Teachings of D. S. Warner and his Associates
FOR THIS PAPER
several years I have been making a careful and prayerful study of our teachings
with the motive of finding their underlying principles and whether or not these
teachings are soundly based. I know that the more truth is investigated the
brighter it shines, therefore I have had no hesitation in seeking to know to the
limit of my capacity the facts, and all the facts, that I might discover. I have
earnestly and prayerfully sought the truth without respect to what anyone else
thought, believed, or taught. Truth will stand by itself; it needs no support.
It vindicates itself, so I have sought it eagerly and without restraint.
the last two books on prophecy were issued by the Gospel Trumpet Company I
procured copies of each and have given them thorough and intensive study. For
the past six months, with the help of a ministerial student from
this paper I am setting down some of the conclusions I have drawn from all these
years of study, and expressing some of the convictions I have regarding those
teachings. In the first place, I agree with all those principles we have taught
that are clearly taught in the New Testament. These things we do not have to
guess at. The doctrines of Christ are positive and clear. What we have taught
about God, Christ, unity, and the evils of division are all settled and secure
except, perhaps, in the details of exegesis, the application of terms,
theological opinion, and tie like. It is chiefly the field of prophetic
interpretation and application that seems to demand rethinking.
AS A MAN
knew D. S. Warner and loved him with reverential affection. I shall never forget
his kindness to me, and the wise advice and counsel he gave me. I shall speak of
his personality only in an attempt to give a portrait of him as I knew him. He
was a highly spiritual man, very devoted and earnest, sincere, with the utmost
loyalty to what he conceived to be the truth. He hated error as much as lie
loved truth, and attacked it on every possible occasion. With the weak, the
suffering, or the discouraged, he could he as tender as a woman. With his
associates he was humble, brotherly, kind. He loved to exalt the grace of God.
He was bold, fearless, and a man of boundless energy. When aroused he was like a
lion and roared mightily against evil. He was a poet, a dreamer, an idealist,
and a perfectionist. He was not a logical thinker. He got most of his ideas
which he did not absorb from others through his intuition rather than by careful
logical thinking. Having an idea, he would go to the Bible to find scriptural
support for it. In hundreds of instances he misinterpreted and misapplied texts,
as do all who use his method. We have been compelled to reject a very large
portion of his exegesis because it has proved to be unsound. Nevertheless, he
was a great and good man of God, worthy of our highest regard, and we should
cherish his memory. His teaching on a pure and spiritual church, incarnating
anew the Christ and speaking to the world as the voice of God, was a potent
message which should remain central in all our teaching.
Warner probably got his theology mostly as follows:
Ecclesiology: largely from the Baptists, through Winebrenner and Alexander
Salvation and holiness: largely from the Holiness Alliance.
Imminence of the second coming of Christ: from the Holiness Alliance and the
Seventh Day Adventists.
Many ideas came through his opposition to doctrines taught by other people, such
as are included in his book The Cleansing of the Sanctuary. He taught
little that was original with him.
sources of his ideas are not important except as a matter of information.
consideration of Brother Warner as a man and considering him no further as an
individual, I turn to consideration of the doctrines he taught in order to
analyze them quite apart from the man himself.
BY BROTHER WARNER
The imminence of the Second Advent and the end of the world.
this as a primary assumption all his prophetic teaching and that related to the
reformation was based. Whether the advent is imminent will be discussed later
Upon this assumption of the speedy return of Christ were based the following
The time was short, so whatever was to be done must be done during the lifetime
of many of the people then living.
The bride must be speedily Prepared.
The sects were not the church, so a church must be brought into being as a
distinct body by calling Christians out of the sects and into the “one
body.” There was not and had not been since the apostasy, any true and
apostolic manifestation of the true church.
The harvest of souls was past. There was now only a “gleaning time” and only
a “remnant” to be saved.
God would no longer save souls in the sects. Lie had moved out of “
The preachers were to constitute a “flying ministry.” This led to all being
evangelists and to the neglect of the local churches.
The idea of unity was limited to one group. All must come to that group. Just
leaving a sect did not avail anything. People must come to us.
