Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)

30/300

Lt 24, 1896

To the Church at Cooranbong

“Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

May 23, 1896

See variant Lt 24b, 1896. Portions of this letter are published in CTr 112.

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

Our faith is being tested and tried. In our endeavor to establish a school in Cooranbong, our path has not been smooth. A school is to be built and a church erected, but we are brought into strait places for lack of means. We cannot carry forward the work we so much desire to do. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 1

In this time of trouble, when we long to advance and yet are unable to because of the difficulties which confront us, let every member of the church remember that he is a chosen agent, called by God to do an appointed work. We have done all we thought it possible for us to do, and we must not fall into discouragement because trials come. A good work has been begun in this place, and does the Lord intend that it shall stop now? No, I answer, no. Let not any heart fail, for the Lord knows that we need means with which to build a meeting house and school. There is no money in the treasury, but shall our faith demand sight before it can work? God forbid. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 2

Let us put to use every power which God has mercifully given us and do our best to bring about the improvements in the cultivation of land and in putting up buildings, and then trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to do that for us which we are unable to do. His thoughts are not our thoughts, or His ways our ways, “for as the heavens are higher than the earth,” saith the Lord, “so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8, 9.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 3

Though the way may be rough, we must exercise implicit faith in the power of the Lord to guide us. The experience of the children of Israel when journeying through the wilderness is a lesson for us on this point. “All the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandments of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 4

“And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee the elders of Israel; and thy rod wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the Rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?” [Exodus 17:1-7.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 5

By the command of the Lord the children of Israel were brought to Rephidim, this place destitute of water. He who was enshrouded in the pillar of cloud was leading them, and it was by His express command that they were encamped at this place. The General of the armies of heaven knew of the lack of water at Rephidim, and He brought His people hither to test their faith; but how poorly they proved themselves to be a people whom He could trust. Again and again He had manifested Himself to His chosen people. He had slain the firstborn of all the families of Egypt to accomplish their deliverance, and had brought them out of the land of their captivity with a high hand; He had fed them with angels’ food, and had covenanted to bring them into the promised land. But now, when brought into difficulty, they broke into rebellion, distrusted God, and complained that Moses had brought them and their children out of Egypt only that they might die of thirst in the wilderness. By their murmurings and lack of faith, they dishonored God, and placed themselves where they could not appreciate His mercies. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 6

Many today think that when they begin their Christian life they will find freedom from all want and difficulty. But every one who takes up his cross to follow Christ comes to a Rephidim in his experience. Life is not all made up of green pastures and cooling streams. Disappointment overtakes us; privations come; circumstances occur which bring us into difficult places. As we follow in the narrow way, doing our best as we think, we find that grievous trials come to us. We think that we must have walked by our own wisdom far away from God. Conscience-stricken, we reason, If we had walked with God, we would not have suffered so. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 7

Perhaps doubt and despondency crowd into our souls, and we say, The Lord has failed us, and we are ill-used. He knows about the strait places through which we are passing. Why does He permit us to suffer thus? He cannot love us; if He did, He would remove the difficulties from our path. “Is the Lord with us, or not?” [Verse 7.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 8

But of old the Lord led His people to Rephidim, and He may choose to bring us there also, in order to test our faithfulness and loyalty to Him. In mercy to us He does not always place us in the easiest places, for if He did, in our self-sufficiency we would forget that the Lord is our helper in time of necessity. But He longs to manifest Himself to us in our emergency, and reveal the abundant supplies that are at our disposal, independent of our surroundings. And disappointment and trial are permitted to come upon us, that we may realize our own helplessness and learn to call upon the Lord for aid, as a child when hungry and thirsty calls upon its earthly father. Our heavenly Father has the power of turning the flinty rock into life-giving and refreshing streams. We shall never know, until we are face to face with God, when we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known, how many burdens He has borne for us, and how many burdens He would have been glad to bear if, with childlike faith, we had brought them to Him. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 9

In the hour of need we can gain no power by looking to ourselves. Our eyes need to be anointed with the heavenly eye salve, that we may discern our spiritual poverty and lack of faith. God is declared in all His dealing with His people; and with clear, unclouded eye, in adversity, in sickness, in disappointment, and in trial, as well as in prosperity, we are to behold the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and trust to His guiding hand. Remember the power and love of God has shown us in time past. He “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] Then will He not find a way for us out of our difficulties? 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 10

