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The Review and Herald Articles
for the Year 1881
(Vol. 57, #1)
It is often asked, Are literary societies a benefit to our youth? To answer this question properly, we should consider not only the avowed purpose of such societies, but the influence which they have actually exerted, as proved by experience. The improvement of the mind is a duty which we owe to ourselves, to society, and to God. But we should never devise means for the cultivation of the intellect at the expense of the moral and the spiritual. And it is only by the harmonious development of both the mental and the moral faculties that the highest perfection of either can be attained. Are these results secured by literary societies as they are generally conducted?
As the question was first stated, it would appear very narrow-minded to answer in the negative; but in every case where a literary society has been established among our people, its influence has proved to be unfavorable to religious life, and has led to backsliding from God. This has been tried in Battle Creek and in other places, and the result has ever been the same. In some cases, long-standing evils have grown out of these associations.
The irreligious and unconsecrated in heart and life are usually admitted, and are often placed in the most responsible positions. Rules and regulations may be adopted that are thought to be sufficient to hold in check every deleterious influence; but Satan, a shrewd general, is at work to mold the society to suit his plans, and in time he too often succeeds. The great adversary finds ready access to those whom he has controlled in the past, and through them he accomplishes his purpose. The association of the God fearing with the unbelieving in these societies does not make saints of sinners. For a short time, there may be nothing seriously objectionable, but minds that have not been brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ will not take readily to those things which savor of truth and righteousness. If they had heretofore had any relish for spiritual things, they would have placed themselves in the ranks of Jesus Christ. The two classes are controlled by different masters, and are opposites in their purposes, hopes, tastes, and desires. The followers of Jesus enjoy sober, sensible, and ennobling themes, while those who have no love for sacred things cannot take pleasure in these gatherings, unless the superficial and unreal shall make a prominent feature in the exercises.
The purposes and objects which lead to the formation of literary societies may be good; but unless wisdom from God shall control these organizations, they will become a positive evil. Various entertainments are introduced to make the meetings interesting and attractive for worldlings, and thus the exercises of the so-called literary society too often degenerate into demoralizing theatrical performances, and cheap nonsense. All these gratify the carnal mind, that is at enmity with God; but they do not strengthen the intellect nor confirm the morals. Little by little, the spiritual element is ruled out by the irreligious, and the effort to harmonize principles which are antagonistic in their nature proves a decided failure. When God's people voluntarily unite with the worldly and unconsecrated, and give them the preeminence, they will be led away from him by the unsanctified influence under which they have placed themselves.
Many literary societies are in reality young theaters on a cheap scale, and they create in the youth a taste for the stage. While writing upon this point, my eye falls upon the following striking incident from real life:-
"'It is of no use, Mrs. W., I have tried again and again, and I cannot become a Christian.'
"'So you said a year ago, yet you thought there was nothing in the way.'
"'I don't think there is now, but I don't feel any different from what I did then, and I don't believe I ever shall be a Christian.'
"The first speaker was a bright girl somewhat over twenty, who, on a previous visit nearly a year before, had confided to her elder friend her earnest desire to become a Christian. Of her evident sincerity there could be no doubt, and the visitor was sorely puzzled to understand why her young friend had not yet found peace. The two were standing by the half-opened door of the Sunday school room, where a rehearsal for an 'entertainment' was in progress; and the girl, looking in, seemed suddenly to find there a suggestion for further thought.
"'I believe,' she said hesitatingly, 'there is one thing I cannot give up.'
"'Give it up at once, dear.'
"'But I can't.'
"'Come to Jesus first then, and he will give you the power.'
"'I don't want him to. I believe if I knew I should die and be lost in three weeks from tonight, I would rather be lost than give up my passion.'
"'And what is this dearly loved thing, worth so much more than your salvation?'
"'Oh, it isn't worth more, only I love it more, and I can't and won't give it up. It's that I, I want to be an actress; I know I have the talent; I've always hoped the way would open for me to go upon the stage, and I can't help hoping so still.'
"'Do you think it would be wrong for you to do so, provided the way did open?'
"'I don't know that it would be a sin; but I couldn't do it and be a Christian; the two things don't go together.'
"'How did you come by such a taste? I am sure you do not belong to a theater going family?'
"'Oh no! my father and mother are Methodists; they always disapproved of the theater. I've been in Sunday school all my life. They used to make me sing and recite at the entertainments when I was four years old, and I acted the angel and fairy parts in the dialogues; and when I grew older, I always arranged the tableaux, charades, etc. Then I joined a set of sociables got up by our church young people. At first we did "Mrs. Jarley's Wax-works," and sung "Pinafore" for the benefit of the church; and then we got more ambitious, studied, and had private theatricals, and last winter we hired Mason's Hall and gave a series of Shakespearean performances, which cleared off a large part of the church debt. But that's only second-class work, after all. I want to do the real thing, to go upon the stage as a profession. My father won't hear of it; but I hope some time the way will be opened that I may realize my heart's desire.'
"'And meantime, will you not come to Jesus and be saved?"
"'No, I cannot do it and keep to this hope, and I will not give this up.'
"And so the visitor turned sadly away, thinking for what miserable messes of pottage men and women are willing to sell their glorious birthright as children of God; thinking also of the seeds which are being sowed in our Sunday schools, the tares among the wheat, and the terrible harvest that may yet spring up from this well meant but injudicious seed sowing."
It has been our study to devise some plan for the establishment of a literary society which shall prove a benefit to all connected with it,--a society in which all its members shall feel a moral responsibility to make it what it should be, and to avoid the evils that have made such associations dangerous to religious principle. Persons of discretion and good judgment, who have a living connection with Heaven, who will see the evil tendencies, and, not deceived by Satan, will move straight forward in the path of integrity, continually holding aloft the banner of Christ,--such a class are needed to control in these societies. Such an influence will command respect, and make these gatherings a blessing rather than a curse. If men and women of mature age would unite with young persons to organize and conduct such a literary society, it might become both useful and interesting. But when such gatherings degenerate into occasions for fun and boisterous mirth, they are anything but literary or elevating. They are debasing to both mind and morals.
Bible reading, the critical examination of Bible subjects, essays written upon topics which would improve the mind and impart knowledge, the study of the prophecies or the precious lessons of Christ,--these will have an influence to strengthen the mental powers and increase spirituality. And why should not the Bible be brought into such meetings? There is a deplorable ignorance of God's word, even with those who are thought to be intelligent. "Most wondrous book! bright candle of the Lord! Star of eternity! the only light--By which the bark of man can navigate--The sea of life, and gain the coast of bliss securely."
Why should not this book--this precious treasure--be exalted and esteemed as a valued friend? This is our chart across the stormy sea of life. It is our guidebook, showing us the way to the eternal mansions, and the character we must have to inhabit them. There is no book the perusal of which will so elevate and strengthen the mind as the study of the Bible. Here the intellect will find themes of the most elevated character to call out its powers. There is nothing that will so endow with vigor all our faculties as bringing them in contact with the stupendous truths of revelation. The effort to grasp and measure these great thoughts expands the mind. We may dig down deep into the mine of truth, and gather precious treasures with which to enrich the soul. Here we may learn the true way to live, the safe way to die.
A familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures sharpens the discerning powers, and fortifies the soul against the attacks of Satan. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit, which will never fail to vanquish the adversary. It is the only true guide in all matters of faith and practice. The reason why Satan has so great control over the minds and hearts of men, is that they have not made the word of God the man of their counsel, and all their ways have not been tried by the true test. The Bible will show us what course we must pursue to become heirs of glory. Says the psalmist, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." But this is not the case when it is left unopened and unread.
Literary societies are almost universally exerting an influence contrary to that which the name indicates. As generally conducted, they are an injury to the youth; for Satan comes in to put his stamp upon the exercises. All that makes men manly, or women womanly, is reflected from the character of Christ. The less we have of Christ in such societies, the less we have of the elevating, refining, ennobling element which should prevail. When worldlings conduct these meetings to meet their wishes, the spirit of Christ is excluded; for the Lord's enemies are not pleased with that which would strengthen and confirm a love for spiritual and eternal things. The mind is drawn away from serious reflection, away from God, away from the real and substantial, to the imaginary and the superficial. Literary societies--would that the name expressed their true character! "What is the chaff to the wheat?"
The mind is so constituted that it must be occupied with either good or evil. If it takes a low level, it is generally because it is left to deal with commonplace subjects--unimportant matters,--not being called out and reined up to grasp those grand and elevated truths which are as enduring as eternity. The understanding will gradually adapt itself to the subjects with which it is familiarized. Man has the power to regulate and control the workings of the mind, and give direction to the current of his thoughts. But this requires greater effort than we can make in our own strength. We must stay our minds on God, if we would have right thoughts, and proper subjects for meditation.
Few realize that it is a duty to exercise control over their thoughts and imaginations. It is difficult to keep the undisciplined mind fixed upon profitable subjects. But if the thoughts are not properly employed, religion cannot flourish in the soul. The mind must be preoccupied with sacred and eternal things, or it will cherish trifling and superficial thoughts. Both the intellectual and the moral powers must be disciplined, and they will strengthen and improve by exercise.
To understand this matter aright, we must remember that our hearts are naturally depraved, and we are unable, of ourselves, to pursue a right course. It is only by the grace of God, combined with the most earnest efforts on our part, that we can gain the victory.
There are, in the Christian faith, subjects upon which every one should accustom his mind to dwell. The love of Jesus, which passeth knowledge, his sufferings for the fallen race, his work of mediation in our behalf, and his exalted glory,--these are the mysteries into which angels desired to look. Heavenly beings find in these themes enough to attract and engage their deepest thoughts; and shall we, who are so intimately concerned, manifest less interest than the angels, in the wonders of redeeming love?
The intellect, as well as the heart, must be consecrated to the service of God. He has claims upon all there is of us. However innocent or laudable it may appear, the follower of Christ should not indulge in any gratification, or engage in any enterprise, which an enlightened conscience tells him would abate his ardor, or lessen his spirituality
Pleasure seeking, frivolity, and mental and moral dissipation, are flooding the world with their demoralizing influence. Every Christian should labor to press back the tide of evil, and save our youth from the influences that would sweep them down to ruin. May God help us to press our way against the current! By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #1)
"How much owest thou unto my Lord?" Let this question come home to every heart. All that we possess, all that we are, we owe to our Redeemer. He gives us every earthly blessing, and every spiritual good. Are we, by self-denial and sacrifice, doing all in our power to relieve the needy, and to sustain the cause of God? The poor are the Lord's, and the cause of religion is his. Every good thing we enjoy was placed in our hands by his bountiful mercy, as an expression of his love. Christ requires us to do as he has done,--deny self that we may be laborers together with God.
The new year is right upon us, and we should recount the blessings of the past, the favors we have received of God, and then bring to the Lord our freewill offerings, our thank offerings, and our sin offerings. The Sabbathkeepers at Battle Creek have been a liberal people; most of them are poor, but as they have manifested liberality in the past, we hope they will pursue the same course in the future. There are but few who cannot do something. If it costs the poor greater self-denial than it does the rich, the reward will be proportionate. The Lord's bounties are continually flowing in upon us, and he would have us to be living channels, through which his mercies may flow out in deeds of beneficence to our fellow men. In no case let us rob God.
We have the privilege of listening to God's word in our place of worship; but this building, called the Lord's house, has a heavy debt. Shall not we who worship in this commodious edifice put forth earnest efforts to do our share in lifting the debt from the Tabernacle? The poor may be encouraged by the thought that the smallest sums, given in sincerity and cheerfulness, are as acceptable to God as are the thousands cast into the treasury by the rich. There are but few as poor as the widow who gave her two mites as an offering to God. The gift was small, yet it was all her living, and she was commended by the Master. He regarded the two mites of the poor widow as a greater contribution than the rich gifts of the wealthy. He did not measure the value of the offering by its amount, but by the motive, the cheerfulness and purity of the action. Although this small contribution was mingled with the thousands in the treasury, it was not lost to the eye of the great Giver of all good. That little rill which started in the two mites has gathered to itself other tiny streams from thousands of sources, and has had an influence to rebuke selfishness and encourage the giving of larger sums.
All have a work to do, if they would make their life a blessing. We ask our brethren and sisters to act their part as nobly this year as they did last year in contributing toward our house of worship. Open your hearts, and open your purses, and do what you can. Freely and continuously our Redeemer bestows his gifts upon us. Ought we not, then, to give back to the Lord his own? Can we exercise a greater love than God has shown toward us? He has done all that he can do for our good. He appeals to us whether he has left anything undone which our highest interests demand: "Judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" We cannot express our gratitude to God by bestowing anything to enrich him, for he is the giver of all our mercies; but he points us to the poor and the afflicted, and to his cause in all its branches, and assures us that he accepts the good done to the least of his followers as if done to himself. God has manifested a deep interest in the welfare of the fallen sons of Adam. He "so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." All the love that men and angels are capable of exercising, sinks into insignificance in comparison with the love of God toward the human family.
The Lord requires us to give liberally for the support of his cause. Should we compare our offerings with those which were constantly required of the Jews, we would find that we fall far below them in beneficence. Their contributions amounted to fully one-fourth of their entire income. At the lowest estimate, the amount expended upon the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple at Jerusalem exceeded the cost of all the church edifices in the United States.
Many regard these demands upon the Jews as far above the possible standard of duty required of us. But are there grounds for this conclusion? Are our advantages inferior to those of the Jews? or has God been less beneficent with us than with them? We hear ministers in the various churches extolling the blessings of the gospel, and representing the glory of this age as exceeding in every respect that of the Jewish age. They call the Mosaic dispensation one of darkness, and exalt the present as an age of far greater light and privilege. If this is so, will not God hold us accountable for these increased blessings? Just in proportion to the gifts bestowed, will be his claims upon us. Are the calls of beneficence less numerous now than they were in the Jewish age? It should be the reverse.
The systematic demands upon the Jews were healthful in their influence, and were preventive of pauperism. A poor man was rarely seen among that people. While they rendered willing obedience to God's requirements, his blessing rested upon them, and prosperity attended all their labors. Anciently, the Hebrews were separated from every other nation on the face of the earth. Their field of labor was limited to their own people. Now the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile is broken down, and the way is open for foreign missionary enterprises. The field of our labor is the world. Every nation, tongue, and people can be reached by the saving truth for this time. God has freely intrusted to us, as his stewards, the bread of life, and the means to carry that bread to those who are ready to perish. In view of this, should not our standard of liberality be higher than that of God's ancient people?
In proportion to their income, the rich are doing less than the poor. Many who give something are not blessed of God, because they do not give more. The Lord would have his people so constrained by the love of Christ that they will gladly meet the wants of his cause. We should ever acknowledge our allegiance to him, and regard it as our reasonable service to devote our energies, our property, and our lives to his work.
When, on account of their faith, the Christians at Jerusalem were reduced to poverty, other churches showed their liberality by supplying the wants of those brethren. Though the Macedonian churches were in great affliction, yet the apostle Paul declares that "the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality."
We do not urge our brethren to contribute, but as they have hitherto shown a willingness to assist in the work of God, we invite them now to come forward with their offerings, and lessen the debt upon our Tabernacle. We hope to be as much surprised on New Year's eve as was David when he saw the offerings for the temple of the Lord:--
"And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of the Lord, by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite. Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord; and David the king also rejoiced with great joy. Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation; and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #1)
We should invite our brethren and sisters of other churches, not only in Michigan but in the different States, to consider our situation at Battle Creek. Our institutions being located here, this is a place of no small importance to our cause. In so large a church, there are many more demands for means than in the smaller churches. Many of your poor, your unfortunate, your sick, have for some reason located here. Our College is no financial benefit to the cause in this place, for at this late date it has a heavy debt, which is carried by the Review Office. Yet those who live at a distance are really as much benefited by the College as are our people at Battle Creek.
The house in which we worshiped for a number of years would have accommodated our people in this city. But our congregations have rapidly increased in size since the establishment of the College. Families moved to Battle Creek to educate their children, and students came in to attend the school. These additions, with the patients who came to the Sanitarium, made it a positive necessity to build a larger house of worship. To meet the demands created by the presence of our institutions here, the Tabernacle was erected. It is a commodious building, yet is not extravagant in its design or workmanship. Nothing less than this, in architecture or expense, would we desire to offer to our God as his house.
The erection of this building necessarily required a large outlay of means. Battle Creek, a poor church, has lifted the load nobly; others in the different States have responded to the calls made; and yet our house of worship is encumbered with a debt, which is also carried by the Review Office. This debt should be lifted. Will our brethren and sisters help us at this time?
In the interchange of presents at the commencement of the new year, we trust that our people, not only at Battle Creek but in all other places, will remember the wants of God's cause. The Lord is not honored by the practice of bestowing costly presents upon a few favorites because it is the custom. These favorites are seldom the Lord's poor. There are but few whose chief interest at this holiday season is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and lift up the discouraged and oppressed. Many are really perplexed to decide what gifts they can select that will give pleasure to those who are abundantly supplied with the good things of this life. Let the money usually expended for these gifts, flow into the Lord's treasury. When tempted to purchase expensive ornaments, or other needless articles to please the eye and indulge the fancy, let every one ask himself, "Can I do this to the glory of God, or is it merely to please my friends?" How many, at the commencement of the new year, consider their indebtedness to God while they are making their holiday presents?
There is no harm in presenting to our friends gifts which they really need. But I entreat you, my brethren and sisters, do not, because it is the custom, bestow gifts upon those who have no real need, while you do little for the poor, and entirely neglect to make your offerings to God. All that we possess belongs to God, and he has made us his stewards. Let us not expend our means for idols to please the fancy and engage the affection of our friends, while we at the same time neglect our best Friend,--the one to whom we owe everything.
I plead with our brethren and sisters everywhere in behalf of our Tabernacle. In this building, students and visitors from all parts of the country assemble weekly to listen to the word of God. It is the duty of other churches to help us in our efforts in this missionary field. The selfish and stingy may say, "I am tired of this continual solicitation for means; will it never cease?" No, never, never! until Christ shall clothe himself in garments of vengeance, and the fiat shall go forth from his lips, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still.
When our Heavenly Benefactor forgets our returning wants; when God forgets to be gracious, and none of his gifts flow into our barns, our granaries, and our cellars,--then may we plead an excuse for withholding our offerings. God has never left us without expressions of his love," in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." He has declared that "while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease." He guards us every moment by his care, and upholds us by his power. He sends us the cheering sunshine, and the invigorating air; our path is crowded with the tokens of his everlasting love. He spreads our tables with food; he gives us rest and sleep. Weekly he brings to us the Sabbath, the day which he has blessed and sanctified for the good of man. We enjoy freedom from the world's hurry and bustle and wearisome labor, and may worship God in his house according to the dictates of our own conscience, with none to molest, or make afraid. The prophets and apostles suffered torture and death for their religion; but there is no gaping prison or cruel rack awaiting us for our fidelity to God. And as oft as we lift our hearts to him with true penitence and faith, he opens to us the windows of Heaven and gives us the blessings of his grace. Goodness and mercy constantly surround us.
God has given us his holy word to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. As we peruse its teachings, we find ourselves addressed in counsels of wisdom: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." The lesson is repeated to us, both by the word of God and by his providence, "Freely ye have received, freely give,"--give to help the needy, and to sustain the cause of God. The Lord's claims upon us are paramount to all others. We are not to consecrate to him what may remain after all our imaginary wants have been satisfied; but before supplying our own needs, we should present to him the portion which he has specified. And in addition to all this, the thank offering is of perpetual obligation.
Our Redeemer has set us an example in his own life, and we are required to be merciful to our fellow men as he has been merciful to us, needy, dependent creatures of his care. The calls for our beneficence are from God. He works continuously for us, and he requires us to work continually for his cause. When we wish the Infinite Father to withhold from us his gifts, then it will be more reasonable to inquire, "Is there no end of giving?"
When Mary poured the precious ointment on Jesus' head, our Lord commended the act, and also said, "Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good." In this instance, Christ teaches his followers that they should bless the needy with their substance and render back to God in gifts and offerings the blessings he has bestowed upon them.
I counsel you, my brethren and sisters, to commence the new year with a clean record. For the truth's sake and for Christ's sake, make every effort in your power to right you wrongs. Search your hearts critically, analyze your feelings, and remove every cause of dissension. If you have defrauded your brother, angels have written it against you. If you have failed to make his case your own, and to manifest toward him tenderness and compassion, you have neglected your duty, and thus it stands registered against you. Whatever have been the mistakes and errors of the past year, let them be canceled now; let them not be brought into the new year, to mar the purity of its unwritten pages. Come to the Lord with hearts overflowing with thankfulness for past and present mercies, and manifest your appreciation of God's bounties by bringing to him your thank offerings, your freewill offerings, and your trespass offerings.
The Chinese new year is sacredly kept for one week, with great ceremony. Old debts are paid, old grudges are forgiven. If an individual cannot pay his debts, his fellow Chinamen assist him, so that old accounts may not be carried into the new year. They say Joss (their god) will be angry with them if they neglect this work. Although these heathen are ignorant of the true God, yet in these things their example is worthy of imitation, even by Christians.
The worshipers of idols should not be in advance of the children of the living God. Shall not faults be confessed, and differences be put away, before we enter upon the new year? Oh that in every church in our land there might be a settlement of old difficulties, that jealousies and wrongs between brethren might be made right! Would not the world's Redeemer and the holy angels look down upon such a scene with pleasure? Would not the heavenly arches ring with the sweet music, Peace on earth, goodwill to men? Let us try to set things in order among us, that we may have the approbation of Heaven. Let us bring all our tithes into the storehouse, and prove our Lord therewith, and see if he will not open the windows of Heaven, and pour us out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
I advise my brethren and sisters to supply themselves the coming year with a home missionary box, wherein to deposit small bits of money for offerings to God, besides the regular tithe. Whenever there is an extra outlay for the gratification of the appetite, let an equal amount also be dropped into this savings bank. The sisters should have a separate box; and for every needless expenditure for ribbons, ruffles, or ornaments of any kind, they should drop the same amount into this receptacle. Let parents prepare a box for each of their children, and after explaining the principle, leave them with their conscience and their God.
Old and young frequently expend means for candies and other hurtful indulgences, and for dainties of which they have no real need. Let them put the same amount into these savings banks the coming year, and they will be surprised at the result. They will find quite a sum, which represents that which they have thoughtlessly squandered to please the taste and gratify pride, when had they practiced self-denial, they would have had for benevolent purposes an amount just double that which they have saved.
As Christians, let us show our faith by our works; and at the commencement of the year, let us enter upon a course of action which will meet the approval of God. Do not neglect to provide yourselves and your children with the little banks. The very fact that for every penny needlessly expended another must be deposited here, will prevent many an unnecessary outlay.
I now ask my brethren and sisters for a New Year's present, not for myself, but for the cause of God. This request will reach many after the new year has come in, but I trust they will not excuse themselves, thinking that it is too late to present their offerings. Let your gifts come in during the entire month of January; and if you cannot command the means now, send in your pledges, stating what you will do, and then redeem these pledges as soon as possible.
I appeal to the congregation that regularly assemble at our Tabernacle: Will you not bring in your offerings to life the debt from the Lord's house? I appeal to those who send their children to Battle Creek, where they unite with us in the worship of God: Will you not assist us to lift this debt? I invite all to be especially liberal at this time. Let cheerful freewill offerings be brought to the Lord, let us consecrate to Him all that we are, and all that we have, and then may we all unite to swell the songs,--"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #2)
The study of the Bible is superior to all other study in strengthening the intellect. What fields of thought the youth may find to explore in the word of God! The mind may go deeper and still deeper in its research, gathering strength with every effort to comprehend truth; and yet there is an infinity beyond.
Those who profess to love God and reverence sacred things, and yet allow the mind to come down to the superficial and unreal, are placing themselves on Satan's ground, and are doing his work. If the young would study the glorious works of God in nature, and his majesty and power as revealed in his word, they would come from every such exercise with faculties quickened and elevated. A vigor would be received, having no kin to arrogance. By a contemplation of the marvels of divine power, the mind will learn that hardest but most useful of all lessons, that human wisdom, unless connected with the Infinite, and sanctified by the grace of Christ, is foolishness.
The work of God's dear Son in undertaking to link the created with the Uncreated, the finite with the Infinite, in his own divine person, is a subject that may well employ our thoughts for a lifetime. This work of Christ was to confirm the beings of other worlds in their innocency and loyalty, as well as to save the lost and perishing of this world. He opened a way for the disobedient to return to their allegiance to God, while by the same act he placed a safeguard around those who were already pure, that they might not become polluted.
While we rejoice that there are worlds which have never fallen, these worlds render praise, and honor, and glory to Jesus Christ for the plan of redemption to save the fallen sons of Adam, as well as to confirm themselves in their position and character of purity. The arm that raised the human family from the ruin which Satan had brought upon the race through his temptations, is the arm which has preserved the inhabitants of other worlds from sin. Every world throughout immensity engages the care and support of the Father and the Son; and this care is constantly exercised for fallen humanity. Christ is mediating in behalf of man, and the order of unseen worlds also is preserved by his mediatorial work. Are not these themes of sufficient magnitude and importance to engage our thoughts, and call forth our gratitude and adoration to God?
Open the Bible to our youth, draw their attention to its hidden treasures, teach them to search for its jewels of truth, and they will gain a strength of intellect such as the study of all that philosophy embraces could not impart. The grand subjects upon which the Bible treats, the dignified simplicity of its inspired utterances, the elevated themes which it presents to the mind, the light, sharp and clear, from the throne of God, enlightening the understanding, will develop the powers of the mind to an extent that can scarcely be comprehended, and never fully explained.
The Bible presents a boundless field for the imagination, as much higher and more ennobling in character than the superficial creations of the unsanctified intellect as the heavens are higher than the earth. The inspired history of our race is placed in the hands of every individual. All may now begin their research. They may become acquainted with our first parents as they stood in Eden, in holy innocency, enjoying communion with God and sinless angels. They may trace the introduction of sin, and its results upon the race, and follow, step by step, down the track of sacred history, as it records the disobedience and impenitence of man and the just retribution for sin.
The reader may hold converse with patriarchs and prophets; he may move through the most inspiring scenes; he may behold Christ, who was Monarch in Heaven, equal with God, coming down to humanity, and working out the plan of redemption, breaking off from man the chains wherewith Satan had bound him, and making it possible for him to regain his godlike manhood. Christ taking upon himself humanity, and preserving the level of man for thirty years, and then making his soul an offering for sin, that man might not be left to perish, is a subject for the deepest thought and the most concentrated study.
If they fulfill the purpose of God, even the most experienced Christians will be continual learners in the school of Christ, that they may become efficient teachers. And it is impossible to explain and enforce the great truths of the Bible without seeing clearer light ourselves. Our own views will become extended, and the effort to make plain to others the words of God will fasten them in our own minds. Men may have enjoyed the training of the schools, and may have made themselves acquainted with the great writers on theology, yet truth will open to the mind, and impress it with new and striking power, as the word of God is searched and pondered with an earnest, prayerful desire to understand it.
Let the mind grasp the stupendous truths of revelation, and it will never be content to employ its powers upon frivolous themes; it will turn with disgust from the trashy literature and idle amusements that are demoralizing the youth of today. Those who have communed with the poets and sages of the Bible, and whose souls have been stirred by the glorious deeds of the heroes of faith, will come from the rich fields of thought far more pure in heart and elevated in mind than if they had been occupied in studying the most celebrated secular authors, or in contemplating and glorifying the exploits of the Pharaohs and Herods and Caesars of the world.
The powers of the youth are mostly dormant, because they do not make the fear of God the beginning of wisdom. The Lord gave Daniel wisdom and knowledge, because he would not be influenced by any power that would interfere with his religious principles. The reason why we have so few men of mind, of stability and solid worth, is that they think to find greatness while disconnecting from Heaven.
God is not feared, and love, and honored, by the children of men. Religion is not lived out, as well as professed. The Lord can do but little for man, because he is so easily exalted, is so ready to think himself of consequence. God would have us enlarge our capabilities, and avail ourselves of every privilege to unfold, to cultivate, to strengthen the understanding. Man was born for a higher, nobler life than that which he develops. The period of our mortal existence is preparatory to the life which measures with the life of God.
What subjects are presented in the Sacred Scriptures for the mind to dwell upon! Where can be found higher themes for contemplation? Where are themes so intensely interesting? In what sense are all the researches of human science comparable in sublimity and mystery with the science of the Bible? Where is anything that will so call out the strength of the intellect in deep and earnest thought?
If we will let it speak to us, the Bible will teach us what nothing else can teach. But alas! everything else is dwelt upon except the word of God. Worthless literature, fictitious stories are greedily devoured, while the Bible, with all its treasures of sacred truth, lies neglected upon our tables. The Sacred Word, if made the rule of life, will refine, elevate, and sanctify. It is the voice of God to man. Will we heed it?
"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." Angels stand beside the searcher of the Scriptures, to impress and illuminate the mind. The command of Christ comes to us with the same force today as when addressed to the first disciples eighteen hundred years ago: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #2)
The treatment of the barren fig tree by the Saviour of the world, shows how all pretenders to godliness will be treated. He pronounced upon it his withering curse, and left it seared and sapless, rejected by God. This tree represents the Jews, who refused to respond to the love of Christ. Despite all the privileges and opportunities granted them, they brought forth only briers and thorns,--no fruit to the glory of God. This blighted tree was a parable to the house of Israel,--a most impressive lesson. It is also a lesson to the professed followers of Christ in every age. Reaching through all time, it speaks in unmistakable language to all formalists and boasters of godliness who stand forth to the world with high profession, but are utterly devoid of that vital piety which alone God recognizes as fruit.
There is a decided lack of piety among us as a people. The true burden of the work for the salvation of souls does not rest upon us as it should. Like the barren fig tree, many flaunt their foliage covered branches before the Lord, proudly claiming to be his commandment keeping people, while the heart searching God finds them destitute of fruit.
We boast of our advancement in the truth; but our works do not correspond with our profession. We are sadly deficient in spirit, energy, and life. Leaf covered trees are plenty, but they are destitute of fruit. The fearful condition of lukewarmness and unfaithfulness which would exist in the last days was described by the great apostle in these words:--
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away."
We learn from the Sacred Record that this tree, upon which hung not a redeeming cluster of fruit, was clothed with green foliage. Notice the words. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The doom of the fruitless fig tree has an application to individual professors who manifest the natural tendencies of the unrenewed heart, and contradict their faith by their daily life. They do not represent to the world the character of Christ, because they have not Christ in them.
