Chapter 59—An Appeal to the Church
October 2, 1868, I was shown the state of God’s professed people. Many of them were in great darkness, yet seemed to be insensible of their true condition. The sensibilities of a large number seemed to be benumbed in regard to spiritual and eternal things, while their minds seemed all awake to their worldly interests. Many were cherishing idols in their hearts and were practicing iniquity which separated them from God and caused them to be bodies of darkness. I saw but few who stood in the light, having discernment and spirituality to discover these stumbling blocks and remove them out of the way. Men who stand in very responsible positions at the heart of the work are asleep. Satan has paralyzed them in order that his plans and devices may not be discerned, while he is active to ensnare, deceive, and destroy.
Some who occupy the position of watchmen to warn the people of danger have given up their watch and recline at ease. They are unfaithful sentinels. They remain inactive, while their wily foe enters the fort and works successfully by their side to tear down what God has commanded to be built up. They see that Satan is deceiving the inexperienced and unsuspecting; yet they take it all quietly, as though they had no special interest, as though these things did not concern them. They apprehend no special danger; they see no cause to raise an alarm. To them everything seems to be going well, and they see no necessity of raising the faithful, trumpet notes of warning which they hear borne by the plain testimonies, to show the people their transgressions and the house of Israel their sins. These reproofs and warnings disturb the quiet of these sleepy, ease-loving sentinels, and they are not pleased. They say in heart, if not in words: “This is all uncalled for. It is too severe, too harsh. These men are unnecessarily disturbed and excited, and seem unwilling to give us any rest or quietude ‘Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them.’ They are not willing that we should have any comfort, peace, or happiness. It is active labor, toil, and unceasing vigilance alone which will satisfy these unreasonable, hard-to-be-suited watchmen. Why don’t they prophesy smooth things, and cry: Peace, peace? Then everything would move on smoothly.”
These are the true feelings of many of our people. And Satan exults at his success in controlling the minds of so many who profess to be Christians. He has deceived them, benumbed their sensibilities, and planted his hellish banner right in their midst, and they are so completely deceived that they know not that it is he. The people have not erected graven images, yet their sin is no less in the sight of God. They worship mammon. They love worldly gain. Some will make any sacrifice of conscience to obtain their object. God’s professed people are selfish and self-caring. They love the things of this world, and have fellowship with the works of darkness. They have pleasure in unrighteousness. They have not love toward God nor love for their neighbors. They are idolaters, and are worse, far worse, in the sight of God than the heathen, graven-image worshipers who have no knowledge of a better way.
Christ’s followers are required to come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean, and they have the promise of being the sons and daughters of the Most High, members of the royal family. But if the conditions are not complied with on their part, they will not, cannot, realize the fulfillment of the promise. A profession of Christianity is nothing in the sight of God; but true, humble, willing obedience to His requirements designates the children of His adoption, the recipients of His grace, the partakers of His great salvation. Such will be peculiar, a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. Their peculiar, holy character will be discernible, and will distinctly separate them from the world, from its affections and lust.
I saw that but few among us answer to this description. Their love to God is in word, not in deed and in truth. Their course of action, their works, testify of them that they are not children of the light but of darkness. Their works have not been wrought in God, but in selfishness, in unrighteousness. Their hearts are strangers to His renewing grace. They have not experienced the transforming power which leads them to walk even as Christ walked. Those who are living branches of the heavenly Vine will partake of the sap and nourishment of the Vine. They will not be withered and fruitless branches, but will show life and vigor, and will flourish and bear fruit to the glory of God. They will be careful to depart from all iniquity and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
Like ancient Israel the church has dishonored her God by departing from the light, neglecting her duties, and abusing her high and exalted privilege of being peculiar and holy in character. Her members have violated their covenant to live for God and Him only. They have joined with the selfish and world-loving. Pride, the love of pleasure, and sin have been cherished, and Christ has departed. His Spirit has been quenched in the church. Satan works side by side with professed Christians; yet they are so destitute of spiritual discernment that they do not detect him. They have not the burden of the work. The solemn truths they profess to believe are not a reality to them. They have not genuine faith. Men and women will act out all the faith which they in reality possess. By their fruits ye shall know them. Not their profession, but the fruit they bear, shows the character of the tree. Many have a form of godliness, their names are upon the church records; but they have a spotted record in heaven. The recording angel has faithfully written their deeds. Every selfish act, every wrong word, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling, is faithfully chronicled in the book of records kept by the recording angel.
Very many who profess to be servants of Christ are none of His. They are deceiving their souls to their own destruction. While they profess to be servants of Christ, they are not living in obedience to His will. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Many, while professing to be servants of Christ, are obeying another master, working daily against the Master whom they profess to serve. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Earthly and selfish interests engage the soul, mind, and strength of God’s professed followers. To all intents and purposes they are servants of mammon. They have not experienced a crucifixion to the world, with its affections and lusts. But few among the many who profess to be Christ’s followers can say in the language of the apostle: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” If willing obedience and true love characterize the lives of the people of God, their light will shine with a holy brightness to the world.
The words which Christ addressed to His disciples were designed for all who should believe on His name: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden underfoot of men.” A profession of godliness without the living principle is as utterly valueless as salt without its saving properties. An unprincipled professed Christian is a byword, a reproach to Christ, a dishonor to His name. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
The good works of God’s people have a more powerful influence than words. By their virtuous life and unselfish acts the beholder is led to desire the same righteousness which produced so good fruit. He is charmed with that power from God which transforms selfish human beings into the divine image, and God is honored, His name glorified. But the Lord is dishonored and His cause reproached by His people’s being in bondage to the world. They are in friendship with the world, the enemies of God. Their only hope of salvation is to separate from the world and zealously maintain their separate, holy, and peculiar character. Oh! why will not God’s people comply with the conditions laid down in His word? If they would do this they would not fail to realize the excellent blessings freely given of God to the humble and obedient.
