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The Review and Herald Articles
for the Year 1882
(Vol. 59, #1)
"I wish you a happy New Year," will soon be repeated far and near, by parents and children, brothers and sisters, acquaintances and friends. In a world like ours, this New Year's greeting seems far more appropriate than the Merry Christmas so lately echoed from lip to lip. On every hand are pale faces, brows furrowed with pain and care, or forms bowed with age. Wherever we turn may be seen the garb of mourning. The suffering, the careworn, and the aged can no longer be merry. In many a household there is a vacant chair; a beloved child, a husband and father, whose presence gladdened the last Christmas and New Year's festivity, is gone from the circle. A merry Christmas seems a mockery to that bereaved family.
But whatever the cares and sorrows of life, whatever the mistakes and errors of the past, the "Happy New Year," when uttered as an expression of love or respect, falls pleasantly upon the ear. And yet, are not these kindly wishes often forgotten with the utterance? How often we fail to carry their import into the daily life, and thus to aid in their fulfillment. The New Year's greeting is frequently uttered by insincere lips, from hearts that would not forego one selfish gratification in order to make other's happy. Recipients of gifts and favors every new year, many accept these as their due. Receiving daily the bounties of Heaven, sunshine and shower, food and raiment, friends and home,--all the unnoted yet priceless blessings of life,--they forget the claims of the Giver; forget that God has left them a legacy in his poor; and that Christ, the Majesty of Heaven, identifies himself with suffering humanity in the person of his saints.
Says our Saviour, "It was I whom you neglected. While your wardrobe was supplied with costly apparel, I had no comfortable clothing; while you feasted, I was hungry; while you were absorbed in pleasure, I was sick, a stranger, and uncared for. Let those who would have a happy new year, seek to honor God and make all around them happy. Let them share the gifts of Providence with those more needy, and bring to the Lord their offerings of gratitude, their sin offerings, and their freewill offerings.
Let us review our own course during the past year, and compare our life and character with the Bible standard. Have we withheld from our gracious Benefactor that which he claims from us in return for all the blessings he has granted? Have we neglected to care for the poor, and comfort the sorrowing? Here, then, is work for us.
Upon many, God has bestowed his gifts with a lavish hand. Will they make corresponding returns? Some of these persons, when in poverty, were faithful in the smallest trust committed to them. They would sooner deny themselves of the comforts, or even the necessaries of life, than to withhold their offerings from the Lord's treasury. God has rewarded their faithfulness by prosperity. But now a change comes over the recipients of his bounty. Their wants increase faster than their income, and they no longer return to God the portion which is his due. Thus is developed that same spirit of covetousness which proved the ruin of Judas.
Let us each bring our souls to task. Let us see if we have brought all our offerings to God. I would do this for myself as an individual. It may be that I have been remiss during the past year. I know not when or where, but to make sure that I have done my whole duty, I will at the first of the year bring an offering to God to be appropriated as may seem best, to some one of the branches of his work. If any of you, my brethren and sisters, are convicted that you have failed to render to God the things that are his; if you have not kindly considered the wants of the poor; or if you have withheld from any man his due, I entreat you to repent before the Lord, and to restore fourfold. Strict honesty toward God and men will alone meet the divine requirements. Remember that if you have defrauded a neighbor in trade, or in any manner deprived him of his own, or if you have robbed God in tithes and offerings, it is all registered in the books of Heaven.
Many are bemoaning their backsliding, their want of peace and rest in Christ, when the past year's record shows that they have separated themselves from God by their departure from strict integrity. When they will faithfully examine their hearts, when they will open their eyes to see the selfishness of their motives,--then their prayer will be, "Create in me a clean heart O God; and renew a right spirit within me." God requires us to have a pure heart and clean hands. Let those who have committed wrong give proof of their repentance by seeking to make full restitution, let them in their afterlife give evidence of a genuine reformation, and they will assuredly enjoy the peace of Heaven.
Let us enter upon the new year with a clean record. Let faults be corrected. Let bitterness and malice be uprooted. Let right triumph over wrong. Let envy and jealousy between brethren be put away. Heartfelt, honest confession will heal grave difficulties. Then, with the love of God in the soul, there may flow from sincere lips the greeting, "I wish you a happy New Year."
Many who were with us at the beginning of 1881 are not here to welcome 1882. We ourselves may not live to see another year. Shall we not seek to improve the little time allotted us? Will not the church of Christ turn from their backslidings? Will they not cast aside their idols, repent of their love of the world, overcome their selfish greed, and open the door of the heart to bid the Saviour welcome? May the beginning of this year be a time that shall never be forgotten,--a time when Christ shall come in among us, and say, "Peace be unto you."
Brethren and sisters, I wish you, one and all, a happy New Year. "We live in deeds, not years; in thought, not breath; In feelings, not in figures on the dial. We should count time by heartthrobs when they beat--For man, for duty. He most lives Who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #2)
No work ever undertaken by man requires greater care and skill than the proper training and education of youth and children. There are no influences so potent as those which surround us in our early years. Says the wise man, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." The nature of man is threefold, and the training enjoined by Solomon comprehends the right development of the physical, intellectual, and moral powers. To perform this work aright, parents and teachers must themselves understand "the way the child should go." This embraces more than a knowledge of books or the learning of the schools. It comprehends the practice of temperance, brotherly kindness, and godliness; the discharge of our duty to ourselves, to our neighbors and to God.
The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals. The brute has only to be accustomed to submit to its master; but the child must be taught to control himself. The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast. no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher. Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous. Children thus educated will be deficient in firmness and decision. They are not taught to act from principle; the reasoning powers are not strengthened by exercise. So far as possible, every child should be trained to self-reliance. By calling into exercise the various faculties, he will learn where he is strongest, and in what he is deficient. A wise instructor will give special attention to the development of the weaker traits, that the child may form a well-balanced, harmonious character.
In some schools and families, children appear to be well trained, while under the immediate discipline, but when the system which has held them to set rules is broken up, they seem to be incapable of thinking, acting, or deciding for themselves. Had they been taught to exercise their own judgment as fast and as far as practicable, the evil would have been obviated. But they have so long been controlled by parents or teachers as to wholly rely upon them. He who seeks to have the individuality of his scholars merged in his own, so that reason, judgment, and conscience shall be subject to his control, assumes an unwarranted and fearful responsibility. Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control; but the afterlife of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.
Both parents and teachers are in danger of commanding and dictating too much, while they fail to come sufficiently into social relation with their children or their scholars. They maintain too great a reserve, and exercise their authority in a cold, unsympathizing manner, which tends to repel instead of winning confidence and affection. If they would oftener gather the children about them, and manifest an interest in their work, and even in their sports, they would gain the love and confidence of the little ones, and the lesson of respect and obedience would be far more readily learned; for love is the best teacher. A similar interest manifested for the youth will secure like results. The young heart is quick to respond to the touch of sympathy.
Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become. Hence, his principles and habits should be considered as of greater importance than even his literary qualifications. He should be a man who fears God, and feels the responsibility of his work. He should understand the importance of physical, mental, and moral training, and should give due attention to each. He who would control his pupils must first control himself. To gain their love, he must show by look and word and act that his heart is filled with love for them. At the same time, firmness and decision are indispensable in the work of forming right habits, and developing noble characters.
Physical training should occupy an important place in every system of education. It is the duty of parents and teachers to become acquainted with the human organism and the laws by which it is governed, and so far as possible, to secure to their children and pupils that greatest of all earthly blessings, "a sound mind in a sound body." Myriads of children die annually, and many more are left to drag out a life of wretchedness, perhaps of sin, because of the ignorance or neglect of parents and teachers.
Many a mother spends hours and even days in needless work merely for display, and yet has no time to obtain the information necessary that she may preserve the health of her children. She trusts their bodies to the doctor, and their souls to the minister, that she may go on undisturbed in her worship of fashion. To become acquainted with the wonderful mechanism of the human frame, to understand the dependence of one organ upon another, for the healthful action of all, is a work in which she has no interest. Of the mutual influence of mind and body, she knows little. The mind itself, that wonderful endowment which allies the finite with the infinite, she does not understand.
For generations, the system of popular education, for children especially, has been destructive to health, and even to life itself. Five and even six hours a day young children have passed in schoolrooms not properly ventilated nor sufficiently large for the healthful accommodation of the scholars. The air of such rooms soon becomes poisonous to the lungs that inhale it. And here the little ones, with their active, restless bodies, and no less active and restless minds, have been kept unoccupied during the long summer days, when the fair world without called them to gather health and happiness with the birds and flowers. Many children have at best but a slight hold on life. Confinement in school makes them nervous and diseased. Their bodies become dwarfed from want of exercise and the exhausted condition of the nervous system. If the lamp of life goes out, parents and teachers are far from suspecting that they themselves had aught to do with quenching the vital spark. The sad bereavement is looked upon as a special dispensation of Providence, when the truth is, inexcusable ignorance and neglect of nature's laws had destroyed the life of these children. God designed them to live, in the enjoyment of health and vigor, to develop pure, noble, and lovely characters, to glorify him in this life and to praise him forever in the future life.
Who can estimate the lives that have been wrecked by cultivating the intellectual to the neglect of the physical powers? The course of injudicious parents and teachers in stimulating the young mind by flattery or fear, has proved fatal to many a promising pupil. Instead of urging them on with every possible incentive, a judicious instructor will rather restrain the too active mind until the physical constitution has become strong enough to sustain mental effort.
That the youth may have health and cheerfulness, which are dependent upon normal physical and mental development, care must be given to the proper regulation of study, labor, and amusement. Those who are closely confined to study to the neglect of physical exercise, are injuring the health by so doing. The circulation is unbalanced, the brain having too much blood and the extremities too little. Their studies should be restricted to a proper number of hours, and then time should be given to active labor in the open air.
Little children should be permitted to run and play out of doors, enjoying the fresh, pure air, and the lifegiving sunshine. Let the foundation of a strong constitution be laid in early life. Parents should be the only teachers of their children, until they are eight or ten years of age. Let the mother have less care for the artificial, let her refuse to devote her powers to the slavery of fashionable display, and find time to cultivate in herself and her children a love for the beautiful things of nature. Let her point them to the glories spread out in the heavens, to the thousand forms of beauty that adorn the earth, and then tell them of Him who made them all. Thus she can lead their young minds up to the Creator, and awaken in their hearts reverence and love for the Giver of every blessing. The fields and hills--nature's audience chamber--should be the schoolroom for little children. Her treasures should be their textbook. The lessons thus imprinted upon their minds will not be soon forgotten.
God's works in nature have lessons of wisdom and gifts of healing for all. The ever varying scenes of the recurring seasons constantly present fresh tokens of his glory, his power, and his love. Well were it for older students, while they labor to acquire the arts and learning of men, to also seek more of the wisdom of God,--to learn more of the divine laws, both natural and moral. In obedience to these are life and happiness, in this world and in the world to come. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #4)
"I am the light of the world." The feast of tabernacles had just passed when our Saviour uttered these words in the temple at Jerusalem. Around the court were the golden lamps whose brilliant light had illuminated the city. Pointing to these, and beyond them to the glorious sun just risen in full orbed splendor above the Mount of Olives, he declares himself to be the light of men.
Jesus sought to make every object around him the medium of divine truth. As the day previous he had likened the Spirit's power to the refreshing, lifegiving water, so now he compared himself to the all-pervading light, the source of life and gladness to nature and to man. The only light that can illuminate the darkness of a world lying in sin must come from Christ, and this light is granted to all who will receive it. "For," said the great Teacher, "he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Those who receive the divine radiance are in turn to become lightbearers to the world. Thus our Saviour taught his disciples: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." It is not merely the conviction of the mind, it is not the acceptance of a theory, however correct, that can make us Christians. It is the indwelling of Christ in the soul, the development of his spirit in the life. The Christian experience is a constant effort to conform the human will to the will of Christ, and to form the character according to the divine model.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." Religion is not to be held as a precious treasure, jealously hoarded, and enjoyed only by the possessor. True religion cannot be thus held; for such a spirit is contrary to the very principle of the gospel. "Freely ye have received, freely give," are the words of our Master; and again he bids us, "Love one another as I have loved you." If Christ is dwelling in the heart, it is impossible to conceal the light of his presence; it is impossible for that light to grow dim. It will grow brighter and brighter, as day by day the mists of selfishness and sin that envelop the soul are dispelled by its bright beams.
The world lies in darkness. There are all around us souls going down to ruin and to death. As Christ sheds the light of his love upon his followers, they are to reflect this light upon others. God's word declares that the children of this world are wiser in their day and generation than the children of light. The zeal and steadfastness of the lighthouse keeper, in his efforts to save men from temporal destruction, put to shame the faith and devotion of many a professed Christian.
"The watchman at Calais lighthouse was boasting of the brilliancy of his lantern, which can be seen ten leagues out at sea, when a visitor said to him,
"'You speak with enthusiasm, sir, and that is well. I like to hear men tell what they are sure they have and know; but what if one of the lights should chance to go out?'
"'Never, never! Absurd, impossible!' replied the sensitive watchman, in consternation at the mere supposition of such a thing. 'Why, sir,' he continued, and pointed to the ocean, 'Yonder, where nothing can be seen, there are ships going by to every port in the world. If, tonight, one of my burners were out, within six months would come a letter, perhaps from India, perhaps from Australia, perhaps from some port I never heard of before,--a letter, saying that on such a night, at such an hour, at such a minute, the light at Calais burned low and dim; that the watchman neglected his post; that vessels were consequently put in jeopardy on the high seas. Ah, sir,' and his face shone with the intensity of his thought, 'sometimes, in the dark nights, and in the stormy weather, I look out upon the sea and feel as if the eye of the whole world were looking at my light. Go out? Burn dim? That flame flicker low or fail? No, sir, never!'
"Shall Christians, shining for tempted sinners, allow their light to fail? Forever out upon life's billowy sea, are souls we see not, strange sailors in the dark, passing by, struggling, it may be, amid the surges of temptation. Christ is the light, and the Christian is appointed to reflect the light. The ocean is vast, its dangers are many, and the eyes of faraway voyagers are turned toward the Calais lighthouse--the church of Jesus Christ. The church is set to be the light of the world. Are its revolving lamps all trimmed and brightly burning?"
Think of this, professed Christians! A failure to let your light shine, a neglect to obtain heavenly wisdom that you may have light from God, may cause the loss of a soul! What is the life lost at sea, in comparison with the eternal life which may be lost through your unfaithfulness? Can you endure the thought? Can you go on from day to day indifferent and careless, as though there were no God and no hereafter; as though you were not Christ's servant; as though you had no blood bought privileges? It is of the highest consequence that you stand at your post, like the faithful watchman, that your light may shine out before others. You should be so impressed with the importance of your work that to the question, "What if your light should go out?" your whole soul would respond, "Never, never! for then souls would be lost!"
You may never know the result of your influence from day to day, but be sure that it is exerted for good or evil. Many who have a kind heart and good impulses, permit their attention to be absorbed in worldly business or pleasure, while the souls that look to them for guidance drift on to hopeless wreck. Such persons may make a high profession, and may stand well in the opinion of men, even as Christians, but in the day of God, when our works shall be compared with the divine law, then it will be found that they have not come up to the standard. Others who saw their course fell a little below them; and still others fell below the latter class, and thus the work of degeneracy went on.
Throw a pebble into the lake, and a wave is formed, and another, and another; and as they increase, the circle widens, until they reach the very shore. Thus our influence, though apparently insignificant, may continue to extend far beyond our knowledge or control. It is as impossible for us to determine the result as it was for the watchman to see the ships that were scattered upon the sea.
We are dealing with stern realities. Our life record will be what we make it. What are we now doing with our God given abilities and privileges? Are we making the very most of the blessings that are granted us here? Are we abiding in Christ, and is he in us? Is our light, kindled at the divine altar, shining out as a guide to tempest tossed souls upon the sea of life? "Let the lower lights be burning!--Send a gleam across the wave!--Some poor fainting, struggling seaman--You may rescue, you may save." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #9)
[The following expression of my views on the subject of dancing, was written in answer to a letter asking counsel upon this point. As the principles stated are of general application, I here give my reply, for the benefit of other inquirers.]
Dear Sister in Christ,-- You inform me in your letter that you have been recently converted from error to truth. You now see and acknowledge the claims of God's law. You see the true Sabbath plainly brought to view in the fourth commandment, and have begun to keep it. You feel a joy that you never experienced before. In all this I rejoice with you. Then you ask if it is sinful to attend dancing parties. You say that this amusement possesses great attractions for you, but if sinful you will relinquish it.
Before answering this question directly, I ask you to consider briefly the position and work of God's people at the present day. John the Revelator, looking down the stream of time, beheld the third angel flying in the midst of heaven, crying, "Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." From the prophecies we learn that this heavenly messenger represents a class of religious teachers who are instructing the people to obey the law of God and to look for his Son from Heaven. The solemn message of the third angel must be given by those who see and feel its truthfulness. The world are going on careless and Godless in the way of error. Ministers are saying from their pulpits, "Be not troubled. Christ will not come for thousands of years. All things continue as they were from the beginning." Others pour contempt upon the law of God, declaring that it is a yoke of bondage. But while professed Christians are asleep, Satan is manifesting intense earnestness and persevering zeal. His hellish work will soon be ended, his power be chained; therefore he has come down in great wrath, to "deceive, if possible, even the very elect." Is this a time for us to unite with the ungodly in levity and worldly pleasure? Will they be more inclined to accept the solemn truths we hold, when they see us in the theater or the ballroom?
Infidelity runs riot. Professed Christians not only disclaim all faith in the warnings of future judgments upon the world, but they deny the record of past judgments. There are not wanting those who declare that the flood is a myth and the book of Genesis a fable. But not so did our Saviour. He refers to Noah as a real person, to the flood as a fact, to the characteristics of that generation as prefiguring the characteristics of ours. In the days before the flood, it is written that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." Here is a picture drawn by one inspired of God; and such, it is declared, will be the state of the world prior to Christ's second coming. In the days of Noah, men found their highest enjoyment in the gratification of sensual desires. This world was their all. "Eat, drink, and be merry," was the cry echoed from lip to lip. The same insane love of pleasure, the same all-absorbing spirit of worldliness, characterize the people of this age. How little do they consider that their deeds and words are passing into judgment, and that every sin must have its retribution in the future!
There was a God to call to account the inhabitants of the antediluvian world. There is a God to try the deeds of the men of this generation, and to give every man according to his works. The faithful sentinels for God have a work to do, to keep these things vividly before the people. Every lay member of the church has also a duty, to show that there is a reality in the truth, that we are indeed living in the last days, and the Lord is at the door. The words of the great apostle are addressed directly to us: "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." The great question for us to settle is, What part are we to act in this fearfully important period? Shall we yield to the indulgence of worldliness and pride, or engage in mirth and revelry?
The true Christian will not desire to enter any place of amusement or engage in any diversion upon which he cannot ask the blessing of God. He will not be found at the theater, the billiard hall, or the bowling saloon. He will not unite with the gay waltzers, or indulge in any other bewitching pleasure that will banish Christ from the mind. To those who plead for these diversions, we answer, We cannot indulge in them in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The blessing of God would not be invoked upon the hour spent at the theater or in the dance. No Christian would wish to meet death in such a place. No one would wish to be found there when Christ shall come. When we come to the final hour, and stand face to face with the record of our lives, shall we regret that we have attended so few parties of pleasure? that we have participated in so few scenes of thoughtless mirth? Shall we not, rather, bitterly regret that so many precious hours have been wasted in self-gratification,--so many opportunities neglected, which, rightly improved, would have secured for us immortal treasures?
It has become customary for professors of religion to excuse almost any pernicious indulgence to which the heart is wedded. By familiarity with sin, they become blinded to its enormity. Many who claim to be children of God, gloss over sins which his word condemns, by linking some purpose of church charity with their Godless carousals. Thus they borrow the livery of Heaven to serve the devil in. Souls are deceived, led astray, and lost to virtue and integrity by these fashionable dissipations.
In many religious families, dancing and card playing are made a parlor pastime. It is urged that these are quiet home amusements, which may be safely enjoyed under the parental eye. But a love for these exciting pleasures is thus cultivated, and that which was considered harmless at home will not long be regarded dangerous abroad. It is yet to be ascertained that there is any good to be obtained from these amusements. They do not give vigor to the body nor rest to the mind. They do not implant in the soul one virtuous or holy sentiment. On the contrary, they destroy all relish for serious thought and for religious services. It is true that there is a wide contrast between the better class of select parties and the promiscuous and degraded assemblies of the low dancehouse. Yet all are steps in the path of dissipation.
The amusement of dancing, as conducted at the present day, is a school of depravity, a fearful curse to society. If all in our great cities who are yearly ruined by this means could be brought together, what histories of wrecked lives would be revealed. How many who now stand ready to apologize for this practice, would be filled with anguish and amazement at the result. How can professedly Christian parents consent to place their children in the way of temptation, by attending with them such scenes of festivity? How can young men and young women barter their souls for this infatuating pleasure?
The great mass of mankind are engrossed in the things of this life, and divine truth can find no abiding place in their hearts. And yet all the blessings which the world can give fail to satisfy the wants of the soul. There is a nameless longing for something which they have not, a peace and rest that is not born of earth. It was thus with the worshipers in the temple of old; amid the imposing ceremonies, the dazzling display, the music and rejoicing, they were still unsatisfied. Then how welcome the call that fell upon their ears, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." It was the same message that had gladdened the heart of the Samaritan woman, at Jacob's well,--"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Christ alone can satisfy that sense of want in the human soul. His gracious invitation reaches down even to our time. From the Fountain of life the cry still goes forth to a lost world, "Come unto me and drink."
Thousands of our race would compass sea and land to gain possessions which at best must soon perish, and yet they turn away with indifference from the proffer of eternal riches. The Saviour's loving invitations, his earnest pleadings and faithful instruction, fall upon dull ears and hard hearts. To many who have time and opportunity to gain a knowledge of the truth and of its Author, Christ will say, "Ye would not come to me, that ye might have life."
My sister, when you carefully study the life of Christ as recorded in Bible history, and when he is revealed to you as he is, by the Holy Spirit, then you will be convinced for yourself that dancing has no place in the Christian's life. When you feel a desire to engage in this amusement, go in imagination to Gethsemane, and behold the anguish which Christ endured for us. See the world's Redeemer wrestling in superhuman agony, the sins of the whole world upon his soul. Hear his prayer, borne upon the sympathizing breeze, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." The hour of darkness has come. Christ has entered the shadow of his cross. Alone he must drink the bitter cup. Of all earth's children whom he has blessed and comforted, there is not one to console him in this dreadful hour. He is betrayed into the hands of a murderous mob. Faint and weary, he is dragged from one tribunal to another. His own nation are his accusers, the Romans his executioners. And thus He who knew not the taint of sin, pours out his life as a malefactor upon Calvary.
This history should stir every soul to its depths. It was to save us that the Son of God became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was wounded for our transgressions, and with his stripes we are healed. God holds us each responsible for the soul estimated of such value. Let a sense of the infinite sacrifice made for our redemption be ever with you, and the ballroom will lose its attractions.
Not only did Christ die as our sacrifice, but he lived as our example. In his human nature he stands, complete, perfect, spotless. To be a Christian is to be Christlike. Our entire being, soul, body, and spirit, must be purified, ennobled, sanctified, until we shall reflect his image and imitate his example. My sister, such is the work before us as Christians. We need not fear to engage in any pursuit or pleasure that will aid us in this work. But it is our duty to shun everything that would divert our attention or lessen our zeal. In this light, is it hard to decide on which side dancing should be placed? By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #12)
It is the boast of the present age that never before did men possess so great facilities for the acquirement of knowledge, or manifest so general an interest in education. Yet despite this vaunted progress, there exists an unparalleled spirit of insubordination and recklessness in the rising generation; mental and moral degeneracy are well-nigh universal. Popular education does not remedy the evil. The lax discipline in many institutions of learning has nearly destroyed their usefulness, and in some cases rendered them a curse rather than a blessing. This fact has been seen and deplored, and earnest efforts have been made to remedy the defects in our educational system. There is urgent need of schools in which the youth may be trained to habits of self-control, application, and self-reliance, of respect for superiors and reverence for God. With such training, we might hope to see the young prepared to honor their Creator and to bless their fellow men.
