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The Review and Herald Articles
for the Year 1911
(Vol. 88, #1)
Be determined not to please the enemy by allowing words of unfavorable criticism to lead you to retaliate, or to depress you. Make the enemy's efforts a failure so far as you are concerned. The Lord will draw near to you, and will give you a rich measure of love and peace and joy, so deep and full that even in the midst of the trial of your faith, you can bear triumphant witness to the truth of the word of promise. You will have a sense of the divine presence. The eyes of your understanding will be enlightened, and the truth that at times you have seen but dimly, you will then see clearly. You will be able to tell the story of the cross with a deep appreciation of the Saviour's love; for this love will have melted your heart. You will bear about with you in the daily life the witness that Christ is formed within, the hope of glory.
Our Burden Bearer.--Look constantly to Jesus. Take all your troubles to him. He will never misunderstand you. He is the refuge of his people. Under the shadow of his protection, they can pass unharmed. Believe in him and trust in him. He will not give you up to the spoiler. Flee to the stronghold, and learn that the power of Christ to strengthen and to help passes all comprehension. Open the door of the heart, and let Jesus enter, to fill your life with his peace, his grace, his joy. Then you can say: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Dear Christian friends, drop the burdens that God does not ask you to carry. The more you think and talk of these self-imposed burdens, the larger they grow, until at last they will utterly destroy your faith and courage. Do not think that when you walk with Jesus, you must walk in the shadow. The happiest people in the world are those who trust in Jesus and gladly do his bidding. From the lives of those who follow him, unrest and discontent are banished. With a full heart they echo the words, Wisdom's "ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." They may meet with trial and difficulty, but their lives are full of joy; for Christ walks beside them, and his presence makes the pathway bright.
The Source of Strength.--We must live by the moment, and every moment we are to watch. We can not tell when the hour will come for our probation to close, our work to end. We know that often those who go out from their homes never return again alive; therefore, when you arise in the morning, rise with the praise of God on your lips, and when you go out to work, go with a prayer to God for help. If you have a large amount of work to do, then you have need of much prayer as well. If you have heavy burdens, then you are to seek the throne of God with greater earnestness; and as you seek after God, he takes your hand and lays it in his own.
Wait for a leaf from the tree of life. This will soothe and refresh you, filling your heart with peace and joy. Fix your thoughts upon the Saviour. Go apart from the bustle of the world, and sit under Christ's shadow. Then, amid the din of daily toil and conflict, your strength will be renewed. It is positively necessary for us to sit down sometimes, and think of how the Saviour descended from heaven, from the throne of God, to show what human beings may become if they will unite their weakness to his strength. Having gained renewal of strength by communion with God, we may go on our way rejoicing, praising him for the privilege of bringing the sunshine of Christ's love into the lives of those we meet. Those with whom we associate will be helped as they come within the sphere of our influence. In listening to our words and watching our actions, they will be strengthened to press forward in the heavenly way.
Measureless Results.--Heavenly intelligences are waiting to cooperate with human instrumentalities, that the world may see what human beings may become through a union with the divine. Those who consecrate body, soul and spirit to God's service will constantly receive a new endowment of physical, mental, and spiritual power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the life of his life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in mind and heart. Through the grace given us, we may achieve victories which, because of our defects of character and the smallness of our faith, may have seemed to us impossible. To every one who offers himself to the Lord for service, withholding nothing, is given power for the attainment of measureless results. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #2)
Parents have been given a wonderful work to do. The home life, in order to be successful, demands careful study. The home is to be a school, in which children are to be trained for the higher school. The father and mother should make the decision, "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. . . . I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."
The husband and wife must love and respect each other. Thus only can the children be taught to respect their parents. If parents realized how greatly their attitude toward each other influences the conduct of the children, they would offer earnest prayers to God for wisdom to understand and teach the way of the Lord.
In the home school there is to be no exaction, no commanding. Love is to bear rule. From their babyhood, the children are to be taught to defer to one another, to show unselfishness in the smallest matters. If all were to learn this lesson in childhood, the curse of grasping for the supremacy would not so often be seen in the church.
Parents as Teachers.--By precept and example, parents are to teach their children never to speak falsely. When a falsehood is uttered, the heavenly angels turn away in sorrow, grieved that Christ's heritage should so dishonor him. One falsehood spoken prepares the way for another. The Lord desires all to adhere strictly to the truth, to be straightforward in every transaction. Never tell a lie, because thus you hurt your own soul, and disgrace yourself in your own eyes.
Parents are the first teachers of their children; and by the lessons that they give, they, as well as their children, are being educated. As parents consecrate themselves, body, soul, and spirit, to the doing of their God-given work, the Lord will teach them precious lessons, giving them wise words to speak, and helping them to show patience and forbearance under provocation.
Parents, never let your children hear you speak a word of impatience. Give them the help of a Christlike example. Accept the invitation: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." In complying with this invitation, you will find joy in service, and sweetness of disposition will be brought into the life.
Position of the Mother.--The mother is the queen of the home, and the children are her subjects. She is to rule her household wisely, in the dignity of her motherhood. Her influence in the home is to be paramount; her word, law. If she is a Christian, under God's control, she will command the respect of her children.
From the mother the children are to learn habits of neatness, thoroughness, and despatch. To allow a child to take an hour or two in doing a piece of work that could easily be done in half an hour, is to allow it to form dilatory habits. The mother should show the necessity of order, neatness, and despatch, acting at the same time with such reasonableness that the children will not think her exacting. The habits of industry and thoroughness that she teaches her children will be an untold blessing to them in the larger school of life, upon which they must enter as they grow older.
Mothers, keep your children occupied. If you fail to do this, Satan will do it for you. Set them some task to do each day. As early in life as possible, children should be trained to share the burdens of the home. Too often the mother's life is almost that of a slave, while her daughters live the life of ladies. In nearly every case, the mother herself is to blame for this condition of things. While the children are still young, the mother should give them some simple task to do, telling them that they are helping her. It will take longer for her to teach them how to do the work than it would for her to do it herself; but let her remember that she is laying in their characters the foundation of helpfulness. Let her remember that the home is a school, in which she is the head teacher. It is her part to teach her children how to perform the duties of the household quickly and skilfully.
The mother is patiently to guide and direct and teach, helping the children by kind, encouraging words. If she is a learner in the school of Christ, she will be a wise teacher and a safe guide, knowing how to restrain hasty words, and how to show patience and cheerfulness in the face of trial and misfortune.
A Change Needed.--We need homes that are surrounded by a sanctified atmosphere. Unconverted families are Satan's strongest allies. The members of them work counter to God. Some parents are harsh, denunciatory, overbearing, while others are careless and overindulgent, letting their children follow the course of disobedience until they do very wicked things, and are a spectacle of shame to angels and to men. Such parents need to feel the converting power of God. By giving way to anger, and by selfish indifference, they unfit their children for this world and the next. How long will the Lord bear with this kind of work? He calls for a decided change in the home school. Let fathers and mothers repent of their neglect. "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."
It is a fact that the Lord will thoroughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into his garner. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. The Lord is calling for a people who, in spirit and word and deed, will bear fragrant fruit. He is indignant with those who are greatly dishonoring him; and unless they change, he will punish them for their sins. But if they repent, he will see their helplessness, and will have pity upon them. "The Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone."
I am writing this to the parents among us because I greatly desire them to learn, and to teach to their children, the beautiful lessons that we must learn on earth before we can enter heaven. In everything you do, ask yourselves, "How will this help my children to prepare for the mansions that Christ has gone to prepare for those who love him?" When the work in the home school is done as it should be, families will bring into the church such a noble unselfishness that heavenly angels will love to linger there. The feelings of resentment, so quickly aroused, will be looked upon as grieving the great, self-sacrificing heart of Jesus. Hearts will be refined and purified, made fit for the indwelling of the Lord Jesus.
Keep Christ before your children by singing songs to his glory, by seeking him in prayer, and by reading from his Word, so that he will seem to them an ever-present Guest. Then they will love him, and will be brought so closely into unison with him that they will breathe out his Spirit. They will feel a new relationship to one another in Christ.
When parents do faithfully the work resting upon them, a holy influence will be brought into the church; and in the power of God, men and women will go forth into the service to which he calls them, however difficult, dangerous, or trying it may be. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #2)
Among professing Christians of today there is a fearful lack of the sympathy that should be felt for souls unsaved. Unless our hearts beat in unison with the heart of Christ, how can we understand the sacredness and importance of the work to which we are called by the words, "Watch for . . . souls, as they that must give account"? We talk of Christian missions. The sound of our voices is heard; but do we feel Christ's tender heart-longing for souls?
We are on the very verge of the time of trouble, and perplexities that are scarcely dreamed of are before us. A power from beneath is leading men to war against Heaven. Human beings have confederated with satanic agencies to make void the law of God. The inhabitants of the world are fast becoming as the inhabitants of the world in Noah's day, who were swept away by the flood, and as the inhabitants of Sodom, who were consumed by fire from heaven.
The powers of Satan are at work to keep minds diverted from eternal realities. The enemy has arranged matters to suit his own purposes. Worldly business, sports, the fashions of the day,--these things occupy the minds of men and women. Amusements and unprofitable reading spoil the judgment. In the broad road that leads to eternal ruin there walks a long procession. The world, filled with violence, reveling, and drunkenness, is converting the church. The law of God, the divine standard of righteousness, is declared to be of no effect.
A New Life From Above.--At this time--a time of overwhelming iniquity--a new life, coming from the Source of all life, is to take possession of those who have the love of God in their hearts, and they are to go forth to proclaim with power the message of a crucified and risen Saviour. They are to put forth earnest, untiring efforts to save souls. Their example is to be such that it will have a telling influence for good on those around them. They are to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus.
Intense Earnestness Needed--Intense earnestness should now take possession of us. Our slumbering energies should be aroused to untiring effort. Consecrated workers should go forth into the field, clearing the King's highway, and gaining victories in new places. My brother, my sister, is it nothing to you to know that every day souls are going down into the grave, unwarned and unsaved, ignorant of their need of eternal life and of the atonement made for them by the Saviour? Is it nothing to you that soon the world is to meet Jehovah over his broken law? Heavenly angels marvel that those who for so many years have had the light, have not carried the torch of truth into earth's dark places.
Why are we not more in earnest? Why are so large a number idle? Why are not all who profess to love God seeking to enlighten their neighbors and their associates, that they may no longer neglect so great salvation? The Saviour was an untiring worker. He did not measure his work by hours. His time, his heart, his strength, were given to labor for the benefit of humanity. Entire days were devoted to labor, and entire nights were spent in prayer, that he might be ready to meet the wily foe.
Heart Missionaries Wanted.--It is heart missionaries that are needed. Spasmodic efforts will do little good. We must arrest the attention. We must be deeply in earnest. The man who loves God does not measure his work by the eight-hour system. He works at all hours, and is never off duty. As he has opportunity, he does good. Everywhere, at all times and in all places, he finds opportunities to work for God. 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 in others faith and hope and courage.
When the reproach of indolence and slothfulness shall have been wiped away from the church, the Spirit of the Lord will be graciously manifested. Divine power will be revealed. The church will see the providential working of the Lord of hosts. The light of truth will shine forth in clear, strong rays, and, as in the time of the apostles, many souls will turn from error to truth. The earth will be lighted with the glory of the Lord.
Heavenly angels have long been waiting for human agents--the members of the church--to cooperate with them in the great work to be done. They are waiting for you. So vast is the field, so comprehensive the design, that every sanctified heart will be pressed into service as an instrument of divine power.
Let church members bear in mind that the fact that their names are registered on the church books will not save them. They must show themselves approved of God, workmen that need not to be ashamed. Work, O work, keeping eternity in view! Bear in mind that every power must be sanctified. A great work is to be done. Let the prayer go forth from unfeigned lips, "God be merciful unto us; . . . that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations." Ps. 67: 1, 2. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #3)
The parable of the straying sheep should be treasured as a motto in every household. The divine Shepherd leaves the ninety and nine, and goes out into the wilderness to seek the one that is lost. There are thickets, quagmires, and dangerous crevices in the rocks, and the shepherd knows that if the sheep is in any of these places, a friendly hand must help it out. As he hears its bleating afar off, he encounters any and every difficulty that he may save his sheep that is lost. When he discovers the lost one, he does not greet it with reproaches. He is only glad that he has found it alive. With firm yet gentle hands he parts the briers, or takes it from the mire; tenderly he lifts it on his shoulders, and bears it back to the fold. The pure, sinless Redeemer bears the sinful, the unclean.
The Shepherd carries the befouled sheep, yet so precious is his burden that he rejoices, singing, "I have found my sheep which was lost." Let every one of you consider that your individual self has thus been borne upon Christ's shoulders. Let none entertain a masterly spirit, a self-righteous, criticizing spirit; for not one sheep would ever have entered the fold if the Shepherd had not undertaken the painful search in the desert. The fact that one sheep was lost was enough to awaken the sympathy of the Shepherd, and start him on his quest.
This speck of a world was the scene of the incarnation and suffering of the Son of God. Christ did not go to worlds unfallen, but he came to this world, all seared and marred with the curse. The outlook was not favorable, but most discouraging. Yet "he shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth." We must bear in mind the great joy manifested by the Shepherd at the recovery of the lost. He calls upon his neighbors, "Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.." And all heaven echoes the note of joy. The Father himself joys over the rescued one with singing. What a holy ecstasy of joy is expressed in this parable! That joy it is your privilege to share.
Working With Christ.--Are you, who have this example before you, cooperating with him who is seeking to save the lost? Are you co-laborers with Christ? Can you not for his sake endure suffering, sacrifice, and trial? There is opportunity for doing good to the souls of the youth and the erring. If you see one whose words or attitude show that he is separated from God, do not blame him. It is not your work to condemn him, but to come close to his side to give him help. Consider the humility of Christ, his meekness and lowliness, and work as he worked, with a heart full of sanctified tenderness. "At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
"How think ye?" the Saviour said; "if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
My brethren and sisters, let this instruction make your hearts tender, and help you to understand your duty toward those who need your help. In every place, angels of God are watching to see what kind of spirit is exercised in behalf of souls.
If the lost sheep is not brought back to the fold, it wanders until it perishes. There is many a poor soul who is full of distress and agony,--a lost, straying sheep. His mind is beclouded; he can not find God; yet he has an intense, longing desire for pardon and peace. Many souls go down to ruin for want of a hand stretched out to save. These erring ones may appear hard and reckless; but if they had had the advantages that others have had, they might have revealed far more nobility of soul and a greater talent for usefulness. Angels pity these wandering ones. Angels weep, while human eyes are dry, and human hearts are closed to pity.
There are many who err, and who feel their shame and folly. They look upon their mistakes and errors until they are driven almost to desperation. These souls we are not to neglect. When one has to swim against the stream, there is all the force of the current driving him back. Let a helping hand be held out to him, as was the Elder Brother's to the sinking Peter. Speak to him hopeful words, words that inspire him with courage. Tell him of an almighty hand that will hold him up, of an infinite humanity in Christ that pities him. It is not enough for him to believe in law and force, things that have no pity, and never hear the call for help. He needs to clasp a hand that is warm, to trust in a heart full of tenderness. Keep his mind stayed on the thought of the divine Helper ever beside him, ever looking upon him with pitying love. Bid him think of a Father's heart that ever grieves over sin, of a Father's hand stretched out still, of a Father's voice saying, "Come unto me, . . . and I will give you rest."
Heavenly Helpers.--As you engage in this work, you have companions unseen by human eyes. Angels of heaven were beside the Samaritan who cared for the wounded stranger. Angels from the heavenly courts stand by the side of all who do God's service in ministering to their fellow men. And you have the cooperation of Christ himself. He is the Restorer; and as you work under his supervision, you will see great results.
Thy brother, sick in spirit, needs thee as thou thyself hast needed a brother's love. He needs the experience of one who has been as weak as he, one who can sympathize with him and help him. The knowledge of our own weakness should lead us to help others in their need. Never should we pass by one suffering soul without seeking to impart to him the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God.
Christ draws aside the veil that conceals God's glory from view, and shows us the Most High surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand angels, who wait for their commission to communicate with the inhabitants of this earth. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" God is not regardless of our world. He hears every sigh of pain, and sees every tear of sorrow. He marks every action, approving or condemning. Those who strive to bring the wanderers back to the fold are very precious in his sight.
Christ has instructed us to call God our Father, to regard him as the fountain of affection, the source of the love that has been flowing from century to century through the channel of the human heart. All the pity, compassion, and love that have been manifested in the earth have had their source in God, and, compared to the love that dwells in his heart, are as a fountain to an ocean. His love is perpetually flowing forth to make the weak strong, and to give courage to the wavering.
When on this earth, Christ did not make God's power and greatness the chief theme of his discourses. He speaks of him oftenest as our Father, and of himself as our Elder Brother. He desires our minds, weakened by sin, to be encouraged to grasp the idea that God is love. He seeks to inspire us with confidence, and to lead us to heed the words, "Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me."
The father of the prodigal son is the type that Christ chooses to represent God. This father longs to see once more the son who has left him. He waits and watches for him, yearning to see him, hoping that he will come. When he sees a stranger approaching, poor and clothed in rags, he goes out to meet him, thinking that it may perchance be his son. And he feeds and clothes him as if he were indeed his son. By and by he has his reward; for his son comes home, on his lips the beseeching confession, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." And the father says to his servants, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry."
There are no taunts, no casting up to the prodigal of his evil course. The son feels that the past is forgiven and forgotten, blotted out forever. And so God says to the sinner, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgression; and, as a cloud, thy sins." "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Satan declared that there is no forgiveness with God; that if God should forgive sin, he would make his law of no effect. He says to the sinner, You are lost.
Christ came to this world to prove the falsity of this statement, to show that God is love, that like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. Follow the Saviour from the manger to the cross, mark his life of unselfish ministry, his agony in the garden, and his death on the cross; and know that with God there is plenteous forgiveness. He abhors sin, but with a love that passes knowledge he loves the sinner. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #4)
There is need of shepherds who, under the direction of the Chief Shepherd, will seek for lost sheep. The doing of this work means the bearing of physical discomfort and the sacrifice of ease. It means showing Christlike forbearance and compassion for the erring. It means to listen to heart-breaking recitals of wrong, of degradation, of despair, and misery. The doing of this work means self-sacrifice.
The religion of Christ ignores both rank and caste, worldly honor and riches. It is character and purity of purpose that are of worth in God's sight. God does not take sides with the strong and highly favored of earth. Far from this: no trampling upon the poor and needy and oppressed is unnoticed by him. He demands that his followers shall be men and women of sympathy and tenderness. The poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and the suffering are in this world to test the characters of the men and women in more favorable circumstances. Living in daily communion with God, we shall learn to place God's estimate upon men, to respect and honor those whom God respects and honors.
The love of Jesus in the soul will lead men to value aright those for whom Christ has died. He who continually beholds Christ will not push tired souls into stronger temptations, or indifferently leave them on Satan's battleground. He will reach out a helping hand, seeking to draw souls heavenward, to help them to plant their feet firmly on the Rock of Ages.
In the Old Testament and the New the principles of true Christianity are plainly outlined. Paul writes: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me."
"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. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. . . . Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
We need to get a view of how the heavenly angels cooperate with human agencies for the uplifting of men. It is the greatest joy of the angels in heaven to spread the shield of their tender love over the souls who turn to God. Their love for those for whom Christ died is beyond measurement. Angels are keeping back the agencies of destruction; for they have an intense desire that sinners shall return to peace and safety. Angels unite with the true, wholehearted servants of Christ to help those who are in the valley of decision.
It is Satan's fierce, unabated desire to destroy souls. But the angelic agencies are standing firm, determined that he shall not gain the victory. And the Lord Jesus, before the armies of heaven and the armies of Satan, uplifts the bloodstained banner of the cross. The words come from his lips, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" "Plucked out of the fire,"--only God and Christ know how much that means.
With intense interest angels are watching to see how man deals with his fellow man. When the heavenly messengers see that we show tender sympathy for the erring, they press close to our side, bringing to our remembrance words that will soothe and comfort the soul. "In heaven their angels do always behold the face of their Father which is in heaven." Beware how you think a contemptuous thought or speak a contemptuous word of the least of Christ's little ones. Say not a word, do not a deed, that will drive the erring farther from the Saviour.
Most pitiful is the condition of the one who is suffering from remorse. He is as one stunned, staggering, sinking to the ground. The tired, tempted, confused soul can not see anything clearly. O, then let no word be spoken to cause deeper shame! Help once more to his feet the one who has fallen. With skilled hands bind up the wounds that sin has made. Let not your words, like devastating hail, beat down and destroy the hope springing up in the heart. A soul hurt is often a soul destroyed. Any neglect on your part, any exaltation of self, any hasty, passionate words, may set the soul on the road to destruction, placing him where he will never find the road that leads heavenward. A few words, hastily spoken under provocation, may seem but a little thing,--just what the wrongdoer deserves,--but such words may cut the cords of influence that bind soul to soul. Our work is to restore, not to destroy; to lift up, not to cast down; "to heal the brokenhearted." We are to remember those that are bound as bound with them. There is a sustaining power in the deed done to benefit and bless humanity.
You will come in contact with those who are weary and heartsick, those who are sorrowful and disheartened. To God's omnipotent eye the whole future is unveiled. He reads the history of every heart. He knows the struggles and trials of every soul that he has ransomed. Those for whom Christ died are dear to the heart of God. Use for the help of some struggling fellow being the strength that you have gained. Remember that no one is ever made better by denunciation and recrimination. To charge a tempted soul with his guilt in no way inspires him with a determination to reform. Point the erring, discouraged one to Him who came to save to the uttermost all who come to him. Show him what he may become. Tell him that in him there is nothing to recommend him to God, but that Christ died for him, that he might be accepted in the Beloved. Inspire him with hope. Show him that in Christ's strength he can do better. Help him to take hold upon the mercy of God, to trust in his forgiving power. Jesus is waiting to clasp him by the hand, waiting to give him power to live a noble, virtuous life.
There is help for the needy, light for the blind, redemption for the lost. Jesus came into the world to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." The world is full of men and women who are carrying a heavy load of sorrow and suffering and sin. God sends his children to reveal to them him who will take away the burden and give them rest. It is the mission of Christ's followers to help, to bless, to heal.
Always be found working on the broad plan of God's love. Be sound in principle, but do not manifest stern, ungenial traits of character. God does not want you to have a disposition like a ball of putty. He wants you to be as firm as a rock to principle, yet with a wholesome mellowness in your experience. Jesus was incorruptible and undefiled, yet he was also gentle and sympathetic. He was what every Christian should strive to be in holiness and winsomeness of character. Let us learn from him how to combine firmness, purity, and integrity with unselfishness, courtesy, and kindly sympathy.
The greatest in the kingdom of God are those who love the Saviour too well to misrepresent him, who love their fellow men too well to imperil their souls by setting them a wrong example. To do good to all, to encourage and strengthen instead of discouraging and weakening--this is true missionary work.
Never rest satisfied until you possess a loving and lovable spirit. Your words may strengthen, help, and bless those around you. True Christianity makes the religious life attractive. Come to Christ, and his gentleness and love will break down the harsh, cold selfishness that prevents you from revealing him to the world. Your hasty temper will be subdued, your pride expelled. Jesus will fill your heart with his gentleness, his patience, his love. Then you can uplift him before sinners.
Christ is represented as stooping from his throne, bending earthward to send help to every needy soul who asks for it in faith. He is raising up the fallen, bringing hope to the helpless, and placing their feet in sure paths. He gave himself to a shameful, agonizing death to save the perishing. O, he is able, he is willing, he is longing to save all who will come to him! As you look upon our Intercessor, let your own heart be broken. Then, softened and subdued, you can address repentant sinners as one who knows the power of redeeming love. Pray with these souls. Get them to look away from themselves to the Saviour, and the victory is won. They behold for themselves the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. The strong tide of redeeming love pours into the parched, thirsty soul, and the sinner is saved to Christ. As he responds to the drawing of the Saviour, he repents of his sins and confesses them, and pardon is written opposite his name. The Holy Spirit takes of the things of God, and shows them to him. And his heart is filled with a sense of the greatness of God's love. The grace of Christ expels the selfishness that has hitherto ruled the life. The affections turn to God. The character is transformed. The man is filled with an intense desire to serve him who has done so much for him. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #5)
On the day following the healing of the cripple, Annas and Caiaphas, with the other dignitaries of the temple, met together for the trial of the prisoners, who were brought before them. In that very room, and before those very men, Peter had shamefully denied his Lord. This came distinctly before the mind of the disciple, as he now appeared for his own trial. He had now an opportunity of redeeming his former cowardice.
Those present remembered the part that Peter had acted at the trial of his Master, and they flattered themselves that he could be intimidated by the threat of imprisonment and death. But the Peter who denied Christ in the hour of his greatest need was impulsive and self-confident, differing widely from the Peter who was brought before the Sanhedrin for examination. Since his fall, he had been converted. He was no longer a proud boaster, but was distrustful of self. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and through its power he had become as firm as a rock, courageous yet modest. He was ready to remove the stain of his apostasy by honoring the name he had once disowned.
Hitherto the priests had avoided mentioning the crucifixion or the resurrection of Jesus. But now, in fulfilment of their purpose, they were forced to inquire of the accused by what power they had accomplished the remarkable cure of the impotent man. "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" they asked.
With holy boldness and in the power of the Spirit, Peter fearlessly declared: "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
This courageous defense, in which Peter boldly avowed whence his strength was obtained, appalled the Jewish leaders. They had supposed that the disciples, being only ignorant fishermen, would be overcome with fear and confusion when brought before the Sanhedrin. But instead, the disciples spoke as Christ had spoken, with a convincing power that silenced their adversaries. There was no trace of fear in Peter's voice as he declared of Christ, "This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner."
Peter here used a figure of speech familiar to the priests. The prophets had spoken of the Rejected Stone, and Christ himself, speaking on one occasion to the priests and elders, said, "Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."
As the priests listened to Peter's fearless words, "they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Of the disciples after the transfiguration of Christ, it is written that at the close of this wonderful scene, they "saw no man, save Jesus only." "Jesus only"--in these words is contained the secret of the life and power that marked the history of the early church. When the disciples first heard the words of Christ, they felt their need of him. They sought, they found, they followed him. They were with him in the temple, at the table, in the closet, in the field. They were as pupils with a teacher, daily receiving from him lessons of eternal truth. After the Saviour's ascension, the sense of the divine presence was still with them. It was a personal presence, full of love and light. Jesus, the Saviour, who had walked and talked and prayed with them, who had spoken hope and comfort to their hearts, had, while the message of peace was upon his lips, been taken from them into heaven. As the chariot of angels received him, his words had come to them, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." He had ascended to heaven in the form of humanity. They knew that he was before the throne of God, their friend and Saviour still; that his sympathies were unchanged; that he was still, and ever would be, identified with suffering humanity. They knew that he was presenting before God the merits of his blood, showing his wounded hands and feet as a remembrance of the price he had paid for his redeemed ones; and this thought strengthened them to endure reproach for his sake.
The seal of Christ was placed on the words that Peter spoke in his defense, and the countenance of the disciple was illumined by the Spirit. Close beside him, as a convincing witness, stood the man who had been so miraculously cured. The appearance of this man, who but a few hours before had been a helpless cripple, and who was now restored to soundness of body, added a weight of testimony to Peter's words. Priests, rulers, and people were silent. The rulers were unable to refute his statement. They had been obliged to hear that which they most desired not to hear,--the fact of the resurrection of Christ and his power while in heaven to perform miracles through the medium of his apostles on earth.
Christ's crowning miracle of raising Lazarus had sealed the determination of the priests to rid the world of Jesus and his wonderful works, which were fast destroying their own influence over the people. They had crucified him, but here was a convincing proof that they had not put a stop to the working of miracles in his name, nor to the proclamation of the truths he had taught. Already the news of the healing of the cripple and the preaching of the apostles, had filled Jerusalem with excitement.
In order to conceal their perplexity, the priests and rulers ordered the apostles to be taken away, that they might counsel among themselves. They all agreed that it would be useless to deny that the man had been healed through the power given the apostles in the name of the crucified Jesus. They would gladly have covered up the miracle by falsehoods, but this was impossible; for it had been wrought in the full light of day, before a crowd of people, and had already come to the knowledge of thousands. They felt that the work of the disciples must be stopped, or Jesus would gain many believers. Their own disgrace would follow, and they would be held guilty of the murder of the Son of God.
But notwithstanding their disposition to destroy the disciples, the priests dared not do more than threaten them with the severest punishment if they continued to speak or to work in the name of Jesus. "They called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered, . . . Whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we can not but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Gladly would the priests have punished these men for their unswerving fidelity to their sacred calling, but they feared the people. "For all men glorified God for that which was done." So, with repeated threats and injunctions, the apostles were set at liberty.
While Peter and John were prisoners, the other disciples, knowing the malignity of the Jews, had prayed unceasingly for their brethren, fearing that the cruelty exercised upon Christ would be repeated. As soon as Peter and John were released, they sought the rest of the apostles, and reported to them the result of the examination. Great was the joy of the believers, and "they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold, their threatenings, and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."
The disciples prayed that greater strength might be imparted to them in the work of the ministry; for they saw that they would meet the same determined opposition that Christ had encountered when upon the earth. While their united prayers were ascending in faith to heaven, the answer came. The place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. With hearts filled with courage, they went forth to proclaim the word of God in Jerusalem with convincing power. "With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus," and God marvelously blessed their efforts. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #5)
As the disciples proclaimed with boldness the truths of the gospel, God bore witness to their work, and a multitude believed. Most of these early believers were immediately cut off from family and friends by the zealous bigotry of the Jews. Many of them were thrown out of business and exiled from their homes. These converts were gathered at Jerusalem, and it was necessary to provide them with food and shelter.
The record declares, "Neither was there any among them that lacked," and it tells how the need was filled. Those among the believers who had money and possessions, cheerfully sacrificed them to the emergency. Selling their houses or their lands, they brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet, "and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."
One example of benevolence is singled out: "Joses, . . . a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."
This liberality on the part of the believers was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit. The converts to the gospel were made "of one heart and of one soul." One common interest controlled them,--the success of the mission entrusted to them; covetousness had no place in their lives. Their love for their brethren and the cause they had espoused was far greater than their love of money and possessions, and their works testified that they accounted the souls of men of far greater value than earthly wealth.
Thus it will ever be when the Spirit of God takes possession of the life. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ will follow the example of him who for our sake became poor, that through his poverty we might be made rich. Money, time, influence,--all the gifts they have received from God's hand,--they will value only as a means of advancing the work of the gospel. Thus it was in the early church; and when in the church of today it is seen that by the power of the Spirit the members have taken their affections from the things of the world, and that they are willing to make sacrifices in order that their fellow men may hear the gospel, the truths proclaimed will have a powerful influence upon the hearers.
In sharp contrast to the example of benevolence shown by the believers, is the conduct of Ananias and Sapphira, whose experience, traced by the pen of inspiration, has left a dark stain upon the history of the early church. With others, Ananias and Sapphira had had the privilege of hearing the gospel preached by the apostles. They had been present when, after the disciples had prayed, "the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Deep conviction had rested upon all present, and under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, Ananias and Sapphira made a pledge to give to the Lord the proceeds from the sale of certain lands.
But when they were no longer under this heavenly influence, they began to regret their promise. They thought that they had been too hasty, and that they ought to reconsider their decision. They talked the matter over, and decided not to fulfill their pledge. They saw, however, that those who parted with their possessions to supply the needs of their poorer brethren, were held in high esteem among the believers, and, ashamed to have their brethren know that their selfish souls grudged that which they had solemnly dedicated to God, they deliberately decided to sell their property, and pretend to give all the proceeds into the general fund, but really to keep a large share for themselves. Thus they would secure their living, which they intended to estimate as much higher than it really was, from the common store, while at the same time they would gain the high esteem of their brethren.
But God hates hypocrisy and falsehood. Ananias and Sapphira practised fraud in their dealing with God; they lied to the Holy Spirit; and their sin was visited with swift and terrible judgment. When Ananias came with his offering, Peter said: "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things."
"Whiles it remained, was it not thine own?" Peter asked. No undue influence had been brought to bear upon Ananias to compel him to sacrifice his possessions to the general good. He had acted from choice. But in attempting to deceive the disciples, he lied to the Almighty.
"It was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things."
Infinite wisdom saw that this signal manifestation of the wrath of God was necessary to guard the young church from becoming demoralized. Their numbers were rapidly increasing. The church would have been disgraced if, in the rapid increase of converts, men and women had been added who, while professing to serve God, were worshipping Mammon. This judgment testified that men can not deceive God, that he detects the hidden sin of the heart, and that he will not be mocked. It was designed as a warning to the young church to lead them to avoid pretense and hypocrisy, and to beware of robbing God.
Not only to the early church, but to all future generations, this example of God's hatred of fraud and hypocrisy was designed to be a danger signal. The brief but terrible history of Ananias and Sapphira has been traced for the benefit of all who profess to be followers of Christ. The punishment that overtook them should be a warning to all to guard against covetousness. It was covetousness that Ananias and Sapphira first cherished. The desire to retain for themselves a part of that which they had promised to the Lord led to fraud and hypocrisy.
The Lord has made the proclamation of the gospel dependent upon the labors and voluntary gifts of his people. The one who proclaims the message of mercy to fallen men has another work also, to set before the people the duty of sustaining the work of God with their means. He must teach them that a portion of their income belongs to God, and is to be sacredly devoted to his work. This message he should present both by precept and example. And he should beware that he does not by his own course lessen the force of his teaching.
Voluntary offerings and the tithe constitute the revenue of the gospel. Of the means entrusted to man, God claims a certain portion,--the tithe. He leaves all free to say whether or not they will give more than this. They are to give as they purpose in their hearts. But when the heart is stirred by the influence of the Spirit of God, and a vow is made to give a certain amount, the one who vows has no longer any right to the consecrated portion. He has given his pledged before men, and they are called to witness to the transaction. At the same time, he has incurred an obligation of a most sacred character, to cooperate with the Lord in building up his kingdom on the earth. Promises of this kind made to men would be considered binding. Are they not more sacred and binding when made to God? Are promises tried in the court of conscience less binding than written agreements of men?
When the divine light is shining into the heart with unusual clearness and power, habitual selfishness relaxes its grasp, and there is a disposition to give to the cause of God. None need expect that they will be allowed to fulfil the promises then made without a protest on the part of Satan. He is not pleased to see the Redeemer's kingdom on earth built up. He suggests that the pledge made was too much, that it may cripple them in their efforts to acquire property or gratify the desires of their families. The power that Satan has over the human mind is wonderful. He labors most earnestly to keep the heart bound up in self.
One of the means which God has ordained for the advancement of his cause in the world is to bless men with property. He gives them the sunshine and the rain. He causes vegetation to flourish. He gives health, and ability to acquire means. All our blessings come from his bountiful hand. In turn he would have men and women show their gratitude by returning him a portion in tithes and offerings,--in thank offerings, in freewill offerings, in trespass offerings. Should means flow into the treasury in accordance with this divinely appointed plan,--a tenth of all the increase, and liberal offerings,--there would be an abundance to carry forward the Lord's work.
But the hearts of men become hardened through selfishness, and, like Ananias and Sapphira, they are tempted to withhold part of the price, while pretending to fulfil God's requirements. Money is spent lavishly in self-gratification, men and women consult their pleasures and gratify their tastes, while they bring to God, almost unwillingly, a stinted offering. They forget that God will one day demand a strict account of how his goods have been used. While they unhesitatingly gratify their supposed wants, and withhold from God that which is his, he will no more accept the pittance they hand into the treasury than he accepted the offering of Ananias and Sapphira.
From the stern punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira, God would have us learn also how deep is his hatred and contempt for all hypocrisy and deception. In pretending that they had given all, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit, and as a result they lost this life and the life that is to come. The same God who punished them condemns all falsehood today. Lying lips are an abomination to him. He declares that into the holy city there shall in no wise enter "anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie." Let truth-telling be held with no loose hand or uncertain grasp. Let it become a part of the life. Playing fast and loose with truth, and dissembling to suit one's own selfish plans, means a shipwreck of faith. "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." He who utters untruths sells his soul in a cheap market. His falsehoods may seem to serve in emergencies. He may seem to make business advancement because he gains by falsehood what he could not gain by fair dealing. But he finally reaches the place where he can trust no one. Himself a falsifier, he has no confidence in the word of others.
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the sin of fraud against God was speedily punished. The same sin was often repeated in the after-history of the church, and is committed by many in our time. But though not attended with the visible manifestation of God's displeasure, it is no less heinous in his sight than in the apostles' time. The warning has been given; God has clearly manifested his abhorrence of this sin; and all who pursue a similar course of action may be sure that they are destroying their own souls. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #6)
The cross, that instrument of shame and torture, brought hope and salvation to the world. After the ascension of Christ, the disciples rallied. Their hopelessness and helplessness left them. They were but humble men, without wealth, and with no weapon but the Word of God; yet in Christ's strength they went forth to tell the wonderful story of the manger and the cross, and to triumph over all opposition. Without earthly honor or recognition, they were heroes of faith. From their lips came words of divine eloquence that shook the world.
In Jerusalem, where the deepest prejudice existed, and where the most confused ideas prevailed in regard to him who had been crucified as a malefactor, they continued to speak with boldness the words of life, setting before the Jews the work and mission of Christ, and his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Those who had crucified the Saviour had expected to find the disciples discouraged and crestfallen, ready to disown their Lord. They heard with amazement the clear, bold testimony of the apostles The power of the risen Saviour had indeed fallen on the disciples, and they worked signs and miracles that daily increased the number of believers. The people brought their sick, and those vexed with unclean spirits, into the streets, crowds collected round them, and those who had been healed shouted the praises of God, and glorified the name of the One whom the Jews had condemned, crowned with thorns, and crucified.
The priests and rulers saw that Christ was being extolled above them. They saw that there was danger of their doctrines being brought into disrepute, because the apostles were proclaiming that Christ had risen from the dead. The priests were greatly perplexed, especially those among them who were Sadducees. These saw that if the apostles were allowed to preach a risen Saviour, and to work miracles in his name, the doctrine that there was no resurrection of the dead would be rejected by all, and the sect of the Sadducees would soon become extinct. The Pharisees saw that the tendency of the teaching of the disciples would be to undermine the Jewish ceremonies, and make the sacrificial offerings of no effect.
Former efforts to suppress this new teaching had been in vain, but both Sadducees and Pharisees now determined that the work of the disciples must and should be stopped; for it was proving them guilty of the death of Jesus. They saw, too, that converts to the faith were multiplying. Filled with indignation, the priests laid violent hands upon Peter and John, and put them in the common prison. The leaders in the Jewish nation had signally failed of fulfilling God's purpose for his chosen people. Those whom the Lord had made the depositaries of truth had proved unfaithful to their trust, and God chose others to do his work. In their blindness, these leaders gave full sway to what they called righteous indignation against the ones who were setting aside cherished fables. They would not admit that there was a possibility that they themselves did not rightly understand the Word, or that they had misinterpreted or misapplied the Scriptures. They acted like men who had lost their reason. "What right have these men," they said, "some of them mere fishermen, to present ideas contrary to the doctrines which we teach the people?" Determined to suppress the teaching of these ideas, they imprisoned those who were presenting them.
The disciples were not intimidated nor cast down by this treatment. The words of Christ in his last lesson to them were brought to their minds by the Holy Spirit: "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." "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. . . . These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them."
The God of heaven, the mighty Ruler of the universe, took the matter of the imprisonment of his servants into his own hands; for men were warring against his work. By night the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, and said to the disciples, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." This command was directly contrary to the order given by the Jewish rulers, but did the apostles say, "We can not do this until we have consulted the magistrates, and received permission from them"?--No; God said, "Go," and they obeyed. "They entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught."
When Peter and John appeared among the believers, and recounted how the angel had led them directly through the band of soldiers guarding the prison, bidding them resume the work that had been interrupted, the brethren were filled with amazement and joy.
In the meantime, "the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel." The priests and rulers had decided to fix upon the disciples the charge of insurrection, and to accuse them of murdering Ananias and Sapphira, and of conspiring to deprive the priests of their authority, and put them to death. They hoped so to excite the mob that it would take the matter in hand, and deal with the disciples as it had dealt with Jesus. They were aware that many who did not accept the teachings of Christ were weary of the arbitrary rule of the Jewish authorities, and anxious for some decided change. The priests feared that if these dissatisfied ones were to accept the truths proclaimed by the apostles, and were to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the anger of the entire people would be raised against the religious authorities, who would then be made to answer for the murder of Christ. They decided to take strong measures to prevent this.
They sent for the prisoners to be brought before them. Great was their amazement when the report was brought back that the prison doors were found to be securely bolted, and the guard stationed before them, but that the prisoners were nowhere to be found.
Soon the report came, "Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned."
Although the apostles were miraculously delivered from prison, they were not saved from examination and punishment. Christ had said, when he was with them, "Take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils." God had given them a token of his care, and an assurance of his presence, by sending the angel to them. It was now their part to suffer for the sake of that Jesus whom they preached.
We have many noble examples of loyalty to the law of God in the history of the prophets and apostles, who endured imprisonment, torture, and death itself, rather than break one of God's commands. Peter and John have left a record as heroic as any in the gospel dispensation. As they stood for the second time before the men who seemed bent on their destruction, no fear nor hesitation could be seen in their words or attitude. When the high priest said, "Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us," Peter answered, "We ought to obey God rather than men." It was an angel sent by God who delivered them from prison, and who commanded them to teach in the temple. In following his directions they were obeying the divine command, as they must continue to do at any cost to themselves.
The spirit of inspiration came upon the disciples, and the accused became the accusers, charging the murder of Christ upon those who composed the council. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus," Peter declared, "whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
So enraged were the Jews at these words that they decided that without any further trial, and without authority from the Roman officers, they would take the law into their own hands, and put the prisoners to death. Already guilty of the blood of Christ, they were now eager to stain their hands with the blood of his disciples.
But in the council there was one man whose clear intellect saw that this violent step would lead to terrible consequences. This was Gamaliel, a Pharisee of high reputation and a man of learning and high position. A man of extreme caution, he requested the prisoners to be removed before he spoke in their behalf. He then spoke with great deliberation and calmness, saying: "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who were slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to naught. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye can not overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
The priests, seeing the reasonableness of this view, were obliged to agree with Gamaliel. Yet their prejudice and hatred could hardly be restrained. Very reluctantly, after beating the disciples, and charging them again and again, at the peril of their lives, to preach no more in the name of Jesus, they released them.
"And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
Shortly before his crucifixion, Christ bequeathed to his disciples a legacy of peace. "Peace I leave with you," he said; "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." This peace is not the peace that comes through conformity with the world. It is an internal rather than an external peace. Without will be wars and fightings, through the opposition of avowed enemies and the coldness and suspicion of those who claim to be friends. The peace of Christ was not to banish division; but it is to remain amid strife and division.
Though he bore the title of the Prince of Peace, Christ said of himself, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." By these words he did not mean that his coming was to produce discord and contention among his followers. He desired to show the effect that his teaching would have on different minds. One portion of the human family would receive him; the other portion would take sides with Satan, and would oppose Christ and his followers. The Prince of Peace, he was yet the cause of division. He who came to proclaim glad tidings and to create hope and joy in the hearts of the children of men, opened a controversy that burns deep and arouses intense passion in the human heart. And he warns his followers, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." "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. . . . 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."