Unity meant, not so much unanimity as uniformity. It meant all must see “eye
to eye” and “speak the same thing.” This left no place for individual
thought. A few leaders formulated the doctrines, and all perforce must agree
with them or he adjudged “crooked in doctrine.” Complete doctrinal agreement
was held necessary for acceptance or unity.
The advent being imminent, all the prophecies as to what should occur before it,
which had not already been fulfilled, must be fulfilled in the immediate future.
the “day of his preparation.” The year 1880 was accounted a “prophetic
year” and must mark the beginning of the work of preparation for the advent.
There could be do doubt of the time--it was now.
The church must prepare herself. Certain things were assumed to constitute that
The Scriptures were interpreted to teach that the early church was to be
reproduced in form and character, free in every respect from all denominational
characteristics or connections.
To be prepared, the bride must be one
. . . There must
be “perfect unity” among all Christians, internally and externally,
including doctrinal unity.
Since the denominations constituted “
Since only Brother Warner and the few associated with him “saw the light,”
upon them was laid the responsibility of proclaiming it and bringing about
“the reformation” of the church, which must needs come at once.
Since those who accepted the call “Come out” formed the nucleus of this
“reformation movement,” it naturally resulted that they felt and taught,
directly or by implication, that all other Christians should and must leave
their sects and come to this “one body” and become a part of this group
It was assumed that all Christians would at once recognize and accept “God’s
call” to leave their sects when they heard that call. Those failing to respond
would go into darkness and be lost.
The success of this method was not questioned. The results were prophesied and
could not fail.
Brother Warner accepted the imminence of the advent as did the premillennialists,
but rejected the millennium and associated the advent with the end of the world,
thus making the latter imminent, and so making necessary the fulfillment of all
prophesies not already fulfilled almost immediately. Most others believing the
advent imminent did nor associate it with the end of the world, but with the
setting up of an earthly kingdom. These rejected Brother Warner’s assumptions,
and will continue to do so. Since Brother Warner’s assumptions are directly
opposed to the premillennial assumptions of what the advent signifies, their
position constitutes a denial of most of his assumptions. The great increase of
the premillennial teaching and emphasis makes acceptance of the “reformation
message increasingly difficult and improbable to all premillennialists,
therefore the realization of Brother Warner’s expectations becomes less and
the premillennialists the advent wilt automatically settle all church problems
as all Christians will be caught up together to meet Christ, and in the kingdom
set up each will take his proper place and be in his proper relation. To the
premillennialist, only personal preparation for the advent is necessary.
The movement was carried forward by the enthusiasm of attack, the zeal of
conflict, and the sense of having a mission.
OF BROTHER WARNER’S ASSUMPTIONS
classifying all religious movements except his own, including the holiness
movements, as “
Warner was a product of the time in which he lived, when intolerance and emotion
in controversy were the usual thing. Today the scientific method of thought in
general vogue leads to greater tolerance and poise in both manners and methods.
OF THE ASSUMPTIONS OF BROTHER WARNER
If the assumption of the imminence of the advent is not correct, then it follows
Brother Warner’s secondary assumptions based upon it are not soundly based,
therefore are probably equally incorrect.
This is not the time for the bride to be prepared in the prophetic sense.
Brother Warner’s teachings on this point, then, were premature and untimely.
Our whole prophetic teaching hangs on the correctness of the assumption of the
imminence of the second advent of Christ. If the time is not at hand, then none
of the prophecies we have applied to our movement have any reference to it.
If the assumption that 1880 was a prophetic year, the beginning of his
preparation is not correct then our whole prophetic reformation system has no
scriptural foundation in prophecy. The only chronological basis is the three and
THE ADVENT IMMINENT?
few quotations from Brother Warner’s songs will indicate how near he thought
the Second Advent to be.
in HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS
the morning of the Lord that is drawing nigh
behold our King Coming in the sky.
123, verse 1
the signs proclaim Him near;
the awful thunders of His word,
His coming steps we hear.
we’ll hear the trumpet’s sound!
coming, O how soon!
is coming, O the heavenly sight!
beloved can’t delay;
His bride is robed in snowy white,
for the crowning day.
coming in Thy glory.
