But the king and his lords, in their arrogance and pride, refused the invitation of God to return; they would not heed this warning and repent. This gracious opportunity was their last. God had declared that if they refused to hear His voice, He would inflict upon them fearful retribution. They did refuse to hear, and He pronounced His judgments upon Israel; He visited with special wrath the man who had proudly lifted himself up against the Almighty.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.”
The burning of the roll was not the end of the matter. The written words were more easily disposed of than the reproof and warning which they contained and the swift-coming punishment which God had pronounced against rebellious Israel. But even the written roll was reproduced at the command of the Lord. The words of the Infinite were not to be destroyed. “Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.”
God does not send judgments upon His people without first warning them to repent. He uses every means to bring them back to obedience and does not visit their iniquity with judgments until He has given them ample opportunity to repent. The wrath of man sought to prevent the labors of the prophet of God by depriving him of his liberty; but God can speak to men through prison walls, and even increase the usefulness of His servants through the very means by which their persecutors seek to limit their influence.
Many now despise the faithful reproof given of God in testimony. I have been shown that some in these days have even gone so far as to burn the written words of rebuke and warning, as did the wicked king of Israel. But opposition to God’s threatenings will not hinder their execution. To defy the words of the Lord, spoken through His chosen instruments, will only provoke His anger and eventually bring certain ruin upon the offender. Indignation often kindles in the heart of the sinner against the agent whom God chooses to deliver His reproofs. It has ever been thus, and the same spirit exists today that persecuted and imprisoned Jeremiah for obeying the word of the Lord.
While men will not heed repeated warnings, they are pleased with false teachers who flatter their vanity and strengthen their iniquity, but who will fail to help them in the day of trouble. God’s chosen servants should meet with courage and patience whatever trials and sufferings befall them through reproach, neglect, or misrepresentations because they faithfully discharge the duty that God has given them to do. They should remember that the prophets of old and the Saviour of the world also endured abuse and persecution for the word’s sake. They must expect to meet just such opposition as was manifested by the burning of the roll that was written by the dictation of God.
The Lord is fitting a people for heaven. The defects of character, the stubborn will, the selfish idolatry, the indulgence of faultfinding, hatred, and contention, provoke the wrath of God and must be put away from His commandment-keeping people. Those living in these sins are deceived and blinded by the wiles of Satan. They think that they are in the light when they are groping in darkness. There are murmurers among us now, even as there were murmurers among ancient Israel. Those who by unwise sympathy encourage men in rebellion when their self-love is smarting beneath merited reproof are not the friends of God, the great Reprover. God will send reproof and warning to His people as long as they continue upon earth.
Those who valiantly take their position on the right side, who encourage submission to God’s revealed will and strengthen others in their efforts to put away their wrong-doings, are the true friends of the Lord, who in love is trying to correct the errors of His people, that He may wash them and, cleansing them from every defilement, fit them for His holy kingdom.
Zedekiah succeeded Jehoiakim in reigning at Jerusalem. But neither the new king nor his court nor the people of the land hearkened to the words of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah. The Chaldeans commenced the siege against Jerusalem, but were diverted for a time to turn their arms against the Egyptians. Zedekiah sent a messenger to Jeremiah, asking him to pray to the God of Israel in their behalf; but the prophet’s fearful answer was that the Chaldean army would return and destroy the city. Thus the Lord showed them how impossible it is for man to avert divine judgment. “Thus saith the Lord; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us; for they shall not depart. For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.”
Jeremiah considered his work done and attempted to leave the city; but he was prevented by a son of one of the false prophets, who reported that he was about to join the enemy. Jeremiah denied the lying charge, but nevertheless he was brought back. The princes were ready to believe the son of the false prophet because they hated Jeremiah. They seemed to think that he had brought upon them the calamity which he had predicted. In their wrath they smote him and imprisoned him.
After he had remained in the dungeon many days, Zedekiah the king sent for him and asked him secretly if there was any word from the Lord. Jeremiah again repeated his warning that the nation would be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.
“Moreover Jeremiah said unto King Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison? Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land? Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there. Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.”
The wicked king dared not openly manifest any faith in Jeremiah, but his fear drove him to seek information of him. Yet he was too weak to brave the disapprobation of his nobles and of the people by submitting to the will of God as declared by the prophet. At last men in authority who were enraged because Jeremiah persisted in prophesying evil went to the king and told him that as long as the prophet lived he would not cease to predict calamity. They urged that he was an enemy to the nation and that his words had weakened the hands of the people and brought misfortune upon them, and they wanted him put to death.