This prophecy has been fulfilled in a marked manner, and it will be fulfilled in a yet more marked manner; for the carnal mind is still at enmity with the law of God, and will not be subject to its commands. Every indignity, reproach, and cruelty that Satan can instigate human hearts to devise has been visited upon the followers of Jesus; and the world is no more in harmony with the principles of Christ today than it was in ages past. The same hatred that prompted the cry, "Crucify him! crucify him!" the same hatred that led to the persecution of the disciples, still works in the children of disobedience. The same spirit that in the Dark Ages consigned men and women to prison, to exile, and to the stake, that conceived the exquisite tortures of the Inquisition, produced the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and kindled the fires of Smithfield, is still at work with malignant energy in unregenerate hearts.
What was the strength of those who in the past have suffered persecution for Christ's sake? It was union with God, union with the Holy Spirit, union with Christ. It is this fellowship with the Saviour that will enable God's people to endure to the end in the time of trial before us. All heaven is interested in our warfare with evil, and awaits our demand upon its power. Neither wicked men nor evil spirits can hinder the work of God, or shut out Christ's presence from us if with contrite hearts we put away our sins, and in faith claim the Saviour's promises. Every opposing influence, whether open or secret, may be successfully resisted, "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."
God is just as willing now as anciently to work through human efforts, and to accomplish great things through humble instruments. We shall not gain the victory through numbers, but through full surrender of the soul to Jesus. We are to go forward in his strength, trusting in the mighty God of Israel. "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things. . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #7)
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration."
Among the believers were not only those who were Jews by birth, and spoke the Hebrew tongue, but also residents of other countries, who used the Greek language. Between these two classes there had long existed distrust and even antagonism; and though their hearts were now softened and united by Christian love, yet their contentions were easily aroused. Thus it came to pass that as disciples were multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews. The cause of complaint was an alleged neglect of the Greek widows "in the daily ministration." Such inequality would have been contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and prompt measures were taken to remove all occasion for dissatisfaction.
Summoning a meeting of the believers, the apostles stated that the time had come when they should be relieved from the task of apportioning to the poor, and from similar burdens, so that they would be left free to preach Christ. "Wherefore, brethren," they said, "look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." This advice was followed, and the seven chosen men were solemnly set apart for their duties by prayer and the laying on of hands.
The appointment of the seven was greatly blessed of God. The church advanced in numbers and strength. "And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." This success was due both to the greater freedom secured to the apostles and to the zeal and power manifested by the seven deacons. The fact that these brethren had been ordained for a special work did not exclude them from teaching the faith. On the contrary, they were fully qualified to instruct others in the truth, and they engaged in the work with great earnestness and success.
Order in the Church.--The same order and system that were necessary in the days of the apostles should be maintained in the church of today. The prosperity of the cause depends very largely upon its various departments being conducted by men of ability, who are qualified to fill the positions in which they are placed. Those who are chosen of God to be leaders in the cause of truth, having the general oversight of the spiritual interests of the church, should be relieved as far as possible from cares and perplexities of a temporal nature. Those whom God has called to minister in word and doctrine should have time for meditation, prayer, and a study of the Scriptures. Their clear spiritual discernment is dimmed if they are obliged to enter into the lesser details of business, and to deal with the various temperaments of those who meet together in church capacity. All difficult matters of a temporal nature should be brought before the proper officers, to be adjusted by them. But if these matters are of so perplexing a character as to baffle the wisdom of these officers, they should be carried into the council of those who have the oversight of the entire church.
God is a God of order, and he is well pleased with the efforts of his people in trying to bring system and order into his work on the earth. Everything connected with heaven is in perfect order. Subjection and thorough discipline mark the movements of the angelic host.
Only by order and harmonious action can success be attained. God requires order and system in his work now, no less than in the days of old. He desires his work to be carried on with thoroughness and exactness, that he may place upon it the seal of his approval. Christian is to be united to Christian, church to church, the human instrumentality cooperating with the divine, every agency subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all combined in giving to the world the good tidings of the grace of God.
"God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." There was order in the church when Christ was on the earth, and after his departure, order was strictly observed among the disciples. And now, in these last days, when God is bringing his children into the unity of the faith, there is more real need of order than ever before; for as God seeks to unite his people, Satan and his angels strive to destroy this unity.
The Human Body an Example.--As all the different members of the human system unite to form the entire body, and each performs its office in obedience to the intelligence that governs the whole, so the members of the church of Christ should be united in one symmetrical body, subject to the sanctified intelligence of the whole. "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.
"If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. . . .
"God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."
Another Illustration.--While traveling in Switzerland, we passed a large building in process of erection. Many men were at work. Some were bringing stones from the quarry, others were squaring, shaping, and measuring these stones, and yet others were placing them in their proper positions in the building. In charge of the different departments were experienced workers, whose part it was to see that the work was done with faithfulness and thoroughness. Over all the men, superintending the work on the entire building, was the master builder.
United action and perfect order prevailed among the men, and the work moved forward rapidly. Every one was doing something. I was told that in the mountains other men were at work, felling trees for the timber needed in the building, and floating them down the stream.
To me this sight was an object lesson of the way in which the Lord's work is to be carried forward. In his work there are many different branches. Workers of different talents and capabilities are needed. Every one is to do his best, and all are to work under the direction of the great Head of the church, Christ Jesus.
The apostle says: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."
God has entrusted different gifts to the different members of his body. He has given them such talents and opportunities as will best promote the advancement of his kingdom. In their different lines of work, they have one Head. The same Spirit works through them. There is to be harmonious action, though the gifts differ. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #8)
Stephen, the foremost of the seven deacons, was a man of deep piety and broad faith. The veil had dropped from his eyes, and he discerned to the end of that which was abolished by the death of Christ. Though a Jew by birth, he spoke the Greek language, and was familiar with the customs and manners of the Greeks. He therefore found opportunity to preach the gospel in the synagogues of the Greek Jews. He was very active in the cause of Christ, and boldly proclaimed his faith. Learned rabbis and doctors of the law engaged in public discussion with him, confidently expecting an easy victory. But "they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." Not only did he speak by the power of the Holy Spirit, but it was plain that he was a student of the prophecies, and learned in all matters of the law. He ably defended the truths that he advocated, and utterly defeated his opponents.
As the priests and rulers saw the power that attended the preaching of Stephen, they were filled with bitter hatred. Instead of yielding to the evidence that he presented, they determined to silence his voice by putting him to death. On several occasions they had bribed the Roman authorities to pass over without comment instances where the Jews had taken the law into their own hands, and had tried, condemned, and executed prisoners in accordance with their national custom. The enemies of Stephen did not doubt that they could again pursue such a course without danger to themselves. They determined to risk the consequences, and therefore seized Stephen, and brought him before the Sanhedrin council for trial.
Learned Jews from the surrounding countries were summoned for the purpose of refuting the arguments of the prisoner. Saul was present, and took a leading part against Stephen. He brought the weight of eloquence and the logic of the rabbis to bear upon the case to convince the people that Stephen was preaching delusive and dangerous doctrines. But in Stephen he met one as highly educated as himself, and one who had a full understanding of the purpose of God in the spreading of the gospel to other nations.
The priests and rulers could not prevail against the clear, calm wisdom of Stephen. They determined to make an example of him, and while they thus satisfied their revengeful hatred, prevent others, through fear, from adopting his belief. Witnesses were hired to bear false testimony that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against the temple and the law. "We have heard him say," these witnesses declared, "that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us."
As Stephen stood face to face with his judges, to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and "all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." Those who exalted Moses might have seen in the face of the prisoner the same holy light that radiated from the face of that ancient prophet. Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver.
When Stephen was questioned as to the truth of the charges against him, he began his defense in a clear, thrilling voice, which rang through the council hall. He proceeded to rehearse the history of the chosen people of God, in words that held the assembly spellbound. He showed a thorough knowledge of the Jewish economy, and the spiritual interpretation of it, now made manifest through Christ. He repeated the words of Moses, which foretold of Christ, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear." He made plain his own loyalty to God and to the Jewish faith, while he showed that the law in which the Jews trusted for salvation had not been able to save Israel from idolatry. He connected Jesus Christ with all the Jewish history. He referred to the building of the temple by Solomon, and to the words of both Solomon and Isaiah: "Howbeit, the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands." "Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Have not my hands made all these things?" The place of God's highest worship is in heaven.
When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. He saw the resistance that met his words, and knew that he was giving his last testimony. When he connected Christ with the prophecies, and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen, this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it. Suddenly breaking away from the train of history that he was following, he turned upon his infuriated judges, and said: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."
At this, the priests and rulers were beside themselves with anger. More like wild beasts of prey than human beings, they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. The prisoner read his fate in the cruel faces about him, but he did not waver. The fear of death was gone. The enraged priests and the excited mob had no terror for him. The scene before him faded from his vision. To him the gates of heaven were ajar, and looking in, he saw the glory of the courts of God, and Christ, as if just risen from his throne, standing ready to sustain his servant, who was about to suffer martyrdom for his sake. In words of triumph Stephen exclaimed, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." As he described the glorious scene opened before him, it was more than his persecutors could endure. Stopping their ears, that they might not hear his words, and uttering loud cries, they ran furiously upon him with one accord. "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
The witnesses who had accused Stephen were required to cast the first stone. These persons laid down their clothes at the feet of Saul, who had taken an active part in the disputation, and had consented to the prisoner's death.
The martyrdom of Stephen made a deep impression upon all who witnessed it. It was a sore trial to the church, but resulted in the conversion of Saul, who could not efface from his memory the faith, constancy, and glorification of the martyr. The signet of God upon Stephen's face, and his words, which reached the very souls of those who heard them, remained in the minds of the beholders, and testified to the truth of that which he had proclaimed.
No legal sentence had been passed upon Stephen, but the Roman authorities were bribed by large sums of money to make no investigation of the case.
At the scene of Stephen's trial and death, Saul had seemed to be imbued with a frenzied zeal, and afterward he seemed to be angered by his own secret conviction that Stephen was honored by God at the very time when he was dishonored by men. He continued to persecute the church of God, hunting them down, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them up to the priests and rulers for imprisonment and death. His zeal in carrying forward this persecution brought terror to the Christians at Jerusalem. The Roman authorities made no special effort to stay the cruel work, and secretly aided the Jews, in order to conciliate them, and to secure their favor.
Saul was highly esteemed by the Jews for his zeal in persecuting the believers in Christ. After the death of Stephen, in consideration of the part he had acted on that occasion, he was elected a member of the Sanhedrin. For a time this learned and zealous rabbi was a mighty instrument in the hands of Satan to carry out his rebellion against the Son of God, but Saul was soon to be employed in building up the church that he was now tearing down. A mightier than Satan had chosen Saul to take the place of the martyred Stephen, to preach and suffer for his name, and to spread far and wide the glad tidings of salvation through his blood. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #9)
After the death of Stephen, there arose against the believers in Jerusalem a persecution so relentless that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria." Saul "made havoc of the church," entering into every house, seizing men and women and committing them to prison. Of his zeal in this cruel work, Saul said at a later date: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison. . . . And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." That Stephen was not the only one who suffered death may be seen from Paul's own words: "And when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them."
This persecution was followed by great results. Success had attended the ministry of the word in Jerusalem, and there was danger that the disciples would linger there too long, forgetful of the Saviour's commission to go into all the world. They began to think that they had a work to do in Jerusalem in shielding the members of the church from the snares of the enemy, forgetting that strength to resist temptation is best gained by active service. Instead of educating the new converts to carry the gospel to those who had not heard it, they were in danger of being satisfied with what had been accomplished. To scatter his representatives abroad, where they could work for others, God permitted persecution to come upon his church. Driven from Jerusalem, the believers "went everywhere preaching the word." Thus began the fulfillment of the prediction of the Saviour, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
In Samaria the believers were not persecuted. Christ's words to the Samaritan woman had borne fruit. After listening to his words, the woman went to the men of the city, and said, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" They went with her, heard Jesus, and believed on him. Anxious to hear more, they invited him to their city, and begged him to remain with them. For two days he remained in Samaria, and many believed on him.
Among these Samaritans the followers of Christ, at the time of the persecution found a safe asylum. The Samaritans welcomed the Saviour's messengers, and the disciples gathered a precious harvest from among those who had once been their bitterest enemies. "Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits . . . came out of many; . . . and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city."
While Philip was still in Samaria, a heavenly messenger was sent to him to show him his next work. The evangelist was directed to "go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza. . . . And he arose and went.
"And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet."
The Ethiopian could not understand the prophecy that he read, and the Spirit directed Philip to go and teach him, saying, "Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." Angels of God were taking notice of this seeker for light, who was being drawn to the Saviour, and who did not make his position an excuse for refusing to accept the Crucified One.
As Philip drew near, he asked the eunuch, "Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him," and explain the Word of God to him. The scripture that he was reading was the prophecy of Isaiah relating to Christ: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth."
"Of whom speaketh the prophet this?" the eunuch asked Philip; "of himself, or of some other man?"
"Then Philip . . . began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."
"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
"And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
"But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea."
This incident shows the care that the Lord has for those who are seeking for truth. The Ethiopian was a man of good standing and wide influence, who, when converted, would give others the light. God saw that he would exert a strong influence in favor of the gospel, and by his Spirit he brought him into touch with one who could guide him into the light.
When God pointed out to Philip his work, the disciple did not say, "The Lord does not mean that." No; "he arose and went." He had learned the lesson of conformity to God's will. He realized that every soul is precious in the sight of God, and that angels are sent to bring those who are seeking for light into touch with those who can help them.
Today as then angels are waiting to lead men to their fellow men. An angel showed Philip where to find the Ethiopian, who was so ready to receive the truth, and today angels will guide and direct the footsteps of those workers who will allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify their tongues, and refine and ennoble their hearts. The angel sent to Philip could himself have done the work for the Ethiopian, but this is not God's way of working. It is his plan that men are to work for their fellow men.
In the experience of Philip and the Ethiopian is presented the work to which the Lord calls his people. The Ethiopian represents a large class who need missionaries like Philip,--missionaries who will hear the voice of God, and go where he sends them. There are many who are reading the Scriptures, but who can not understand their import. All over the world, men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.
The missionary spirit needs to be renewed in our churches. God designs that lifegiving beams shall, through the individual members of the church, shine forth to the world. Receiving light from the source of all light, his people are to reflect that light to others. But this can be done only as the church draws near to God, and lives in close connection with the Giver of life and light. The purity and simplicity of Christ, revealed in the lives of his followers, will witness to the possession of genuine piety. The believer who is imbued with a true missionary spirit will be a living epistle, known and read of all men.
God's workers must be ever on watch, ready to speak a word in season to those who are searching for truth. They must be wholly consecrated to the service of the Master, that they may be quick to understand what he wishes them to do. They must take advantage of every opportunity to win souls to the Saviour.
The Holy Spirit will guide and direct those who stand ready to go where God calls, and to speak the words he gives them. The humble, patient, Christlike worker will have something to show for his labors. Every one who goes forth seeking to do his best will have the support of the One who can supply all his necessities. The great Master worker will not leave him alone. The mightiest man on earth is the man who prays in sincerity of soul. Such a one grasps the arm of infinite Power. It is close communion with God that qualifies his messengers to subdue the opposition of the enemy. God calls for consecrated workers, who will be true to him--humble men, who see the need of evangelistic work, and do not draw back, but do each day's work faithfully, relying upon the Lord for help and strength.
Though you may be weak, erring, sinful, the Lord holds out to you the offer of partnership with himself. He invites you to come under divine instruction. Uniting with Christ, you may work the works of God. "Without me," Christ said, "ye can do nothing." Through the prophet Isaiah is given the promise, "Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward."
Ye churches of the living God, study this promise, and consider how your lack of faith, of spirituality, of divine power, is hindering the coming of the kingdom of God. If you would go forth to do Christ's work, angels of God would open the way before you, preparing hearts to receive the gospel. Were every one of you a living missionary, the message for this time would speedily be proclaimed in all countries, to every people, nation, and tongue. This is the work that must be done before Christ shall come in power and great glory. I call upon the church to pray earnestly, that you may understand your responsibilities. Are you individually laborers together with God? If not, why not? When do you mean to do your Heaven-appointed work? Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #10)
THE FOLLOWING IS A COMPILATION FROM THE WRITINGS OF MRS. E. G. WHITE REGARDING OUR TREATMENT OF OPPONENTS, THE CRISIS THAT WILL COME ON ACCOUNT OF THE ENFORCEMENT OF UNRIGHTEOUS LAWS, AND THE DUTY OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS TO DO ALL IN THEIR POWER TO AVERT THE CRISIS AND TO ENLIGHTEN THE PEOPLE REGARDING THE ISSUE. THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES HAVE A VITAL BEARING ON THIS SUBJECT, AND HAVE THROUGH THE YEARS BEEN ADVOCATED BY MRS. WHITE:--
1. IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL WHO KNOW THE TRUTHS OF THE THIRD ANGEL'S MESSAGE TO LABOR IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE TO TEACH THE BINDING CLAIMS OF THE LAW OF GOD TO FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, AND THE PEOPLE GENERALLY.
2. GREAT CARE SHOULD BE EXERCISED NOT TO AROUSE BITTERNESS OR UNNECESSARY PREJUDICE, THAT WOULD CUT US OFF FROM INFLUENCING THOSE FOR WHOM WE LABOR. WE ARE WARNED AGAINST MAKING HARSH OR DENUNCIATORY STATEMENTS REGARDING OPPONENTS OF TRUTH, OR AGAINST RULERS AND STATESMEN; AND WE ARE ADVISED "TO CONFORM IN ALL THINGS TO THE LAWS OF THE STATE," EVEN TO THE EXTENT OF WAIVING SOME OF OUR RIGHTS, "WHEN WE CAN DO SO WITHOUT CONFLICTING WITH THE LAW OF GOD."
3. IN OUR WORK, WE ARE TO WATCH FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES TO DO EFFECTIVE LABOR. WHEN THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE ARE AGITATED REGARDING SUNDAY LAWS, IT IS AN OPPORTUNE TIME TO ENLIGHTEN THEM CONCERNING THE PRINCIPLES INVOLVED. WE ARE TO TEACH IN A POSITIVE WAY THE BINDING CLAIMS OF GOD'S LAW, RATHER THAN TO ATTACK OR DENOUNCE MEN, SOME OF WHOM MAY BE ACTING CONSCIENTIOUSLY, AND POSSIBLY ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE TRUTH, IF IT IS PRESENTED IN A WINNING WAY.
4. THERE ARE SPECIAL ADVANTAGES PERTAINING TO THE USE OF SUNDAY AS A DAY FOR GENERAL MISSIONARY EFFORT IN BEHALF OF THOSE WHO SHOULD BE WARNED OF THE IMPENDING CRISIS.
5. IN THE FINAL CRISIS, THE ISSUE WILL BE NOT MERELY IN REGARD TO REFRAINING FROM LABOR ON SUNDAY, BUT IT WILL BE OVER THE DISREGARD OF THE SABBATH. IN MRS. WHITE'S WRITINGS ON THIS SUBJECT, ALMOST INVARIABLY IT IS POINTED OUT THAT THE ISSUE WILL BE OVER THE EXALTATION OF THE SPURIOUS, AND THE TRAMPLING UPON THE SABBATH OF JEHOVAH.
IT IS BELIEVED THAT AS THESE POINTS ARE MADE CLEAR BY THE WRITINGS OF THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY, SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS WILL APPRECIATE MORE HIGHLY THE TEACHING FOUND IN "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOLUME IX, REGARDING OUR METHODS OF LABOR WHEN SUNDAY LAWS ARE BEING RIGIDLY ENFORCED.
IN THE SUMMER OF 1886, SEVERAL OF OUR BRETHREN WERE ARRESTED IN THE SOUTHERN STATES FOR SUNDAY LABOR. IN MARYLAND AND MASSACHUSETTS, ALSO, THE SUNDAY LAWS WERE ENFORCED AGAINST SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS. ELDER G. I. BUTLER, WHO WAS AT THAT TIME PRESIDENT OF THE GENERAL CONFERENCE, WROTE TO MRS. WHITE, ASKING FOR HER COUNSEL REGARDING THE DUTY OF OUR PEOPLE IN THE CRISIS THAT THEN SEEMED TO BE COMING UPON THEM. THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN IN REPLY:--
"You inquire in regard to the course that should be pursued to secure to our people the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. This subject has been a burden on my soul for some time, whether to take such a course of action as you suggest would be a denial of our faith, and an evidence that our trust was not fully in God. But I call to mind many things God has shown me in the past in regard to the draft, and other things of a similar character.
"I can speak in the fear of God and say, It is right that we should use every power we have to avert the pressure that is being brought to bear upon our people. Were our people spiritualized by the truth, they would exercise love toward all men, and great care not to provoke those who have accepted as the Sabbath a spurious institution introduced by the Papacy to take the place of God's holy Sabbath. The fact that they do not have the Bible argument in their favor, makes them all the more angry and determined to supply the lack of argument by the power of their might. . . .
"Everything in God's world--men and doctrines, and nature itself--is fulfilling God's sure word of prophecy, and accomplishing his grand and closing work in this world's history. We are to be ready, and waiting for the orders of God. Nations will be stirred to their very center. Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God's law as the only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character. And all who will not bow to the decree of the national councils, and obey the national laws to exalt the Sabbath instituted by the man of sin, to the disregard of God's holy day, will feel not only the oppressive power of the Papacy, but the oppression of the Protestant world, who will seek to enforce the worship of the image of the beast."
FROM ANOTHER MANUSCRIPT, WRITTEN IN EUROPE ABOUT THE SAME TIME, WE TAKE THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTION, POINTING OUT OUR DUTY TO ENLIGHTEN THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE, AND SPEAKING OF THE SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES TO DO THIS WHEN THE SUNDAY QUESTION IS BROUGHT BEFORE THE PUBLIC:--
"While Satan has been making a success of his plans, the people of God have failed at their post. God had an earnest work for them to do for the honor of his law. The religious liberties of the people are at stake; and yet the watchmen failed to discern clearly the deceptions of the enemy, and to give the trumpet a certain sound. . . .
"There are many who are at ease, asleep as it were. They say, If prophecy has foretold the enforcement of Sunday observance, the law will surely be enacted. And having come to this conclusion, they sit down in calm expectation of the event, comforting themselves with the thought that God will protect his people in the day of trouble.
"But God will not save us if we make no effort to do the work he has committed to our charge. We must be found faithfully at our posts, watching as valiant soldiers, lest Satan shall gain an advantage which it is our duty to prevent. We should diligently study the Word of God, and pray in faith that God will restrain the powers of darkness; for as yet the message has gone to comparatively few, and the world is to be lightened with its glory. The present truth regarding the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus has not yet been sounded as it must be. There are many almost within the shadow of our own doors for whose salvation no personal effort has been made.
"We are not prepared for the time when our work must close. We must take a firm stand that we will not reverence the first day of the week as the Sabbath, for it is not the day that was blessed and sanctified by Jehovah, and in reverencing Sunday we would place ourselves on the side of the great deceiver. The controversy over Sunday observance will open the subject to the people, and an opportunity will be given to present the claims of the genuine Sabbath . . . .
"There are many who, if they understood the spirit and the result of religious legislation, would not do anything to forward in the least the movement for Sunday observance. The world is overborne with falsehood and iniquity, and those whom God has made the depositaries of his law and of the pure religion of Jesus, must be determined to let their light shine. If they do nothing to disabuse the minds of the people, and through ignorance of the truth our legislators should abjure the principles of Protestantism and give countenance and support to the Roman fallacy, enforcing allegiance to the spurious sabbath, God will hold his people, who have had great light, responsible for their lack of diligence and faithfulness. But if the subject of religious legislation is judiciously and intelligently laid before the people, and they see that through Sunday enforcement, the Roman apostasy would be re-enacted by the Christian world, and that the tyranny of past ages would be repeated, then whatever comes, we shall have done our duty.
"The man of sin has thought to change times and laws. By trying to compel the conscience, he is exalting himself above God. But God's people should work with persevering energy to let the true light in regard to the law shine upon the people, and thus to withstand the enemies of God and his truth. When the law of God has been made void, and apostasy becomes a national sin, the Lord will work in behalf of his people. Their extremity will be his opportunity. He will manifest his power on behalf of his church. . . .
"As faithful watchmen we should see the sword coming, and give the warning, that men and women may not pursue a course through ignorance that they would avoid if they knew the truth. The Lord has enlightened us in regard to what is coming upon the earth, that we may enlighten others, and we shall not be held guiltless if we are content to sit at ease with folded hands, and quibble over matters of minor importance. . . .
"The people must not be left to stumble their way along in darkness, not knowing what is before them, and unprepared for the great issues that are coming. There is a work to be done for this time in fitting a people to stand in the day of trouble, and all must act their part in this work. They must be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and be so fortified by the truth that the delusions of Satan shall not be accepted by them as genuine manifestations of the power of God." Sanitarium, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #11)
Following the death of Stephen, the Jewish leaders sought by every means possible to check the spread of the gospel. In the most positive terms the members of the Sanhedrin forbade the disciples to preach in the name of Jesus. But every effort to put down the new religion seemed only to increase its strength, till it threatened to destroy the rites of the temple and the customs of ages.
Prominent among the Jewish leaders who now became thoroughly aroused was Saul of Tarsus. A Roman citizen by birth, Saul was nevertheless a Jew by descent, and had been educated in Jerusalem by the most eminent of the rabbis. "Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin," Saul was "an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." He was regarded by the rabbis as a young man of great promise, and high hopes were cherished concerning him as an able and zealous defender of the ancient faith. His elevation to membership in the Sanhedrin after the death of Stephen, placed him in a position of power.
The trial and conviction of Stephen, at which Saul took a prominent part, had created a sensation. The faith of many of the Jews had been terribly shaken. The striking evidences of the presence of God with Stephen had led even Saul himself to doubt the righteousness of the cause he had espoused against the followers of Jesus. His mind was deeply stirred. In his perplexity he appealed to those in whose wisdom and good judgment he had full confidence. The opinions and arguments of the priests and rulers finally convinced him that Stephen was a blasphemer, that the Christ whom the martyred disciple had preached was an impostor, and that those ministering in holy office must be right.
Not without severe trial did Saul come to this conclusion. Finally, however, his education and prejudices, his respect for his former teachers, and his pride of popularity, braced him to rebel against the voice of conscience and the grace of God. After having once entirely settled in his mind that the views of the priests and scribes were right, Saul became very bitter in his opposition to the doctrines taught by the disciples of Jesus. His activity in causing holy men and women to be dragged before tribunals, where they were often condemned to imprisonment and even death, solely because of their faith in Jesus, brought sadness and gloom to the newly organized church, and caused many to seek safety in flight.
Driven from Jerusalem, "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word." Among the cities entered was Damascus, where the new faith gained many converts.
The priests and rulers had hoped that by vigilant effort and stern persecution the heresy might be suppressed. Now they saw that decided measures must be taken, not only in Jerusalem, but elsewhere. For the special work that they desired to have done at Damascus, Saul offered his services. "Breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," Saul "went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." Thus "with authority and commission from the chief priests," Saul of Tarsus, in the strength and vigor of manhood, and fired with mistaken zeal, set out on that memorable journey during which the whole current of his life was changed.
A Great Light.--On the last day of the journey, "at midday," as the weary travelers neared Damascus, they came within full view of broad stretches of fertile lands, beautiful gardens, and fruitful orchards, watered with cool streams from the surrounding mountains. After the long, wearisome journey over desolate wastes, such scenes were refreshing indeed. While Saul, with his companions, gazed with admiration on the fruitful plain and the fair city below, "suddenly," as he afterward declared, there shone "round about me and them which journeyed with me" "a great light,"--"a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun,"--too glorious for mortal eyes to bear. Saul fell prostrate to the earth.
While the light continued to shine about them, Saul heard "a voice speaking . . . in the Hebrew tongue," "saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
Filled with fear, bewildered, almost blinded by the intensity of the light, the companions of Saul heard a voice, but saw no man. But Saul understood the words that were spoken; and to him was clearly revealed the One who spoke--even the Son of God. In the glorious Being who stood before him, he saw the Crucified One. Upon the soul of the stricken Jew the image of his Saviour's countenance was imprinted forever. The words spoken struck home to his heart with appalling force. Into the darkened chambers of his mind there poured a flood of light, revealing the ignorance and error of his former life, and his present need of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
Saul now saw that in persecuting the followers of Jesus, he had in reality been doing the work of Satan. He saw that his former convictions of duty and the right had been based largely on his implicit confidence in the priests and rulers of the Jewish church. They had caused him to believe that the story of the resurrection was an artful fabrication of the disciples of Jesus. Now that Jesus himself stood revealed, Saul was convicted of the truthfulness of the claims made by the disciples.
In that hour of heavenly illumination, the mind of Saul acted with remarkable rapidity. The prophetic records of Holy Writ were opened to his understanding. He saw that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, had been foretold by the prophets, and proved him to be the promised Messiah. The sermon of Stephen was brought forcibly to his mind. Now Saul knew that the martyr had indeed beheld "the glory of God," when he had "looked up steadfastly into heaven," and had said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." Those words that the priests had pronounced blasphemy, now appeared to Saul as truth.
What a revelation was all this to the persecutor! Now Saul knew for a certainty that the promised Messiah had come to this earth as the Redeemer of the race, and that he had been rejected and crucified by those whom he had come to save. Saul knew also that the Saviour had risen in triumph from the tomb, and had ascended into the heavens. In that terrible moment of divine revelation, Saul remembered that Stephen, who had borne witness of a crucified and risen Saviour, had been sacrificed by his consent, and that later, through his instrumentality, many other worthy followers of Jesus had met their death by cruel persecution.
The Saviour had spoken to Saul through Stephen, whose clear reasoning could not be controverted. The learned Jew had seen the face of the martyr reflecting the light of Christ's glory,--appearing as if "it had been the face of an angel." He had witnessed Stephen's forbearance toward his enemies, and his forgiveness of them. He had also witnessed the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith.
All this testimony had appealed loudly to Saul, and at times had thrust upon his mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief that Jesus was not the Messiah, and that his followers were deluded fanatics.
Now Christ had spoken to Saul with his own voice, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And the question, "Who art thou, Lord?" was answered by the same voice, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." Christ here identifies himself with his suffering people. In persecuting the followers of Jesus, Saul had struck directly against the Lord of heaven. In falsely accusing and testifying against them, he had falsely accused and testified against the Saviour of the world.
No doubt entered the mind of Saul that the One who spoke to him was Jesus of Nazareth, the long-looked-for Messiah, the Consolation and the Redeemer of Israel. And now Jesus, who during his earthly ministry had often spoken in parables, likened the work of Saul, the persecutor, to kicking against the pricks. "Saul, Saul," he inquired, "why persecutest thou me? . . . It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." Every effort to stay the onward progress of the gospel results in injury and suffering to the opposer. Sooner or later his own heart will condemn him; he will find that he has, indeed, been kicking against the pricks.
"Trembling and astonished," Saul inquired, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
The Entry Into Damascus.--When the glory was withdrawn, and Saul arose from the ground, he found himself totally deprived of sight. The brightness of Christ's glory had been too intense for his mortal sight; when it was removed, the blackness of night settled upon his vision. He believed that this blindness was a punishment from God for his cruel persecution of the followers of Jesus. In terrible darkness he groped about; and his companions, in fear and amazement, "led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus."
On the morning of that eventful day, Saul had neared Damascus with feelings of self-satisfaction because of the confidence that had been placed in him by the chief priests. To him had been entrusted grave responsibilities. He was commissioned to further the interests of the Jewish religion by checking, if possible, the spread of the gospel in Damascus. He had determined that his mission should be crowned with success, and had looked forward with eager anticipation to the experiences that were before him.
But how changed from that which he had anticipated, was the scene of his entrance into that ancient and opulent city! Instead of being welcomed with honors, he entered as one dependent on the guidance of his companions. Stricken with blindness, helpless, tortured by remorse, knowing not what further judgment the Lord might bring upon him, he sought out the home of the disciple Judas, where, in solitude, he had ample opportunity for reflection and prayer.
Days of Heart Searching.--For three days, Saul was "without sight, and neither did eat nor drink." These days of terrible agony of soul were to him as years. Again and again he recalled, with anguish of spirit, the part he had taken in the martyrdom of Stephen. With horror he thought of his guilt in allowing himself to be controlled by the malice and prejudice of the priests and rulers, even at the time when the face of Stephen had been lighted up with the radiance of heaven. In sadness and brokenness of spirit he recounted the many times he had closed his eyes and ears against the most striking evidences, and had relentlessly urged on the persecution of the believers in Jesus of Nazareth.
These days of close self-examination and of heart humiliation were spent in lonely seclusion. The believers, having been given warning of the purpose of Saul in coming to Damascus, feared that he might be acting a part, in order the more readily to deceive them; and they held themselves aloof, refusing him their sympathy. He had no desire to appeal to the unconverted Jews, with whom he had planned to unite in persecuting the believers; for he knew that they would not even listen to his story. Thus he seemed to be shut away from all human sympathy. His only hope of help was in a merciful God, to whom he now appealed in brokenness of heart.
During the long hours when Saul was shut in with God alone, he recalled many of the passages of Scripture referring to the first advent of Christ. Carefully he traced down the prophecies, with a memory sharpened by the conviction that had taken possession of his mind. As he reflected on the meaning of these prophecies, he became astonished at his former blindness of understanding, and at the blindness of the Jews in general, which had led to the rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. To his enlightened vision, all now seemed plain. He knew that his former prejudice and unbelief had clouded his spiritual perception, and had prevented him from discerning in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah of prophecy. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #11)
DURING THE PERIOD FROM 1895 TO 1897, MRS. WHITE WROTE SEVERAL COMMUNICATIONS, WARNING OUR BRETHREN ENGAGED IN THE ADVOCACY OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AGAINST THE DANGER OF MANIFESTING HARSHNESS IN THEIR TEACHINGS AND WRITINGS. THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER WRITTEN FROM AUSTRALIA, JAN. 30, 1895, PREFACED BY THREE PARAGRAPHS FROM "MINISTRY OF HEALING," PAGES 489, 490:--
"If we have a sense of the long-suffering of God toward us, we shall not be found judging or accusing others. When Christ was living on the earth, how surprised his associates would have been if, after becoming acquainted with him, they had heard him speak one word of accusation, of fault-finding, or of impatience. Let us never forget that those who love him are to represent him in character. . . .
"The Lord Jesus demands our acknowledgment of the rights of every man. Men's social rights, and their rights as Christians, are to be taken into consideration. All are to be treated with refinement and delicacy, as the sons and daughters of God. Christianity will make a man a gentleman. Christ was courteous, even to his persecutors; and his true followers will manifest the same spirit. . . .
"A thoroughgoing Christian draws his motives of action from his deep heart-love for his Master. Up through the roots of his affection for Christ springs an unselfish interest in his brethren. Love imparts to its possessor grace, propriety, and comeliness of deportment. It illuminates the countenance and subdues the voice; it refines and elevates the whole being."
"All sharp thrusts will come back upon us in double measure when the power is in the hands of those who can exercise it for our injury. Over and over the message has been given to me that we are not to say one word, not to publish one sentence, unless positively essential in vindicating the truth, that will stir up our enemies against us, and arouse their passions to a white heat. Our work will soon be closed up, and soon the time of trouble such as never was will come upon us, of which we have but little idea.
"Learn in the School of Jesus--Writers and speakers among us will have to learn that the highest obligations of the Christian life involve the giving of careful attention in heeding the messages that God has sent to us. It is essential that we have a knowledge of our own motives and actions in order to have constant self-improvement. I long to see men in responsible positions feeling the burden in regard to themselves, so that they will exercise Christian politeness, and speak and write in a courteous manner. The Lord wants his workers to represent him, the great missionary worker. The manifestation of unchristlike zeal and rashness always does harm.
"The proprieties essential for Christian life must be learned daily in the school of Christ. He who is careless and heedless in uttering words or in writing words for publication to be sent broadcast into the world, is disqualifying himself to be entrusted with the sacred work that devolves upon Christ's followers at this time. Those who practise giving hard thrusts are forming habits that will have to be repented of. To discharge every duty that devolves upon those who are entrusted with sacred responsibility, in the right manner, calls for humble prayer, and a close study of the life of Christ.
"A surgeon, a physician, a teacher, a guide, needs to study carefully and attentively the way in which to do the work which is entrusted to his hands; and how much more should those who are entrusted with the sacred responsibility to watch for souls as they that must give an account, study to work in harmony with the truth, and in accordance with the wisdom which is from above, which 'is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.'
"Our Obligation--I am pained when I see the sharp thrusts which appear in the [ American ] Sentinel . I speak to my brethren who are communicating with the people through that paper: It is best for you to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. We should carefully and severally examine our ways and our spirits, and see in what manner we are doing the work given us of God, which involves the destiny of souls. The very highest obligation is resting upon us. Satan is standing ready, burning with zeal to inspire the whole confederacy of satanic agencies, that he may cause them to unite with evil men, and bring upon the believers of truth speedy and severe suffering. Every unwise word that is uttered by our brethren will be treasured up by the prince of darkness.
"How dare finite human intelligences speak careless and venturesome words, that will stir up the powers of hell against the saints of God, when Michael the archangel durst not bring against Satan a railing accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan'? It will be impossible for us to avoid difficulties and suffering. Jesus said, 'Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!' But because offenses will come, we should be careful not to stir up the natural temperament of those who love not the truth, by unwise words and by the manifestation of an unkind spirit. The truth works by love, and purifies the soul.
"It is the privilege and duty of every child of God to have spiritual apprehension. If we are children of the light, we should walk in the light as Christ is in the light, and testify before the world, before angels and men, that the truth has power to transform human character, and to cause men to represent Christ. With David our testimony should be, 'Thy gentleness hath made me great.' O that we might have divine perceptions, and be able to appreciate the holy, sacred efficiency of the truth which fell from the lips of Christ! O that a permanent impression might be made upon the hearts of all!
"The words Christ has spoken, the spirit he has revealed in all his lessons to his disciples, are as the bread of life, the flesh and blood of the Son of God. He said, 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' But all he has said is contested by the confederacy of evil; nevertheless precious truth must be presented in its native force. The deceptive errors that are wide-spread, and that are to lead the world captive, are to be unveiled. Every effort that is impossible is being made to ensnare souls with subtle reasonings, to turn them from the truth to fables, and to prepare them to be deceived by strong delusions. But while these deceived souls turn from the truth to error, do not speak to them one word of censure. Seek to show these poor, deluded souls their danger, and to reveal to them how grievous is their course of action toward Jesus Christ; but let it all be done in pitying tenderness.
"By a proper manner of labor some of the souls who are ensnared by Satan may be recovered from his power. But do not blame and condemn them. To ridicule the position held by those who are in error will not open their blind eyes, nor attract them to the truth. The followers of Christ may receive divine illumination daily, and have clear conceptions of the great mercy and love of God toward us poor sinners. As we behold the love of Christ, we shall begin to reflect it. 'God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. How are they hid?--Under the veil of humanity and deep humiliation. The abundance of his knowledge covers all the treasures of wisdom; for in Christ all fulness dwells.
"The Example of Christ--When men lose sight of Christ's example, and do not pattern after his manner of teaching, they become self-sufficient, and go forth to meet Satan with his own manner of weapons. The enemy knows well how to turn his weapons upon those who use them. Jesus spake only words of pure truth and righteousness. It was he who inspired prophets and holy men of old, and they spake as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit. But Christ was superior to the prophets, in that he is the Author of eternal salvation, the Originator of all that they have written and spoken, and in his example, he has left us a perfect model for faith and practise.
"If ever a people needed to walk in humility before God, it is his church, his chosen ones in this generation. We all need to bewail the dulness of our intellectual faculties, the lack of appreciation of our privileges and opportunities. We have nothing whereof to boast. We grieve the Lord Jesus Christ by our harshness, by our unchristlike thrusts. We need to become complete in him. It is true that we are commanded to 'cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.' This message must be given; but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf.
"Those who have had great privileges and opportunities, and who have failed to improve their physical, mental, and moral powers, but who have lived to please themselves, and have refused to bear their responsibilities, are in great danger, and in greater condemnation before God than those who are in error upon doctrinal points, yet who seek to live to do good to others, corresponding to the light which they have. Do not censure others, do not condemn them. As free moral agents under the government of God, our responsibility and obligation are not limited by the knowledge we actually possess, but by the knowledge we might and ought to have had if we had advanced in faith, and obtained the rich Christian experience that would have corresponded with our advantages. We should improve our faculties, and we shall be held accountable for their improvement. They area sacred trust, and if we do not use them properly, if we do not educate ourselves to trust in God, to believe and practise his word, we shall be held accountable. If we allow selfish considerations, false reasonings, and false excuses to bring us into a perverse state of mind and heart, so that we do not know the ways and will of God, we shall be far more guilty than the open sinner. We need to be very cautious, in order that we may not condemn those who before God are less guilty than ourselves." Sanitarium, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #12)
The conversion of Saul was marked with heartfelt repentance, thorough confession, and an earnest longing for pardon of sin. Prior to his conversion, Saul had been proud and self-confident; now he was bowed down with sorrow and shame; he abhorred himself because of the suffering he had brought upon the disciples of Jesus. In the light of the revelation that had come to him, he began to see himself as the chief of sinners.
Saul yielded himself fully to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. With eyes anointed by the grace of God, he saw the mistakes of his life, and recognized the far-reaching claims of the law of God. He who had been a proud Pharisee, confident that he was justified by his good works, now bowed before God with the humility and simplicity of a little child, confessing his own unworthiness, and pleading the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Saul longed to come into full harmony and communion with the Father and the Son; and in the intensity of his desire for pardon, he offered up fervent supplications to the throne of grace.
The prayers of the penitent Pharisee were not in vain. The inmost thoughts and emotions of his sin-corrupted heart were transformed by divine grace. The nobler faculties of the soul were brought into harmony with the eternal purposes of God. Christ and his righteousness became to Saul more than the whole world.
The conversion of Saul is a striking evidence of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to convict a man of the error of his way. Saul had verily believed that Jesus of Nazareth had disregarded the law of God, and had taught the disciples that it was now of no effect. But at the time of his conversion, Saul recognized Jesus as the divine One who had come into the world for the express purpose of vindicating his Father's law. Saul was convinced that Jesus was the originator of the entire Jewish system of sacrifices. He saw that at the time of the crucifixion, type had met antitype; in Jesus had been fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Redeemer of Israel.
Jesus, whose name above all others Saul had most hated and despised, revealed himself to Saul for the purpose of arresting him in his mad career, and of making, from this most unpromising subject, a powerful instrumentality by which to bear the gospel to the Gentiles. When Saul perceived that in opposing Jesus of Nazareth he had been arraying himself against the Messiah, he was overwhelmed with horror, and in the agony of his soul he cried out, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Jesus did not at once tell him of the work that had been assigned him, but sent him for instruction to the very disciples who had been so bitterly persecuted.
