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The Review and Herald Articles
for the Year 1897
(Vol. 74, #1)
"Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The teaching of this parable is plain. All the gifts of intellect or of property which any one has are entrusted to him. They are the Lord's goods, and are to be used to his honor and glory. They are to be improved and increased by use, that the Lord may receive returns from them. But the Lord receives no returns from many talents; for, like the unfaithful servant, those to whom they are entrusted put them where they are not increased.
All in whose hearts selfishness is cherished will listen to the temptations of Satan, and will act the part of the unfaithful, slothful servant. They will hide their entrusted treasure, neglecting to use their talents for the Lord. All such can reap only as they have sown. They have sown sparingly, or not at all, and they will reap sparingly. But although the Lord has told them this in words too plain to be honestly misconstrued, they cherish dissatisfaction in their hearts, and complain that the Lord is a hard master; that they are dealt hardly and unjustly with. By this they sow in other minds the seeds of discontent and unbelief. Agents of the enemy, by precept and example they lead others to neglect to obey God. Disaffection is sown, to yield a harvest of disaffection.
Today this work is being done by many who claim to know God. They speak in a repining, complaining manner of the Lord's requirements. They do not directly charge God with being unjust, but they complain of everything touching the question of using their influence or their means in his service. Whoever they may be, if those to whom the Lord has entrusted his gifts do not make the best use of their endowments, if they do not cooperate with the heavenly angels by trying to be a blessing to their fellow men, they will receive the denunciation from the Lord, Thou wicked and slothful servant. You had my gifts to use, but you neglected to use them. You claimed to know me, but your words in regard to my requirements were unjust. You, who thought you knew so much wickedly misrepresented me, and led others to think that I was unjustly hard and exacting. "Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In that day these unfaithful servants will see their mistake, and will realize that by selfishly putting their talents where the Lord could receive no increase from them, they have not only lost all they had, but have lost also the eternal riches.
The Lord has spoken regarding those who complain of his dealings with them: "Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." This spirit is cherished in the hearts of many. They are not sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and are discourteous, even to the Lord of Hosts, charging him with partiality and injustice. But those who reveal this distrustful, murmuring, jealous spirit do not keep the ordinances of the Lord, and their service is not accepted by him.
Never will a murmur that the Lord has dealt unjustly, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewed, pass the lips of the true servant of God. Those who accept Jesus as their personal Saviour will live lives of humility, patience, and love. They did not give themselves to the Lord for the sake of the profit they should receive. They have become one with Christ, as Christ is one with the Father, and daily they receive their reward in being partakers of the humility, the reproach, the self-denial, and the self-sacrifice of Christ. They find their joy in keeping the Lord's ordinances. In true service they find hope, and peace, and comfort; and with faith and courage they go forward in the path of obedience, following him who gave his life for them. By their consecration and devotion they reveal to the world the truth of the words, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
"They that feared the Lord," writes the prophet Malachi, "spake often one to another; and the Lord harkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." Were the words spoken, words of complaint, of faultfinding, of self-sympathy?--No; in contrast to those who speak against God, those who fear him speak words of courage, of thankfulness, and of praise. They do not cover the altar of God with tears and lamentations; they come with faces lighted up with the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and praise God for his goodness.
Such words make all heaven rejoice. Those who utter them may be poor in worldly possessions, but by faithfully giving to God the portion he claims, they acknowledge their indebtedness to him. Self-serving does not make up the chapters of their life-history. In love and gratitude, with songs of joy upon their lips, they bring their offerings to God, saying as did David, Of thine own we freely give thee. "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." Let there be silence while you think whether you are among the number that fear the Lord, and that think upon his name.
Christians are to recognize the fact that they are doing God's work. They must be faithful in the improvement of their days and hours, conscientiously discharging their God-given duties; for God will not accept haphazard work. We need to fear lest covetousness, which is idolatry, shall become a prevailing power; lest God's professed people shall stand before him guilty of the same sins as was the unfaithful servant. Those who truly serve God will fear him, but not as did the unfaithful servant, who hid his talent in the earth because he was afraid the Lord would receive his own. They will fear to dishonor their Maker by failing to improve their talents.
Those who work unselfishly, with an eye single to the glory of God, will grow in humility, in goodness, and in true Christian courtesy toward God and their brethren. Those who thus grow in humility and obedience will gain a knowledge of God's will, and will have increased power with God. The powers of darkness will press against them to hinder their progress in the divine life, and to hedge up the way, that the word of God may not be presented to others; but they depend upon an arm more mighty to save than that of man, and in his strength they gain the victory.
Christ has identified himself with suffering humanity, and in the lessons given just prior to his crucifixion, he has plainly specified the work he desires his servants to do. Any neglect on the part of professed Christians of the duty they owe to their brethren is an offense against Christ. Those who hide their talents, who refuse to impart their blessings to others, dishonor Christ in the person of his saints. Please read the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, and let all who have these illustrations before them think whether the words are applicable to them. We need to be filled with the breath and life of Christ, that we may be co-workers with him; for thousands are unconverted, thousands are dying without hope and without God in the world.
All are to be judged according to their works, not according to their profession. What revelations will be made in the day of Judgment! Many who have called themselves Christians will be found to have been not servants of God, but servants of themselves. Self has been their center; self-service has been their lifework. By living to please themselves and to gain all they could for themselves, they have crippled and dwarfed the capabilities and powers entrusted to them by God. They have not dealt honestly with God. Their lives have been one long system of robbery. These now complain against God and their fellow men, because they are not recognized and favored as they think they ought to be. But their unfaithfulness will be revealed in that day when the Lord judges the cases of all. He will return "and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."
In that day those who think that God will accept meager offerings and unwilling service will be disappointed. God will not put his superscription upon the work of any man, high or low, rich or poor, that is not done heartily, faithfully, and with an eye single to his glory. But those who have belonged to the family of God here below, who have striven to honor his name, have gained an experience that will make them as kings and priests unto God; and they will be accepted as faithful servants. To them the words will be spoken, "Well done, good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
"And I saw a great white throne," writes John, "and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." "And he said unto me, It is done. . . . He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Is not this promise worth everything to us? Is not the reward which is to be given to every faithful servant large enough? And shall we not make it our lifework to offer our Maker faithful service, to keep his commandments, that we may be "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," counted worthy to "inherit all things"? By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #2)
In every land there are thousands of souls in darkness, without the knowledge of the truth,--souls who have never heard the last message of mercy to a perishing world. They know not that the end of all things is at hand. "Peace and safety" is the cry that is sounded from the popular pulpits. And yet how many of God's professed people are at ease in Zion. The churches in general are weak and dependent. They think that someone must be with them every Sabbath to spread for them a gospel feast. They do not realize that they must individually appropriate to themselves the truth that has been unfolded to them, and communicate its light to those who know it not; and they are doing comparatively nothing, either in home missions or in the "regions beyond." Can you, dear brethren and sisters, be doers of the word of God while indifferent to the souls that are perishing around you? Can you listen to the truth, Sabbath after Sabbath, and not impart its light to others?
The church must not depend so fully as she has done in the past upon the ordained minister alone to carry the gospel to the world. God has given to every man his work. For many years he has been bidding his people, "Go work today in my vineyard." He calls upon men who understand the Scriptures to go into places where the message of truth has never penetrated, and there work, imparting to others what God has imparted to them. They can be as the salt, communicating saving properties to those with whom they come in contact.
The standard of truth may be raised by humble men and women; and the youth, and even children, may be a blessing to others, by revealing what the truth has done for them. God will use the most feeble instruments if they are wholly submitted to him. He can work through them to reach souls to whom the minister could not obtain access. There are the highways and byways to be searched. With your Bible in your hand, with your heart warm and glowing with the love of God, you may go out and tell others your experience; you may make known to them the truth that has impressed your heart, praying with faith that God will make your efforts successful in their salvation. Communicate light, and you will have more light to communicate. Thus you may become laborers together with God.
God desires that his children shall make use of all their powers, that in working to bless others, they may grow strong in the strength of Jesus. You may not be learned; you may not be thought capable of doing a great work for God; but there are things which you can do. You can let your light shine forth to others. Through the prophet Isaiah, Christ has said: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. . . . And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drouth, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Every one may have an understanding of the truth, and exert an influence for good. Then go to work, my brethren and sisters. Gain an experience by working for others. You may make mistakes; but this is not more than the most intelligent, and those in positions of trust, have done again and again. You will not always meet with success; but you can never know the result of humble, disinterested effort to help those who are in darkness. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, you may win souls from error to truth, and in so doing your own souls will be filled with the love of God. Unaccustomed paths will open before you in your work of ministry. You will often have to step out of the beaten track, and, under the Holy Spirit's guidance, do special work for God; but if you make him your dependence, he will give you wisdom and strength according to your need.
I pray that church members may see the peril of departing from God's expressed commandment, and repent of their lifelong neglect of the service of Christ while professing to be his followers. If they would go forth as pilgrims and strangers, and make for themselves homes where there is work to be done, letting their light shine forth to those who are in darkness and error, they would then be able to say, "And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." We shall receive fresh supplies of grace, as we impart to others that which we already have.
The Holy Spirit will impress upon the mind the truth that the religion of the Bible is a grand and precious reality. You need not only to assent to the truth, but to put it into practise. Let every ray of light which shines from the word be heeded as the eternal truth of God. Then as you place your will on the Lord's side, look around for some work to do for the Master. Set to work at whatever your hand finds to do; for it is in practising truth, in blessing others, that you work out your own salvation. If God works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure, you will cultivate those traits of character that every heir of heaven must possess.
The reason many have so superficial an experience is that they do so much for themselves and so little for Jesus. Intercourse with those who are in need of help, with the purpose of saving their souls, will lead us to pray for wisdom, and look to Jesus as our helper. By unselfish labor for others, we shall establish ourselves in the faith far more firmly than by listening to so many sermons. The Holy Spirit will be our helper, giving us arguments with which to meet opposition, and in all our work giving us steadfast faith and unshaken confidence. Thus we shall gain an experience of more value than gold, silver, or precious stones.
The Lord would awaken his church to her calling. This is to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and present him to the world, that the world may say of his disciples, "They have been with Jesus, and have learned of him." Then let each engage in this work in all humility of mind. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren," said Christ, "ye have done it unto me." Shall we not, then, without delay, go without the camp, bearing the reproach for Christ's sake? In so doing we shall share largely of the Holy Spirit's teaching and leading.
There must be no idlers in the work of God. He desires that his people shall engage in living missionary work, and thus be doers of his word. He desires that they shall labor in love for one another; that they shall pray most earnestly for themselves that they may be branches in the Living Vine, daily drawing nourishment from him, and bearing rich clusters of precious fruit. "Herein is my Father glorified," he says, "that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #3)
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"
Individually we must be earnest, zealous workers for the Master. The Lord desires that we shall communicate to others that which the eternal and unseen communicates to us of spiritual realities. He desires that we shall study the truth for ourselves, that it may become rooted in our hearts, and a part of our very existence; and that, in turn, we shall represent its principles to others. Mind, and heart, and soul, and strength must be enlisted in the service of God.
God has placed no barrier in the way of any Christian to prevent his working to bring others to Christ. But self has obstructed the path of obedience to God. Men to whom God has committed his talents have power, and when that power is allied to true goodness as it is in Jesus, it becomes a divine power. But men have appropriated their talents for selfish purposes; and when God has called for his own, their ears have been dull of hearing.
When our powers are thus used to accomplish an evil work, they become a savor of death unto death. Never can corruption be so deadly in its influence as when connected with that which is pure and righteous. Pure rites and ordinances, when perverted to selfish purposes by the contaminating influence of worldly men, become instrumental in dishonoring Christ, and hurting the souls with whom he identifies his interest. As God's workmen, we have in the past devoted our efforts too largely to the churches. The time and labor thus expended have done these churches much injury. Our brethren and sisters should feel that now is the golden opportunity to unite their influence in the home circle and in the church, to work for those who have never heard the truth. But they have learned to expect altogether too much labor for themselves. They have been treated to a great deal of food which they have not shared with souls who are starving for the bread of life. They have received an education that has made them selfish. Instead of giving truth to the unenlightened, they have done very little to qualify themselves for work as the servants of God.
God's people have neglected their solemn obligations to one another; they have not helped one another as it is their privilege and duty to do. Instead of finding ways and means whereby they could do earnest work for Jesus, who has done so much for them,--instead of encouraging, strengthening, and establishing souls in the truth,--they have called the Lord's delegated workmen away from their appointed labor, to revive and strengthen their own souls. If they were in living connection with Christ, as the branch is in connection with the vine,--if they were drawing their support from Christ, the root,--there would not be such spiritual feebleness. If they would do the work that God has appointed them, they would be partakers of the divine nature, and escape the corruption which is in the world through lust.
The lay members of the church should have far more encouragement to bear responsibilities. They are to be educated to do service for Jesus. Teach them in what lines they can serve God best. Set them to work in many ways. Let there be fewer sermons, and far more taxing, personal labor. All the discourses preached will not help the members of the church to understand their duty unless you teach them how to work. The satisfaction of seeing companies raised up in different places through personal effort will strengthen and establish them. The self-sacrificing efforts put forth by all who believe in Christ as a present help in their work, will give them strength and power. All who truly follow Christ will be used to communicate light to their fellow men. Church members need closely to examine their own hearts, to see whether they are in the love of God, whether they are serving God or self.
Great wisdom is needed in teaching the churches to have root in themselves. They must not be taught to trust in their own sufficiency, but to depend on the Holy Spirit's guidance. Instead of calling upon the ministers for the living water, let them go to the fountain themselves. Let them say, We will not call the ministers from their work of giving the last message of mercy to the world, in order to keep us revived. We will institute every means possible to keep our own hearts pure and holy. We can have life through Christ alone; it is our privilege to seek him.
The institutes that have been held for the instruction of ministers have accomplished a good work, but a work that has not been half appreciated. Had those who received instruction in these institutes spent the time, instead, in giving light and truth to those who have no knowledge of it, in starting the work in new localities, in opening the Scriptures to families by house-to-house labor,--had they moved out in simple, trusting faith, saying at every step, I must have Jesus with me,--they would have received an education from the great Teacher himself. In the day of final reckoning it will be seen that the salvation of every soul is dependent upon the fruit borne in good works.
This work must be more extended. There must be far less hovering about the churches. Many are spiritually weak because they have not let the light which God has given them shine forth to the world. They have not connected with Christ, and become channels of blessing. God's people must read and practise his word for themselves. In the place of depending upon ministers, they must learn to place their trust in God. He exhorts them to "stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
There are many who desire to see souls coming to a knowledge of the truth; but who among us are engaged in real, earnest work for the Lord? Who, with earnest, humble faith, are bringing souls to him by visiting, by conversing, and by explaining the Scriptures? The sacrifice that we ourselves are willing to make for the good of others is what will convince them of our sincerity. Says one: "I felt so great an interest and love for the souls of the people who know not the truth, that I gave up my home, my church, my family and friends, and gave my whole life to labor for their salvation. They know that I love them. " This is doing as Christ did. Our lives will be a testimony that will speak louder than words. As Christ's followers, we are called to self-denial and self-sacrifice. He has said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
But there is backsliding among us, and God is dishonored. Many lights are burning dimly, and some are going out. Among those who profess to be waiting for the Lord, many are like the foolish virgins; they have no oil in the vessel with their lamps. When the cry is heard, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him," who among us will be found with our lamps trimmed and burning, and go in with him to the marriage feast?
I call upon the church to arouse, to gather up the precious rays of light with which they have been blessed. Lift the torchlight high, that all may see it. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Gird yourselves, and go forth to proclaim the truth to others because you dare not hold your peace. But do not go in a spirit of self-sufficiency. Go, instead, weighted with the Holy Spirit, and then your words will have power. You are to be like men who are waiting for their Lord,--waiting, watching, and working. You have no time to lose. The signs specified by Christ, as harbingers of his coming, are being fulfilled; the Lord is soon to appear in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. He is coming to be admired in all them that believe. Are you, dear brethren and sisters, ready for his appearing?
There are lessons for the children of God to learn. They are required to come up to their high and holy position as members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. They are of heavenly extraction, and they must reveal this in all their works. Have you the light of truth? Then impart the same in purity, in a peaceable disposition, in quietness and heavenly-mindedness. We plead with you to put on your beautiful garments, even the robe of Christ's righteousness, woven in the loom of heaven. Submit yourselves wholly to God. Then you will be vessels unto honor, whom he can use to his own name's glory. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #4)
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
Every Christian must take a part in the warfare against sin. The enemies of God would crush his law. They hate it because it reproves their sins. A profligate man once said that he wished all evidences of the truth to be destroyed; for they were so convincing that they could not be controverted. So today many cry, "Away with the law of God!" for the same reason that the Jews, in condemning Jesus, cried, "Away with this man!" The word of God rebukes iniquity, and his law condemns the lawbreaker. "Sin is the transgression of the law," John declares. The law is the sin-detector, and therefore the very mention of the commandments of God stirs up the evil attributes of him who is wilfully sinning against God.
A single mention of God's law is a sting to the conscience of such men. A single sentence of Holy Writ, which expresses the binding claims and the immutability of the law of God, drives them beside themselves with rage. The words, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;" "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments;" "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law," cause them to be stirred to madness. They make no such prayer, but close the eyes of their understanding, lest they shall see, and be convinced and converted.
During our recent campmeetings at Adelaide, two men took their stand on the street just outside the entrance to the campground, and preached against the truth. They were men who had before fought like tigers against the truth, and had exulted in their supposed victory; and now the evidence for the truth was so strong that they wished to storm it down. They interrupted the meetings, and made a tirade against the truth. The people were indignant at these interruptions; they wished to hear what was said in the tent; and finally the police took the matter in hand, and there were no more outbreaks. But though these disorderly elements were at work, we knew that the Lord had a work to be done, and we went right on, making no reference to the persistent opposition. Our work was to preach the truth.
From hour to hour those who work to promulgate the truth must depend on the blessing which comes from God, and from God only. And just in proportion as we have faith and trust in God, we shall receive blessings in rich abundance. The blessing of the Holy Spirit will be on the truth, which is proclaimed in the sight of the heavenly universe, and heaven's light will shine forth to elevate and ennoble.
Many things were said against Mrs. White during the Adelaide meeting. Soon after my work there commenced, an article appeared in one of the papers, representing me as among the greatest fanatics. But these things disturbed me not. God is our refuge and strength. He teaches us where we may hide from the strife of tongues; if we will let him, he will lead us into his pavilion. Our lives, hid with Christ in God, will be refreshed and strengthened.
Those who hate the law of Jehovah reveal that they have carnal minds, which are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. This is not for want of proof, but because of the stubborn resistance of their unbelieving hearts,--not because of ignorance, but because they have set their feet in the path of transgression. It is not evidence that they need; for they have had evidence piled upon evidence, and it has only rendered them more desperate, abusive, and cruel in their denunciations. They are determined not to turn their feet out of the path of sin into the path of holiness; they will not run in the way of God's commandments. They have cast the Lord's instruction behind their backs, and they manifest the attributes of the destroyer. This is the root and groundwork of all the terrible hatred against the law of Jehovah. We have this hatred to meet, but if we arm ourselves against our assailants with, "It is written," we are in no peril. It was thus that Christ met the foe, and he says, "Without me ye can do nothing." We must have the mind which was in Jesus. Read what composes the Christian's armor. Take this armor, and put it on, trusting in God to give you the victory.
When the Lord Jesus visited our earth, he brought with him renovating energy. He put enmity between the seed of the woman and the serpent. But there is no enmity between fallen angels and fallen men. Both, through apostasy, are evil; and wherever there is evil, with no disposition to repent, it will always league with Satan against God. Fallen men and fallen angels unite in a desperate struggle to destroy God's great standard of righteousness. There was a bond of sympathy among the angels that Satan succeeded in drawing into rebellion, and he made them his allies in the effort to dethrone God and to abolish his law. Satan's work in our world today is to destroy the moral image of God in man, by making void the divine law; and our enemies are inspired by his spirit. By casting aside God's great standard of character, he can deprave human nature, and win men and women to his standard; for, "Where no law is, there is no transgression." With what triumph, then, he watches the professedly Christian world, as they earnestly do the very work he is doing.
As God's servants strive to fight against the enemy of God, Christ must be to each one of them a personal Saviour. Each one must experience his pardoning grace. The tree of life is a representation of the preserving care of Christ for his children. As Adam and Eve ate of this tree, they acknowledged their dependence upon God. The tree of life possessed the power to perpetuate life, and as long as they ate of it, they could not die. The lives of the antediluvians were protracted because of the lifegiving power of this tree, which was transmitted to them from Adam and Eve.
Christ is the source of our life, the source of our immortality. He is the tree of life, and to all who come to him he gives spiritual life. "Verily, verily, I say unto you," he declared, "Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. . . . I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. . . . It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Christ also speaks of the relation existing between himself and his followers, under the symbol of the vine and its branches. "I am the true vine," he says, "and my Father is the husbandman. . . . Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."
My brother, my sister, Jesus is inviting you to become a branch of the Living Vine. He is calling upon you to connect with him, that in his strength you may do his commandments. You have tried to sever yourself from him, but you have not succeeded. God loves you, and would have you sit at his feet and learn of him. His forgiveness, compassion, and longsuffering are represented to the world in Christ. If Christ had not paid the ransom for our souls, we would not have had a probation in which to develop characters of obedience to God's commandments. Then do not disappoint Christ by perversity and unbelief. Appreciate God's gift to man. Show that you understand what your probation means. It means life or death to each one of us. By our daily conduct we are deciding our eternal destiny.
It is not toil that degrades men, or that ranks them among the outcasts of society; it is sin. Adam, pure and innocent, and fresh from the hand of God, was given his work. This work did not degrade him. While he was engaged in his appointed work, he never thought of hiding from God, but responded as soon he heard his footsteps in the garden, and hastened to shorten the distance between him and his Maker. What precious communings he had with God! But after he sinned, he feared that every sound was the footstep of God. He did not want to see God, and when he heard him coming, he did not hasten to meet him, but hid himself. "And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" This, then, was the reason. He had broken the command of God; and the light of righteousness that had encompassed him as a garment had disappeared, leaving him naked, and he was afraid to meet God. Sin is the only nakedness, the only degradation, the only dishonor, that we can know; it is the only thing that will make us afraid to meet God. After transgressing God's commands, man was excluded from the tree of life; for by eating of it, he would only prolong a life of sin. But Christ has promised, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
God sent Christ into the world to redeem men from sin. Shall we not, then, accept the society of the only begotten Son of God? The sinner is privileged to recognize Christ as his divine and adorable brother, but this relationship cannot be claimed while he continues to cherish sin. If you will cast your burden upon Christ, the sin bearer, he will remove your sins, and irradiate your mind with the bright beams of his righteousness. Then you will no longer look upon the requirements of God as briers and thorns which pierce the flesh. When you consider thoughtfully the commandments of God, when you behold God in Jesus Christ, you will turn from the deceptions of Satan. You will acknowledge the truth which sanctifies the receiver, and a marvelous change will be wrought in you. The prejudices and jealousies which have proved your stumblingblock and spoiled your life will vanish.
Religion does not consist in observing mere forms. A religion that has been handed down to us by our teachers, and which we have received only as a part of our education, will not stand against the devices of Satan. Religion must be conviction, deep and penetrating, crucifying the flesh. As the blood circulates through the body in a vitalizing current, so Christ must be received into the heart. What will avail any soul unless Christ is received into the heart by faith? Of all who thus receive him the word declares, "To them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
The commandments of God are not the dry theories and maxims growing on the trunk of Phariseeism. Every jot and tittle of the law of God is a pledge of perfect rest and assurance in obedience. If you will obey these commandments, you will find, in every specification, a most precious promise. Take Jesus as your partner. Ask of him help to keep God's law. He will be to you a safeguard and counselor, a guide that will never mislead.
There is no safe armor for the Christian but truth. This will be our safeguard in our associations with our fellow men. Our convictions must be true, our feelings must be true. We need to make sure that we are on the Lord's side in the warfare that is going forward on this earth. Truth must become our personal property, a part of our individual selves, if we would fight manfully the good fight of faith. If God's truth is cherished as an abiding principle, it will keep watch over our souls, and will send an alarm if danger threatens, summoning us to action against every enemy. But no power but truth--steadfast, pure truth--can keep us loyal to God. The simple truth of God, as it is in. Jesus, brought into the practical life, will elevate and refine; but if it is not rooted in the heart, we cannot stand against evil. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ alone can make us steadfast to true principles and keep us so. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #5)
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. . . . It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him."
In the providence of God, men and women are brought into positions favorable for them to become acquainted with the precious message of truth, and with the messenger who bears this truth. They are given sufficient evidence to settle doubts, to encourage faith, and to inspire them with confidence; but God never removes from their minds the possibility of doubting.
Thus Jesus had associated with himself, men who he knew were dwelling in an atmosphere of doubt and unbelief. Though day by day they listened to his all-important lessons, which they must obey if they would have eternal life, Christ found them misinterpreting and misapplying these sacred truths. They were confident that they had clear penetration and discernment, but they could not see afar off. The merest atom placed before their eyes was magnified into an object of vast proportions; but they could not discern spiritual things. Their moral eyesight was defective, and there was every danger that they would be overcome by the devices of Satan.
Jesus saw that those who were walking and talking with him, and listening to his instructions, were not being benefited by them. He saw that they were mistaking phantoms for realities and realities for phantoms, calling a world an atom and an atom a world; and he presented before them saving truth. Without heaven sent wisdom they could not fathom his words. If they had removed the atom placed before their eyes, if the truth had been received, the evil would have been remedied. But they would not look at the future realities of eternity. They did not, in imagination, grasp the unseen world. In order that he might practise upon them an endless succession of delusions, Satan presented before them the things of this world as all-attractive and all-absorbing; and they listened to his temptations.
Jesus declared that he knew from the first, those who united with him, who had not faith in him as their Saviour. Yet he did not repulse them. He gave them evidence sufficient to establish their faith in his message and in his claims as the Son of God. But when he saw that the influence of these skeptics was leavening the minds of those who would receive and believe the truth and be converted, he made the truth in reference to himself more plain and forcible. This brought matters to a crisis. The Saviour then presented before them the alternative,--a remedy for their unbelief, or a separation from him. "From that time," we read, "many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." Judas remained, though Jesus knew that he would betray him.
Those who follow Christ today will encounter the same difficulties, the same unbelief, the same attempts to pervert the meaning of the truth. They will meet the same tendency to raise the world and the things of the world above eternal interests. As they bear the message of truth, they will continually meet those who use their influence to counteract and misconstrue the truth. These have ears, but they hear not aright; eyes have they, but they see not correctly; and Satan uses them to accomplish his purpose.
In his teaching, Christ sought to adjust the claims of heaven and earth. In his lessons of instruction, this was an all important subject. He saw that men are in danger of cherishing an inordinate love for the world. The love of God is supplanted by a love for the world. Nothing but the power of the omnipotent God can dislodge this love. The things which are earthly and temporal lead men away from God, although the advantages to be gained are but an atom in comparison with eternal realities. They have eyes, but they see not aright. Instead of keeping the heavenly world in view, the things of this world are ever before their eyes, and are magnified till they eclipse the world of bliss.
Turning away from heavenly attractions, from imperishable wealth, from peace, from nobility of soul, man pours out his affections on unworthy, unsatisfying things; and by constantly beholding this world, he becomes conformed to it. His mind, capable of elevation, and privileged to grasp the eternal blessedness of the saints, turns away from an eternity of greatness, and allows its powers to be chained like a slave to an atom of a world. It is humiliated and dwarfed by allegiance to worldly things.
Jesus came to change this order of things, to correct this widespread evil. He lifts up his voice as the voice of God in warnings, reproofs, and entreaties, seeking to break the spell which infatuates, enslaves, and ensnares men. He presents before them the future eternal world, and addressing them in decided language, says, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
God would have us lift ourselves above the world. Jesus, the world's Redeemer, presents before us the eternal inheritance, the immortal riches, saying: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." He takes the world from its position of boasted supremacy, placing it where it should be, subject to spiritual and eternal world. "The love of money is the root of all evil," writes Paul. While money is of value if rightly used, it is not to be worshiped. Christ tells us that we are not to please ourselves, but that we must weed our lives of all vanities. He commands us to cultivate those attributes which will make every moment of our lives fragrant with good works.
God does not design that eternity shall overwhelm us, and unfit us for the duties of this life; and it will never do this if we accustom our minds to dwell upon the themes of eternity, and mingle them with our life duties. The contemplation of eternal realities will not disqualify us for the duties of this life. All the useful pursuits and activities of life are to stand revealed to us as encircled with the hallowed rainbow of promise. Christians are to be "not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord." They are not to spend their time in meditation; neither are their lives to be all bustle, zeal, and excitement. These qualifications are to be blended.
The gospel of Christ is and ever will be aggressive. Christ gave himself a sacrifice for the world. He cheerfully gave his own life as a ransom for an apostate world; and he does not design that selfishness and worldliness shall exist in the hearts of his followers. Conformity to the world is expressly forbidden by the word of God. But the grievous sin of idolatry exists in many of the churches today. They are not in harmony with God. Defilement, which should be washed away with the blood of a sin-pardoning Saviour, exists.
Christians have an important work to do in this world. Their light is to shine forth to those who are in darkness. The gospel is to be preached to every creature. They are to imitate the example of Christ; his words and actions are to be their pattern. They are to bear his image, and follow him in all his ways. He lived not for himself; his life was spent in doing good to others, and his children are to follow where he has led the way. With their labors, their prayers, and their money they are to bless those who need help. In the world, but not of the world, they are to work as Christ worked, representing him by a sanctified life. But in this work they must have the fear of God, which his word tells us is the beginning of wisdom.
The Master has employed us as his servants, and we are to be vigilant workers until he shall return the second time to this earth. We are to wait for the coming of the Lord, and work diligently to prepare the way for him. Waiting alone is not all that is required; we are to wait and watch and pray and work. This combination of waiting, watching, praying, and working constitutes us true Christians. To those who stand in idle expectancy, Christ says, "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" "Work while it is called today." "The night cometh, when no man can work."
Paul wrote to Timothy, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." This exhortation is applicable to all who live in these last days. The Lord requires thorough, entire service. The mind and the affections must be given to him. The light must be kept burning in the inner sanctuary of the soul. Then Christians will be given a spiritual eyesight. They will be enabled to understand and to do the requirements of God.
Christ has given a commission to his servants, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." This commission lays every member of the church of Christ under a solemn weight of responsibility. The conversion of sinners is entrusted to the followers of Christ, and this work is not to be relinquished while there is a sinner unconverted. The words of instruction, "We are laborers together with God," are of great importance. All, both laymen and ministers, are under tribute to God. Our capabilities are entrusted gifts, which the Lord expects us to multiply by constant use; and our responsibility is in exact proportion to the gifts entrusted. God has given to us freely of his goods, and we are to show unswerving fidelity to him.
No selfishness is to find a place in the heart of the Christian. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." "I beseech you therefore, brethren," writes Paul, "by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." God's chosen ones are to be just what he meant they should be, and what the apostle declares they are,--"a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #6)
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and he often urged upon them the necessity of prayer. He did not bid them to study books to learn a form of prayer. They were not to offer prayer to men, but to make their requests known to God. He taught them that the prayer which God accepts is the simple, earnest petition from a soul that feels its need; and he promised to send the Holy Spirit to indite their prayers.
God invites us to come to him with our burden of guilt and our heart sorrows. Sin fills us with fear of God; when we have sinned, we try to hide ourselves from him. But whatever our sin, God bids us come unto him through Jesus Christ. It is only by taking our sins to God that we can be freed from them. Cain, under the rebuke of God, acknowledged his guilt in killing Abel; but he fled away from God, as if he could thus escape from his sin. Had he fled to God with his burden of guilt, he would have been forgiven. The prodigal son, realizing his guilt and wretchedness, said, "I will arise and go to my father." He confessed his sin, and was taken back to his father's heart.
If we would offer acceptable prayer, there is a work to be done in confessing our sins to one another. If I have sinned against my neighbor in word or action, I should make confession to him. If he has wronged me, he should confess to me. So far as is possible, the one who has wronged another is to make restitution. Then in contrition he is to confess the sin to God, whose law has been transgressed. In sinning against our brother, we sin against God, and we must seek pardon from him. Whatever our sin, if we but repent and believe in the atoning blood of Christ, we shall be pardoned.
Daniel's example of prayer and confession is given for our instruction and encouragement. For nearly seventy years, Israel had been in captivity. The land which God had chosen for his own possession was given into the hands of the heathen. The beloved city, the recipient of heaven's light, once the joy of the whole earth, was now despised and degraded. The temple that had contained the ark of God's covenant and the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, was in ruins. Its very site was desecrated by unholy feet. Faithful men who knew of the former glory were filled with anguish at the desolation of the holy house that had distinguished Israel as God's chosen people. These men had been witnesses to the denunciations of God because of the sins of his people. They had been witnesses to the fulfilment of this word. They had been witnesses also to the promises of his favor if Israel would return to God, and walk circumspectly before him. Aged, gray-headed pilgrims went up to Jerusalem to pray amid its ruins. They kissed its stones, and wet them with their tears, as they entreated the Lord to have mercy on Zion, and cover her with the glory of his righteousness. Daniel knew that the appointed time for Israel's captivity was nearly ended; but he did not feel that because God had promised to deliver them, they themselves had no part to act. With fasting and contrition he sought the Lord, confessing his own sins and the sins of the people.
He said: "All Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, All this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth."
There had been a kind of prayer offered,--commonplace, self-justifying prayer,--but not the prayer that comes from a broken heart and contrite spirit. Daniel makes no plea on the ground of his own goodness; but he says: "O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies." His intensity of desire makes him earnest and fervent. He continues: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, harken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God; for thy city and thy people are called by thy name."
This prayer was the work of the Holy Spirit. It was heard in heaven. "Whiles I was speaking and praying," Daniel says, "and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, . . . being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved."
What a prayer was that which came forth from the lips of Daniel! What humbling of soul it reveals! The warmth of heavenly fire was recognized in the words that were going upward to God. Heaven responded to that prayer by sending its messenger to Daniel. In this our day, prayers offered in like manner will prevail with God. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." As in ancient times, when prayer was offered, fire descended from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice upon the altar, so in answer to our prayers, the heavenly fire will come into our souls. The light and power of the Holy Spirit will be ours.
Daniel's heart was burdened for the people of God, for the city and temple that were laid waste. His deepest interest was for the honor of God and the prosperity of Israel. It was this that moved him to seek God with prayer and fasting and deep humiliation. Brethren in responsible positions in the Lord's work for this time, have not we as great need to call upon God as had Daniel? I address those who believe that we are living in the very last period of this earth's history. I entreat you to take upon your own souls a burden for our churches, our schools, and our institutions. That God who heard Daniel's prayer will hear ours when we come to him in contrition. Our necessities are as urgent, our difficulties are as great, and we need to have the same intensity of purpose, and in faith roll our burden upon the great Burden Bearer. There is need for hearts to be as deeply moved in our time as in the time when Daniel prayed.
We have only one channel of approach to God. Our prayers can come to him through one name only,--that of the Lord Jesus our advocate. His Spirit must inspire our petitions. No strange fire was to be used in the censers that were waved before God in the sanctuary. So the Lord himself must kindle in our hearts the burning desire, if our prayers are acceptable to him. The Holy Spirit within must make intercessions for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered.
A deep sense of our need, and a great desire for the things for which we ask, must characterize our prayers, else they will not be heard. But we are not to become weary, and cease our petitions because the answer is not immediately received. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." The violence here meant is a holy earnestness, such as Jacob manifested. We need not try to work ourselves up into an intense feeling; but calmly, persistently, we are to press our petitions at the throne of grace. Our work is to humble our souls before God, confessing our sins, and in faith drawing nigh unto God. The Lord answered the prayer of Daniel, not that Daniel might glorify himself, but that the blessing might reflect glory to God. It is the design of God to reveal himself in his providence and in his grace. The object of our prayers must be the glory of God, not the glorification of ourselves.
When we see ourselves weak, ignorant, and helpless, as we really are, we shall come before God as humble suppliants. It is ignorance of God and of Christ that makes any soul proud and self-righteous. The infallible indication that a man knows not God, is found in the fact that he feels that in himself he is great or good. Pride of heart is always associated with ignorance of God. It is the light from God that discovers our darkness and destitution. When the divine glory was revealed to Daniel, he exclaimed, "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength." The moment the humble seeker sees God as he is, that moment he will have the same view of himself that Daniel had. There will be no lifting up of the soul unto vanity, but a deep sense of the holiness of God and of the justice of his requirements. The fruit of such an experience will be manifested in a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice.
Brethren, the Lord calls for copartnership in his work. He desires us to enlist our interests in his cause, as Daniel did. We should receive great benefits from a study of the book of Daniel in connection with the Revelation. Daniel studied the prophecies. He earnestly sought to know their meaning. He prayed and fasted for heavenly light. And the glory of God was revealed to him in even greater measure than he could endure. We are in equal need of divine illumination. God has called us to give the last message of warning to the world. There will be voices heard on every side to divert the attention of God's people with new theories. We need to give the trumpet a certain sound. We do not half realize what is before us. If the books of Daniel and the Revelation were studied with earnest prayer, we should have a better knowledge of the perils of the last days, and would be better prepared for the work before us--we should be prepared to unite with Christ and to work in his lines.
God has honored us by showing how greatly he values us. We are bought with a price, even the precious blood of the Son of God. When his heritage shall conscientiously follow the word of the Lord, his blessing will rest upon them in answer to their prayers. "Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him? . . . Ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #7)
"Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor." "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." Speech is the means by which thought is expressed. Rightly used, this gift is a wonderful blessing, whose power for good cannot be estimated; misused, it is a curse to humanity and a dishonor to God. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue;" "and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!"
Every uttered word exerts an influence, every action involves a train of responsibility. No one can live to himself in this world, even if he would. Each one forms a part of the great web of humanity, and through our individual threads of influence, we are linked to the universe. Christ used his influence to draw men to God, and he has left us an example of the way in which we should speak and act. A person who is molded by the Spirit of God will know how to speak a "word in season to him that is weary," and will realize the highest human blessedness,--the joy of imparting to others the precious treasures of the wisdom and grace of Christ. But those who permit themselves to be controlled by the enemy of all good will speak words which should never be uttered.
The great want of the world is hearts in which Christ abides as an honored guest. But the meekness and lowliness of Jesus have been too hard a lesson for many to learn. The sanctifying power of the truth has not been allowed to influence them for good, bringing the emotions of the heart and the words of the lips into conformity to the will of God; and too often, while Jesus stands knocking at the door of the heart, men are so busily engaged in talking of the faults of others that they fail to grant him an entrance.