The cowardly king knew these charges were false; but in order to propitiate those who occupied high and influential positions in the nation, he feigned to believe their falsehoods and gave Jeremiah into their hands to do with him as they pleased. Accordingly the prophet was taken and cast “into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.” But God raised up friends for him who besought the king in his behalf and had him again removed to the court of the prison.
Once more the king sent privately for Jeremiah and bade him faithfully relate the purpose of God toward Jerusalem. “Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me? So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.” Then Jeremiah again sounded the Lord’s note of warning in the ears of the king. Said he: “Thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house: but if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.”
Here was exhibited the long-suffering mercy of God. Even at that late hour, if there were submission to His requirements, the lives of the people would be spared and the city saved from conflagration. But the king thought he had gone too far to retract. He was afraid of the Jews, afraid of becoming a subject of ridicule, afraid for his life. It was too humiliating, at that late day, to say to the people: “I accept the word of the Lord as spoken through His prophet Jeremiah. I dare not venture to war against the enemy in the face of all these warnings.”
With tears Jeremiah entreated the king to save himself and his people. With anguish of spirit he assured him that he could not escape with his life, and that all his possessions would fall to the king of Babylon. He could save the city if he would. But he had started upon the wrong track and would not retrace his steps. He decided to follow the counsel of false prophets and of men whom he really despised and who ridiculed his weakness of character in yielding so readily to their wishes. He yielded the noble freedom of his manhood to become a cringing slave to public opinion. While he had no fixed purpose of evil, he also had no resolution to stand boldly for the right. While he was convicted of the truth as spoken by Jeremiah, he did not possess the moral stamina to obey his counsel, but advanced steadily in the wrong direction.
He was even too weak to be willing that his courtiers and people should know that he had held a conference with the prophet, so far had the fear of man taken possession of his soul. If this cowardly ruler had stood bravely before his people and declared that he believed the words of the prophet, already half-fulfilled, what desolation might have been averted! He should have said: “I will obey the Lord and save the city from utter ruin. I dare not disregard the commands of God for the fear or favor of men. I love the truth, I hate sin, and I will follow the counsel of the Mighty One of Israel.” Then the people would have respected his courageous spirit, and those who were wavering between faith and unbelief would have taken a firm stand for the right. The very fearlessness and justice of this course would have inspired his subjects with admiration and loyalty. He would have had ample support, and Israel would have been spared the untold woe of fire and carnage and famine.
But the weakness of Zedekiah was a crime for which he paid a fearful penalty. The enemy swept down like a resistless avalanche and devastated the city. The Hebrew armies were beaten back in confusion. The nation was conquered. Zedekiah was taken prisoner, and his sons were slain before his eyes. Then he was led away from Jerusalem a captive, hearing the shrieks of his wretched people and the roaring of the flames that were devouring their homes. His eyes were put out, and when he arrived at Babylon he perished miserably. This was the punishment of unbelief and following ungodly counsel.
There are many false prophets in these days, to whom sin does not appear specially repulsive. They complain that the peace of the people is unnecessarily disturbed by the reproofs and warnings of God’s messengers. As for them, they lull the souls of sinners into a fatal ease by their smooth and deceitful teachings. Ancient Israel was thus charmed by the flattering messages of the corrupt priests. Their prediction of prosperity was more pleasing than the message of the true prophet, who counseled repentance and submission.
The servants of God should manifest a tender, compassionate spirit and show to all that they are not actuated by any personal motives in their dealings with the people, and that they do not take delight in giving messages of wrath in the name of the Lord. But they must never flinch from pointing out the sins that are corrupting the professed people of God, nor cease striving to influence them to turn from their errors and obey the Lord.
Those who seek to cloak sin and make it appear less aggravating to the mind of the offender are doing the work of the false prophets and may expect the retributive wrath of God to follow such a course. The Lord will never accommodate His ways to the wishes of corrupt men. The false prophet condemned Jeremiah for afflicting the people with his severe denunciations, and he sought to reassure them by promising them prosperity, thinking that the poor people should not be continually reminded of their sins and threatened with punishment. This course strengthened the people to resist the true prophet’s counsel and intensified their enmity toward him.
God has no sympathy with the evildoer. He gives no one liberty to gloss over the sins of His people, nor to cry, “Peace, peace,” when He has declared that there shall be no peace for the wicked. Those who stir up rebellion against the servants whom God sends to deliver His messages are rebelling against the word of the Lord.
