TEXT OF ADDRESS BY V.T. HOUTEFF,
MINISTER OF D. SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS
SABBATH, FEBRUARY 21, 1948
MT. CARMEL CHAPEL
Our text is found in Isaiah, chapter 2, verse 22.
Isa. 2:22 – “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”
In this verse of Scripture God recommends that we cease from man. And the reason given is that man’s breath is in his nostrils; because without breath he is but a lump of dirt, and therefore of no account. He is no God.
The plea would not have been made if the people were not putting their trust in man rather than in God for their salvation; that is, rather than doing what the noble Bereans did, studying to know whether “these things be so,” God’s people are giving heed to what others think or say. They are today doing what hundreds of thousands were doing in Jesus’ day: trusting in the opinions of their learned priests, scribes, and rabbis. The Jews’ giving heed to hearsay instead of engaging in personal investigation and experience of their own with the source of truth is, therefore, the very thing that crucified the Lord.
And where do you suppose such confidence in man originated? – We often think that evil originated with Eve when she reached for the forbidden fruit. But the fact is that evil already existed before Eve came in contact with it. Let us read this from the prophet Isaiah:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” – Isa. 14:12-15.
We understand that Satan’s name before he sinned was Lucifer, and that he sinned before Eve sinned, that he was impersonated in the serpent that deceived Eve. We shall therefore consider the sin in heaven before we further consider sin on earth.
Satan, we are told, was not the only sinner in Heaven, for with him were cast out of Heaven a third of the angelic host (Rev. 12:4). These were cast out of Heaven because they gave heed to the words of Lucifer, to a man in Heaven, rather than giving heed to the word of God. This was the angels’ downfall. Lucifer himself fell when he aspired to be as God.
These two sins – trust in man, and desire to exalt self – are still the leading sin elements now here on earth. This was Eve’s stumbling block and to many even today it is still the stumbling block. No, appetite alone was not the cause of Eve’s downfall. The serpent did not say, “Thou shouldst eat of this fruit for it is wonderful, more delicious than any other fruit in the garden of God.” But he said: “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:5.
The fruit, of course, appealed to her, but she was tempted by the idea of having the opportunity to be exalted to the throne of God, to be exalted to the same position to which Lucifer himself aspired. Lucifer must have honestly believed that he would be as God if the angels in Heaven and the men on earth would but take orders from him.
And so we see that the Devil deceived Eve on the same grounds he deceived himself and his angels, the only difference being that he caused Eve to eat of the fruit which he himself and his angels would not eat. Consequently, Eve sinned against her physical being, too, by taking into it something that was not created for food, and consequently she died. But Satan and his angels still live.
This same stumbling block, the desire to exalt self, has predominated throughout the ages, and it predominates today. No, I am not making rash and empty statements. I have the facts to back up my words. For example, in the days of the Exodus Movement, there were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram who aspired to the office of Moses and Aaron as Lucifer aspired to the throne of God, the highest offices they could have longed for. And did not Lucifer fall because of wanting to be above all others for nothing more than to exalt self? And was not the same true of the fall of Korah, Dathan and Abiram?
Today we see the same clamoring for position even in our own churches. The offices of Church Elders, Sabbath School Superintendents, Secretaries, Pianists, and other such church offices, let us remember, hold no monetary compensation. But in spite of it, every year in most of the churches, as far as I have been able to observe, there is a clamor and a quarrel by men and women for one or more of these offices. Since there is no monetary remuneration for such services, then what is the fuss about if not purely for self-exaltation, if not for the purpose of being looked up to as somebody?
You see, then, that the same clamor for self-promotion that existed with Lucifer, with Eve, with others down through the ages, exists today. My statement, you see, is backed up by actual facts. Moreover, if such be the case with those who receive no monetary consideration for their services, then what could be the case with those who are well paid? This question you can answer for yourself to your own satisfaction.
Plainly, one who aspires to position simply for self-exaltation, especially when such an office holds out spiritual responsibilities as does a church office, such a one should not be given any consideration whatsoever. And if he already has any station of responsibility, he should be relieved of it, for such high-minded leaders are spiritually blind, and they draw the multitude to themselves as did Lucifer draw the angels to himself and to doom.