125, verse 2
Bridegroom is returning and already at the door.
that last great day is coming very soon.
quotations are so clear and definite that no others need to be given.
Warner, in a meeting I attended, made the statement that the Lord has promised
him that he should live until Jesus returned. Another brother recently told me
that he heard him make this same statement in
the advent really imminent now? We hear a great deal over the radio about the
signs of the advent. Are there really definite signs that Christ will soon
OF THE ADVENT
Characteristics of a sign.
Something that is continuous during centuries preceding the advent cannot be a
Nor something that positive “signs.” which, independent of chronology,
definitely indicate the imminence of the advent maybe fulfilled at various
Nor something that has no definite relation to the advent. A sign must have some
special significance with relation to the advent.
Jesus did not know the time of his second advent (Mark 13–32).
Because Jesus did not know, he could not give us a chronological statement
concerning his second advent into the world. Hence nothing that he said about it
COULD indicate its time.
Jesus did not have to know prophetically how things would be at his advent to
tell about them. He knew human nature, and he knew that people in all ages would
have the same desires, purposes, and motives and would carry them out in the
same way. As in the days of Noah, they would be eating, drinking, marrying, and
in general be absorbed in natural (not necessarily evil) things to the neglect
of spiritual things.
have carefully gone over the supposed signs of the Second Advent in the
Scriptures and find that these signs are all very indefinite as to time. They
are quite obscure as to their details. In my judgment there is nothing connected
with that that indicates in a definite way that the advent is imminent. From
anything contained in these signs Jesus’ coming might as well be a hundred
years ahead, or a thousand, or even ten thousand. It is probable that everything
in our teaching that has been based on the imminence of Christ’s return has an
unsound foundation. There is no means by which we can be certain of it. Whether
or not we are right, we can only guess. We do not have to guess about the
principles of the doctrines we teach which are based on clear statements of
Scripture, but we should not base any important teaching on that which is
obscure and uncertain.
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES HAVE TWO FULFILLMENTS?
Warner, and most of the rest of us, have based our use of Old Testament
scriptures in relation to our movement upon the theory that the Old Testament
prophecies had their first application to
was both a temporal and a spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies,
for they covered man’s material and spiritual life. But these two
fulfillinents were vitally connected, not separated in kind nor time.
had always two plans or purposes for
greatest expression of these two plans is found when the nation gathered on the
two mountains—the Mount of Blessing and the Mount of Cursing—and there
listened to the reading of the blessings, to which the people on the Mount of
Blessing said “Amen”; then the curses, to which those on the Mount of
Cursing said “Amen.” (See
the history of
Warner’s position, based on the idea of a two-fold fulfillment of the Old
Testament prophecies, was the same as the position held with respect to the same
thing by the Millennialists, the Mormons, the Adventists, the Russellites, and
others. The theory is the basis of their errors. They feel free to take Old
Testament scriptures out of their setting, disregarding the context, and to
apply them to anything, at any time, as they see fit. This is an untenable
method, and no sound exegesis of Scripture can he based upon it. The things that
are based upon it are unsoundly based.
have felt free to say, and our literature is full of such things, that this,
that, and the other thing in the Old Testament was a type of something in the
present day. There are certain things about types which need to be considered.
There are types in the Old Testament, but there are some very definite
principles that apply to them.
A type is something especially chosen by the Lord to be typical of, or to
represent something. It is not something having a mere accidental similarity to
A type must be unchanging in its typical aspect; therefore types cannot refer to
A type must accurately foreshadow the antitype.
A type must be less important than the antitype.
A type must precede the antitype in history.
All true types are treated as types in the Mew Testament. In other words, when
God gave a thing to be a type he made it clear that it was a type, either
specifically in the Old Testament, or it is definitely referred to as typical in
the New Testament.
that does not fulfill all these conditions is not a type and should not be
called a type. Mere similarity never indicates a thing is typical. It may be
illustrative; it may correspond in some features to something else, but it is
not a type. We should be very careful, therefore, about the things we treat as
types. Our literature abounds in such misuses of the term.