Our Saviour never turned away from the truly penitent, no matter how great their guilt. But he hates all hypocrisy and vain display. He addressed with the most severe and unqualified reproof the Pharisees and hypocrites represented by the fig tree covered with green foliage, but destitute of fruit.
Fruitless professors, sad indeed is your fate; for the open sinner stands in a more favorable position in the sight of God. The blight of God's curse is upon that class who hide the deformity of their lives under a profession of godliness. John, that bold, undaunted reprover of sin, who came to prepare the way for Christ's first advent, thus addressed the multitude that flocked to hear him: "Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" Terrible words! And as we see the many who profess to be God's commandment keeping people, whose lives show that they do not the will of our Father which is in Heaven, we can come to only one conclusion,--that in the doom of the fig tree which bore no fruit, and upon which fell the withering curse of God, they may read their own fate.
The compassion and tender love of Jesus for those for whom he died, is without parallel. But when his love and mercy are insulted, when his life and example are misrepresented by those professing to be his followers, severe retribution will surely follow. Christ has bought man with an infinite price. Soul, body, and spirit,--all that constitutes the man,--is the rightful property of our Saviour; and when he sees the body, the temple of the soul, defiled and degraded by indulgence of appetite and lustful passion, and the heart polluted and defiled by sin,--when he sees the soul which was the purchase of his blood, proving a curse rather than a blessing to the world, he dooms it as he did the fig tree, and it becomes a fearful monument of his righteousness and avenging wrath.
Jesus is wounded and insulted by his professed followers whose unconsecrated lives disgrace their profession. He would purify the temple courts of the soul; but if his efforts to warn and reprove are not heeded, his forbearance and compassion will be changed to severity and judgment. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #2)
Upon opening my mail one morning, I found letters from two of our sisters making most urgent appeals for advise and assistance in regard to coming to Battle Creek. One sister stated that she wished to educate her children here, and also that she had decided to leave her present home. On account of the cruel course of her husband, she felt that she could no longer live with him.
Another sister wrote that her husband had left her for Kansas some months before, and she had heard nothing from him. She had concluded that he must have died, and that she was a widow. She had four little girls whom she was very anxious to bring to Battle Creek that they might enjoy the privileges offered by the church and the school here. She asked that suitable rooms be provided for her, and that some employment be found whereby she could support herself. She also desired help to begin housekeeping, and she hoped, if prospered, sometime to be able to repay these favors. She begged for assistance, and said she was almost wild with trouble and discouragement.
These letters are but a sample of a large number which we are constantly receiving. Should we encourage all who desire to come to Battle Creek, it would be necessary to build an asylum for poor widows, forsaken wives, and homeless orphans. If this is the best thing to be done, and our people in the different churches will furnish means to build such an asylum, and to sustain these unfortunate and bereaved ones, then Battle Creek can open her arms to welcome all who shall come. But would it not be a better plan for every State to examine into these unfortunate cases, and then help the worthy, and counsel those who are not doing what they might do where they are? If these dependent ones are not subject to the voice of the church, they prove themselves unworthy of help from their own brethren or from Battle Creek.
We are ignorant of the real character and situation of many who are appealing to us for help. We have often been imposed upon. There is a right way to have these matters receive due attention. Let the unfortunate make their appeals to the president of their own Conference, and if he desires the counsel of persons of experience at Battle Creek, let him present the particulars of the case by letter. Those who will rush to Battle Creek without seeking advice, and fall as a dead weight upon the church, deserve censure for their presumption.
For years the widow, the fatherless, the forsaken wife, the unfortunate, the sick and the poor have been moving to Battle Creek, until she is carrying a heavy burden that her sister churches know nothing of. A duty rests upon the churches in the different States to care for their own poor, helping them, as far as possible, to help themselves. Should they do this, there would not be so many coming to Battle Creek with their families who must be cared for or suffer.
In the country, where fruits and vegetables can be raised in abundance, the poor can be supported at far less expense than in the city where the people must pay cash for nearly everything they live upon. Again, in a place like Battle Creek the poor feel compelled to wear better clothing than in the country. Almost any of our country churches could easily support two or three worthy families who are unable to support themselves. Said Christ, "Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good." In receiving so many of the poor and unfortunate, Battle Creek has robbed other churches of blessings which they might have enjoyed.
Our ministers, laboring in different places, listen to the sad story of poverty and suffering told by individuals and families, and, without consideration, advice them to go to Battle Creek, where they can find work in our institutions. The persons thus advised may be the most worthy, or, as has sometimes proved to be the case, the most unworthy. Elements have thus floated into Battle Creek that have been a burden to the church. They require constant care and anxiety, and consume the finances raised by a church that are nearly all poor, and obliged to labor diligently for their daily bread.
Many of the poor who come here feel that they must do something for their own support. They plead for a position in our institutions. Some of these have been employed in the folding department at the publishing house, and have been paid Chicago prices for all the labor performed. In no other department are the employees paid Chicago prices. These persons are a burden to the Office as well as to the Sanitarium when sick. They are not the most profitable help. A sufficient number of efficient hands must be employed to supply their places when they are unable to work. Thus a greater number of hands than are really needed are employed. The reliable and efficient laborers cannot be dispensed with, and out of pity the unfortunate ones are retained, who can earn but little at most, even when paid liberally for all the work they do.
Although poor in this world, yet if they were rich in faith, and had a genuine religious experience, and would help to bear the burdens in spiritual matters, they would be welcomed. But many of this class drifting in among us seem to feel no burden of the cause and work of God. If they do not receive especial attention, they become dissatisfied, and decide that the church have not done their duty. Some will not listen to caution or reproof. The unruly tongue is far more active than the hands. They indulge in faultfinding, and some go from Battle Creek to lay the reproach at the door of their neighbors, who unwisely take it up, and Battle Creek is made a subject of unholy complaints and jealousies. We would ask these complainers whether they went to Battle Creek to help lift the burdens or to lay their own weight as an additional load upon an already overburdened church.
The reliable members of the Battle Creek church have donated liberally to all our institutions, and reflections upon this church are unjust.
Some who move to Battle Creek are actuated by covetousness. They come here for gain, and they watch greedily for every opportunity to benefit themselves at the expense of others. These are not the men who have sacrificed for the cause of God, and have invested means in our institutions. They are men who count gain as godliness, and they must be watched, lest they take advantage of the widow and the fatherless, the poor student, and the afflicted who come to the Sanitarium. These men are responsible to God for the influence they exert, and those who sustain them are also responsible for their dishonest, selfish course.
We plead in behalf of the Battle Creek church. Brethren of other churches, do not allow your inefficient, irresponsible members to drift here. Give Battle Creek the help of godly men who posses integrity of character; men who will not be swayed from duty, who will battle for the right, and maintain the honor of the cause of God. Many ask complainingly, "Why are they so worldly at Battle Creek? Why is it that they are at work almost unceasingly?" Every additional family that the sister churches allow to come to Battle Creek to receive care and financial help increases the necessity for this constant labor. If these complainers were more diligent in business and more fervent in spirit, they might be a help to us at Battle Creek. As long as there is a continual demand, not only for funds, but for anxious labor to keep this shifting, changing element from demoralizing the church, the treasury will be drained, and the faithful members overworked.
Battle Creek might have paid for the Tabernacle ere this, if every church had borne her own burdens of responsibility, instead of letting them fall here. You who express so much anxiety lest the church at Battle Creek become worldly, please help us by keeping your poor and unfortunate and unconsecrated ones at home. If you send them here, send with them men of Christian experience, and men who have means to help us bear these burdens. Do not, I beseech you, stifle the very life out of the heart of the body by forcing your burdens upon Battle Creek.
The promises of God are broad and positive to those who love their neighbor as themselves. Those who neglect the poor among them, neglect Christ in the person of his saints. How much easier for each church to care for its own poor, bearing the few burdens Providence has laid upon it, than to crowd them upon the already overburdened church at Battle Creek. Cannot our brethren and sisters see that with increased numbers there is an increase of care? There are men and women of all kinds of organization, with every peculiarity of character, to require attention and discipline; and unless there are a sufficient number of God fearing, responsible men standing at the head of the work, some must be overworked and fall at their post.
God is not pleased with this disposition to move without a plain indication of duty from him. Some men who are useful in their little churches, get the moving mania, and become restless and discontented. They think some other location would be better for their families. Without seeking counsel from God, they move to Battle Creek, and then, instead of feeling, as every one ought to feel, that it is their duty in the fear of God to help the church, to be present at the prayer meeting, ready to speak and pray, bearing the responsibilities which some one must bear in the church, they take exactly the opposite course. They see that the members of the church are not all right, and the principal business of some is to seek something to find fault about, and go and tell to others.
There is pride and vanity and lack of sobriety in the church at Battle Creek. But the very ones who make complaint of this, choose for associates this unconsecrated class. They seem to be of the same mind and judgment. We need men and women who shall see and appreciate the good, the pure, and the steadfast, and then stand by their side to support and encourage them. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #3)
Text: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:23.
There is in the religious world a theory of sanctification which is false in itself, and dangerous in its influence. We have met many who claim to be sanctified; but in many cases those who profess sanctification do not possess the genuine article. Their sanctification consists in talk and will-worship. Those who are really seeking to perfect Christian character will never indulge in the thought that they are sinless. Their lives may be irreproachable, they may be living representatives of the truth which they have accepted; but the more they discipline their minds to dwell upon the character of Christ, and the nearer they approach to his divine image, the more clearly will they discern its spotless perfection, and the more deeply will they feel their own defects.
When persons claim that they are sanctified, it is sufficient evidence that they are far from being holy. They fail to see their own weakness and utter destitution. They look upon themselves as reflecting the image of Christ, because they have no true knowledge of him. The greater the distance between them and their Saviour, the more righteous they appear in their own eyes.
While with penitence and humble trust we meditate upon Jesus, whom our sins have pierced and our sorrows have burdened, we may learn to walk in his footsteps. By beholding him we become changed into his divine likeness. And when this work is wrought in us, we shall claim no righteousness of our own, but shall exalt Jesus Christ, while we hang our helpless souls upon his merits.
Our Saviour ever condemned self-righteousness. He taught his disciples that the highest type of religion is that which manifests itself in a quiet, unobtrusive manner. He cautioned them to perform their deeds of charity quietly; not for display, not to be praised or honored of men, but for the glory of God, expecting their reward hereafter. If they should perform good deeds to be lauded by men, no reward would be given them by their Father in Heaven.
The followers of Christ were instructed not to pray for the purpose of being heard of men. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Such expressions as this from the lips of Christ show that he did not regard with approval that kind of piety so prevalent among the Pharisees. His teachings upon the mount show that acts of benevolence assume a noble form, and offices of religious worship reflect a most precious fragrance, when performed in an unpretending manner, in penitence and humility. The pure motive sanctifies the act.
True sanctification is an entire conformity to the will of God. Rebellious thoughts and feelings are overcome, and the voice of Jesus awakens a new life, which pervades the entire being. Those who are truly sanctified will not set up their own opinion as a standard of right and wrong. They are not bigoted or self-righteous; but they are jealous of self, ever fearing, lest a promise being left them, they should come short of complying with the conditions upon which the promises are based.
Many who profess sanctification are entirely ignorant of the work of grace upon the heart. When proved and tested, they are found to be like the self-righteous Pharisee. They will bear no contradiction. They lay aside reason and judgment, and depend wholly upon their feelings, basing their claims to sanctification upon emotions which they have at some time experienced. Around that point they center all their experience. They are stubborn and perverse in their tenacious claims of sanctification, giving many words, but bearing no precious fruit as proof. These professedly sanctified persons are not only deluding their own souls by their pretensions, but are exerting an influence to lead astray many who earnestly desire to conform to the will of God. They may be heard to reiterate again and again, "God leads me! God teaches me! I am living without sin!" Many who come in contact with this spirit encounter a dark, mysterious something which they cannot comprehend. But it is that which is altogether unlike Christ.
Sanctification does not consist in strong emotional feelings. Here is where many are led into error. They make feelings their criterion. When they feel elated or happy, they claim that they are sanctified. Happy feelings or the absence of joy is no evidence that a person is or is not sanctified. There is no such thing as instantaneous sanctification. True sanctification is a daily work, continuing as long as life shall last. Those who are battling with daily temptations, overcoming their own natural tendencies, and seeking for holiness of heart and life, make no boastful claims of holiness. They are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Sin appears to them exceedingly sinful.
There are those claiming sanctification who make a profession of the truth, like their brethren, and it may be difficult to make a distinction between them; but the difference exists, nevertheless. The testimony of those claiming such an exalted experience will cause the sweet spirit of Christ to withdraw from a meeting, and will leave a chilling influence upon those present, while if they were truly living without sin, their very presence would bring holy angels into the assembly, and their words would indeed be "like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
In summer, as we look upon the trees of the distant forest, all clothed with a beautiful mantle of green, we may not be able to distinguish between the evergreens and the other trees. But as winter approaches, and the frost king incloses them in his icy embrace, stripping the other trees of their beautiful foliage, the evergreens are readily discerned. Thus will it be with the meek who walk in humility, distrustful of self, but clinging tremblingly to the hand of Christ. While those who are self-confident, and trust to perfection of character, are soon robbed of their false robe of righteousness when subjected to the storms of trial, the truly righteous, who sincerely love and fear God in humility, wear the robe of Christ's righteousness in prosperity and adversity alike.
Self-denial, self-sacrifice, benevolence, kindness, love, patience, fortitude, and Christian trust are the daily fruits borne by those who are truly connected with God. Their acts may not be published to the world, but they themselves are daily wrestling with evil, and gaining precious victories over temptation and wrong. Solemn vows are renewed and kept through the strength gained by earnest prayer and constant watching thereunto. The ardent enthusiast does not discern the struggles of these silent workers; but the eye of Him who seeth the secrets of the heart, notices and regards with approval every effort put forth in lowliness and meekness. It requires the testing time to reveal the true gold of love and faith in the character. When trials and perplexities come upon the church, then the steadfast zeal and warm affections of the Christian are developed.
We feel sad to see professed Christians led astray by the false but bewitching theory that they are perfect, because it is so difficult to undeceive them and get them on the right track. They have sought to make the exterior fair and pleasing, while the inward adorning, the meekness and lowliness of Christ, is wanting. The testing time will come to all, when the hopes of many who have for years thought themselves secure, will be seen to be without foundation. When in new positions, under varied circumstances, some who have seemed to be pillars in the house of God reveal only rotten timber beneath the paint and varnish. But the humble in heart, who have daily felt the importance of riveting their souls to the eternal Rock, will stand unmoved amid the tempests of trial, because they trusted not to themselves. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his."
Those who take pains to call attention to their good works, constantly talking of their sinless state, and endeavoring to make their religious attainments prominent, are only deceiving their own souls by so doing. A healthy man, who is able to attend to the vocations of life, and who goes forth day after day to his labor, with buoyant spirits and with a healthful current of blood flowing through his veins, does not call the attention of everyone he meets to his soundness of body. Health and vigor are the natural conditions of his life, and therefore he is scarcely conscious that he is in the enjoyment of so rich a boon.
Thus it is with the truly righteous man. He is unconscious of his goodness and piety. Religious principle has become the spring of his life and conduct, and it is just as natural for him to bear the fruits of the Spirit as for the fig tree to bear figs, or for the rose bush to yield roses. His nature is so thoroughly imbued with love for God and his fellow men that he works the works of Christ with a willing heart.
All who come within the sphere of his influence perceive the beauty and fragrance of his Christian life, while he himself is unconscious of it, for it is in harmony with his habits and inclinations. He prays for divine light, and loves to walk in that light. It is his meat and drink to do the will of his Heavenly Father. His life is hid with Christ in God; yet he does not boast of this, nor seem conscious of it. God smiles upon the humble and lowly ones who follow closely in the footsteps of the Master.. Angels are attracted to them, and love to linger about their path. They may be passed by as unworthy of notice by those who claim exalted attainments, and who delight in making prominent their good works; but heavenly angels bend lovingly over them, and are as a wall of fire round about them.
Our Saviour was the light of the world; but the world knew him not. He was constantly employed in works of mercy, shedding light upon the pathway of all; yet he did not call upon those with whom he mingled to behold his unexampled virtue, his self-denial, self-sacrifice, and benevolence. The Jews did not admire such a life; they considered his religion worthless, because it did not accord with their standard of piety. They decided that Christ was not religious in spirit or character; for their religion consisted in display, in praying publicly, and in doing works of charity for effect. They trumpeted their good deeds, as do those who claim sanctification. They would have all understand that they were without sin. But the whole life of Christ was in direct contrast to this. He sought neither honor nor applause, His wonderful acts of healing were performed in as quiet a manner as possible, although he could not restrain the enthusiasm of those who were the recipients of his great blessings. Humility and meekness characterized his life. And it was because of his lowly walk and unassuming manners, which were in such marked contrast to their own, that the Pharisees would not accept him.
The most precious fruit of sanctification is the grace of meekness. When this grace presides in the soul, the disposition is molded by its influence. There is a continual waiting upon God, and a submission of the will to his. The understanding grasps every divine truth, and the will bows to every divine precept, without doubting or murmuring. True meekness softens and subdues the heart, and gives the mind a fitness for the ingrafted word. It brings the thoughts into obedience to Jesus Christ. It opens the heart to the word of God, as Lydia's was opened. It places us with Mary as learners at the feet of Jesus. "The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way."
The language of the meek is never that of boasting, but that of the child Samuel,--"Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." When Joshua was placed in the highest position of honor, as commander of Israel, he was bidding defiance to all the enemies of God. His heart was filled with noble thoughts of his great mission. Yet upon the intimation of a message from Heaven, he places himself in the position of a little child to be directed. "What saith my Lord unto his servant?" was his response. The first words of Paul after Christ was revealed to him were, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
Meekness in the school of Christ is one of the marked fruits of the Spirit. It is a grace wrought by the Holy Spirit as a sanctifier, and enables its possessor at all times to control a rash and impetuous temper. When the grace of meekness is cherished by those who are naturally sour or hasty in disposition, they will put forth the most earnest efforts to subdue their unhappy temper. Every day they will gain self-control, until that which is unlovely and unlike Jesus is conquered. They become assimilated to the Divine Pattern, until they can obey the inspired injunction, "Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."
When a man professes to be sanctified, and yet in words and works may be represented by the impure fountain sending forth its bitter waters, we may safely say, that man is deceived. He needs to learn the very alphabet of what constitutes the life of a Christian. Some who profess to be servants of Christ have so long cherished the demon of unkindness that they seem to love the unhallowed element, and to take pleasure in speaking words that displease and irritate. These men must be converted, before Christ will acknowledge them as his children.
Meekness is the inward adorning, which God estimates as of great price. The apostle speaks of this as more excellent and valuable than gold, or pearls, or costly array. While the outward adorning beautifies only the mortal body, the ornament of meekness adorns the soul, and connects finite man with the infinite God. This is the ornament of God's own choice. He who garnished the heavens with the orbs of light, has by the same Spirit promised that he will "beautify the meek with salvation." Angels of Heaven will register as best adorned, those who put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and walk with him in meekness and lowliness of mind.
There are high attainments for the Christian. He may ever be rising to higher attainments. John had an elevated idea of the privilege of a Christian. He says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." It is not possible for humanity to rise to a higher dignity than is here implied. To man is granted the privilege of becoming an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. To those who have been thus exalted, are unfolded the unsearchable riches of Christ, which are of a thousand fold more value than the wealth of the world. Thus, through the merits of Jesus Christ, finite man is elevated to fellowship with God and with his dear Son. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #4)
Text: And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:23.
The prophet Daniel was an illustrious character. He was a bright example of what men may become when united with the God of wisdom. A brief account of the life of this holy man of God is left on record for the encouragement of those who should afterward be called to endure trial and temptation.
When the people of Israel, their king, nobles, and priests, were carried into captivity, four of their number were selected to serve in the court of the king of Babylon. One of these was Daniel, who early gave promise of the remarkable ability developed in later years. These youth were all of princely birth, and are described as "children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them." Perceiving the superior talents of these youthful captives, King Nebuchadnezzar determined to prepare them to fill important positions in his kingdom. That they might be fully qualified for their life at court, according to oriental custom, they were to be taught the language of the Chaldeans, and to be subjected for three years to a thorough course of physical and intellectual discipline.
The youth in this school of training were not only to be admitted to the royal palace, but it was provided that they should eat of the meat, and drink of the wine, which came from the king's table. In all this the king considered that he was not only bestowing great honor upon them, but securing for them the best physical and mental development that could be attained.
Among the viands placed before the king were swine's flesh and other meats which were declared unclean by the law of Moses, and which the Hebrews had been expressly forbidden to eat. Here Daniel was brought to a severe test. Should he adhere to the teachings of his fathers concerning meats and drinks, and offend the king, probably losing not only his position but his life? or should he disregard the commandment of the Lord, and retain the favor of the king, thus securing great intellectual advantages and the most flattering worldly prospects?
Daniel did not long hesitate. He decided to stand firmly for his integrity, let the result be what it might. He "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank."
There are many among professed Christians today who would decide that Daniel was too particular, and would pronounce him narrow and bigoted. They consider the matter of eating and drinking of too little consequence to require such a decided stand,--one involving the probable sacrifice of every earthly advantage. But those who reason thus will find in the day of Judgment that they turned from God's express requirements, and set up their own opinion as a standard of right and wrong. They will find that what seemed to them unimportant was not so regarded of God. His requirements should be sacredly obeyed. Those who accept and obey one of his precepts because it is convenient to do so, while they reject another because its observance would require a sacrifice, lower the standard of right, and by their example lead others to lightly regard the holy law of God. "Thus saith the Lord" is to be our rule in all things.
Daniel was subjected to the severest temptations that can assail the youth of today; yet he was true to the religious instruction received in early life. He was surrounded with influences calculated to subvert those who would vacillate between principle and inclination; yet the word of God presents him as a faultless character. Daniel dared not trust to his own moral power. Prayer was to him a necessity. He made God his strength, and the fear of God was continually before him in all the transactions of his life.
Daniel possessed the grace of genuine meekness. He was true, firm, and noble. He sought to live in peace with all, while he was unbending as the lofty cedar wherever principle was involved. In everything that did not come in collision with his allegiance to God, he was respectful and obedient to those who had authority over him; but he had so high a sense of the claims of God that the requirements of earthly rulers were held subordinate. He would not be induced by any selfish consideration to swerve from his duty.
The character of Daniel is presented to the world as a striking example of what God's grace can make of men fallen by nature and corrupted by sin. The record of his noble, self-denying life is an encouragement to our common humanity. From it we may gather strength to nobly resist temptation, and firmly, and in the grace of meekness, stand for the right under the severest trial.
Daniel might have found a plausible excuse to depart from his strictly temperate habits; but the approbation of God was dearer to him than the favor of the most powerful earthly potentate,--dearer even than life itself. Having by his courteous conduct obtained favor with Melzar, the officer in charge of the Hebrew youth, Daniel made a request that they might not eat of the king's meat, or drink of his wine. Melzar feared that should he comply with this request, he might incur the displeasure of the king, and thus endanger his own life. Like many at the present day, he thought that an abstemious diet would render these youth pale and sickly in appearance and deficient in muscular strength, while the luxurious food from the king's table would make them ruddy and beautiful, and would impart superior physical activity.
Daniel requested that the matter be decided by a ten days' trial,--the Hebrew youth during this brief period being permitted to eat of simple food, while their companions partook of the king's dainties. The request was finally granted, and then Daniel felt assured that he had gained his case. Although but a youth, he had seen the injurious effects of wine and luxurious living upon physical and mental health.
At the end of the ten days the result was found to be quite the opposite of Melzar's expectations. Not only in personal appearance, but in physical activity and mental vigor, those who had been temperate in their habits exhibited a marked superiority over their companions who had indulged appetite. As a result of this trial, Daniel and his associates were permitted to continue their simple diet during the whole course of their training for the duties of the kingdom.
The Lord regarded with approval the firmness and self-denial of these Hebrew youth, and his blessing attended them. He "gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." At the expiration of the three years of training, when their ability and acquirements were tested by the king, he "found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm."
Here is a lesson for all, but especially for the young. A strict compliance with the requirements of God is beneficial to the health of body and mind. In order to reach the highest standard of moral and intellectual attainments, it is necessary to seek wisdom and strength from God, and to observe strict temperance in all the habits of life. In the experience of Daniel and his companions we have an instance of the triumph of principle over temptation to indulge the appetite. It shows us that through religious principle young men may triumph over the lusts of the flesh, and remain true to God's requirements, even though it cost them a great sacrifice.
What if Daniel and his companions had made a compromise with those heathen officers, and had yielded to the pressure of the occasion, by eating and drinking as was customary with the Babylonians? That single instance of departure from principle would have weakened their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong. Indulgence of appetite would have involved the sacrifice of physical vigor, clearness of intellect, and spiritual power. One wrong step would probably have led to others, until, their connection with Heaven being severed, they would have been swept away by temptation.
God has said, "Them that honor me, I will honor." While Daniel clung to God with unwavering trust, the spirit of prophetic power came upon him. While he was instructed of man in the duties of court life, he was taught of God to read the mysteries of future ages, and to present to coming generations, through figures and similitudes, the wonderful things that would come to pass in the last days.
The life of Daniel is an inspired illustration of what constitutes a sanctified character. Bible sanctification has to do with the whole man. Paul writes to his Thessalonian brethren, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul did not exhort his brethren to aim at a standard which it was impossible for them to reach. He did not pray that they might have blessings which it was not the will of God to give. He knew that all who would be fitted to meet Christ in peace must possess a pure and holy character. "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." "What ! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
It is impossible for any to enjoy the blessing of sanctification while they are selfish and gluttonous. These groan under a burden of infirmities because of wrong habits of eating and drinking, which do violence to the laws of life and health. Many are enfeebling their digestive organs by indulging perverted appetite. The power of the human constitution to resist the abuses put upon it is wonderful; but persistent wrong habits in excessive eating and drinking will enfeeble every function of the body. Let these feeble ones consider what they might have been, had they lived temperately, and promoted health instead of abusing it. In the gratification of perverted appetite and passion, even professed Christians cripple nature in her work, and lessen physical, mental, and moral power. Some who are doing this, claim to be sanctified to God; but such a claim is without foundation.
Paul writes to his Christian converts, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Specific directions were given to ancient Israel that no defective or diseased animal should be presented as an offering to God. Only the most perfect were to be selected for this purpose. The Lord, through the prophet Malachi, most severely reproved his people for departing from these instructions..
"A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering; should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord."
Let us give careful heed to these warnings and reproofs. Though addressed to ancient Israel, they are no less applicable to the people of God today. And we should consider the words of the apostle in which he appeals to his brethren, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." This is true sanctification. It is not merely a theory, an emotion, or a form of words, but a living, active principle, entering into the everyday life. It requires that our habits of eating, drinking, and dressing, be such as to secure the preservation of physical, mental, and moral health, that we may present to the Lord our bodies--not an offering corrupted by wrong habits, but--"a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."
Let none who profess godliness regard with indifference the health of the body, and flatter themselves that intemperance is no sin, and will not affect their spirituality. A close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. The standard of virtue is elevated or degraded by the physical habits. Excessive eating of the best of food will produce a morbid condition of the moral feelings. And if the food is not the most healthful, the effects will be still more injurious. Any habit which does not promote healthful action in the human system degrades the higher and nobler faculties. Wrong habits of eating and drinking lead to errors in thought and action. Indulgence of appetite strengthens the animal propensities, giving them the ascendency over the mental and spiritual powers.
"Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul," is the language of the apostle Peter. Many regard this warning as applicable only to the licentious; but is has a broader meaning. It guards against every injurious gratification of appetite or passion. It is a most forcible warning against the use of such stimulants and narcotics as tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, and morphine. These indulgences may well be classed among the lusts that exert a pernicious influence upon moral character. The earlier these hurtful habits are formed, the more firmly will they hold their victim in slavery to lust, and the more certainly will they lower the standard of spirituality.
Bible teaching will make but a feeble impression upon those whose faculties are benumbed by indulgence of appetite. Thousands will sacrifice not only health and life, but their hope of Heaven, before they will wage war against their own perverted appetites. One lady who for many years claimed to be sanctified, made the statement that if she must give up her pipe or Heaven she would say, "Farewell, Heaven, I cannot overcome my love for my pipe." This idol had been enshrined in the soul, leaving to Jesus a subordinate place. Yet this woman claimed to be wholly the Lord's!
Wherever they may be, those who are truly sanctified will elevate the moral standard by preserving correct physical habits, and, like Daniel, presenting to others an example of temperance and self-denial. Every depraved appetite becomes a warring lust. Everything that conflicts with natural law creates a diseased condition of the soul. The indulgence of appetite produces a dyspeptic stomach, a torpid liver, a clouded brain, and thus perverts the temper and spirit of the man. And these enfeebled powers are offered to God, who refused to accept the victims for sacrifice unless they were without a blemish! It is our duty to bring our appetite and our habits of life into conformity to natural law. If the bodies offered upon Christ's altar were examined with the close scrutiny to which the Jewish sacrifices were subjected, who, with our present habits, would be accepted?
With what care should Christians regulate their habits, that they may preserve the full vigor of every faculty to give to the service of Christ. If we would be sanctified, in soul, body, and spirit, we must live in conformity to the divine law. The heart cannot preserve consecration to God while the appetites and passions are indulged at the expense of health and life.
Those who violate the laws upon which health depends, must suffer the penalty. By intemperance in eating and drinking and dressing, they lessen physical, mental, and moral power, so that their bodies are an offering which the Lord cannot accept. They have so limited their abilities in every sense that they cannot properly discharge their duties to their fellow men, and they utterly fail to answer the claims of God.
When Lord Palmerston, Premier of England, was petitioned by the Scotch clergy to appoint a day of fasting and prayer to avert the cholera, he replied, in effect, "Cleanse and disinfect your streets and houses, promote cleanliness and health among the poor, and see that they are plentifully supplied with good food and raiment, and employ right sanitary measures generally, and you will have no occasion to fast and pray. Nor will the Lord hear your prayers, while these, his preventives, remain unheeded."
Paul's inspired warnings against self-indulgence are sounding along the line down to our time. He calls upon us to practice temperance in all things; for unless we do this we endanger the salvation of the soul: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin." He exhorts, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
He presents for our encouragement the freedom enjoyed by the truly sanctified: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." He charges the Galatians to "walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." He names some of the forms of fleshly lust,--"idolatry, drunkenness, and such like." And after mentioning the fruits of the Spirit, among which is temperance, he adds, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."
