The children of God are wise when they trust in that wisdom alone which comes from above, and when they have no strength but that which is from God. Separation from the friendship and spirit of the world is needful for us if we would be united to the Lord and abide in him. Our strength and our prosperity consist in our being connected with the Lord, chosen and accepted of Him. There can be no union between light and darkness. God intends that His people shall be a peculiar people, separate from the world, and be living examples of holiness, that the world may be enlightened, convicted, or condemned, according as they treat the light given them. The truth that has been brought before the understanding, the light that has shone upon the soul, will judge and condemn if it be neglected or turned from.
In this degenerate age, error and darkness are preferred rather than light and truth. The works of many of Christ’s professed followers will not bear the test when examined by the light that now shines upon them. For this cause, many do not come to the light lest it shall be made manifest that their works are not wrought in God. Light discovers, makes manifest, the evil hidden under darkness. Men of the world and men who are Christ’s servants indeed may be alike in outward appearance; but they are servants of two masters whose interests are in decided opposition to each other. The world does not understand or discern the difference; but there is an immense distance, a vast, separation, between them.
Says Christ: “Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” The true followers of Christ cannot enjoy the friendship of the world and at the same time have their life hid with Christ. The affections must be withdrawn from the treasures of earth and transferred to the heavenly treasure. How difficult was it for the young man who had great possessions to withdraw his affections from his worldly treasure, even with the promise of eternal life before him as his reward!
When all that we have and are is not consecrated to God, selfish interests close our eyes to the importance of the work, and the means that God calls for is withheld. But He who has lent us this means for the advancement of His cause will frequently withdraw His prospering hand and in some way scatter the means thus withheld, and it will be lost to its possessor and lost to the cause of God. It is not preserved in this world or in the world to come. God is robbed, and Satan triumphs. The Lord would have you closely search your own heart, Brother O, and get the love of the world out of it. Die to self, and live unto God. Then will you be of that number who are the light of the world.
I have been shown that you were cherishing erroneous views in regard to the future, views savoring of the pernicious sentiments of the Age-to-come. You sometimes talk out these ideas to others. But they are not in harmony with the body. You do not make a right application of Scripture. When Jesus rises up in the most holy place, and lays off His mediatorial garments, and clothes Himself with the garments of vengeance in place of the priestly attire, the work for sinners will be done. The period of time will then have come when the mandate will go forth: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: … and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
God has given His word for all to investigate, that they may learn the way to life. None need err if they will submit to the conditions of salvation laid down in the word of God. Probation is granted to all, that all may form characters for eternal life. An opportunity will be given to all to decide for life or death. Men will be judged according to the measure of light given them. None will be accountable for their darkness and their errors if the light has not been brought to them. They have not sinned in not accepting what has not been given them. All will be tested before Jesus leaves His position in the most holy place. The probation of all closes when the pleading for sinners is ended and the garments of vengeance are put on.
Many entertain the view that probation is granted after Jesus leaves His work as mediator in the most holy apartment. This is the sophistry of Satan. God tests and proves the world by the light which He is pleased to give them previous to the coming of Christ. Characters are then formed for life or death. But the probation of those who choose to live a life of sin, and neglect the great salvation offered, closes when Christ’s ministration ceases just previous to His appearing in the clouds of heaven.
Those who love the world, and whose minds are carnal and at enmity with God, will flatter themselves that a period of probation will be granted after Christ appears in the clouds of heaven. The carnal heart, which is so averse to submission and obedience, will be deceived with this pleasing view. Many will remain in carnal security and continue in rebellion against God, flattering themselves that there is then to be a period for repentance of sin and an opportunity for them to accept the truth which now is unpopular and crossing to their natural inclination and desires. When they have nothing to venture, nothing to lose, by yielding obedience to Christ and the truth, they think they will take their chance for salvation.
There are in the Scriptures some things which are hard to be understood and which, according to the language of Peter, the unlearned and unstable wrest unto their own destruction. We may not, in this life, be able to explain the meaning of every passage of Scripture; but there are no vital points of practical truth that will be clouded in mystery. When the time shall come, in the providence of God, for the world to be tested upon the truth for that time, minds will be exercised by His Spirit to search the Scriptures, even with fasting and with prayer, until link after link is searched out and united in a perfect chain. Every fact which immediately concerns the salvation of souls will be made so clear that none need err or walk in darkness.
