An Earnest Appeal To Those Who, Having

Accepted God’s Truth, Have Been United

With Christ In Baptism And Profess To

Follow Him As Their Example In Daily Life.

Although the following article was produced by the Adelaide Ecclesia some seventy years ago and times have changed, it is interesting to observe that our brethren faced similar problems to today.

The object of this is to consider evil habits which are to some extent current in the household of God, practised secretly and openly, and tolerated by some who do not practise them. It is true that occasionally an article appears in print, and that words of exhortation in a mild way draw attention to evils, but there remains yet more that is needful.

No visible Master is in our midst; no Paul, John, Isaiah, or Jeremiah. We accept the words spoken and written by all these as the basis of our religion, and thereby consent to them as authoritative. Thus the words of God uttered through Isaiah (lviii) apply to us:—“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgressions, and the house of Israel their sins.” We sadly need a modern Isaiah to break in upon the household of God in these days, telling out the sins and delinquencies of His people, and reminding them as the prophet did Israel that, in the day of their fast they sought and found pleasures and exacted things wherewith they grieved others.

Jesus informed the disciples that when the bridegroom was taken away they would fast. He is still away. Of what should our fast consist if not to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness? How forcibly the Preacher in Ecclesiastes warns God’s people against seeking and being filled with the vanities of daily life.

The writer of this would rejoice exceedingly if it were even doubtful that the evils or vanities mentioned existed in the household. That they do exist has been confirmed by considered observation, experience, hearing, and by actual confession of those who indulge in them, and who, let it be candidly admitted, do so without realizing the danger attending their habits. And because blame is due to some one, it falls perhaps more justly on senior brethren, who have permitted the meetings to be chiefly spent in doctrinal upbuilding, thereby largely excluding attention to moral advancement. The reasons for this negligence or oversight is due to the opinion that Bible Class functions consist in studying the doctrinal word, and exhortation time is not quite suitable for upsetting any brother’s or sister’s mind by propounding opinions upon some problematic habit! Hence, no other time is available. The reading matter of the Truth’s library contains but little, and current literature rarely adopts a bold policy on this subject, taking it for granted, possibly, that acceptance of the Truth will have sufficiently enlightened the believer of its doctrinal truths as to his or her moral obligations. And to a great extent this occurs, although it is no reason why nothing further should be done. Hence this warning.

Sometimes we sing, “the very bride her calling, and portion hath forgot, and seeks for ease and glory where Thou her Lord art not.” It has been thought that this indictment is too severe, and some have deleted the words, while others have altered them.

And yet, apparently, much truth underlies them

Paul the Apostle asks: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness and what concord hath Christ with Belial (worthlessness), or what part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever, and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor vi: 14). Let us not read these words with an application to bygone days, nor with the idea that they bear a doctrinal but no moral significance; for if they have meaning it is both doctrinal and moral, for our present time. Let us now examine ourselves searchingly and closely to see if any of these comparisons are applicable to any practice or habit of daily life. To the extent that we reach the standard we are becoming the undefiled temple of God, and have obeyed His commandment to “come out and be separate, and touch not the unclean,” and then, “He will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.” Such, then, is the standard set by our heavenly Father, and to which He asks us to conform. It is the standard by which we may simply test ourselves to see whether our profession of sonship is quite genuine.

Let us also remember that we live in the times of which the prophets wrote, and the angels desired to look into. These are the last days, and we therefore need to gird up the loins of our minds in every possible manner, “and be sober as obedient children, not fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts of our ignorance.” So the Apostle Peter wrote, continuing with the admonition to “be holy in all manner of conversation [behaviour or conduct].” We may rest assured that if such advice and admonition was necessary in those days, it was because practices and habits of an unworthy nature were indulged in by the early disciples. Having been foretold that in the last days things would be worse, and “men would be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” how much greater becomes the necessity of watchfulness, lest we unconsciously drift into the habits of the evil world. In the absence of an Isaiah, let the elder brethren “Cry aloud and spare not.”

And, further, because we claim to know the Truth, to have found the Way and to hope for the Life; in short, to have chosen Christ and his unquestionable ways in preference to the ways of the world, shall we not receive with approval every appeal which is made for the abolition of the works of the flesh? When we stand at the judgment there need be little fear of condemnation for our not knowing the truth, but there is great fear of being banished, as Jesus said, because “Ye did it not.”