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES RELATE SPECIFICALLY TO OUR MOVEMENT?
Warner, and to a lesser extent we who have followed him, have definitely applied
quite a number of Old Testament texts to this “reformation” movement. Is
this use sound? Many Old Testament scriptures relating to ancient
also such texts as
the text: “At evening time it shall be light” (Zechariah 14:7b). The evening
time followed the cloudy and dark day. It is definitely associated in verse 8
with living waters going out of
might take up the other texts we have used from the Old Testament as specific
references to our movement and show definitely from their context that they have
no such application. The fact is that, so far as I am able to determine, there
is not one scripture in the Old Testament that has any specific and exclusive
reference to this movement. We should stop abusing Old Testament texts in this
way, and should seek a sound exegesis of them according to their context and
according to the laws of proper interpretation.
GOD STILL WORK IN THE DENOMINATIONS?
Warner constantly asserted, and the rest of us reiterated, that God had forsaken
the denominations, that he would no longer save souls in them. Of course, that
result would naturally follow if God called his people all out of a denomination
locally or generally, and himself totally deserted it. But how has this theory
worked out in practice during the years? We all know that God did not cease to
save souls in the denominations. We know he is still saving every soul that
turns to him, regardless of where that soul is. We know that hundreds of
thousands of people are being converted in the denominations every year. This is
a certainty. What does it signify? It signifies that the harvest of souls is not
past, as we had supposed. It signifies that God has not ceased to work in
denominations. It signifies that we were wrong in what we taught on the subject.
There is no use glossing it over--we were wrong. I see no reason to believe that
fewer people are saved today in the denominations than there were sixty years
ago. Can we draw any other conclusion from this but that God has not changed his
attitude toward them? Denominations were always wrong; they are still wrong, but
most of God’s people are in them and he works among his people wherever they
1880 A PROPHETIC YEAR?
Warner held that the 2,300 days of
have assumed that the term “
the authority of the hierarchy was thrown off by the States of Northern Europe
during the Reformation, the general religious setup which had been held together
by the papal authority fell apart along political lines, and in each State the
religious organization became independent of the other groups in other States
but since the Church had largely been controlled by the State under the papacy,
this control was carried on and the same ecclesiastical-political relationship
was maintained with this difference: under the papacy the ecclesiastical was in
control, while now the State dominated religion. This union of Church and State
has been called the image of the beast, for it carried forward the same
principle of Church-State organization as still continued in the papacy.
however, there arose an altogether different type of church organization. People
grew dissatisfied with the domination of the State over religion. They left the
State churches and became nonconformists. In these nonconformist movements there
was intense hostility to State domination of religion. Their organizations were
of an entirely different type. Our prophetic teachers claim that these
nonconformist churches constitute an essential part of
is asserted that these churches are all governed by man rule and have not the
divine rule. It is true they have various forms of church government, but the
implication we make that God has nothing to do with their church government is
begging the question. It amounts to asserting that their leaders do not seek or
receive divine guidance. It definitely implies that the gifts of the Spirit are
not possessed or in operation in their organizations. We know that among the
officers of these various organizations are many men of great piety and
devotion. It is also true as a historical fact that in setting up these
organizations divine guidance was earnestly sought. Moreover, whatever form
these organizations took, the persons setting them up were thoroughly convinced
that they were following out the teachings of the Scriptures.
must keep in mind that though the Scriptures give us certain principles of
church organization and government, they nowhere give us any form of church
government. God did not give the early church a form of government. When the
Jewish Christians began to have separate meetings from the synagogue meetings
they went right on with the form of service they had had in the synagogues. The
synagogues had elders, presided over by a “ruler of the synagogue.” So we
find the Christian church at
denominations having the congregational, the presbyteriain, and the episcopal
forms of church government all believe they find their particular form set forth
in the New Testament. Who shall say that God may not work through any of these
forms? The important thing, of course, is that the government be on a spiritual
basis and be divinely guided. This we may expect it to be wherever true
Christians have the leadership. To contend that all Christians must have the
particular form of church government we have is to contend for something that
has no scriptural support. We may, and should, insist upon a spiritual quality
of church government, but we have no right to insist that it be clothed in a
I admit that the State-dominated churches of Europe may be the image of the
beast and then raise my eyes and look across the seas at what is happening in
OF THE BRIDE
Warner, and we in general, have taught that this is the time of the preparation
of the bride for the coming of Christ. Do we have anything definite upon which
to base this assumption? It seems that it is to occur just prior to the advent,
but since we have no definite proof as to when the advent will be we likewise
have no definite proof of the time of preparation.