If James had seen his brethren using tobacco, he would have denounced the practice as "earthly, sensual, and devilish." As I have seen men who claimed to enjoy the blessing of entire sanctification, while they were slaves to tobacco, spitting and defiling everything around them, I have thought, How would Heaven appear with tobacco users in it? The lips that were taking the precious name of Christ were defiled by tobacco spittle, the breath was polluted with the stench, and even the linen was defiled; the soul that loved this uncleanness and enjoyed this poisonous atmosphere must also be defiled. The sign was hung upon the outside, testifying of what was within.
Men professing godliness offer their bodies upon Satan's altar, and burn the incense of tobacco to his Satanic majesty. Does this statement seem severe? The offering must be presented to some deity. As God is pure and holy, and will accept nothing defiling its character, he refuses this expensive, filthy, and unholy sacrifice; therefore we conclude that Satan is the one who claims the honor.
Jesus died to rescue man from the grasp of Satan. He came to set us free by the blood of his atoning sacrifice. The man who has become the property of Jesus Christ, and whose body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, will not be enslaved by the pernicious habit of tobacco using. His powers belong to Christ, who has bought him with the price of blood. His property is the Lord's. How, then, can he be guiltless in expending everyday the Lord's intrusted capital to gratify an appetite which has no foundation in nature?
An enormous sum is yearly squandered for this indulgence, while souls are perishing for the word of life. How can Christians who are enlightened upon this subject, continue to rob God in tithes and offerings used to sustain the gospel, while they offer on the altar of destroying lust, in the use of tobacco, more than they give to relieve the poor or to supply the wants of God's cause? If they are truly sanctified, every hurtful lust will be overcome. Then all these channels of needless expense will be turned to the Lord's treasury, and Christians will take the lead in self-denial, in self-sacrifice, and in temperance. Then they will be the light of the world.
Tea and coffee, as well as tobacco, have an injurious effect upon the system. Tea is intoxicating; though less in degree, its effect is the same in character as that of spirituous liquors. Coffee has a greater tendency to becloud the intellect and benumb the energies. It is not so powerful as tobacco, but is similar in its effects. The arguments brought against tobacco may also be urged against the use of tea and coffee.
Those who are in the habit of using tea, coffee, tobacco, opium, or spirituous liquors, cannot worship God when they are deprived of the accustomed indulgence. Let them, while deprived of these stimulants, engage in the worship of God, and divine grace would be powerless to animate, enliven, or spiritualize their prayers or their testimonies. These professed Christians should consider the means of their enjoyment. Is it from above, or from beneath?
To a tobacco user, everything is insipid and lifeless without the darling indulgence. Its use has deadened the natural sensibilities of body and mind, and he is not susceptible of the influence of the Spirit of God. In the absence of the usual stimulant, he has a hungering and yearning of body and soul, not for righteousness, not for holiness, not for God's presence, but for his cherished idol. In the indulgence of hurtful lusts, professed Christians are daily enfeebling their powers, making it impossible to glorify God. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #5)
Text: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:23.
In the same year that Daniel and his companions entered the service of the king of Babylon, events occurred that severely tested the integrity of these youthful Hebrews, and proved before an idolatrous nation the power and faithfulness of the God of Israel.
While King Nebuchadnezzar was looking forward with anxious forebodings to the future, he had a remarkable dream, by which "he was greatly troubled, and his sleep brake from him." But although this vision of the night made a deep impression on his mind, he found it impossible to recall the particulars. He applied to his astrologers and magicians,--a class of impostors who professed to have power to reveal secret events,--and with promises of great wealth and honor commanded them to tell him his dream and its interpretation. But they said, "Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation."
Here their deceptive character was clearly exposed. The king knew that if they could really tell the interpretation, they could tell the dream as well. The Lord had in his providence given the king this dream, and had caused the particulars to be forgotten, while the fearful impression was left upon his mind, in order to expose the pretensions of the wise men of Babylon. The monarch saw through their subterfuge, and was very angry, threatening that every one of them should be slain if in a given time the dream was not made known. Daniel and his companions were to perish with the false prophets; but, taking his life in his hand, Daniel ventures to enter the presence of the king, begging that time may be granted that he may show the dream and the interpretation.
To this request the monarch accedes; and now Daniel gathers his three companions, and together they take the matter before God, seeking for wisdom from the Source of light and knowledge. Although they were in the king's court, surrounded with temptation, they did not forget their responsibility to God. They were strong in the consciousness that his providence had placed them where they were; that they were doing his work,--meeting the demands of truth and duty. They had confidence toward God. They had turned to him for strength when in perplexity and danger, and he had been to them an ever present help in time of need.
The servants of God did not plead with him in vain. They had honored him, and in the hour of trial he honors them. The secret was revealed to Daniel, and he hastens to request an interview with the king.
The Jewish captive stands before the monarch of the most powerful empire the sun had ever shone upon. The king is in great distress amid all his riches and glory; but the youthful exile is peaceful and happy in his God. Now, if ever, is the time for Daniel to exalt himself,--to make prominent his own goodness and superior wisdom. But his first effort is to disclaim all honor for himself, and to exalt God as the Source of wisdom:--
"The secret which the king hath demanded, cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in Heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days." The king listens with solemn attention as every particular of the dream is reproduced, and when the interpretation is faithfully given, he feels that he can rely upon it as a divine revelation.
The solemn truths conveyed in this vision of the night, made a deep impression on the sovereign's mind, and in humility and awe he fell down and worshiped, saying, "Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets."
Light, direct from Heaven, had been permitted to shine upon King Nebuchadnezzar, and for a little time he was influenced by the fear of God. But a few years of prosperity filled his heart with pride, and he forgot his acknowledgment of the living God. He resumed his idol worship with increased zeal and bigotry.
From the treasures obtained in war, he made a golden image to represent the one that he had seen in his dream, setting it up in the plain of Dura, and commanding all the rulers and the people to worship it, on pain of death. This statue was about ninety feet in height and nine in breadth, and in the eyes of that idolatrous people it presented a most imposing and majestic appearance.
A proclamation was issued, calling upon all the officers of the kingdom to assemble at the dedication of the image, and at the sound of the musical instruments, to bow down and worship it. Should any fail to do this, they were immediately to be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
The appointed day has come, and the vast company is assembled, when word is brought to the king that the three Hebrews whom he had set over the province of Babylon, had refused to worship the image. These are Daniel's three companions, who had been called by the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Full of rage, the monarch calls them before him, and pointing to the angry furnace, tells them the punishment that will be theirs if they refuse obedience to his will.
But all the crowned monarchs of earth could not turn these men from their allegiance to the great Ruler of nations. They had learned from the history of their fathers that disobedience to God is dishonor, disaster, and ruin; that the fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom, but the foundation of all true prosperity. They look with calmness upon the fiery furnace and the idolatrous throng. They have trusted in God, and he will not fail them now. Their answer is respectful, but decided,--"Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
The proud tyrant is surrounded by his great men, the officers of the government, and the army that has conquered nations; and all unite in applauding him as having the wisdom and power of the gods. In the midst of this imposing display stand the three youthful Hebrews, steadily persisting in their refusal to obey the king's decree. They had been obedient to the laws of Babylon, so far as these did not conflict with the claims of God; but they would not be swayed a hair's breadth from the duty they owed to their Creator.
The king's wrath knew no limits. In the very height of his power and glory, to be thus defied by these representatives of a despised and captive race, was an insult which his proud spirit could not endure. The fiery furnace had been heated seven times more than it was wont, and into it were cast the Hebrew exiles. So furious were the flames, that the men who cast them in were burned to death.
Suddenly the countenance of the king paled with terror. His eyes were fixed upon the glowing flames, and turning to his lords he said, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" The answer was, "True, O king." And now, his terror and amazement increased, the monarch exclaimed, "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
When the Son of God manifests himself to men, an unseen power speaks to the soul that this is God. And before his majesty, kings and nobles tremble, and acknowledge the superiority of the living God over every earthly power.
With feelings of remorse and shame, the king exclaimed, "Ye servants of the most high God, come forth." And they obeyed, showing themselves unhurt before that vast multitude, not even the smell of fire being upon their garments. This miracle produced a striking change in the minds of the people. The great golden image, set up with such display, was forgotten. The king published a decree that any one speaking against the God of these men should be put to death; "because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort."
These three Hebrews possessed genuine sanctification. True Christian principle will not stop to weigh consequences. It does not ask, What will people think of me if I do this? or how will it affect my worldly prospects if I do that? With the most intense longing, the children of God desire to know what he would have them do, that their works may glorify him. The Lord has made ample provision that the heart and life of all his followers may be controlled by divine grace, that they may be as burning and shining lights in the world.
These faithful Hebrews possessed great natural ability and intellectual culture, and they occupied a high position of honor; but all these advantages did not lead them to forget God. All their powers were yielded to the sanctifying influence of divine grace. By their godly example, their steadfast integrity, they showed forth the praises of Him who had called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. In their wonderful deliverance was displayed, before that vast assembly, the power and majesty of God. Jesus placed himself by their side in the fiery furnace, and by the glory of his presence convinced the proud king of Babylon that it could be no other than the Son of God. The light of Heaven had been shining forth from Daniel and his companions, until all their associates understood the faith which ennobled their lives and beautified their characters. By the deliverance of his faithful servants, the Lord declares that he will take his stand with the oppressed, and overthrow, all earthly powers that would exalt their own glory and trample under foot the God of Heaven.
What a lesson is here given to the faint-hearted, the vacillating, the cowardly in the cause of God. What encouragement is given to those who will not be swayed from duty by threats or peril. These faithful, steadfast characters exemplify sanctification, while they have no thought of claiming the high honor. The amount of good which may be accomplished by comparatively obscure but devoted Christians, cannot be estimated until the life records shall be made known, when the Judgment shall sit and the books be opened.
Christ identifies his interest with this class; he is not ashamed to call them brethren. There should be hundreds where there is now one among us, so closely allied to God, their lives in such close conformity to his will, that they would be bright and shining lights, sanctified wholly, in soul, body, and spirit.
The great conflict is still between the children of light and the children of darkness. Those who name the name of Christ should shake off the lethargy that enfeebles their efforts, and should meet the momentous responsibilities that devolve upon them. All who do this may expect the power of God to be revealed in them. The Son of God, the world's Redeemer, will be represented in their words and in their works, and God's name will be glorified.
Nebuchadnezzar had another dream, which filled his heart with terror. In a vision of the night he saw a great tree growing in the midst of the earth, towering up to the heavens, and its branches stretching to the ends of the earth. In it the fowls of the air dwelt, and under it the beasts of the field found shelter. As the king gazed upon that lofty tree, he beheld a "watcher, even a holy one,"--a divine messenger, similar in appearance to the One who walked with the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. This heavenly being approached the tree, and in a loud voice cried, "Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit; let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches; nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass."
The skill of the wise men proving ineffectual, Daniel is sent for to interpret the dream. Its signification filled him with astonishment, and "his thoughts troubled him." He faithfully told the king that the fate of the tree was emblematic of his own downfall; that he would lose his reason, and, forsaking the abodes of men, would find a home with the beasts of the field, and that he would remain in this condition for the period of seven years. He urged the proud monarch to repent and turn to God, and by good works avert the threatened calamity. But the king's heart had become hardened, and he felt independent of God.
About one year after he had received the divine warning, the king was walking in his palace and thinking of his power as ruler of earth's greatest kingdom, when he exclaimed, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?"
The proud boast had scarcely left his lips, when a voice from Heaven told him that God's appointed time of judgment had come. In a moment his reason was taken away, and he became as a beast. For seven years he was thus degraded. At the end of this time his reason was restored to him, and then looking up in humility to the great God of Heaven, he recognized the divine hand in this chastisement, and was again restored to his throne.
In a public proclamation, King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged his guilt, and the great mercy of God in his restoration. This was the last act of his life as recorded in Sacred History. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #6)
Text: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:23.
Belshazzar was acquainted with the dealings of God with Nebuchadnezzar, but this knowledge had no effect upon his own course. He blindly clung to the worship of idols, and gave himself up to sensual indulgence. It was not long before reverses came. He had been defeated in battle by Cyrus, and for two years had been besieged in the city of Babylon. Within that seemingly impregnable fortress, with its massive walls and its gates of brass, protected by the river Euphrates, and supplied with provisions for a twenty years' siege, the voluptuous monarch felt secure, and passed his time in mirth and revelry.
One night he made a great feast to a thousand of his lords. All the attractions that wealth and royal power could command, combined to give splendor to the scene. Everything that could administer to the lusts of the flesh was there. Princes and statesmen drank wine like water, and reveled under its maddening influence. The king had commanded to bring to that sacrilegious feast the golden and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple at Jerusalem, and which had been consecrated to the service of God, and employed by holy men in his worship. These were now to be used by the wicked revelers.
While they were that night in the midst of idolatrous mirth, the king's countenance suddenly pales, and he seems paralyzed with terror; for lo! a bloodless hand is tracing mystic characters on the wall over against him. The revelers discern the curious and, to them, unintelligible writing. The exciting merriment dies away, and a painful silence falls upon the throng. The king's thoughts troubled him, "the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another." Trembling with alarm, he "cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed in scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom." But these men are no more able to interpret the mystic characters traced by the hand of an angel of God than they were to interpret the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
The terror of the king increases. He is conscious that this writing is a rebuke of his impious feast, and yet he cannot tell its exact import. The queen then reminds him that there is a man in his kingdom "in whom is the spirit of the holy gods," and that in the days of his father, "light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him;" whom his father "made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation."
Then is Daniel brought before the king without delay, and the monarch promises him great rewards if he will interpret the writing. Daniel looks upon that wicked throng bearing evidence of intemperate feasting and revelry. He stands before them in the quiet dignity of a servant of the most high God, not to speak words of flattery, as was the custom of the professedly wise men of the kingdom, but to speak the truth of God. Sternly disclaiming all desire for rewards or honor, he says, "Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation."
Daniel then proceeds to speak of the Lord's dealings with Nebuchadnezzar,--the dominion and glory bestowed upon him, the divine judgment for his pride, and his subsequent acknowledgment of the power and mercy of the God of Israel; and then in the most direct and emphatic words he rebukes the great wickedness of the impious king,--"And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of Heaven."
Daniel then gave the interpretation of the mystic writing: "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it." "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." That very night the words of the prophet were fulfilled. The city was occupied, the king slain, and the kingdom taken, by the Medes and Persians.
Darius now took possession of the throne of Babylon, and at once proceeded to reorganize the government. He "set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three presidents; of whom Daniel was first." And "Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." The honors bestowed upon Daniel excited the jealousy of the leading men of the kingdom. The presidents and princes sought to find occasion against him concerning the kingdom. "But they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him."
What a lesson is here presented for all Christians. The keen eyes of jealousy were fixed upon Daniel day after day; their watchings were sharpened by hatred; yet not a word or act of his life could they make appear wrong. And still he made no claim to sanctification; but he did that which was infinitely better,--he lived a holy, sanctified life. The true test of sanctification is the daily deportment.
The more blameless the life of Daniel, the greater was the hatred excited against him by his enemies. They were filled with madness, because they could find nothing in his moral character or in the discharge of his duties, upon which to base a complaint against him. "Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." Three times a day, Daniel prayed to the God of Heaven. This was the only accusation that could be brought against him.
A scheme is now devised to accomplish his destruction. His enemies assembled at the palace, and asked the king to pass a decree, that no person in the whole realm should ask anything of either God or man, except of Darius the king, for the space of thirty days, and that any violation of this edict should be punished by casting the offender into the den of lions. The king knew nothing of the hatred of these men toward Daniel, and did not suppose that the decree would in any way injure him. Through flattery they made the monarch believe it would be greatly to his honor to pass such a decree. With a smile of Satanic triumph upon their faces, these men come forth from the presence of the king; and rejoice together, over the trap which they have laid for the servant of God.
The decree goes forth from the king. Daniel is aware of all that has been done. He is acquainted with the purpose of his enemies to ruin him. But he does not change his course in a single particular. With calmness he goes about his accustomed duties, and at the hour of prayer he goes to his chamber, and with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he offers his petitions to the God of Heaven. By his course of action, he takes the position that no king or prince has the right to come between him and his God, and tell him to whom he should or should not pray. Noble man of principle! he stands before the world today a praiseworthy example of Christian boldness and fidelity. He turns to God with all his heart, although he knows that death is the penalty for his devotion.
His adversaries watch him an entire day. Three times he has repaired to his chamber, and three times the voice of earnest intercession has been heard. The next morning the complaint is made to the king that Daniel, one of the captives of Judah, has set at defiance his decree. When the monarch heard these words, his eyes were at once opened to see the snare that had been set. He is sorely displeased with himself for having passed such a decree, and labors till the going down of the sun to devise some plan by which Daniel may be delivered. But the prophet's enemies had anticipated this, and they came before the king with these words: "Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, that no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
"Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." A stone is laid upon the mouth of the den, and sealed with the royal seal. "Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of music brought before him; and his sleep went from him."
Early in the morning the monarch hastened to the den of lions, and cried, "Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" The voice of the prophet is heard in reply, "O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
"Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." Thus was the servant of God delivered. And the snare which his enemies had laid for his destruction proved to be their own ruin. At the command of the king they were cast into the den, and instantly devoured by the wild beasts.
As the time approached for the close of the seventy years' captivity, Daniel's mind became greatly exercised upon the prophecies of Jeremiah. He saw that the time was at hand when God would give his chosen people another trial; and with fasting, humiliation, and prayer, he importuned the God of Heaven in behalf of Israel, in these words: "O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments'; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments; neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land."
Notice these words. Daniel does not proclaim his own fidelity before the Lord. Instead of claiming to be pure and holy, he identifies himself with the really sinful of Israel. The wisdom which God imparted to him was as far superior to the wisdom of the wise men of the world as the light of the sun shining in the heavens at noonday is brighter than the feeblest star. Yet ponder the prayer from the lips of this man so highly favored of Heaven. With deep humiliation, with tears, and with rending of heart, he pleads for himself and for his people. He lays his soul open before God, confessing his own vileness, and acknowledging the Lord's greatness and majesty. What earnestness and fervor characterize his supplications! He is coming nearer and nearer to God. The hand of faith is reached upward to grasp the never-failing promises of the Most High. His soul is wrestling in agony. And he has the evidence that his prayer is heard. He feels that victory is his. If we as a people would pray as Daniel prayed, and wrestle as he wrestled, humbling our souls before God, we should realize as marked answers to our petitions as were granted to Daniel. Hear how he presses his case at the court of "Heaven:--
"O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name; for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God; for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. And whilst I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, . . . even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation."
As Daniel's prayer is going forth, the angel Gabriel comes sweeping down from the heavenly courts, to tell him that his petitions are heard and answered. This mighty angel has been commissioned to give him skill and understanding,--to open before him the mysteries of future ages. Thus, while earnestly seeking to know and understand the truth, Daniel was brought into communion with Heaven's delegated messenger.
The man of God was praying, not for a flight of happy feeling, but for a knowledge of the divine will. And he desired this knowledge, not merely for himself, but for his people. His great burden was for Israel, who were not, in the strictest sense, keeping the law of God. He acknowledges that all their misfortunes have come upon them in consequence of their transgressions of that holy law. He says, "We have sinned, we have done wickedly. . . . Because for our sins and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us." They had lost their peculiar, holy character as God's chosen people. "Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate." Daniel's heart turns with intense longing to the desolate sanctuary of God. He knows that its prosperity can be restored only as Israel shall repent of their transgressions of God's law, and become humble, and faithful, and obedient.
In answer to his petition, Daniel received not only the light and truth which he and his people most needed, but a view of the great events of the future, even to the advent of the world's Redeemer. Those who claim to be sanctified, while they have no desire to search the Scriptures, or to wrestle with God in prayer for a clearer understanding of Bible truth, know not what true sanctification is.
All who believe with the heart the word of God will hunger and thirst for a knowledge of his will. God is the author of truth. He enlightens the darkened understanding, and gives to the human mind power to grasp and comprehend the truths which he has revealed.
Daniel talked with God. Heaven was opened before him. But the high honors granted him were the result of humiliation and earnest seeking. He did not think, as do many at the present day, that it is no matter what we believe, if we are only honest, and love Jesus. True love for Jesus will lead to the most close and earnest inquiry as to what is truth. Christ prayed that his disciples might be sanctified through the truth. He who is too indolent to make anxious, prayerful search for truth, will be left to receive errors which shall prove the ruin of his soul.
At the time of Gabriel's visit, the prophet Daniel was unable to receive further instruction; but a few years afterward, desiring to know more of subjects not yet fully explained, he again set himself to seek light and wisdom from God. "In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all. . . . Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz. His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude."
No less a personage than the Son of God appeared to Daniel. This description is similar to that given by John when Christ was revealed to him upon the Isle of Patmos. Our Lord now comes with another heavenly messenger to teach Daniel what would take place in the latter days. This knowledge was given to Daniel and recorded by inspiration for us upon whom the ends of the world are come.
The great truths revealed by the world's Redeemer are for those who search for truth as for hid treasures. Daniel was an aged man. His life had been passed amid the fascinations of a heathen court, his mind cumbered with the affairs of a great empire; yet he turns aside from all these to afflict his soul before God, and seek a knowledge of the purposes of the Most High. And in response to his supplications, light from the heavenly courts was communicated for those who should live in the latter days. With what earnestness, then, should we seek God, that he may open our understanding to comprehend the truths brought to us from Heaven.
"And I Daniel alone saw the vision ; for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. . . . And there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength." Such will be the experience of every one who is truly sanctified. The clearer their views of the greatness, glory, and perfection of Christ, the more vividly will they see their own weakness and imperfection. They will have no disposition to claim a sinless character; that which has appeared right and comely in themselves will, in contrast with Christ's purity and glory, appear only as unworthy and corruptible. It is when men are separated from God, when they have very indistinct views of Christ, that they say, "I am sinless; I am sanctified."
Gabriel then appeared to the prophet, and thus addressed him; "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright; for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words."
What great honor was shown to Daniel by the Majesty of Heaven! He comforts his trembling servant, and assures him that his prayer was heard in Heaven, and that in answer to that fervent petition, the angel Gabriel was sent to affect the heart of the Persian king. The monarch had resisted the impressions of the Spirit of God during the three weeks while Daniel was fasting and praying, but Heaven's Prince, the archangel, Michael, was sent to turn the heart of the stubborn king to take some decided action to answer the prayer of Daniel.
"And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb. And behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips. . . . And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee; be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me." So great was the divine glory revealed to Daniel that he could not endure the sight. Then the messenger of Heaven veiled the brightness of his presence and appeared to the prophet as "one like the similitude of the sons of men." By his divine power he strengthened this man of integrity and of faith, to hear the message sent to him from God.
Daniel was a devoted servant of the Most High. His long life was filled up with noble deeds of service for his Master. His purity of character, and unwavering fidelity, are equaled only by his humility of heart and his contrition before God. We repeat, The life of Daniel is an inspired illustration of true sanctification. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #7)
Text: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body he preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:23.
The apostle John was distinguished above his brethren as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." While not in the slightest degree cowardly, weak, or vacillating in character, he possessed an amiable disposition, and a warm, loving heart, capable of the deepest and most earnest devotion. He seems to have enjoyed, in a preeminent sense, the friendship of Christ, and he received many tokens of the Saviour's confidence and love. He was one of the three permitted to witness Christ's glory upon the mount of transfiguration, and his agony in Gethsemane; and to the care of John our Lord confided his mother in those last hours of anguish upon the cross.
The Saviour's affection for the beloved disciple was returned with all the strength of ardent devotion. John clung to Christ as the vine clings to the stately pillar. For the Master's sake he braved the dangers of the judgment hall, and lingered about the cross; and at the tidings that Christ had risen, he hastened to the sepulcher, in his zeal outstripping even the impetuous Peter.
John's affection for his Master was not a mere human friendship, but the love of a repentant sinner, who felt that he had been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. He esteemed it the highest honor to work and suffer in the service of his Lord. His love for Jesus led him to love all for whom Christ died. His religion was of a practical character. He reasoned that love to God would be manifested in love to his children. He was heard again and again to say, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." "We love him because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?" The apostle's life was in harmony with his teachings. The love which glowed in his heart for Christ, led him to put forth the most earnest, untiring labor for his fellow men, especially for his brethren in the Christian church. He was a powerful preacher, fervent, and deeply in earnest, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction.
The confiding love and unselfish devotion manifested in the life and character of John, present lessons of untold value to the Christian church. Some may represent him as possessing this love independent of divine grace; but John had, by nature, serious defects of character; he was proud and ambitious, and quick to resent slight and injury.
The depth and fervor of John's affection for the Master was not the cause of Christ's love for him, but the effect of that love. John desired to become like Jesus, and under the transforming influence of the love of Christ, he became meek and lowly of heart. Self was hid in Jesus. He was closely united to the Living Vine, and thus became a partaker of the divine nature. Such will ever be the result of communion with Christ. This is true sanctification.
There may be marked defects in the character; evil temper, irritable disposition, envy, and jealousy may bear sway; yet if the man becomes a true disciple of Jesus, the power of divine grace will make him a new creature. Christ's love transforms, sanctifies him. But when persons profess to be Christians, and their religion does not make them better men and better women in all the relations of life,--living representatives of Christ in disposition and character,--they are none of his.
At one time, with several of his brethren, John engaged in a dispute as to which of their number should be accounted greatest. They did not intend their words to reach the ear of the Master; but Jesus read their hearts, and embraced the opportunity to give his disciples a lesson of humility. It was not only for the little group who listened to his words, but was to be recorded for the benefit of all his followers, to the close of time. "And he sat down, and called the twelve, and said unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all."
Those who possess the spirit of Christ will have no ambition to occupy a position above their brethren. It is those who are small in their own eyes who will be accounted great in the sight of God. "And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but Him that sent me."
What a precious lesson is this for all the followers of Christ! Those who overlook the life duties lying directly in their pathway, who neglect mercy and kindness, courtesy and love, to even a little child, are neglecting Christ. John felt the force of this lesson, and profited by it.
On another occasion, his brother James and himself had seen a man casting out devils in the name of Jesus, and because he did not immediately connect himself with their company, they decided that he had no right to do this work, and consequently forbade him. In the sincerity of his heart, John related the circumstance to the Master. Jesus said, "Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part."
Again, James and John came to Jesus with a request that he would honor them by permitting one to sit at his right hand and the other at his left hand in his glory. The Saviour answered, "Ye know not what ye ask." How little do many of us understand the true import of our prayers! Oh! Jesus knew the infinite price at which that glory must be purchased, when he, "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame." That joy was to see souls saved by his humiliation, his agony, and the shedding of his blood.
This was the glory which Christ was to receive, and which these two disciples had requested that they might be permitted to share. Jesus asked them, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can."
How little did they comprehend what that baptism signified! "Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized. But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared."
Jesus understood the motives which prompted the request, and thus reproved the pride and ambition of the two disciples: "The Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Upon one occasion, Christ sent messengers before him into a village of the Samaritans, requesting the people to prepare refreshments for himself and his disciples. But when Christ approached the town, he appeared to be passing on toward Jerusalem. This aroused the enmity of the Samaritans, and instead of sending messengers to invite and even urge him to tarry with them, they withheld the courtesies which they would have given to a common wayfarer. Jesus never urges his presence upon any, and the Samaritans lost the blessing which would have been granted them, had they solicited him to be their guest.
We may wonder at this rude and uncourteous treatment of the Majesty of Heaven; but how often are we who profess to be the followers of Christ, guilty of the same neglect. Do we urge Jesus to take up his abode in our hearts and in our homes? He is full of love, of grace, of blessing, and stands ready to bestow these gifts upon us; but, like the Samaritans, we are frequently content without them.
The disciples were aware of the purpose of Christ to bless the Samaritans with his presence; and when they saw the coldness, jealousy, and positive disrespect shown to their Master, they were filled with surprise and indignation. James and John were especially stirred. That the Master whom they so highly reverenced should be thus treated, seemed to them a crime too great to be passed over without immediate punishment. These disciples said, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from Heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?" referring to the destruction of the Syrian captains and their companies sent out to take the prophet Elijah.
Jesus rebuked his disciples, saying, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." John and his fellow disciples were in a school, in which Christ was teacher. Those who were ready to learn their mistakes, and anxious to improve in character, had ample opportunity. John treasured every lesson, and constantly sought to bring his character into harmony with the divine Pattern. The lessons of Christ, setting forth meekness, humility, and love as essential to growth in grace and a fitness for his work, were of the highest value to John. These lessons are addressed to us as individuals and as brethren in the church, as well as to the first disciples of Christ. There is no sanctification without the grace of humility.
An instructive lesson may be drawn from the striking contrast between the character of John and that of Judas. John was a living illustration of sanctification. On the other hand, Judas possessed a form of godliness, while his character was more Satanic than divine. He professed to be a disciple of Christ, but in words and in works denied him.
Judas had the same precious opportunities as had John to study and to imitate the Pattern. He listened to the lessons of Christ, and his character might have been transformed by divine grace. But while John was earnestly warring against his own faults, and seeking to assimilate to Christ, Judas was violating his conscience, yielding to temptation, and fastening upon himself habits of dishonesty that would transform him into the image of Satan.
These two disciples represent the Christian world. All profess to be Christ's followers; but while one class walk in humility and meekness, learning of Jesus, the other show that they are not doers of the word, but hearers only. One class are sanctified through the truth; the other know nothing of the transforming power of divine grace. The former are dying daily to self, and are overcoming sin. The latter are indulging their own lusts, and becoming the servants of Satan.
John's early life was passed in the society of the rude and uncultivated fishermen of Galilee. He did not enjoy the training of the schools; but by association with Christ, the Great Teacher, he obtained the highest education which mortal man can receive. He drank eagerly at the fountain of wisdom, and then sought to lead others to that "well of water springing up into everlasting life." The simplicity of his words, the sublime power of the truths he uttered, and the spiritual fervor that characterized his teachings, gave him access to all classes. Yet even believers were unable to fully comprehend the sacred mysteries of divine truth unfolded in his discourses. He seemed to be constantly imbued with the Holy Spirit. He sought to bring the thoughts of the people up to grasp the unseen. The wisdom with which he spoke caused his words to drop as the dew, softening and subduing the soul. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #8)
After the ascension of Christ, John stands forth a faithful, ardent laborer for the Master. With others, he enjoyed the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and with fresh zeal and power he continued to speak to the people the words of life. He was threatened with imprisonment and death, but he would not be intimidated.
