Section 3—The Work in the Cities
“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8.
Chapter 10—Conditions in the Cities
There is coming rapidly and surely an almost universal guilt upon the inhabitants of the cities because of the steady increase of determined wickedness. We are living in the midst of an “epidemic of crime” at which thoughtful, God-fearing men everywhere stand aghast. The corruption that prevails is beyond the power of the human pen to describe. Every day brings fresh revelations of political strife, bribery, and fraud; every day brings its heartsickening record of violence and lawlessness, of indifference to human suffering; of brutal, fiendish destruction of human life. Every day testifies to the increase of insanity, murder, and suicide.
The cities of today are fast becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. Holidays are numerous; the whirl of excitement and pleasure attracts thousands from the sober duties of life. The exciting sports—theatergoing, horse racing, gambling, liquor drinking and reveling—stimulate every passion to activity.
The youth are swept away by the popular current. Those who learn to love amusement for its own sake open the door to a flood of temptations. They give themselves up to social gaiety and thoughtless mirth. They are led on from one form of dissipation to another, until they lose both the desire and the capacity for a life of usefulness. Their religious aspirations are chilled; their spiritual life is darkened. All the nobler faculties of the soul, all that link man with the spiritual world, are debased.
Through the working of trusts and the results of labor unions and strikes, the conditions of life in the cities are constantly becoming more and more difficult.
The intense passion for money getting, the thirst for display, the luxury and extravagance—all are forces that, with the great mass of mankind, are turning the mind from life’s true purpose. They are opening the door to a thousand evils. Many, absorbed in their interest in worldly treasures, become insensible to the claims of God and the needs of their fellow men. They regard their wealth as a means of glorifying self. They add house to house and land to land; they fill their homes with luxury, while all about them are human beings in misery and crime, in disease and death.
By every species of oppression and extortion, men are piling up colossal fortunes, while the cries of starving humanity are coming up before God. There are multitudes struggling with poverty, compelled to labor hard for small wages, unable to secure the barest necessities of life. Toil and deprivation, with no hope of better things, make their burden heavy. When pain and sickness are added, the burden is almost unbearable. Care-worn and oppressed, they know not where to turn for relief.
The Scriptures describe the condition of the world just before Christ’s second coming. James the apostle pictures the greed and oppression that will prevail. He says: “Go to now, ye rich men…. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.” James 5:1-6.
This is a picture of what exists today. “Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey.” Isaiah 59:14, 15.
Even the church, which should be the pillar and ground of the truth, is found encouraging a selfish love of pleasure. When money is raised for religious purposes, to what means do many churches resort? To bazaars, suppers, fancy fairs, even to lotteries and like devices. Often the place set apart for God’s worship is desecrated by feasting and drinking, buying, selling, and merrymaking. Respect for the house of God and reverence for His worship are lessened in the minds of the youth. The barriers of self-restraint are weakened. Selfishness, appetite, the love of display, are appealed to, and they strengthen as they are indulged.
From age to age the Lord has made known the manner of His working. When a crisis has come, He has revealed Himself and has interposed to hinder the working out of Satan’s plans. With nations, with families, and with individuals He has often permitted matters to come to a crisis, that His interference might become marked. Then He has made it manifest that there is a God in Israel who will maintain His law and vindicate His people.
In the antediluvian world human agencies brought in all manner of devisings and ingenious practices to make of no effect the law of Jehovah. They cast aside His authority because it interfered with their schemes. As in the days before the Flood, so now the time is right upon us when the Lord must reveal His omnipotent power. In this time of prevailing iniquity we may know that the last great crisis is at hand. When defiance against God’s law is almost universal, when His people are oppressed and afflicted by their fellow men, the Lord will interpose.
Satan is not asleep; he is wide awake to make of no effect the sure word of prophecy. With skill and deceptive power he is working to counterwork the expressed will of God, made plain in His word. For years Satan has been gaining control of human minds through subtle sophistries that he has devised to take the place of the truth. In this time of peril, rightdoers, in the fear of God, will glorify His name by repeating the words of David: “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.” Psalm 119:126.
The Judgments of God on our Cities
While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified.
The destroying angels of God were at work. One touch, and buildings, so thoroughly constructed that men regarded them as secure against every danger, quickly became heaps of rubbish. There was no assurance of safety in any place. I did not feel in any special peril, but the awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted and that the Judgment day had come.
The angel that stood at my side then instructed me that but few have any conception of the wickedness existing in our world today, and especially the wickedness in the large cities. He declared that the Lord has appointed a time when He will visit transgressors in wrath for persistent disregard of His law.
Terrible as was the representation that passed before me, that which impressed itself most vividly upon my mind was the instruction given in connection with it. The angel that stood by my side declared that God’s supreme rulership and the sacredness of His law must be revealed to those who persistently refused to render obedience to the King of kings. Those who choose to remain disloyal must be visited in mercy with judgments, in order that, if possible, they may be aroused to a realization of the sinfulness of their course.
Throughout the following day I pondered the scenes that had passed before me and the instruction that had been given. During the afternoon we journeyed to Glendale, near Los Angeles; and the following night I was again instructed regarding the holiness and binding claims of the Ten Commandments and the supremacy of God above all earthly rulers.
