Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13

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Ms 86, 1898

Notes of the Week of Prayer, No. 5

NP

July 3, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in UL 198; 3MR 347-349; RH 11/08/1898.

Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon we had a large gathering. The church was full, and I addressed the people from 1 John 3:1-4. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God! therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.” 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 1

The Lord blessed me in seeking to present to the people the love of God expressed to the heavenly universe and to the fallen world. The cross of Calvary is a standing pledge that God, who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, will with Him freely give us all things that it is essential for us to have in the great work to be accomplished through human agencies, in bringing many sons and daughters to God. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 2

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” [2 Corinthians 4:6, 7.] 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 3

Before the fall of Adam, not a cloud rested on the mind of our first parents to obscure their clear perception of the divine character of God. They were perfectly conformed to the will of God. A beautiful light, the light of God, surrounded them. Nature was their lesson book. The Lord instructed them in regard to the natural world and then left with them this open book, that they might behold beauty in every object upon which their eyes should rest. The Lord visited the holy pair, and instructed them through the works of His hands. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 4

The beauties of nature are an expression of the love of God for human intelligences, and in the garden of Eden the existence of God was demonstrated in the objects of nature that surrounded our first parents. Every tree planted in the garden spoke to them, saying that the invisible things of God were clearly seen, being understood by the things which were made, even His eternal power and Godhead. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 5

But while thus God could be discerned in nature, this affords no solid argument in favor of a perfect knowledge of God being revealed in nature to Adam and his posterity after the fall. Nature could convey her lessons to man in his innocence, but sin and transgression brought a blight upon nature, and intervened between nature and nature’s God. Had man never disobeyed his Creator, had he remained in his state of perfect rectitude, he could have understood and known God. But when man disobeyed God, he gave evidence that he believed the words of an apostate rather than the words of God. He was told by the enemy to eat of the tree of knowledge. God had said, “Ye shall not eat of it, lest ye die.” [Genesis 3:3.] But Satan declared that by eating of it man would be exalted to an equality with God. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 6

Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the tempter, and sinned against God. The light, the garments of heavenly innocence, departed from these tried, deceived souls, and in parting with the garments of innocence, they drew about them the dark robes of ignorance of God. The clear and perfect light of innocence which had hitherto surrounded them, had lightened everything which they approached; but deprived of that heavenly light, the posterity of Adam could no longer trace the character of God in His created works. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 7

Therefore, after the fall, nature was not the only teacher of man. In order that the world might not remain in darkness, in eternal, spiritual night, the God of nature must meet [man] in Jesus Christ. The Son of God came to the world as a revelation of the Father. He was “that true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” [John 1:9.] 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 8

The most difficult and humiliating lesson which man has to learn, if he is kept by the power of God, is his own inefficiency in depending upon human wisdom, and the sure failure of his own efforts to read nature correctly. Sin has obscured his vision, and he cannot interpret nature without placing it above God. He cannot discern in it God, or Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. He is in the same position as the Athenians who erected their altars for the worship of nature, upon which they might well inscribe, “To the unknown god.” Paul, standing in the midst of Mars Hill said to them, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld you devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 9

“God that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needeth anything, seeing he giveth to all life and breath and all things: and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being: as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch them as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man’s device.” [Acts 17:22-29.] 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 10

Nature is not God nor ever was God. God is in nature; the voice of nature testifies of God; but nature is not God. It but bears a testimony of God’s power, as His created works. There is a personal God, the Father; there is a personal Christ, the Son. “God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” [Hebrews 1:1-3.] Here the Son of God is referred to, “who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.” John declares, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory (glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full or grace and truth.” [John 1:14.] 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 11

Nature declares the glory of God. The psalmist says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” [Psalm 19:1-3.] 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 12

Some may suppose that these grand things in the natural world are God. But they are not God. They but show forth His glory. The ancient philosophers prided themselves upon their superior knowledge. But let us read the inspired apostles understanding of the matter. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things; ... who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever more.” [Romans 1:22, 23, 25.] 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 13

Will we consider this? In its human wisdom, the world knows not God. Its wise men gather an imperfect knowledge of God in His created works, and then in their foolishness exalt nature and the laws of nature above nature’s God. Nature is an open book which reveals God. All who are attracted to nature may behold in it the God that created nature. But those who have a knowledge of God in their acceptance of the revelation God has made of himself in Christ, will obtain only an imperfect knowledge of God in nature. This knowledge, so far from giving elevated conceptions of God, so far from elevating the mind, the soul, the heart, and bringing the whole being into conformity to the will of God, will make men idolaters. Professing to be wise men, they become fools. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 14

Those who think they can obtain a knowledge of God aside from the Representative whom the Word declares is “the express image of his person” [Hebrews 1:3], will need to become fools in their own estimation before they can be wise. Christ came as a personal Saviour to the world. He represented a personal God. He ascended on high as a personal Saviour, and will come again as he ascended to heaven—a personal Saviour. It is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature, for nature itself is imperfect. A curse and blight is upon it. Yet the things of nature, marred as they are by the blight of sin, inculcate truths regarding the skilful Master Artist. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 15

One omnipotent in power, great in goodness, in mercy, and love has created the earth, and even in its blighted state much that is beautiful remains. Nature’s voice speaks, saying that there is a God back of nature, but it does not in its imperfections represent God. Nature cannot reveal the nature and character of God in His moral perfection. 13LtMs, Ms 86, 1898, par. 16