The lawyer asked Jesus what he should do that he might inherit eternal life. Jesus referred him to the commandments of His Father, telling him that obedience to them was necessary for his salvation. Christ told him that he knew the commandments, and that if he obeyed them, he should have life. Mark his answer: “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” Jesus looks upon this deceived young man with pity and love. He is about to reveal to him that there is a failure upon his part to keep, from the heart, the commandments that he confidently asserted he was obeying. Jesus says unto him: “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
Jesus calls the attention of this young man directly to the defect in his character. He cites His own self-denying, cross-bearing life. He had left everything for the salvation of man, and He entreated the young man to come and imitate His example, and assured him that he should have treasure in heaven. Did the heart of the young man leap with joy at this assurance that he should indeed have treasure in heaven? Oh, no! His earthly treasures were his idol; they eclipsed the value of the eternal inheritance. He turns from the cross, turns from the self-sacrificing life of the Redeemer, to this world. He has a lingering desire for the heavenly inheritance, yet he reluctantly turns from the prospect. It cost a struggle to decide which he should choose, but he finally decided to continue his love for his earthly treasures.
This young man had great possessions, and his heart was set upon them. He could not consent to transfer his treasures to heaven by withdrawing his affections from them and doing good with them—blessing the widow and fatherless, and thus being rich in good works. The love of this young man for his earthly treasures was stronger than his love for his fellow men and the immortal inheritance. His choice was made. The inducement presented by Christ, of securing a treasure in heaven, was rejected, for he could not consent to comply with the conditions. The strength of his affection for his earthly riches triumphed, and heaven, with all its attractive glory, was sacrificed for the treasures of the world. The young man was very sorrowful, for he wanted both worlds; but he sacrificed the heavenly for the earthly.
But few realize the strength of their love for riches until the test is brought to bear upon them. Many who profess to be Christ’s followers then show that they are unprepared for heaven. Their works testify that they love riches more than their neighbor or their God. Like the rich young man, they inquire the way to life; but when the way is pointed out, and the cost is estimated, and they are convinced that they must sacrifice their earthly riches and become rich in good works, they decide that heaven costs too much. The greater the treasures laid up upon the earth, the more difficult it is for the possessor to realize that they are not his own, but lent him to use to God’s glory.
Jesus here improves the opportunity to give His disciples an impressive lesson: “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Here the strength of riches is seen. The power of the love of riches over the human mind is almost paralyzing. Riches infatuate many, and make them act as though they were bereft of reason. The more they have of this world, the more they desire. Their fears of coming to want, increase with their riches. They have a disposition to hoard up means for the future. They are close and selfish, fearing that God will not provide for their future needs. Such persons are indeed poor toward God. As their riches have accumulated, they have put their trust in them and have not had faith in God or His promises.
The poor man who has faith and confidence in God, who trusts in His love and care, and who abounds in good works, judiciously using the little he has in blessing others with his means, is rich toward God. He feels that his neighbor has claims upon him that he cannot disregard and yet obey the commandment of God: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The poor who are rich toward God consider the salvation of their fellow men of greater importance than all the gold and silver that the world contains.
Christ points out the way in which those who have worldly riches and yet are not rich toward God may secure the true riches. He says: Sell that ye have, and give alms, and lay up treasure in heaven. The remedy He proposes for the wealthy is a transfer of their affections from earthly riches to the eternal inheritance. By investing their means in the cause of God to aid in the salvation of souls, and by blessing the needy with their means, they become rich in good works and are “laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” This will prove a safe investment. But many show by their works that they dare not trust in the bank of heaven. They choose to trust their means in the earth rather than send it before them to heaven, that their hearts may be upon their heavenly treasure.
My brother, you have a work before you, to strive to overcome covetousness and love of worldly riches, and especially self-confidence because you have had apparent success in securing the things of this world. Poor rich men, professing to serve God, are objects of pity. While they profess to know God, in works they deny Him. How great is the darkness of such! They profess faith in the truth, but their works do not correspond with their profession. The love of riches makes men selfish, exacting, and overbearing. Wealth is power; and frequently the love of it depraves and paralyzes all that is noble and godlike in man.