The marvelous light that illuminated the darkness of Saul was the work of the Lord; but there was also a work that was to be done for him by the disciples of Christ. The answer to Saul's question was, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Jesus sent the inquiring Jew to his church, to obtain from them a knowledge of his duty. Christ had performed the work of revelation and conviction; and now the penitent was in a condition to learn of those whom God had ordained to teach his truth.
While Saul in solitude continued in prayer and supplication at the home of Judas, the Lord appeared in vision to "a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias," telling him that Saul of Tarsus was praying, and in need of help. "Arise," the heavenly messenger bade Ananias, "and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."
Ananias could scarcely credit the words of the angel messenger; for the reports of Saul's bitter persecution of the saints at Jerusalem had spread far and near. He presumed to expostulate. "Lord," he answered, "I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." But the command to Ananias was imperative: "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."
The disciple, obedient to the direction of the angel, sought out the man who had but recently breathed out threatenings against all who believed on the name of Jesus. Putting his hands on the head of the penitent sufferer, Ananias said: "Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
"And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independently of his recognized followers on earth. But in the history of the conversion of Saul, important principles are given us, which we should ever bear in mind. He was brought directly into the presence of Christ. He was one whom Christ intended for a most important work, one who was to be a "chosen vessel" unto him; yet the Lord did not immediately impart to him the lessons of truth. He arrested his course and convicted him; but when asked by him, "What wilt thou have me to do?" the Saviour placed him in connection with his church, and let them direct him what to do.
Thus Jesus gave sanction to the authority of his organized church, and placed Saul in connection with his representatives on earth. All blessings flow from Christ, but he had now established a church as his representative on earth, and to it belonged the work of directing the repentant sinner in the way of life.
Jesus is the friend of sinners; his heart is touched by their woe; he has all power, both in heaven and upon earth; but he respects the means that he has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; he directs sinners to the church, which he has made a channel of light to the world.
Saul was a learned teacher in Israel; but when in the midst of his blind error and prejudice, he is given a revelation of the Christ whom he is persecuting, he is placed in direct communication with the church, which is the light of the world. In this case Ananias represents Christ, and also represents Christ's ministers upon earth, who are appointed to act in his stead. In Christ's stead, Ananias places his hands upon him, and, praying in Christ's name, Saul receives the Holy Ghost. All is done in the name and by the authority of Christ. Christ is the foundation; the church is the channel of communication. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #12)
IN SOME OF THE COMMUNICATIONS FROM MRS. WHITE EARLY IN 1895, THERE ARE FOUND WARNINGS AND CAUTIONS AGAINST THE DANGER OF ADOPTING WRONG PRINCIPLES, AND ACCEPTING EXTREME VIEWS IN STUDYING THE PRINCIPLES OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.
IN TEACHING THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, SOME HAD URGED THAT TO BE CONSISTENT IN OUR DEALINGS WITH THE GOVERNMENT, WE SHOULD INSIST UPON PAYING TAXES ON OUR CHURCH AND SANITARIUM PROPERTIES, EVEN THOUGH THESE MIGHT BE BY LAW EXEMPT FROM TAXATION.
IT WAS ALSO MAINTAINED AND STRONGLY URGED IN THE AMERICAN SENTINEL THAT OUR BRETHREN IN SOUTH AFRICA WOULD VIOLATE RIGHT PRINCIPLES IF THEY WERE TO ACCEPT FROM THE BRITISH SOUTH AFRICAN COMPANY A GIFT OF LAND THAT HAD BEEN OFFERED TO THEM FOR MISSION PURPOSES BY CECIL RHODES. IT WAS STATED THAT THOSE MISSIONARIES WHO HAD ACCEPTED SUCH GRANTS HAD "SOLD THEMSELVES FOR A MESS OF AFRICAN POTTAGE," AND IT WAS FELT THAT THE GENERAL CONFERENCE SHOULD INSIST UPON PAYING FOR THE LAND.
WHEN THESE PROPOSITIONS WERE BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF MRS. WHITE, SHE WROTE THE FOLLOWING, EXPRESSING HER DISAPPROVAL OF THE POSITIONS TAKEN:--
"Solemn, serious times are upon us, and perplexities will increase to the very close of time. There may be a little respite in these matters, but it will not be for long. I have letters to write that must go in the next mail to Battle Creek. Our brethren there are not looking at everything in the right light. The movements they have made to pay taxes on the property of the sanitarium and Tabernacle have manifested a zeal and conscientiousness that in all respects is not wise nor correct. Their ideas of religious liberty are being woven with suggestions that do not come from the Holy Spirit, and the religious liberty cause is sickening, and its sickness can only be healed by the grace and gentleness of Christ.
"The hearts of those who advocate this cause must be filled with the Spirit of Jesus. The Great Physician alone can apply the balm of Gilead. Let these men read the book of Nehemiah with humble hearts touched by the Holy Spirit, and their false ideas will be modified, and correct principles will be seen, and the present order of things will be changed. Nehemiah prayed to God for help, and God heard his prayer. The Lord moved upon heathen kings to come to his help. When his enemies zealously worked against him, the Lord worked through kings to carry out his purpose, and to answer the many prayers which were ascending to him for the help which they so much needed.
"Extreme Positions--I am often greatly distressed when I see our leading men taking extreme positions, and burdening themselves over matters that should not be taken up nor worried over, but left in the hands of God for him to adjust. We are yet in the world, and God keeps for us a place in connection with the world, and works by his own right hand to prepare the way before us, in order that his work may progress along its various lines. The truth is to have a standing- place, and the standard of truth is to be uplifted in many places in regions beyond.
"Be sure that God has not laid upon those who remain away from the foreign fields of labor, the burden of criticizing the ones on the ground where the work is being done. Those who are not sent to mission fields know little about the necessities of the situation, and if they can not say anything to help those who are on the ground, let them not hinder, but show their wisdom by the eloquence of silence, and attend to the work that is close at hand. I protest against the zeal that they manifest when they ventilate their ideas about foreign fields of labor, for it is not according to knowledge.
"Let the Lord work with the men who are in the mission fields, and let those who are not on the ground walk humbly with God, lest they get out of their place, and lose their bearings. The Lord has not placed the burden of criticizing the work upon those who have taken this burden, and he does not give them the sanction of his Holy Spirit. Many move according to their own human judgment, and zealously seek to adjust things that God has not placed in their hands. Just as long as we are in the world, we shall have to do a special work for the world; the message of warning is to go to all countries, and tongues, and peoples.
"The Lord does not move upon his workers to make them take a course which will bring on the time of trouble before the time . Let them not build up a wall of separation between themselves and the world by advancing their own ideas and notions. There is now altogether too much of this throughout our borders. The message of warning has not reached large numbers of the world, in the very cities that are right at hand, and to number Israel is not to work after God's order. Just as long as we are in this world, and the Spirit of God is striving with the world, we are to receive as well as to impart favors. We are to give to the world the light of truth as presented in the Sacred Scriptures, and we are to receive from the world that which God moves upon them to do in behalf of his cause.
"The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of his people, and it becomes those who are so deeply interested in the religious liberty question not to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves from the help that God has moved men to give for the advancement of his cause. We find examples in the Word of God concerning this very matter.
"Cyrus, king of Persia, made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it into writing, saying: 'Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his peoples? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel.' A second commandment was issued by Darius for the building of the house of the Lord, and is recorded in the sixth chapter of Ezra.
"The Lord God of Israel has placed his goods in the hands of unbelievers, and they are to be used to help in the accomplishment of the work that must be done for a fallen world. The agents through whom these gifts come may open up avenues through which the truth may go. They may have no sympathy with the work, and no faith in Christ, and no practise in his words; but their gifts are not to be refused on that account.
"It is very strange that some of our brethren should feel that it is their duty to bring about a condition of things that would bind up the means that God would have set free. God has not laid upon them the responsibility of coming in conflict with the authorities and powers of the world in this matter. The withstraining hand of God has not been withdrawn from the earth. Let the leaders in the work bide their time, hide in Christ, and move and work with great wisdom. Let them be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. I have repeatedly been shown that we might receive far more favors than we do in many ways if we would approach men in wisdom, acquaint them with our work, and give them an opportunity of doing those things which it is our privilege to induce them to do for the advancement of the work of God." (Jan. 31, 1895.)
"Receiving Gifts--Who is it that owns our world? Who is the real owner of houses and lands? Is it not God? He has an abundance in our world which he has placed in the hands of men by which the hungry might be supplied with food, the naked with clothing, the homeless with homes. The Lord would move upon worldly men, even idolaters, to give of their abundance for the support of the work,if we would approach them wisely, and give them an opportunity of doing those things which it is their privilege to do. What they would give we should be privileged to receive.
"We should become acquainted with men in high places, and by exercising the wisdom of the serpent, and the harmlessness of the dove, we might obtain advantages from them; for God would move upon their minds to do many things in behalf of his people. If proper persons would set before those who have means and influence the needs of the work of God in a proper light, these men might do much to advance the cause of God in our world. We have put away from us privileges and advantages that we might have had the benefit of, because we chose to stand independent of the world. But we need not sacrifice one principle of truth while taking advantage of every opportunity to advance the cause of God.
"The Lord would have his people in the world, but not of the world. They should seek to bring the truth before the men in high places, and give them a fair chance to receive and weigh evidence. There are many who are unenlightened and uninformed, and as individuals we have a serious, solemn, wise work to do. We are to have travail of soul for those who are in high places, and go to them with the gracious invitation to come to the marriage feast. Very much more might have been done than has been done for those in high places. The last message that Christ gave to his disciples before he was parted from them, and taken up into heaven, was a message to carry the gospel to all the world, and was accompanied by the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Lord said, 'Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.'
"'The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.' 'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.' 'Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.'" (Reprinted from Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, No. 3, pages 32-35, 29, 30.) Mountain View, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #13)
After his baptism, Paul broke his fast, and remained "certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God." Boldly he testified that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-looked-for Messiah, who "died for our sins according to the Scriptures, . . . was buried, and . . . rose again the third day," after which he was seen of the twelve, and of the brethren. "And last of all," added Paul, "he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." His arguments from prophecy were so conclusive, and his efforts were so attended by the power of God, that the opposing Jews were confounded and unable to answer him.
Paul had been known formerly as a zealous defender of the Jewish religion, and an untiring persecutor of the followers of Jesus. Courageous, independent, persevering, his talents and training would have enabled him to serve in almost any position. His reasoning powers were of no ordinary value. By his withering sarcasm he could place an opponent in no enviable position. And now the Jews saw this young man of unusual promise uniting with those whom he had formerly persecuted, and fearlessly preaching in the name of Jesus.
A general slain in battle is lost to his army, but his death gives no additional strength to the enemy. But when a man of integrity and sterling principle joins the opposing force, not only are his services lost, but those to whom he joins himself gain a decided advantage. Saul of Tarsus might easily have been struck dead by the Lord as he was on his way to Damascus, and much strength would have been withdrawn from the persecuting power. But his life was spared, and in the providence of God he was carried from the side of the enemy to the side of Christ. An eloquent speaker and a severe critic, Paul, with his stern purpose and undaunted courage, possessed the very qualifications needed in the Christian church.
The news of Paul's conversion came to the Jews as a great surprise. He who had journeyed to Damascus "with authority and commission from the chief priests," to apprehend and prosecute the believers, was now preaching the gospel of a crucified and risen Saviour, strengthening the hands of those who were already its disciples, and continually bringing in new converts to the faith he had once so zealously opposed. All who heard him were amazed, and said, "Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?"
To those who heard him, Paul demonstrated that his change of faith was not prompted by impulse or fanaticism, but had been brought about by overwhelming evidence. In his presentation of gospel truth, he sought to make plain the prophecies relating to the first advent of Christ. He showed conclusively that these prophecies had been literally fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. The foundation of his faith was based on the sure word of prophecy.
As Paul continued to appeal to his astonished hearers to "repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance," he "increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ." But many hardened their hearts, refusing to respond to his message; and soon their astonishment at his conversion was changed into intense hatred, like unto that which they had manifested against Jesus.
Paul was not allowed to continue his labors long at Damascus, in the face of fierce opposition. A messenger from heaven bade him leave for a time; and so he "went into Arabia," where he found a safe retreat.
In the solitude of the desert, Paul had ample opportunity for quiet study and meditation. There he calmly reviewed his past experiences, and made sure work of repentance. He sought God with all his heart, resting not until he knew for a certainty that his repentance was accepted, and his great sin pardoned. He longed for the assurance that Jesus would be with him in his coming ministry. During his sojourn in Arabia, he emptied his soul of the prejudices and traditions that had shaped his life, and received instruction from the Source of truth. Jesus communed with him, and established him in his faith, bestowing upon him a rich measure of divine wisdom and grace.
When the mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite, the effect on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In such communion is found the highest education. It is God's own method of development. "Acquaint now thyself with him," is his message to mankind.
The solemn charge that had been given Paul on the occasion of his interview with Ananias, rested with increasing weight upon his heart. When, in response to the invitation, "Brother Saul, receive thy sight," Paul had for the first time looked upon the face of this devout man, Ananias under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said to him: "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
These words were in harmony with the words of Jesus himself, who, when he arrested Saul on the journey to Damascus, declared: "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."
As he pondered these things in his heart, Paul understood more and more the meaning of his call "to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God." His call had come "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father." The greatness of the work before him led him to give much study to the Holy Scriptures, in order that he might preach the gospel "not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect," "but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," that the faith of all who heard "should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
As Paul searched the Scriptures of truth, he learned that throughout the ages "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence."
And so, viewing the wisdom of the world--wisdom in which he had formerly trusted--in the light of the cross, Paul "determined not to know anything, . . . save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Throughout his later ministry, Paul never lost sight of the Source of his wisdom and strength. Hear him, years afterward, still declaring, "For me to live is Christ." And again: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, . . . that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings."
Paul now "returned again unto Damascus," and "preached boldly . . . in the name of Jesus." Unable to withstand the wisdom of his arguments, "the Jews took counsel to kill him." The gates of the city were diligently guarded, day and night, to cut off his escape. This crisis led the disciples to seek God earnestly; and finally they "took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket."
About three years had passed since his conversion, when Paul returned to Jerusalem. His chief object in making this visit, as he himself declared afterward, was "to see Peter." When, upon arrival in the city where he had once been well known as "Saul the persecutor," "he assayed to join himself to the disciples," "they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple." It was difficult for them to believe that so bigoted a Pharisee, and one who had done so much to destroy the church, could become a sincere follower of Jesus. "But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus."
The disciples now received Paul as one of their number. Soon they had abundant evidence as to the genuineness of his Christian experience. The future apostle to the Gentiles was now in the city where many of his former associates lived; and to these Jewish leaders he longed to make plain the prophecies concerning the Messiah, which had been fulfilled by the advent of the Saviour. Paul felt sure that these teachers in Israel, with whom he had once been so well acquainted, were as sincere and honest as he had been. But Paul had miscalculated the spirit of his Jewish brethren, and in his hope of their speedy conversion he was doomed to bitter disappointment. Although "he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians," those who stood at the head of the Jewish church refused to believe, but "went about to slay him." Sorrow filled his heart. Willingly he would have yielded up his life, if by that means he might bring some to a knowledge of the truth. With shame he thought of the active part he had taken in the martyrdom of Stephen, and now in his anxiety to wipe out the stain resting upon one so falsely accused, he sought to vindicate the truth that had cost Stephen his life.
Burdened in behalf of those who refused to believe, Paul was praying in the temple, as he himself afterward testified, when he fell into a trance, whereupon a heavenly messenger appeared before him, and said: "Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me."
Paul was inclined to remain at Jerusalem, where he could face the opposition. To him, it seemed an act of cowardice to attempt to flee, if by remaining he might be able to convince some of the obstinate Jews of the truthfulness of the gospel message,--even if to remain should cost him his life. And so he answered: "Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him." But it was not in harmony with the purpose of God that his servant should needlessly expose his life; and so the heavenly messenger replied: "Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
Upon learning of this vision of Paul, the brethren hastened his secret escape from Jerusalem, for fear of assassination. "They brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." The departure of Paul suspended for a time the violent opposition of the Jews, and the church had a period of rest, in which many were added to the number of believers. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #13)
AS OUR BRETHREN IN VARIOUS PLACES ARE CALLED UPON TO MEET ISSUES IN WHICH OUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SEEMS TO BE ASSAILED, IT IS WELL TO BEAR IN MIND THE CAUTIONS FOUND IN "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOL. VI, PAGES 394-401. THIS INSTRUCTION IS TAKEN FROM A LETTER WRITTEN OCT. 13, 1895, TO ONE WHO AT THAT TIME STOOD WITH US AS AN ADVOCATE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY PRINCIPLES, AND IS ENTITLED --
"Our Attitude Toward the Civil Authorities--By some of our brethren many things have been spoken and written that are interpreted as expressing antagonism to government and law. It is a mistake thus to lay ourselves open to misunderstanding. It is not wise to find fault continually with what is done by the rulers of government. It is not our work to attack individuals or institutions. We should exercise great care lest we be understood as putting ourselves in opposition to the civil authorities. It is true that our warfare is aggressive, but our weapons are to be those found in a plain 'Thus saith the Lord.' Our work is to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. We should not be turned aside to lines that will encourage controversy, or arouse antagonism in those not of our faith.
"We should not work in a manner that will mark us out as seeming to advocate treason. We should weed out from our writings and utterances every expression that, taken by itself, could be so misrepresented as to make it appear antagonistic to law and order. Everything should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as encouraging disloyalty to our country and its laws. We are not required to defy authorities. There will come a time when, because of our advocacy of Bible truth, we shall be treated as traitors; but let not this time be hastened by unadvised movements that stir up animosity and strife.
"The time will come when unguarded expressions of a denunciatory character, that have been carelessly spoken or written by our brethren, will be used by our enemies to condemn us. These will not be used merely to condemn those who made the statements, but will be charged upon the whole body of Adventists. Our accusers will say that on such and such a day one of our responsible men said thus and so against the administration of the laws of this government. Many will be astonished to see how many things have been cherished and remembered that will give point to the arguments of our adversaries. Many will be surprised to hear their own words strained into a meaning that they did not intend them to have. Then let our workers be careful to speak guardedly at all times and under all circumstances. Let all beware lest by reckless expressions they bring on a time of trouble before the great crisis which is to try men's souls.
"The less we make direct charges against authorities and powers, the greater work we shall be able to accomplish, both in America and in foreign countries. Foreign nations will follow the example set by the United States. Though she leads out, yet the same crisis will come upon our people in all parts of the world.
"It is our work to magnify and exalt the law of God. The truth of God's holy Word is to be made manifest. We are to hold up the Scriptures as the rule of life. In all modesty, in the spirit of grace, and in the love of God, we are to point men to the fact that the Lord God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord.
"In the name of the Lord we are to go forward, unfurling his banner, advocating his Word. When the authorities command us not to do this work; when they forbid us to proclaim the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, then it will be necessary for us to say, as did the apostles: 'Whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we can not but speak the things which we have seen and heard.' Acts 4:19, 20.
"The truth is to be set forth in the power of the Holy Spirit. This alone can make our words effective. Only through the Spirit's power will victory be gained and held. The human agent must be worked by the Spirit of God. The workers must be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. They must have divine wisdom, that nothing may be uttered which would stir up men to close our way. Through the inculcation of spiritual truth we are to prepare a people who shall be able, in meekness and fear, to give a reason for their faith before the highest authorities in our world.
"We need to present the truth in its simplicity, to advocate practical godliness; and we should do this in the spirit of Christ. The manifestation of such a spirit will have the best influence upon our own souls, and it will have a convicting power upon others. Give the Lord opportunity to work through his own agents. Do not imagine that it will be possible for you to lay out plans for the future; let God be acknowledged as standing at the helm at all times and under every circumstance. He will work by means that will be suitable, and will maintain, increase, and build up his own people.
"The Lord's agents should have a sanctified zeal, a zeal that is wholly under his control. Stormy times will come rapidly enough upon us, and we should take no course of our own that will hasten them. Tribulation will come of a character that will drive to God all who wish to be his, and his alone. Until tested and proved in the furnace of trial, we do not know ourselves, and it is not proper for us to measure the characters of others and to condemn those who have not yet had the light of the third angel's message.
"If we wish men to be convinced that the truth we believe sanctifies the soul and transforms the character, let us not be continually charging them with vehement accusations. In this way we shall force them to the conclusion that the doctrine we profess can not be the Christian doctrine, since it does not make us kind, courteous, and respectful. Christianity is not manifested in pugilistic accusation and condemnation. . . .
"We should remember that the world will judge us by what we appear to be. Let those who are seeking to represent Christ be careful not to exhibit inconsistent features of character. Before we come fully to the front, let us see to it that the Holy Spirit is poured upon us from on high. When this is the case, we shall give a decided message, but it will be of a far less condemnatory character than that which some have been giving; and all who believe will be far more earnest for the salvation of our opponents. Let God have the matter of condemning authorities and governments wholly in his own keeping. In meekness and love, let us as faithful sentinels defend the principles of truth as it is in Jesus."
MAINTAIN THE AFFIRMATIVE--AT TIMES WHEN THERE HAS BEEN AGITATION OVER THE QUESTION OF ENACTING SUNDAY LAWS, OUR BRETHREN HAVE BEEN COUNSELED TO IMPROVE THE MANY OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED FOR SOWING THE SEEDS OF TRUTH. ON ONE OCCASION WHEN THE MINDS OF MEN WERE DWELLING ON THE SABBATH QUESTION, THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTION WAS GIVEN TO ONE WHO HAD LONG STOOD AS A CHAMPION IN RELIGIOUS LIBERTY WORK:--
"Say to the people: Know yourselves of the doctrine. Let not your lips utter a sentence of doubt. Do not come before the people with an uncertain sound. Know what is truth, and proclaim truth. Christ's teaching was always positive in its nature. Never, never utter sentiments of doubt. Bear with a certain voice an affirmative message. Lift him up, the Man of Calvary, higher and still higher. There is power in the exaltation of the cross of Christ. . . .
"Christ is to be preached, not controversially, but affirmatively. Take your stand without controversy. Let not your words at any time be uncertain. The Word of the living God is to be the foundation of our faith. Gather up the strongest affirmative statements regarding the atonement made by Christ for the sins of the world. Show the necessity for this atonement, and tell men and women that they may be saved if they will repent and return to their loyalty to God's law. Gather all the affirmatives and proofs that make the gospel the glad tidings of salvation to all who receive and believe on Christ as a personal Saviour."
EXHORTATIONS TO DILIGENCE--THE FOLLOWING EXTRACTS FROM MRS. WHITE'S CORRESPONDENCE SET FORTH THE NECESSITY AND IMPORTANCE OF PROMPT AND ENERGETIC ACTION TO PRESENT THE TRUTH CLEARLY BEFORE THE PEOPLE, WHEN EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF SUNDAY LAWS. IN A LETTER WRITTEN FROM COORANBONG TO BRETHREN E. R. PALMER AND A. G. DANIELLS, JUNE 28, 1897, SHE SAID:--
"I can not see light in your leaving at this special time for western Australia. You can see, in Saturday's Daily Telegraph , the notice of the meeting of the council of churches in Sydney, to bring about that which they have hitherto been unable to accomplish,--the recognition of God in the government of the nation.
"Now is our time to work. Leaflets and periodicals, giving plain warnings, should be scattered everywhere. I think meetings should be held in halls, to see if the matter can not be presented so as to let in light.
"I can not say much, but I can say, Now is not the time for you to leave for Western Australia, when there are important issues to be urged upon the people. I do not think that we are half awake. We are not doing one half what we ought to do, and should have been doing right along for months. True, something has been done, but much more is required to be done."
TO ELDER S. N. HASKELL, AUG. 30, 1894, SHE WROTE:--
"We are in the midst of stirring times just now. Brother Shannon, who lives in Sydney, has been arrested and prosecuted for working on Sunday. . . .
"We think that now is the time to take advantage of the circumstances, and proclaim the truth to the people. Magistrates, lawyers, and men in high positions, are anxious to know something of the Seventh-day Adventists. They desire to be enlightened as to our views and our principles. . . . Just now there is a wonderful stir in Sydney. This prosecution has awakened an intense interest. . . .
"We are expecting some brethren from Melbourne every day. . . . We all feel that Elder Corliss, Elder Colcord, or Elder Daniells should be here, to make as much as possible out of the interest created by this prosecution. We are expecting that some one will arrive to-day, and shall be disappointed if no one comes. . . . Some one should be on the ground just now." Mountain View, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #14)
In pursuance of his work, Peter visited the believers at Lydda. Here he healed Eneas, who for eight years had been confined to his bed with the palsy.
"Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole," the apostle said; "arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord."
At Joppa, which was near Lydda, there lived a woman named Dorcas, whose good deeds had made her greatly beloved. A worthy disciple of Jesus, her life was filled with acts of kindness. Her skilful fingers were more active than her tongue. She knew who needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely ministered to the poor and the sorrowful.
"And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died." The church in Joppa realized their loss. And in view of the life of service that Dorcas had lived, it is little wonder that they mourned, or that warm teardrops fell upon the inanimate clay.
Hearing that Peter was at Lydda, the believers in Joppa sent messengers to him, "desiring him that he would not delay to come to them."
"Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber, and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them."
Peter directed that the weeping friends be sent from the room, and then kneeling down, he prayed fervently to God to restore Dorcas to life and health. Turning to the body, he said: "Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up." Dorcas was of great service to the church, and God saw fit to bring her back from the land of the enemy, that her skill and energy might still be a blessing to others, and that by this manifestation of his power, the cause of Christ might be strengthened.
It was while Peter was still in Joppa, that he was called by God to go to Caesarea to take the gospel to Cornelius.
Cornelius was a man of wealth and noble birth. His position was one of trust and honor. A heathen by birth, training, and education, through contact with the Jews he had gained a knowledge of God, and he worshiped him with a true heart, showing the sincerity of his faith by compassion to the poor. He was known far and near for his beneficence, and his righteous life made him of good repute among both Jews and Gentiles. His influence was a blessing to all with whom he came in contact. The inspired record describes him as "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway."
Believing in God as the Creator of heaven and earth, Cornelius revered him, acknowledged his authority, and sought his counsel in all the affairs of life. He was faithful to Jehovah in his home life as well as in his official duties, and had erected the altar of God in his home. He dared not attempt to carry out his plans or to bear his responsibilities without the help of God, and for that help he prayed earnestly.
Though Cornelius believed the prophecies and was looking for the Messiah to come, he had not a knowledge of the gospel as revealed in the life and death of Christ. He was not a member of the Jewish church, and would have been looked upon by the rabbis as a heathen and unclean. But God read the sincerity of his heart, and sent a message direct from heaven to him, and by another message directed the apostle Peter to visit him.
While Cornelius was praying, there came to him a heavenly messenger, who addressed him by name. The centurion was afraid, yet he knew that the angel had been sent by God, and he said, "What is it, Lord?" "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God," the angel answered. "Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seaside."
The explicitness of these directions, in which was named even the occupation of the man with whom Peter was staying, shows that heaven is acquainted with the history and business of men in every station in life. God is familiar with the experience and work of the humble laborer as well as with that of the king upon his throne.
"Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon." Thus God showed his regard for the gospel ministry, and for his organized church. The angel was not commissioned to tell Cornelius the story of the cross. A man subject even as the centurion himself to human frailties and temptations was to tell him of the crucified and risen Saviour. In his wisdom the Lord brings those who are seeking for truth into touch with fellow beings who know the truth. It is the plan of heaven that those who have received light shall impart it to those in darkness.
As his representative among men, God does not choose angels who have never fallen, but human beings, men of like passions with those they seek to save. Christ took humanity that he might reach humanity. A divine-human Saviour was needed to bring salvation to the world. And to men and women has been committed the sacred trust of making known "the unsearchable riches of Christ." They are to be the channels of communication between God and man.
Cornelius was gladly obedient to the vision. When the angel had gone, he called "two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa."
The experience of Cornelius will be the experience of many who, though they have not a full knowledge of truth, are walking in all the light they have. Cornelius was living in obedience to all the truth he had received, and God so ordered events that he was given more truth. A messenger from the courts above was sent to bring this officer of Rome into touch with one who could lead him into greater light.
Today God is seeking for souls among the high as well as the lowly. There are many like Cornelius, men whom he desires to connect with his work. Their sympathies are with the Lord's people, but the ties that bind them to the world hold them firmly. It requires moral courage for them to take their position for Christ. Special efforts should be made for these souls, who are in so great danger, because of their responsibilities and associations.
Much is said concerning our duty to the neglected poor. Should not some attention be given to the neglected rich? Many look upon this class as hopeless, and they do little to open the eyes of those who, blinded and dazed by the glitter of earthly glory, have lost eternity out of their reckoning. Thousands of wealthy men have gone to the grave unwarned. But indifferent as they may appear, many among the rich are soul-burdened. "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase." He that saith to fine gold, "Thou art my confidence," has "denied the God that is above." "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever."
Riches and worldly honor can not satisfy the soul. Many among the rich are longing for some divine assurance, some spiritual hope. Many long for something that will bring to an end the monotony of their aimless life. Many in official life feel their need of something which they have not. Few among them go to church, for they feel that they receive little benefit. The teaching they hear does not touch the heart. Shall we make no special appeal to them?
God calls for earnest, humble workers, who will carry the gospel to the higher classes. It is by no casual, accidental touch that the wealthy, world-loving souls can be drawn to Christ. Decided personal effort must be put forth by men and women imbued with the missionary spirit, those who will not fail nor be discouraged.
In order to reach the higher classes, believers themselves must be living epistles, known and read of all men. We do not represent as fully as we might the elevating, ennobling character of the truth. We are in danger of becoming narrow and selfish. With fear and trembling lest we fail, we should ever remember this. Let those who work for the higher classes bear themselves with true dignity, remembering that angels are their companions. Let them keep the treasure house of the mind and heart filled with "It is written." Let them hang in memory's hall the precious words of Christ, which are to be valued far above gold or silver.
There are miracles to be wrought in genuine conversion, miracles that are not now discerned. The greatest men of this earth are not beyond the power of a wonder-working God. If those who are workers together with him will be men of opportunity, doing their duty bravely and faithfully, God will convert men who occupy responsible positions, men of intellect and influence. Through the power of the Holy Spirit many will accept the divine principles. Converted to the truth, they will become agencies in the hand of God to communicate the light. They will have a special burden for other souls of this neglected class. They will feel that a dispensation of the gospel is committed to them for those who have made this world their all. Time and money will be consecrated to the truth, and new efficiency and power will be added to the church.
There are in our world many who are nearer the kingdom of God than we suppose. In this dark world of sin the Lord has many precious jewels, to whom he will guide his messengers. Everywhere there are those who will take their stand for Christ. Many will prize the wisdom of God above any earthly advantage, and will become faithful lightbearers. Constrained by the love of Christ, they will constrain others to come to him. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #14)
IN THE SUMMER OF 1895, THERE WAS RENEWED ACTIVITY IN SOME OF THE SOUTHERN STATES IN ARRESTING SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS FOR SUNDAY LABOR; AND THERE WERE DIFFERENCES OF OPINION AMONG SOME OF OUR BRETHREN AS TO HOW FAR THE BRETHREN IN THAT FIELD SHOULD GO IN THE MATTER OF REFRAINING FROM THEIR ORDINARY SECULAR WORK ON SUNDAY.
SOME FELT THAT, WHERE A SUNDAY LAW WAS BEING ENFORCED, TO REFRAIN FROM SUCH LABOR UNDER ANY CONDITIONS WOULD BE A DENIAL OF FAITH, AND WOULD INVOLVE RECEIVING THE MARK OF THE BEAST. THE ONLY LOGICAL CONCLUSION TO SUCH A PREMISE WOULD BE THAT OUR BRETHREN SHOULD TEACH ALL, EVEN THE SABBATH-KEEPERS AMONG THE COLORED PEOPLE, THAT, BE THE CONSEQUENCES WHAT THEY MIGHT, IT WAS THEIR DUTY TO LABOR OPENLY, AS USUAL, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, IN DEFIANCE OF THE SUNDAY LAWS. OTHERS WHO WERE LABORING IN THE SOUTH, WITH THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONDITIONS AND THE FIELD, AND OF THE STRONG PREJUDICES OF SOME OF THE PEOPLE, FELT THAT OUR WORK WOULD BE GREATLY HINDERED WERE TO MAINTAIN SUCH AN ATTITUDE.
ON THE MORNING OF NOV. 20, 1895, ON THE ARMADALE CAMP-GROUND IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA, A SPECIAL MEETING WAS CALLED TO CONSIDER THE MATTER. THERE WERE PRESENT W. W. PRESCOTT, A. G. DANIELLS, W. C. WHITE, M. C. ISRAEL, L. J. ROSSEAU, W. A. COLCORD, M. G. KELLOGG, W. D. SALISBURY, JAMES SMITH, AND SISTERS E. G. WHITE AND E. J. BURNHAM.
SEVERAL LETTERS WERE READ WITH REFERENCE TO THE QUESTION AT ISSUE, AND THE BRETHREN WERE INVITED TO DISCUSS THE POINTS TREATED IN THE LETTERS; BUT ALL SEEMED DESIROUS OF HEARING FROM SISTER WHITE, AND IN THE COURSE OF HER REMARKS, SHE SAID:-
"There is a terrible crisis just before us, through which all must pass, and especially will it come and be felt in ____. My mind has been much troubled over the positions which some of our brethren are liable to take in regard to the work to be done among the colored people in the Southern States. . . .
"When the truth is proclaimed in the South, a marked difference will be shown by those who oppose the truth in their greater regard for Sunday, and great care must be exercised not to arouse their prejudice. Otherwise we may just as well leave the field entirely. . . .
"Our laborers must move in a quiet way, striving to do everything possible to present the truth to the people, remembering that the love of Christ will melt down opposition.
"From the light that I have received, I see that if we would get the truth before the Southern people, we must not encourage the colored people to work on Sunday. There must be a clear understanding regarding this. . . .
"We are not to make efforts to teach the Southern people to work on Sunday. That which some of our brethren have written upon this point is not based upon right principles. When the practises of the people do not come in conflict with the law of God, you may conform to them. If the workers fail to do this, they will not only hinder their own work, but they will place stumbling-blocks in the way of those for whom they labor, and hinder them from accepting the truth. On Sunday there is the very best opportunity for those who are missionaries to hold Sunday-schools, and come to the people in the simplest manner possible, telling them of the love of Jesus for sinners, and educating them in the Scriptures."
Question: "Should not those in the Southern field work on Sunday?" [The questioner evidently had in mind to inquire regarding the duty of our brethren under conditions then existing in the South, rather than their duty in that particular locality, regardless of conditions.]
"If they do this, there is danger that as soon as the opposing element can get the slightest opportunity, they will stir up one another to persecute those whom they hate. At present Sunday-keeping is not the test. The time will come when men will not only forbid Sunday work, but they will try to force men to labor on the Sabbath, and to subscribe to Sunday observance or forfeit their freedom and their lives. But the time for this has not yet come, for the truth must be presented more fully before the people as a witness. What I have said about this should not be understood as referring to the action of old Sabbath-keepers who understand the truth. They must move as the Lord shall direct them, but let them consider that they can do the best missionary work on Sunday.
"When the colored people feel that they have the Word of God in regard to the Sabbath question, and the sanction of those who brought them the truth, some who are impulsive will take the opportunity to defy the Sunday laws, and by a presumptuous defiance of their oppressors, they will bring to themselves much sorrow. Very faithfully the colored people must be instructed to be like Christ, to patiently suffer wrongs, that they may help their fellow men to see the light of truth. . . .
"The people will soon find out what you believe about Sunday and the Sabbath, for they will ask questions. Then you can tell them, but not in such a manner as to attract attention to your work. You need not cut short your work by yourself laboring on Sunday. It would be better to take that day to instruct others in regard to the love of Jesus and true conversion."
Question: "Should the same principles govern our work and our attitude toward the Sunday question in foreign fields where the prejudices of the people are so strong?"
"Yes; just the same. The light that I have is that God's servants should go quietly to work, preaching the grand, precious truths of the Bible,-- Christ and him crucified, his love and infinite sacrifice,--showing that the reason why Christ died is because the law of God is immutable, unchangeable, eternal. The Spirit of God will awaken the conscience and the understanding of those with whom you work, bringing the commandments of God to their remembrance. . . . The Sabbath must be taught in a decided manner, but be cautious how you deal with the idol Sunday. A word to the wise is sufficient.
"I have given you the light which has been presented to me. If followed, it will change the course of many, and will make them wise, cautious teachers. Refraining from work on Sunday is not receiving the mark of the beast; and where this will advance the interests of the work, it should be done. We should not go out of our way to work on Sunday.
"After the Sabbath has been sacredly observed, in places where the opposition is so strong as to arouse persecution if work is done on Sunday, let our brethren make that day an occasion to do genuine missionary work. Let them visit the sick and the poor, ministering to their wants, and they will find favorable opportunities to open the Scriptures to individuals and to families. Thus most profitable work can be done for the Master. When those who hear and see the light on the Sabbath take their stand upon the truth to keep God's holy day, difficulties will arise; for efforts will be brought to bear against them to compel men and women to transgress the law of God. Here they must stand firm, that they will not violate the law of God; and if the opposition and persecution are determinedly kept up, let them heed the words of Christ: 'When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.'
"The time has not yet come for us to work as if there were no prejudice. Christ said, 'Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.' If you see that by doing certain things which you have a perfect right to do, you hinder the work of truth, refrain from doing these things. Do nothing that will close the minds of others against the truth. There is a world to save, and we gain nothing by cutting loose from those we are trying to help. All things may be lawful, but all things are not expedient.
"We have no right to do anything that would obstruct the light which is shining from heaven; yet by a wrong course of action we may imperil the work, and close the door which God has opened for the entrance of the truth. The final issue of the Sabbath question has not yet come, and by imprudent actions we may bring on a crisis before the time."
In a letter to Elder A. O. Tait, written the same day this special meeting was held Mrs. White wrote further in harmony with these principles. She said:--
"This morning I attended a meeting where a select few were called together to consider some questions that were presented to them by a letter soliciting consideration and advice on these subjects. On some of these subjects I could speak, because at sundry times and in divers places, many things have been presented to me in reference to some matters of labor that required great caution in speech as well as in the expression of thought with the pen. The advice given to our brethren in the Southern field has been diverse; it would bring in confusion. . . .
"Should the colored people in the Southern States be educated, as they receive the truth, that they should work on Sunday, there would be excited a most unreasonable and unjust prejudice. . . .
"Tell them they need not provoke their neighbors by doing work on Sunday; that this will not prevent them from observing the Sabbath . . . . Let the instruction be given to this much oppressed people that the keeping of the Sabbath does not necessitate their working on Sunday. . . . This people need not be told that the observance of Sunday is the mark of the beast until this time shall come. . . .
"'The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.' All this may be, and yet not one principle of truth be sacrificed." Mountain View, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #15)
Immediately after the interview with Cornelius, the angel went to Peter, who, at the time, was praying upon the housetop of his lodging in Joppa. "And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance." It was not for physical food alone that Peter hungered. As from the housetop he viewed the city of Joppa and the surrounding country, he hungered for the salvation of his countrymen. He had an intense desire to point out to them from the Scriptures the prophecies relating to the sufferings and death of Christ.
As he prayed, he became lost to the scene about him. In a vision, "he saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven."
In the giving of this vision to Peter may be seen the outworking of God's plan to bring to pass events whereby his great plan might be more fully carried out. Peter had not yet preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Many of them had been interested listeners to the truths which he taught; but in the minds of the apostles, the middle wall of partition, broken down by the death of Christ, still existed; and they regarded the Gentiles as excluded from the blessings of the gospel. Through the labors of the disciples, many of the Greek Jews had become believers in Christ; but the conversion of Cornelius was to be the first of importance among the Gentiles.
The time had come for an entirely new phase of work in the church of Christ. The door that many of the Jewish converts had closed against the Gentiles was now to be thrown open. The Gentiles who accepted the gospel were to be looked upon as on an equality with the Jewish disciples, without the necessity of observing the rite of circumcision.
How carefully the Lord worked to overcome the prejudice against the Gentiles, which had been so firmly fixed in Peter's mind by his Jewish training! By the vision of the sheet and its contents, he sought to divest the mind of the apostle of prejudice, and to teach the important truth that in heaven there is no respect of persons, that Gentile and Jew are alike precious in God's sight, and that through Christ the heathen are made partakers of the blessings and privileges of the gospel.
The vision given to Peter conveyed both reproof and instruction. It showed that by the death of Christ the Gentiles had been made fellow heirs with Israel. Heretofore Peter's labors had been confined to the Jews, and he had looked upon the Gentiles as unclean, excluded from the promises of God. He was now being led to comprehend the worldwide extent of God's plan.
While Peter was thinking about the vision, the men sent from the centurion stood before the gate of his lodginghouse; and the Spirit said to him: "Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them."
To Peter this was a trying command. It was with reluctance at every step that he undertook the duty laid upon him, but he dared not disobey. He went down and received the messengers sent by Cornelius. They told him of their singular errand; and in obedience to the directions that he had just received from God, he promised to accompany them on the morrow. He courteously entertained them that night, and on the following morning set out with them for Caesarea, accompanied by six of his brethren. These were to be witnesses of all that he should say or do while visiting the Gentiles; for Peter knew that he would be called to account for so direct an opposition to the Jewish faith and teachings.
While the messengers of Cornelius were upon their errand, the centurion gathered as many of his relative as were accessible, that they as well as he might be instructed in the truth. When Peter arrived, he found a large company assembled, eagerly waiting to listen to his words.
As Peter entered the house of the Gentile, Cornelius did not salute him as an ordinary visitor, but as one honored of heaven, and sent to him by God. It is an Eastern custom to bow before a prince or other high dignitary, and for children to bow before their parents; but Cornelius, overwhelmed with reverence for the one delegated by God to teach him, fell at the apostle's feet. Pete was horror-stricken; and he lifted the centurion to his feet, saying, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." He then began to talk with him familiarly, in order to remove the sense of awe and extreme reverence with which the centurion regarded him.
To Cornelius and those assembled in his house, Peter spoke first of the custom of the Jews, saying that it was looked upon as unlawful for Jews to mingle socially with the Gentiles, and that this involved ceremonial defilement. "Ye know," he said, "how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me."
Cornelius then related his experience and the words of the angel, saying, in conclusion: "Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."
"Then Peter . . . said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
God had favored the Jews above all other nations; but if they rejected the light, failing to live up to their profession, they would be no better in his sight than other nations. Those among the Gentiles who, like Cornelius, feared God and worked righteousness, walking in the light they had, were kindly regarded by God, and their sincere service was accepted. But the faith of Cornelius could not be perfect without a knowledge of Christ; therefore God sent additional knowledge to him, for the further development of his character. Many refuse to receive the light that God sends them, and in excuse, quote the words of Peter to Cornelius, "In every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." They maintain that it is of no consequence what men believe, so long as their works are good. Such are in error. Faith and works must be united. We should advance with the light given us. If God brings us into connection with those who have received truth substantiated by his Word, we should accept this truth with joy. Those who claim that faith alone will save them, are trusting to a rope of sand; for faith is made perfect by good works.
To that company of attentive hearers Peter preached Christ,--his life, his miracles, his betrayal, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension, and his work in heaven as man's representative and advocate. As the apostle spoke, his heart glowed with the spirit of the truth that he was presenting. His hearers were charmed by the teaching they heard; for their hearts were prepared to receive the gospel.