will constitute this preparation of the bride? I fail to find any definite
statement regarding the matter except that she was to be arrayed in her bridal
adornment. It is supposed to mean that all Christians will be brought into one
concrete visible body. That may happen, or it may not. There is no definite
statement that such a thing will take place. It is said that the church is
represented as being one group. It is equally true that the church is always
represented as one group; it is never represented as being scattered or divided:
Every symbol representing the church everywhere in her history represents her as
a unit. The preparation of the bride is left very indefinite so we should not be
too definite in our declarations concerning what it will be or when it will be,
for we are likely to draw on our imagination and miss reality.
great ground swell of desire for unity is rising throughout Christendom. The
crescendo of demand for it increases. The forces that produced the Protestant
denominations have largely spent themselves, and unity is on the way. It is
imperative at this time that efforts to restore unity be such that they truly
aid rather than obstruct its restoration.
Warner had an extreme view of unity. He advocated a type of unity that never
existed, and never can exist, in this world. He was sincere and thoroughly
believed what he taught, but we have seen the necessity of modifying his
teachings to make them conform more nearly to the possibility. I give a few
quotations from his writings. Speaking of entire sanctification, he says:
now come to the great condition, and all potent means of perfect unity, found in
the prayer of Christ” (The Cleansing of the Sanctuary, p. 260, par. 2).
we say is secured to us the essential and all-sufficient means (entire
sanctification) of producing perfect unity in all the body of Christ” (par.
sanctification heals all division” (Ibid.).
all-pervading love of God . . . brings all hearts into the same harmony that
reigns in heaven, into perfect unity, as the Father and Son are one” (Ibid.).
sanctification, he again says: “Perfect oneness is its sure fruit” (Ibid,
p.262, par. 1).
G. Schell said: “The absence of unity proves the absence of sanctification”
(The Biblical Trace of the Church, p. 154).
teaching was based on
is not once anywhere in the New Testament linked with unity in relation of cause
and effect. Sanctification provides a good background for unity, but it does not
produce and maintain unity in and of itself. Unity is dependent also upon many
Warner also taught that entire sanctification will produce unity of doctrine as
a natural and inevitable fruit. Of the sanctified, he said: “They are all
brought into one faith . . . they are not left in various and conflicting views
and interpretations of one faith. Nay, but the unity of the faith implies one
faith, a perfect uniformity in the understanding of the same . . . God has made
full provision, in every respect, for the perfect harmony in faith, life, and
teaching of all who honestly wish to know the truth and obey the same” (The
Cleansing of the Sanctuary, p.263)
add another quotation on the general subject of sanctification and unity:
“Where the professed followers of Christ are divided into a plurality of
sects, they have not yet become thoroughly sanctified to God” (The Birth of
a Reformation, p.219).
trouble with such views is that they never have worked out in practice; neither
we nor any other body of people has ever possessed or maintained such unity.
Such views are a hindrance to unity rather than an aid in securing it. In all
nature the law is unity in diversity. The church is not an exception. This law
prevails in the church also. So there must be account taken of the wide variety
in thought, feeling, outlook, and understanding of different people, and
whatever unity is attained must be attained through accommodation to these
like happiness, is a by-product and cannot be produced by direct methods. We can
be happy only when the conditions we create make for happiness. We are united
when the conditions we create favor the production of unity as a natural fruit.
Preaching unity often hinders rather than helps the cause of unity. That is
because the effort is to produce unity directly, a thing that never can be done.