Some who profess to love Christ, cherish cruel thoughts against others; and these thoughts, with their baleful influence, flow to the world in their words. All such are more closely allied to the great deceiver than to him who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Satan rules the tongues of all who give themselves into his keeping, filling the heart with envy and jealousy, and prompting the false whisper which so often causes untold misery. Those who lend themselves to his service do a work which makes him rejoice; but the angels of God weep as they see the evil that is wrought. Could those who thus give themselves up to mischief-making see how well pleasing their course of action is to the adversary of souls, they would say with the psalmist: "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper."
There is need to close the door which now stands open in the free, unjust use of the tongue, by which the enemy so often enters. He is constantly at work, adapting himself to the various dispositions and circumstances of those whom he is seeking to entangle. That soul is in the greatest danger which, though blind to its own faults, is all too quick to make known the failings of others. If the tongue were kept as with a bridle, if the eloquence of silence were more often preserved, how many heartaches would be saved! how many souls kept from entering the dark shadow of despair and discouragement!
It is not God's purpose that his children should isolate themselves, drawing apart from one another. In their intercourse he would have them reveal him by a patient, longsuffering, forbearing spirit, by words which cheer and encourage those that faint by the way. If we are willing to learn, Christ will teach us to manifest in our daily lives his goodness, mercy, and love. Every soul who will become consecrated to him will be a channel through which his love can flow,--an agent cooperating with divine intelligences,--and will find his happiness increased as he imparts happiness to others.
He who is your neighbor is to be earnestly sought for and labored for. Is he ignorant? let your communication make him more intelligent. Is he downcast and discouraged? let your words speak hope to his soul. Those who are defective in character are the very ones God enjoins us to help. "I am not come to call the righteous," said Christ, "but sinners to repentance." By the influence of words spoken from a heart full of love, the discouraged ones may become trophies of grace,--heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
"Take heed to thyself," was the charge given to Timothy. Today this lesson is fearfully neglected by those who pride themselves upon entering the kingdom of God. Satan works untiringly to thwart the purpose of God, and he tempts the children of God to be severe upon the errors of others, while they themselves are careless in regard to their own course of action, and mingle defects with their work. There will always be something which we can criticize; but when we view things as God views them, we shall not look at the work of others with a critical eye, eager to find some flaw, but will seek to find something of which we can approve. Let him who makes criticism and faultfinding his first duty, who spends his God-given time in speaking words which sow the seeds of doubt and unbelief, take heed lest defects far more serious be found in his own character.
Be sharp and critical with yourself, for the eternal interests of your soul demand this; but do not place a stumblingblock in the way of sinners by talking of the defects of those around you. Those who love God supremely, and their neighbors as themselves, will see so many imperfections in their own work, so much that needs to be cleansed from defilement, that they will feel no inclination to dwell upon the defects of others.
Nothing is hidden from God. Says the true Witness, "I know thy works." Every word that we speak is heard and recorded by the Majesty of heaven, who has declared, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Could our eyes be opened, could we see the heavenly Watcher by our side, listening to the words we utter, we would strive to control our tongues; for we would realize that we were speaking in the hearing of the heavenly universe. If they are left unrepented of, we shall meet once more the bitter spirit, the revengeful feelings, and the angry words; "for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." O that men, instead of making the mistakes of others the subject of their conversation, would turn their critical glances inward, seeking power from on high to guard well their words, that in the Judgment they might stand justified in the sight of God!
Christ, the Lamb of God, can take away the desire to speak words which hurt and bruise the souls of others. His power is limitless, and if we shut ourselves in with him, we shall grow more like him. Strength will be given us to subdue the inclination to speak and judge harshly; we shall be enabled to make straight paths for our feet, lest the "lame be turned out of the way." If we will yield heart and mind into the keeping of Christ, if we will control our thoughts, bringing them into obedience to his will, our words will be such as the angels love to hear, and will bless all those with whom we come in contact.
All who have the mind of Christ will turn away from everything tending to deformity of character. If Christ is taken as our pattern in all things, if he is formed within, "the hope of glory," our minds will be filled with thoughts that are pure and lovely. We shall feel no inclination to think or to talk of the failings of others, or to triumph over the knowledge of a brother's error. Mercy and love will be cherished; that charity which "suffereth long and is kind," which "beareth all things" and "thinketh no evil," will appear in word and action.
The most persuasive eloquence is the word that is spoken in love and sympathy. Such words will bring light to confused minds and hope to the discouraged, brightening the prospect before them. The time in which we live calls for vital, sanctified energy; for earnestness, zeal, and the tenderest sympathy and love; for words that will not increase misery, but will inspire faith and hope. We are homeward bound, seeking a better country, even a heavenly. Instead of speaking words which will rankle in the breasts of those that hear, shall we not speak of the love wherewith God hath loved us? Shall we not try to lighten the hearts of those around us by words of Christlike sympathy? Shall we not tell of the prospective rest in store for the people of God? "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver"
Day by day we are sowing seed for the future harvest, and we cannot be too careful of the seed which we sow by our words. Often words are carelessly spoken and forgotten, but these words, for good or for ill, are bringing forth a harvest. Sow one unkind, harsh word, and this seed, finding soil in the minds of your hearers, will spring up and bear fruit after its own kind. Sow one seed in loving, gentle, Christlike words, and it will bring you rich returns. Our minds must be carefully guarded, lest words be spoken which are not a blessing, but a curse. If by our words we sow wheat, we shall reap wheat; if we sow tares, we shall reap tares; and the harvest, whether of wheat or of tares, will be sure and abundant. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #8)
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. . . . And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (See further 1 John 4:18-21.)
It is the expression of God's love for us that makes us care for one another. When the Lord Jesus dwells in our hearts, we think the thoughts of God, and do the works of God. How can I find language to express the deep, earnest interest I have for our people? I am filled with yearning of soul that those who have accepted present truth should realize that they are to be sanctified through the truth; otherwise they lie against the truth. God is the author and finisher of our faith. Notwithstanding our varying types of character, we are brought into church capacity through the profession of our faith. Christ is the head of the church; and if those whose names are on the church record do not belong to Jesus, the invisible Head, they are like the fruitless branch of the vine, and are taken away. If one is really a fruitful branch, he will make it manifest by bearing fruit, giving evidence of his absolute allegiance to Christ. He will have a spiritual connection with God. Faith and love constitute the gold of character, and will be ever working on the Lord's side to unite and harmonize the members of Christ's body.
Name, position, or wealth will not weigh one jot in the scale with God. Men and women are admitted to the church who do it no honor. But however poor, whatever the rank, tribe, or nationality, all are to be heartily received on their confession of faith, if you have evidence that the grace of God, which brings salvation, has wrought upon the heart. All who are sons or daughters of God will deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. All who take their position on the Lord's side will, as branches of the True Vine, receive nourishment, and will be stimulated by the vine to bear like fruit. They will be in cooperation with God, according to their ability exercising themselves unto godliness by walking in newness of life, which is daily repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
This faith in Christ is demonstrated by works; it produces a transformation of character through the effectual working of God's Holy Spirit. Selfishness and pride, with all their force, will make a stand against anything that would show them to be sinful. But all who shall endure as seeing him who is invisible, will have to lie very low at the foot of the cross. Contrition of soul will mark the experience of every one who has received the grace of Christ.
Let us hear the testimony of God upon this subject: "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited." This is precisely the condition of those who have not a vital connection with Christ. They seem to be ever working at cross-purposes with God, and are so full of jealousy, evil surmising, discord, and strife--Satanic attributes--that they are constantly lying against the truth; they are not doers of the words of Christ. Yet many church members are in this very position. They dwell, as it were, in the salt land, in a parched wilderness.
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drouth, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." This is the evidence that souls are connected with God. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. "But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place." Therefore we are to reverence the Lord God, and walk carefully and tremblingly before him. For our comfort and encouragement he adds that notwithstanding his high and holy position, he dwells "with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." In this wonderful statement from our Heavenly Father, all may learn what their character will be if they are indeed in vital connection with God.
Can one be a co-worker with God, and not work as God works? Will the poor, sinful agent take it upon himself to pronounce sentence against any one, however humble, with whom God dwells because he is cherishing the spirit of contrition? Do those who claim to be branches of the Living Vine bear fruit like unto the parent stock? Unless they fall upon the rock Christ Jesus, and are broken,--unless there is a thorough conversion of soul, body, and spirit,--they give evidence that they are not working in Christ's lines, and are not obedient to his commandments. Faith and love and trust in God are needed in the church. Jesus says: "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." When they have plucked out the eye and cut off the hand,--surrendered the attributes which Satan has inspired,--then they will be tender and pitiful; for the love of Christ will constrain them.
Satan will seek earnestly to intercept every ray of light coming from the throne of God, and will place his own darkness for light. It is he who prompts the keen criticism, the Satanic accusing. But it is the love of Jesus cherished in the soul that will overcome every opposing force. It places the man wholly on the side of Christ; for it brings him into harmony with the principles of the law of God. O, what a change takes place! the boughs that receive nourishment from the root bear rich clusters of fruit. When one is thus united to Christ, how will he praise God that his eyes have been anointed with heavenly eye salve to discern his poverty, his nakedness! In humble faith he can declare: He has opened mine eyes, he has changed my heart. He has conquered the stubbornness of my will, and his grace has conformed me to his will, that I may become a fruit bearing branch of the True Vine. He has brought me back to my allegiance, not only to be an advocate of the law, but a doer of its precepts.
O, let us all determine to crucify self and to imitate God! We are to express in our own lives the holiness of God, showing his forbearance, his tenderness, his compassion and love, and thus communicate his attributes. Then we shall no longer judge from the sight of the eye or the hearing of the ear. We shall bear in mind that we are yoked up with Christ, to draw with him, and to do the greatest possible amount of good. Our work may not be appreciated; we may be misjudged, falsified, and mistreated by those who claim to be Christians; but we are to look to Christ and follow him. Christians are to walk even as he walked. They are to have the mind of Christ, to possess that faith which works by love and purifies the soul.
He who is conformed to the image of Christ will possess his grace, and will help to strengthen every brother in the faith. No harsh or bitter words that discourage the soul will fall from his lips. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. . . . Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
Here is a work which you are authorized to have an earnest zeal to accomplish. "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." (See Isa. 59:1, 2.) All who have a vital connection with God are guided by his counsel. United in church capacity, they give themselves to do Christ's work. If we will open the door to Jesus, he will come in and abide with us; our strength will always be reinforced by his actual representative, the Holy Spirit.
But whenever the church unites with it a man who is without earnestness and sanctified moral purpose, it has a hindrance that weakens moral power, and turns souls away from faith and love and trust in God. Whenever anything is encountered that is contrary to his mind, such a one will reveal his true spirit. In councils he does unlawful acts, pronounces unjust sentences; and through his influence, decisions are made that are entirely contrary to God's will and ways. Thus he proves himself disloyal to God. He has neglected to follow the rules which Christ has given, and he works according to the principles of the world. If others sit by and let these things pass, God charges the sin upon them also. It is a duty to keep our offices of publication pure, that there shall be no conniving to do injustice in business transactions.
He who loves God and his fellow men as he loves himself will practise no robbery toward God or man. All who live out the law of God will on all occasions maintain the strictest integrity. If men are in living communion with the only true God, they will have the presence of a living Saviour. Such men will be a blessing to the church. Christians who cherish love toward their brethren, and manifest confidence in them, greatly strengthen them. We are to be complete in him who gave his life for us. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #9)
"Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain." "He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain." In the East the former rain falls at the sowing time. It is necessary in order that the seed may germinate. Under the influence of the fertilizing showers, the tender shoot springs up. The latter rain, falling near the close of the season, ripens the grain, and prepares it for the sickle. The Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit. As the dew and the rain are given first to cause the seed to germinate, and then to ripen the harvest, so the Holy Spirit is given to carry forward, from one stage to another, the process of spiritual growth. The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ.
The latter rain, ripening earth's harvest, represents the spiritual grace that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of Man. But unless the former rain has fallen, there will be no life; the green blade will not spring up. Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection.
There is to be "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." There must be a constant development of Christian virtue, a constant advancement in Christian experience. This we should seek with intensity of desire, that we may adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour.
Many have in a great measure failed to receive the former rain. They have not obtained all the benefits that God has thus provided for them. They expect that the lack will be supplied by the latter rain. When the richest abundance of grace shall be bestowed, they intend to open their hearts to receive it. They are making a terrible mistake. The work that God has begun in the human heart in giving his light and knowledge, must be continually going forward. Every individual must realize his own necessity. The heart must be emptied of every defilement, and cleansed for the indwelling of the Spirit. It was by the confession and forsaking of sin, by earnest prayer and consecration of themselves to God, that the early disciples prepared for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The same work, only in greater degree, must be done now. Then the human agent had only to ask for the blessing, and wait for the Lord to perfect the work concerning him. It is God who began the work, and he will finish his work, making man complete in Jesus Christ. But there must be no neglect of the grace represented by the former rain. Only those who are living up to the light they have, will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it.
At no point in our experience can we dispense with the assistance of that which enables us to make the first start. The blessings received under the former rain are needful to us to the end. Yet these alone will not suffice. While we cherish the blessing of the early rain, we must not, on the other hand, lose sight of the fact that without the latter rain, to fill out the ears and ripen the grain, the harvest will not be ready for the sickle, and the labor of the sower will have been in vain. Divine grace is needed at the beginning, divine grace at every step of advance, and divine grace alone can complete the work. There is no place for us to rest in a careless attitude. We must never forget the warnings of Christ, "Watch unto prayer," "Watch and pray always." A connection with the divine agency every moment is essential to our progress. We may have had a measure of the Spirit of God, but by prayer and faith we are continually to seek more of the Spirit. It will never do to cease our efforts. If we do not progress, if we do not place ourselves in an attitude to receive both the former and the latter rain, we shall lose our souls, and the responsibility will lie at our own door.
"Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain." Do not rest satisfied that in the ordinary course of the season, rain will fall. Ask for it. The growth and perfection of the seed rests not with husbandman. God alone can ripen the harvest. But man's cooperation is required. God's work for us demands the action of our mind, the exercise of our faith. We must seek his favors with the whole heart if the showers of grace are to come to us. We should improve every opportunity of placing ourselves in the channel of blessing. Christ has said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst. The convocations of the church, as in campmeetings, the assemblies of the home church, and all occasions where there is personal labor for souls, are God's appointed opportunities for giving the early and the latter rain.
But let none think that in attending these gatherings, their duty is done. A mere attendance upon all the meetings that are held will not in itself bring a blessing to the soul. It is not an immutable law that all who attend general gatherings or local meetings shall receive large supplies from heaven. The circumstances may seem to be favorable for a rich outpouring of the showers of grace. But God himself must command the rain to fall. Therefore we should not be remiss in supplication. We are not to trust to the ordinary working of providence. We must pray that God will unseal the fountain of the water of life. And we must ourselves receive of the living water. Let us, with contrite hearts, pray most earnestly that now, in the time of the latter rain, the showers of grace may fall upon us. At every meeting we attend, our prayers should ascend that at this very time, God will impart warmth and moisture to our souls. As we seek God for the Holy Spirit, it will work in us meekness, humbleness of mind, a conscious dependence upon God for the perfecting latter rain. If we pray for the blessing in faith, we shall receive it as God has promised.
The continual communication of the Holy Spirit to the church is represented by the prophet Zechariah under another figure, which contains a wonderful lesson of encouragement for us. The prophet says: "The angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my Lord? . . . Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. . . . And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? . . . Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
From the two olive trees, the golden oil was emptied through golden pipes into the bowl of the candlestick, and thence into the golden lamps that gave light to the sanctuary. So from the holy ones that stand in God's presence, his Spirit is imparted to human instrumentalities that are consecrated to his service. The mission of the two anointed ones is to communicate light and power to God's people. It is to receive blessing for us that they stand in God's presence. As the olive trees empty themselves into the golden pipes, so the heavenly messengers seek to communicate all that they receive from God. The whole heavenly treasure awaits our demand and reception; and as we receive the blessing, we in our turn are to impart it. Thus it is that the holy lamps are fed, and the church becomes a lightbearer in the world.
This is the work that the Lord would have every soul prepared to do at this time, when the four angels are holding the four winds, that they shall not blow until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. There is no time now for self-pleasing. The lamps of the soul must be trimmed. They must be supplied with the oil of grace. Every precaution must be taken to prevent spiritual declension, lest the great day of the Lord overtake us as a thief in the night. Every witness for God is now to work intelligently in the lines which God has appointed. We should daily obtain a deep and living experience in the work of perfecting Christian character. We should daily receive the holy oil that we may impart to others. All may be lightbearers to the world if they will. We are to sink self out of sight in Jesus. We are to receive the word of the Lord in counsel and instruction, and gladly communicate it. There is now need of much prayer. Christ commands, "Pray without ceasing;" that is, keep the mind uplifted to God, the source of all power and efficiency.
We may have long followed the narrow path, but it is not safe to take this as proof that we shall follow it to the end. If we have walked with God in fellowship of the Spirit, it is because we have sought him daily by faith. From the two olive trees, the golden oil flowing through the golden pipes has been communicated to us. But those who do not cultivate the spirit and habit of prayer cannot expect to receive the golden oil of goodness, patience, longsuffering, gentleness, love.
Every one is to keep himself separate from the world, which is full of iniquity. We are not to walk with God for a time, and then part from his company, and walk in the sparks of our own kindling. There must be a firm continuance, a perseverance in acts of faith. We are to praise God, to show forth his glory in a righteous character. No one of us will gain the victory without persevering, untiring effort, proportionate to the value of the object which we seek, even eternal life.
The dispensation in which we are now living is to be, to those that ask, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Ask for his blessing. It is time we were more intense in our devotion. To us is committed the arduous, but happy, glorious work of revealing Christ to those who are in darkness. We are called to proclaim the special truths for this time. For all this the outpouring of the Spirit is essential. We should pray for it. The Lord expects us to ask him. We have not been wholehearted in this work.
What can I say to my brethren in the name of the Lord? What proportion of our efforts has been made in accordance with the light the Lord has been pleased to give. We cannot depend upon form or external machinery. What we need is the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit of God. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." Pray without ceasing, and watch by working in accordance with your prayers. As you pray, believe, trust in God. It is the time of the latter rain, when the Lord will give largely of his Spirit. Be fervent in prayer, and watch in the Spirit. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #10)
"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." It is essential that every subject of the kingdom of God should be obedient to the law of Jehovah, in order that his infinite glory may have a perfect establishment. The professed followers of Christ are tested in this life to see whether or not they will be obedient to God. Obedience will result in happiness, and will insure the reward of eternal life. Failure on the part of Adam on one point resulted in terrible consequences, and sin has grown to such vast proportions that it cannot be measured. But in the midst of rebellion and apostasy, in the midst of those who were disloyal, impenitent, and obstinate, God looks down upon those who love him and keep his commandments, and says, "I love them that love me," and will cause them to inherit substance. "I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me."
Christ lived in accordance with the principles of God's moral government, and fulfilled the specifications of the law of God. He represented the beneficence of the law in his human life. The fact that the law is holy, just, and good is to be testified before all nations, tongues, and peoples, to worlds unfallen, to angels, seraphim, and cherubim. The principles of the law of God were wrought out in the character of Jesus Christ, and he who cooperates with Christ, becoming a partaker of the divine nature, will develop the divine character, and become an illustration of the divine law. Christ in the heart will bring the whole man, soul, body, and spirit into captivity to the obedience of righteousness. Christ's true followers will be in conformity to the mind and will and character of God, and the far-reaching principles of the law will be demonstrated in humanity.
Pardoning, redeeming love is brought to view in Christ Jesus. Satan had misrepresented the character of God, and it was necessary that a correct representation should be made to worlds unfallen, to angels, and to men. Satan had declared that God knew nothing of self-denial, of mercy and love, but that he was stern, exacting, and unforgiving. Satan never tested the forgiving love of God; for he never exercised genuine repentance. His representations of God were incorrect; he was a false witness, an accuser of Christ, and an accuser of all those who throw off the Satanic yoke, and come back to render willing allegiance to the God of heaven.
Satan charged God with an unforgiving spirit, because he would not receive on terms of favor those who disobeyed his law and therefore misrepresented his character. But forgiveness of sins would be of no avail unless the course of transgression was abandoned, and the grace of Christ imparted to the sinner to renovate, purify, and ennoble him who had fallen by iniquity. This was the only way by which the sinner could be restored to divine favor, and trusted to come into copartnership with Jesus Christ. But in Christ we behold the character of the Father, and see the pitying tenderness which God exercised for fallen man, giving his only begotten Son as a ransom for the transgressors of the law. It is in beholding the love of God that repentance is awakened in the sinner's heart, and an earnest desire is created to become reconciled to God. When the transgressor becomes acquainted with God, and experiences his love, it produces in his heart a hatred for sin and a love for holiness.
The more we study the attributes of the character of God as revealed in Christ, the more we see that justice has been sustained in the sacrifice that met the penalty of the law, and that mercy has been provided in the only begotten Son, who bore the penalty of the law in the sinner's place, in order that man might have another probation, another opportunity to be obedient to the law of God's government, that it might be made manifest who could be trusted to become members of the Lord's family, children of the Heavenly King. Those who are obedient to the law of the government of God while in this brief probation, amid all the counter-influences of Satanic agencies, will be pronounced in heaven loyal children of the Lord of Hosts. They will be declared to be separate from the sinful practises of the world, and to them God gives the promise, "I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
By both creation and redemption we are the Lord's property. We are absolutely his subjects, and amenable to the laws of his kingdom. Let no one foster the delusion that the Lord God of heaven and earth has no law by which to control and govern his subjects. We are dependent upon God for everything we enjoy. The food which we eat, the clothing we wear, the atmosphere we breathe, the life we enjoy from day to day, are received from God. We are under obligation to be governed by his will, to acknowledge him as our supreme ruler. We are under obligation to coincide with all his plans and designs. As all our blessings come from God, we are under the highest obligation to render gratitude to him for his mercies, his goodness and benevolence, and to manifest this gratitude by returning to him his own in gifts and offerings, ever cherishing a sense of our dependence upon him.
Those who have a knowledge of God in Christ Jesus are under obligation to perform his expressed will in doing his commandments, which are a transcript of his character. We are under a debt of gratitude to God for the revelation of his love in Christ Jesus; and as intelligent human agents, we are to reveal to the world the manner of character that will result from obedience to every specification of the law of God's government. In perfect obedience to his holy will, we are to manifest adoration, love, cheerfulness, and praise, and thus honor and glorify God. It is in this way alone that man may reveal the character of God in Christ to the world, and make manifest to men that happiness, peace, assurance, and grace come from obedience to the law of God. Thus glory redounds to God in good and righteous actions through harmony with the laws of Jehovah's government.
It was positively necessary that man should know his Heavenly Father, and discern his paternal attributes of character; for in becoming acquainted with God, men may become partakers of the same virtues and the same glory. In the prayer of Christ for his disciples, the truth embodied is of the deepest significance and interest to all his followers. "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." To render acceptable service to God, it is essential that we should know God, to whom we belong, in order that we may be thankful and obedient, contemplating and adoring him for his wonderful love to men. We could not rejoice in and praise a being of whom we had no certain knowledge; but God has sent Christ to the world to make manifest his paternal character.
It is our privilege to know God experimentally, and in true knowledge of God is life eternal. The only begotten Son of God was God's gift to the world, in whose character was revealed the character of him who gave the law to men and angels. He came to proclaim the fact, "The Lord our God is one Lord," and him only shalt thou serve. He came to make it manifest that, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." That which proceeds from the mind of God is perfect, and needs not to be taken back, corrected, or altered in the least. We may ascribe all perfection to God. He holds in his hand the existence of every human being, and upholds all things by the word of his power.
Unless men shall know God as Christ has revealed him, they will never form a character after the divine similitude, and will therefore never see God. It is a matter for astonishment among the angels in heaven, that any who have once known God should become careless, should permit their minds to be absorbed in any temporal pursuit, and allow their attention to be diverted from the God of heaven, so that they wantonly and willingly forget their Maker, and substitute for him other lords and other gods. The day has come when there are lords many and gods many, and Satan has purposed to interpose himself between God and the human soul, so that men shall not give homage to God in keeping his law. Satan has wrapped about him garments of angelic brightness, and he comes to men as an angel of light. He causes the guilty soul to see things in a perverted way, so that he hates that which he should love, and loves that which he should hate and despise. God is so misrepresented to him that he cares not to retain the true and living Father in his knowledge, but turns to the worship of false gods. He knows not that the love of God is without a parallel, yet Christ has revealed that love to a fallen world. John calls upon the world to behold the wondrous love of God, saying, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."
Jesus said, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." It is not a surprising thing that the world misunderstand and misinterpret the children of God, since they know not God. As the world treated the world's Redeemer, so will they treat his followers. Jesus said: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I have said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."
If the world knew the principles of the laws of God's government, if they obeyed his commandments, they would discern the character of God in the law, and would no longer be at enmity with God. But turning from the law of God, men have no means of discerning his character, and the attributes of the character of Satan are cherished and cultivated. After Jesus told his disciples what manner of treatment they might expect from the world, he said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." That is, in receiving persecution from the hands of the world, they were not to feel that God was dealing with them unjustly, in permitting them to be thus treated. Jesus continued: "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." Why is it that men reach this state of deception? Why is it they walk so contrary to all the laws of God? Jesus answers: "And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me."
Turning away from the law of God, trampling the commandments under their feet, men cannot know God; for the law of God is a transcript of his character. Failing to understand the law of God, they also fail to know the human agent who discerns the attributes of the character of God revealed in his law. This is why men are filled with prejudice against the truth of God, why they are inspired with the spirit of the great adversary of God and of his children. This is why they bear false reports, fabricating lies, and loving the lies that are prepared for their using. This is why they make such decided efforts to turn away the people from the law of God; for they have not seen him, neither known him. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #11)
"As it was in the days of Noah, so also shall it be in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day the Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed."
Christ sees the wickedness on the earth today. He sees that the sins of Noah's and Lot's time are being repeated. What terrible revelations of crime are being made! Everything seems to be stirred with an intense activity from beneath. Excitement is continually kept up. Feasting, buying, and selling, are brought into the churches. The watchman cries, "The morning cometh, and also the night." The night symbolizes prevalence of error, misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture. Every species of delusion is now being brought in. The plainest truths of God's word are covered with a mass of manmade theories. Deadly errors are presented as the truth to which all must bow. The simplicity of true godliness is buried beneath tradition.
The doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul is one error with which the enemy is deceiving man. This error is well-nigh universal. But who told men that they would not die? Who told them that God has reserved a portion of his universe where the wicked are to suffer through the ceaseless ages of eternity, without a particle of hope?--It was the serpent. God said that sinners would die. Satan declares that they will not die. Many believe the oft-repeated lies of the serpent to be genuine truth. They echo his words when they assert that God has ordained that sin shall be immortalized in a place of torment.
This is one of the lies forged in the synagogue of the enemy, one of the poisonous drafts of Babylon. "All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Another false doctrine is that the first day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord. By traditions received from the Roman Catholic Church, the fourth commandment of the decalogue is made of none effect. By their acceptance of a spurious sabbath, men have dishonored God, and have honored the usurper, who thought to change times and laws. Many dangerous errors have been brought in to get rid of the true Sabbath. Men have taken the side of the great rebel, and rather than accept the word of God just as it reads, have placed themselves in a net of heresy. Satan is bringing the churches and the world into corrupt harmony upon this point.
Night, dark and portentous, is enclosing the Christian world. Apostasy from God's commandments is evidence of this night, deep, dark, and apparently impenetrable. Systems that make the truth of God of none effect are cherished. Men are teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, and their assertions are taken as truth. The people have received manmade theories. So the gospel is perverted and the Scripture misapplied. As in the days of Christ, the light of truth is pushed into the background. Men's theories and suppositions are honored before the word of the Lord of Hosts. The truth is counteracted by error. The word of God is wrested, divided, and distorted by higher criticism. Jesus is acknowledged, only to be betrayed by a kiss. Apostasy exists, and will enclose the world till the last. Its hideous character and darkening influence will be seen in the maddening drafts dealt out from Babylon.
But before the Lord punishes men for their iniquity, he sends them messages of warning. Before he visits them with his judgments, he gives them a chance to repent. He remembered the sins of the Noachian world, but he did not punish them without warning them. For one hundred and twenty years this warning was sounding in their ears; but they did not repent. The last year of their probation found them more stubborn and defiant than ever. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . . And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth." The inhabitants of Sodom, also, perished by fire, which was rained upon them from heaven, because they turned from God, and corrupting themselves, filled the earth with their polluted wisdom.
Had these men placed themselves under the control of the Spirit of God, had they cooperated with the heavenly intelligences, what a world of beauty and happiness we would now look upon! Had these long-lived, mentally strong men been vitalized by the Holy Spirit, they would have been a power for God.
Man can be exalted only by laying hold of the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. The finest intellect, the most exalted position, will not secure heaven. Satan had the highest education that could be obtained. This education he received under the greatest of all teachers. When men talk of higher criticism, when they pass their judgment upon the word of God, call their attention to the fact that they have forgotten who was the first and wisest critic. He has had thousands of years of practical experience. He it is who teaches the so-called higher critics of the world today. God will punish all those who, as higher critics, exalt themselves, and criticize God's holy word.
The world's Redeemer warned his disciples against the false teaching which was and would continue to be the greatest obstacle to the progress of the truth. "There shall arise false christs, and false prophets," he said, "and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before." And Peter writes: "There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." The leaven of false doctrine will be accepted in preference to the truth. "Beware," writes Paul, "lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
Under whose banner are we standing? Where are we? and what is Christ to us? By our course of action we decide our own destiny. By the society we choose, we determine what influences shall mold our character. If we choose the world, earthly influences make their imprint upon our minds, and though we may not realize it, we sink lower and lower; for if we do not grow in grace, we must deteriorate.
It makes every difference with the future eternal well-being of men whether they follow God's way or their own way. Their way may be entirely wrong. Are there many paths to heaven? If so, man may take any path that suits his fancy. But there is only one true way. Christ said to his disciples: "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
The Lord will uplift us if we will consent to be uplifted. He who recognizes God in Christ, who receives Christ as the world's Redeemer and his personal Saviour, enters in at the door. He does not climb up some other way. Of all such it is written, "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." The truth, the light, the life, shining into our hearts, sanctifies and elevates us. What greater elevation can earth present? What greater honor can earthly potentates bestow? Man is taken from his degradation, cleansed from moral defilement, and made an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. His life is hid with Christ in God, and when he who is life shall appear, he also will appear with him in glory. This glory will be revealed at the second appearing of Christ. Then the saints will be exalted indeed. They will sit with Christ on his throne, and with Christ they will judge the world.
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand." The end is near. Soon the Lord will come, with ten thousand of his saints; and Satan's system, which has destroyed so many that Christ came to save, will be broken up. Despotism is now seeking to obtain a foothold in every clime, but its day will soon be ended. "For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. . . . Therefore shall her plagues come in one day; death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her."
Satan is in controversy with Christ, and with all who follow in his footsteps. This conflict will continue until the voice is heard, saying, "It is done." "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: an he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
"The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up. . . . Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #12)
The mission of the followers of Christ is to save perishing sinners. It is to make known the love of God to men, and to win them to Christ by the efficacy of that love. And in proportion as the love of Christ fills the heart and controls the life, it will be our pleasure to do the will of Christ, whose servants we claim to be. Divine wisdom has appointed, in the plan of salvation, the law of action and reaction, making the work of benevolence, in all its branches, twice blessed. God could have accomplished his object in saving sinners without the help of man, but he knew that man could not be happy without acting a part in the great work of redemption. That man might not lose the blessed results of benevolence, our Redeemer formed the plan of enlisting him as his co-worker.
In sending out the twelve, Christ sent none alone. They were to go forth two and two, invested with a power from himself to heal the sick and rebuke Satanic agencies as a proof of their mission. Galilee was to be their principal field of labor. In Jerusalem and Judea, where Christ himself had labored, and where they would be sure to meet the bigoted Pharisees, their efforts would avail but little, and bring discouragement to themselves. The population of bigoted religionists made this a hard, forbidding field. The disciples were to avoid, as far as possible, stirring up the prejudices of the religious leaders. Therefore they were to confine their labors to their own nation. Christ's injunction to them was, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
The education of the disciples and their Jewish prejudices unfitted them for work among the Samaritans or the heathen. They made this manifest on Christ's last journey to Jerusalem. On that journey, he "sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem." They did not open their doors to the heavenly Guest, and did not urge him to abide with them, although they beheld him weary with his journey, and the night was drawing on. The disciples knew that he designed to tarry there that night, and they felt keenly the slight thus put upon their Lord. In their anger, they prayed Jesus to call down fire from heaven to consume those who had thus abused him. But Christ rebuked their indignation and zeal for his honor, and told them that he came not to visit with judgment, but to show mercy. These disciples were not yet fitted to work outside their own nation.
In the parables of Christ to the scribes and Pharisees and the priests and rulers, he explained their position of unbelief and opposition in its varied forms. Some of them were thoroughly self-centered. They had no room in their hearts for Jesus. Self was constantly appearing, leading them to manifest a harsh, domineering spirit. Another phase of their unbelief was expressed in their proud, perverted fanaticism. In all these lessons Christ was teaching his disciples, line upon line, precept upon precept. Those traits of character which Christ condemned, they were not to bring into their lives, but they were to weed from their hearts every wrong thought and practise.
When the twelve were sent out, they were undertaking their first mission without the personal presence of Christ. Their preparation for the journey was to be of the simplest kind. Nothing must be allowed to divert their minds from their great work, or in any way occasion opposition, and close the door for future work. They were not to adopt the dress of the religious teachers, nor use any guise in apparel to distinguish them from the humble peasants. They were not to enter into the synagogues, and call together the people for public service; their efforts were to be put forth in house-to-house labor. They were to accept the hospitality of those who were worthy, those who would welcome them heartily, as if entertaining Christ himself; and such would be blessed by their prayers, their songs of praise, and the opening of the Scriptures in the family circle. These disciples were to be heralds of the truth, to prepare the way for the coming of the Master. The burden of their message was a repetition of that of John the Baptist and of Christ himself, "The kingdom of God is at hand."
In thus sending the workers out two and two, it was God's design that by their prayers, their counsel, and their conversation, they should be a help to each other,--that when one should be perplexed and confused by difficult questions, the other might be prepared to aid his brother worker.
The instruction of the divine Teacher is for his followers in all time. The teaching given to his disciples was given also to all who receive the truth through their word. The word of God is to be their constant instructor. They are to feed upon it, to see and understand and appropriate the reproofs, the correction, and the instruction given to them through it. Every phase of Christ's teaching is as essential for those who are carrying forward God's work in the earth today as it was for the chosen twelve, from John, the beloved disciple, to Judas, who would not be benefited thereby. And all who, seeing their defects of character, their great need of the transforming grace of Christ, who desire to overcome their faint-heartedness and irresolution, their desire to be first, and become molded after the divine Pattern, may become co-workers with Christ.
As children of God, none of us are excused from taking a part in the great work of Christ for the salvation of our fellow men. It will be a difficult work to overcome prejudice, and to convince the unbelieving that our efforts to help them are disinterested. But this should not hinder our labor. There is no precept in the word of God that tells us to do good only to those who appreciate and respond to our efforts, and to benefit only those who will thank us for it. God has sent us to work in his vineyard. It is our duty to do all we can. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that." We have too little faith. We limit the Holy One of Israel. We should be grateful that he condescends to use any of us as his instruments. For every earnest prayer put up in faith, an answer will be returned. It may not come just as we have expected; but it will come at the very time when we most need it. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
We should work as did our divine Teacher, sowing the seeds of truth with care, anxiety, and self-denial. We must have the mind of Christ if we would not become weary in well-doing. His was a life of continual sacrifice of others' good. We must follow his example. We must sow the seed of truth, and trust to God to quicken it to life. The precious seed may lie dormant for some time, but the grace of Christ will convict the heart, and the seed sown be awakened to life, and spring up to bear fruit to the glory of God. Missionaries in this great work are wanted to labor unselfishly, earnestly, and perseveringly, as co-workers with Christ and the heavenly angels, for the salvation of their fellow men. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #13)
Haphazard work in the home will not pass the review in the Judgment. Faith and works are to be combined by Christian parents. As Abraham commanded his household after him, so they are to command their households after them. The standard which every parent must raise is given: "They shall keep the way of the Lord." Every other way is a path which leads, not to the city of God, but to the ranks of the destroyer. "The wages of sin is death," for the child as well as the parent. Children are the Lord's heritage. The soul of the little child that believes in Christ is as precious in his sight as are the angels about his throne. They are to be brought to Christ, and trained for Christ. They are to be guided in the path of obedience, not indulged in appetite or vanity.
When the disciples sought to send away the mothers who were bringing their little ones to Christ, he rebuked their narrow faith, saying, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." He was grieved that the disciples should rebuke the mothers for bringing their children to him; that his followers should say, by word or action, that his grace was limited, and that children should be kept away from him. To the Pharisees on one occasion he said, "Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" Christ had an experience in infancy and childhood. Of his childhood life we read, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."
A great responsibility rests upon parents; for the education and training which shape the eternal destiny of children and youth are received in their early childhood. The parents' work is to sow the good seed diligently and untiringly in the hearts of their children, occupying their hearts with seed which will bring forth a harvest of right habits, of truthfulness and willing obedience. Correct, virtuous habits formed in youth will generally mark the course of the individual through life. In most cases those who reverence God and honor the right will be found to have learned this lesson before the world could stamp its image of sin upon the soul. Men and women of mature age are generally as insensible to impressions as is the hardened rock; but youth is impressible, and a right character may then be easily formed.
If, in their early childhood, children are not perseveringly and patiently trained in the right way, they will form wrong habits. These habits will develop in their future life, and will corrupt others. Those whose minds have received a low cast, who have been cheapened by wrong home influences, by deceptive practises, carry their wrong habits with them through life. If they make a profession of religion, these habits will be revealed in their religious life.
If disobedience is allowed in the home life, the hearts of the children will be filled with opposition to the government of God. The power of the Holy Spirit will prove ineffectual to soften and subdue their hearts. If in later years, under special circumstances, they yield to the gospel of Christ, they will have to fight terrible battles to bring the disloyal will into submission to the will of God. Often the church has to suffer through its members because of the wrong education received by them in childhood. When children, they were allowed to practise deception in order to gain their own way; and the spirit that was permitted to be rebellious in the home will be the last to render obedience to the requirements of God's word.
