Chapter 10—Parables of the Lost
The Lost Sheep
I was referred to the parable of the lost sheep. The ninety and nine sheep are left in the wilderness, and search is instituted for the one that has strayed. When the lost sheep is found, the shepherd elevates it to his shoulder and returns with rejoicing. He does not return murmuring and censuring the poor lost sheep for having made him so much trouble, but his return with the burden of the sheep is with rejoicing.
And a still greater demonstration of joy is demanded. Friends and neighbors are called to rejoice with the finder, “for I have found my sheep which was lost.” The finding was the theme of rejoicing; the straying was not dwelt upon; for the joy of finding overbalanced the sorrow of the loss and the care, the perplexity and the peril, incurred in searching for the lost sheep and restoring it to safety. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
The Lost Silver
The lost piece of silver is designed to represent the erring, straying sinner. The carefulness of the woman to find the lost silver is to teach the followers of Christ a lesson in regard to their duty to the erring ones who are straying from the path of right. The woman lighted the candle to increase her light, and then swept the house, and sought diligently till she found it.
Here is clearly defined the duty of Christians toward those who need help because of their straying from God. The erring ones are not to be left in darkness and error, but every available means is to be used to bring them again to the light. The candle is lighted; and, with earnest prayer for heavenly light to meet the cases of those enshrouded in darkness and unbelief, the word of God is searched for clear points of truth, that Christians may be so fortified with arguments from the word of God, with its reproofs, threatenings, and encouragements, that the erring ones may be reached. Indifference or neglect will meet the frown of God.
When the woman found the silver, she called her friends and her neighbors together, saying: “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” If the angels of God rejoice over the erring who see and confess their wrongs and return to the fellowship of their brethren, how much more should the followers of Christ, who are themselves erring, and who every day need the forgiveness of God and of their brethren, feel joy over the return of a brother or a sister who has been deceived by the sophistry of Satan and has taken a wrong course and suffered because of it.
Instead of holding the erring off, their brethren should meet them where they are. Instead of finding fault with them because they are in the dark, they should light their own lamp by obtaining more divine grace and a clearer knowledge of the Scriptures, that they may dispel the darkness of those in error by the light that they bring to them. And when they succeed, and the erring feel their error and submit to follow the light, they should be received gladly, and not with a spirit of murmuring or an effort to impress upon them their exceeding sinfulness, which had called forth extra exertion, anxiety, and wearisome labor. If the pure angels of God hail the event with joy, how much more should their brethren rejoice, who have themselves needed sympathy, love, and help when they have erred and in their darkness have not known how to help themselves.
The Prodigal Son
My attention was called to the parable of the prodigal son. He made a request that his father should give him his portion of the estate. He desired to separate his interest from that of his father, and to manage his share as best suited his own inclination. His father complied with the request, and the son selfishly withdrew from his father, that he might not be troubled with his counsel or reproofs.
The son thought he should be happy when he could use his portion according to his own pleasure, without being annoyed by advice or restraint. He did not wish to be troubled with mutual obligation. If he shared his father’s estate, his father had claims upon him as a son. But he did not feel under any obligation to his generous father, and he braced his selfish, rebellious spirit with the thought that a portion of his father’s property belonged to him. He requested his share, when rightfully he could claim nothing and should have had nothing.
After his selfish heart had received the treasure, of which he was so undeserving, he went his way at a distance from his father, that he might even forget that he had a father. He despised restraint and was fully determined to have pleasure in any way and manner that he chose. After he had, by his sinful indulgences, spent all that his father had given him, the land was visited by a famine, and he felt pinching want. He then began to regret his sinful course of extravagant pleasure, for he was destitute and needed the means that he had squandered. He was obliged to come down from his life of sinful indulgence to the low business of feeding swine.