It was to secure these objects that our own College at Battle Creek was founded. But those who endeavor to accomplish such a work, find that their undertaking is fraught with many and grave difficulties. The evil which underlies all others, and which often counteracts the efforts of the best instructors, is to be found in the home discipline. Parents do not see the importance of shielding their children from the gilded temptations of this age. They do not exercise proper control themselves, and hence do not rightly appreciate its value.
Many fathers and mothers err in failing to second the efforts of the faithful teacher. Youth and children, with their imperfect comprehension and undeveloped judgment, are not always able to understand all the teacher's plans and methods. Yet when they bring home reports of what is said and done at school, these are discussed by the parents in the family circle, and the course of the teacher is criticised without restraint. Here the children learn lessons that are not easily unlearned. Whenever they are subjected to unaccustomed restraint, or required to apply themselves to hard study, they appeal to their injudicious parents for sympathy and indulgence. Thus a spirit of unrest and discontent is encouraged, the school as a whole suffers from the demoralizing influence, and the teacher's burden is rendered much heavier. But the greatest loss is sustained by the victims of parental mismanagement. Defects of character which a right training would have corrected, are left to strengthen with years, to mar and perhaps destroy the usefulness of their possessor.
As a rule, it will be found that the students most ready to complain of school discipline are those who have received a superficial education. Having never been taught the necessity of thoroughness, they regard it with dislike. Parents have neglected to train their sons and daughters to the faithful performance of domestic duties. Children are permitted to spend their hours in play, while father and mother toil on unceasingly. Few young persons feel that it is their duty to bear a part of the family burden. They are not taught that the indulgence of appetite, or the pursuit of ease or pleasure, is not the great aim of life.
The family circle is the school in which the child receives its first and most enduring lessons. Hence parents should be much at home. By precept and example, they should teach their children the love and the fear of God; teach them to be intelligent, social, affectionate, to cultivate habits of industry, economy, and self-denial. By giving their children love, sympathy, and encouragement at home, parents may provide for them a safe and welcome retreat from many of the world's temptations.
"No time," says the father, "I have no time to give to the training of my children, no time for social and domestic enjoyments." Then you should not have taken upon yourself the responsibility of a family. By withholding from them the time which is justly theirs, you rob them of the education which they should have at your hands. If you have children, you have a work to do, in union with the mother, in the formation of their characters. Those who feel that they have an imperative call to labor for the improvement of society, while their own children grow up undisciplined, should inquire if they have not mistaken their duty. Their own household is the first missionary field in which parents are required to labor. Those who leave the home garden to grow up to thorns and briers, while they manifest great interest in the cultivation of their neighbor's plot of ground, are disregarding the word of God.
I repeat, it is the lack of love and piety, and the neglect of proper discipline at home, that creates so much difficulty in schools and colleges. There is a fearful state of coldness and apathy among professed Christians. They are unfeeling, uncharitable, unforgiving. These evil traits, first indulged at home, exert their baleful influence in all the associations of daily life. If the spirit of kindness and courtesy were cherished by parents and children, it would be seen also in the intercourse between teacher and pupil. Christ should be an honored guest in the family circle, and his presence is no less needed in the classroom. Would that the converting power of God might soften and subdue the hearts of parents and children, teachers and students, and transform them into the likeness of Christ.
Fathers and mothers should carefully and prayerfully study the characters of their children. They should seek to repress and restrain those traits that are too prominent, and to encourage others which may be deficient, thus securing harmonious development. This is no light matter. The father may not consider it a great sin to neglect the training of his children; but thus does God regard it. Christian parents need a thorough conversion upon this subject. Guilt is accumulating upon them, and the consequences of their actions reach down from their own children to children's children. The ill balanced mind, the hasty temper, the fretfulness, envy, or jealousy, bear witness to parental neglect. These evil traits of character bring great unhappiness to their possessors. How many fail to receive from companions and friends the love which they might have, if they were more amiable. How many create trouble wherever they go, and in whatever they are engaged!
Children have claims which their parents should acknowledge and respect. They have a right to such an education and training as will make them useful, respected, and beloved members of society here, and give them a moral fitness for the society of the pure and holy hereafter. The young should be taught that both their present and their future well-being depend to a great degree on the habits they form in childhood and youth. They should be early accustomed to submission, self-denial, and a regard for others' happiness. They should be taught to subdue the hasty temper, to withhold the passionate word, to manifest unvarying kindness, courtesy, and self-control. Fathers and mothers should make it their life study that their children may become as nearly perfect in character as human effort, combined with divine aid, can make them. This work, with all its importance and responsibility, they have accepted, in that they have brought children into the world.
Parents must see that their own hearts and lives are controlled by the divine precepts, if they would bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are not authorized to fret and scold and ridicule. They should never taunt their children with perverse traits of character, which they themselves have transmitted to them. This mode of discipline will never cure the evil. Parents, bring the precepts of God's word to admonish and reprove your wayward children. Show them a "thus saith the Lord" for your requirements. A reproof which comes as the word of God is far more effective than one falling in harsh, angry tones from the lips of parents.
Wherever it seems necessary to deny the wishes or oppose the will of a child, he should be seriously impressed with the thought that this is not done for the gratification of the parents, or to indulge arbitrary authority, but for his own good. He should be taught that every fault uncorrected will bring unhappiness to himself, and will displease God. Under such discipline, children will find their greatest happiness in submitting their own will to the will of their Heavenly Father.
Some parents--and some teachers, as well--seem to forget that they themselves were once children. They are dignified, cold, and unsympathetic. Wherever they are brought in contact with the young,--at home, in the day school, the Sabbath school, or the church,--they maintain the same air of authority, and their faces habitually wear a solemn, reproving expression. Childish mirth or waywardness, the restless activity of the young life, finds no excuse in their eyes. Trifling misdemeanors are treated as grave sins. Such discipline is not Christlike. Children thus trained fear their parents or teachers, but do not love them; they do not confide to them their childish experiences. Some of the most valuable qualities of mind and heart are chilled to death, as a tender plant before the wintry blast.
Smile, parents; smile, teachers. If your heart is sad, let not your face reveal the fact. Let the sunshine from a loving, grateful heart light up the countenance. Unbend from your iron dignity, adapt yourselves to the children's needs, and make them love you. You must win their affection, if you would impress religious truth upon their heart.
Jesus loved the children. He remembered that he was once a child, and his benevolent countenance won the affections of the little ones. They loved to play around him, and to stroke that loving face with their innocent hands. When the Hebrew mothers brought their babes to be blessed by the dear Saviour, the disciples deemed the errand of too little importance to interrupt his teachings. But Jesus read the earnest longing of those mothers' hearts, and checking his disciples, he said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven."
Parents, you have a work to do for your children which no other can do. You cannot shift your responsibilities upon another. The fathers' duty to his children cannot be transferred to the mother. If she performs her own duty, she has burden enough to bear. Only by working in unison, can the father and mother accomplish the work which God has committed to their hands.
That time is worse than lost to parents and children which is devoted to the acquirement of wealth, while mental improvement and moral culture are neglected. Earthly treasures must pass away; but nobility of character, moral worth, will endure forever. If the work of parents be well done, it will through eternity testify of their wisdom and faithfulness. Those who tax their purses and their ingenuity to the utmost to provide for their households costly apparel and dainty food, or to maintain them in ignorance of useful labor, will be repaid only by the pride, envy, willfulness, and disrespect of their spoiled children.
The young need to have a firm barrier built up from their infancy between them and the world, that its corrupting influence may not affect them. Parents must exercise increasing watchfulness, that their children be not lost to God. If it were considered as important that the young possess a beautiful character and amiable disposition as it is that they imitate the fashions of the world in dress and deportment, we would see hundreds where there is one today coming upon the stage of active life prepared to exert an ennobling influence upon society.
The parents' work of education, instruction, and discipline underlies every other. The efforts of the best teachers must often bear little fruit, if fathers and mothers fail to act their part with faithfulness. God's word must ever be their guide. We do not endeavor to present a new line of duty. We set before all the teachings of that word by which our work must be judged, and we inquire, Is this the standard which we as Christian parents are endeavoring to reach? By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #13)
Seventh-Day Adventists profess to believe that the day of this world's history is far spent, and the night is at hand. Should we then manifest greater earnestness and zeal in the service of God as the end draws nigh, or may we now relax our energies, and participate in the pursuits and pleasures of the world? The Lord has ever required his people to show in all their habits of life a marked difference between themselves and worldlings. Even if the end were not near, it would be the duty of every Christian to be true to his profession of faith, and by an example of simplicity and self-denial, to rebuke the pride and selfishness of the ungodly. How much more, then, is it incumbent upon this people to manifest unfailing zeal and consecration to God. If when we first heard the message of warning we endeavored to live in accordance with our faith, if the convictions of the Holy Spirit led us to shun the habits and fashions of the world, should we not be more earnest and zealous and faithful now that we are so much nearer the great consummation?
The apostle Paul looking down to our day, declares, "It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." And again, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting, and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." These words plainly set forth our duty. Every year is shortening our probation, and bringing us nearer the coming of our Lord. We should now put forth every energy to prepare for the great event. This life at the longest is represented as a vapor, which soon passes away. Its treasures, its honors, and its joys are transitory and uncertain. If we live for God and the immortal future, we shall secure all that is worth the having.
Only by our life can we prove to the world the genuineness of our solemn faith. But if the coming of Christ is indeed nearer than when we believed, why has there been such a change in the conduct of many? Why are they so careless, so indifferent to the teachings of God's word, so regardless of his claims upon them? Why are they seeking to unite with those whose influence would divert their minds from God, and from a preparation for eternity? It is the love of the world that leads to the neglect of eternal interests. "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." This is our work. Let us not be diverted from it by the world's allurements, nor disheartened by its revilings. "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." We have not long to work. Our time, our talents, are too precious to be buried in the world.
A great responsibility rests upon all who have received the light of truth, and especially upon those to whom the people look for instruction and guidance. Those who occupy positions of responsibility in our institutions are exerting an influence scarcely less potent and widespread than that of our ministers. They should be men and women of moral worth and of deep and living experience in the things of God. By their influence and example they are either proclaiming to the world the truths we hold or declaring these truths to be of none effect.
The fearful effect of a worldly, unconsecrated influence at the head of the work is felt by our own people throughout the land. An instance of this came under my own notice not long since. A sister who had spent some weeks at one of our institutions in Battle Creek, said that she felt much disappointed in what she saw and heard there. She had thought to find a people far in advance of the younger churches, both in knowledge of the truth and in religious experience. Here she hoped to gain much instruction which she could carry to her sisters in the faith in a distant State. But she was surprised and pained at the lightness, the worldliness, and lack of devotion which she met on every hand.
Before accepting the truth, she had followed the fashions of the world in her dress, and had worn costly jewelry and other ornaments; but upon deciding to obey the word of God, she felt that its teachings required her to lay aside all extravagant and superfluous adorning. She was taught that Seventh-day Adventists did not wear jewelry, gold, silver, or precious stones, and that they did not conform to worldly fashions in their dress. When she saw among those who profess the faith such a wide departure from Bible simplicity, she felt bewildered. Had they not the same Bible which she had been studying, and to which she had endeavored to conform her life? Had her past experience been mere fanaticism? Had she misinterpreted the words of the apostle, "The friendship of the world is enmity with God, for whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God"?
Mrs. D., a lady occupying a position in the institution, was visiting at Sr.____'s room one day, when the latter took out of her trunk a gold necklace and chain, and said she wished to dispose of this jewelry and put the proceeds into the Lord's treasury. Said the other, "Why do you sell it? I would wear it if it was mine." "Why," she replied Sr.____, "when I received the truth, I was taught that all these things must be laid aside. Surely they are contrary to the teachings of God's word." And she cited her hearer to the words of the apostles, Paul and Peter, upon this point, "In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but, as becometh women professing godliness, with good works." "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."
In answer, the lady displayed a gold ring on her finger, given her by an unbeliever, and said she thought it no harm to wear such ornaments. "We are not so particular," said she, "as formerly. Our people have been over scrupulous in their opinions upon the subject of dress. The ladies of this institution wear gold watches and gold chains, and dress like other people. It is not good policy to be singular in our dress; for we cannot exert so much influence."
We inquire, Is this in accordance with the teachings of Christ? Are we to follow the word of God, or the customs of the world? Our sister decided that it was safest to adhere to the Bible standard. Will Mrs. D. and others who pursue a similar course be pleased to meet the result of their influence, in that day when every man shall receive according to his works?
God's word is plain. Its teachings cannot be mistaken. Shall we obey it, just as he has given it to us, or shall we seek to find how far we can digress and yet be saved? Would that all connected with our institutions would receive and follow the divine light, and thus be enabled to transmit light to those who walk in darkness.
Conformity to the world is a sin which is sapping the spirituality of our people, and seriously interfering with their usefulness. It is idle to proclaim the warning message to the world, while we deny it in the transactions of daily life. I have received letters of inquiry concerning some of these things. One brother states that a few years ago he had money to build a new house, but a call came for means to sustain our institutions. He felt that these institutions were the Lord's and he said to his wife, "It is true that our house is old and decaying; we need a plain, healthful house; but if you will agree to it, I will send this money to meet the call for means, and we will live on as we have done. Our house is inconvenient, and not always comfortable, but Jesus had not where to lay his head. If the Lord of glory could leave the royal mansions for a life of toil and poverty, those for whom he suffered and died should not complain of hardships. We have far more than he had."
"Not long since," says our brother, "the question of having a new house again came up. Again we prayed about it. We saw in the paper that our institutions were in debt. We could send this time easier than before; for that came rather hard on us. Now, we thought, we are several years nearer the end than when we sent our first offering. We will not indulge ourselves, and let our institutions suffer."
He adds: "I cannot harmonize with the experience I have had the course of some at Battle Creek. Those who are expounding the word of God to others are building large, expensive dwellings like the worldlings around them. What does this mean? I am not sorry that I put into the cause what I did; but I cannot interpret these things. Unbelievers taunt me with them, and laugh at my faith. Are not some of our brethren saying, 'My Lord delayeth his coming'? If they really believed that time is short, would they invest so much in their dwellings? One house is finished very fancifully, at considerable expense, and yet the owner is preaching that Christ is soon coming. What shall we do when our responsible men give us such an example? Please answer through the Review. Persons question me about these matters every day, and I am at loss how to answer."
My brother, tell them that however the professed followers of Christ may depart from his instructions, "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." You ask if Sr. White's testimony from God does not reprove these things. I answer, It does. The Lord has given warning and reproof to prevent this very state of things. The testimonies of God's word and of his Spirit have alike been disregarded. This is why there is such backsliding among us,--so little of the life and power of true godliness.
It may be necessary for our brethren at Battle Creek to build more commodious houses than they would need elsewhere; for there are several hundred students to find homes among them. But we have no apology to offer for those who are expending in the indulgence of worldliness and pride the means which God has intrusted to their hands. As a people we should be distinct from the world. We should be separating ourselves more and more from that state of things which Christ describes as characteristic of a former age, and which made that people ripe for the vengeance of God. The world before the flood were wholly engrossed in the things of this life, in the gratification of their own desires. Just such a condition existed in Sodom before its destruction. How dangerous, how presumptuous, then, for us to enter the same path which has led so many to ruin!
Let none think to find, even at the great heart of the work, a faultless people. Christ himself has taught us that the gospel net gathers of every kind, and these are not wholly separated until the Judgment. Those who seek to maintain the standard of spirituality in that large church have difficulties to encounter of which our smaller churches know little. We must expect to be thrown in contact with unconsecrated and world loving professors of godliness. But none need stumble over the example of even their brethren in the faith. We have one unerring Pattern. Says Christ, "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #14)
Some things of grave importance have not been receiving due attention at our Offices of publication. Men in responsible positions should have worked up plans whereby our books could be circulated, and not lie on the shelves, falling dead from the press. Our people are behind the times, and are not following the opening providence of God.
Many of our publications have been thrown into the market at so low a figure that the profits are not sufficient to sustain the Office and keep good a fund for continual use. And those of our people who have no special burden of the various branches of the work at Battle Creek and at Oakland, do not become informed in regard to the wants of the cause, and the capital required to keep the business moving. They do not understand the liability to losses, and the expense every day occurring to such institutions. They seem to think that everything moves off without much care or outlay of means, and therefore they will urge the necessity of the lowest figures on our publications, thus leaving scarcely any margin. And after the prices have been reduced to almost ruinous figures, they manifest but a feeble interest in increasing the sales of the very books on which they have asked such low prices. The object gained, their burden ceases, when they ought to have an earnest interest and a real care to press the sale of the publications, thereby sowing the seeds of truth, and bringing means into the Offices to invest in other publications.
There has been, on the part of ministers, a very great neglect of duty in not interesting the churches in the localities where they labor, in regard to this matter. When once the prices of books are reduced, it is a very difficult matter to get them again upon a paying basis, as men of narrow minds will cry speculation, not discerning that no one man is benefited, and that God's instrumentalities must not be crippled for want of capital. Books that ought to be widely circulated are lying useless in our Offices of publication, because there is not interest enough manifested to get them circulated.
The press is a power; but if its products fall dead for want of men who will execute plans to widely circulate them, its power is lost. While there has been a quick foresight to discern the necessity of laying out means in facilities to multiply books and tracts, plans to bring back the means invested, so as to reproduce other publications, have been neglected. The power of the press with all its advantages is in their hands, and they can use it to the very best account, or they can be half asleep, and through inaction, lose the advantages which they might gain. They can extend the light, by judicious calculation, in the sale of books and pamphlets. They can send them into thousands of families who now sit in the darkness of error.
With other publishers, there are regular systems of introducing into the market books of no vital interest. "The children of this world are wiser in their generations than the children of light." Golden opportunities occur almost daily where the silent messengers of truth might be introduced into families and to individuals; but no advantage is taken of these opportunities by the indolent, thoughtless ones. Living preachers are few. There is only one where there should be a hundred. Many are making a great mistake in not putting their talents to use in seeking to save the souls of their fellow men. Hundreds of men should be engaged in carrying the light all through our cities, villages, and towns. The public mind must be agitated. God says, Let light be sent out into all parts of the field. He designs that men shall be channels of light, bearing it to those who are in darkness.
Missionaries are wanted everywhere. In all parts of the field canvassers should be selected, not from the floating element in society, not from men and women who are good for nothing else, and have made a success of nothing; but they should be persons of good address, of tact, keen foresight and ability. Such are needed to make a success as colporteurs, canvassers, and agents. Men suited to this work undertake it; but some injudicious minister will flatter them that their gift should be employed in the desk instead of simply working as colporteurs. Thus the work of the colporter is belittled. They are influenced to get a license to preach, and the very ones who might have been trained to make good missionaries to visit families at their homes, and talk and pray with them, are caught up to make poor ministers, and the field where so much labor is needed, and where so much good might be accomplished for the cause, is neglected. The efficient colporter, if his work is faith!
fully done, should have a sufficient remuneration for his services as well as the minister.
If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting before the public our publications, which will lead men to search the Scriptures. Missionary work--introducing our publications into families, conversing, and praying with and for them--is a good work, and one which will educate men and women to do pastoral labor.
Every one is not fitted for this work. Those of the best talent and ability, who will take hold of the work understandingly and systematically, and carry it forward with persevering energy, are the ones who should be selected. There should be a most thoroughly organized plan; and this should be faithfully carried out. Churches in every place should feel the deepest interest in the tract and missionary work.
The volumes of Spirit of Prophecy, and also the Testimonies, should be introduced into every Sabbathkeeping family, and the brethren should know their value, and be urged to read them. It was not the wisest plan to place these books at a low figure, and have only one set in a church. They should be in the library of every family, and read again and again. Let them be kept where they can be read by many, and let them be worn out in being read by all the neighbors.
There should be evening readings, in which one should read aloud to those assembled at the winter fireside. There is but little interest manifested to make the most of the light given of God. Much of it is concerning family duties, and instruction is given to meet almost every case and circumstance. Money will be expended for tea, coffee, ribbons, ruffles, and trimmings, and much time and labor spent in preparing the apparel, while the inward work of the heart is neglected. God has caused precious light to be brought out in publications, and these should be owned and read by every family. Parents, your children are in danger of going contrary to the light given of Heaven, and you should both purchase and read the books, for they will be a blessing to you and yours.
You should lend Spirit of Prophecy to your neighbors, and prevail upon them to buy copies for themselves. Missionaries for God, you should be earnest, active, vigorous workers.
Many are going directly contrary to the light which God has given to his people, because they do not read the books which contain the light and knowledge in cautions, reproofs, and warnings. The cares of the world, the love of fashion, and the lack of religion, have turned the attention from the light God has so graciously given, while books and periodicals containing error are traveling all over the country. Skepticism and infidelity are increasing everywhere. Light, so precious, coming from the throne of God, is hid under a bushel. God will make his people responsible for this neglect. An account must be rendered to him for every ray of light he has let shine upon our pathway, whether it has been improved to our advancement in divine things, or rejected because it was more agreeable to follow inclination.
We now have great facilities for spreading the truth, but our people are not coming up to the privileges given them. They do not see and realize the necessity in every church of using their abilities in saving souls. They do not realize their duty to obtain subscribers for our periodicals, including our health journal, and to introduce our books and pamphlets. Men should be at work who are willing to be taught as to the best way of approaching individuals and families. Their dress should be neat, but not foppish, and their manners such as not to disgust the people. There is a great want of true politeness among us as a people. This should be cultivated by all those who take hold of the missionary work.
Our publishing houses should show marked prosperity. Our people can sustain them, if they will show a decided interest to work our publications into the market. But, should as little interest be manifested in the year to come as has been shown in the year past, there will be but small margin to work upon.
The wider the circulation of our publications, the greater will be the demand for books that make plain the Scriptures of truth. Many are becoming disgusted with the inconsistencies, errors, and the apostasy of the churches, and with the festivals, fairs, lotteries, and numerous inventions to extort money for church purposes. There are many who are seeking for light in the darkness. If our papers, tracts, and books, expressing the truth in plain Bible language, could be widely circulated, many would find that they are just what they want. But many of our brethren act as if the people were to come to them or send to our Offices to obtain publications, when thousands do not know that they exist.
God calls upon his people to act like living men, and not be indolent, sluggish, and indifferent. We must carry the publications to the people, and urge them to accept, showing them that they will receive much more than their money's worth. Exalt the value of the books you offer. You cannot regard them too highly.
Ministers are not doing one-half what they might do to educate the people for whom they labor upon all points of truth and duty; and as a consequence, the people are spiritless and inactive. The stake and scaffold are not appointed for this time to test the people of God, and for this very reason the love of many has waxed cold. When trials arise, grace is proportioned for the emergency. We must individually consecrate ourselves on the very spot where God has said he would meet us. By Mrs. E. G. White.-- From Testimony No. 29.
(Vol. 59, #20)
The Lord, by the prophet Malachi, asks the question, "Will a man rob God?" He would seem to imply that such a crime could not be possible. But despite the heinous character of the offense, he adds, "Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." The fact that this solemn charge is brought against the professed people of God, should lead us to earnest self-examination, watchfulness, and prayer, lest we be included in its condemnation.
The Bible does not condemn the rich man because he is rich; it does not declare the acquisition of wealth to be a sin, nor does it say that money is the root of all evil. On the contrary, the Scriptures state that it is God who gives the power to get wealth. And this ability is a precious talent if consecrated to God and employed to advance his cause. The Bible does not condemn genius or art; for these come of the wisdom which God gives. We cannot make the heart purer or holier by clothing the body in sackcloth, or depriving the home of all that ministers to comfort, taste, or convenience.