By their doubt and unbelief, God’s people do much to grieve the heart of God, and tempt a withdrawal of His mercy. But through all, His love is unchangeable. The waves of mercy may be beaten back, but again and again they flow to the hearts of undeserving human beings. God loves His purchased possession, and He longs to see them overcome the discouragement with which Satan would overpower them! Let no thought of unbelief afflict your souls, for unbelief acts as a paralysis upon the spiritual energies. Do not magnify your difficulties, but keep the Lord in your remembrance, watching unto prayer. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 11

“Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which should be spoken after. But Christ as a Son over his own house, which house are we if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, Today, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their hearts, and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” “For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” [Hebrews 3:5-14.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 12

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. And above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” [Ephesians 6:10-16.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 13

Let every one who names the name of Christ read this Scripture over and over again, and then inquire, Am I clothed with the whole armor of God, that I may be a successful co-laborer with Christ? The more we know of ourselves, the more we prove our motives and desires, the more heartfelt will be the consciousness of our utter inability to fight the battle of the Lord in our own strength, and the more we will feel the need of having our loins “girt about with truth” [Verse 14], in order that we may have purity of purpose, and know that we are not serving ourselves, but the Lord Jesus Christ. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 14

“Above all,” declares the inspired Word, “taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” [Verse 16.] Stablish your hearts in the belief that God knows of all the trials and difficulties you will encounter in the warfare against evil, for God is dishonored when any soul belittles His power by talking unbelief. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 15

This world is God’s great field of labor. He has purchased those who dwell in it with the blood of His only begotten Son, and He means that His message of mercy shall go to every one. Those who are commissioned to do this work will be tested and tried, but they are always to remember that God is near to strengthen and uphold them. He does not ask us to depend upon any broken reed. We are not to look for any human aid. God forbid that we should put man in the place where God should be. He has promised to help us, and in the Lord Jehovah is “everlasting strength.” [Isaiah 26:4.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 16

A lesson of faith is given us in the experience of Christ with the disciples of John the Baptist. Imprisoned in the lonely dungeon, John had fallen into discouragement, and he sent his disciples to Jesus, saying, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Christ knew on what errand the messengers had come, and by a mighty demonstration of His power, He gave them unmistakable evidence of His divinity. Turning to the multitude, He spoke, and the deaf heard His voice. He spoke again, and the eyes of the blind were opened to behold the beauties of nature, and to look upon the face of their compassionate Restorer. He put forth His hand, and at His touch the fever left the afflicted ones. At His command demoniacs were healed, and falling at His feet, worshipped Him. Then turning to the disciples of John, He said, “Go and show John again the things which ye do see and hear!” [Matthew 11:3, 4.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 17

That same Jesus who wrought those mighty works is our Saviour today, and is as willing to manifest His power in our behalf as He was in the behalf of John the Baptist. When we are hedged about by adverse circumstances, surrounded by difficulties which it seems impossible for us to surmount, we are not to murmur, but to remember the past loving-kindnesses of the Lord. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, we may endure as seeing Him who is invisible, and this will keep our minds from being clouded by the shadow of unbelief. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 18

Shortly before Christ’s ascension, Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Grieved at His unbelief, Christ turned to him saying, “Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?” Is it possible that I have walked with you, and talked with you, and fed you by miracles, and yet you have not comprehended that I was the Sent of God, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” that I came down from heaven to represent the Father? “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” for I am the “brightness of his glory,” and the “express image of his person.” “How sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” [John 14:6, 8-11; Hebrews 1:3.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 19

Too often we grieve the heart of Jesus by our unbelief. Our faith is short-sighted, and we allow trials to bring out our inherited and cultivated tendencies to wrong. When brought into strait circumstances, we dishonor God by murmuring and complaining. Instead of this, we should show that we have learned in the school of Christ by helping those that are worse off than ourselves, those who are seeking for light, but are unable to find it. Such have a special claim upon our sympathy, but instead of trying to uplift them, we pass by on the other side, intent on our own interests or trials. If we do not show decided unbelief, we manifest a murmuring, complaining spirit. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 20