After he had come as low as he could he thought of the kindness and love of his father. He then felt the need of a father. He had brought upon himself his position of friendlessness and want. His own disobedience and sin had resulted in his separating himself from his father. He thought of the privileges and bounties that the hired servants of his father’s house freely enjoyed, while he who had alienated himself from his father’s house was perishing with hunger. Humiliated through adversity, he decided to return to his father by humble confession. He was a beggar, destitute of comfortable or even decent clothing. He was wretched in consequence of privation and was emaciated with hunger.
While the son was at a distance from his home, his father saw the wanderer, and his first thought was of that rebellious son who had left him years before to follow a course of unrestrained sin. The paternal feeling was stirred. Notwithstanding all the marks of his degradation the father discerned his own image. He did not wait for his son to come all the distance to him, but hastened to meet him. He did not reproach his son, but with the tenderest pity and compassion, that, in consequence of his course of sin, he had brought upon himself so much suffering, the father hastened to give him proofs of his love and tokens of his forgiveness.
Although his son was emaciated and his countenance plainly indicated the dissolute life he had passed, although he was clothed with beggar’s rags and his naked feet were soiled with the dust of travel, the father’s tenderest pity was excited as the son fell prostrate in humility before him. He did not stand back upon his dignity; he was not exacting. He did not array before his son his past course of wrong and sin, to make him feel how low he had sunk. He lifted him up and kissed him. He took the rebellious son to his breast and wrapped his own rich robe about the nearly naked form. He took him to his heart with such warmth, and evinced such pity, that if the son had ever doubted the goodness and love of his father, he could do so no longer. If he had a sense of his sin when he decided to return to his father’s house, he had a much deeper sense of his ungrateful course when he was thus received. His heart, before subdued, was now broken because he had grieved that father’s love.
The penitent, trembling son, who had greatly feared that he would be disowned, was unprepared for such a reception. He knew he did not deserve it, and he thus acknowledged his sin in leaving his father: “I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” He begged only to be accounted as a hired servant. But the father requested his servants to pay him special tokens of respect and to clothe him as if he had ever been his own obedient son.
The father made the return of his son an occasion of special rejoicing. The elder son in the field knew not that his brother had returned, but he heard the general demonstrations of joy and inquired of the servants what it all meant. It was explained that his brother, whom they had thought dead, had returned, and that his father had killed the fatted calf for him because he had received him again as from the dead.
The brother was then angry and would not go in to see or receive his brother. His indignation was stirred that his unfaithful brother, who had left his father and thrown the heavy responsibility upon him of fulfilling the duties which should have been shared by both, should now be received with such honor. This brother had pursued a course of wicked profligacy, wasting the means his father had given him, until he was reduced to want, while his brother at home had been faithfully performing the duties of a son; and now this profligate comes to his father’s house and is received with respect and honor beyond anything that he himself had ever received.
The father entreated his elder son to go and receive his brother with gladness because he was lost and is found; he was dead in sin and iniquity, but is alive again; he has come to his moral senses and abhors his course of sin. But his elder son pleads: “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
He assured his son that he was ever with him, and that all he had was his, but that it was right that they should show this demonstration of joy, for “thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” The fact that the lost is found, the dead is alive again, overbears all other considerations with the father.
This parable was given by Christ to represent the manner in which our heavenly Father receives the erring and repenting. The father is the one sinned against; yet he, in the compassion of his soul, full of pity and forgiveness, meets the prodigal and shows his great joy that his son, whom he believed to be dead to all filial affection, has become sensible of his great sin and neglect, and has come back to his father, appreciating his love and acknowledging his claims. He knows that the son who has pursued a course of sin and now repents needs his pity and his love. This son has suffered; he has felt his need, and he comes to his father as the only one who can supply this great need.
The return of the prodigal son was a source of the greatest joy. The complaints of the elder brother were natural, but not right. Yet this is frequently the course that brother pursues toward brother. There is too much effort to make those in error feel where they have erred, and to keep reminding them of their mistakes. Those who have erred need pity, they need help, they need sympathy. They suffer in their feelings, and are frequently desponding and discouraged. Above everything else, they need free forgiveness.