The Scriptures teach that wealth is a dangerous possession only when placed in competition with the immortal treasure. It is when the earthly and temporal absorbs the thoughts, the affections, the devotion which God claims, that it becomes a snare. Those who are bartering the eternal weight of glory for a little of the glitter and tinsel of earth, the everlasting habitations for a home which can be theirs but a few years at best, are making an unwise choice. Such was the exchange made by Esau, when he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage; by Balaam, when he forfeited the favor of God for the rewards of the king of Midian; by Judas, when for thirty pieces of silver he betrayed the Lord of glory.
It is the love of money that the word of God denounces as the root of all evil. Money itself is the gift of God to men, to be used with fidelity in his service. God blessed Abraham, and made him rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And the Bible states, as an evidence of divine favor, that God gave David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, very much riches and honor.
Like other gifts of God, the possession of wealth brings its increase of responsibility, and its peculiar temptations. How many who have in adversity remained true to God, have fallen under the glittering allurements of prosperity. With the possession of wealth, the ruling passion of a selfish nature is revealed. The world is cursed today by the miserly greed and the self-indulgent vices of the worshipers of mammon.
The wealthy are tempted to employ their means in self-indulgence, in the gratification of appetite, in personal adornment, or in the embellishment of their homes. For these objects professed Christians do not hesitate to spend freely, and even extravagantly. But when solicited to give to the Lord's treasury, to build up his cause, and to carry forward his work in the earth, many demur. The countenance that was all aglow with interest in plans for self-gratification, does not light up with joy when the cause of God appeals to their liberality. Perhaps, feeling that they cannot well do otherwise, they dole out a limited sum, far smaller than they freely spend for needless indulgence. But they manifest no real love for Christ, no earnest interest in the salvation of precious souls. What marvel that the Christian life of this class is at best but a dwarfed and sickly existence! Unless such persons change their course, their light will go out in darkness.
The end of all things is at hand; and what is done for the salvation of souls must be done quickly. For this reason we are establishing institutions for the dissemination of the truth through the press, for the education of the young, and for the recovery of the sick. But the selfish and money loving inquire "What is the use of all this, when time is so short? Is it not a contradiction of our faith to spend so much in publishing houses, schools, and health institutions?" We ask in reply, If time is to continue but a few years, why invest so much in houses and lands, or in needless and extravagant display, while so meager a sum is devoted to the work of preparation for the great event before us?
My brother, in no way can you more profitably employ your means than in aiding our various institutions. With God's blessing, the power of the press can hardly be overestimated. It has been truly called the right arm of our strength. Let the publishing houses be sustained, and the message of truth be sent out to all the nations of the earth.
Schools have been established that our youth and children may receive the education and discipline needed to prepare them for the searching test so soon to come to every soul. In these schools the Bible should be made one of the principal subjects of study. Attention should be given to the development of both the moral and the intellectual powers. We hope that in these schools many earnest workers may be prepared to carry the light of truth to those who sit in darkness.
In a health institution we provide a place where the sick can enjoy the benefit of nature's remedial agents, instead of depending upon deadly drugs. And many who thus find relief, will be ready to yield to the influence of the truth.
To advance this work, means are needed. Let all who have the ability come to our help. Here is an opportunity for those, who, possessing a competence, have no children to claim their love and care. Some of these are aged persons. Brethren, what will you do with the means which God has intrusted to you? Are you content to let it remain invested in houses and lands, in bonds and bank stock? We have a work to do for God,--a solemn and important work. We are to give the last message of warning to the world.. The various instrumentalities are crippled for want of the financial assistance which God has put it in your power to render. We are not doing the good which we might do, with your cooperation.
There are young men among us who can exert a good influence, and who should be encouraged to enter the ministry. But the want of means prevents us from offering them such a support that they need not sacrifice time, health, and even life itself, in the work of the gospel. Faithful workmen can earn good wages in the various departments of secular labor, mental or physical. Is not the work of disseminating truth, and leading souls to Christ, of more importance than any temporal consideration? Are not those who faithfully engage in this work justly entitled to at least an equal compensation? We show our appreciation of the heavenly in contrast to the earthly, by our estimate of the relative value of labor for moral and for physical good.
Wealth is a great blessing if used according to the will of God. But the selfish heart can make the possession of wealth a heavy curse. Those are not to be envied who shut up their sympathies within their own hearts. They are strangers to true happiness. The ones who obtain the most real enjoyment in this life are those who use God's bounty and do not abuse it; who live to a purpose, to bless their fellow men and to glorify God.
We should feel that it is not only a duty but a pleasure to aid in the advancement of the highest, holiest work committed to men,--the work of presenting to the world the riches of goodness, mercy, and truth. If the stewards of God do their duty, there is no danger that wealth will increase so rapidly as to prove a snare; for it will be used with practical wisdom and Christlike liberality.
However large, however small the possessions of any individual, let him remember that it is his only in trust. For his strength, skill, time, talents, opportunities, and means, he must render an account to God. This is an individual work; God gives to us, that we may become like him, generous, noble, beneficent, by giving to others. Those who, forgetful of their divine mission, seek only to save or to spend in the indulgence of pride or selfishness, may secure the gains and pleasures of this world; but in God's sight, estimated by their spiritual attainments, they are poor, wretched, miserable, blind, naked.
When rightly employed, wealth becomes a golden bond of gratitude and affection between man and his fellow men, and a strong tie to bind his affections to his Redeemer. The infinite gift of God's dear Son calls for tangible expressions of gratitude from the recipients of his grace. He who receives the light of Christ's love, is thereby placed under the strongest obligation to shed the blessed light upon other souls in darkness.
Jesus left the heavenly courts and came down to earth, that he might reach men where they are. He sought them in their wretchedness and debasement. He took their sorrows to his own heart. The King of glory became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. He lived a life of toil and humiliation, and suffered a shameful death, that he might exalt men to share his kingdom and his throne. His life is an example to all his followers.
God is the rightful owner of the universe. All things belong to him. Every blessing which men enjoy is the result of divine beneficence. He requires that a portion be returned to him, not because he needs our offerings, but that we may show our appreciation of his gifts and our gratitude to the Giver. He justly bids us consecrate to him the first and best of his intrusted capital. If we thus acknowledge his rightful sovereignty and gracious providence, he has pledged his word that he will bless the remainder. But if we fail to bring an offering to God, his curse will rest upon all our possessions.
Even when our first parents, in their innocency, were placed in the garden of Eden, God did not give them unlimited control. One prohibition was given to test their loyalty and obedience. But they saw that the forbidden tree was beautiful and attractive, and, as they vainly imagined, "to be desired to make one wise." They appropriated what God had reserved to himself, and his curse fell upon them and upon the earth.
We deplore the disloyalty and ingratitude of our first parents, which opened the floodgates of woe to our world, and yet how many are pursuing a similar course. They are not content with their rightful share of the bounties intrusted to them. The more abundant the gifts of God, the more eager are they to appropriate all to their own use, and the more unwilling to render to him that which he claims as his own. Like our first parents, many reach out their hands for the portion which belongs to God.
Let us turn to another scene. Cain and Abel each brought an offering to God. The object presented by each was good in itself, but the Lord accepted the offering of Abel, while he rejected that of Cain. Wherein lay the difference between these offerings? Abel brought the firstling of his flock, Cain the firstfruits of the earth. Abel presented his offering in faith, depending upon the merits of Christ's blood to make it acceptable. He felt that all he had was the Lord's; and he freely gave back to the Giver his own. Cain proudly brought his offering as a gift from himself, not acknowledging that all the blessings he received came through the mercy and love of Christ. He felt that he merited the divine favor, and he accepted the blessings of God as a right. Thus many professed Christians bring their gifts to the Lord's treasury, feeling that they are deserving of special commendation for their liberality, when, in fact, their offerings have fallen far below what the Lord claims as his own. Like Cain they are unwilling to acknowledge that all their blessings have been purchased by the blood of Christ. Like Cain they are rejected of the Lord.
When the magnificent temple erected by Solomon was dedicated to the service of God, the monarch prayed, "All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." Such is the spirit in which every acceptable offering must be presented.
"Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase." This command is positive. God's claims must be first met. We are not to consecrate to him what remains of our income after all our real or imaginary wants are satisfied; but before any portion is consumed, we should set apart that which God has specified as his.
Many persons will meet all inferior demands and dues, and leave to God only the last gleanings, if there be any. If not, his cause must wait till a more convenient season. Such was not the course pursued by Abraham. Upon his return from a successful military expedition, he was met by Melchizedek, "king of Salem, and priest of the most high God." This holy man blessed Abraham, in the name of the Lord, and the patriarch gave him tithes of all the spoils as a tribute of gratitude to the Ruler of nations.
See also the example of another of the heroes of faith. While journeying from his father's home, a lonely, exile, Jacob entered into covenant with God. He entreated the Lord to be gracious unto him, and pledged himself to render in return grateful sacrifice and willing service. "If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, . . . then shall the Lord be my God, and of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
Such was the practice of patriarchs and prophets before the establishment of the Jews as a nation. But when Israel became a distinct people, the Lord gave them definite instruction upon this point: "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's; it is holy unto the Lord." This law was not to pass away with the ordinances and sacrificial offerings that typified Christ. As long as God has a people upon the earth, his claims upon them will be the same.
A tithe of all our increase is the Lord's. He has reserved it to himself to be employed for religious purposes. It is holy. Nothing less than this has he accepted in any dispensation. A neglect or postponement of this duty, will provoke the divine displeasure. If all professed Christians would faithfully bring their tithes to God, his treasury would be full. They would have no occasion to resort to fairs, lotteries, or parties of pleasure, to extort means from worldlings for the support of the gospel.
The very same language is used concerning the Sabbath as in the law of the tithe: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." Man has no right nor power to substitute the first day for the seventh. He may pretend to do this; "nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure." The customs and teachings of men will not lessen the claims of the divine law. God has sanctified the seventh day. That specified portion of time, set apart by God himself for religious worship, continues as sacred today as when first hallowed by our Creator. In like manner a tithe of our income is "holy unto the Lord." The New Testament does not reenact the law of the tithe, as it does not that of the Sabbath; for the validity of both is assumed, and their deep spiritual import explained.
God has made an absolute reservation of a specified portion of our time and our means. To ignore these claims is to rob God. Christians boast that their privileges far exceed those of the Jewish age. Shall we then be content to give less to the cause of God than did his ancient people? The tithe was but a part of their liberalities. Numerous other gifts were required besides the freewill offering, or offering of gratitude, which was then, as now, of perpetual obligation.
The claims of humanity and religion, the constantly increasing opportunities for usefulness, the providential openings for the truth to be presented to the people, demand of us liberal offerings to the cause of God. The popular churches of the day, being in harmony with the world, receive aid from them in educational and philanthropic enterprises. Our position as observers of the true Sabbath cuts us off from popular sympathy and support. Our institutions receive help only from those who are of the faith. Hence we should feel it our duty to do all in our power to keep the Lord's treasury supplied. While we as a people are seeking faithfully to give to God the time which he has reserved as his own, shall we not also render to him that portion of our means which he claims? By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #22)
We can never see our Lord in peace, unless our souls are spotless. We must bear the perfect image of Christ. Every thought must be brought into subjection to the will of Christ. As expressed by the great apostle, we must "come into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." We shall never attain to this condition without earnest effort. We must strive daily against outward evil and inward sin, if we would reach the perfection of Christian character.
Those who engage in this work will see so much to correct in themselves, and will devote so much time to prayer and to comparing their characters with God's great standard, the divine law, that they will have no time to comment and gossip over the faults or dissect the characters of others. A sense of our own imperfections should lead us to humility and earnest solicitude lest we fail of everlasting life. The words of inspiration should come home to every soul: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" If the professed people of God would divest themselves of their self-complacency and their false ideas of what constitutes a Christian, many who now think they are in the path to Heaven would find themselves in the way of perdition. Many a proud hearted professor would tremble like an aspen leaf in the tempest, could his eyes be opened to see what spiritual life really is. Would that those now reposing in false security could be aroused to see the contradiction between their profession of faith and their everyday demeanor.
To be living Christians, we must have a vital connection with Christ. The true believer can say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." This intimate communion with our Saviour will take away the desire for earthly and sensual gratifications. All our powers of body, soul, and spirit should be devoted to God. When the affections are sanctified, our obligations to God are made primary, everything else secondary. To have a steady and ever growing love for God, and a clear perception of his character and attributes, we must keep the eye of faith fixed constantly on him. Christ is the life of the soul. We must be in him and he in us, else we are sapless branches.
God must be ever in our thoughts. We must hold converse with him while we walk by the way, and while our hands are engaged in labor. In all the purposes and pursuits of life, we must inquire, What will the Lord have me to do? How shall I please Him who has given his life a ransom for me? Thus may we walk with God, as did Enoch of old; and ours may be the testimony which he received, that he pleased God.
To comprehend and enjoy God, is the highest exercise of the powers of man. This may be attained only when our affections are sanctified and ennobled by the grace of Christ: "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." In Christ was "God manifested in the flesh, reconciling the world unto himself." In Christ was the brightness of his Father's glory, the express image of his person. Said our Saviour, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." In Christ is the life of the soul. In the outgoings of our hearts to him, in our earnest, affectionate yearnings for his excellence, in our eager searching into his glory, we find life. In communion with him we eat the bread of life.
When we allow objects of minor importance to absorb our attention, to the forgetfulness of Christ, turning away from him to accept other companionship, we set out feet in a path which leads away from God and from Heaven. Christ must be the central object of our affections, and then we shall live in him, then we shall have his spirit, and follow his example.
If we would walk in the light, we must follow Jesus, the light of life. What constitutes the brightness of Heaven? In what will consist the happiness of the redeemed? Christ is all in all. They will gaze with rapture unutterable upon the Lamb of God. They will pour out their songs of grateful praise and adoration to Him whom they loved and worshiped here. That song they learned and began to sing on earth. They learned to put their trust in Jesus while they were forming characters for Heaven. Their hearts were attuned to his will here. Their joy in Christ will be proportioned to the love and trust which they learned to repose in him here.
A living Christian will cultivate gratitude of heart. He will seriously, earnestly recount the blessings of his life and the precious results of all his afflictions. He will recall every occasion upon which the hand of Christ has lifted up a standard for him against the enemy. The great love of Jesus, the infinite sacrifice made for man's redemption, will be an unfailing theme for grateful, humble praise.
Those who are learning at the feet of Jesus will surely exemplify by their deportment and conversation the character of Christ. Their spiritual life is sustained in the closet, by secret communion with God. Their experience is marked less with bustle and excitement, than with a subdued and reverent joy. Their love for Christ is a quiet, peaceful, yet all-controlling power. The light and love of an indwelling Saviour are revealed in every word and every act. Outward troubles cannot reach that life which we live by faith on the Son of God. Its richest, purest joys are felt when Christ is the theme of thought and conversation.
The life of the soul cannot be sustained, except by the right exercise of the affections Heavenward, Christward, Godward. Repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins are essential, but not all that is required. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." "This is eternal life, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ"--to know him by faith, to receive him into the affections. To accept Christ as our Saviour, we must see him in his work of atonement, and believe that he is able and willing to do what he has promised. The Christian's life is now but just begun. He must, as exhorted by the apostle, "go on unto perfection." He must bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. If we believe in Jesus, we will love to think of him, love to talk of him, love to pray to him. He is supreme in our affections. We love that which Christ loves, and hate that which Christ hates.
I have deep anguish of soul as I think that many who have great light and great knowledge of Bible truths, and some even who have taken the responsibility of presenting these truths to others, have yet so little of the love of Jesus in their own hearts. Like the religious teachers whom Christ reproved, they say and do not. They are fruitless branches. A mere profession of godliness is of but little account. A nominal, theoretical belief of the truth is of but little value. The devils also believe, and tremble. We must have that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. Our experience in spiritual things must deepen and widen. We need more strength daily, and we may obtain it by constant communion with God.
The Christian life is never at a standstill. It is, it must be, progressive. Our love for Christ should become stronger and stronger. If the heart is devoted to Jesus, its love for earthly friends and worldly treasure becomes subordinate rather than supreme. As we by faith drink from the fountain of life, so will our joy and peace increase. Oh that we were more trustful, and firm, and true, that Christ might not be ashamed to call us brethren!
My brother, my sister, is your soul in the love of God? Many of you have a twilight perception of Christ's excellence, and your soul thrills with joy. You long for a fuller, deeper sense of the Saviour's love. You long to entwine your affections about him more closely. You are unsatisfied. But do not despair. Give to Jesus the heart's best and holiest affections. Treasure every ray of light. Cherish every desire of the soul after God. Give yourselves the culture of spiritual thoughts and holy communings. Make haste to obtain a fitness for the mansions which Christ has gone to prepare for all that love him. The day is far spent, the night is at hand. Make haste to ripen for Heaven.
It is a great, a solemn work to obtain a moral fitness for the society of the pure and the blest. God's word presents the standard to which we are to conform our life and character. We may choose to follow some other standard, which is more in harmony with our own hearts, but we can never thus gain the divine approval. Only by conforming to the word of God, can we hope to come to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." But we must do this, or we shall never enter Heaven. Without purity and holiness of heart, we cannot win the crown of immortal glory.
Many who ought to be teachers, have hardly learned the alphabet of the Christian life. They need constantly that one teach them. They do not grow in holiness, in faith, in hope, in joy, in gratitude. Christ opened the way, at an infinite cost, that we might live a Christian life. He has told us just what that life must be,--consistent, uniform, Christlike,--that at its close we may say with Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith." It was by faith in Christ that the great apostle maintained the consistency and beauty of his course. He suffered opposition, insult, persecution, imprisonment, with a firmness and meekness which none but Christ could impart. Our obligations are no less than were his. Our privileges are great, our opportunities abundant. Great light is shining upon us, but it will become darkness to those who refuse to follow its guidance.
Measuring ourselves by the Bible standard will give us no exalted view of our own goodness or greatness. The truths of the gospel and the teachings of the Holy Spirit, will produce in us brokenness of heart, hatred of sin, and an understanding of self. But wishing for holiness of heart and purity of life will not bring us into possession of these blessings. Mourning over religious delinquencies will never make one acquisition. There are thousands of sluggish hypocritical tears, of sighs and groans, that never bring to the soul one cheering beam of light, one manifestation of Christ's approval.
It will cost us something to obtain a Christian experience, and to develop a true and noble character. It requires sacrifice and earnest effort, and this is why so little advancement is made by professing Christians. They do not go to the great source of wisdom, because they shrink from the toil, the cost, the inconvenience. They wish to have righteousness put upon them as a garment. But the white-robed throng of the redeemed ones, are those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Christ has presented the matter as it is: "Agonize to enter in at the strait gate; for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able."
We have each a daily work to do, to correct our natural defects of character, and to cultivate the Christian graces. Only by the accomplishment of this work, can we hope to share in the reward of the righteous. Said Christ, "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #24)
The work of parents precedes that of the teacher. They have a home school,--the first grade. If they seek carefully and prayerfully to know and to do their duty, they will prepare their children to enter the second grade,--to receive instructions from the teacher. If parents are so engrossed in the business and pleasures of this life that they neglect the proper discipline of their children, the work of the teacher is not only made very hard and trying, but often rendered wholly fruitless.
We never needed close connection with God more than we need it today. One of the greatest dangers that beset God's people has ever been from conformity to worldly maxims and customs. The youth especially are in constant peril. Fathers and mothers should be on their guard against the wiles of Satan. While he is seeking to accomplish the ruin of their children, let not parents flatter themselves that there is no particular danger. Let them not give thought and care to the things of this world, while the higher, eternal interests of their children are neglected.
None should permit themselves, through the week, to become so absorbed in their temporal interests, and so exhausted by their efforts for worldly gain, that on the Sabbath they have no strength or energy to give to the service of God. We are robbing the Lord, when we unfit ourselves to worship him upon his holy day. And we are robbing ourselves as well; for we need the warmth and glow of association, as well as the strength to be gained from the wisdom and experience of other Christians.
Fathers and mothers should make it a rule that their children attend public worship on the Sabbath, and should enforce the rule by their own example. It is our duty to command our children and our household after us, as did Abraham. By example as well as precept we should impress upon them the importance of religious teaching. All who have taken the baptismal vow have solemnly consecrated themselves to the service of God; they are under covenant obligation to place themselves and their children where they may obtain all possible incentives and encouragement in the Christian life.
Those who take upon themselves the name of Christ, should be unmistakably devoted to his cause, and identified with his people. But if all the thoughts and energies are given to temporal affairs, if they have no time, strength, or interest for the service of Christ, they are not his disciples. Their names should be dropped from the church records. Of what benefit to the church are names, without the interest and support of the persons whom the names represent?
When the children of Christian parents take delight in skepticism, deeming it a token of manly independence to doubt the Scriptures and sneer at religion; when they excuse their own delinquencies by pointing to the faults of church members,--let the father and mother inquire if this is not the fruit of their own influence and example. The Lord will work with the efforts of those who seek him with all the heart. If world loving parents would but labor as earnestly for the salvation of their children as they now labor to promote their temporal interests, they might see them faithful workers in the cause of Christ. We read in the word of God that as the result of apostolic prayers and labors, the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Similar efforts put forth today will produce similar results.
Great is the sacrifice by which Christ has purchased his people; great are the privileges set before us in the gospel. A corresponding zeal and devotion are in return required from us. The great apostle writes to his Corinthian brethren, "I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." And again he bids them, "Be ye followers of God as dear children," and "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called," "being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." But where is the simplicity and fervent piety which should be seen among those who make so exalted a profession? How much careful thought and study are now given to copying the character of Christ? How do they compare with the attention and interest given to our earthly, temporal affairs?
Let the words of Christ come home to the world loving professors of godliness, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of Heaven as a little child, shall in nowise enter therein." We should teach our children lessons of simplicity and trust. We should teach them to love, and fear, and obey their Creator. In all the plans and purposes of life, his glory should be held paramount; his love should be the mainspring of every action.
Worldly wisdom, intellectual ability, mental training, will not give the knowledge requisite for an entrance into Christ's kingdom. The wise and prudent of this world cannot comprehend it. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
Children are committed to their parents as a precious trust, which God will one day require at their hands. We should give to their training more time, more care, and more prayer. They need more of the right kind of instruction. The word of God should be the man of our counsel, the guide and instructor of old and young. Parents can, if they will, interest their children in the varied knowledge found in its sacred pages. Children will learn to love that which the parents love. Those who would interest their sons and daughters in Bible study, and impress its truths upon their minds, must themselves feel its ennobling, sanctifying influence. They must exemplify its sacred principles in daily life.
If we desire our children to love and reverence God, we must talk of his goodness, his majesty, and his power, as displayed in the works of creation and in the sacred word. If we desire them to love and imitate the character of Christ, we must tell them of the sacrifice which he made for our redemption, of the humility and self-denial, the matchless love and sympathy, displayed in his life on earth, and then tell them that this is the pattern which we are to follow. We should tell them often the wonderful story of the Saviour's life; of his early youth, when he was subject to such temptations as they have to meet; of his obedience and filial love, as he toiled in the workshop at Nazareth, aiding his father to bear the burdens of life. We should tell them of his generous, self-denying course, his spotless purity, his love for little children, his compassion for the sorrowing and the sinful.
When children err, parents should take time to read to them tenderly from the word of God such admonitions as are particularly applicable to their case. When they are tried, tempted, or discouraged, cite them to its precious words of comfort, and gently lead them to put their trust in Jesus. Thus the young mind may be directed to that which is pure and ennobling. And as the great problems of life, and the dealings of God with the human race, are unfolded to the understanding, the reasoning powers are exercised, the judgement enlisted, while lessons of divine truth are impressed upon the heart. Thus parents may be daily molding the characters of their children, that they may have a fitness for the future life.
