Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 17

363/469

Ms 115, 1902

The Danger of Self-Sufficiency

NP

September 7, 1902 [typed]

Portions of this manuscript are published in TDG 259; WM 116; CTr 276; 6MR 24-25; 17MR 29.

“And there was a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Luke 22:24-30.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 1

It was at the last Passover that the disciples were to hold with their Lord that these words were spoken. Very soon Christ was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the world. At this time, in the last hours that the disciples would have with their Master, Satan made a determined effort to arouse contention among them. Sorrow filled Christ’s heart as He saw them yielding to the spirit of strife and disputing as to who should be greatest. Had they been in a right frame of mind, they would have received great blessing. But they came to the supper with hearts filled with selfishness and with tempers heated by contention. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 2

Christ heard their whisperings and saw their flushed faces. Without a word, He laid aside His outer garment, and girding Himself with a towel, as if He had been a servant, proceeded to wash the feet of His disciples. His action opened their eyes. They were too astonished and too ashamed to speak. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They saw themselves in altogether a new light. As long as life lasted they would remember this experience. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 3

“After He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done unto you? Ye call Me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord, neither is he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” [John 13:12-17.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 4

*****

Just before Peter’s fall, Christ said to him, “Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” [Luke 22:31.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 5

How true was the Saviour’s friendship for Peter! how compassionate His warning! But the warning was resented. In self-sufficiency Peter declared confidently that he would never do what Christ had warned him against. “Lord,” he said, “I am ready to go with thee to prison and to death.” [Verse 33.] His self-confidence proved his ruin. He tempted Satan to tempt him, and he fell under the arts of the wily foe. When Christ needed him most, he stood on the side of the enemy and openly denied his Lord. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 6

But even when Peter was denying Him, Christ showed that He still loved him. In the judgment hall, surrounded by those who were clamoring for His life, Jesus thought of His suffering, erring disciple, and turning, He looked at him. In that look, Peter read the Saviour’s love and compassion, and a tide of memories rushed over him. Christ’s mercy, His kindness and long-suffering, His gentleness and patience toward His disciples—all was remembered. He recalled the caution, “Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” [Verse 31.] He saw that he was doing the very thing that he had declared he would not do. The realization of his terrible fall came over him with overwhelming force. He thought of his ingratitude, his falsehood, his perjury. Once more he looked at his Master and saw a sacrilegious hand raised to smite Him in the face. Unable longer to endure the scene, he rushed heartbroken from the hall. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 7

He pressed on in solitude and darkness, he knew not and cared not whither. At last he found himself in Gethsemane. The scene of a few hours before came vividly to his mind. He thought of how the Saviour, during His agony in the garden, had come for sympathy and comfort to those who had been so closely connected with Him in labor. He remembered how He had said, “Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch with Me one hour?” [Mark 14:37; Matthew 26:40.] On the very spot where Jesus poured out His soul in agony, Peter fell upon his face and wished that he might die. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 8

Help had come to him. Wonderful are God’s ways of helping those who need help. Happy are those who will be helped in God’s way. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 9

Had Peter been left to himself, he would have been overcome. But One who could say, “Father, I know that thou hearest me always,” One who is mighty to save, interceded for him. [John 11:41, 42.] Christ saves to the uttermost all who come to Him. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 10

Many today stand where Peter stood when in self-confidence he declared that he would not deny his Lord. And because of their self-sufficiency, they fall an easy prey to Satan’s devices. Those who realize their weakness trust in a power higher than self. And while they look to God, Satan has no power against them. But those who trust in self are easily defeated. Let us remember that if we do not heed the cautions that God gives us, a fall is before us. Christ will not save from wounds the one who places himself unbidden on the enemy’s ground. He lets the self-sufficient one, who acts as if he knew more than his Lord, go on in his supposed strength. Then comes suffering and a crippled life, or perhaps defeat and death. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 11

In the warfare, the enemy takes advantage of the weakest points in the defense of those he is attacking. Here he makes his fiercest assaults. The Christian should have no weak points in his defense. He should be barricaded by the support that the Scriptures give to the one who is doing God’s will. The tempted soul will bear away the victory if he follows the example of Him who met the tempter with the word “It is written.” He can stand securely in the protection of a “thus saith the Lord.” 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 12

There are some lessons that will never be learned except through failure. Peter was a better man after his fall. The Lord permits His children to fall; and then, if they repent of their wrongdoing, He helps them to stand on vantage ground. As fire purifies gold, so Christ purifies His people by temptation and trial. If the heart has not been hardened by a disregard of great light, the temptation and fall will bring repentance. Humble, fervent prayer will save the soul from death, and confession and restitution will hide a multitude of sins. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 13

Lessons From the Eighteenth of Matthew

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 18:1-4.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 14

Those who have true ideas of greatness will not strive for the supremacy. God’s people must be meek and lowly, else they will become so lifted up with the thought of their own superiority that the Lord will pass them by. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 15

“Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” [Verses 5, 6.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 16

