

dry-bones

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.

–Zephaniah 1:12

Zephaniah is an amazing book, stupendous and terrible in its suggestion…

…Its fervor of denunciation seems to express the fury of fifty moral tornadoes and a thousand spiritual cyclones merged into one devastating movement of ethical indignation. From beginning to end there is scarcely a note of tenderness, and so hard and harsh does it seem that it has been suggested that it must have been written by a prophet who died young, before the fiery ardors of youth had mellowed into the gentle sweetness of later years. Yet there is much about the very fury of the prophet that makes his utterances morally wholesome.

They are a tonic, and not a poison to the discerning soul. You have more sympathy with him when you understand the probable circumstances that led him to translate the results of communion with God into the burning words of this book. As far as your preacher has been able to gather from the work of George Adam Smith and other scholars, the position was this: Hezekiah, who had peace in his kingdom of Judah in his latter days, spent the last years of his life in a Puritan attempt to purify the religion of his people.

But at his death, just as in England the purity of the Commonwealth was succeeded by the immorality and irreligion of the reign of Charles II, so in Judah the religious fortunes of Israel were reversed. His successor Manasseh was only a boy of twelve, harem bred, and under the control of the less moral section of the Court. His contact with foreign countries infected him with Paganism, and Baal worship was carried on in the very Temple of Jehovah. To heathenism he added persecution and massacre of those who were faithful to the one true God.

When Manasseh died, Amon; his son, was true to the false things his father had taught him, and sacrificed to heathen images; but he had reigned for less than two years when his own servants stabbed him in his palace. Popular justice took swift vengeance on his slayers, and his son Josiah was placed on the throne. It seems to have been during his reign that Zephaniah prophesied, and there was a suggestion of reform in the air. But Zephaniah does not seem to have believed that what they wished would come to pass. He may or may not have doubted the sincerity of the would-be reformers, but in any case he saw that the soul of the people was not behind the forces that made for reformation.

Verses 4 and 5 of this first chapter will tell you that there was still a remnant of Baal in the land, and if the worship of the sun had been banished from the Temple of Jehovah, yet services in his honor were held on the flat roofs of the houses of Jerusalem. Men swore by false gods. There were some who turned back from Jehovah, while others had been so brought up in heathenism that they neither sought for the Lord nor inquired for Him. The princes royal and the Court gentry dressed in foreign fashions that merely meant that, as in dress so in religion, their preferences were not for the things of Jehovah. In courts of justice violence and deceit reigned. The business men of Jerusalem were unclean of soul and foul of hand.

And what so stirred the soul of Zephaniah was not only these things, but the fact that no one seemed to care…

The people were prosperous and contented, and regarded the moral state of the nation as none of their business. To Zephaniah came visions of the Nemesis that must follow decay of conviction. Just as Diogenes went through Athens in later days with a lighted lantern, looking in the faces of all,in the vain attempt to discover a real man, so Jehovah Himself would search Jerusalem with candles: and all that he would find would be men settled on their lees. The metaphor conies from the making of wine.

New wine was left to clear, and when clarified was removed from the clearing vessel. If you left it too long, its own sediment clouded it again and made it muddy and syrupy. Hence in Palestine, if a man were lazy and indifferent, muddy of soul and cloudy of mind, people said that he was like wine settled on its lees.

And to the prophet, Judea was full of such people. The times were ripe for reform. The religious and political atmosphere was charged with great issues. Abuses were rife, yet improvement was possible to an awakened nation. But, alas! men were settled on their lees. If they troubled to excuse themselves, to excuse their inaction, they said that God did not seem to care. He did nothing. “The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil.” Why, then, should a man bestir himself?

It was against this carelessness of high things and content with low, against the muddy soul and stagnant mind, that Zephaniah directed his denunciation. For indifference and lethargy were so fixed in the national character as to invite national doom. Prosperity and respectability making for national decay. The princes of the people were content to be parasites. The judges sold justice, and the priests were profaners of the sanctuary and scoffers of the law. In the Caucasus the Scythian hordes were gathering, and soon they would sweep through Egypt, and devastate that nation of indifferents and sloths called Judah. The great day of the Lord was hastening in which mighty men would cry bitterly and common men would stagger with blindness,because of blood poured out as dust. Only a remnant, the few that cared, would survive, purified by their sorrows. Over these God would rejoice. For these His love would be so great that even He could not speak it,though He would try to express His gladness by lifting up His voice in singing. And so the remnant would be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth in the day when the Lord brought again their captivity.