Oh, what a field is committed to parents and teachers! How have they labored in this vineyard of the Lord? It is a sad fact that the most important objects to be secured in the education of the youth, are often neglected as of little moment. The value of the early years in forming right habits, and cherishing firm, pure principles, are appreciated by few.
Parents should not pass lightly over the sins of their children. When these sins are pointed out by some faithful friend, the parent should not feel that his rights are invaded, that he has received a personal offense. The habits of every youth and every child affect the welfare of society. The wrong course of one youth may lead many others in an evil way. Parents should not look on in silence while their children are corrupted by some vicious companion.
It is for the interest of all, that the youth be subjected to proper restraint. Yet it is often the case that when a God fearing teacher attempts to correct in a pupil habits which have been fastened by the lax discipline of the parents, he will arouse the indignation of these parents. Not only do they neglect their own divinely appointed responsibility, but they attempt to hinder the teacher from discharging his duty, and cast upon him the blame for the perversity of their evil-minded children.
Some indulgent, ease loving parents fear to exercise wholesome authority over their unruly sons, lest they run away from home. It would be better for some to do this than to remain at home to live upon the bounties provided by the parents, and at the same time trample upon all authority, both human and divine. It might be a most profitable experience for such children to have to the full that independence which they think so desirable, to learn that it costs exertion to live. Let the parent say to the boy who threatens to run away from home, "My son, if you are determined to leave home rather than comply with just and proper rules, we will not hinder you. If you think to find the world more friendly than the parents who have cared for you from infancy, you must learn your mistake for yourself. When you wish to come to your father's house, to be subject to his authority, you will be welcome. Obligations are mutual. While you have food and clothing and parental care, you are in return under obligation to submit to home rules and wholesome discipline. My house cannot be polluted with the stench of tobacco, with profanity or drunkenness. I desire that angels of God shall come into my home. If you are fully determined to serve Satan, you will be as well off with those whose society you love, as you will be at home."
Such a course would check the downward career of thousands. But too often children know that they may do their worst, and yet an unwise mother will plead for them, and conceal their transgressions. Many a rebellious son exults because his parents have not the courage to restrain him. They may expostulate, as did Eli, but they do not enforce obedience. Such parents are encouraging their children in dissipation, and are dishonoring God by their unwise indulgence. It is these rebellious, corrupt youth that form the most difficult element to control in schools and colleges.
Sin should be faithfully reproved, and right discipline promptly and firmly enforced. Yet harsh dealing will not help the wrongdoer to see his error or to reform. Let all needed reproof or correction be given in the spirit which actuated our Saviour. Let firmness and decision be blended with sympathy and love. By wise management, the wayward, stubborn youth may be transformed. Parents, to accomplish such work, you need Christlike patience and self-command. Do not irritate by a sharp word or an angry look. Be calm; and let your heart often ascend in prayer to God for grace and wisdom. Angels will come to your side, and help you to raise up a standard against the enemy.
Make your children feel that you love them, and desire to do them good. Encourage every effort to do right. Show them that you have confidence in them. Remember that your example will be the most impressive lesson which you can give. Your courtesy and self-control will have greater influence upon the characters of your children than mere words could have.
You must yourselves labor for the spiritual welfare of those under your care. You should not seek to lay this burden upon others. You cannot transfer to others your responsibility. Converse with your children upon personal religion. Learn just where they stand. Pray with them and for them singly. Jesus won men by personal contact, his heart reaching the hearts of the people. We must work as Christ worked. Improve every opportunity. Make religion the vital question of life. Teach your children that every worldly consideration should be made second to their eternal interests.
Remember that your sons and daughters are younger members of God's family. He has committed them to your care, to train and educate for Heaven. You must render an account to him for the manner in which you discharge your sacred trust. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #25)
To every man God has intrusted talents for wise improvement. If rightly used, these talents will reflect glory to the Giver. But the most precious gifts of God may be perverted, and thus become a curse rather than a blessing. No man can even once devote his God given powers to the service of worldliness or pride without placing himself on the enemy's ground, weakening his own soul, and misleading others.
Some who possess qualities which might render them highly useful to the cause of God, possess also serious defects of character, which they do not make sufficient effort to overcome. They seem almost powerless to resist the spirit and influence of the world. Some endeavor to change their surroundings in the hope of finding an easier path; but while they shun one temptation, they place themselves in the way of another. It is of little avail to change our position in order to escape temptation, unless God marks out our way and indicates our duty. The trouble is not so much in the surroundings as in the weakness of the man.
Those who have not a living connection with God, are actuated by a desire to exalt self. It is this desire which has opened the way for an irreligious influence to bear sway among us. Many have not pure, noble conceptions of truth and duty. Worldly customs and practices are introduced because the hearts of unconsecrated ministers and church members still cling to the love of the world. These persons are not qualified to teach the truth, for they do not present to the world the safe standard. Words, however true and forcible, will have but little effect, if contradicted by the daily life.
No man can exert an influence for Christ, unless he is a decided and consistent Christian. Those who love and cherish the pure principles of Bible religion, will not be found weak in moral power. Under the elevating, ennobling influence of the Holy Spirit, the tastes and inclinations become pure and holy. Nothing will take so strong a hold upon the affections, nothing reaches so fully down to the deepest motives of action, nothing exerts so potent an influence upon the life, and gives so great firmness and stability to the character, as the religion of Christ. It is this which is lacking in the church. Many will be found wanting in the day of final accounts, because they did not possess real godliness.
Pure religion leads its possessor ever upward, inspiring him with noble purposes, teaching him propriety of deportment, and imparting a becoming dignity to every action. True religion is possessed by few. The mass of mankind do not cordially embrace or faithfully practice its principles. At the last day the curse of God will rest upon many who had flattered themselves that they were in favor with him. "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." God forbid that those who profess to teach the sacred, solemn truth that the end of all things is at hand, and who claim to be the repositories of the divine law, should cherish a love for pleasure, and look to the world for favor and approbation! Christ gives them no such example.
We should beware that we do not, by our trifling and indifferent course, belittle and disgrace our holy work. There is need of thoughtful men,--men who will not be satisfied with superficial knowledge or experience, and who will not be unsettled by every passing temptation. Men are needed of firm and earnest purpose, men whose highest aim is to do good, to gather souls to Christ. Talkative, restless, self-commending men, who stretch out their hands to the world, and whom the world is ever seeking to win to her embrace, are not the ones who will honor God at this important crisis.
The Lord has given man capacity for continual improvement, and has granted him all possible aid in the work. Through the provisions of divine grace, we may attain almost to the excellence of the angels. What shall be said of those who, having had many years of experience in the truth, and many precious advantages for growth in grace, are yet inclined toward the world, and find pleasure in its amusements and display? Instead of going on from strength to strength, they are, little by little, departing from God, and losing their spiritual life.
"Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation," is the admonition of our Saviour. A cunning and cruel foe attends our steps, and is working every moment, with all his strength and skill, to turn us out of the right way. He succeeds best when employing such instrumentalities as best conceal himself. He often appears as an angel of light, and those who have not walked in the light of Heaven, those who have not followed Christ in his humiliation, are deceived and ensnared by his devices.
Talent can never take the place of piety, nor can the applause of men recommend us to the favor of God. What the majority of professed Christians need, is genuine conversion. If the heart is right, the actions will be right. An earthly, debasing influence marks the character and the life of those whose hearts do not glow with the fire of true goodness. Too many profess to be followers of Christ, and feel at liberty to follow their own judgment, and indulge the desires of their own hearts. He who would advance in the Christian life, must put his own hands and heart to the work. Friends may exhort and counsel, to urge him onward and upward; Heaven may pour its choicest blessings upon him; he may have all possible assistance on the right hand and on the left, and yet all will be in vain, unless he shall put forth earnest effort to help himself. He himself must engage in the warfare against sin and Satan, or he will fail of everlasting life.
Unbending principle will mark the course of those who sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of him. But alas! how many are to be found who are today engaging earnestly in the service of Christ, tomorrow equally earnest in uniting with worldlings in their frivolous amusements. They veer with every wind of temptation. Let the world hold out its bait,--fame or honor, pleasure or gain,--and there is no sacrifice of feeling or conscience that will not be made to gain the prize. Can Christ trust such men to give to the world the light of his truth? Never! Under favorable circumstances they may seem to lead a consistent life; but let temptation entice, and they venture upon the enemy's ground, and worst of all, lead others in the same path. Unsound at heart, they are unsound in life. When a crisis comes, when firmness is most required, they are found on the wrong side. He who has once yielded to temptation has become spiritually weak, and he will yield more readily the second time. Every repetition of the sin weakens his power of resistance, blinds his eyes, and stifles conviction. Every seed of indulgence sown, produces a harvest. "That which ye sow, ye shall also reap."
Satan trembles when the voice of God speaks through his instruments, giving cautions and warnings, and rebuking sin. The startling announcement, "Thou art the man," stirs the soul of the guilty. He may for a time put forth earnest efforts to subdue his favorite sin,--ambition, pride, love of display, emulation, avarice, or any other evil trait,--but it is too often the case that his zeal soon flags, and he falls back into his former error. When again reproved, he is rarely impressed as before. Having once stifled conviction, he finds it more easy to repeat the same course. He is hardening his heart against the convictions of the Holy Spirit. A further rejection of the truth places him where a far mightier influence will be ineffectual to stir the sluggish soul, and make an abiding impression.
The Lord sends us warning, counsel, and reproof, that we may have opportunity to correct our errors before they become second nature. But if we refuse to be corrected, God does not interfere to counteract the tendencies of our own course of action. He works no miracle that the seed sown may not spring up and bear fruit. That man who manifests an infidel hardihood or a stolid indifference to divine truth, is but reaping the harvest which he has himself sown. Such has been the experience of many. They listen with stoical indifference to the truths which once stirred their very souls. They sowed neglect, indifference, and resistance to the truth; and such is the harvest which they reap. The coldness of ice, the hardness of iron, the impenetrable, unimpressible nature of rock--all these find a counterpart in the character of many a professed Christian. It was thus that the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. God spoke to the Egyptian king by the mouth of Moses, giving him the most striking evidences of divine power; but the monarch stubbornly refused the light which would have brought him to repentance. God did not send a supernatural power to harden the heart of the rebellious king, but as Pharaoh resisted the truth, the Holy Spirit was withdrawn, and he was left to the darkness and unbelief which he had chosen.
By persistent rejection of the Spirit's influence, men cut themselves off from God. He has in reserve no more potent agency to enlighten their minds. No revelation of his will can reach them in their unbelief.
Would that I could lead every professed follower of Christ to see this matter as it is. We are all sowing either to the flesh or to the Spirit, and we reap the harvest from the seed we sow. In choosing our pleasures or employments, we should seek only those things that are excellent. The trifling, the worldly, the debasing, should have no power to control the affections or the will. The great apostle declared that he kept his body under, and this discipline must be maintained by every follower of Christ.
The bondage of worldly habits and customs is so pleasing to the natural heart that it has become well-nigh universal. Few can be found who are willing to deny self that they may walk in the light of Heaven. It is because they know not Christ and obey not the truth, that professed Christians can accept as their portion the pleasures of sense and the changing fashions of a fickle world. Not one of those who have come out from the world, in obedience to the injunctions of Christ, can find pleasure in its amusements or its display. Many are saying by their course of action, that the line of demarkation between Christians and the world must not be too distinct. They conform to the customs and unite in the pursuits of the lovers of pleasure, in order to retain their friendship, and exert an influence to win them to the truth. The plea is not new. The same work has been often attempted since the opposing forces of good and evil first existed in the world. The result has ever been the same. Conformity to worldly customs converts the church to the world. It never converts the world to Christ. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." How can the loyal subjects of the Great King be in harmony with his bitterest foe? When the professed people of God choose the fellowship of the world, what marvel that the presence and blessing of Christ is shut out from the church?
In the fear of God, whom I love and whom I serve, I call upon the followers of Christ to come out from the world. If they would but be men of principle, in determination, in moral power, there are many who might become polished instruments in the hand of Christ. But if they at times yield themselves to the control of Satan, they cannot be trusted. He who does not himself resist inclination, or who has not a proper understanding of Christian obligation, would be an unsafe guide to others. One injudicious act may exert an influence which the most earnest effort will be powerless to counteract.
Good qualities, superior talents, are a curse rather than a blessing, when they are not consecrated to God. The greater the gifts, the more dangerous their influence to lead away from Christ. Those who present to others the solemn, searching truths for this time, should exemplify these truths in their own life. To preach what we do not practice, is but to confirm sinners in their impenitence. The most earnest exhortations to walk in the light will be unheeded, if the speaker himself neglects to follow the light which Christ has given.
By disregarding the teachings of God's word, many have dulled their keen perception of Christian consistency. Having no real connection with God, they mistake good impulses for religion. Said Christ to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." When the love of Jesus is abiding in the soul, many who are now but withered branches will become as the cedars of Lebanon, "whose root is by the great waters." The cedar is noted for the firmness of its roots. Not content to cling to the earth with a few weak fibers, it thrusts its rootlets, like a sturdy wedge, into the cloven rock, and reaches down deeper and deeper for strong holds to grasp. When the tempest grapples with its boughs, that firm-set tree cannot be uprooted. What a goodly cedar might not every follower of Christ become, if he were but rooted and grounded in the truth, firmly united to the Eternal Rock.
The people of God cannot conform to the world, and yet enjoy his love and be sanctified through the truth. They may bear the outward semblance of the cedar, but their roots strike no deeper than the surface sand. When the tempest falls, they will be uprooted. Others, who have been content to follow their example, will perish in like manner.
My brethren and sisters, be careful what influence you exert upon the cause of God. Be careful what example you set before the youth. Satan and his angels are putting forth their utmost efforts to efface from the minds of the young every impression made by the Holy Spirit. Let the professed people of God beware that they do not aid the great deceiver in his work. Only those who are firm, true, devoted, living Christians, can be a help to the cause of God. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #26)
"Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick; and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease. But the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die."
This narrative most strikingly displays the divine displeasure against those who turn from God to Satanic agencies. A short time previous to the events above recorded, the kingdom of Israel had changed rulers. Ahab had fallen under the judgment of God, and had been succeeded by his son Ahaziah, a worthless character, who did only evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the ways of his father and mother, and causing Israel to sin. He served Baal, and worshiped him, and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger, as his father Ahab had done. But judgments followed close upon the sins of the rebellious king. A war with Moab, and then the accident by which his own life was threatened, attested the wrath of God against Ahaziah.
How much had the king of Israel heard and seen in his father's time, of the wondrous works of the Most High! What terrible evidence of his severity and jealousy had God given apostate Israel! Of all this, Ahaziah was cognizant; yet he acts as though these awful realities, and even the fearful end of his own father, were only an idle tale. Instead of humbling his heart before the Lord, he ventured upon the most daring act of impiety which marked his life. He commands his servants, "Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease."
The idol of Ekron was supposed to give information, through the medium of its priests, concerning future events. It had obtained such general credence that it was resorted to by large numbers from a considerable distance. The predictions there uttered, and the information given, proceeded directly from the prince of darkness. It is Satan who created, and who maintains the worship of idols, to divert the minds of men from God. It is by his agency that the kingdom of darkness and falsehood is supported.
The history of King Ahaziah's sin and punishment has a lesson of warning which none can disregard with impunity. Though we do not pay homage to heathen gods, yet thousands are worshiping at Satan's shrine as verily as did the king of Israel. The very spirit of heathen idolatry is rife today, though under the influence of science and education it has assumed a more refined and attractive form. Every day adds sorrowful evidence that faith in the sure word of prophecy is fast decreasing, and that in its stead superstition and Satanic witchery are captivating the minds of men. All who do not earnestly search the Scriptures, and submit every desire and purpose of life to that unerring test, all who do not seek God in prayer for a knowledge of his will, will surely wander from the right path, and fall under the deception of Satan.
The heathen oracles have their counterpart in the spiritualistic mediums, the clairvoyants and fortunetellers of today. The mystic voices that spoke at Ekron and Endor are still by their lying words misleading the children of men. The prince of darkness has but appeared under a new guise. The mysteries of heathen worship are replaced by the secret associations and seances, the obscurities and wonders, of the sorcerers of our time. Their disclosures are eagerly received by thousands who refuse to accept light from God's word or from his Spirit. While they speak with scorn of the magicians of old, the great deceiver laughs in triumph as they yield to his arts under a different form.
His agents still claim to cure disease. They attribute their power to electricity, magnetism, or the so-called "sympathetic remedies." In truth, they are but channels for Satan's electric currents. By this means he casts his spell over the bodies and souls of men.
I have from time to time received letters both from ministers and lay members of the church, inquiring if I think it wrong to consult spiritualist and clairvoyant physicians. I have not answered these letters, for want of time. But just now the subject is again urged upon my attention. So numerous are these agents of Satan becoming, and so general is the practice of seeking counsel from them, that it seems needful to utter words of warning.
God has placed it in our power to obtain a knowledge of the laws of health. He has made it our duty to preserve our physical powers in the best possible condition, that we may render to him acceptable service. Those who refuse to improve the light and knowledge that has been mercifully placed within their reach, are rejecting one of the means which God has granted them to promote spiritual as well as physical life. They are placing themselves where they will be exposed to the delusions of Satan.
Not a few, in this Christian age and Christian nation, resort to evil spirits, rather than trust to the power of the living God. The mother, watching by the sickbed of her child, exclaims, "I can do no more. Is there no physician who has power to restore my child?" She is told of the wonderful cures performed by some clairvoyant or magnetic healer, and she trusts her dear one to his charge, placing it as verily in the hands of Satan as if he were standing by her side. In how many instances is the future life of the child controlled by a Satanic power, which it seems impossible to break.
Many are unwilling to put forth the needed effort to obtain a knowledge of the laws of life and the simple means to be employed for the restoration of health. They do not place themselves in right relation to life. When sickness is the result of their transgression of natural law, they do not seek to correct their errors, and then ask the blessing of God, but they resort to the physicians. If they recover health, they give to drugs and doctors all the honor. They are ever ready to idolize human power and wisdom, seeming to know no other God than the creature,--dust and ashes.
I have heard a mother pleading with some infidel physician to save the life of her child; but when I entreated her to seek help from the Great Physician who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto him in faith, she turned away with impatience. Here we see the same spirit that was manifested by Ahaziah.
It is not safe to trust to physicians who have not the fear of God before them. Without the influence of divine grace, the hearts of men are "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Self-aggrandizement is their aim. Under the cover of the medical profession, what iniquities have been concealed; what delusions supported! The physician may claim to possess great wisdom and marvelous skill, when his character is abandoned, and his practice contrary to the laws of life. The Lord our God assures us that he is waiting to be gracious; he invites us to call upon him in the day of trouble. How can we turn from him to trust in an arm of flesh?
Go with me to yonder sickroom. There lies a husband and father, a man who is a blessing to society and to the cause of God. He has been suddenly stricken down by disease. The fire of fever seems consuming him. He longs for pure water to moisten the parched lips, to quench the raging thirst, and cool the fevered brow. But no; the doctor has forbidden water. The stimulus of strong drink is given, and adds fuel to the fire. The blessed, Heaven-sent water, skillfully applied, would quench the devouring flame, but it is set aside for poisonous drugs.
For a time, nature wrestles for her rights, but at last, overcome, she gives up the contest, and death sets the sufferer free. God desired that man to live, to be a blessing to the world; Satan determined to destroy him, and through the agency of the physician he succeeded. How long shall we permit our most precious lights to be thus extinguished?
Ahaziah sent his servants to inquire of Baal-zebub, at Ekron; but instead of a message from the idol, he hears the awful denunciation from the God of Israel, "Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." It was Christ that bade Elijah speak these words to the apostate king. Jehovah Immanuel had cause to be greatly displeased at Ahaziah's impiety. What had Christ not done to win the hearts of sinners, and to inspire them with unwavering confidence in himself? For ages he had visited his people with manifestations of the most condescending kindness and unexampled love. From the times of the patriarchs, he had shown how his "delights were with the sons of men." He had been a very present help to all who sought him in sincerity. "In all their afflictions, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and in his pity he redeemed them." Yet Israel had revolted from God, and turned for help to the Lord's worst enemy.
The Hebrews were the only nation favored with a knowledge of the true God. When the king of Israel sent to inquire of a pagan oracle, he proclaimed to the heathen that he had more confidence in their idols than in the God of his people, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. In the same manner do those who profess to have a knowledge of God's word dishonor him when they turn from the Source of strength and wisdom, to ask help or counsel from the powers of darkness. If God's wrath was kindled by such a course on the part of a wicked, idolatrous king, how can he regard a similar course pursued by those who profess to be his servants?
Why is it that men are so unwilling to trust Him who created man, who can, by a touch, a word, a look, heal all manner of disease? Who is more worthy of our confidence than the One who made so great a sacrifice for our redemption? If the professed followers of Christ would, with purity of heart, exercise as much faith in the promises of God as they repose in Satanic agencies, they would realize in soul and body the lifegiving power of the Holy Spirit. Christ condescended to take our nature, that he might reach to the very depths of human woe and degradation, to elevate and ennoble our race. With such evidence of his incomparable love, how can any turn from the God of light, the God of power, and give heed to Satan, the author of all our woes?
God has granted to this people great light, yet we are not placed beyond the reach of temptation. Who among us are seeking help from the gods of Ekron? Look on this picture--not drawn from imagination. In how many, even among Seventh-day Adventists, may its leading characteristics be seen? An invalid--apparently very conscientious, yet bigoted and self-sufficient--freely avows his contempt for the laws of health and life, which divine mercy has led us as a people to accept. His food must be prepared in a manner to satisfy his morbid cravings. Rather than sit at a table where wholesome food is provided, he will patronize restaurants, because he can there indulge appetite without restraint. A fluent advocate of temperance, he disregards its foundation principles. He wants relief, but refuses to obtain it at the price of self-denial.
That man is worshiping at the shrine of perverted appetite. He is an idolater. The powers which, sanctified and ennobled, might be employed to honor God, are weakened and rendered of little service. An irritable temper, a confused brain, and unstrung nerves are among the results of his disregard of nature's laws. He is inefficient, unreliable.
Whoever has the courage and honesty to warn him of danger, thereby incurs his displeasure. The slightest remonstrance or opposition is sufficient to rouse his combative spirit. But now an opportunity is presented to seek help from one whose power comes through the medium of witchcraft. To this source he applies with eagerness, freely expending time and money in hope of securing the proffered boon. He is deceived, infatuated. The sorcerer's power is made the theme of praise, and others are influenced to seek his aid. Thus the God of Israel is dishonored, while Satan's power is revered and exalted.
In the name of Christ, I would address his professed followers: Abide in the faith which you have received from the beginning. Shun profane and vain babblings. Instead of putting your trust in witchcraft, have faith in the living God. Cursed is the path that leads to Endor or to Ekron. The feet will stumble and fall that venture upon the forbidden ground. There is a God in Israel, with whom is deliverance for all that are oppressed. Righteousness is the habitation of his throne.
There is danger in departing in the least from the Lord's instruction. When we deviate from the plain path of duty, a train of circumstances will arise that seem irresistibly to draw us farther and farther from the right. Needless intimacies with those who have no respect for God will seduce us, ere we are aware. Fear to offend worldly friends will deter us from expressing our gratitude to God or acknowledging our dependence upon him. We must keep close to the word of God. We need its warnings and encouragement, its threatenings and promises. We need the perfect example given only in the life and character of our Saviour.
