Is it proof that such men need? Is it evidence that is wanting?--No; the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is given to help all such souls who are turning away from positive evidence, and crying, "Proof"! The rich man asked that one might be sent from the dead to warn his brethren, lest they come to the place of torment. "Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Luke 16:29-31.
Why is it that men do not believe upon sufficient evidence?--Because they do not want to be convinced. They have no disposition to give up their own will for God's will. They are unwilling to acknowledge that they have cherished sinful unbelief in resisting the light that God has given them. They have been hunting for doubts, for pegs upon which to hang their unbelief. They have been ready to accept testimony which is weak and insufficient, testimony which God has not given them in His Word, but which pleases them because it agrees with their ideas, and is in harmony with their disposition and will. These souls are in great peril. If they will bow their proud will, and put it on God's side of the question; if they will with humble, contrite hearts seek for the light, believing that there is light for them, then they will see light, because the eye is single to discern the light which comes from God. They will acknowledge the evidence of divine authority. Spiritual truths will shine forth from the divine page. But the heart must be open for the reception of light, for Satan is ever ready to obscure the precious truth which would make them wise unto salvation. If any do not receive it, it will forever remain a mystery of mysteries to them.
We should earnestly seek to know and appreciate the truth, that we may present it to others as it is in Jesus. We need to have a correct estimate of the value of our own souls; then we would not be as reckless in regard to our course of action as at present. We would seek most earnestly to know God's way; we would work in an opposite direction from selfishness, and our constant prayer would be that we might have the mind of Christ, that we might be moulded and fashioned after His likeness. It is in looking to Jesus and beholding His loveliness, having our eyes steadfastly fixed upon Him, that we become changed into His image. He will give grace to all that keep His way, and do His will, and walk in truth. But those who love their own way, who worship their idols of opinion, and do not love God and obey His Word, will continue to walk in darkness. O, how terrible is unbelief! As well let light be poured upon the blind, as to present truth to these souls; the one cannot see, and the other will not see.
I beseech you whose names are registered on the church books as worthy members, to be indeed worthy, through the virtue of Christ. Mercy and truth and the love of God are promised to the humble and contrite soul. The displeasure and judgements of God are against those who persist in walking in their own ways, loving self, loving the praise of men. They will certainly be swept into the satanic delusions of these last days, because they received not the love of the truth. Because the Lord has, in former days, blessed and honoured them, they flatter themselves that they are chosen and true, and do not need warning and instruction and reproof. The True Witness says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Revelation 3:19. The professed people of God have the charge against them, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Revelation 2:4-5.
The love to Jesus that once burned upon the altar of the heart, has become dimmed and nearly extinguished. Spiritual strength has become enfeebled. The displeasure of the Lord is against His people. In their present condition it is impossible for them to represent the character of Christ. And when the True Witness has sent them counsel, reproof, and warnings because He loves them, they have refused to receive the message; they have refused to come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved. Jesus said, "I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . Therefore doth my Father love me." John 10:15, 17. "By taking your sins upon Myself, I am opening a channel through which His grace can flow to all who will accept it. In giving Myself for the sin of the world, I have prepared a way for the unrepressed tide of His love to flow to men."
All heaven is filled with amazement, that when this love, so broad, so deep, so rich and full, is presented to men who have known the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, they are so indifferent, so cold and unmoved. What does it mean that such amazing grace does not soften our hard hearts? O! it is because of the power of unbelief; because "thou hast left thy first love." This is why the Word of God has so little influence. It is as a fire, but it cannot penetrate nor warm the ice-bound heart that cherishes unbelief.
The infinite treasures of truth have been accumulating from age to age. No representation could adequately impress us with the extent, the richness, of these vast resources. They are awaiting the demand of those who appreciate them. These gems of truth are to be gathered up by God's remnant people, to be given by them to the world; but self-confidence and obduracy [hard-heartedness] of soul refuse the blessed treasure. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. Such love cannot be measured, neither can it be expressed. John calls upon the world to "behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." 1 John 3:1. It is a love that passeth knowledge. In the fullness of the sacrifice, nothing was withheld: Jesus gave Himself. God designs that His people shall love one another as Christ loved us. They are to educate and train the soul for this love. They are to reflect this love in their own character, to reflect it to the world. Each should look upon this as his work. In His prayer to the Father, Jesus said: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." John 17:18. Christ's fullness is to be presented to the world by those who have become partakers of His grace. They are to do that for Christ which Christ did for the Father--represent His character.