It is no easy matter to train and educate children wisely. As parents try to keep judgment and the fear of the Lord before them, difficulties will arise. The children will reveal the perversity bound up in their hearts. They show love of folly, of independence, a hatred of restraint and discipline. They practise deception and utter falsehoods. Too many parents, instead of punishing the children for these faults, make themselves blind in order that they shall not see beneath the surface, or discern the true meaning of these things. Therefore the children continue in their deceptive practises, forming characters that God cannot approve.
The standard raised in God's word is sent aside by parents who dislike, as some have termed it, to use the strait-jacket in the education of their children. Many parents have a settled dislike to the holy principles of the word of God, because these principles place too much responsibility on them. But the after sight, which all parents are obliged to have, shows that God's ways are the best, and that the only path of safety and happiness is found in obedience to his will. Owing to this lack of training, an army of rebellious children is now swelling society. Even the children of parents who know the truth help to make up this army. The trees that should have been trained to bear good fruit produce thorn berries.
Not a particle of variance should be shown by parents in the management of their children. Parents are to work together as a unit. There must be no division. But many parents work at cross-purposes, and thus the children are spoiled by mismanagement. If parents do not agree, let them absent themselves from the presence of their children until an understanding can be arrived at. It sometimes happens that of the mother and father, one is too indulgent, and the other too severe. This difference works against good results in the formation of the characters of their children. No harsh force is to be exercised in carrying out reforms, but at the same time no weak indulgence must be shown. The mother is not to seek to blind the eyes of the father to the faults of the children, neither is she to influence them to do those things which the father has forbidden them to do. Not one seed of doubt should the mother plant in her children's minds in regard to the wisdom of the father's management. She should not, by her course of action, counteract the work of the father. She should not complain that the father restricts the children too much. Nothing can save children but vigilance and wise discipline.
The work of all parents is to train their children in the way of the Lord. This is not a matter that can be trifled with, or set aside, without incurring the displeasure of God. We are not called upon to decide what course others shall pursue, or how we may get on the most easily, but, What saith the Lord? Neither parents nor children can have peace or happiness or rest of spirit in any false path. But when the fear of God reigns in the heart, combined with love for Jesus, peace and joy will be felt. Parents, spread out the word of God before him who reads your heart and every secret thing, and inquire, What saith the Scripture? This must be the rule of your life. Those who have a love for souls will not be silent when they see their danger. We are assured that nothing but the truth of God can make parents savingly wise in dealing with human minds, and keep them so.
If the moral qualities of children are neglected by parents and teachers, they are sure to be perverted. If the children are left to have their own way, if their minds are controlled by Satanic agencies, they are never happy; for Satan takes possession of them, and fashions their characters after his similitude. Vigilance must be exercised by parents. They must sow their children's hearts with good seed, or Satan will sow his seed, and a harvest of briers and thorns will be produced. To let children have their own way is to insure a proficiency in evil.
The Christian family is to be a training school, from which children are to graduate to a higher school in the mansions of God. Scolding, loud-voiced commands, or threatenings should never be heard. Parents should keep the atmosphere of the home pure and fragrant with kind words, with tender sympathy and love; but at the same time, they are to be firm and unyielding in principle. If you are firm with your children, they may think that you do not love them. This you may expect; but never manifest harshness. Justice and mercy must clasp hands; there must be no wavering or impulsive movements.
Mothers and fathers need to be filled with that faith which works by love, and purifies the soul. Truth is no truth to the receiver unless it is brought, with its cleansing, refining, sanctifying power, into the soul temple. It cannot be progressive when it is kept in the outer court, when it is placed side by side with a carnal mind. O that parents were truly the sons and daughters of God! Their lives would then be fragrant with good works. A holy atmosphere would surround their souls. Their earnest supplications for grace and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit would ascend to heaven; and religion would be diffused through their homes as the bright, warming rays of the sun are diffused through the earth. By Mrs. E. G. White. (Continued next week.)
(Vol. 74, #14)
Parents whose hearts are filled with true and sanctified love for their children will follow the way marked out by God for the education and discipline of their children. But the sin of parental neglect is almost universal. Blind affection for those who are connected with us by the ties of nature too often exists. This affection is carried to great lengths; it is not balanced by the wisdom or the fear of God. Blind parental affection is the greatest obstacle in the way of the proper training of children. It prevents the discipline and training which are required by the Lord. At times, because of this affection, parents seem to be bereft of their reason. It is like the tender mercies of the wicked,--cruelty disguised in the garb of so-called love. It is the dangerous undercurrent which carries children to ruin.
O how quickly, through mismanagement in the home, falsehood becomes habit! In the word of God, parents have been given line upon line, and precept upon precept. But many parents who profess religion fail to practise the Christian virtues. They allow their children to grow up pursuing their own course, and disregarding the lessons which God has given for them and the rules of conduct he designs that all shall follow. Such parents discard the principles and injunctions of the Lord, as did Eli.
The history of Eli's family is given as a warning to parents. His sons did wickedly, and he restrained them not. He was too indulgent to train his children aright. His blind affection led him to connive at sin by hiding the defects of his children. By thus pampering sin, he gave his children lessons in the art of deceiving. Though he was judge in Israel, he did not repress evil in his sons during their childhood and youth, but allowed it to grow by repetition. And when these sons were placed in holy office, their sins, so mildly dealt with by their father, became a terrible power for evil. In the very service of God they practised iniquity.
God sent a message to Eli by his prophet, declaring to him the sinful course of his sons. "There came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house? . . . Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honorest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? . . . Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house."
We read that Eli remonstrated with his sons. But he did not go far enough. He remonstrated with them, but he did not take decided measures to punish them. He did not deal with them as a faithful judge should have done. He did not set things in order. He spoke to them regarding their sins, and appealed to them to cease their wicked practises; but he did not restrain them. He permitted them to occupy positions of sacred trust, though they were corrupting their own ways, and causing Israel to sin by their precepts and example. Without effectual restraint their evil grew apace. Sons of Belial, they communicated their iniquitous practises to others. Eli forsook the way of the Lord by permitting his sons to dishonor God, and the woe of God was upon him.
Fathers and mothers, hear the words which came to Eli from the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity: "Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever." Their sins were allowed to increase in magnitude until the limit of the Lord's forbearance was reached, and then he said: I will make an end. I will carry this matter to its final result. The wages of sin is death. Parents and children were both to suffer. Neither sacrifice nor offering was to be found for their transgression.
What might have been averted had Eli followed the counsel of God! What iniquity, which the Lord declared was not to be forgiven forever, might have been saved! Shall not our hearts as well as our ears tingle as we read the denunciation of God against the godless sons of Eli? Parents, take this lesson home, and in the place of educating your children in the path of self-indulgence, self-gratification, and disobedience, learn of Abraham. Abraham commanded his household and his children after him to keep the way of the Lord. The Searcher of hearts said of him, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." O for wise and judicious commanders, who will walk in the way of the Lord as did Abraham, to deal justly and love mercy, who will despise every phase of falsehood and deception! Abraham walked in the counsel of God. He did not rule by oppression, neither was he controlled by blind passion. He made strait paths for his feet, lest the lame should be turned out of the way; and God blessed him, and made him a blessing.
As the hour of Christ's humiliation, rejection, and crucifixion drew near, he felt that he must tell his disciples of the trial that was before him. Peter loved his Lord; he could not bear to hear of his death; and he exclaimed, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." Did Jesus commend Peter for thus manifesting his love for him, and his desire to shield him from suffering? He who loved us and gave himself for us, knew that Satan was suggesting doubt and unbelief to Peter; and he answered, "Get thee behind me, Satan. No longer interpose between me and my erring servant. Let me come face to face with Peter."
In a most solemn manner Christ had repeatedly declared, "My kingdom is not of this world." He laid the foundation of his church in the presence of God and all the heavenly intelligences, and in the presence of the unseen army of hell, which was in arms against him. The only way his church could be established was on the rock, the broken and bruised body of Christ. His sacrifice was the only star of hope which illuminated the darkness of a fallen world. The gates of hell could not prevail against a church built upon this foundation.
Christ came to this world, and rescued his disciples from the empire of sin; but at every step of his way he was contested by the devices and stratagems of the prince of darkness. Satan's work was to discourage Jesus as he strove to save the depraved race, and Peter's words were just what he wished to hear. They were opposed to the divine plan; and whatever bore this stamp of character was an offense to God. They were spoken at the instigation of Satan; for they opposed the only arrangement God could make to preserve his law and control his subjects, and yet save fallen man. Satan hoped they would discourage and dishearten Christ; but Christ addressed the author of the thought, saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan."
This is recorded for our benefit and instruction. The angel of darkness sometimes appears in the garments of affection, counseling us to walk contrary to the law of God. Parents may indulge their affection for their children at the expense of obedience to God's holy law. Guided by this affection, they disobey God by allowing their children to carry out wrong impulses, and withhold the instruction and discipline which God has commanded them to give. When parents thus disregard the commands of God, they imperil their own souls and the souls of their children. By failing to walk in the way of the Lord, they allow Satan to work his will in their children.
In the words and actions of the perverted child, parents must meet and repulse Satan, just as Christ repulsed the outspoken Peter. God requires parents to guard well their words and influence, and to close the door of their hearts against Satan. He has placed them as guardians, and if they would save their children, and bring them up as subjects of the kingdom of Christ, they must repress evil, and counteract Satan's wily and deceiving power.
Children should be watched and guarded and disciplined faithfully. It requires skill and patient effort to mold the young in the right manner. Certain evil tendencies are to be carefully restrained and tenderly rebuked. The mind is to be stimulated in favor of the right. The child should be encouraged in attempting to govern self, and all this is to be done judiciously, or the purpose desired will be frustrated. Parents may well inquire, "Who is sufficient for these things?" God alone is their sufficiency; and if they leave him out of the question, not seeking his aid and counsel, hopeless indeed is their task. But by prayer, by study of the Bible, and by earnest zeal on their part, they may succeed nobly in this important duty, and be rewarded a hundredfold for all their time and care. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #15)
God calls upon parents to take heed to the warnings and counsels given in his word, and train up their children, his purchased possession, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He has spoken to parents in regard to the character building of his own property. He has spoken decidedly against all iniquity, and against all its supposed modifications. While parents have the power to discipline, educate, and train their children, let them exert that power for God. He requires from them pure, faultless, undeviating obedience. He will tolerate nothing else. He will make no excuse for the mismanagement of children. The leaven of goodness, of purity, of true holiness, is to be placed in the hearts of children, as good seed in good soil.
But too often children are allowed to grow up without religion because their parents think they are too young to have Christian duties enjoined upon them. They may go to church, or stay at home, or wander about on the Sabbath, just as they please. Like Eli, the parents advise, but do not command. They do not exercise the control that God requires shall be exercised, and the curse for mismanagement of children falls upon them.
The question of the duty of children in regard to religious matters is to be decided absolutely and without hesitancy while they are members of the family. They should be taught that they must not play cards, attend theaters, or hold dancing parties. They should be warned against indulgence in liquor drinking and against choosing companions whose characters are doubtful.
Children who are misruled, who are not educated to obey and respect, link themselves with the world, and take their parents in hand, putting a bridle on them, and leading them where they choose. Too often, at the very time when the children should show unquestioning respect and obedience to the counsel of their parents, the parents slacken the reins of discipline. Parents who have hitherto been bright examples of consistent piety are now led by their children. Their firmness is gone. Fathers who have borne the cross of Christ, and kept the marks of the Lord Jesus on them in singleness of purpose, are led by their children in questionable and uncertain paths. Fathers and mothers are giving way to the inclination of godless children, and assisting them with money and facilities to make an appearance in the world.
O what an account such parents will have to render to God! They dishonor God, and show all honor to their wayward children, opening their doors to amusements which they have in the past condemned from principle. They have allowed card playing, dancing parties, and balls to win their children to the world. At the time when their influence over their children should be strongest, bearing a testimony of what true Christianity means, like Eli they bring themselves under the curse of God by dishonoring him and disregarding his requirements, in order to gain the favor of their children. But a fashionable piety will not be of much value in the hour of death. Although some ministers of the gospel may approve this kind of religion, parents will find that they are leaving the crown of glory to obtain laurels that are of no value. God help fathers and mothers to arouse to their duty!
If parents would bring their children up in the fear of the Lord, they themselves must walk in the way of the Lord. If they neglect to educate and train themselves: if they cherish those traits of character which disqualify them for patiently training their children in right habits; if they will not take the responsibility of reaching a high standard for themselves, failing to become sanctified through the truth and transformed in character, how can they impress upon their children the necessity of forming correct habits? Such parents cannot elevate the souls of any within the sphere of their influence.
It is the duty of those who claim to be Christians to present to the world well-ordered, well-disciplined families,--families that will show the power of true Christianity. If parents fail to make the effort required to do this, their children should be placed under the care of those who will feel it their duty to do the work which the parents have neglected.
Parents are not to regard those who tell them disagreeable truth as enemies. In our experience we have become acquainted with parents who would turn away impatiently from wise counsel, to accept the words of their children because they belonged to them, though the children were not telling the truth. A mother who lacks discernment, and how does not follow the guidance of the Lord, may educate her children to be deceivers and hypocrites. The traits of character thus cherished may become so persistent that to lie will be as natural as to breathe. Pretense will be taken for sincerity and reality. Children thus educated will repeat words they have heard others utter, though they may have no sense of their real meaning.
Parents should set their children an example of strict truthfulness. They should never utter one word that is not true. They should train their children to respect Christians. Parents, do not allow your children to see that you take their word before the statements of older Christians. You cannot do them a greater injury. By saying, I believe my children before I believe those whom I have evidence are children of God, you encourage in them the habit of falsifying.
Parents and teachers, be true to God. Let your life be free from deceitful practises. Let no guile be found in your lips. However disagreeable it may be to you at the time, let your ways, your words, and your works show uprightness in the sight of a holy God. O, the effect of the first lesson in deceit is terrible! Shall any who claim to be sons and daughters of God give themselves up to deceitful practises and lying?
Never let your children have the semblance of an excuse for saying, Mother does not tell the truth. Father does not tell the truth. When you are tried in the heavenly courts, shall the record be made against your name, A deceiver? Shall your offspring be perverted by the example of those who ought to guide them in the way of truth? Instead of this, shall not the converting power of God enter the hearts of mothers and fathers? Shall not the Holy Spirit of God be allowed to make its mark upon their children?
It cannot be expected that children will be altogether guileless. But there is danger that through unwise management, parents will destroy the frankness which should characterize child experience. By word and action parents should do all in their power to preserve artless simplicity. As children advance in years, parents should not give the slightest occasion for the sowing of that seed which will develop into deceit and falsehood, and mature into untrustworthy habits.
In their important work parents must ask and receive divine aid. Even if the character, habits, and practises of parents have been cast in an inferior mold, if the lessons given them in childhood and youth have led to an unhappy development of character, they need not despair. The converting power of God can transform inherited and cultivated tendencies; for the religion of Jesus is uplifting. "Born again: means a transformation, a new birth in Christ Jesus.
The time is coming when all parents must meet their children at the bar of heaven. That will be an important period. How will Eli meet his children and the consequence of their evil works? How will Abraham meet his household? Parents, how will you meet your children? You know that every case will be judged according to the deeds done in the body. Will you neglect the present opportunity of instilling correct principles into the minds of your children?
Children need painstaking effort; for if Satan is given any opportunity, he will make their ways perverse. O that mothers and fathers would realize their responsibility and accountability before God! What a change would take place in society! Children would not be spoiled by being praised and petted, or made vain by indulgence in dress. They would not be indulged in wrong. They would be taught to fear the Lord and to walk in his ways. Parents, do not, through mistaken love for your children, neglect to train them aright. Educate and train them for God. Put yourselves in the school of Christ, and learn of him, that you may teach the same lessons to your children. As you do this, God will bless you, and make you a blessing. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #16)
"And the angel that talked with me," writes Zechariah, "came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and, behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. . . . Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick, and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my Lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
These heavenly messengers empty the golden oil out of themselves, that the light may be given to the earnest searcher for truth. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." "And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed."
Many of those whom the Lord has called to do a work for him in the ministry are loaded down with an accumulation of books. Buying books becomes with some a passion. Often these books lie on the bookshelves, scarcely touched. Some are read; but if the time that is occupied in studying these books were devoted to earnest prayer, if ministers would link their souls with the divine Teacher, and search the Scriptures, hungering and thirsting for the knowledge which comes direct from the inexhaustible Fountain, they would be greatly blessed.
Those who depend wholly upon God do not need expensive libraries in order to gain an insight into the Scriptures. Many expensive books are not essential; and those who study these books to the neglect of the Bible are in danger of becoming confused in their ideas. Is it not a fact that those who possess the most aids, in the way of theological works, are the least prepared to hold forth to others the word of life? God has given us an aid, his holy word, and this is entirely safe; it may be depended on. The shepherds of the flock of God, who read and study the one trustworthy book, and pray for information from it, will find the heavenly messengers right at hand, ready to empty from themselves the golden oil.
A minister's discourse should be short. If a discourse is long, it loses half its force. He who teaches the word of God should cultivate his powers of speech, that the sacred themes upon which he dwells may be presented in the very best manner, that the precious golden oil may cause his lamp to reflect clear and distinct rays. The truth should lose none of its power and attractive loveliness because of the channel through which it is communicated. We should seek to cultivate the purest, highest, noblest qualifications, that we may rightly represent the sacred, holy character of the work and cause of God.
"Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified." The Lord gave all Israel a necessary lesson. It would be well for all to read and ponder over the words contained in the tenth chapter of Leviticus. Is it not of sufficient consequence for us to take heed what we do when we are in God's service? But are not these things forgotten? Is not a careless view taken of the word of God? Is not strange fire, which the Lord has commanded shall not be used, put upon the censers, and mingled with the incense which is offered before God?
He who holds forth the word of life is not to allow too many burdens to crowd upon him. He must take time to study the word of God and to search his own heart. If he closely examines his own heart, and gives himself to the Lord, he will better understand how to grasp the hidden things of God. The diligent, humble teacher, seeking by earnest prayer and study for the truth as it is in Jesus, will most assuredly be rewarded. He seeks for help, not from the ideas of human writers, but from the very Fountain of wisdom and knowledge; and the Holy Spirit's office work is to empty the golden oil into the golden bowls, that the lamps may send forth clear, perfect rays, bringing to light the purposes of God in truths of a higher order. Under the guidance of the holy intelligences, the searcher of the Scriptures understands the truth of divine revelation. What a privilege is this!
The understanding of the Bible is the only means by which we can hope to sow the seeds of truth in the hearts of others. We do not realize sufficiently the need of the word of God in the ministration of the gospel. It is not by the might or the power of the human agent that truth is impressed upon minds, "but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." The peculiar temperament and knowledge and wisdom of the one that preaches the word cannot make his work successful. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but God gives the increase. He who works for God must exalt the word of the living God. Christ must be exalted as the crucified Saviour.
By the ministration of the word in private families and in the church, truth is to be made known. This is the Lord's appointed agency, by which his dealings are to be kept fresh from generation to generation. Much should be made of the ministration of the word. When the services of the Lord's house are looked upon as the instrumentality through which the Holy Spirit operates by the word, a power higher than human power works, and the services are made of extraordinary power, not because of the great efficiency of the speaker, but because of the might and power of God.
The teacher of the truth should advance in knowledge, growing in grace and in Christian experience, cultivating habits and practises which will do honor to God and to his word. He should show others how to make a practical application of the word. Every advance we make in sanctified ability, in varied studies, will help us to understand the word of God; and the study of the Scriptures helps us in the study of the other branches essential in education. After the first acquaintance with the Bible, the interest of the earnest seeker grows rapidly. The discipline gained by a regular study of the word of God enables him to see a freshness and beauty in truth that he never before discerned. Reference to texts, when speaking, becomes natural and easy to a Bible student.
Above everything else, it is essential for the teacher of the word of God to seek most earnestly to possess himself of the internal evidence of the Scriptures. He who would be blessed with this evidence must search the Scriptures for himself. As he learns the lessons given by Christ, and compares scripture with scripture, to see whether he himself bears its credentials, he will obtain a knowledge of God's word, and the truth will write itself on his soul.
The truth is the truth. It is not to be wrapped up in beautiful adornings, that the outside appearance may be admired. The teacher is to make the truth clear and forcible to the understanding and to the conscience. The word is a two-edged sword, that cuts both ways. It does not tread as with soft, slippered feet.
There are many cases where men who have defended Christianity against skeptics have afterward lost their own souls in the mazes of skepticism. They caught the malaria, and died spiritually. They had strong arguments for the truth, and much outside evidence, but they did not have an abiding faith in Christ. O, there are thousands upon thousands of professed Christians who never study the Bible! Study the sacred word prayerfully, for your own soul's benefit. When you hear the word of the living preacher, if he has a living connection with God, you will find that the Spirit and the word agree.
The Old and New Testaments are linked together by the golden clasp of God. We need to become familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. The unchangeableness of God should be clearly seen; the similarity of his dealings with his people of the past dispensation and of the present, should be studied. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, Solomon wrote, "That which hath been is now: and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." In mercy God repeats his past dealings. He has given us a record of his dealings in the past. This we need to study carefully; for history is repeating itself. We are more accountable than were those whose experience is recorded in the Old Testament; for their mistakes, and the results of those mistakes, have been chronicled for our benefit. The danger signal has been lifted to keep us off forbidden ground, and we should be warned not to do as they did, lest a worse punishment come upon us. The blessings given to those of past generations who obeyed God are recorded that we may be encouraged to walk circumspectly, in faith and obedience. The judgments brought against wrongdoers are delineated that we may fear and tremble before God. This Scripture biography is a great blessing. This precious instruction, the experience of ages, is bequeathed to us.
It is time well employed to search the Scriptures; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life." And Jesus declares, "They are they which testify of me." By the work of the Holy Spirit the truth is riveted in the mind and printed in the heart of the diligent, God fearing student. And not only is he blessed by this kind of labor; the souls to whom he communicates truth, and for whom he must one day give an account, are also greatly blessed. Those who make God their counselor reap the most precious harvest as they gather the golden grains of truth from his word; for the heavenly Instructor is close by their side. He who obtains his qualification for the ministry in this way will be entitled to the blessing promised to him who turns many to righteousness. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #17)
Christ prayed for his disciples: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
In this prayer of Christ's, God has expressed his desire for the unity of his believing people. But there is an unwearied conflict kept up on this earth. Satan works to make the prayer of Christ of none effect. He makes a continual effort to create bitterness and discord; for he knows that where there is unity, there is strength,--a oneness which all the powers of hell cannot break. All who bring weakness and sorrow and discouragement upon God's people, by their own perverse ways and tempers, aid the enemy of God, and are working directly against the prayer of Christ.
The friends of the prince of darkness, notwithstanding their jarring and bitter recriminations, are linked together as with bands of steel in the one great object of disloyalty to Jehovah. How important, then, that the soldiers of the Prince of Life be one in their loyalty to him!
In union there is strength; in disunion there is weakness. God's chosen ones are to reveal to the world their union one with another. It is not possible for a few to walk to heaven alone because they can agree with no others. God's people are to be a unit. If some entertain ideas so peculiar that others cannot accept them, they should compare notes in a teachable spirit, and all should be willing to learn. They should make the most strenuous efforts to be one, to come into the unity of the faith in the bonds of peace.
Our names are registered as Christians. We go to the Lord's table; we profess to be sons and daughters of God, members of the Lord's family, children of the Heavenly King. But too often those who claim to love Jesus, deny him by their lack of confidence in one another. Too often evil is watched for, actions are viewed in the worst light, words are misconstrued and misinterpreted. Many talk earnestly about the faults of others, but their own faults trouble them little. If they would devote their voices to the confession of their own sins, it would be better. God knows the ways of his children. Every word, every thought, every motive, is open before the eyes of him who sees all things. Then let us show that we love Jesus by enthroning him in our hearts, by denying self for the sake of others. Let us work together harmoniously, as staunch members of one family.
We must guard well every point; for Satan is unwearied in his work of temptation. Watch well your words; guard well the spirit that prompts your words. Stand as faithful sentinels over your own defective attributes of character, that you may do nothing which will prove a stumblingblock to your brother. Do not make crooked paths for your feet, paths that will turn his feet out of the way of life. I wish all to remember that a day is coming in which the case of every one will be revealed. Then the plague spot that tainted your character, the rock of offense that wrecked your bark, will be seen. Many will then realize that the tongue, though a little member, can do a weight of mischief. Many, eternally lost, will then, in their despair, look reproachfully upon those who sowed bitterness in their hearts, and planted suspicious thoughts in their minds.
No provision has been made for Christians to draw apart from one another. By our unity and love we are to reveal the character of Christ. "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. . . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."
The word of God clearly points out our duty. We are to cultivate kindness and forbearance and love. We are not to misrepresent our brethren because our ideas are not thought to be of the highest value. By our conduct we show what our influence and the principles we hold are worth. If self is our center, self will appear in all we do. If Christ is our center, we shall bear his likeness, and our words will glorify him.
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
"God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."
Are we striving most earnestly to obey these words? Shall we not draw nigh to God, fearing to sin against him by being unjust to our brethren? If we hope in God's mercy, we shall manifest the most tender interest in all for whom Christ has died. We shall fear to offend his children. We shall not wound nor bruise his heritage. We shall not, because we are not exalted and honored as we think we should be, handle the reputation of our brethren in a way that offends God, who loves them as he loves us, and who takes as much pleasure in them as he does in us.
The Lord has called us to unity in the bonds of Christian fellowship and love. "A new commandment I give unto you," said Christ, "That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
It is gold of character that God estimates as of value. He reads the purposes of the heart; and he has seen disaffection where his children should have been one in Christian unity. Christ is hungry and thirsty to see Christians working upon Christian principles. In all their afflictions he is afflicted. He longs to see his children manifesting his character. "Will a man rob God?" Human brotherhood is needed.
Dissension, bickering, self-seeking, are not of God, but of Satan. In the last great day those who have sympathized with self, and by their words of suspicion have turned in the wrong direction the scale in which the soul of a human being was hanging, will see their mistake. When their influence was needed to turn the balance for the right, they stood under Satan's banner, and did his work, sowing seeds of disunion and criticism; and the blood of souls will be charged to them. They will be held accountable for what they might have done had they been instant in season and out of season in the work of Christ. The wrong impression made upon human minds may live long after those who made it are dead.
We see that which God requires of us. Shall we not put our pride and dignity where it will not be so easily bruised and wounded? Shall we not lay it all at the feet of Christ? Shall we not allow our minds to be softened by the Holy Spirit, that we may not act like children in our association one with another, but as Christ's brave soldiers, go without the camp, and bear the reproach for his sake? Shall we not cherish love rather than strife and hatred? Shall we not covenant with God that we will not be like the children of the wicked one,--pettish, jealous, full of evil surmisings,--but like a tree that is known by its good fruit? Then by our unity and by our love one for another, all men will see that we are Christians. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #18)
Bible religion is not a garment which can be put on and taken off at pleasure. It is an all-pervading influence, which leads us to be patient, self-denying followers of Christ, doing as he did, walking as he walked. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. . . . If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drouth, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." If no one ever came under your notice who needed your sympathy, your words of compassion and pity, then you would be guiltless before God for failing to exercise these precious gifts; but every follower of Christ will find opportunity to show Christian kindness and love; and in so doing he will prove that he is a possessor of the religion of Jesus Christ.
This religion teaches us to exercise patience and longsuffering when brought into places where we receive treatment that is harsh and unjust. "He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile." "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that we should inherit a blessing." "Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. . . . If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled." When Christ was reviled, he reviled not again. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth." His religion brings with it a meek and quiet spirit.
"And to keep himself unspotted from the world." The religion of Christ demands that we be distinct from the world, which has trampled the law of God underfoot. Said Christ: "If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Do you show that you love God supremely by rendering obedience to his commandments? If not, you are not "unspotted from the world." Only the obedient will is accepted by God; and by constant reliance upon his power, we may gain strength to do his commandments.
There is constant need of patience, gentleness, self-denial, and self-sacrifice in the exercise of Bible religion. But if the word of God is made an abiding principle in our lives, everything with which we have to do, each word, each trivial act, will reveal that we are subject to Jesus Christ, that even our thoughts have been brought into captivity to him. If the word of God is received into the heart, it will empty the soul of self-sufficiency and self-dependence. Our lives will be a power for good, because the Holy Spirit will fill our minds with the things of God. The religion of Christ will be practised by us; for our wills are in perfect conformity to the will of God.
Some who profess to have true religion sadly neglect the guide book given by God to point the way to heaven. They may read the Bible, but merely reading God's word, as one would read words traced by a human pen, will give only a superficial knowledge. Talking of the truth will not sanctify the receivers. They may profess to be working for God, when, were Christ among them, his voice would be heard, saying, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." Such cannot know what true religion means.
"The words that I speak unto you," said Christ, "they are spirit, and they are life." Jeremiah testifies to the word of God, saying, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." There is divine healing in God's word, which the so-called wise and prudent cannot experience, but which is revealed to babes. "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." If this word is enshrined in the heart, it becomes the treasure house of the mind, from which we bring forth things new and old. We no longer find pleasure in thinking of the common things of earth, but say, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
"Search the Scriptures." No other book will give you such pure, elevating, ennobling thoughts; from no other book can you obtain a deep, religious experience. When you devote time to self-examination, to humble prayer, to earnest study of God's word, the holy Spirit is near to apply the truth to your heart. As you feed upon the heavenly manna, you will find comfort and joy, and will be inspired to tell others of the wonderful experience you have received.
The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be the rule of our faith. It is a leaf from the tree of life, and by eating it, by receiving it into our minds, we shall grow strong to do the will of God. By our Christlike characters we shall show that we believe the word, that we cleave to the Bible as the only guide to heaven. So shall we be living epistles, known and read of all men, bearing a living testimony to the power of true religion.
If we do not receive the religion of Christ by feeding upon the word of God, we shall not be entitled to an entrance into the city of God. Having lived on earthly food, having educated our tastes to love worldly things, we would not be fitted for the heavenly courts; we could not appreciate the pure, heavenly current that circulates in heaven. The voices of the angels and the music of their harps would not satisfy us. The science of heaven would be as an enigma to our minds. We need to hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ; we need to be molded and fashioned by the transforming influence of his grace, that we may be fitted for the society of heavenly angels.
Of ourselves, we can neither obtain nor practise the religion of Christ; for our hearts are deceitful above all things; but Jesus Christ, the great physician of souls, who, with unerring skill, can read the heart of man better than he himself can, has shown us how we may be cleansed from sin. "My grace is sufficient for thee," he says to those who mourn their inefficiency. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Every burden is considered by the one who bids us follow him, before it is placed upon our shoulders. To every tried, tempted soul, Christ says, I am able to strengthen you for the duties of the Christian life. Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, we shall catch the light of his countenance, reflect his image, and grow up unto the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. Our religion will be attractive, because it will possess the fragrance of the righteousness of Christ. We shall be happy; for our spiritual meat and drink will be to us righteousness and peace and joy.
Jesus says, "Without me ye can do nothing." Living in Christ, adhering to Christ, supported by Christ, drawing nourishment from Christ, we bear fruit after the similitude of Christ. We live and move in him; we are one with him and one with the Father. The name of Christ is glorified in the believing child of God. This is Bible religion. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #19)
"Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
The grace of humility should be cherished by every one who names the name of Christ; for self-exaltation can find no place in the work of God. Those who would cooperate with the Lord of Hosts must daily crucify self, placing worldly ambition in the background. They must be longsuffering and kind, full of mercy and tenderness to those around them. True humility must be seen in all they do.
Much fitful, spurious humility is seen among professed Christians. Some, determined to conquer self, place themselves as low as possible; but they try only in their own strength, and the next wave of praise or flattery carries them up out of sight. They are not willing to submit wholly to God, and he cannot work through them. Take no glory whatever to yourself. Do not work with a divided mind, trying to serve God and self at the same time. Keep self out of sight. Let your words lead the weary and heavy laden to Jesus, the compassionate Saviour. Work as seeing him who is at your right hand, ready to give you strength for service. Your only safety is in entire dependence upon Christ.
God honors those who humble themselves before him. Moses disheartened by the discontent and murmuring of the people he was leading into the land of promise, pleaded with God for the assurance of his presence, saying: "See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people; and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people." And the Lord said, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
Encouraged by the assurance of God's presence, Moses drew still nearer, and ventured to ask for still further blessings. "I beseech thee," he said, "show me thy glory." Think you that God reproved Moses for his presumption?--No, indeed. Moses did not make this request from idle curiosity. He had an object in view. He saw that in his own strength he could not do the work of God acceptably. He knew that if he could obtain a clear view of the glory of God, he would be enabled to go forward in his important mission, not in his own strength, but in the strength of the Lord God Almighty. His whole soul was drawn out after God; he longed to know more of him, that he might feel the divine presence near in every emergency or perplexity. It was not selfishness that led Moses to ask for a sight of the glory of God. His only object was a desire better to honor his Maker.
God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart, and he understood the motives that prompted the request of his faithful servant. He answered Moses, saying: "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by." "And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
Moses had genuine humility, and the Lord honored him by showing him his glory. Even so will he honor all who will serve him, as did Moses, with a perfect heart. He does not require his servants to work in their own strength. He will impart his wisdom to those who have a humble and contrite spirit. The righteousness of Christ will go before them, and the glory of the Lord will be their rereward. Nothing in this world can harm those who are thus honored by a close connection with God. The earth may shake; the pillars of the world may tremble under them, but they need not fear. "I am persuaded," writes Paul, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God has been waiting long for his followers to manifest true humility, that he may impart rich blessings to them. Those who offer him the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit, will be hidden in the cleft of the rock, and will behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. As Jesus, the sin bearer, the all-sufficient sacrifice, is seen more distinctly, their lips are tuned to the loftiest praise. The more they see of the character of Christ, the more humble they become, and the lower is their estimate of themselves. No heedless presumption is seen in their work. They do not seek self-exaltation; they are not anxious to mix common fire with the sacred fire of God's own kindling. Self is lost sight of in their consciousness of their own unworthiness and of God's wonderful glory.
Christ came to this world for no other purpose than to manifest the glory of God, that man might be uplifted by its restoring power. All power and grace were given to him. His heart was a well-spring of living water, a never-failing fountain, ever ready to flow forth in a rich, clear stream to those around him. His whole life was spent in pure, disinterested benevolence. His purposes were full of love and sympathy. He rejoiced that he could do more for his followers than they could ask or think. His constant prayer for them was that they might be sanctified through the truth, and he prayed with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world; that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the blood stained banner would one day wave triumphantly over his followers.
Yet Christ came in great humility. When he was here, he pleased not himself, but "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." To his followers he says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." To all who reveal his meekness and lowliness, living lives of self-denial and self-sacrifice, submitting themselves in humble obedience to his will, he will manifest the glory of God.
Those who value a holy and happy walk with God, who prize the strength that a knowledge of him brings, will leave nothing undone if only they may behold God. They will cherish the spirit that trembles at his word, and in every place, and under every circumstance, they will pray that they may be allowed to see his glory.
True humility is evidence that we behold God, and that we are in union with Jesus Christ. Unless we are meek and lowly, we cannot claim that we have any true conception of the character of God. Men may think that they are serving God faithfully; their talents, learning, eloquence, or zeal may dazzle the eye, delight the fancy, and awaken the admiration of those who cannot see beneath the surface; but unless these qualifications are humbly consecrated to God, unless those to whom these gifts are entrusted seek that grace which alone can make their work acceptable, they are regarded by God as unprofitable servants.
From the root of true humility springs the most precious greatness of mind,--greatness which leads men to conform to the image of Christ. Those who possess this greatness gain patience and trust in God. Their faith is invincible. Their true consecration and devotion keep self hidden. The words that fall from their lips are molded into expressions of Christlike tenderness and love. Having a sense of their own weakness, they appreciate the help which the Lord gives them, and they crave his grace that they may do that which is right and true. By their manner, their attitude, and their spirit, they carry with them the credentials of learners in the school of Christ.
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." All heaven enters into co-partnership with those who come to Christ for eternal life, submitting themselves to him as those who have made a surrender of all to God. God requires his servants to stand under the bloodstained banner of Prince Emmanuel, striving in his power to keep the principles of truth pure and uncorrupted. They must never step aside from the path of self-denial and humility which every true Christian must travel. As they thus cooperate with God, Christ is formed within, "the hope of glory." Clad in his meekness and lowliness, they find their highest joy in doing his service. Earthly ambition gives way to a desire to serve the Master.
"Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Those who reveal the meek and lowly spirit of Christ are tenderly regarded by God. Nothing is unnoticed by him. He marks their self-denial, their effort to uplift Christ before the world. Though these humble workers may be looked upon with scorn by the world, they are of great value in the sight of God. Not only the wise, the great, the beneficent, will gain a passport into the heavenly courts,--not only the busy worker, full of zeal and restless activity. No; the pure in heart, in whose lips there is found no guile; the poor in spirit, who are actuated by the Spirit of an abiding Christ; the peacemaker, whose highest ambition is to do God's will,--these will gain an abundant entrance. They are God's jewels, and will be among that number of whom John writes, "I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #20)
Of Christ's teaching it is said, "The common people heard him gladly." "Never man spake like this man," declared the officers who were sent to take him. His words comforted, strengthened, and blessed those who were hungering for that peace which he alone could give. O how tender and forbearing was Christ! how filled with pity and tenderness were his lessons to the poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed!
The educated were charmed with Christ's teaching, and the uneducated were always profited; for he appealed to their understanding. His illustrations were taken from the things of daily life, and although they were simple, they had in them a wonderful depth of meaning. The fowls of the air, the lilies of the field, the seed, the shepherd and the sheep,--with these objects, Christ illustrated immortal truth; and ever afterward, when his hearers chanced to see these things of nature, they recalled his words. Christ's illustrations constantly repeated his lessons.
Christ always used the most simple language, yet his words were received by deep, unprejudiced thinkers; for they were words that tested their wisdom. Spiritual things should always be presented in simple language, even though learned men are being addressed; for such are generally ignorant regarding spiritual things. The simplest language is the most eloquent. Educated and uneducated need to be addressed in the plainest, simplest manner, so that the truth may be comprehended, and find lodgment in the heart. So Christ addressed the vast crowds that thronged about him; and all, learned and unlearned, were able to comprehend his lessons.