Multitudes from all classes come out to listen to the preaching of the apostles, and are healed of their diseases through the name of Jesus, that name so hated among the Jews. The priests and rulers are frantic in their opposition, as they see that the sick are healed, and Jesus is exalted as the Prince of life. They fear that soon the whole world will believe on him, and then accuse them of murdering the Mighty Healer. But the greater their efforts to stop this excitement, the more accept him and turn from the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. They are filled with indignation, and laying hands upon the apostles, thrust them into the common prison. But the angel of the Lord, by night, opens the prison doors, brings them forth, and says, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life."
With fidelity and earnestness, John bore testimony for his Lord upon every suitable occasion. He saw that the times were full of peril for the church. Satanic delusions were existing everywhere. The minds of the people were wandering through the mazes of skepticism and deceptive doctrines. Some who pretended to be true to the cause of God were deceivers; they denied Christ and his gospel, and were bringing in damnable heresies and living in transgression of the divine law.
John's favorite theme was the infinite love of Christ. No man stood higher before the believers in his day, and before men of all classes, than did John. He believed in God as a child believes in a kind and tender father. He understood the character and work of Jesus; and when he saw his Jewish brethren groping their way without a ray of the Sun of Righteousness to illuminate their path, he longed to present to them Christ, the Light of the world.
The faithful apostle saw that their blindness, their pride, superstition, and ignorance of the Scriptures, were riveting upon their souls fetters which would never be broken. The prejudice and hatred against Christ which they obstinately cherished, was bringing ruin upon them as a nation, and destroying their hopes of everlasting life. But John continued to present Christ to them as the only way of salvation. The evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah was so clear, that John declares no man need to walk in the darkness of error while such a light is proffered him.
John lived to see the gospel of Christ preached far and near, and thousands eagerly accepting its teachings. But he was filled with sadness as he perceived poisonous errors creeping into the church. Some who accepted Christ claimed that his love released them from obedience to the law of God. On the other hand, many taught that the letter of the law should be kept, also all the Jewish customs and ceremonies, and that this was sufficient for salvation, without the blood of Christ. They held that Christ was a good man, like the apostles, but denied his divinity. John saw the dangers to which the church would be exposed, should they receive these ideas, and he met them with promptness and decision. He wrote to a most honorable helper in the gospel, a lady of good repute and extensive influence:--
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds."
John was not to prosecute his work without great hindrances, Satan was not idle. He instigated evil men to cut short the useful life of this man of God; but holy angels protected him from their assaults. John must stand as a faithful witness for Christ. The church in its peril needed his testimony.
By falsehood and misrepresentation the emissaries of Satan had sought to stir up opposition against John, and against the doctrine of Christ. In consequence, dissensions and heresies were imperiling the church. John met these errors unflinchingly. He hedged up the way of the adversaries of truth. He wrote and exhorted that the leaders in these heresies should not have the least encouragement. There are at the present day evils similar to those that threatened the prosperity of the early church, and the teachings of the apostle upon these points should be carefully heeded. "You must have charity," is the cry to be heard everywhere, especially from those who profess sanctification. But charity is too pure to cover an unconfessed sin. John's teachings are important for those who are living amid the perils of the last days. He had been intimately associated with Christ, he had listened to his teachings, and had witnessed his mighty miracles. He bore a convincing testimony, which made the falsehoods of his enemies of none effect.
John enjoyed the blessing of true sanctification. But mark, the apostle does not claim to be sinless; he is seeking perfection by walking in the light of God's countenance. He testifies that the man who pretends to know God, and yet breaks the divine law, gives the lie to his profession. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." In this age of boasted liberality, these words of John would be branded as bigotry. But the apostle would teach us that while endeavoring to perfect Christian character, we are authorized to call sin and sinners by their right names,--that this is true charity. While loving the souls for whom Christ died, and laboring for their salvation, we should not make a compromise with sin. We are not to unite with the rebellious, and call this charity. God requires his people in this age of the world to stand as did John in his time, unflinchingly for the right, in opposition to soul destroying errors.
I have met many who claimed to live without sin. But when tested by God's word, these persons were found to be open transgressors of his holy law. The clearest evidences of the perpetuity and binding force of the fourth commandment, failed to arouse the conscience. They could not deny the claims of God, but ventured to excuse themselves in breaking the Sabbath. They claimed to be sanctified, and to serve God on all days of the week. Many good people, they said, did not keep the Sabbath. As they were sanctified, no condemnation would rest upon them if they did not observe it. God was too merciful to punish us for not keeping the seventh day. They would be counted odd and singular in community, should they observe the Sabbath, and would have no influence in the world. We must be subject to the powers that be.
A lady in New Hampshire bore her testimony in a public meeting, that the grace of God was ruling in her heart, and that she was wholly the Lord's. She then expressed her belief that this people were doing much good in arousing sinners to see their danger. She said, "The Sabbath that this people present to us, is the only Sabbath of the Bible;" and then stated that her mind had been very much exercised upon the subject. She saw great trials before her, which she must meet if she kept the seventh day. The next day, she came to meeting, and again bore her testimony, saying she had asked the Lord if she must keep the Sabbath, and he had told her she need not keep it. Her mind was now at rest upon that subject. She then gave a most stirring exhortation for all to come to the perfect love of Jesus, where there was no condemnation to the soul.
This woman did not possess genuine sanctification. It was not God who told her that she could be sanctified through disobedience to one of his plain commandments. God's law is sacred, and no one can transgress it with impunity. The being who told her that she could continue to transgress God's law and be sinless, was the prince of the powers of darkness,--the same who told Eve in Eden, through the serpent, "Thou shalt not surely die." Eve flattered herself that God was too kind to punish her for disobedience of his express commands. The same sophistry is urged by thousands in excuse of their disobedience of the fourth commandment. Those who have the mind of Christ will keep all of God's commandments, irrespective of circumstances. The Majesty of Heaven says, "I have kept my Father's commandments." Adam and Eve dared to transgress the Lord's requirements, and the terrible result of their sin should be a warning to us not to follow their example of disobedience. Christ prayed for his disciples in these words: "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." There is no genuine sanctification, except through obedience to the truth. Those who love God with all the heart will also love all his commandments. The sanctified heart is in harmony with the precepts of God's law; for they are holy, just, and good.
God's character has not changed. He is the same jealous God today as when he gave his law upon Sinai, and wrote it with his own finger on the tables of stone. Those who trample upon God's holy law may say, "I am sanctified;" but to be indeed sanctified, and to claim sanctification, are two different things.
The New Testament has not changed the law of God. The sacredness of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is as firmly established as the throne of Jehovah. John writes, "Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not; whosoever sinneth [transgresseth the law] hath not seen him, neither known him." We are authorized to hold in the same estimation as did the beloved disciple those who claim to abide in Christ, to be sanctified, while living in the transgression of God's law. He met with just such a class as we have to meet. He said, "Little children, let no man deceive you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning." Here the apostle speaks in plain terms, as he deemed the subject demanded.
The epistles of John breathe a spirit of love. But when he comes in contact with that class who break the law of God and yet claim that they are living without sin, he does not hesitate to warn them of their fearful deception. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #9)
The wonderful success which attended the preaching of the gospel by the apostles and their fellow laborers increased the hatred of the unbelieving Jews. They made every effort to hinder its progress, and finally succeeded in enlisting the power of the Roman emperor against the Christians. A great persecution followed, in which many of the followers of Christ were put to death. The apostle John was now an aged man; but with great zeal and success he continued to preach the doctrine of Christ. He had a testimony of power, which his adversaries could not controvert, and which greatly encouraged his brethren.
When the faith of the Christians would seem to waver under the fierce opposition they were forced to meet, the apostle would repeat, with great dignity, power, and eloquence, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; . . . . that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
The bitterest hatred was kindled against John for his unwavering fidelity to the cause of Christ. He was the last survivor of the disciples who were intimately connected with Jesus; and his enemies decided that his testimony must be silenced. If this could be accomplished, they thought the doctrine of Christ would not spread; and if treated with severity, it might soon die out of the world. John was accordingly summoned to Rome to be tried for his faith. His doctrines were misstated. False witnesses accused him as a seditious person, publicly teaching theories which would subvert the nation.
The apostle presented his faith in a clear and convincing manner, with such simplicity and candor that his words had a powerful effect. His hearers were astonished at his wisdom and eloquence. But the more convincing his testimony, the deeper the hatred of those who opposed the truth. The emperor was filled with rage, and blasphemed the name of God and of Christ. He could not controvert the apostle's reasoning, or match the power which attended the utterance of truth, and he determined to silence its faithful advocate.
Here we see how hard the heart may become when obstinately set against the purposes of God. The foes of the church were determined to maintain their pride and power before the people. By the emperor's decree, John was banished to the Isle of Patmos, condemned, as he tells us, "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." But the enemies of Christ utterly fail in their purpose to silence his faithful witness. From the Isle of Patmos, comes the apostle's voice, reaching even to the end of time, and revealing the most thrilling truths ever presented to mortals.
Patmos, a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, had been chosen by the Roman government as a place of banishment for criminals. But this gloomy abode proved, to the servant of God, to be the gate of Heaven. He was shut away from the busy scenes of life, and from his active labors as an evangelist; but he was not excluded from the presence of God. In his desolate home he could commune with the King of kings, and study more closely the manifestations of divine power in the book of nature and the pages of inspiration. He delighted to meditate upon the great work of creation, and to adore the power of the Divine Architect. In former years his eyes had been greeted with the sight of wood covered hills, green valleys, and fruitful plains; and in all the beauties of nature he had delighted to trace the wisdom and skill of the Creator. He was now surrounded with scenes that to many would appear gloomy and uninteresting. But to John it was otherwise. He could read the most important lessons in the wild, desolate rocks, the mysteries of the great deep, and the glories of the firmament. To him, all bore the impress of God's power, and declared his glory.
The apostle beheld around him the witnesses of the flood, which deluged the earth because the inhabitants ventured to transgress the law of God. The rocks, thrown up from the great deep and from the earth, by the breaking forth of the waters, brought vividly to his mind the terrors of that awful outpouring of God's wrath.
But while all that surrounded him below appeared desolate and barren, the blue heavens that bent above the apostle on lonely Patmos were as bright and beautiful as the skies above his own loved Jerusalem. Let man once look upon the glory of the heavens in the night season, and mark the work of God's power in the hosts thereof, and he is taught a lesson of his own littleness. If he has cherished pride and self-importance because of talents or personal accomplishments, because he is rich in houses and lands, let him go out in the beautiful night, and look upon the starry heavens, and learn to humble his proud spirit in the presence of the Infinite One.
In the voice of many waters,--deep calling unto deep,--the prophet heard the voice of the Creator. The sea, lashed to fury by the merciless winds, represented to him the wrath of an offended God. The mighty waves, in their most terrible commotion restrained within the limits appointed by an invisible hand, spoke to John of an infinite power controlling the deep. And in contrast he saw and felt the folly of feeble mortals, but worms of the dust, who glory in their wisdom and strength, and set their hearts against the Ruler of the universe, as though God were altogether such an one as themselves. How blind and senseless is human pride! One hour of God's blessing in the sunshine and rain upon the earth, will do more to change the face of nature than man, with all his boasted knowledge and persevering efforts, can accomplish during a lifetime.
In the surroundings of his island home, the exiled prophet read the manifestations of divine power, and in all the works of nature held communion with his God. The most ardent longing of the soul after God, the most fervent prayers, went up to Heaven from rocky Patmos. As John looked upon the rocks, he was reminded of Christ, the rock of his strength, in whose shelter he could hide without a fear.
The Lord's day mentioned by John was the Sabbath,--the day on which Jehovah rested after the great work of creation, and which he blessed and sanctified because he had rested upon it. The Sabbath was as sacredly observed by John upon the Isle of Patmos as when he was among the people, preaching upon that day. By the barren rocks surrounding him, John was reminded of rocky Horeb, and how, when God spoke his law to the people there, he said, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."
The Father and the Son spoke to Moses from the rocks. God made the rocks his sanctuary. His temple was the everlasting hills. The Divine Legislator descended upon the rocky mountain to speak his law in the hearing of all the people, that they might be impressed by the grand and awful exhibition of his power and glory, and fear to transgress his commandments. God spoke his law amid thunders and lightnings and the thick cloud upon the top of the mountain, and his voice was as the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud. The law of Jehovah was unchangeable, and the tablets upon which he wrote that law were solid rock, signifying the immutability of its precepts. Rocky Horeb became a sacred place to all who loved and revered the law of God.
While John was contemplating the scenes of Horeb, the Spirit of God, who sanctified the seventh day, came upon him. He contemplated the sin of Adam in transgressing the divine law, and the fearful result of that transgression. The infinite love of God, in giving his Son to redeem a lost race, seemed too great for language to express. As he presents it in his epistle, he calls upon the church and the world to behold it. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." It was a mystery to John that God could give his Son to die for rebellious man. And he was lost in amazement that the plan of salvation, devised at such a cost to Heaven, should be refused by those for whom the infinite sacrifice had been made.
John was shut in with God. As he learned more of the divine character, through the works of creation, his reverence for God increased. He often asked himself, Why do not men, who are wholly dependent upon God, seek to be at peace with him by willing obedience? He is infinite in wisdom, and there is no limit to his power. He controls the heavens with their numberless worlds. He preserves in perfect harmony the grandeur and beauty of the things which he has created. Sin is the transgression of God's law; and the penalty of sin is death. There would have been no discord in Heaven or in the earth, if sin had never entered. Disobedience to God's law has brought all the misery that has existed among his creatures. Why will not men be reconciled to God?
It is no light matter to sin against God,--to set the perverse will of man in opposition to the divine will. It is for the best interest of man, even in this world, to obey God's commandments. And it is surely for his eternal interest to submit to God, and be at peace with him. The beasts of the field obey their Creator's law in the instinct which governs them. He speaks to the proud ocean, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;" and the waters are prompt to obey his word. The planets are marshaled in perfect order, obeying the laws which God has established. He has given to man reasoning powers to understand the claims of the divine law, and a conscience to feel the guilt of transgression and the peace and joy of obedience. And yet, of all the creatures that God has made upon the earth, man alone is rebellious. God has left man as a free moral agent, to obey or disobey. The reward of everlasting life,--an eternal weight of glory,--is promised to those who do God's will, while the threatenings of his wrath hang over all who defy his law.
As John meditated upon the glory of God displayed in his works, he was overwhelmed with the greatness and majesty of the Creator. Should all the inhabitants of this little world refuse obedience to God, he would not be left without glory. He could sweep every mortal from the face of the earth in a moment, and create a new race to people it and glorify his name. God is not dependent on man for honor. He could marshal the starry hosts of heaven, the millions of worlds above, to raise a song of honor and praise and glory to his name. "And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord; thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him."
John calls to remembrance the wonderful incidents that he has witnessed in the life of Christ. In imagination he again enjoys the precious opportunities with which he had once been favored, and is greatly comforted. Suddenly his meditation is broken in upon; he is addressed in tones distinct and clear. He turns to see from whence the voice proceeds, and lo! he beholds his Lord, whom he had loved, with whom he had walked and talked, and whose sufferings upon the cross he had witnessed. But how changed is the Saviour's appearance! He is no longer "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He bears no marks of his humiliation. His eyes are like a flame of fire; his feet like fine brass, as it glows in a furnace. The tones of his voice are like the musical sound of many waters. His countenance shines like the sun in its meridian glory. In this hand are seven stars, signifying the ministers of the churches. Out of his mouth issues a sharp, two-edged sword, representing the power of his word.
John, who had so loved his Lord, and who had steadfastly adhered to the truth in the face of imprisonment, stripes, and threatened death, cannot endure the excellent glory of Christ's majesty, but falls to the earth as one stricken dead. Jesus then lays his hand upon the prostrate form of his servant, saying, "Fear not. I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore." John was strengthened to live in the presence of his glorified Lord; and then were presented before him in holy vision the purposes of God for future ages. The glorious attractions of the heavenly home were made known to him. He was permitted to look upon the throne of God, and to behold the white-robed throng of redeemed ones. He heard the music of heavenly angels, and the songs of triumph from those who had overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.
The humility of John did not consist in a mere profession; it was a grace that clothed him as naturally as a garment. He ever sought to conceal his own righteous acts, and to avoid everything that would seem to attract attention to himself. In his Gospel, John mentions the disciple whom Jesus loved, but conceals the fact that the one thus honored was himself. His course was devoid of selfishness. In his daily life he taught and practiced charity in the fullest sense. He had a high sense of the love that should exist among natural brothers and Christian brethren. He presents and urges this love as an essential characteristic of the followers of Jesus. Destitute of this, all pretensions to the Christian name are vain.
John was a teacher of practical holiness. He presents unerring rules for the conduct of Christians. They must be pure in heart, and correct in manners. In no case should they be satisfied with an empty profession. He declares in unmistakable terms that to be a Christian is to be Christlike.
John does not once claim to be sinless. But his life was one of earnest effort to conform to the will of God. It was a living representation of Christian sanctification. He followed his Saviour closely, and had such a sense of the purity and exalted holiness of Christ, that his own character appeared, in contrast, exceedingly defective. And when Jesus in his glorified body appeared to John, one glimpse was enough to cause him to fall down as one dead. Such will ever be the feelings of those who know best their Lord and Master. The more closely they contemplate the life and character of Jesus, the less will they be disposed to claim holiness of heart, or to boast of their sanctification. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #10)
Text: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5: 23.
Sanctification is obtained only in obedience to the will of God. Many who are willfully trampling upon the law of Jehovah, claim holiness of heart and sanctification of life. But they have not a saving knowledge of God or of his law. They are standing in the ranks of the great rebel. He is at war with the law of God, which is the foundation of the divine government in Heaven and in the earth. These men are doing the same work as their master has done in seeking to make of none effect God's holy law. No commandment breaker can be permitted to enter Heaven; for he who was once a pure and exalted covering cherub, was thrust out for rebelling against the government of God.
With many, sanctification is only self-righteousness. And yet these persons boldly claim Jesus as their Saviour and sanctifier. What a delusion! Will the Son of God sanctify the transgressor of the Father's law,--that law which Christ came to exalt and make honorable? He testifies,"I have kept my Father's commandments." God will not bring his law down to meet the imperfect standard of man; and man cannot meet the demands of that holy law without exercising repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
"If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." But God has not given his Son to a life of suffering and ignominy and a shameful death to release man from obedience to the divine law. So great is the deceptive power of Satan, that many have been led to regard the atonement of Christ as of no real value. Christ died because there was no other hope for the transgressor. He might try to keep God's law in the future; but the debt which he had incurred in the past remained, and the law must condemn him to death. Christ came to pay that debt for the sinner which it was impossible for him to pay for himself. Thus, through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, sinful man was granted another trial.
It is the sophistry of Satan that the death of Christ brought in grace to take the place of the law. The death of Jesus did not change, or annul, or lessen in the slightest degree, the law of ten commandments. That precious grace offered to men through a Saviour's blood, establishes the law of God. Since the fall of man, God's moral government and his grace are inseparable. They go hand in hand through all dispensations. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
Jesus, our substitute, consented to bear for man the penalty of the law transgressed. He clothed his divinity with humanity, and thus became the Son of man, a Saviour and Redeemer. The very fact of the death of God's dear Son to redeem man, shows the immutability of the divine law. How easily, from the transgressor's standpoint, could God have abolished his law, thus providing a way whereby men could be saved, and Christ remain in Heaven! The doctrine which teaches freedom, through grace, to break the law, is a fatal delusion. Every transgressor of God's law is a sinner, and none can be sanctified while living in known sin.
The condescension and agony of God's dear Son were not endured to purchase for man liberty to transgress the Father's law and yet sit down with Christ in his throne. It was that through his merits, and the exercise of repentance and faith, the most guilty sinner might receive pardon, and obtain strength to live a life of obedience. The sinner is not saved in his sins, but from his sins.
The soul must first be convicted of sin, before the sinner will feel a desire to come to Christ. "Sin is the transgression of the law." "I had not known sin but by the law." When the commandment came home to Saul's conscience, sin revived, and he died. He saw himself condemned by the law of God. The sinner cannot be convinced of his guilt, unless he understands what constitutes sin. It is impossible for an individual to experience Bible sanctification while he holds that if he believes in Christ it is immaterial whether he obeys God's law or disobeys it.
Those who profess to keep the law of God, and yet at heart are indulging in sin, are condemned by the True Witness. They claim to be rich in a knowledge of the truth; but they are not in harmony with its sacred principles. The truth does not sanctify their lives. God's word declares that the professed commandment keeper whose life contradicts his faith, is blind, wretched, poor, and naked.
God's law is the mirror presenting a complete reflection of the man as he is, and holding up before him the correct likeness. Some will turn away and forget this picture, while others will employ abusive epithets against the law, as though this would cure their defects of character. Still others who are condemned by the law will repent of their transgressions, and, through faith in Christ's merits, will perfect Christian character.
The whole world is guilty in God's sight of transgressing his law. Because the great majority will continue to transgress, and thus remain at enmity with God, is no reason why none should confess themselves guilty and become obedient. To a superficial observer, persons who are naturally amiable, who are educated and refined, may appear perfect in life. "Man looketh on the outward appearance; but the Lord looketh on the heart." Unless the lifegiving truths of God's word, when presented to the conscience, are understandingly received, and then faithfully carried out in the life, no man can see the kingdom of Heaven. To some, these truths have a charm because of their novelty, but are not accepted as the word of God. Those who do not receive the light when it is brought before them, will be condemned by it.
In every congregation in the land there are souls unsatisfied, hungering and thirsting for salvation. By day and by night, the burden of their hearts is, What shall I do to be saved? They listen eagerly to popular discourses, hoping to learn how they may be justified before God. But too often they hear only a pleasing speech, an eloquent declamation. There are sad and disappointed hearts in every religious gathering. The minister tells his hearers that they cannot keep the law of God. "It is not binding upon man in our day," he says. "You must believe in Christ; he will save you; only believe." Thus he teaches them to make feeling their criterion, and gives them no intelligent faith. That minister may profess to be very sincere; but he is seeking to quiet the troubled conscience with a false hope.
Many are led to think that they are on the road to Heaven, because they profess to believe in Christ, while they reject the law of God. But they will find at last that they were on the way to perdition, instead of Heaven. Spiritual poison is sugarcoated with the doctrine of sanctification, and administered to the people. Thousands eagerly swallow it, feeling that if they are only honest in their belief they will be safe. But sincerity will not convert error to truth. A man may swallow poison, thinking it is food; but his sincerity will not save him from the effects of the dose.
God has given us his word to be our guide. Christ has said, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me." He prayed for his disciples, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." Paul says, "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." But this belief did not make his course right. When Paul received the gospel of Jesus Christ, it made him a new creature. He was transformed; the truth was planted in his soul, and gave him such faith and courage as a follower of Christ that no opposition could move him, no suffering daunt him. Men may make what excuse they please for their rejection of God's law; but no excuse will be accepted in the day of Judgment. Those who are contending with God, and strengthening their guilty souls in transgression, must very soon meet the great Lawgiver over his broken law.
The day of God's vengeance cometh,--the day of the fierceness of his wrath. Who will abide the day of his coming? Men have hardened their hearts against the Spirit of God; but the arrows of his wrath will pierce where the arrows of conviction could not. God will not far hence arise to deal with the sinner. Will the false shepherd shield the transgressor in that day? Can he be excused who went with the multitude in the path of disobedience? Will popularity or numbers make any guiltless? These are questions which the careless and indifferent should consider and settle for themselves. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #17)
The character of the Christian is shown by his daily life. Said Christ, "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." Our Saviour compares himself to a vine, of which his followers are the branches. He plainly declares that all who would be his disciples must bring forth fruit; and then he shows how they may become fruitful branches. "Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me."
The apostle Paul describes the fruit which the Christian is to bear. He says that it "is in all goodness and righteousness and truth." And again, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." These precious graces are but the principles of God's law carried out in the life.
Those who have genuine love for God will manifest an earnest desire to know his will and to do it. Says the apostle John, whose epistles treat so fully upon love, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." The child who loves his parents will show that love by willing obedience; but the selfish, ungrateful child seeks to do as little as possible for his parents, while he at the same time desires to enjoy all the privileges granted to the obedient and faithful. The same difference is seen among those who profess to be children of God. Many who know that they are the objects of his love and care, and who desire to receive his blessing, take no delight in doing his will. They regard God's claims upon them as an unpleasant restraint, his commandments as a grievous yoke. But he who is earnestly seeking for holiness of heart and life, delights in the law of God, and mourns only that he falls so far short of meeting its requirements.
We are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us. He has manifested his love by laying down his life to redeem us. The beloved disciple says that we should be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren. For "every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of Him." If we love Christ, we shall love those who resemble him in life and character. And not only so, but we shall love those who "have no hope and are without God in the world." It was to save sinners that Christ left his home in Heaven, and came to earth to suffer and to die. For this he toiled and agonized and prayed, until, heartbroken and deserted by those he came to save, he poured out his life on Calvary.
Many shrink from such a life as our Saviour lived. They feel that it requires too great a sacrifice to imitate the Pattern, to bring forth fruit in good works, and then patiently endure the pruning of God that they may bring forth more fruit. But when the Christian regards himself as only a humble instrument in the hands of Christ, and endeavors to faithfully perform every duty, relying upon the help which God has promised, then he will wear the yoke of Christ and find it easy; then he will bear burdens for Christ, and pronounce them light. He can look up with courage and with confidence, and say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him."
If we meet obstacles in our path and faithfully overcome them, if we encounter opposition and reproach, and in Christ's name gain the victory, if we bear responsibilities and discharge our duties in the spirit of our Master, then, indeed, we gain a precious knowledge of his faithfulness and power. We no longer depend upon the experience of others, for we have the witness in ourselves. Like the Samaritans of old, we can say, "We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."
The more we contemplate the character of Christ, and the more we experience of his saving power, the more keenly shall we realize our own weakness and imperfection, and the more earnestly shall we look to him as our strength and our Redeemer. We have no power in ourselves to cleanse the soul temple from its defilement; but as we repent of our sins against God, and seek pardon through the merits of Christ, he will impart that faith that works by love and purifies the heart. By faith in Christ, and obedience to the law of God, we may be sanctified, and thus obtain a fitness for the society of holy angels and the white-robed redeemed ones in the kingdom of glory.
It is not only the privilege but the duty of every Christian to maintain a close union with Christ, and to have a rich experience in the things of God. Then his life will be fruitful in good works. Said Christ, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul endeavors to set before his brethren the "mystery of the gospel," the "unsearchable riches of Christ," and then assures them of his earnest prayers for their spiritual prosperity:--
"I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth,and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."
Again, he writes to his Corinthian brethren, "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." These words are addressed not only to the church at Corinth, but to all the people of God to the close of time. Every Christian may enjoy the blessing of sanctification.
The apostle continues, in these words: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment." Paul would not have appealed to them to do that which was impossible. Unity is the sure result of Christian perfection.
In the epistle to the Colossians also are set forth the glorious privileges vouchsafed to the children of God. "Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, . . . we also since the day we heard it do not cease to pray for you; and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness."
The apostle himself was endeavoring to reach the same standard of holiness which he set before his brethren. He writes to the Philippians: "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. . . .That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." There is a striking contrast between the boastful, self-righteous claims of those who profess to be without sin, and the modest language of the apostle. Yet it was the purity and faithfulness of his own life that gave such power to his exhortations to his brethren.
Paul did not hesitate to enforce, upon every suitable occasion, the importance of Bible sanctification. He says: "Ye know what commandment we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."
He bids Titus to instruct the church that while they should trust to the merits of Christ for salvation, divine grace, dwelling in their hearts, will lead to the faithful performance of all the duties of life. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."
Paul seeks to impress upon our minds the fact that the foundation of all acceptable service to God, as well as the very crown of the Christian graces, is love; and that only in the soul where love reigns will the peace of God abide. "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 57, #18)
Many who are sincerely seeking for holiness of heart and purity of life seem perplexed and discouraged. They are constantly looking to themselves, and lamenting their lack of faith; and because they have no faith, they feel that they cannot claim the blessing of God. These persons mistake faith for feeling. They look above the simplicity of true faith, and thus bring great darkness upon their souls. They should turn the mind from self, to dwell upon the mercy and goodness of God and to recount his promises, and then simply believe that he will fulfill his word. We are not to trust in our faith, but in the promises of God. When we repent of our past transgressions of his law, and resolve to render obedience in the future, we should believe that God for Christ's sake accepts us, and forgives our sins.
Darkness and discouragement will sometimes come upon the soul, and threaten to overwhelm us; but we should not cast away our confidence. We must keep the eye fixed on Jesus, feeling or no feeling. We should seek to faithfully perform every known duty, and then calmly rest in the promises of God.
At times a deep sense of our unworthiness will send a thrill of terror through the soul; but this is no evidence that God has changed toward us, or we toward God. No effort should be made to rein the mind up to a certain intensity of emotion. We may not feel today the peace and joy which we felt yesterday; but we should by faith grasp the hand of Christ, and trust him as fully in the darkness as in the light.
Satan may whisper, "You are too great a sinner for Christ to save." While you acknowledge that you are indeed sinful and unworthy, you may meet the tempter with the cry, "By virtue of the atonement, I claim Christ as my Saviour. I trust not to my own merits, but to the precious blood of Jesus, which cleanses me. This moment I hang my helpless soul on Christ." The Christian life must be a life of constant, living faith. An unyielding trust, a firm reliance upon Christ, will bring peace and assurance to the soul.
Be not discouraged because your heart seems hard. Every obstacle, every internal foe, only increases your need of Christ. He came to take away the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. Look to him for special grace to overcome your peculiar faults. When assailed by temptation, steadfastly resist the evil promptings; say to your soul, "How can I dishonor my Redeemer? I have given myself to Christ; I cannot do the works of Satan." Cry to the dear Saviour for help to sacrifice every idol, and to put away every darling sin. Let the eye of faith see Jesus standing before the Father's throne, presenting his wounded hands as he pleads for you. Believe that strength comes to you through your precious Saviour.
By faith look upon the crowns laid up for those who shall overcome; listen to the exultant song of the redeemed, Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hast redeemed us to God! Endeavor to make these scenes a reality. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in his terrible conflict with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places, exclaimed, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." The Saviour of the world was revealed to him as looking down from Heaven upon him with the deepest interest; and the glorious light of Christ's countenance shone upon Stephen with such brightness that even his enemies saw his face shine like the face of an angel.