Angels of God will preserve his people while they walk in the path of duty; but there is no assurance of such protection for those who deliberately venture upon Satan's ground. An agent of the great deceiver will say and do anything to gain his object. It matters little whether he calls himself a spiritualist, an "electric physician," or a "magnetic healer." By specious pretenses he wins the confidence of the unwary. He pretends to read the life history and to understand all the difficulties and afflictions of those who resort to him. Disguising himself as an angel of light, while the blackness of the pit is in his heart, he manifests great interest in women who seek his counsel. He tells them that all their troubles are due to an unhappy marriage. This may be too true, but such a counselor does not better their condition. He tells them that they need love and sympathy. Pretending great interest in their welfare, he casts a spell over his unsuspecting victims, charming them as the serpent charms the trembling bird. Soon they are completely in his power, and sin, disgrace, and ruin are the terrible sequel.
These workers of iniquity are not few. Their path is marked by desolated homes, blasted reputations, and broken hearts. But of all this the world knows little; still they go on making fresh victims, and Satan exults in the ruin he has wrought.
The visible and the invisible world are in close contact. Could the vail be lifted, we would see evil angels pressing their darkness around us, and working with all their power to deceive and destroy. Wicked men are surrounded, influenced, and aided by evil spirits. The man of faith and prayer has yielded his soul to Divine guidance, and angels of God bring to him light and strength from Heaven.
No man can serve two masters. Light and darkness are no more opposites than are the service of God and the service of Satan. The prophet Elijah presented the matter in the true light when he fearlessly appealed to apostate Israel: "If the Lord be God, serve him; but if Baal, then serve him."
Those who give themselves up to the sorcery of Satan, may boast of great benefit received thereby, but does this prove their course to be wise or safe? What if life should be prolonged? What if temporal gain should be secured? Will it pay in the end to disregard the will of God? All such apparent gain will prove at last an irrecoverable loss. We cannot with impunity break down a single barrier which God has erected to guard his people from Satan's power.
Our only safety consists in preserving the ancient landmarks. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #28)
"The Primal Object of Education"
"Education," says Webster, "is properly to draw forth, and implies not so much the communication of knowledge as the discipline of the intellect, the establishment of the principles, and the regulation of the heart." By a misconception of the true nature and objects of education, many have been led into serious and even fatal errors. Such a mistake is made when the regulation of the heart or the establishment of the principles is neglected in the effort to secure intellectual culture, or when eternal interests are overlooked in the eager desire for temporal advantage.
The great object of life is well defined in the old-time catechism, "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." To make the possession of worldly honor or riches our ruling motive, is unworthy of one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. It should rather be our aim to gain knowledge and wisdom that we may become better Christians, and be prepared for greater usefulness, rendering more faithful service to our Creator, and by our example and influence leading others also to glorify God.
Here is something real, something tangible. Not only words, but deeds, not only the affections of the heart, but the service of the life, must be devoted to our Maker. To bring man back to harmony with God, to so elevate and ennoble his moral nature that he may again reflect the image of the Creator, is the great purpose of all the education and discipline of life. So important was this work, that our Saviour left the courts of Heaven, and came in person to earth, that he might teach men how to obtain a moral fitness for the higher life. For thirty years he dwelt as a man among men, passed through the experiences of human life as a child, a youth, a man, endured the severest trials, that he might present a living illustration of the truths he taught. For three years as a teacher sent from God he instructed the children of men; then, leaving the work to chosen co-laborers, he ascended to Heaven. But his interest in it has not abated. From the courts above, he watches with the deepest solicitude the progress of the cause for which he gave his life.
The character of Christ is the one perfect pattern which we are to copy. Repentance and faith, the surrender of the will, and the consecration of the affections to God, are the means appointed for the accomplishment of this work. To obtain a knowledge of this divinely ordained plan should be our first study, to comply with its requirements our first effort. Solomon declares that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Concerning its value and importance he declares, "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding." "For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her."
He who is following Divine guidance has found the only true source of happiness, and has gained the power of imparting happiness to all around him. No man can really enjoy life without religion. Love to God purifies and ennobles every taste and every desire, intensifies every affection, and brightens every worthy pleasure. It enables men to appreciate and enjoy all that is true, and good, and beautiful.
He who is seeking with diligence to acquire the wisdom of human schools, should remember that another school also claims him as a student. Christ was the greatest teacher the world ever saw. He brought to man knowledge direct from Heaven. The lessons which he has given us are what we need for both the present and the future state. He sets before us the true aims of life, and how we may secure them.
In the school of Christ, students never graduate. Among the pupils are both the old and the young. Those who give heed to the instructions of the Divine Teacher, constantly advance in wisdom, refinement, and nobility of soul, and thus they are prepared to enter that higher school, where advancement will continue throughout eternity.
Infinite Wisdom sets before us the great lessons of life,--the lessons of duty and of happiness. These are often hard to learn, but without them we can make no real progress. They may cost us effort and tears, and even agony, but we must not falter or grow weary. We shall at last hear the Master's call, "Child, come up higher."
It is in this world, amid its trials and temptations, that we are to gain a fitness for the society of the pure and the holy. Those who become so absorbed in less important studies that they cease to learn in the school of Christ, are meeting with an infinite loss. They insult the Divine Teacher by their rejection of the provisions of his grace. The longer they continue in their course, the more hardened are they in sin. Their retribution will be proportioned to the infinite value of the blessings they have spurned.
Those who consider it brave and manly to treat the claims of God with indifference or contempt, are thereby betraying their own folly and ignorance. While they boast their freedom and independence, they are really in bondage to sin and Satan.
The religion of Christ lifts man above every debasing, groveling vice. Linked to the Infinite One, partakers of the Divine nature, we are clothed with a perfect panoply against the shafts of evil.
Every faculty, every attribute with which the Creator has endowed the children of men, is to be employed for his glory; and in this employment is found its purest, noblest, happiest exercise. While religious principle is held paramount, every advance step taken in the acquirement of knowledge or in the culture of the intellect, is a step toward the assimilation of the human with the Divine, the finite with the Infinite.
The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. If occupied with commonplace matters only, to the exclusion of grand and lofty themes, it will become dwarfed and enfeebled. If never required to grapple with difficulties, it will after a time almost lose the power of growth. As an educator, the Holy Scriptures are without a rival. Nothing will so impart strength and vigor to all our faculties as requiring them to grasp the stupendous truths of revelation.
The Bible is the most comprehensive and the most instructive history that men possess. It came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth; and a Divine hand has preserved its purity through all the ages. Its bright rays shine into the far distant past, where human research seeks vainly to penetrate. In God's word only we find an authentic account of creation. Here we behold the power that laid the foundation of the earth, and that stretched out the heavens. In this word only can we find a history of our race unsullied by human prejudice or human pride.
In the word of God the mind finds subjects for the deepest thought, the loftiest aspirations. Here we may hold communion with patriarchs and prophets, and listen to the voice of the Eternal as he speaks with men. Here we behold the Majesty of Heaven, as he humbled himself to become our substitute and surety, to cope singlehanded with the powers of darkness, and to gain the victory in our behalf. A reverent contemplation of such themes as these cannot fail to soften, purify, and ennoble the heart, and at the same time to inspire the mind with new strength and vigor.
A clear conception of what God is, and what he requires us to be, will lead to humility. He who studies aright the sacred word will learn that human intellect is not omnipotent. He will learn that without the help which none but God can give, human strength and wisdom are but weakness and ignorance.
But that which, above all other considerations, should lead us to prize the Bible, is that in it is revealed to men the will of God. Here we learn the object of our creation, and the means by which that object may be attained. We learn how to improve wisely the present life, and how to secure the future life. No other book can satisfy the questionings of the mind or the cravings of the heart. By obtaining a knowledge of God's word, and giving heed thereto, men may rise from the lowest depths of degradation to become the sons of God, and the associates of sinless angels.
In the varied scenes of nature also are lessons of divine wisdom for all who have learned to commune with God. The pages that opened in undimmed brightness to the gaze of the first pair in Eden, bear now a shadow. A blight has fallen upon the fair creation. And yet, wherever we turn are traces of the primal loveliness. Wherever we may turn, we hear the voice of God, and behold his handiwork.
From the solemn roll of the deep-toned thunder and old ocean's ceaseless roar, to the glad songs that make the forests vocal with melody, Nature's ten thousand voices speak his praise. In earth, and air, and sky, with their marvelous tint and color, varying in gorgeous contrast or softly blended in harmony, we behold his glory. The everlasting hills tell us of his power. The trees wave their green banners in the sunlight, and point us upward to their Creator. The flowers that gem the earth with their beauty, whisper to us of Eden, and fill us with longings for its unfading loveliness. The living green that carpets the brown earth, tells us of God's care for the humblest of his creatures. The caves of the sea and the depths of the earth reveal his treasures. He who placed the pearls in the ocean and the amethyst and chrysolite among the rocks, is a lover of the beautiful. The sun rising in the heavens is the representative of Him who is the life and light of all that he has made. All the brightness and beauty that adorns the earth and lights up the heavens, speaks of God.
Shall we, in the enjoyment of the gifts, forget the Giver? Let them rather lead us to contemplate his goodness and his love. Let all that is beautiful in our earthly home remind us of the crystal river and green fields, the waving trees and the living fountains, the shining city and the white-robed singers, of our heavenly home,--that world of beauty which no artist can picture, no mortal tongue describe. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
To dwell forever in this home of the blest, to bear in soul, body, and spirit, not the dark traces of sin and the curse, but the perfect likeness of our Creator, and through ceaseless ages to advance in wisdom, in knowledge and holiness, ever exploring new fields of thought, ever finding new wonders and new glories, ever increasing in capacity to know and to enjoy and to love, and knowing that there is still beyond us joy and love and wisdom infinite,--such is the object to which the Christian hope is pointing, for which Christian education is preparing. To secure this education, and to aid others to secure it, should be the object of the Christian's life. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #29)
"I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
In this first prophecy contained in the Scriptures is found an intimation of redemption. Though a part of the sentence pronounced upon the serpent, it was uttered in the hearing of our first parents, and hence must be regarded as a promise. While it announces war between Satan and man, it declares that the power of the great adversary will finally be broken.
Adam and Eve stood as criminals before their God, awaiting the sentence which transgression had incurred. But before they hear of the thorn and the thistle, the sorrow and anguish which should be their portion, and the dust to which they should return, they listen to words which must have inspired them with hope. Though they must suffer from the power of their adversary, they might look forward to ultimate victory.
God declares, "I will put enmity." This enmity is supernaturally put, and not naturally entertained. When man sinned, his nature became evil, and he was in harmony, and not at variance, with Satan. The lofty usurper, having succeeded in seducing our first parents as he had seduced angels, counted on securing their allegiance and cooperation in all his enterprises against the government of Heaven. There was no enmity between himself and the fallen angels. Whatever discord might exist between them, all were united, as by bands of steel, in their opposition and hatred against God. But when Satan heard that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, he knew that though he had succeeded in depraving human nature, and assimilating it to his own, yet by some mysterious process, God would restore to man his lost power, and enable him to resist and overcome his conqueror.
It is the grace that Christ implants in the soul that creates the enmity against Satan. Without this grace, man would continue the captive of Satan, a servant ever ready to do his bidding. The new principle in the soul creates conflict where hitherto had been peace. The power which Christ imparts, enables man to resist the tyrant and usurper. Whenever a man is seen to abhor sin instead of loving it, when he resists and conquers those passions that have held sway within, there is seen the operation of a principle wholly from above. The Holy Spirit must be constantly imparted to man, or he has no disposition to contend against the powers of darkness.
The spirit of enmity was most strikingly displayed in the world's reception of Christ. The Son of God came to man with a message of mercy from the Father. He came not to condemn the world--though they were deserving of condemnation, for rebellion was almost universal--but that the world through him might have life. Yet he was despised and hated by the very people he came to bless and save.
It was not so much that Christ appeared without worldly wealth, pomp, or grandeur, that the Jews were led to reject him. They saw that he possessed powers which would more than compensate for the lack of these outward advantages. The wonders which he wrought far exceeded the miracles performed by Moses, their great leader. But the purity and holiness of Christ called forth against him the hatred of the ungodly. His life of self-denial and sinless devotion was a perpetual reproof to a proud, sensual people.
They could not tolerate the fearless rebukes by which he unmasked hypocrisy and condemned vice. When he exhorted them to put away their iniquities, they turned from him with sneers and execrations. They could not endure the radiance of a sinless character. It too clearly revealed their own defects. As religious teachers, they were envious of his influence with the people, fearing that themselves and their teachings would be overlooked.
It was this that evoked enmity against the Son of man. Satan and evil angels join with evil men. All the energies of apostasy conspire against the champion of truth. He was fiercely buffeted by temptations, rent with anguish, lacerated with stripes, pierced by nails, and crowned with thorns.
But in all this, Satan gained no real advantage. He could but bruise the heel, while by every act of humiliation or suffering, Christ was bruising the head of his adversary. The anguish that sin has brought was poured into the bosom of the sinless; yet while Christ endured the contradiction of sinners against himself, he was paying the debt for sinful man, and breaking the bondage in which he had been held. Every pang of anguish, every insult, was working out the deliverance of the race.
Could Satan have induced Christ to yield to a single temptation, could he have led him by one act or even thought to stain his perfect purity, the prince of darkness would have triumphed over man's surety, and would have gained the whole human family to himself. But while Satan could distress, he could not contaminate. He could cause agony, but not defilement. He made the life of Christ one long scene of conflict and trial, yet with every attack he was losing his hold upon humanity.
In the wilderness of temptation, in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, our Saviour measured weapons with the prince of darkness. His wounds became the trophies of his victory in behalf of the race. When Christ hung in agony upon the cross, while evil spirits rejoiced, and evil men reviled, then indeed his heel was bruised by Satan. But that very act was crushing the serpent's head. "Through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." This act decided the destiny of the rebel chief, and made forever sure the plan of salvation. In death, he gained the victory over its power; in rising again, he opened the gates of the grave to all his followers. In that last great contest we see fulfilled the prophecy: "It shall bruise thy head; thou shalt bruise his heel."
The same enmity exists between the serpent and Christ's followers, as between him and their Master. He who is under the control of Satan submits willingly to the dominion of evil. But where he has received the grace of Christ, he will see the repulsive character of sin, and in strength from above, will resist the serpent. In the spirit of his Master, the converted man will labor for the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. With all the power of a renewed nature, he will seek to win souls from the thralldom of sin to the purity and holiness of Christ. In so doing he will assuredly arouse the wrath of Satan and his followers. He will draw upon himself the reproach, dislike, and opposition of a large class of worldly acquaintances, who will ridicule him as narrow, bigoted, and austere.
Opposition to religion is not limited to any age or to any country. Hatred of the pure principles of truth, and reproach and persecution of its advocates, will exist so long as sin and sinners remain. The followers of Christ and the servants of Satan cannot harmonize. The offense of the cross has not ceased. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." No man can serve God and be in union with the world.
Evil angels are on the track of every Christian, redoubling their efforts to annoy and distress, as they see the prey escaping from their grasp. Angels of God, also, are watching with deep solicitude each struggling soul, ever seeking to inspire with hope, to comfort and sustain. With what gladness do they bear up to Heaven the tidings of victory. Oh that the curtain which shuts the eternal world from our view might be rolled back! Could we but behold the joy in the heavenly courts at the news that one sinner has repented and turned to God, could we hear the anthems of praise ascend before the throne with the music of the angel harpers, we would not be so listless, so indifferent in the work which God has left for us to do. The event which causes angels to rejoice spreads consternation through the hosts of Satan. Every soul that remains true to Christ is another evidence and reminder of the first prophecy. Satan may bruise the heel, but the faithful believer shall bruise the head of the serpent.
From righteous Abel falling under his brother's murderous hand, a long line of martyred prophets and holy men, faithful apostles and unnumbered millions of disciples who loved not their lives unto death, testify that Satan's enmity has not abated with the lapse of ages. As the end draws nigh, his wrath increases, and he renews his efforts to destroy God's chosen. Often his greatest victories are gained, not by open, bold attack, but as at first, by deceptive strategy.
At the present day, Satan gains power over God's people, by means of those false brethren who, while at heart friends of the world, exert an influence in the church. These are the most efficient workers that the great deceiver can employ. They are constantly seeking to lessen the enmity between the church of Christ and his deadliest foe. They supply the connecting link whereby he can unite the church and the world. Here lies our present danger,--a danger against which we must constantly guard. While we should make all possible effort to save souls, deeming no self-denial or sacrifice too great to effect this purpose, we must at the same time maintain our allegiance to God.
Without supreme love to God, we cannot glorify him. Those who walk in darkness cannot discern the excellence of heavenly things. No man can serve mammon, and yet build up the Redeemer's kingdom. Whatever diverts our affections from God or destroys our confidence in him, thereby becomes an idol. God calls for the whole heart. No reserve must be made. Said our Saviour, "He that is not with me is against me." We cannot safely disregard one injunction of God's word, to compromise with the enemies of Christ and the truth.
Prophets and apostles have clearly set forth the exalted privilege of that people whom the Lord has set apart to himself, and through whom he would communicate to the world: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
A neglect to maintain this position is the reason why there is so little of the power of godliness with us as a people. God has made us the repositories of his law, and has intrusted us with truths in advance of every other people upon the earth; yet we are not obeying the injunction to come out from the world and be separate. We cannot in any degree form a union with the ungodly without becoming contaminated by their unholy customs. "Whosoever will be the friend of the world, is the enemy of God." The separation must be final, complete, unmistakable.
Christ is the head of the church. The members of his body follow the directions of the Head, just as the members of the human body obey the impulses of the mind.
He has ever required his people to keep themselves free from every unholy influence. In his infinite love he has provided the unsearchable riches of his grace, that they may be enabled to maintain the warfare against the hosts of sin. Through that grace they may render obedience to every command, and receive the fulfillment of every promise. I speak understandingly when I say that in these days of pride and world loving it is impossible for us to realize what might have been the character and position of the church, had she been true to her holy calling.
As he draws near to God, the Christian gains a clearer knowledge of the divine character and requirements; he attains to a higher degree of holiness, and as a result, the line of distinction between himself and the world is more clearly marked. When the people of God will stand firmly and fearlessly on the holy ground of their solemn faith, not seeking to assimilate to the world, they will enjoy the presence of the Lord as in earlier years.
Wherever we turn, we behold sorrowful evidence that the hearts of men are at enmity with God. Behold what moral darkness enshrouds the world, what skepticism, what indifference, what deadly hate, what filthy lusts, what infidelity, what downright atheism! How can we successfully resist the tide of evil? The preaching of the word produces little impression. Unless God's power is sent to our aid, our efforts will be fruitless.
Thousands are as unmoved by the warnings of God's word as the tenants of the grave. "Having eyes, they see not, and having ears, they hear not." The inhabitants of the earth are rushing on in their course of rebellion, as if eager to show defiance of their Maker. We must take hold by living faith upon the promises of God. His Spirit must speak through us, if we would reach the hearts of the people. We have no time to confer with self, no time to be careless or indifferent now. The day of God hasteth greatly; while the world and the popular churches are asleep, those who have received the truth should not yield to slumber.
Satan is marshalling his forces for the last great struggle, "to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." If we would be true to God, we cannot escape the conflict. But we are not left in doubt as to the issue. Beyond the smoke and heat of the battle, we behold "them that had gotten the victory" standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb. And still there come to us down through the ages, those words of our Saviour, "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #33)
Our annual campmeetings are of great importance, and all who possibly can should attend them. They should feel that the Lord requires this of them. If God's people neglect the privileges which he has provided for them to become strong in him, they will grow weaker and weaker and have less and less desire to consecrate all to him. The object of these holy convocation meetings is that the brethren may be separated from business cares and burdens, and devote a few days exclusively to seeking the Lord. But some of these meetings are far from being what the Lord designed they should be. The people come unprepared for the visitation of God's Holy Spirit. Generally the sisters devote considerable time before the meeting to the preparation of garments for the outward adorning, while they entirely forget the inward adorning which is in the sight of God of great price. There is also much time spent in needless cooking, in the preparation of rich pies and cakes and other articles of food that do positive injury to those who partake of them. Should our sisters provide good bread and some other healthful kinds of food, both they and their families would be better prepared to appreciate the words of life, and far more susceptible to the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Often the stomach is overburdened with food which is seldom as plain and simple as that eaten at home, where the amount of exercise taken is double or treble. This causes the mind to be in such a lethargy that it is difficult to appreciate eternal things, and the meeting closes, and they are disappointed in not having enjoyed more of the Spirit of God.
While preparing for the meeting, each individual should closely and critically examine his own heart before God. If there have been unpleasant feelings, discord, or strife in families, it should be one of the first acts of preparation to confess these faults one to another and pray with and for one another. Humble yourselves before God, and make an earnest effort to empty the soul temple of all rubbish,--all envyings, all jealousies, all suspicions, all faultfindings. "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."
The Lord speaks; enter into your closet, and in silence commune with our own heart; listen to the voice of truth and conscience. Nothing will give such clear views of self as secret prayer. He who seeth in secret and knoweth all things, will enlighten your understanding and answer your petitions. Plain, simple duties that must not be neglected will open before you. Make a covenant with God to yield yourselves and all your powers to his service. Do not carry this undone work to the campmeeting. If it is not done at home, your own soul will suffer, and others will be greatly injured by your coldness, your stupor, your spiritual lethargy.
The words of the prophet Ezekiel are applicable to the people who profess the truth at this time: "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face; should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him that cometh, according to the multitude of his idols."
If we love the things of the world and have pleasure in unrighteousness, or fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, we have put the stumblingblock of our iniquity before our face, and have set up idols in our heart. And unless by determined effort we put them away, we shall never be acknowledged as the sons and daughters of God.
Here is a work for families to engage in before coming up to our holy convocations. Let the preparation for eating and dressing be a secondary matter, but let deep heart-searching commence at home. Pray three times a day, and like Jacob be importunate. At home is the place to find Jesus; then take him with you to the meeting, and how precious will be the hours you spend there. But how can you expect to feel the presence of the Lord and see his power displayed, when the individual work of preparation for that time is neglected.
For your soul's sake, and for Christ's sake, and for the sake of others, work at home. Pray as you are not accustomed to pray. Let the heart break before God. Set your house in order. Prepare your children for the occasion. Teach them that it is not of so much consequence that they appear with fine clothes as that they appear before God with clean hands and pure hearts. Remove every obstacle that may have been in their way,--all differences that may have existed between themselves, or between you and them. By so doing you will invite the Lord's presence into your homes, and holy angels will attend you as you go up to the meeting, and their light and presence will press back the darkness of evil angels. Even unbelievers will feel the holy atmosphere as they enter the encampment. Oh, how much is lost by neglecting this important work! You may be pleased with the preaching, you may become animated and revived, but the converting, reforming power of God will not be felt in the heart, and the work will not be so deep, thorough, and lasting as it should be. Let pride be crucified, and the soul be clad with the priceless robe of Christ's righteousness, and what a meeting you will enjoy. It will be to your soul even as the gate of Heaven.
The same work of humiliation and heart-searching should also go on in the church, so that all differences and alienations among brethren may be laid aside before appearing before the Lord at these annual gatherings. Set about this work in earnest, and rest not until it is accomplished; for if you come up to the meeting with your doubts, your murmurings, your disputings, you bring evil angels into the camp, and carry darkness wherever you go.
Because this preparation is neglected, these yearly meetings have accomplished but little. The ministers are seldom prepared to labor for God. There are many speakers,--those who can say sharp, crank things, going out of their way to whip other churches and ridicule their faith,--but there are but few earnest laborers for God. These sharp, self-important speakers, profess to have truth in advance of every other people, but their manner of labor and their religious zeal in no way correspond with their profession of faith.