Christ's words, so comforting and cheering to those that listened to them, are for us today. As a faithful shepherd knows and cares for his sheep, so Christ cares for his children. He knows the trials and difficulties surrounding each one. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd," declares Isaiah; "he shall gather the lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom." Christ knows his sheep intimately, and the suffering and helpless are objects of his special care. He gave his life for them, and he knows their wants as no one else can.
Christ has weighed every human affliction, every human sorrow. He bears the weight of the yoke for every soul that yokes up with him. He knows the sorrows which we feel to the depth of our being, and which we cannot express. If no human heart is aroused to sympathy for us, we need not feel that we are without sympathy. Christ knows; and he says, Look unto me, and live. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I have borne your griefs and carried your sorrows. You have the deepest, richest sympathy in the tender, pitying love of your Shepherd. "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." His humanity is not lost in the exalted character of his Omnipotence. He is ever longing to pour out his sympathy and love upon those whom he has chosen, and who will respond to his invitation.
Christ did not design that his words should return to him void. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," he said to the large multitude that pressed around him, "but my words shall not pass away." He himself wrote nothing; but the Holy Spirit brought all his words and acts to the remembrance of his disciples, that they might be recorded for our benefit. Christ's instruction was given with the greatest clearness. There was no need for any one to misunderstand. But the scribes and Pharisees, determined to resist him, misconstrued and misapplied his words. The utterances which were the bread of life to starving souls were bitterness to the Jewish rulers.
Ezekiel declares: "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. . . . And her prophets have daubed them with untempered mortar, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord God, when the Lord has not spoken. The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I have sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." In his sermon on the mount, Christ spoke as though he knew that the scribes and Pharisees believed the Old Testament. They were in that gathering, and the disciples were close beside their beloved Teacher. There Christ declared, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." By his words he condemned their formalism and hypocrisy. And though applying directly to those before him, these words apply also to those of this age who do not the will of God. They are far-reaching, and come sounding down the ages to our time.
The woman of Samaria said to Christ, "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus answered, "Believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." A God of infinite holiness does not accept a spiritless offering. Those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth, or else their worship is valueless. God has no part or lot in the matter; for their pretensions are vain.
These words are still sounding. They contain truth which is universal, which is a light to all believers and a condemnation to all unbelievers. But they were particularly fitted to the Jewish nation. The religious services of the Jews had degenerated from spiritual worship to a mere formalism. "In vain do they worship me," said Christ, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." The proud lovers of pleasure were so fully engrossed with their own ambitious expectations and desires that they had no relish for the words of the great Teacher. He did not encourage their worldly projects; he never flattered them or praised their smartness; and his words were not pleasant to their world-bound souls.
The Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, made the wellsprings of the water of life foul by their false precepts. They beclouded that which was clear. By their example of pride, hardness, and selfishness, they misrepresented the character of God. They made him altogether such a one as themselves. Their own imagination was darkened and polluted by their wicked works. Their religious degeneracy clouded their minds, so that nothing that concerned Christ's kingdom was correctly discerned. By their stubborn resistance of the message borne to them by the Lord of life and glory, they became past feeling. Evidence they had in abundance; more would only have increased and deepened their guilt. But thinking themselves wise, they became as fools. They used their intellect in an endeavor to brand the truth of God with falsehood.
A divine voice had been appealing to them for three years and a half, but they hated it, and were plotting to silence it by death. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." But the Jewish nation refused to accept the offering; and Christ took up the lamentation of unrequited love: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" You have perverted my words, and wrested my entreaties. Ye bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but ye yourselves will not touch them with one of your fingers. You would not believe on me yourselves that you might become the sons of God, and them that would have entered in, you hindered by your sophistries and falsehoods.
Ambition demanded everything of a Messiah, but it responded not to the works which no man had done or could do, or to words which never before had been spoken. The Jews endeavored to gather to themselves all that was promised as the sure result of a life refined, elevated, and ennobled by virtue and righteousness. As a nation that practised righteousness, they assumed a superiority over all other nations of the world; but for a thousand years they had been loading the cloud of vengeance which at last broke over them with relentless fury. They followed their own standard, walking in the light of the sparks of their own kindling, and they perished in their delusion. They followed the imagination of their own hearts, and God gave them up to be crushed by their own ambition, destroyed by the falsehoods and delusions upon which they had built.
The Jews claimed to believe the law, but they broke every precept of it by their spirit of rebellion against Christ. History is being repeated. The shepherds of the flock of God are doing in this day just what the Jewish leaders did in their day. The Christian world is going over the same ground, manifesting the same spirit. Church members claim to be superior to others, because they believe on Christ, but they are not doers of his words any more than the Jews were obedient to the law which they professed to hold in such high esteem.
Many today, as did the Jews, will turn conviction into resistance because of the cross involved. By their resistance to the messages of truth, professed Christians show that, had they lived on the earth at the time of Christ's first advent, they would have joined with the Jews in accusing him, and would have taken an active part in crucifying the Prince of Life. When the claims of God's law are presented to them, they act as did the Jews when the claims of truth, spoken by the divine Teacher, fell upon their ears; but these rejecters of truth cannot always remain deaf to the claims of God's law, for it is eternal and irrevocable.
"It is the spirit that quickeneth," said Christ; "the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #21)
Why has it not been understood from the word of God that the work being done in medical missionary lines is a fulfilment of the scripture, "Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. . . . The servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled"?
This is a work that the churches in every locality, north and south and east and west, should do. The churches have been given the opportunity of answering this work. Why have they not done it? Some one must fulfil the commission.
A work which should have been done has been left undone. Those who have been engaged in the medical missionary work have been doing the very class of work the Lord would have done. If these workers will give themselves to the work, the Lord will accept them. But the churches, who feel no burden to obey the word, are meeting with great loss. The work may apparently seem uninviting, but it must be done. The churches are doing so very much less than the Lord has appointed them to do, that the medical missionary work done by others seems in every way disproportionately large.
O how much, how very much, remains to be done! and yet how many that might use their God-given talents aright are doing almost nothing besides caring for and pleasing themselves! But the hand of the Lord is stretched out still, and if they will work today in his vineyard, he will accept their service.
The work of the apostle Paul was a wonderful work. The Holy Spirit wrought on his mind, showing him that the gifts of God come straight from God to all who seek him with a whole heart, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, and free. Paul held to his inspired truth, and taught it to others, opposed as he was by the apostles, who ought to have upheld him. He took his position against Peter, who was one of the pillars of the church, and his companion in labor, and against Barnabas, the first one to honor him with the right hand of fellowship, when all his Christian brethren were afraid of him, and questioned and doubted his fitness for the work, because he had persecuted the church.
But the Lord had worked for Paul, and had given him increased light. He who had persecuted Christ in the person of his saints was touched and made tender by the Spirit of God. The work done for him by God placed him under the control of God. He realized that he must himself be taught by God, and then firmly resist any approach to bind unnecessary burdens upon the Gentile Christians.
Paul's brethren withstood him. Those whom the Lord had used as his witnesses protested against him, and declared that he was advocating theories that were contrary to the fundamental principles which they had been taught. But Paul firmly held his ground. He had dedicated himself and all his powers, his talents, and his ability, to God, and by God he was taught the truths of the gospel, which are able to make men wise unto salvation.
Today those human, living agencies who have a vital connection with God are not to be reproved and handicapped by the prejudices of their fellow men. The events which concern Christ's kingdom on this earth are not to be under the control of any human power. The salvation of man is to be achieved. The traditions and maxims of men must not be cherished as golden grains of truth. Paul was compelled to stand alone, looking constantly to God, and obtaining his orders from him. He was to make no concessions. The burden was heavy, but he brought freedom to the churches. It was no longer considered duty to teach and practise painful rites.
The Lord chose Joseph, through much affliction to him, to carry a heavy burden in an idolatrous nation. He was to work in the line God had chosen for him, that the knowledge of God might shine forth in the kingdom of Egypt. Joseph did not betray his sacred trust.
A great mistake has been made by man's trusting in man, and making flesh his arm. Methods and plans will be devised to hedge about the work that should be done. Men trust in human strength, and do not come to Christ; and they are strengthless. Distinct plans must be laid, but they must not be of that character that will place man under the control of men.
The Lord will raise up men, and place his Spirit upon them, and prepare them for the work which must be done. He himself, the God of truth, will qualify them to bear a fresh, living testimony for him. They will be witnesses for God. They will not spring up from their own prompting; they will be constrained by the Spirit of God to volunteer to advocate truth. God will sustain them. He sees what is needed, and year by year he arranges for his plan of operation. He will not allow men to drift as they choose. If men will be men, God will work in and through them.
The standard bearers are falling, and young men must be fitted up as workers, that the people may be reached. The aggressive warfare is to be extended. Time, money, and labor are not to be so largely expended on those who know the truth. God's servants are to go into the dark places of the earth, calling perishing souls to repentance.
Events of great importance are coming upon the earth. Men must not depend on men, but on Jesus Christ. He says, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not." O, why do we not show actual, living faith? Why do we not, in this period of the earth's history, come directly to him who says, "I am the bread of life"? "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #22)
"What Shall We Have for Sabbath Dinner?" is the heading of an article in a recent Review. The question is asked, "What shall we have for our Sabbath dinner? Good housewives, can't you tell us?" We refer all who read this article to the law of God, spoken in awful grandeur from Mount Sinai: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." This is the precept of Jehovah.
The Sabbath bears the sanctity of Jehovah. Through Isaiah the Lord has spoken: "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." "They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
It is far more essential for all who claim to believe on Jesus Christ to understand by experience what this scripture means, than to be in such perplexity as to what shall be cooked on the Sabbath to be placed on our tables. It is of far greater consequence for us to know what is our spiritual nourishment. "Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever."
"My flesh," says Christ, "I will give for the life of the world." He tells us that we have no life unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood. He could not possibly mean temporal eating and drinking. Christ made this statement over and over again, because the spiritual life of the world depended upon their understanding his words and doing them. He took no apparent notice because those who heard him were offended, but repeated his lesson over and over again.
All who will consult their Bibles will know, "What saith the Lord?" "And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning." "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed."
There is a way of quoting Scripture--the words that Christ considered of so much consequence that death was the penalty of transgression--so as to pervert it. Should we not handle the words of Christ with sacredness? It was said, in the article mentioned, "There are numerous victims, too, of such a regimen who can say, as did certain murmurers of old, and with far more reason, 'Our soul loatheth this.'" This is mixing up the restrictions of the plain, "Thus saith thy Redeemer," with the murmuring of the children of Israel in loathing the light bread which was angels' food. "Persons inclined to doubt the universal application of those ancient laws, still scruple to cook food on Sabbath, but merely rewarm what has been previously cooked; though one might question why there is more offense in baking or boiling what has been prepared beforehand than in rebaking, reboiling, or restewing what has been already cooked." Did the writer take the word of God just as it reads? The Lord has said: "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord; bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning."
That manna was given by a miracle of God. Please read this entire chapter. Who was the leader of the children of Israel?--Jesus Christ enshrouded in the pillar of cloud. Chapters thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen of the book of Exodus give the history of the children of Israel. Chapter thirteen tells of the wonderful works of God in causing the Red Sea to stand up as a wall on one side, so that the waters should not overflow, and how a passage was made through the waters. Thus the whole of the vast army of more than a million people went safely over. The cloud that went before them rose high above them, and settled down as a wall of fire between them and the Egyptians; and not one of them perished. "And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."
Their Leader was a mighty general of armies. His angels, that do his bidding, walked on either side of the vast armies of Israel, and no harm could come to them. Israel was safe. Who would have supposed that Israel could ever murmur again? Then came the sacred song of triumph, led by Miriam. Moses did not hesitate to join in the sacred song with timbrels. But when the armies of Israel came to Marah, they found that they could not drink of the waters; for they were bitter. Then the people had an opportunity to express their belief in the Lord, their invisible leader, and in Moses his servant, their visible leader. Did they wait patiently, and see what the Lord would do with and for them as they called upon him for relief? "And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?" Why did they not consider the wondrous work of God, and say, The Lord hath shown himself mighty to deliver, and he will not let us die of thirst? But they murmured against God. Moses cried unto the Lord, and again the Lord heard him. He showed Moses a tree which, when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet. "There he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently harken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the water."
Thus a loving, gracious, heavenly Leader was guiding the travels of the children of Israel. "And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
O why were the children of Israel so faithless? How wondrously the Lord had worked for them, that they should not die! He had called his armies from heaven to fight in their behalf, and gained for them a glorious victory, and yet how little faith and confidence they had under the proving of God! He gave them his ordinance, a statute which he would never fail to keep, yet at the first trial, they complained and murmured against their leaders. Their store of corn was nearly exhausted, and there was no apparent prospect of procuring more. The Lord knew what he would do, but he would try their faith to see if they would take the words of assurance that he had given them of his merciful protection and care. He was educating his people to have faith in him. Their complaints against the servants of God, who were bearing responsibilities and heavy burdens in the work, were against God in their work. By Mrs. E. G. White. (Concluded next week.)
(Vol. 74, #23)
After all the experiences of Israel and the pledges of God to his people, we marvel at their hardness and their unbelief. But the expression of the feelings of one is contagious, and Satan stands by to inspire other hearts with the very same spirit. Their present inconvenience, their thoughts of what might be, the hopeless, discouraging picture of the desolate wilderness, they were inspired by Satan to charge upon Moses and Aaron. They accused their leaders of bringing them from the slavery of Egypt to kill them and their children with hunger. All their lives they had been accustomed to walk by sight. Here they had every evidence that they had an unseen Leader. He had just given them a statute, assuring them how much he would do for them if they would keep his commandments. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." Please read this whole chapter.
"And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning." The Lord had graciously promised to relieve all their grievances. He desired to give them a religious training under the eye of God, "that I may prove them," he said, "whether they will walk in my law, or no." The first lesson taught them was that their constant dependence for daily nourishment was upon God, and that by him their wants would be abundantly supplied.
Speak not lightly of the restrictions placed upon Israel in Sinai regarding the cooking of manna. The Lord has placed barriers around his Sabbath, that it may not be regarded with the least carelessness or irreverence. When the Lord said, "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe," he meant that Friday should be our preparation day, in which we are to do all our cooking. The Sabbath is not to be a day when titbits shall be prepared or cooked. If it is really essential to have beans on the Sabbath, let them be cooked on Friday, and kept warm in the oven. They need not be eaten cold unless preferred. But let no remarks be made as though it were a very light thing whether or not we regard the special requirements of God in regard to the Sabbath. It is not left for any man or woman to venture to disregard one requirement of God.
I see no question in this matter as to what we shall have on the Sabbath day. The food which we have provided on the preparation day can be placed on the table warm, especially in cold weather. In traveling, persons eat cold lunches for days together, and realize no inconvenience or harm. We want palatable, healthful food every day of the week; but upon the Sabbath, let your cook have her day of rest, in the place of cooking for a family. Let every provision be made on Friday. But do not let the Sabbath be regarded as a day in which to get something especially gratifying to eat. Educate your children and every member of the family to enjoy plain, simple food, and to be ready to receive the blessing which the Lord of the Sabbath is waiting to bestow upon all who are in an attitude to receive it. He has this for every one who shows his love for God in keeping holy the Sabbath day, God's great memorial of creation. Speak softly, walk softly. Let not a word of lightness or trifling come from your lips. This is God's day. He has blessed the seventh day, as his Sabbath, to be sacredly observed.
The Sabbath is not to be a gloomy day, a day of unrest and uneasiness. Parents may take their children outdoors, in the groves, in the flower garden, and teach them that the Lord has given them these beautiful things as an expression of his love. Christ has said: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Let the mind be directed to the lessons of the book of nature, and to nature's God, who made the world in six days, and rested on the seventh; "wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Do not make light of the Sabbath requirements; and when it comes to eating on the Sabbath, those who would feed on Christ, who would have the rich blessing of God, will partake of a very simple diet on that day.
The thoughts are not to be educated to be full of what we shall eat, and what we shall drink, and wherewithal we shall be clothed. We need to prepare for the Sabbath. The clothing that we shall wear on that day is to be put in order. The boots should not be left unblacked or unpolished until the Sabbath. You dishonor God by doing this work on that day. How easy it is to allow reckless neglect of the preparation for the Sabbath!
Teach the children that God means just what he says. The very same Jesus who has given us the Sabbath, and has directed us how to keep it holy, is the Alpha of Genesis, and carries us step by step through the ages, through the incarnation, through his offering of himself as a living sacrifice for the redemption of a fallen world. He was tried, but was not condemned, because there was nothing to condemn. After the trial Pilate said, "I find no fault in him." Yet he gave himself up to be murdered because his own nation was jealous of him, and hated him. Christ died as a malefactor on the cross of Calvary. He was laid in the grave. The third day he rose from the dead, and proclaimed, over the rent sepulcher of Joseph: "I am the resurrection, and the life." He ascended to his Father, and today he is our advocate in the courts of heaven.
We trace Christ all through the Old Testament and the New. "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Here we have the Alpha of Genesis and the Omega of Revelation. The blessing is promised to all those who keep the commandments of God, and who cooperate with him in the proclamation of the third angel's message. "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." That which Christ has spoken in the Old Testament is for all the world. What he has said in reference to his commandments is not yea and nay, but yea and amen.
In this perilous period, when we see universal contempt placed upon the law of God, when the world is choosing between the holy Sabbath of the fourth commandment and the spurious sabbath, shall we say one word that will detract from the words of the Lord of the Sabbath? The Lord God of heaven knew what a deadening influence the abounding iniquity would have upon the chosen believers, what a paralyzing power it would be against piety and true loyalty to God. In giving us the statement of the occurrences which would mark the approach of the second advent of our Lord and Saviour, Christ says, "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." We see this fulfilled to the letter. The experience of many is becoming dwarfed and sickly and wonderfully deformed. Everything that surrounds us creates an atmosphere that is saturated with unrighteousness. Even under the most faithful surroundings, it is difficult to hold fast the Christian profession of faith unto the end, to stand decidedly and earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. But it is most difficult to keep true and loyal to God's holy commandments, when there are few in number to help and encourage one another, and when many of these are sickly and ready to die because they do not honor God by keeping his commandments truly and loyally.
Much so-called Christianity passes for genuine, faithful soundness, but it is because those who profess it have no persecution to endure for the truth's sake. When the day comes when the law of God is made void, and the church is sifted by the fiery trials that are to try all that live upon the earth, a great proportion of those who are supposed to be genuine will give heed to seducing spirits, and will turn traitors and betray sacred trusts. They will prove our very worst persecutors. "Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them;" and many will give heed to seducing spirits.
Those who have lived on the flesh and blood of the Son of God--his holy word--will be strengthened, rooted, and grounded in the faith. They will see increased evidence why they should prize and obey the word of God. With David, they will say, "They have made void thy law. Therefore love I thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold." While others count them dross, they will arise to defend the faith. All who study their convenience, their pleasure, their enjoyment, will not stand in their trial. "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." Precious words! "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
The fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah is to be read, studied, and practised. "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drouth, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
Let no one yield to temptation and become less fervent in his attachment to God's law because of the contempt placed upon it; for that is the very thing that should make us pray with all our heart, and soul, and voice, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law." Therefore, because of the universal contempt, I will not turn traitor when God will be most glorified and most honored by my loyalty.
What! shall Seventh day Adventists relax their devotedness when all their capabilities and powers should be placed on the Lord's side; when an unflinching testimony, noble and uplifting, should come from their lips? "Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold." When the law of God is most derided and brought into the most contempt, then it is time for every true follower of Christ, for those whose hearts have been given to God, and who are fixed to obey God, to stand unflinchingly for the faith once delivered to the saints. "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." It is time to fight when champions are most needed.
Those who make light of the third angel's message do so because they know little of Daniel or the Revelation. They have not read these prophecies with a determination to find out the meaning by prayer, by study, and by fasting. If they had had the experience of Daniel or of John, they would know that the third angel's message will go forth unto perfect victory. Those who proclaim that message because they see and believe it, will understand that very much is comprehended by it. The third angel is represented as flying through the heavens with a banner on which is inscribed, "The commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." All who will gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their defections, and loyalty from their treason, will triumph with the third angel's message. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #24)
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." The means which the Lord has employed, in the gracious provision of his mercy, to soften and subdue the objects of his love, has, through the workings of Satan, encouraged the depraved and hardened hearts in perversity, resistance, and transgression, so that David, even as far back as his day, was led to exclaim, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold."
O that all might consider, before it is everlastingly too late, that there are limits to the mercy and forbearance of God! There are those who, by their impenitence under the beams of light that have shone upon them, are very near the line where the forbearance of God is exhausted. In mind and heart they are saying, "My Lord delayeth his coming," and they are eating and drinking with the drunken. But God declares of such, "Sudden destruction cometh upon them; . . . and they shall not escape."
At this time, when great light is shining forth from the word of God, making dark mysteries plain as day, is the day of mercy, of hope, of joy and assurance to all who will be benefited thereby, to all who will open their minds and hearts to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. But there is an opposite class to this,--those who will not come to the light, who despise the truth because it exposes error, and transgression, and sin; and as a result, depravity and boldness in transgression are becoming all-pervading.
There are diligent students of the word of prophecy in all parts of the world, who are obtaining light and still greater light from searching the Scriptures. This is true of all nations, of all tribes, and of all peoples. These will come from the grossest error, and will take the place of those who have had opportunities and privileges and have not prized them. These have worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling, lest they should become deficient in doing the ways and will of God, while those who have had great light, through the perversity of their own natural heart, turned away from Christ because they were displeased with his requirements. But God will not be left without witnesses. The one-hour laborers will be brought in at the eleventh hour, and will consecrate their ability and all their entrusted means to advance the work. These will receive the reward for their faithfulness, because they are true to principle, and shun not their duty to declare the whole counsel of God. When those who have had abundance of light throw off the restraint which the word of God imposes, and make void his law, others will come in to fill their places and take their crown.
While many have reduced the word, the truth, the holy law of Jehovah, to a dead letter, and by their example testify that the law of Jehovah is a hard, rigorous burden; while they say, "We will lay off this yoke, we will be free, we will no longer remain in covenant relation with God, we will do as we please," there will be men who have had very meager opportunities, who have walked in ways of error because they knew not any other or better way, to whom beams of light will come. As the word from Christ came to Zacchaeus, "I must abide at thy house," so the word will come to them; and the one supposed to be a hardened sinner will be found to have a heart as tender as a child, because Christ has deigned to notice him.
Great is the work of the Lord. Men are choosing sides. Even those supposed to be heathen will choose the side of Christ, while those who become offended, as did the disciples, will go away and walk no more with him, and others will come in and occupy the place they have left vacant. The time is very near when man will reach the prescribed limits. He has now almost exceeded the bounds of the longsuffering of God, the limits of his grace, the limits of his mercy. The record of their works in the books of heaven is, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." The Lord will interfere to vindicate his own honor, to repress the swellings of unrighteousness and bold transgression.
What effect will the attempt of men to make void the law of God have upon the righteous? Will they be intimidated because of the universal scorn that is put upon the holy law of God? Will the true believers in the, "Thus saith the Lord," become wavering and ashamed because the whole world seems to despise his righteous law? Will they be carried away by the prevalence of evil?--No; to those who have consecrated themselves to God to serve him, the law of God becomes more precious when the contrast is shown between the obedient and the transgressor. In proportion as the attributes of Satan are developed in the despisers and transgressors of the law of God, to the faithful adherent the holy precept will become more dear and valuable. He will declare, "They have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold." It is the ones who have been faithful stewards of the grace of God whose love of God's commandments grows with the contempt which all around him would put upon them.
Wicked men and the church harmonize in this hatred of the law of God, and then the crisis comes. Then we see the class specified in Mal. 3:13-15: "Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? And now we call the proud happy: yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." Here is a company of disaffected, professed Christians, whose chief business is to murmur and complain, and accuse God by accusing the children of God. They see nothing defective in themselves, but very much to despise in others.
But while they are murmuring and complaining, and falsely accusing, and doing Satan's work most zealously, another class is brought to our notice: "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord harkened, 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. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."
This subject is urging itself upon my mind. Consider it; for it is a matter of vast importance. With which of these two classes shall we identify our interest? Read the fourth chapter of Malachi, and think about it seriously. The day of God is right upon us. The world has converted the church. Both are in harmony, and are acting on a shortsighted policy. Protestants will work upon the rulers of the land to make laws to restore the lost ascendancy of the man of sin, who sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Roman Catholic principles will be taken under the care and protection of the state. This national apostasy will speedily be followed by national ruin. The protest of Bible truth will be no longer tolerated by those who have not made the law of God their rule of life. Then will the voice be heard from the graves of martyrs, represented by the souls that John saw slain for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ which they held; then the prayer will ascend from every true child of God, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law."
When our first parents fell from their high estate through transgression, God's law was made void. Then Christ entered upon his work as our Redeemer, and probation was granted to the inhabitants of the world. In Noah's day, men disregarded the law of God until almost all remembrance of him had passed away from the earth. Their wickedness reached so great a height, violence, crime, and every kind of sin became so intensely active, that the Lord brought a flood of water upon the world, and swept away the wicked inhabitants thereof. But mercy was mingled with judgment. Noah and his family were saved. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see that the Lord will interfere; fire came down from heaven, and destroyed those wicked cities.
From time to time the Lord has made known his manner of working. He is mindful of what is passing upon the earth; and when a crisis has come, he has revealed himself, and has interposed to hinder the working of Satan's plans. He has often permitted matters with nations, with families, and with individuals, to come to a crisis, that his interference might become marked. Then he has let the fact be known that there was a God in Israel who would sustain and vindicate his people. When the defiance of the law of Jehovah shall be almost universal, when his people shall be pressed in affliction by their fellow men, God will interpose. The fervent prayers of his people will be answered; for he loves to have his people seek him with all their heart, and depend upon him as their deliverer. He will be sought unto to do these things for his people, and he will arise as the protector and avenger of his people. The promise is, "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him? . . . I tell you that he will avenge them speedily."
The Protestant governments will reach a strange pass. They will be converted to the world. They will also, in their separation from God, work to make falsehood and apostasy from God the law of the nation. In the place of those who have the light of truth allowing jealousy and evil surmisings to come in and weaken their love and union one with another, their united prayers should ascend to heaven for the Lord to arise, and put an end to the violence and abuse which are practised in our world. More prayer and less talk is what God desires, and it would make his people a tower of strength. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #25)
The symbols of the Lord's house are simple and plainly understood, and the truths represented by them are of the deepest significance to us. In instituting the sacramental service to take the place of the Passover, Christ left for his church a memorial of his great sacrifice for man. "This do," he said, "in remembrance of me." This was the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. The one was to close forever; the other, which he had just established, was to take its place, and to continue through all time as the memorial of his death.
"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!" "I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
With the rest of the disciples, Judas partook of the bread and wine symbolizing the body and blood of Christ. This was the last time that Judas would be present with the twelve; but that the scripture might be fulfilled, he left the sacramental table, Christ's last gift to his disciples, to complete his work of betrayal. O why did not Judas at that solemn service recognize in its true light the awful work he had pledged himself to perform? Why did he not throw himself penitent at the feet of Jesus? He had not yet passed the boundary of God's mercy and love. But when his decision was made to carry out his purpose, when he left the presence of his Lord and fellow disciples, that barrier was passed.
In this last act of Christ in partaking with his disciples of the bread and wine, he pledged himself to them as their Redeemer by a new covenant, in which it was written and sealed that upon all who will receive Christ by faith will be bestowed all the blessings that heaven can supply, both in this life and in the future immortal life.
This covenant deed was to be ratified by Christ's own blood, which it had been the office of the old sacrificial offerings to keep before the minds of his chosen people. Christ designed that this supper should be often commemorated, in order to bring to our remembrance his sacrifice in giving his life for the remission of the sins of all who will believe on him and receive him. This ordinance is not to be exclusive, as many would make it. Each must participate in it publicly, and thus say: "I accept Christ as my personal Saviour. He gave his life for me, that I might be rescued from death."
The children of God are to bear in mind that God is brought sacredly near on every such occasion as the service of feet washing. As they come up to this ordinance, they should bring to their remembrance the words of the Lord of life and glory: "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
The object of this service is to call to mind the humility of our Lord, and the lessons he has given in washing the feet of his disciples. There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for himself, to serve himself, to seek the highest place; and often evil surmisings and bitterness of spirit spring up over mere trifles. This ordinance, preceding the Lord's Supper, is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of spirit that will lead him to wash his brother's feet. It is not in God's plan that this should be deferred because some are considered unworthy to engage in it. The lord washed the feet of Judas. He did not refuse him a place at the table, although he knew that he would leave that table to act his part in the betrayal of his Lord. It is not possible for human beings to tell who is worthy, and who is not. They cannot read the secrets of the soul. It is not for them to say, "I will not attend the ordinance if such a one is present to act a part." Nor has God left it to man to say who shall present themselves on these occasions.
The ordinance of feet washing has been especially enjoined by Christ, and on these occasions the Holy Spirit is present to witness and put a seal to his ordinance. He is there to convict and soften the heart. He draws the believers together, and makes them one in heart. They are made to feel that Christ indeed is present to clear away the rubbish that has accumulated to separate the hearts of the children of God from him.
These ordinances are regarded too much as a form, and not as a sacred thing to call to mind the Lord Jesus. Christ ordained them, and delegated his power to his ministers, who have the treasure in earthen vessels. They are to superintend these special appointments of the One who established them to continue to the close of time. It is in these, his own appointments, that he meets with and energizes his people by his personal presence. Notwithstanding that there may be hearts and hands that are unsanctified who will administer the ordinance, yet Jesus is in the midst of his people to work on human hearts. All who keep before them, in the act of feet washing, the humiliation of Christ, all who will keep their hearts humble, who will keep in view the true tabernacle and service, which the Lord pitched and not man, will never fail to derive benefit from every discourse given, and spiritual strength from every communion. They are established for a purpose. Christ's followers are to bear in mind the example of Christ in his humility. This ordinance is to encourage humility, but it should never be termed humiliating in the sense of being degrading to humanity. It is to tender our hearts toward one another. Those who come to the sacramental service with their hearts open to the influences of the Spirit of God will be greatly blessed, even if the ones who officiate are not benefited thereby.
How the heart of Christ is pierced by the forgetfulness, the unwillingness and neglect, to do the things that God has enjoined upon us! The heart needs to be broken, that selfishness may be cut away from the soul and put away from the practise. If we have learned the lessons that Christ desires to teach us in this preparatory service, the witness will respond to the feelings implanted in the heart for a higher spiritual life.
The broken bread and pure juice of the grape are to represent the broken body and spilled blood of the Son of God. Bread that is leavened must not come on the communion table. The unleavened bread is the only correct representation of the Lord's Supper. Nothing fermented is to be used--only the pure fruit of the vine and unleavened bread are to be used.
We do not come to the ordinances of the Lord's house merely as a form. We do not make it our business, as we gather around the table of our Lord, to ponder about and mourn over our shortcomings. The ordinance of feet washing embraced all this. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." We do not come with our minds diverted to our past experience in the religious life, whether that experience is elevating or depressing. We do not come to revive in our minds the ill-treatment we have received at the hands of our brethren. The ordinance of humility is to clear our moral horizon of the rubbish that has been permitted to accumulate. We have assembled now to meet with Jesus Christ, to commune with him. Every heart is to be open to the bright beams of the Son of Righteousness. Our minds and hearts are to be fixed on Christ as the great center on whom our hopes of eternal life depend. We are not to stand in the shadow, but in the saving light of the cross. With hearts cleansed by his most precious blood, and in full consciousness of his presence, although unseen, we may listen to his voice that thrills the soul with the words: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." On these occasions, heaven is brought very near to the true members of the Lord's family, and they are brought into sweet communion one with another.
These things we are never to forget. The love of Jesus, with its convincing power, is to be kept fresh in the memory. We must not forget him who is our strength and our sufficiency. He has instituted this service that it may speak constantly to our senses of the love of God that has been expressed in our behalf. He gave us all that it was possible for him to give,--he gave his life for the life of the world,--and his appeal to our love is strikingly made in the words of the apostle Paul, recorded in 1 Cor. 11:23-34.
The second appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven is ever to be kept before us. Almost his last words of consolation to his disciples were: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also."
And the communion is to be a constant reminder of this. Says Christ: Under a conviction of sin, remember that I died for you. When oppressed and persecuted and afflicted for my sake and the gospel's, remember that my love was so great that I gave my life for you. Will you evidence your love for me, if required to die for me? When you feel your duties stern and severe, and almost too heavy to bear, will you remember that it was for your sake that I endured the cross, despising the shame? When your heart shrinks from the trying ordeal, remember that your Redeemer liveth to make intercession for you. "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Christ declared,"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." We cannot as individuals maintain our bodily life unless we eat and drink for ourselves of temporal food. In order to maintain spiritual life and health, we must feed on Jesus Christ, which is studying his word, and doing those things that he has commanded in that word. This will constitute a close union with Christ. The branch that bears fruit must be in the vine, a part of it, receiving nourishment from the parent stalk. This is living by faith upon the Son of God. Christ has declared: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #26)
"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." No matter how sinful a person has been, no matter what his position may be, if he will repent and believe, coming unto Christ, and trusting him as his personal Saviour, he may be saved unto the uttermost. But how dangerous is the position of him who knows truth, but delays to practise it. How perilous it is for men to seek to amuse the mind, to gratify the taste and satisfy the reason, by neglecting what has been revealed as duty, and rambling off in search of something they do not know. God has opened a garden of precious plants and flowers, where men may enjoy the fragrance and pluck the fruit; but that which may be known becomes tame after a time, does not delight their senses, and they want something not in the garden, as did Adam and Eve in Eden,--something which God has seen fit to withhold. They are not benefited by the rich banquet which he has set before them, but desire to taste that which he has not provided, to gain access to gardens not opened to their feet. But what blessings are lost by not making a proper use of the privileges freely given us of God! Through ingratitude and unholy desire, men want something which they do not have.
Jesus says, "Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you." Gather up every ray, pass not one by. Walk in the light. Practise every precept of truth presented to you. Live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and you will then follow Jesus wherever he goeth. When the Lord presents evidence upon evidence and gives light upon light, why is it that souls hesitate to walk in the light? Why do men neglect to walk in light to a greater light? The Lord does not refuse to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. When conviction comes home to the conscience, why not listen, and heed the voice of the Spirit of God? By every hesitation and delay, we place ourselves where it is more and more difficult for us to accept the light of heaven, and at last it seems impossible to be impressed by admonitions and warnings. The sinner says, more and more easily, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season, I will call for thee."
I know the danger of those who refuse to walk in the light as God gives it. They bring upon themselves the terrible crisis of being left to follow their own ways, to do after their own judgment. The conscience becomes less and less impressible. The voice of God seems to become more and more distant, and the wrongdoer is left to his own infatuation. In stubbornness he resists every appeal, despises all counsel and advice, and turns from every provision made for his salvation, and the voice of the messenger of God makes no impression upon his mind. The Spirit of God no longer exerts a restraining power over him, and the sentence is passed, "He is joined to idols, let him alone." O how dark, how sullen, how obstinate, is his independence! It seems that the insensibility of death is upon his heart. This is the process through which the soul passes that rejects the working of the Holy Spirit.
He that walketh in darkness knoweth not at what he stumbleth. The soul that at first delays and hesitates, resisting light and pressing against all knowledge, has excellent intentions of making a square turn about when a convenient season shall come; but the wily foe that is upon his track makes his plans to bind him by the imperceptible threads of evil habits. Character is formed by habits, and one step in the downward road is a preparation for the second step, and the second for those that shall follow. Habits are formed by repetition of acts, and it takes time for a person who has been religiously instructed to throw off all restraint, and become accustomed to, and at home in, an evil course, and happy in doing the drudgery of Satan.
The children of God are to shine as lights in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation. But if right habits are not cultivated, they will give way to natural tendencies, and will become self-sufficient, self-indulgent, reckless, covetous, revengeful, independent, self-willed, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. As one who loves your soul, I would warn you not to delay, waiting for a time when you will be more inclined to serve God than at the present time. Every hour that you delay, you bind yourself away from God, erect barriers against him in your habits and practises, and make more difficult your repentance and return to the paths of righteousness. May God help the backslider and the sinner no longer to remain in the entanglement which the evil one is strengthening around them. Wait not to reason, wait not to measure possibilities and probabilities. Break with the deceiver at once. Insult no longer the Spirit of God. Press your way to the throne of grace through the opposing powers of hell. You are standing on the brink of the eternal world. Make a rush for the kingdom of God. It will require every energy of mind and purpose of soul. Delay not, saying, "I am not religiously inclined." This very fact should make you fear lest the Spirit of God is being grieved away for the last time. Dare you run the risk?
"How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord."
The person who is drawn again and again by his Redeemer, and who slights the warnings given, yields not to his convictions to repent, and heeds not when he is exhorted to seek pardon and grace, is in a perilous position. Jesus is drawing him, the Spirit is exerting his power upon him, urging him to surrender his will to the will of God; and when this invitation is unheeded, the Spirit is grieved away. The sinner chooses to remain in sin and impenitence, although he has evidence to encourage his faith, and more evidence would do no good. His sins of past and present are presented before him, yet the drawing is in vain; for he refuses to change his course of action. There is another drawing to which he is responding, and that is the drawing of Satan. He yields obedience to the powers of darkness. This course is fatal, and leaves the soul in obstinate impenitence. This is the blasphemy that is most general among men, and it works in a most subtle way, until the sinner feels no remorse of conscience, no repentance, and consequently has no pardon. The man is left to himself, loving darkness rather than light. This is the case of thousands today.
But I will address these lines to those who have had light, those who have had privileges, those who have had warnings and entreaties, who have made no determined effort to yield themselves in full surrender to God. I would warn you to fear lest you sin against the Holy Ghost, and be left to your own course, sunk in moral lethargy, and never obtain forgiveness. Why allow yourselves to be longer educated in the school of Satan, and pursue a course of action that will make repentance and reformation impossible? Why resist the overtures of mercy? Why say, "Let me alone," until God shall be compelled to give you your desire, since you will have it so? Those who resist the Spirit of God think that they will repent at some future day, when they get ready to take a decided step toward reformation; but repentance will then be beyond their power. According to the light and privileges given will be the darkness of those who refuse to walk in the light while they have the light.
