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A Closer View of the Approaching Crisis
At that time, so far as I know, no one connected up these messages of caution with the warnings against the revival of old controversies, and the mingling of new and old, which had come to us in the message of 1892:
To this 1899 Conference came ringing messages to be on guard, especially in our educational plans, against the commingling of true and false. Of the consequences of partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in our work and teaching, the message said:
This exhortation continued:
In a message entitled, "Reform in our Educational Work," it was said:
Our educators of the time heard in these and many further messages a clarion call to weed out the worldly elements from the educational program. They began anew in dead earnest to build up the system of Christian education for which we thank God today, though still our school men tell us they are strugglers toward yet higher standards.
To this General Conference of 1899, also, came definite warning against ancient systems of error that we hardly thought could ever press dangerously upon us. But from far off Australia, the trans-ocean mail had brought into the South Lancaster Conference, as it sat in session, a message entitled, "The True Relation of God and Nature." In earnest words it set forth the truth of a personal God in heaven. We had known, of course, that the ancients made of Him a mystical personality pervading all naturean error that seemed far from touching us in this advent movement. But like a sudden flash of light out of the blue came these messages insisting on the true view. Old controversies, remember, were to be revived, as we had been forewarned some years before"and this will take place right early." Now, in greater detail came the admonitions to beware of ancient error:
It is not God Himself in plant and tree, but the "working of God in nature,"
in the things that are made. Over and over was stressed the fact of a personal God in heaven, with Christ the "express image" of the Father's person. The power of God, whose throne is in heaven, works in the things of nature
He is not in person in the dew and the rain; He sends the dew and rain to cause the plants to spring forth. That seems so self-evident that one might wonder why it should be so stressed in a communication sent to the General Conference in session, in South Lancaster, in the year 1899. What could it mean to those brethren?
But the fact was, in just a short time, the brethren were to meet the very subtleties of ancient pantheistic errorthe doctrine of a personality in the blade of grass and plant and treeand all in the name of the third angel's message. Strange it was, that with this development just before us, this warning message should come from far across the sea. None understood the reason then, but we were to understand the need of this instruction a little later, to the full.
At this time, in 1899, I was living and working in old India, The General Conference Bulletin with this insistence on the true view of God and nature came to us in a field where we were daily face to face with the erroneous view. We were of necessity stressing this truth of the personal God in heaven, working by the Word of His power in the things that are made, as opposed to the idea of deity or personality in the things. All about us in India was the idea of the worship of a divine personality in animals and plants.
In the country, especially, one saw on every side signs of worship of plant and tree. The deity was supposed to be in the grass, in the plant, the "imaginary personality," as writers on the animistic philosophy described it.
But down in India these mystical ideas of the old heathen philosophy carried not the remotest suggestion, in our minds, of anything that could take troublous form among us. And we in India had no more idea of the meaning to us of this urgent message on the relation of God to nature than had our brethren in the
South Lancaster session, in 1899. It was later that we understood the timeliness of this stressing of the fundamental truth of a personal God in heaven, sending forth the word of His power to work in creation. For we came face to face with the insistent teaching among us of the idea of a personality in grass and tree.
We had not the slightest idea that we were anywhere near facing such issues at our own door. How was it that away across the Pacific, a sister burdened with close contact with a growing work in a new field, could turn aside and pen such instruction regarding as issue soon to press upon the brethren at the general headquarters? There is but one answerthe Spirit of Prophecy.
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