If we would permit our minds to dwell more upon Christ and the heavenly world, we should find a powerful stimulus and support in fighting the battles of the Lord. Pride and love of the world will lose their power as we contemplate the glories of that better land so soon to be our home. Beside the loveliness of Christ, all earthly attractions will seem of little worth.
Let none imagine that without earnest effort on their part they can obtain the assurance of God's love. When the mind has been long permitted to dwell only on earthly things, it is a difficult matter to change the habits of thought. That which the eye sees and the ear hears, too often attracts the attention and absorbs the interest. But if we would ever enter the city of God, and look upon Jesus in his glory, we must become accustomed to beholding him with the eye of faith here. The words and the character of Christ should be often the subject of our thoughts and of our conversation; and each day some time should be especially devoted to prayerful meditation upon these sacred themes.
Sanctification is a daily work. Let none deceive themselves with the belief that God will pardon and bless them while they are trampling upon one of his requirements. The willful commission of one known sin silences the witnessing voice of the Spirit, and separates the soul from God. Whatever may be the ecstacies of religious feeling, Jesus cannot abide in the heart that disregards the divine law. God will honor those only who honor him.
"His servants ye are to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey." If we indulge anger, lust, covetousness, hatred, selfishness, or any other sin, we become servants of sin. "No man can serve two masters." If we serve sin, we cannot serve Christ. The Christian will feel the promptings of sin, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; but the Spirit striveth against the flesh, keeping up a constant warfare. Here is where Christ's help is needed. Human weakness becomes united to divine strength, and faith exclaims, "Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
If we would develop a character which God can accept, we must form correct habits in our religious life. Daily prayer is as essential to growth in grace, and even to spiritual life itself, as is temporal food to physical will-being. We should accustom ourselves to often lift the thoughts to God in prayer. If the mind wanders, we must bring it back; by persevering effort, habit will finally make it easy. We cannot for one moment separate ourselves from Christ with safety. We may have his presence to attend us at every step, but only by observing the conditions which he has himself laid down.
Religion must be made the great business of life. Everything else should be held subordinate to this. All our powers of soul, body, and spirit, must be engaged in the Christian warfare. We must look to Christ for strength and grace, and we shall gain the victory as surely as Jesus died for us.
We must come nearer to the cross of Christ, Penitence at the foot of the cross is the first lesson of peace we have to learn. The love of Jesus--who can comprehend it? Infinitely more tender and self-denying than a mother's love! If we would know the value of a human soul, we must look in living faith upon the cross, and thus begin the study which shall be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. The value of our time and our talents can be estimated only by the greatness of the ransom paid for our redemption. What ingratitude do we manifest toward God when we rob him of his own by withholding from him our affections and our service. Is it too much to give ourselves to Him who has sacrificed all for us? Can we choose the friendship of the world before the immortal honors which Christ proffers,--" to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father on his throne"?
Sanctification is a progressive work. The successive steps are set before us in the words of Peter: "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity;" "for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Here is a course by which we may be assured that we shall never fall. Those who are thus working upon the plan of addition in obtaining the Christian graces, have the assurance that God will work upon the plan of multiplication in granting them the gifts of his Spirit. Peter addresses those who have obtained like precious faith with us: "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." By divine grace, all who will may climb the shining steps from earth to Heaven, and at last, "with songs and everlasting joy," enter through the gates into the city of God.
Our Saviour claims all there is of us; he asks our first and holiest thoughts, our purest and most intense affection. If we are indeed partakers of the divine nature, his praise will be continually in our hearts and upon our lips. Our only safety is to surrender our all to him, and to be constantly growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
The apostle Paul was highly honored of God, being taken in holy vision to the third heaven, where he looked upon scenes whose glories might not be revealed to mortals. Yet all this did not lead him to boastfulness or self-confidence. He realized the importance of constant watchfulness and self-denial, and plainly declares, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
Paul suffered for the truth's sake, and yet we hear no complaints from his lips. As he reviews his life of toil and care and sacrifice he says, "I reckon the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." The shout of victory from God's faithful servant comes down the line to our time,--"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Though Paul was at last confined in a Roman prison,--shut away from the light and air of heaven, cut off from his active labors in the gospel, and momentarily expecting to be condemned to death,--yet he did not yield to doubt or despondency. From that gloomy dungeon came his dying testimony, full of a sublime faith and courage that has inspired the hearts of saints and martyrs in all succeeding ages. His words fitly describe the result of that sanctification which we have in these articles endeavored to set forth. "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #6)
Jesus invites the weary to come to him for rest: "Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matt. 11: 28-30.
Many who hear this invitation sigh for rest, and yet press on the rugged path, hugging their burdens closer to their heart. Jesus loves them, and longs to bear their burdens and themselves also in his strong arms of love. He invites them to lay the heavy burdens on him. Your fears and uncertainties, that rob you of peace and rest, he would remove; but you must come to him, and tell him the secret woes of your heart. He invites your confidence as the proof of your love for him. Jesus would rather have the gift of the humble, trusting heart than all the wealth riches can bestow. He invites through his messengers the gift of yourselves. Only come to him in the simplicity and confidence with which a child would come to its parents, and the divine touch from his hand will relieve you of your burdens.
Let us not forget that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The compassionate Saviour invites all to come to him. Let us believe the words of our Lord, and not make the way to him so hard. Let us not travel the precious road, cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in, with murmuring, with doubts, with cloudy forebodings, groaning, as if forced to an unpleasant, exacting task. The ways of Christ are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. If we have made rough paths for our feet, and taken upon us heavy burdens of care in laying up for ourselves treasures upon the earth, let us now change, and follow the path Jesus has prepared for us.
We are not always willing to give our burdens to Jesus. We sometimes pour our troubles into human ears, and tell our afflictions to those who cannot help us, and neglect to confide all to Jesus, that he may change the sorrowful ways to paths of joy and peace. Self-denying, self-sacrificing love gives glory and victory to the cross. The promises of God's word are very precious. We must study his word, if we would know his will. The words of inspiration, carefully studied and practically obeyed, will lead our feet in a plain path, where we may walk without stumbling. Oh, that ministers and people would take all the burdens and perplexities to Jesus, who is waiting to receive them and give them peace and rest. Jesus will never forsake those who put their trust in him.
We are living in an age when wickedness prevails. The perils of the last days thicken around us, and because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. This need not be if all would come to Jesus, and in confiding faith trust in him. His meekness and his lowliness, cherished, will bring peace and rest and moral power to every soul.
The shortness of time is urged as an incentive for us to seek righteousness and to make Christ our friend. This is not the great motive. It savors of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God be held before us to compel us through fear to right action? This ought not to be. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion. He proposes to be our friend, to walk with us through all the rough pathways of life. He says to you, I am the Lord thy God; walk with me, and I will fill thy path with light. Jesus, the Majesty of Heaven, proposes to elevate to companionship with himself those who come to him with their burdens, their weaknesses, and their cares. He will make them his dear children, and finally give them an inheritance of more value than the empires of kings, a crown of glory richer than has ever decked the brow of the most exalted earthly monarch.
It is our duty to love him as our Redeemer. He commands our love, and as a friend he invites our love. Christ's invitation to us all is a call to a life of peace and rest,--a life of liberty and love, and to a rich inheritance in the future immortal life. Why, then, should we resist his invitation and refuse his love? If we choose to live with Christ through the ceaseless ages of eternity, why not choose him as our best and most honored and loved companion here? Christ calls us to walk with him in this world in the path of humble, trustful obedience, which will secure a pure, holy, happy life. Which will we choose,--liberty in Christ, or bondage and tyranny in the service of Satan? It is our privilege to have a calm, close, happy walk with Jesus every day we live.
We need not be alarmed if this path of liberty is laid through conflicts and sufferings. The liberty we shall enjoy will be the more valuable because we made sacrifices to obtain it. The peace which passeth knowledge will cost us battles with the powers of darkness, struggles severe against selfishness and inward sins. The victories gained daily through persevering, untiring effort in well doing, will be precious through Christ who hath loved us, "who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." The excellence of Christ we should seek to obtain. In the face of temptation we should school ourselves to firm endurance, which will not provoke one murmuring thought, although we may be weary in toiling, and in fighting the good fight of faith.
Thank God that some have passed through afflictions with light undimmed. Their hope and faith are strong, because acquired by conflict and nurtured by suffering. If it were not for these heroes of faith, who have learned to endure, and to suffer and be strong, the outlook would be indeed discouraging. How could any of us know how to sympathize with the sorrowing, the burdened, the afflicted, and be to them the help they need, if we had never experienced similar trials ourselves? We cannot appreciate our Redeemer in the highest sense until we can see him by the eye of faith reaching to the very depths of human wretchedness, taking upon himself the nature of man, the capacity to suffer, and by suffering putting forth his divine power to save and lift sinners up to companionship with himself. Oh, why have we so little sense of sin? Why so little penitence? It is because we do not come nearer the cross of Christ. Conscience becomes hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, because we remain away from Christ. Consider the Captain of our salvation. He suffered shame for us that we might not suffer everlasting shame and contempt. He suffered on the cross, that mercy might be granted to fallen man. God's justice is preserved, and guilty man is pardoned. Jesus dies that the sinner might live. Shame is borne by the Son of the Highest for the sake of poor sinners, that they might be ransomed and crowned with eternal glory.
The cross of Calvary appeals in power, affording a reason why we should love Christ now, and why we should consider him first, and best, and last, in everything. We should take our fitting place in humble penitence at the foot of the cross. We may learn the lessons of meekness and lowliness of mind as we go up to Mount Calvary, and, looking upon the cross, see our Saviour in agony, the Son of God dying, the just for the unjust. Behold Him who could summon legions of angels to his assistance with one word, a subject of jest and merriment, of reviling and hatred. He gives himself a sacrifice for sin. When reviled, he threatened not; when falsely accused, he opened not his mouth. He prays on the cross for his murderers. He is dying for them. He is paying an infinite price for every one of them. He would not lose one whom he has purchased at so great cost. He gives himself to be smitten, and scourged, without a murmur. And this uncomplaining victim is the Son of God. His throne is from everlasting, and his kingdom shall have no end.
Come, you who are seeking your own pleasures in forbidden joys and in sinful indulgences, you who are scattering from Christ. Look, O look upon the cross of Calvary; behold the royal victim suffering on your account, and be wise while you have opportunity, and seek now the fountain of life and true happiness. Come, you who complain and murmur at the little inconveniences and the few trials you must bear in this life. Look on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. He turns from his royal throne, his high command, and lays aside his royal robe, and clothes his divinity with humanity. For our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.
The Son of God was rejected and despised for our sakes. Can you, in full view of the cross, beholding by the eye of faith the sufferings of Christ, tell your tale of woe, your trials? Can you nurse revenge of your enemies in your heart while the prayer of Christ comes from his pale and quivering lips for his revilers, his murderers,--"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do?"
A work is before us to subdue pride and vanity, that seek a place in our hearts, and through penitence and faith to bring ourselves into familiar and holy converse with Jesus Christ. We must not shrink from the depths of humiliation to which the Son of God submitted in order to raise us from the degradation and bondage of sin to a seat at his right hand. We must deny self, and fight continually against pride. We must hide self in Jesus Christ, and let him appear in our conversation and character as the One altogether lovely, and the chief among ten thousand. Our lives, our deportment, will testify how highly we prize Christ, and the salvation he has wrought out for us at such a cost to himself. While we look constantly to Him whom our sins have pierced, and our sorrows have burdened, we shall acquire strength to be like him. We shall bind ourselves in willing, happy, captivity to Jesus Christ. It is high time we devoted the few remaining precious hours of our probation to washing our robes of character, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, that we may be of that white-robed company who shall stand about the great white throne. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #8)
Christ says to his redeemed people, "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
To be a patient toiler in that which calls for self-denying labor, is a glorious work, that Heaven smiles upon. Faithful work is more acceptable to God than the most zealous and thought to be, holiest, worship. True worship consists in working together with Christ. Prayers, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on, but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.
Pure religion and undefiled before the Father is this: "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." The doing principle is the fruit that Christ requires us to bear; doing deeds of benevolence, speaking kind words, and manifesting tender regard for the poor, the needy, the afflicted. When one's heart sympathizes with others burdened with discouragement and grief; when his hand clothes the naked, and the stranger is made welcome to a seat in his parlor and in his heart, then angels come very near, and an answering strain responds in Heaven. Every act, every deed of justice and mercy and benevolence, makes music in Heaven. The Father from his throne beholds and numbers the performer of them with his most precious treasures. "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, when I make up my jewels." Every merciful act to the needy, or the suffering, is as though done to Jesus. Whoever succors the poor, or sympathizes with the afflicted and oppressed, and befriends the orphan, brings himself into a more close relationship to Jesus.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Matt. 25:41-46.
Jesus here identifies himself with his suffering people. I was hungry and thirsty; I was a stranger; I was naked; I was sick; I was in prison. When you were enjoying your food from your bountifully spread tables, I was famishing of hunger in the hovel or street, not far from you. When you closed your doors against me, while your well furnished rooms were unoccupied, I had not where to lay my head. Your wardrobes were filled with an abundant supply of changeable suits of apparel, upon which means had been needlessly squandered, which you might have given to the needy. I was destitute of comfortable apparel. When you were enjoying health, I was sick. Misfortune cast me into prison and bound me with fetters, bowing down my spirit, depriving me of freedom and hope, while you roamed free. What a oneness Jesus here expresses as existing between himself and his suffering disciples. He makes their case his own. He identifies himself as being, in their person, the very sufferer. Here, mark, selfish Christian, that every neglect of yours to the needy poor, the orphan, the fatherless, is a neglect to Jesus in their person.
But there are some persons who make high professions, whose hearts are so encased in self-love and selfishness that they cannot appreciate these things. They have all their lives thought and lived only for self. To make a worthy sacrifice to do others good, to disadvantage themselves for the purpose of benefiting others, is out of the question with them. They have not the least idea that God requires this of them. Self is their dear idol. Precious weeks, months, and years of valuable time pass into eternity, but they have no record in Heaven of kindly acts, of sacrificing for others' good, of feeding the hungry, of clothing the naked, or taking in the stranger. Entertaining strangers at a venture is not agreeable; if they knew that all who shared their bounty were worthy, then they might be induced to do something in that direction. But there is virtue in venturing something. Perchance we may entertain angels.
There are orphans that can be cared for; but many will not venture to undertake such a work; for it involves more labor than they care to do, leaving them but little time to please themselves. But when the King shall make investigation, these do-nothing, illiberal, selfish souls will then learn that Heaven is for those who have been workers; those who have denied themselves for Christ's sake. No provisions have been made for those who have ever taken such special care in loving and looking out for themselves. The terrible punishment the King threatened those on his left hand, in this case, is not because of their great crimes. They are not condemned for the things which they did do, but for that which they did not do. They did not those things Heaven assigned them to do. They pleased themselves, and can take their portion with self-pleasers.
Has the injunction of the apostle no force in this age: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares"? Our Heavenly Father lays blessings disguised in our pathway, which some will not touch for fear they will detract from their enjoyment. Angels are waiting to see if we embrace opportunities within our reach of doing good--waiting to see if we will bless others, that they in their turn may bless us. The Lord himself has made our circumstances to differ, keeping some poor, and allowing others to become rich, that all may have an opportunity to develop character.
When Elijah came to the widow of Sarepta, she shared her morsel with the prophet of God, and he therefore wrought a miracle, so that in the act of making a home for God's servant, and sharing her morsel with him, she was herself sustained, and her life and that of her son preserved. Thus will it prove in the case of many, if they do this cheerfully for the glory of God. Others plead their poor health; they would love to do if they had strength. Such have so long shut themselves up to themselves, and thought so much of their own poor feelings, and talked so much of their sufferings, trials, and afflictions, that it is their present truth. They cannot think of any one else, however much they may be in need of sympathy and assistance. You who are suffering from poor health, there is a remedy for you. If you clothe the naked, and bring the poor that are cast out to your house, and deal your bread to the hungry, then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily.
Doing good is an excellent remedy for disease. Such are invited to bring their prayers to God, and he has pledged himself to answer them. "His soul shall be satisfied in drought, and he shall be like a watered garden, whose waters fail not." Wake up, brethren and sisters. Don't be afraid of good works. "Be not weary in well doing, for in due time ye shall reap if ye faint not." Do not wait to be told your duty. Open your eyes, and see who is around you, and make yourselves acquainted with the helpless, afflicted, and needy. Hide not yourselves from them; close not your eyes to their needs. Who gives the proofs mentioned in James of possessing pure religion, untainted with any selfishness or corruption? Who is anxious to do all in his power to aid in the great plan of salvation?
As you regard your eternal interest, arouse yourselves, and begin to sow good seed. That which ye sow shall ye also reap. The harvest is coming,--the great reaping time, when you shall reap what you have sown. There will be no failure in the crop. The harvest is sure. Now is the sowing time. Now make efforts to be rich in good works, "ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may lay hold on eternal life." I implore you, my brethren, in every church, rid yourselves of your icy coldness. Encourage in yourselves a love of hospitality, a love to help those who need help.
You may say that you have been disappointed by bestowing means upon those unworthy of your charity, and therefore have become discouraged in trying to help the needy. I present Jesus before you. He came to save fallen man. He came to bring salvation to his own nation; but they would not accept him. They treated his mercy with insult and contempt, and at length they put to death Him who came for the purpose of giving life to them. Did our Lord turn from all the fallen race because of this? If your efforts for good have been unsuccessful ninety-nine times, and you have received only insult, reproach, and hate; if the one-hundredth time proves a success, and one soul is saved, oh, what a victory is achieved! One soul wrenched from Satan's grasp, one soul benefited, one soul encouraged! This will a thousand times pay you for all your efforts. To you will Jesus say "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Should we not gladly do all we can to imitate the life of our divine Lord?
Many shrink at the idea of making any sacrifice for others' good. They are not willing to suffer for the sake of helping others. They flatter themselves that it is not required of them to disadvantage themselves for the benefit of others. To such we will say, Jesus is our example.
When the request was made that the two sons of Zebedee might sit the one on his right hand and the other on his left in his kingdom, Jesus answered, "Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he said, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." How many can answer, We can drink of the cup; we can be baptized with the baptism; and make the answer understandingly? How many imitate the great Exemplar? All who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, in taking this step pledge themselves to walk even as he walked. Yet the course many pursue who make high profession shows that their lives are far from being in conformity to that of the great Pattern. They shape their course to meet their own imperfect standard. They do not imitate the self-denial of Christ, or his life of sacrifice for the good of others.
I once heard a wealthy farmer describe the situation of a poor widow living near him. He lamented her straitened circumstances, and then said, "I don't know how she is going to get along this cold winter. She has close times now." Such have forgotten the work of Christ, and by their acts say, "Nay, Lord, we cannot drink of the cup of self-denial, humiliation, and sacrifice you drank of, nor be baptized with the suffering you were baptized with. We cannot live to do others good. It is our business to take care of ourselves."
Who should know how the widow will get along, unless it be those who have well filled granaries? The means for her to get along is at hand; and dare those whom God has made his stewards, to whom he has intrusted means, withhold from the needy disciples of Christ? If so, they withhold from Jesus. Do you expect the Lord to rain down grain from Heaven to supply the needy? Has he not rather placed it in your hands to help and bless them through you? Has he not made you his instrument in this good work, to prove you, and to give you the privilege of laying up a treasure in Heaven? Hear what the prophet Isaiah says:--
"Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
The fast is described which God can accept. "to deal thy bread to the hungry," and to "bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house." You are with one hand to reach up, and by faith take hold of the mighty arm which bringeth salvation, while with the other hand of love you reach the oppressed, and relieve them. It is impossible for you to fasten upon the arm of God with one hand, while the other is employed in administering to your own pleasure.
If you engage in this work of mercy and love, will it prove too hard for you? Will you fail, and be crushed under the burden, and your family be deprived of your assistance and influence? Oh, no! God has carefully removed all doubts upon this question by a pledge to you on condition of your obedience. This promise covers all the most exacting, the most hesitating, could crave: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health spring forth speedily." Only believe that He is faithful that has promised. God can renew the physical strength; and more, he says he will do it. And the promise does not end here. "Thy righteousness shall go before thee. The glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward." God will build a fortification around you. Neither does the promise end at this point. "Thou shalt call, and the Lord shall answer. Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am." If you put down oppression and remove the speaking of vanity, if you draw out your soul to the hungry, "then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday. The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought [famine], and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Read Isa. 58, you who claim to be children of the light. Especially do you read it again and again who have felt so fearful to inconvenience yourselves by favoring the needy; you whose hearts and houses are too narrow to make a home for the homeless, read it. You who can see orphans and widows oppressed by the iron hand of poverty, and bowed down by the hardhearted worldlings, read it.
Are you afraid that an influence will be introduced into your family that will cost you more labor, read that chapter. Your fears may be groundless, and a blessing may come, known and realized by you every day. But if otherwise, if extra labor is called for, you can draw upon One who has promised: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily." Why God's people are not more spiritually minded, and have no more faith, is because they are narrowed by selfishness. The prophet is addressing Christians; not sinners, not unbelievers, but those who make great pretensions to godliness. It is not the abundance of your meetings that God accepts. It is not the numerous prayers, but it is rightdoing,--doing the right thing, and at the right time. It is to be less self-caring, and more benevolent. Our souls must expand. Then God will make them like a watered garden, whose waters fail not. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #9)
Ministers should impress upon the people for whom they labor the importance of individual effort. No church can flourish unless its members are workers. The people must lift where the ministers lifts, thus seconding his efforts and helping him bear his burdens, and then he will not be overworked and become discouraged. There is no influence that can be brought to bear on a church that will be enduring unless the people shall move intelligently, from principle, to do all they can to forward the work. The individual members of the church should feel a responsibility resting upon them to overcome their own defects of character, and by doing this they encourage others to overcome. Those who profess to be Christians should arouse themselves, and take up their neglected duties; for the salvation of their own souls depends upon their individual efforts. Said the Prince of life, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able." "Agonize," says the margin. There are vastly more seekers than strivers. Tame, halfhearted efforts will not insure success. There must be determined, persevering, untiring effort, proportionate to the value of eternal life, the object of our pursuit. We cannot trust to another to win the crown for us; we must individually fight the battles of the Lord. The ministers cannot save the people. He can be a channel through which God will impart light and knowledge; but after that light is given he cannot make the people walk in the light. Christ could not do this. It is left for those who have the light to appropriate the light, and in their turn let it shine forth in bright rays upon the pathway of others.
True Christians will represent Christ in deportment and in character. They will sanctify themselves through obedience to the truth, that the people they would save may be influenced by their Christlike character, and see a beauty and harmony in the truth. Preachers and people will effect more for Christ by humble, devoted, and virtuous lives, that can be done by preaching where a godly example is wanting. Many, I fear, will not have zeal and earnestness to seek God for themselves, and know for themselves that Christ is formed in them the hope of glory. If they have the heart work, they can, if any man ask them, give a reason of the hope that is within them with meekness and fear. With meekness, because Jesus died for them as sinners that they might have eternal life; with meekness because there is no virtue or goodness in them. They are dependent upon Christ every moment for this great salvation. With fear, lest they fail to represent their faith, which to them is so precious, in such a manner as to convince unbelievers that they have the truth. The meekness of wisdom will be seen in their deportment. They have the evidence that they are built upon the sure foundation, and will stand amid the perils of the last days. They purify their souls through the truth to unfeigned love of the brethren. The fire of affliction may kindle upon them, and although the removal of imperfections from their characters may be to them a severe process, yet they will endure the test and trial so essential to their eternal good.
We are not, as Christians, doing one-twentieth part that we might do in winning souls to Christ. There is a world to be warned, and every sincere Christian will be a guide and an example to others in faithfulness, in cross bearing, in prompt and vigorous action, in unswerving fidelity to the cause of truth, and in sacrifices and labors to promote the cause of God. This is a great work. To meet the standard of God, men must be growing Christians, having root in themselves. Many are separated from God by wicked works, and need the help that growing Christians can give them by a holy life and godly example. When clouds and darkness overshadow us, we are inclined to seek for human sympathy; we do not take our burdens to Jesus; we do not exercise living faith in his promises. There is not a close searching of our own hearts to see if there is not some darling sin cherished, some idol that needs to be cast down in order to give Christ the entire heart's affections.
Said Christ, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me." The promises contained in the word of God are exceedingly precious. The word of life, carefully and prayerfully studied, and practically obeyed, will thoroughly furnish us unto all good works. Ministers and people must learn to look to men less and to God more. He can save to the utmost all who put their trust in him. When power and grace in unlimited supply await our demand, why do we neglect to come in living faith for the things God knows we need, and that he longs to bestow upon us if we will only ask him in faith?
Enoch lived in a corrupt age, when moral power was very weak. Pollution was teeming all around him; yet he walked with God. He educated his mind to devotion,--to think on things that were pure and holy; and his conversation was upon holy and divine things. He was made a companion of God. He walked with him, and received his counsel. He had to contend with the same temptations that we do. The society surrounding him was no more friendly to righteousness than is the society surrounding us at the present time. The atmosphere he breathed was tainted with sin and corruption, the same as ours; yet he was unsullied with the prevailing sins of the age in which he lived. And so may we remain as pure and uncorrupted as did the faithful Enoch. He was a representative of the saints living amid the perils and corruptions of the last days. For his faithful obedience to God, he was translated. So, also, those who are alive and remain, who are faithful, will be translated to Heaven. They will be removed from a sinful and corrupt world to the pure joys of Heaven.
The course of God's people should be upward and onward to victory. One is with us, even the Captain of our salvation, who has said for our encouragement? "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." "Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." He will lead us on to certain victory. What God promises, he is able at any time to perform. And the work he gives his people to do, he is able to accomplish by them. If we live a life of perfect obedience, his promises will be fulfilled to us.
God requires his people to shine as lights in the world. It is not merely the ministers who are required to do this, but every disciple of Christ. Their conversation should be heavenly. And while they enjoy communion with God, they will wish to have intercourse with their fellowmen, in order to express by their words and acts the love of God which animates their hearts. In this way will they be lights in the world, and the light transmitted through them will not go out, or be taken away. It will indeed become darkness to those who will not walk in it; but it will shine with increasing brightness on the path of those who will obey and walk in the light.
The Spirit, wisdom, and goodness of God, as revealed in his word, should be exemplified by the disciples of Christ. God's requirements of his people are in accordance with the grace and truth given them. All his righteous demands must be fully met. Accountable beings must walk in the light that shines upon them. If they fail to do this, their light becomes darkness, and the degree of darkness is according to the abundance of light possessed.
It is not for lack of knowledge that God's people are now perishing. They will not be condemned because they do not know the way, the truth, and the life. The truth that has reached their understanding, the light which has shone on the soul, that has not been cherished, and which they have neglected, or refused to be led by, will condemn them. What more could have been done for God's vineyard than has been done? Light, precious light, shines upon his people; but the light will not save them, unless they consent to be saved by it.
God calls upon his people to act. Will they awake? Will every one who professes godliness seek to put away every wrong, confess to God every secret sin, and afflict the soul before him? Will they, with great humility, investigate the motives of every action, and know that the eye of God reads all,--searches out every hidden thing? Let the work be thorough, the consecration to God be entire. He calls for a full surrender of all that we have and are. Ministers and people need a new conversion,--a transformation of the mind,--without which we are not savors of life unto life, but of death unto death. Great privileges belong to the people of God. Great light has been given them, that they may attain to their high calling in Christ Jesus; yet they are not what God would have them to be, and what he designs they should be. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #10)
God has made it the privilege and the duty of parents to become co-workers with himself in the education and training of their children. Parents are responsible, in a great degree, for the characters which their children develop. Would that every father and mother could see that in their own home is a missionary field in which they may work unitedly for the salvation of the precious souls committed to their care.
It is a sad fact, almost universally admitted and deplored, that the home education and training of the youth of today have been neglected. The father, as the head of his own household, should understand how to train his children for usefulness and duty. This is his special work, above every other. During the first few years of a child's life, the molding of the disposition is committed principally to the mother; but she should ever feel that in her work she has the cooperation of the father. If he is engaged in business which almost wholly closes the door of usefulness to his family, he should seek other employment which will not prevent him from devoting some time to his children. If he neglects them, he is unfaithful to the trust committed to him of God.
The father may exert an influence over his children which shall be stronger than the allurements of the world. He should study the disposition and character of the members of his little circle, that he may understand their needs and their dangers, and thus be prepared to repress the wrong and encourage the right. Parents should remember that occupation is essential for children. If their hands are kept active in useful employment, a door will be closed against the temptations of Satan. Let children be taught, when quite young, to bear the smaller responsibilities of life, and the faculties thus employed will strengthen by exercise. Thus the youth may become efficient helpers in the greater work which the Lord shall afterward call them to do.
Children and youth who are allowed to devote much of their time to amusement and pleasure seeking are never really happy; and in afterlife they will be unprepared for positions of trust. Few have been trained to habits of industry, thoughtfulness, and caretaking. Indolence, inaction, is the greatest curse to children of this age. Wholesome, useful labor, will be a great blessing, by promoting the formation of good habits and a noble character.
As they consider their duties and their responsibility, parents will often be led to inquire, Who is sufficient for these things.? At times the heart may be ready to faint; but a living sense of the dangers threatening the present and future happiness of their loved ones, should lead Christian parents to seek more earnestly for help from the Source of strength and wisdom. It should make them more circumspect, more decided, more calm yet firm, while they watch for these souls, as they that must give account.
Parents should study the best and most successful manner of winning the love and confidence of their children, that they may lead them in the right path. They should reflect the sunshine of love upon the household. There are no influences so potent, no memories so enduring, as those of childhood. The parents' work must begin with the child in its infancy, that it may receive the right impress of character ere the world shall place its stamp on mind and heart.
While the spirit of love should pervade the household, it is the duty of parents not to be ruled, but to rule. All under the roof should respect the parental discipline. The law of the household should be held sacred. Parents should bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. By their own example they should lead the way to Heaven. The father, as priest of the household, should explain and enforce the word of God. Let the children be taught to honor and obey their parents, that they may also learn to honor and obey their Heavenly Father. Parents stand in God's place to their little ones. When fathers and mothers realize this, they will find at home a field wherein to exercise their powers for the accomplishment of great good.