The discourse was interrupted by the descent of the Holy Spirit. "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God."
"Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ."
The conversion of Cornelius and his household was but the firstfruits of a harvest to be gathered in. From this household a widespread work of grace was carried on in a heathen city.
When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had gone to the house of a Gentile, and preached there, they were surprised and offended. They feared that such a course, which looked to them presumptuous, would tend to contradict his own teachings. When they next saw Peter, they met him with severe censure, saying, "Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them."
Peter laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience in regard to the vision, and pleaded that it admonished him no longer to observe the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean. He told them of the command given him to go to the Gentiles, of the coming of the messengers, of his journey to Caesarea, and of the meeting with Cornelius. He recounted the substance of his interview with the centurion, in which the latter had told him of the vision by which he had been directed to send for Peter.
"As I began to speak," he said, in relating his experience, "the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?"
On hearing this account, the brethren were silenced. Convinced that Peter's course was in direct fulfilment of the plan of God, and that their prejudice and exclusiveness were to be utterly destroyed by the gospel, they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life."
Thus, without controversy, prejudice was broken down, and the way was opened for the work to be carried on among the Gentiles. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #15)
THE DAY FOLLOWING THE SPECIAL MEETING REFERRED TO IN LAST WEEK'S ISSUE, ON THE ARMADALE (AUSTRALIA) CAMP-GROUND, IN WHICH MRS. WHITE SPOKE OF THE PRINCIPLES THAT SHOULD GOVERN OUR WORK WHERE PREJUDICE IS STRONG, SHE WROTE THE FOLLOWING LETTER TO ONE WHO HAD STRONGLY URGED THAT TO REFRAIN FROM SUNDAY LABOR IN THE SOUTH WOULD BE WRONG: --
"Dear Brother: Yesterday extracts were read from letters from your pen in reference to our brethren in the Southern field. This subject is a very delicate one to handle, and I would not have anything to say upon it if I did not feel that I dare not withhold light that has been given me. My brother, I was made sad to hear the extracts from your letter. This is not the advice that Jesus gave in his sermon on the mount.
"'Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.'
"The principles that you present to others, you should first know are faultless because sustained by a 'Thus saith the Lord.' How careful we should be in giving advice, lest our counsel result in great evil and suffering. How much better for the families to go out into some other cities or some other country, but never encourage the spirit of defiance and resistance, even if they are placed in the chain-gang. The bigotry that exists, the prejudice against truth to sustain religious error, is firm; for the human agent is stirred with hellish power from beneath. The Lord sees, the Lord knows, all about the sufferings of his people for the truth's sake. Pray, our Saviour says, for those who entreat you evil, and resist not evil.
"There is a matter which I have written in regard to, the introduction of the truth among the colored people. This can not be done in any haphazard way, neither can advice be given to the believers and to those who teach the truth to be presumptuous. When the period comes in the Southern States to do as did the three worthies, who refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar's image, that time will present decisions for or against the commandments of God . There is no need of closing up our own way entirely. It will be made more difficult to work the many fields that have not yet been touched. Our policy is, Do not make prominent the objectionable features of our faith, which strike most decidedly against the customs and practises of the people, until the Lord shall give the people a fair chance to know that we are believers in Christ, and in his preexistence. Let the testimony of the world's Redeemer be dwelt upon. 'I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.' There is need of strictly guarding the words that the pen traces upon paper. The Lord help us to learn in the school of Christ his meekness and his lowliness.
"If the majesty of heaven guards his every word lest he should stir up the spirit of Satan and the fallen angels, how much more careful should we be in all things in connection with his work.
"I think it would be very becoming to all who claim to follow Christ, to be indeed learning of Christ, his methods, and his meekness and lowliness of heart. We have a decided message to bear. In Jude we have a description of the pollution of the world, and the working agencies of Satan to corrupt the world. 'Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.'
"'And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.' Zech. 3:1. These things are written for our benefit, and we are to study the Word in all these things now; for they concern us, particularly.
"There is to be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. Our work is to study to weed out of all our discourses everything that savors of retaliation and defiance and making a drive against churches and individuals, because this is not Christ's way and method. He did not pronounce scathing rebukes against those who knew not the truth, but against those whom God had made the depositaries of sacred responsibilities, a people chosen and favored with every temporal and spiritual advantage, and yet bearing no fruit. . . .
"The Lord pities the world, his vineyard, which has not been worked. He is sparing the world to let increased light come to it. In the midst of wrath he remembers mercy. His heart of divine mercy is full of love and compassion for the thousands who are in ignorance of the truth. There has been everything done for those who have a knowledge of the truth, to keep them in the truth; but those who know not the truth have not received one tithe of the advantages that they should have had. And thus it continues to be. God help the people to whom he has given every advantage, as he did the Jewish nation, to receive and impart to those who are in ignorance of the light of truth, instead of rejecting the light and blessing.
"I do not know that you understand this. May the Lord help you to discern. It is not the place of those who have had from Jesus light, precious light, to condemn those to whom this light has never come, and to write or speak things which will close the ears and door of the heart; to hedge up the way, so that Satan's power shall take possession of human minds; and to give the imagination a false viewing, that will through any course that we shall pursue bring on a state of things that will prevent us from reaching the world. This the Jewish nation did. They made themselves obnoxious to the world.
"How shall correct impressions of what we really do believe be given to our world?--By studying methods, not of contention and condemnation; for there are thousands living up to the best light they have. Every means should be used to get the knowledge of the truth before the thousands who will discern evidence, who will appreciate the likeness of Christ in his people, if they can have an opportunity to see it. There are those among us who, if they would take time to consider, would regard their do-nothing position as a sinful neglect to use the talents which God has given them. God has given his messengers the truth to proclaim. Then the churches are to voice the truth from the lips of the messengers, and use their talent in every way possible to make the ministry a power to communicate truth by their catching the first rays of light, and diffusing the same.
"Here is our great sin. We are years behind. The ministers have been seeking the hidden treasure, and have been opening up the casket, and letting the jewels of truth shine forth; but there is not one-hundredth part done or being done by members of the church that God requires of them. They will in that great day be self-convicted and self-condemned for their slothfulness. May the Lord lead them to penitence, and to now see themselves and exclaim, 'Lord, I am that fruitless fig-tree.' May the Lord forgive his people who are not doing the work in his vineyard that he has given them to do.
"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.' Study this subject; read the next verse. We see that this is the very message that has been going forth to the people of God.
"The large halls in our cities should be secured, that the third angel's message may be proclaimed by human lips. Thousands will appreciate the message. While so much time and money have been absorbed in ministerial institutes for those who have the truth and do not appreciate it, thousands are in ignorance of the truth. They know not what is the faith of Seventh-day Adventists.
"Why do not the church-members communicate that which they have received? Why this negligence? Why this selfish neglect when the value of souls is at stake?
"Why is there not now something being done in a larger measure than has been done? Why are camp-meetings kept year after year in the same locality? Why are they not taken to cities that know nothing of our faith? The plea is, There will be a saving of money and labor. Let the saving be done in other lines. But when souls are to be labored for, and the truth is to come before those who know it not, let us not talk of limiting on this line.
"A world is to be warned. Watch, wait, pray, work, and let nothing be done through strife and vainglory. Let nothing be done to increase prejudice, but everything possible to make prejudice less, by letting in light, the bright rays of the Sun of Righteousness, amid the moral darkness.
"There is a great work yet to be done. Every effort possible must be made to reveal Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour, Christ as the sin-bearer, Christ as the bright and morning star: and the Lord will give us favor before the world until our work is done." Sanitarium, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #16)
After the disciples had been driven from Jerusalem by persecution, the gospel message spread rapidly into the regions lying beyond the limits of Palestine; and many small companies of believers were formed in important centers. Some of the disciples "traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word." Their labors were usually confined to the Hebrew and Greek Jews, large colonies of whom were to be found in nearly all the cities of the ancient Eastern world.
Among the places mentioned where the gospel was gladly received is Antioch, the metropolis of Syria. The extensive commerce carried on from that populous center brought to the city many people of various nationalities. Besides, Antioch was favorably known as a resort for lovers of ease and pleasure, because of its healthful situation, its beautiful surroundings, and the wealth, culture, and refinement to be found there. In the days of the apostles, it had become a city of luxury and vice.
The gospel was publicly taught in Antioch by certain disciples from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came "preaching the Lord Jesus." "The hand of the Lord was with them," and their earnest labors were productive of fruit. "A great number believed, and turned unto the Lord."
"Tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem." Upon hearing the good news, they rejoiced, and determined to strengthen the hands of the believers, and to follow up the interest that had been created, by sending to Antioch one of their tried fellow workers, Barnabas, "a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." When, upon arrival at his new field of labor, he saw the work that had already been accomplished by divine grace, he "was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."
The labors of Barnabas in Antioch were richly blessed. Many were added to the number of believers there. As the work developed, Barnabas felt the need of suitable help, in order to advance in the opening providences of God; and so he journeyed to Tarsus to seek for Paul, who, after his departure from Jerusalem some time before, had been laboring in "the regions of Syria and Cilicia," proclaiming "the faith which once he destroyed." Barnabas was successful in finding Paul, and in persuading him to return with him as a companion in ministry.
In the populous city of Antioch, Paul found an excellent field of labor. His learning, wisdom, and zeal exerted a powerful influence over the inhabitants and frequenters of that city of culture; and he proved to be just the help that Barnabas needed. For a year the two disciples labored unitedly in faithful ministry, bringing to many a saving knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, the world's Redeemer.
It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. The name was given them because Christ was the main theme of their preaching, their teaching, and their conversation. Continually they were recounting the incidents that had occurred during the days of his earthly ministry, when his disciples were blessed with his personal company. Untiringly they dwelt upon his teachings, and his miracles of healing. With quivering lips and tearful eyes they spoke of his agony in the garden, his betrayal, trial, and execution, the forbearance and humility with which he endured the contumely and torture imposed upon him by his enemies, and the godlike pity with which he prayed for those who persecuted him. His resurrection and ascension, and his work in heaven as the Mediator for fallen man, were topics upon which they rejoiced to dwell. Well might the heathen call them Christians, since they preached of Christ, and addressed their prayers to God through him.
The faithful believers at Antioch realized that God was willing to work in their hearts "both to will, and to do of his good pleasure." Living, as they were, in the midst of a people who seemed to care but little for the things of eternal value, they sought to arrest the attention of the honest in heart, and to bear positive testimony concerning the Lord of glory, whom they loved and served. In their humble ministry, they learned to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to make effective the word of life spoken to perishing souls. And so, in their various walks of life, they daily bore testimony to their faith in Christ Jesus, "who, being in the form of God, . . . made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," in order that he might bring "life and immortality to light through the gospel."
The example of the followers of Christ at Antioch should be an inspiration to every believer living in the great cities of the world today. While it is in the order of God that chosen workers of consecration and talent should be stationed in important centers of population to lead out in public efforts, it is also necessary that the church members living in these cities shall exercise, in all humility, their God-given talents in labor for souls. There are rich blessings in store for those who surrender fully to the call of God. As such workers undertake to win souls to Jesus, they will find that many who never could have been reached in any other way are ready to respond to intelligent personal effort.
The cause of God in the earth today is in need of living representatives of Bible truth. The ordained ministers, alone, are not equal to the task of warning the great cities. God is calling not only upon the ministers, but also upon physicians, nurses, canvassers, Bible workers, and other consecrated laymen of varied talent who have a knowledge of the truths of the third angel's message, to consider the needs of the unwarned cities. Time is rapidly passing. There is much work to be done before satanic opposition shall close up the way. Every agency must be set in operation, that present opportunities may be wisely improved.
In the providence of God, Paul's labors at Antioch, in association with Barnabas, strengthened him in his conviction that the Lord had indeed called him to do a special work in behalf of the Gentile world. At the time of Paul's conversion, the Lord had declared that he was to be made a minister to the Gentiles, "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." The angel who appeared to the disciple Ananias said of Paul, "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." And the chosen apostle to the Gentiles, later in his Christian experience, while praying in the temple at Jerusalem, was visited by an angel from heaven, who bade him, "Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
Thus the Lord had given Paul his commission to enter the broad missionary field of the Gentile world. To prepare him for his extensive and difficult work, God had brought him into close connection with himself, and had opened before his enraptured vision glimpses of the beauty and glory of heaven. To him had been given the ministry of making known "the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,"--"the mystery of his will," "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, . . . that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."
Referring in later years to this revelation of the mystery of God that had been made known to him at the beginning of his gospel ministry, Paul declares: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
While the light of the gospel was shining brightly at Antioch, an important work was continued by the apostles who had remained at Jerusalem. Every year, at the time of the festivals, many Jews from all lands came to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. Some of these pilgrims were men of fervent piety, who were earnest students of the prophecies. They were looking and longing for the advent of the promised Messiah, the hope of Israel. When Jerusalem was filled with strangers, the apostles whose work centered in that city preached Christ with unflinching courage, though they knew that in so doing their lives were in constant jeopardy. At such times, many converts to the faith were made; and these, dispersing to their homes in different parts of the world, scattered the seeds of truth through all nations, and among all classes of society.
Prominent among the apostles who engaged in this work were Peter, James, and John, who felt confident that God had appointed them to preach Christ among their own countrymen at home. And so they continued to labor in love, testifying of the things that they had seen and heard, and appealing to "a more sure word of prophecy," in an effort to persuade "the house of Israel . . . that God hath made that same Jesus," whom the Jews had crucified, "both Lord and Christ." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #16)
EARLY IN 1898, OUR BRETHREN CONNECTED WITH THE PUBLISHING-HOUSE IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, WERE NOTIFIED THAT COMPLAINTS WERE BEING MADE BY SOME BECAUSE THE OFFICE WAS BEING OPERATED ON SUNDAY; AND IT WAS INTIMATED THAT UNLESS SUCH WORK WAS STOPPED ON THAT DAY, PROSECUTION WOULD BE THE RESULT. SOME OF THE BRETHREN ARGUED THAT WE COULD NOT, WITHOUT SACRIFICING RIGHT PRINCIPLES, CHANGE OUR COURSE IN THIS MATTER, AND THAT THE SUNDAY WORK SHOULD BE CONTINUED, WHATEVER MIGHT BE THE CONSEQUENCES. IN THIS CRISIS, MRS. WHITE STATED THAT IT WOULD BE IN HARMONY WITH INSTRUCTION THAT SHE HAD RECEIVED TO STOP THE WORK THAT WAS GIVING OFFENSE, AND LET THE WORKERS IN THE OFFICE DEVOTE SUNDAY TO MISSIONARY EFFORTS. THIS ADVICE WAS ACCEPTED.
REGARDING A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE AT THE AVONDALE SCHOOL, MRS. WHITE SAYS, IN "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOL. IX, PAGES 236-238:--
"At our Avondale school, near Cooranbong, Australia, the Sunday labor question came up for decision. It seemed as if the lines were soon to be drawn so tightly about us that we should not be able to work during Sunday. Our school was situated in the heart of the woods, far from any village or railway station. No one was living near enough to be disturbed in any way by anything we might do. Nevertheless we were watched. The officers were urged to come around to inspect our premises; and they did come. . . .
"When our brethren were threatened with persecution, and thrown into perplexity in regard to what they should do, the same advice was given as was given in answer to the question concerning games. I said: 'Employ Sunday in doing missionary work for God. Teachers , go with your students. Take them into the bush, . . . and visit the people in their homes. Let them know that you are interested in their soul's salvation.' They did so, and, as the result, were greatly benefited themselves, and were able to help others as well. The blessing of God rested upon them as they diligently searched the Scriptures in order to learn how to present the truths of the Word in such a way that these truths would be received with favor."
AFTER HAVING FAITHFULLY KEPT THE LORD'S SABBATH, TO REFRAIN FROM WORK THAT MIGHT GIVE OFFENSE, AND TO SPEND THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK IN TEACHING PEOPLE THE MESSAGE FOR THIS TIME, CAN BE CALLED "SUNDAY-KEEPING," AS THAT TERM IS ORDINARILY UNDERSTOOD. SURELY ONE WHO FOLLOWS THIS INSTRUCTION, NOT SPENDING THE DAY IN IDLENESS, BUT IN EARNEST EFFORTS TO EXALT THE TRUE SABBATH, WOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS ONE WHO IS PAYING HOMAGE TO THE "BEAST."
THE REASONS FOR THIS INSTRUCTION, AND THE PRINCIPLES INVOLVED IN CARRYING IT OUT, ARE ABLY SET FORTH IN THE FOLLOWING, FOUND IN "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOL. IX, PAGES 232-236:-- "Sanitarium, Cal., Aug. 17, 1902.
"Dear Brother: I will try to answer your question as to what you should do in the case of Sunday laws being enforced.
"The light given me by the Lord at a time when we were expecting just such a crisis as you seem to be approaching, was, that when the people were moved by a power from beneath to enforce Sunday observance, Seventh-day Adventists were to show their wisdom by refraining from their ordinary work on that day, devoting it to missionary effort.
"To defy the Sunday laws will but strengthen in their persecution the religious zealots who are seeking to enforce them. Give them no occasion to call you lawbreakers. If they are left to rein up men who fear neither God nor man, the reining up will soon lose its novelty for them, and they will see that it is not consistent nor convenient for them to be strict in regard to the observance of Sunday. Keep right on with your missionary work, with your Bibles in your hands, and the enemy will see that he has worsted his own cause. One does not receive the mark of the beast because he shows that he realizes the wisdom of keeping the peace by refraining from work that gives offense, doing at the same time a work of the highest importance.
"When we devote Sunday to missionary work, the whip will be taken out of the hands of the arbitrary zealots who would be well pleased to humiliate Seventh-day Adventists. When they see that we employ ourselves on Sunday in visiting the people and opening the Scriptures to them, they will know that it is useless for them to try to hinder our work by making Sunday laws.
"Sunday can be used for carrying forward various lines of work that will accomplish much for the Lord. On this day open-air meetings and cottage meetings can be held. House-to-house work can be done. Those who write can devote this day to writing their articles. Whenever it is possible, let religious services be held on Sunday. Make these meetings intensely interesting. Sing genuine revival hymns, and speak with power and assurance of the Saviour's love. Speak on temperance and on true religious experience. You will thus learn much about how to work, and will reach many souls.
"Let the teachers in our schools devote Sunday to missionary effort. I was instructed that they would thus be able to defeat the purposes of the enemy. Let the teachers take the students with them to hold meetings for those who know not the truth. Thus they will accomplish much more than they could in any other way.
"God has given us plain directions regarding our work. We are to proclaim the truth in regard to the Sabbath of the Lord, to make up the breach that has been made in his law. We are to do all that we can to enlighten those in ignorance; but we are never to confederate with men of the world in order to receive financial assistance.
"Of the children of Israel we read: 'Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. 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. But 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 will pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
"'But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out. Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands; because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my Sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols. Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness. But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols: 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.' Eze. 20:10-20.
"The Sabbath is the Lord's test, and no man, be he king, priest, or ruler, is authorized to come between God and man. Those who seek to be conscience for their fellow men, place themselves above God. Those who are under the influence of a false religion, who observe a spurious rest day, will set aside the most positive evidence in regard to the true Sabbath. They will try to compel men to obey the laws of their own creation, laws that are directly opposed to the law of God. Upon those who continue in this course, the wrath of God will fall. Unless they change, they can not escape the penalty.
"The law for the observance of the first day of the week is the production of an apostate Christendom. Sunday is a child of the Papacy, exalted by the Christian world above the sacred day of God's rest. In no case are God's people to pay it homage. But I wish them to understand that they are not doing God's will by braving opposition when he wishes them to avoid it. Thus they create prejudice so bitter that it is impossible for the truth to be proclaimed. Make no demonstration on Sunday in defiance of law. If this is done in one place, and you are humiliated, the same thing will be done in another place. We can use Sunday as a day on which to carry forward work that will tell on the side of Christ. We are to do our best, working with all meekness and lowliness.
"Christ warned his disciples in regard to what they would meet in their work as evangelists. He knew what their sufferings would be, what trials and hardships they would be called upon to bear. He would not hide from them the knowledge of what they would have to encounter, lest trouble, coming unexpectedly, should shake their faith. 'I have told you before it come to pass,' he said, 'that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.' Their faith was to be strengthened, rather than weakened, by the coming of trial. They would say to one another, "He told us that this would come, and what we must do to meet it.'
"'Behold,' Christ said, 'I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.' 'Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.' Matt. 10:16,22. They hated Christ without a cause. Is it any marvel that they hate those who bear his sign, who do his service? They are counted as the offscouring of the earth.
"'When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.' It is not the will of God that your lives shall be carelessly sacrificed. 'Verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.' Matt. 10:23.
"The people must be given the truth, straightforward, positive truth. But this truth is to be presented in the spirit of Christ. We are to be as sheep in the midst of wolves. Those who will not, for Christ's sake, observe the cautions he has given, who will not exercise patience and self-control, will lose precious opportunities of working for the Master. The Lord has not given his people the work of making a tirade against those who are transgressing his law. In no case are we to make a raid on the other churches. Let us remember that as a people entrusted with sacred truth, we have been neglectful and positively unfaithful. The work has been confined to a few centers, until the people in them have become gospel-hardened. It is difficult to make an impression on those who have heard so much truth, and yet have rejected it. . . .
"All this is against us now. Had we put forth earnest efforts to reach those who, if converted, would give a true representation of what present truth would do for human beings, how much farther advanced our work would now be. It is not right that a few places should have all the advantages, while other places are neglected." Sanitarium, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #17)
"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church."
At this time the government of Judea was in the hands of Herod Agrippa, subject to Claudius, the Roman emperor. Herod also held the position of tetrarch of Galilee. He was professedly a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and apparently very zealous in carrying out the ceremonies of the law. He was desirous of obtaining the favor of the Jews, hoping thus to make secure his offices and honors. He therefore proceeded to carry out the desires of the Jews by persecuting the church of Christ, spoiling the houses and goods of the believers. He then began to imprison the leading members of the church. He cast James into prison, and sent an executioner to kill him with the sword, as another Herod had caused the prophet John to be beheaded. Seeing that the Jews were well pleased with his acts, he imprisoned Peter.
It was during the Passover that these cruelties were performed. While the Jews were celebrating their deliverance from Egypt, and pretending great zeal for the law of God, they were at the same time transgressing every principle of that law by persecuting and murdering the believers in Christ.
James was one of the three disciples who had been brought into the closest relationship with Christ. With Peter and John he had witnessed the transfiguration of the Saviour, and had been with him in Gethsemane during the night of his agony. It was to James and John that Jesus had put the question, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" When James was brought to prison and to death, he understood more fully than ever before these words of the Saviour.
The death of James caused great grief and consternation among the believers. When Peter also was imprisoned, the entire church engaged in fasting and prayer.
Herod's act in putting James to death was applauded by the Jews, though some complained of the private manner in which it was accomplished, maintaining that a public execution would have more thoroughly intimidated the believers and those sympathizing with them. Herod therefore held Peter in custody, meaning still further to gratify the Jews by the public spectacle of his death. But it was suggested that it would not be safe to bring the veteran apostle out for execution before all the people then assembled in Jerusalem. It was feared that the sight of him being led out to die might excite the pity of the multitude. The priests and elders also dreaded lest Peter, when brought out for execution, might make one of those powerful appeals which had frequently aroused the people to investigate the life and character of Jesus,--appeals which they, with all their arguments, had been totally unable to controvert. The Jews feared that, should Peter make such an appeal, his release would be demanded at the hands of the king. Peter's zeal in advocating the cause of Christ had led many of the Jews to take their stand for the gospel, and the rulers stood in great dread of his having an opportunity to defend his faith in the presence of the multitude who had come to the city to worship.
To guard against all chance of his release, the apostle was placed under the charge of sixteen soldiers, who, in different watches, guarded him day and night. But it was in vain that the puny arm of man was lifted against the Lord. By the putting forth of his might, God was about to save the precious life that the Jews were plotting to destroy.
While, upon various pretexts, the execution of Peter was being delayed until after the Passover, the members of the church had time for deep searching of heart and earnest prayer. They prayed without ceasing for Peter; for they felt that he could not be spared from the cause. They realized that they had reached a place where, without the special help of God, the church of Christ would be destroyed.
Meanwhile worshipers from every nation sought the temple which had been dedicated to the worship of God, and which to all appearance remained the same as when the Shekinah had glorified it. Glittering with gold and precious stones, it was a vision of beauty and grandeur. But God was no longer to be found in that palace of loveliness. Israel as a nation had divorced herself from God. When Christ, near the close of his earthly ministry, looked for the last time upon the interior of the temple, he said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Hitherto he had called the temple his Father's house; but as the Son of God passed out from those walls, God's presence was withdrawn forever from the temple built to his glory.
The day of Peter's execution was at last appointed, but still the prayers of the believers ascended to heaven; and while all their energies and sympathies were called out in fervent appeals for help, angels of God were guarding the imprisoned apostle. In the prison Peter was placed between two soldiers, and was bound by two chains, each chain being fastened to the wrist of one of the guards. He was therefore unable to move without their knowledge. The prison doors were securely fastened, and a strong guard was placed before them. All chance of rescue or escape by human means was thus cut off. But man's extremity is God's opportunity.
The apostle was not intimidated by the situation. Since his reinstatement after his denial of Christ, he had unflinchingly braved danger, and had shown a noble courage and boldness in preaching a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour. As he lay in his cell, he called to mind the words that Christ had spoken to him: "Verily, verily I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." Peter believed that the time had come for him to yield up his life for Christ's sake.
The night before the day set for the execution, Peter, bound with chains, slept as usual between two soldiers. Remembering Peter's former escape from prison, Herod on this occasion took double precautions. In order to secure extra vigilance, the soldiers on guard were made answerable for the safekeeping of the prisoner. Peter was confined in a rock-hewn cell, the doors of which were strongly bolted and barred. But the bolts and bars and the Roman guard, which effectually cut off from the prisoner all possibility of human aid, were but to make more complete the triumph of God in the deliverance of Peter from prison. Herod was lifting his hand against Omnipotence, but he was to be utterly humiliated and defeated in his attempt upon the life of God's servant. (Concluded next week.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #17)
A CAREFUL STUDY OF THE WRITINGS OF MRS. E. G. WHITE WILL BRING TO THE STUDENT CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT SHE HAS CONSISTENTLY TAUGHT THROUGH THE YEARS THAT THE RECEIVING OF THE MARK OF THE BEAST INVOLVES A SERIOUS TRANSGRESSION OF GOD'S LAW, NOT A MERE REFRAINING FROM ORDINARY LABOR ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. IN MANY PLACES IN HER WRITINGS IT IS SO CLEARLY POINTED OUT THAT THE SIN IS IN THE DISREGARD OF THE TRUE SABBATH, OR A WILFUL DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LAW OF GOD, THAT IT IS MANIFESTLY UNFAIR FOR ANY ONE TO SINGLE OUT A FEW INSTANCES WHERE "SUNDAY OBSERVANCE" IS MENTIONED BY ITSELF AS THE MARK OF THE BEAST, AND MAKE THESE PASSAGES APPEAR TO BE CONTRADICTORY TO OTHER STATEMENTS WHICH MORE FULLY AND CLEARLY STATE THE ISSUE.
WE HAVE ENDEAVORED TO GROUP A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF REFERENCES TO THE GREAT CONFLICT OVER THE BINDING CLAIMS OF THE LAW OF GOD, SO THAT THE READER MAY SEE HOW, WHEN, AND BY WHOM THE MARK OF THE BEAST WILL BE RECEIVED. THE FIRST REFERENCE IS FROM AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT WRITTEN IN 1899:--
"It is for the interest of all to understand what the mark of the beast is, and how they may escape the dread threatenings of God. Why are men not interested to know what constitutes the mark of the beast? Ex. 31:12-17. The Sabbath question will be the issue in the great conflict in which all the world will act a part. Rev. 13: 4-17.
"Christ died to save sinners, not in their sins, but from their sins. The warning given in Revelation shows us the terrible consequence of transgression. By lips that will not lie, God's law is declared to be holy, just, and good. Our duty to obey this law is to be the burden of the last message of mercy to the world. God's law is not a new thing. It is not holiness created, but holiness made known. It is a code of principles expressing mercy, goodness, and love. It presents to fallen humanity the character of God, and states plainly the whole duty of man.
"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.' This command contains the principles of the first four precepts. And 'thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Upon these two great principles, the Word of God declares, hang all the law and the prophets.
"These principles are made known by the third angel's message, which declares that the Creator has always required and always will require obedience to his royal law. But this law has been disregarded and transgressed, and is now being ignored by the churches. Human enactments are placed where God's law should be. Sunday, a child of the Papacy, has taken the place of God's holy Sabbath. As Nebuchadnezzar made a golden image, and set it up to be worshiped by all, so Sunday is placed before the people to be regarded as sacred. This day bears not a vestige of sanctity, yet it is held up to be honored by all.
"By doing this, men are doing just what Satan wishes them to do. When those who claim to love God refuse to obey his word as plainly stated in the fourth precept of the decalogue, and accept a common working-day as the Sabbath, they show respect to a day exalted by the enemy of God. But notwithstanding this, God's law still stands firm. The man of sin has thought to change this law; . . . but not while God holds his throne will he be able to change one jot or tittle of his law. . . .
"God gave the Sabbath to man as a memorial of the work of creation; and the Lord of heaven will not hold him guiltless who sets aside his commands, and teaches others in their place. He will reward every one according to his works."
THE FOLLOWING FROM "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOL. I, PAGES 353, 354, ALSO CLEARLY POINTS OUT THAT THE REAL TEST WILL INVOLVE THE "DISREGARD OF THE SABBATH OF THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT:"--
"I saw that God will in a wonderful manner preserve his people through the time of trouble. As Jesus poured out his soul in agony in the garden, they will earnestly cry and agonize day and night for deliverance. The decree will go forth that they must disregard the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and honor the first day, or lose their lives; but they will not yield, and trample under their feet the Sabbath of the Lord, and honor an institution of Papacy."
AGAIN, WE READ, IN "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOL. VIII, PAGE 117:--
"The sign, or seal, of God is revealed in the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, the Lord's memorial of creation. . . . The mark of the beast is the opposite of this,--the observance of the first day of the week. This mark distinguishes those who acknowledge the supremacy of the papal authority from those who acknowledge the authority of God."
"A refusal to obey the commandments of God, and a determination to cherish hatred against those who proclaim these commandments, leads to the most determined war on the part of the dragon, whose whole energies are brought to bear against the commandment-keeping people of God. 'He causeth all, both small and great, . . . to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads.'" Not only are men not to work with their hands on Sunday, but with their minds are they to acknowledge Sunday as the Sabbath. "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."
A Fearful Issue--THE READER WILL FIND THE ISSUE CLEARLY STATED IN "GREAT CONTROVERSY," PAGES 604, 605:--
"Fearful is the issue to which the world is to be brought. The powers of earth, uniting to war against the commandments of God, will decree that all, 'both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond,' shall conform to the customs of the church by the observance of the false sabbath. All who refuse compliance will be visited with civil penalties, and it will finally be declared that they are deserving of death. On the other hand, the law of God enjoining the Creator's rest-day demands obedience, and threatens wrath against all who transgress its precepts.
"With the issue thus clearly brought before him, whosoever shall trample upon God's law to obey a human enactment, receives the mark of the beast; he accepts the sign of allegiance to the power which he chooses to obey instead of God. The warning from Heaven is: 'If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation.' . . .
"The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty; for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of an allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God's law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other, choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God.
"Heretofore those who presented the truths of the third angel's message have been often regarded as mere alarmists. . . . But as the question of enforcing Sunday observance is widely agitated, the event so long doubted and disbelieved is seen to be approaching, and the third message will produce an effect which it could not have had before."
THIS LAST STATEMENT BEING TRUE, IT IS CLEAR THAT AT SUCH A TIME, WHEN THE PROCLAMATION OF THE THIRD MESSAGE WILL BE ESPECIALLY EFFECTIVE, SUCH A COURSE SHOULD BE PURSUED AS WILL NOT AROUSE UNNECESSARY PREJUDICE; AND EVERY LOYAL BELIEVER SHOULD BE AROUSED TO ACT A PART IN SOUNDING THE WARNING. THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS INDICATE THAT THE HEIGHT OF THE CONTROVERSY IS NOT REACHED BY THE MERE PASSAGE OF SUNDAY-REST LAWS. WE READ FURTHER, ON PAGE 607:--
"As the controversy extends into new fields, and the minds of the people are called to God's downtrodden law, Satan is astir. The power attending the message will only madden those who oppose it. The clergy will put forth almost superhuman efforts to shut away the light, lest it should shine upon their flocks. By every means at their command they will endeavor to suppress the discussion of these vital questions. The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and in this work papists and Protestants unite. As the movement for Sunday enforcement becomes more bold and decided, the law will be invoked against commandment-keepers. They will be threatened with fines and imprisonment, and some will be offered positions of influence and other rewards and advantages as inducements to renounce their faith. . . . Conscientious obedience to the Word of God will be treated as rebellion."
AGAIN, IN " GREAT CONTROVERSY," PAGES 448, 449, WE READ:--
"The enforcement of Sunday-keeping on the part of Protestant churches is an enforcement of the worship of the Papacy--of the beast. Those who, understanding the claims of the fourth commandment, choose to observe the false instead of the true Sabbath, are thereby paying homage to that power by which alone it is commanded. . . .
"When Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. . . . As men then reject the institution which God has declared to be the sign of his authority, and honor in its stead that which Rome has chosen as the token of her supremacy, they will thereby accept the sign of allegiance to Rome--'the mark of the beast.' And it is not until the issue is thus plainly set before the people, and they are brought to choose between the commandments of God and the commandments of men, that those who continue in transgression will receive 'the mark of the beast.'"
THE RECEIVING OF THE "MARK OF THE BEAST" IS THUS DEFINED IN AN ARTICLE BY MRS. E. G. WHITE, ENTITLED "GOD'S HOLY SABBATH," PUBLISHED IN THE REVIEW AND HERALD FOR JULY 13, 1897:--
"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. . . .
"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."
THE FOLLOWING WORDS FROM "TESTIMONIES TO THE CHURCH," VOL. V. PAGE 81, ARE WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION, AS WE SEEK TO PREPARE OURSELVES FOR THE GREAT TEST:--
"The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. The contest is between the commandments of God and the commandments of men."
FOR A FURTHER STUDY OF THIS PHASE OF THE SUBJECT, SEE "THE SEAL OF GOD," IN "TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH," VOL. V, PAGES 207-216; "THE COMING CRISIS," ID., PAGES 449-454; AND "MARK OF THE BEAST," "EARLY WRITINGS," PAGES 64-67. Sanitarium, Cal.
(Vol. 88, #18)
On this last night before the proposed execution, a mighty angel is sent from heaven to rescue Peter. The strong gates that shut in the saint of God open without the aid of human hands. The angel of the Most High passes through, and they close noiselessly behind him. He enters the cell; and there lies Peter, sleeping the blessed, peaceful sleep of innocence and perfect trust. The light that surrounds the angel fills the cell, but does not waken the apostle.
Peter is not aroused until he feels the touch of the angel's hand, and hears his voice saying, "Arise up quickly." He sees his cell illuminated by the light of heaven, and an angel of great glory standing before him. Mechanically he obeys the word spoken to him, and in rising, lifts his hands, and finds that the chains have fallen from his wrists. Again the voice of the heavenly messenger is heard, "Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals;" and again Peter mechanically obeys, keeping his wondering gaze riveted upon his visitor, and believing himself to be dreaming or in a vision. Once more the angel commands: "Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me." He moves toward the door, followed by the usually talkative Peter, now dumb with amazement. They step over the guard, and reach the heavily bolted door, which of its own accord swings open and closes again immediately, while the guards within and without are motionless at their post.
The second gate, also guarded within and without, is reached. It opens as did the first, with no creaking of hinges, no rattling of iron bolts. They pass through, and it closes again as noiselessly. In the same way they pass through the third gateway, and find themselves in the open street. No word is spoken; there is no sound of footsteps. The angel glides on in front, encircled by a light of dazzling brightness, and Peter, bewildered and still believing himself to be in a dream, follows his deliverer.. Street after street is threaded thus, and then, the mission of the angel being accomplished, he suddenly disappears.
As the heavenly light faded away, Peter felt himself to be in profound darkness; but as he became accustomed to this, it gradually seemed to lessen, and he saw that he was alone in the silent street, with the cool night air blowing upon his brow. He now realized that it was no dream nor vision which had come to him. He was free, in a familiar part of the city; he recognized the place as one which he had often frequented, and had expected to pass on the morrow for the last time. He tried to recall the events of the last few moments. He remembered falling asleep, bound between two soldiers, with his sandals and outer garments removed. He examined his person, and found himself fully dressed and girded.
His wrists, swollen from wearing the cruel irons, were now free from the manacles; and he realized that his freedom was no delusion, but a blessed reality. On the morrow he was to have been led forth to die; but lo, an angel has delivered him from prison and from death. "And when Peter had come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews."
The apostle made his way at once to the house where his brethren were assembled, and where they were at that moment engaged in earnest prayer for him. "As Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to harken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. . . . And he departed, and went into another place."
Joy and praise filled the hearts of the believers because God had heard and answered their prayers, and had delivered Peter from the hands of Herod.
In the morning the people gathered to witness the execution of the apostle. Herod sent officers to the prison for Peter, who was to be brought with a great display of arms and guard, in order to insure against his escape, to intimidate all sympathizers, and to show the power of the king.
Meanwhile, when the prison guard found that Peter had escaped, they were seized with terror. It had been expressly stated that their lives would be required for the life of their charge; and because of this, they had been especially vigilant. When the officers came for Peter, the soldiers were still at the door of the prison, the bolts and bars were still fast, the chains were still secured to the wrists of the two soldiers within; but the prisoner was gone. The God of heaven had thwarted the purpose of the wicked king, and had delivered his servant.
When the report of Peter's escape was brought to Herod, he was exasperated and enraged, and he charged the prison guard with unfaithfulness. They were accordingly put to death. Herod knew that no human power had rescued Peter, but he was determined not to acknowledge that divine power had frustrated his design. Refusing to humiliate himself, he set himself in bold defiance against God.
Not long after Peter's deliverance from prison, Herod went to Caesarea. While there, he made a grand festival designed to excite the admiration and applause of the people. This festival was attended by pleasure lovers from all quarters, and there was much feasting and wine drinking. With great pomp and ceremony, Herod appeared before the multitude, and addressed them in an eloquent oration. Clad in a robe sparkling with silver and gold, which caught the rays of the sun in its glittering folds, and dazzled the eyes of the beholders, he was a gorgeous figure. The majesty of his appearance and the power of his well-chosen language swayed the assembly with a mighty influence. Their senses were already perverted by feasting and wine; they were dazzled by Herod's decorations and charmed by his deportment and his words; and wild with enthusiasm, they showered adulation upon him, declaring that mortal man, could not present such an appearance, nor command such startling eloquence. They further declared that they had ever respected him as a ruler, but from henceforth they would worship him as a god.
Some of those whose voices were now heard glorifying a vile sinner had but a few years before raised the frenzied cry, "Away with Jesus! Crucify him! Crucify him!" The Jews had refused to acknowledge Christ, whose garments, coarse and often travel stained, covered a heart of divine love, rich with the inward adorning of a meek and quiet spirit. Their eyes, blinded by sin, refused to see, under the humble exterior, the Lord of life and glory, even though his power was revealed in works that no mere man could do. But they were ready to bow down and worship as a god the haughty king, whose splendid garments of silver and gold covered a corrupt, cruel heart.
Herod knew that he deserved none of the praise and homage offered him, yet he accepted the idolatry of the people as his due. His heart bounded with triumph, and a glow of gratified pride was on his countenance as he heard the shout ascend, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." But suddenly a terrible change came over him. His face became as pallid as death, and was distorted with agony. Great drops of sweat started from his pores. He stood for a moment as if transfixed with pain and terror; then, turning his blanched and livid face to his horror stricken friends, he cried, in hollow, despairing tones, "He whom you have exalted as a god is stricken with death."
Suffering the most excruciating anguish, he was borne from the scene of wicked revelry and display. A moment before he had been the proud recipient of the praise and worship of that vast throng; now he felt that he was in the hands of a Ruler mightier than himself. Remorse seized him; he remembered his relentless persecution of the followers of Christ, his cruel command to slay the innocent James, and his design to put to death the apostle Peter. He remembered how, in his mortification and disappointed rage, he had wreaked an unreasoning revenge upon the prison guards. He felt that God was now dealing with him, the relentless persecutor. He found no relief from pain of body or anguish of mind; and he expected none. Herod was acquainted with the law of God, which says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me;" and he knew that in accepting the worship of the people, he had filled up the measure of his iniquity, and had brought upon himself the just wrath of Jehovah.
The same angel who had come from the royal courts to rescue Peter had been the messenger of wrath and judgment to Herod. The angel smote Peter to arouse him from slumber. It was with a different stroke that he smote the wicked king, laying low his pride, and bringing upon him the punishment of the Almighty. Herod died in great agony of mind and body, under the retributive judgment of God.
This demonstration of divine justice had a mighty influence upon the people. The tidings that the apostle of Christ had been miraculously delivered from prison and death, while his persecutor had been stricken down by the curse of God, were borne to all lands, and were the means of leading many to believe on Christ. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #18)
"IN THAT HE HIMSELF HATH SUFFERED BEING TEMPTED, HE IS ABLE TO SUCCOR THEM THAT ARE TEMPTED."
JESUS CHRIST ALONE IS QUALIFIED TO ACT AS OUR HIGH PRIEST AND SAVIOUR, BECAUSE, HOWEVER DIFFICULT IT MAY BE TO UNDERSTAND, HE ONLY HAS PASSED THROUGH SUCH EXPERIENCES OF TEST AND TRIAL AS ENABLE HIM TO KNOW HOW TO MEET THE NEEDS OF EVERY TEMPTED SOUL.
THOSE WHO BELONG TO "THIS GENERATION," WHICH "SHALL NOT PASS, TILL ALL THESE THINGS BE FULFILLED," MUST MEET AN ISSUE WHICH INVOLVES STRONG TEMPTATIONS. BUT WE MAY BE ASSURED THAT OUR PERFECT SAVIOUR AND PATTERN HAS MET AND TRIUMPHED OVER SIMILAR TEMPTATIONS.
JESUS WAS THE WORD MADE FLESH. MEN MAY DIFFER AS TO THE MEANING OF SOME OF THE WRITTEN WORDS OF SCRIPTURE RELATIVE TO OUR DUTY UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS; BUT WE MAY ALWAYS KNOW THE TRUE MEANING, WHEN HIS EXAMPLE FURNISHES A LIVING INTERPRETATION. BY A STUDY OF HIS METHODS OF ENCOUNTERING OPPOSITION, WE MAY LEARN PRINCIPLES TO GOVERN US IN OUR RELATION TO THOSE WHO OPPOSE THE TRUTHS THAT WE HAVE TO PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD.
