“THERE is no sentiment in all the New Testament more strongly expressed than that of Christian union. While Christ was with his disciples, their leader and teacher, he kept them in unity and love. And when about to leave them without a visible leader, to go up to his Father, we should expect his great yearning heart of love would go out in petition for them in words expressive of true Christian union.James White, Review and Herald October 12, 1876
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” John 17:11. “I pray not that thou shouldest keep them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Verses 15-17.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Verses 20, 21.
Accepting the testimony of the apostles as expressing the mind of Christ as breathed forth in earnest petition for the unity of his church, we have in Paul’s epistles to the churches at Rome and at Corinth a more complete idea of the subject: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus; that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 15:5,6
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Cor. 1:10
Paul exhorts to unity in the high “name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which extends farther than kindly feeling with those who hold opposing views. It reaches almost infinitely beyond the insipid idea of modern times, of the highest type of Christian unity as expressed in the words, “We will differ in love,” and embraces a oneness such as exists between the Father and the Son, expressed by the apostle as being “perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.”
This is the unity taught by the first apostles of Christ. For this they labored, and to this they exhort Christians of each successive generation since they wrote. But, oh, unhappy church of Christ! that she passed under the shades and into the mists of the great apostasy, down into the wilderness of papal corruptions of the Word, where she gathered to herself traditions and superstitions, which even the power of the great Reformation did not tear completely off. What a pity that the reformers left off reforming! The Lutherans stopped with Luther; the Calvinists, with Calvin; the Methodists, with Wesley; and so on, bringing to the present century, as represented in nearly all our cities and towns, the various denominations, presenting a grand babel of confusion of creeds, church covenants, articles of faith, and different forms of church organization and government, for which there is not a single apology in all the New Testament.
But, thank God, above all this Babylonish chatter the Pauline note of more than eighteen centuries ago rings forth in all its entreating earnestness, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Cor. 1:10
Nothing short of the mind of Christ, as seen in his prayer for his church, and as expressed in the earnest pleadings of Paul, is the full measure of Christian unity. Christ prays for this. The New Testament pleads for this in plainest terms, and the callings and gifts placed in the Christian church were designed to secure this state of complete unity.
“And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph. 4:11-13
Just how this complete state of unity is to be perfected, when it will be reached, and who are to be embraced in it, is not the design of this article to set forth. But the writer may be allowed to state that one of the happiest hopes that has cheered him on in battling for Bible truth for more than a quarter of a century, has been this, that pure truth that can be read out of the Bible will call forth a people who shall be keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, looking for the coming of the Son of man.
Then will the two ends of the Christian age be brought round to meet, when our adorable Redeemer shall come the second time and find his waiting people standing in unity and in power, such as was the crown of glory that adorned the church at his ascension.
We hold it to be a wrong to differ with others where there are no good reasons to differ. Once an earnest sister asked the writer’s opinion as to the importance of all the church coming to the unity of the faith. Being apprised of the fact that this good woman was dealing in small matters which could be no test of Christian character, we answered, that on all important questions, such as keeping the commandments of God, we thought it very necessary that the church should stand in unity; but in such matters as whether our brethren should plant white beans or striped beans in their gardens we did not regard unity important.
Paul, standing at a period when outward circumcision had ceased, meets the mistaken zeal of those who would still urge it upon the church, with these words, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God is something.” Whiting’s translation of 1 Cor. 7:19. “If thou wilt enter into life,” says the Son of God, “keep the commandments.” In the divine law, and in the gospel of the divine Son, are the tests of Christian character. And it is with an ill grace that those who have been splitting up into petty sects during the nineteenth century over forms of church government, matters of expediency, free and restricted salvation, trinity and unity, whether we may sing any good hymn in church, or only the Psalms of David, and other matters which constitute no test of fitness for Heaven, now pounce upon us, and display any amount of religious horror, simply because we regard strict conformity to the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus the only true test of Christian character.“
THE TWO BODIES
THE RELATION WHICH THE S.D. BAPTISTS AND THE S.D. ADVENTISTS SUSTAIN TO EACH OTHER
ON the broad platform of the divine law, and redemption from its transgression through the death and mediation of the divine Son, both the Seventh-day Baptists and the Seventh-day Adventists stand in general agreement. Here are the great tests of the Christian life, and a fitness for Heaven; and besides these there are no others.