Chap. 18 – Faithful Reproofs Necessary
The following testimony, given in my last vision, January 5, 1875, I wrote in my tent between the services of the Vermont camp meeting, August, 1875. It sets forth the condition of things at —– in January, 1875. Developments during the following summer fully justified the apparent severity of the testimony. In September I read portions of it to that church, and a great work commenced under our labors; yet, for the benefit of that church and others, I give the testimony in this humble work.
Darkness is getting the control where only the Spirit of God should rule. But few who engage in the work realize the necessity of personal effort and individual responsibility in whatever department they occupy. Few feel the sacredness of the work in which they are engaged. They regard it as upon a common level with ordinary enterprises.
Selfishness predominates with many who should know that a life of self-sacrificing love is a life of peace and liberty. Those who seek happiness by gratifying themselves and looking out mainly for their own interests are on the wrong track to secure happiness even upon earth. Whoever is unfaithful in the least of his duties is unfaithful in greater ones. If he neglects to faithfully perform the small tasks devolving upon him, he proves himself incapable of bearing weightier responsibilities; he indicates that he is not wholehearted in the work and that he does not have an eye single to the glory of God.
Some are ready to define the duties that belong to others, and realize the full importance of their responsibilities, but fail to readily perceive their own. Personal fidelity and individual responsibility are needed especially in the Health Institute [now sanitarium], and in the office, the church, and the school. If all connected with these institutions were listening eagerly to hear what Jesus directed them to do, instead of turning to ask what this man or that man shall do, we should witness a great change in every department of the work. If the language of each heart was, “I must listen to Christ’s teachings, and obey His voice; no one can do my work for me; the attention of others can never repair my negligence,” then we might see the cause of God advancing as it has never yet advanced.
It is this holding back, waiting for others to do, that brings spiritual feebleness. To reserve one’s energies is a sure way to lessen them. Jesus requires implicit obedience and willing submission from all His servants. There must be no halting or self-indulgence in the service of Christ. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. What a lack of devotion to the work of God, what a want of caretaking, has there been at —–.
The heart of A has not been devoted to God. He has capabilities and talents for which he must render an account to the great Giver of all. His heart has been unconsecrated and his life unworthy of his profession; yet he has been closely connected with the sacred work of God for more than a score of years. What light he has had, what privileges! He has enjoyed the rarest opportunities to develop a substantial Christian character. The words of Christ when He wept over Jerusalem are applicable to him: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” A, the retribution of God hangs over you, “because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
B is of the same cast of mind, but not so thoroughly selfish. Both are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Their course is entirely inconsistent with the Christian life. They lack stability, sobriety, and devotion to God. With B the work of grace is altogether too superficial. He desires to be a Christian, but does not strive to maintain the victory over self and act up to his convictions of right and wrong. Deeds, not idle words and empty intentions, are acceptable to God.
A, you have heard the word of God in reproofs, in counsels, in warnings, as well as in the entreaties of love. But hearing is not enough. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” It is easy to be borne along by the current, and to cry Hosannah with the multitude; but in the calm of everyday life, when there is no special excitement or exaltation, then comes the test of true Christianity. It is then that your heart becomes cold, and your zeal abates, and religious exercises become distasteful to you.
You positively neglect to do the will of God. Says Christ: “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” This is the condition imposed; this is the test that proves men’s characters. Feelings are often deceiving, emotions are no sure safeguard; for they are variable and subject to external circumstances. Many are deluded by relying on sensational impressions. The test is: What are you doing for Christ? What sacrifices are you making? What victories are you gaining? A selfish spirit overcome, a temptation to neglect duty resisted, passion subdued, and willing, cheerful obedience rendered to the will of Christ are far greater evidences that you are a child of God than spasmodic piety and emotional religion.
Both of you have been averse to reproof; it has ever awakened disaffection and murmuring in your hearts against your best Friend, who has ever sought to do you good, and whom you have every reason to respect. You have separated yourselves from Him and have vexed the Spirit of God by rising up against the words He has given His servants to speak in regard to your course. You have not listened to these admonitions, and have thus rejected the Spirit of God and turned it from your hearts, and have become careless and indifferent in your deportment.
Brother A, you should have gained a valuable experience during the many years that you have been blessed with the great light God has permitted to shine upon your pathway. I heard a voice saying in reference to you: “It is an unfruitful tree; why should its fruitless branches shadow the space that a fruitful tree might occupy? Cut it down; for why cumbereth it the ground?” Then I heard the pleading tones of Mercy’s sweet voice, saying: “Spare it a little longer. I will dig about its roots; I will prune it.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 179-188