From these words we may learn how offensive in the sight of God is the one who says and does cruel things. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 17

“Whoso shall offend one of these little ones” [Verse 6]—not only those young in years, but those whose experience in the things of God is like the experience of a little child. The least and feeblest of God’s children is the object of His special care. The unkind treatment offered them He records as offered to Himself. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 18

“Woe to the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands and feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” [Verses 7-9.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 19

We may have hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong—faults that are as much a part of us as the right arm is a part of the body. These traits must be cut away from the life, else the whole man will perish. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 20

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to seek and to serve that which is lost.” [Verses 10, 11.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 21

Pray that your hearts may be touched with the Holy Spirit’s power, that you may understand these words. Let those who are easily provoked study this instruction. Take heed, O take heed to it, else you will not be among the redeemed. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 22

In the church of God there is to be no human rulership, no lording it over God’s heritage. No man is to suppose himself superior to those with whom he is associated. He is never to think that he has the right to be dictator or supreme authority. Had men more distinct views of Christ, more confidence in His teaching, remarkable changes would take place. There would be greater devotion to His service. Self would not be made of so great importance. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 23

Let us, as a people who have the truth and who love the truth, come into right relation with God. Let us be wide-awake to the dangers that are threatening the church. Shall we not humble ourselves under the mighty influence of the Holy Spirit. Shall we not strive to learn the lesson taught by the Saviour in His talk with His disciples. We must be changed. We must become as little children in meekness and lowliness. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 24

The eighteenth chapter of Matthew contains specific instruction regarding the treatment of the erring. But this instruction has been strangely neglected by many, as far as understanding and practicing it is concerned. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 25

“Then came Peter, and said unto Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, until seventy times seven.” [Verses 21, 22.] Has Christ exaggerated the matter? Are His words a misstatement? Are they not the guide that we are to follow? Judged by these words, are not many of those connected with our institutions greatly at fault? Is it not a very rare thing for this instruction to be carried out, even by those who know the truth? 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 26

We ought not, in our human frailty, to presume to judge those who are in error, or to refuse to forgive them. There is never a time when it is right for you or for me to say, I will not forgive my brother. If your brother errs, forgive him, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” [Galatians 6:1.] When he reaches out his hand, and says, Forgive me, it is not for you to turn way and refuse to forgive him because you think that he does not mean what he says. You have no right to judge him, for you cannot read the heart. God says, “If he trespass against thee seven times, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” [Luke 17:4.] Just as often as God forgives us, we are to forgive one another. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 27

Too often the supposed wrongs of a brother or a sister are repeated and magnified. Too often the youth in our institutions are dealt with harshly when they err. God designed that these institutions should be schools in which the youth connected with them should receive an education that would fit them for usefulness in His service. But the work that should have been done by them for the youth has not been done. The Spirit of God is grieved. This neglect is recorded as if done to Christ Himself. The youth are His property; and it is His design that as they come to our institutions, they shall be placed under wise instructors who place a proper estimate on the souls that Christ died to save. There are many who have been greatly harmed because the work that should have been done has not been done. The wrong course of action followed in dealing with them has had a prevailing influence over their lives. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 28

Because the youth have faults, they are not to be treated as hopeless. They need wise instructors. They are to be dealt with patiently, and after they have acknowledged their fault, they are to be freely forgiven. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 29

Will God’s people act upon the instruction Christ has given, that the church may stand in right relation to God and Christ, that the mist by which it is enveloped may be cleared away? Then the sunshine of Christ’s righteousness will shine into the minds of His followers. Then the church will walk in the light as Christ is in the light. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 30

Christ Our Saviour

“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.] He laid aside His royal robe and kingly crown and clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might stand among the human family as one of them. He came to this sin-cursed earth with a message of love and salvation. He was the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person, but He laid aside His glory and came to this earth to the weary and heavy laden. “Come unto Me,” is His invitation, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden”—wearied by human exactions and worldly ambition—“and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 31

What a busy life Christ led! Day by day He might be seen entering the humble abodes of want and sorrow, speaking hope to the downcast and peace to the distressed. The poor and suffering received the greatest share of His attention. Children loved Him. They were drawn to Him by His ready sympathy. By His simple, loving words He settled many a difficulty arising among them. Often He took them on His knee and talked with them in a way that won their hearts. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 32

His was the medical missionary work that He asks His people to do today. Humble, gracious, tenderhearted, pitiful, He went about doing good, feeding the hungry, lifting up the bowed down, comforting the sorrowing. None who came to Him for aid went away unrelieved. Not a thread of selfishness was woven into the pattern He has left for His children to follow. He lived the life that He would have all live who believe on Him. It was His meat and drink to do the will of His Father. To all who came to Him for help He brought faith and hope and life. Wherever He went, He carried blessing. 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 33

To us Christ’s message is, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up the cross, and follow Me.” [Matthew 16:24.] 17LtMs, Ms 115, 1902, par. 34