The Smoking Habit

A very common practice existing in the household among brothers, which may in due time extend to the sisters, as it has in the world, is the smoking habit. None would say it is wicked, but it is considered a degenerate habit, degrading and undesirable in its nature. After listening to numerous attempts by smoking brethren to justify it, there has not one of them been prepared to admit that in Christ’s presence they would practise it. In some cases there may be real or imagined physical benefits, usually discovered after the habit has been acquired. Much sympathy might be extended to elder men who, coming into the body, find the habit so severely possessing them that, as they say, they “cannot knock it off.” Dear brethren, allowing that to do without is indeed a great trial, is any sacrifice too great “for Christ’s sake” and for the sake of those young disciples who, entering the ranks have learned to believe that we are separated from the world alike in belief and habit? Failing abstinence by the seniors what can be expected of the juniors? They quickly follow the example of the older brethren. Surely none will contend that it is the example of the Master. Answer is frequently made that “there is no harm in it.” Let it rather be asked whether there is any good in it, for we profess to be, to seek, and to secure, good. Smoking is either a godly or an ungodly practice. If the former we may adopt it; if the latter, we should not. In saying this it is not the smokers who are condemned; it is the habit, which cannot be included in the category of godly things enumerated by Paul: “Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, think on these things… those things which ye have learned, received, heard, and seen in me do.” (Philippians iv: 8). Such is the very excellent advice of Paul, whom we admire so greatly. Things which are unharmonious to those embodied in the list we can well afford to leave alone. On the score of the smoking habit, this appeal goes forth to plead with smoking brethren to make the sacrifice of selfdenial for Christ’s sake and abandon the practice. He will recompense.

The Liquor Habit

A more serious thing which in the world is a colleague with the former is the liquor habit. To an alarming extent this is practised in the household. Brethren may be found who indulge in convivial drinking in public houses and elsewhere with the alien with whom they will not have any religious association. Is not the friendship of the world declared by the Apostle James to be “enmity with God”? “Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.” Surely no defence exists for this practice. Yet how terribly hard it becomes to desist. Only the grace of God seems able to turn the drinker from the error of his ways. Advice, admonition, and interest alike seem incapable of curing him. And in the end one takes too much and too often, until faith is shipwrecked. The lesson arising from these cases is the evil of the first beginning. By separating ourselves from the world by baptism, we have denied ourselves the liberty of keeping company with those who, “practising such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” The free use of intoxicating liquor is practised in homes of some brethren. And sisters take their share. Much excuse and plausible argument is advanced in its favour. No evil is so terrible as that which smothers self-responsibility. Any doubts may be readily solved by asking the question: “Would Christ commend or condemn it? Is it a worldly or godly practice? When we remember our deep concern for exemption of brethren from military service, it surely is not too much to claim exemption also from the evil ways of the flesh. What shall be answered before a military tribunal if the question were put regarding our habits of daily life? Would consistency answer in our favour? We can give these degrading habits up, and we should “for Christ’s sake.” Let the power of example influence us.

Stage and Pictures

But there is another and quickly developing evil making itself familiar among the members of the body. Formerly, the playhouse and theatre or pantomime were considered to be unfit places for Christ’s brethren. Perhaps this is the general opinion at the present time, and yet there are those who see no harm in opera, pantomime, or theatre, and who patronize them. When the world sees, as it may, some prominent worker in the Master’s vineyard attending these places, it raises the question of consistency and example; for do we not boldly claim that we have come out and separated ourselves from the world? We make this clear from our platforms. He would be of doubtful wisdom who would be found in any of these places at the appearing of Christ. The Master cannot be imagined seeking his brethren in the company of those who waste their time and opportunity in such vanities. For while there may be no harm there certainly is no good of the right sort attached to the footlights.

While many brethren stand aghast at the before mentioned places of amusement, some indeed of the objectors enjoy the habit of regularly spending certain evenings at the popular picture palaces! This is no less than an anomaly, even if it be not truly inconsistent. The picture screen is but a reproduction in degree of the footlight play, which requires to be staged for the purpose of the cinematograph. Some pictures may be instructive, the majority are “pleasant to the eyes,” so doubtfully pleasant that even the worldly authorities consider it wise to censor certain pictures in whole or part. Is there not enough human nature and its doings before our eyes in daily life that we need to pay for a sensational reproduction on the stage or screen? Those actively engaged in the Master’s work will not have desire or time to yield to this fast-growing evil. To such an alarming extent has this form of evil crept into the household that the propriety of it is scarcely questioned. Picture palaces are among the world’s present-day idols, and “what agreement hath the temple of God with idols, for we are the temple of the living God”? Brethren and sisters, in these days we need to spend the time of our sojourning in fear. The Master is at hand. It will take all our time and attention to fit ourselves in readiness to meet him. If he should come while we were engaged with the frivolities of life in a picture show or elsewhere, would he seek us there? “Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” has its meaning for us who are of the day as well as for those who are of the night. We are admonished to “deny worldly desires and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ,” and to “always follow after that which is good.”

The Up-to-date Mind

Another pleasant evil is protruding its presence in the body. Not that sisters intend to disregard what is written in Scripture, but they err most likely for the same reason as their prototype Eve. In Genesis 3:6 we read: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes… she took of the fruit thereof and did eat.” There is no necessity to discuss the ‘pros and cons’ of Eve’s misfortune which ended in failure; it is sufficient for our purpose to note the causes. The fruit was pleasant to the eyes, it was pretty and yet to remain untouched; it was good for food yet not to be eaten.

