Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 50, 1898

“The Jews Require a Sign”


April 28, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in TDG 127; 5BC 1095-1096; 6MR 81.

“But the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” [1 Corinthians 1:22-25.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 1

The Greeks and the Jews represent the two great classes who receive or reject and pervert the gospel. Bother are mistaken as to that which constitutes spiritual religion. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men: and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen: yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.” [1 Corinthians 2:14; 1:24-29.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 2

The Lord is a wonderful worker, and while He is not dependent upon the will of men to do His work, He makes use of these instrumentalities to accomplish the work which many men do not discern. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 3

Men are ingenious in finding excuses for evil-doing. Those who resist the truth because it involves self denial and the cross invent plausible excuses for their course of action. Men who treat indifferently the light shining on their pathway—the light which the Lord has given them for their soul’s salvation and their eternal good—who resist the convictions of the truth because it is truth that public sentiment does not favor, will justify themselves for withdrawing from the truth as did the disciples when Christ declared Himself to be the Bread of life, saying, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven.” [John 6:57, 58.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 4

What a lesson this chapter contains. Christ states plainly that the motives of these disciples in seeking Him was not because the miracles He wrought convinced them of His divinity, not because they saw in Him the great Teacher sent from God to save the world. He knew that they did not seek evidence from Him as a means of settling their faith in Him as the Sent of God. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 5

Said Christ, “Verily I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” If Christ could furnish bread for them to satisfy their temporal wants, they thought, it would be profitable for them to unite with Him. But Christ said, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” [Verses 26-29.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 6

In accepting Christ as their personal Saviour, they would have everything. In this gift of God, all heaven with its inexhaustible treasure was at their command. And this is the very experience essential in all our churches. They have not a special work to do in order to gain the promised reward. They are to accept the truth, to believe on Him whom God hath sent. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 7

Then came the unbelieving question from the Jews, “What sign showest thou, that we may see and believe thee? what dost thou work?” [Verse 30.] Had not the Jews just had fresh evidence in the feeding of the five thousand? What work, what sign, could Christ present before them to increase their faith? If evidence should be piled upon evidence, it would not, could not do more for them than had the evidence which had been given them. It was not evidence to convince that they wanted; it was an excuse to avoid the cross involved, of coming out from the world and being separate. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 8

The cross is erected where two ways meet. Will the convicted man take the path of obedience to God’s commandments? This involves a denial of self, a sacrifice of self. “He that will come after me,” said Christ, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” [Mark 8:34.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 9

The question may be asked, Is this man honest? Is he a seeker after that life which is eternal? How, much eternal life comprehends; it is measureless! Is this man seeking after eternal life with his whole heart, with an undivided purpose? If he is, he will obtain the riches that are imperishable, a life that measures with the life of God. All the universe of heaven is looking on to see which path he will take. Is it the way that is narrow? Is it the strait gate that he is aiming to enter? Then he has taken the cross road, the path that leads to heaven. This decision cuts directly across his human inclination, his selfish, worldly considerations, cuts across his natural bias of character, and places him with the company whom Daniel saw in vision: 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 10

“And I heard,” said Daniel, “and understood not: then I said, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified and made whole, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” [Daniel 12:8-10.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 11

This is an important question. Upon it hangs the eternal welfare of every soul. The cross stands where two roads diverge. One is the path of obedience leading to heaven. The other leads into the broad road, where man can easily go with his burden of sin and corruption, but it leads to perdition. In His sermon on the mount, Christ exhorts His hearers, “Therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction: and many there be that go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” [Matthew 7:12-14.] And another time one came to Christ and said, “Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many I say unto you shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” [Luke 13:23, 24.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 12

In this age fables and error are preached as truth, and the tendencies of the natural heart are misdirected. But those persons who believe the truth, the Word of the living God, are among the number who are determined to secure those mansions which Christ has gone to prepare, and that life that runs parallel with the life of Jehovah. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 13

If the man who is convicted of the truth draws back from the cross that points to the narrow way, and chooses instead the broad road, because by so doing he can indulge the imperfections of his character and his natural and cultivated tendencies to evil, he will never reach heaven. He refuses to be among the number that Daniel saw who were purified, made white, and tried. He will be among the wicked who “shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” [Daniel 12:10.] Those who are afraid the truth will exact too much from them, [that it] will cut across their selfish propensities, and will in many respects hedge up their way to worldly prosperity or stand in the way of their selfish life, those who turn away from the truth to accept fables, lose that life which it is their privilege to gain if they will follow in the footsteps of Jesus. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 14

“Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine: they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot: for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 15

“Wherefore the Lord saith, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people: even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” [Isaiah 29:9-14.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 16

How were these words fulfilled by the Jewish nation, and by every nation that has followed in their course, turning away from the truth unto fables. The Lord Jesus was the foundation of the whole Jewish economy. Their imposing ceremonial rites were of divine arrangement, to make the worship of God impressive, and educate the people to bear in mind that at the time appointed One would come to whom these ceremonies pointed. But the Jews so exalted the forms and ceremonies as to lose sight of their object. The traditions and maxims and enactments of men hid from their perception the spiritual lessons that God intended to convey to His people. These maxims and traditions became an obstacle to their right understanding and practice of true religion. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 17