Moreover, this class of leaders, dead to Christ and alive to themselves, as a rule love to parade, and even to exaggerate their religious deeds. Such should therefore be branded as Satan-inspired disciple-seekers. This class of men are naturally clever. They manage to gain the confidence of the people by the same method with which the priests and rabbis in Jesus’ time deceived the nation: They prayed where they could be seen; they marred their faces to appear to be fasting; they made it their business to air far and wide whatever good they did; they were adept at making themselves appear very religious, pious, philanthropic, and righteous.
Multitudes are still charmed by such so-called good men, and multitudes unquestionably accept their decisions as it they were God’s decisions. Against such, remember Inspiration warns: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Isa. 2:22.
That these man worshipers be seen even more realistically, let me tell you something: Thousands have advised us to recant if the president of the General Conference sees no light in our teaching, if he sees no light in our revival and reformation among God’s people. They seem to be just as sincere in this as were the Jews who confidently took sides against Jesus by making the high priest’s decisions their own decisions!
Their wish for us to recant “if the president sees no light,” shows that they are copying the Jews of old, rather than looking into the matter themselves, with confidence in the Spirit of God to show them personally what Truth is; they have absolute confidence in what man, “the president” tells them!
Was not this very spirit in the hearts of the men that rejected and crucified the Lord? Obviously this class of persons is not led by Truth, but by men of position. Such ones never ask, “Is it Truth?” but “By whom is it advocated?” And if it does not come from the channel through which they would have it to come, then, of course, Truth is rejected.
They never stop to think that God is not taking orders from them; that they are not choosing God’s servants for Him, and that the General Conference president was elected by men, not because of his authority on the Scriptures, but because of his ability to command; that Truth has never yet originated through him, that whatever Bible truth he himself has ever learned is only that which inspired men of God have taught him. The laity, therefore, have never had greater need to cease from men as they have this day. And if they do not reform, God have pity on them.
It is to be remembered, though, that they are doing this foolish thing only because the ministry has so trained them, only because some ministers are in league with the spirit that was in Korah, Dathan, and Abiram when they aspired to the position of the prophets, although God has not delegated them as such.
Then, too, when a preacher begins broadcasting his good deeds and accomplishments, along with his religious experiences; also when a preacher rubs his eyes and blows his nose unnecessarily as he preaches and endeavors to make his audience start crying; – when you see these things in a preacher, know for certain that he is pulling the wool over the eyes of his listeners, that there is something up his sleeve. I say, when you see a preacher doing these things, he is aiming to enlist your endorsement to something of his own. Beware!
You may peruse the entire Bible, and I assure you that you will not find one of these things practiced by any of the prophets. They never aimed to make God’s people sad, but always to rejoice in the Lord.
Take for example Jesus Christ. His work, His mission, was greater and more important than any before Him or after Him. He had religious experience that was worth telling, and if such a procedure would have been beneficial in the work of salvation, He certainly would have taken advantage of it. Instead of preaching Himself, though, He preached the Truth. He never tried to persuade anyone by talking of Himself. He simply spoke of Bible truth, and gave God, not Himself, the credit. And if anyone can preach repentance and love, He could, but He never tried to play on the emotions of His audience, never tried to set them crying over anything.
No one, moreover, including ourselves, has ever accepted the writing of the prophets on the merits of their goodness, their education, or their personal religious experience. They wrote nothing concerning themselves, and nothing to bolster their office. All who have accepted them, have done so on the merits of their own writings. That is all. They never tried to win converts by what they themselves were or were not. Are they not to this day having success? And is it not the Truth of God that we must be after? The Jews asked for a sign, and the Greeks for wisdom, but God’s people of today are asking for both sign and wisdom, rather than for Truth.
Let us, therefore, never forget that the spirit of self-exaltation originated all the evil which we see today, and which is harder at work than ever before. We should not give the Dragon a chance to trap us, and dump us into doom with the “third part of the angels” who took hold of his tail and could not let loose of it. Let us ever remember that–
“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Isa. 2:11.