There are two ways to deal with children,--ways that differ widely in principle and in results. Faithfulness and love, united with wisdom and firmness, in accordance with the teachings of God's word, will bring happiness in this life and in the next. Neglect of duty, injudicious indulgence, failure to restrain or correct the follies of youth, will result in unhappiness and final ruin to the children, and disappointment and anguish to the parents.
The history of Eli is a terrible example of the results of parental unfaithfulness. Through his neglect of duty, his sons became a snare to their fellow men and an offense to God, forfeiting not only the present but the future life. Their evil example destroyed hundreds, and the influence of these hundreds corrupted the morals of thousands. This case should be a warning to all parents. While some err upon the side of undue severity. Eli went to the opposite extreme. He indulged his sons to their ruin. Their faults were overlooked in their childhood, and excused in their days of youth. The commands of the parents were disregarded, and the father did not enforce obedience. The children saw that they could hold the lines of control, and they improved the opportunity. As the sons advanced in years, they lost all respect for their faint-hearted father. They went on in sin without restraint. He remonstrated with them, but his words fell unheeded. Gross sins and revolting crimes were daily committed by them, until the Lord himself visited with judgment the transgressors of his law.
We have seen the result of Eli's mistaken kindness,--death to the indulgent father, ruin and death to his wicked sons, and destruction to thousands in Israel. The Lord himself decreed that for the sins of Eli's sons no atonement should be made by sacrifice or offering forever. How great, how lamentable, was their fall,--men upon whom rested sacred responsibilities, proscribed, outlawed from mercy, by a just and holy God!
Such is the fearful reaping of the harvest sown when parents neglect their God given responsibilities,--when they allow Satan to preoccupy the field which they themselves should carefully have sown with precious seed of virtue, truth, and righteousness. If but one parent is neglectful of duty, the result will be seen in the character of the children; if both fail, how great will be their accountability before God! How can they escape the doom of those who destroy their children's souls?
It were well for parents to learn from the man of Uz a lesson of steadfastness and devotion. Job did not neglect his duty to those outside of his household; he was benevolent, kind, thoughtful of the interest of others; and at the same time he labored earnestly for the salvation of his own family. Amid the festivities of his sons and daughters, he trembled lest his children should displease God. As a faithful priest of the household, he offered sacrifices for them individually. He knew the offensive character of sin, and the thought that his children might forget the divine claims, led him to God as an intercessor in their behalf.
The will of God is the law of Heaven. As long as that law was the rule of life, all the family of God were holy and happy. But when the divine law was disobeyed, then envy, jealousy, and strife were introduced, and a part of the inhabitants of Heaven fell. As long as God's law is revered in our earthly homes, the family will be happy. The authority of the parents should be absolute; yet this power is not to be abused. In the control of his children, the father should not be governed by caprice, but by the Bible standard. When he permits his own harsh traits of character to bear sway, he becomes a despot. Imperfect man, not the all-wise and merciful Heavenly Father, then makes laws which become a crushing burden.
Prompt and continual obedience to wise parental rule, will promote the happiness of the children themselves, as well as the honor of God and the good society. Children should learn that in submission to the laws of the household is their perfect liberty. Christians will learn the same lesson,--that in their obedience to God's law is their perfect freedom.
The parent who permits his rule to become a despotism, is making a terrible mistake. He wrongs not only his children but himself, quenching in their young hearts the love that would flow out in acts and words of affection. Kindness, forbearance, and love, manifested to children, will be reflected back upon the parents. That which they sow, they will also reap.
While educating and disciplining their children, parents are in a continual school. It is impossible for them to teach self-control, unless they first learn to govern themselves. Fathers and mothers may study their own character in their children. They may often read humiliating lessons, as they see their own imperfections reproduced in their sons and daughters. While seeking to repress and correct in their children hereditary tendencies to evil, parents should call to their aid double patience, perseverance, and love. God has apportioned them their work, and he will require it at their hands. No minister or friend can supply their place. The harder the battle, the greater their need of help from their Heavenly Father, and the more marked will be the victory gained.
There is no discharge in this work. Parents should labor with reference to the future harvest. While they sow in tears, amid many discouragements, it should be with earnest prayer. They may see the promise of but a late and scanty harvest, yet that should not prevent the sowing. They should sow beside all waters, embracing every opportunity both to improve themselves and to benefit their children. Such seed sowing will not be in vain. At the harvest time, many faithful parents will return with joy, bringing their sheaves with them.
Parents, if you would succeed in this great work, you must have Christ enthroned in the heart. As an honored guest, he must be earnestly invited to the home circle. It is not enough merely to speak to your children of spiritual things. They must see you exemplify the principles of Christianity in your home. The power of divine grace should control all the regulations of the household. Let it be seen in your simplicity in dress and in the preparation of your food. All these things, as well as the society you choose, the amusements in which you indulge, and the whole round of duties of daily life, will have an abiding influence upon the characters of your children.
While you seek to administer justice, remember that she has a twin sister, which is mercy. The two stand side by side, and should not be separated. Be careful not to alienate the affections of your children by undue severity. Never correct them in anger. Many professedly Christian parents do this; but they make the case far worse than if they had administered no correction. They commit a greater sin than that of which the child has been guilty. Take time to reflect calmly and candidly before you correct your children, and then bow with them in prayer, interceding with God in their behalf. In most cases this will soften the hardest heart, and the object will be gained without using the rod. Oh, if this course were pursued, how many precious children might be won to obedience and love, and thus find happiness in this life, and through Christ secure the future life!
I entreat parents, and ministers also, to devote more time and attention to the children. Bring them to Jesus, as did the mothers of old, and intercede for his blessing upon them. Jesus loves all children, and he has a special care for the children of those who have given themselves to him in willing service. In his charge to Peter, the Saviour first bade him, "Feed my lambs." and afterward commanded him, "Feed my sheep." In addressing the apostle, Christ says to all his ministers, "Feed my lambs."
When Jesus admonished the disciples not to despise the little ones, he addressed all disciples, in all ages. His own love and care for children is a precious example for his followers. If teachers in the Sabbath school felt the love which they should feel for these lambs of the flock, many more would be won to the fold of Christ. At every suitable opportunity, let the story of Jesus's love be repeated to the children. In every sermon,let a little corner be left for the benefit of the children. The servant of Christ may have lasting friends in these little ones, and his words may be to them as apples of gold in pictures of silver. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #11)
What can be done to maintain spiritual life and prosperity in our scattered churches? Many of these have but a small membership, and enjoy little or no preaching. Must they become weak and sickly, and permit discouragement to come upon them? No, never! If there are but six working members, each of these should feel a responsibility to keep up the interest of the church. Men who know how to conduct worldly business successfully should employ their talents for the upbuilding of the cause of God among them. The members of the church should give diligent attention to the word of God, that they may understand their duty, and then labor with all the energies of mind and heart to make their church one of the most prosperous in the land.
When Christ ascended, he left the church and all its interests as a sacred trust to his followers, bidding them see that it was kept in a flourishing condition. This work cannot be left to the ministers alone, or to a few leading men. Every member should feel that he has entered into a solemn covenant with the Lord to work for the best interests of his cause at all times and under all circumstances. Each should have some part to act, some burden to bear, thus investing something in time and interest, for the life and prosperity of the church. If all thus felt an individual responsibility, they would make greater advancement in spiritual things. The solemn burden resting upon them would cause them often to seek God in prayer for strength and grace.
The real character of the church is measured, not by the high profession she makes, not by the names enrolled upon the church book, but by what she is actually doing for the Master, by the number of her persevering, faithful workers. Personal interest, and vigilant, individual effort will accomplish more for the cause of Christ than can be wrought by sermons or creeds.
True Christians, the world over, will be Christlike. Said the Saviour, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." And again, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." This evidence is conclusive. If Christ dwells in the heart, the precious fruits of his Spirit will as a natural result be manifested in the life. If Satan controls the mind, evil traits will as surely be apparent.
Those who profess to be disciples of Christ, while in works they deny him, are serving Satan in disguise, robing themselves in the garments of righteousness to conceal a worldly, selfish, unregenerate nature. Their profession presents a false light to the world. In the field, in the workshop, in the family circle, in the church, they reveal the sad fact that their religion consists in hollow formalism. They are constantly exerting an influence contrary to true godliness.
Our Saviour has made it the duty of his followers to prove to the world that while Christianity will lead to industry and economy, to energy and zeal in the interest of the church and the cause of God everywhere, it will also condemn avarice, overreaching, and every other form of dishonesty. We need God's presence to control, his wisdom to guide us in all the affairs of life. We cannot afford to separate ourselves from him in the smallest transaction. No bargain is ever made in which God has not an interest. We cannot exclude him from any matter in which the rights of his offspring are concerned. Unwavering integrity marked the character and the life of Christ. It was one of the principles of Heaven, thus exemplified on earth. If the course of his professed followers is contrary to the life given them as a pattern, they show that they have no part in him.
Satan will come with his temptations to every Christian as he came to Christ. "Be not overscrupulous," he whispers, "in regard to honor and honesty. If you would succeed in getting gain, you must look out sharply for your own interests." Many listen to these suggestions, and blindly peril their hope of eternal life for worldly, temporal gain. But though they may for a time appear to prosper, the end will be bitterness and woe.
Says the apostle James, "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." "Faith without works is dead." Every man will manifest in his life all the faith that he has. The Christian's unselfish zeal and earnestness in the cause of truth will make its impression upon the minds of all associated with him. Those who are out of Christ have a constant evidence of the power of divine grace, in the kindness, forbearance, and integrity of his faithful followers. Such Christians render effectual service to their Master.
That church whose members feel that they are not responsible for its prosperity will fail to show to the world the unity, love, and harmony that exist with the true children of God. Worldlings are constantly watching and criticising with keenness and severity those who profess to love and serve God, yet who show by their lives that they are strangers to the influence of divine grace. "It is too bad," says the unbeliever, "to spoil a good worldling to make a bad Christian. That man is as sharp and eager to advance his own interests as before he professed religion. And what an unchristian spirit he manifests. How he loves to exalt himself. How unkindly he speaks of others. He sees something to find fault with in every man's character. I tell you, although he belongs to the church, that man will need watching. There is another who is harsh and severe with those whom he employs. He is impatient even to the animals under his control, and abuses them as if they had no feeling. Such men have made no change for the better." In too many cases this is a true picture. What a barrier have such professed Christians erected to hinder sinners from coming to Christ! They are a curse to their families, and a curse to the church. Christ's true disciples will manifest his meekness and gentleness in strong contrast to the storm and bluster and bravado of the great adversary and his followers.
The second great commandment, "Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself," will be faithfully kept by all true Christians. Our influence will be perpetuated. Our example, whether good or evil, will live when we are no more. Then let us so live that those with whom we associate may see and feel that we are governed by the divine rule, full of wisdom and love. This is the strongest argument that can be presented in favor of the religion we profess. A pure, unselfish Christian life will prove to all beholders that there is a divine reality in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dear Christian friends, I repeat, if you are Christ's, you will work the works of Christ, and not the works of Satan. Jesus dwelling in the heart will be exemplified in the words, in the deportment, in all the acts and purposes of life. Such Christians will have favor with God and with men. Peace and joy are shed around their pathway, and glory is reflected back to God.
Our churches are sadly destitute of spirituality. They have a correct theory of truth, and, satisfied with this, they have indulged a spirit of pride and boasting, while they greatly lack the power of godliness. These churches must be aroused. Their members must seek an experience for themselves. If connected with the Living Vine, they will be nourished by it, and will bring forth fruit in good works.
Our religion requires self-denial, self-sacrifice, at every step. Jesus came down from Heaven to teach us how to live; and while on earth he went about doing good. Those who are really representatives of Christ are working for the good of others. They delight in advancing the cause of God both at home and abroad. They are seen and heard, and their influence is felt, at the prayer meeting. They will try to supply the place of the minister, whose labors they cannot have. They do not seek to exalt self, or to receive credit for doing a great work, but labor humbly, meekly, faithfully, doing small errands or doing a greater work, if necessary, because Christ has done so much for them.
It is because we have departed from God that he has withdrawn his Spirit from us. If the members of our churches will work unitedly with interest and zeal in the cause of Christ, the Holy Spirit will attend their efforts, and the power of God will again be seen among his people. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #12)
We are living in an evil time. Iniquity abounds. Satan is working with all his power and cunning to ensnare and destroy. There is no class in greater danger than the young; but our Heavenly Father sees the temptations which surround the youth, and he invites them to come to him for strength to resist evil and to stand firm for the right. The fear of the Lord will be as a shield to the youthful heart, to turn aside the fiery darts of the adversary. The Holy Scriptures, as a light upon the path of life, will keep the feet of the young as well as the old from becoming entangled in the snares of Satan.
God's ancient people were admonished faithfully to instruct their children in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." This was to be regarded as the most important of parental duties.
Israel were also required to preserve memorials of the wonderful deliverances which the Lord had wrought for his people. When their children should ask, "What mean ye by these tokens?" the parents were to rehearse the story of God's care and love. Thus the mighty manifestations of divine power would never be forgotten, and the youth would see the justice of God's claims to their heartfelt obedience, their willing service.
The words spoken to fathers in ancient times are as verily addressed to fathers today. There is no excuse for the neglect to instruct children concerning present truth and the fulfillment of the prophecies for this time. In our experience as a people we have had precious tokens of God's favor, solemn manifestations of his power, which are as valuable to our children as were his wonderful works in olden times to the children of ancient Israel. When parents shall manifest such an interest for their children as God would have them, he will hear their prayers, and work with their efforts; but God does not propose to do the work which he has left for parents to do. It is because of the wicked neglect of fathers and mothers that so many of the youth are left to go to ruin. In most cases, parents are responsible for the weak morals and infidel sentiments of their children. They have failed to restrain and guard them, and have not given them right instruction, and a good example in their own life. Society is far below what it might be, if parents would do their duty to their children, in obedience to God's requirements.
One of the surest safeguards for the young is useful occupation. Had they been trained to industrious habits, so that all their hours were usefully employed, they would have no time for repining at their lot or for idle daydreaming. They would be in little danger of forming vicious habits or associations. Let the youth be taught from childhood that there is no excellence without great labor. Aspirations for eminence will not avail. Young friends, the mountaintop cannot be reached by standing still, and wishing yourselves there. You can gain your object only by taking one step at a time, advancing slowly perhaps, but holding every step gained. It is the energetic, persevering worker that will scale the Alps. Every youth should make the most of his talents, by improving to the utmost present opportunities. He who will do this, may reach almost any height in moral and intellectual attainments. But he must posses a brave and resolute spirit. He will need to close his ears to the voice of pleasure; he must often refuse the solicitations of young companions. He must stand on guard continually, lest he be diverted from his purpose.
Many parents remove from their country homes to the city, regarding it as a more desirable or profitable location. But by making this change they expose their children to many and great temptations. The boys have no employment, and they obtain a street education, and go on from one step in depravity to another, until they lose all interest in anything that is good and pure and holy. How much better had the parents remained with their families in the country, where the influences are most favorable for physical and mental strength. Let the youth be taught to labor in tilling the soil, and let them sleep the sweet sleep of weariness and innocence.
Through the neglect of parents, the youth in our cities are corrupting their ways and polluting their souls before God. This will ever be the fruit of idleness. The almshouses, the prisons, and the gallows publish the sorrowful tale of the neglected duties of parents.
Fathers and mothers too often leave their children to choose for themselves their amusements, their companions, and their occupation. The result is such as might reasonably be expected. Leave a field uncultivated, and it will grow up to thorns and briers. You will never see a lovely flower or a choice shrub peering above the unsightly, poisonous weeds. The worthless bramble will grow luxuriantly without thought or care, while plants that are valued for use or beauty require thorough culture. Thus it is with our youth. If right habits are formed, and right principles established, there is earnest work to be done. If wrong habits are corrected, diligence and perseverance are required to accomplish the task.
It has been truly said, "Show me your company, and I will show you your character." The young fail to realize how sensibly both their character and their reputation are affected by their choice of associates. A person seeks the company of those whose tastes, habits, and practices are most congenial to his own. When one prefers the society of the ignorant and vicious to that of the wise and good, he shows that his own character is defective. At first his tastes and habits and those of his companions might have been dissimilar; but as he mingles with this class, his thoughts and feelings change, he sacrifices right principles, and insensibly yet unavoidably loses his distinctive character, and comes down to the lower level of his companions. As the stream always partakes of the properties of the soil through which it runs, so the principles and habits of youth become invariably tinctured by the character of the company in which they mingle.
More than human wisdom is needed by parents at every step, that they may understand how best to educate their children for a useful, happy life here, and for higher service and greater joy hereafter. Fathers and mothers, ever remember that to you is committed a sacred trust. The power of example is very great. If you fail to select proper society for your children, and allow them to associate with persons of questionable morals, you place them or permit them, to place themselves, in a school where lessons of depravity will be taught and practiced. You may feel that your children are strong enough to withstand temptation; but how can you be sure of this? It is far easier to yield to evil influences than to resist them. Ere you are aware of it, your children may become imbued with the spirit of their associates, and may be degraded and ruined.
Fathers and mothers, it is your duty to give more earnest and careful attention to your children. Guard their principles and their habits as the apple of your eye. Allow them to associate with no one with whose character you are not well acquainted. Permit them to form no intimacy until you are assured that it will do them no harm. Accustom your children to trust to your judgment and experience. Teach them that you have a clearer perception of character than they in their inexperience can have, and that your decisions must not be disregarded.
Christian parents, I entreat you to awake. Have a jealous care for the souls of your children. Do not allow your time and attention to be so fully absorbed in other things that you cannot properly instruct your sons and daughters. If you neglect your duty and shirk your responsibility, expecting the Lord to do your work, you will be disappointed. When you have faithfully done all that you can do, bring your children to Jesus, and with earnest, persevering faith, make intercession for them. The Lord will be your helper; he will work with your efforts; in his strength you will gain the victory. In the great gathering day it shall be yours to say with joy, "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #13)
"I Am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." Our Heavenly Father planted on earth a goodly vine, whose fruit would impart to the children of men eternal life. But this precious plant appeared to human eyes as a root out of dry ground, seeming to have no form nor comeliness. When it was claimed to be of heavenly origin, the men of Nazareth became enraged, and cast it from them. The inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem took this vine of God's own planting, and bruised it, and trampled it under foot, hoping thus to destroy it forever. But now the Husbandman removed his precious vine, and planted it in his own garden, beyond the spoiler's reach. The stock and root were concealed from human sight, but still "the branches run over the wall." Thus grafts could be united to the vine, and, partaking of its nourishment, these became branches, and flourished and brought forth fruit.
This figure of the vine is a perfect symbol. God sent his Son from the heavenly courts to a world seared and marred with the curse. In Christ was righteousness, peace, life--every blessing necessary for man's happiness. But the world hated the Son of the infinite God. The world saw nothing attractive in him. The best gift of Heaven was slighted and spurned. Christ was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Yet "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." Christ was hated by evil men because his character was spotless, his works righteous. He came to be the Redeemer of the world, yet he was taken by wicked hands, and shamefully entreated, and crucified. God raised him from the dead, and he ascended to Heaven to present his blood as the propitiation for our sins.
Though hidden from mortal sight, Christ still lives as the world's Redeemer, the representative of man in the heavenly courts, and the medium through whom all blessings flow to the fallen race. Said the Saviour to his disciples, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me." In this vine is all spiritual life. From Christ's fullness alone can we obtain nourishment unto eternal life. The vine stock is unseen; but the branches,--members of his body,--are visible. The scion which before was leafless and apparently lifeless, becomes, when grafted into the vine, a partaker of its life and fatness. Fiber by fiber, and vein by vein, the graft adheres to the parent stock, till the lifegiving sap flows to the adopted member, causing it to bud, and blossom, and bear fruit.
The scion becomes a part of the living vine by forming a perfect union with it. Thus it is with the sinner. By repentance and faith, he becomes connected with Jesus Christ, and lives in him. This connection joins soul to soul,--the finite with the infinite. But, contrary to nature, the branch which has been united with the true vine brings forth, not fruit of its own kind, but the fruit of the vine of which it has become a part. The Spirit of Christ, flowing into the hearts of all who are indeed united with him, makes them partakers of the divine nature. They become pure, even as he is pure. Yet true disciples are the last to claim as their own this precious fruit. "Accepted in the Beloved," objects of their Heavenly Father's constant care and unfailing mercy, they feel unworthy of the divine favor, and have too vivid a sense of utter dependence upon God to boast of their exalted position.
Every branch of the vine, subjected to the pruning of the wise Husbandman, will bring forth clusters of precious fruit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." The branch can maintain its connection with the living vine only on condition that it bear fruit. Said Christ, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." And to each disciple is addressed the solemn warning, "Every branch in me [every one who claims connection with me] that beareth not fruit, he taketh away." Such a one is after a time overcome by temptation, and at last wholly separated from Christ.
It is a sad fact that many who profess to be branches of the true vine show by their lives that they have no connection with it. Their words and actions, destitute of grace and meekness, resemble the stinging branches of the noxious thorn tree, rather than the lovely, fruit laden boughs of the precious vine. Love to God and love to our neighbor is the sum and substance of true piety. Those who are destitute of this love, and yet claim high attainments in spiritual things, may for a time deceive their fellow men, but they cannot deceive God. Says the True Witness, "I know thy works." And in the great day of final accounts, God "will render to every man according to his deeds."
Many who claim to be followers of Christ are withered branches, that must ere long be separated from the living vine. The love of the world has paralyzed their spirituality, and they are not awake to the precious theme of redemption. The impression made upon the world by these professed Christians is unfavorable to the religion of Christ. Such dull, careless ones manifest ambition and zeal in the business of the world, but they have little interest in things of eternal importance. The voice of God through his messengers is a pleasant song; but its sacred warnings, reproofs, and encouragements are all unheeded. Eternal interests are placed on a level with common things. The Holy Spirit is grieved, and its influence is withdrawn.
Fruitful Christians are connected with God, and hence they are able to place a right value upon eternal things. The truth and the love of God are their meditation. They have feasted upon the words of life, and whenever they listen to the "message of glad tidings," they can say, as did the disciples to whom Christ explained the prophecies on the way to Emmaus, "Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" It is the duty of every child of God to store his mind with divine truth; and the more he does this, the more strength and clearness of mind he will have to fathom the deep things of God. And he will be more and more earnest and vigorous, as the principles of truth are carried out in his daily life.
That which will bless humanity is spiritual life. He who is in harmony with God, will constantly depend upon him for strength. "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." It should be our life work to be constantly reaching forward to the perfection of Christian character, ever striving for conformity to the will of God. The efforts begun here will continue through eternity. The advancement made here will be ours when we enter upon the future life.
Those who are partakers of Christ's meekness, purity, and love, will be joyful in God, and will shed light and gladness upon all around them. The thought that Christ died to obtain for us the gift of everlasting life, is enough to call forth from our hearts the most sincere and fervent gratitude, and from our lips the most enthusiastic praise. God's promises are rich, and full, and free. Whoever will, in the strength of Christ, comply with the conditions, may claim these promises, with all their wealth of blessing, as his own. And being thus abundantly supplied from the treasure house of God, he may, in the journey of life, "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing;" by a godly example blessing his fellow men, and honoring his Creator. While our Saviour would guard his followers from self-confidence by the reminder, "Without me, ye can do nothing," he has coupled with it for our encouragement the gracious assurance, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #14)
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill."
What a contrast between the words of the Divine Teacher, and the language of those who claim that Christ came to abrogate the Father's law, and to do away with the Old Testament! Our Saviour, who knew all things, understood the wiles of Satan, the snares by which he would seek to entrap the children of men, and hence made this positive statement to meet the questioning doubts and the blind unbelief of all coming time.
The ceremonial law, given by God through Moses, with its sacrifices and ordinances, was to be binding upon the Hebrews until type met antitype in the death of Christ as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Then all the sacrificial offerings and services were to be abolished. Paul and the other apostles labored to show this, and resolutely withstood those Judaizing teachers who declared that Christians should observe the ceremonial law.
The law of ten precepts, spoken from Mount Sinai, Christ himself declares that he came not to destroy. This testimony should forever settle the question. The law of God is as immutable as the throne of Jehovah. It will maintain its claims upon all mankind in all ages, unchanged by time or place or circumstances. The ritual system was of an altogether different character, added to guard the ten precepts of the Eternal.
Christ declares, that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill,--"to magnify the law and make it honorable," as Isaiah, hundreds of years before, had prophesied would be the Messiah's work.
"To fulfill the law." By his own life he gives the children of men an example of perfect obedience to that law. In the sermon on the mount he made clear and distinct its every precept, in order to sweep away the rubbish of erroneous tradition, with which the Jews had encumbered its sacred statutes, to illustrate and enforce its principles, and to show in all its particulars the length and breadth and height and depth of the righteousness required by the law of God.
The Pharisees were dissatisfied with the teachings of Christ. The practical godliness which he enjoined condemned them. They desired him to dwell upon the external observances of the ceremonial law, and the customs and traditions of the fathers. But Jesus teaches the spiritual nature of the law and its far-reaching claims. Love to God and to men must dwell in the heart and control the life,--the spring of every thought and every action.
Christ declares, "Verily I say unto you,"--making the assertion as emphatic as possible,--"Till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled." Here Christ teaches, not merely what had been and were then the claims of God's law upon mankind, but what shall be its claims so long as the heavens and the earth remain.
There is perfect harmony between the law of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. "I and my Father are one," says the Great Teacher. The gospel of Christ is the good news of grace, or favor, by which man may be released from the condemnation of sin, and enabled to render obedience to the law of God. The gospel points to the moral code as a rule of life. That law, by its demands for undeviating obedience, is continually pointing the sinner to the gospel for pardon and peace.
Says the great apostle, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law." And again he declares that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Enjoining supreme love to God, and equal love to our fellow men, it is indispensable alike to the glory of God and to human happiness.
After the fall, it had been impossible for man with his sinful nature to render obedience to the law of God, had not Christ, by the offer of his own life, purchased the right to lift up the race where they could once more work in harmony with its requirements.
There are persons professing to be ministers of Christ, who declare with the utmost assurance that no man ever did or ever can keep the law of God. But, according to the Scriptures, Christ "took upon himself our nature," he "was made in fashion as a man." He was man's example, man's representative, and he declares of himself, "I have kept my Father's commandments." The beloved disciple urges that every follower of Christ "ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." All who are Christ's will follow the example of Christ. All who justify the sinner in his transgression of God's law, belong to that class of whom our Saviour said, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven." They can have no part with Him who came to magnify the law and make it honorable. They are deceiving the people with their sophistry,--saying to the sinner, "It shall be well with thee," when God has declared that "the soul that sinneth ["transgresseth the law"] it shall die."
Christ's words are both explicit and comprehensive. "Whosoever"--minister or layman, wise or ignorant--"shall break one of these least commandments"--willfully or presumptuously, as did Adam and Eve--is included in the condemnation. Breaking one of the commandments makes man a commandment breaker.
"Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." No excuse can avail for him who strictly obeys nine of the precepts of God's law, but ventures to break one because it is for his profit or convenience to do so. God demands implicit obedience to all his requirements.
"And shall teach men so." This is a point worthy of careful consideration. Christ foresaw that men would not only break the commandments of God themselves, but would in a special sense teach others to break them. Every Sabbath breaker is by his example teaching others to transgress. But some are not content with this. They defend the sin of breaking the fourth commandment, and pervert the word of God to justify the transgressor. Such persons shall be of no esteem in the reign of Heaven,--shall have no part there. But the greatest guilt rests upon the professed watchmen, and they will receive the severest punishment. They are in the highest sense enemies of Christ, as they put on, over corrupt hearts, the livery of Heaven to serve the devil in. They do not hesitate to speak evil of the law, and even make those who do not study the Bible for themselves, believe that the curse of God is upon them if they keep it. All we have to do, say they, is to believe in Christ,--come to Christ. The most fatal delusion of the Christian world in this generation is, that in pouring contempt on the law of God they think they are exalting Christ. What a position! In so doing, they array Christ against Christ. It was Christ who spoke the law from Sinai. It was Christ who gave the law to Moses, engraven on tables of stone. It was his Father's law; and Christ says, "I and my Father are one." The Pharisees held the reverse of the modern position, but were in just as great an error. They rejected Christ, but exalted the law. And it makes little difference which position we take, so long as we ignore the true one,--that faith in Christ must be accompanied by obedience to the law of God.
Now, while we point the sinner to Jesus Christ as the one who can take away sin, we must explain to him what sin is, and show him the necessity of being saved from his sins, not in them. He must be made to feel that he must cease to transgress the law of God, which is to cease to sin. Paul makes the inquiry many years after the death of Christ, "Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Thus saying, Paul exalts the moral law. When this law is practically carried out in everyday life, it is found indeed to be the wisdom of God. It serves to detect sin. It discovers the defects in the moral character, and in the light of the law sin becomes exceeding sinful, revealing its true character in all its hideousness.
The law of God given from Sinai is a copy of the mind and will of the Infinite God. It is sacredly revered by the holy angels. Obedience to its requirements will perfect Christian character, and restore man, through Christ, to his condition before the fall.
The sins forbidden in the law could never find place in Heaven. It was the love of God to man that prompted him to express his will in the ten precepts of the decalogue. And when, through sin, man's understanding became darkened, God came down upon Mount Sinai and spoke his law with an audible voice, and wrote it on tables of stone. Afterward he showed his love for man by sending prophets and teachers to declare his law.
God has given man a complete rule of life in his law. Obeyed, he shall live by it, through the merits of Christ. Transgressed, it has power to condemn. The law sends men to Christ, and Christ points them back to the law. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #15)
Our Redeemer perfectly understood the wants of humanity. He who condescended to take upon himself man's nature was acquainted with man's weakness. Christ lived as our example. He was tempted in all points as we are, that he might know how to succor all who should be tempted. He has trodden the path of life before us, and endured the severest tests in our behalf. He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. Christ took upon himself our infirmities, and in the weakness of humanity he needed to seek strength from his Father. He was often to be found in earnest prayer, in the grove, by the lakeside, and in the mountains. He has enjoined upon us to watch and pray. It is the neglect of watchfulness and close searching of heart that leads to self-sufficiency and spiritual pride. Without a deep sense of our need of help from God, there will be but little earnest, heartfelt prayer for divine aid. Our hearts are deceitful; our foes, many and vigilant. If we neglect to fortify a single weak point in our character, Satan will assail us at that point with his temptations. He is constantly plotting the ruin of the soul, and he will take every advantage of our careless security.