And when the Reality came in the person of Christ they did not recognize in Him the antitype of all their types, the substance of all their shadows. They rejected the antitype, and clung to their types and useless ceremonies. They knew not when type met antitype in the Son of God. The sum was proved, the Son of God had come, but they continued to ask for the proof. The message brought to them from heaven, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 3:2], they answered by demands for miracles. But their demands for a sign from Christ and the apostles was not for the purpose of obtaining a clearer understanding of the truth of the gospel to help their unbelief. All the evidence Christ could give them would not make them one jot more satisfied. And to this day the Jewish nation require a sign and look for the Messiah to come—one adapted to all their inventive imaginations—to restore to them their right to the Holy Land. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 18

The Lord would not have His people rest in signs and outward forms and ceremonies. The gospel of Christ was a stumbling block to the Jews, because they required signs instead of a Saviour. Philosophy early became combined with the gospel as essential, and corrupted it. And to this day there are those things, in school books, in the churches and which are brought into theology, that becloud the senses. Human minds have sought out many inventions. Human systems, human laws, and human jurisdiction have been brought in to make of none effect the law of Jehovah. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 19

Books of human invention, and studies which are not in any sense essential, have taken the place of the Word of God. Minds have become bewildered by human ideas and theories, which are made to embrace what is termed “education in the sciences,” and this has left the science of true education, contained only in the Word of God, as a problem that cannot be solved. God designs that the Scriptures, the source of science that is above all human theory, shall be searched. He desires that man shall dig deep for the mines of truth, that he may gain the valuable treasure they contain. But instead of this man’s theories are put in the place of the wisdom and science of the Bible. Men engage in the work of remodelling God’s purposes; they try to distinguish between the books of the Bible; they take liberties with the gospel. Through their inventions, they make the Scriptures testify to a lie, for which they will have to render an account when every man will be judged according to his works. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 20

The gospel is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Who by searching can find out God or the Almighty unto perfection? The character of Christ while on earth revealed divinity, and the gospel which He has given is to be the study of His human heritage, in all their educational departments until teachers, children, and youth shall discern in the only true and living God the divine object of their faith and love and adoration. The Word is to respected and obeyed. That book, which contains the record of Christ’s life, His work, His doctrines, His sufferings and final triumphs, is to be the Source of our strength. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 21

The Word of God is the great educating book. But while many claim to respect it, they place other books before it. The human reason is exalted above the divine. Must I speak out plainly, and bear a decided testimony? Had the Word of God been regarded as it ever should have been—as the voice of God to men, the source of all wisdom, all truth, all higher education—children, youth, and parents would have made it not only their study, but their teacher and their guide, that “in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Jesus Christ. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:7-10.] 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 22

“In the ages to come.” [Verse 7.] What a history those ages will unfold. How can the children of the world endure to look into the heights and depths of that eternity called by the apostle “the ages to come”? What can be known about those ages to come? The Bible is the text book, and it is to be searched diligently—not as we would read a book among many books. It must be to us the book that meets the wants of the soul. This book will make the man who studies and obeys it wise unto salvation. As food cannot nourish the body unless it be eaten and digested, neither can the Word of the living God profit the soul unless it be received as the teacher in higher educational lines, as above all human productions; unless its principles be obeyed because it is the wisdom of God. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 23

The many human inventions to explain the Word, making students understand it through the assertions of learned men, is a mistake. God has not made the reception of the gospel to depend upon reasonings. The gospel is adapted for spiritual food, to satisfy man’s spiritual appetite. In every case it is just what man needs. Those who have felt it necessary to have the students in our schools study many authors are themselves the most ignorant on the great themes of the Bible. The teachers themselves need to take up the book of all books, and learn from the Scriptures that the gospel has power to prove its own divinity to the humble, contrite mind. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 24

The Scribes and Pharisees who would not yield to conviction or evidence in regard to the Messiahship of Christ were astonished at His wisdom. They knew that He had not been to the schools of the rabbis to receive His education, and that he had never been to any school to learn His letters. His humble parentage was unfavorable to His obtaining the knowledge which they deemed essential, and by which they supposed they had become enlightened. The one great matter that should demand our attention is higher education. As a worker, Christ did not allow His labors to be of that character to merely satisfy curiosity or to give such demonstrations of truth as to make doubt impossible. He came to open the treasures of heaven, [so] that others might search and find [the truth for] themselves. This was the purpose of God. He designed that the Word should be searched and received as a new revelation. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 25

The human family have scarcely begun to live when they begin to die, and the world’s incessant labor ends in nothingness unless a true knowledge in regard to eternal life is gained. The man who appreciated time as his working day will fit himself for a title to a mansion and a life that is immortal. It is well that he was born. Our characters are revealed by what we do. We are admonished to redeem the time. We cannot call time back, but by making the most of what remains we can redeem the time. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 26

God will work out His own purpose, taking the human agent into co-partnership with the great firm of salvation, and making of him all that He has promised in accordance with His Word: “I will make a man more precious than gold, even than the golden wedge of Ophir.” [Isaiah 13:12.] “I will clothe him with my righteousness.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 27

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. ... And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” [John 1:12-14, 16.] A transformation of character takes place in the human agent, and he becomes a son of God, a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King, fitted to be the companion of angels. 13LtMs, Ms 50, 1898, par. 28