Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)

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Ms 70, 1896

Systematic Benevolence

NP

September 27, 1896 [typed]

Previously unpublished.

God’s bounties are given to man to be acknowledged by him in returning to the Lord the portion He claims in tithes and offerings. By giving to the Lord His due, God’s children present to the world a constant evidence that they are mindful that all their mercies, all their entrusted treasures, come from God and belong to God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 1

Cain and Abel made offerings to God. Abel brought as his sacrifice the firstling of the flock. This was the very choicest gift he could bring, for it was the Lord’s specified claim. But Cain brought only of the fruits of the ground, and his offering was not accepted by the Lord. We are not to bring to the Lord an offering like that of Cain. We are to give the Lord our own individual lives, as the purchased possession of the beloved Son of God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 2

By our offerings we acknowledge our dependence upon God. To Him we are indebted for life itself. Were it not for His miracle-working power, which by day and by night causes vegetation to flourish, there would be no harvest to gather. The sun, which brings us light and warmth, ripening that which the earth produces, is His gift. The whole Word of God proclaims the love and benevolence of His character, and the merciful designs of His government. “The eyes of all wait upon thee,” writes the Psalmist, “and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” [Psalm 145:15, 16.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 3

Man’s indebtedness to God, and his entire dependence upon Him, should lead him to acknowledge God as the Giver of all blessings in giving Jesus to our world. God desires that the memories of men, women, and children should be freshened in the year 1896. He desires that their hearts be filled with gratitude, and that they connect their outward, worldly blessings with the atonement of the great sacrifice made in their behalf. “For God 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.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 4

Well and appropriate was the festal anthem of the Jewish nation, “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” [Mark 11:9.] It seems strange to the human mind that in these festivals of rejoicing, which were observed after the ingathering of nature’s treasure, the sacrificial offerings should be so important a feature. To outward appearance it was a strange combination to mingle the sacrifice of beast with their expression of joy and gladness. But this was built upon the true foundation. Christ Himself was the foundation of all these ceremonial services. When, in these festal gatherings, these holy convocations, blood was shed, and offering made to the Lord, the people were thanking God for the promise of a Saviour. They were expressing the truth that without the shedding of the blood of the Son of God, there could be no forgiveness of sins. These impressive, jubilant celebrations were right and acceptable in the sight of God. Christ is to be regarded and appreciated as the Source from whence all our blessings come. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 5

But when the Jewish people departed from God, they lost sight of the true significance of these festal celebrations. When Christ, with His divinity clothed with humanity, stood among them, witnessing their jubilant festivals and solemn services, which in type signified Himself, He was not recognized. He who was the foundation of all these services was not honored by those who were celebrating them. His eye looked upon the leafy encampments, His ear heard the words of song, and understood their import. But the actors knew not the deep meaning of the words they uttered or of the songs they sang. Thousands of voices shouted, “Hosanna, Come Saviour;” thousands of voices prayed for the coming of Him who even stood in their midst, and who they would not receive. They knew Him not. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 6

Thus, by precept and example, the Jewish nation tore down what they were trying to maintain by outward ceremonies. So enveloped were they in darkness that the influence, produced by their words and by their sacrificial offerings and their jubilant rejoicing, was destroyed by their example. The power of the principles in representation was not accepted by God; their offerings did not bear the divine credentials, for they were neutralized by wrong practice. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 7

Those in Christ’s day who confederated to make a grand display pledged themselves with the same mind to murder the Son of God, He who was symbolized by all their religious ceremonies. Their hearts were devoid of the spirit of true worship, and were filled with wicked purposes, hypocrisy, and all manner of corruption. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 8

The Lord has committed to us talents of money, talents of tact and qualification for service. He allots to some five talents, to others two, and to others one. God’s whole family are responsible moral agents. From the lowliest to the highest, all are entrusted with gifts from God. They are to employ every capability for God; they are to use the smallest gift, improving it to the glory of God. By diligent exercise, their gifts will grow. The Lord has given to every human agent according to his several ability, and each one is to be a worker in God’s great moral vineyard. The Lord expects all to do their best. The interest He requires will be in proportion to the amount of entrusted capital. Now is our solemn period of sacred trust. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 9