The principal difference between the two bodies is the immortality question. The S. D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the trinitarian, that we apprehend no trial here. And as the practical application of the subject of the Gifts of the Spirit to our people and to our work is better understood by our S. D. Baptist brethren, they manifest less concern for us on this account.
But the views which both bodies entertain respecting free investigation and the right to personal opinion forbid any restriction whatever to be laid upon each other in the proper advocacy of the sentiments in which both cannot at present agree. We recommend, however, that there be no controversy between the two bodies.
The differences between us are of such a nature, and we have in common so broad a field of labor with those who differ with us respecting the fundamentals, upon which hangs the destiny of a world lying in wickedness, that Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists cannot afford a controversy on doctrines which neither regard as tests of Christian character.
Both bodies have a specific work to do. God bless them both in all their efforts for its accomplishment. The field is a wide one. And we further recommend that Seventh-day Adventists in their aggressive work avoid laboring to build up Seventh-day Adventist churches where Seventh-day Baptist churches are already established. If ministers or members from the Seventh-day Baptists regard it their duty to come with us, under the impression that they can serve the cause of God better, we shall give them a place with us. But we see no reasons why there should be any effort put forth on the part of our people to weaken the hands of our Seventh-day Baptist brethren in order to add to our numbers from those who were before us in revering the ancient Sabbath of the Lord.
If it please our Seventh-day Baptist brethren, let the interchange of courtesies in the appointment of delegates be continued, and be conducted in a manner to secure mutual benefit. The visits of the worthy delegates from the Seventh-day Baptists, Pres. Allen, Elders Wardner, Burdick, Rogers, Hull, and Prof. Whitford, have done our people good. And if the delegates from our people to that body, Elders Andrews, Smith, Canright, and others, have failed to do that people good, it has been from want of ability and a knowledge how to work out that good which was in their hearts to do.
What God in his wise providence has marked out for these two bodies in their future labors and destiny, the future alone can unfold. But whatever that may be, it seems a certainty to us to-day, while looking with faith and hope toward that untried future, and cherishing a filial love for those whose history of loyalty to High Heaven stretches across long centuries, that no good can result to either from controversy and proselyting, and no harm can come to either from those courtesies and labors of love calculated to build each other up on our common faith.
We do not say that we have seen the proper relation between the two bodies as clearly and joyfully as we do to-day ; neither do we wish to be held responsible for what some of our people have done, or may do, not in harmony with the foregoing. But that our settled convictions on the subject for more than five years may be understood, we quote from our report of the Clear Lake (Wis.) camp-meeting, which appeared in REVIEW AND HERALD for July 4, 1871 :—
“At the close of the Sabbath morning service, we were cordially greeted by many who reported themselves Seventh-day Baptists, who gave Our hand the very next thing to it, if not the real Advent shake. Among these was Prof. Cornwall, of the Albion, Wis., S. D. Baptist Academy, who invited us to speak to the citizens of his place. Nothing could have given us greater pleasure than to have responded to this, and similar courtesies by speaking freely to this people upon the great fundamentals of our common faith—the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ; but hoarseness, fatigue, and the labors of the Minnesota Campmeeting the next week, compelled us to pass on without even calling on any of our S. D. Baptist friends.
“Here we may, by divine grace, enjoy a strong union; and while Seventh-day Adventists may prize very highly, and tenaciously hold, their views upon the immortality question, and may cherish as important to the glory of God and their own prosperity, their definite views of the manifestation of spiritual gifts, they will agree that it will be much better to seek for that union that may be enjoyed upon the broad fundamentals of our faith, than to sacrifice that union in urging upon the Seventh-day Baptists sentiments peculiar to Adventists.“
We are happy to say here that a full statement of our views and feelings, outlined in this article, was given by the writer before the recent General Conference of the S. D. Baptists, which apparently met with a full approval from that body. It is with great pleasure that we look back to the happy hours spent with that good people, and only regret that we could remain no longer with them.James White, Review and Herald October 12, 1876