Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)

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Ms 58, 1896

“The Least Of These My Brethren”

NP

1896

Formerly Undated Ms 17. Portions of this manuscript are published in 17MR 25.

When Jesus described to His disciples the scenes of His second coming and the great final separation between those who serve God and those who serve Him not, He represented the decision of that day as turning upon one point. When the nations are gathered before the judgment seat of Christ, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined on the ground of what they have done or have not done for Christ in the person of the poor and the suffering. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 1

To those upon the right hand will be said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” [Matthew 25:34-36.] 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 2

But those whom Christ commends are unconscious of the good deeds they have performed. They know not that they have been ministering to Christ; and to their perplexed inquiries, Jesus answers, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” [Verse 40.] 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 3

A little before, Jesus had told His disciples of the scenes that were before them, how they were to be hated of all men, to be persecuted and afflicted; He had told them that those who forsook friends or home for His sake should receive, even in this life, a hundredfold. Now He declares that a special blessing shall rest upon all who minister to their brethren for Christ’s sake. Many would be driven from their homes and brought to poverty. Many would be in distress through disease and privation. Many would be cast into prison. In all these, said Jesus, you are to recognize Me. As you would minister to Me, so you are to minister to them. This is the evidence that you are My disciples. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 4

When the Hebrew people were suffering in Egypt under the hand of their task-masters, God looked upon them, and He called Israel His son. He bade Moses go to Pharaoh with the message, “Israel is my son; even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me.” Exodus 4:22, 23. The Lord did not wait until His people went forth and stood in triumph on the shores of the Red Sea before He called Israel His son; but while they were degraded, downtrodden, enduring all that the power and invention of the Egyptians could impose to make their lives bitter and to destroy them, He undertook their cause, and declared, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 5

Pharaoh scornfully demanded, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?” And he said, “I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2. The Israelites were his slaves, despised by the very lowest of his people. The God of such a race the proud monarch feared not, nor would he obey. But the word of the Lord will not return unto Him void; it will accomplish the thing whereunto it is sent. God’s message to the king of Egypt was, “Let my son go, that he may serve me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.” Exodus 4:23. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 6

The angel of the Lord went through the land of the Pharaohs with thunder and flame, and with “the pestilence that walketh in darkness” (Psalm 91:6) until the pride of every household was laid low. “And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness: and gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labor of the people; that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws.” Psalm 105:43-45. God cares no less for His children today than He cared for Israel. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 7

When the mother and brothers of Christ came desiring to see Him, the Saviour looked upon His disciples and said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Matthew 12:49, 50. All who have been born into the heavenly family are in a special sense the brethren of our Lord. And Jesus said, “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, ... he shall in no wise lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 8

The love of Christ binds together all the members of His family, and wherever that love is made manifest, there the divine relationship is revealed; for “every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 1 John 4:7. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 9

Those to whom the Saviour’s words of commendation are spoken in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished the principles of Christ. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who cherish the spirit of kindness, who have given all the help in their power to the missionaries that have been sent to them. There are those who worship God ignorantly, and to whom the message of light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish; the works of God which they have wrought are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 10

How surprised and gladdened will be the lowly among the nations and among the heathen to hear from the lips of the Saviour, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:40.] How glad will be the heart of Infinite Love as His followers look up with surprise and joy at His words of approval. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 11

But the words of Christ identify His interest, not only with His people in the world, but, in a wider sense, with every child of Adam. When Jesus would uplift men to become members of the heavenly family, He humbled Himself to become a member of the earthly family, and by partaking of our nature He became the Son of man, the Son of Adam, and a brother to every son and daughter of our fallen race. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” (John 3:16) and thus the Saviour has identified Himself with suffering humanity. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and He bids us, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” [Romans 5:8;] John 15:12. Christ’s love embraces the fallen, the erring, and the sinful; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to our Saviour. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 12

The angels of heaven are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. We know not now who they are; it is not yet made manifest who shall overcome and share the inheritance of the saints in light; but angels of heaven are passing throughout the length and breadth of the earth, seeking to comfort the sorrowing, to protect the imperiled, to win the hearts of men to Christ. Not one is neglected or passed by. God is no respecter of persons, and He has an equal care for all the souls He has created. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 13

As in Christ’s name you open your doors to His needy and suffering ones, you welcome with them unseen angels, who minister to these children of want and sorrow. You are inviting the companionship of heavenly beings. They bring a sacred atmosphere of joy and peace. They come with praises upon their lips, and an answering strain is heard in heaven. Every deed of mercy makes music there. The Father from His throne numbers the unselfish workers among His most precious treasures. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 14

Those on the left hand of Christ, whom He condemned as having neglected Him in the person of the poor and suffering, were unconscious that they had dealt unjustly. Satan had so blinded them that they had not perceived what they owed to their brethren. They had been self-absorbed, and cared not for others’ needs. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 15

Upon the rich, God bestows their wealth that they may relieve and comfort His suffering children; but the rich are in danger of becoming indifferent to the wants of others. Too often they come to feel themselves superior to their poor brethren. They do not put themselves in the poor man’s place. They do not understand the temptations and struggles of the poor, and mercy dies out of their hearts. The rich shut themselves away from the poor in costly dwellings; their churches are too splendid for the entrance of the poor; and the means that God has given to bless the needy is spent in pampering pride and selfishness. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 16

The poor are robbed daily of the education they should have concerning the tender mercies of God, for He has made ample provision that they should be comforted with the necessities of life. They are compelled to feel the poverty that narrows life, and are often tempted to become envious, jealous, and full of evil surmisings. Those who have not themselves endured the pressure of want too often treat the poor in a contemptuous way, and make them feel that they are looked upon as paupers. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 17