I looked to see the humility of soul that should ever sit as a fitting garment upon our ministers, but it was not upon them. I looked for the deep love for souls that the Master said they should possess, but they had it not. I listened for the earnest prayers offered with tears and anguish of soul because of the impenitent and unbelieving in their own homes and in the church, but heard them not. I listened for the appeals made in the demonstration of the Spirit, but these were missing. I looked for the burden bearers who in such a time as this should be weeping between the porch and the altar, crying, Spare thy people, Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach; but I heard no such supplications. A few earnest humble ones were seeking the Lord. At some of these meetings one or two ministers felt the burden, and were weighed down as a cart beneath sheaves. But a large majority of the ministers had no more sense of the sacredness of their work than children.
These yearly gatherings should be meetings of earnest labor. Ministers should seek a heart preparation before entering upon the work of helping others, for the people are far in advance of many of the ministers. They should untiringly wrestle in prayer until the Lord blesses them. When the love of God is burning on the altar of their hearts, they will not preach to exhibit their own smartness, but to present Christ who taketh away the sins of the world.
In the early church, Christianity was taught in its purity; its precepts were given by the voice of inspiration; its ordinances were uncorrupted by the device of men. The church revealed the spirit of Christ, and appeared beautiful in its simplicity. Its adorning was the holy principles and exemplary lives of its members. Multitudes were won to Christ, not by display or learning, but by the power of God which attended the plain preaching of his word. But the church has become corrupt. And now there is greater necessity than ever that ministers should be channels of light.
There are many flippant talkers of Bible truth, whose souls are as barren of the Spirit of God as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. But what we need is men who are thoroughly converted themselves, and can teach others how to give their hearts to God. The power of godliness has almost ceased to be in our churches. And why is this? The Lord is still waiting to be gracious; he has not closed the windows of Heaven. We have separated ourselves from him. We need to fix the eye of faith upon the cross, and believe that Jesus is our strength, our salvation.
As we see so little burden of the work resting upon ministers and people, we inquire, When the Lord comes, shall he find faith on the earth? It is faith that is lacking. God has an abundance of grace and power awaiting our demand. But the reason we do not feel our great need of it is because we look to ourselves and not to Jesus. We do not exalt Jesus and rely wholly upon his merits.
Would that I could impress upon ministers and people the necessity of a deeper work of grace in the heart, and more thorough preparation to enter into the spirit and labor of our campmeetings, that they may receive the greatest possible benefit from the meeting. These yearly gatherings may be seasons of special blessing, or they may be a great injury to spirituality. Which shall they be to you, dear reader? It remains for each to decide for himself. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #40)
God works with the efforts of his people for the salvation of souls. Wise generalship is as much needed in advancing the cause of Christ as in directing the movements of an army. There is much close thinking to be done. We must not enter into the Lord's work haphazard, and expect success.
Mechanics, lawyers, merchants, men of all trades and professions, educate themselves for their business, that they may become masters of it. Should the followers of Christ be less intelligent? Should they, while professedly engaged in his service, be ignorant of the ways and means to be employed? The enterprise of gaining everlasting life is above every earthly consideration. In leading souls to Jesus, there must be a knowledge of human nature and a study of the human mind. It requires much careful thought and fervent prayer to know how to approach men and women upon the great subjects that concern their eternal welfare.
"The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." Businessmen and politicians study courtesy. It is their policy to make themselves as attractive as possible. They study to render their address and manners such that they may have the greatest influence over the minds of those about them. They use their knowledge and ability as skillfully as possible in order to gain this object. Should not the followers of Christ manifest at least equal wisdom, in a work infinitely more important? There are some persons who will come through every discouragement, and surmount every obstacle in order to gain the truth. But how many more might be rejoicing in its light, if those who have received it were doing all in their power to win their fellow-men!
After souls have been converted to the truth, they need watchful attention, help, and encouragement. They should not be left alone, a prey to Satan's temptations; they need to be educated in regard to their duties, to be kindly dealt with, to be led along, visited and prayed with. These souls need the meat apportioned to every man in due season.
Without the needed help, some become discouraged and linger by the way, and are left for wolves to devour. Satan is upon the track of all. He sends his agents forth to gather back to his ranks the souls that he has lost. There should be more fathers and mothers to take these newly converted ones to their hearts, and encourage them and pray for them.
Preaching is a small part of the work to be done for the salvation of souls. God's Spirit convicts sinners of the truth, and he places them in the arms of the church. The ministers may do their part, but they can never perform the work that the church should do. God requires his church to care for those who are young in faith and experience, to go to them, not for the purpose of gossiping with them, but to pray, to speak to them words that are "like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
We all need to study character and manner, that we may know how to deal judiciously with different minds, that we may use our best endeavors to help them to a correct understanding of the word of God, and to a true Christian life. We should read the Bible with them, and draw their minds away from temporal things to their eternal interests.
It is the duty of God's children to be missionaries for him, to become acquainted with those who need help. If one is fiercely assailed by temptation, his case should be taken up carefully and managed wisely; for his eternal interest is at stake, and the words and acts of those laboring for him may be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. By patient and judicious labor, many a wanderer may be brought back to the fold of Christ; many a doubting and wavering one may be bound with strong cords to Christ, and led to trust in God.
Oh, when a work like this is done, all the heavenly host rejoice; for a precious soul has been rescued from Satan's snare and saved from death! Shall we not work intelligently for the salvation of souls? Christ paid the price of his own life for them; and shall his followers ask, "Am I my brother's keeper? Shall we not work in unison with the Master?
Earnest effort should be put forth to interest the children in the great truths of the word of God. Our Sabbath schools should be made efficient and attractive. The public schools have of late years greatly improved their methods of teaching. Object lessons, pictures, and blackboards are used to make difficult lessons clear to the youthful mind. Just so many present truth be simplified and made intensely interesting to the active minds of children.
Parents who could be approached in no other way, are frequently reached through their children. Sabbath school teachers can instruct the children in the truth, and they will, in turn, take it into the home circle. The modes of teaching which have been adopted with so great success in the public schools, could be employed with similar results in the Sabbath schools, and be the means of bringing children to Jesus and educating them in Bible truth. This will do far more good than religious excitement of an emotional character that passes off as rapidly as it comes.
The love of Christ should be cherished by all his followers. More faith is needed in the work which we believe is to be done before the coming of Christ. There should be more self-denying, self-sacrificing labor in the right direction. There should be thoughtful, prayerful study how to work to the best advantage. Careful plan should be matured. Great results will follow well directed and intelligent efforts.
The prayer and social meetings should be the most interesting gatherings that are held. Plans should be laid, and wisdom sought of God, to conduct these meetings so that they will be interesting and attractive. The people hunger for the bread of life. If they find it at the prayer meeting, they will go there to receive it. Long, prosy talks and prayers are out of place anywhere, and especially in the social meeting. They weary the angels as well as the people who listen to them. Our prayers should be short, and right to the point. Let the Spirit of God pervade the hearts of the worshipers, and it will sweep away all formality and dullness.
In our intercourse as Christians, we lose much by lack of sympathy one with another, by a want of sociability. He who talks of independence, and shuts himself up to himself, is not filling the position that God designed he should. We are all children of God, mutually dependent upon one another for happiness. The claims of God and of humanity are upon us. It is the proper cultivation of the social elements of our nature that brings us in sympathy with our brethren, and affords us happiness in our efforts to bless others. The happiness of Heaven is in the pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels, and with the redeemed who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. We cannot be happy while we are wrapped up in our interest for ourselves. We should live in this world to win souls to the Saviour. If we injure others, we injure ourselves also. If we bless others, we bless ourselves; for the influence of every good deed is reflected back upon our own hearts.
We are in duty bound to help one another. It is not always that we are brought in contact with social Christians, those who are amiable and mild. Many have not received a proper education, their characters are warped, they are hard and gnarled, and seem to be crooked in every way. While we help these to see and correct their defects, we must be careful not to become impatient and irritable over our neighbor's faults. There are disagreeable ones who profess Christ, but the beauty of Christian grace will transform them if they will set diligently about the work of obtaining the meekness and gentleness of Him they follow, remembering that "none of us liveth to himself."
Co-workers with Christ--what an exalted position! The Lord calls for workers in his vineyard. We should fear to rob God of the time he claims from us; we should fear to spend it in idleness or in the adornment of the body, appropriating to foolish purposes the precious hours which God has given us to become conversant with our Bibles, to devote to prayer, to labor for the good of our fellow beings, and to fit ourselves and them for the great events of the future.
Mothers spend unnecessary labor upon garments with which to adorn themselves and their children. It is our duty to clothe ourselves and our children neatly, without useless ornament, embroidery, or display, taking care not to foster in them a love of dress that will prove their ruin, but seeking rather to cultivate the Christian graces. We can none of us be excused from our responsibilities, and in no case can we stand clear before the throne of God unless we do the work that the Master has left for us to do.
Missionaries for God are wanted, faithful men and women who will not shirk responsibility. Judicious labor will accomplish good results. There is real work to do. The truth should be brought before people in a careful manner by those who unite meekness with wisdom. We should not hold ourselves aloof from our fellowmen; for their souls are as precious as our own. We can carry the light into their homes, with a softened and subdued spirit plead with the unconverted to give their hearts to Christ, show the professed followers of Jesus that there are higher attainments for them to reach, pray with them when it seems proper, and carefully present to them the special truths for this time.
Those who do little for the salvation of others or to keep themselves right before God, will gain but little spiritual power. We need to use continually the strength which we have, that it may increase and develop. As disease is the result of the violation of natural laws, so is spiritual declension the result of a continued transgression of the law of God. We must place ourselves in close connection with Heaven, and carry out the principles of God's law in our everyday lives, in order to be spiritually whole. God has given his servants ability, talents to be used for his glory, not to lie idle or be wasted. He has given them light and knowledge of his will, to be communicated to others; and, in imparting to others, we become living channels of light. If we do not exercise our spiritual strength, we become feeble, as the limbs of the body become powerless when the invalid is compelled to long inaction. It is use that gives power.
Nothing will give greater spiritual strength, or more surely increase earnestness and depth of feeling, than visiting and ministering to the sick and the desponding, helping them to see the light and to fasten their faith upon Jesus. There are duties that somebody must do, or souls will be left to perish. Christians will find a blessing in doing these duties, however unpleasant they may be. Christ took the disagreeable task upon himself of coming from the abode of purity and unsurpassed glory to dwell, a man among men, in a world seared and blackened by crime, violence, and iniquity. He did this to save souls; and shall the objects of such amazing love and unparalleled condescension excuse their lives of selfish ease? shall they choose their own pleasure, and follow their own inclinations, and leave souls to perish in darkness?
God wants prayerful, faithful workers, who will sow beside all waters. Those who labor thus will be surprised to find how trials, resolutely borne in the name and strength of Jesus, will give firmness to the faith and renew the courage. In the path of humble obedience is safety and power, comfort and hope. The reward will finally be lost by those who do nothing for Jesus. Weak hands will be unable to cling to the Mighty One, feeble knees will fail to support in the day of adversity. Christian workers will receive the glorious prize, and hear the "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #41)
The blessing of God will rest upon those who have the cause of Christ at heart. Freewill offerings, prompted by love to the crucified Redeemer, will bring back blessings to the giver; for God marks and remembers every act of liberality performed by his people. To carry forward the work of God for this time, there must be a constant exercise of faith in him. In business transactions men are willing to venture something, in the hope of gain. Should we be less willing to invest our means in the cause of truth, with the prospect of securing eternal riches?
Under the Jewish system, the people were required to cherish a spirit of liberality, both in sustaining the cause of God and in supplying the wants of the needy. At the harvest and the vintage, the firstfruits of the fields--corn, wine, and oil--were to be consecrated as an offering to the Lord. The gleanings and the corners of the fields were reserved for the poor. The firstfruits of the wool when the sheep were shorn, of the grain when the wheat was threshed, were to be offered to the Lord; and at the feast it was commanded that the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the strangers should be invited. At the close of every year all were required to make solemn oath whether or not they had done according to the command of God.
This arrangement was made by the Lord to impress upon the people that in every matter he must be first. They were, by this system of benevolence, reminded that their gracious Master was the true proprietor of their fields, their flocks, and their herds, that the God of Heaven sent them sunshine and rain for their seedtime and harvest, and that everything which they possessed was of his creation. All was the Lord's, and he had made them stewards of his goods.
The liberality of the Jews in the construction of the tabernacle evinced a spirit of benevolence which has not been equaled by the people of God at any later date. The Hebrews had just been freed from their long bondage in Egypt, they were wanderers in the wilderness; yet scarcely were they delivered from the armies of the Egyptians who pursued them in their hasty journey, when the word of the Lord came to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an offering; of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take my offering."
His people had small possessions, and no flattering prospect of adding to them; but an object was before them, to build a tabernacle for God. The Lord had spoken, and they must obey his voice. They withheld nothing. All gave with a willing hand, not a certain amount of their increase, but a large portion of their actual possessions. They devoted it gladly and heartily to the Lord. They honored him by so doing. Was it not all his? Had he not given them all that they possessed? If he called for it, was it not their duty to give back to the lender his own? No urging was needed. The people brought even more than was required; and they were told to desist, for there was already more than could be appropriated.
Again, in building the temple, the call for means met with a hearty response. The people did not give reluctantly; they rejoiced in the prospect of a building being erected for the worship of God. They donated more than enough for the purpose. David blessed the Lord before all the congregation, and said, "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." Again, in his prayer David gives thanks in these words: "O Lord, our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own."
David well understood from whom came all his bounties. Would that those of this day who rejoice in a Saviour's love could realize that their silver and gold is the Lord's, and should be used to promote his glory, not grudgingly retained to enrich and gratify themselves. He has an indisputable right to all that he has lent his creatures. All that they possess is his.
There are high and holy objects that require means; thus invested, it will yield to the giver more elevated and permanent enjoyment than if expended in personal gratification or selfishly hoarded for the greed of gain. When God calls for our treasure, whatever the amount may be, the willing response makes the gift a consecrated offering to him, and lays up for the giver a treasure in Heaven that moth cannot corrupt, nor fire consume, nor thieves break in and steal. The investment is safe. The money is placed in bags that have no holes.
Can Christians, who boast of a broader light than had the Hebrews, give less freely than they? Can Christians, living near the close of time, be satisfied with their offerings when not half so large as were those of the Jews? Their liberality was to benefit their own nation; the work of God in these last days extends to the entire world. The message of truth is to go to all nations, tongues, and people; its publications, printed in many different languages, are to be scattered abroad like the leaves in autumn.
It is written, "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind;" and again, "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Let us inquire, What would our Saviour do in our circumstances? what would be his efforts for the salvation of souls? This question is answered by the example of Christ. He left his royalty, laid aside his glory, sacrificed his riches, and clothed his divinity with humanity, that he might reach men where they were. He laid down his life for sinners.
The spirit of liberality is the spirit of Heaven. The spirit of selfishness is the spirit of Satan. Christ's self-sacrificing love is revealed upon the cross. He gave all that he had, and then gave himself, that man might be saved. The cross of Christ appeals to the benevolence of every follower of the blessed Saviour. The principle illustrated there is to give, give. This carried out in actual benevolence and good works is the true fruit of the Christian life. The principle of worldlings is to get, get, and thus they expect to secure happiness; but carried out in all its bearings, the fruit is misery and death.
To carry the truth to the population of the earth, to rescue them from their guilt and indifference, is the mission of the followers of Christ. Men must have the truth in order to be sanctified through it; and we are the channels of God's light. Our talents, our means, our knowledge, are not merely for our own benefit; they are to be used for the salvation of souls, to elevate man from his life of sin, and bring him, through Christ, to the infinite God.
We should be zealous workers in this cause, seeking to lead sinners, repenting and believing, to a divine Redeemer, to impress them with a sense of God's love to man. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." What an incomparable love is this! a theme for the most profound meditation! the amazing love of God for a world that did not love him! The thought has a subduing power upon the soul, and brings the mind into captivity to the will of God. Men who are crazy for gain, and are disappointed and unhappy in their pursuit of the world, need the knowledge of this truth to quiet the restless hungering and thirsting of their souls.
Missionaries for God are wanted to carry light to those who sit in the shadow of death. Experienced hands are needed, in the meekness of wisdom and the strength of faith, to lift weary souls to the bosom of a compassionate Redeemer. Oh, selfishness! what a curse! It prevents us from engaging in the service of God. It prevents us from perceiving the claims of duty, which should set our hearts aglow with fervent zeal.
Ours is a great work. Yet how many who profess to believe these sacred truths are paralyzed by the sophistry of Satan, doing nothing for God, but rather hindering his cause. When will they act like those who wait for the Lord? When will they show a zeal in accordance with their faith? Many selfishly retain their means, and soothe their conscience with a plan for doing some great thing for the cause of God after their death. They make a will, donating a large sum to the church and its various interests, and then settle down with a feeling that they have done all that is required of them. Wherein have they denied self by this act? They have, on the contrary, exhibited only selfishness. When they have no further use for their money, they propose to give it to God. But they will retain it as long as they can, till they are compelled to relinquish it by a messenger that cannot be turned aside.
God has made us all his stewards, and in no case authorized us to neglect our duty or leave it for others to do. The call for means to advance the cause of truth will never be more urgent than now. Our money will never do a greater amount of good than at the present time. Every day of delay in rightly appropriating it, is limiting the period in which it will do good in the saving of souls. If we leave others to accomplish that which God has left for us to do, we wrong ourselves and Him who gave us all we have. How can others do our work of benevolence any better than we can do it ourselves? God would have every man an executor of his own will in this matter, during his lifetime.
Adversity, accident, or intrigue may cut off forever intended acts of benevolence, when he who has accumulated a fortune is no longer by to guard it. It is sad that so many neglect the golden opportunity to do good in the present, but wait to be cast out of their stewardship before giving back to the Lord the means which he has lent them to be used for his glory.
One marked feature in the teachings of Christ is the frequency and earnestness with which he rebuked the sin of covetousness and pointed out the danger of worldly acquisitions and the inordinate love of gain. In the mansions of the rich, in the temple, and in the streets, he warned those who inquired after salvation, "Take heed and beware of covetousness." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
It is this increasing devotion to money getting, the selfishness which the desire for gain begets, that deadens the spirituality of the church, and removes the favor of God from her. When the head and hands are constantly occupied with planning and toiling for the accumulation of riches, the claims of God and humanity are forgotten.
If God has blessed us with prosperity, it is not that our time and attention should be diverted from him and given to that which he has lent us. The giver is greater than the gift. We have been bought with a price, we are not our own. Have we forgotten that infinite price paid for our redemption? Is gratitude dead in the heart? Does not the cross of Christ put to shame a life of selfish ease and indulgence?
What if Christ had left his work, becoming weary in consequence of the ingratitude and abuse that met him on every side! What if he had never reached that period when he said, "It is finished!" What if he had returned to Heaven, discouraged by his reception! What if he had never passed through that soul agony in the garden of Gethsemane that forced from his pores great drops of blood!
Christ was joined to his plan of labor to work out redemption for the race, by a love that is without parallel and an unswerving devotion to the Father's will. He toiled for the good of man up to the very hour of his humiliation. He spent his life in poverty and self-denial, for the degraded sinner. In a world that was his own he had no place to lay his weary head. We are reaping the fruits of this infinite self-sacrifice; and yet, when labor is to be done, when our money is wanted to aid the work of the Redeemer in the salvation of souls, we shrink from duty and pray to be excused. Ignoble sloth, careless indifference, and wicked selfishness seal our senses to the claims of God.
Oh, must Christ, the Majesty of Heaven, the King of glory, bear the heavy cross, and wear the thorny crown, and drink the bitter cup, while we recline at ease, glorify ourselves, and forget the souls he died to redeem by his precious blood? No; let us give while we have the power. Let us do while we have the strength. Let us work while it is day. Let us devote our time and our means to the service of God, that we may have his approbation, and receive his reward. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #44)
The word of God not only sets forth the great principles of truth and duty which should govern our lives, but it presents also, for our encouragement, the history of many who have exemplified these principles. Men "subject to like passions as we are," have fought with temptation, and conquered in the strength of an Almighty Helper. Under difficulties greater than we are called to meet, men have been true to duty and to God.
Except the one perfect Pattern, there is not described in the sacred pages a single character more worthy of emulation than that of the prophet Daniel. Exposed in youth to all the allurements of a royal court, he became a man of unbending integrity and fervent devotion to God. He was subjected to the fierce temptations of Satan, yet his character was not vacillating, nor his course changeable. He was firm where many would be yielding; he was true where they would be false; he was strong where they would be weak. Daniel was a lofty cedar of Lebanon. The angel of the Lord addressed this faithful prophet, "O man greatly beloved, thy prayer is heard." Would that the faith, integrity, and devotion of the prophet Daniel might live in the hearts of God's people of today. Never were these noble qualities more needed in the world than now. Never was there greater need of men who will stand firmly and fearlessly for God and the right.
In the records of those who have done and suffered for the name of Jesus, there is no name that shines with a brighter or purer luster than the name of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. The love of Jesus, glowing in his heart, made him self-forgetful, self-denying. He had seen the risen Christ, and the Saviour's image was impressed upon his soul, and shone forth in his life. With faith, courage, and fortitude, that would not be daunted by danger or stayed by obstacles, he pressed his way from land to land to spread the knowledge of the cross. When summoned to stand before the judgment seat of Nero, and forsaken by his brethren, he was at first thought almost dismayed. Then he gathered courage, as he looked upward to the Source of strength. Though human help forsook him, he declares, "The Lord stood by me, and strengthened me." He placed his hand in the hand of Jesus, and fearlessly went forward to a martyr's death.
Such noble characters have been; such noble characters will be. None can hide them; none need misinterpret them. They are living epistles, known and read of all men, By the beauty of true goodness shining forth in the life of these chosen men, others were charmed, and were filled with a desire to imitate them. All who seek to reach the Bible standard will stimulate others also to press forward to higher attainments. One whom God is teaching will animate others by his ardent, active efforts for the honor of Christ, and his undying love for souls. In another, a Christlike meekness and gentleness of spirit will be most apparent. Another will influence many by his fervent charity, his brotherly kindness and Christian courtesy. Still another will manifest such humility and brokenness of heart as will lead the proud and stubborn to self-abasement.
Are the professed followers of Christ thus exemplifying the principles of their faith? Where are the deep, living, holy experiences which men of God were wont to recount? Has the standard of Christianity been lowered to suit the present backslidden condition of God's professed people? No; that standard remains just where God placed it. Holy men of ages past were required to give up all for Christ, to cherish his spirit, and to imitate his example. Nothing less than this will he accept now:
The Christian will begin and end the day with God. His speech will not be frivolous or aimless. He does not indulge in idle jesting or malicious gossip. The peace of God rules in his heart. The power of divine grace strengthens every noble purpose, softens every harsh trait. In his life and character is seen that firm, undaunted principle with which worldliness dares not tamper. Such men are recognized by the world as followers of Christ. They have learned of him. The Sun of Righteousness shines into the heart, and lights up the countenance. Every faculty is strengthened, developed, by the influence of divine grace. Such Christians have an experience that is of some value.
It is the absence of personal religion, of a daily, living experience in the things of God, that creates such coldness and stupor in the church. We have enjoyed great light and many privileges. Shall we turn away from all these blessings, and sacrifice the peculiar, holy character which should distinguish us as children of God? If we thus slight the mercy of God, the judgments denounced against Capernaum will surely fall upon us. Our punishment will be heavier than if we had not enjoyed so great light. Thus the warnings, reproofs, and counsels, which, accepted and obeyed, would bring us untold blessings, become a curse when they are rejected.
The Lord commanded one of his ancient servants, "Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them; neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear thee." The prophet thus describes the sins which had called forth this fearful denunciation: "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof?" "From the least of them even unto the greatest of them, every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest, every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace."
The apostles declare that this state of things will find its counterpart in the last days. Many have a form of godliness, but in their daily life deny the power thereof. They have ceased to be convicted of their sins or alarmed at their state. They say in their hearts, "The church is flourishing. Peace and spiritual prosperity are within her borders." The words of the prophet may well apply to these self-deceivers, "They have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them."