“O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” [Matthew 14:31.] Christ has already proved Himself to be our ever-present Saviour. He knows all about our trials, and in the hour of need can we not pray that God will give us His Holy Spirit to bring to our minds His many manifestations of power in our behalf? Can we not believe that He is as willing to help us as on former occasions? His past dealings with His servants are not to fade from our minds, but the remembrance of them is ever to strengthen and uphold us. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 21

No amount of tribulation can separate us from Christ. If He leads us to Rephidim, it is because He sees that it is for our good and for His name’s glory. And if we will look to Him in trusting faith, He will, in His own time, turn the bitterness of Marah into sweetness. He can open the flinty rock and cause cooling streams to flow forth. Then shall we not lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving for past mercies, and go forward with full assurance that He is an ever-present help in time of trouble? He has been with us in our past experiences, and His Word to us is, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” [Matthew 28:20.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 22

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or by our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” [2 Thessalonians 2:15-17.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 23

“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” [1 Peter 2:9.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 24

All who advocate truth in distinction to error have a special work to do in vindicating the law of God. Men inspired by a power from beneath have considered it their duty to uphold, as the Sabbath of the Lord, the first day of the week. By thus disregarding the claims of God, ministers who claim to preach the gospel are voicing the words of Satan, who told Adam and Eve that if they transgressed the law, they would not die, but would be as gods, knowing good and evil. By their influence and example, these false shepherds have caused a lie to be received as truth. With persevering energy they have labored to establish a spurious Sabbath, and this man-made institution has received the homage of the greater part of the world. But this does not make a day holy which God has given us as a common working day. Though this error be hoary with age, though the world bow in reverence to it, it still remains an error and a delusion, for God says, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” [Isaiah 8:20.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 25

Well-nigh universal contempt is shown to the law of God, and all who are loyal to Him have a sacred and solemn work to do in magnifying the law, and making it honorable. God placed His sanctity upon the seventh day, and gave it to man to keep holy; and He said, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my mouth.” [Psalm 89:34.] By rendering obedience to His commandments, we uphold the honor of God in the earth. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 26

Satan works against the law with untiring energy, and God calls upon His people to be witnesses for Him by pressing the battle to the gates. This work must advance, or it will go backward. In this war there is no release. Those who take part in it must put on the whole armor of God, that they may fight manfully in the warfare against evil. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 27

Often God’s soldiers find themselves brought into hard and difficult places, they know not why. But are they to relax their hold because difficulties arise? Is their faith to diminish because they cannot see their way through the darkness? God forbid. They are to cherish an abiding sense of God’s power to uphold them in their work. They cannot perish, neither can they lose their way, if they will follow His guidance and strive to uphold His law. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 28

The experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness should guide us in our work. The Word of God declares, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” [1 Corinthians 10:11.] In their journeyings the Lord brought the children of Israel into hard places in order to test their faith and fidelity to Him. He had promised to bring them into the promised land, and if they had waited patiently for Him, reviving their faith by recounting His great goodness and His wonderful work in their behalf, He would have shortened their test. But they forgot their heavenly Leader. Murmuring and complaining, they vented their wrath and bitterness upon Moses, forgetting that their emergency was God’s opportunity. 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 29

Today God says to His people, Do not imitate the conduct of the children of Israel at Rephidim by showing unbelief when brought into difficulties. “For there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” [Verse 13.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 30

“Dearly beloved,” writes the apostle Paul [Peter], speaking by the Holy Spirit, “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may, by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” [1 Peter 2:11, 12.] God has led us forth, and He calls upon us to let our light so shine that others, seeing our good works, may be led to glorify our heavenly Father. We have no time to waste in thinking of our individual difficulties. When we bemoan the hardness of the way, we turn from the path of faith. God can make us fully able to go up and possess the promised land. He says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” [Revelation 22:14.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 31

If our path is not always made plain and easy, if we are not always so well favored as we think we should be, let us look to God, and say in faith, “By the mighty Cleaver of truth God has separated us from the world, from its customs and maxims, and has chosen us as His peculiar people, and he is able to work for us.” Let us go forward in the strength of the Lord God Almighty, striving to uphold His law in the earth. So shall ye be “my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant, whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there is no god formed, neither shall there be any after me.” “I have declared and have saved, and I have showed when there was no strange god among you; therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.” “That they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none beside me.” [Isaiah 43:10, 12; 45:6.] 11LtMs, Lt 24, 1896, par. 32