I was amazed as I beheld the terrible darkness of many of the members of our churches. The lack of true godliness was such that they were bodies of darkness and death, instead of being the light of the world. Many professed to love God, but in works denied Him. They did not love, serve, nor obey Him. Their own selfish interests were primary. With a large number there seemed to be an alarming lack of principle. They were swayed by unconsecrated influence and seemed to have no root in themselves. I inquired what these things meant. Why was there such a destitution of spirituality, so few who had a living experience in religious things? I was referred to the words of the prophet: “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from Me through their idols.”
The people of God were represented to me as in a backslidden state. They have not an eye single to the glory of God. Their own glory is prominent. They seek to glorify themselves and yet call themselves Christians. Holiness of heart and purity of life was the great subject of the teachings of Christ. In His Sermon on the Mount, after specifying what must be done in order to be blessed, and what must not be done, He says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Perfection, holiness, nothing short of this, would give them success in carrying out the principles He had given them. Without this holiness the human heart is selfish, sinful, and vicious. Holiness will lead its possessor to be fruitful and abound in all good works. He will never become weary in well-doing, neither will he look for promotion in this world. He will look forward for promotion to the time when the Majesty of heaven shall exalt the sanctified ones to His throne. Then shall He say unto them: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The Lord then enumerates the works of self-denial and mercy, compassion and righteousness, which they had wrought. Holiness of heart will produce right actions. It is the absence of spirituality, of holiness, which leads to unrighteous acts, to envy, hatred, jealousy, evil surmisings, and every hateful and abominable sin.
I have tried in the fear of God to set before His people their danger and their sins, and have endeavored, to the best of my feeble powers, to arouse them. I have stated startling things, which, if they had believed, would have caused them distress and terror, and led them to zeal in repenting of their sins and iniquities. I have stated before them that, from what was shown me, but a small number of those now professing to believe the truth would eventually be saved—not because they could not be saved, but because they would not be saved in God’s own appointed way. The way marked out by our divine Lord is too narrow and the gate too strait to admit them while grasping the world or while cherishing selfishness or sin of any kind. There is no room for these things; and yet there are but few who will consent to part with them, that they may pass the narrow way and enter the strait gate.
The words of Christ are plain: “Strive [agonize] to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Not all professed Christians are Christians at heart. There are sinners in Zion now, as there were anciently. Isaiah speaks of them in referring to the day of God: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly, he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.”
There are hypocrites now who will tremble when they obtain a view of themselves. Their own vileness will terrify them in that day which is soon to come upon us, a day when “the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.” Oh, that terror might now lay hold upon them, that they might have a vivid sense of their condition and arouse while there is mercy and hope, confess their sins, and humble their souls greatly before God, that He might pardon their transgressions and heal their backslidings! The people of God are unready for the fearful, trying scenes before us, unready to stand pure from evil and lust amid the perils and corruptions of this degenerate age. They have not on the armor of righteousness, and are unprepared to war against the prevailing iniquity. Many are not obeying the commandments of God, yet they profess so to do. If they would be faithful to obey all the statutes of God they would have a power which would carry conviction to the hearts of the unbelieving.
I have sought to do my duty. I have pointed out the special sins of some. I was shown that in the wisdom of God the sins and errors of all would not be revealed. All would have sufficient light to see their sins and errors, if they desired to do so and earnestly wished to put them away, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. They could see what sins God marked and reproved in others. If these were cherished by themselves, they should know that they were abhorred of God and were separated from Him; and that unless they earnestly and zealously set about the work of putting them away they would be left in darkness. God is too pure to behold iniquity. A sin is just as grievous in His sight in one case as in another. No exception will be made by an impartial God. All who are guilty are addressed in these individual testimonies, although their names may not be attached to the special testimony borne; and if individuals pass over and cover up their own sins because their names are not especially called, they will not be prospered of God. They cannot advance in the divine life, but will become darker and darker, until the light of heaven will be entirely withdrawn.
Those who profess godliness, yet are not sanctified by the truth which they profess, will not change materially their course of action, which they know is hateful before God, because they are not subjected to the trial of being reproved individually for their sins. They see, by the testimonies of others, their own case faithfully pointed out before them. They are cherishing the same evil. By continuing their course of sin, they are violating their consciences, hardening their hearts, and stiffening their necks, just the same as though the testimony had been borne directly to them. In passing on and refusing to put away their sins and correct their wrongs by humble confession, repentance, and humiliation, they choose their own way, and are given up to the same, and are finally led captive by Satan at his will. They may become quite bold because they are able to conceal their sins from others and because the judgments of God do not come in a visible manner upon them. They may be apparently prosperous in this world. They may deceive poor, shortsighted mortals and be regarded as patterns of piety while in their sins. But God cannot be deceived. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him: but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.” Although the life of a sinner may be prolonged upon the earth, yet not in the earth made new. He shall be of that number whom David mentions in his psalm: “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth.”
Mercy and truth are promised to the humble and penitent, but judgments are prepared for the sinful and rebellious. “Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne.” A wicked and adulterous people will not escape the wrath of God and the punishment they have justly earned. Man has fallen; and it will be the work of a lifetime, be it longer or shorter, to recover from that fall, and regain, through Christ, the image of the divine, which he lost by sin and continued transgression. God requires a thorough transformation of soul, body, and spirit in order to regain the estate lost through Adam. The Lord mercifully sends rays of light to show man his true condition. If he will not walk in the light he manifests a pleasure in darkness. He will not come to the light lest his deeds shall be reproved.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 439-448