This timely message was taken from sections of our beloved General Overseer, Bishop A. J. Tomlinson, in his Eighteenth Annual Address in 1923. Oh, how timely it is for us today!
Reprinted in The Arise Shine Publication March 2013 Vol. 7 Edition 3
“We are now in the last days that are to try the metal in every man to prove what sort it is. If a man can be seduced at all, he will be seduced now. Certain men are getting in their deadly work in all the world. False Christs and false prophets are now on their job just like Jesus said they would come. Many are showing signs and wonders and speaking great swelling words to seduce all who are not so fixed and settled that they can bear the name of the elect. All but the elect will be seduced and driven into strong delusion, and such a halter placed upon them that they will never get loose any more. Evil men and seducers are now waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, just as Paul prophesied. Many of those who have been our own people are now in the gall of bitterness because they were not able to stand out against seducing spirits. But all who have been able to stem the tide and ride the waves of doubts and fears are higher in spirituality and fuller of God-given courage and boldness than ever before.
Who would not want to be a hero now? Who would not want to heed the clarion call by the great Apostle Paul, when he said, ‘Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.’ To be a weakling now means to be seduced and led astray. To be discouraged now means to give up the very job that God called you into years ago. To fall behind the main ranks now is to be captured by the advance guards of the enemy that are always picking up stragglers. I prophesy that some who have been good men will soon die and their bodies will be laid in the cold, cold grave, all because they have become confused and have not been able to bravely breast the storm of battle arrayed against them.
It has been said that the best way to withstand the enemy in a defensive battle is to wage a strong offensive battle. Just merely to try to live now under the tremendous shower of shot and shell means entire defeat and total annihilation. The only sure way to live is to join the ranks of those who are strong and bold in their declaration of truth and right. You must really quit yourselves like men and be strong, or be swallowed up by that spirit that is ready to overwhelm and devour every weakling. Paul commands to withdraw from proud people who will not consent to wholesome words and to the doctrine which is according to godliness. Such people are dangerous because they are possessed by a spirit of strife, envy, railings, evil surmisings, and suppose that gain is godliness. To with draw from such people is a means of protection to keep from falling into the same snare. Paul also insists that the saints of God should turn away from people who are covetous, boastful, trucebreakers, false accusers, traitors, heady, and high-minded, although they may have a form of godliness.
Indeed these are perilous times when men are going to be caught in the coils of deception and so strangled by the powers of flattery and otherwise that they will never escape. If I should fail in everything else, I do not want to fail to inspire courage and bravery in the soldiers now on the great battlefield against sin and deception. Have courage my brothers, my sisters—we must win today in this great struggle for the right. A story is told of one of the generals during the Revolutionary War which is very impressive. The odds were against the American forces and the time drew near for another battle. This general addressed his men early in the morning and said, ‘Boys, we must win today or Mollie Stark is a widow.’ His gallantry and bravery in the battle caused his men to put forth all their strength. They ran into the fight with undaunted courage and the foe was vanquished. The brave general was not even wounded in battle, and his wife was not left a widow. Surely we can have the same kind of courage in this revolution which is of such vast importance just now.
The past year has been one of thrilling happenings for the Church of God. Sometimes the Church has been as completely hidden from the view of some people as the Bethlehem star was hidden from the wise men while they were on the streets of Jerusalem. The fact was that the star was not over the big city of Jerusalem, but over the little village of Bethlehem. While these wise men were among the big buildings of the big city they could not see the star, but these wise men were wise enough to get away from big buildings and take the narrow road that led to Bethlehem. Then the star was seen again, and they never lost sight of it any more till it guided them to the very place where the young child Jesus was found. If those who have lost sight of the Church will only get out from among the big buildings of the city or whatever the obstruction is, and be willing to take the narrow path that our Saviour has trod, the Church will again shine forth in her beauty as before.
The constitution and other rules and laws and legislations are some of the obstructions. We must get out from among such worldly skyscrapers and take the lowly path; then the star of hope will shine brightly again. It has been repeatedly declared that the Assembly of the Church of God was not a legislative or lawmaking body, but only judicial, which searched out the laws already made by our Lord and conveyed to us by His holy apostles. But in spite of the early practices and the statement that it was not legislative, it became legislative under the constitution and seventy elders with the General Overseer having full power and authority to ‘designate rules of government, teachings and principles for the local churches,’ and the local churches are compelled to put on the yoke and submit to it no matter how galling it is, and no person has any right to raise his voice against a measure, lest he be reported and thrown out entirely.
There is less freedom of speech in the Church under that constitution than there is in the United States of America under its constitution. And besides these things already mentioned, this lawmaking body of men is self-perpetuating. Twelve of them are in their position for life, unless some are ruled out by others of their own body, and no one, not even the Assembly, has any jurisdiction over them. These twelve have the authority to select and put out the seventy, or any part of them. Thus, in reality, the whole government is in the hands of a few men, who may disregard God if they want. And if anyone objects to their actions and decisions, he is charged with disloyalty and excluded from membership. Then, too, this same small number of men have power to ‘create new and other positions and fill them,’ when in their opinion the needs may require.
The Church of God is a Theocratic Government—administered by the immediate direction of God. But this constitution and other measures leading up to it have made it Oligarchy—a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of a few.”
I am glad today that The Church of God still believes in Theocratic Government. We will not make it unless we are under the immediate direction of God.