By Arthur G. Daniells
Seventh-day Adventists draw their beliefs from the teachings of the Word of God, consciously ordering both their doctrines and their practices by a clear “thus saith the Lord.” From the earliest days of this movement that included an embrace of the biblical doctrine of the gift of prophecy—just because that truth is clearly taught in Scripture.
One of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s ablest early leaders was Arthur G. Daniells, longtime president of the General Conference (1901-1922), and a friend and colleague of Ellen G. White during the latter half of her long life (1827-1915). Following his retirement, Daniells penned The Abiding Gift of Prophecy in 1935, to affirm the prophetic gift that he had witnessed during many years of ministry. This selection is from his concluding chapter.—Editors
The welfare of the church as a whole, and of its individual members, is inseparably bound up with believing and heeding God’s prophets. These, as we have seen, are His chosen messengers, His appointed spokesmen, to His church on earth. As we have also clearly shown, this plan of communication has been God’s chosen, uniform, and beneficent provision for revealing His will to man, ever since the separation caused by sin. Through this means, God counsels and instructs, He cautions, entreats, and warns, as need may occasion and as divine love indicates. The presence of the prophet among men is not, therefore, something new or unusual, something strange or fantastic. God is the author of this provision, and wayfaring man is its beneficiary. It is as old as the human need, and as constant as the divine love that prompted and instituted it.
The vicissitudes of the church in all ages have been gauged by its allegiance or its disloyalty to the gift of prophecy, and its safety measured by its response to these heavenly leadings. Through the centuries spanning the patriarchal, Mosaic, and apostolic eras, we have seen this inviolable rule in operation, as revealed in the pages of Holy Writ.
Then after the death of the apostles, the tragic march of events in the Christian era begins, is told in blood and tears, and is blotched with drift and apostasy. Steadily the nominal Christian church veers from those foundation principles—the precepts and practices, the letter and the spirit—that characterized the apostolic church. The departure centered in perversion of the law and the gospel, though it permeated every truth of Christianity.
Tragic has been the lot of those who stood for the primitive faith. Hated and maligned, persecuted and isolated, they witnessed to the truth. But from time to time prophets—men and women—arose at the call of God, and denounced the iniquity of the disloyal. They encouraged the fidelity of the faithful, and guided and guarded the adherents of truth through the weary centuries.
Now in these divinely denominated “last days,” God’s great plan of redemption and the mad course of the human race approach their climax together. Iniquity so abounds among men, human philosophy is so defiant, man’s independence of God and of the provisions of redemption are so affronting in this supreme conflict between good and evil, that it was imperative for the gift of prophecy to be conspicuously manifest in the ranks of the remnant church.
If ever in the course of the race man needed divine guidance, it is surely in these last days, when all the forces of iniquity have broken loose to confuse and to ruin, when the secular world has gone materialistic, and the religious world has turned to modernistic teachings. If ever in history the church needed to have divine guidance, that time was reached at the crisis hour of the Advent movement, just following the disappointment of 1844, and throughout the decades following. Far-reaching were the issues; but adequate was God’s guidance.
The last conflict comes over allegiance to God, and reaches its consummation in our day. The perfect law of God, with its Sabbath seal, is the object of Satan’s hatred, and he would swing the world to his side in the conflict. The full salvation provided through faith in Christ is equally the object of his relentless attempts to deny His incarnation, His atoning death, His priestly ministry, and His imminent return in power and glory.
Satan’s wrath is focused on God’s remnant church, the supreme object of divine love and guidance. This church will finally stand as the sole defender of God’s trampled law, to which are joined the full provisions of redemption. Not only is the church as a whole the object of the evil one’s attack, but the individual member as well is harassed, because of maintaining the integrity of the law and the gospel. Through injecting doubt, carelessness, defiance, or repudiation, Satan likewise seeks to turn allegiance from the counsels of the gift of prophecy. Hence the three great issues at stake in this last hour are as clearly and sharply defined as inspiration can disclose them. But these have all become confused in the beliefs and practices among the masses of Christendom.
But now … the question of individual and church relationship to God’s gift stands forth as of supreme importance. My closing words are therefore a plea for the recognition and heeding of this divine provision for the counsel of the church. They are an appeal to the church to keep these matters ever in mind, and to follow them faithfully in practice.
Mark well, in retrospect, what this gift has meant to this people through the decades of the past. Mark well, how crisis after crisis has been met, and how issue after issue has been successfully faced. Time has vindicated the heavenly counsels in every instance. Consider, by way of impressive comparison and admonition, the days of Israel in the time of Moses, and then ponder our own times as a parallel. Here are the words of Israel’s great leader of old:
“I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days.” Deut. 30:15, 19, 20.
Realizing that he was soon to lay down his responsibilities, the aged patriarch, Moses, was giving his final charge to the people whom he had led for forty years, from Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land.
He had great hopes for the future of his beloved people. But knowing, by long experience, their frailties and their weakness at times under temptations and hardships, he also cherished grave fears that they might meet national disaster and defeat. Recognizing that their destiny for weal or woe was conditioned upon their relation to the instruction sent from God, he graphically, and at considerable length, set before them the blessings, temporal and spiritual, that would be theirs if they were obedient, and the curses that would be consequent upon their disobedience. (See Deuteronomy 27, 28.)
When he counseled them to love the Lord God, and to obey His voice, he was thereby exhorting them to heed the messages of counsel and instruction that he, as God’s messenger, had delivered to them. Save for the Ten Commandments, all the laws and testimonies and statutes enjoined upon them had been spoken through Moses. That they should see or hear only the human instrument in nowise lessened the guilt of their rejection of these divine requirements. That is true also, not only of the generation that he personally addressed, but of the men and women of all time.
Moses made provision for these solemn adjurations ever to be kept in remembrance. Parents were to teach them to their children, speaking of them when they were sitting in the house or walking by the way, as well as in the evening and in the morning hours of worship. (Deut. 11:19, 20.) They were to be written for a memorial in a book, and placed in the side of the ark. Every seventh year they were to be taken out and publicly read before the concourse of pilgrims assembled at the Feast of Tabernacles. For this solemn rehearsal of the prophetic writings, they were to gather the men and the women, not forgetting the stranger who was within their gates. The children who were coming to years of understanding were especially mentioned. They were also to hear, and learn to fear the Lord. (See Deut. 31:9-13.)
In view of the failure of Israel of old thus to keep in remembrance the solemn messages that had come through God’s chosen messenger, should not we “upon whom the ends of the world are come” see to it that the instruction that has been given to the remnant church shall be kept vividly in mind?
Arthur G. Daniells (1858-1935) was an evangelist, missionary, editor, and long-serving president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.