Riches bring with them great responsibilities. To obtain wealth by unjust dealing, by overreaching in trade, by oppressing the widow and the fatherless, or by hoarding up riches and neglecting the wants of the needy, will eventually bring the just retribution described by the inspired apostle: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. 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.”
The humblest and poorest of the true disciples of Christ, who are rich in good works, are more blessed and more precious in the sight of God than the men who boast of their great riches. They are more honorable in the courts of heaven than the most exalted kings and nobles who are not rich toward God.
The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to charge the rich: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” This admonition is applicable to you, Brother N, and to very many who profess to believe the truth for these last days.
Those who hoard up means or invest largely in lands, while they deprive their families of the comforts of life, act like insane men. They do not allow their families to enjoy the things which God has richly given them. Notwithstanding they have large possessions, their families are frequently compelled to labor far beyond their strength to save still more means to hoard up. Brain, bone, and muscle are taxed to the utmost to accumulate, and religion and Christian duties are neglected. Work, work, work, is the ambition from morning until night.
Many do not manifest an earnest desire to learn the will of God and to understand His claims upon them. Some who attempt to teach the truth to others do not themselves obey the word of God. The more such teachers the cause of God has, the less prosperous will it be.
Many to whom God has entrusted riches do not consider that they are working against their own eternal interest by selfishly retaining their riches. The apostle shows them that by becoming rich in good works they are working for themselves. They are laying up in store for themselves, providing in heaven an enduring treasure, that they may lay hold on eternal life. In distributing to the necessities of the cause, and helping the needy, they are faithfully doing the work that God has assigned them; and the memorial of their self-denial and generous, loving acts will be written in the book of heaven. Every deed of righteousness will be immortalized, although the doer may not feel that he has done anything worthy of notice. If the daily walk of those who profess the truth were a living example of the life of Christ, a light would shine forth from them which would lead others to the Redeemer. In heaven alone will be fully estimated the blessed results, in the salvation of others, of a consistent, harmonious, godly life.
My brother, you have much to do in your family to show them that the truth has wrought a good work for you and that it has had a softening, refining, elevating influence upon your life and character. You profess to believe that we are living in the last days and that we are giving the warning, testing message to the world; do you show this by your works? God is testing you, and He will reveal the true feelings of your heart.
The Lord has entrusted you with talents of means to use to advance His cause, to bless the needy, and to relieve the destitute. You can do a far greater amount of good with your means than you can do by preaching while you retain your means. Have you put your talents of means to the exchangers, that when the Master comes, and shall say, “Give an account of thy stewardship,” you can, without confusion, present to Him the talents doubled, both principal and interest, because you have not hoarded them, have not buried them selfishly in the earth, but have put them to use? Look over the history of your past life. How many have you blessed with your means? How many hearts have you made grateful by your liberalities? Please read the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. Have you loosed the bands of wickedness? Have you sought to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Have you dealt your bread to the hungry, and brought the poor that were cast out to your house? Have you covered the naked?
If you have been rich in these good works, you may claim the promises given in this chapter: “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am.” “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” But you are not now entitled to these promised blessings. You have not been engaged in this work. Look back over your past life and consider how destitute it is of good, noble, generous actions. You have talked the truth, but you have not lived it. Your life has not been elevated and sanctified, but it has been characterized by selfishness and stinginess. You have served self faithfully. It is now high time that you were changing your course and working diligently to secure the heavenly treasure.
You have lost much that you can never regain. You have not improved your opportunities for doing good, and your unfaithfulness has been entered upon the books of heaven. The life of Christ was characterized by self-denial, self-sacrifice, and disinterested benevolence. You do not take a right view of the preparation necessary for the kingdom of God. Your ideas are altogether too meager. Talk is cheap stuff; it does not cost much. Works, fruits, will determine the character of the tree. What fruits have you borne? The apostle James exhorts his brethren: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; What doth it profit?” Your good wishes, my brother, will not supply the need. Works must testify to the sincerity of your sympathy and love. How many times have you carried the above representation out to the letter?