Christ came to our world to engage in single-handed combat with this enemy of man, and thus to wrest the race from Satan's grasp. In the accomplishment of this object, he withheld not his own life. And now, in the strength that Christ will give, man must stand for himself, a faithful sentinel against the wily, plotting foe. Says the great apostle, "Walk circumspectly,"--guard every avenue of the soul, look constantly to Jesus, the true and perfect pattern, and seek to imitate his example, not in one or two points merely, but in all things. We shall then be prepared for any and every emergency. Unceasing watchfulness is a great help to prayer. It keeps the mind from drifting away from right principles. It shuts out that vanity and trifling which prevails in the world everywhere, and to an alarming extent among professed Christians. He whose mind loves to dwell upon God has a strong defense. He will be quick to perceive the dangers that threaten his spiritual life, and a sense of danger will lead him to call upon God for help and protection.
There are times when the Christian life seems beset by dangers, and duty seems hard to perform. But the clouds that gather about our way, and the perils that surround us, will never disappear before a halting, doubting, prayerless spirit. At such times unbelief says, We can never surmount these obstructions; let us wait until we can see our way clearly. But faith courageously urges an advance, hoping all things, believing all things.
Watchfulness and vigilance are needed now as never before in the history of the race. The eye must be turned off from beholding vanity. Lawlessness, the prevailing spirit of the age, must be met with a decided rebuke. Let none feel that they are in no danger. As long as Satan lives, his efforts will be constant and untiring to make the world as wicked as before the flood, and as licentious as were the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prayer may well be offered daily by those who have the fear of God before them, that he will preserve their hearts from evil desires, and strengthen their souls to resist temptation. Those who in their self-confidence feel no need of watchfulness and unceasing prayer, are near some humiliating fall. All who do not feel the importance of resolutely guarding their affections, will be captivated by those who practice their arts to ensnare and lead astray the unwary. Men may have a knowledge of divine things, and an ability to fill an important place in the work of God; yet, unless they cherish a simple faith in their Redeemer, they will be ensnared and overcome by the enemy.
It is because the duties of watchfulness and prayer have been so sadly neglected that there is so great a lack of moral power. This is why so many who have a form of godliness bring forth no corresponding works. A careless indifference, a carnal security concerning religious duties and eternal things, prevails to an alarming extent. The word of God exhorts us to be found "praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance;" and again, "Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." Here is the Christian's safeguard, his protection amid the perils that surround his pathway. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #16)
"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Heb. 12:1.
In this text one of the public games so famous in Paul's time is used to illustrate the Christian race. The competitors in the race submitted to a painful training process, practicing the most rigid self-denial that their physical powers might be in the most favorable condition, and then they taxed these powers to the utmost to win the honor of a perishable wreath. Some never recovered from the effects. In consequence of the terrible strain, men would sometimes fall by the racecourse, bleeding at the mouth and nose; others breathed out their life, firmly grasping the poor bauble that had cost them so dear.
Paul compares the followers of Christ to the competitors in a race. "Now," says the apostle, " they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we [mark the greater inducement] an incorruptible." Here Paul makes a sharp contrast, to put to shame the feeble efforts of professed Christians who plead for their selfish indulgences, and refuse to place themselves, by self-denial and strictly temperate habits, in a position that they will make a success of overcoming. All who entered the list in the public games were animated and excited by the hope of a prize if they were successful. In like manner a prize is held out before the Christian, the reward of faithfulness to the end of the race. If the prize is won, his future welfare is assured; an exceeding and eternal weight of glory is in reserve for the overcomer. Shall, then, the followers of Christ, with the attractions of the heavenly world before them, grudge the self-denial and spare the effort, needful to secure the imperishable crown?
"They do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we, an incorruptible." In the races, the crown of honor was placed in sight of the competitors, that if any were tempted for a moment to relax their efforts, the eye would rest on the prize, and they would be inspired with new vigor. So the heavenly goal is presented to the view of the Christian, that it may have its just influence, and inspire him with zeal and ardor. We may safely and earnestly look to this recompense of reward, that we may assure ourselves of its excellence, and have an ardent desire to secure its possession.
All ran in the race, but only one received the prize. The other strugglers for the perishable laurel wreath, however thorough their preparation, however earnest and determined their efforts, were doomed to failure. It is not so with the Christian race. None who are earnest and persevering will fail of success. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. The weakest saint as well as the strongest may obtain the crown of immortal glory, if he is thoroughly in earnest, and will submit to privation and loss for Christ's sake. The apostle calls our attention to the care and diligence which were required to secure the victory in these ancient games. He exhorts all who start in the Christian race to give all diligence to make success certain, while he presents before them for their encouragement the crown of glory which the righteous Judge will award to all who are faithful to the end of the race. He says, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
Paul addresses the Hebrews in a similar style: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."
Here we are cited to the example of the multitude of faithful witnesses who would not sacrifice their faith and principle for the sake of enjoying ease and self-gratification, but who gave up all, not withholding their lives, for the truth of God. Their example should quicken our zeal and increase our faith. But Jesus is our perfect pattern; and when we look to him who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, we should be aroused to greater earnestness. He has led the way to the heavenly reward in glory. He passed through fiercer conflicts than man will ever be able to endure.
"If a man strive for the mastery, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully." A man may make earnest efforts to overcome, while he is not in possession of the physical, mental, and moral power which he might possess were he brought into harmony with the laws which govern his being. If through selfish indulgence he is an intemperate man, every organ in his body becomes enfeebled, and he is robbed of mental and moral power. He is not striving lawfully. He is not laying aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets. Every law governing the human system is to be strictly regarded; for it is as truly a law of God as is the word of Holy Writ; and every willful deviation from obedience to this law is as certainly sin as a violation of the moral law. All nature expresses the law of God, but in our physical structure Jehovah has written his law with his own finger upon every thrilling nerve, upon every living fiber, and upon every organ of the body. We shall suffer loss and defeat, if we step out of nature's path, which God himself has marked out, into one of our own devising.
We must strive lawfully, if we would win the boon of eternal life. The path is wide enough, and all who run the race may win the prize. If we create unnatural appetites, and indulge them in any degree, we violate nature's laws, and enfeebled physical, mental, and moral conditions will result. We are hence unfitted for that persevering, energetic, and hopeful effort which we might have made had we been true to nature's laws. If we injure a single organ of the body, we rob God of the service we might render to him. "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
The apostle Paul compares himself to a man running in the ancient racecourse, and straining every nerve and muscle to win the prize. He did not consider his work ended while he could labor in the cause of God. He never felt that he had graduated in the school of Christ, but he ever realized the necessity of strictly guarding his appetites and passions, lest they should so strengthen themselves as to overcome spiritual zeal. He strove with all his powers against natural inclinations which called for unlawful indulgence. His own testimony was, "I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." It was only when he was on trial for his life, which depended on a word or a nod from the tyrant Nero, and he was aware that his end was nigh, that he broke forth in the lofty, elevated strains of triumphant assurance: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." This crown is not a perishable chaplet of flowers, but the glorious crown of everlasting life, which awaits all who, having completed the Christian race, love the appearing of our Lord. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #17)
"Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."
There is a work for each of us to do, an individual work, which one cannot do for another. A solemn responsibility rests upon us as Christians to let our light so shine before the world, that others, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father in Heaven. We cannot exert a right influence upon others, unless we walk in the light ourselves. If we have experienced the pardoning grace of God, we should feel it a duty, as opportunity shall present, to speak in counsel and affectionate entreaty to those who are in danger of losing eternal life.
A life spent in active work for God is a blessed one. Multitudes who are wasting their time in trifles, in idle regrets, and in unprofitable murmurings, might have altogether a different experience, if they would appreciate the light God has given them, and let it shine upon others; and many make life miserable by their own selfishness and love of ease. By a diligent activity, their lives might become as bright rays of sunshine to guide those who are in the dark road to death into the pathway to Heaven.. If they take this course, their own hearts will be filled with peace and joy in Jesus Christ. It is for our profit in this life, and for our eternal interest, that we manifest earnestness and zeal in the work of God.
Many say, "If I knew Jesus would come in five years, I would make it my first business to win souls to Christ; for this would be the all-important consideration." And these very persons may not live two years, or even one. We should first seek God, and his holiness. In his wise providence we are incapable of looking into the future, which often causes us disquietude and unhappiness. But one of the greatest evidences we have of the loving kindness of God is his concealment of the events of the morrow. Our ignorance of tomorrow makes us more vigilant and earnest today. We cannot see what is before us. Our best laid plans sometimes seem to be unwise and faulty. We think, "If we only knew the future!" but God would have his children trust in him, and be ready to go where he shall lead them. We know not the precise time when our Lord shall be revealed in the clouds of heaven, but he has told us that our only safety is in a constant readiness,--a position of watching and waiting. Whether we have one year before us, or five, or ten, we are to be faithful to our trust today. We are to perform each day's duties as faithfully as though that day were to be our last.
We are not doing the will of God if we wait in idleness. To every man he has given his work, and he expects each one to do his part with fidelity. We are to sow beside all waters, and to work continuously for Jesus, hoping for the salvation to be given us, and quietly waiting for our reward. Sinners are to be warned; sinners are to be won to Christ.
There are many men of excellent ability,--men ambitious in worldly pursuits,--for whose salvation no one believing in present truth is making any efforts, because they fear a repulse. But the skill and energy which make them successful in worldly pursuits, will, if consecrated, make them useful in the service of Christ. We cannot tell the ambitious man that he must cease to be ambitious if he would become a Christian. God places before him the highest objects of ambition,--a spotless white robe, a crown studded with jewels, a scepter, a throne of glory, and honor that is as enduring as the throne of Jehovah. All the elements of character which help to make him successful and honored in the world,--the irrepressible desire for some greater good, the indomitable will, the strenuous exertion, the untiring perseverance,--are not to be crushed out. These are to remain, and through the grace of God received into the heart, to be turned into another channel. These valuable traits of character may be exercised on objects as much higher and noble than worldly pursuits as the heavens are higher than the earth. Jesus presents a white robe, a crown of glory richer than any that ever decked the brow of a monarch, and titles above those of honored princes. The recompense for a life devoted to the service of Christ exceeds anything that the human imagination can grasp. Christ does not call upon men to lay aside their zeal, their desires for excellence and elevation; but he would have them seek, not for perishable treasure or fleeting honor, but for that which is enduring.
God has no use for listless souls. Ministers sometimes tell the people that they have nothing to do but believe; that Jesus has done it all, and their own works are nothing. But the word of God plainly states that in the Judgment the scales will be balanced accurately, and the decisions will be based on the evidence adduced. One man becomes ruler of ten cities, another of five, another of two, each man receiving exactly in proportion to the improvement he has made on the talents intrusted to his keeping. Our efforts in works of righteousness, in our own behalf and for the salvation of souls, will have a decided influence on our recompense.
God is well pleased if those striving for eternal life aim high. There will be strong temptations to indulge the natural traits of character by becoming worldly-wise, scheming, and selfishly ambitious, gathering wealth to the neglect of the salvation which is of so much higher value. But every temptation resisted is a priceless victory gained in subduing self; it bends the powers to the service of Jesus, and increases faith, hope, patience, and forbearance.
The Christian must be upright while dwelling with the corrupt and with traitors. With a heart true to God, and imbued with his Spirit, he will see much to grieve over while surrounded by commandment breakers,--those who are on the side of the great rebel, having thrown off their allegiance to the God of Heaven. The fact that iniquity abounds is a strong reason why he should be watchful, and diligent, and faithful in his Master's service, that he may rightly represent the religion of Jesus Christ. On all sides the Christian soldier will hear treasonable plottings and rebellious utterances from those who make void the law of God. This should increase his zeal to act as a faithful sentinel for God, and to use every effort to bring souls to enlist beneath the bloodstained banner of Prince Immanuel. The more dense the moral darkness, the more earnest should be the endeavor to walk with God, that light and power from him may be reflected upon those in darkness. The love of genuine Christians will not grow cold because iniquity abounds. As society grows more and more corrupt, as in the days of Noah and of Lot, there will be yearning of soul over deceived, deluded, perishing sinners, who are preparing themselves for a fate similar to that of the transgressors who perished in the waters of the flood and in the fires of Sodom. The true follower of Christ will not do as the wicked worldlings do, because it is fashionable to be sinful. His soul will be vexed and indignant at the bold insults offered to the world's Redeemer; and he will be anxious to exert every power to help press back the tide of wretchedness and guilt that is flooding the world.
We have only a little while to urge the warfare; then Christ will come, and this scene of rebellion will close. Then our last efforts will have been made to work with Christ and advance his kingdom. Some who have stood in the forefront of the battle, zealously resisting incoming evil, fall at the post of duty; others gaze sorrowfully at the fallen heroes, but have no time to cease work. They must close up the ranks, seize the banner from the hand palsied by death, and with renewed energy vindicate the truth and the honor of Christ. As never before, resistance must be made against sin,--against the powers of darkness. The time demands energetic and determined activity on the part of those who believe present truth. They should teach the truth by both precept and example. If the time seems long to wait for our Deliverer to come, if, bowed by affliction and worn with toil, we feel impatient for our commission to close, and to receive an honorable release from the warfare, let us remember--and let the remembrance check every murmur--that God leaves us on earth to encounter storms and conflicts, to perfect Christian character, to become better acquainted with God our Father and Christ our elder Brother, and to do work for the Master in winning many souls to Christ, that with glad heart we may hear the words: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Be patient, Christian soldier. Yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come. The night of weary waiting, and watching, and mourning is nearly over. The reward will soon be given; the eternal day will dawn. There is no time to sleep now,--no time to indulge in useless regrets. He who ventures to slumber now will miss precious opportunities of doing good. We are granted the blessed privilege of gathering sheaves in the great harvest; and every soul saved will be an additional star in the crown of Jesus, our adorable Redeemer. Who is eager to lay off the armor, when by pushing the battle a little longer he will achieve new victories and gather new trophies for eternity?
We must not become weary or faint-hearted. It would be a terrible loss to barter away enduring glory for ease, convenience, and enjoyment, or for carnal indulgences. A gift from the hand of God awaits the overcomer. Not one of us deserves it; it is gratuitous on his part. Wonderful and glorious will be this gift, but let us remember that "one star differeth from another star in glory." But as we are urged to strive for the mastery, let us aim, in the strength of Jesus, for the crown heavy with stars. "They that be wise shall shine as the firmament, and they that win many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #18)
August 22, in company with my daughters, Emma and Mary K. White, I left Battle Creek for the West, hoping to receive benefit from a change of climate. Though still suffering from the effects of a severe attack of malarial fever, as well as from the shock of my husband's death, I endured the journey better than I had expected. We reached Boulder, Colorado, on Thursday, Aug. 25, and on the following Sunday left that place by private carriage for our home in the mountains.
Here the clear, cool air, and the pure water, fresh from living springs, seemed to promise renewed health and vigor. But the altitude was too great, and in a short time I was again prostrated. It was nearly a week before my strength began slowly to return. The action of the heart seemed retarded, and breathing was difficult. Yet, suffering as I did from pain and weakness, I enjoyed the quiet solitude of the mountains. The solemn stillness reigning there seemed to accord with my feelings.
From our cottage I could look out upon a forest of young pines, so fresh and fragrant that the air was perfumed with their spicy odor. In former years, my husband and myself made this grove our sanctuary. Among these mountains we often bowed together in worship and supplication. All around me were the places which had been thus hallowed; and as I gazed upon them, I could recall many instances in which we there received direct and remarkable answers to prayer. Light from Heaven shone upon us, and we many times obtained clear indications of duty. The presence of Christ seemed to be with us, and his voice spoke to our hearts, "Peace be unto you."
With my husband I have stood on some lofty height, and looked upon the mountains rising peak above peak, until our souls were thrilled with a sense of God's majesty and power. At evening we delighted to look up to the blue heavens inlaid with glittering stars; and while thus beholding the splendors of the visible universe, we acknowledged with reverent awe that all was the handiwork of the Most High. We rejoiced that the God of creation is the God of the Bible, and that we can claim this infinite Being as our Father. We talked of the glories of his power and wisdom, and adored the matchless love which has made it possible, through Jesus Christ, for fallen man to become a son and heir of the Maker and Sovereign of the universe.
How near we seemed to God, as in the clear moonlight we bowed upon some lonely mountainside to ask for needed blessings at his hand! What faith and confidence were ours! God's purposes of love and mercy seemed more fully revealed, and we felt the assurance that our sins and errors were pardoned. Upon such occasions I have seen my husband's countenance lighted up with a radiance that seemed reflected from the throne of God, as in changed voice he praised the Lord for the rich blessings of his grace. Amid earth's gloom and darkness, we could still discern on every hand gleams of brightness from the Fount of light. Through the works of creation we communed with Him who inhabiteth eternity. As we looked upon the towering rocks, the lofty mountains, we exclaimed, Who is so great a God as our God?
Surrounded, as we often were, with difficulties, burdened with responsibilities, finite, weak, erring mortals at best, we were at times almost ready to yield to despair. But when we considered God's love and care for his creatures, as revealed both in the book of nature and on the pages of inspiration, our hearts were comforted and strengthened. Surrounded by the evidences of God's power, and overshadowed by his presence, we could not cherish distrust or unbelief. Oh, how often have peace, and hope, and even joy, come to us in our experience amid these rocky solitudes!
Again I have been among the mountains, but alone. None to share my thoughts and feelings as I looked once more upon those grand and awful scenes! Alone, alone! God's dealings seem mysterious, his purposes unfathomable; yet I know that they must be just, and wise, and merciful. It is my privilege and my duty to wait patiently for him, the language of my heart at all times being, "He doeth all things well."
I had no strength now to climb the mountain steeps. If I desired to acknowledge God's mercies, I could not repair to the forest or the cliffs. If I would seek wisdom from above, I must make my room my sanctuary. But even here I have enjoyed sweet communion with God, and have received precious tokens of his abiding presence.
In my recent bereavement, I have had a near view of eternity. I have, as it were, been brought before the great white throne, and have seen my life as it will there appear. I can find nothing of which to boast, no merit that I can plead. "Unworthy, unworthy of the least of thy favors, O my God," is my cry. My only hope is in a crucified and risen Saviour. I claim the merits of the blood of Christ. Jesus will save to the uttermost all who put their trust in him.
It is sometimes hard for me to preserve a cheerful countenance when my heart is rent with anguish. But I would not permit my sorrow to cast a gloom upon all around me. Seasons of affliction and bereavement are often rendered more sorrowful and distressing than they should be, because it is customary to give ourselves up to mourning without restraint. By the help of Jesus, I determined to shun this evil; but my resolution has been severely tested. My husband's death was a heavy blow to me, more keenly felt because so sudden. As I saw the seal of death upon his countenance, my feelings were almost insupportable. I longed to cry out in my anguish. But I knew that this could not save the life of my loved one, and I felt that it would be unchristian to give myself up to sorrow. I sought help and comfort from above, and the promises of God were verified to me. The Lord's hand sustained me. It is a sin to indulge, without restraint, in mourning and lamentation. By the grace of Christ, we may be composed and even cheerful under sore trial.
Let us learn a lesson of courage and fortitude from the last interview of Christ with his apostles. They were about to be separated. Our Saviour was entering the bloodstained path which would lead him to Calvary. Never was [a] scene more trying than that through which he was soon to pass. The apostles had heard the words of Christ foretelling his sufferings and death, and their hearts were heavy with sorrow, their minds distracted with doubt and fear. Yet there were no loud outcries; there was no abandonment of grief. Those last solemn, momentous hours were spent by our Saviour in speaking words of comfort and assurance to his disciples, and then all united in a hymn of praise.
Instead of expressing the sadness of their hearts by the mournful measure of some solemn lament, they sung, as was customary on that occasion, the joyful Hallel, which abounded in expressions of faith, of gratitude, and of lofty praise: "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous. The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted. The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord." What a prelude to the agony in Gethsemane, the abuse and mockery of the judgment hall, and the awful scenes of Calvary, were those last hours spent in chanting the praises of the Most High!
When Martin Luther received discouraging news, he would often say, "Come, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm." This psalm commences with the words, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Instead of mourning, weeping, and despairing, when troubles gather about us like a flood and threaten to overwhelm us, if we would not only pray for help from God, but would praise him for so many blessings left,--praise him that he is able to help us,--our course would be more pleasing to him, and we would see more of his salvation.
When difficulties and trials surround us, we should flee to God, and confidently expect help from Him who is mighty to save and strong to deliver. We must ask for God's blessing if we would receive it. Prayer is a duty and a necessity; but do we not neglect praise? Should we not oftener render thanksgiving to the Giver of all our blessings? We need to cultivate gratitude. We should frequently contemplate and recount the mercies of God, and laud and glorify his holy name, even when we are passing through sorrow and affliction.
On approaching the chamber where a husband and father had just breathed his last, we would be filled with astonishment to hear, not the voice of mourning, the melancholy strains of some funeral chant, but a song of sacred praise, joyous and triumphant as the Passover Hallel. Surely, the widow and fatherless would be deemed lacking in affection for the departed. Yet how could these afflicted ones, who have lost their staff and counselor, and who must now lean more entirely upon God--how could they more surely brace their souls for danger and conflict than by calling to mind what their Heavenly Father has done for them, how he has proved himself a present help in time of trouble?
The Lord's merciful kindness is great toward us. He will never leave nor forsake those who trust in him. If we would think and talk less of our trials, and more of the mercy and goodness of God, we would find ourselves raised above much of our gloom and perplexity. My brethren and sisters, you who feel that you are entering upon a dark path, and like the captives in Babylon must hang your harps upon the willows, let us make trial of cheerful song. You may say, How can I sing, with this dark prospect before me, with this burden of sorrow and bereavement upon my soul? But have earthly sorrows deprived us of the all-powerful Friend we have in Jesus? Should not the marvelous love of God in the gift of his dear Son be a theme of continual rejoicing? When we bring our petitions to the throne of grace, let us not forget to offer also anthems of thanksgiving. "Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth God." As long as our Saviour lives, we have cause for unceasing gratitude and praise. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #19)
Our Creator has bestowed his bounties upon man with a liberal hand. Were all these gifts of Providence wisely and temperately employed, poverty, sickness, and distress would be well-nigh banished from the earth. But alas, we see on every hand the blessings of God changed to a curse by the wickedness of men. There is no class guilty of greater perversion and abuse of his precious gifts than are those who employ the products of the soil in the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. The nutritive grains, the healthful, delicious fruits, are converted into beverages that pervert the senses and madden the brain. As a result of the use of these poisons, thousands of families are deprived of the comforts and even the necessaries of life, acts of violence and crime are multiplied, and disease and death hurry myriads of victims to a drunkard's grave.
This work of destruction is carried on under the protection of the laws of the land! For a paltry sum, men are licensed to deal out to their fellow men the potion that shall rob them of all that makes this life desirable and of all hope of the life to come. Neither the lawmaker nor the liquor seller is ignorant of the result of his work. At the hotel bar, in the beer garden, at the saloon, the slave of appetite expends his means for that which is destructive to reason, health, and happiness. The liquor seller fills his till with the money that should provide food and clothing for the family of the poor drunkard.
This is the worst kind of robbery. Yet men in high position in society and in the church lend their influence in favor of license laws! And why?--because they can obtain higher rent for their buildings by letting them to liquor dealers? because it is desirable to secure the political support of the liquor interest? because these professed Christians are themselves secretly indulging in the alluring poison? Surely, a noble, unselfish love for humanity would not authorize men to entice their fellow creatures to destruction.
The laws to license the sale of spirituous liquors have filled our towns and cities, yes, even our villages and secluded hamlets, with snares and pitfalls for the poor, weak slave of appetite. Those who seek to reform are daily surrounded with temptation. The drunkard's terrible thirst clamors for indulgence. On every side are the fountains of destruction. Alas, how often is his moral power overborne! how often are his convictions silenced! He drinks and falls. Then follow nights of debauchery, days of stupor, imbecility, and wretchedness. Thus, step by step, the work goes on, until the man who was once a good citizen, a kind husband and father, seems changed to a demon.
Suppose that those officials who at the beginning of 1881 granted license to liquor dealers, could on New Year's of 1882 behold a faithful picture of the results of the traffic carried on under that license. It is spread out before them in its startling and frightful details, and they know that all is true to life. There are fathers, mothers, and children falling beneath the murderer's hand; there are the wretched victims of cold and hunger and of vile and loathsome disease, criminals immured in gloomy dungeons, victims of insanity tortured by visions of fiends and monsters. There are gray haired parents mourning for once noble, promising sons and lovely daughters, now gone down to an untimely grave.
Look upon the drunkard's home. Mark the squalid poverty, the wretchedness, the unutterable woe that are reigning there. See the once happy wife fleeing before her maniac husband. Hear her plead for mercy as the cruel blows fall on her shrinking form. Where are the sacred vows made at the marriage altar? where is the love to cherish, the strength to protect her now? Alas, these have been melted like precious pearls in the fiery liquid, the cup of abominations! Look upon those half-naked children. Once they were cherished tenderly. No wintry storm, nor the cold breath of the world's contempt and scorn, was permitted to approach them. A father's care, a mother's love, made their home a paradise. Now all is changed. Day by day the cries of agony wrenched from the lips of the drunkard's wife and children go up to Heaven. And all this that the liquor seller may add to his gains! And his hellish work is performed under the broad seal of the law! Thus society is corrupted, workhouses and prisons are crowded with paupers and criminals, and the gallows is supplied with victims. The evil ends not with the drunkard and his unhappy family. The burdens of taxation are increased, the morals of the young are imperiled, the property and even the life of every member of society is endangered. But the picture may be presented never so vividly, and yet it falls short of the reality. No human pen or pencil can fully delineate the horrors of intemperance.
Were the only evil arising from the sale of ardent spirits the cruelty and neglect manifested by intemperate parents toward their children, this alone should be enough to condemn and destroy the traffic. Not only does the drunkard render the life of his children miserable, but by his sinful example he leads them also into the path of crime. How can Christian men and women tolerate this evil? Should barbarous nations steal our children and abuse them as intemperate parents abuse their offspring, all Christendom would be aroused to put an end to the outrage. But in a land professedly governed by Christian principles, the suffering and sin entailed upon innocent and helpless childhood by the sale and use of intoxicating liquors are considered a necessary evil!
The word of God plainly declares, "Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken." Would that all who support the liquor traffic could realize that if, understanding its evils, they continue to uphold it, the curse of God is upon them, that retributive justice will one day overtake them, and they will see and feel the results of their sinful course.
There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?
Many men are voted into office whose minds are deprived of their full vigor by indulgence in spirituous liquors, or constantly beclouded by the use of the narcotic tobacco. How often have the decisions made by courts of justice fastened suspicion upon those whose characters were untainted, wrenched hard earned means from the rightful owners, or perchance immured innocent men in prison cells. And all this because the mental and moral powers of judge, jurors, or witnesses, mayhap of all, were impaired by the use of narcotics or stimulants. Who can feel secure when so many whose duty it is to enact or execute the laws, pervert judgment under the influence of these poisons? The peace of happy families, reputation, property, liberty, and even life itself, are at the mercy of intemperate men in our legislative halls and our courts of justice.
By giving themselves up to the indulgence of appetite, many who were once upright, once beneficent, lose their integrity and their love for their fellow men, and unite with the dishonest and profligate, espouse their cause, and share their guilt. How many sacrifice reason, conscience, and the fear of God, to the love for strong drink. How many forfeit their prerogative as citizens of a republic,--bribed with a glass of whisky to cast their vote for some villainous candidate. As a class, the intemperate will not hesitate to employ deception, bribery, and even violence against those who refuse unbounded license to perverted appetite.
Satan exults as he sees the slaves of evil habit daily crowding under his black banner, going down to misery, death, and hell. We may call upon the friends of the temperance cause to rally to the conflict and seek to press back the tide of evil that is demoralizing the world; but of what avail are all our efforts while liquor selling is sustained by law? Must the curse of intemperance forever rest like a blight upon our land? Must it every year sweep like a devouring fire over thousands of happy homes? We talk of the results, tremble at the results, and wonder what we can do with the terrible results, while too often we tolerate and even sanction the cause. The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example--by voice and pen and vote--in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion. We ourselves must grapple with this giant foe, our motto no compromise and no cessation of our efforts till the victory is gained.
Our lawmakers have endeavored to restrict the evils of intemperance by licensing the sale of intoxicating liquors. The result of their efforts is before us. It is evident to every intelligent observer that inebriety with its train of crime and misery is steadily increasing. The victims of alcohol are more numerous today than at any former period. The politicians' plan of licensing "for the public good" has proved itself a curse.
What can be done to press back the inflowing tide of evil? Let laws be enacted and rigidly enforced prohibiting the sale and the use of ardent spirits as a beverage. Let every effort be made to encourage the inebriate's return to temperance and virtue. But even more than this is needed to banish the curse of inebriety from our land. Let the appetite for intoxicating liquors be removed, and their use and sale is at an end. This work must to a great degree devolve upon parents. Let them, by observing strict temperance themselves, give the right stamp of character to their children, and then educate and train these children, in the fear of God, to habits of self-denial and self-control. Youth who have been thus trained will have moral stamina to resist temptation, and to control appetite and passion. They will stand unmoved by the folly and dissipation that are corrupting society.
The prosperity of a nation is dependent upon the virtue and intelligence of its citizens. To secure these blessings, habits of strict temperance are indispensable. The history of ancient kingdoms is replete with lessons of warning for us. Luxury, self-indulgence, and dissipation prepared the way for their downfall. It remains to be seen whether our own republic will be admonished by their example and avoid their fate. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #22)
"Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
We profess to be pilgrims and strangers on earth, journeying to a better country, even an heavenly. If we are indeed but sojourners here, traveling to a land where none but the holy can dwell, we shall make it our first business to become acquainted with that country; we shall make diligent inquiry as to the preparation needed, the manners and character which we must have, in order to become citizens there. Jesus, the King of that land, is pure and holy. He has commanded his followers, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." If we are hereafter to associate with Christ and sinless angels, we must here obtain a fitness for such society.
This is our work,--our all-important work. Every other consideration is of minor consequence. Our conversation, our deportment, our every act, should be such as to convince our family, our neighbors, and the world, that we expect soon to remove to a better country. More than this, our godly example should keep ever before their minds the preparation needed by all who would enter that blessed home. Our acts must correspond with our faith, and faith will then be made perfect. We should not engage in the work of preparation merely as a duty, a necessity, but as a privilege which we are happy in accepting. Those whose faith is daily confirmed and strengthened by their works, will become acquainted with self-denial in restricting appetite, controlling ambitious desires, bringing every thought and feeling into harmony with the divine will. They will beware lest they be brought into the bondage of sin by conforming to a worldly standard, and thus, before many witnesses, denying their faith.
