By John N. Andrews
Preached on April 20, 1879We have assembled today for the purpose of uniting together in the solemn act of dedicating this house as a place of worship for the Lord of Hosts, and it seems eminently proper, before we unite in presenting this house to God as a place for His worship, that some statement should be made of the distinctive doctrines of the people that worship here. A just respect for the opinions of our fellow men seems to indicate that this should take place on our part, that the object which we have in view in building this house, and the work which we are endeavoring to carry forward in this place and elsewhere, may be correctly understood by all who are here present. I cannot in the brief space of time that is allotted me attempt to give at any length the reasons for our faith. These you can find, on every point, in our publications, and to them I must refer you; but I shall endeavor this afternoon briefly to set before you some idea of our faith and some idea of the nature of the work we are attempting to perform; and I have chosen as the foundation of my remarks the several portions of Scripture which have been placed upon the window at the rear of this platform; for these were chosen as a distinctive enunciation of the principles which guide us, and the faith we cherish. I will read these to you from the Word of God. The Scripture inscribed on the central window is, as some of you may be able to see, the Ten Commandments, or law of God, and these I will first read, as found in Exodus 20:3–17:
Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:12.
The Scriptures which I have chosen for the foundation of my remarks necessarily lead me to speak upon three important subjects. First, the views which we cherish with regard to the law of God. Second, the views which we cherish with regard to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Third, the views which we cherish with reference to our position in the fulfillment of prophecy.
I shall not address you at great length. My subject is extensive, but I shall speak upon it in a very brief manner.
First, then, I will call your attention to the views which we entertain concerning the law of God. I am sure that every right-minded person in this assembly must regard this question of the law of God and the relation that man sustains to the moral law as a question of immense importance, and one that is worth of the most serious attention and thought on the part of all intelligent men.
We understand, in common, I believe, with all that fear God, that this law of God is the great rule of right. It is the embodiment of the principles of God’s moral government. The nature of this law is such that the attributes of God forbid that it should ever be abolished. So long as the Almighty maintains the principles of right, so long must this sacred code remain in force. We understand very well that there is another system of law distinct from this moral law, known as the ceremonial law, which was but a shadow of things to come, a representation in types and shadows of the good things promised in the Gospel of Christ. We understand that this ceremonial law passed away when the great Sacrifice was offered for the sins of men. But the law of which I speak in this place is the moral law of God, which contains the sum of man’s duty toward God and toward his fellow man. And these immutable principles of right that are here embodied represent to us the will of God concerning man, how God views the actions of mankind, and the distinction which God makes between right and wrong. In this respect I am happy to believe that there are none here this afternoon, or at least very few, that entertain any ideas different from our own, and that there is with us who are here entire unanimity in believing that this great rule of right, given by God for the purpose of governing mankind, is the standard by which all human actions should be tested.
In the New Testament we have certain declarations made with regard to it. Thus it is stated in the third chapter of First John that sin is the transgression of the law, and in the third chapter of Romans and twentieth verse we have the declaration that by the law is the knowledge of sin. So we understand that the New Testament refers to the law of God as a great rule of right, which shows what sin is, and sets before us a perfect standard by which our conduct should be estimated. On this point, I am happy to believe that there is on the part of those in this house entire agreement; but now I ask your pardon while I call attention directly to the fourth commandment, as marking one of the important, distinctive features of the people who worship in this house, and who have erected this house for the purpose of advancing what they believe to be the cause of truth. Now, let me say that although the denomination which we represent here today has had a brief existence,—is young in years,—the conclusion is not to be hastily formed that new doctrines have been advanced by this people, or that there is no justification for our existence as a distinct people. It is proper that I should remark that there are no new truths in the Bible, and that we do not come forward as the representatives of new principles and doctrines, which we invite you to accept in place of certain ancient truths of God’s Word; but we come before you as a people that have to present certain ancient truths that have been lost sight of and trampled in the dust. Our mission and our work is like that of John the Baptist preceding the first advent of Christ, who called attention to the errors and wrongs which had arisen among the Jewish people, and gave force to his testimony by saying, “Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
This is precisely our work, to call attention to certain ancient truths,—truths as ancient as the creation of our earth,—and to endeavor by all means in our power to restore again to the proper observance of mankind these truths which have been trampled in the dust. If what I say is true, then there is justification, abundant and ample, for our existence as a people, and for the work we have endeavored to do. When I read the fourth commandment, therefore, I call your attention to one of the grand points which we believe justify our existence as a distinct people, and the work we have undertaken to do.