As we have followed down the chain of prophecy, revealed truth for our time has been clearly seen and explained. We are accountable for the privileges that we enjoy and for the light that shines upon our pathway. Those who lived in past generations were accountable for the light which was permitted to shine upon them. Their minds were exercised in regard to different points of Scripture which tested them. But they did not understand the truths which we do. They were not responsible for the light which they did not have. They had the Bible, as we have; but the time for the unfolding of special truth in relation to the closing scenes of this earth’s history is during the last generations that shall live upon the earth.
Special truths have been adapted to the conditions of the generations as they have existed. The present truth, which is a test to the people of this generation, was not a test to the people of generations far back. If the light which now shines upon us in regard to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment had been given to the generations in the past, God would have held them accountable for that light.
When the temple of God was opened in heaven, John saw in holy vision a class of people whose attention was arrested and who were looking with reverential awe at the ark, which contained the law of God. The special test upon the fourth commandment did not come until after the temple of God was opened in heaven.
Those who died before the light was given upon the law of God and the claims of the fourth commandment were not guilty of the sin of violating the seventh-day Sabbath. The wisdom and mercy of God in dispensing light and knowledge at the proper time, as the people need it, is unsearchable. Previous to His coming to judge the world in righteousness, He sends forth a warning to arouse the people and call their attention to their neglect of the fourth commandment, that they may be enlightened, and may repent of their transgression of His law, and prove their allegiance to the great Lawgiver. He has made provision that all may be holy and happy if they choose. Sufficient light has been given to this generation, that we may learn what our duties and privileges are, and enjoy the precious and solemn truths in their simplicity and power.
We are accountable only for the light that shines upon us. The commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus are testing us. If we are faithful and obedient, God will delight in us, and bless us as His own chosen peculiar people. When perfect faith and perfect love and obedience abound, working in the hearts of those who are Christ’s followers, they will have a powerful influence. Light will emanate from them, dispelling the darkness around them, refining and elevating all who come within the sphere of their influence, and bringing to a knowledge of the truth all who are willing to be enlightened and to follow in the humble path of obedience.
Those who possess the carnal mind cannot comprehend the sacred force of vital truth upon which their salvation depends, because they cherish pride of heart, love of the world, love of ease, selfishness, covetousness, envy, jealousy, lust, hatred, and every evil. If they would overcome these they might be partakers of the divine nature. Many leave the plain truths of God’s word and neglect to follow the light that shines clearly upon their pathway; they try to pry into secrets not plainly revealed and conjecture and talk and dispute in regard to questions which they are not required to understand, for they have no special reference to their salvation. Thousands have been beguiled in this way by Satan. They have neglected present faith and present duty which are clear and comprehensive to all who have their reasoning powers; they have dwelt upon doubtful theories and scriptures which they could not comprehend, and have erred concerning the faith; they have a mixed faith.
God would have all make a practical use of the plain teachings of His word in regard to the salvation of man. If they are doers of the word, which is plain and powerful in its simplicity, they will not fail to perfect Christian character. They will be sanctified through the truth, and through humble obedience to it will secure everlasting life. God wants servants that are true, not only in word, but in deed. Their fruits will show the genuineness of their faith.
Brother O, you will be subject to Satan’s temptations if you continue to cherish your erroneous views. Your faith will be a mixed faith, and you will be in danger of confusing the minds of others. God requires His people to be a unit. Your peculiar views will prove an injury to your influence; and if you continue to cherish them and talk them, they will finally serve to separate you from your brethren. If God has light which is necessary for the salvation of His people, He will give it to them as He has given other great and important truths. Here you should let the matter rest. Let God work in His own way to accomplish His purposes in His own time and manner. May God enable you to walk in the light as He is in the light.
Chapter 81—Accountability for Light Received
I have been shown the case of Brother P. He had been standing for some time resisting the truth. His sin was not that he did not receive that which he sincerely believed to be error, but that he did not investigate diligently and gain a knowledge of what he was opposing. He took it for granted that Sabbathkeeping Adventists, as a body, were in error. This view was in harmony with his feelings, and he did not see the necessity of finding out for himself by diligently searching the Scriptures with earnest prayer. Had he pursued this course he might now have been far in advance of his present position. He has been too slow to receive evidence and too neglectful in searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so. Paul did not consider those worthy of commendation who resisted his teachings as long as they could until compelled by overwhelming evidence to decide in favor of the doctrine which he taught and which he had received of God.