Moreover, the unity that is preached is commonly a pattern unity. By pattern
unity I mean a pattern of doctrine is preached, a theology that everyone is
expected to accept; a pattern of behavior is set up and all are expected to
behave according to this pattern. A pattern of organization and church
government is set up which everyone is expected to accept and to which he is
expected to conform. A pattern of worship is set up, and this pattern is made a
standard; in other words, the unity sought is uniformity. Uniformity is
people go into a community and preach a pattern unity they set forth a blueprint
of unity, along the lines mentioned, to which everybody is supposed to conform
in order to enter into the unity. The fact is, most people are already
patterned. They already have their beliefs, their standard of Christian
behavior, their ideas of church organization and government and worship. These
ideas may differ very widely from those of the pattern of unity being preached
to them. Some people in a community will be able to fit into the pattern of
unity that is preached; they will likely accept the preaching. The majority of
the people will not be able to fit into the pattern being preached; they have
already been molded into a pattern. They cannot change their pattern just
because one preaches a different one, therefore they will not accept the pattern
that is preached and consequently cannot come into the unity that is set up.
Pattern unity, therefore, can never bring about the unity of all Christians. It
is the wrong type of unity.
does not mean uniformity; it means unanimity. Unanimity depends on an attitude
of soul and mind. This can never be attained by accepting a pattern of unity. It
must come by experiencing unity within.
are four things that are the basis of true Christian unity. The first is the
recognition and acceptance of all Christians, simply because of their relation
with Christ. The second is love of all Christians, just because they are
Christians. The third, fellowship with all Christians, based on confidence
toward all Christians. Fourth, a co-operative attitude toward all Christians.
These four bases of Christian unity must be universal in their nature. They must
include all Christians. A unity that is limited to a group is not Christian
Unity--it is group unity. The unity of the church must be on a universal basis
or it never will be attained, and it must have unanimity as its keynote.
ROADS TO UNITY
the present time four roads to unity are being advocated or followed. They are
federation or federal union, as set forth by E. Stanley Jones and others, which
is the uniting of all Christian groups into a federation, with each group
maintaining its identity and its general characteristics.
second road is amalgamation; that is, the uniting of denominations, making one
denomination out of two or more.
third road is that of undenominational mingling, not on a denominational basis
at all, but on a purely Christian basis in interdenominational activities. So
far as I know no one is advocating this method as the method of producing unity.
It is being carried out with other purposes in view, co-operation being one of
these purposes. The results being produced are not the results of preaching
unity nor of trying to organize for unity. They are the natural indirect fruits
of the conditions being set up. Denominationalism fades into the background.
Their differences are temporarily forgotten and through this mingling, becoming
acquainted, sensing each other’s spirit, developing a common fellowship, real
and true unity, which is always informal unity, is being produced very
fourth road to unity is calling people out of other groups into one group. This
may or may not produce unity. Merely bringing people together in an organic
relationship cannot create unity. We know all too well from sad experience that
many people have come to us as a group and have professed to be in unity who
very soon proved they were not in unity, but were troublemakers or never were
able to fit in. So calling people into one group does not guarantee the unity of
that group, neither does it create unity with other groups of Christians. On the
contrary, it is likely to set up within the group a narrow and exclusive type of
unity which is often a hindrance to true universal Christian unity. The latter
is the type of unity Jesus prayed for—“That they all may be one.”
third road to unity seems to me to be the most promising of the four, though all
have their contribution to make.
Warner held, and our prophetic writers who followed him have held, that there
was no visible manifestation of the church from the time of the Apostasy down to
the beginning of our movement. There was “no visible, corporate, concrete
exhibition of God’s true church” (Revelation Explained, Rev. ed.,
p.268). The reformation is to call out Christians from the different sects and
re-establish the church as a visible body. “The true church is again
concretely, institutionally restored” (Ibid, p. 269). This seems to be a
misapprehension of the facts. The body of Christ as a spiritually organized body
has always existed from the time he created it. To say that body had no
manifestation that could be recognized during the ages seems to be to deny a
thousand facts. Were there no local churches of God until we formed some? Did
God deal with his people only as scattered individuals? Did he not work through
them in any way collectively? If he did work through them collectively, then
that collective group was a
are not the only body of people who claim that the church ceased to exist during
the Apostasy and had to be reconstituted. Some of the
bodies teach this same thing; likewise, the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists,
the Church of Christ, the Russellites, a number of holiness sects and other
bodies, all teach that to them was given the task of reconstituting the lost
church. They have built up bodies which they claim are the
outside their bodies is the church. Our claim is on a par with theirs. I think
we shall do well to see what effects their making such claims has had upon them
in making them feel superior to others, proud of their movement, intolerant.