But Christ beholds it all, and He says, It was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was sick. It was I who was in prison. When you were feasting at your bountifully spread table, I was famishing in the hovel or the empty street. When you shut the door of your luxurious home against Me, I had not where to lay My head. While your wardrobe was filled with rich apparel, I was destitute. While you were at liberty to pursue your pleasures, I languished in prison, and you came not unto Me. When you doled out [to] the famished child the pittance of broken food that could not satisfy her hunger, when you gave the flimsy garments that could not shield her from the biting frost, did you remember that you were giving to the Lord of glory? 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 18

All the days of your life I was near you in the person of the afflicted and the poor, but you did not see Me, you would not enter into fellowship with Me, and now I know you not. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 19

When in answer to the inquiry, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus bade the rich young man, “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, ... and come and follow me,” (Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-21), He was but presenting that which, in the conversation with His disciples, He declared to be the great test at the final judgment. For the spirit of love and self-sacrifice is the touchstone of the character. “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 20

Compassion for the afflicted and suffering the Lord accounts as among the first fruits of repentance—the first outflowing of love from a renewed heart. He says, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:16, 17. And of one who had been faithful before God it is said, “He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 22:16. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 21

Christ’s words in regard to our duty to the poor show the spirit in which all work for God is to be done, and open a field where all may find something to do. “The poor always ye have with you” (John 12:8), said Jesus, and none need complain that there is no place where they can labor for Christ. As long as there are hungry ones in God’s world to be fed, naked ones to be clothed, perishing souls that need the bread of life, there is work for us to do. Every comfort we have, every gracious gift of God to us, every piece of money needlessly expended, pleads for the poor and the naked. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 22

Many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of the Saviour’s life on earth, to walk where He trod, to look upon the lake beside which He loved to teach, and the hills and valleys on which His eyes so often rested. But we need not go to Nazareth, to Bethany, or to Jerusalem, in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find His footprints by the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when He was on earth, we shall walk in His steps. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 23

Those who realize, even in a limited degree, what redemption means to them and to their fellow men will comprehend in some measure the vast needs of humanity. Their hearts will be moved to compassion as they behold the widespread destitution in our world—multitudes suffering for the want of food and clothing, and far greater multitudes under the shadow of a terrible doom, in comparison with which physical suffering fades into nothingness. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 24

Millions upon millions of human souls ready to perish, bound in chains of ignorance and sin, have never so much as heard of the Saviour’s love for them. Were your condition and theirs to be reversed, what would you desire them to do for you? All this, so far as lies in your power, you are bound by the most solemn obligation to do for them. Christ’s rule of life, by which every one of us must stand or fall in the judgment, is, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Matthew 7:12. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 25

In revealing the love of Christ, object lessons are of far more value than mere precept. Deeds of mercy will touch the heart and make an ineffaceable impression upon the mind. The most persuasive eloquence is the word that is spoken in love and sympathy. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 26

The love of God, manifest in His followers, will melt away the barriers of race and caste, and will remove the obstacles with which men have barred souls away from the truth as it is in Jesus. The message of God’s grace is to be spoken to those that are afar off and to them that are nigh. Right in our own families may be souls that need help—souls that are starving for sympathy, starving for the bread of life. These should not be passed by. But God calls upon us also to turn our eyes to “the regions beyond.” [2 Corinthians 10:16.] In Christian lands time and energy and means are devoted to those who already have a knowledge of Christ and His Word, instead of being used to enlighten the ignorant and uplift the fallen. Churches are tended like sick lambs by those who should be seeking for the lost sheep. If Christians would minister to other souls who need their help, thousands who are now wandering in the desert of sin would be rejoicing in the fold of Christ. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 27

Why not go to work at once? There is danger in delay. The souls whom you might find, whom you might bring to Jesus, speedily pass beyond your reach. Satan has prepared some net for their feet, and tomorrow they may be working out the plans of the archenemy of God. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 28

In that day when the Chief Shepherd shall demand, “Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?” “What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee?” Jeremiah 13:20, 21. “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” Proverbs 24:11, 12. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 29

Christ has given His precious life in order to establish a church capable of caring for sorrowful, tempted souls. A company of believers may be poor, uneducated, and unknown; yet if they are humble in heart, and labor with faith and prayer, they may do a work in the home, the neighborhood, the church, and even in “the regions beyond,” whose results shall be as far-reaching as eternity. [2 Corinthians 10:16.] 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 30

It is because this work is neglected that so many young disciples never advance beyond the mere alphabet of Christian experience. The light which was glowing in their own hearts, when Jesus spoke to them, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” [Matthew 9:2], they might have kept alive by helping those who needed help. The restless energy that is so often a source of danger to the young might be directed into channels through which it would flow out in streams of blessing. Self would be forgotten in earnest work to do others good. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 31

Those who minister to others will themselves be ministered unto by the Chief Shepherd. They themselves will drink of the living water, and they will not be longing for exciting amusements, or for some change in their lives. The great topic of interest will be how to save the souls that are ready to perish. Social intercourse will be profitable. The love of the Redeemer will draw hearts together in unity. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 32

When we realize that we are workers together with God, His promises will not be spoken with indifference, but will burn in our hearts, and kindle upon our lips. To Moses, who through the long years of wilderness wandering was called to minister to an ignorant, undisciplined, and rebellious people, God gave the promise, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” And he said, “Certainly I will be with thee.” Exodus 33:14; 3:12. The same assurance is given to all who labor in Christ’s stead for His afflicted and suffering ones. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 33

Love to man is but the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant in the human heart that principle of love which would make us children of one family that the King of glory became one with us. And when among the followers of Christ His parting words are fulfilled, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12), when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. Heaven is begun on earth. God with us has become God in us. 11LtMs, Ms 58, 1896, par. 34