There is a lack of moral and spiritual power throughout our Conferences. Many churches do not have light in themselves. The members do not give evidence that they are branches of the True Vine, by bearing much fruit to the glory of God, but appear to be withering away. Their Redeemer has withdrawn His light, the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, from their assemblies; for they have ceased to represent the self-denial, the sympathy and compassionate love of the world's Redeemer; they have not love for the souls for whom Christ has died. They have ceased to be true and faithful. It is a sad picture--the feeble piety, the want of consecration and devotion to God. There has been a separation of the soul from God; many have cut off the communication between Him and the soul by refusing His messengers and His message.
In our largest churches the greatest evils exist, because these have had the greatest light. They have not a true knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. The leaven of unbelief is working, and unless these evils which bring the displeasure of God are corrected in its members, the whole church stands accountable for them. The deep movings of the Spirit of God are not with them; the glorious presence of the King of saints, and His power to cleanse from all moral defilement, are not manifest among them. Many come to the assembly as worshipers, like the door upon its hinges. They understand not the true application of the Scriptures, nor the power of God. They have eyes, but they see not; ears have they, but they hear not; they continue in their evil ways, yet regard themselves as the privileged, obedient people who are doers of the Word. A carnal security and ease in Zion prevail. Peace, peace, is sounded in her borders, when God has not spoken peace. They have forfeited the terms of peace; there is reason for an alarm to be sounded in all "my holy mountain." The sinners in Zion should be afraid, in a time when they do not expect it, sudden destruction will surely come upon all who are at ease.
The Holy Spirit strives to make apparent the claims of God, but men pay heed only for a moment, and turn their minds to other things: Satan catches away the seeds of truth; the gracious influence of the Spirit of God is effectually resisted. Thus many are grieving away the Holy Spirit for the last time, and they know it not.
The words spoken by Christ of Jerusalem are, "Your house is left unto you desolate." Matthew 23:38. What anguish of soul did Jesus feel when all His appeals, His warnings and reproofs, were resisted! At the time He brought them home to the soul, impressions were made; but self-love, self-sufficiency, love of the world, came in and choked the good seed sown. Pride of heart prevented His hearers from humbling themselves before God, and confessing their sin in resisting His Holy Spirit, and reluctantly it left them. On the crest of Olivet, as He beheld the city, He wept over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!" Luke 19:42. Here He paused; He was loath to utter the irrevocable sentence. O that Jerusalem would repent! When the fast westering sun should pass out of sight, her day of mercy would be ended. Jesus closed His sentence, "But now they are hid from thine eyes." Luke 19:42. On another occasion He lamented the impenitence of the chosen city: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Matthew 23:37-38. The Lord forbid that this scene should now be repeated in the experience of God's professed people! "My Spirit," He says, "shall not always strive with man." Genesis 6:3. The time will come when it must be said of the impenitent, "Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone." Hosea 4:17.
Will the church see where she has fallen? A coldness, hardness of heart, a want of sympathy for the brethren, exists in the church. An absence of love for the erring is manifested. There is a withdrawing from the very ones who need pity and help. A severity, an overbearing spirit, such as existed among the Pharisees, exists in our churches, and especially in those intrusted with sacred responsibilities. They are lifted up in self-esteem and self-assurance. The widow and the fatherless have not their sympathy or their love. This is entirely unlike the spirit of Christ. The Lord looks with displeasure upon the coarse, harsh spirit that has been manifested by some--a spirit so devoid of sympathy, of tender appreciation of those whom He loves. Brethren, you who close the heart against Christ's suffering ones, remember, that as you deal with them, God will deal with you. When you call, He will not say, "Here I am;" when you cry, He will not answer. Satan is watching, preparing his delusions to ensnare those who are filled with self-importance while they are spiritually destitute.
The road to Paradise is not one of self-exaltation, but of repentance, confession, humiliation, of faith and obedience. The message to the Laodicean church is appropriate to the church at this time: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Revelation 3:14-19. There are many who are priding themselves upon their spiritual riches, their knowledge of the truth, and are living in guilty self-deception. When the members of the church humble themselves before God by zealous, not half-hearted, lifeless action, the Lord will receive them. But he declares, "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Revelation 2:5. How long shall this warning be resisted? How long shall it be slighted?