No one need look upon the sin against the Holy Ghost as something mysterious and indefinable. The sin against the Holy Ghost is the sin of persistent refusal to respond to the invitation to repent. If you refuse to believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, you love darkness rather than light, you love the atmosphere that surrounded the first great apostate. You choose this atmosphere rather than the atmosphere that surrounds the Father and the Son, and God allows you to have your choice. But let no soul be discouraged by this presentation of the matter. Let no one who is striving to do the will of the Master be cast down. Hope thou in God. The Lord Jesus has made it manifest that he regards you at an infinite estimation. He left his royal throne, he left his royal courts, he clothed his divinity with humanity, and died a shameful death upon the cross of Calvary, that you might be saved. All the suffering and humiliation of the Son of God was endured that we might understand how God loved the world, how he purposed to bring moral power within our reach that we might be ennobled, elevated, and become partakers of the divine nature. By his grace, Christ enlarges and multiplies the faculties of men as they cooperate with heavenly intelligences, and transformation of character is the result. Through faith in Christ his powers of mind and heart are enlarged, and the believer is endowed with refined and holy affections.
The character of Daniel is an illustration of what a man may become through the grace of Christ. He was strong in intellectual and spiritual power. The Holy Spirit is the source of all power, and works as a living, active agent in the new life created in the soul. The Holy Spirit is to be in us a divine indweller. Then let gratitude and love abound in your heart to God. "Study to show thyself approved unto God." Let your conduct, your character, be in accordance with the sacred trust and heavenly endowment of the Holy Spirit. Never, never, feel at liberty to trifle with the opportunities granted to you. Study the will of God; do not study how you can avoid keeping the commandments of God, but study rather how you may keep them in sincerity and truth, and truly serve him whose property you are. Do not be satisfied with meeting a low standard, but consult the Spirit of God, obey its dictates, serve God in the beauty of holiness, and render glory to his name. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #27)
In this world the controversy between the Prince of Life and the prince of darkness is being carried on. Ever since Satan fell, the conflict between right and wrong has been waging. After Christ was crucified, and had ascended to heaven, those who believed in him took up the work, and carried forward the warfare in his name. This conflict is still going on, and is becoming more and more earnest and positive. Satan is marshaling his forces for the last great battle; and the great question at issue is the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.
Satan has been blessed with great advantages. There can be no one greater or more talented, none more wise and good, than was Satan before he apostatized. But he allowed a spirit of selfishness to take possession of him, and he fell through self-exaltation. Angels fell with him because they placed themselves on the side of the great rebel instead of on the side of Christ. We read in Jude: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
Satan has a great mind, but it is prostituted to evil; it is wise only to plan and to do evil. Ever since his fall, he has worked against God. He has striven to tear down God's appointed institutions. He led the Jewish leaders to pervert the true meaning of the Sabbath. Their teaching in regard to it was altogether wrong. They piled their own traditions and maxims upon it, burying it out of sight.
Satan is the sharpest critic that the world has ever known, and he works to hinder and pervert truth. He has induced men to strive to change the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Under his dictation the first day of the week has been adopted by the Christian world as the Sabbath. He has used his masterly mind to influence other men to adopt the same views that he himself entertains. But if we turn aside from the fourth commandment, so positively given by God, to adopt the inventions of Satan, voiced and acted by men under his control, we cannot be saved. We cannot with safety receive his traditions and subtleties as truth.
The man of sin has exalted Sunday; but whatever has been done in the change of the fourth commandment, has been done without God's sanction, and is in direct opposition to his express commands. What we all need is truth--plain, simple, unvarnished truth--that will sanctify the soul. Many will advance theories in regard to the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week; but God has made positive declarations in regard to the sacredness of the Sabbath instituted at Eden and proclaimed from Mount Sinai, and a penalty is attached to the disregard and dishonor of the seventh day of the week.
It becomes every one blessed with reasoning power to beware from what source he receives light and knowledge. We should not be dazzled by men who boast of their education and talent, but who use their power to bewilder souls. Thoughts flash from their minds which charm, but are soon forgotten. When these supposed grand thoughts, which perplex and mystify while they please, are presented, let those who have souls to save or to lose, inquire, Is there Scripture to prove the truth of these utterances?
Where eternal interests are involved, it becomes every soul to require ministers of the gospel to give Scriptural evidence for everything they say. The traditions of the Fathers, the customs and sayings of professedly good men, the opinions of the most learned divines or of the highest critics,--all are worthless unless they harmonize with the word of God. We must go back from the so called "Fathers" to the great Heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe. The Sabbath of the Lord must rest on its own basis--the word of the living God.
Every one is tested and tried in probationary time in regard to his obedience to the word of God. But what is the matter with the professed Christian world?--That which was the matter with Adam and Eve in Eden,--they are listening to another voice than that of God. God's voice, which is speaking plainly and distinctly to them through the fourth commandment, is disregarded; and a false voice, which advocates a false Sabbath, is listened to. They turn from a plain, "Thus saith the Lord," to a Sabbath based upon inference and supposition, without a particle of Scriptural evidence to support it. Satan has succeeded in throwing the Christian world off the track, as he threw Adam and Eve off. People are walking in by and forbidden paths. O, why are men, when tempted, so easily overcome? Why are they so deceived in regard to the Sabbath? Why, without any foundation for their faith, do they accept and exalt a spurious Sabbath?
It is much easier to accept sophistry and fables than the truth. But it is a very serious matter for us to endanger our souls and forfeit immortality by worshiping a spurious institution. We cannot rely upon man's assertions any more safely than could the Jews upon their false theories in the time of Christ. Men's statements do not make truth falsehood or falsehood truth. We cannot with safety build our faith upon a false foundation, and give heed to fables because they have been passed down to us as tradition, even though they are hoary with age. Christ said of the Jews, who were loading down the law of God with the sayings and maxims of the ancient rabbis, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." These words are addressed to every soul who is doing likewise.
At the creation, God sanctified and blessed the Sabbath. He gave it to his people "to be a sign between me and them," he declared, "that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." If this people had walked in the commandments of God, if they had kept his Sabbath, he would have greatly blessed them. But he declares: "The house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them. . . . Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols." This was why, after God had established his people in the godly land of Canaan, they did not go forward from strength to strength, a praise in the earth as God's peculiar people. When the Sabbath interfered with their business, they found it inconvenient to observe it. They did not give up the Sabbath in theory, but they did not keep it according to the fourth commandment.
"I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me; they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness."
Why did the Lord not cut off this rebellious people, that had been blessed with so much light? They provoked him to deal with them in wrath. But the Lord declared: "Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth." Every nation upon the earth was watching the people for whom God had done so much. If they had followed him, he would have exalted them, and made them a praise in the earth. They would have been regarded as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God.
God did not then punish the children of Israel as they deserved: but, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Israel did not repent, and God says: "I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols."
Those who reverence the commandments of Jehovah will, after the light has been given them in reference to the fourth precept of the decalogue, obey it without questioning the feasibility or convenience of such obedience. God made man in his own image, and then gave him an example of observing the seventh day, which he sanctified and made holy. He designed that man should worship him upon that day, and engage in no secular pursuits. No one who disregards the fourth commandment, after becoming enlightened in regard to the claims of the Sabbath, can be held guiltless in the sight of God. By Mrs E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #28)
God's holy Sabbath is not to be used to obtain worldly advantages. But with too many, the world is an idol. They place worldly principles and worldly advantages before the Lord God of Hosts. They worship money. Before the heavenly universe, before the worlds unfallen, and before their fellow men, they show that in their eyes, gain is godliness. They accept fables invented to turn men from truth and righteousness. By choosing the world and its attractions, they divorce themselves from God.
Satan presented the world and its advantages to Christ, saying, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." But divinity flashed through humanity, and Christ exclaimed, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
This response every true follower of the Lord will be compelled to make. Those who have in their foreheads the seal of the infinite God will regard the world and its attractions as subordinate to eternal interests. They will keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. Christ resisted the temptations of the enemy with the only weapon that the soldier of the cross of Christ can successfully use,--"It is written." Where?--In the Old and New Testaments. With these words we are to defend ourselves and warn others, holding forth to them the word of life.
Many have never understood that Sunday is not the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. In his subtlety, Satan has covered up this fact, and has presented a common day as sacred, that the whole world may become guilty before God by transgression. Many are utterly ignorant that they are not keeping the fourth commandment. It is essential for all to seek for truth from the divine guide book, that they may decide what the Lord says on this question. Men have said much, but we cannot build our faith on the words of any man. There are two sides to this question. The God of heaven presents his law, and Satan holds out his spurious Sabbath. There are two classes,--the obedient and the disobedient, the tempted and the tempters.
The time has come for the true light to shine amid moral darkness. The third angel's message has been sent forth to the world, warning men against receiving the mark of the beast or of his image in their foreheads or in their hands. To receive this mark means to come to the same decision as the beast has done, and to advocate the same ideas, in direct opposition to the word of God. Of all who receive this mark, God says, "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb."
If the light of truth has been presented to you, revealing the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and showing that there is no foundation in the word of God for Sunday observance, and yet you still cling to the false Sabbath, refusing to keep holy the Sabbath which God calls "My holy day," you receive the mark of the beast. When does this take place?--When you obey the decree that commands you to cease from labor on Sunday and worship God, while you know that there is not a word in the Bible showing Sunday to be other than a common working day, you consent to receive the mark of the beast, and refuse the seal of God. If we receive this mark in our foreheads or in our hands, the judgments pronounced against the disobedient must fall upon us. But the seal of the living God is placed upon those who conscientiously keep the Sabbath of the Lord.
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that 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. . . . And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth." They were to be cut off because they had polluted the earth which God created to be enjoyed by a righteous people.
"As it was in the days of Noah," declared Christ, "so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man." And is it not so? Any one who will look into the daily papers may see a long list of crimes--drunkenness, theft, robbery, embezzlement, murder. Sometimes whole families are murdered, that man's desires to possess money or goods that do not belong to him may be gratified. The world is indeed becoming as it was in the days of Noah, because men openly disregard God's commands.
Sunday is a child of the papacy. It has been nourished and cradled by the Protestant world as a genuine requirement of Jehovah, but it has no foundation in the word of God. The Christian world is tested by their relation to this matter. God moves upon men to search the Scriptures for evidence to sustain Sunday. Those who search with a desire for truth will see that in the past they have been relying on tradition, and have accepted an institution of the papacy. Those who, with contrite hearts, search the word of God for truth, will receive a blessing from God. Their characters are formed after the divine similitude. The mind is in a state of continual advancement. By beholding they become changed into the divine likeness. Their education is begun on earth to be carried on in the school above.
As the searcher for truth advances in his investigation, he sees that inferences and traditions and the suppositions and sayings of men, have baptized Sunday as a Sabbath. The more earnestly and candidly this question is canvassed, the more clearly will men who are judgment bound see that there is not a particle of Scriptural evidence to sustain Sunday. God never placed his sanctity upon that day. Those who observe it offer God strange fire in place of sacred. God has never said, "Keep sacred the first day of the week," but he has said, "Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them."
This subject opens before the earnest seeker after truth. It becomes more and more clear to him that God has not changed or altered the thing that has gone out of his lips. He sees the sanctity and blessing placed upon the seventh day, and the necessity for its observance. The more earnestly he investigates this subject, the more convinced he becomes of the truth of God's word, as seen in the law of the ten commandments. His interest in truth is tested, his love for God proved, as he advances. If he submits his will to God's will, all will be well. If he chooses obedience to God's commandments at any cost, his peace and happiness will increase.
Many excuse themselves for keeping Sunday by saying, "My father and grandfather were good Christians, and they died keeping Sunday. They will be saved, and I am willing to run the risk of doing as they did. The whole world keeps Sunday; and I am as well off as the rest of the members of my church." But will these excuses be accepted in the Judgment?--No, no. Had their fathers had the light and the messages of warning which God has sent to his people in these last days, they would, if they were candid, God-fearing men, have obeyed the commandments of God. Our fathers are not accountable for the light they never received, or for the messages of warning they never heard; and shall their habits and customs be thought worthy of respect merely because they have been handed down from generation to generation? "If I had not come and spoken unto them," said Christ, referring to the Jews, "they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. . . . If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father."
Special truths have been adapted to the conditions of the nations as they have existed. The present truth, which is a test to the people of this generation, was not a test to the people of generations far back. If the light which now shines upon us in regard to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, had been given to the generations of the past, God would have held them accountable for that light.
We are accountable only for the light that shines upon us. The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are testing us. If we are faithful and obedient, God will delight in us, and bless us as his own chosen, peculiar people. When perfect faith and perfect love and obedience abound, working in the hearts of those who are Christ's followers, they will have a powerful influence. Light will emanate from them, dispelling the darkness around them, refining and elevating all who come within a sphere of their influence, and bringing to a knowledge of the truth all who are willing to be enlightened, and to follow in the humble path of obedience.
Great blessings are promised to those who keep holy God's Sabbath. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath," God says, "from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." By Mrs E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #29)
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants . . . . Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not."
We are here warned not to defraud our souls of the privileges and rights which the Lord has provided in order that we may be rich in faith, and heirs according to the promise. We are to watch as for a thief in the night. The first symptoms of spiritual slumber are to be sternly overcome. The first inclinations to spiritual indolence are to be firmly resisted. "Be sober, be vigilant," exhorts the apostle. Every moment is to be faithfully employed. "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." We are told to work out our own salvation, and the power by which we are to do this is plainly stated: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Many are losing much by growing less fervent, less ardent and zealous toward God and in behalf of their fellow men. Let all watch and pray, guarding their present and eternal good by resisting every temptation. Let them beware of resting content with spasmodic efforts to serve God. By yielding to fitful impulses, and indulging in passionate words and unholy actions, they mar their prospect of the blessed hope.
Those who would be ready to meet their Lord must keep their lamps filled with the oil of grace. It was a neglect to do this that distinguished the foolish virgins from the wise. They had lamps, but no oil; their characters could not stand the test. The wise virgins had not only an intelligent knowledge of the truth, but through the imparted grace of Jesus Christ, their faith and patience and love constantly increased. Their lamps were replenished by their vital connection with the Light of the world. While the foolish virgins awoke to find their lamps burning dimly, or going out in the darkness, the wise virgins, with their lamps burning brightly, entered the festal hall, and the gates were shut. Greatly rejoicing at the sound of the bridegroom's voice, they joined the bridal procession.
The oil with which the wise virgins filled their lamps represents the Holy Spirit. "The angel that talked with me came again," writes Zechariah, "and waked me, as a man is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof . . . . Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
The anointed ones standing by the Lord of the whole earth, have the position once given to Satan as covering cherub. By the holy beings surrounding his throne, the Lord keeps up a constant communication with the inhabitants of the earth. The golden oil represents the grace with which God keeps the lamps of believers supplied, that they shall not flicker and go out. Were it not that this holy oil is poured from heaven in the messages of God's Spirit, the agencies of evil would have entire control over men.
God is dishonored when we do not receive the communications which he sends us. Thus we refuse the golden oil which he would pour into our souls to be communicated to those in darkness. When the call shall come, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him," those who have not received the holy oil, who have not cherished the grace of Christ in their hearts, will find, like the foolish virgins, that they are not ready to meet their Lord. They have not, in themselves, the power to obtain the oil, and their lives are wrecked. But if God's Holy Spirit is asked for, if we plead, as did Moses, "Show me thy glory," the love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts. Through the golden pipes, the golden oil will be communicated to us. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." By receiving the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, God's children shine as lights in the world.
Only by knowing God here can we prepare to meet him at his coming. "This is life eternal," said Christ, "that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent." But many of those who profess to believe in Christ do not know God. They have only a surface religion. They do not love God; they do not study his character; therefore they do not know how to trust, how to look and live. They do not know what restful love is, or what it means to walk by faith. Opportunities to hear and receive the messages of God's love are unappreciated and unimproved. They fail to understand that it is their duty to receive, that they may enrich others. They have not that faith which is given to those who accept Christ as their personal Saviour; therefore they do not keep the last six commandments. They do not walk in love toward their brethren. They do not know what it means to yoke up with Christ and learn of him. They are not like him in character. They do not receive him as the one who takes away their sins, and imputes to them his righteousness.
The world by wisdom knows not God. Many have talked eloquently about him, but their supposed sound reasoning, their subtle arguments, bring men no nearer to him, because they themselves are not in vital connection with him. Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools. Their wrong impressions and imperfect knowledge of God do not lead them to become partakers of his divine nature. Their lives are not conformed to his image. A correct knowledge of God is not a hearsay report, but an intelligent, experimental knowledge.
In his lessons and his mighty works, Christ is a perfect revelation of God. This Christ declares through the inspired evangelist. "No man hath seen God at any time," he says; "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." These words show the importance of studying Christ's character. Only by knowing Christ can we know God.
As our representative, Christ stands on the highest possible ground. When he came to the world as God's messenger, he held the salvation of God in his hand. All mankind was delivered to him; for in him was the fulness of the Godhead. He is the light of the world, and he came to illuminate the world. Had that light been hidden, the world must have perished; but it is God's plan that man shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
So fully did Christ reveal the Father, that the messengers sent by the Pharisees to take him were charmed by his presence. Under the Holy Spirit's convicting power they forgot their commission. As they beheld the soft light of the glory of God that enshrouded his person, as they heard the gracious words that fell from his lips, they loved him. And when, returning without him, they were asked by the Pharisees, "Why have ye not brought him?" they answered "Never man spake like this man." As we behold Christ, we shall be changed into his image, and made fit to meet him at his coming.
Now is the time to prepare for the coming of our Lord. Readiness to meet him cannot be attained in a moment's time. Preparatory to that solemn scene there must be vigilant waiting, combined with earnest work. The union of these two makes us complete in Christ. The active and devotional must be combined as were the human and divine in Christ. So God's children glorify him. Amid the busy scenes of life their voices will be heard speaking words of encouragement, hope, and faith. The will and the affections will be consecrated to Christ. Thus they prepare to meet their Lord; and when he comes, they will say, with joy: "This is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: . . . we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." By Mrs E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #30)
"Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb; and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." The course pursued by the Pharisees called forth the denunciation of Christ. He said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand; and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. . . . Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
By rejecting the light that was shining upon them, by refusing to examine the evidence to see whether the messages were from heaven, the Pharisees sinned against the Holy Ghost. Christ, the world's Redeemer, was in the world. "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . . . He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." The voice of his Spirit came to them, saying, "This is the Son of God; believe on him." But turning their faces from the light, they refused to listen, choosing, instead, to cultivate their unbelief. Thus the light which, if received, would have been to them a savor of life unto life, rejected, became a savor of death unto death,--death to spirituality.
The Pharisees were self-deceived. They rejected the teaching of Christ because he exposed the evil of their hearts and reproved their sins. They would not come to the light, fearing that their deeds would be reproved. They chose darkness rather than light. "This is the condemnation," said Christ, "that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." And at the destruction of Jerusalem the Pharisees reaped their harvest.
The Jews pursued their course of rejecting Christ until, in their self-deceived, deluded state, they thought that in crucifying him they were doing God a service. Thus it will be with all who resist the entreaties of the Spirit of God, and persist in doing what they know to be wrong. The Spirit once resisted, there will be less difficulty in resisting it a second time. If we maintain the independence of the natural heart, and refuse the correction of God, we shall, as did the Jews, stubbornly carry out our own purposes and ideas in the face of the plainest evidence, and shall be in danger of as great deception as came on them. In our blind infatuation we may go to as great lengths as they did, and yet flatter ourselves that we are doing work for God. Those who continue in this course will reap what they have sown. They were afforded a shelter, but they refused it. The plagues of God will fall, and he will prevent them not.
God never compels a man to offend and be lost. We read that he hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that Pharaoh refused to let Israel go. Did God strengthen and confirm the king in his obstinacy?--No, he simply allowed the seeds of unbelief to produce their fruit; and the seed sown when the first miracle was rejected, produced a harvest of infidelity. God left the king to the inclinations of his own heart.
The great I AM acquainted Pharaoh with his mighty works, showing him that he was the ruler of heaven and earth. But the king chose to defy the God of heaven. He would not consent to break his proud heart even before the King of kings, that he might receive the light; for he was determined to have his own way, and work out his own rebellion. His proud disregard of God's command, "Let my people go," confirmed him in his determination not to yield, though evidence was piled upon evidence; and every additional evidence of the power of God that the Egyptian monarch resisted, carried him on to a stronger and more persistent defiance of God. Thus the work went on, finite man warring against the expressed will of an infinite God. This case is a clear illustration of the sin against the Holy Ghost. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Gradually the Lord withdrew his Spirit. Removing his restraining power, he gave the king into the hands of the worst of all tyrants,--self.
In this our day the sin of the Pharisees is being repeated. Many are turning from light, refusing to listen to the warning of God's Spirit. But by closing the heart to divine impressions, we put away the forgiveness which our Redeemer is so graciously offering to us. By rejecting mercy and truth, we prepare for a course of resistance which, if followed, will continue till we have no power to do otherwise. A point is reached where the most pointed appeals were without effect. The desire to submit to God and to do his will is no longer felt. The spiritual senses become dulled. Darkness is the result, and how great is that darkness!
The Holy Spirit strives with every man. It is the voice of God speaking to the soul. But let that voice be resisted, and we, like the Pharisees, shall stifle conviction and resist evidence, however plain. God will give us up, and we shall be left to our own inclinations.
Jesus declares to us that there is a greater sin than that which caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is the sin of those who have had the light of truth, and are not moved to repentance. It is the sin of rejecting the light of the most solemn message of mercy to the world. It is the sin of those who see Jesus in the wilderness of temptation, bowed down as with mortal agony because the sins of the world, and yet are not moved to thorough repentance. Christ fasted nearly six weeks to overcome, in behalf of man, the indulgence of appetite, and vanity, and the desire for display and worldly honor. He has shown us how we may overcome as he overcame; but it is not pleasant to human nature to endure conflict and reproach, derision and shame, for his sake. It is not agreeable to deny self, and to be ever seeking to do good to others. It is not pleasant to overcome as Christ overcame; and many turn away from the Pattern which is plainly given them to copy, and refuse to imitate the example that the Saviour came from the heavenly courts to set for them.
It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for those who have had our privileges, and the great light which shines in our day, but who have neglected to follow the light and to give their hearts fully to God.
"I am come a light into the world," said Christ, "that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." "Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth." The light will indeed become darkness to those who do not walk in it; but it will shine with increasing brightness on the path of those who do walk in it. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." By Mrs E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #31)
"At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day."
Jesus had lessons which he desired to give to his disciples, that when he was no longer with them, they might not be misled by the wily misrepresentations of the priests and rulers in regard to the correct observance of the Sabbath. He would remove from the Sabbath the traditions and exactions with which the priests and rulers had burdened it. In passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath day, he and his disciples, being hungry, began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. "But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day." To answer their accusation, he referred them to the action of David and others, saying: "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple."
If excessive hunger excused David from violating even the holiness of the sanctuary, and made his act guiltless, how much more excusable was the simple act of the disciples in plucking grain and eating it upon the Sabbath day! Jesus would teach his disciples and his enemies that the service of God was first of all; and if fatigue and hunger attended the work, it was right to satisfy the wants of humanity even upon the Sabbath day.
Through Moses, Christ had declared: "And on the Sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof: this is the burnt offering, of every Sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering." The work of the priests in connection with the sacrificial offerings was increased upon the Sabbath, yet in their holy work in the service of God, they did not violate the fourth commandment of the decalogue. Works of mercy and of necessity are no transgression of the law. God does not condemn these things. The act of mercy and necessity in passing through a grain field, of plucking the heads of wheat, of rubbing them in their hands, and of eating to satisfy their hunger, he declared to be in accordance with the law which he himself had proclaimed from Sinai. Thus he declared himself guiltless before scribes, rulers, and priests, before the heavenly universe, before fallen angels and fallen men.
When Moses desired to see the glory of God, God revealed his character to his servant. "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." He who made this proclamation to Moses was the One who now spoke to the Pharisees, though now his divine character was veiled by the garb of humanity. But the priests and rulers had not that which they needed so much,--a knowledge of God's character. For this reason they were constantly misrepresenting him. They had much to unlearn of the traditions and inventions of men; they had need to learn the true principles of the law of Jehovah.
Christ saw that lessons must be given to scatter the rubbish of traditional exactions which they themselves had invented and piled upon the holy institution, given in love by a merciful God. The Sabbath was not to be that which the Jews had made it,--a rigorous burden and exaction, loaded down with continual additions of their own invention. By this means the day was made what Satan had been working on human minds to make it,--a grievous yoke in the place of a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable. God gave the Sabbath to be a blessing to man; it was to be to him a memorial of God's work of creation; it was to remind him of God's sacred rest, for which reason he had "blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."
Christ declared, "I have kept my Father's commandments." In what did he, in the keeping of his Father's commandments, differ from the scribes and Pharisees, in their professed observance of the law of God? When these men had asked him, "Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?" Christ answered them, "Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." This is why they charged Christ with Sabbath-breaking, and this is why men today charge Christ with transgression of the law.
He continued: "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."
Christ then gave them an instance where they had departed from the principles of the law of God, and had done entirely contrary to its requirements: "For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." God had given them the command, "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee;" but this, like the Sabbath command, they had made of none effect through their tradition. Christ stood as the defender of the law against their perversion of it.
Notwithstanding Christ's positive declaration, "I have kept my Father's commandments," we have heard intelligent ministers of the gospel state before their congregations that Christ broke the Sabbath. But Christ distinctly proclaims himself guiltless of this charge. He who made the Sabbath, and declared himself its Lord, understood perfectly its requirements. He said: "If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." And through his prophets he had proclaimed the same word: "For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings"
When Christ has declared himself guiltless, what can men mean by repeating the words of the Pharisees, and declaring that he and his disciples broke the Sabbath? Cannot they understand the meaning of Christ's words when he says, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love"? "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." By Mrs E. G. White. (Concluded next week.)
(Vol. 74, #32)
"And it came to pass also on another Sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the Sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" "And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other." Here Christ settled the question he had asked. He pronounced it right to perform a work of mercy and necessity. "It is lawful," he said, "to do well on the Sabbath days."
The man might have said, "Lord, for a long time I have been unable to move that hand; how can I stretch it forth?" But Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. In bidding the man stretch forth his hand, he imbued him with faith in his word; and as the man made the attempt to obey, his will moving in harmony with the will of Christ, life and elasticity came back to the hand; it was restored whole as the other.
When Christ put to the people the question, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" he met them upon their own ground. It had often been stated by the teachers of the people, and indeed was one of their maxims, that for them not to do good when they had opportunity, was to do evil,--that to refrain from saving life when it was in their power to do so, was to make themselves guilty of murder. With this question also he confronted them with their own wicked purposes. They were following upon his track to find occasion for falsely accusing him; they were hunting his life with bitter hatred and malice, while he was saving life, and bringing happiness to many hearts. Was it better to slay upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the afflicted, as he had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart upon God's holy day, than to have that love toward all men which finds expression in deeds of charity and mercy?
The opportunity to do good may be disregarded and ignored, but obligation rests upon the man who sees his opportunity, and does not improve it. This principle has been clearly defined in the instruction of Christ. He shows that in the last great day every one must stand upon the merits of what he has done or left undone. It is by these things that our characters are developed. Christ is represented as saying, in that day, to those on his right hand: "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
But to those on his left hand he will say: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
As Jesus looked upon the people, it seemed to them that he read their very souls. Divinity flashed through humanity. There was indignation and anger in his look because of their hypocrisy and the hardness of their hearts. He hated their duplicity, their ingenious methods for resisting truth and righteousness. His heart was filled with remorse on their account; and his soul was grieved that his teachings, his works, or the law of God could not impress their flinty hearts, and overcome their determined purpose to resist the light.
One would suppose that such an exhibition of power as the healing of the withered hand would have filled the rulers with awe, would have overcome their prejudice and unbelief, and that they would have declared, as did Nathanael, who had far less evidence, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." But they were filled with madness that Christ had given this additional evidence of his divine character, and in so doing had confirmed the minds of those present that the rabbis were wrong in their idea of the claims and principles of the Sabbath law. He had not shown respect for their cherished views of what the law demanded, and they hated him for it. They hated him because he told them the truth; they hated him for his purity, his singleness of purpose.
And their madness, their envy and hatred, must find vent. The rulers communed one with another how they should rid themselves of this bold advocate of righteousness, whose words and works were drawing the people away from the teachers of Israel. Notwithstanding their counter-influence, "the world," they declared, "is gone after him." But they thought that might and numbers would bring things as they wished; and they took counsel together how they might destroy him.
We see this enacted today. Those who are themselves transgressing the law of God, making the commandments of God of none effect through their tradition, follow with reproach and accusations the servants whom God sends with a message to correct their evils. They determine to remove them, to still their voice forever, rather than forsake the sins that have called forth the rebuke of God. This was the course that Cain pursued when he slew his brother Abel. But Cain gained nothing by his evil deed. God said, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." The earth that received the blood testified against the murderer.
Jesus knew of the snare laid for him, and he withdrew himself to a secluded place, where he spent the night in prayer. But from Jerusalem, from Idumaea, from the regions of Tyre and Sidon, came great multitudes to him "when they heard the things that he did." People of all classes--men and women of wealth and honor, the rich and the poor, those in health and those afflicted with disease--came to him, and he healed them all. And he charged them that they should not make him known, that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #33)
It is not wise to send our youth to universities where they devote their time to gaining a knowledge of Greek and Latin, while their heads and hearts are being filled with the sentiments of the infidel authors whom they study in order to master these languages. They gain a knowledge that is not at all necessary, or in harmony with the lessons of the great Teacher. Generally those educated in this way have much self-esteem. They think they have reached the height of higher education, and carry themselves proudly, as though they were no longer learners. They are spoiled for the service of God. The time, means, and study that many have expended in gaining a comparatively useless education should have been used in gaining an education that would make them all-round men and women, fitted for practical life. Such an education would be of the highest value to them.
What do students carry with them when they leave our schools? Where are they going? What are they going to do? Have they the knowledge that will enable them to teach others? Have they been educated to be wise fathers and mothers? Can they stand at the head of a family as wise instructors? In their home life can they so instruct their children that theirs will be a family that God can behold with pleasure, because it is a symbol of the family in heaven? Have they received the only education that can truly be called "higher education"?
What is higher education? No education can be called higher education unless it bears the similitude of heaven, unless it leads young men and young women to be Christlike, and fits them to stand at the head of their families in the place of God. If, during his school life, a young man has failed to gain a knowledge of Greek and Latin and the sentiments contained in the works of infidel authors, he has not sustained much loss. If Jesus Christ had deemed this kind of education essential, would he not have given it to his disciples, whom he was educating to do the greatest work ever committed to mortals, to represent him in the world? But, instead, he placed sacred truth in their hands, to be given to the world in its simplicity.
There are times when Greek and Latin scholars are needed. Some must study these languages. This is well. But not all, and not many, should study them. Those who think that a knowledge of Greek and Latin is essential to a higher education, cannot see afar off. Neither is a knowledge of the mysteries of that which the men of the world call science necessary for entrance into the kingdom of God. It is Satan who fills the mind with sophistry and tradition, which exclude the true higher education, and which will perish with the learner.
Those who have received a false education do not look heavenward. They cannot see the One who is the true Light, "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." They look upon eternal realities as phantoms, calling an atom a world, and a world an atom. Of many who have received the so-called higher education, God declares, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting,"--wanting in a knowledge of practical business, wanting in a knowledge of how to make the best use of time, wanting in a knowledge of how to labor for Jesus.
The practical nature of the teaching of him who gave his life to save men is an evidence of the value he places upon men. He gave the education which alone can be called the higher education. He did not turn his disciples away because they had not received their instruction from pagan and infidel teachers. These disciples were to proclaim truth that was to shake the world, but before they could do this, before they could be the salt of the earth, they must form new habits, they must unlearn many things learned form priest and rabbi. And today those who would represent Christ must form new habits. Theories which originate with the world must be given up. Their words and their works must be after the divine similitude. They must not place themselves in connection with the debasing principles and sentiments that belong to the worship of other gods. They cannot with safety receive their education from those who know not God, and acknowledge him not as the life and light of men. These men belong to another kingdom. They are ruled by a disloyal prince, and they mistake phantoms for realities.
Our schools are not what they should be. The time which should be devoted to laboring for Christ is exhausted on unworthy themes and self-pleasing. Controversy arises in a moment if once stated opinions are crossed. So it was with the Jews. To vindicate personal opinion and petty interests, to gratify worldly ambition, they rejected the Son of God. Time is passing. We are nearing the great crisis of this earth's history. If teachers continue to close their eyes to the necessities of the time in which we are living, they should be disconnected from the work.
Many of the instructors in the schools of the present day are practising deception by leading their students over a field of study that is comparatively useless, that takes time, study, and means that should be used to gain that higher education that Christ came to give. He took upon him the form of humanity, that he might lift the mind from the lessons men deemed essential to lessons which involve eternal results. He saw the world wrapped in satanic deception. He saw men earnestly following their own imagination, thinking they had gained everything if they had found how they might be called great in the world. But they gained nothing but death. Christ took his stand in the highways and byways of this earth, and looked upon the crowd eagerly seeking for happiness, thinking that in every new scheme they had discovered how they might be gods in this world. Christ pointed men upward, telling them that the only true knowledge is a knowledge of God and of Christ. This knowledge will bring peace and happiness in this present life, and will secure God's free gift, eternal life. He urged his hearers, as men possessing reasoning power, not to lose eternity out of their reckoning. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," he said, "and all these things shall be added unto you." You are then co-workers with God. For this I have bought you with my suffering, humiliation, and death.
The great lesson to be given to the youth is that, as worshipers of God, they are to cherish Bible principles, and hold the world as subordinate. God would have all instructed as to how they can work the works of Christ, and enter in through the gates into the heavenly city. We are not to let the world convert us; we are to strive most earnestly to convert the world. Christ has made it our privilege and duty to stand up for him under all circumstances. I beg of parents to place their children where they will not be bewitched by a false education. Their only safety is in learning of Christ. He is the great central Light of the world. All other lights, all other wisdom, are foolishness.
Men and women are the purchase of the blood of God's only begotten Son. They are Christ's property, and their education and training are to be given, not with reference to this short, uncertain life, but to the immortal life, which measures with the life of God. It is not his design that those whose services he has purchased, shall be trained to serve mammon, trained to receive human praise, human glorification, or to be subservient to the world.
"Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in Him." These are the terms of life made by the world's Redeemer, before the foundations of the earth were laid. Are the teachers in our schools giving the students to eat of the bread of life? Many of them are leading their students over the same track that they themselves have trod. They think this the only right way. They give students food which will not sustain spiritual life, but which will cause those who partake of it to die. They are fascinated by that which God does not require them to know.
Those teachers who are as determined as were the priests and rulers to carry their students over the same old path in which the world continues to travel will go into still greater darkness. Those who might have been co-laborers with Christ, but who have spurned the messengers and their message, will lose their bearings. They will walk in darkness, knowing not at what they stumble. Such are ready to be deceived by the delusions of the last day. Their minds are preoccupied with minor interests, and they lose the blessed opportunity of yoking up with Christ, and being laborers together with God.
The tree of knowledge, so-called, has become an instrument of death. Satan has artfully woven himself, his dogmas, his false theories, into the instruction given. From the tree of knowledge he speaks the most pleasing flattery in regard to the higher education. Thousands partake of the fruit of this tree, but to them it means death. Christ says to them: "Ye spend money for that which is not bread. You are using your God-entrusted talents to secure an education which God pronounces foolishness."
Satan is striving to gain every advantage. He desires to secure, not only students, but teachers. He has his plans laid. Disguised as an angel of light, he will walk the earth as a wonder-worker. In beautiful language he will present lofty sentiments. Good words will be spoken by him, and good deeds performed. Christ will be personified, but on one point there will be a marked distinction. Satan will turn the people from the law of God. Notwithstanding this, so well will he counterfeit righteousness, that if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect. Crowned heads, presidents, rulers in high places, will bow to his false theories. Instead of giving place to criticism, division, jealousy, and rivalry, those in our schools should be one in Christ. Only thus can they resist the temptations of the archdeceiver.
Time is passing, and God calls for every watchman to be in his place. He has been pleased to lead us to a crisis greater than any since our Saviour's first advent. What shall we do? God's Holy Spirit has told us what to do; but, as the Jews in Christ's day rejected light and chose darkness, so will the religious world reject the message for today. Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of his messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God's message. The Jews asked regarding Christ, "Who is this? Is not this Joseph's son?" He was not the Christ that the Jews had looked for. So today the agencies that God sends are not what men have looked for. But the Lord will not ask any man by whom to send. He will send by whom he will. Men may not be able to understand why God sends this one or that one. His work may be a matter of curiosity. God will not satisfy this curiosity; and his word will not return unto him void.
Let the work of preparing a people to stand in the day of God's preparation be entered upon by all who believe the word. During the last few years serious work has been done. Serious questions have agitated the minds of those who believe present truth. The light of the Sun of Righteousness has been shining in every place, and by some it has been received, and perseveringly held. The work has been carried forward in Christ's lines.
Every soul that names the name of Christ should be under service. All should say, "Here am I; send me." The lips that are willing to speak, though unclean, will be touched with the living coal, and purified. They will be enabled to speak words that will burn their way to the soul. The time will come when men will be called to give an account for the souls to whom they should have communicated light, but who have not received it. Those who have thus failed in their duty, who have been given light, but who have not cherished it, so that they have none to impart, are classed in the books of heaven with those that are at enmity with God, not subject to his will or under his guidance.
A Christian influence should pervade our schools, our sanitariums, our publishing houses. Under the direction of Satan, confederacies are being formed, and will be formed, to eclipse the truth by human influence. Those who join these confederacies can never hear the welcome, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." The instrumentalities established by God are to press forward, making no compromise with the power of darkness. Much more must be done in Christ's lines than has yet been done.
Strict integrity should be cherished by every student. Every mind should turn with reverent attention to the revealed word of God. Light and grace will be given to those who thus obey God. They will behold wondrous things out of his law. Great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost, are to shine from God's word in their native purity. To those who truly love God the Holy Spirit will reveal truths that have faded from the mind, and will also reveal truths that are entirely new. Those who eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God will bring from the books of Daniel and Revelation truth that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. They will start into action forces that cannot be repressed. The lips of children will be opened to proclaim the mysteries that have been hidden from the minds of men. The Lord has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.
The Bible should not be brought into our schools to be sandwiched in between infidelity. The Bible must be made the groundwork and subject matter of education. It is true that we know much more of the word of the living God than we knew in the past, but there is still much more to be learned. It should be used as the word of the living God, and esteemed as first, and last, and best in everything. Then will be seen true spiritual growth. The students will develop healthy religious characters, because they eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God. But unless watched and nurtured, the health of the soul decays. Keep in the channel of light. Study the Bible. Those who serve God faithfully will be blessed. He who permits no faithful work to go unrewarded will crown every act of loyalty and integrity with special tokens of his love and approbation. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #34)
"Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
These words should teach us to be very careful how we snap the thread of our faith by dwelling on our difficulties until they are large in our own eyes, and in the eyes of others, who cannot read our inner, heart life. All should remember that the conversation has a great influence for good or for ill.