Now, I have to state concerning this fourth commandment what I am sure no one in this assembly will deny, that it does solemnly enjoin upon all who are amenable to it—and that is all mankind—the observance of that day upon which God rested from the work of Creation. The fourth commandment, I say, in plain language sets before all who are amenable to its authority, the duty of hallowing that day upon which God rested from the work of Creation. There is no opportunity here in this commandment, if we will be as honest before God now as we shall be in the Judgment Day, to say that this means that we should render to God one-seventh part of our time; that no particular day is set before us, but any day which we are pleased to agree upon, provided it be one. There is no opportunity to take this position in the light of the plain language of this commandment, and that day upon which God placed His blessing is the day that is the subject of this commandment.
You will notice another fact, which is that God ordained the observance of this day as the memorial of His great work of Creation, so that all intelligent creatures might keep God in their memory.
And now I will call your attention to a remarkable fact which stands in immediate association with this giving of the law of God, that about one month before the Ten Commandments were proclaimed upon Mt. Sinai it pleased God to provide food for His people by sending manna from Heaven, and He did this in such a manner as to mark by three great miracles each week which was the seventh day, so that there was no possible chance for the children of Israel, when they heard this commandment, to doubt for a moment that a definite day was set for them, and that they had a knowledge of that day.
I know well that it is now said that the resurrection of Christ has changed the Sabbath; but all intelligent Bible-readers know that there is no such declaration as this to be found in the New Testament, and you do well know that if we were to insert in the fourth commandment a reference to the resurrection of Christ it would essentially change the language of the commandment. It is impossible to bring this into the commandment. There are no words spoken in the New Testament which furnish any evidence, except by inference of a very doubtful character, that the resurrection of Christ has any reference whatever to the fourth commandment. Here stands the law of God.
Now let me make one remark bearing on this point which we have thought all should understand. We have no objection that men should assemble on the first day of the week for the worship of God. So far from this, it is with us a frequent custom to do this, as we have done this day; but there is in the New Testament only one instance of a single church which met on the first day of the week, and that after nightfall. We have no objection at all to people worshipping on the first day of the week, but this is what we object to, that when they meet in religious assemblies on that day they should make that an excuse for neglecting to hallow the day set apart at the creation of the world,—should neglect the day which God has commanded and excuse themselves for so doing by meeting on some other day. It is all right to worship God on any day, but it is an imperative duty that the seventh day should be observed as a memorial of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
Pardon me for another remark closely connected with this subject. In the New Testament there is a divine memorial of the resurrection of Christ, and it is not abstaining from labor on the first day of the week, for nothing is said about this; but it is that men, when they repent of their sins and enter upon the service of Christ, should signify the fact that they have died to their sins and are commencing a new life by being buried with Christ in baptism, and raised from the water in His divine likeness. It is not simply on one occasion that a man should celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but every time the memorial of the resurrection of Christ is celebrated by the church he participates in it.
Here, then, are two ancient truths which have been lost sight of by a great number of our fellow men; but while they are not new truths, they are, nevertheless, truths which have been trodden in the dust by very many, and upon us as well as upon others rests the responsibility of attempting to raise them up before mankind. I say, therefore, that there is just reason on our part for attempting to hallow the rest day of the great Creator. Nay, more than this, there are just reasons why we should endeavor, by all proper means, to call the attention of our fellow men to these great truths. And now perhaps the response will be addressed to me by those who are perfectly honest in making it, that we who keep the fourth commandment and all the commandments are justified by the law of God, and are, therefore, fallen from grace. It will be my privilege to respond to this. A humble effort to keep God’s commandments on the part of Christian men who are conscious that they have broken them, is altogether another thing from seeking to be justified as though they were righteous, and had never sinned against God. But the proper response comes by calling your attention to the second division of my subject as expressed in the Scripture on the left-hand window, and this response I make to the statement that we are justified by the law of God. “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24.
And here beloved friends, we are happy to unite, as we trust, with a great majority of those who are present on this occasion, in the statement of the fact that we are justified from sin through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that this is the sole ground of justification with us before God; of us, I say, who have broken God’s law and are justly condemned by it.
I call attention to the statement I made with regard to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as brought to view in this passage. I think I shall be able to show that there is most perfect harmony between the observance of the law of God and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which men who have broken God’s commandments are pardoned, and placed in a position where they may serve Him. When it is said that we are justified by grace, it plainly appears that before that time we were condemned.
I ask those who are here today to consider this question: What is it that condemns the sinner, and what holds him in condemnation? There is but one answer that can be given to this: The sinner is condemned because he has broken the law of God, and that condemnation is so just that God never justifies the sinner until He has first caused that sinner to see his sins with such distinctness that he shall acknowledge his condemnation to be just, and shall, by such repentance as shall cause an entire change in his conduct, seek for the forgiveness of his sins through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now I ask you to notice the important statement made by the apostle with regard to the ground of the justification and the manner in which it is accomplished. He states it thus: “Being justified freely by His grace”; that is, by His free, unmerited favor extended toward us through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Now, what are we to understand by this word “redemption”? I think we can all understand without difficulty that redemption is the buying back of something that has been forfeited, and in this sense the redemption of Christ Jesus is the act of our Lord Jesus Christ in offering His precious life in the place of the lives of all sinful men. But why did the Lord Jesus Christ lay down His life for sinful men? The answer is this, that men had broken God’s law, and deserved to die because they were transgressors of the holy law, and that law was so holy, and that condemnation so just, that there was but one way in which they could be pardoned and God still remain just, and that was that a great Substitute should be offered. There was only one Being in the whole universe That could make that sacrifice and become that Substitute. All others being owed service, but the Son of God, being One with the Father, and existing with the Father before the creation of the angels, presented Himself as a Sacrifice to the law of God, and His life was accepted in place of the lives of those who had broken it.