Now, of course, it is not possible to establish an absolute parallel between the days of Zephaniah and these later times. Yet our points of similarity are many, and the main lines of his indictment do not lose their way if applied to the British peoples of the twentieth century. The dominant note of our life today is respectability and, we are respectable rather than religious. Never was there an age in which men and women were at once so careless of their characters and so careful of their reputations. Add to respectability to prosperity, and inevitably the result is a people settled on their lees and beclouded by the precipitate of their own self-complacency. Hence, then, you get a folk like the people of this generation, who have but little care for the great and high issues involved in national life. A fair number of us care enough for public affairs to talk about them. But the test for our earnestness is not our talking, but our thinking, and especially our thinking with the Divine as inspiration and final test, that thinking that drives us to communion with God more naturally even than to speech with our fellows.

The absence of such Theo-centric thinking accounts for the flaccidity of true principles in our national life.

If any one feels that my words are hardly fair, let him look for example at the political activities of the nation. He will see in them much clashing of interest and little conflict of principle. Further, speaking as I do from the pulpit of a Free Church, I venture to say that the Nonconformist Churches are by no means free from the prevailing apathy. Take the question of our Protestantism. We are really leaving the defense of our Protestant principles to the narrower and hence less effective sections of our spiritual communities.

Even to some of you who sit before me the Roman Church simply represents a somewhat amazing variation from the type of church with which you are familiar, and you cannot understand why any one troubles to condemn it. Meantime that Church takes advantage of your blindness, and is daily increasing her ecclesiastical and political power.

It will be well for us to learn from history rather than from future happenings that the Roman Church by its very nature stands for spiritual tyranny, and the Free Churches stand for spiritual liberty. The Roman Church believes that it is for your good that your spiritual affairs should be controlled by presumed experts who are men like yourselves, but endowed with special sacerdotal powers. The Free Churches believe that your greatest good comes when you are personally brought face to face with Christ, and that the care of your soul should be a partnership that is also a comradeship between Him and you.

Only as you strive in national and religious affairs you should work from a spiritual rather than a political base, for there is nothing worse than secular politics dominating a sphere that ought to be permeated with religion.

If there be even a fair measure of truth in what has been said to you, there can be no serious person in this church who is not concerned to find a remedy. An article in a current Journal deals with the decay of conviction, and suggests that this decay is due, amongst other things, to the increase in riches and in pleasure. There is a great deal of truth in the suggestion. In our prosperity, and perhaps even more in our desire for prosperity we, are forgetting God. And many a man who could be true to the Divine in his poverty is forsaking the Eternal, as the things of this life mean more and more to him. With regard to pleasure, there seems but little doubt but that the larger diffusion of money is yearly adding to that class of people who aim not so much at redeeming the time as a killing it. And if, as Pope somewhere suggests, folk are passing from a youth of frolics to an old age of cards, you can never expect from them any serious conviction whatsoever. Yet one can imagine that the English-speaking peoples might become both poor and unhappy and still find no remedy for their decay of earnestness.

To my mind the only possible correction of that decay will lie in our increase of the sense of God. What we want is that all-pervading sense of the Eternal that was possessed by the old Puritans, and when that revival comes which some of us are so eagerly anticipating, it must come along the lines of that old Puritanism.

Puritanism has been very much misunderstood. We have been told that it banished music and art from the life of England, and was, indeed, a veritable kill-joy. Let it be admitted that there is some slight excuse for this statement; but, on the other hand, let us remember that, for instance, Milton had his organ. The dominant factor in Puritanism was its intense reverence, a reverence so full of solemnity that the supernatural was the very commonplace of existence.

Men dominated by the Puritan habit of mind move nowhere without a deep sense of God touching them to seriousness in all that calls for solemnity. If in the councils of Cromwell some new measure was proposed, as often as not men would gravely consult their Bibles to see if some point suggested was in accord with the spirit of the New Testament, and, if so, they voted affirmatively. In their private life the Puritans were men who never made an attempt to escape from God. Let us get back this old sense of the dominating of the Divine and the abiding presence of the Eternal, and we shall have a renascence of spirituality that will give earnestness to every phase of our national life. Instead of opinions we shall have convictions; instead of views we shall have principles.

And in that day when our private lives are wholly consecrated, the public life of Christians shall be God-like and wholesome and pregnant with mighty possibilities of progress.