By sowing evil in the minds of the weak, who have no vital connection with God, by telling them how little confidence you have in others, you tear away the hold their brethren have on them, because you destroy their confidence in them. But do not allow the enemy so to use your tongue; for at the day of final reckoning, God will call you to give an account of your words. Do not exert an influence that will break the hold of any trembling soul from God. Even though you are not treated as you think you should be, do not allow the root of bitterness to spring up; for thereby many will be defiled. By your words you may cause others to become suspicious. They will then think evil as you do, and will begin to accuse as you have done. Thus you place them where they cannot be at peace with their brethren. They sell their birthright for a morsel of sympathy, that they may hear themselves praised by those who do not know whether their hearts are cleansed or defiled. What is the sympathy of poor mortals worth? God alone can look beneath the surface. He measures the spirit, and he alone can know what men are.
Many who claim to be Christians are not Christians. The distinction between the position of the saved and the lost is not now as plain as it by and by will be. At times the contrast is scarcely discernible. Our only safety is in refusing to follow any one in a questionable course. Stand firmly for the right. When the Lord makes up his jewels, the contrast between the righteous and the wicked will be decidedly marked. "Then shall ye return," writes the prophet Malachi, "and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." Murmurers and accusers, those who are envious and jealous, will then be found standing on their own chosen side, with Satan and his angels.
The man who loves God meditates on the law of God day and night. He is instant in season and out of season. He bears the fruit of a branch vitally connected with the Vine. As he has opportunity, he does good; and everywhere, at all times and in all places, he finds opportunity to work for God. He is one of the Lord's evergreen trees; and he carries fragrance with him wherever he goes. A wholesome atmosphere surrounds his soul. The beauty of his well-ordered life and godly conversation inspires faith and hope and courage in others. This is Christianity in practise. Seek to be an ever-green-tree. Wear the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Cherish the grace of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness. This is the fruit of the Christian tree. Planted by the rivers of water, it always brings forth its fruit in due season.
The Christ the Christian loves is the bread of life. He who eats Christ's flesh and drinks his blood becomes one with him. The word of God is his meat and his drink. He prospers in whatever he does; for he does not look merely to this present world to receive his reward; he labors earnestly and truly, and his reward is an eternity of blessedness. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing."
The graces of Christ's Spirit must be cherished and revealed by the sons and daughters of God. By their humility, their penitence, their desire to be like Jesus, to be conformed to his will by practising his lessons in their daily life, they honor him. They hope in God, and commit the keeping of their souls to him, as unto a faithful Creator, and God honors their trust in him.
But God takes none to heaven but those who are first made saints in this world through the grace of Christ, those in whom he can see Christ exemplified. When the love of Christ is an abiding principle in the soul, we shall realize that we are hid with Christ in God. Then we shall be able to say: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Look to Calvary. Let every proud look be humbled. Look to 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." "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." The cry of the broken heart is as music in the ears of the Lord, because he can restore and heal.
"The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. . . . As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." He looks upon his redeemed heritage with pity. He is ready to pardon their sins if they will surrender and be loyal to him. In order to be just, and yet the justifier of the sinner, he laid the punishment of sin upon his only begotten Son.
But it is only because of the value of the sacrifice made for us that we are of value in the Lord's sight. It is only because of Christ's imparted righteousness that we are counted precious by the Lord. For Christ's sake he pardons those that fear him. He does not see in them the vileness of the sinner; he recognizes in them the likeness of his Son, in whom they believe. In this way only can God take pleasure in any of us. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
Were it not for Christ's atoning sacrifice, there would be nothing in us in which God could delight. All the natural goodness of man is worthless in God's sight. He does not take pleasure in any man who retains his old nature, and is not so renewed in knowledge and grace that he is a new man in Christ. Our education, our talents, our means, are gifts entrusted to us by God, that he may test us. If we use them for self-glorification, God says, "I cannot delight in them; for Christ has died for them in vain."
If men do not reflect the spirit and attributes of Christ, God cannot take pleasure in them. One word which exalts self causes the light of God's countenance to be withdrawn. Those only who, by prayer and watchfulness and love, work the works of Christ, can God rejoice over with singing. The more fully the Lord sees the character of his beloved Son revealed in his people, the greater is his satisfaction and delight in them. God himself, and the heavenly angels, rejoice over them with singing. The believing sinner is pronounced innocent, while the guilt is placed on Christ. The righteousness of Christ is placed on the debtor's account, and against his name on the balance sheet is written: Pardoned. Eternal Life.
"Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." Here is the work which every son and daughter of God must do. But to adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour, we must have the mind that was in Christ. Our likes and dislikes, our desire to be first, to favor self to the disadvantage of others, must be overcome. The peace of God must rule in our hearts. Christ must be in us a living, working principle.
"Ye are God's husbandry." As one takes pleasure in the cultivation of a garden, so God takes pleasure in his believing sons and daughters. A garden demands constant labor. The weeds must be removed; new plants must be set out; branches that are making too rapid development must be pruned back. So the Lord works for his garden, so he tends his plants. He cannot take pleasure in any development that does not reveal the graces of the character of Christ. The blood of Christ has made men and women God's precious charge. Then how careful should we be not to manifest too much freedom in pulling up the plants that God has placed in his garden! Some plants are so feeble that they have hardly any life, and for these the Lord has a special care.
In all your transactions with your fellow men, never forget that you are dealing with God's property. Be kind; be pitiful; be courteous. Respect God's purchased possession. Treat one another with tenderness and courtesy. Exert every God-given faculty to become examples to others. Lose not one opportunity to work for God, that through your influence you may qualify others to work for him. By your obedience to God, respect yourselves as the purchased possession of his dear Son. Seek to be uplifted in Christ. This work is as lasting as eternity. Many will regret that their ideas of Christianity were not uplifted with an uplifted Saviour. Shall we, sons and daughters of God, forget our royal birth? Shall we not rather honor our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Shall we not show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light?
God has not made any man or woman a sin bearer. He has not laid upon any one the duty of confessing the sins of his fellow men. Each one is to search his own heart, and confess his own sins. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Leave your fellow men in the hands of God. Let him who knows the heart and all its waywardness be able to deal with you in mercy because you have shown mercy and compassion and love. "Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #35)
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those sayings which are written therein; for the time is at hand."
Many have entertained the idea that the book of Revelation is a sealed book, and they will not devote time and study to its mysteries. They say that they are to keep looking to the glories of salvation, and that the mysteries revealed to John on the Isle of Patmos are worthy of less consideration than these.
But God does not so regard this book. He declares: "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly."
The book of Revelation opens to the world what has been, what is, and what is to come; it is for our instruction upon whom the ends of the world are come. It should be studied with reverential awe. We are privileged in knowing what is for our learning. But do we treat the word of God with the reverence which is his due, and with the gratitude which God would be pleased to see? "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
The Lord himself revealed to his servant John the mysteries of the book of Revelation, and he designs that they shall be open to the study of all. In this book are depicted scenes that are now in the past, and some of eternal interest that are taking place around us; other of its prophecies will not receive their complete fulfilment until the close of time, when the last great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven will take place.
The final struggle will be waged between those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus and that apostate power which will deceive all who dwell upon the earth. "And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Many of the prophecies are about to be fulfilled in quick succession. Every element of power is about to be set to work. Past history will be repeated; old controversies will arouse to new life, and peril will beset God's people on every side. Intensity is taking possession of the human family. It is permeating everything upon the earth. And for what?--Games, plays, amusements; men are rushing and crowding, and contending for the mastery. That which is common and perishable is absorbing their attention, so that things of eternal interest are scarcely thought of. Human beings, possessed with energy, zeal, and perseverance, will place all their God-given powers in cooperation with Satan's despotism to make void the law of God. Impostors of every caste and grade will claim to be worthy and true, and there will be a magnifying of the common and impure against the true and the holy. Thus the spurious is accepted, and the true standard of holiness is discarded, as the word of God was discarded by Adam and Eve for the lie of Satan.
Many have so long chosen their own standard, rejecting the infallible standard that will judge them at the last day, that they are themselves deluded. They misconstrue the teaching of the word of God; and steadfastly setting their face against his commandments, they exalt the precepts of men. The expressions from many professed ministers of the gospel indicate a more than common bitterness against, and contempt for, the law of God. As in David's day, that law is despised. It is treated as an innovation, and rejected as the rule of life.
Those who have once been convicted of the truth, but have resisted the Holy Spirit's influence, walk and work in co-partnership with Satan, the first apostate. Blinded by the sophistry of him who was once found in the heavenly courts, they join his ranks. The apostle Paul, speaking of this says, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron." Those who have turned away from a plain, "Thus saith the Lord," will be blinded in a superstitious faith in every kind of apostasy, and will be led into that terrible iniquity which God's word represents as being drunken with the blood of the saints.
When this enmity against the law of God becomes so intense, we may know that Satan is imbuing human minds with the same hatred of truth and of the precepts of God as turned the heart of Cain against his brother Abel. In this time of prevailing iniquity it is essential that we individually draw nigh unto God. His voice is heard, saying: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." It is possible for men to go so far in disobedience that it will be necessary for God to arise and let them know that he is God, and that he will interpose, and punish the world for its iniquity.
The time is now approaching when God will vindicate his honor, and bring this unrighteousness to an end. Of this time the apostle Paul speaks when he says: "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape." When the attractions of the horse race are all-absorbing; when the excitement of the cricket match runs high; when the fascination of the gambling hall is strong; when parties are indulging in luxurious feasts, and revelry is at its height; when all are forgetful of God and of eternity, and "Peace and safety" is the cry that is heard, "then sudden destruction" will come upon men, "and they shall not escape."
And will the true child of God be carried away by the prevailing iniquity? Will the chosen of God be tempted by the universal scorn which he sees put upon the law? Will he think less of that law, and give it less honor and obedience?--No; the prevailing apostasy will fill his soul with zeal for the honor of God. He sees that the heavenly universe is stirred with indignation because of the ingratitude of man, for whom the Lord has done so much, and God's law becomes more precious as it is trampled upon by unholy feet. In proportion as it is ignored and brought into contempt by one class, it will be valued and honored by the other. Those who cooperate with God by obedience will exclaim, with the psalmist: "They have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold."
Jesus, who knew no sin, and in whose mouth no guile was found, came to sow the world with truth. When charged with evil by the Pharisees, he stood up boldly before his accusers, and said, "Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" The convicting power of God had deeply stirred the hearts of these teachers, but they turned their faces persistently from the light. They resisted the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Sufficient evidence of the divinity of Christ had been given them. More evidence would not have changed the current of their feelings, but would only have hardened them in unbelief.
Christ declared, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." To his disciples he said, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." "If ye love me, keep my commandments." "He that hateth me hateth my Father also." "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
We know that the world, sensual and corrupt, love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Error and false prophets are chosen before the gospel of Christ. But shall we discard the standard of character which the God of heaven has given to our world, and venture to erect a standard of human invention? God desires that his commandment-keeping people shall arise to the emergency, and cooperate with the heavenly agencies in uplifting the standard of righteousness, setting forth to the world the message of heaven.
Each should feel that it is required of him to consecrate every hour to the service of Christ. The Son of God was given that we might be renewed, refined, elevated, ennobled, that God might see his image restored in the heart of man. But the Lord cannot take away our sin unless we shall cooperate with him in the work. The inquiry of each should be, "Am I cleansed from sin? Do I hate sin, and love righteousness? Am I prepared to make any and every sacrifice for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord?" Professed Christians who have a divided heart will not be in the Lord's army; for the Lord accepts no such enlistments. This is not a sentimental and spasmodic service. In these times we need an assurance from heaven to enable us to stand firmly for the faith once delivered to the saints.
The benediction pronounced upon those who keep God's law is, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. . . . Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #36)
We are living in the closing scenes of this earth's history, and what is now done for God is accomplished under the most disadvantageous circumstances. Satan has great skill and wonderful ability. God entrusted him with power and wisdom; but he became filled with self-exaltation and thought that he should be first in heaven. Through this self-seeking, this striving for the supremacy, sin entered into the world.
Satan resolved to make an effort to overthrow the government of God, and set up a kingdom of his own. He began this work by doing just as men who ought to know better are doing today. He complained of the supposed defects in the management of heavenly things, and sought to fill the minds of the angels with his disaffection. Because he was not supreme, he sowed seeds of doubt and unbelief. Because he was not as God, he strove to instil into the minds of the angels his own envy and dissatisfaction. Thus the seeds of alienation were planted, afterward to be drawn out and presented before the heavenly courts as originating, not with Satan, but with the angels. So the deceiver would show that the angels thought as he did.
It was most difficult to make the deceiving power of Satan apparent. His power to deceive increased with practice. If he could not defend himself, he must accuse, in order to appear just and righteous, and to make God appear arbitrary and exacting. In secret he whispered his disaffection to the angels. There was at first no pronounced feeling against God; but the seed had been sown, and the love and confidence of the angels was marred. The sweet communion between them and their God was broken. Every move was watched; every action was viewed in the light in which Satan had made them see things.
That which Satan had instilled into the minds of the angels--a word here and a word there--opened the way for a long list of suppositions. In his artful way he drew expressions of doubt from them. Then, when he was interviewed, he accused those whom he had educated. He laid all the disaffection on the ones he had led. As one in holy office, he manifested an overbearing desire for justice, but it was a counterfeit of justice, which was entirely contrary to God's love and compassion and mercy.
Just such transactions are taking place today. Many place such confidence in their own ideas that they present their theories as if they could make no mistake. Once their words are spoken, they never go back, never repent, never feel that they need forgiveness. They feel that they are infallible. Thus it has been in past history; thus it will be again. False religious confidence becomes supposed infallibility. How can these deluded ones think that they are the only ones led and taught of God? When this spirit is manifested, what can be done? You cannot convince them, because they say, "God has led me." They will not acknowledge that they have acted on wrong principles. They maintain that they have moved rightly. The only course that can be pursued is to leave them to develop their principles. They may never see their error, but others may be convinced and saved. To attempt to unmask them would be to call sympathy to their side.
Great efforts will be made by those who suppose their own wisdom to be supreme, in exactly the same lines on which Satan worked, and which caused so much mischief in the paradise of God. The very same principles are revealed and upheld today. When a man is elected to a position of trust, to preside over important interests, large and broad, or over interests of less extent, but still important, Satan stirs up the minds of those who are selfish, who are not consecrated to God's service, who have not an eye single to his glory. He fills their hearts with the spirit of criticizing and accusing. If they think that they are not especially favored, they will talk of the mistakes and errors of the one against whom they are working. This step taken, Satan, whose special business it is to create alienation and strife, will place the matter before these persons in a most deceiving way, and they will bring against those in positions of trust the most unjust charges, in order to discourage and destroy God's servants.
Satan's representations against the government of God, and his defense of those who sided with him, were a constant accusation against God. His murmurings and complaints were groundless; and yet God allowed him to work out his theory. God could have destroyed Satan and all his sympathizers as easily as one can pick up a pebble and cast it to the earth. But by so doing he would have given a precedent for the exercise of force. All the compelling power is found only under Satan's government. The Lord's principles are not of this order. He would not work on this line. He would not give the slightest encouragement for any human being to set himself up as God over another human being, feeling at liberty to cause him physical or mental suffering. This principle is wholly of Satan's creation.
The principles of the character of God were the foundation of the education constantly kept before the heavenly angels. These principles were goodness, mercy, and love. Self-evidencing light was to be recognized and freely accepted by all who occupied positions of trust and power. They must accept God's principles, and, through the presentation of truth and righteousness, convince all who were in his service. This was the only power to be used. Force must never come in. All who thought that their position gave them power to command their fellow beings, and control conscience, must be deprived of their position; for this is not God's plan.
These principles are to be the foundation of education in God's church today. The rules given by him are to be observed and respected. God has enjoined this. His government is moral. Nothing is to be done by compulsion. Truth is to be the prevailing power. ... All service is to be done willingly, and for the love of God. All who are honored with positions of influence are to represent God; for when officiating, they are in the place of God. In everything their actions must correspond to the importance of their position. The higher the position the more distinctly will self-sacrifice be revealed if they are fit for the office. Every heart that is controlled by these principles will be loyal. But when those who profess to be in God's service resort to accusation, they are adopting Satan's principles to cast out Satan; and this never will work.
In the councils of heaven it was decided that principles must be acted upon that would not at once destroy Satan's power; for it was God's purpose to place things upon an eternal basis of security. Time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the foundation of his government. The heavenly universe must see worked out the principles which Satan declared were superior to God's principles. God's order must be contrasted with Satan's order. The corrupting principles of Satan's rule must be revealed. The principles of righteousness expressed in God's law must be demonstrated as unchangeable, perfect, eternal.
The Lord saw the use Satan was making of his powers, and he set before him truth in contrast with falsehood. Time and time again during the controversy, Satan was ready to be convinced, ready to admit that he was wrong. But those he had deceived were also ready to accuse him of leaving them. What should he do?--submit to God, or continue in a course of deception? He chose to deny truth, to take refuge in misstatements and fraud.
The Lord allowed Satan to go on, and demonstrate his principles. God did reveal that his principles were right, and he carried the worlds unfallen and the heavenly universe with him; but it was at a terrible cost. His only begotten Son was given up as Satan's victim. The Lord Jesus Christ revealed a character entirely opposite to that of Satan. As the high priest laid aside his gorgeous, pontifical robes, and officiated in the white linen dress of a common priest, so Christ emptied himself, and took the form of a servant, and offered the sacrifice, himself the priest himself the victim.
By causing the death of the Sovereign of heaven, Satan defeated his own purpose. The death of the Son of God made the death of Satan unavoidable. He was allowed to go on until his administration was laid open before the worlds unfallen and before the heavenly universe. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he uprooted himself from the affections of the unfallen beings. He was seen by all to be a liar, a thief, and a murderer.
God sees that the same course of action is being pursued the world over. Men and women come to the place where the road diverges; it is either right or wrong. Thousands upon thousands clothe themselves in what they suppose to be an impenetrable disguise, and choose the wrong. An attempt to make their course plain to others by abrupt disclosures would only cause a larger number to choose the side of wrong. Thus the wrongdoers would be sustained, and many souls would be ruined.
Today Satan is working upon human minds by his crooked principles. These will be adopted and acted upon by some who claim to be loyal and true to God's government. How shall we know that they are disloyal and untrue?--"By their fruits ye shall know them." God does not force any one. He leaves all free to choose. But he says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." The Lord will not write as wise those who cannot distinguish between a tree that bears thorn-berries and a tree that bears olives.
Individually, we are deciding our eternal destiny, deciding whether we shall enjoy the highest honor that can be given to man, even an eternal weight of glory, or be ranked with Satan by possessing his character, by dishonoring God because we profess to be Christians while misrepresenting Christ. Those who choose to reveal the character of the archdeceiver identify themselves with him beyond the possibility of a change, because they choose not to see themselves as wrong. This was the course that Satan pursued. By Mrs. E. G. White. (Concluded next week.)
(Vol. 74, #37)
Through dissension and alienation, Satan reaps his harvest of souls. He leads those who are ambitious for money, ambitious to be first, too proud to be anything but the highest, to murmur and complain. These poor souls have not overcome their natural and cultivated tendencies, and they are deceived by Satan, and led into sin. Satan must deceive in order to lead away. "In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." Underhand work must be done; a deceptive influence must be exerted; pretenses must be set forth as truth; suspicion must be lulled to sleep. Satan clothes temptation and sin with the garments of righteousness, and by this deception he wins many to his side. Christ pronounced him a liar and a murderer. O that unwary souls would learn wisdom from Christ!
As the end draws near, Satan will stir up minds, in proportion to their capabilities and knowledge, to sow seeds which will produce a harvest that they will not care to garner. He works in so deceiving a way that he himself is not detected, and then he reaps the benefit of the disaffection shown by those whom he has tempted. He is all prepared to hurl charges through them against those whom God would have stand stiffly for the truth.
Through apostasy, fallen men and fallen angels are in the same confederacy, leagued to work against good. They are united in a desperate companionship. Through his evil angels, Satan contrives to form an alliance with professedly pious men, and thus he leaves the church of God. He knows that if he can induce men, as he induced the angels, to join in rebellion, under the guise of servants of God, he will have in them his most successful allies in his enterprise against heaven. Under the name of godliness, he can inspire them with his own accusing spirit, and lead them to charge God's servants with evil and guile. They are his trained detectives; their work is to create feuds, to make charges which create discord and bitterness among brethren, to set tongues in active service for Satan, to sow seeds of dissension by watching for evil, and by speaking of that which will create discord.
I beseech all who engage in the work of murmuring and complaining because something has been said or done that does not suit them, and that does not, as they think, give them due consideration, to remember that they are carrying on the very work begun in heaven by Satan. They are following in his track, sowing unbelief, discord, and disloyalty; for no one can entertain feelings of disaffection, and keep them to himself. He must tell others that he is not treated as he should be. Thus they are led to murmur and complain. This is the root of bitterness springing up, whereby many are defiled.
Thus Satan works today through his evil angels. He confederates with men who claim to be in the faith; and those who are trying to carry forward the work of God with fidelity, having no man's person in admiration, working without hypocrisy and partiality, will have just as severe trials brought against them as Satan can bring through those who claim to love God. Proportionate to the light and knowledge these opposers have is Satan's success. The root of bitterness strikes deep, and is communicated to others. Thus many are defiled. Their statements are confused and untruthful, their principles are unscrupulous, and Satan finds in them the very helpers he needs.
The only remedy for our churches, for our families, and for individuals, is entire conformity to the will and character of God. Unless God shall work through the two olive trees, his witnesses, causing them to empty from themselves the golden oil through the golden tubes into the golden bowl, and hence to the burning lamps, representing the church, no one will be safe for a moment from the machinations of Satan. He will, if possible, deprave human nature, and assimilate it to his own corrupt principles. But this golden oil will revive the Spirit of God in the heart of man. A Christlike principle will be introduced which will be like leaven. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, satanic agencies will be overcome.
Envy and jealousy are diseases which disorder all the faculties of the being. They originated with Satan in paradise. He started on the track of apostasy, and his jealous spirit caused him to see many things that were objectionable, even in heaven. After he fell, he envied Adam and Eve their innocence. He tempted them to sin, and they yielded, and became like himself, disloyal to God. But they repented of their sin, received Christ, and returned to their loyalty. So the enemy tempts men and women today. Those who listen to his voice will demerit others, and will misrepresent and falsify in order to build up themselves. But nothing that defiles can enter heaven, and unless those who cherish this spirit are changed, they can never enter there for they would criticize the angels. They would envy another's crown. They would not know what to talk of unless they could bring up the imperfections and errors of others. O that such would become changed by beholding Christ! O that they would become meek and lowly by learning of him! Then they would go forth, not as missionaries for Satan, to cause disunion and alienation, to bruise and mangle character, but as missionaries for Christ, to be peacemakers and to restore. Let the Holy Spirit come in and expel this unholy passion, which cannot survive in heaven. Let it die; let it be crucified. Open the heart to the attributes of Christ, who was holy, harmless, undefiled.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." His voice comes sounding down the line to our time, "Beware of that misrepresenting tongue, which is not content unless leagued with the disaffected, those who are tempted to think they have been misused." Self, self, self, is the theme of all such. They become envious and jealous, and Satan helps them, putting his magnifying glass before their eyes until a mote looks to them like a mountain. With a beam in their own eye, they are very anxious to pull the mote out of their brother's eye. But the word of God exhorts, "Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." True moral worth does not seek to make a place for itself by thinking and speaking evil, by depreciating others. All envy, all jealousy, all evil speaking, with all unbelief, must be put away from God's children.
Genuine conversion is needed, not once in years, but daily. This conversion brings man into a new relation with God. Old things, his natural passions and hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong, pass away, and he is renewed and sanctified. But this work must be continual; for as long as Satan exists, he will make an effort to carry on his work. He who strives to serve God will encounter a strong undercurrent of wrong. His heart needs to be barricaded by constant watchfulness and prayer, or else the embankment will give way; and like a millstream, the undercurrent of wrong will sweep away the safeguard. No renewed heart can be kept in a condition of sweetness without the daily application of the salt of the word. Divine grace must be received daily, or no man will stay converted.
The sufferings of the Redeemer, in his life and in his death, make it possible for man to return to his loyalty, and become refined and elevated. As his substitute and surety, Christ elevates man, and brings his mind into sympathy with the divine mind. Through faith, that faith that works by love and purifies the soul from all moral defilement, we may overcome every evil trait of character. By accepting the provision made for us, we may represent the character of Christ. Thus we are identified with the Son of God, being one with him as he is one with his Father. So we may overcome the enemy who would lead us away from our loyalty. We may become more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Cain and Abel are given us in Bible history to represent the two orders in humanity. Abel was faithful and loyal to God, and he was preferred by the Lord. Cain was disloyal; he wished his own ideas to prevail. Abel protested against these principles as disloyal. But as the eldest, Cain thought that his methods and plans should have the supremacy. It made him very angry that Abel would not concede to his views, and his anger burned so hotly that he killed his brother. Here the two principles of right and wrong are developed.
The firmness manifested by Daniel must be shown by all God's children. All temptations to depart from pure and holy principles must be unhesitatingly rejected. There must be a firm adherence to right principles. As a people we are to stand unmoved by all Satan's delusions, even though he come as an angel of light. Thus we may constantly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.
Test and trial will come to every soul that loves God. The Lord does not work a miracle to prevent this ordeal of trial, to shield his people from the temptations of the enemy. If they are tempted severely, it is because circumstances have been so shaped by the apostasy of Satan that temptations are permitted. Characters are to be developed that will decide the fitness of the human family for the heavenly home,--characters that will stand through the pressure of unfavorable circumstances in private and public life, and that will, under the severest temptations, through the grace of God grow brave and true, be firm as a rock to principle, and come forth from the fiery ordeal, of more value than the golden wedge of Ophir. God will endorse, with his own superscription, as his elect, those who possess such characters.
All who love God and are loyal to his government, will be tempted to change leaders. But God has said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." The Lord accepts no halfhearted service. He demands the whole man. Religion is to be brought into every phase of life, carried into labor of every kind. The whole being is to be under God's control. We must not think that we can take supervision of our own thoughts. They must be brought into captivity to Christ. Self cannot manage self; it is not sufficient for the work. Whoever tries to do this will be worsted. God alone can make and keep us loyal. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #38)
The Lord has made his people the depositaries of sacred truth. He has set them on an elevated position, above the world. He declares of them: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an 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." And again he says: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."
Upon every individual who has had the light of present truth devolves the duty of developing that truth on a higher scale than it has hitherto been developed. The Lord will hold us accountable for the influence we might have exerted, and did not because we did not earnestly try to understand our accountability in this world. We need not think that because we are only a tiny light, we need not be particular about shining. The great value of our light lies in its shining amid the moral darkness of the world,--in shining not to please and glorify ourselves, but to honor God. If we are doing service for God, and our work corresponds to the ability God has given us, that is all he expects of us.
"And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. . . . Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the side of the Lord of the whole earth."
We know that the lamps which give us light have no light in themselves. They cannot fill themselves. So the holy appointed ones must empty the golden oil into the golden tubes. And the heavenly fire, when applied, makes them burning and shining lights. Our hearts cannot shed light on others unless there is a vital connection with heaven. This alone can make them burn steadily with holy, unselfish love for Jesus and for all who are the purchase of his blood. And unless we are constantly replenished with the golden oil, the flame will die out. Unless the love of God is an abiding principle in our hearts, our light will cease.
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." The tiniest lamp, kept replenished with the golden oil, and sending forth its bright beams to dispel the darkness, is of far more value than the large lamp which flashes with brilliancy for a time, then sputters and goes out, leaving souls in darkness to stumble along as best they can. It is the golden oil, emptied by the heavenly messengers into the golden tubes, to be conducted into the golden bowl, that creates a continuous bright and shining light. It is the love of God continually transferred to man that keeps him a bright and shining light for God. Then he can communicate the light of truth to all who are in the darkness of error and sin.
The golden oil is not manufactured by any human skill. It is the unseen power of the heavenly messengers who wait before the throne of God to communicate to all who are in darkness, that they may diffuse heaven's light. Into the hearts of those united to God by faith, his golden oil of love flows freely, to flow forth again in good works, in real, heartfelt service for God. These souls become a blessing to their fellow men, and thus are enabled to shine.
We see children, they may be brothers and sisters, who, if they chance to be pleased, and circumstances are all favorable for them, are in good spirits, kind and courteous. But wait until something comes that does not please them. Then see how passion is expressed in the voice and attitude. Where now is the cheerfulness, the love, the true Christian politeness? Instead of these graces, the countenances express hatred.
God can look upon these things only with grief and sadness, even in inexperienced children. But when these objectionable attributes are manifested in grown-up children,--when those who have come to years of maturity, who have had great light and knowledge and experience, act like children in their fits of malice,--it is a sad thing. They are piercing Christ afresh, and putting him to open shame. Satan and his confederate angels point to those who profess to be the children of God, but who, by their disposition and attributes, show that they are after the similitude of the apostate, and taunt Christ and the heavenly angels. How long shall we thus crucify the Son of God afresh, so that God will be ashamed to call us his sons and daughters? Is it not time that we put away childish things? Shall we be of the number who are ever learning, and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth?
God admonishes his people: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."
The sin of much talking is not small. Words bitter as gall may be spoken in the heat of satanic passion; but when the sin is realized, why is it not acknowledged? It may be that some have cultivated a spirit of evil surmising, and have communicated their suppositions to others. But those whose hearts are right with God will say: I cannot hear these evil reports. If you know evil of your brethren and sisters, go to them, in the spirit of Christ, and talk it over with them. Get it out of the way. Let no flaw in your speech, no defect in your spirit, break the friendship and love which Christ has enjoined upon you to cultivate. "A word fitly spoken," says the wise man, "is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Christ used leaven to illustrate this spirit of evil surmising and evil thinking. As the leaven spreads through the meal in which it is hidden, so will the leaven of evil surmising and malice pervert the entire being--thoughts, actions, and character--where it is received. Of this leaven, he bids his followers beware. Again, he uses leaven to illustrate the gospel of the kingdom. With this leaven, the word of God, true goodness, righteousness, and peace are introduced. This brings the entire affections into conformity to the mind and will of God. Wherever it goes, the leaven of truth makes a change in mind and heart. The entire character is transformed. All who will receive into the heart the truth as it is in Jesus, will reveal its leavening power. When the kingdom of heaven is established in the heart, the whole character is conformed to the character of Christ; for the truth is a lifegiving principle. The power of God is working, like the leaven, to subdue the entire being. Even the thoughts are brought into captivity to the will of Christ. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new."
As the leaven, though hidden in the flour, and deposited only in one place, brings all surrounding it under the leavening process, so the working of truth continues secretly, silently, steadily, to pervade all the faculties of the soul. And there is sure to follow a holy influence. A consistency will run through the whole life, showing it to be a work of the heart.
Christ taught a similar truth by the parable of the grain of mustard seed, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."
The word of truth should ever be in mind and heart, that those who believe the truth may be prepared to speak a word in season. To sow the seed of truth by a few well-chosen words, may appear to be but a small beginning; but that word, spoken from the heart, may take root, spring up, and bear an abundant harvest of truth. In ourselves we can do nothing. We are all weak; but if we make the most of the Lord's entrusted talent, his divine power will give us efficiency.
There are many whose sphere of influence seems narrow; their abilities are limited, their opportunities are few, their knowledge is small; yet if they will let the peace of God rule in their hearts, they may do more than those who have naturally greater capabilities, but who trust to their own efficiency. It is "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." The strength and talents belong to God; and who can estimate the great work that may be done in the sowing of the gospel seed? It will be as the morsel of leaven hidden in the meal.
And what changes are wrought, all unknowingly, by the one who tremblingly brings from the storehouse the precious word upon which he has been feeding! The strength is not his own; it is God's. One heart, turned to God and brought under the power of truth through the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, becomes a working agency, a fresh instrument to communicate light. By that one lamp, kept steadily burning, many others will be lighted. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #39)
"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
The word of God is like a treasure house. It is a light that shineth in darkness. It is better to neglect anything of a temporal nature than to neglect to search the Scriptures. God has appointed that through the study of the Bible, important truth shall be communicated to his human agents. My heart aches as I see that even among those who claim to be looking for Christ's appearing in the clouds of heaven, there are those who permit their minds to be taken up with that which is merely fictitious. The world is full of such books, but God has given us a definite work to do, and we are not to turn to side issues, and employ time and workers in selling books that give no light. Christianity is an intensely practical thing, and those who have put on Christ should walk even as he walked. We should be wholly engaged in the work of God. "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God?"
God does not generally work miracles to advance his truth. If the husbandman neglects to cultivate the soil after sowing his seed, God works no miracle to counteract the sure result of neglect. In the harvest he will find his field barren. God works according to great principles which he has presented to the human family, and it is our part to mature wise plans, and set in operation the means whereby God shall bring about certain results. Those who make no decided effort, but simply wait for the Holy Spirit to compel them to action, will perish in darkness. We would ask those who are waiting for a miracle, What means have been tried which God has placed within your reach? We would ask those who are hoping for some supernatural work to be done, who simply say, "Believe, believe," Have you submitted yourself to the revealed command of God? The Lord has said, "Thou shalt," and, "Thou shalt not." Let all study the parable of the talents, and realize that to every man God has given his work,--to every man he has entrusted his talents, that by exercising his ability, he may increase his efficiency. You are not to sit still, and do nothing in the work of God. There is work, earnest work, to be done for the Master in overcoming evil habits that are condemned in the word of God, and in doing those good things that are there commanded. Individually, you must battle against evil, wrench yourself from all hurtful associations, study God's word, and pray for divine aid to war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. You need daily light from God to fight the good fight of faith.
He who does nothing until he feels especially compelled to do something for God, will never do anything. God has given his word, and is this not sufficient? Can you not hear his voice in his word? If you will use God's appointed means, and diligently search the Scriptures, having a determined purpose to obey the truth, you will know the doctrine whether it be of God; but God will never work a miracle to compel you to see his truth. God, in giving his only begotten Son to die on Calvary's cross, has made it possible for all men to be saved. Christ died for a ruined world, and through the merit of Christ, God has elected that man should have a second trial, a second probation, a second test as to whether he will keep the commandments of God, or walk in the path of transgression, as did Adam. Through an infinite sacrifice, God has made it possible that men shall practise holiness in this life. Those who would ascertain their election for the future life, may ascertain it by their attitude of obedience to the commandments of God. Strong emotions, strong impulses, or desires, for heaven, when listening to a description of the charms of a future life, will not prove that you are elected to sit down with Jesus Christ upon his throne. If you would know the mystery of godliness, you should follow that which has been revealed. The conditions of eternal life have been plainly stated. Jesus says: "If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." Here are the conditions upon which every soul may be elected to eternal life. Your obedience to God's commandments will prove that you are predestinated to a glorious inheritance. You are elected to be laborers together with God, to work in harmony with Christ, to wear his yoke, to lift his burden, and to follow in his footsteps. You have been provided with means whereby you may ascertain what to do to make your calling and election sure. Search the Scriptures, and you will find that not a son or daughter of Adam is elected to be saved in disobedience to God's commandments.
Should God save men in disobedience, after granting them a second probation, putting them to the test in this life, they would fail to regard his authority in the future life. Those who are disloyal to Christ in this world would be disloyal to him in the world to come, and would create a second rebellion in heaven. Men have the history of Adam's disobedience and fall before them, and because of this they should be warned against venturing to transgress the law of God. Jesus Christ has died in order that all men may have a chance to make their calling and election sure; but the standard of righteousness in this gospel age is no less than it was in the days of Adam, and heaven will be the reward of obedience.
The world is making void the law of God, but Christians are elected to faith, loyalty, and sanctification. They are elected to obey the commandments of God, although in so doing they must lift the cross.
The Bible, just as it reads, is to be our guide. Nothing is so calculated to enlarge the mind and strengthen the intellect as the study of the Bible. No other study will so elevate the soul and give vigor to the faculties as the study of the living oracles. The minds of thousands of ministers of the gospel are dwarfed because they are permitted to dwell upon commonplace things, and are not exercised in searching for the hidden treasure of the word of God. As the mind is brought to the study of God's word, the understanding will enlarge, and the higher powers will develop for the comprehension of high and ennobling truth. It is according to the character of the matter with which the mind becomes familiar that it is dwarfed or enlarged. If the mind is not raised up to make vigorous and persistent effort in seeking to comprehend truth by comparing scripture with scripture, it will surely become contracted and lose its tone. We should set our minds to the task of searching for truths that do not lie directly upon the surface.
Ministers who are teaching Bible truths for this time are bearing to the people a message of a most solemn character, and they need to discipline the mind in order that they may comprehend the grand theme of redemption. They should understand from what man is to be redeemed, and how he is to be brought back to the paradise of God. It was through disobedience that men fell; but will continued disobedience make him acceptable to God? Will continual transgression make him a fit subject of heaven? Let ministers preach the word of God. "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." Ministers are not to preach men's opinions, not to relate anecdotes, get up theatrical performances, not to exhibit self; but as though they were in the presence of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are to preach the word. Let them not bring levity into the work of the ministry, but let them preach the word in a manner that will leave a most solemn impression upon those who hear. Let them not present their own ideas and fanciful notions as God's word, but let them present the pure word of God, in all sincerity.
Paul mentions some ministers who wrest the Scriptures, but when they shall appear before the Judge of all the earth to answer for their work, they will wish that they had not handled the word of God deceitfully. The Lord's faithful ministers will heed the injunction given to Timothy, "Be instant in season, out of season." "They will seize opportunities in season at their appointments, and out of season when in private places by the wayside, or in families where they shall visit. Through personal labor they will press the truth home upon the conscience with all earnestness, declaring in fervency of spirit that, if heeded, it will work man's salvation, and if neglected, his condemnation. They must not only warn men, but reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. Many, many opportunities are unimproved because ministers consider the occasion as one out of season; but even under forbidding circumstances, the Lord may fasten the word of truth into the conscience of the hearer. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."