Chapter 11—Labor Among the Churches
In the work done for the church at Battle Creek in the spring of 1870, there was not all that dependence upon God that the important occasion demanded. Brethren R and S did not make God their trust, and move in His strength and with His grace, as fully as they should.
When Brother S thinks a person is wrong, he is frequently too severe. He fails to exercise that compassion and consideration that he would have shown toward himself under like circumstances. He is also in great danger of misjudging and erring in dealing with minds. It is the nicest and most critical work ever given to mortals, to deal with minds. Those who engage in this work should have clear discernment and good powers of discrimination. True independence of mind is an element entirely different from rashness. That quality of independence which leads to a cautious, prayerful, deliberate opinion should not be easily yielded, not until the evidence is sufficiently strong to make it certain that we are wrong. This independence will keep the mind calm and unchangeable amid the multitudinous errors which prevail, and will lead those in responsible positions to look carefully at the evidence on every side, and not be swayed by the influence of others, or by the surroundings, to form conclusions without intelligent, thorough knowledge of all the circumstances.
The investigation of cases in Battle Creek was very much after the order in which a lawyer criticizes a witness, and there was a decided absence of the Spirit of God. There were a few united in this work who were active and zealous. Some were self-righteous and self-sufficient, and their testimonies were relied upon, and their influence swayed the judgment of Brethren R and S. Because of some trivial deficiency, Sisters T and U were not received as members of the church. Brethren R and S should have had judgment and discrimination to see that these objections were not of sufficient weight to keep these sisters out of the church. Both of them had been long in the faith and had been true to the observance of the Sabbath for eighteen or twenty years.
Sister V, who brought up these things, should have urged against herself more weighty reasons why she should not have become a member of the church. Was she without sin? Were all her ways perfect before God? Was she perfect in patience, self-denial, gentleness, forbearance, and calmness of temper? If she were without the weaknesses of common women, then she could cast the first stone. Those sisters who were left out of the church were worthy of a place in it; they were beloved of God. But they were dealt with unwisely, without sufficient cause. There were others whose cases were handled with no more heavenly wisdom and without even sound judgment. Brother S’s judgment and power of discrimination have been perverted for very many years through the influence of his wife, who has been a most effective medium of Satan. If he had possessed the genuine quality of independence he would have had proper self-respect and with becoming dignity would have built up his own house. When he has started upon a course designed to command respect in his family he has generally carried the matter too far and has been severe and has talked harshly and overbearingly. Becoming conscious of this after a time, he would then go to the opposite extreme and come down from his independence.
In this state of mind he would receive reports from his wife, give up his judgment, and be easily deceived by her intrigues. She would sometimes feign to be a great sufferer and would relate what privations she had endured and what neglect from her brethren, in the absence of her husband. Her prevarications and cunning artifices to abuse the mind of her husband have been great. Brother S has not fully received the light which the Lord has given him in times past in regard to his wife or he would not have been deceived by her as he has been. He has been brought into bondage many times by her spirit because his own heart and life have not been fully consecrated to God. His feelings kindled against his brethren, and he oppressed them. Self has not been crucified. He should seek earnestly to bring all his thoughts and feelings into subjection to the obedience of Christ. Faith and self-denial would have been Brother S’s strong helpers. If he had girded on the whole armor of God and chosen no other defense than that which the Spirit of God and the power of truth gives him, he would have been strong in the strength of God.
But Brother S is weak in many things. If God required him to expose and condemn a neighbor, to reprove and correct a brother, or to resist and destroy his enemies, it would be to him a comparatively natural and easy work. But a warfare against self, subduing the desires and affections of his own heart, and searching out and controlling the secret motives of the heart, is a more difficult warfare. How unwilling is he to be faithful in such a contest as this! The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God and being clothed with humility, possessing that love that is pure, peaceable, and easy to be entreated, full of gentleness and good fruits, is not an easy attainment. And yet it is his privilege and his duty to be a perfect overcomer here. The soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in knowledge and true holiness. The holy life and character of Christ is a faithful example. His confidence in His heavenly Father was unlimited. His obedience and submission were unreserved and perfect. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister to others. He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. In all things He submitted Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. From the lips of the Saviour of the world were heard these words: “I can of Mine own self do nothing.”