I seemed to be in an assembly, setting before the people the requirements of God’s law. I read the scriptures regarding the institution of the Sabbath in Eden at the close of the creation week, and regarding the giving of the law at Sinai; and then declared that the Sabbath is to be observed “for a perpetual covenant” as a sign between God and His people forever, that they may know that they are sanctified by the Lord, their Creator.
Then I further dwelt upon the supreme rulership of God above all earthly rulers. His law is to be the standard of action. Men are forbidden to pervert their senses by intemperance or by yielding their minds to satanic influences, for this makes impossible the keeping of God’s law. While the divine Ruler bears long with perversity, He is not deceived and will not always keep silence. His supremacy, His authority as Ruler of the universe, must finally be acknowledged and the just claims of His law vindicated.
Much more instruction regarding the long-sufferance of God and the necessity of arousing transgressors to a realization of their perilous position in His sight was repeated to the people, as received from my instructor.
On April 18, two days after the scene of falling buildings had passed before me, I went to fill an appointment in the Carr Street Church, Los Angeles. As we neared the church we heard the newsboys crying: “San Francisco destroyed by an earthquake!” With a heavy heart I read the first hastily printed news of the terrible disaster.
Two weeks later, on our homeward journey, we passed through San Francisco and, hiring a carriage, spent an hour and a half in viewing the destruction wrought in that great city. Buildings that were thought to be proof against disaster were lying in ruins. In some instances buildings were partially sunken in the ground. The city presented a most dreadful picture of the inefficiency of human ingenuity to frame fireproof and earthquake-proof structures.
Through His prophet Zephaniah the Lord specifies the judgments that He will bring upon evildoers:
“I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the Lord.”
“And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit….
“And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil. Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.
“The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy: for He shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” Zephaniah 1:2, 3, 8-18.
God cannot forbear much longer. Already His judgments are beginning to fall on some places, and soon His signal displeasure will be felt in other places.
There will be a series of events revealing that God is master of the situation. The truth will be proclaimed in clear, unmistakable language. As a people we must prepare the way of the Lord under the overruling guidance of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is to be given in its purity. The stream of living water is to deepen and widen in its course. In all fields, nigh and afar off, men will be called from the plow and from the more common commercial business vocations that largely occupy the mind, and will be educated in connection with men of experience. As they learn to labor effectively they will proclaim the truth with power. Through most wonderful workings of divine providence, mountains of difficulty will be removed and cast into the sea. The message that means so much to the dwellers upon the earth will be heard and understood. Men will know what is truth. Onward and still onward the work will advance until the whole earth shall have been warned, and then shall the end come.
Chapter 11—A Present-Day Work
More and more, as the days go by, it is becoming apparent that God’s judgments are in the world. In fire and flood and earthquake He is warning the inhabitants of this earth of His near approach. The time is nearing when the great crisis in the history of the world will have come, when every movement in the government of God will be watched with intense interest and inexpressible apprehension. In quick succession the judgments of God will follow one another—fire and flood and earthquake, with war and bloodshed.
Oh, that the people might know the time of their visitation! There are many who have not yet heard the testing truth for this time. There are many with whom the Spirit of God is striving. The time of God’s destructive judgments is the time of mercy for those who have had no opportunity to learn what is truth. Tenderly will the Lord look upon them. His heart of mercy is touched; His hand is still stretched out to save, while the door is closed to those who would not enter.
The mercy of God is shown in His long forbearance. He is holding back His judgments, waiting for the message of warning to be sounded to all. Oh, if our people would feel as they should the responsibility resting upon them to give the last message of mercy to the world, what a wonderful work would be done!
Behold the cities, and their need of the gospel! The need of earnest laborers among the multitudes of the cities has been kept before me for more than twenty years. Who are carrying a burden for the large cities? A few have felt the burden, but in comparison with the great need and the many opportunities but little attention has been given to this work.
In the Cities of the East
Instruction has been given me that the message should go again with power in the cities in the Eastern States. In many of the large cities of the East the first and second angels’ messages were proclaimed during the 1844 movement. To us, as God’s servants, has been entrusted the third angel’s message, the binding-off message, that is to prepare a people for the coming of the King. We are to make every effort to give a knowledge of the truth to all who will hear, and there are many who will listen. All through the large cities God has honest souls who are interested in what is truth.
Time is short; the Lord desires that everything connected with His cause shall be brought into order. He desires that the solemn message of warning and of invitation shall be proclaimed as widely as His messengers can carry it. Nothing that would hinder the advance of the message is to be allowed to come into our plans. “Repeat the message, repeat the message,” were the words spoken to me over and over again. “Tell My people to repeat the message in the places where it was first preached, and where church after church took their position for the truth, the power of God witnessing to the message in a remarkable manner.”
For years the pioneers of our work struggled against poverty and manifold hardships in order to place the cause of present truth on vantage ground. With meager facilities, they labored untiringly, and the Lord blessed their humble efforts. The message went with power in the East and extended westward until centers of influence had been established in many places. The laborers of today may not have to endure all the hardships of those early days. The changed conditions, however, should not lead to any slackening of effort. Now, when the Lord bids us proclaim the message once more with power in the East, when He bids us enter the cities of the East and of the South and of the West and of the North, shall we not respond as one man and do His bidding? Shall we not plan to send our messengers all through these fields and support them liberally? Shall not the ministers of God go into these crowded centers and there lift up their voices in warning the multitudes? What are our conferences for, if not for the carrying forward of this very work?
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9 pp. 89-98