Satan can furnish men with endless excuses and evasions to cause them to neglect the duty of speaking words of warning to those who are erring, and of presenting the truth as it is in Jesus to souls who are perishing. The minister who loves to sermonize will be in danger of preaching to a great length, as though a multitude of words was all-essential, and thus he will become so weary that he will have neither disposition nor strength to engage in personal effort when he has an opportunity of coming heart to heart with his hearers. The minister should be ready to open the Bible, and according as circumstances shall require, read reproof, rebuke, warning, or comfort to those who listen. He should teach the truth, rightly dividing the word, suiting out portions that will be as meat in due season to those with whom he associates. Too many ministers neglect to deal faithfully with those with whom they come in contact. They leave plain dealing to be done by other ministers: for they do not want to run the risk of losing the friendship of those for whom they labor. If ministers would deal at the right time with those who err, they would prevent an accumulation of wrong, and save souls from death. If the work of reproving is neglected by one minister, and taken up by another, those who are reproved, receive the impression that the minister who did not point out their errors was a good minister. But this is not the case; he was merely a preacher, not a worker together with God for the suppression of sin. In the meekness of Jesus, you should do the work which will gave full proof of your ministry. You should show a heartfelt sorrow for sin, but manifest no unholy passion in reproving the error. All your efforts must be made with longsuffering and doctrine; and if you see but meager results of your work, do not be discouraged. This experience will call for the manifestation of longsuffering and patience. Keep working, be discreet, be discerning, understand when to speak and when to keep silence.
Paul charged Timothy to "preach the word," but there was yet another part to be done,--"to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." This work cannot be neglected with safety. Ministers must be instant in season and out of season, watching for souls as they that must give an account. They must exercise great carefulness. Watch in all things, watch for the devices of Satan, lest you be beguiled from doing the disagreeable part of the work. Difficulties must not intimidate or discourage you. Having well-balanced minds and established characters, meet the difficulties, and in overcoming them gain a rich experience. Do the work of an evangelist,--water and cultivate the seed already sown. When a new church has been raised up, it should not be left destitute of help. The minister should develop the talent in the church, that meetings may be profitably kept up. Timothy was commanded to go from church to church, as one who should do this kind of work, and build up the churches in the most holy faith. He was to do the work of an evangelist, and this is an even more important work than that of the ministers. He was to preach the word, but he was not to be settled over one church.
Be determined that you will not shun the disagreeable part of the work, and by unfaithfulness be a partner to the ruin of some human soul. If we are Christians indeed, we shall have in us the spirit of Him who died for the perishing. We shall love the erring and the sinner too well to flatter him, and thus encourage him in his course of wrongdoing. We must watch for souls as they that must give an account. We must be sure that we display that love that is holy and sanctified, not that favor which savors of sentimentalism. There is an abundance of this counterfeit current in the world; but it is not current with God. We must unfurl the banner which the Eternal has given to us to be displayed in the world. If we are true to God in minor matters, we shall have a holy boldness when we are called upon to make wise decisions, and shall be enabled to have a close walk with God, and be laborers together with God. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #40)
The history of Judas presents before us the sad ending of the life of a man who might have been honored of God. By cooperating with Christ, not mechanically, but with heart and soul, Judas might have obtained victory after victory. He was trusted by his fellow disciples, and by his Master he was given a special work to do for the church. He understood the Scriptures, and at times seemed to have large discernment to take in the meaning of the word of God. He could present the words of the Old Testament Scriptures in an acceptable manner. He had keen perceptive powers, a retentive memory, and was able to communicate the word to others. Had he been a doer of the word, he would have had grace and power from Christ to apply that word to his own soul. Possessing appropriating faith, he would, under the influence of light, have appreciated the presence of the Spirit, would have consecrated his heart, and would have received the seal of oneness with Christ.
But Judas stopped short of this. He had not received Christ as his personal Saviour. He did not think that his character needed the transforming grace of Christ. In many respects he acted as Christ's disciple. He manifested an interest in his work, and in a certain sense believed on him. But Christ read beneath the surface. He saw the true inwardness of the heart. He knew that Judas was not converted. He was not a true son of God. He had not lost something he once possessed. He had never experienced the soul cleansing, the change of character, that constitutes conversion.
Judas had valuable qualities, but there were some traits in his character that would have to be cut away before he could be saved. He must be born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible. His great hereditary and cultivated tendency to evil was covetousness. And by practise this became a habit which he carried into all his trading. His economical habits developed a parsimonious spirit, and became a fatal snare. Gain was his measurement of a correct religious experience, and all true righteousness became subordinate to this. Christlike principles of uprightness and justice had no room in his life practises.
When Judas first united with the twelve, he manifested a spirit subordinate to his Master. He loved the great Teacher. He had listened to the parables illustrating the gospel of the kingdom of God, and he desired to be with the man whose teaching he knew to be superior to anything he had ever heard, although it was condemnatory of all pretense, hypocrisy, and avarice. There came to him a desire to be changed in spirit and inclination, and he hoped to experience this by connecting himself with Christ. Yes; in the companionship of Christ, Judas might have found continual strength and aid; he might have cooperated with Christ in overcoming temptation, instead of yielding to the suggestions of Satan.
Knowing that he was being corrupted by covetousness, Christ gave him the privilege of hearing many precious lessons. He heard Christ laying down the principles which all must possess who would enter his kingdom. He was given every opportunity to receive Christ as his personal Saviour, but he refused this gift. He would not yield his way and will to Christ. He did not practise that which was contrary to his own inclinations; therefore his strong avaricious spirit was not corrected. While he continued a disciple in outward form, and while in the very presence of Christ, he appropriated to himself means that belonged to the Lord's treasury.
Several of the disciples were looked upon by Judas as very deficient. They would not see their opportunities, and take advantage of circumstances. The church, he thought, would never prosper with such shortsighted men. Peter was so impetuous; he would move without consideration. John, who was gathering the power of the truths that fell from the lips of Christ and bringing them into the sanctuary of the soul, was looked upon by Judas as a poor financier, one who could not keep the church free from financial embarrassment. Matthew, who had had an education which qualified him for accuracy in all his undertakings, was very definite and particular in regard to honesty. He was ever contemplating the words of Christ, and became so absorbed in them that he could not be trusted to do sharp, far-seeing business. Thus Judas summed up all the disciples, and flattered himself that the church would often be brought into perplexity and embarrassment if it were not for his managing ability. Judas thought himself the capable one, who would not allow himself to be cheated in a bargain. In his own estimation he was an honor to the cause, and as such he always represented himself.
Christ's last journey to Jerusalem, whither he went with his disciples to attend the Passover feast, was a fatal one for Judas. Not that it needed to be thus, but he himself made it so by his own course of action. The dissensions which frequently arose among the disciples as to which of them should be greatest, were generally created by Judas. On this occasion this spirit led to the request of James and John that one might sit at the right hand of Christ, and the other on his left, in his kingdom. But Christ taught them that those who were nearest to their Lord in position, were not of special consequence; that those who would bring Christ into the heart as an abiding presence would not selfishly seek the highest position in personal relation to him.
Thus it is with Christians today. Those who, in the spirit and love of Jesus, become one with him, will be in close fellowship one with another, bound together by the silken cords of love. Then the ties of human brotherhood will not be always on the strain, ready at any provocation to snap asunder. "All ye are brethren," will be the sentiment of every child of faith. When the followers of Christ are one with him, there will be no first and last, no less respected or less important ones. A blessed brotherly fellowship will bind all to Christ in a firm loyalty that cannot be broken.
The turn that affairs had taken at the feeding of the five thousand had dissatisfied Judas. It was he who had set on foot the project to take Christ by force and make him king. But Christ, with greater authority than he was in the custom of exercising, had rebuked this step. This had provoked Judas, and he became more and more separated from Jesus.
If Judas had practised the lessons of Christ, he would have surrendered to Christ, he would have consecrated his heart fully to God; but his confused experience was misleading him. When with the disciples, he introduced controversies, doubts, and misleading sentiments, repeating the objections that the scribes and Pharisees urged when questioning the claims of Christ. He did this at first in order to develop his reasoning powers; but the more he gave expression to the unbelieving remarks made, the more he turned them over in his mind, the more doubt and unbelief came in.
All the little and large troubles and crosses, the difficulties and hindrances to the advancement of the gospel, Judas interpreted as being evidences against its truthfulness. He would introduce texts of Scripture that had no connection with the themes of truth that Jesus was seeking to impress upon the minds and hearts of his disciples. And these texts, separated from their connection, and placed where they had no appropriate bearing and force, confused their minds and increased the discouragements that were constantly pressing in with the suggestions of the scribes and Pharisees. The sayings of the Pharisees also were so used by him to encourage unbelief, and lessen the force of truth upon the minds of the disciples, that Jesus declared of him that he had a devil. Yet all this was done by Judas in such a way as to give the impression that he was conscientious. And while the disciples were searching for evidence to confirm the words of the great Teacher, Judas would lead them almost imperceptibly on another track. Thus in a very religious and apparently wise way he was presenting matters in a different light from that in which Jesus had given them, and attaching to his words a meaning that he never intended to convey.
The disciples did not see in this the working of the enemy; but Jesus saw that the mind of Judas was open to questionings, doubt, and unbelief which had more or less influence on the other disciples, and that in this way, Satan was communicating his attributes to Judas, and opening up a direct channel through which to work.
If all could understand the deep trials and discouragements that came to the human nature of Christ in his mission, verily human hearts would draw nigh to the human heart of Jesus. The old nature of the disciples often appeared. Often their natural characteristics strove for the mastery. But Jesus was ever presenting before them that these must be given up, emptied from the soul, that he might implant a new nature therein.
That Judas, with all his faults and defects of character, was numbered among the twelve, is an instructive lesson, one by the study of which Christians may be profited. God takes men as they are, with the human element in their character, and then trains them for his service if they will be disciplined and learn of him. When Judas was chosen by the Lord, his case was not hopeless. He had some good qualities. In his association with Christ in the work, by listening to his discourses, he had a favorable opportunity to see his wrongs, to become acquainted with his defects of character, if he really desired to be a true disciple. He was even placed in a position where he could have his choice either to develop his covetous disposition or to see and correct it.
Judas might have been benefited by these lessons, had he possessed a desire to be right at heart; but his acquisitiveness overcame him, and the love of money became a ruling power. Through indulgence, he permitted this trait in his character to grow and take so deep a root that it crowded out the good seed of truth sown in his heart. But the fact that Judas was not right at heart, that he was corrupted by selfishness and love of money, is no evidence that there are not true Christians, genuine disciples, who love their Saviour and try to imitate his life and example. There will ever be some who do not live out their profession, whose daily lives show them to be anything but Christians. But those who, in the love of God, desire to do his will, will manifest the same in their lives. The more man views his Saviour, the more will he become assimilated to his image, and work the works of Christ. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #41)
The love of money grew in the heart of Judas with the exercise of his shrewd abilities. His practical financiering ability, if exercised, enlightened, and molded by the Holy Spirit, would have been of great service to the little church; and by the sanctification of his spirit, he would have had a clear insight, a correct discernment to appreciate heavenly things. But worldly policy plans were constantly cherished by Judas. There was no outbreaking sin on his part; but his sharp scheming, the selfish, parsimonious spirit that took possession of him, finally led him to sell his Lord for a small sum of money.
He might have obtained a larger sum; but Satan had impressed upon his mind that Christ, who had so often defeated the purposes of the scribes and Pharisees, would not suffer himself to be taken. How often he had seen the scribes and Pharisees, as Jesus taught them the truth in parables, carried away with the striking figures presented! When questions were given for their decision, they pronounced judgment against themselves, condemning the course they themselves were pursuing. How often when Christ had made the application of the word to their hearts, and showed that they were the ones whose course he was illustrating, the plain truth sent home enraged them, and in their mortification and madness they had taken up stones to cast at the world's Redeemer! Again and again he would have been killed had it not been for the heavenly angels who attended him and guarded his life until the time when the case of the Jews as a nation should be decided. This human life must be kept by the power of God until his day of work was ended.
If Christ could escape so many snares set to destroy him, thought Judas, he certainly would not allow himself to be taken by the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees; and he decided to put the matter to the test, and bring the crisis. He, Judas, would act his part in selling his Lord, and the priests would be cheated out of their money. If Christ really were the Son of God, the Messiah, the people for whom he had done so much in relieving them from the oppressive power of Satan, would rally, and come to his assistance. Then he, Judas, would have the credit of having placed him on David's throne. This would forever settle many minds that were now in such uncertainty. And this act would place him as first, next to Christ, in the new kingdom.
There are two kinds of experience,--the external showing and the inward working. The divine and the human were at work in the character of Judas. Satan was working the human, Christ the divine. Jesus longed to see Judas rise to his appointed privileges. He had the privilege of being conformed to the image of Christ's character. This regeneration, this new birth, would have come to him through a vital connection with Christ. The Saviour's abiding presence would have been to him a daily renewal of consecration and progressive sanctification of the entire man. But the human side of the character of Judas was confused with his religious sentiments, and was treated by him as essential. By taking this view of things, he left an open door for Satan to enter and take possession of him.
When unbelief and envy are allowed even utterance, they become agents to expel calm, living, trusting faith. Truth is misunderstood, and perverted to mean error. Evidence might be piled upon evidence, but Satan is close at hand to see that the word spoken shall be misapplied, and become a matter of suspicion and distrust. How careful, then, should every person be that he does no despite to the Spirit of grace!
Those who resist the Spirit of God, and provoke him to depart, know not to what lengths Satan will lead them. When the Holy Spirit departs from the man, he will imperceptibly do those things which once he viewed, in a correct light, to be decided sin. Unless he heeds the warnings, he will wrap himself in a deception that, as in the case of Judas, will cause him to become a traitor and blind. He will follow, step by step in the footsteps of Satan. Who, then, can strive with him to any purpose? Will the ministers plead with him and for him? All their words are as idle tales. Such souls have Satan as their chosen companion, to misconstrue the word spoken, and bring it to their understanding in a perverted light. When the Spirit of God is grieved away, every appeal made through the Lord's servants is meaningless to them. They will misconstrue every word. They will laugh at and turn into ridicule the most solemn words of Scripture warnings, which, if they were not bewitched by satanic agencies, would make them tremble. Every appeal made to them is in vain. They will not hear reproof or counsel. They despise all the entreaties of the Spirit, and disobey the commandments of God which they once vindicated and exalted. Well may the words of the apostle come home to such souls, "Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?" They follow the counsel of their own heart until truth is no more truth to them. Barabbas is chosen, Christ is rejected.
It is essential to live by every word of God, else our old nature will constantly reassert itself. It is the Holy Spirit, the redeeming grace of truth in the soul, that makes the followers of Christ one with one another, and one with God. He alone can expel enmity, envy, and unbelief. He sanctifies the entire affections. He restores the willing, desirous soul from the power of Satan unto God. This is the power of grace. It is a divine power. Under its influence there is a change from the old habits, customs, and practises which, when cherished, separate the soul from God; and the work of sanctification goes on in the soul, constantly progressing and enlarging. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #42)
While sitting round the communion table, Christ spoke words of intense interest to his disciples. He was soon to pass through scenes that would be to them the severest test. Not only did he see distinctly his own humiliation and suffering, but he saw also the effect that this would have upon the disciples. He would not leave them in darkness regarding his future work. He did not call upon them for sympathy. Words of heavenly sympathy flowed from his lips. His heart was drawn out in love for them; for he knew that they would be grievously disappointed by his crucifixion. He knew that in their sorrow they would be assailed by the enemy; for Satan's craft is most successful when carried on against those who are depressed by difficulties.
"Verily, verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." Christ gave his disciples an evidence that although Judas had been among them as one of the twelve, although he had been treated with the same tender consideration as were the other disciples, he would betray his Saviour. All the work of Judas was known to Christ; none of his secret, underhand work was concealed from Christ's gaze. By telling Judas that he would betray him, Christ gave another evidence of his divinity.
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you," Christ said. "Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you." Christ reads the hearts of all, and he knew that these words were a great shock to the disciples. In answer to Peter's inquiry, "Lord, whither goest thou?" he said, "Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake." Peter remembered these words when he himself was crucified. They were indeed fulfilled. After he denied his Lord, he was truly converted; and when he was called up before his persecutors, he remembered his shameful denial, and urged that he be crucified with his head downward. He did die for the Master he loved, and even in the manner of his death, he followed his Lord. During these last sorrowful hours, Christ told his disciples that on the night of his trial, they would all be offended because of him, and that he would be left alone. He told them that for a little while after his death they would be sorrowful, but that their sorrow would be turned into joy. He told them that the time was coming when they would be put out of the synagogues, and that those who killed them would think that they were doing God service. He stated plainly why he told them these things while he was yet with them,--that when his words were fulfilled, they would remember that he had told them of them before they came to pass, and thus be strengthened to believe in him as their Redeemer. In prefiguring his future, he was plain and definite, that in their coming trial, the disciples might know that the Most High would not forget or forsake them, but would send his Spirit to remain with them forever. So Christ manifested his great love and tender compassion.
Christ's statements saddened and amazed the disciples. But they were followed by the comforting assurance: "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." For your sake I came into the world. I am working in your behalf. When I go away, I shall still work earnestly for you. I came into the world to reveal myself to you, that you might believe. I go to my Father and yours, to cooperate with him in your behalf. The object of Christ's departure was the opposite of what the disciples feared. It did not mean a final separation from him. He was going to prepare a place for them, that he might come again, and receive them unto himself.
Not only to the disciples, but to us, are these words of comfort spoken. In the last scenes of this earth's history, war will rage. There will be pestilence, plague, and famine. The waters of the deep will overflow their boundaries. Property and life will be destroyed by fire and flood. We should be preparing for the mansions that Christ has gone to prepare for them that love him. There is a rest from earth's conflict. Where is it?--"That where I am, there ye may be also." Heaven is where Christ is. Heaven would not be heaven to those who love Christ if he were not there. Are we individually forming characters that will be meet for the society of Christ and the heavenly angels?
How plain were Christ's words! How simple the language! A child could have understood it. But the disciples were perplexed. Thomas, always troubled by doubts, said: "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also, and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."
"I am the way, the truth, and the life." When the apostle Paul, through the revelation of Christ, was converted from a persecutor to a Christian, he declared that he was as one born out of due time. Henceforward Christ was all and in all to him. "For me, to live is Christ," he declared. This is the most perfect interpretation in a few words, in all the Scriptures, of what it means to be a Christian. This is the whole truth of the gospel. Paul understood what many seem unable to comprehend. How intensely in earnest he was! His words show that his mind was centered in Christ, that his whole life was bound up with his Lord. Christ was the author, the support, and the source of his life.
Philip said to Christ, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." He wished Christ to reveal the Father in bodily form; but God had already revealed himself in Christ. The doubt was answered by words of reproof. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" Christ said. Is it possible that after walking with me, hearing my words, seeing my miracle of feeding the five thousand, of healing the sick of the dread leprosy, of raising Lazarus, whose body had seen corruption, and who was indeed a prey to death, you do not know me? Is it possible that you do not see the Father in the works which he does through me? Do you not believe that I came to testify of the Father? "How sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." I am the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person. "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake."
Christ emphatically impressed on the disciples the fact that they could see the Father by faith only. God cannot be seen in external form by any human being. Christ alone can represent the Father to humanity; and this representation the disciples had been privileged to behold for over three years.
"Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." Their faith might safely rest on the evidence given in Christ's works,--works that no man ever had done or could do. These wonderful works, so full of convincing power, ought to have removed all prejudice and unbelief from the hearts of the Jews. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Christ had given a proof of his divinity. Through him the Father had been revealed to believers and unbelievers.
If the disciples had believed in this vital connection between the Father and the Son, their faith would not have forsaken them when they saw his suffering and death to save a perishing world. Christ was seeking to lead them from their low condition of faith to the higher experience they might have received had they truly realized what he was,--God in human flesh. He desired them to see that their faith must lead up to God, and be anchored there. How earnestly and perseveringly our compassionate Saviour sought to prepare his disciples for the storm of temptation that was soon to beat about them! He would have had them hid with him in God.
As Christ was speaking these words, the glory of God was shining from his countenance, and all present felt a sacred awe as they listened with rapt attention to his words. They felt that their hearts were more decidedly drawn to him, and as they were drawn to Christ in greater love, they were drawn to one another. They felt that heaven was very near them, and that the words to which they listened were a message to them from their Heavenly Father. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #43)
"Verily, verily, I say unto you," Christ continued, "he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." By this Christ did not mean that the disciples would make any more exalted exertion than he had made. He meant that their work would have greater magnitude. He did not refer merely to miracle working, but to all that would take place under the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ's work was largely confined to Judea. But though his personal ministry did not extend to other lands, people from all nations listened to his teaching, and carried the message to all parts of the world. Many heard of Jesus by hearing of the wonderful miracles that he performed. And the knowledge of his suffering and death, which were to be witnessed by the large number in attendance at the Passover, would be spread from Jerusalem to all parts of the world.
Used as Christ's representatives, the apostles would make a decided impression on all minds. The fact that they were humble men would not diminish their influence, but increase it. The minds of their hearers would be carried from them to the Majesty of heaven, who, though unseen, was still working through them. The teaching of the apostles, their words of trust, would assure all that it was not by their own power they worked, but that they were only continuing the same work carried forward by the Lord Jesus when he was with them. Humbling themselves, they would declare that he whom the Jews had crucified was the Prince of life, the Son of the living God, and that in his name they did the works that he had done.
"Greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." He would intercede for them, and would send them his own representative, the Holy Spirit, who would attend them in their work. This representative would not appear in human form, but by faith would be seen and recognized by all who should believe in Christ.
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." This promise is given on condition: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." The ten commandments, Thou shalt, and, Thou shalt not, are ten promises secured to us if we render obedience to the law governing the universe. A certain lawyer came to Christ, saying: "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering, said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." This is the sum and substance of the law of God. The terms of salvation for every son and daughter of Adam are here outlined. It is plainly stated that the condition of gaining eternal life is obedience to the commandments of God.
The whole universe is under the control of the Prince of life. Fallen man is subject to him. He paid the ransom money for the whole world. All may be saved through him. He calls upon us to obey, believe, receive, and live. He would gather together a church embracing the whole human family, if all would leave the black banner of rebellion, and place themselves under his banner. Those who believe on him, he will present to God as loyal subjects. He is our Mediator as well as our Redeemer. He will defend his chosen followers against Satan's power, and subdue all their enemies. Through him, they will be conquerors, and more than conquerors. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul says: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward, who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places."
"Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." "I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. . . . Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein."
Those who dishonor God by transgressing his law may talk sanctification; but it is of the same value, and just as acceptable, as was the offering of Cain. Obedience to the commandments of God is the only true sign of sanctification. Disobedience is the sign of disloyalty and apostasy. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." Again, Christ repeated the condition of union with him. This promise is made to every sincere Christian. Our Saviour speaks so plainly that no one need fail to understand that true love will always produce obedience. Obedience is the sign of true love. Christ and the Father are one, and those who in truth receive Christ will love God as the great center of their adoration, and will also love one another; and in so doing they will keep the law.
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." Christ was about to depart to his home in the heavenly courts; but he assured his disciples that he would send them the Comforter, who would abide with them forever. To the guidance of this Comforter, all may implicitly trust. He is the Spirit of truth; but this truth the world can neither see nor receive.
Christ gave his followers a positive promise that after his ascension he would send them his Spirit. "Go ye therefore," he said, "and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father [a personal God], and of the Son [a personal Prince and Saviour], and of the Holy Ghost [sent from heaven to represent Christ]: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
"The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I." This assurance was given to the disciples, to be given to all who should believe on him till the close of this earth's history.
Christ desired his disciples to understand that he would not leave them orphans. "I will not leave you comfortless," he declared; "I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." Precious, glorious assurance of eternal life! Even though he was to be absent, their relation to him was to be that of a child to its parent.
"At that day," he said, "ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you." He sought to impress the minds of the disciples with the distinction between those who are of the world and those who are of Christ. He was about to die, but he desired them to realize that he would live again. And although, after his ascension, he would be absent from them, yet by faith they might see and know him, and he would have the same loving interest in them that he had while with them.
Christ assured his disciples that after his resurrection; he would show himself alive to them. Then every mist of doubt, every cloud of darkness, would be rolled away. They would then understand that which they had not in the past understood,--that there is a complete union between Christ and his Father, a union that will always exist.
The words spoken to the disciples come to us through their words. The Comforter is ours as well as theirs, at all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all affliction, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone. These are times when the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith.
There is no comforter like Christ, so tender and so true. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. His Spirit speaks to the heart. Circumstances may separate us from our friends; the broad, restless ocean may roll between us and them. Though their sincere friendship may still exist, they may be unable to demonstrate it by doing for us that which would be gratefully received. But no circumstances, no distance, can separate us from the heavenly Comforter. Wherever we are, wherever we may go, he is always there, one given in Christ's place, to act in his stead. He is always at our right hand, to speak soothing, gentle words; to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer. The influence of the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ in the soul. This Spirit works in and through every one who receives Christ. Those who know the indwelling of this Spirit reveal its fruit,--love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #44)
In his lessons, Christ did not aspire to high-flown, imaginary things. He came to teach, in the simplest manner, truths that were of vital importance, that even the class whom he called babes might understand them. And yet, in his simplest imagery, there was a depth and beauty that the most educated minds could not exhaust.
Christ drew his lessons from nature's vast resources, and by this means impressed upon the minds of his hearers truths that are as enduring as eternity. And when he was no longer with them, the precious lessons he had bound up with the things of nature were, through the Holy Spirit's working, revived in the memory of his followers. Every time they looked upon the things of nature around them, these repeated to them the lessons of their Lord.
The vine had often been used as a symbol of Israel; and the lesson Christ now gave his disciples was drawn from this. He might have used the graceful palm to represent himself. The lofty cedar that was towering toward the skies, or the strong oak that spreads its branches and lifts them heavenward, he might have used to represent the stability and integrity of those who are followers of Christ. But instead of this, he took the vine, with its clinging tendrils, to represent himself and his relation to his true believers.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman."
On the hills of Palestine our Heavenly Father planted a goodly Vine, and he himself was the Husbandman. It had no remarkable form that would at first sight give an impression of its value. It appeared to come up as a root out of a dry ground, and attracted but little attention. But when attention was called to the plant, it was by some declared to be of heavenly origin. The men of Nazareth stood entranced as they saw its beauty; but when they received the idea that it would stand more gracefully and attract more attention than themselves, they wrestled to uproot the precious plant, and cast it over the wall. The men of Jerusalem took the plant, and bruised it, and trampled it under their unholy feet. Their thought was to destroy it forever. But the heavenly Husbandman never lost sight of his plant. After men thought that they had killed it, he took it, and replanted it on the other side of the wall. He hid it from the view of men.
The branches of this Vine were seen by the world; but its stock was not visible. The dry, sapless branches chosen and grafted into this stock have represented the Vine. Fruit has been obtained from them; there has been a harvest that the passers-by have plucked; but the parent stock itself has been hidden from the rude assaults of men.
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away," said Christ; "and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Every fruitful branch is pruned, that it may bring forth more fruit. Even fruitful branches may display too much foliage, and appear what they really are not. The followers of Christ may be doing some work for the Master, and yet be doing not half what they might do. He then prunes them, because worldliness, self-indulgence, and pride are cropping out in their lives. The husbandmen clip off the surplus tendrils of the vines, thus making them more fruitful. The overgrowth must be cut away, to give room for the healing beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."
This is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection. Every branch that bears fruit is a living representative of the vine; for it bears the same fruit as the vine. But unless it becomes united firmly to the vine stock, fiber by fiber and vein by vein; unless its channels are supplied with the nourishment it receives from the parent stock, the branch becomes a withered stalk, frail and weak, and produces no fruit. Every branch will show whether or not it has life; for where there is life, there is growth. There is a continual communication of the life-giving properties of the vine, and this is demonstrated by the fruit which the branches bear.
As the graft receives life when united to the vine, so the sinner partakes of the divine nature when in connection with Christ. Finite man is united with the infinite God. A vital connection with Christ is essential for spiritual life. The branch must become part of the living Vine. And there is a certainty in his words, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Christ is the source of all true strength. He reveals his grace to all true believers. He imparts to them his own merits in grace and goodness, that they may bear fruit unto holiness. All who are really in Christ will experience the benefit of this union. The Father accepts them in the Beloved, and they become the objects of his solicitude and tender care. This connection with Christ results in the purification of the heart, and in a circumspect life and faultless character. The fruit borne upon the Christian tree is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
"I am the vine, ye are the branches." Christ would assure his disciples that they do not stand alone; but that just as the vine with its clinging tendrils climbs higher and higher on the trelliswork toward heaven, so may the true believer entwine his tendrils about God, and have support in Christ. He would have them bear in mind that the Father himself stands in exactly the same relation to his children as the Husbandman sustains to the Vine.
"He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
The branch grafted into the living vine will testify if it has, fiber by fiber and vein by vein, become one with the parent stock. The life of the vine will become the life of the adopted sapling. Its sap vessels receive of the current flowing through the vine stock, and it will bear much fruit.
Christ is the True Vine; his disciples are the branches in that Vine, and they are one with him. He is the Root, the sustaining life of every believing soul. If his followers abide in him, they will bear his fruits. In union and communion with him, and under his molding influence, they will reveal his character. But the branch that seems to be connected with the Vine--the man who has the appearance of attachment and piety, whose name is registered in the books as a Christian, but who brings forth no fruit--will be separated from the Vine stock. This branch reveals itself to be worthless. After a time its ruin will be apparent. It will be as a branch that is dead, and its end is to be consumed with fire. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #45)
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you," Christ continued, "ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Every provision has been made in behalf of the human family. The heavenly treasury is supplied with the goods of heaven for them. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
In Christ is God; and yet he, the Alpha,--the beginning,--the Omega,--the ending,--came as man. In taking upon himself humanity, Christ is related to the whole human family; but to any church this relationship is of no avail without a personal faith,--the identification of the individual heart and mind and soul and strength with Jesus Christ. Christ came to teach that through living faith in him, we may become one with him. And his promise is, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" as branches that are withered and bear no fruit. As the representative of the human family, he came to save all who would make application, with prayer and supplication to, God in his name.
Man has no right to the name of Christian unless he will become Christlike in words, in spirit, and in action. To be a Christian means culture after the divine character of Christ. That mind which was in Christ Jesus cannot be correctly represented by untrained powers, which result in an unfurnished mind. The untrained powers of those who claim to be followers of Christ dishonor him who has paid the price for their redemption. A narrow mind and dwarfed character cannot meet the mind of God. Passion manifested by a professed Christian is a denial of Christ; it gives victory to Satan, and enthrones him in the heart. Such a man gives testimony to the world that Satan has more power over him than has Christ. His words, spirit, and character testify that the molding and fashioning hand of Satan is upon him, making of him a vessel that will dishonor God.
The physical, mental, and moral powers are the endowments of God, and are to be appreciated and cultivated. We are here on probation, in training for the higher life. All heaven is waiting to cooperate with those who will be subordinate to the ways and will of God. God gives grace, and he expects all to use it. He supplies the power if the human mind feels any need or any disposition to receive. He never asks us to do anything without supplying the grace and power to do that very thing. All his biddings are enablings.
"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." Here the disciple whose religion is a profession only is distinguished from the true. Christ requires strict fidelity to truth and righteousness. "Let your light so shine before men," he says, "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." "That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."
There must be no lawless deviation from right. Evil passions, envy, evil surmisings, jealousy, accusing of the brethren, cannot be indulged without denying Christ. Christianity must be brought into the life service, as a light kept ever shining, full of vital force. There is no such thing as occupying a neutral position. Each will have given him his work according to his ability.
The living Christ demands self-denial and strong faith. Circumstances are not to rule the life. The child of God, the heir of heaven, cannot drift hither and thither. In his mercy and love for his people, God sends them reproofs and warnings. This is kindness and benevolence on his part. It is an expression of the great love wherewith he hath loved us, that he reveals to us our misconception of his character. He does not want man to spoil himself, and make shipwreck of his faith. He has set before every one who is striving for an immortal crown, the example he is to follow. Every soul must be as a learner in the school of Christ. We shall profit by the searching of the Scriptures, by wearing Christ's yoke and lifting his burdens. Those who learn of Christ will never be anything else than meek and lowly in heart. They will learn their lessons, and give definite expression of them from lips that have no guile. In faith, hope, and charity, they will seek to serve Christ and one another, united in one by holy cords, and fully in harmony with the spirit and mind of Christ.
If we follow in the footstep of Jesus, we shall be obedient to the word. Christ enjoins upon his followers, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." By your course of action show your faith in me, and let the world and the heavenly universe witness your enjoyment of my love. When obedient to my words, you will glorify me. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."
In Christ there was a subjection of the human to the divine. He clothed his divinity with humanity, and placed his own person under obedience to divinity. Satan had tempted Adam and Eve to believe that they should be as gods. Christ requires that humanity shall obey divinity. In his humanity, Christ was obedient to all his Father's commandments.
Christ has expressed his love for man in that he has given his life for the ransom of the world. And this love is to measure the love that his disciples shall ever manifest for one another. "These things have I spoken unto you," he says, "that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,"--disciples of Him who laid down his life for them whom he loved. "Ye are my friends," he says, "if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another."
This chapter is simple in its illustrations, and is one that all may understand. Christ is ever seeking to present before his followers the privileges that are offered to sinful, feeble humanity. He would teach them that only through him can it be restored to healthful growth. We are to bear in mind that the branches in the True Vine are the believers who are brought into oneness by connection with the Vine.
The connection of the branches with one another and with the Vine constitutes them a unity, but this does not mean uniformity in everything. Unity in diversity is a principle that pervades the whole creation. While there is an individuality and variety in nature, there is a oneness in their diversity; for all things receive their usefulness and beauty from the same source. The great Master Artist writes his name on all his created works, from the loftiest cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop upon the wall. They all declare his handiwork, from the lofty mountain and the grand ocean to the tiniest shell upon the seashore.
The branches of the vine cannot blend into each other; they are individually separate; yet every branch must be in fellowship with every other if they are united in the same parent stock. They all draw nourishment from the same source; they drink in the same lifegiving properties. So each branch of the True Vine is separate and distinct, yet all are bound together in the parent stock. There can be no division. They are all linked together by his will to bear fruit wherever they can find place and opportunity. But in order to do this, the worker must hide self. He must not give expression to his own mind and will. He is to express the mind and will of Christ. The human family are dependent upon God for life and breath and sustenance. God has designed the web, and all are individual threads to compose the pattern. The Creator is one, and he reveals himself as the great Reservoir of all that is essential for each separate life.
Christian unity consists in the branches being in the same parent stock, the vitalizing power of the center supporting the grafts that have united to the Vine. In thoughts and desires, in words and actions, there must be an identity with Christ, a constant partaking of his spiritual life. Faith must increase by exercise. All who live near to God will have a realization of what Jesus is to them and they to Jesus. As communion with God is making its impress upon the soul, and shining out in the countenance as an illuminating light, the steadfast principles of Christ's holy character will be reflected in humanity. By Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #46)
The lesson which Christ drew from the vine and its branches he taught by another illustration. "Verily, verily, I say unto you," he said, "except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."
Many of the Jews who claimed to be Christ's disciples had murmured among themselves because Christ had said: "I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father; save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
But the priests and rulers strove among themselves, saying: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."
The Saviour read the hearts of all who joined themselves to him as his disciples. He knew that there were many who thought themselves his disciples, who were not. He knew that their bitterness of spirit would be displayed if any word spoken by him did not harmonize with their preconceived opinions. He knew that prejudices and jealousies would be aroused at the slightest reference to their peculiar principles. And understanding, as he did, the heart and all its working, he sought to present the plain facts concerning his relation to humanity, his mission, and his work. The words that the Saviour spoke were the truth. He laid the ax at the root of the tree. "This is that bread which came down from heaven," he said; "not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever."
The lesson drawn from these two symbols contains the very mystery of godliness. No one need be left in darkness. It is the truth that is to be received, and its reception will be revealed in the life of every true believer. When by faith the believer takes hold of Christ, there comes a turning point in his life. He receives the spirit and mind of Christ, and represents his character.
But a large number of those who followed Christ were not grafted into the True Vine, and they revealed the fact when Christ gave this lesson. "Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
These disciples were not receiving Christ and believing in him, and the Saviour knew that it was time for them to understand what should be their relation to himself.
Every temptation is one of the Lord's means of establishing his people in the faith. They will obtain an experience if they will seek unto the Lord; or through the wiles of Satan, they may yield their faith. But if they will refuse to make any move until they seek counsel of God, if they will open the word to understand what is written therein, they will see where they are standing, and what is their peril. The disciples who forsook Jesus had entertained contention and unbelief. Unbelief had grown into a habit; and now had become a more distinct and startling opportunity to demonstrate that they were offended. The strife of the Jews over Christ's words, meeting them with questioning and doubt, gathered about the souls of these disciples the dark clouds of unbelief. Their faith had not been genuine, and the test revealed their weakness and unreliable position. These lessons were designed to give to all a knowledge of self, to show them the true position they sustained toward Christ. Temptation, working in darkness, was causing the weak and tempted ones to lose faith in Christ, because they could not understand the spiritual meaning of his words.
Christ uttered sayings that have power to obtain a place in every heart that is seeking to know the will of God. He declared: "For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. . . . All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." More precious than gold are these words. Those who will to do his will, shall know of the doctrine. But if their human ideas, received through traditions and maxims and customs of men, are still retained as of value, they may be convinced that the words of Christ will satisfy their highest wants; that these words can comfort, encourage, strengthen, and settle them, and remove from them their unrest and uncertainty; they may feel a most earnest desire for the results following the partaking of the bread from heaven, and may even be frank enough to express their wish, "Lord, evermore give us this bread:" yet they will reject Christ, and lose his proffered blessings.
This lesson was given to test and prove his believing disciples also. These disciples had turned away from the priests and rulers to Christ, and now Christ revealed his true relation to them. Have they genuine faith in him? or are they of the number to whom Christ said, "Ye also have seen me, and believe not"? Turning to the twelve, he said: "Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve."
Christ had come to the time when the truth must be spoken decidedly, that the disciples who were indeed in the Vine might be distinguished from those who had no vital connection with Christ. And here was a branch that apparently was one with the Vine; but after living with the disciples, and listening to the words of Christ, he gave evidence that he was not abiding in the Vine.
Judas was one who exerted a large influence over the disciples. He was of a commanding appearance, and had excellent qualifications. But these endowments had not been sanctified to God. His energies were devoted to self-serving, self-exaltation, and gain. Had he humbled his heart before God under this divine instruction that pointed so plainly to himself, he would no longer have remained a tempter, expressing his unbelief to his brother disciples, and thus sowing the seeds of unbelief in their hearts.