The land to which we are traveling is in every sense far more attractive than was the land of Canaan to the children of Israel. They were led by the hand of God. Christ himself gave them a description of the country in which they were to find a home; for he wished to place before them every incentive to press on with hope and courage. They were brought where they could look over into the land of Canaan, and behold its pleasant landscapes, its wooded hills and fertile fields, and were permitted to eat of its rich fruit. But at the same time the difficulties to be encountered were not concealed from them. There was earnest effort before them if they possessed the land. They had need of courage and constant faith. If they would trust in God, his presence and power would be with them, and would at last bring them off victorious over all their enemies. But they become discouraged as the spies tell them of giants, warlike nations, and high walled cities, which they must encounter. They doubt, hesitate, and propose to go back to Egypt. By their unbelief they doom themselves to suffering, humiliation, and defeat, and at last die in the wilderness.
What stayed their progress just in sight of the goodly land? The difficulties before them were not so great as they had previously encountered. The great obstacle was in themselves. It was their own willful unbelief that turned them back. They were unwilling to risk anything upon the promises of God. The land was good; but the giants were mighty, and the walls of the cities high. They lost sight of the great advantages to be gained in possessing Canaan. They ceased conversing about the good land and its blessings, and permitted their minds to dwell upon the trials and difficulties lying between them and the desired haven.
The more they conversed upon these things, the greater the difficulties appeared, and the more determined their opinion that the conditions imposed upon them were such as they could not meet; that the Lord was unreasonable and severe with them. Satan presented matters before them in the worst light, and they felt that they were an abused people. They appealed to their own sympathies, and forgot the wondrous works of God in their behalf. They lost faith in God at the very time when it should have been strongest. When the Lord was about to manifest to them his great power and goodness, to make his name glorious in the earth, and exalt his people as a nation favored and honored of Heaven, they became discouraged. They knew that whenever they had trusted in God he had mightily wrought for them. Yet their unbelief strengthened into rebellion; their own perverse wills obstructed the way, making walls before them higher than had been built by their enemies.
The history of the children of Israel is written as a warning to us, "upon whom the ends of the world are come." We are standing, as it were, upon the very borders of the heavenly Canaan. We may, if we will, look over on the other side, and behold the attractions of the goodly land. If we have faith in the promises of God, we shall show in conversation and in deportment that we are not living for this world, but are making it our first business to prepare for that holy land.
The dangers and difficulties before us are increasing as we near the heavenly rest. Satan is filled with deadly hatred against all who are seeking to gain the land which was once his home. His envy has lost none of its bitterness since he was excluded from the brightness and glory of Heaven. Before his fall an enemy to Christ, seeking to rob him of his honor and glory, he is no less his enemy now. He has determined to take the world captive. He sees that his time is short, that a mightier than he will soon take away his power, and he will make one last mighty effort against Christ and his church.
Now is the time for the friends of Jesus to be decided, faithful, and valiant for the Captain of their salvation. Now is the time to show who are the true Calebs, who will not deny that the walls are high, the giants mighty, but who believe that this very fact will make the victory more glorious. There are great difficulties and trials before us. It will require strong courage and persevering effort to go forward. But all now depends on our faith in the Captain who has led us safely thus far. Shall we let unbelief come in now? Shall we weakly yield to distrust and fear? Shall we compromise with the world, and turn away from the heavenly Canaan? Shall we make extensive plans for this life, as did the inhabitants of the old world, planting, building, marrying, and giving in marriage?
The solemn message for this time has a certain sound which we all should heed. The signs of the times tell us that the end of all things is at hand. Prophecies fulfilled have become facts of history, clearly defining our position. We are standing upon the verge of the eternal world. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many is waxing cold. Instead of this, love for God, love for purity, truth, and holiness, should be increasing in our hearts. The increase of wickedness around us should awaken in us more earnest zeal and stronger determination. The faith of God's true people, manifested, as was Noah's, by their works, should stand as a beacon of warning to the world. If our works do not correspond with our profession, we present to the world a false light, and thus lure them on to destruction.
Our Lord forewarned his people that iniquity would abound in the last days, and would have a paralyzing influence upon true godliness. Wickedness is seen and heard and felt all around us. It seems to permeate the very atmosphere, and affects the faith and love of God's professed people. It is difficult to hold fast Christian integrity. The fact is, much which is current in our day as Christianity is indebted for its very existence to the absence of persecution. When the test of fiery trial comes, a great proportion of these who profess the faith will show that their religion was hollow formalism. Instead of being strengthened and confirmed by opposition, their faith grows feeble and becomes extinct.
The days in which we live are days of peril. Carelessness, levity, love of pleasure and selfish gratification, are seen in the lives of very many professed Christians. Is this the time for Seventh-day Adventists to lose their faith and grow cold and formal? God forbid! Shall we turn traitor at the very moment when God would be most glorified by our steadfast adherence to principle? Shall we turn from the heavenly attractions now, when we can almost see the glories on the other shore? We are living in the most important period of earth's history. By maintaining our allegiance to God, we may bear the noblest testimony for Christ and the truth.
The true Christian will cling to the promises of God more firmly now than ever before. His heart is where he has laid up his treasure--in Heaven. When right principles are despised and forsaken, then the true and loyal will show their warmest zeal and deepest love; then they will stand most firmly for truth, unpopular though it be. The true soldier will be ready to fight the battles of the Lord when his enemies appear strongest; and it is then that the victory will be most complete and triumphant.
Brethren and sisters of like precious faith, shall we give heed to the last warning message? Is this a time to use the Lord's money in ministering to our pride and ambition?--a time to add land to land, or to build grand houses for ourselves and our children?--a time to lay up our treasures and fix our affections here? The Lord is coming. In his great mercy he has delivered us from the darkness of error, and has permitted the bright beams of truth to shine into our souls. We should manifest our gratitude by so reflecting the light from Heaven, in our words and works, that others may be led to believe the truths we advocate. Let us beware that we be not swept away by the current of worldliness, thus saying to unbelievers, "The time is not. Be not alarmed. My Lord delayeth his coming." Let us be consistent; let our works correspond with our profession of faith. "The Lord is coming--let this be--The herald note of jubilee." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #23)
"Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
Human reasoning has ever sought to evade or set aside the simple, direct instructions of the word of God. In every age, a majority of the professed followers of Christ have disregarded those precepts which enjoin self-denial and humility, which require modesty and simplicity of conversation, deportment, and apparel. The result has ever been the same,--departure from the teachings of the gospel leads to the adoption of the fashions, customs, and principles of the world. Vital godliness gives place to a dead formalism. The presence and power of God, withdrawn from those world loving circles, are found with a class of humbler worshipers, who are willing to obey the teachings of the Sacred Word. Through successive generations, this course has been pursued. One after another, different denominations have risen, and, yielding their simplicity, have lost, in a great measure, their early power.
As we see the love of fashion and display among those who profess to believe present truth, we sadly ask, Will the people of God learn nothing from the history of the past? There are few who understand their own hearts. The vain and trifling lovers of fashion may claim to be followers of Christ; but their dress and conversation show what occupies the mind and engages the affections. Their lives betray their friendship for the world, and it claims them as its own.
How can one that has ever tasted the love of Christ be satisfied with the frivolities of fashion? My heart is pained to see those who profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Saviour, so eagerly seeking to conform to the world's standard of dress. Notwithstanding their profession of godliness, they can hardly be distinguished from the unbeliever. They do not enjoy a religious life. Their time and means are devoted to the one object of dressing for display.
Pride and extravagance in dress is a sin to which woman is especially prone. Hence the injunction of the apostle relates directly to her: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."
We see steadily gaining ground in the church an evil which the word of God condemns. What is the duty of those in authority, in regard to this matter? Will the influence of the church be what it should be, while many of its members obey the dictates of fashion, rather than the clearly expressed will of God? How can we expect the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit, while we suffer these things to exist among us? Can we remain silent while the teachings of Christ are set aside by his professed followers? These things bring grief and perplexity to those who have the oversight of the church of God. Will not my Christian sisters themselves reflect candidly and prayerfully upon this subject? Will they not seek to be guided by the word of God? The extra time spent in the making up of apparel according to the fashions of the world should be devoted to close searching of heart and the study of the Scriptures. The hours that are worse than wasted in preparing unnecessary adornings, might be made more valuable than gold if spent in seeking to acquire right principles and solid attainments. My heart aches as I see young ladies professing to be followers of Christ who are practically ignorant of his character and his will. These youth have been satisfied to feed on husks. The glittering tinsel of the world appears more valuable to them than the eternal riches. The mental powers, that might be developed by thought and study, are suffered to lie dormant, and the affections are undisciplined, because the outward apparel is considered of more consequence than spiritual loveliness or mental vigor.
Will the followers of Christ seek to obtain the inward adorning, the meek and quiet spirit which God pronounces of great price, or will they squander the few short hours of probation in needless labor for display? The Lord would have women seek constantly to improve both in mind and heart, gaining intellectual and moral strength that she may lead a useful and happy life,--a blessing to the world and an honor to her Creator.
I would ask the youth of today who profess to believe present truth, wherein they deny self for the truth's sake. When they really desire an article of dress, or some ornament or convenience, do they lay the matter before the Lord in prayer to know if his Spirit would sanction this expenditure of means? In the preparation of their clothing, are they careful not to dishonor their profession of faith? Can they seek the Lord's blessing upon the time thus employed? It is one thing to join the church, and quite another thing to be united to Christ. Unconsecrated, world loving professors of religion are one of the most serious causes of weakness in the church of Christ.
In this age of the world, there is an unprecedented rage for pleasure. Dissipation and reckless extravagance everywhere prevail. The multitudes are eager for amusement. The mind becomes trifling and frivolous, because it is not accustomed to meditation, or disciplined to study. Ignorant sentimentalism is current. God requires that every soul shall be cultivated, refined, elevated, and ennobled. But too often every valuable attainment is neglected for fashionable display and superficial pleasure. Women permit their souls to be starved and dwarfed by fashion, and thus they become a curse to society, rather than a blessing.
I have seen poor families struggling under a weight of debt, and yet the children were not trained to deny themselves to remove this burden. They had never learned to practice self-denial in order to aid their parents. In one family where I visited, the daughters expressed a desire for an expensive piano. Gladly would the parents have gratified this wish, but they were embarrassed with debt. The daughters knew this, and had they been taught to practice self-denial, they would not have given their parents the pain of denying their wishes. But although told that it would be impossible, they did not permit the matter to end there. The desire was expressed again and again, thus continually adding to the heavy burden of the parents. On another visit I saw the coveted instrument of music in the house, and some hundreds of dollars were added to the burden of debt. I hardly knew whom to blame most, the indulgent parents or the selfish children. Both are guilty before God.
This one case will illustrate many. These young persons, although they profess to be Christians, have never taken the cross of Christ; for the very first lesson to be learned is the lesson of self-denial. Said our Saviour, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me." In no way can we become disciples of Christ, except by complying with this condition.
We must know more of Jesus and his love than of the fashions of the world. In the name of my Master, I call upon the youth to study the example of Christ. When you wish to make an article, you carefully study the pattern, that you may reproduce it as nearly as possible. Now set to work to copy the Divine Exemplar. Your eternal interest demands that you possess the Spirit of Christ. You cannot be like Jesus, and cherish pride in your heart. You cannot give any place to envy or jealousy. You must consider it beneath the character of a Christian to harbor resentful thoughts or indulge in recrimination. Let the law of kindness be sacredly observed. Never comment upon the character or the acts of others in a manner to injure them. In no case make their failures or defects the subject of ridicule or unkind criticism. You lessen your own influence by so doing, and lead others to doubt your sincerity as a Christian. Let peace and love dwell in your soul, and ever cherish a forgiving spirit.
I repeat, Study the fashions less, and the character of Jesus more. The greatest and holiest of men was also the meekest. In his character, majesty and humility were blended. You will find this to exist today in the greatest minds. The Majesty of Heaven came to earth, veiling his divinity with humanity. He had the command of worlds, he could summon the hosts of Heaven at his will; yet he for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. The attractions of this world, its glory and its pride, had no fascination for him. Meekness and humility he makes prominent in the cluster of Christian graces. He would have his disciples study these divine attributes, and seek to possess them. "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
Of how little value are gold or pearls or costly array, in comparison with the meekness and loveliness of Christ. Natural loveliness consists in symmetry, or the harmonious proportion of parts, each with the other; but spiritual loveliness consists in the harmony or likeness of our souls to Jesus. This will make its possessor more precious than fine gold, even the golden wedge of Ophir. The grace of Christ is indeed a priceless adornment. It elevates and ennobles its possessor, and reflects beams of glory upon others, attracting them also to the Source of light and blessing.
Said the apostle Paul, "Our conversation is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour." While others are dwarfing the intellect, hardening the heart, and robbing their Maker by devoting themselves to the service of the world, the true Christian is lifting his soul above the follies and vanities of earth, seeking God for pardon, peace, and righteousness; for glory, immortality, and eternal life. And he seeks not in vain. His fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Through this close intercourse with God, the soul becomes transformed. By beholding we are changed into the divine image, while those who seek only to gratify the desires of the unconsecrated heart, will float with the current of worldliness and fashion. They talk of what they love the most, give study and thought to that, until by beholding they are changed to the same image. Their conformity to worldly customs holds them in captivity to Satan, the god of this world. "His servants ye are to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey."
The dress worn by many of our sisters testifies against them,--professors in name, but lovers of the world by practice. We propose that the means which is needlessly expended in dress and display, be made to flow in a different channel. Let all that has heretofore been expended to obliterate the line of demarkation between Christians and the world be now used to provide food and clothing for the Lord's poor, and to send the truth to those who are in darkness. Means are needed for the various enterprises connected with the work of God. Our sisters can do much to supply this want. If saved with care, the means that has been worse than wasted in the indulgence of pride, will amount to more than they imagine. My sisters, dress as Christians should dress,--simply, plainly; adorn yourselves as becometh women professing godliness, with good works. Let your tea and coffee money flow into the Lord's treasury. Let the means expended for every other hurtful indulgence of appetite also be placed there. You can do much for the cause of God by practicing self-denial in what seems to you little things. God will bless you in this work.
We have each an individual responsibility. No friend or neighbor can be a criterion for us. Jesus is the only safe pattern. Have you not, my sisters, given to the world a wrong example in your dress and in your selfish indulgence? Will you not have to render an account to God for the influence you have exerted in favor of needless adornment and display? Our faith must be tested in this world. Christ overcame in our behalf, and thus made it possible for us also to overcome. We must endure trial and temptation here, and then, if faithful, we shall receive the crown. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life." We shall be exposed to manifold temptations, but these, if rightly borne, will refine and purify us, even as gold is purified in the fire. Yet when exposed to the allurements of the world, that which we had thought to be gold, proves to be but dross. Our Redeemer sees the situation, and he counsels all to buy of him gold tried in the fire; which is true faith and genuine love, the grace that will not be destroyed by fierce temptations.
The apostle exhorts Christians, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." Compare your character with the mirror of God's word, see if that law condemns you. If so, wash your robe of character in the blood of the Lamb. Whether we do or do not try ourselves by God's law, we may be sure that he will try us. He will bring us through the furnace. Trials do not come upon us to inform God of what we are, for his eye reads the intents and purposes of the heart; but it is for our own enlightenment, that we may learn our own defects, and remedy them before it is too late. We cannot tell what we are, whether our graces are true or false, until brought to the test.
The life of Christ was one continuous experience of privation, self-denial, and sorrow. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Seeing that our Saviour has endured all this for us, what will we endure for him? Will we show our love and gratitude by self-denial in obeying his words, and manifesting his spirit? There is work to be done for the Master. How many souls might be saved, if each professed follower of Christ would do all that lay in his power to do! My brother, my sister, there are all around us the poor, who may receive from you the words of Christ, after you have fed and clothed them. There are the sick, whom it is your duty to visit. There are sorrowing ones to be comforted and prayed for. If the Lord has blessed you with this world's goods, it is not that you may greedily hoard it, or expend it in the indulgence of pride. Remember that he will one day say, "Give an account of thy stewardship." Let us invest our means in the bank of Heaven by using it to supply the wants of the needy or to advance the cause of God. Then the Master at his coming, having found us faithful over a few things, will make us each ruler over "many things" in the kingdom of glory. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #24)
The book of Genesis gives quite a definite account of social and individual life during the first twenty-five hundred years of man's history, and yet we have no account of an infant born blind, deaf, crippled, deformed, or imbecile. There is not an instance upon record in that book, of a natural death in infancy, childhood, or early manhood. There is no account of men and women dying of disease. Obituary notices in the book of Genesis run thus: "And all the days of Adam were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died." "And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died." Concerning others, the record states, "He lived to a good old age, and he died." It was so rare for a son to die before the father that such an occurrence was considered worthy of record. "And Haran died before his father Terah." Yet Haran himself was a father before his death.
The violation of physical law, and human suffering as the consequence, has so long prevailed, that many look upon the present state of sickness, suffering, debility, and premature death, as the appointed lot of humanity. But God did not create the race in its present feeble condition. This is not the work of Providence, but the work of man. It was brought about by violation of the laws of God. Through the temptation of appetite, Adam and Eve first fell from their holy and happy estate. Through the same temptation have the race become enfeebled. They have permitted appetite and passion to take the throne, and to bring into subjection reason and conscience.
Man came from the hand of his Creator perfect in organization, and beautiful in form. The fact that he has for six thousand years withstood the ever-increasing weight of disease and crime, is conclusive proof of the power of endurance with which he was first endowed. And although the antediluvians generally gave themselves up to sin without restraint, it was more than two thousand years before the violation of natural law was sensibly felt. Had Adam originally possessed no greater physical power than men now have, the race would ere this have become extinct.
With few exceptions, the patriarchs from Adam to Noah lived nearly a thousand years. Upon succeeding generations the burden of disease and suffering continued to rest more heavily, and the length of life greatly diminished. So rapidly had the race degenerated at the time of Christ's first advent, that from every town, city, and village, the sick were brought to him to be healed. Since that time, physical deterioration has steadily progressed. And because of the continued violation of the laws of life, the years of man have been shortened, so that the present generation are passing off to the grave at an earlier age than that at which the antediluvians came upon the stage of active life.
Not only has disease been transmitted from generation to generation, but parents bequeath to their children their own wrong habits, their perverted appetites, and corrupt passions. Men are slow to learn wisdom from the history of the past. The strange absence of principle that characterizes the present generation, the disregard of the laws of life and health, is astonishing. Although a knowledge of these things can be readily obtained, a deplorable ignorance prevails. With the majority, the principal anxiety is, "What shall I eat? what shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed?" Notwithstanding all that has been said and written upon the importance of health and the means to preserve it, appetite is the great law which governs men and women generally.
What can be done to stay the tide of disease and crime that is sweeping our race down to ruin and to death? As the great cause of the evil is to be found in the indulgence of appetite and passion, so the first and great work of reform must be to learn and practice the lessons of temperance and self-control. To effect a permanent change for the better in society, the education of the masses must begin in early life. The habits formed in childhood and youth, the tastes acquired, the self-control gained, the principles inculcated from the cradle, are almost certain to determine the future of the man or woman. The crime and corruption occasioned by intemperance and lax morals might be prevented by the proper training of the youth.
One of the greatest aids in perfecting pure and noble characters in the young, strengthening them to control appetite and refrain from debasing excesses, is sound physical health. And, on the other hand, these very habits of self-control are essential to the maintenance of health.
It is of the highest importance that men and women be instructed in the science of human life, and the best means of preserving and acquiring health. Especially is youth the time to lay up a stock of knowledge to be put in daily practice through life. Youth is the time to establish good habits, to correct wrong ones already contracted, to gain and to hold the power of self-control, and to lay the plan, and accustom one's self to the practice, of ordering all the acts of life with reference to the will of God and the welfare of our fellow creatures. Youth is the sowing time, that determines the harvest both of this life and the life beyond the grave.
The youth of our time should be patiently instructed by both parents and teachers in the laws of health, and the means provided for its restoration when once impaired. Jesus did not ignore the claims of the body. He had respect for the physical condition of man, and went about healing the sick and restoring their faculties to those suffering from their loss. How incumbent, then, is it upon us to preserve the natural health with which God has endowed us, and to avoid dwarfing or weakening our powers.
Parents should impress upon their children the fact that all their powers are from God; that he has claims upon every faculty; that in sinning against their bodies, by abusing health in any manner, they sin against God, and slight one of his choicest blessings. God gives us health to use in his service; and the greater physical strength we possess, and the stronger our powers of endurance, the more we should do for the Master. Instead of abusing and overtaxing our strength, we should sacredly preserve it for his use.
The young should be shown that they are not at liberty to do as they please with their lives. Now is their day of trust, and by and by will come their day of reckoning. God will not hold them guiltless for treating lightly his precious gifts; the world's Redeemer has paid an infinite price for them, and their lives and talents belong to him; and they will finally be judged according to the faithful or unfaithful stewardship of the capital which God has intrusted to their care. They should be taught that the greater their endowment of means and opportunities, the more heavily does the responsibility of God's work rest upon them, and the more are they required to do. If the youth are thus brought up to feel their responsibility to their Creator, and the important trust given them in their own lives, they will hesitate to plunge into the vortex of dissipation and crime that swallows up so many of the promising young men of our age.
Parents, let the work of reform begin at home; train up the child to habits of industry, and serious reflection; present life to him as a grave reality; show him his duty to his God, his neighbor, and himself; inculcate moral and religious principles; give him a suitable education, the means of earning an honest living; let him know you are ever ready to give him tender sympathy and sound advice, to help him if he stumbles, and to encourage him onward; and he will not be likely to go far astray, or miss of being a blessing to the world.
In conclusion, let all, both old and young, give diligent heed to the words of the Lord penned by the wise man three thousand years ago: "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments. For length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee. Bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart. So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 58, #25)
"Ye shall be witnesses unto me," were the parting words of our Saviour to his disciples, ere the cloud received him from their sight. In his absence, they were to be his representatives in the world. How faithfully they fulfilled their high commission, is testified by their life of self-denial for their Master's cause; by their joyful, triumphant witness for Christ and the truth in the face of torture, imprisonment, and death.
These words of Jesus have lost none of their force through the lapse of ages. Our Saviour calls for faithful witnesses in these days of hypocrisy and religious formalism. But how few, even among the professed ambassadors for Christ, are ready to give a faithful, personal testimony for their Master. Many can tell what the great and good men of generations past have done, and dared, and suffered, and enjoyed. They become eloquent in setting forth the power of the gospel which has enabled others to rejoice in trying conflicts, and to stand firm against fierce temptations. But while so earnest in bringing forward other Christians as witnesses for Jesus, they seem to have no fresh, timely experience of their own to relate.
Ministers of Christ, what have you to say for yourselves? What soul conflicts have you experienced that have been for your good, for the good of souls, and for the glory of God? You who profess to be proclaiming the last solemn message to the world, what is your experience in the knowledge of the truth and its effect upon your own hearts? Will your character testify for Christ? Can you speak of the refining, ennobling,sanctifying influence of the truth as it is in Jesus? What have you seen, and what have you known, of the power of Christ?
This is the kind of witness for which the Lord calls, and for which churches are suffering. The spirit of Christ--true faith, that works by love and purifies the heart--is a priceless jewel, rare indeed in this degenerate age. "If ye love me," says the Saviour, "keep my commandments." Do we obey the law of God, or are we cherishing idols in our hearts? How many manifest their love by willing obedience, making the service of Christ their first consideration, and worldly things secondary?
Unbelievers sometimes look upon our faith as unattractive, cold, and forbidding. There is reason for this. Ministers of the gospel present to the people the theory of truth, while He who is the Truth and the Life is left in the background. Some preachers are more zealous to make a good argument upon doctrinal points, than to present a self-denying, crucified Saviour to the people.
A minister may gain a reputation for ability and shrewdness, and yet not be the acknowledged witness of Christ. He may talk of the truth, and boast of the truth, while yet his heart has not felt its sanctifying power. Self is exalted, and the glory of God forgotten. If true piety and the influence of the Holy Spirit are wanting, a minister's labors will be an injury to the people and to the cause of truth. He does not preach Christ from an experimental knowledge of him, but, parrot like, he repeats what he has learned from others. The Lord addresses to this class the question, "What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?"
Lift up Jesus,--lift him up before the people; dwell upon his matchless love. But the heart must first be imbued with that love, in order to speak it, to preach it, to pray it, to live it. We must have personal communion with Christ, in order to reveal him to the people. The graces of his Spirit, the loveliness of his character, must be shining forth in the characters of his witnesses.
How many cling with tenacious grasp to their self termed dignity, which is only self-esteem. These seek to honor themselves, instead of waiting in humbleness of heart for Christ to honor them. In conversation, more time is spent in talking of self than in exalting the riches of the grace of Christ. These persons teach others just how to perfect a Christian character, but they do not these things themselves. They have not learned of Him who says, "I am meek and lowly of heart."
True holiness and humility are inseparable. The nearer the soul comes to God, the more completely is it humbled and subdued. When Job heard the voice of the Lord out of the whirlwind, he exclaimed, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." It was when Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord and heard the cherubim crying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts," that he cried out, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" Daniel, when visited by the holy messenger, says, "My comeliness was turned in me to corruption.." Paul, after he was caught up into the third Heaven and heard things that it was not lawful for a man to utter, speaks of himself as "less than the least of all saints." It was the beloved John, that leaned on Jesus' breast, and beheld his glory, who fell as one dead before the angel. The more closely and continuously we behold our Saviour, the less shall we see to approve in ourselves.
There is a feverish love of pleasure at this time, a fearful increase of licentiousness, a contempt for all authority. Not only worldlings, but professed Christians also, are governed by inclination rather than duty. The words of Christ are sounding down through the ages, "Watch and pray." Says Paul, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." The signs of the times are pointing us to the near approach of our Lord. Is it indeed true that the end of this world's history is near? that Christ is at the door? Are we preparing for the great judgment scene?
Where are our responsible men at this crisis? Are they living like men who wait for their Lord? Are there not men in the ministry who are indifferent and careless? Are there any among us who are eating and drinking with the drunken? Inebriates are not the special ones here meant; all are included whose senses are so confused and benumbed by the spirit of the times that eternal things are not realized. If there was ever a time when men of God should stand aloof from the corruptions of the world, it is now. The Lord is at hand. Let the trumpet have a certain sound. Let the people be warned.
"Ye are my witnesses," saith the Lord. A living Christian will have a living testimony to bear. If you have been following Jesus step by step, you will have something right to the point to relate of the way he has led you. You can tell how you tested his promise, and found the promise true. You can point to the living spots in your experience, without going back for years into the past. Would that we could oftener hear the simple, earnest testimony of heart conflicts and victories:--
"I have been fighting the battles of the Lord, and have made conquests over self. I was sorely assaulted by the great adversary, tempted to neglect prayer, and to seek my own pleasure. I did not faithfully discharge my duty to God. He has bestowed upon me Heaven's richest blessing, in the gift of his Son; yet I made his service secondary to my own. But I have seen my sin in so doing, and have repented before the Lord. I have battled against self, which was striving for the mastery. The conflict was grievous, but I would not yield to the clamors of the carnal heart. I humbled my soul before God, and wept in penitence before him. My trembling faith grasped the promises, and appropriated them to myself. Jesus revealed himself as a present help in my emergency. I have gained the victory." What a blessed, softening, subduing influence such testimonies would have upon the hard heart of the unconverted or the backslider. God is speaking through clay. Religion seems a reality.
At this time of general intemperance and worldliness, every true Christian will have a battle to fight to practice the principles of truth as well as to assent to them. It is genuine, personal experience in the Christian life, the Christian warfare, that ministers of the gospel need. The Captain of our salvation calls for witnesses fresh from the field of action. Those who have been fiercely assaulted by the enemies of truth and the adversary of souls, and who have conducted themselves as did Jesus in his hour of trial, will have a testimony to bear which will thrill the hearts of the hearers. They will indeed be witnesses for Jesus.
Brethren, the biographies of good men of the past will not meet the demand for this time. The Saviour whom you profess to love and serve, wants you to have an experience of your own to relate. What do you believe? Is probation soon to close? Is the time at hand when the Judgment shall sit, and the books shall be opened, and we be judged according to our works?
Witnesses for Christ will manifest piety at home. Those who fail to do this are denying their faith. Ministers who preach close, practical discourses to the people, should themselves give a practical illustration of the truths taught. Piety in the daily life will give power to the public testimony. Patience, forbearance, and love will make an impression upon hearts that sermons have failed to reach. Christ is not pleased with the fruit that many bear. He pronounces the tree corrupt, for its character is determined by the fruit.
There is a sad lack of tenderness and sympathy among the servants of Christ. They do not love as brethren. They are harsh and dictatorial. Especially is their conduct toward the erring destitute of pity or compassion. Said the apostle, "Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." We shall surely be judged by our Heavenly Father in the same manner that we have judged others. "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged." "He shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy." Oh that these hardhearted, exacting ones would fall upon the Rock and be broken, lest theirs be the terrible alternative, that the Rock shall fall upon them and grind them to powder.
Jesus has given us in his life an example of pity and love for the erring. While he fearlessly reproved sin, he regarded the sinner with compassion. Looking upon the cross of Calvary, where Christ poured out his life to atone for our sins, let us recall his words, "Love one another, as I have loved you." Oh that we all, both ministers and people, might heed the tender entreaty!
But while the servant of Christ should seek with all patience and love to save sinners, he should on no account give license to sin. He must not allow his perceptions to be dulled by contact with iniquity, or his judgment to be perverted by the world's opinion. By excusing and palliating sin, we lose a sense of its heinous character. Compassion for the erring should not degenerate into indulgence for transgression. In order to preserve the safe mean, the Christian must add to patience godliness. Then he will see as God sees.
The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Under-shepherds should watch for souls as they that must give account, remembering that they are to be "ensamples to the flock." He who takes upon himself the responsibility of instructing others in the things of God, should himself be a constant learner in the school of Christ. God will accept the labors of all who obey the Saviour's call, "Follow me." As they continue to follow Jesus, they will become more like him in character. Love to God and man will pervade the life. The thoughts will linger naturally upon heavenly things. The theme of conversation will be the subject of greatest interest, the Christian's hope. The very countenance will express the peace which passeth knowledge. Such a life is the best testimony that can be borne for Christ. By Mrs. E. G. White.