The fashion of the world is ever changing, but that does not permit us the liberty of setting our affections on the changing world and its fashions. Nor is it to be denied that in recent years the pendulum of dress and style swung toward the borderland of vulgarity, bringing blushes to the cheeks of the prudent. There is an attempt to cheat truth by dressing so as to disguise age, and mothers have externally spurned their matronage and bedecked themselves as their daughters! There is an excess of time and thought devoted to personal adornment, making it apparent that many opportunities are bestowed on that which is “pleasant to the eyes.” If senior sisters take ad-vantage of the world’s goddess, what can be expected of the younger members? They promptly annex the licence exhibited by the elder sisters. And, again, how much observation and no small amount of comment is sometimes expressed regarding the new attire of sisters present at the breaking of bread meeting. The memorial feast tells that these are the days of our fasting in the Master’s absence, and we need to remember that Israel was rebuked by God for finding pleasure when they professed to be fasting. All these things were written for our admonition and learning, on whom the ends of the ages are come. Often and often the prophets were directed to condemn the excess of external beauty which the women of Israel indulged in, and the Apostles declared how the holy women were to adorn themselves. Sisters have great powers for good, and in view of the Lord’s approach, we believe it would be acceptable to him if they abandoned the world to its own follies and study that separateness or holiness without which none shall see the Lord.

It is a hard and somewhat unpleasant duty to break in upon the apparently harmless enjoyment of the sisters in Christ, but “for his sake” they will not object to a rebuke which will not hinder them in securing his approval. Realizing that the motive of this appeal is not an attack upon the individual, but an effort to keep the body up to the standard of holiness, both brethren and sisters will endeavour to adorn themselves with “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price.” The fashion of that spirit remains unchanged and abideth for ever.

Marriage

There remains to be considered another growing evil. This is the violation of direct example and command which has brought disappointment, unhappiness and despair into the lives of many. This is companionship, betrothal, and marriage by believers with unbelievers. Many good brethren and sisters have wrecked their course to the kingdom upon this shoal, and, like the rich man in Hades, would have it testified lest their brethren should fall into the same error and terror. Strict regard to the requirements of God will prevent both. Too much confidence in promises made by the unbelieving companion; too much hope in the assurance of later acceptance of the truth, have caused many to become unequally yoked in marriage. The result, instead of joy, has been abiding regret that the experience of other brethren, and the examples in Israel did not serve as a loud warning against the intention to enter life’s union under unequal and unholy conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to raise the alarm to those who are in this manner consorting with unbelievers. Necessary too, that brethren who have been entrusted with the care of the ecclesias, like faithful stewards, should “cry aloud and spare not” in exhibiting this violation of Divine requirement. “Only in the Lord” is the essential condition for companionship and marriage of those in the Divine family. From this condition there is no escape, and although violation of it may bring, and has brought, its penalties, it behoves those “who watch for their souls as those who shall give account” to make it clear by precept and example that God has declared our duty even in this matter.

General

There are other phases of pleasure and vanity which are practised in our midst. The active association of brethren and sisters with various ‘outside’ organizations. such as political, municipal, philanthropic, social, and other matters is not “of the truth” and will make the last state of brethren more difficult than the first. We need to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. We are to let our speech be seasoned with salt. And in conclusion let attention be drawn to the very frequent habit of speaking to and of, brothers and sisters, as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss.” There are times when it is an indiscretion not to do so, before strangers; but these remarks apply to conversation with those in the household. The expression of “brother” or “sister” is that which has been recognized by our Head as being appropriate to our calling in Christ Jesus as “sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.” It will be a great evil if the household reverts to the commonplaces of daily life. Any indignity suffered now on this score will be compensated in the age to come. If we are brethren and sisters in Christ we should not fear to address each other as such.

This pamphlet might be much extended, but it is questionable whether argument will produce conviction where the desire for such is absent. It is sent forth on its mission without apology in the name of Christ, for his sake and that of his household. Knowing our duty, it should be our aim in life to do it. The pathway to the kingdom is an onward and upward one. The ideal of Christ is lofty; to him we have to look as the beacon light. He would have each of his servants set their affections on things above (high), and not on things beneath (low). By God’s mercy we have seen the light, and it will be our wisdom to walk as “children of light.”

It is allowed, and believed, that brethren and sisters who might be affected by this appeal are earnestly striving to seek the kingdom of God and its righteousness. To that end the pamphlet will be no deterrent; it is hoped it will be an incentive. To any who may resent interference with individual rights and privileges, it will be sufficient to remind such that “none of us liveth unto himself” (Rom 14:7). We are all members of one Body, and are inter-dependent. The sole motive of this is to arouse ourselves to the fact that the midnight hour is at hand, and with it Christ’s return. He has forewarned us that his household will be slumbering at such a time, some prepared, and others unprepared and sound asleep, but when awakened unable to enter into the marriage feast.

No apology for this publication will be expected from the writer by those who realize the momentous days in which we live. What shall separate us from the love of Christ? What sacrifice shall we withhold “for his sake”?

Let us “abstain from all appearance of evil.”