My friends, this is the costly price of our redemption,—the death of the Son of God. Now, let no one present here this afternoon suppose that it is a light thing to break God’s law. Pardon can be extended to man only at an infinite cost on the part of Him Who extends it to us. There are some conditions to this pardon, and these are that men should repent of their sins, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. You understand what repentance is, that men who have broken God’s commandments should leave off breaking them. That repentance causes an entire change of conduct; and when men believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, in order that they may be saved and find pardon for their sins, that faith in Christ is not a dead faith, not a mere assent to the doctrines of the New Testament, but a living faith that produces obedience to God and leads men to keep His commandments. I understand the Gospel of Christ to be the great remedial scheme by which men who have broken God’s commandments shall be brought back again to the favor of God, their hearts changed by the grace of God, and their sins forgiven, and from that time forward they shall walk in obedience to the commandments of God until they shall walk through the gates into the City.
I say this afternoon, in dismissing this part of my subject, that we who are here have extended to us a free and gracious offer of pardon. You have sinned against God, broken God’s commandments, but there is a free offer of pardon; and I repeat to you that every man and woman that will return to God by repentance and faith, that will seek God and make an unconditional surrender to Him, will find pardon here this afternoon. I do most cordially invite all who have not done so, here, this afternoon, to make a sincere surrender to God, receive the forgiveness of their sins, which is freely offered, and find how gracious is the Saviour to forgive their sins.
My third division is introduced by the statement found in Revelation 14:12: “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
In speaking upon this part of my subject I have to call your attention to the fact that this is a part of what we call the third angel’s message, or the proclamation of warning found in the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation. There are three great proclamations of warning brought to view. The first of these is the announcement that the hour of God’s Judgment has come; the second is an announcement concerning the fall of Babylon; and the third is a solemn warning concerning the seven last plagues to come on the world at the close of its history, and it closes with the statement I have just quoted. And next the sacred writer says that he looked, “and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle,” representing the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, or events immediately connected with it.
It is well known, doubtless, to all who are here this afternoon, that we are Adventists; that is to say, that we are believers in the grand event represented in the Scriptures as the descent of the Son of God from Heaven in the clouds, with power and great glory, accompanied by all the hosts of Heaven, and with the sound of a great trumpet, at which the just shall rise again to immortality, and all the living shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
We who are interested in the erection of this house believe that this event is near at hand. We are aware that this doctrine is unpopular; that it is often made the subject of ridicule on the part of those who have no faith in it. We are not able to see that there is any just ground for this. Perhaps the fact that many classes of people known as Adventists have set many times for this event, has given the public occasion to laugh at the prospect of the near advent of Christ. We set no time for this event. We do not believe the precise time to be given in the Bible, but we do understand from the Sacred Scriptures a fact which I shall present to you presently; we do understand that this great event is an impending event, and that the generation now on the earth will not pass away until this event takes place. We are therefore interested to call the attention of men to this prophecy which indicates the approach of the Judgment, and to call the attention of the public to this work of preparation; and included in this preparation is this work in behalf of the restoration of God’s commandments, which have been trampled down, and the obedience to these commandments in the manner ordained in the Bible.
I briefly speak, then, for a few moments, concerning the prophetic testimonies that indicate the near approach of the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ; but the first thing I have to say on this point is that the popular view that the world will be converted before the coming of Christ is, in our estimation, a grand error, and an error of modern origin; not an ancient faith of the church, but a modern doctrine by which that ancient faith has been eclipsed. The period of a thousand years brought to view in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation is not a period that precedes the coming of Christ, but a period that succeeds that event,—that begins with the resurrection of the just and terminates with the resurrection of the wicked; and the resurrection of the just takes place at the coming of Christ.
To show that there is to be no such event as the conversion of the world, I have but to refer you to the parable of the wheat and tares, in the explanation of which we are told that the wheat and tares—which represent the righteous and the wicked—are to grow together until the harvest, and that is the end of their world. Again, we have in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew an outline of the Gospel dispensation, where the sorrows and woes of the church are brought to view, and the record terminates with the statement that the days preceding the coming of the Son of man will be like the days which preceded the Flood,—days, not of righteousness, but of wickedness.