When their attention is called to others who make the same claim that they make,
they say, “Oh, but they are wrong; we are right. God has called us to
re-establish his church, not them.” Let us be warned by their example.
PEOPLE COME TO US
come from other movements to our movement for at least eight different reasons:
They were riot getting on well where they were.
They had been disciplined or offended by the sect, or had personal troubles with
We preach something not accepted by their group which they accepted.
We were more spiritual than their group.
We had simpler, less formal worship.
They were not saved, and came to us to find salvation.
They were persuaded by friends, or our meetings were more convenient for them to
They accepted our prophetic interpretations and “came out” in response to
this last group can properly he counted as responding to our prophetic call to
obey the angel’s call, “Come out.” Of these there never at any time have
been more than a very limited number. I doubt if they often exceed 5 per cent of
our churches. This clearly shows that our message on prophecy has found little
acceptance and elicited little response. Our churches are built up mostly
through our Sunday schools and through converts from the world. Recently I was
discussing this point with a man who is a member of one of the largest of our
churches. I asked him what proportion of the people of his congregation had
accepted the call to “come out” and had come out of denominations to his
church. He said, “Very few. I think they could be counted on the fingers of
one hand.” I think if we make a test we may be surprised at how little
response has been made to our prophetic message. When our specialists on
Revelation give their lectures in a community to large crowds, I have watched
the reports that later come out. Perhaps one, two, or very rarely more have been
added permanently to the local congregation as the result of the prophetic
message. People just are not accepting this part of our message. Moreover, they
are not backsliding when they do not act upon it. They are going right along as
MAKES US A DISTINCT BODY?
are not made a distinct body through salvation. Many persons and groups are
saved the same as we are, yet are not a part of our group. We are not made a
distinct body by any essential Christian thing, for we are not exclusive in our
possession of any such thing. Neither are we made a distinct group by a
sectarian attitude of God toward us, as a group or personally, for his attitude
is the same toward all his people.
are the things that make us a distinct body:
A common theology and a common standard of ethics and religious life. We have
common taboos and common acceptances.
Common methods and practices.
Common ideals, purposes and interests.
Common attitudes and shibboleths.
Common fellowship and confidence.
Common system of co-operation, with common agencies.
Common social activities, such as camp meetings, conventions, assemblies, etc.
Common ownership of church property.
Common control of property, agencies, etc., by commonly selected boards or other
Common support of our agencies and projects.
Common sense of “belonging” to the group.
groups have the same characteristics as we that group them. Many also have an
over-all formal control organization, but this organization depends for its
existence, strength, and authority on those characteristics which cause and
sustain the grouping. Local churches have the same grouping characteristics that
unite them to other churches, and also other things that create special
relations in the local group.
are united into a group not merely geographically, but by ideas, ideals,
customs, and relationships. Yet with all their differences from other people
they cannot claim to be the human race in any specific or special way that
others are not also an integral part of the race. Neither can our group properly
claim to be the church in a way that shuts out other Christians or groups of
universal church may be organized as local congregations in a formal way, but it
cannot be organized formally as a general body in any practical way. Any attempt
to so organize it results in a denomination, for that which unites some local
churches into a visible, distinct organic group at the same time separates them
from all other Christian groups. This separation is denominational and strongly
tends to and usually does violate Christian unity.
am not a pessimist nor a kill-joy, but I know that indulging in rosy daydreams
that are impossible of realization is futile. I am a realist and like to look
the facts of any situation squarely in the face and adjust myself to those facts
rather than ignore them. From this standpoint, then, let us look at the probable
progress and development of our movement.