The carnal mind is enmity against God. Not one of us can love and keep his commandments, only as we deny self, and take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ. Divine truth has never been in harmony with the traditions and customs of the world; it has never conformed to their opinions. Christ himself received not honor from men. He was meek and lowly of heart, and made himself of no reputation. His simple dress and unpretending manners were in so marked contrast to the pomposity, self-conceit, and vain display of the Pharisees, that they would not accept him. All witnessed the manifestation of divine power, but few saw in Christ, amid his sufferings and humiliation, the Saviour of the world.
At the present day a form of godliness is popular, even in the world. A profession of Christianity costs little. But those who follow Jesus must walk in the same path of self-denial and cross bearing which the Master trod. They may be lightly esteemed by the world, but they are honored of God.
No stronger delusion can possess the human mind than that which makes men believe they are on the right foundation, and that God accepts their works, when they are sinning against him. When placed in the furnace fire to be tried by the great Refiner, much that has been esteemed fine gold will be consumed as dross. Can Christ say of his professed followers, These are my peculiar people; I gave myself for them, to redeem them from all iniquity, that they should show forth my praise, who have called them out of darkness into my marvelous light. Would not the Lord say, rather, How is the beautiful city become a harlot, and my Father's house a place of merchandise. Because of your unbelief, I cannot do many mighty works among you.
We are not to call sin righteousness, or righteousness sin. While we should ever manifest pity and compassion for the erring, we should be governed by sanctified judgment and the fear of God. In their undue sympathy for the sinner, many are learning to palliate sin. The most hardened criminals in our land find a host of sympathizers. Special attention is shown them, simply because their crimes have brought them into disrepute, and exposed them to the penalty of the law. It is considered a virtue to throw the mantle of charity over sins that are misleading and corrupting thousands.
The same spirit is coming into the church. However guilty a wrongdoer may be, however lamentable the results of his course, he will find sympathizers. When he is reproved, there are unconsecrated ones who stand ready to sustain him. By their unwise sympathy, they lead him to look upon himself as abused, and thus they effectually bar his way to repentance and reform.
The approval of men--even of professed Christians--is no evidence of the favor of God. The Christian experience of thousands is gauged by the standard of those who profess to love the truth and to be servants of Christ, but who serve Satan. In their blindness and self-complacency, many are saying, " I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," when Christ declares that they are poor and miserable, blind and naked. To such he addresses the solemn admonition, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
Every one who shall at last enter the kingdom of God will be tested. It will be manifest whether we desire to know and do the will of God, or merely to please ourselves. When called to give up all for Christ, who will stand the test? Many have been guided by their own understanding, and have indulged the desires of their own heart. The treasures of divine grace and love do not overbalance the inducements and attractions of the world. They choose self-gratification rather than Christ and his grace at the price of self-denial and self-consecration.
The cause of God today calls for men,--men in understanding and Christian experience,--men who are true to God and to the interests of his work. My brethren and sisters in the truth, I know the dangers which surround you. Search the Scriptures, examine your own hearts, meditate, pray, till you realize, by vivid conviction, your true state, till you see the peril which threatens you. Never rest till you know beyond all controversy that you have been transformed by the spirit of Christ; till you have clear evidence that you have been born again. Never rest till you know that Christ abideth in you. It will be vain for you to hope to meet the approval of God, until you come up to the Bible standard. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #45)
John the Baptist was a man filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth. If anyone could remain unaffected by the corrupting influences of the age in which he lived, it was surely he. Yet he did not venture to trust his own strength; he separated himself from his friends and relatives, that his natural affections might not prove a snare to him. He would not place himself unnecessarily in the way of temptation, nor where the luxuries, or even the conveniences of life would lead him to indulge in ease or gratify his appetite, and thus lessen his physical and mental strength. By such a course the important mission which he came to fill would have failed of its accomplishment.
He subjected himself to a life of privation and solitude in the wilds, where he could preserve a sacred sense of the majesty of God by studying his great book of nature, and thus become acquainted with his character as manifested in his wonderful works. It was an atmosphere calculated to perfect moral culture, and keep the fear of the Lord continually before him. John, the forerunner of Christ, did not expose himself to evil conversation and the corrupting influences of the world. He feared its effects upon his conscience, that sin might not appear to him so exceedingly sinful. He chose rather to have his home in the wilderness, where his senses would not be perverted by his surroundings. We should learn a lesson from this example of one whom Christ honored, and of whom he said, Among those born of women there are none greater than John the Baptist.
The first thirty years of our Saviour's life was passed in retirement. Ministering angels waited upon the Lord of life, as he walked side by side with the peasants and laborers among the hills of Nazareth, unrecognized and unhonored. These high examples should teach us to avoid evil influences, and shun the society of those who do not live aright. We should not flatter ourselves that we are too strong for such influences to affect us, but we should, in humility, guard ourselves from danger.
Lot chose Sodom for his home because he saw advantages to be gained there from a worldly point of view. But after he had established himself, and grown rich in earthly treasure, he was convinced that he had made a mistake in not taking into consideration the moral standing of the community in which he was to make his home.
The dwellers in Sodom were corrupt; vile conversation greeted his ears daily, and his righteous soul was vexed by the violence and crime which he was powerless to prevent. His children were becoming like these wicked people; for association with them had perverted their morals. Taking all these things into consideration, the worldly riches he had gained seemed small, not worth the price he had paid for them. His family connections were extensive, his children having married among the Sodomites.
The Lord's anger was finally kindled against the wicked inhabitants of the city. The angels of God visited Sodom to bring forth Lot, that he should not perish in the overthrow of the city. They bade him bring his family, his wife, and the sons and daughters who had married in wicked Sodom, and they told him to flee from the place; "for," said the angels, "we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it."
And Lot went out and warned his children. He repeated the words of the angel, "Up, get thee out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city!" But he seemed to his sons-in-law as one who mocked. And the daughters were influenced by their husbands. They were well enough off where they were. They had great possessions, and could not believe it possible that beautiful Sodom, in a rich and fertile country, would be destroyed by the wrath of a sin avenging God.
Lot returned sorrowfully to the angels, and repeated the story of his failure. Then the angels commanded him to arise, and take his wife, and the two daughters who were yet in his house and leave the city. But Lot was sad; the thought of leaving his children and his wife, for she refused to go without them, almost broke his heart. They would all have perished in the terrible ruin of Sodom, had not the Lord, in his great mercy, sent his angels to the rescue.
Lot was paralyzed by the great calamity about to occur; he was stupefied with grief at the thought of leaving all that he held dear on earth. But as he lingered, the angels of God laid hold upon his hand, and the hands of his wife and two daughters, and brought them out of the city, and charged them to flee for their lives, neither to look behind them, nor to stay upon all the plain, but to escape to the mountains. How reluctant was Lot to obey the angel, and go as far as possible from corrupt Sodom, appointed to utter destruction.
Lot pleaded to remain; he distrusted God. Living in the wicked city had weakened his faith and confidence in the justice of the Lord. He pleaded that he could not do as he was required, lest some evil should overtake him, and he should die. Angels were sent on a special mission to save the lives of Lot and his family, but he had so long been surrounded by corrupting influences that his sensibilities were blunted, and he could not discern the works of God and his purposes; he could not trust himself in his hands to do his bidding. He was continually pleading for himself, and this unbelief caused the destruction of his wife.
She looked back to Sodom, murmuring against the dealings of God, and was changed to a pillar of salt, that she might stand as a warning to all those who disregard the special mercies and providences of Heaven. After this terrible retribution, Lot no longer dared to linger by the way, but fled into the mountains, according to the directions of the angels. The sinful conduct of his daughters after leaving Sodom was the result of wicked associations while there. The sense of right and wrong was confused in their minds, and sin did not appear as sin to them.
The case of Lot should be a warning to all those who wish to live a godly life, to separate themselves from all influences calculated to lead them away from God.
Ancient Israel was especially directed by God to be and remain a people separate from all other nations. They were not to witness the idolatry of those about them, lest their own hearts should be corrupted, lest familiarity with ungodly practices should make them appear less wicked in their eyes. Few realize their own weakness, and that the natural sinfulness of the human heart often paralyzes our noblest endeavors.
The baleful influence of sin poisons the life of the soul. Our only safety is in separation from those who live in its darkness. The Lord has enjoined upon us to come out from among them and be separate, and to touch not the unclean thing, and he will receive us and will be a Father unto us, and we shall be his sons and daughters. If we wish to be adopted into the family of God, children of the Heavenly King, we must comply with his conditions; we must come out from the world, and stand as a peculiar people before the Lord, obeying his precepts and serving him.
It is no small matter for a family in an unbelieving community to stand as representatives for Jesus, keeping God's law. We are required to be living epistles, known and read of all men. This position involves fearful responsibilities. In order to live in the light, we must come where the light shines. It is not well for the people of God to lose the privilege of associating with those of like faith with themselves; for the truth loses its importance in their minds, their hearts cease to be enlightened and vivified by its sanctifying influence, and they lose spirituality. They are not strengthened by the words of the living preacher. Worldly thoughts and worldly enterprises are continually exercising their minds to the exclusion of spiritual subjects.
The faith of most Christians will waver if they constantly neglect to meet together for conference and prayer. If it were impossible for them to enjoy such religious privileges, then God would send light direct from Heaven by his angels, to animate, to cheer, and to bless his scattered people. But he does not propose to work a miracle to sustain the faith of his children. They are required to love the truth enough to make some effort to secure the privileges and blessings vouchsafed them of God.
Many devote nearly all their time to their own temporal interests and pleasures, and grudge the time spent and expense involved in going a distance from their homes to meet with a company gathered together in the name of the Lord. The word of God defines covetousness as idolatry; then how many idolaters are there, even among those who profess to be the followers of Christ.
It is required that we meet together and bear testimony to the truth. The angel of God said:--
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
It will pay, then, to improve the privileges within our reach, and, even at some sacrifice, to assemble with those who fear God and speak for him. For he is represented as hearkening to those testimonies, while angels write them in a book. God will remember those who have met together and thought upon his name, and he will spare them from the great conflagration. They will be as precious jewels in his sight, when his wrath shall fall on the shelterless head of the sinner.
Said our Saviour, in his last prayer for his disciples, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." And, looking forward to the future life, he prays for these chosen and faithful ones, "that they may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." It is not a vain thing to serve God. There is a priceless reward for those who, keeping themselves "unspotted from the world," devote their life to the service of their Creator. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #46)
Man came from the hand of God perfect in every faculty of mind and body, in perfect soundness, therefore in perfect health. It took more than two thousand years of indulgence of appetite and lustful passions to create such a state of things in the human organism as would lessen vital force. Through successive generations the tendency was more swiftly downward. Indulgence of appetite and passion combined, led to excess and violence; debauchery and abominations of every kind weakened the energies, and brought upon the race diseases of every type, until the vigor and glory of the first generations passed away, and man began to show signs of decay in the third generation from Adam. Successive generations after the flood degenerated more rapidly.
All this weight of woe and accumulated suffering can be traced to the indulgence of appetite and passion. Luxurious living and the use of wine corrupt the blood, inflame the passions, and produce diseases of every kind. Parents leave maladies as a legacy to their children. As a rule, every intemperate man who rears children, transmits his inclinations and evil tendencies to his offspring, and the evil does not end here; he gives to them disease from his own inflamed and corrupted blood. Licentiousness, disease, and imbecility are transmitted as an inheritance of woe from father to son and from generation to generation, bringing anguish and suffering into the world, which is no less than a repetition of the fall of man.
The continual transgression of nature's laws is a continual transgression of the law of God. The present weight of suffering and anguish which we see everywhere, the present deformity, decrepitude, disease, and imbecility now flooding the world, make it, in comparison to what it might be, and what God designed it should be, a lazar-house. The present generation are feeble in mental, moral, and physical power.
All this accumulated misery from generation to generation is because fallen man will break the law of God. Sins of the greatest magnitude are committed through the indulgence of perverted appetite.
The effort made to create a taste for the disgusting, filthy poison, tobacco, leads to the desire for stronger stimulants, as liquor, which is taken, on one plea or another, for some imaginary infirmity, or to prevent some possible disease. Thus an unnatural appetite is created for these hurtful and exciting stimulants. The increase of intemperance in this generation is alarming. Beverage loving, liquor drinking men may be seen everywhere. Their intellect is enfeebled, the moral powers are weakened, the sensibilities are benumbed; the claims of God and Heaven are not realized, and eternal things are not appreciated. The Bible declares that no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. Every intemperate person renders himself accountable, not only for the sins which he commits in his own person, but for the evil results that his dissipated course of life has brought upon his family and upon the community.
The race is groaning under a weight of accumulated woe, because of the sins of former generations. And yet with scarcely a thought or care, men and women of the present generation indulge intemperance by surfeiting and drunkenness, and thereby leave, as a legacy for the next generation, disease, enfeebled intellects, and polluted morals.
Intemperance of any kind is the worst sort of selfishness. Those who truly fear God and keep his commandments look upon these things in the light of reason and religion. How can any man or woman keep the law of God, which requires man to love his neighbor as himself, and indulge intemperate appetite, which benumbs the brain, weakens the intellect, and fills the body with disease? Intemperance inflames the passions, and gives loose rein to lust. Reason and conscience are blinded by the lower passions.
It is not an easy matter to overcome established habits, to deny the appetite for narcotics and stimulants. In the name of Christ alone can this great victory be gained. Our Saviour paid a dear price for man's redemption. In the wilderness of temptation he suffered the keenest pangs of hunger; and while emaciated with fasting, Satan was at hand with his manifold temptations to assail the Son of God, to take advantage of his weakness and overcome him, and thus thwart the plan of salvation. But Christ was steadfast. He overcame in behalf of the race, that he might rescue them from the degradation of the fall. Christ's experience is for our benefit. His example in overcoming appetite points out the way for those who would be his followers, and finally sit with him on his throne. The Son of God sympathizes with the weaknesses of man. His love for the fallen race was so great that he made an infinite sacrifice to reach man in his degradation, and through his divine power elevate him finally to his throne. But it rests with man whether Christ shall accomplish for him that which he is fully able to do.
Will man take hold of divine power, and with determination and perseverance resist Satan as Christ has given him example in his conflict with the foe in the wilderness of temptation? God cannot save man, against his will, from the power of Satan's artifices. Man must work with his human power, aided by the divine power of Christ, to resist and to conquer at any cost to himself. In short, man must overcome as Christ overcame. And then, through the victory which it is his privilege to gain by the all-powerful name of Jesus, he may become an heir of God and joint heir with Christ.
This could not be the case if Christ alone did all the overcoming. Man must do his part. Man must be victor on his own account, through the strength and grace that Jesus gives him. Man must be a co-worker with Christ in the labor of overcoming, and then he will be partaker with Christ of his glory. It is a sacred work in which we are engaged. The apostle Paul exhorts his brethren, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
It is a sacred duty that we owe to God to keep the spirit pure, as a temple for the Holy Ghost. If the heart and mind are devoted to the service of God, obeying all his commandments, if we love him with all the heart, might, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, we shall be found loyal and true to the requirements of Heaven.
Again the apostle says: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." He also urges his brethren to earnest diligence and steady perseverance in their efforts for purity and holiness of life, in these words: "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."
He presents before us the spiritual warfare and its reward, in contrast with the various games instituted among the heathen in honor of their gods. For these games, young men were trained by the most severe discipline. Every indulgence which would have a tendency to weaken the powers of the body was forbidden. Those who submitted to the training process were not allowed luxurious food or wine; for this would lessen personal vigor, healthful activity, fortitude, and firmness. It was considered the highest honor to gain a simple chaplet which would fade in a few short hours.
Many witnesses, kings and nobles, were present on these occasions. The competitors for this perishable crown, after they had exercised strict self-denial, and submitted to rigid discipline in order to obtain personal vigor and activity with the hope of becoming victors, were even then not sure of the prize. The prize could be awarded to but one. Some might labor fully as hard as others, and put forth their utmost efforts to gain the crowning honor, but, as they reached forth the hand to secure the prize, another, an instant before them, might secure the coveted treasure.
This is not the case in the Christian warfare. All may run this race, and may be sure of victory and immortal honor, if they submit to the conditions. Says Paul, "So run that ye may obtain." He then explains the conditions which are necessary for them to observe in order to be successful: "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things."
If heathen men, who are not controlled by enlightened conscience, who have not the fear of God before them, would deny themselves of every weakening indulgence merely for a wreath of perishable substance and the applause of the multitude, how much more should they who are running the Christian race in the hope of immortality and the approval of Heaven, be willing to deny themselves unhealthy stimulants and indulgences which degrade the morals, enfeeble the intellect, and bring the higher powers in subjection to the animal appetites and passions.
Multitudes in the world are witnessing this game of life, the Christian warfare. And this is not all. The Monarch of the universe, and the myriads of heavenly angels are spectators of this race--anxiously watching to see who will be successful overcomers, and win the crown of glory that fadeth not away. With intense interest, God and heavenly angels mark the self-denying, agonizing efforts of those who engage to run the Christian race. The reward given to every man will be in accordance with the persevering energy and faithful earnestness with which he has performed his part in the great contest.
In the games referred to, but one was sure of the prize. In the Christian race, says the apostle, I run "not as uncertainly." We are not to be disappointed at the end of the race. To all those who fully comply with the conditions in God's word, with a sense of their responsibility to preserve physical vigor and activity of body, that they may have well-balanced minds and sound morals, the race is not uncertain. They all may gain the prize, and win and wear the crown of immortal glory.
The apostle Paul tells us that "we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." A cloud of witnesses are observing our Christian course. "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."
The world should be no criterion for us. It is fashionable to indulge the appetite with luxurious food and unnatural stimulants, strengthening by indulgence the animal propensities, and crippling the growth and development of the moral faculties.
There is no encouragement given to the sons and daughters of Adam that they may become victorious overcomers in the Christian warfare unless they decide to practice temperance in all things. If they do this, they will not fight as one that beateth the air.
If Christians will keep the body in subjection and bring all their appetites and passions under the control of enlightened conscience, feeling it a duty that they owe to God and to their neighbor to obey the laws which govern health and life, they will have the blessing of physical and mental vigor. They will have moral power to engage in the warfare against Satan; and in the name of Him who conquered appetite in their behalf, they may be more than conquerors on their own account. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #47)
In his sermon on the mount, our Saviour admonished his followers, "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." Notice, that those who lay up treasure in Heaven do it for themselves; they are thereby advancing their own interests. Those who lay up treasure upon earth will center their interest and affection here. They cultivate a love for money, for houses and lands, until it absorbs the powers of mind and body; their love for worldly possessions is greater than their love for souls for whom Christ died. The god of this world blinds their eyes, so that eternal things are not valued.
The great leading temptations that would assail man, Christ met in the wilderness of temptation. There he encountered, single-handed, the wily, subtle foe, and overcame him. The first great temptation was the indulgence of appetite; the second, presumption; the third, love of the world.
The thrones and kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, were offered to Christ, if he would bow down to Satan. Never will man be tried with temptations as powerful as those which assailed Christ. Satan came with worldly honor, wealth, and the pleasures of life, and presented them in the most attractive light to allure and deceive. "All this," said he to Christ, "will I give thee, if thou wilt worship me." Christ repelled the wily foe, and came off victor.
Satan has better success in approaching man. He whispers, "All this money, all this gain, this land, this power, honor and riches will I give thee." For what? His conditions generally are, that integrity shall be yielded, conscientiousness blunted, and selfishness indulged. Through devotion to worldly interests, Satan receives the homage which he asks. The door is left open for him to enter as he pleases, with his evil train of impatience, love of self, pride, avarice, overreaching, and the whole catalogue of sinful traits. Man is charmed, and treacherously lured on to ruin. If we yield ourselves to worldliness of heart and life, Satan is satisfied.
Christ overcame Satan, showing us how we also may overcome. Christ resisted Satan with Scripture. He might have had recourse to his own divine power, and used his own words; but he said, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." With the second temptation he says, "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Christ's example is before us. If the sacred Scriptures were studied and followed, the Christian would be fortified to meet the wily foe; but the word of God is neglected, and disaster and defeat follow.
"What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Many are selling their souls at a cheap market. None can afford to make this great sacrifice. God has intrusted talents to our stewardship. To many he has given talents of means and of influence. If they would with industry, perseverance, and zeal, improve the capital placed in their hands, they might be successful in turning many souls from error to righteousness. These souls would labor for others, and thus influence and means would be constantly increasing and multiplying in the Master's cause. If the professed followers of Christ would engage in his service with the same earnestness which they manifest in acquiring property, what a work they might accomplish in extending the Redeemer's kingdom!
Those with but small capacity, sanctified by the love of God, can do good for the Master; but they who have quick, discerning minds may employ them in his work with grand results. To wrap them in a napkin, and hide them in the earth, and deprive God of the increase of the talents he has intrusted to them, is a great wrong.
We are probationers. The Master is coming to investigate our course, and he will inquire what use has been made of the talents lent us. My brethren and sisters in the faith, have you done what you could to enlighten the minds of men in regard to truth, or have you found no time from your business cares and perplexities to devote to this work? It is a crime to use the bounties of God to diminish physical strength, and separate your affections from God. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." You cannot love this world, and love the truths of God. "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
Will you gather together earthly treasure to be destroyed in the great conflagration, or will you use your talents of means and of influence for the glory of God, and send your treasure before you into Heaven? The conflagrations and disasters by sea and land that have visited our country have been sent as a warning of what is about to come upon the world. God would show the children of men that he can kindle upon their idols a fire that water cannot quench. The great general conflagration is but just ahead, when all the wasted labor of life will be consumed. But the treasure laid up in Heaven will be safe. No thief can approach nor fire destroy it.
When the young man came to Christ saying, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" Jesus bade him keep the commandments. He returned answer, "All these have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?" Jesus looked with love upon the young man, and faithfully pointed out to him his deficiency in keeping the commandments. He did not love his neighbor as himself. Christ showed him his true character. His selfish love of riches was the defect which, if not removed, would debar him from Heaven. "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow me." Christ would have him understand that he required nothing of him more than he himself had experienced. All he asked was that he should follow his example.
Christ left his riches and glory, and became poor, that man through his poverty might be made rich. He now requires him for the sake of these riches to yield earthly things, and secure Heaven. Christ knew that while the affections were upon worldly treasure, they would be withdrawn from God; therefore he said to the lawyer, "Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow me." How did he receive the words of Christ? Was he rejoiced that he could secure the heavenly treasure? He was very sorrowful; for he had great possessions. Riches to him were honor and power. The great amount of his treasure made such a disposal of it seem like an impossibility.
Here is the danger of riches to the avaricious man. The more he gains, the harder it is for him to be generous. To diminish his wealth is like parting with life. Rather than do this, he turns from the attraction of the immortal reward in order to retain and increase his earthly possessions. He accumulates and hoards. Had he kept the commandments, his worldly possessions would not have been so great. How could he, plotting and striving for self, love God with all his heart, with all his mind, and with all his strength, and his neighbor as himself? Had he distributed to the necessities of the poor, and blessed his fellow men with a portion of his means, as their wants demanded, he would have been far happier, and would have had greater heavenly treasure, and less of earth to place his affections upon.
Christ assured the young man who came to him, that if he would obey his requirements he should have treasure in Heaven. This world loving man was very sorrowful. He wanted Heaven, but he desired to retain his wealth. He renounced immortal life for the love of money and power. Oh, what a miserable exchange! Yet how many are pursuing the same course who profess to be keeping all the commandments of God. In their first experience their hearts were all aglow with love for the truth; their minds were absorbed in the study of the Scriptures; they saw new beauty in every line. Then the good seed sown in the heart was springing up, and bearing fruit to the glory of God; but after a time, the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the good seed of the word of God sown in the heart; and they fail to bring forth fruit. The truth struggles for supremacy, but the cares of this life and the love of other things gain the victory. Satan seeks through the attractions of this world to enchain them, and paralyze their moral powers, that they should have no sense of God's claims upon them.