Now I speak for a moment concerning the testimony of warning of the near advent of Christ. I can but barely allude to it, and shall occupy but a moment. If, then, you turn to the book of Daniel, you will find that there are four great lines of prophecy leading us down from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the Second Advent of Christ; and I select the line of prophecy given in the seventh chapter of Daniel as a sample of these lines of prophecy. In that chapter the prophet saw in vision four great beasts arise out of the sea, and upon the head of the fourth beast were ten horns, and among these ten horns a little horn came up, which spoke great things against God, and wore out the saints of the Most High, and thought to change times and laws. In the explanation it is said that these four great beasts are four universal empires that should bear rule over the earth. It is well known what these were. Their names are given in other parts of the Bible. They were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome. The ten horns represented the ten kingdoms into which Rome was to be divided. This division took place four hundred years after Christ. The little horn, which thought to change times and laws, represents, beyond all dispute, that priest-king—the papal power—that arose in Europe immediately after the division of the Roman Empire, and that has accomplished this very work against God’s people and the law of God. The space of his dominion is given as a time, times, and a half, and this is explained to be 1260 days. These days are explained in the fourth chapter of Ezekiel to represent years, a day for a year. Beginning with the time the papal Roman kingdom came into power in A.D. 538, this period brings us down to 1798, when the dominion of the papacy was taken away. It is to be consumed and destroyed, and then the Judgment sits.
I feel safe in saying to this audience that every feature of this prophecy has been accomplished, and we stand where the great Day of Judgment is an impending event.
I have not time to give you the other lines of prophecy. I will refer you to the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. This gives, as I said before, an outline of events during the Gospel dispensation, showing the calamities, plagues, persecutions, and distresses that should come on God’s people. It brings us down through the Dark Ages to the close of that persecution. The sun was to be darkened, which took place in 1780; the moon was to be darkened, which took place in immediate connection; the stars were to fall from heaven, which took place in 1833. This brings us down to the generation which Christ said should not pass away until these things be fulfilled.
I would be glad to trace these lines of prophecy through the Revelation, but time will not permit me to do it, and as our publications treat fully on these important subjects, I refer you to them. Suffice it to say that we are brought down to what we believe to be the last generation, and the one to whom the third angel’s message is directed; and this warning that the hour of Judgment is come is the warning that has broken on the ears of those who are present here today. We are the people living in the age when these warnings are addressed to mankind.
I come now to the closing part of this great warning, saying, first of all, that it relates to that great time of trouble which will come upon the world before the deliverance of God’s people, when the seven last plagues shall be poured out upon all mankind; and there are no other words of such awful solemnity as these, and so calculated to incite us to repentance, self-denial, cross-bearing, and patience.
Now, connected with this solemn admonition of God that the time of trouble is before us, is the statement in the twelfth verse: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” By these commandments we understand the Ten Commandments, spoken by God, which constitute the moral law, and which stand distinct from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the faith of Jesus we understand the teachings of the Saviour as given in the New Testament. Here are they that keep, not one, but all of the commandments of God, and the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. So far from there being any opposition in sentiment in these two statements, you will see that they are in perfect harmony. The Gospel of Jesus Christ shows how men who have broken the commandments of God may be pardoned, and God yet maintain His justice.
“Here,” says the prophecy, and we believe it to relate to our time, and even to the humble people who are engaged in this work. It certainly marks a space of time distinguished from others that have preceded it by the fact that the people of God at that particular time are keeping His commandments. To keep God’s commandments it is necessary to keep them all. To break the commandments it is only necessary to break one. I will read St. James’s rule on this, and you will see that it is very stringent: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He That said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10, 11.
So the apostle lays it down as a rule that if we break one of God’s commandments, we become guilty of breaking the whole law of God. Thus when it is said in the fourteenth chapter of Revelation that here are they that keep the commandments of God, it does not announce a people that keep nine of God’s commandments, but a people that keep all of them,—a people that keep the commandments of God, believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and walk in obedience to His precepts.
And so I will leave this thought with you this afternoon, saying that this house has been erected by a people that believe that the commandments of God are all sacredly binding, and that they are not changed by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that the period through which God’s commandments have been trampled underfoot is marked in prophecy, and that we have come to that time when their restoration is to take place. We believe that that work is intrusted to the people now on Earth, and we ask all who are here present to participate in this sacred work. This house has been erected in the hope that it will be the means of turning many to the testimonies of God, and leading them to pay attention to the grand event which we believe is impending,—the Judgment, and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we extend to our friends here present this afternoon the most cordial invitation that they will meet with us from time to time to listen to these great themes, and judge from these weighty truths, as we think they are, if the Judgment is at hand, and if there is need of that preparation which will make us ready for that great event; and may God add His blessing to these feeble remarks, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—From The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 8, 1879