Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 12 (1897)


Ms 170, 1897

“Great In the Sight of the Lord” (Meditations on John the Baptist)

Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

April 21, 1897

Previously unpublished.

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord.” Luke 1:15. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 1

I have been contemplating the case of John the Baptist. The history of his birth is given in Luke 1. An angel of God appeared unto Zacharias while he was ministering in the priest’s office before God, and “when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 2

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him (before the Lord Christ) in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:12-17)—prepared to receive and believe in Christ as the Son of God at His coming. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 3

John had not rich parentage to make him great because of riches. He was the son of a poor priest. He was born in a little village among the hills of Judea. His life was a singular one. He lived in the wilderness. After his birth the father of John was filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesied. “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.” Verses 76-80. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 4

This is the record of the life of John. Now the question is answered, why John was called great in the sight of the Lord. Matthew 3:13-17. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 5

John’s message was a clearcut message of reproof of sin and all hypocrisy. And all the universe of heaven was watching with intense interest the preparation through the prophet John for the mission and work of Christ. Before John’s birth, the angel Gabriel was sent to Zacharias, the father of John, to outline the life and work of John, and to give the encouraging testimony [that] he was to be a great man in the sight of God. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 6

Some will judge from human appearance and say, I do not see anything very great in the life of John. The way human wisdom looks upon such a work as John was permitted to do—as it was positively stated he would do, to go before and prepare the way for the first ministry of the gospel of Christ—reveals the short measure of human wisdom’s estimate of greatness as compared to Infinite Wisdom’s estimate of the value of true greatness. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 7

Some men, who in their own estimation are supposed to be doing a grand and wonderful work and place themselves in the very highest seat, are not pronounced great in the sight of God. There are two specimens of greatness. What makes men great in the sight of men? Birth, money, talents of intellect. Greatness in the sight of men because one is born of parents who have occupied distinguished positions is of little real value if the child owes its greatness to birth of men of renown and is not rich toward God. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 8

Money is one great thing that makes men accounted great. How much of that money is obtained through scheming, through unjust weights and measures, and through hoarding money that God has entrusted to them as stewards of His goods, whereby they may bless humanity? The Lord calls for His own to be placed in His treasury, to relieve the poor of God’s heritage, and to advance His kingdom. But the moneyed men say, No, we will not. And do they? They let the Lord’s money increase to millions and in their hearts despise men who have not the amount of hoarded treasures that they have heaped to themselves through injustice and oppression of the poor, while they have closed their selfish hearts to the suffering necessities of the human family starving in poverty. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 9

All they have is God’s money, and the cries of the suffering ascend to heaven. In their distress they call upon God, and all their tears, all their hunger and nakedness and wretchedness, all the suffering that has come through the devising of men to make themselves millionaires, will be as is represented in James. The end is near, right upon us, and when the denunciation is made, “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 motheaten. 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 treasures together for the last days.” James 5:1-3. See also verses 4-8. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 10

There is a greatness that will not in the day of God be coveted by any person who in human wisdom has glorified these men who have, many of them, obtained their Lord’s money through robbery and deceit of the poor and needy, and turning away the stranger from his right. The Lord has been a witness to every unjust transaction. Where will the lauded great men be on that day when “the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain” (Isaiah 26:21)? “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.” [James 5:2.] While poor suffering fellow beings were naked and you highly exalted because you were rich, you have left your poor fellow creatures to hunger and cold and nakedness. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 11

But look, the scene changes. That God who has seen every unjust action in the market places, in all the confederacies of evil, will give to every man according to his works. Hear this: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” [Verse 1.] 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 12

Hear their insane ravings, as the rusted gold and silver eat their flesh as it were fire. The storehouses of grain, the vast treasuries of produce are corrupted, while thousands have been starving for the very necessities of life. Oh, what a multitude will rise up in the judgment and charge back upon these supposed great men their sinful robbery of the poor! And many of these robberies were committed by men whose names were on the church books. “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.” James 5:4. Oh, how the tables have turned! The voice of God is heard in condemnation, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.” Verses 5, 6. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 13

Matthew 24:1-13; James 5:7, 8. The Lord would have His people a sharp, discerning, spiritually sharp-minded people. The worldly policy is not in any sense to be the policy or principle of God’s commandment-keeping people. Deuteronomy 10:17, 18. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 14

Here are the requirements of God to His people. The Ten Commandments express the will of God and the duty of all men, and when the hearts of men are thoroughly converted they are brought into perfect harmony with the attributes of God, for this is always the effect of divine grace. In this harmony with God is spiritual life and efficiency and power. There is to be no divorcing of the interest of those who believe sacred truths, to take up and confederate with men of the world, or men of the church whom the world has converted to their worldly methods and plans. Deuteronomy 10:17. When men who have the light of truth and do not walk in that light but follow the sparks of the fire of their own kindling, they shall lie down in sorrow. God would have His people look to Him and derive their strength and power from Him and not trust those who are not obedient to His commandments. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 15

It is the will of God that men should be set apart to minister in sacred service in various lines for Him, to preach the Word of God as did John, preparing the way of the Lord. There must be no binding up in confederacies with men; bind up in covenant relation with God. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 16

The Lord is the shield of His people. He alone must be our strength, our sufficiency. He says to His people, “Fear not; ... I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” Revelation 1:17, 18. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” Psalm 46:5. Our relation with God must be of a distinct character as a people waiting and watching for the Son of Man to come in the clouds of heaven. The church whom God loves and keeps as His commandmentkeeping people is as precious as the apple of His eye. The Lord saith, Do you know your privileges? Have you faith in God? Have you a living connection with God? Do we sense His love as light in the morning in the midst of the church militant, feeding each lamp with the golden oil of His grace, of His love? Zechariah 4; Deuteronomy 10:19-22. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 17

The Lord has a specific work for every one of His people to do. This work is not to be confined to one or two created centers but is to be far-reaching. Men of God’s appointment are to fulfill their obligations to God to do His service, bearing not the requirements of men, but through diligent searching of the Scriptures realizing their individual responsibility. They are to watch, to pray, to seek counsel of God, and be prepared to place before those whom they are seeking to save the pure, unadulterated motives which He has revealed to them as His stewards to set before others, to induce them to work for the Master. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 18

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” [Psalm 111:10.] All men who seek this wisdom, asking in faith, will receive. God is no respector of persons. He looks with tender compassion on the stranger, the widow, and the fatherless. He delights to help them and requires that all who believe in Jesus Christ should imitate Jesus’ example. Life and death are to be set before men nigh and afar off, and the strongest motives are to be brought from the treasure house to induce them to choose life by obeying the commandments of God. In keeping His commandments they choose life; disregarding His law, they choose death. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 19

Now where does self come in? never independently. The Lord will be with His people. Every living agency that will be with God, willingly doing His service, God will be with him and work through him. 12LtMs, Ms 170, 1897, par. 20