CHRIST CAME TO THIS WORLD FOR A PURPOSE,--TO PERFORM A DIVINE MISSION. EVERY OTHER CONSIDERATION WAS SUBORDINATED TO THE FULFILMENT OF THIS WORK. "MY MEAT IS TO DO THE WILL OF HIM THAT SENT ME," HE DECLARED, "AND TO FINISH HIS WORK." JOHN 4:34. AND KNOWING THAT THE OPPOSITION TO HIS LABORS WOULD WAX STRONGER UNTIL FINALLY HE MUST CEASE, HE SAID, FURTHER: "I MUST WORK THE WORKS OF HIM THAT SENT ME, WHILE IT IS DAY: THE NIGHT COMETH, WHEN NO MAN CAN WORK." JOHN 9:4. AND WHEN THE SAD HOUR CAME THAT CRUEL HANDS WERE LAID ON THE SON OF GOD, ON THAT SAME NIGHT WHEN TO THE EMISSARIES OF THE GREAT ADVERSARY THE WORDS WERE SPOKEN, "THIS IS YOUR HOUR, AND THE POWER OF DARKNESS." JESUS "LIFTED UP HIS EYES TO HEAVEN," AND COULD SAY TO HIS FATHER, "I HAVE FINISHED THE WORK WHICH THOU GAVEST ME TO DO."
UNDOUBTEDLY, BEHIND THE OPPOSITION OF MEN, THERE LAY THE INSTIGATION OF SATAN, WHOSE PURPOSE IT WAS TO HINDER THE WORK OF CHRIST, AND, IF POSSIBLE, TO CUT IT SHORT. IN OUR DAY IT IS WELL, IN MEETING OPPOSITION, TO REMEMBER THAT "WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD." AND WE SHOULD FEAR LEST BY AN UNWISE COURSE WE PLACE OURSELVES WHERE OUR WORK WILL BE CUT SHORT UNNECESSARILY.
WE READ THAT AT ONE TIME "JESUS WALKED IN THE GALILEE: FOR HE WOULD NOT WALK IN JEWRY, BECAUSE THE JEWS SOUGHT TO KILL HIM." IN GALILEE HE COULD CARRY FORWARD HIS WORK, WHEREAS AT THAT TIME IN JUDEA HE WOULD HAVE BEEN FORCED TO MEET FIERCE OPPOSITION. BUT BY THIS WITHDRAWAL HE LAID HIMSELF OPEN TO A CHARGE OF WEAKNESS BY HIS BRETHREN, WHO DID NOT BELIEVE IN HIM. THEY CONSIDERED MERELY THE ACT, WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE MOTIVE THAT ACTUATED HIM. THEY URGED HIM TAUNTINGLY TO GO UP TO THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES. "THERE IS NO MAN THAT DOETH ANYTHING IN SECRET," THEY SAID, "AND HE HIMSELF SEEKETH TO BE KNOWN OPENLY. IF THOU DO THESE THINGS, SHOW THYSELF TO THE WORLD." HIS REPLY TO THEIR TAUNTS AND INSINUATIONS WAS, "MY TIME IS NOT YET COME." COMMENTING UPON THIS INCIDENT, MRS. E. G. WHITE SAYS:-
"The world for Christ was not a place of ease and self-aggrandizement. He was not watching for an opportunity to seize its power and its glory. It held out no such prize for him. It was the place into which his Father had sent him. He had been given for the life of the world, to work out the great plan of redemption. He was accomplishing his work for the fallen race. But he was not to be presumptuous, not to rush into danger, not to hasten a crisis. Each event in his work had its appointed hour. He must wait patiently. He knew that he was to receive the world's hatred; he knew that his work would result in his death; but to prematurely expose himself would not be the will of his Father."-- "Desire of Ages," page 451 .
AFTER HIS BRETHREN HAD LEFT FOR JERUSALEM, JESUS DID GO UP TO THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES, BUT HE WENT, "NOT OPENLY, BUT AS IT WERE IN SECRET." JOHN 7:10. HE CHOSE "an unfrequented route by which to go, in order to avoid the travelers who were making their way to the city from all quarters. Had he joined any of the caravans that went up to the feast, public attention would have been attracted to him on his entrance into the city, and a popular demonstration in his favor would have aroused the authorities against him. It was to avoid this that he chose to make the journey alone."-- "Desire of Ages," pages 451, 452 .
IT WAS A PART OF THE WORK OF CHRIST TO PREACH THE GOSPEL IN THE CITIES OF GALILEE. SEE LUKE 4:43. THEREFORE, WHEN HE WOULD HAVE BEEN HINDERED IN JUDEA, HE COULD DO EFFECTIVE WORK IN THE NORTHERN DIVISION. BUT AT THE TIME OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES, THE GREAT MULTITUDES THAT GATHERED AT JERUSALEM GAVE HIM SUCH AN OPPORTUNITY FOR TEACHING THAT NO FEAR FOR THE CONSEQUENCES WOULD KEEP HIM FROM ATTENDING. SUDDENLY HE APPEARED BEFORE THEM IN THE VERY TEMPLE.
DIVINE PROTECTION--IT IS WORTHY OF NOTE THAT JESUS HAD GIVEN AS THE REASON FOR HIS WITHDRAWAL FROM JUDEA THE FACT THAT HIS HOUR HAD NOT YET COME; AND YET, WHEN HE RETURNED AND TAUGHT OPENLY, THE RECORD IS THAT THOUGH "THEY SOUGHT TO TAKE HIM," YET "NO MAN LAID HANDS ON HIM, BECAUSE HIS HOUR WAS NOT YET COME." JOHN 7:30. IT WOULD SEEM THAT ALTHOUGH WHEN HE COULD CARRY ON HIS WORK ELSEWHERE, HE HIMSELF TOOK WISE PRECAUTIONS TO SHIELD HIMSELF FROM THE WRATH OF HIS ENEMIES, YET WHEN DUTY CALLED HIM TO THE PLACE OF DANGER, HIS FATHER RESTRAINED WICKED MEN FROM LAYING HANDS ON HIM. YET THIS DIVINE PROTECTION DID NOT LEAD HIM TO ACT PRESUMPTUOUSLY; FOR WHEN, AS A RESULT OF HIS PLAIN TEACHING, HIS ENEMIES WERE ANGERED, AND TOOK UP "STONES TO CAST AT HIM," HE "HID HIMSELF, AND WENT OUT OF THE TEMPLE, GOING THROUGH THE MIDST OF THEM, AND SO PASSED BY." JOHN 8:59. AND WHEN THEY AGAIN SOUGHT TO TAKE HIM, "HE ESCAPED OUT OF THEIR HAND, AND WENT AWAY AGAIN BEYOND JORDAN INTO THE PLACE WHERE JOHN AT FIRST BAPTIZED; AND THERE HE ABODE." THERE HE COULD WORK QUIETLY WITH THE MANY WHO "RESORTED UNTO HIM." JOHN 10:39-41.
THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST IN MEETING OPPOSITION WAS IN HARMONY WITH THE INSTRUCTION GIVEN TO HIS DISCIPLES WHEN HE SENT THEM ON THEIR MISSION OF SERVICE. "WHEN THEY PERSECUTE YOU IN THIS CITY," HE SAID, "FLEE YE INTO ANOTHER." WELL DID HE KNOW HOW SORELY THEY WERE TO BE TRIED WHEN BEARING WITNESS OF HIS EARTHLY LIFE, AND OF HIS TRIUMPH OVER THE FORCES OF EVIL.
"So bitter would be the enmity to the gospel that even the tenderest earthly ties would be disregarded. The disciples of Christ would be betrayed to death by the members of their own households. 'Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake,' he added; 'but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' But he bade them not to expose themselves unnecessarily to persecution. He himself often left one field of labor for another, in order to escape from those who were seeking his life. When he was rejected at Nazareth, and his own townsmen tried to kill him, he went down to Capernaum, and there the people were astonished at his teaching; 'for his word was with power.' So his servants were not to be discouraged by persecution, but to seek a place where they could still labor for the salvation of souls."-- Id., page 355 .
IN JOHN 11:47-53, WE READ OF THE PLOTS OF THE PRIESTS AGAINST JESUS, AFTER THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS. "JESUS THEREFORE WALKED NO MORE OPENLY AMONG THE JEWS; BUT WENT THENCE UNTO A COUNTRY NEAR TO THE WILDERNESS." VERSE 54.
"The Saviour understood the plotting of the priests. He knew that they longed to remove him, and that their purpose would soon be accomplished. But it was not his place to hasten the crisis, and he withdrew from that region, taking the disciples with him. Thus by his own example Jesus again enforced the instruction he had given to his disciples, 'When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.' There was a wide field in which to work for the salvation of souls; and unless loyalty to him required it, the Lord's servants were not to imperil their lives."-- Id., page 541 .
AT TIMES IN HIS MINISTRY IN GALILEE WHERE HE HAD BEEN DRIVEN BY THE OPPOSITION AT JERUSALEM, EMISSARIES FROM THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS CAME TO HIM SEEKING TO ENTANGLE HIM IN SOME WAY, AND TO ENGAGE HIM IN A CONTROVERSY. ONE SUCH INSTANCE IS RECORDED IN THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER OF MATTHEW. AFTER HE HAD SPOKEN TO THESE OPPOSERS PLAIN TRUTHS THAT WOULD NATURALLY AROUSE FEELINGS OF RESENTMENT IN THEIR UNCONVERTED HEARTS, AND LEAD THEM TO TAKE STEPS AGAINST HIM, THE SIMPLE RECORD IS THAT "JESUS WENT THENCE, AND DEPARTED INTO THE COASTS OF TYRE AND SIDON." VERSE 21. AFTER HIS RETURN, ONCE MORE THE PHARISEES CAME, "TEMPTING" HIM. MATT. 16:1. AFTER A STRAIGHT REPLY TO THEIR QUESTIONS, "HE LEFT THEM, AND DEPARTED." ON ANOTHER OCCASION, HE "DEPARTED, AND DID HIDE HIMSELF FROM THEM." JOHN 12:36.
OTHER INSTANCES MIGHT BE CITED, BUT THESE ARE SUFFICIENT TO SHOW CHRIST'S MANNER OF CARRYING FORWARD HIS WORK AMID OPPOSITION THAT, IF ANTAGONIZED BY A DEFIANT, HOSTILE SPIRIT, WOULD HAVE RESULTED IN A SHORTENING OF HIS OPPORTUNITIES FOR SERVICE.
A LESSON FROM THE EXAMPLE OF PAUL--THE LABORS OF THE GREAT APOSTLE PAUL ARE AN EXAMPLE OF BURNING ZEAL FOR THE SALVATION OF SOULS. IN ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN HIS LABORS, HE WILLINGLY YIELDED MANY THINGS WHICH THE NATURAL MAN IS PRONE TO CONTEND FOR AS HIS RIGHTS. "I TAKE PLEASURE IN INFIRMITIES, IN REPROACHES, IN NECESSITIES, IN DISTRESSES FOR CHRIST'S SAKE," HE DECLARED. "EVEN AS I PLEASE ALL MEN IN ALL THINGS, NOT SEEKING MINE OWN PROFIT, BUT THE PROFIT OF MANY, THAT THEY MAY BE SAVED." 1 COR. 10:33. "THOUGH I BE FREE FROM ALL MEN, YET HAVE I MADE MYSELF SERVANT UNTO ALL, THAT I MIGHT GAIN THE MORE. AND UNTO THE JEWS I BECAME AS A JEW, THAT I MIGHT GAIN THE JEWS; TO THEM THAT ARE UNDER THE LAW, AS UNDER THE LAW, THAT I MIGHT GAIN THEM THAT ARE UNDER THE LAW; TO THEM THAT ARE WITHOUT LAW, AS WITHOUT LAW, . . . THAT I MIGHT GAIN THEM THAT ARE WITHOUT LAW. TO THE WEAK BECAME I AS WEAK, THAT I MIGHT GAIN THE WEAK: I AM MADE ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN, THAT I MIGHT BY ALL MEANS SAVE SOME."
THE APOSTLE ADAPTED HIMSELF TO THE CUSTOMS AND TO THE PREJUDICES OF THOSE FOR WHOM HE LABORED. THIS IS ILLUSTRATED BY HIS COURSE IN THE CIRCUMCISION OF TIMOTHY. PAUL WAS AT THAT TIME ON A MISSION TO THE CHURCHES, CARRYING WITH HIM THE DECISION OF THE COUNCIL AT JERUSALEM THAT THIS RITE SHOULD NOT BE URGED UPON THE GENTILE CONVERTS. BUT WHEN HE DECIDED TO TAKE WITH HIM TIMOTHY, WHOSE FATHER WAS A GREEK, HE "TOOK AND CIRCUMCISED HIM BECAUSE OF THE JEWS WHICH WERE IN THOSE QUARTERS." ACTS 16:3. HAD THIS NOT BEEN DONE, HE WOULD HAVE FOUND NO OPPORTUNITY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE JEWS, WHO WERE SO ZEALOUS FOR THE CEREMONIAL LAW THAT AT ONE TIME THEY SOUGHT TO KILL PAUL, MERELY BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT HE HAD TAKEN A GREEK INTO THE TEMPLE.
LATER, UNDER DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES, THE SAME APOSTLE WROTE, "NEITHER TITUS, WHO WAS WITH ME, BEING A GREEK, WAS COMPELLED TO BE CIRCUMCISED: AND THAT BECAUSE OF FALSE BRETHREN UNAWARES BROUGHT IN, WHO CAME IN PRIVILY TO SPY OUT OUR LIBERTY WHICH WE HAVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THAT THEY MIGHT BRING US INTO BONDAGE." GAL. 2:3, 4.
THESE TWO ACTIONS WERE NOT INCONSISTENT. THE MERE ACT OF CIRCUMCISION WAS NOT IN ITSELF INHERENTLY WRONG. "CIRCUMCISION IS NOTHING, AND UNCIRCUMCISION IS NOTHING." YET IT WAS WRONG TO TRUST IN THIS RITE AS A MEANS OF SALVATION; FOR THIS WOULD MAKE OF NO EFFECT THE GRACE OF CHRIST. GAL. 5:4. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT WAS RIGHT FOR ONE, WHERE NO DIVINE PRINCIPLE WAS INVOLVED, TO MAKE A CONCESSION IN THIS MATTER, TO ALLAY A PREJUDICE AMONG THE JEWS, IN ORDER THAT THE GOSPEL MIGHT BE PREACHED TO THEM. THE CIRCUMSTANCES DETERMINED WHETHER THIS ACTION, INDIFFERENT IN ITSELF, WAS RIGHT OR WRONG.
MAY NOT THIS SAME GENERAL PRINCIPLE BE APPLIED IN DETERMINING THE ATTITUDE THAT SHOULD BE ASSUMED BY INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS, UNDER VARYING CIRCUMSTANCES, TOWARD THE QUESTION OF SUNDAY LABOR? TO REFRAIN FROM ORDINARY, SECULAR LABOR ON SUNDAY IS NOT IN ITSELF INHERENTLY WRONG. IT IS CERTAINLY COMMENDABLE TO CONCEDE OUR JUST RIGHTS IN THIS MATTER, WHEN NO DIVINE PRINCIPLE IS INVOLVED, IN ORDER TO ENGAGE IN MISSIONARY WORK, WHEN SUCH A COURSE WILL ALLAY PREJUDICE AND KEEP OPEN DOORS THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE CLOSED TO THE ENTRANCE OF THE TRUTH. BUT WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES ARE SUCH THAT REFRAINING FROM SUCH SECULAR LABOR ON SUNDAY IS NECESSARILY COUPLED WITH A VIOLATION OF THE LAW OF GOD, THEN THERE CAN BE NO QUESTION AS TO THE DUTY OF THOSE WHO DESIRE TO REMAIN LOYAL TO THE DIVINE RULER.
THE LORD IS THE HOPE AND STRENGTH OF HIS PEOPLE; AND THOSE WHO TRUST FULLY IN HIM WILL HAVE WISDOM UNDER CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES TO DISCERN THEIR DUTY FROM DAY TO DAY. IN TIMES OF TRIAL AND TEST, WHEN CALLED UPON TO RENDER HOMAGE TO THAT WHICH GOD HAS FORBIDDEN TO HONOR, THEY WILL BE GIVEN THE FORTITUDE AND THE COURAGE NECESSARY FOR MAINTAINING THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO THE DIVINE SOVEREIGN. 6:34, MARGIN; 1 CHRON. 12:18; 2 CHRON. 24:20. AND LASTLY THE GREATER PROPHETS ARE CALLED MEN OF GOD. 1 SAM. 2:27; 9:6; 1 KINGS 12:22; 13:1, 2.
COMING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE SAME MEANING CONTINUES. HERE BARNABAS, LITERALLY "THE SON OF PROPHESYING," IS CALLED THE SON OF EXHORTATION, OR CONSOLATION, AS IN THE AUTHORIZED VERSION. ACTS 4:36. IN THIS IS RECOGNIZED THE OBJECT OF PROPHECY. IT IS GOD'S MEANS OF BRINGING CONSOLATION TO WANDERING SOULS IN DISTRESS. IT "CAME NOT IN OLD TIME BY THE WILL OF MAN: BUT HOLY MEN OF GOD SPAKE AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY GHOST." 2 PETER 1:21. IT IS WELL THEREFORE TO "DESPISE NOT PROPHESYINGS" (1 THESS. 5:20), BUT TO TAKE HEED UNTO THEM "AS UNTO A LIGHT THAT SHINETH IN A DARK PLACE;" THAT IS, IN THE HEART. 2 PETER 1:19. MOUNTAIN VIEW, CAL.
(Vol. 88, #19)
"There were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, . . . and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."
God had abundantly blessed the labors of Paul and Barnabas during the year they remained with the believers in Antioch; but neither of them had as yet been formally ordained to the gospel ministry. They had now reached a point in their Christian experience where God was about to entrust them with the carrying forward of a difficult missionary enterprise, in the prosecution of which they would need every advantage that could be obtained through the agency of the church. Therefore, before being sent forth as missionaries to the heathen world, these apostles were solemnly dedicated to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands. Thus they were authorized by the church not only to teach the truth, but to perform the rite of baptism, and to organize churches, being invested with full ecclesiastical authority.
The Christian church was at this time entering upon an important era. The work of proclaiming the gospel message was now to be prosecuted with vigor among the Gentiles; and the church, as a result, was to be strengthened by a great ingathering of souls. The apostles who had been appointed to lead out in this special work, would be exposed to suspicion, prejudice, and jealousy. Their teachings concerning the breaking down of the middle wall of partition that had so long been maintained between the Jewish and the Gentile world, would naturally subject them to the charge of heresy; and their credentials as ministers of the gospel would be questioned by many zealous, believing Jews. God foresaw the difficulties that his servants would be called upon to meet; and in order that their work should be above challenge, he caused them to be invested with unquestionable authority from his established church. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.
Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace nor virtual qualification. It was merely setting the seal of the church upon the work of God--an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office, and a recognition of one's authority in that office.
To the Jews, this form was a significant one. When a Jewish father blessed his children, he laid his hands reverently upon their heads. When an animal was devoted to sacrifice, the hand of the one invested with priestly authority was laid upon the head of the victim. Therefore, when the ministers of the church of believers in Antioch laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas, they, by that action, asked God to bestow his blessing upon the chosen apostles, in their devotion to the specific work to which they had been appointed.
At a later date, the rite of ordination by the laying on of hands was greatly abused; unwarrantable importance was attached to the act, as if a power came at once upon those who received such ordination, which immediately qualified them for any and all ministerial work. But in the setting apart of these two apostles, there is no record indicating that any virtue was imparted by the mere act of laying on of hands. There is only the simple record of their ordination, and of the bearing that it had on their future work.
The circumstances connected with the separation of Paul and Barnabas by the Holy Spirit to a definite line of service, show clearly that the Lord works through appointed agencies in his organized church, as well as through individuals. Years before, when the divine purpose concerning Paul was first revealed to him by the Saviour himself, Paul was immediately afterward brought into contact with members of the newly organized church at Damascus. Furthermore, the church at that place was not long left in darkness as to the personal experience of the converted Pharisee. And now, when the divine commission given at that time was to be more fully carried out, the Holy Spirit, in a special manner, again bore witness concerning Paul as a chosen vessel to bear the gospel to the Gentiles. As the leaders of the church in Antioch "ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."
God has made his church on the earth a channel of light, and through it he communicates his purposes and his will. He does not give to one of his servants an experience independent of, and contrary to, the experience of the church itself. Neither does he give one man a knowledge of his will for the entire church, while the church, Christ's body, is left in darkness. In his providence, he places his servants in close connection with his church, in order that they may have less confidence in themselves, and greater confidence in others whom he is leading out to advance his work.
There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. These seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself, and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly estimate the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the saving of his people. God has invested his church with special authority and power that no one can be justified in disregarding and despising; for he who does this despises the voice of God.
Those who are inclined to regard their individual judgment as supreme are in grave peril. It is Satan's studied effort to separate such ones from those who are as channels of light, through whom God has communicated his will, and through whom he has wrought in building up and extending his work in the earth. To neglect or despise those whom God has appointed to bear the responsibilities of leadership in connection with the advancement and spread of the truth, is to reject the means that he has ordained for the help, encouragement, and strength of his people. For any worker in the Lord's cause to pass these by, and to think that his light must come through no other channel than directly from God, is to place himself in a position where he is liable to be deceived by the enemy, and overthrown. The Lord in his wisdom has arranged that by means of the close relationship that should be maintained by all believers in Christian fellowship, Christian shall be united to Christian, and church to church. Thus the human instrumentality will be enabled to cooperate with the divine. Every agency will be subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all the believers will be united in an organized and well directed effort to give to the world the glad tidings of the grace of God.
Paul regarded the occasion of his formal ordination as marking the beginning of a new and important epoch in his lifework. It was from the time of this solemn ceremony, when, just before he was to depart on his first missionary journey, he was "separated unto the gospel of God," that he afterward dated the beginning of his apostleship in the Christian church. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #20)
Sanitarium, Cal.--Dear Brethren and Sisters: I wish to make an appeal to you in behalf of the work in Portland, Maine. The believers in Portland are endeavoring to complete the building of a suitable house of worship; and unless they receive help from their brethren and sisters, they will be greatly embarrassed.
The city of Portland was remarkably blessed by God in the early days of the message. At that time able ministers preached the truth of the soon coming of the Lord, giving a startling warning of the near approach of the end of all things. In halls, in meetinghouses, and in private houses, the mighty power of God was revealed in the messages borne. The light of the Lord shone from one end of the city to the other. Meetings were appointed in various sections of the city, and the genuine work of the Holy Spirit was evidenced. The first and second angel's messages sounded all through Portland, and the city was greatly moved. Many were converted to the truth of the Lord's soon coming, and the glory of the Lord was revealed in a remarkable manner.
In the city of Portland the Lord ordained me as his messenger, and here my first labors were given to the cause of present truth. After a period of despair, the blessed Saviour revealed to me his love, and brought joy and happiness to my soul. When I was but a child, the Lord placed upon me a burden for souls. I worked earnestly for the conversion of my playmates, and at times ministers of some of the churches would send for me to bear testimony before their congregations. After the great disappointment, the Lord revealed himself to me in a special manner, and bade me bear his messages to his people.
For years I have cherished a hope that I might once more speak to the people in Portland. This hope was realized at the campmeeting held in July, 1909, in a favorable place in Portland. Elder S. N. Haskell and several other experienced ministers were present. Day after day the large tent was well filled with earnest people. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and gave me power to make appeals to the people.
The last Sunday afternoon every seat in the tent was full; and in order to accommodate all who came, it was necessary to bring all the available chairs from the tents of the campers. We had one of the most solemn meetings that I have attended for years. After a discourse accompanied by the manifest power of the Holy Spirit, nearly the entire congregation arose, pledging themselves to search the Scriptures, and to follow the light of the Word of God. As a result of this campmeeting and of the efforts that followed, some have taken hold of the truth.
I am now urging that a strong effort be put forth to give the last message of warning to the city of Portland, Maine. Let the third angel's message be proclaimed from one end of the city to the other.
It is right that there should be a commodious house of worship in the city of Portland. Our brethren there have done well in securing a piece of land favorably situated between the business part of the city and the great park called "The Deerings' Oaks." While I was in Portland, I saw the beginning that had been made on their church building,--the first meetinghouse to be erected in that city by Seventh-day Adventists. I encouraged the brethren to go ahead with the work of building as rapidly as possible, and promised that I would do what I could to rise means to help in its erection. The building is now erected, but it is not finished in the interior. Our people are meeting in the basement.
While not one penny should be expended unnecessarily in the erection of this church building, no second-class work should be done. It is planned to use the basement of the church for church school purposes. This is right, that provision may be made by which our children can be guarded from the evils that prevail in the public schools. If this plan is carried out, the basement will have to be well finished; and this can not be done without means.
The city of Portland must not now be neglected. This meetinghouse should be complete and furnished. Work must be opened in different sections of our cities. The various lines of work should be courageously carried forward by different companies of workers. The grace of God will accompany the effort, and the light of truth will be given in clear, straight lines. This work should go forward without delay.
The Lord has given instruction that the work of uplifting the banner of truth in the Eastern States must now go forward with new power, and that the vigor of healthy, devoted labor shall be given to those cities where the first and second angels' messages were preached. Portland has been especially pointed out as a place that should be labored for without delay. This city has been especially noticed by the God of Israel; should we not unite our efforts to have there a house of worship that is worthy of the notice of the people? I invite our churches throughout the States to lend a helping hand.
It has been proposed by friends of this enterprise that I make an appeal to our churches throughout the States, asking each church member to make a donation of ten cents for the erection of this meetinghouse in Portland. It was thought that such a small offering would scarcely be felt by the givers, while if all our churches united in giving, a sufficient sum would be raised to enable the believers in Portland to go forward and complete their meetinghouse.
Let all the churches, large and small, have a part in the work. Let the children as well as the older members of the Lord's family have a share in it. Parents can certainly make this small donation; and the children, by practising self-denial and economy, can also have a part. We ask you in the name of the Lord to do what you can. I pray that this may be the beginning of a work that will result in the extension of a knowledge of the truth for this time throughout the State of Maine. Ellen G. White.
(Vol. 88, #20)
"Sent forth by the Holy Ghost," Paul and Barnabas, after their ordination by the brethren in Antioch, "departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." Thus the apostles began their first missionary journey.
Cyprus was one of the places to which the believers had fled from Jerusalem because of the persecution following the death of Stephen. It was from Cyprus that certain men had journeyed to Antioch, "preaching the Lord Jesus." Barnabas himself was "of the country of Cyprus;" and now he and his fellow worker, Paul, accompanied by John Mark, a nephew of Barnabas, visited this island field.
The mother of Mark was a convert to the Christian religion, and her home was an asylum for the disciples. There they were always sure of a welcome and a season of rest. It was during one of these visits of the apostles to his mother's home, that Mark proposed to Paul and Barnabas that he should accompany them on their missionary tour. He felt the favor of God in his heart, and longed to devote himself entirely to the work of the gospel ministry.
Arriving at Salamis, the apostles "preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. . . . And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith."
Not without a struggle does Satan allow the kingdom of God to be advanced in the earth. The forces of evil are engaged in an unceasing warfare against the agencies appointed for the spread of the gospel; and these powers of darkness are specially active at times when the truth is being proclaimed before men of repute and sterling integrity. Thus it was in the days of Paul and Barnabas, when Sergius Paulus, the deputy of Cyprus, was listening to the gospel message. The archenemy of souls, working through the sorcerer Elymas, sought by false reports and specious deceptions to prejudice the mind of the deputy against the gospel. The deputy had sent for the apostles, that he might be instructed in the message they had come to bear; and now the forces of evil sought with their baleful suggestions to thwart the purpose of God. Thus does the fallen foe ever work to keep in his ranks men of influence who, if converted, might be of great service to the cause of God.
But none need fear defeat at the hand of the enemy; for it is the privilege of the gospel worker to be endued with power from above sufficient to enable him to withstand every satanic influence. Thus it was with the workers who, during their visit to the isle of Cyprus, were brought into direct conflict with the powers of darkness. Although sorely beset by Satan in the person of Elymas the sorcerer, Paul nevertheless had the courage to rebuke the deceiver. "Filled with the Holy Ghost," the apostle "set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."
The sorcerer had closed his eyes to the evidences of gospel truth; therefore the Lord, in righteous anger, caused his natural eyes to be closed, shutting out from him the light of day. This blindness was not permanent, but only for a season, to warn him to repent, and to seek pardon of the God whom he had so grievously offended. The confusion into which this man was brought, with all his boasted power, made of no effect his subtle arts against the doctrine of Christ. The fact of his being obliged to grope about in blindness, proved to all beholders that the miracles which the apostles had performed, and which Elymas had denounced as being produced by sleight of hand, were in reality wrought by the power of God. The deputy was convinced of the truth of the doctrine taught by the apostles, and embraced the gospel of Christ.
Elymas was not a man of education, yet he was peculiarly fitted to do the work of Satan. Those who preach the truth of God will be obliged to meet the wily foe in many different forms. Sometimes it is in the person of learned, more often of ignorant men, whom Satan has educated to be successful instruments in deceiving souls. It is the duty of the minister of Christ to stand faithfully at his post, in the fear of God and in the power of his might. Thus he may put to confusion the hosts of Satan, and triumph in the name of the Lord.
Paul and his company now continued their journey, going to Perga, in Pamphylia. Their way was toilsome; they encountered hardships and privations, and were beset with dangers on every side. As they advanced, they were compelled to face "perils of waters," and "perils of robbers." In the towns and cities through which they passed, they were still surrounded by dangers seen and unseen. But Paul and Barnabas had learned to trust in God's power to deliver. Their hearts were filled with fervent love for perishing souls. As faithful shepherds in search of the lost sheep, they had no thought of their own ease and convenience. Forgetful of self, they faltered not when weary, hungry, and cold. They had in view but one object,--the salvation of those who had wandered far from the fold of safety.
It was here that Mark was overwhelmed with fear and discouragement, and wavered for a time in his purpose to give himself wholeheartedly to the Lord's work. He had labored with success under favorable circumstances; but now, upon encountering the opposition and the perils that so often beset the pioneer worker, he failed to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross. He had yet to learn to face danger and persecution and adversity with a brave heart. Unused to hardships, he was disheartened by the perils and privations of the way. As the apostles advanced, and still greater difficulties were apprehended, Mark was intimidated, and, losing all courage, refused to go farther, and returned to Jerusalem.
This desertion caused Paul to judge Mark unfavorably and severely for a long time. At a future period there was a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas concerning Mark, who had again decided to devote himself to the work of the ministry. This contention caused Paul and Barnabas to separate, the latter following out his convictions, and taking Mark with him in his work. At that time, Paul was not inclined to excuse in any degree the weakness of Mark in deserting them and the work upon which they had entered, for the comforts and safety of home; and he urged that one with so little stamina was unprepared for taking up a work requiring patience, self-denial, bravery, devotion, and faith, with a willingness to sacrifice even life if need be.
Barnabas, on the other hand, was inclined to excuse his nephew, because of his inexperience. Barnabas felt anxious that Mark should not abandon the ministry; for he saw in him the qualifications of a useful worker for Christ. In after-years, his solicitude in Mark's behalf was richly rewarded; for Mark gave himself unreservedly to the Lord and to the work of proclaiming the gospel message in difficult fields. Under the blessing of God, and the wise training of Barnabas, he developed into a valuable worker.
Paul was afterward reconciled to Mark, and received him as a fellow laborer. He also recommended him to the Colossians as one who was a fellow worker "unto the kingdom of God," and "a comfort unto me." Again, not long prior to his own death, he spoke of Mark as profitable to him in the ministry. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #21)
After the departure of Mark, Paul and Barnabas visited Antioch in Pisidia, and on the Sabbath day went into the Jewish synagogue, and sat down. "And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." Being thus invited to speak, "Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience." He then proceeded to give a history of the manner in which the Lord had dealt with the Jews from the time of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and to relate how a Saviour had been promised of the seed of David. He then preached Jesus as the Saviour of men, the Messiah of prophecy.
In this wonderful discourse, Paul boldly declared that of the seed of David "hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh One after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose."
Having made this declaration, Paul addressed his Jewish brethren, "Children of the stock of Abraham," and also all others present in the synagogue who feared God, and announced that unto all alike. Gentile as well as Jew, "is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him."
Paul did not hesitate to speak the plain truth in regard to the rejection of the Saviour by the Jewish leaders. "Though they found no cause of death in him," the apostle declared, "yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher. But God raised him from dead: and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people."
"We declare unto you good tidings," the apostle continued, "how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption."
And now, having spoken plainly of the fulfilment of familiar prophecies concerning the Messiah, Paul preached unto them repentance and the remission of sin through the merits of Jesus, their Saviour. "Be it known unto you," he said, "that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
The Spirit of God accompanied the words that were spoken, and hearts were touched. The apostle's appeal to Old Testament prophecies, and his declaration that these had been fulfilled in the life ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, carried conviction to many a soul longing for the advent of the promised Messiah. And the speaker's words of assurance that the "glad tidings" of salvation were for Jew and Gentile alike,--for all that feared God,--brought hope and joy to those who had not been numbered among the children of Abraham according to the flesh.
"When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath." The congregation having finally broken up, "many of the Jews and religious proselytes" who had accepted the glad tidings borne to them that day, "followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God."
The interest aroused in Antioch of Pisidia by Paul's discourse, brought together, on the next Sabbath day, "almost the whole city . . . to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
"Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." They rejoiced exceedingly that Christ recognized them as the children of God, and with grateful hearts they listened to the word preached. Those who believed, were zealous in communicating the gospel message to others, and thus "the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region."
Centuries before, the pen of inspiration had traced this gathering in of the Gentiles; but these prophetic records had been but dimly understood. Hosea had said: "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which can not be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God." And again: "I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."
The Saviour himself, during his earthly ministry, foretold the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles. In the parable of the vineyard, he declared to the impenitent Jews, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." And after his resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to go "into all the world," and "teach all nations." They were to pass none by unwarned, but were to "preach the gospel to every creature."
In turning to the Gentiles in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas did not cease laboring for the Jews elsewhere, wherever there was a favorable opportunity to gain a hearing. Later, in Thessalonica, in Corinth, in Ephesus, and in other important centers, Paul and his companions in labor preached the gospel to their Jewish brethren, as well as to the Gentile world. But their chief energies were henceforth directed toward the building up of the kingdom of God in heathen territory, among peoples who had but little or no knowledge of the true God and of his Son.
The hearts of Paul and of his associate workers were drawn out in behalf of those who were "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Through the untiring ministrations of the apostles to the Gentiles, the "strangers and foreigners" who "sometimes were far off" learned that they had been "made nigh by the blood of Christ," and that through faith in his atoning sacrifice, they might become "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
Advancing in faith, Paul labored unceasingly for the upbuilding of God's kingdom among those who had been neglected by the teachers in Israel. Constantly he exalted Christ Jesus as "the King of kings, and Lord of lords," and exhorted the believers to be "rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith."
To those who believe, Christ is a sure foundation. Upon this living stone, Jews and Gentiles alike may build. This is the only foundation upon which we may securely build. It is broad enough for all, and strong enough to sustain the weight and burden of the whole world. And by connection with Christ, the living stone, all who build upon this foundation become living stones. This is a fact plainly recognized by Paul himself. In the closing days of ministry, when addressing a group of Gentile believers who had remained steadfast in their love of the gospel truth, the apostle wrote: Ye are . . . built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
As the gospel message spread in Pisidia, the unbelieving Jews of Antioch, in their blind prejudice, "stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them" from that district.
The apostles were not discouraged by this expulsion; they remembered the words of their Master: "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
The gospel message was onward, and the apostles had every reason for feeling encouraged. Their labors had been richly blessed among the Pisidians at Antioch; and the believers, whom they left to carry forward the work alone for a time, "were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #23)
Before leaving his disciples, Christ told them that they were to be the executors of the will in which he bequeathed to the world the treasures of eternal life. To them he said: You have been witnesses of my life of self-sacrifice in behalf of the world. You have seen my labors for Israel. And although my people would not come unto me, that they might have life, although priests and rulers have done unto me as they listed, although they have rejected me, they are to have still another opportunity of receiving me as their Saviour. You have seen that all who came unto me confessing their sins, I have freely forgiven. To you, my disciples, I commit this message of mercy. It is to be given to all nations, tongues, and peoples. All who believe are to be gathered into one church.
The disciples were to carry their work forward in Christ's name. Their faith was to center in him as their source of power. In his name they were to present their petitions to the Father, and they would receive answer. Christ's name was to be their watchword, their badge of office, their bond of union, the authority for their actions, and the source of their success.
The men to whom this trust had been committed realized the greatness of their work. They knew that they held in their hands the bread of life for a famishing world. The love of Christ constrained them, and they could not forbear breaking the bread of life to all who were in need. The commission given them was constantly sounding in their ears.
A short time after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and immediately after a season of earnest prayer, Peter and John, going up to the temple to worship, saw at the gate of the temple a cripple, forty years of age, whose life, from his birth, had been one of pain and infirmity. This unfortunate man had long desired to see Jesus, that he might be healed; but he was almost helpless, and was far removed from the scene of the Great Physician's labors. His earnest pleadings at last induced some friends to bear him to the gate of the temple; but upon arriving there, he found that the One upon whom his hopes were centered had been put to a cruel death.
His disappointment excited the pity of those who knew how long he had eagerly hoped to be healed by Jesus, and they daily brought him to the temple, that the passers-by might be moved to give him a trifle to relieve his wants. As Peter and John passed, he asked an alms from them. The disciples looked on him compassionately, and Peter said: "Look on us. . . . Silver and gold have I none." The countenance of the cripple fell as Peter thus declared his own poverty, but it grew bright with hope and faith as the apostle continued, "But such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."
"And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened." They were astonished to think that the disciples could perform miracles similar to those performed by Jesus. Yet here was this man, for forty years a helpless cripple, now rejoicing in the full use of his limbs, free from pain, and happy in believing in Jesus.
The apostles saw the amazement of the people, and asked why they should be astonished at the miracle, or why they should regard them with awe, as if they had performed this miracle in their own power. Peter assured them that the cure had been wrought in the name and through the merits of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had rejected and crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead. "His name through faith in his name," the apostle declared, "hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all."
Having spoken plainly of the great sin of the Jews in rejecting and putting to death the Prince of Life, the apostles were careful not to drive their hearers to despair. "And now, brethren," Peter said, "I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled." He declared that the Holy Spirit was calling upon them to repent and be converted, assuring them that there was no hope of salvation except through the mercy of the One whom they had crucified. Only through faith in him could their sins be forgiven.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted," he cried, "that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
These words should come to us today with impelling force. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!" This is genuine repentance. It will lead to a transformation in the life. It is the absence of this true sorrow for sin that makes many conversions superficial. Reformations are not made in the life. But when sin is viewed in the light of the law of God, and its true character is realized, it will be put away from the heart and life.
True sorrow for sin brings the penitent soul near to the side of Jesus. There he may effectually plead for pardon, and obtain grace to conquer. There his darkened understanding may be enlightened, and the stony heart transformed into a heart of flesh. There the rebellious sinner is subdued, and his will is brought into conformity to the will of God.
"Ye are the children of the prophets," Peter continued, "and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."
Thus the disciples preached the resurrection of Christ. Many among those who listened were waiting for this testimony, and when they heard it, they believed. It brought to their minds the words that Christ had spoken, and they took their stand in the ranks of those who believed the gospel. The seed that the Saviour had sown sprang up and bore fruit.
"And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead."
After Christ rose from the dead, the priests spread far and near the lying report that his body had been stolen by the disciples while the Roman guard slept. We can not be surprised that they were grieved when they heard Peter and John preaching the resurrection of the One they had murdered, and when they saw that converts to the new faith were multiplying rapidly. The captain of the temple and some of the other officials were Sadducees. These were greatly roused by the preaching of the disciples. They felt that their favorite doctrine was in danger, and their reputation was at stake. The captain, with the help of a number of Sadducees, arrested Peter and John, and put them in prison, as it was too late that day for them to be examined.
The opponents of the disciples could not but believe that Christ had risen from the dead. The evidence was too convincing to be doubted. Nevertheless, many hardened their hearts, refusing to repent of the horrible deed they had committed in putting Jesus to death. When power from heaven came upon the apostles in so remarkable a manner, fear kept the Jewish leaders from violence, but their bitterness and malice were unchanged.
Five thousand individuals had already accepted the truth proclaimed by the disciples, and both Pharisees and Sadducees agreed that if these teachers were suffered to go unchecked, their own influence would be in greater danger than when Jesus was upon the earth.
The Holy Spirit is often rejected because it comes in unexpected ways. Abundant evidence that the apostles were speaking and acting under divine inspiration had been given to the Jewish rulers, but they firmly resisted the message of truth. Christ had not come in the way they expected, and though at times they were convinced that he was the Son of God, yet they stifled conviction, and crucified him. In mercy God gave them still further evidence, and another opportunity to turn to him. He sent the disciples to tell them what they had done, and in the terrible charge that they had killed the Prince of Life, he gave them another call to repentance. But feeling secure in their own righteousness, the Jewish teachers were not prepared to admit that the men charging them with crucifying Christ were speaking by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Having committed themselves to a course of opposition to Christ, every act of resistance became to the priests an additional incentive to pursue the same course. Irrespective of the fear or favor of men, the apostles proclaimed the truths which had been committed to them. But though the Jews could not fail to see their guilt in refusing the evidence sent by God, they would not cease their wicked strife. Their obstinacy became more and more determined. It was not that they could not yield; they could, but would not. It was not alone because they were guilty and deserving of death, not alone because they had put to death the Son of God, that they were cut off from salvation; it was because they armed themselves with the attributes of Satan, and determined to be opposed to God. They persistently rejected light, and stifled the convictions of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that works in the children of disobedience worked in them, leading them to abuse the men through whom God was working. The malignity of their rebellion was intensified by each successive act of resistance against God, and against the message he had given his servants to declare. Every day, in their refusal to repent, the Jewish leaders took up their rebellion afresh, preparing to reap that which they had sown.
The wrath of God is declared against unrepentant sinners not merely because of the sins they have committed, but because they choose to continue in resistance, repeating the sins of the past in defiance of the light given them. If the Jewish leaders had submitted to Christ, they would have been pardoned, but they were determined not to yield. In the same way, the sinner, by continued resistance, places himself where he knows nothing but resistance. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #25)
There are many professors of religion who claim to be servants of God, and yet are filled with spiritual pride and self-exaltation. They make high pretensions to holiness, and feel that they are "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." They are like the fig tree which put forth its boastful foliage; but when the Master came seeking for fruit upon it, he found nothing but leaves. They are ever ready to advance their opinions, to display their attainments, and to interpret the meaning of the Word of God. They claim to be led by the Spirit, but they turn away their ear from hearing the law of God. Says the psalmist, "Thy law is the truth," and "all thy commandments are righteousness." The Spirit of God will lead us in the path of the commandments; for the promise is that "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." We should try the spirits by the test of God's Word; for there are many spirits in the world. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
Some of these false teachers occupy prominent positions in the churches, and they influence others to swerve from the path of humble obedience. God holds every one of us to an individual accountability, and calls upon us to serve him from principle, to choose him for ourselves. We should not hang our souls upon the words and actions of another; for Satan uses men as his agents, and clothes his ministers in garments of light. Not one of us can pardon the sins of any other. In the day of judgment, when the question comes to you as to why you did not obey the commandments of God, you can not make an acceptable excuse on the plea of another's disobedience. If your words and example have lead others in the path of sin, you alone must bear the responsibility of your actions and influence. Because a man who professes to love God, disobeys the plain word of instruction, you will not be justified in neglect of duty. We should every one ask, How shall I keep the commandments of our God?