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20. The position of Christ is the attitude of forbearance and importunity [persistent in requesting]. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich." Verse 18. O, the soul-poverty is alarming! And those who are most in need of the gold of love, feel rich and increased with goods, when they lack every grace. Having lost faith and love, they have lost everything.
The Lord has sent a message to arouse His people to repent, and do their first works; but how has His message been received? While some have heeded it, others have cast contempt and reproach on the message and the messenger. Spirituality deadened, humility and childlike simplicity gone, a mechanical, formal profession of faith has taken the place of love and devotion. Is this mournful condition of things to continue? Is the lamp of God's love to go out in darkness? The Saviour calls; listen to His voice: "Be zealous and repent." Repent, confess your sins, and you will be forgiven. "Turn ye, turn ye . . . for why will ye die?" Ezekiel 33:11. Why will you try to rekindle a mere fitful fire, and walk in the sparks of your own kindling?
The True Witness declares, "I know thy works." "Repent, and do the first works." This is the true test, the evidence that the Spirit of God is working in the heart to imbue you with His love. "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." The church is like the unproductive tree which, receiving the dew and rain and sunshine, should have produced an abundance of fruit, but on which the divine search discovers nothing but leaves. Solemn thought for our churches! Solemn, indeed, for every individual! Marvellous is the patience and forbearance of God; but "except thou repent," it will be exhausted; the churches, our institutions, will go from weakness to weakness, from cold formality to deadness, while they are saying, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." The True Witness says, "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Will they ever see clearly their condition?
There is to be in the churches a wonderful manifestation of the power of God, but it will not move upon those who have not humbled themselves before the Lord, and opened the door of the heart by confession and repentance. In the manifestation of that power which lightens the earth with the glory of God, they will see only something which in their blindness they think dangerous, something which will arouse their fears, and they will brace themselves to resist it. Because the Lord does not work according to their ideas and expectations, they will oppose the work. "Why," they say, "should not we know the Spirit of God, when we have been in the work so many years?"--Because they did not respond to the warnings, the entreaties of the messages of God, but persistently said, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." Talent, long experience, will not make men channels of light, unless they place themselves under the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and are called, and chosen, and prepared by the endowment of the Holy Spirit. When men who handle sacred things will humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, the Lord will lift them up. He will make them men of discernment--men rich in the grace of His Spirit. Their strong, selfish traits of character, their stubbornness, will be seen in the light shining from the Light of the world. "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." If you seek the Lord with all your heart, He will be found of you.
The end is near! We have not a moment to lose! Light is to shine forth from God's people in clear, distinct rays, bringing Jesus before the churches and before the world. Our work is not to be restricted to those who already know the truth; our field is the world. The instrumentalities to be used are those souls who gladly receive the light of truth which God communicates to them. These are God's agencies for communicating the knowledge of truth to the world. If through the grace of Christ His people will become new bottles, He will fill them with the new wine. God will give additional light, and old truths will be recovered, and replaced in the framework of truth; and wherever the labourers go, they will triumph. As Christ's ambassadors, they are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error. And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others. One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other--Christ our righteousness.
"This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3. "Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving-kindness, judgement, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24. This is what needs to be brought into the experience of every worker, high or low, in all our institutions, in all our churches. God wants every soul to return to the first love. He wants all to have the gold of faith and love, so that they can draw from the treasure to impart to others who need it.
Then the believers will be of one heart and of one mind, and the Lord will make His Word powerful in the earth. New cities and villages and territories will be entered; the church will arise and shine, because her light has come, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon her. New converts will be added to the churches, and those who now claim to be converted will feel in their own hearts the transforming power of the grace of Christ. Then Satan will be aroused, and will excite the bitterest persecution against God's people. But those not of our faith, who have not rejected light, will recognise the spirit of Christ in His true followers, and will take their stand with the people of God.
Christ says, speaking of the Comforter, "He shall not speak of himself;" "he shall testify of me;" "he shall glorify me." John 15:26; 16:13-14. How little has Christ been preached! The labourers have presented theories, plenty of them, but little of Christ and His love. As the Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love, so the Spirit came to glorify Christ by revealing to the world the riches of His love and grace. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, our work will testify to the fact, we shall lift up Jesus. Not one can afford to be silent now; the burden of the work is to present Christ to the world. All who venture to have their own way, who do not join the angels who are sent from Heaven with a message to fill the whole earth with its glory, will be passed by. The work will go forward to victory without them, and they will have no part in its triumph.
Review and Herald, December 23, 1890.