have a glorious message and have made progress in a gratifying way until we now
number, according to our yearbook, about 90,000 members. If we continue to go on
as we have done so far, what may we reasonably expect for the future?
see no reason to suppose that we shall not continue to prosper and increase, to
build up many new churches and to increase the size of many of the present ones,
and to find better methods and develop more capable workers. If we do all this
and succeed even more than what the past and present promise, what even then may
we hope for and expect?
the first place, can we expect to become a world-wide movement that will be
outstanding and a challenge to all other movements? Have we the dynamic or the
leadership to produce such results? So far we have produced no leaders of the
caliber of Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody, or the great leaders of Christian
thought in the world of today. We are strongly conservative, and conservatism
does not produce a powerful dynamic with the drive necessary to move the world.
In view of these facts, we can hardly have reason to expect our movement to
become an outstanding world movement.
Warner expected all Christians to be brought into this movement in a single
generation—this I know from his own lips. He said so publicly in a meeting I
attended, and from others I learn that he repeated the statement at other times
and in other places. His expectations are not only far from being realized, hut
they have not even begun to be realized. No large number of Christians have
heard and accepted our “come out” message. Of those who have come to us from
other movements, by far the greater number have come not because of hearing that
message but because they wanted the salvation we preach or because they sought
greater freedom among a more spiritual people.
“come out” message has never proved effective except in a most limited way,
and I see no reason to expect it to be more effective in the future. If we
should count the number of those who were Christians in the denominations and
who heard our prophetic message and because of it came to us, we would find the
number surprisingly small, the percentage of our whole number very low.
are more Christians in the denominations every year in spite of our message.
There are probably a million persons converted in the world every year. The hope
of ever bringing these Christians into our group is futile.
hold no brief for the denominations; Christendom has inherited them from the
past. The question now is how to get rid of them. It is not the simple, easy
matter that so many suppose it to be; in fact, it is the most difficult matter
with which the church is faced.
can be a member of a denomination and yet be wholly unsectarian. On the other
hand, one can be undenominational or antidenominational and still be thoroughly
sectarian. The task of reuniting Christians is a most difficult task, and it
will take a long time; but it must be done by whatever means, and by all means,
by which it can be accomplished.
love our movement. I have given my life to it. I love its people. They are my
dearest friends. I expect to end my days on earth in this movement and to
contribute all I possibly can to its advancement. But I long to see it freed
from the things that have impeded its progress and have caused it to be
misunderstood. I am sure that better, richer, more glorious days lie ahead of us
for we are making genuine progress and getting rid of many of the things that
have stood in our way.
we would stop preaching our theories of prophecy which few will ever believe,
and with power preach salvation, righteous living, true unity, a spiritual
church-and exemplify these things--we would prosper and be blessed as at no past
time and our message would not be misunderstood as it has been so far. The way
of victory is the way of simple, plain, gospel truth, loved, preached, and lived
in the Bible way. If instead of being doctrine-centered or movement-centered we
would become more and more Christ-centered, we would find many of our problems
automatically solved and the glow of holy fervor would melt all hearts together.
excuse for our existence.” For years some people have been saying that if we
are not specifically and exclusively God’s church, and if our movement is not
the definite fulfillment and object of Old and New Testament prophecies, then
“we have no excuse for our existence.” Perhaps some people will say that if
this paper is true it leaves us “no excuse.” We do not, however, need any
“excuse” for our existence for we have many
good reasons to
justify such existence. Some of these are:
We are getting thousands of souls saved.
We are building up hundreds of real biblical churches.
These churches are wielding a great moral and spiritual influence in their
We are publishing literature that is having a wide influence even outside our
Our schools are educating many young men and women for gospel service.
Our missionaries are doing a great work.
Our teaching on a pure and spiritual church with a saved membership is unique
and outstanding. No other group emphasizes this truth as we do.
We emphasize the need for unity more than other groups do.
sum up, if we should suddenly be taken out of the world as a movement, and there
be no loss to Christianity or to society, then we have neither excuse nor reason
to exist; but whatever losses of any and all sorts that would ensue from our
going, the sum of those losses, for the present and future, is the sum of our
reasons for our existence.