God will not lightly esteem the transgression of his law. "The wages of sin is death." The consequences of disobedience prove that the nature of sin is at enmity with the well-being of God's government and the good of his creatures. God is a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of them that hate him. The results of transgression follow those who persist in wrongdoing; but he shows mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments. Those who repent and turn to his service find the favor of the Lord; and he forgiveth all their iniquities and healeth all their diseases.
In earthly affairs, the servant who seeks most carefully to fulfill the requirements of his office, and to carry out the will of his master, is most highly valued. A gentlemen once wished to employ a trusty coachman. Several men came in answer to his advertisement. He asked each one how near he could drive to the edge of a certain precipice without upsetting the carriage. One and another replied that he could go within a very perilous distance; but at last one answered that he would keep as far as possible from such a dangerous undertaking. He was employed to fill the position. Shall a man be more appreciative of a good servant than is our Heavenly Father? Our anxiety should not be to see how far we can depart from the commandments of the Lord, and presume on the mercy of the Lawgiver, and still flatter our souls that we are within the bounds of God's forbearance; but our care should be to keep as far as possible from transgression. We should be determined to be on the side of Christ and our Heavenly Father, and run no risks by heady presumption.
What reason have men for thinking that God is not particular whether they obey him implicitly or take their own course? Adam and Eve lost Eden for one transgression of his command; and how dare we trifle with the law of the Most High, and frame deceitful apologies to our souls? We do this at a terrible peril. We must keep all the law, every jot and tittle; for he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all. Every ray of light must be received and cherished, or we shall become bodies of darkness. The Lord Jesus declares: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." We should magnify the precepts of heaven by our words and actions. He who honors the law will be honored by it in the judgment; but he who treats it with contempt will be condemned by it before the Judge of all the earth.
Before the flood swept upon the world, God sent a message through Noah to warn the people of the coming deluge. There were those who did not believe the warning; but their unbelief did not stay the showers, nor prevent the waters of the great deep from submerging a scoffing world. And today, while the last message is being heralded to bring God's servants in harmony with every precept of his law, there will be scoffers and unbelievers; but every soul must stand in his own integrity. As Noah was faithful in warning the antediluvian world, so we must be faithful to the great trust that God has given us. Although there are scoffers and traducers on every side, we must not shrink from presenting the truth of heaven to this generation.
I have not come to cry peace; you can hear this voice wherever you go. There are those who will be glad to lull you to sleep in your carnal security; but I have a different work. My message is to alarm you, to bid you reform your lives, and cease your rebellion against the God of the universe. Take the Word of God, and see if you are in harmony with it. Is your character such as will bear the search of the heavenly investigation? Remember, Jesus says: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
Paul said to the elders of Ephesus: "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Repentance must be exercised toward God, because we have all sinned, broken his righteous law, violated the rule of his government, and brought discord into his harmony. We must exercise faith toward Jesus Christ because he has become our sacrifice and surety. He has died that we might have "remission of sins that are past," and obtain grace and help so that we may keep the commandments of the Lord our God. Faith in Jesus does not make void the law, but establishes it, and will work the fruits of obedience in our lives. Faith in Christ means that you are to do whatsoever he commands; it means that you are to follow in his footsteps. "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
We want to impress upon you the necessity of cleansing yourselves from every stain of sin. The church that Christ presents before the throne of his glory is without "spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Do you want to be among those who have washed their robes of character in the blood of the Lamb? then, "cease to do evil; learn to do well;" walk in the commandments and ordinances of your God blameless. You are not to ask whether it suits your convenience to keep the truth of heaven. You are to take up your cross and follow Jesus, cost what it may. You will find that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. When you broke his law and incurred the penalty of death, God did not spare his only begotten Son, that you might be brought from the path of transgression into the way of life and holiness; and will you neglect so great salvation, and refuse to comply with the conditions of eternal life? (Concluded next week.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #26)
One of God's commandments reads: "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." You are robbing God when you refuse to give that day to his service, abstaining from your own work. He has sanctified the seventh day, but you ignore its holiness, and thus cast contempt upon the lawgiver. Still the forbearance of God is exercised toward you. Make up your mind that from henceforth your feet shall go in the path of obedience. The darkness that binds you like a thick cloud, will part asunder, and heavenly light will shine upon all those who will have the truth at any cost.
The Lord understands all about your trials; and however impossible it may seem to live for God, you will find that the way will appear. When your faith has been tested, as the Lord opened the Red Sea so the waters will divide, and his providence will make a path for your feet. It is safe to serve God. It may not be to your worldly advantage to keep God's ways; but the transgressor will be at an eternal loss. "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings." We must walk carefully and humbly before the Lord in these precious hours of probation. We must draw close to Jesus till his light is shed upon us. It is the desire of our Saviour that we should be the light of the world, reflecting every ray that shines upon us. What straight paths should we make for our feet, so that the lame may not be turned out of the way! This is an age of light. The Lord of heaven is sending the rays of light into the homes of the world. A special light is shining upon the commandments of God. The door of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary stands ajar, and within, as in the most holy place of the ancient sanctuary, is the ark of the testimony. The law of the Most High is beneath the mercy seat. The light of this law is shining upon the world, penetrating the moral darkness that has covered the people.
John beheld an angel flying through the midst of heaven, warning men of the final judgments of God. He proclaimed the position of those who heeded his warning, and who would escape the seven last plagues. He announced them as God's people, and called attention to their peculiar character: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." The time for the fulfilment of this prophecy has come. We hear the sound of this very message calling the attention of men and women to the broken law of God, and demanding repentance and reform.
The children of light are to be as a city set upon a hill, that can not be hid. The world will be condemned by the testimony of those who follow the light as it shines upon their pathway. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light." The servants of Jesus are to bear the precious truth to the world, and to present the claims of God to every soul, not pandering to custom, nor lessening the responsibility of any soul, but declaring the whole counsel of God.
When the book of the law was found in the house of the Lord, in the time of ancient Israel, it was read before Josiah the king. And he rent his garments, and bade the men in holy office to inquire of the Lord for him, and for his people; for they had departed from the statutes of the Lord. He called together all the men of Israel, and the words of the book were read in the hearing of the congregation. The sin of the rulers and the people was pointed out, and the king stood up before them, and confessed his transgression. He manifested his repentance, and made a covenant to keep the statutes of the Lord with his whole heart. Josiah did not rest until the people did all they could to return from their backsliding, and serve the living God.
Is not this our work today? Our fathers have transgressed, and we have followed in their footsteps; but God has opened the book of the law, and backslidden Israel hear the commandments of the Lord. Their transgression stands revealed, and the wrath of God will be upon every soul that does not repent and reform as the light shines upon his pathway.
When Josiah heard the words of warning and condemnation because Israel had trampled upon the precepts of Heaven, he humbled himself. He wept before the Lord. He made a thorough work of repentance and reformation, and God accepted his efforts. The whole congregation of Israel entered into a solemn covenant to keep the commandments of Jehovah. This is our work today. We must repent of the past evil of our doings, and seek God with all our hearts. We must believe that God means just what he says, and make no compromise with evil in any way. We should greatly humble ourselves before God, and consider any loss preferable to the loss of his favor.
Christ left all to save men from the consequence and penalty of the transgression of the law. The way from the manger to Calvary was marked with blood. The Son of God did not deviate from the path of unwavering obedience, even to the death of the cross. He endured all the woe of man's sin; and shall we turn away from the commandments of the Lord because their observance involves the loss of friends, position, or worldly gain? Will you not take your feet from trampling upon the Sabbath of Jehovah? Will you continue to rob God of his holy time? You can not afford to do this work of making void the law of God. It is at an eternal loss that you rebel against the truth of Heaven. I beseech you, in the name of Christ, that you confess your sins and reform your ways, that your name may not be blotted out of the book of life, but may be confessed before the Father and before his angels. Jesus is pleading his blood before the Father; and now, while mercy lingers and probation is prolonged, seek the approbation of Heaven. Delay not to keep the commandments of the Lord. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #27)
Before Jesus went forth to his final conflict with the powers of darkness, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and prayed for his disciples. He said: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word."
The burden of Jesus' request was that those who believed on him might be kept from the evil of the world, and be sanctified through the truth. He does not leave us to vague surmising as to what the truth is, but adds, "Thy word is truth." The Word of God is the means by which our sanctification is to be accomplished. It is of the greatest importance, then, that we acquaint ourselves with the sacred instruction of the Bible. It is as necessary for us to understand the words of life as it was for the early disciples to be informed concerning the plan of salvation. We shall be inexcusable if, through our own negligence, we are ignorant of the claims of God's Word. God has given us his Word, the revelation of his will, and has promised the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, to guide them into all truth; and every soul who honestly desires to do the will of God shall know of the doctrine.
The world is full of false teaching; and if we do not resolutely search the Scriptures for ourselves, we shall accept the world's errors for truth, adopt its customs, and deceive our own hearts. Its doctrines and customs are at variance with the truth of God. Those who seek to turn from its service to the service of God, will need divine help. They will have to set their faces like a flint toward Zion. They will feel the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and will have to go contrary to the spirit and influences of the world. Since the time when the Son of God breasted the haughty prejudices and unbelief of mankind, there has been no change in the attitude of the world toward the religion of Jesus. The servants of Christ must meet the same spirit of opposition and reproach, and must go "without the camp, bearing his reproach."
The mission of Jesus was demonstrated by convincing miracles. His doctrine astonished the people. It was not the contradictory jargon of the scribes, full of mysticism, burdened with absurd forms and meaningless exactions; but it was a system of truth that met the wants of the heart. His teaching was plain, clear, and comprehensive. The practical truths he uttered had a convincing power, and arrested the attention of the people. Multitudes lingered at his side, marveling at his wisdom. His manner corresponded with the great truths he proclaimed. There was no apology, no hesitancy, not the shadow of a doubt or uncertainty that it might be other than he declared. He spoke of the earthly and the heavenly, of the human and the divine, with positive authority; and the people "were astonished at his doctrine; for his word was with power."
He had declared himself to be the Messiah, but the people would not receive him, though they saw his wonderful works and marveled at his wisdom. He did not meet their expectation of the Messiah. They had been instructed to look for earthly pomp and glory at the advent of their Deliverer, and they dreamed that under the power of "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" the Jewish nation would be exalted to preeminence among the nations of the world. With these ideas they were not prepared to receive the humble Teacher of Galilee, although he came just as the prophets had foretold that he would come. He was not recognized as "the Truth," the "Light of the world," although he spake as never man spake; for his appearance was humble and unpretending. He came without attendants of earthly pageant and glory. There was, however, a majesty in his very presence that bespoke his divine character. His manners, though gentle and winning, possessed an authority that inspired respect and awe. He commanded, and disease left the sufferer. The dead heard his voice and lived, the sorrowing rejoiced, and the weary and heavy laden found rest in his compassionate love.
Spies watched him with suspicious glances, ready to put an evil construction on any word or action that was in the least questionable. They were continually lying in wait to find whereof they might accuse him. He was the central object of observation and scrutiny to the people of Judea. His steps were thronged with curious multitudes that waited for a sign. The lame, the blind, the palsy-stricken, and leprous, and those afflicted with all manner of diseases, came to him, and he healed them all. Those who had come to criticize and condemn, heard the people glorifying God; and his fame spread from city to city. Heaven indorsed his claims with mighty manifestations; but the evil hearts of men, filled with unbelief born of prejudice, thrust aside the tokens of his truth, and clung to their empty traditions. They were not prepared to acknowledge him as the long-looked-for Messiah, because of their false conceptions as to the manner of his advent and the character of his mission. They walked in the obscuring shadow of manmade theories.
The Word of God, as they professed to believe, stated plainly every detail of his ministry, and again and again he quoted from the prophets, and declared, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." But the minds of the Jewish people were so concentrated on the hope of earthly power and national elevation that they despised the humble Nazarene, and would not have him to reign over them. Had they earnestly searched the Scriptures, and brought their theories and expectations to the test of God's Word, Jesus need not have wept over their impenitence. He need not have declared, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate," "because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." They might have been acquainted with the evidences of his Messiahship, and the calamity that laid the proud city in ruins might have been averted. The minds of the Jews had become dwarfed and narrowed by their unjust prejudices and unyielding bigotry. The practical lessons of Christ revealed the deficiencies of their characters, and demanded thorough repentance. If they accepted his teaching, their practices must be changed, their thoughts enlarged, and their cherished hopes relinquished. They would have to sacrifice the honor of men, in order to be honored of heaven; and if they obeyed the words of this new "Rabbi," they would have to go contrary to the opinions of the great teachers and thinkers of the time.
Many wonder at the unwillingness of the Jews to receive Christ as the promised Messiah. Why did they cling to their false creeds, empty forms, and useless ceremonies, when the truth of heaven waited their acceptance? They spent their money for chaff and husks, when the living Bread was within their reach. Why did they not go to the Word of God, and search diligently to know whether or not they were in error, and to discover to Jesus the absurdity of his claims and the evidences of his deception? The cause of their rejection of Christ was the same as that which keeps men in error today: they "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
Truth was unpopular in Christ's day. Truth is unpopular in our day. It has been unpopular ever since Satan first gave man a disrelish for it by presenting bewitching fables that lead to self-exaltation. Do we not meet theories and doctrines that have no foundation in the Word of God? Men cling tenaciously to them, as the Jews clung to their traditions and delusions. We have the same difficulties to meet and resist as had the Redeemer of the world.
The Jewish leaders were filled with spiritual pride. Their desire for the glorification of self manifested itself even in the services of the sanctuary. They loved the highest seats in the synagogues and the praise of men. They loved greetings in the marketplaces, and were gratified with the sound of their titles on the lips of men. As real piety declined, they became more jealous for their traditions and ceremonies. Do we not see the same perverseness in the Christian church of today? Those who love God with sincere hearts should the more earnestly desire the truth as it is in Jesus. They should search the Scriptures with humble hearts, intensely desiring to know what is truth; for Christ prayed that his disciples might be sanctified through the truth.
The Jews, because their understanding was darkened by selfish prejudice, could not harmonize the strange power and authority of Christ's convicting words with his humble life and appearance. They did not appreciate the fact that real greatness can afford to go without display. This man's poverty and humility seemed wholly inconsistent with his claims to the great honor and power of the Messiah. That he should announce himself as the Son of God, they deemed intolerable blasphemy. They questioned, If he were the Messiah, why was he so unpretending? What would become of their nation if he were satisfied to be without force of arms? When and how would the glory and power, so long anticipated, bring the nations as subjects to the city of the Jews? Had not the priests taught that they were to bear rule over all the earth? and could it be possible that the great religious teachers were in error? The Lord had answered their query through Isaiah: "O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths."
The scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees had wandered away from the truth, and Jesus exhorted the people to study the Scriptures for themselves. God has endowed men with intellect, and has made it possible for them to be enlightened by the Word of life; but today, as then, people will accept the teaching and doctrines of men, rather than obey the plain Word of God. They choose to take the broad road that leads to death, rather than bear their cross, and follow the bloodstained path that leads to eternal life.
Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians joined to oppose the Son of God. Their rejection of the truth influenced many to turn from the Saviour. Those who cherish enmity to the pure principles of heaven are acting in concert with the rulers of the darkness of this world. When Christ met with success in his ministry, those who hated truth and rejected light manifested the spirit of opposition, and sought to silence him. The same spirit is apparent today, wherever the truth is brought in contact with long established error or custom. With mad prejudice, men bitterly condemn that which disturbs their preconceived opinions. It is a matter of the highest importance and interest to us that we understand what truth is, and our petitions should go forth with intense earnestness that we may be guided into all truth.
David appreciated the divine enlightenment, and recognized the power of the Word of God. He declared, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." Let those who desire light search the Scriptures, comparing scripture with scripture, and pleading with God for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The promise is that those who seek shall find. Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #30)
"A new commandment I give unto you, 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." These words are not the words of man, but the words of our Redeemer; and how important it is that we fulfil the instruction that he has given! There is nothing that can so weaken the influence of the church as the lack of love. Christ says: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." If we are to meet opposition from our enemies, who are represented as wolves, let us be careful that we do not manifest the same spirit among ourselves. The enemy well knows that if we do not have love one for another, he can gain his object, and wound and weaken the church, by causing differences among brethren. He can lead them to surmise evil, to speak evil, to accuse, condemn, and hate one another. In this way the cause of God is brought into dishonor, the name of Christ is reproached, and untold harm is done to the souls of men.
How careful we should be that our words and actions are all in harmony with the sacred truth that God has committed to us! The people of the world are looking to us, to see what our faith is doing for our characters and lives. They are watching to see if it is having a sanctifying effect on our hearts, if we are becoming changed into the likeness of Christ. They are ready to discover every defect in our lives, every inconsistency in our actions. Let us give them no occasion to reproach our faith.
It is not the opposition of the world that will most endanger us; it is the evil cherished right in our midst that works our most grievous disaster. The unconsecrated lives of halfhearted professors retard the work of the truth, and bring darkness upon the church of God.
There is no surer way of weakening ourselves in spiritual things than to be envious, suspicious of one another, full of faultfinding and evil surmising. "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
God would have us individually come into that position where he can bestow his love upon us. He has placed a high value upon man, and has redeemed us by the sacrifice of his only begotten Son; and we are to see in our fellow man the purchase of the blood of Christ. If we have this love one for another, we shall be growing in love for God and the truth. We have been pained at heart to see how little love is cherished among us. Love is a plant of heavenly origin, and if we would have it flourish in our hearts, we must cultivate it daily. Mildness, gentleness, longsuffering, not being easily provoked, bearing all things, enduring all things,--these are the fruits upon the precious tree of love.
When you are associated together, be guarded in your words. Let your conversation be of such a nature that you will have no need of repentance. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." If the love of the truth is in your heart, you will talk of the truth. You will talk of the blessed hope that you have in Jesus. If you have love in your heart, you will seek to establish and build up your brother in the most holy faith. If a word is dropped that is detrimental to the character of your friend or brother, do not encourage this evil speaking. It is the work of the enemy. Kindly remind the speaker that the Word of God forbids that kind of conversation. We are to empty the heart of everything that defiles the soul temple, that Christ may dwell within. Our Redeemer has told us how we may reveal him to the world. If we cherish his Spirit, if we manifest his love to others, if we guard one another's interests, if we are kind, patient, forbearing, the world will have an evidence, by the fruits we bear, that we are the children of God. It is the unity in the church that enables it to exert a conscious influence upon unbelievers and upon worldlings.
The church of Christ is spoken of as a holy temple. Says the apostle: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." All the followers of Christ are represented as stones in the temple of God. Every stone, large or small, must be a living stone, emitting light and fitting into the place assigned it in the building of God. How thankful we should be that a way has been opened whereby we may each have a place in the spiritual temple! Will you, my brethren and sisters, think of these things, study them, talk of them? Just in proportion as we appreciate these things shall we become strong in the service of God, and so be enabled to comply with his requirements, and be doers of the words of Christ.
God does not want us to place ourselves upon the judgment seat, and judge one another, but how frequently this is done! O, how careful we should be lest we judge our brother! We are assured that as we judge, so we shall be judged; that as we mete to others, so it shall be measured to us again. Christ has said: "I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." In view of this, let your words be of such a character that they will meet the approval of God. When we see errors in others, let us remember that we have faults graver, perhaps, in the sight of God, than the fault we condemn in our brother. Instead of publishing his defects, ask God to bless him, and to help him to overcome his error. Christ will approve of this spirit and action, and will open the way for you to speak a word of wisdom that will impart strength and help to him who is weak in the faith.
The work of building one another up in the most holy faith is a blessed work; but the work of tearing down is a work full of bitterness and sorrow. Christ identifies himself with his suffering children; for he says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." If all would carry out the instruction given by Christ, what love and unity would exist among his followers! Every heart has its own sorrows and disappointments, and we should seek to lighten one another's burdens by manifesting the love of Jesus to those around us. If our conversation were upon heaven and heavenly things, evil speaking would soon cease to have any attraction for us. We should not then be placing our feet on the enemy's dangerous ground. We should not then be entering into temptation, or falling under the power of the evil one.
Instead of finding fault with others, let us be critical with ourselves. The question with each one of us should be, Is my heart right before God? Will this course of action glorify my Father which is in heaven? If you have cherished a wrong spirit, let it be banished from the soul. It is your duty to eradicate from your heart everything that is of a defiling nature; every root of bitterness should be plucked up, lest others be contaminated by its baleful influence. Do not allow one poisonous plant to remain in the soil of your heart. Root it out this very hour, and plant in its stead the plant of love. Let Jesus be enshrined in the soul.
Christ is our example. He went about doing good. He lived to bless others. Love beautified and ennobled all his actions, and we are commanded to follow in his steps. Let us remember that God sent his only begotten Son to this world of sorrow to "redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Let us seek to comply with the requirements of God, and fulfil his law. "Love is the fulfilling of the law," and he who died that we might live, has given us this commandment, that we should love one another as he has loved us; and the world will know that we are his disciples, if we have this love one for another. Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #31)
As Paul journeyed from Berea, he stopped at Athens to await the arrival of Silas and Timotheus; and "his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection." The philosophers who entered into conversation with the apostle were soon convinced that his knowledge exceeded their own. He was competent to meet their opposition on their own ground, matching logic with logic, learning with learning, philosophy with philosophy, and oratory with oratory.
At the close of his labors he looked for the results of his work. Out of the large assembly that had listened to his eloquent words, only three had been converted to the faith. He then decided that from that time he would maintain the simplicity of the gospel. He was convinced that the learning of the world was powerless to move the hearts of men, but that the gospel was the power of God unto salvation.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." He declares: "For Christ sent me . . . to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
The great and essential knowledge is the knowledge of God and of his Word. Peter exhorted his brethren to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." There should be a daily increasing of spiritual understanding; and the Christian will grow in grace just in proportion as he depends upon and appreciates the teaching of the Word of God, and habituates himself to meditate upon divine things.
All pride of opinion, all dependence upon the wisdom of this world, are unprofitable and vain. When men, instead of humbly receiving the truth of God in whatever way it may be sent to them, begin to criticize the words and manners of the messenger, they are manifesting their lack of spiritual perception, and their want of appreciation for the truth of God, which is of vastly more importance than the most cultured and pleasing discourse. One critical speech, disparaging the messenger of God, may start a train of unbelief in some mind that will result in making of none effect the word of truth. Those who have a constant struggle to cherish humility and faith, are far from being benefited by this course. Anything like pride in learning, and dependence upon scientific knowledge, which you place between your soul and the word of the Bible, will most effectually close the door of your heart to the sweet, humble religion of the meek and lowly Jesus.
The world's Redeemer did not come with outward display, or a show of worldly wisdom. Men could not see, beneath the disguise of humility, the glory of the Son of God. He was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He was to them as a root out of dry ground, with no form nor comeliness that they should desire him. But he declared: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
Christ reached the people where they were. He presented the plain truth to their minds in the most forcible and simple language. The humble poor, the most unlearned, could comprehend, through faith in him, the most exalted truths of God. No one needed to consult the learned doctors as to his meaning. He did not perplex the ignorant with mysterious inferences, nor use unaccustomed and learned words, of which they had no knowledge. The greatest Teacher the world has ever known was the most definite, simple, and practical in his instruction.
While priests and rabbis were assuring themselves of their competency to teach the people, and to cope even with the Son of God in expounding doctrine, he charged them with ignorance of the Scriptures or the power of God. It is not the learning of the world's great men that opens the mysteries of the plan of redemption. The priests and rabbis had studied the prophecies, but they failed to discover the precious proofs of the Messiah's advent, of the manner of his coming, of his mission and character. Men who claimed to be worthy of confidence because of their wisdom, did not perceive that Christ was the Prince of life.
The rabbis looked with suspicion and contempt upon everything that did not bear the appearance of worldly wisdom, national exaltation, and religious exclusiveness; but the mission of Jesus was to oppose these very evils, to correct these erroneous views, and to work a reformation in faith and morals. He attracted attention to purity of life, to humility of spirit, and to devotion to God and his cause, without hope of worldly honor or reward. He must divest religion of the narrow, conceited formalism which made it a burden and a reproach. He must present a complete, harmonious salvation to all. The narrow bounds of national exclusiveness must be overthrown; for his salvation was to reach to the ends of the earth. He rejoiced in spirit, as he beheld the poor of this world eagerly accepting the precious message which he brought. He looked up to heaven, and said: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Concluded next week.) Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #32)
It is the humble in heart who receive the enlightenment of heaven, which is more precious than the boasted wisdom of the world. By faith in the Son of God a transformation takes place in the character. The child of wrath becomes the child of God. He passes from death unto life. The infinite sacrifice of the Son of God is a propitiation for the transgressions of the repenting sinner. He becomes spiritual, and discerns spiritual things. The wisdom of God enlightens his mind, and he beholds wondrous things out of God's law. This salvation which offers pardon to the transgressor, presents to him the righteousness that will bear the scrutiny of the omniscient One, gives victory over the powerful enemy of God and man, provides eternal life and joy for its receiver, and may well be a theme of rejoicing to the humble who hear thereof and are glad.
It is the completeness of salvation that gives it its greatness. No man can measure or understand it by worldly wisdom. It may be contemplated with the most profound and concentrated study, but the mind loses itself in the untraceable majesty of its Author. The soul united with God in meditation of his unfathomable riches, is expanded, and becomes more capable of comprehending to a greater depth and height the glories of the plan of salvation. As the heart is converted to the truth, the work of transformation goes on. From day to day the Christian has an increased measure of understanding. In becoming a man of obedience to the word and will of God, his abilities develop and strengthen to comprehend, and to do, with increased skill and wisdom, the requirements of God. The mind devoted unreservedly to God, under the guidance of the divine Spirit develops generally and harmoniously. The weak, vacillating character becomes changed through the power of God to one of strength and steadfastness. Continual devotion and piety establish so close a relation between Jesus and his disciple that the Christian becomes like him in mind and character. After association with the Son of God, the humble follower of Christ is found to be a person of sound principle, clear perception, and reliable judgment. He has a connection with God, the source of light and understanding. He who longed to be of service to the cause of Christ, has been so quickened by the lifegiving rays of the Sun of Righteousness that he has been enabled to bear much fruit to the glory of God.
Men of the highest education and accomplishments have learned the most precious lessons from the precept and example of the humble follower of Christ, who is designated as "unlearned" by the world. But could men look with deeper insight, they would see that these humble men had obtained an education in the highest of all schools, even in the school of the divine Teacher, who spake as never man spake. Those who desire to be all that God intended man should be in this life, should enter the school of Christ, and learn of him who is meek and lowly of heart.
But let no one imagine that we would discourage education, or put a low estimate upon the value of mental culture and discipline. God would have us students as long as we remain in this world, ever learning and bearing responsibility. We should be diligent and apt, and ready to teach others by precept and example that which we have learned; but no one should set himself as a critic to measure the usefulness and influence of his brother, who has had few advantages in obtaining book knowledge. He may be rich in a rare wisdom. He may have a practical education in the knowledge of the truth. The psalmist says, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple."
It is not the mere reading of the Word, not a theoretical knowledge of the Scriptures, that gives this light and understanding to the simple. Had this been the case, Jesus would not have said to the Jews, "Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God." The wisdom spoken of by the psalmist is that which is attained when the truth is opened to the mind and applied to the heart by the Spirit of God; when its principles are wrought into the character by a life of practical godliness.
Through a connection with God the Christian will have clearer and broader views, unbiased by his own preconceived opinions. His discernment will be more penetrative, his judgment more balanced and far-seeing. His understanding, summoned to effort, has been exercised in contemplating exalted truths; and as he obtains heavenly knowledge, he better understands his own weakness, and grows in humility and faith.
It is the Spirit of God that quickens the lifeless faculties of the soul to appreciate heavenly things, and attracts the affections toward God and the truth. Without the presence of Jesus in the heart, religious service is only dead, cold formalism. The longing desire for communion with God soon ceases when the Spirit of God is grieved from us; but when Christ is in us the hope of glory, we are constantly directed to think and act in reference to the glory of God. The questions will arise, Will this do honor to Jesus? Will this be approved by him? Shall I be able to maintain my integrity if I enter into this arrangement? God will be made the counselor of the soul, and we shall be led into safe paths, and the will of God will be made the supreme guide of our lives. This is heavenly wisdom, imparted to the soul by the Father of light, and it makes the Christian, however humble, the light of the world. Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #33)
After leaving Corinth, Paul's next scene of labor was Ephesus. He was on his way to Jerusalem, to attend an approaching festival; and his stay at Ephesus was necessarily brief. He reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue, and so favorable was the impression made upon them that they entreated him to continue his labors among them. His plan to visit Jerusalem prevented him from tarrying then, but he promised to return to them, "if God will." Aquila and Priscilla had accompanied him to Ephesus, and he left them there to carry on the work that he had begun.
It was at this time that "a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus." He had heard the preaching of John the Baptist, had received the baptism of repentance, and was a living witness that the work of the prophet had not been in vain. The Scripture record of Apollos is that he "was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.."
While in Ephesus, Apollos "began to speak boldly in the synagogue." Among his hearers were Aquila and Priscilla, who, perceiving that he had not yet received the full light of the gospel, "took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Through their teaching he obtained a clearer understanding of the Scriptures, and became one of the ablest advocates of the Christian faith.
Apollos was desirous of going on into Achaia, and the brethren at Ephesus "wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him" as a teacher in full harmony with the church of Christ. He went to Corinth, where, in public labor and from house to house, "he mightily convinced the Jews, . . . showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ." Paul had planted the seed of truth; Apollos now watered it. The success that attended Apollos in preaching the gospel led some of the believers to exalt his labors above those of Paul. This comparison of man with man brought into the church a party spirit that threatened to hinder greatly the progress of the gospel.
During the year and a half that Paul had spent in Corinth, he had purposely presented the gospel in its simplicity. "Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom," had he come to the Corinthians; but with fear and trembling, and "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," had he declared "the testimony of God," that their "faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
Paul had necessarily adapted his manner of teaching to the condition of the church. "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual," he afterward explained to them, "but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." Many of the Corinthian believers had been slow to learn the lessons that he was endeavoring to teach them. Their advancement in spiritual knowledge had not been proportionate to their privileges and opportunities. When they should have been far advanced in Christian experience, and able to comprehend and to practise the deeper truths of the Word, they were standing where the disciples stood when Christ said to them, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye can not bear them now." Jealousy, evil surmising, and accusation had closed the hearts of many of the Corinthian believers against the full working of the Holy Spirit, which "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." However wise they might be in worldly knowledge, they were but babes in the knowledge of Christ.
It had been Paul's work to instruct the Corinthian converts in the rudiments, the very alphabet, of the Christian faith. He had been obliged to instruct them as those who were ignorant of the operations of divine power upon the heart. At that time they were unable to comprehend the mysteries of salvation; for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Paul had endeavored to sow the seed, which others must water. Those who followed him must carry forward the work from the point where he had left it, giving spiritual light and knowledge in due season, as the church was able to bear it.
When the apostle took up his work in Corinth, he realized that he must introduce most carefully the great truths he wished to teach. He knew that among his hearers would be proud believers in human theories, and exponents of false systems of worship, who were groping with blind eyes, hoping to find in the book of nature theories that would contradict the reality of the spiritual and immortal life as revealed in the Scriptures. He also knew that critics would endeavor to controvert the Christian interpretation of the revealed Word, and that skeptics would treat the gospel of Christ with scoffing and derision.
As he endeavored to lead souls to the foot of the cross, Paul had not ventured to rebuke, directly, those who were licentious, or to show how heinous was their sin in the sight of a holy God. Rather he had set before them the true object of life, and had tried to impress upon their minds the lessons of the divine Teacher, which, if received, would lift them from worldliness and sin to purity and righteousness. He had dwelt especially upon practical godliness, and the holiness to which those must attain who shall be accounted worthy of a place in God's kingdom. He had longed to see the light of the gospel of Christ piercing the darkness of their minds, that they might see how offensive in the sight of God were their immoral practises. Therefore the burden of his teaching among them had been Christ, and him crucified. He sought to show them that their most earnest study and greatest joy must be the wonderful truth of salvation through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The philosopher turns aside from the light of salvation, because it puts his proud theories to shame; the worldling refuses to receive it, because it would separate him from his earthly idols. Paul saw that the character of Christ must be understood before men could love him, or view the cross with the eye of faith. Here must begin that study which shall be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. In the light of the cross alone can the true value of the human soul be estimated.
The refining influence of the grace of God changes the natural disposition of man. Heaven would not be desirable to the carnal-minded; their natural, unsanctified hearts would feel no attraction toward that pure and holy place; and if it were possible for them to enter, they would find there nothing congenial. The propensities that control the natural heart must be subdued by the grace of Christ before fallen man is fitted to enter heaven, and enjoy the society of the pure, holy angels. When man dies to sin, and is quickened to life in Christ, divine love fills his heart; his understanding is sanctified; he drinks from an inexhaustible fountain of joy and knowledge; and the light of an eternal day shines upon his path, for with him continually is the light of life.
Paul had sought to impress upon the minds of his Corinthian brethren the fact that he and the ministers associated with him were but men, commissioned by God to teach the truth; that they were all engaged in the same work; and that they were alike dependent upon God for the success of their labors. The discussion that had arisen in the church regarding the relative merits of different ministers was not in the order of God, but was the result of cherishing the attributes of the natural heart. "While one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."
It was Paul who had first preached the gospel in Corinth, and who had organized the church there. This was the work that the Lord had assigned him. Later, by God's direction, other workers were brought in, to stand in their lot and place. The seed sown must be watered, and this Apollos was to do. He followed Paul in his work, to give further instruction, and to help the seed sown to develop. He won his way to the hearts of the people; but it was God who gave the increase. It is not human but divine power that works transformation of character. Those who plant and those who water, do not cause the growth of the seed; they work under God, as his appointed agencies, cooperating with him in his work. To the Master Worker belong the honor and glory that come with success. (To be concluded.) Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #34)
God's servants do not all possess the same gifts, but they are all his workmen. Each is to learn of the great Teacher, and is then to communicate what he has learned. God has given to each of his messengers an individual work. There is a diversity of gifts, but all the workers are to blend in harmony, controlled by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. As they make known the gospel of salvation, many will be convicted and converted by the power of God. The human instrumentality is hid with Christ in God, and Christ appears as the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely.
"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." In this scripture the apostle compares the church to a cultivated field, in which the husbandmen labor, caring for the vines of the Lord's planting; and also to a building, which is to grow into a holy temple for the Lord. God is the master worker, and he has appointed to each man his work. All are to labor under his supervision, letting him work for and through his workmen. He gives them tact and skill, and if they heed his instruction, he crowns their efforts with success.
God's servants are to work together, blending in kindly, courteous order, "in honor preferring one another." There is to be no unkind criticism, no pulling to pieces of another's work; and there are to be no separate parties. Every man to whom the Lord has entrusted a message has his specific work. Each one has an individuality of his own, which he is not to sink in that of any other man; yet each is to work in harmony with his brethren. In their service, God's workers are to be essentially one. No one is to set himself up as a criterion, speaking disrespectfully of his fellow workers, or treating them as inferior. Under God, each is to do his appointed work, respected, loved, and encouraged by other laborers. Together they are to carry the work to completion.
These principles are dwelt upon at length in Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church. The apostle refers to "the ministers of Christ" as "stewards of the mysteries of God;" and of their work he declares: "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."
It is not given to any human being to judge between the different servants of God. The Lord alone is the judge of man's work, and he will give to each his just reward.
The apostle, continuing, refers directly to the comparisons that had been made between his labors and those of Apollos: "These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
Paul plainly set before the church the perils and the hardships that he and his associates had patiently endured in their service for Christ. "Even unto this present hour," he declared, "we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the off-scouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."
He who sends forth gospel workers as his ambassadors is dishonored when there is manifested among the hearers so strong an attachment to some favorite minister that there is an unwillingness to accept the labors of some other teacher. The Lord sends help to his people, not always as they may choose, but as they need; for men are short-sighted, and can not discern what is for their highest good. It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect a church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God often sends to them other ministers each possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient.
The church should gratefully accept these servants of Christ, even as they would accept the Master himself. They should seek to derive all the benefit possible from the instruction which each minister may give them from the Word of God. The truths that the servants of God bring are to be accepted and appreciated in the meekness of humility, but no minister is to be idolized.
Through the grace of Christ, God's ministers are made messengers of light and blessing. As by earnest, persevering prayer they obtain the endowment of the Holy Spirit and go forth weighted with the burden of soul-saving, their hearts filled with zeal to extend the triumphs of the cross, they will see fruit of their labors. Resolutely refusing to display human wisdom or to exalt self, they will accomplish a work that will withstand the assaults of Satan. Many souls will be turned from darkness to light, and many churches will be established. Men will be converted, not to the human instrumentality, but to Christ. Self will be kept in the background; Jesus only, the Man of Calvary, will appear.
Those who are working for Christ today may reveal the same distinguishing excellences revealed by those who in the apostolic age proclaimed the gospel. God is just as ready to give power to his servants today as he was to give power to Paul and Apollos, to Silas and Timothy, to Peter, James, and John.
In the apostles' day there were some misguided souls who claimed to believe in Christ, yet refused to show respect to his ambassadors. They declared that they followed no human teacher, but were taught directly by Christ, without the aid of the ministers of the gospel. They were independent in spirit, and unwilling to submit to the voice of the church. Such men were in grave danger of being deceived.
God has placed in the church, as his appointed helpers, men of varied talents that through the combined wisdom of many, the mind of the Spirit may be met. Men who move in accordance with their own strong traits of character, refusing to yoke up with others who have had a long experience in the work of God, will become blinded by self-confidence, unable to discern between the false and the true. It is not safe for such ones to be chosen as leaders in the church; for they would follow their own judgment and plans, regardless of the judgment of their brethren. It is easy for the enemy to work through those who, themselves needing counsel at every step, undertake the guardianship of souls in their own strength, without having learned the lowliness of Christ.
Impressions alone are not a safe guide to duty. The enemy often persuades men to believe that it is God who is guiding them, when in reality they are following only human impulse. But if we watch carefully, and take counsel with our brethren, we shall be given an understanding of the Lord's will; for the promise is, "The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way."
In the early Christian church, there were some who refused to recognize either Paul or Apollos, but held that Peter was their leader. They affirmed that Peter has been most intimate with Christ when the Master was upon the earth, while Paul had been a persecutor of the believers. Their views and feelings were bound about by prejudice. They did not show the liberality, the generosity, the tenderness, which reveals that Christ is abiding in the heart.
There was danger that this party spirit would result in great evil to the Christian church; and Paul was instructed by the Lord to utter words of earnest admonition and solemn protest. Of those who were saying, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ," the apostle, inquired, "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" "Let no man glory in men," he pleaded. "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."
Paul and Apollos were in perfect harmony. The latter was disappointed and grieved because of the dissension in the church at Corinth; he took no advantage of the preference shown to himself, nor did he encourage it, but hastily left the field of strife. When Paul afterward urged him to revisit Corinth, he declined, and did not again labor there until long afterward, when the church had reached a better spiritual state. Mrs.E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #35)
While Apollos was preaching at Corinth, Paul fulfilled his promise to return to Ephesus. He had made a brief visit to Jerusalem, and had spent some time at Antioch, the scene of his early labors. Thence he had traveled through Asia Minor, "over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia," visiting the churches which he himself had established, and strengthening the faith of the believers.
In the time of the apostles, the western portion of Asia Minor was known as the Roman Province of Asia. Ephesus, the capital, was the great commercial center of the West. Its harbor was crowded with shipping, and its streets were thronged with people from every country. Like Corinth, it presented a promising field for missionary effort.
The Jews, now widely dispersed in all civilized lands, were generally expecting the advent of the Messiah. When John the Baptist was preaching, many, in their visits to Jerusalem at the annual feasts, had gone out to the banks of the Jordan to listen to him. There they had heard Jesus proclaimed the Promised One, and they had carried the tidings to all parts of the world. Thus had Providence prepared the way for the labors of the apostles.
On his arrival at Ephesus, Paul found twelve brethren, who, like Apollos, had been disciples of John the Baptist, and, like him, had gained some knowledge of the mission of Christ. They had not the ability of Apollos, but with the same sincerity and faith, they were seeking to spread abroad the knowledge they had received.
These brethren knew nothing of the mission of the Holy Spirit. When asked by Paul if they had received the Holy Ghost, they answered, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." "Unto what then were ye baptized?" Paul inquired; and they said, "Unto John's baptism."
Then the apostles set before them the great truths that are the foundation of the Christian's hope. He told them of Christ's life on this earth, and of his cruel death of shame. He told them how the Lord of life had broken the barriers of the tomb, and risen triumphant over death. He repeated the Saviour's commission to his disciples: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." He told them also of Christ's promise to send the Comforter, through whose power mighty signs and wonders would be wrought, and he described how gloriously this promise had been fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.
With deep interest and grateful, wondering joy, the brethren listened to Paul's words. By faith they grasped the wonderful truth of Christ's atoning sacrifice, and received him as their Redeemer. They were then baptized in the name of Jesus; and as Paul "laid his hands upon them," they received also the baptism of the Holy Spirit, by which they were enabled to speak the languages of other nations, and to prophesy. Thus they were qualified to labor as missionaries in Ephesus and its vicinity, and also to go forth to proclaim the gospel in Asia Minor.
It was by cherishing a humble, teachable spirit that these men gained the experience that enabled them to go out as workers into the harvest field. Their example presents to Christians a lesson of great value. There are many who make but little progress in the divine life, because they are too self-sufficient to occupy the position of learners. They are content with a superficial knowledge of God's Word. They do not wish to change their faith or practise, and hence make no effort to obtain greater light.
If the followers of Christ were but earnest seekers after wisdom, they would be led into rich fields of truth, as yet wholly unknown to them. He who will give himself to God as fully as did Moses, will be guided by the divine hand as verily as was the great leader of Israel. He may be lowly and apparently ungifted; yet if with a loving, trusting heart he obeys every intimation of God's will, his powers will be purified, ennobled, energized, and his capabilities will be increased. As he treasures the lessons of divine wisdom, a sacred commission will be entrusted to him; he will be enabled to make his life an honor to God and a blessing to the world. "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple."
Today many are as ignorant of the Holy Spirit's work upon the heart as were those believers in Ephesus; yet no truth is more clearly taught in the Word of God. Prophets and apostles have dwelt upon this theme. Christ himself calls our attention to the growth of the vegetable world as an illustration of the agency of his Spirit in sustaining spiritual life. The sap of the vine, ascending from the root, is diffused to the branches, sustaining growth and producing blossoms and fruit. So the lifegiving power of the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Saviour, pervades the soul, renews the motives and affections, and brings even the thoughts into obedience to the will of God, enabling the receiver to bear the precious fruit of holy deeds.
