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"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me . . . unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8.
THE history of a denomination is best understood when viewed in its relation to church history as a whole, and especially to that history in its earlier stages. It will be helpful, then, before considering in detail the events which make up the history of the advent movement, to take a brief survey of the apostolic church. This will enable us to get our bearings, as it were, and be qualified to pass intelligent judgment upon the various questions of doctrine and belief that will come before us. Such a course of action is the more necessary because Adventists are in no true sense of the word innovators. The truths they stand for are old and fundamental, taught by all the holy apostles and prophets, and their aim has been to free themselves from later accretions and attain as far as possible to the simplicity and purity of apostolic times.
An outstanding characteristic of the apostolic church, as we view it in the light of the brief record given in the book of Acts, is the extreme simplicity of its doctrines, its organization,
and its manner of work. The doctrines were Christ-centered. The members believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and acceptance with God. They were justified by faith in His vicarious death on the cross; they were saved by His life. The law of God as revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures was not set aside. It was holy, just, and good, and could convince of sin; but it could not save the sinner. There was only one name under heaven whereby men could be saved.
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16: 15.
The simple message preached by the early church, and adapted to the needs alike of Greek and Jew, was the message of the everlasting gospel, and was based on Scripture. In manifesting this loyalty to the written word, the apostles but followed the Master's own example, for of Him it is recorded. that "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."
The Scriptures were held in the highest esteem by all Christians, and were final authority. Peter and Paul and the other apostles offered no new doctrines; they based their teaching on the Scriptures of that day, namely, the Old Testament. Of course, they viewed the Sacred Writings of old in the light of Christ's life and teaching; which was but letting the light of
an inspired life shine upon an inspired book. Christ came to fulfil, not to destroy; and His disciples followed in His footsteps. The Levitical priesthood and its ordinances passed away with the arrival of that higher reality to which they had pointed forward; but God's great moral law, which lies at the foundation of His government of the universe, could not pass away, being in its nature unchangeable and eternal.
The organization of the apostolic church was both simple and effective. There were two kinds of officers,- elders (or
THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark 16: 16. bishops) and deacons, the former having the spiritual oversight v of the church, and the latter taking charge of its temporal affairs, such as the distribution of funds to the poor.
Church government was on the democratic order. When it seemed desirable to select a successor to fill the place of Judas, the apostles called for an assembly of the believers, and in their presence and with the help, no doubt, of their counsel, two were put forward, one of whom was to be selected by lot. Again, when it became necessary to appoint officers to take the oversight of caring for the poor, we read that "the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them," and laid the matter before them. Of a spiritual hierarchy, such as was developed
later, there is no hint in these records of the church in its pristine purity. The elders of the local churches and the evangelists who traveled from place to place while laboring in word. and doctrine, formed a spiritual brotherhood in harmony with the divine instruction, "All ye are brethren;" "one is your Master, even Christ."
But while there was equality of rank among those who ministered the word in the early church, this did not lead to independent action. The records that have been handed down are
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." John 11: 25.
extremely brief; but enough is said to show that the Christians of that day had a conception of the church as being one body in Christ, and realized from the beginning the value of mutual co-operation in the work of giving the gospel to the world.
The spirit of unity was very marked in the early days at Jerusalem. "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Of the waiting time it is recorded: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren." Nor did this unity continue only while the believers were confined to a few. After the original number had been greatly increased, and thousands had been