He became poor, and made Himself of no reputation. He was hungry and frequently thirsty, and many times weary in His labors; but He had not where to lay His head. When the cold, damp shades of night gathered about Him, the earth was frequently His bed. Yet He blessed those who hated Him. What a life! what an experience! Can we, the professed followers of Christ, cheerfully endure privation and suffering as did our Lord, without murmuring? Can we drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism? If so, we may share with Him His glory in His heavenly kingdom. If not, we shall have no part with Him.
Brother S has an experience to gain, without which his work will do positive injury. He is affected too much by what others tell him of the erring; he is apt to decide according to the impressions made upon his mind, and he deals with severity, when a milder course would be far better. He does not bear in mind his own weakness, and how hard it is for him to have his course questioned, even when he is wrong. When he decides that a brother or sister is wrong he is inclined to carry the matter through and press his censure, although in doing so he hurts his own soul and endangers the souls of others.
Brother S should shun church trials and should have nothing to do in settling difficulties, if he can possibly avoid it. He has a valuable gift, which is needed in the work of God. But he should separate himself from influences which draw upon his sympathies, confuse his judgment, and lead him to move unwisely. This should not and need not be. He exercises too little faith in God. He dwells too much upon his bodily infirmities and strengthens unbelief by dwelling upon poor feelings. God has strength and wisdom in store for those who seek for it earnestly, in faith believing.
I was shown that Brother S is a strong man upon some points, while upon others he is as weak as a child. His course in dealing with the erring has had a scattering influence. He has confidence in his ability to labor in setting things in order where he thinks it is needed, but he does not view the matter aright. He weaves into his labors his own spirit, and he does not discriminate, but often deals without tenderness. There is such a thing as overdoing the matter in performing strict duty to individuals. “And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
Duty, stern duty, has a twin sister, which is kindness. If duty and kindness are blended, decided advantage will be gained; but if duty is separated from kindness, if tender love is not mingled with duty, there will be a failure, and much harm will be the result. Men and women will not be driven, but many can be won by kindness and love. Brother S has held aloft the gospel whip, and his own words have frequently been the snap to that whip. This has not had an influence to spur others to greater zeal and to provoke them to good works, but it has aroused their combativeness to repel his severity.
If Brother S had walked in the light, he would not have made so many serious failures. “If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.” The path of obedience is the path of safety. “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely.” Walk in the light, and “then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.” Those who do not walk in the light will have a sickly, stunted religion. Brother S should feel the importance of walking in the light, however crucifying to self. It is earnest effort, prompted by love for souls, which strengthens the heart and develops the graces.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3 pp 99-108
- Pray that we would follow the example of the shepherd in searching for the lost sheep.
- Pray that we would search the Bible diligently and find reproofs, threatenings, and encouragements, that the erring ones may be reached.
- Pray that we would not have indifference or neglect in finding lost souls.
- Pray that God’s people receive lost souls gladly when they repent.
- Pray that we can keep the mind calm and unchangeable amid the multitudinous errors which prevail.
- Pray that those in responsible positions will look carefully at the evidence on every side.
- Pray that those in responsible positions are not swayed by the influence of others, or by the surroundings, to form conclusions without intelligent, thorough knowledge of all the circumstances.
- Pray that we surrender all to the will of God.
- Pray that we are clothed with humility, possessing that love that is pure, peaceable, and easy to be entreated, full of gentleness and good fruits.
- Pray for the governments of the countries in which we live.
- Pray for our local mission’s leadership, projects, and needs.
- Pray for our Church leaders as they prepare for Annual Council.
- Pray for our Church leaders as they prepare for General Conference Session in 2020.