The Author of this spiritual life is unseen, and the exact method by which that life is imparted and sustained, is beyond the power of human philosophy to explain. Yet the operations of the Spirit are always in harmony with the written Word. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world. The natural life is preserved moment by moment by divine power; yet it is not sustained by a direct miracle, but through the use of blessings placed within our reach. So the spiritual life is sustained by the use of those means that Providence has supplied. If the follower of Christ would grow up "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," he must eat of the bread of life, and drink of the water of salvation. He must watch and pray and work, in all things giving heed to the instruction of God in his Word.
There is still another lesson for us in the experience of those Jewish converts. When they received baptism at the hand of John, they did not fully comprehend the mission of Jesus as the sin bearer. They were holding serious errors; but with clearer light, they gladly accepted Christ as their Redeemer, and with this step of advance came a change in their obligations. As they received a purer faith, there was a corresponding change in their life. In token of this change, and as an acknowledgment of their faith in Christ, they were rebaptized in the name of Jesus. (Concluded next week.) ) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #36)
As was his custom, Paul had begun his work at Ephesus by preaching in the synagogue of the Jews. He continued to labor there for three months, "disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God." At first he met with a favorable reception; but as in other fields, he was soon violently opposed. "Divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude." As they persisted in their rejection of the gospel, the apostle ceased to preach in the synagogue.
The Spirit of God had wrought with and through Paul in his labors for his countrymen. Sufficient evidence had been presented to convince all who honestly desired to know the truth. But many permitted themselves to be controlled by prejudice and unbelief, and refused to yield to the most conclusive evidence. Fearing that the faith of the believers would be endangered by continued association with these opposers of the truth, Paul separated from them, and gathered the disciples into a distinct body, continuing his public instruction in the school of Tyrannus, a teacher of some note.
Paul saw that "a great door and effectual" was opening before him, though there were "many adversaries." Ephesus was not only the most magnificent, but the most corrupt, of the cities of Asia. Superstition and sensual pleasure held sway over her teeming population. Under the shadow of her temples, criminals of every grade found shelter, and the most degrading vices flourished.
Ephesus was a popular center for the worship of Diana. The fame of the magnificent temple of "Diana of the Ephesians," extended throughout all Asia and the world. Its surpassing splendor made it the pride, not only of the city, but of the nation. The idol within the temple was declared by tradition to have fallen from the sky. Upon it were inscribed symbolic characters, which were believed to possess great power. Books had been written by the Ephesians to explain the meaning and use of these symbols.
Among those who gave close study to these costly books were many magicians, who wielded a powerful influence over the minds of the superstitious worshipers of the image within the temple.
The apostle Paul, in his labors at Ephesus, was given special tokens of divine favor. The power of God accompanied his efforts, and many were healed of physical maladies. "God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them." These manifestations of supernatural power were far more potent than had ever before been witnessed in Ephesus, and were of such a character that they could not be imitated by the skill of the juggler or the enchantments of the sorcerer. As these miracles were wrought in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the people had opportunity to see that the God of heaven was more powerful than the magicians who were worshipers of the goddess Diana. Thus the Lord exalted his servant, even before the idolaters themselves, immeasurably above the most powerful and favored of the magicians.
But he to whom all the spirits of evil are subject, and who had given his servants authority over them, was about to bring still greater shame and defeat upon those who despised and profaned his holy name. Sorcery had been prohibited by the Mosaic law, on pain of death, yet from time to time it had been secretly practised by apostate Jews. At the time of Paul's visit to Ephesus, there were in the city "certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists," who, seeing the wonders wrought by him, "took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus." An attempt was made by "seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests." Finding a man possessed with a demon, they addressed him, "We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." But "the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Thus unmistakable proof was given of the sacredness of the name of Jesus, and the peril which they incurred who should invoke it without faith in the divinity of the Saviour's mission. "Fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."
Facts which had previously been concealed were now brought to light. In accepting Christianity, some of the believers had not fully renounced their superstitions. To some extent they still continued the practise of magic. Now, convinced of their error, "many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds." Even to some of the sorcerers themselves the good work extended; and "many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found if fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."
By burning their books on magic, the Ephesian converts showed that the things in which they had once delighted they now abhorred. It was by and through magic that they had especially offended God and imperiled their souls; and it was against magic that they showed such indignation. Thus they gave evidence of true conversion.
These treatises on divination contained rules and forms of communication with evil spirits. They were the regulations of the worship of Satan,--directions for soliciting his help and obtaining information from him. By retaining these books, the disciples would have exposed themselves to temptation; by selling them they would have placed temptation in the way of others. They had renounced the kingdom of darkness, and to destroy its power they did not hesitate at any sacrifice. Thus truth triumphed over men's prejudices and their love of money.
By this manifestation of the power of Christ, a mighty victory for Christianity was gained in the very stronghold of superstition. The influence of what had taken place was more widespread than even Paul realized. From Ephesus the news was widely circulated, and a strong impetus was given to the cause of Christ. Long after the apostle himself had finished his course, these scenes lived in the memory of men, and were the means of winning many to the gospel.
It is fondly supposed that heathen superstitions have disappeared before the civilization of the twentieth century. But the Word of God and the stern testimony of facts declare that sorcery is practised in this age as verily as in the days of the old-time magicians. The ancient system of magic was, in reality, the same as what is now known as modern Spiritualism. Satan is finding access to thousands of minds by presenting himself under the guise of departed friends. The Scriptures declare that "the dead know not anything." Their thoughts, their love, their hatred, have perished. The dead do not hold communion with the living. But true to his early cunning, Satan employs this device in order to gain control of minds.
Through Spiritualism many of the sick, the bereaved, the curious, are communicating with evil spirits. All who venture to do this are on dangerous ground. The Word of truth declares how God regards them. In ancient times he pronounced a stern judgment on a king who had sent for counsel to a heathen oracle: "Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but thou shalt surely die."
The magicians of heathen times have their counterpart in the Spiritualistic mediums, the clairvoyants, and the fortune tellers of today. The mystic voices that spoke at Endor and at Ephesus are still by their lying words misleading the children of men. Could the veil be lifted from before our eyes, we should see evil angels employing all their arts to deceive and to destroy. Wherever an influence is exerted to cause men to forget God, there Satan is exercising his bewitching power. When men yield to his influence, the mind is bewildered and the soul polluted ere they are aware. The apostle's admonition to the Ephesian church should be heeded by the people of God today: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #37)
For over three years Ephesus was the center of Paul's work. A flourishing church was raised up here, and from this city the gospel spread throughout the province of Asia, among both Jews and Gentiles.
The apostle had now for some time been contemplating another missionary journey. He "purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome." In harmony with this plan, "he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus;" but feeling that the cause in Ephesus still demanded his presence, he decided to remain until after Pentecost. An event soon occurred, however, which hastened his departure.
Once a year, special ceremonies were held at Ephesus in honor of the goddess Diana. These attracted great numbers of people from all parts of the province. Throughout this period, festivities were conducted with the utmost pomp and splendor. The gods were represented by certain ones of the people chosen for the purpose, who were regarded as objects of worship, and were honored by processions, sacrifices, and libations. Musical contests, feats of athletes, and fierce combats between men and beasts, drew crowds to the vast theaters. The whole city was a scene of brilliant display and wild revelry. The air rang with the shouts of mirth. The people gave themselves up to feasting, drunkenness, and the vilest debauchery.
This gala season was a trying time for those who had newly come to the faith. The company of believers who met in the school of Tyrannus made an inharmonious note in the festive chorus, and ridicule, reproach, and insult were freely heaped upon them. Paul's labors had given the heathen worship a telling blow, in consequence of which there was a perceptible falling off in the attendance at the national festival, and in the enthusiasm of the worshipers. The influence of his teachings extended far beyond the actual converts to the faith. Many who had not openly accepted the new doctrines became so far enlightened as to lose all confidence in heathen gods. Paul's presence in the city called special attention to the fact, and curses loud and deep were uttered against him.
There existed also another cause of dissatisfaction. An extensive and profitable business had grown up at Ephesus from the manufacture and sale of small shrines and images, modeled after the temple and the image of Diana. Those interested in this industry found their gains diminishing, and all united in attributing the unwelcome change to Paul's labors.
Demetrius, a manufacturer of silver shrines, calling together the workmen of his craft, said: "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshipeth." These words roused the excitable passions of the people. "They were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
A report of this speech was rapidly circulated. "The whole city was filled with confusion." Search was made for Paul, but the apostle was not to be found. His brethren, receiving an intimation of the danger, had hurried him from the place. Angels of God had been sent to guard the apostle; his time to die a martyr's death had not yet come.
Failing to find the object of their wrath, the mob seized "Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel;" and with these "they rushed with one accord into the theater."
Paul's place of concealment was not far distant, and he soon learned of the peril of his beloved brethren. Forgetful of his own safety, he desired to go at once to the theater to address the rioters. But "the disciples suffered him not." Gaius and Aristarchus were not the prey that the people sought; no serious harm to them was apprehended. But should the apostle's pale, careworn face be seen, it would arouse at once the worst passions of the mob, and there would not be the least human possibility of saving his life.
Paul was still eager to defend the truth before the multitude; but he was at last deterred by a message of warning from the theater. "Certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring that he would not adventure himself into the theater."
The tumult in the theater was continually increasing. "Some . . . cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together." The fact that Paul and some of his companions were of Hebrew extraction, made the Jews anxious to show plainly that they were not sympathizers with Paul and his work. They therefore thrust forward one of their own number to set the matter before the people. The speaker chosen was Alexander, one of the craftsmen, a coppersmith, to whom Paul afterward referred as having done him much evil. Alexander was a man of considerable ability, and he bent all his energies to direct the wrath of the people exclusively against Paul and his companions. But the crowd, seeing that Alexander was a Jew, thrust him aside; and "all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
At last, from sheer exhaustion, they ceased, and there was a momentary silence. Then the recorder of the city arrested the attention of the crowd, and by virtue of his office obtained a hearing. He met the people on their own ground, and showed that there was no cause for the present tumult. He appealed to their reason. "Ye men of Ephesus," he said, "what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshiper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? Seeing then that these things can not be spoke against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. But if ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."
In his speech Demetrius had said, "This our craft is in danger." These words reveal the real cause of the tumult at Ephesus, and also the cause of much of the persecution which followed the apostles in their work. Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen saw that by the teaching and spread of the gospel the business of image-making was endangered. The income of pagan priests and artisans was at stake; and for this reason they aroused against Paul the most bitter opposition.
The decision of the recorder and of others holding honorable offices in the city, had set Paul before the people as one innocent of any unlawful act. This was another triumph of Christianity over error and superstition. God had raised up a great magistrate to vindicate his apostle, and hold the tumultuous mob in check. Paul's heart was filled with gratitude to God that his life had been preserved, and that Christianity had not been brought into disrepute by the tumult at Ephesus.
"After the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia." On this journey he was accompanied by two faithful Ephesian brethren, Tychicus and Trophimus.
Paul's labors in Ephesus were concluded. His ministry there had been a season of incessant labor, of many trials, and of deep anguish. He had taught the people in public and from house to house, with many tears instructing and warning them. Continually he had been opposed by the Jews, who lost no opportunity to stir up the popular feeling against him. Again and again he had been attacked by the mob, and subjected to insult and abuse. By every means which they could employ, the enemies of the gospel had sought to destroy the effects of his work.
And while thus battling against opposition, pushing forward with untiring zeal the gospel work, and guarding the interests of a church yet young in the faith, Paul was bearing upon his soul a heavy burden for all the churches. Nor was he released even from physical labor. At Ephesus, as at Corinth, he worked with his own hands to supply his necessities. In weariness and pain from unceasing toil and constant danger, enfeebled by disease, and at times depressed in spirit, he steadfastly pursued his work.
News of apostasy in churches of his planting caused him deep anguish. He greatly feared that his efforts in their behalf might prove to be in vain. Many a sleepless night was spent in prayer and earnest thought, as he learned of the methods employed to counteract his work. As he had opportunity, he wrote to the churches, giving reproof, counsel, admonition, and encouragement, as their condition demanded. In his epistles the apostle does not dwell on his own trials, yet there are occasional glimpses of his labors and sufferings in the cause of Christ. Stripes and imprisonment, cold and hunger and thirst, perils by land and by sea, in the city and in the wilderness, from his own countrymen, from the heathen, and from false brethren,--all these he endured for the sake of the gospel. He was "defamed," "reviled," made "the offscouring of all things," "perplexed," "persecuted," "troubled on every side," "in jeopardy every hour," "alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake."
Amid the constant storm of opposition, the clamor of enemies, and the desertion of friends, the intrepid apostle almost lost heart. But he looked back to Calvary, and with new ardor pressed on to spread the knowledge of the Crucified. He was but treading the bloodstained path that Christ had trodden before him. He sought no discharge from the warfare till he should lay off his armor at the feet of his Redeemer. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #39)
There is an earnest work of preparation to be done by Seventh-day Adventists if they would stand firm in the trying experiences just before them. If they remain true to God in the confusion and temptation of the last days, they must seek the Lord in humility of heart for wisdom to resist the deceptions of the enemy. At this time every believer in present truth should stand identified as a laborer together with God.
Ever are we to keep in mind the solemn thought of the Lord's soon return, and in view of this to recognize the individual work to be done. Through the aid of the Holy Spirit we are to resist natural inclinations and tendencies to wrong, and weed out of the life every unchristlike element. Thus we shall prepare our hearts for the reception of God's blessing, which will impart to us grace, and bring us into harmony with the faith of Jesus. For this work of preparation great advantages have been granted to this people, in light bestowed, in messages of warning and instruction, sent through the agency of the Spirit of God.
Because of the increasing power of Satan's temptations, the times in which we live are full of peril for the children of God, and we need to learn constantly of the Great Teacher, that we may take every step in surety and righteousness. Wonderful scenes are opening before us, and at this time a living testimony is to be borne in the lives of God's professing people, so that the world may see that in this age when evil reigns on every side, there is yet a people who are laying aside their will and are seeking to do God's will,--a people in whose hearts and lives the law of God is written. There are strong temptations before us, sharp tests. The commandment-keeping people of God are to prepare for this time of trial by obtaining a deeper experience in the things of God and a practical knowledge of the righteousness of Christ.
In the night season I heard words spoken, reproving the speech and deportment of those who indulge in trifling words and careless actions. The Lord is not pleased with the careless speech, the frivolous words that come so often from lips professing to serve him. His Spirit is grieved that those who are called by his name do not perfect his righteousness in their words. The righteous judgments of God will not spare the trifler. The people who have had great light will not be excused if they neglect to give, by a godly example, the light of truth to those with whom they associate.
Not to unbelievers only, but to church members the words are spoken, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." With the light that has come to him, the believer has serious responsibilities placed upon him. He must not allow trifles to lead him to neglect the religion of Christ.
It is dangerous for us to subordinate matters of eternal interest to the common affairs of life. "Enter ye in at the strait gate," the Saviour declares, "for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
What can I say to you, my brethren and sisters, that will arouse you to the importance of the times in which we live, and lead you to a faithful examination of heart and life? Are your lives in harmony with the life of sacrifice that Christ lived on the earth? In giving his Son to the human race, the Father gave to his church a wonderful example of self-forgetting love. Christ came that he might open to the comprehension of men and women the principles that underlie the great plan of redemption, that they might be led to cooperate with him in his work of sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. But the want of fervor, the lack of self-denial, on the part of many who bear Christ's name, hinder the doing of the very work for which his church on earth was organized. The selfishness and indifference manifested by professing Christians soothes the consciences of many who would be aroused from their unbelief, had they before them in the lives of professing Christians, a living witness to the power of the gospel to transform the character.
Self-sacrifice is the keynote of Christ's teachings. Often this is enjoined upon believers in language that seems authoritative, because there is no other way to save men than to cut them away from their life of selfishness. Christ gave, in his life on earth, a true representation of the power of the gospel. He suffered the cruel death on the cross, that we might have a true conception of his love for us, and of the spirit of self-sacrifice that must take possession of every believer in him. He became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich. To every soul who will suffer with him in resistance of sin, in labor for his cause, in self-denial for the good of others, he promises a part in the eternal reward of the righteous. Through the exercise of the spirit that characterized his lifework, we are to become partakers of his nature. Partaking in this life of sacrifice for the sake of others, we shall share with him in the life to come the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Angels marvel that those who have so long had the light of truth are so slow in bearing it to the dark places of the earth. There are many calls from unworked fields. From many lands the call is sounding, Come over and help us. Shall we not do our part to make it possible to respond to these calls? Shall we not give freely of our means to plant the standard of truth in new territory? There are some who are doing their utmost to aid the work of missions; but there are many who seem indifferent to the claims that God makes upon them for unselfish service. Shall we not at this time study ways by which we can save for the cause of God? Much can be accomplished by small acts of self-denial. While our sisters should dress becomingly, they should, in their expenditure of means in this respect, seek to represent the simplicity of Christ.
Let every unnecessary expense be avoided. Bring the tithes into the storehouse, and let free-will offerings be made. In this way those who can not go as missionaries to foreign lands may act their part toward saving many who are perishing in the darkness of heathenism. When men and women are truly converted, they will not only be willing, but anxious to have a part in the saving of the lost.
Christ's life on earth was an object lesson of the spirit that must possess those who would be faithful stewards of the grace of Christ. He traveled long distances that he might give temporal and spiritual blessings to those who needed both. He supplied the physical and spiritual needs of the multitudes who followed him. It is our privilege to unite with Christ in his work of mercy and benevolence. The weary and heavy laden are to be relieved by the message of truth. All who will humble their hearts before him and be converted, the Lord will use in his great purpose of salvation.
Never was there a time when it was more important that men and women discern present duty, nor a time when decisive action was more greatly needed, than now. My brethren and sisters, withhold not from God at this time that for which he is asking. Let your daily lives witness to the faith you profess. Do not feel that you must follow every prevailing fashion, but dress plainly and neatly; deny self that money may flow into the treasury for the advancement of the message.
When the eternal welfare of others means more to us than our present ease and enjoyment, we shall sacrifice in order to advance the work of God. The great object of Christ's mission--the salvation of perishing souls--will urge us to self-denial and sacrifice.
My brethren and sisters, your gold and silver is needed to carry the work effectively in the large cities. Will you not deny yourselves of needless things, and use the means thus saved for the progress of the work? The Lord will be pleased to see you moved to acts of self-denial; for thus you will show yourselves laborers together with him at this time when new doors are opening to the message. It was a most costly sacrifice that the Lord of heaven made in our behalf. His divine benevolence was stirred to its depths that the blessings lost to man by the fall might be restored. And "he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Upon every believer in present truth God has laid a work. This last message of warning is to be given in all our cities, large and small. This message is to be revived in the hearts of believers, that they may go forth to publish its warnings and instruction throughout the land. The evidences that have been given of the truthfulness of this message are to be repeated with power. Medical missionaries are to go forth; workers in every line are to proclaim, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him."
I am instructed to say to believers everywhere, Find your place. Do not stand questioning, but take hold of the work that you see waiting to be done. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations," is Christ's commission to his followers today; and, he says, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." I am thankful that some are being led out to work with intensity for the extension of the message of truth. I pray that their zeal may be tempered with wisdom, that the spirit of kindness and of consideration for the rights and privileges of others may be manifest in all their efforts.
Great is the need of consecrated workers who will bear to the world a living testimony of the truth and its power to transform the life. O for men who will stand in their lot and place to do the work that is essential to be done in giving the message to mankind! Soon we must render to God an account of the deeds done in the body. There is much earnest work to do. My brethren and sisters, proclaim the message of warning for this time, and show the blessedness resulting from obedience to all of God's commandments. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #40)
Seventh-day Adventist parents should more fully realize their responsibilities as character builders. God places before them the privilege of being strengtheners of his cause through the consecration and labors of their children. He desires to see gathered out from the homes of our people a large company of youth who, because of the godly influences of their homes, have surrendered their hearts to him, and go forth to give him the highest service of their lives. Directed and trained by the godly instruction of the home, the influence of the morning and evening season of worship, the consistent example of parents who love and fear God, they have learned to submit to God as their teacher and leader, and they are prepared to render him acceptable service as loyal sons and daughters. Such youth are prepared to represent to the world the grace and power of Christ.
Children and youth are to be taught that their capabilities were given them for the honor and glory of God. To this end they must learn the lesson of obedience; for only by lives of willing obedience can they render to God the service he requires. Before the child is old enough to reason, he may be taught to obey. By gentle, persistent effort, the habit should be established. Thus to a great degree may be prevented those later conflicts between will and authority that do so much to create in the minds of the youth alienation and bitterness toward parents and teachers, and too often resistance of all authority, human and divine.
Let children be shown that true reverence is revealed by obedience. God has commanded nothing that is unessential, and there is no other way of manifesting reverence so pleasing to him as obedience to that which he has spoken.
Parents who truly love Christ will bear witness to this in a love for their children that will not indulge, but will work wisely for their highest good. These children have been bought with a price. Christ sacrificed his life that he might redeem them from wrongdoing. Parents who appreciate the sacrifice Christ and the Father have made in behalf of the race, will cooperate with them, lending every sanctified energy and ability to the work of saving their children. Instead of treating them as playthings, they will regard them as the purchase of Christ, and will teach them that they are to become the children of God. Instead of allowing them to indulge evil temper and selfish desires, they will teach them lessons of self-restraint.
As parents and children cooperate in seeking to reach God's ideal for them, strength and blessing will come into their lives; and joy and satisfaction will fill the hearts of parents when they see, as the fruit of their labors, their children growing up in the love of the truth, and endeavoring to reach the fulness of God's purpose for them.
Let parents study the instruction of the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. If the counsels of the Word of God are faithfully followed, the saving grace of Christ will be brought to our youth; for the children who are trained to love and obey God, and who yield themselves to the molding power of his Word, are the objects of God's special care and blessing.
The Lord commanded Israel: "These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. . . .
"Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the Lord hath spoken.
"And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord our God hath commanded you? then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: and the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes: and he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us."
Wherever in Israel God's plan of education was carried into effect, its results testified of its Author. But in very many households the training appointed by heaven, and the characters thus developed, were alike rare. God's plan was but partially and imperfectly fulfilled. By unbelief and by disregard of the Lord's directions, the Israelites surrounded themselves with temptations that few had power to resist. At their settlement in Canaan "they did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them." Their heart was not right with God, "neither were they steadfast in his covenant. But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not; yea, many a time turned he his anger away. . . . For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again." Fathers and mothers in Israel became indifferent to their obligation to God, indifferent to their obligation to their own children. Through unfaithfulness in the home, and idolatrous influences without, many of the Hebrew youth received an education differing widely from that which God had planned for them. They learned the ways of the heathen.
The lesson is recorded for our instruction. The enemy of souls will invent may things to lead the minds of our youth from firm faith in God to the idolatrous practises of the world. Let the cautions given to ancient Israel be carefully studied. Satan's efforts to spoil the thoughts and confuse the judgment are unceasing, and we must be on our guard.
We must be careful to maintain our allegiance to God as his peculiar people. While wickedness is increasing in the world, the people of God are to increase in understanding, in sanctified devotion to the cause of God, in keenness of perception to discern between righteousness and unrighteousness. At this time we can not afford to run any risks. If we commit sin, the Lord will be greatly dishonored. But if we work the works of righteousness, we shall follow on to know the Lord more and more perfectly.
We should endeavor to keep out of our homes every influence that is not productive of good. In this matter some parents have much to learn. To those who feel free to read story magazines and novels, I say: You are sowing seed, the harvest of which you will not care to gather. There is no spiritual strength to be gained from such reading. Rather it destroys the love for the pure truth the Word. Through the agency of novels and story magazines Satan is working to fill with unreal and trivial thoughts the minds that should be diligently studying the Word of God. Thus he is robbing thousands upon thousands of the time and energy and self-discipline demanded by the stern problems of life.
Let the youth be taught to give close study to the Word of God. Received into the soul, it will prove a mighty barricade against temptation. "Thy word," the psalmist declares, "have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." "By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer."
I counsel every believer who in the past has indulged the love of fictitious reading to put away novels, and study the Word of God. Those who claim to believe the truth for this time need to search the Scriptures. "Ye are not your own," the apostle Paul declares, "for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." The life of the believer is to be lived for him who gave his life for us. He is to act understandingly. The wealth of the soul's affections is to flow forth to the One who gave all that he might win men and women to God. Through the knowledge of him the life will be sanctified.
Fathers and mothers, turn your hearts to seek the Lord; for a great responsibility rests upon you to give your children a correct mold of character. Keep ever before you their eternal interests. Educate them to be refined, pure, nobel, revealing the highest traits of character, and before the world and heaven to make known that they have chosen to serve God. True Christlike characters will bear the seal of God's approval.
Great blessings and spiritual strength will come to the families who will determine to put away those things which are unessential, and will resolutely take up the work of preparation for the coming of the Lord. God has entrusted parents with the work of helping their children to gain a Christlike experience. Will you prepare the way of the Lord by bearing a decided message for him, not only in words, but by a godly example? The Lord's coming is very near. Those who know the truth should practise the truth, letting the light shine forth in precept and example.
Would you help other families to use their God-given talents to his glory? Then reveal in your own lives conformity to the image of Christ. Improve the talents you have; cultivate the powers of mind and body; increase your knowledge of the Word of God; improve the gift of speech; but the witness of a godly example uplift before others the power of the Word to transform the character. In simplicity and sympathy seek to make known to souls their great need, and point them to the One who will be all and in all to those who seek him. Engage understandingly in this work, and you will receive increased light and increased power to serve. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #41)
There are few parents who realize how important it is to give to their children the influence of a godly example. Yet this is far more potent than precept. No other means is so effective in training them in right lines. The children and youth must have a true copy in rightdoing if they succeed in overcoming sin and perfecting a Christian character. This copy they should find in the lives of their parents. If they enter the city of God, and rejoice in the overcomer's reward, some one must show them the way. By living before their children godly, consistent lives, parents may make the work before them clear and plain.
It is God's desire that parents should be to their children the embodiment of the principles laid down in his Word. Let them make it their aim to train their children for God. To keep the feet of their children in the narrow path will call for faithful effort and constant prayer, but it is possible to train the children and youth to love and serve God. It is possible to inculcate the principles of righteousness, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little, until the desires and inclinations of the heart are in harmony with the mind and will of God. When fathers and mothers realize the responsibility resting upon them, and respond to the appeals of God's Spirit in behalf of this neglected work, there will be seen in the homes of the people transformations that will cause the angels to rejoice.
Let parents study the first chapter of the second epistle of Peter. Here is represented the exalted excellence of Bible truth. It teaches that the Christian's experience is to be one of steady growth, of constant gain in graces and virtues that will give strength to the character and fit the soul for eternal life.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you," the apostle writes, "through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and can not see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
It is the privilege of parents and children to grow together in the grace of Christ. Those who comply with the conditions laid down in the Word will find full provision for their spiritual needs, and for power to overcome. Feeling the need of that grace which Heaven alone can furnish, and which Christ imparts to all who seek, they will become partakers of the heavenly gift.
Those who have accepted Bible truth are to keep the truth circumspectly. They are to follow on to know the Lord, gathering into their souls the light of heaven. But they must not stop there. They are to communicate the light and knowledge received. The Lord expects parents to make earnest, united efforts in the training of their children for him. In the home they are to cultivate the graces of the Spirit, in all their ways acknowledging him who through the sanctification of the Spirit has promised to make us perfect in every good work. When parents awaken to a true understanding of their neglected duties, they will marvel at the spiritual blindness that has characterized their past experience. And when they become learners of Christ, they will be taught how to do their work acceptably.
There has been too little definite work done in preparing our children for the tests that all must meet in their contact with the world and its influences. They have not been helped as they should to form characters strong enough to resist temptation and stand firm for the principles of right, in the terrible issues before all who remain faithful to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Parents need to understand the temptations that the youth must daily meet, that they may teach them how to overcome them. There are influences in the school and in the world that parents need to guard against. God wants us to turn our eyes from the vanities and pleasures and ambitions of the world, and set them on the glorious and immortal reward of those who run with patience the race set before them in the gospel. He wants us to educate our children to avoid the influences that would draw them away from Christ. The Lord is soon coming, and we must prepare for this solemn event. My brethren and sisters, let your daily life in the home reveal the living principles of the Word of God. Heavenly agencies will cooperate with you as you seek to reach the standard of perfection, and as you seek to teach your children how to conform their lives to the principles of righteousness. Christ and heavenly agencies are waiting to quicken your spiritual sensibilities, to renew your activities, and to teach you of the deep things of God.
Parents should be united in their faith, that they may be united in their efforts to bring their children up in the belief of the truth. Upon the mother in a special sense rests the work of molding the minds of the young children. But the father should feel more deeply than he usually does his responsibilities in the home. Upon him as well as upon the mother rests the duty of laboring for the spiritual welfare of his children. Business matters often keep the father much from home, and prevent him from taking an equal share in the training of the children; but whenever he can, he should unite with the mother in this work. Let parents work unitedly, instilling into their children's hearts the principles of righteousness.
The vows of David recorded in Psalm 101 should be the vows of all upon whom rest the responsibilities of guarding the influences of the home. David declared: "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. . . . I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave unto me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.
"Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath a high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight."
Home missionary work is a most important work. It should be our first work to give that light to those related to us by the ties of kinship and blood. There should be no neglect on our part to do our utmost to bring them to an understanding of the knowledge we have received. "If any man provide not for his own," the apostle Paul declared, "and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
Shall the people who have a solemn message to bear for the enlightenment and salvation of the world, make little or no effort for the members of their own family who are unconverted to the truth? Will parents allow their minds to be engrossed with trifling matters, to the neglect of the all-important question, "Is my family prepared to meet the Lord?" Will they assent to the great truths that are present truth for these last days, and be interested to see this message going to other peoples and lands, while they allow their children, their most precious possession, to go on unwarned of their danger and unprepared for the future? Shall those who, from the Word of God and through the witness of his Spirit, have had clear light concerning their duty allow the years to pass without making definite efforts to save their children?
Christ is waiting for the cooperation of human agencies, that he may impress the hearts of our children and youth. With intense desire heavenly beings long to see parents making that preparation which is essential if they and their children stand loyal to God in the coming conflict, and enter in through the gates to the city of God. Let parents arouse from their indifference, and redeem the time. Let them seek to correct the mistakes they have made in the past in the management of their children. Let those who have neglected their God-given work repent of their neglect, and in the fear of God take up their responsibilities. As they seek to magnify the law of God in the daily life, they will make that law honorable in the eyes of their children. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #43)
The parable of the talents should be a matter of the most careful and prayerful study; for it has a personal and individual application to every man, woman, and child possessed of the powers of reason. Your obligation and responsibility are in proportion to the talents God has bestowed upon you. There is not a follower of Christ but has some peculiar gift for the use of which he is accountable to God. Many have excused themselves from rendering their gift to the service of Christ, because others were possessed of superior endowments and advantages. The opinion has prevailed that only those who are especially talented are required to sanctify their abilities to the service of God.
It has come to be understood that talents are given only to a certain favored class, to the exclusion of others who, of course, are not called upon to share in the toils or rewards. But it is not so represented in the parable. When the master of the house called his servants, he gave to every man his work. The whole family of God are included in the responsibility of using their Lord's goods. Every individual, from the lowliest and most obscure to the greatest and most exalted, is a moral agent endowed with abilities for which he is accountable to God. To a greater or less degree, all are placed in charge of the talents of their Lord. The spiritual, mental, and physical ability, the influence, station, possessions, affections, sympathies, all are precious talents to be used in the cause of the Master for the salvation of souls for whom Christ died.
How few appreciate these blessings! How few seek to improve their talent, and increase their usefulness in the world! The Master has given to every man his work. He has given to every man according to his ability, and his trust is in proportion to his capacity. God requires every one to be a worker in his vineyard. You are to take up the work that has been placed in your charge, and do it faithfully. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Let the business man do his business in a way that will glorify his Master because of his fidelity. Let him carry his religion into everything that is done, and reveal to men the spirit of Christ. Let the mechanic be a diligent and faithful representative of him who toiled in the lowly walks of life in the cities of Judea. Let every one who names the name of Christ so work that men, by seeing his good works, may be led to glorify their Creator and Redeemer. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord." Let the upbuilding of the kingdom of Christ be your constant thought, and let every effort be directed toward this one end.
Those who have been blessed with superior talents should not depreciate the value of the services of those who are less gifted than themselves. The smallest trust is a trust from God. With the blessing of God, the one talent through diligent use will be doubled, and the two used in the service of Christ will be increased to four; and thus the humblest instrument may grow in power and usefulness. The earnest purpose, the self-denying efforts, are all seen, appreciated, and accepted by the God of heaven. "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones." God alone can estimate the worth of his service, and see the far-reaching influence of him who works for the glory of his Maker.
We are to make the very best use of our opportunities, and to study to show ourselves approved unto God. God will accept our best efforts; but let no one imagine he will be pleased with ignorance and inability when, with proper improvement of privileges bestowed, a better service might be supplied. We are not to despise the day of small things; but by a diligent care and perseverance, we are to make the small opportunities and talents minister to our advancement in divine life, and hasten us on to a more intelligent and better service. But when we have done all that we can do, we are to count ourselves unprofitable servants. There is no room for pride in our efforts; for we are dependent every moment upon the grace of God, and we have nothing that we did not receive. Says Jesus, "Without me ye can do nothing."
We are responsible only for the talents which God has bestowed upon us. The Lord does not reprove the servant who has doubled his talent, who has done according to his ability. He who thus proves his fidelity can be commended and rewarded; but he who loiters in the vineyard, he who does nothing, or does negligently the Lord's work, makes manifest his real attitude toward the work to which he has been called, by his works. He shows that his heart is not in the service for which he has been engaged. He has digged in the earth, and has hidden his Lord's money. The talent given to him for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, has been unappreciated and abused. The good it might have done is left unaccomplished, and the Lord can not receive his own with usury.
Let none mourn that they have not larger talents to use for the Master. While you are dissatisfied and complaining, you are losing precious time and wasting valuable opportunities. Thank God for the ability you have, and pray that you may be enabled to meet the responsibilities that have been placed upon you. If you desire greater usefulness, go to work and acquire what you mourn for. Go to work with steady patience, and do your very best, irrespective of what others are doing. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Let not your thought or your words be, O that I had a larger work! O that I were in this or that position! Do your duty where you are. Make the best investments possible with your entrusted gift in the very place where your work will count the most before God. Put away all murmuring and strife. Labor not for the supremacy. Be not envious of the talents of others; for that will not increase your ability to do a good or a great work. Use your gift in meekness, in humility, in trusting faith, and wait till the day of reckoning, and you will have no cause for grief or shame. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #44)
Five days after Paul's arrival at Caesarea, his accusers came from Jerusalem, accompanied by Tertullus, an orator whom they had engaged as their counsel. The case was granted a speedy hearing. Paul was brought before the assembly, and Tertullus "began to accuse him." Judging that flattery would have more influence upon the Roman governor than the simple statements of truth and justice, the wily orator began his speech by praising Felix. "Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness."
Tertullus here descended to barefaced falsehood; for the character of Felix was base and contemptible. It was said of him, that "in the practise of all kinds of lust and cruelty, he exercised the power of a king with the temper of a slave." Those who heard Tertullus knew that his flattering words were untrue; but their desire to secure the condemnation of Paul was stronger than their love of truth.
In his speech Tertullus charged Paul with crimes which, if proved, would have resulted in his conviction for high treason against the government. "We have found this man a pestilent fellow," declared Tertullus, "and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple." Tertullus then stated that Lysias, the commandant of the garrison at Jerusalem, had violently taken Paul from the Jews when they were about to judge him by their ecclesiastical law, and had thus forced them to bring the matter before Felix. These statements were made with the design of inducing the procurator to deliver Paul over to the Jewish court. All the charges were vehemently supported by the Jews present, who made no effort to conceal their hatred against the prisoner.
Felix had sufficient penetration to read the disposition and character of Paul's accusers. He knew from what motive they had flattered him, and he saw also that they had failed to substantiate their charges against Paul. Turning to the accused, he beckoned to him to answer for himself. Paul wasted no words in compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Referring to the charges brought against him, he plainly showed that not one of them was true. He declared that he had caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem, nor had he profaned the sanctuary. "They neither found me in the temple disputing with any man," he said, "neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me."
While confessing that "after the way which they call heresy" he had worshiped the God of his fathers, he asserted that he had always believed "all things which are written in the law and in the prophets;" and that in harmony with the plain teaching of the Scriptures he held the faith of the resurrection of the dead. He further declared that the ruling purpose of his life was to "have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men."
In a candid, straightforward manner he stated the object of his visit to Jerusalem, and the circumstances of his arrest and trial: "Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evildoing in me, while I stood before the council, except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day."
The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction. Claudius Lysias, in his letter to Felix, had borne a similar testimony in regard to Paul's conduct. Moreover, Felix himself had a better knowledge of the Jewish religion than many supposed. Paul's plain statement of the facts in the case enabled Felix to understand still more clearly the motives by which the Jews were governed in attempting to convict the apostle of sedition and treasonable conduct. The governor would not gratify them by unjustly condemning a Roman citizen, neither would he give him up to them to be put to death without a fair trial. Yet Felix knew no higher motive than self-interest, and he was controlled by love of praise and a desire for promotion. Fear of offending the Jews held him back from doing full justice to a man whom he knew to be innocent. He therefore decided to suspend the trial until Lysias should be present, saying, "When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter."
The apostle remained a prisoner, but Felix commanded the centurion who had been appointed to keep Paul, "to let him have liberty," and to "forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him."
It was not long after this that Felix and his wife, Drusilla, sent for Paul, in order that in a private interview they might hear from him "concerning the faith in Christ." They were willing and even eager to listen to these new truths--truths which they might never hear again, and which, if rejected, would prove a swift witness against them in the day of God.
Paul regarded this as a God-given opportunity, and faithfully he improved it. He knew that he stood in the presence of one who had power to put him to death or to set him free; yet he did not address Felix and Drusilla with praise or flattery. He knew that his words would be to them a savor of life or of death, and forgetting all selfish considerations, he sought to arouse them to a sense of their peril.
The apostle realized that the gospel had a claim upon whoever might listen to his words; that one day they would stand either among the pure and holy around the great white throne, or with those to whom Christ would say, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." He knew that he must meet every one of his hearers before the tribunal of heaven, and must there render an account, not only for all that he had said and done, but for the motive and spirit of his words and deeds.
So violent and cruel had been the course of Felix, that few had ever before dared even to intimate to him that his character and conduct were not faultless. But Paul had no fear of man. He plainly declared his faith in Christ, and the reasons for that faith, and was thus led to speak particularly of those virtues essential to Christian character, but of which the haughty pair before him were so strikingly destitute.
He held up before Felix and Drusilla the character of God--his righteousness, justice, and equity--and the nature of his law. He clearly showed that it is man's duty to live a life of sobriety and temperance, keeping the passions under the control of reason, in conformity to God's law, and preserving the physical and mental powers in a healthy condition. He declared that there would surely come a day of judgment, when all would be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body, and when it would be plainly revealed that wealth, position, or titles are powerless to gain for man the favor of God, or to deliver him from the results of sin. He showed that this life is man's time of preparation for the future life. Should he neglect present privileges and opportunities, he would suffer an eternal loss; no new probation would be given him.
Paul dwelt especially upon the far-reaching claims of God's law. He showed how it extends to the deep secrets of man's moral nature, and throws a flood of light upon that which has been concealed from the sight and knowledge of men. What the hands may do or the tongue may utter--what the outer life reveals--but imperfectly shows man's moral character. The law searches his thoughts, motives, and purposes. The dark passions that lie hidden from the sight of men, the jealousy, hatred, lust, and ambition, the evil deeds meditated upon in the dark recesses of the soul, yet never executed for want of opportunity,--all these God's law condemns.
Paul endeavored to direct the minds of his hearers to the one great Sacrifice for sin. He pointed to the sacrifices that were shadows of good things to come, and then presented Christ as the antitype of all those ceremonies--the object to which they pointed as the only source of life and hope for fallen man. Holy men of old were saved by faith in the blood of Christ. As they saw the dying agonies of the sacrificial victims, they looked across the gulf of ages to the Lamb of God that was to take away the sin of the world.
God justly claims the love and obedience of all his creatures. He has given them in his law a perfect standard of right. But many forget their Maker, and choose to follow their own way in opposition to his will. They return enmity for love that is as high as heaven and as broad as the universe. God can not lower the requirements of his law to meet the standard of wicked men; neither can man, in his own power, meet the demands of the law. Only by faith in Christ can the sinner be cleansed from guilt, and be enabled to render obedience to the law of his Maker.
Thus Paul, the prisoner, urged the claims of the divine law upon Jew and Gentile, and presented Jesus, the despised Nazarene, as the Son of God, the world's Redeemer.
The Jewish princess well understood the sacred character of that law which she had so shamelessly transgressed; but her prejudice against the Man of Calvary steeled her heart against the word of life. But Felix had never before listened to the truth; and as the Spirit of God sent conviction to his soul, he became deeply agitated. Conscience, now aroused, made her voice heard; and Felix felt that Paul's words were true. Memory went back over the guilty past. With terrible distinctness there came up before him the secrets of his early life of lust and bloodshed, and the black record of his later years. He saw himself licentious, cruel, rapacious, unjust, and steeped in the blood of private murders and public massacres. Never before had the truth been thus brought home to his heart. Never before had his soul been so filled with terror. The thought that all secrets of his career of crime were open before the eye of God, and that he must be judged according to his deeds, caused him to tremble with dread.
But instead of permitting his convictions to lead him to repentance, he sought to dismiss these unwelcome reflections. The interview with Paul was cut short. "Go thy way for this time," he said; "when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."
How wide the contrast between the course of Felix and that of the jailer of Philippi! The servants of the Lord were brought in bonds to the jailer, as was Paul to Felix. The evidence they gave of being sustained by a divine power, their rejoicing under suffering and disgrace, their fearlessness when the earth was reeling with the earthquake shock, and their spirit of Christlike forgiveness, sent conviction to the jailer's heart, and with trembling he confessed his sins and found pardon. Felix trembled, but he did not repent. The jailer joyfully welcomed the Spirit of God to his heart and to his home; Felix bade the divine messenger depart. The one chose to become a child of God and an heir of heaven; the other cast his lot with the workers of iniquity.
For two years no further action was taken against Paul, yet he remained a prisoner. Felix visited him several times, and listened attentively to his words. But the real motive for this apparent friendliness was a desire for gain, and he intimated that by the payment of a large sum of money Paul might secure his release. The apostle, however, was of too noble a nature to free himself by a bribe. He was not guilty of any crime, and he would not stoop to commit a wrong in order to gain freedom. Furthermore, he was himself too poor to pay such a ransom, had he been disposed to do so, and he would not, in his own behalf, appeal to the sympathy and generosity of his converts. He also felt that he was in the hands of God, and he would not interfere with the divine purposes respecting himself.
Felix was finally summoned to Rome because of gross wrongs committed against the Jews. Before leaving Caesarea in answer to this summons, he thought to "show the Jews a pleasure" by allowing Paul to remain in prison. But Felix was not successful in his attempt to regain the confidence of the Jews. He was removed from office in disgrace, and Porcius Festus was appointed to succeed him, with headquarters at Caesarea.