Paul and Silas labored in the synagogue of the Jews at Thessalonica with some success; but the unbelieving Jews were greatly dissatisfied, and created a disturbance, and made a great uproar against them. These devoted apostles were obliged to leave Thessalonica under the cover of night and go to Berea, where they were gladly welcomed. They speak in commendation of the Bereans thus: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed.”
Brother P has failed to see the vital importance of the question. He has not felt the burden pressing him to search diligently, independent of any man, to find out what is truth. He has thought too much of Elder P, and has not felt the necessity of learning of One who is meek and lowly of heart. He has not been teachable, but self-confident. Our Saviour has no words of commendation for those who are slow of heart to believe in these last days, any more than He had for doubting Thomas, who boasted that he would not believe upon the evidence which the disciples rehearsed, and which they credited, that Christ had indeed risen and appeared to them. Said Thomas: “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails,” “and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Christ granted Thomas the evidence that he had declared he must have; but He reprovingly said to him: “Be not faithless, but believing.” Thomas acknowledged himself convinced. Jesus said unto him: “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Brother P’s position has made him a weak man. He remained for quite a length of time warring against nearly everything but the Sabbath. At the same time he was fellowshiping commandment breakers, being still claimed by the Adventists who were in bitter opposition to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. He was in no condition to help them because he was in a state of indecision himself. His influence has rather confirmed many in their unbelief. With all the help, evidence, and encouragement that he has had, his standing back has displeased the Lord, while it has strengthened the hands of those who were fighting against God by their opposition to the truth.
Brother P might now be a strong man possessing influence with God’s people in Maine and esteemed highly in love for his works’ sake. But he inclines to the idea that his backwardness is a special virtue, rather than a sin of which he must repent. He has been very slow to learn the lessons which God has intended to teach him. He has not been an apt scholar, and has not had a growth and experience in present truth, which would qualify him to bear the weight of responsibility that he might now bear had he diligently improved upon all the light given. I was shown a time when Brother P began to make an effort to subdue himself and restrain his appetite; then he could the more easily be patient. He had been easily excited, passionate, irritable, depressed in spirit. His eating and drinking had very much to do in keeping him in this state. The lower passions bore sway, predominating over the higher powers of the mind. Temperance would do much for Brother P; and more physical exercise and labor is necessary for his health. As he made efforts to control himself, he began to grow, but did not receive that blessing in his efforts to improve that he would have received had they been made at an earlier period.
Instead of gathering with Christ into the truth, he too long drew back; he would not advance himself and stood directly in the way of the advancement of others, thus scattering abroad. His influence has stood directly in the way of the progress of the work which God sent His servants to do.
Brother P’s ideas of order and organization have been in direct opposition to God’s plan of order. There is order in heaven, and it is to be imitated by those upon earth who are heirs of salvation. The nearer mortals attain to the order and arrangement of heaven, the nearer are they brought to that acceptable state before God which will make them subjects of the heavenly kingdom and give them that fitness for translation from earth to heaven which Enoch possessed preparatory to his translation.
Brother P should be guarded. There is a lack of order in his organization. He has not been in harmony with that restraint, that care and diligence, which are necessary in order to preserve harmony and union of action. His experience, his education in religious things for years past, has been a great detriment to his dear children and especially to God’s people. The obligations which Heaven has imposed upon a father, and especially upon a minister, he has not realized. A man who has but a feeble sense of his responsibility as a father to encourage and enforce order, discipline, and obedience will fail as a minister and as a shepherd of the flock. The same lack which characterizes his management at home in his family will be seen in a more public capacity in the church of God. Wrongs will exist uncorrected because of the unpleasant results which attend reproof and earnest appeal.
A great reform is needed in Brother P’s family. God is not pleased with their present state of disorder, their having their own way, following their own course of action. This condition of things in his family is destined to counteract his influence wherever he is known. It also has the effect to discourage those who have a will to help him in the support of his family. This lack is an injury to the cause. Brother P does not restrain his children. God is not pleased with their disorderly, boisterous ways, their unrefined deportment. All this is the result of, or the curse that follows, the unabridged liberty which Adventists have claimed that it was their blessed privilege to enjoy. Brother and Sister P have desired the salvation of their children, but I saw that God would not work a miracle in their conversion while there were duties resting upon the parents of which they have but little sense. God has left a work for these parents to do which they have thrown back upon Him to do for them. When Brother and Sister P feel the burden that they ought to feel for their children, they will unite their efforts to establish order, discipline, and wholesome restraint in their family.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 679-688