Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899)


Ms 98, 1899

Need of Liberality


July 24, 1899

Portions of this manuscript are published in 6BC 1103-1104.

The apostle Paul had a special work to present before the Corinthian brethren. In Jerusalem there was a famine, which had been predicted by one Agabus who, “signified by the Spirit that there should be a great dearth throughout all the world.” “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” [Acts 11:28-30.] 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 1

The disciples expected to receive a small sum for the relief of the needy saints in Jerusalem, and in prayer they presented before the Lord the necessity. But the Macedonian brethren, moved by the Spirit of God, first made an entire consecration of themselves to God, and then gave all that they had. They felt it a privilege to thus give an expression of their trust in God. The Macedonian churches were exceedingly poor, but they contributed of their means with cheerfulness. They did not have to be urged and compelled to do this work. Rather they rejoiced in the opportunity of doing it. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 2

Of themselves they came forward and made the offering, denying themselves of food and clothing in cases where they had no money. And when the apostles would have restrained them, they importuned them to receive the contribution, and carry it to the afflicted saints. In their Christian simplicity, integrity, and love for their brethren, they found something in which they could deny self, and thus abound in the fruit of benevolence. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 3

The apostle Paul was happily disappointed, as we have been again and again in our experience. The self-denial and self-sacrifice revealed by the Macedonians so far exceeded his expectations that he was filled with thanksgiving; and taking courage by this example, by epistle he exhorted that Titus stir up the church in Corinth to the same good works. He desired that Titus should present before this church the subject of Christian liberality, and seek to add to the means which he had collected in Macedonia. He writes, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 4

“For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we should receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.” [2 Corinthians 8:1-7.] This movement was of the inspiration of God to arouse in the Corinthian church the same spirit. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 5

The apostle would keep before the Corinthians the duty devolving upon them of making spiritual advancement in the grace of God. He would have the plant of selfishness uprooted, for the character cannot be complete where self love and covetousness are retained, and the Lord’s talent of means invested in worldly business and buildings. The love of Christ in the heart would lead them to help their brethren in their necessities, both spiritual and temporal. He would have their love aroused by a consideration of the sacrifice Christ had made in their behalf. The proof of that love is given in a Christlike spirit, a willingness to impart the good things God has given, in spiritual grace and temporal relief, a readiness to practice self-denial and self-sacrifice in order to help advance the cause of God and suffering humanity. Never should we pass by the object that calls for our liberality, even though it requires self-denial and a binding about of our conveniences and supposed necessities. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 6

“I speak not by commandment,” the apostle continues, (that is, he does not command them to do that which he sets before them), “but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” [Verses 8, 9.] Here was the apostle’s mighty argument. It is not the commandment of Paul, but of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God had left His heavenly home, with its riches and honor and glory, and clothed His divinity with humanity—not to live in the palaces of kings, without care or labor, and to be supplied with all the conveniences which human nature naturally craves. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 7

In the councils of heaven He had chosen to stand in the ranks of the poor and oppressed, to take His part with the humble workers, and learn the trade of His earthly parent, which was that of a carpenter, a builder. He came to the world to be a reconstructor of character, and He brought into all His work of building the perfection which He desired to bring into the characters He was transforming by His divine power. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 8

Paul presents his pattern, his ideal. Christ had given Himself to a life of poverty that they might become rich in heavenly treasure. He would refresh their memories in regard to the sacrifice made in their behalf. Christ was Commander in the heavenly courts, yet He took the lowest place in this world. He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. It was not spiritual riches that He left behind; He was always abounding in the gifts of the Spirit. But He was of poor parentage. The world never saw its Lord wealthy. Though He was in the form of God, He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” [Philippians 2:6-8.] 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 9

In Himself Christ possessed absolute right to all things. How small are the riches of the most wealthy in comparison with the riches of Christ. His scepter is a scepter of righteousness. All the money and reputation of the most wealthy, do they not belong to God? For a little time the Lord allows man to be His steward, that He may test his character, to see how he will use his opportunities. In the time given him he decides his character. If he is not in harmony with the will and work of God, he cannot belong to the royal family. He is a self-seeker, and the Lord will not place him in a position where he can manifest his greed for money and display. The silver and the gold are the Lord’s, but he has misapplied his Lord’s money, and he has a serious account to settle for his greed and covetousness. A day of probation has been granted him, but he has abused it, and he receives the reward of the unfaithful servant. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 10

Evidence of the work of grace in the human heart is given, when we do good to all men as we have opportunity. But when we come to the work of the gospel ministry, the most substantial evidence we can give that we have passed from death unto life is a willingness to act the part God has assigned us as faithful stewards of His grace. God has given us His goods, and He has given us His pledged word that if we are faithful in our stewardship we will impart that which the Lord has given us in spiritual and temporal gifts, that others may receive. Thus we shall lay up in heaven treasures that are imperishable. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 11

Men and women need to understand that nothing they have is their own. “Ye are not your own,” says the apostle, “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.] To withhold anything would not be for our interest or for God’s glory. The Lord will use all who will give themselves to be used by Him to His name’s glory. The Lord requires heart service. “My son,” He asks, “give me thine heart.” [Proverbs 23:26.] When the heart is given to God, the talents entrusted, our energy, our property, all we have and are, will be devoted to His service. 14LtMs, Ms 98, 1899, par. 12