A ray of light from heaven had been permitted to shine upon Felix, when Paul reasoned with him concerning righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. That was his heaven-sent opportunity to see and to forsake his sins. But he said to the messenger of God, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." He had slighted his last offer of mercy. Never was he to receive another call from God. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #45)
"When Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, and desired favor against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem." In making this request they purposed to waylay Paul along the road to Jerusalem, and murder him. But Festus had a high sense of the responsibility of his position, and courteously declined to send for Paul. "It is not the manner of the Romans," he declared, "to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him." He stated that "he himself would depart shortly" for Caesarea. "Let them therefore . . . which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him."
This was not what the Jews wanted. They had not forgotten their former defeat at Caesarea. In contrast with the calm bearing and forcible arguments of the apostle, their own malignant spirit and baseless accusations would appear in the worst possible light. Again they urged that Paul be brought to Jerusalem for trial, but Festus held firmly to his purpose of giving Paul a fair trial at Caesarea. God in his providence controlled the decision of Festus, that the life of the apostle might be lengthened.
Their purposes defeated, the Jewish leaders at once prepared to witness against Paul at the court of the procurator. Upon returning to Caesarea, after a few days' sojourn at Jerusalem, Festus "the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought." "The Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove." Being on this occasion without a lawyer, the Jews preferred their charges themselves. As the trial proceeded, the accused with calmness and candor clearly showed the falsity of their statements.
Festus discerned that the question in dispute related wholly to Jewish doctrines, and that, rightly understood, there was nothing in the charges against Paul, could they be proved, that would render him subject to sentence of death, or even to imprisonment. Yet he saw clearly the storm of rage that would be created if Paul was not condemned nor delivered into their hands. And so, "willing to do the Jews a pleasure," Festus turned to Paul, and asked if he was willing to go to Jerusalem under his protection, to be tried by the Sanhedrin.
The apostle knew that he could not look for justice from the people who by their crimes were bringing down upon themselves the wrath of God. He knew that, like the prophet Elijah, he would be safer among the heathen than with those who had rejected light from heaven and hardened their hearts against the gospel. Weary of strife, his active spirit could ill endure the repeated delays and wearing suspense of his trial and imprisonment. He therefore decided to exercise his privilege, as a Roman citizen, of appealing to Caesar.
In answer to the governor's question, Paul said: "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar."
Festus knew nothing of the conspiracies of the Jews to murder Paul, and he was surprised at this appeal to Caesar. However, the words of the apostle put a stop to the proceedings of the court. "Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go."
Thus it was that once more, because of hatred born of bigotry and self-righteousness, a servant of God was driven to turn for protection to the heathen. It was this same hatred that forced the prophet Elijah to flee for succor to the widow of Sarepta, and that forced the heralds of the gospel to turn from the Jews to proclaim their message to the Gentiles.
And this hatred the people of God living in this age have yet to meet. Among many of the professing followers of Christ, there is the same pride, formalism, and selfishness, the same spirit of oppression, that held so large a place in the Jewish heart. In the future, men claiming to be Christ's representatives will take a course similar to that followed by the priests and rulers in their treatment of Christ and the apostles. In the great crisis through which they are soon to pass, the faithful servants of God will encounter the same hardness of heart, the same cruel determination, the same unyielding hatred.
All who in that evil day would fearlessly serve God according to the dictates of conscience, will need courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and his Word; for those who are true to God will be persecuted, their motives will be impugned, their best efforts misinterpreted, and their names cast out as evil. Satan will work with all his deceptive power to influence the heart and becloud the understanding, to make evil appear good, and good evil. The stronger and purer the faith of God's people, and the firmer their determination to obey him, the more fiercely will Satan strive to stir up against them the rage of those who, while claiming to be righteous, trample upon the law of God. It will require the firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints.
God desires his people to prepare for the soon-coming crisis. Prepared or unprepared, they must all meet it, and those only who have brought their lives into conformity to the divine standard, will stand firm at that time of test and trial. When secular rulers unite with ministers of religion to dictate in matters of conscience, then it will be seen who really fear and serve God. When the darkness is deepest, the light of a godlike character will shine the brightest. When every other trust fails, then it will be seen who have an abiding trust in Jehovah. And while the enemies of truth are on every side, watching the Lord's servants for evil, God will watch over them for good. He will be to them as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #46)
Paul had appealed to Caesar, and Festus could not do otherwise than send him to Rome. But some time passed before a suitable ship could be found; and as other prisoners were to be sent with Paul, the consideration of their cases also occasioned delay. This gave Paul opportunity to present the reasons of his faith before the principal men of Caesarea, and also before King Agrippa II, the last of the Herods.
"After certain days King Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him." He outlined the circumstances that led to the prisoner's appeal to Caesar, telling of Paul's recent trial before him, and saying that the Jews had brought against Paul no accusation such as he had supposed they would bring, but "certain questions . . . of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive."
As Festus told his story, Agrippa became interested, and said, "I would also hear the man myself." In harmony with his wish, a meeting was arranged for the following day. "And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth."
In honor of his visitors, Festus had sought to make this an occasion of imposing display. The rich robes of the procurator and his guests, the swords of the soldiers, and the gleaming armor of their commanders, lent brilliancy to the scene.
And now Paul, still manacled, stood before the assembled company. What a contrast was here presented! Agrippa and Bernice possessed power and position, and because of this they were favored by the world. But they were destitute of the traits of character that God esteems. They were transgressors of his law, corrupt in heart and life. Their course of action was abhorred by heaven.
The aged prisoner, chained to his soldier guard, had in his appearance nothing that would lead the world to pay him homage. Yet in this man, apparently without friends or wealth or position, and held a prisoner for his faith in the Son of God, all heaven was interested. Angels were his attendants. Had the glory of one of those shining messengers flashed forth, the pomp and pride of royalty would have paled; king and courtiers would have been stricken to the earth, as were the Roman guards at the sepulcher of Christ.
Festus himself presented Paul to the assembly with the words; "King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my Lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O King Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him."
King Agrippa now gave Paul liberty to speak for himself. The apostle was not disconcerted by the brilliant display or the high rank of his audience; for he knew of how little worth are worldly wealth and position. Earthly pomp and power could not for a moment daunt his courage nor rob him of his self-control.
"I think myself happy, King Agrippa," he declared, "because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently."
Paul related the story of his conversion from stubborn unbelief to faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the world's Redeemer. He described the heavenly vision that at first had filled him with unspeakable terror, but afterward proved to be a source of the greatest consolation,--a revelation of divine glory, in the midst of which sat enthroned Him whom he had despised and hated, whose followers he was even then seeking to destroy. From that hour Paul had been a new man, a sincere and fervent believer in Jesus, made such by transforming mercy.
With clearness and power, Paul outlined before Agrippa the leading events connected with the life of Christ on the earth. He testified that the Messiah of prophecy had already appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He showed how the Old Testament Scriptures had declared that the Messiah was to appear as a man among men, and how in the life of Jesus had been fulfilled every specification outlined by Moses and the prophets. For the purpose of redeeming a lost world, the divine Son of God had endured the cross, despising the shame, and had ascended to heaven triumphant over death and the grave.
Why, Paul reasoned, should it seem incredible that Christ should rise from the dead? Once it had thus seemed to him; but how could he disbelieve that which he himself had seen and heard? At the gate of Damascus he had verily looked upon the crucified and risen Christ, the same who had walked the streets of Jerusalem, died on Calvary, broken the bands of death, and ascended to heaven. As verily as had Cephas, James, John, or any others of the disciples, he had seen and talked with Jesus. The voice had bidden him proclaim the gospel of a risen Saviour, and how could he disobey? In Damascus, in Jerusalem,throughout all Judea, and in the regions afar off, he had borne witness of Jesus the crucified, showing all classes "that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."
"For these causes," the apostle declared, "the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles."
The whole company had listened spellbound to Paul's account of his wonderful experiences. The apostle was dwelling upon his favorite theme. None who heard him could doubt his sincerity. But in the full tide of his persuasive eloquence he was interrupted by Festus, who cried out, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."
The apostle replied, " I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner." Then, turning to Agrippa, he addressed him directly: "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest."
Deeply affected, Agrippa for the moment lost sight of his surroundings and the dignity of his position. Conscious only of the truths which he had heard, seeing only the humble prisoner standing before him as God's ambassador, he answered involuntarily, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
Earnestly the apostle made answer, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am," adding, as he raised his fettered hands, "except these bonds."
Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice might in justice have worn the fetters that bound the apostle. All were guilty of grievous crimes. These offenders had that day heard the offer of salvation through the name of Christ. One, at least, had been almost persuaded to accept the grace and pardon offered. But Agrippa put aside the proffered mercy, refusing to accept the cross of a crucified Redeemer.
The king's curiosity was satisfied and rising from his seat, he signified that the interview was at an end. As the assembly dispersed, they talked among themselves, saying, "This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds."
Though Agrippa was a Jew, he did not share the bigoted zeal and blind prejudice of the Pharisees. "This man," he said to Festus, "might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar." But the case had been referred to that higher tribunal, and it was now beyond the jurisdiction of either Festus or Agrippa. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #47)
At last Paul was on his way to Rome. "When it was determined," Luke writes, "that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us."
In the first century of the Christian era, traveling by sea was attended with peculiar hardship and peril. Mariners directed their course largely by the position of the sun and stars; and when these did not appear, and there were indications of storms, the owners of vessels were fearful of venturing into the open sea. During a portion of the year, safe navigation was almost impossible.
The apostle Paul was now called upon to endure the trying experiences that would fall to his lot as a prisoner in chains during the long and tedious voyage to Italy. One circumstance greatly lightened the hardship of his lot,--he was permitted the companionship of Luke and Aristarchus. In his letter to the Colossians, he afterward referred to the latter as his "fellow prisoner;" but it was from choice that Aristarchus shared Paul's bondage, that he might minister to him in his afflictions.
The voyage began prosperously. The following day they cast anchor in the harbor of Sidon. Here Julius, the centurion, "courteously entreated Paul," and being informed that there were Christians in the place, "gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself." This permission was greatly appreciated by the apostle, who was in feeble health.
Upon leaving Sidon, the ship encountered contrary winds; and being driven from a direct course, its progress was slow. At Myra, in the province of Lycia, the centurion found a large Alexandrian ship, bound for the coast of Italy, and to this he immediately transferred his prisoners. But the winds were still contrary, and the ship's progress was difficult. Luke writes, "When we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; and, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called the Fair Havens."
At Fair Havens they were compelled to remain for some time, waiting for favorable winds. Winter was approaching rapidly; "sailing was now dangerous;" and those in charge of the vessel had to give up hope of reaching their destination before the season for travel by sea should be closed for the year. The only question now to be decided was whether to remain at Fair Havens, or attempt to reach a more favorable place in which to winter.
This question was earnestly discussed, and was finally referred by the centurion to Paul, who had won the respect of both sailors and soldiers. The apostle unhesitatingly advised remaining where they were. "I perceive," he said, "that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives." But "the master and the owner of the ship," and the majority of passengers and crew, were unwilling to accept this counsel. Because the haven in which they had anchored "was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is a haven of Crete, and lieth toward the southwest and northwest."
The centurion decided to follow the judgment of the majority. Accordingly, "when the south wind blew softly," they set sail from Fair Havens, in the hope that they would soon reach the desired harbor. "But not long after there arose . . . a tempestuous wind;" "the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind."
Driven by the tempest, the vessel neared the small island of Clauda, and while under its shelter the sailors made ready for the worst. The lifeboat, their only means of escape in case the ship should founder, was in tow, and liable to be dashed in pieces any moment. Their first work was to hoist this boat on board. All possible precautions were then taken to strengthen the ship, and prepare it to withstand the tempest. The scant protection afforded by the little island did not avail them long, and soon they were again exposed to the full violence of the storm.
All night the tempest raged, and notwithstanding the precautions that had been taken, the vessel leaked. "The next day they lightened the ship." Night came again, but the wind did not abate. The storm beaten ship, with its shattered mast and rent sails, was tossed hither and thither by the fury of the gale. Every moment it seemed that the groaning timbers must give way as the vessel reeled and quivered under the tempest's shock. The leak increased rapidly, and passengers and crew worked continually at the pumps. There was not a moment's rest for any on board. "The third day," writes Luke, "we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away."
For fourteen days they drifted under a sunless and starless heaven. The apostle, though himself suffering physically, had words of hope for the darkest hour, a helping hand in every emergency. He grasped by faith the arm of Infinite Power, and his heart was stayed upon God. He had no fears for himself; he knew that God would preserve him to witness at Rome for the truth of Christ. But his heart yearned with pity for the poor souls around him, sinful, degraded, and unprepared to die. As he earnestly pleaded with God to spare their lives, it was revealed to him that his prayer was granted.
Taking advantage of a lull in the tempest, Paul stood forth on the deck, and lifting up his voice, said: "Sirs, ye should have harkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island."
At these words, hope revived. Passengers and crew roused from their apathy. There was much yet to be done, and every effort within their power must be put forth to avert destruction. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #48)
It was on the fourteenth night of tossing on the black, heaving billows, that "about midnight" the sailors, hearing the sound of breakers, "deemed that they drew near to some country; and sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little farther, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing," Luke writes, "lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day."
At break of day the outlines of the stormy coast were dimly visible, but no familiar landmarks could be seen. So gloomy was the outlook that the heathen sailors, losing all courage, "were about to flee out of the ship," and feigning to make preparations for casting "anchors out of the foreship," they had already let down the lifeboat, when Paul, perceiving their base design, said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Except these abide in the ship, ye can not be saved." The soldiers immediately "cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off" into the sea.
The most critical hour was still before them. Again the apostle spoke words of encouragement, and entreated all, both sailors and passengers, to take some food, saying, "This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not a hair fall from the head of any of you."
"When he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat." Then that worn and discouraged company of two hundred seventy-six souls, who but for Paul would have become desperate, joined with the apostle in partaking of food. "And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea."
Daylight had now fully come, but they could see nothing by which to determine their whereabouts. However "they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder-bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the fore part stuck fast, and remained unmovable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves."
Paul and the other prisoners were now threatened by a fate more terrible than shipwreck. The soldiers saw that while endeavoring to reach land it would be impossible for them to keep their prisoners in charge. Every man would have all he could do to save himself. Yet if any of the prisoners were missing, the lives of those who were responsible for them would be forfeited. Hence the soldiers desired to put all the prisoners to death. The Roman law sanctioned this cruel policy, and the plan would have been executed at once but for him to whom all alike were under deep obligation. Julius, the centurion, knew that Paul had been instrumental in saving the lives of all on board; and, moreover, convinced that the Lord was with him, he feared to do him harm. He therefore "commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: and the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land." When the roll was called, not one was missing.
The shipwrecked crew were kindly received by the barbarous people of Melita. "They kindled a fire," Luke writes, "and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold." Paul was among those who were active in ministering to the comfort of others. Having gathered "a bundle of sticks," he "laid them on the fire," when a viper came forth "out of the heat, and fastened on his hand." The bystanders were horror stricken; and seeing by his chain that Paul was a prisoner, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live." But Paul shook off the creature into the fire, and felt no harm. Knowing its venomous nature, the people looked for him to fall down at any moment in terrible agony. "But after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god."
During the three months that the ship's company remained at Melita, Paul and his fellow laborers improved many opportunities to preach the gospel. In a remarkable manner the Lord wrought through them. For Paul's sake, the entire shipwrecked company were treated with great kindness; all their wants were supplied, and upon leaving Melita they were liberally provided with everything needful for their voyage. The chief incidents of their stay are thus briefly related by Luke:--
"In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux; to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary." Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #49)
With the opening of navigation, the centurion and his prisoners set out on their journey to Rome. An Alexandrian ship, the "Castor and Pollux," had wintered at Melita, on her way westward, and in this the travelers embarked. Though somewhat delayed by contrary winds, the voyage was safely accomplished, and the ship cast anchor in the beautiful harbor of Puteoli, on the coast of Italy.
In this place there were a few Christians, and they entreated the apostle to remain with them for seven days, a privilege kindly granted by the centurion. Since receiving Paul's epistle to the Romans, the Christians of Italy had eagerly looked forward to a visit from the apostle. They had not thought to see him come as a prisoner, but his sufferings only endeared him the more to them. The distance from Puteoli to Rome being but a hundred forty miles, and the seaport being in constant communication with the metropolis, the Roman Christians were informed of Paul's approach, and some of them started to meet and welcome him.
On the eighth day after landing, the centurion and his prisoners set out for Rome. Julius willingly granted the apostle every favor which it was in his power to bestow; but he could not change his condition as a prisoner, nor release him from the chain that bound him to his soldier guard. It was with a heavy heart that Paul went forward to his long expected visit to the world's metropolis. How different the circumstances from those he had anticipated! How was he, fettered and stigmatized, to proclaim the gospel? His hopes of winning many souls to the truth in Rome, seemed destined to disappointment.
At last the travelers reach Appii Forum, forty miles from Rome. As they make their way through the crowds that throng the great thoroughfare, the gray-haired old man, chained with a group of hardened-looking criminals, receives many a glance of scorn, and is made the subject of many a rude, mocking jest.
Suddenly a cry of joy is heard, and a man springs from the passing throng and falls upon the prisoner's neck, embracing him with tears and rejoicing, as a son would welcome a long absent father. Again and again is the scene repeated, as, with eyes made keen by loving expectation, many discern in the chained captive the one who at Corinth, at Philippi, at Ephesus, had spoken to them the words of life.
As the warm hearted disciples eagerly flock around their father in the gospel, the whole company is brought to a standstill. The soldiers are impatient of delay, yet they have not the heart to interrupt this happy meeting; for they too have learned to respect and esteem their prisoner. In that worn, pain stricken face, the disciples see reflected the image of Christ. They assure Paul that they have not forgotten him nor ceased to love him; that they are indebted to him for the joyful hope which animates their lives, and gives them peace toward God. In the ardor of their love they would bear him upon their shoulders the whole way to the city, could they but have the privilege.
Few realize the significance of Luke's words that when Paul saw his brethren, "he thanked God, and took courage." In the midst of the weeping, sympathizing company of believers, who were not ashamed of his bonds, the apostle praised God aloud. The cloud of sadness that had rested upon his spirit was swept away. His Christian life had been a succession of trials, sufferings, and disappointments, but in that hour he felt abundantly repaid. With firmer step and joyful heart he continued on his way. He would not complain of the past, nor fear for the future. Bonds and afflictions awaited him, he knew; but he knew also that it had been his to deliver souls from a bondage infinitely more terrible, and he rejoiced in his sufferings for Christ's sake.
At Rome the centurion Julius delivered up his prisoners to the captain of the emperor's guard. The good account which he gave of Paul, together with the letter from Festus, caused the apostle to be favorably regarded by the chief captain, and instead of being thrown into prison, he was permitted to live in his own hired house. Although still constantly chained to a soldier, he was at liberty to receive his friends, and to labor for the advancement of the cause of Christ.
Many of the Jews who had been banished from Rome some years previously, had been allowed to return, so that large numbers were now to be found there. To these, first of all, Paul determined to present the facts concerning himself and his work, before his enemies should have opportunity to embitter them against him. Three days after his arrival in Rome, therefore, he called together their leading men, and in a simple, direct manner stated why he had come to Rome as a prisoner.
"Men and brethren," he said, "though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."
He said nothing of the abuse which he had suffered at the hands of the Jews, or of their repeated plots to assassinate him. His words were marked with caution and kindness. He was not seeking to win personal attention or sympathy, but to defend the truth and to maintain the honor of the gospel.
In reply, his hearers stated that they had received no charges against him by letters public or private, and that none of the Jews who had come to Rome had accused him of any crime. They also expressed a strong desire to hear for themselves the reasons of his faith in Christ. "As concerning this sect," they said, "we know that everywhere it is spoken against."
Since they themselves desired it, Paul bade them set a day when he could present to them the truths of the gospel. At the time appointed, many came together, "to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening." He related his own experience, and presented arguments from the Old Testament Scriptures with simplicity, sincerity, and power.
The apostle showed that religion does not consist in rites and ceremonies, creeds and theories. If it did, the natural man could understand it by investigation, as he understands worldly things. Paul taught that religion is a practical, saving energy, a principle wholly from God, a personal experience of God's renewing power upon the soul.
He showed how Moses had pointed Israel forward to Christ as that Prophet whom they were to hear; how all the prophets had testified of him as God's great remedy for sin, the guiltless One who was to bear the sins of the guilty. He did not find fault with their observance of forms and ceremonies, but showed that while they maintained the ritual service with great exactness, they were rejecting him who was the anti-type of all that system.
Paul declared that in his unconverted state he had known Christ, not by personal acquaintance, but merely by the conception which he, in common with others, cherished concerning the character and work of the Messiah to come. He had rejected Jesus of Nazareth as an impostor because he did not fulfil this conception. But now Paul's views of Christ and his mission were far more spiritual and exalted; for he had been converted. The apostle asserted that he did not present to them Christ after the flesh. Herod had seen Christ in the days of his humanity; Annas had seen him; Pilate and the priests and rulers had seen him; the Roman soldiers had seen him. But they had not seen him with the eye of faith; they had not seen him as the glorified Redeemer. To apprehend Christ by faith, to have a spiritual knowledge of him, was more to be desired than a personal acquaintance with him as he appeared on the earth. The communion with Christ which Paul now enjoyed was more intimate, more enduring, than a mere earthly and human companionship.
As Paul spoke of what he knew, and testified of what he had seen, concerning Jesus of Nazareth as the hope of Israel, those who were honestly seeking for truth were convinced. Upon some minds, at least, his words made an impression that was never effaced. But others stubbornly refused to accept the plain testimony of the Scriptures, even when presented to them by one who had the special illumination of the Holy Spirit. They could not refute his arguments, but they refused to accept his conclusions. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #50)
Many months passed by after Paul's arrival in Rome, before the Jews of Jerusalem appeared in person to present their accusations against the prisoner. They had been repeatedly thwarted in their designs; and now that Paul was to be tried before the highest tribunal of the Roman empire, they had no desire to risk another defeat. Lysias, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa had all declared their belief in his innocence. His enemies could hope for success only in seeking by intrigue to influence the emperor in their favor. Delay would further their object, as it would afford them time to perfect and execute their plans; and so they waited for a while before preferring their charges in person against the apostle.
In the providence of God, this delay resulted in the furtherance of the gospel. Through the favor of those who had Paul in charge, he was permitted to dwell in a commodious house, where he could meet freely with his friends, and also present the truth daily to those who came to hear. Thus for two years he continued his labors, "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him."
During this time, the churches that he had established in many lands were not forgotten. Realizing the dangers that threatened the converts to the new faith, the apostle sought, as far as possible, to meet their needs by letters of warning and practical instruction; and from Rome he sent out consecrated workers to labor not only for these churches, but in fields that he himself had not visited. These workers, as wise shepherds, strengthened the work so well begun by Paul; and the apostle, kept informed of the conditions and dangers of the churches by constant communication with them, was enabled to exercise a wise supervision over all.
Thus, while apparently cut off from active labor, Paul exerted a wider and more lasting influence than if he had been free to travel among the churches as in former years. As a prisoner of the Lord, he had a firmer hold upon the affections of his brethren; and his words, written by one under bonds for the sake of Christ, commanded greater attention and respect than they did when he was personally with them. Not until Paul was removed from the believers, did they realize how heavy were the burdens he had borne in their behalf. Heretofore they had largely excused themselves from responsibility and burden bearing because they lacked his wisdom, tact, and indomitable energy; but now, left in their inexperience to learn the lessons they had shunned, they prized his warnings, counsels, and instructions as they had not prized his personal work. And as they learned of his courage and faith during his long imprisonment, they were stimulated to greater fidelity and zeal in the cause of Christ.
Among Paul's assistants at Rome were many of his former companions and fellow workers. Luke, "the beloved physician," who had attended him on the journey to Jerusalem, through the two years' imprisonment at Caesarea, and upon his perilous voyage to Rome, was still with him. Timothy also ministered to his comfort. Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord, stood nobly by the apostle. Demas and Mark were also with him. Aristarchus and Epaphras were his fellow prisoners.
Since the earlier years of his profession of faith, Mark's Christian experience had deepened. As he had studied more closely the life and death of Christ, he had obtained clearer views of the Saviour's mission, its toils and conflicts. Reading in the scars in Christ's hands and feet the marks of his service for humanity, and the length to which self-abnegation leads to save the lost and perishing, Mark had become willing to follow the Master in the path of self-sacrifice. Now, sharing the lot of Paul the prisoner, he understood better than ever before that it is infinite gain to win Christ, infinite loss to win the world and lose the soul for whose redemption the blood of Christ was shed. In the face of severe trial and adversity, Mark continued steadfast, a wise and beloved helper of the apostle.
Demas, steadfast for a time, afterward forsook the cause of Christ. In referring to this, Paul wrote, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." For worldly gain, Demas bartered every high and noble consideration. How shortsighted the exchange! Possessing only worldly wealth or honor, Demas was poor indeed, however much he might proudly call his own; while Mark, choosing to suffer for Christ's sake, possessed eternal riches, being accounted in heaven an heir of God and a joint heir with his Son.
Among those who gave their hearts to God through the labors of Paul in Rome, was Onesimus, a pagan slave who had wronged his master, Philemon, a Christian believer in Colosse, and had escaped to Rome. In the kindness of his heart, Paul sought to relieve the poverty and distress of the wretched fugitive, and then endeavored to shed the light of truth into his darkened mind. Onesimus listened to the words of life, confessed his sins, and was converted to the faith of Christ.
Onesimus endeared himself to Paul by his piety and sincerity no less than by his tender care for the apostle's comfort, and his zeal in promoting the work of the gospel. Paul saw in him traits of character that would render him a useful helper in missionary labor, and he counseled him to return without delay to Philemon, beg his forgiveness, and plan for the future. The apostle promised to hold himself responsible for the sum of which Philemon had been robbed. Being about to despatch Tychicus with letters to various churches in Asia Minor, he sent Onesimus with him. It was a severe test for this servant thus to deliver himself up to the master he had wronged, but he had been truly converted, and he did not turn aside from this duty.
Paul made Onesimus the bearer of a letter to Philemon, in which, with his usual tact and kindness, the apostle pleaded the cause of the repentant slave, and expressed a desire to retain his services in the future. The letter began with an affectionate greeting to Philemon as a friend and fellow laborer:--
"Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus." The apostle reminded Philemon that every good purpose and trait of character which he possessed was due to the grace of Christ; this alone made him different from the perverse and the sinful. The same grace could make the debased criminal a child of God and a useful laborer in the gospel.
Paul might have urged upon Philemon his duty as a Christian; but he chose rather the language of entreaty: "As Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ, I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me."
The apostle asked Philemon, in view of the conversion of Onesimus, to receive the repentant slave as his own child, showing him such affection that he would choose to dwell with his former master, "not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved." He expressed his desire to retain Onesimus as one who could minister to him in his bonds as Philemon himself would have done, though he did not desire his services unless Philemon should of his own accord set the slave free.
The apostle well knew the severity which masters exercised toward their slaves, and he knew also that Philemon was greatly incensed because of the conduct of his servant. He tried to write to him in a way that would arouse his deepest and tenderest feelings as a Christian. The conversion of Onesimus had made him a brother in the faith, and any punishment inflicted on this new convert would be regarded by Paul as inflicted on himself.
Paul voluntarily proposed to assume the debt of Onesimus in order that the guilty one might be spared the disgrace of punishment, and might again enjoy the privileges he had forfeited. "If thou count me therefore a partner," he wrote to Philemon, "receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it."
How fitting an illustration of the love of Christ for the repentant sinner! The servant who had defrauded his master had nothing with which to make restitution. The sinner who has robbed God of years of service has no means of canceling the debt. Jesus interposes between the sinner and God, saying, I will pay the debt. Let the sinner be spared; I will suffer in his stead.
After offering to assume the debt of Onesimus, Paul reminded Philemon how greatly he himself was indebted to the apostle. He owed him his own self, since God had made Paul the instrument of his conversion. Then, in a tender, earnest appeal, he besought Philemon that as he had by his liberalities refreshed the saints, so he would refresh the spirit of the apostle by granting him this cause of rejoicing. "Having confidence in thy obedience," he added, "I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say."
Paul's letter to Philemon shows the influence of the gospel upon the relation between master and servant. Slaveholding was an established institution throughout the Roman empire, and both masters and slaves were found in most of the churches for which Paul labored. In the cities, where slaves often greatly outnumbered the free population, laws of terrible severity were regarded as necessary to keep them in subjection. A wealthy Roman often owned hundreds of slaves, of every rank, of every nation, and of every accomplishment. With full control over the souls and bodies of these helpless beings, he could inflict upon them any suffering he chose. If one of them in retaliation or self-defense ventured to raise a hand against his owner, the whole family of the offender might be inhumanly sacrificed. The slightest mistake, accident, or carelessness was often punished without mercy.
Some masters, more humane than others, were more indulgent toward their servants; but the vast majority of the wealthy and noble, given up without restraint to the indulgence of lust, passion, and appetite, made their slaves the wretched victims of caprice and tyranny. The tendency of the whole system was hopelessly degrading.
It was not the apostle's work to overturn arbitrarily or suddenly the established order of society. To attempt this would be to prevent the success of the gospel. But he taught principles which struck at the very foundation of slavery, and which, if carried into effect, would surely undermine the whole system. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," he declared. When converted, the slave became a member of the body of Christ, and as such was to be loved and treated as a brother, a fellow heir with his master to the blessings of God and the privileges of the gospel. On the other hand, servants were to perform their duties, "not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."
Christianity makes a strong bond of union between master and slave, king and subject, the gospel minister and the degraded sinner who has found in Christ cleansing from sin. They have been washed in the same blood, quickened by the same Spirit; and they are made one in Christ Jesus. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #51)
The gospel has ever achieved its greatest success among the humbler classes. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." It could not be expected that Paul, a poor and friendless prisoner, would be able to gain the attention of the wealthy and titled classes of Roman citizens. To them vice presented all its glittering allurements, and held them willing captives. But from among the toil-worn, want stricken victims of their oppression, even from among the poor slaves, many gladly listened to the words of Paul, and in the faith of Christ found a hope and peace that cheered them under the hardships of their lot.
Yet while the apostle's work began with the humble and the lowly, its influence extended until it reached the very palace of the emperor.
Rome was at this time the metropolis of the world. The haughty Caesars were giving laws to nearly every nation upon the earth. Either king and courtier were ignorant of the humble Nazarene, or they regarded him with hatred and derision. And yet in less than two years the gospel found its way from the prisoner's lowly home into the imperial halls. Paul was in bonds as an evildoer; but "the word of God is not bound."
In former years the apostle had publicly proclaimed the faith of Christ with winning power; and by signs and miracles he had given unmistakable evidence of its divine character. With noble firmness he had risen up before the sages of Greece, and by his knowledge and eloquence had put to silence the arguments of proud philosophy. With undaunted courage he had stood before kings and governors, and reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, until the haughty rulers trembled as if already beholding the terrors of the day of God.
No such opportunities were now granted the apostle, confined as he was to his own dwelling, and able to proclaim the truth to those only who sought him there. He had not, like Moses and Aaron, a divine command to go before the profligate king, and in the name of the great I AM rebuke his cruelty and oppression. Yet it was at this very time, when its chief advocate was apparently cut off from public labor, that a great victory was won for the gospel; for from the very household of the king, members were added to the church.
Nowhere could there exist an atmosphere more uncongenial to Christianity than in the Roman court. Nero seemed to have obliterated from his soul the last trace of the divine, and even of the human, and to bear the impress of Satan. His attendants and courtiers were in general of the same character as himself, fierce, debased, and corrupt. To all appearance it would be impossible for Christianity to gain a foothold in the court and palace of Nero.
Yet in this case, as in so many others, was proved the truth of Paul's assertion that the weapons of his warfare were "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Even in Nero's household, trophies of the cross were won. From the vile attendants of a viler king were gained converts who became sons of God. These were not Christians secretly, but openly. They were not ashamed of their faith.
And by what means was an entrance achieved and a firm footing gained for Christianity where even its admission seemed impossible? In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul ascribed to his own imprisonment his success in winning converts to the faith from Nero's household. Fearful lest the Philippians might think that his afflictions had impeded the progress of the gospel, he assured them: "I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel."
When the Christian churches first learned that Paul was to visit Rome, they looked forward to a signal triumph of the gospel in that city. Paul had borne the truth to many lands; he had proclaimed it in great cities. Might not this champion of the faith succeed in winning souls to Christ, even in the metropolis of the world? But their hopes were crushed by the tidings that Paul had gone to Rome as a prisoner. They had confidently hoped to see the gospel, once established at this great center, extend rapidly to all nations, and become a prevailing power in the earth. How great their disappointment! Human expectations had failed, but not the purpose of God.
Not by Paul's sermons, but by his bonds, was the attention of the court attracted to Christianity. It was as a captive that he broke from so many souls the bonds that held them in the slavery of sin. Nor was this all. He declared: "Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."
Paul's patience and cheerfulness during his long and unjust imprisonment, his courage and faith, were a continual sermon. His spirit, so unlike the spirit of the world, bore witness that a power higher than that of earth, was abiding with him. And by his example, Christians were impelled to greater energy as advocates of the cause from the public labors of which Paul had been withdrawn. In these ways were the apostle's bonds influential, so that when his power and usefulness seemed cut off, and to all appearance he could do the least, then it was that he gathered sheaves for Christ in fields from which he seemed wholly excluded.
Before the close of that two years' imprisonment, Paul was able to say, "My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;" and among those who sent greetings to the Philippians he mentions chiefly them "that are of Caesar's household."
Patience as well as courage has its victories. By meekness under trial, no less than by boldness in enterprise, souls may be won to Christ. The Christian who manifests patience and cheerfulness under bereavement and suffering, who meets even death itself with the peace and calmness of an unwavering faith, may accomplish for the gospel more than he could have effected by a long life of faithful labor. Often when the servant of God is withdrawn from active duty, the mysterious providence which our shortsighted vision would lament, is designed by God to accomplish a work that otherwise would never have been done.
Let not the follower of Christ think, when he is no longer able to labor openly and actively for God and his truth, that he has no service to render, no reward to secure. Christ's true witnesses are never laid aside. In health and sickness, in life and death, God uses them still. When through Satan's malice the servants of Christ have been persecuted, their active labors hindered, when they have been cast into prison, or dragged to the scaffold or to the stake, it was that truth might gain a greater triumph. As these faithful ones sealed their testimony with their blood, souls hitherto in doubt and uncertainty were convinced of the faith of Christ, and took their stand courageously for him. From the ashes of the martyrs has sprung an abundant harvest for God.
The zeal and fidelity of Paul and his fellow workers, no less than the faith and obedience of these converts to Christianity, under circumstances so forbidding, rebuke slothfulness and lack of faith in the minister of Christ. The apostle and his associate workers might have argued that it would be vain to call to repentance and faith in Christ the servants of Nero, subjected, as they were, to fierce temptations, surrounded by formidable hindrances, and exposed to bitter opposition. Even should they be convinced of the truth, how could they render obedience? But Paul did not reason thus; in faith he presented the gospel to these souls; and among those who heard were some who decided to obey at any cost. Notwithstanding obstacles and dangers, they would accept the light, and trust God to help them let their light shine forth to others.
Not only were converts won to the truth in Caesar's household, but after their conversation they remained in that household. They did not feel at liberty to abandon their post of duty because their surroundings were no longer congenial. The truth had found them there, and there they remained, by their changed life and character testifying to the transforming power of the new faith.
Are any tempted to make their circumstances an excuse for failing to witness for Christ? Let them consider the situation of the disciples in Caesar's household--the depravity of the emperor, the profligacy of the court. We can hardly imagine circumstances more unfavorable to a religious life, and entailing greater sacrifice or opposition than those in which these converts found themselves. Yet amidst difficulties and dangers they maintained their fidelity. Because of obstacles that seem insurmountable, the Christian may seek to excuse himself from obeying the truth as it is in Jesus; but he can offer no excuse that will bear investigation. Could he do this, he would prove God unjust, in that he had made for his children conditions of salvation with which they could not comply.
He whose heart is fixed to serve God will find opportunity to witness for him. Difficulties will be powerless to hinder him who is determined to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In the strength gained by prayer and a study of the Word, he will seek virtue and forsake vice. Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith, who endured the contradiction of sinners against himself, the believer will willingly brave contempt and derision. And help and grace sufficient for every circumstance are promised by him whose word is truth. His everlasting arms encircle the soul that turns to him for aid. In his care we may rest safely, saying, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." To all who put their trust in him, God will fulfil his promise.
By his own example the Saviour has shown that his followers can be in the world, and yet not of the world. He came not to partake of its delusive pleasures, to be swayed by its customs, and to follow its practises, but to do his Father's will, to seek and save the lost. With this object before him, the Christian may stand uncontaminated in any surroundings. Whatever his station or circumstances, exalted or humble, he will manifest the power of true religion in the faithful performance of duty.
Not in freedom from trial, but in the midst of it, is Christian character developed. Exposure to rebuffs and opposition leads the follower of Christ to greater watchfulness, and more earnest prayer to the mighty Helper. Severe trial endured by the grace of God develops patience, vigilance, fortitude, and a deep and abiding trust in God. It is the triumph of the Christian faith that it enables its follower to suffer and be strong; to submit, and thus to conquer; to be killed all the day long, and yet to live; to bear the cross, and thus to win the crown of glory. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 88, #52)
While Paul's labors in Rome were being blessed to the conversion of many souls and the strengthening and encouragement of the believers, clouds were gathering that threatened not only his own safety, but also the prosperity of the church. On his arrival in Rome he had been placed in charge of the captain of the imperial guards, a man of justice and integrity, by whose clemency he was left comparatively free to pursue the work of the gospel. But before the close of the two years' imprisonment, this man was replaced by an official from whom the apostle could expect no special favor.
The Jews were now more active than ever in their efforts against Paul, and they found an able helper in the profligate woman whom Nero had made his second wife, and who, being a Jewish proselyte, lent all her influence to aid their murderous designs against the champion of Christianity.
Paul could hope for little justice from the Caesar to whom he had appealed. Nero was more debased in morals, more frivolous in character, and at the same time capable of more atrocious cruelty, than any ruler who had preceded him. The reins of government could not have been entrusted to a more despotic ruler. The first year of his reign had been marked by the poisoning of his young stepbrother, the rightful heir to the throne. From one depth of vice and crime to another, Nero had descended, until he had murdered his own mother, and then his wife. There was no atrocity which he would not perpetrate, no vile act to which he would not stoop. In every noble mind he inspired only abhorrence and contempt.
The details of the iniquity practised in his court are too degrading, too horrible, for description. His abandoned wickedness created disgust and loathing, even in many who were forced to share his crimes. They were in constant fear as to what enormities he would suggest next. Yet even such crimes as Nero's did not shake the allegiance of his subjects. He was acknowledged as the absolute ruler of the whole civilized world. More than this, he was made the recipient of divine honors, and was worshiped as a god.
From the viewpoint of human judgment, Paul's condemnation before such a judge was certain. But the apostle felt that so long as he was loyal to God, he had nothing to fear. The One who in the past had been his protector could shield him still from the malice of the Jews, and from the power of Caesar.
And God did shield his servant. At Paul's examination the charges against him were not sustained; and contrary to the general expectation, and with a regard for justice wholly at variance with his character, Nero declared the prisoner guiltless. Paul's bonds were removed; he was again a free man.
Had his trial been longer deferred, or had he from any cause been detained in Rome until the following year, he would doubtless have perished in the persecution which then took place. During Paul's imprisonment, the converts to Christianity had become so numerous as to attract the attention and arouse the enmity of the authorities. The anger of the emperor was especially excited by the conversion of members of his own household, and he soon found a pretext to make the Christians the objects of his merciless cruelty.
About this time a terrible fire occurred in Rome, by which nearly one half of the city was burned. Nero himself had caused the flames to be kindled, but to avert suspicion he made a pretense of great generosity by assisting the homeless and destitute. He was, however, accused of the crime. The people were excited and enraged, and in order to clear himself, and also to rid the city of a class whom he feared and hated, Nero turned the accusation upon the Christians. His device succeeded, and thousands of the followers of Christ--men, women, and children--were cruelly put to death.
From this terrible persecution Paul was spared; for soon after his release he had left Rome. This last interval of freedom he diligently improved in laboring among the churches. He sought to establish a firmer union between the Greek and the Eastern churches, and to fortify the minds of the believers against the false doctrines that were creeping in to corrupt the faith.
The trials and anxieties that Paul had endured had preyed upon his physical powers. The infirmities of age were upon him. He felt that he was now doing his last work; and as the time of his labor grew shorter, his efforts became more intense. There seemed to be no limit to his efforts. Resolute in purpose, prompt in action, strong in faith, he journeyed from church to church, in many lands, and sought by every means within his power to strengthen the hands of the believers, that they might do faithful work in winning souls to Jesus, and that in the trying times upon which they were even then entering, they might remain steadfast to the gospel, bearing faithful witness for Christ.
The Final Arrest.--Paul's work among the churches after his acquittal at Rome, could not escape the observation of his enemies. Since the beginning of the persecution under Nero, the Christians had everywhere been a proscribed sect. After a time, the unbelieving Jews conceived the idea of fastening upon Paul the crime of instigating the burning of Rome. Not one of them thought for a moment that he was guilty; but they knew that such a charge, made with the faintest show of plausibility, would seal his doom. Through their efforts, Paul was again arrested, and hurried away to his final imprisonment.
On his second voyage to Rome, Paul was accompanied by several of his former companions; others earnestly desired to share his lot, but he refused to permit them thus to imperil their lives. The prospect before him was far less favorable than at the time of his former imprisonment. The persecution under Nero had greatly lessened the number of Christians in Rome. Thousands had been martyred for their faith, many had left the city, and those who remained were greatly depressed and intimidated.
Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul was placed in a gloomy dungeon, there to remain until his course should be finished. Accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible of crimes against the city and nation, he was the object of universal execration.
The few friends who had shared the burdens of the apostle, now began to leave him, some by desertion, and others on missions to the various churches. Phygellus and Hermogenes were the first to go. Then Demas, dismayed by the thickening clouds of difficulty and danger, forsook the persecuted apostle. Crescens was sent by Paul to the churches of Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, Tychicus to Ephesus. Writing to Timothy of this experience, Paul said, "Only Luke is with me." Never had the apostle needed the ministrations of his brethren as now, enfeebled as he was by age, toil, and infirmities, and confined in the damp, dark vaults of a Roman prison. The services of Luke, the beloved disciple and faithful friend, were a great comfort to Paul, and enabled him to communicate with his brethren and the world without.
In this trying time Paul's heart was cheered by frequent visits from Onesiphorus. This warm hearted Ephesian did all in his power to lighten the burden of the apostle's imprisonment. His beloved teacher was in bonds for the truth's sake, while he himself went free; and he spared himself no effort to make Paul's lot more bearable.
In the last letter that the apostle ever wrote, he speaks thus of this faithful disciple: "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day."
The desire for love and sympathy is implanted in the heart by God himself. Christ in his hour of agony in Gethsemane longed for the sympathy of his disciples. And Paul, though apparently indifferent to hardship and suffering, yearned for sympathy and companionship. The visit of Onesiphorus, testifying to his fidelity at a time of loneliness and desertion, brought gladness and cheer to one who had spent his life in service for others. Mrs. E. G. White.