You have a very good estimate of yourself, but you have a work to do that no other man can do for you. Your nature must be changed, and there must be a transformation of the entire being. You love the truth in word, but not in deed. You love the Lord a little, but your riches more. Would the Master say to you, if He should find you as you are at the present time: “Well done, good and faithful servant; … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”? What joy is here referred to? “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The joy that was set before Jesus was that of seeing souls redeemed by the sacrifice of His glory, His honor, His riches, and His own life. The salvation of man was His joy. When all the redeemed shall be gathered into the kingdom of God, He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
Those who are co-workers with Christ, partakers with Him of His self-denial and His sacrifice, may be instrumental in bringing souls to Christ, and may see them saved, eternally saved, to praise God, and the Lamb who hath redeemed them.
October 15, 1870.
Chapter 80—No Probation After Christ Comes
While I am writing out the dangers of others, your case presses upon my mind. For several months I have been seeking an opportunity to write to you and to others; but constant labor has hindered me from writing out all the testimonies given me for individuals.
Your case has frequently burdened my mind, but I have not felt clear to write to you. I have written out very many testimonies which have been given for others, some of which, in many particulars, would apply to you. The object of publishing the testimonies is that those who are not singled out personally, yet who are as much in fault as those who are reproved, may be warned through the reproofs given to others. I thought it would not be my duty to address you personally. Yet, as I write out individual testimonies to those who are in danger of neglecting their duty to the cause of God, and thus of sustaining an injury, a loss, to their own souls, I do not feel clear to leave your case without writing to you.
The last view given me was above two years ago. I was then directed to bring out general principles, in speaking and in writing, and at the same time specify the dangers, errors, and sins of some individuals, that all might be warned, reproved, and counseled. I saw that all should search their own hearts and lives closely to see if they had not made the same mistakes for which others were corrected and if the warnings given for others did not apply to their own cases. If so, they should feel that the counsel and reproofs were given especially for them and should make as practical an application of them as though they were especially addressed to themselves.
Those who have a natural love for the world and have been remiss in their duty can see their own faults specified in the cases of others who have been reproved. God designs to test the faith of all who claim to be followers of Christ. He will test the sincerity of the prayers of all those who claim to earnestly desire to know their duty. He will make duty plain. He will give all an ample opportunity to develop what is in their hearts. The conflict will be close between self and the grace of God. Self will strive for the mastery and will be opposed to the work of bringing the life and thoughts, the will and affections, into subjection to the will of Christ. Self-denial and the cross stand all along in the pathway to eternal life, and, because of this, “few there be that find it.”
God is testing the characters of all. He is proving their love for His cause and for the promulgation of the truth which they profess to consider of inestimable value. The Searcher of hearts is judging, by the fruits they bear, who are truly followers of Christ; who, like their divine Pattern, will renounce the honors and treasures of the world, and consent to be of no reputation, preferring the favor of God and the cross of Christ, that they may, in the end, secure the true riches, the treasure laid up in heaven, the recompense of reward—eternal glory.
Those who do not really wish to know themselves will allow the reproofs and warnings to pass to others, and will not discern that their own cases are met, their errors and dangers pointed out. Earthly, selfish motives blind the mind and so operate upon the soul that it cannot be renewed in the divine image. Those who do not, by their own perverse natures, resist His will, will not be left in darkness, but will be renewed in knowledge and true holiness, and will even glory in the cross of Christ.
I have been shown that, at the right time, God would press the burden upon me to say to individuals, as Nathan said to David: “Thou art the man.” Many apparently believe the testimonies borne to others and, like David, give judgment in reference to them, when they should be closely searching their own hearts, analyzing their own lives, and making a practical application of the close reproofs and warnings given to others.
Brother O, I have been shown that your affections are more upon your earthly treasure than you are sensible of. You have been confused in your perceptions of duty. And when the Spirit of God operates upon your mind and would lead you to do what is according to the will and requirements of God, other influences that are not in harmony with the work of God for this time hinder you from obeying the promptings of the divine will; the result is, your faith is not made perfect by works. Your affections should be withdrawn from your earthly treasure. At times when, contrary to your wishes and calculations, means was passing from you into the enemy’s ranks, and was thus lost to the cause of God, you have seemed much perplexed and troubled. Talents of means have been entrusted to you by the Master for you to improve to His glory. You are His steward and should be very cautious lest you neglect your duty. You are naturally a world-loving man and will be inclined to claim as your own the talents of means committed to your care. But, “Give an account of thy stewardship” will be heard by you by and by.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 679-688