But Judas had opened the door of his heart, the chambers of his mind, to the temptations of Satan. And the enemy sowed in his heart and mind the seed which he communicated to his brethren. The questioning doubts which were passed on to the minds of his brethren. This one man, professing to be a follower of Christ, while not bearing the precious fruit revealed in the life of Christ, would be a channel of darkness to the other disciples in the time of test and trial that was soon to come, and that was even then upon them. He presented so much accusation of his brethren that he was counterworking the lessons of Christ. This is why Jesus called Judas a devil.
God was still unknown to Judas as a living God, a loving Father. The life of Judas was not hid with Christ in God. That poor, independent soul, separate from the spirit and life of Christ, had a hard time. He was ever under condemnation, because the lessons of Christ were always cutting him. Yet he did not become transformed, and converted into a living branch through connection with the True Vine. This dry sapling adhered not to the Vine until it grew into a fruitful, living branch. He revealed that he was the graft that did not bear fruit,--the graft that did not, fiber by fiber and vein by vein, become knit with the Vine, and partake of its life.
The dry, disconnected sapling can become one with the parent vine stock only by being made a partaker of the life and nourishment of the living vine, by being grafted into the vine, by being brought into the closest relationship possible. Fiber by fiber, vein by vein, the twig holds fast to the lifegiving vine, until the life of the vine becomes the life of the branch, and it produces fruit like that of the vine.
This is so with the follower of Christ. When he is truly connected with Christ, he will not be like those disciples who were offended because their own minds were not spiritual. They saw the truths that pleased them; but when they came to hear something they could not explain or reason out, because they were not in vital connection with Christ, they were offended. They turned away, and walked no more with him. It was better that these fruitless branches should reveal themselves while Christ was with them. It was for this reason that the words of Christ were spoken, that these disciples might be proved to be just what they were,--not of the faith, but among those that believed not. Just as long as they were with Christ, they revealed a spirit of unbelief. They found the words of Christ opposed to their ideas and maxims, and bore no fruit as branches of the Living Vine. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #47)
The lessons that Christ gave in the synagogue to all that were there assembled, come down through the ages to our time. His words come impressively to every heart, and we are to take heed to them. We are not to give them casual, but special, attention. Comparatively little attention should be given to the subject of temporal food, to satisfy temporal hunger; but that food which comes down from heaven is of the highest consequence to us. The bread of life comes to satisfy our highest spiritual demands,--the hunger of the soul. It is God's truth that is the bread of life. It is the truth that confronts the falsehood of the enemy.
All the way from the first disciple to the present time there have been those who have professed to believe in the same way that these disciples in Christ's day believed in him. These received the name of disciples; but they had not dug deep, and laid their foundation upon the Rock. Many who profess to be Christians today have not a vital connection with Christ. They do not discern their great spiritual necessity. They say, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." They know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. This is the sure consequence of neglecting to abide in the Vine, of neglecting to avail themselves of a personal relation to Christ. Christ cannot endure pretentious Christians,--those who do not live his character. He will spew such out of his mouth as utterly distasteful to him.
Can it be possible, one asks, that there can be any one in our church who feels such self-sufficiency as this? Time will answer this question. When reproof comes to them from God, if they are humbly seeking him, they will receive the reproof as a blessing, and will at once begin to ascertain their spiritual necessities. If they feel that they are rich in knowledge and are in need of nothing, they will take offense, as did the disciples who turned from Christ and walked no more with him. There are many who need to be awakened by plain, decided Testimonies to discern their spiritual deficiencies. Why are they not wise? Christ answers the question. They consider themselves whole, in no need of a physician. "I am rich, and increased with goods," they say, "and have need of nothing." The disciples who turned away from Christ were of this class, and many who are reproved for their wrongs in this time act just as did those men to whom Christ said, "Ye also have seen me, and believe not."
But the One who is mighty in counsel says: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 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." Then they will not reveal that they are worthless branches, separate from the True Vine, to be cast into the fire, and burned.
The eye is the sensitive conscience, the inner light, of the mind. Upon its correct view of things the spiritual healthfulness of the whole soul and being depends. The "eyesalve," the Word of God, makes the conscience smart under its application; for it convicts of sin. But the smarting is necessary that the healing may follow, and the eye be single to the glory of God. The sinner, beholding himself in God's great moral lookingglass, sees himself as God views him, and exercises repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Said Christ: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father."
Self-sufficiency is the fatal danger of a lukewarm state. The Laodiceans boasted of a deep knowledge of Bible truth, a deep insight into the Scriptures. They were not entirely blind, else the eyesalve would have done nothing to restore their sight, and enable them to discern the true attributes of Christ. Says Christ, By renouncing your own self-sufficiency, giving up all things, however dear to you, you may buy the gold, the raiment, and the eyesalve that you may see.
The Lord sees the necessities and the peril of the soul. He came to our world in the garb of humanity, that his humanity might meet our humanity. While we were in sin, he pledged his life for us. He loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Therefore he does not leave his tempted ones with eyes that are nearly blind to their own imperfections. The man who uses the eyesalve is enabled to see himself as he is. His wretchedness is discovered; he feels his imperfections, his spiritual poverty, and his need of being healed of his spiritual malady.
The rebuke of wrong is designed for the good of the professed follower of Christ, who is misrepresenting Christ by his spirit of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. "As many as I love," says Christ, "I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 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."
The reception of the Word, the bread from heaven, is declared to be the reception of Christ himself. As the Word of God is received into the soul, we partake of the flesh and blood of the Son of God. As it enlightens the mind, the heart is opened still more to receive the engrafted Word, that we may grow thereby. Man is called upon to eat and masticate the Word; but unless his heart is open to the entrance of that Word, unless he drinks in the Word, unless he is taught of God, there will be a misconception, misapplication, and misinterpretation of that Word.
As the blood is formed in the body by the food eaten, so Christ is formed within by the eating of the Word of God, which is his flesh and blood. He who feeds upon that Word has Christ formed within, the hope of glory. The written Word introduces to the searcher the flesh and blood of the Son of God; and through obedience to that Word, he becomes a partaker of the divine nature. As the necessity for temporal food cannot be supplied by once partaking of it, so the Word of God must be daily eaten to supply the spiritual necessities.
As the life of the body is found in the blood, so spiritual life is maintained through faith in the blood of Christ. He is our life, just as in the body our life is in the blood. He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, just as the bone, sinew, and muscle are nourished, and the whole man built up, by the circulation of the blood through the system. In vital connection with Christ, in personal contact with him, is found health for the soul. It is the efficacy of the blood of Christ that supplies its every need and keeps it in a healthy condition.
By reason of the waste and loss, the body must be renewed with blood, by being supplied with daily food. So there is need of constantly feeding on the Word, the knowledge of which is eternal life. That Word must be our meat and drink. It is in this alone that the soul will find its nourishment and vitality. We must feast upon its precious instruction, that we may be renewed in the spirit of our mind, and grow up into Christ, our living Head. When his Word is abiding in the living soul, there is oneness with Christ; there is a living communion with him; there is in the soul an abiding love that is the sure evidence of our unlimited privilege.
A soul without Christ is like a body without blood; it is dead. It may have the appearance of spiritual life; it may perform certain ceremonies in religious matters like a machine; but it has no spiritual life. So the hearing of the word of God is not enough. Unless we are taught of God, we shall not accept the truth to the saving of our souls. It must be brought into the life practise.
When a soul receives Christ, he receives his righteousness. He lives the life of Christ. As he trains himself to behold Christ, to study his life and practise his virtues, he eats the flesh and drinks the blood of the Son of God. When this experience is his, he can declare, with the apostle Paul: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #48)
"And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."
In this day we have been privileged to have increased light and large opportunities, and we are held responsible for the improvement of light. This will be manifested by increased piety and devotion. Our loyalty to God should be proportionate to the light which shines upon us in this age. But the fact that we have increased light does not justify us in dissecting and judging the character of men whom God raised up in former times to do a certain work and to penetrate the moral darkness of the world. In the past the servants of God wrestled with principalities and powers, and with the rulers of the darkness of this world, and with spiritual wickedness in high places, the same as we, who bear aloft the banner of truth, do today. These men were God's noblemen, his living agencies, through whom he wrought in a wonderful manner. They were depositaries of divine truth to the extent that the Lord saw fit to reveal the truth that the world could bear to hear. They proclaimed the truth at a time when false, corrupt religion was magnifying itself in the world.
I could wish that the curtain could be rolled back, and that those who have not spiritual eyesight might see these men as they appear in the sight of God; for now they see them as trees walking. They would not then put their human construction upon the experience and works of the men who parted the darkness from the track, and prepared the way for future generations. Living down in our own generation, we may pronounce judgment upon the men whom God raised up to do a special work, according to the light given to them in their day. Though they may have been overcome with temptation, they repented of their sins; and no opportunity is left for us to depreciate their characters or to excuse sin. Their history is a beacon of warning to us, and points out a safe path for our feet if we will but shun their mistakes. These noble men sought the mercy seat, and humbled their souls before God.
Let not our voices or pens show that we are disregarding the solemn injunctions of the Lord. Let no one depreciate those who have been chosen of God, who have fought manfully the battles of the Lord, who have woven heart and soul and life into the cause and work of God, who have died in faith, and who are partakers of the great salvation purchased for us through our precious sin bearing, sin pardoning Saviour. God has inspired no man to reproduce their mistakes, and to present their errors to a world that is lying in wickedness, and to a church composed of many who are weak in faith. The Lord has not laid the burden upon men to revive the mistakes and errors of the living or the dead. He would have his laborers present the truth for this time. Speak not of the errors of your brethren who are living, and be silent as to the mistakes of the dead. Let their mistakes and errors remain where God has put them,--cast into the depths of the sea. The less that is said by those who profess to believe present truth, in regard to the past mistakes and errors of the servants of God, the better it will be for their own souls, and for the souls of those whom Christ has purchased with his own blood. Let every voice proclaim the words of the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. John heard a voice saying, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, said the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them."
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." If you think your brethren are in error, or in danger of making strong statements and of going to extremes, in the love of Christ and in the spirit of meekness, go to them and talk the matter over with them. If you wish to be laborers together with God, if you are spiritually minded yourself, you will not seek to expose the errors and mistakes of your brethren, but will seek to correct them, and will restore the one you deem to be in danger. When this work of restoring those who err is neglected, sin lies upon those who have seen their brethren's defects, and have not followed out the gospel rule. God would have his laborers upbuild and strengthen and save those who are in danger of falling. Those who are in close connection with God, and who have a sense of the sacred character of his work, will bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. This is the special work of those who believe the present truth.
Those who neglect their God-given responsibilities, and who will not take every means in their power to save those for whom Christ died from making a misstep, are neglecting his work, and are failing to be colaborers with Christ. But if, through lack of foresight, mistakes are made by men who are chosen and beloved of God, and they make haste to correct their errors as soon as their attention is called to their mistakes, shall a brother take advantage of the circumstance? Shall articles be traced by an unfriendly pen calculated to weaken the confidence of others in the man who honestly erred in judgment, when he thought he was in the right? Let those who would do this kind of work consider how they would like to have it done to themselves, were they in similar circumstances. Let them consider whether they would have received reproof in the spirit of meekness, or whether pride would have had the mastery, and they become doubly guilty in expressing, in word and attitude, sullen defiance of the reprover. Would they have been obedient to correction, and received reproof in that spirit of meekness which yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness?
The word of caution comes down along the line to our time: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived [in your opinion of your own piety]; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." No frost shall blight the crop, no mildew blast it, no palmerworm devour it; the harvest is sure. Then be careful what seed you sow. God calls upon every man, woman, and youth to sow precious seed in time, that with joy he may reap in eternity.
We have no time now, and should have no disposition, to stand as spectators of the great warfare between good and evil. We should be actively engaged in fighting the good fight of faith, and this will demand all the energies of the mind, all the capabilities and powers of the being. We are to be faithful soldiers, obeying the orders of the Captain of our salvation. We are not to take the Captain's place; but hourly to live in constant contact with Christ. We must know, individually, that we know the truth, not only theoretically, but practically. We must bring its divine principles into our daily life. God requires truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part wisdom. He requires us to practise righteousness, to manifest patience, mercy, and love. We should carefully review our character in the light of the character of God, as expressed in his holy law. There should be no deviating from the perfect standard. The Lord says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Ample provision has been made that the people of God may attain perfection of character. The apostle says, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." Let every individual draw for himself from the inexhaustible source of all moral and intellectual power, in order that he may work the works of righteousness. Through the cross of Calvary every facility is furnished whereby man may be in union with his fellow men, and in harmony with Christ in God. The Father says that he will love those who believe that Christ died for them, even as he loves his only begotten Son. The cross of Christ is the assurance that we may be complete in him. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." In Christ is excellence, in him is intellectual greatness and moral efficiency.
The Holy Spirit ever abides with him who is seeking for perfection of Christian character. The Holy Spirit furnishes the pure motive, the living, active principle, that sustains striving, wrestling, believing souls in every emergency and under every temptation. The Holy Spirit sustains the believer amid the world's hatred, amid the unfriendliness of relatives, amid disappointment, amid the realization of imperfection, and amid the mistakes of life. Depending upon the matchless purity and perfection of Christ, the victory is sure to him who looks unto the Author and Finisher of our faith. We shall be more that conquerors through him who hath loved us, and given himself for us. He has borne our sins, in order that through him we might have moral excellence, and attain unto the perfection of Christian character. Our Righteousness is our substitute and surety.
Let no one think he can hide his imperfection behind men who have been chosen of God, yet who have shown weakness, who have made mistakes, and who have been guilty of sin. The Lord has recorded the mistakes and sins of his servants, not that they may be reproduced, but that their experience may serve as a danger signal, that others need not fall in going over the ground where they stumbled. If you are ambitious for self-preferment, you must overcome, or you will never enter the courts of heaven. Let selfishness be rooted out of the heart. In the life of Christ there was no fiber of selfishness. He lived not to please himself. Are you covetously retaining the means which God would have you use to his name's glory? Bear in mind that covetousness is idolatry. If you keep the commandments of God, you will love God with all your heart, mind, might, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. You will not cherish an overbearing, dictatorial spirit. There will be no place in the heavenly courts for anything save sympathy and love, kindness and goodness. Mercy, longsuffering, and tender compassion are the attributes of the character of Christ. The opposite of these attributes belong to the character of Satan, and will never find an entrance into the city of our God. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, are the fruits that appear on the Christian tree. "By their fruits ye shall know them." "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Christians reveal the fact that they have a heavenly endowment. They think upon "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #49)
"And as some [the disciples] spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
The world's Redeemer made this the occasion of giving the disciples some lessons of great consequence to them. As they looked upon the rich adornments of the temple, he spoke to them of the calamity that was to come upon it. And carrying their minds on, he spoke of the close of this earth's history, when not merely a nation, but the whole world, would be destroyed. In the words spoken at this time, Christ has left lessons that are especially applicable to our time. "They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."
"They asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. . . . Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist."
From those who thus boldly witness for Christ, men will hear truth who never heard it before. In some hearts the seed will take root. The converting power of God will win souls from darkness to light. Some of the very men on the judgment-seat--lawyers and jurors--will embrace the truth, and in their turn will confess Christ, and show their loyalty to all the commandments of God, especially the Sabbath command, which will be made, as it has ever been, the test question.
"And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death." Christ shows that the deeds of cruelty done to his people will be a repetition of the deeds done to him. "If the world hate you," he declared, "ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
Christ shows that without the controlling power of the Spirit of God, humanity is a terrible power for evil, to hurt and destroy humanity. When men banish this Spirit, unbelief and hatred of reproof stir up satanic influence. Principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places, will unite in a desperate companionship. They will be leagued against God in the person of his saints. By misrepresentation and falsehood, they will demoralize both men and women who, to all appearances, believe the truth. False witnesses will not be wanting in this terrible work. But Christ gives the assurance: "There shall not a hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls." Christ will restore the life taken; for he is the Lifegiver: he will beautify the righteous with immortal life.
After speaking of the end of the world, Jesus came back to Jerusalem, the city then sitting in pride and arrogance, and saying, "I sit a queen, . . . and shall see no sorrow." "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,' he said, "then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled."
How terrible it was for Christ, whose heart overflowed with love for those whom he had purchased with human agony, to see Jerusalem fast filling up the figures of the reckoning that is kept with nations and individuals. On another occasion, with tears in his eyes and voice, Christ exclaimed, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and [ye could not?--No] ye would not!" You would not yield up your determination to turn from the light. You resisted every measure which Heaven ordained for your peace and salvation. You have refused and rejected until mercy has exhausted her last resources. What more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done? I left no means untried in my efforts to lead you to repentance and to God, that you might live. But the arm strong to support, to shield, and to save will be found strong to execute the commands of a longsuffering God, who keeps mercy for thousands, "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin," but who "will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." Why?--Because they did the same wicked deeds as did their fathers.
The retribution to come upon Jerusalem could be delayed only a short time; and as Christ's eye rested upon the doomed city, he saw not merely its destruction, but the destruction of a world. He saw that as Jerusalem was given up to destruction, so the world will be given up to its doom. He saw the retribution that will be visited on the adversaries of God. The scenes that were transacted at the destruction of Jerusalem will be repeated at the great and terrible day of the Lord, but in a more fearful manner.
A world is represented in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the warning given then comes sounding down along the line to our time: "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring." Yes, the sea shall pass its borders, and destruction will be in its track. It will engulf the ships that sail upon its broad waters; and with the burden of their living freight, these will be hurled into eternity.
There will be calamities by land and by sea, "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." In just the same manner that he ascended, will he come the second time to our world. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
In this perilous time, who will be found traitors? Who will choose the friendship of the enemies of Christ? Who will accept the bribery of the world, at the expense of the principles of righteousness? Of such it will be said, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes." O, if men would only hear the last call of mercy that God has sent to our world, warning them of temperance, righteousness, and judgment to come, truth and light and grace would be given them, to be given to the world.
But ministers and teachers have resisted the light, refused the grace which God has richly provided for them, and abused the opportunities he has graciously presented to them. He looks from his throne, and sees warnings despised, convictions set aside, and the truth buried beneath the rubbish of tradition. A "Thus saith the Lord" is counted as an idle tale. Fables are chosen before the truth of heavenly origin. Invitations to repentance and the convictions of the Spirit of God are slighted.
Confirmed impenitence is the result of refusing light and of walking in the sparks of our own kindling. Those who follow this course follow a path that leads to perdition. They are called upon to come out of the world, and be separate. But the strait and narrow path does not look attractive; it is hard to enter the strait gate, and their eyes turn with longing desire to the wide gate and the broad way. "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."
Fatal hardness of heart! The peace, the mercy, the grace, the exceeding great reward of obedience, are now hidden from their eyes. The irrevocable sentence of condemnation must come from the divine lips. Christ declares, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Angels are cooperating with human intelligences, watching and working to draw the world to Christ, as Christ worked to draw the Jewish nation to God. But "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." The Lord wills not that any man shall perish, but that all shall come to him and be saved. But instead of his lovingkindness softening and subduing the soul, many of the objects of his love and mercy are encouraged to more obstinate resistance. O, that men would remember that there is a limit to the forbearance of God! They throw off all restraint, and make void his law; they establish their own perverted law, and try to force those who honor God, and keep his commandments, to trample his law under their feet; but they will find, too late, that the tenderness which they have mocked is exhausted.
The warning of Christ comes sounding down along the line to our time: "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #50)
"This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (as it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth forever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God."
God is in heaven, but he has delegated his work to those on this earth. This work is to represent Christ. Christ gave himself, a full, complete offering, for the life of the world: and God calls upon all men to make a complete surrender of all they have and are to him, that they may be co-laborers with Christ. This call is just; for to whom is every member of the human family indebted for his possessions?--To God, who not only gives men temporal blessings, but freely offered up his only begotten Son, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God has entrusted men with his gifts, that they may represent his benevolence toward those who are poor and needy. If they have the spirit of Christ, they will reveal it unmistakably by their helpfulness to others, by a faithful discharge of their duty, by acting tenderly and kindly toward God's heritage. As God sees that his children manifest compassion toward those who are poor and needy, he will bless them as faithful stewards.
"Moreover, brethren," writes the apostle Paul, "we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge; and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. . . . For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
To a youthful ruler who inquired of him, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered, "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." This was not a hard requirement; for the ruler was not handling his own property. His goods had been entrusted to him by the Lord. The choice was left with him; he must decide for himself. Did he accept the eternal treasure? or did he decide to gratify his desire for earthly treasure, and in so doing, refuse the eternal riches?--When he heard Christ's words, "he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." He chose the earthly good, and lost the eternal weight of glory.
Individually, we are tried as was the young ruler. God tests us to see if, as stewards, we can safely be trusted with the eternal riches. Shall we do as the ruler did,--fasten our grasp upon the treasures lent us by God, choosing that which appears most agreeable to the natural heart, and refusing to use our possessions as God plainly states he expects us to? or shall we take up our cross, and follow our Saviour in the path of self-denial?
Millions of people in our world are making the choice made by the young ruler. They have intelligence, but they cannot decide to be honest stewards of their Lord's goods. Many say, "I will bless and glorify myself; I will be honored as a man above his fellows." Jesus paid the price for their redemption; for their sake he became poor, that they might be rich; and yet, though wholly dependent on him for all their earthly possessions, they refuse to do his will by showing love to their fellow men. They are not willing to relieve the necessities of those around them with the means which the Lord has placed in their hands for this purpose. They refuse to appropriate the Lord's capital for the benefit of others, and hold fast to their possessions. Like the ruler, they refuse the heavenly treasure, and choose that which is agreeable to themselves. By such selfishness they prove themselves unworthy of the eternal riches. They show that they are unfit for a place in the kingdom of God; if they were allowed to enter there, they would, like the great apostate, claim everything as if they had created it, and would spoil heaven by their covetousness.
Moses was called upon to choose between the world and God. Two conflicting objects were placed before him. The treasures of Egypt, the honor of a temporal crown, and all the worldly benefits involved in this choice, were presented by the prince of this world. The opposite side was presented by the Prince of Light, the world's Redeemer. He held out the recompense of reward, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and showed also the path of affliction, self-denial, and self-sacrifice, that must be traveled by all who gain this reward.
The decision was left with Moses. As a free moral agent he was at liberty to choose. All heaven was interested in the matter. What would be his choice?--obedience to God, with the eternal recompense of reward, or obedience to that most agreeable to his own will? "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." This is a lesson for all who would render true service to God. We must not venture to remain where our associations will tend to draw us away from God, and to obscure our view of the reward of obedience.
There is no saving faith in Christ only as it is revealed by obedience. Every human being is under a solemn responsibility to obey God. His present and eternal happiness depends upon his willing obedience to the divine requirements. Man's will and inclination are to be wholly yielded to God. When this is done, man will cooperate with God, showing, by precept and example, that he has chosen to be, in all his ways, under the control of his Maker. God rejoices when, like Moses, his children choose rather to serve him than to enjoy the pleasures of this world. Could the curtain be rolled back, could men behold the angelic host as they glorify God with songs of gladness and rejoicing, they would realize that obedience ever causes joy, and disobedience, sorrow. God and the angels rejoice over every victory gained by the Christian; but when temptation overcomes the soul, there is sorrow in heaven.
While in this world, men are tested by the society they choose, and by the attributes of character they develop. All who belong to the kingdom of Christ are of one family. They love God supremely, and their neighbors as themselves. "Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also,"--the grace of Christian liberality. "To do good and to communicate forget not." By "communicate," the apostle does not here mean "to speak;" for in the verse previous he has said, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." By this "communicating" the apostle means Christian liberality. God desires that the bounties which he has freely given to his children shall be communicated to those who are in need. By this communication, by the utterance of kindly words, accompanied by deeds of love, those who work for God will find entrance to hearts, and will win others to Christ.
"Charge them that are rich in this world," says the apostle, "that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." God would have those whom he has blessed with means, take of their abundance, and relieve the necessities of the poor. As they do this, they receive their reward; for they are "laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."
God's children should be educated to see that he has claims upon them. As regularly as the seasons come round, he gives us the harvest of the earth. His liberality is constant and systematic; and our returns to him are to be made in accordance with the gifts which day by day he bestows upon us. The steady, unfailing flow of Jehovah's goodness testifies of his love and benevolence. Then shall we not, with hearts filled with gratitude for all his blessings, respond by dispensing his gifts as faithful stewards?
All classes are entrusted with the Lord's gifts, and none are exempt from the work of Christian beneficence. There will be those who, by their unfaithfulness, will make God's benevolence to them a curse. The blessings that are shut up to the service of self, work harm instead of benefit, and God will withdraw his gifts from the unfaithful steward. Let us carefully follow God's directions in the use of what he has given us; and as we do this, he will supply grace for every time of need; for he is acquainted with the desires of the heart to follow a wrong course, and with the temptations that surround us. Let us carry out God's requirements by imparting our blessings to those around us, not from compulsion, but because he has, for our own good, made us laborers together with him. He has ordained that we shall carry forward his work by an active, living benevolence, which has for its foundation a "Thus saith the Lord." In his strength we can do this; for he is able to make all grace abound toward us, that we, "always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #51)
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
The means which the Lord has employed in the gracious provision of his mercy, to soften and subdue the objects of his love, have, through the workings of Satan, encouraged the depraved and hardened hearts in perversity, resistance, and transgression. Even as far back as the days of David, this led him to exclaim, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law."
Because of the goodness and longsuffering of God, many have been led to consider and appreciate his mercy and lovingkindness, and this has led them to repentance. On the other hand, many have become more careless, and have abused his mercy. To their own loss and shame, they have followed the will of Satan, irrespective of the retribution that will surely come upon them for their disobedience and transgression. They will yet learn that God is jealous of his honor and his glory. He will not have his laws trifled with. Men cannot with impunity treat them with indifference and defiance.
If God had decided, in his councils in heaven, to visit the transgressors of his law with instant death, there would have resulted a much greater restriction of the inclination to do those things that are offensive to God. The very men who seem to be dead to entreaties and warnings sent in mercy by God, those who will not be deterred from their evil course of action, would be prudent to save their lives, even if they had no love for God. But the Lord's arrangement, made in council with his only begotten Son, was to leave men free moral agents to a certain length of probation. His eye would discern all their works, but he would compel no man's service. If the love displayed in his longsuffering and patience could not bring them to repentance and perfect surrender to the laws of his kingdom, then they must be left to choose whom they would serve. Their life must testify of their choice. If men love transgression, and choose to disregard his laws, after sufficient test and trial their case is forever decided. God cannot have such as members of his family in heaven. Their punishment will be in accordance with the character of their defiance and rebellion against God.
A vast reformation would be wrought in the world if the veil of the future could be lifted, and all could see that very soon there is to be a change in the attitude of God, in his dealings with the perversity of man; that there are limits to divine mercy and forbearance. There are those who, by their impenitence under the beams of light that have shone upon them, are very near the line where the forbearance of God is exhausted. In mind and heart they are saying, "The Lord delayeth his coming," and they are eating and drinking with the drunken. But God declares of such that "sudden destruction cometh upon them," "and they shall not escape."
The present time, when great light is shining forth from the Word of God, making dark mysteries plain as day, is the day of mercy, of hope, of assurance, of joy, for all who will be benefited thereby, for all who will open their minds and hearts to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. But there are those who will not come to the light, who despise the truth because it exposes error and transgression and sin; and as a result, boldness in transgression is becoming all-pervading.
The time is very near when men will reach the prescribed limits. They have now almost exceeded the bounds of the longsuffering of God, the limits of his grace, the limits of his mercy. The record of their works in the books of heaven is, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."
The Lord will interfere to vindicate his own honor, to repress the swellings of unrighteousness and bold transgression. He will not be left without witness. The one-hour laborers will be brought in at the eleventh hour, and will consecrate their ability and their entrusted means to advance the Lord's work. While many have reduced the Word, the truth, the holy law of Jehovah, to a dead letter, and by their example testify that this law is a hard, rigorous burden; while they say, "We will lay off this yoke, we will be free, we will no longer remain in covenant relation with God, we will do as we please," there will be men who have had very meager opportunities, who have walked in ways of error because they knew no better way, to whom beams of light will come. As the word of Christ came to Zacchaeus, "I must abide at thy house," so the word will come to them; and those supposed to be hardened sinners will be found to have hearts as tender as a child's, because Christ has deigned to notice them. These will receive the reward for their faithfulness because they are true to principle, and shun not their duty to declare the whole counsel of God. When those who have had abundance of light throw off the restraint which the Word of God imposes, and make void his law, others will come in to fill their place and take their crown.
In all parts of the world there are diligent students of the Word of prophecy, who are obtaining light, and still greater light, from their study of the Scriptures. This is true of all nations, of all tribes, and of all peoples. Many will come from the grossest error, and will take the place of those who have had opportunities and privileges, and have not prized them. These have worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling, lest they should become deficient in doing the ways and will of God; while those who have had great light have, through the perversity of their own natural heart, turned away from Christ because [they are] displeased with his requirements. Even many supposed to be heathen will take the side of Christ, while those who become offended, as did the disciples in the synagogue at Capernaum, will go away, and walk no more with him.
From time to time the Lord has made known the manner of his working. He is mindful of what is passing upon the earth; and when a crisis has come, he has revealed himself, and has interposed to hinder the working out of Satan's plans. With nations, with families, and with individuals, he has often permitted matters to come to a crisis, that his interference might be marked. Then he has made known the fact that there is a God in Israel who will sustain and vindicate his people.
In Noah's day, men had disregarded the law of God until almost all remembrance of the Creator had passed away from the earth. Their wickedness reached so great a height, violence, crime, and every kind of sin became so intensely active, that the Lord brought a flood of water upon the earth. Yet mercy was mingled with judgment. Noah and his family were saved, but the wicked inhabitants of the world were swept away. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, also, when fire came down from heaven and destroyed those wicked cities, we see that the Lord will interfere for his people.
In these last days wicked men and professed Christians will harmonize in their hatred of the law of God. Then the crisis will come; then we shall see the class specified in Mal. 3:13-15: "Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." Here is a company of disaffected professed Christians, whose chief business is to murmur, and complain, and accuse God by accusing the children of God. They see nothing defective in themselves, but very much that is displeasing in others.
But while they are murmuring, and complaining, and falsely accusing, and doing Satan's work most zealously, another class is brought to our notice: "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord harkened, 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. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."
In this time of prevailing iniquity, the Protestant churches that have rejected a "Thus saith the Lord," will reach a strange pass. They will be converted to the world. In their separation from God, they will seek to make falsehood and apostasy from God the law of the nation. They will work upon the rulers of the land to make laws to restore the lost ascendency of the man of sin, who sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. The Roman Catholic principles will be taken under the protection of the state. The protest of Bible truth will no longer be tolerated by those who have not made the law of God their rule of life.
And what effect will these attempts of men to make void the law of God have upon the righteous? Will they be intimidated by the almost universal scorn that is put upon the law of God? Will the true believers in the "Thus saith the Lord," become wavering and ashamed because the whole world seems to despise his righteous law? Will they be carried away by the prevalence of evil?--No; to those who have consecrated themselves to God to serve him, the law of God becomes more precious when the contrast is shown between the obedient and the transgressor. In proportion as the attributes of Satan are developed in the despisers and transgressors of the law of God, to the faithful adherent the holy precepts will become more dear and valuable. It is the ones who have been faithful stewards of the grace of God, whose love for God's commandments grows with the contempt which all around would put upon them.
When the defiance of God's law is almost universal, when his people are pressed in affliction by their fellow men, God will interpose. Then will the voice be heard from the graves of martyrs, represented by the souls that John saw slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, which they held,--then the prayer will ascend from every true child of God: "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law." The fervent prayers of his people will be answered; for God loves to have his people seek him with all the heart, and depend upon him as their deliverer. He will be sought unto to do these things for his people, and he will arise as their protector and avenger. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him? Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 74, #52)
"Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days." This was the only charge that could be brought against Christ. But these words had been misstated and misapplied. Christ had said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. . . . But he spake of the temple of his body."
Priests and rulers, with many others, taunted him with this false statement. While he hung upon the cross, it was repeated in mockery by the scribes and Pharisees, and echoed by the multitude. "They that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself." But though misstated, Christ's words were being fulfilled. Publicity was given to them, and they were made more impressive by the proclamations of his enemies.
"Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself be cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him." Would they have believed on him had he come down?--No. In the resurrection of Lazarus a convincing proof had been given of Christ's divinity. It was not evidence that the priests and rulers needed. This they had; but in spite of it, they sought for false witnesses, that they might mislead the minds of the people, and prejudice them against the truth.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus a representation is given of those who refuse light. While the rich man was suffering the punishment of his sins, he asked that Lazarus might be sent to warn his brethren, lest they also share his fate. Abraham is represented as saying to him: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Yet to the Jews one had come who had been raised from the dead. Among them was Lazarus, who had lain four days in the grave, but who was now a living witness of the power of Christ. But in spite of this, the priests not only plotted to put Christ to death, but Lazarus also; for he was likely to be an obstacle in the way of killing Christ.
Those who placed Christ before the world, hanging on the cross between two thieves, bruised and wounded, bore a testimony to his work. Many heard the words of mockery addressed to him as he hung on the cross; for they were spoken in no whispered tones. Thus a testimony to Christ's claims was borne in the hearing of thousands. Many minds entered on a track of thought that increased in intensity and earnestness as they searched the Scriptures for themselves. The conviction forced itself upon their minds that Jesus was the Messiah.
Those who in derision uttered the words, "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God," little thought that their testimony would sound down the ages. But although spoken in mockery, never were words more true. They led men to search the Scriptures for themselves. Wise men heard, searched, pondered, and prayed. There were those who never rested until, by searching the Scriptures and comparing passage with passage, they saw the meaning of Christ's mission. They saw that free forgiveness was provided by him whose tender mercy embraces the whole world. They read the prophecies regarding Christ, and the promises so full and free, pointing to a fountain opened for Judah and Jerusalem. Hope sprang up in their hearts as they read the words:--
"For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land be any more termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called, Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. . . . Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him."
Never before was there such a general knowledge of Jesus as when he hung upon the cross. He was lifted up from the earth, to draw all unto him. Into the hearts of many who beheld the crucifixion scene, and who heard Christ's words, was the light of truth to shine. With John they would proclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Truth is truth, and will remain truth, and in the end will triumph gloriously. The lamp of life is trimmed by the hand that lighted it. The Jewish leaders sought to remove it from the earth, but it shone on, and irradiated the world. Christ rose from the grave, and over the rent sepulcher of Joseph he proclaimed, "I am the resurrection and the life." Men in this age will repeat the history of the past. By their falsehoods they think that they can quench the light of the world, but their efforts only make the light shine brighter.
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." As Christ's mother stood by the cross upon which he hung, she realized the truth of the words spoken by Simeon, when he took the infant Saviour in his arms and blessed him. "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation," he said, "which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
That time had come. The hearts of the persecutors, the revilers, the murderers, were indeed revealed. Attributes which form character were developed. Unbelieving Israel took sides with the first great apostate.
Christ, bearing the sin of the world, seemed to be deserted; but he was not wholly left alone. John stood close by the cross. Mary had fainted in her anguish, and John had taken her to his house, away from the harrowing scene. But he saw that the end was near, and he brought her again to the cross. Even in his dying hour, Christ remembered his mother. He saw her distress, and he said to her, "Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." This thoughtful care lifted a weight from Mary's mind; she would no longer be obliged to choose her own home, and run the risk of offending her relatives; for Christ's wish was law. Christ knew what she most needed,--the tender sympathy of one who loved her because she loved Jesus.
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour." Human passions were raging at the foot of the cross when the earth was bereft of the light of the sun. The Sun of Righteousness was withdrawing his light from the world, and nature sympathized with her dying Author. A great darkness clothed the earth as with sackcloth of hair, and enshrouded the cross. It was as if the sun in its noonday splendor had been blotted out. Thus was represented the night of woe that was settling down on the Jewish nation.
"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" These words would not be misunderstood, but priests and rulers interpreted them to suit their own understanding. With bitter contempt and scorn, they said, "This man calleth for Elias." Jesus said, "I thirst." These words, which should have awakened compassion in every heart, were held up to ridicule by the priests, in whose hearts humanity was eclipsed by satanic malignity. One of the hardened Roman soldiers, touched with pity as he looked at the parched lips, took a stalk of hyssop, and dipping it in a vessel of vinegar, lifted it to the Saviour's lips. But from the mockers came the words, "Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him."
This scene was transacted in the sight of heaven and earth. Angels beheld the pitiless scorn and contempt shown to Jesus by those who should have acknowledged him as the Messiah. To this length they were led when unrestrained by the Lord of heaven. So it is with all religious zealots who separate from heavenly influences.
Again came the cry, as of one in mortal agony, "It is finished." "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Christ, the Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, was dead. The Jewish leaders had crucified the Son of God, the long-expected Messiah, him (so the people had hoped) who was to bring about so many reforms. They refused the only One who could save them from national ruin.
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent." Those who had induced the people to release Barabbas and crucify Christ, now trembled with terror. They were conscious of the wicked deed they had done. They realized that they had shed the blood of the Son of God. This blood they had invoked on themselves, saying, "His blood be on us, and on our children." Christ had prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." But they made this prayer an impossibility; for they would not be convicted, they would not repent and be converted.
Christ has said, "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." There is no greater evidence that Satan is working than that those who profess to be sanctified to God's service persecute their fellow beings because they do not believe the same doctrine that they themselves believe. These will rush with fury against God's people, stating as true that which they know to be untrue. Thus they show that they are inspired by him who is an accuser of the brethren, and a murderer of the saints of God. But if God permits tyrants to do with us as the priests did with his Son, shall we give up our faith, and go back to perdition? It is not because God does not care for us that he permits these things to be; for he declares, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
With Satan at their head to imbue them with his spirit, men may afflict God's people, they may cause pain to the body, they may take away their temporal life; but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ. We are not our own. Soul and body, we have been bought with the price paid on the cross of Calvary; and we are to remember that we are in the hands of him who created us. Whatever Satan may inspire evil men to do, we are to rest in the assurance that we are under God's charge, and that by his Spirit he will strengthen us to endure. "He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight."
The time is soon to come when the Lord will say, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." Those who love God need not be surprised if those who claim to be Christians are filled with hatred because they cannot force the consciences of God's people. Not long hence they will stand before the Judge of all the earth, to render an account for the pain they have caused to the bodies and souls of God's heritage. They may indulge in false accusations now, they may deride those whom God has appointed to do his work, they may consign his believing ones to prison, to the chain-gang, to banishment, to death; but for every pang of anguish, every tear shed, they must answer. For every drop of blood drawn forth by torture, for all they have burned with fire, they will receive punishment. God will reward them double for their sins. They have drunk the blood of the saints, and have become intoxicated with exultation. God says to his ministers of judgment: "Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." Mrs. E. G. White.