The incarnation of the Son of God is but dimly comprehended by those who are placed in positions of responsibility and trust. If the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice imbued the hearts of all those who claim to be children of God, every soul at the head and heart of the work would represent Jesus in character. But this has not been for years. Were the men in positions of responsibility connected with God, the streams of salvation flowing from Christ to human hearts, the revelation of life and immortality brought to light through Jesus Christ, would make an impression on the work and cause of God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 10

The requirement of God’s Word is that we should be like Christ, that we should bear Christ’s image, that we should follow His example, and live His pure, unselfish life. Christ went about doing good. He cheerfully gave His life to ransom the world from sin. For our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. Selfishness, self-pleasing, self-serving cannot be consistent with a Christian life. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 11

We must constantly recognize, before believers and unbelievers, our dependence upon God for life, for breath, and for the use of our faculties. He is our Creator, and we are His by redemption. Our bodies, our souls, our lives, are God’s not only because they are His free gift, but because He constantly supplies us with His benefits, and gives us strength to use our blessings. God has ordained that men, women, and children should be educated by His Word to become co-laborers with Christ in the great work of dispensing His gifts to the world. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 12

The great lesson we are daily to learn is that we are stewards of God’s gifts, stewards of money, of reason, of intellect, of influence. All these are lent talents; and God would have us realize that He has a right to mind and soul and body and spirit. “Know ye not,” asks Paul, “that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.] The claim of creation is God’s claim to our entire service. The claim of redemption is a claim which we are to realize every hour of our existence. It is a claim of love, as well as of right, of love without a parallel. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 13

The streams of salvation are poured into our hearts through the grace of Jesus Christ. All our possessions are gained for us by Him who purchased us with His own blood. God has placed signal honor on the human race, for we read, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” [John 1:12.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 14

All who are sons of God will represent Christ in character. Their works will be performed by the infinite tenderness, compassion, love, and purity of the Son of God. And the more completely soul and body are yielded up to the Holy Spirit, the greater will be the fragrance of the offering. Shall we not give to Jesus all the powers He has redeemed? If you will do this, He will renew your heart, convert your conscience, sanctify your affections, purify your thoughts, and set all your powers to work in Christ’s lines. The motives and thoughts of your mind will be brought into captivity to Christ Jesus. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 15

As Christians we are to follow our Leader step by step in the heavenward way. He has enjoined upon us, “Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This is the sign which is uplifted to distinguish between the children of God and the children of the wicked one. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.” [1 John 2:15, 16.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 16

“They that will be rich,” those who are fully determined to obtain riches and enjoy the world, “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.” [1 Timothy 6:9.] For a time Satan holds out before them many attractions and opportunities, but that which the Word of God pronounces the sure result, must come upon them. That snare into which they fall drowns them in destruction and perdition. “For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” [Verse 10.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 17

Those who allow a covetous disposition to take possession of them, cherish and develop those traits of character which will place their names on the record books of heaven as idolaters; and no idolater “hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” [Ephesians 5:5.] “The wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” [Psalm 10:3.] Covetous men are classed with idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, none of whom, the Word of God declares, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [Colossians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 18

These attributes are ever opposed to the exercise of Christian beneficence. They are the fruit of selfishness, and reveal themselves in a neglect of duty, in a failure to use God’s entrusted gifts to advance His work. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 19

The property which we possess is not our own; it is a lent talent, and it is to be used for God. It is not to be regarded as our own, to use as our fancy shall direct. It is to be employed in doing the will of God in behalf of truth and righteousness. The Lord hath need of that talent. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 20