Thus the love of gain becomes, with many, the ruling passion. They become slaves to this world. Selfish interests are predominant. Their example tends to lead others away from the truth. They have, by profession, said to the world, "Our citizenship is not here, but above," while their works proclaim that they are dwellers on the earth. The word of God declares that the day of Judgment shall come as a snare upon all those who dwell on the earth. Their profession is only a hindrance to other souls,--a false light to lure them to destruction.
Christ commits talents to his servants, and bids them, Improve these till I come. When the Master cometh, and all are called to strict account for their use of the talents intrusted to them, how shall we bear the investigation? Who will be prepared to return to the Master his talents doubled, showing that they have been judicious as well as faithful and persevering workers in his service?
God holds us as his debtors, and also as debtors to our fellow men who have not the light and truth. Said Paul, "I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise." God had revealed to Paul his truth, and in so doing made him a debtor to those who were in darkness, to enlighten them. God has given us light, not to hide under a bushel, but to set on a candlestick, that all who are in the house may be benefited. Our light should shine to others to reveal to them the way of everlasting life.
How can the value of houses and lands bear comparison with precious souls for whom Christ died? Through our instrumentality, these souls may be saved with us in the kingdom of glory; but we cannot take there the smallest portion of our earthly treasure. Let men acquire what they may, and preserve it with all the jealous care which they are capable of exercising, yet the mandate may go forth from the Lord, and in a few hours a fire which no skill can quench may destroy the accumulations of an entire life; they may become a mass of smouldering ruins.
The sword of wrath is stretched out over a people who have by their pride and wickedness provoked the displeasure of a just God. Storms, earthquakes, whirlwinds, fire, and the sword will spread desolation everywhere, until men's hearts shall fail them for fear, looking for those things which shall come upon the earth. We know not how small a space is between us and eternity. We know not how soon our probation may close.
Of what advantage will be earthly treasures, when life here closes, or when Christ makes his appearance? How will the wealth for which many have bartered their souls be appropriated, should they be suddenly called to close their probation, and their voice no longer control it? What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Our means are of no more value than sand, only as used to provide for the daily necessities of life, and to bless others and advance the cause of God.
God is not pleased that his servants should be ignorant of his will, novices in spiritual understanding, but wise in worldly wisdom and knowledge. Our earthly interests can bear no comparison with our eternal welfare. God has a work for us to do higher than that of acquiring property.
The weight of the wrath of God will fall upon those who have misspent their time, and served mammon instead of their Creator. Those who live for God and for Heaven, pointing the way of life to others, will go onward and upward to higher and holier joys. They will be rewarded with the "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #49)
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." These roads are distinct, separate, extending in opposite directions. One leads to eternal death, the other to eternal life. One is broad and smooth, the other narrow and rugged. So the parties that travel them are opposite in character, in life, in dress, and in conversation.
Those who travel in the narrow way are talking of the happiness they will have at the end of the journey. Their countenances are often sad, yet often beam with holy joy. They do not dress like the company in the broad road, nor talk like them, nor act like them. A pattern has been given them. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief opened that road for them, and traveled it himself. His followers see his footprints, and are comforted and cheered. He went through safely; so can they, if they follow in his steps.
In the broad road all are occupied with their persons, their dress, and the pleasures in the way. They indulge freely in mirth and revelry, and think not of their journey's end, of the certain ruin at the termination of the path. Every day they approach nearer their destruction, yet they madly rush on faster and faster.
Many who travel in the broad road have the words written upon them, "Dead to the world. The end of all things is at hand. Be ye also ready." They appear like the gay, thoughtless ones around them, their conversation is like that of their companions; but they occasionally point with great satisfaction to the letters on their garments, calling for others to have the same upon theirs. They are in the broad way, yet profess to be of the number who are traveling the narrow path. Those around them say, "There is no distinction between us. We are all alike; we dress and talk and act alike."
When Christ shall come, will he accept a people who are conformed to the world? Will he acknowledge them as his people whom he has purified to himself? No, never, None but the pure and holy will he acknowledge as his. Only those who have been purified and made white through suffering will Christ accept.
How was it with the people of God in 1843 and 1844? There was a spirit of consecration then that there is not now. What has come over the professed peculiar people of God? Whence is the conformity to the world, the unwillingness to suffer for the truth's sake? Whence so great a lack of submission to the will of God? There is a lesson for us in the experience of the children of Israel after they left Egypt. God in mercy called them out from the Egyptians that they might worship him without hindrance or restraint. He proved and tried them by bringing them into strait places; he wrought for them in the way by mighty miracles. Yet notwithstanding his wonderful dealings with them, and the manifestations of his power in their deliverance, they murmured when tried or proved by him. Their language was, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt."
Professed Christians often think it strange that the children of Israel murmured as they journeyed; that they could have been so ungrateful as to forget the gracious dealings of God with them. But many who think thus have done worse than they. God has given us light upon his word, revealing the great truths for this time, and making them so plain and clear that they cannot be misunderstood by the earnest seeker. Yet how few rightly prize this great blessing. When trials arise, how many are ready to look back and think that their lot is hard. They do not bear in mind that the way which they are traveling is a rugged, self-denying way, and that they must not expect everything to move on as smoothly as if they were in the broad road.
Why is it so hard to lead a humble, self-denying life? Because professed Christians are not dead to the world. It is easy living after we are dead to sin. But many are longing for the leeks and onions of Egypt. They have a disposition to dress and act as much like the world as possible and yet go to Heaven. Such are seeking to climb up some other way. They do not enter the strait gate, and walk in the narrow path.
The conformity of professed Christians to the world is a disgrace to their profession, a disgrace to the cause of God. They profess to have come out from the world and to be separate, yet are so near like them in dress, in conversation, and actions, that there is no distinction. While in the possession of life and health, many devote their God given time and means to the adorning of the poor mortal bodies, forgetting that these are liable at any moment to be touched by the finger of God and laid upon a bed of death. But as they approach their last change, and mortal anguish racks their frames, the great inquiry is, "Am I prepared to die? prepared to appear before God in judgment, and pass the grand review?" Ask them then how they feel about decorating their persons, and if they have any sense of what it is to be prepared to appear before God, they will tell you that if they could take back and live over the past, they would correct their lives and shun the folly of the world, its vanity and pride; they would live to the glory of God, and set an example to all around them.
Why are so few interested in their eternal welfare, so few preparing for their last change? Earth attracts them, its treasures seem of worth to them. They find enough to engross the mind, and have no time to prepare for Heaven. Satan is ever seeking to plunge them deeper and deeper into difficulty. As soon as one perplexity or trouble is off the mind, he stands ready to involve them in another by begetting within them an unholy desire for more of the things of earth. Thus their time passes, and when it is too late, they see that they have gained nothing substantial. They have grasped at shadows, and lost eternal life.
Many who imitate the customs and fashions of the world claim that they do this in order to have an influence with worldlings. But here they make a sad and fatal mistake. If they would have a true and saving influence, let them live out their profession, show their faith by their righteous works, and make wide the distinction between the Christian and the world. Our words, our dress, our actions, should tell for God. Then all will take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. Unbelievers will see that the truth which we profess has a holy influence, that faith in Christ's coming affects our character. If any wish to have their influence sell in favor of the truth, let them live it out, and thus imitate the humble Pattern.
Parents, when you set an example of pride for your children, you are sowing seed that will spring up and bear fruit. That which you sow you will reap. The harvest will be plenteous and sure. It is easier to teach a lesson of pride than a lesson of humility. Satan and his angels stand ready to make the act of yours or the word that you may speak effectual to encourage your children to imitate the fashions of the world, and in their pride to mingle with society that is not holy. O parents, you thus plant in your own bosoms a thorn that you will often feel in anguish. When you would counteract the sad lesson you have taught your children, you will find it well-nigh impossible. You may deny them those things that would gratify their pride, yet it still lives in the heart, and nothing can destroy it but the quick and powerful Spirit of God. When this finds its way to the heart, it will work like a refining fire, and pride and love of the world will be consumed.
Unless you awake to the eternal interests of your children, they will surely be lost through your neglect. And the possibility that unfaithful parents will be saved themselves is very small. The lives of parents should be exemplary. They should exert a holy influence in their families. As they value the eternal interests of their children, they should rebuke pride in them, faithfully rebuke it, and encourage it not in word or deed.
Jesus, the King of glory, who gave his life to redeem us, wore a crown of thorns. It was thus that our Master's sacred head was adorned. "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." Yet the very ones that profess to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus, spilled for them, can indulge pride in the adornment of their persons, and still claim to be followers of the holy, humble, self-denying Pattern. Oh that all could see this as God sees it!
Israel have been asleep to the pride, and fashion, and worldliness in the very midst of them. It is these things that separate God from his people, that shut the ark away from them. When the truth affects their hearts, it will cause a death to the world. They will then lay aside the outward adorning, and if they are dead they will not be moved by the laugh, jeer, and scorn of unbelievers. They will feel an anxious desire to be separate from the world, like their Master. They will not imitate its pride, fashions, or customs. The noble object will be ever before them, to glorify God, and gain the immortal inheritance. This prospect will swallow up all beside of an earthly nature. God will have a people separate and distinct from the world. And as soon as any indulge a desire to imitate the fashions of the world, just so soon God ceases to acknowledge them as his children. They show that they are strangers to grace, strangers to the meek and lowly Jesus. If they had acquainted themselves with him, they would walk worthy of him.
A form of godliness will not save any. All must have a deep and living experience. This alone will save them in the time of trouble before us. Then their work will be tried, of what sort it is. If it is gold, silver, and precious stones, they will be hid as in the secret of the Lord's pavilion. But if their work is wood, hay, stubble, nothing can shield them from the fierceness of Jehovah's wrath.
Many measure themselves among themselves and compare their lives with the lives of others. This should not be. No one but Christ is given, us as an example, and each should strive to excel in imitating him. We are co-workers with Christ, or co-workers with the enemy. We either gather with Christ, or scatter abroad. We are decided, wholehearted Christians, or none at all. None will enter Heaven without making a sacrifice. Those who are willing to make any and every sacrifice for eternal life will have it; and it will be worth suffering for, worth crucifying self for, and sacrificing every idol for. The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory outweighs every earthly treasure, and eclipses every earthly attraction. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 59, #50)
The holiday season is fast approaching with its interchange of gifts, and old and young are intently studying what they can bestow upon their friends as a token of affectionate remembrance. It is pleasant to receive a gift, however small, from those we love. It is an assurance that we are not forgotten, and seems to bind us to them a little closer.
Brethren and sisters, while you are devising gifts for one another, I would remind you of our heavenly Friend, lest you should be unmindful of his claims. Will he not be pleased if we show that we have not forgotten him? Jesus, the Prince of Life, gave all to bring salvation within our reach. Oh, matchless love! he left his royal home, his high command, and stooped to share our poverty and shame, that we might be exalted to share his riches and his throne. His glorious perfection called forth the admiration of the angelic host; yet he, their adored Commander, came down to a world sunken in sin, that he might give us a perfect example in his life. Step by step, he descended to the deepest humiliation, that he might reach fallen, guilty men, and lift them up to become sons of God. For us he submitted to insult and shameful abuse. For us he denied himself at every point. He suffered even unto death, that he might give us eternal life.
It is through Christ that we receive every blessing. We may come to him in our poverty and need, and he will listen to our petitions, and supply our every want. We are dependent upon him every moment for grace and strength to maintain our integrity and to continue in his love. How often we need to have the bread of life broken to our souls! How often we need to be refreshed at the fountain of living waters! Every temporal as well as every spiritual blessing, is a continual witness of his beneficence, The recurring seasons, with the rich and varied blessings which they bring, the refreshing rain and the glad sunshine, every good thing we receive, attests the continuance of our Creator's gift to man.
Shall not all these precious tokens of his love call forth a response from us in freewill offerings for his cause? Shall not our heavenly Benefactor share in the tokens of our gratitude and love? Come, brethren and sisters, come with your children, even the babes in your arms, and bring your offerings to God according to your ability. Make melody to him in your hearts, and let his praise be upon your lips. Let us rejoice that our Saviour liveth to make intercession for us in the presence of Jehovah. As a people we have backslidden from God; let us return unto him, and he will return unto us, and will heal all our backslidings. Let us, upon the coming Christmas and New Year's festivals, not only make an offering to God of our means, but give ourselves unreservedly to him, a living sacrifice.
From this time till the opening of the new year, let the theme of our thoughts be, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people." You have taxed your inventive powers to prepare something that will surprise and gratify your friends. Let us in these last days of 1882, be as anxious, as earnest, as persevering, to render to God that which is due him.
While our heavenly Father has crowned our lives with abundance to supply our temporal wants, his mercies have been abused because they were so full and free. Many forget that their obligations to God increase with the continuous manifestations of his love and care, and that all these call for acknowledgment from us in gifts and offerings to sustain the various branches of his work. Such have now a precious opportunity to redeem the past, and to show that God has the first place in their affections. Let not our best thoughts, our most earnest efforts, our most precious offerings, be given to earthly friends, while our Creator is neglected and forgotten. I speak to those who profess to be his dear children: What will you bring to God as a token of your love and gratitude? However small the offering, he will accept it, if it is the best you have to bring, and is given in love and sincerity of heart.
I feel sad as I think how many are so engrossed with thoughts of their friends and the gifts they are preparing for them that they will lose sight of their obligations to God. They will not seek to purify the soul temple from defilement that they may present to the Lord an offering in righteousness. During the past year, Satan has been making most earnest effort to sow discord and dissension among brethren. Now, as the old year is passing away and the new year coming in, is a good time for those who have cherished alienation and bitterness to make confession to one another. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." This is the Lord's direction; will we obey him, or choose to remain in pride, and justify our course of wrong? Oh! that many may seek to have the sins of the past year blotted out, and pardon written against their names in the heavenly record.
We must forgive those who trespass against us, if we would obtain pardon and grace when we approach the mercy seat. Mercy and love must be cherished by all who would be followers of Jesus. When Peter asked, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" Jesus replied, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but Until seventy times seven." He then enforced the duty of forgiveness, by the parable of the two debtors. One was forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents, and then refused to show mercy to his fellow servant who owed him a hundred pence. The pardon granted to that hardhearted servant was revoked, and he was delivered to the tormentors. Our Lord makes the application of the parable in these impressive words: "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
Here is work for every family and every church. Make haste, brethren and sisters, to improve the few remaining days of 1882 in setting your own hearts in order, and making every wrong right. Remember that we shall be forgiven only as we forgive. Let all enmity, dissension, and bitterness die with the old year. Let kindness and brotherly and sisterly affection revive in our hearts. We may open the new year with a clean record. How happy the thought! Let us draw near to God "with a true heart in full assurance of faith," that the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, may keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I entreat the followers of Jesus not to let the precious opportunities of these coming days pass unimproved. Let not time and means be spent in preparing gifts which will benefit neither giver nor receiver. Remember that both your time and means are intrusted you of God, and that he will call you to account for the manner in which you employ his gifts. As Christians we cannot honor a custom which is not approved of Heaven. Let us, rather, seek to bring our hearts into a right condition, to free ourselves from pride, vanity, selfishness, and every other evil, and let mercy, truth, goodness, and love dwell therein. Let us remember the Lord our Creator, and bring to him the offering of gratitude, and he will accept not only the gift but the giver. We may have such a spirit of love and joy in our hearts and homes as will make angels glad.
If all the means that will at this holiday season be expended to gratify unsanctified desire, or that will be needlessly invested, were brought as an offering of gratitude to God, to be used in advancing his cause, what an amount would flow into the treasury! Who are willing this year to deviate from their usual custom? How many will turn their thoughts and plans into a more elevated, heavenly channel? In this time of peril and backsliding from God because of selfish indulgence, will we not look from the human to the divine? Will we not show our remembrance of God and our gratitude for his continual mercies, and, above all, for the gift of his dear Son? Shall we not seek to conform to the Divine Model? to imitate Him who went about doing good?
I address my brethren upon whom God has bestowed of this world's goods: What will you do at the beginning of this new year to show your gratitude to the Giver of all your mercies? Will you return to him in willing offerings a portion of the gifts he has freely bestowed upon you? Will you, by your Christmas and New Year's gifts, acknowledge that all things belong to God, and that all the blessings which we receive are the result of divine beneficence?
When Jesus ascended to Heaven, he committed his work on earth to his disciples, and bade them carry it forward in his name. As followers of Christ we are to be his representatives among men. The salvation of perishing souls calls for our personal effort and for our means. This should be the great object continually before us. It is to accomplish this that God has intrusted us with means. Let us then render to him that which is his own. Let the men of means make a freewill offering to God by liberal gifts for our publishing houses and other institutions. These important instrumentalities in the cause of God are heavily burdened and seriously crippled in their work for want of means. There are still debts upon some of our houses of worship. If we would this year deny ourselves, and by our offerings clear these from debt, would it not be pleasing to our heavenly Father?
And it is not the wealthy alone that can aid in advancing the work of God. If our young men would but deny self for the truth's sake, if they were willing to work hard and economize, they might have a capital with which to pay their expenses at college, and thus qualify themselves for greater usefulness, and they might also have a reserve fund to answer the calls for means for the different branches of our work. If our young sisters felt the claims which God has upon them, they would dispense with ornaments and needless trimming, and would earnestly seek for the inward adorning; and instead of expending all their earnings for clothing or in selfish indulgence, they would have something to spare for the cause of Christ.
In every church, however small, special efforts should be made to show our gratitude to God by bringing our offerings for his cause. Let those who desire a Christmas tree make its boughs fruitful with gifts for the needy, and offerings for the treasury of God. And let the children learn the blessedness of giving by bringing their little gifts to add to the offerings of their parents.
The claims of God should take the precedence of any and every other, and should be met at any cost or sacrifice to ourselves. However small our income, we should faithfully reserve for him that which he claims as his. Saith the Lord, "Them that honor me I will honor." To withhold our tithes and offerings from the treasury of the Lord, is accounted of him as robbery. Yet are there not many, even among us, who meet all other claims before the claims of God? Some bring no offerings for his cause, and even withhold the tithe, which he has distinctly reserved for himself. Some of these persons are yet in apparent prosperity. In his great mercy God is still sparing them that they may see and put away their sin. Others are already feeling his curse upon them. They are brought into straitened circumstances, and feel less and less ability to give, when if they had made God's claims first, and had with a willing heart brought their offerings to him, they would have been blessed with more means to bestow.
"God loveth a cheerful giver," and if we with a grateful heart bring our gifts and offerings to him, "not grudgingly or of necessity," his blessing will attend us as he has promised, "I will open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing." And though it may have cost self-denial and sacrifice on our part, the approval of our conscience and the blessing of Heaven will make this holiday season one of the happiest we have ever experienced.
While urging upon all the duty of first bringing their offerings to God, I would not wholly condemn the practice of making Christmas and New Years gifts to our friends. It is right to bestow upon one another tokens of love and remembrance if we do not in this forget God, our best friend. We should make our gifts such as will prove a real benefit to the receiver. I would recommend such books as will be an aid in understanding the word of God, or that will increase our love for its precepts. Provide something to be read during these long winter evenings. For those who can procure it, D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation will be both interesting and profitable. From this work we may gain some knowledge of what has been accomplished in the past in the great work of reform. We can see how God poured light into the minds of those who searched his word, how much the men ordained and sent forth by him were willing to suffer for the truth's sake, and how hard it is for the great mass of mankind to renounce their errors and to receive and obey the teachings of the Scriptures. During the winter evenings, when our children were young, we read from this history with the deepest interest. We made it a practice to read instructive and interesting books, with the Bible, in the family circle, and our children were always happy as we thus entertained them. Thus we prevented a restless desire to be out in the street with young companions, and at the same time cultivated in them a taste for solid reading.
Those in charge of our publishing houses at Battle Creek, Mich., and Oakland, Cal., have been led by a sense of duty to make a careful selection of the best books, which they offer for sale at reasonable rates. Those who wish books will do well to purchase these in preference to the great mass of current literature that will strengthen neither mind nor morals. Many of our people already have the "Life of Christ." The "Life of Paul," now offered for sale at this Office, is another useful and deeply interesting work which should be widely circulated. The volumes of "Spirit of Prophecy," should be in every family, and should be read aloud in the family circle. More than one-half of our people know little or nothing of the contents of these books, and they are losing much by their neglect.
The Testimonies contain instruction which meets the case of all, both parents and children. Should these be read aloud to the entire family, the children as well as the parents would be benefited by their counsels, warnings, and reproofs. While these are placed out of sight and neglected for the reading of fictitious, sensational literature, both yourselves and your children will be retrograding mentally and spiritually.
Many Sabbathkeepers neglect to take the Review, and some have neither the Review nor the Signs. They plead as an excuse that they cannot afford to take these papers which it is so important for them to have. But in many cases several secular papers will be found upon their tables for their children to peruse. The influence of most of the periodicals of the day is such as to render the word of God distasteful, and to destroy a relish for all useful and instructive reading. The mind assimilates to that which it feeds upon. The secular papers are filled with accounts of murders, robberies and other revolting crimes, and the mind of the reader dwells on the scenes of vice therein depicted. But indulgence, the reading of sensational or demoralizing literature becomes a habit, like the use of opium or other baleful drugs, and as a result, the minds of thousands are enfeebled, debased, and even crazed. Satan is doing more through the productions of the press to weaken the minds and corrupt the morals of the youth than by any other means.
Let all reading of this character be banished from your houses, let books that are useful, instructive, and elevating, be placed in your libraries and upon your tables, with the Review and Herald, our church paper, and the Signs of the Times, our missionary paper, and the effect upon both parents and children will be good. During these long winter evenings, let parents see that all their children are at home, and then let the time be devoted to the reading of the Scriptures and other interesting books that will impart knowledge and inculcate right principles. Let the best reader be selected to read aloud, while other members of the family are engaged in useful occupations. Thus these evenings at home may be made both pleasant and profitable. Pure healthful reading will be to the mind what healthful food is to the body. You will thus become stronger to resist temptation, to form right habits, and to act upon right principles.
There is in many families professing to believe the truth, a shameful neglect of searching the Scriptures. They are ignorant, when it is their privilege to be wise. All should take time for the daily study of the word of God, with earnest prayer that they may learn the way of life and salvation. That holy word is a sure guide, and will enable all who search its pages to distinguish between its sacred truths and the false doctrines so widely taught in these times of peril. I urge upon you, my brethren and sisters, the necessity of searching the Scriptures. Your eternal destiny depends upon your understanding and obeying them for yourselves. There the plan of salvation is clearly set forth, God's claims are plainly stated, and if we are his obedient children we shall search carefully and prayerfully to learn his will that we may do it.
We need to think more of God and less of ourselves. If we would but think of him as often as we have evidence of his care for us, we would keep him ever in our thoughts, and would delight to talk of him and praise him. We talk of temporal things because we have an interest in them. We talk of our friends because we love them; our joys and our sorrows are bound up with them. Yet we have infinitely greater reason to love God than to love our earthly friends; we receive more from him than from any other friend, and it should be the most natural thing in the world to make God first in all our thoughts, to talk of his goodness and tell of his power, and to respond to his love by our freewill gifts and offerings for his cause. All things belong to God; and the rich gifts he has bestowed upon us, the glories of the heavens, the beauties of nature, the bounties of his providence, are not for us to worship; they were not given to absorb our thoughts and love so that we should have naught to give to God; they are to constantly remind us of him, and to bind us in bonds of love and gratitude to our gracious Benefactor. Oh! I entreat you who profess to love God to be less self-caring. Center your affections upon Jesus, your Redeemer. Give up all for him, be willing to make any and every sacrifice to save souls for whom he died. Give him your loving homage, your willing service, and he will bestow upon you the priceless gift of everlasting life. By Mrs. E. G. White.