Rich and poor must awaken to their God-given responsibility in this matter. God would have us work to the uttermost of our ability to honor and glorify Him. None of us are to underrate our talents, and hide them, our entrusted gifts, in the earth. However small our talent, it is important that we use it wisely. By doing good with that talent, one soul who will dedicate his powers to the Master’s service may be brought to God, and that one soul may win other souls. Thus the one talent, improved, becomes many talents. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 21

We cannot place an accurate estimate upon our talents. God bids you use your entrusted gifts, small or large, in whatever sphere you may be called to act. His gifts are not to be absorbed in worldly pursuits. Many have left the one and the two and the five out of their reckoning, but by doing this they rob God. An account will have to be rendered for each talent; and day by day, hour by hour, by the use we make of our gifts, we are deciding our own destiny, deciding what decisions shall be given in the day of judgment. Our whole life-work is bound up in the solemn period of the judgment scene. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 22

Bear in mind that your money belongs to the Lord. He will one day reckon with His servants, that He may know how much each one has gained by trading. Our whole eternal interests are involved in the use we make of our property, our time, our strength, our capabilities; and our reward will be proportionate to our works. “Behold I come quickly,” said Christ, “and my reward is with me, to give unto every man according as his works shall be.” [Revelation 22:12.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 23

The whole value of the life-work is measured by the employment of the entrusted talents. They are the instrumentalities with which we are to work, and our final reward will depend upon the piety and the earnestness and unselfishness which characterizes our work. Day by day we are making our work for eternity. Read Malachi 3. The subject is here presented in a striking, plain, sharp, decided manner. It is not traced by human pen, but is the voice of God speaking for the benefit of all living upon the earth. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 24

Christians must practice temperance in all things. We have no right to neglect that body and strength and soul and mind which are to be given to the Lord is consecrated service. We are made up of body and senses, as well as of conscience and affections. Our impulses and passions have their seat in the body; therefore there must be no abuse of any of our organs. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 25

The law of temperance must pervade the whole life of a Christian. We are to keep the glory of God in view. He is to be in all our thoughts. Every influence that would captivate our thoughts, every worldly power that would divide our mind, must be cut away. The love of worldly things must not be allowed to divert the mind from God. We are under sacred obligations to God to govern our body, to rule our appetites and passions, so that they shall not lead us away from purity and holiness, or take our minds from the work God requires us to do. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 26

*****

Life is the gift of God. A misuse of any of the organs of the body shortens life, reduces that period which God designs we should live. If unhealthful habits are carelessly indulged—in late hours, immoderate eating, the gratification of the appetite for dainties at the expense of health, thus laying the foundation for feebleness, the neglect of physical exercise, in overwork of the mind and body, in allowing the passions to be indulged—the nervous system becomes unbalanced. Those who thus shorten their lives by disregarding nature’s laws, are guilty of practicing robbery toward God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 27

God desires that we shall have a care, a regard, and an appreciation for our bodies—the temple of the Holy Spirit. He desires that the body shall be kept in the most healthful condition possible, and under the most spiritual influences, that the talents that He has given us may be used to render perfect service to Him. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 28

There should be on the part of each one an intelligent knowledge of the human structure, that the body may be preserved in the healthful condition necessary in order to do the work of trading upon the Lord’s goods, and that every talent may be employed with the glory of God in view. Those who form habits that lessen physical force, that weaken the brain nerve power, and lessen the vigor of mind or body, are making themselves inefficient for the work that God has given them to do. On the other hand, a healthful, wholesome life is most favorable for the perfection of Christian character, and the development of all the powers of mind and body. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 29

The very uncertainty of life should cause every human agent to feel the necessity of working to the utmost of his ability to do good and become a blessing to humanity. No one is sure of a day. Accident, sickness, or death may come at any moment. We, none of us know how long our life will last, and while we have it in our possession, it should be most precious in our estimation. It is our duty to keep our bodies, as the property of God, free from all disease and preserve them in health. We are not our own. This life is not ours. We are Christ’s purchased possession. And we read in God’s Word, “His servants shall serve him.” [Revelation 22:3.] Then let us personally devote our lives in doing God’s will. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 30

If our individual influence is to be rightly used, and increase in efficiency, the first great secret for us to recognize is that whatever degree of influence we possess, be it great or small, it will increase by being exercised, for God co-operates with the human agent. One may be given credit for natural energy of character, which, if used to honor and glorify God, will increase in growth and accomplish much good; but God is the Source from whence all our capabilities spring. He is personally dealing with each one of us, and we are to recognize the talents that He has bestowed, and make the best use of them. They must not be allowed to weaken and decay through misuse and indolence on the part of the human agent. The words of inspiration exhort us: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:12, 13.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 31

It is our privilege to increase our influence in whatever sphere of life we may be placed. We are God’s servants, to whom we must individually yield ourselves. We are to obey Him; for He knows just what He would have us do as His workers, and what position we can acceptably fill. He wants each individual believer to act the part assigned him. He supplies by His own power those points of character that are essential for the very place that He wishes each to fill. The life that is dedicated to God, He will not leave to become the victim to Satan’s temptations, nor to be used as natural inclination may choose. The true believer is brought into close contact with his Redeemer. “Come unto me,” He says, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 32

Here we have plainly revealed to us that if we preserve the meekness and lowliness of Christ, if we walk humbly by the side of the Burden-bearer, if we come in close contact with our Redeemer, in being thus yoked up with Him, He will impart to us His own individuality. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 33

As we individually exercise for usefulness in His service the endowments given us of God, we become one with Christ, and our responsibility is in and through Him. But the human agent, on his part, must not attempt to shape circumstances for himself; he must avoid everything that he knows will have a tendency to dampen or extinguish earnest zeal and devotedness for the service of God. The love of God cannot live in the heart where selfishness is carefully enshrined. Fleshly lusts are against the holy principles of purity and godliness. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 34

The human agent himself often makes many of the worries and trials that press his path by endeavoring to meet the world’s standard. But the Lord desires that he shall fix his eyes upon Jesus, and study God’s will. In thousands and ten times ten thousand ways the Lord has given knowledge and endowments and opportunities to man, that by their diligent use he may become better qualified to do the duties and bear the responsibilities that are required of him as the servant of God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 35

Every one may add to his talents by improving those which he already has. In looking to, and fashioning the mind after, outward surroundings, we can never increase our ability. The Lord expects us to gain a valuable knowledge, to increase our ability, to improve the talents that we have. We can only do this by working on the plan of addition. And if we do this, we shall find that God is working for us on the broader plan of multiplication. He says, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” [2 Peter 1:2-4.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 36

Read still further in this chapter and see the plan of addition worked out and proved: “And beside all this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Verses 5-8.] This is sanctified ambition, to advance, to increase in wisdom, and in favor with God and man, to live the Word of God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 37

Every true Christian will be ready for instant action, depending not on his own preparedness, but trusting in God. He will be instant in season, and out of season. Whatever the circumstances may be, he will be armed and equipped, and standing prepared for service. At all times and in all places, he will be ready to speak, to pray, to sing the praises of God, to use his influence for the Master. His sanctified energies and endowments will be employed in exalting the Lord Jesus, in magnifying the truth, and in extending the interest of the kingdom of God. 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 38

All are to stand as minutemen, ready to file into service at a moment’s warning, losing no opportunity that offers itself to hold forth the Word of life, to make known to others the unsearchable riches of Christ, for that opportunity neglected is forever beyond recall. Be ever ready to make the most of every presented opportunity for exercising your influence for the Master. From hour to hour in your varied life, these opportunities will open before you. They will be constantly coming and going. That opportunity of speaking in the hearing of some soul the Word of life may never offer itself again. Therefore let no one venture to say, “I pray thee have me excused.” [Luke 14:18, 19.] 11LtMs, Ms 70, 1896, par. 39