Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 23 (1908)


Ms 15, 1908

The Need of Watchfulness


March 30, 1908 [typed]

Portions of this manuscript are published in HP 256; ML 32-33; CTr 219; 7MR 45. +Note

Never was there a time when Christian men and women, in all walks of life, were in so great need as now of clear, spiritual eyesight. It is not safe to lose sight of Christ for one moment. His followers must pray, and believe, and love Him fervently. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 1

A very thorough work must be done in cleansing the soul-temple from its natural depravity. The Christian must be wide-awake to resist the increeping of a spirit of licentiousness among those who claim to be sanctified. When our hearts are clean, washed and made white by the blood of the Lamb, the work will go forward in our experience that was outlined in the wonderful prayer of Christ: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” [John 17:19.] 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 2

What shall be said regarding the man who has been greatly blessed as a teacher of righteousness, yet who in time of temptation is betrayed into a sinful course? Satan in the form of an heavenly angel has come to him, as he approached Christ in the wilderness of temptation, and he has gained the victory. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 3

Coming to the Son of God, the great deceiver claimed to be commissioned by the Father with a message to the Saviour. He need no longer hunger. “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” [Matthew 4:3.] But by such an act as this, Christ would have broken His promise that He would never exercise His divine power in order to escape any difficulty or suffering that man in his humanity must meet. “It is written,” He replied to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” [Verse 4.] 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 4

Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. “It is written,” He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was in the Word of God. Satan demanded of Christ a miracle as a sign of His divinity. But that which is greater than all miracles, a firm reliance upon a “Thus saith the Lord,” was a sign that could not be controverted. So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 5

It was in the time of greatest weakness that Christ was assailed by the fiercest temptations. Thus Satan thought to prevail. By this policy he had gained the victory over man. When strength failed, and the will power weakened, and faith ceased to repose in God, then those who had stood long and valiantly for the right were overcome. Moses was wearied with the forty years’ wandering of Israel, when for the moment his faith let go its hold upon infinite power. He failed just upon the borders of the promised land. So with Elijah who had stood undaunted before King Ahab, who had faced the whole nation of Israel with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal at their head. After that terrible day upon Carmel, when the false prophets had been slain and the people had declared their allegiance to God, Elijah fled for his life before the threats of idolatrous Jezebel. Thus Satan has taken advantage of the weakness of humanity. And he will still work in the same way. Whenever one is encompassed with clouds, perplexed by circumstances, or afflicted by poverty or distress, Satan is at hand to tempt and annoy. He attacks our weak points of character. He seeks to shake our confidence in God, who suffers such a condition of things to exist. We are tempted to distrust God, to question His love. Often the tempter comes to us as he came to Christ, arraying before us our weakness and infirmities. He hopes to discourage the soul and to break our hold upon God. Then he is sure of his prey. If we would meet him as Jesus did, we should escape many a defeat. By parleying with the enemy, we give him an advantage. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 6

“Then the devil taketh Him unto the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee; And in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” [Verses 5, 6.] 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 7

Again the temptation is prefaced with the insinuation of distrust, “If Thou be the Son of God.” Christ was tempted to answer the “if”; but He refrained from the slightest acceptance of the doubt. He would not imperil His life in order to give evidence to Satan. “It is written,” He declared, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” [Verse 7.] 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 8

Jesus was victor in the second temptation, and now Satan manifests himself in his true character. But he does not appear as a hideous monster with cloven feet and bat’s wings. He is a mighty angel, though fallen. He avows himself the leader of rebellion and the god of this world. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 9

Placing Jesus on a high mountain, Satan caused the kingdoms of the world in all their glory to pass in a panoramic view before Him. The sunlight lay on templed cities, marble palaces, fertile fields, and fruit-laden vineyards. The traces of evil were hidden. The eye of Jesus, so lately greeted by gloom and desolation, now gazed upon a scene of unsurpassed loveliness and prosperity. Then the tempter’s voice was heard: “All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me: and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine.” [Verses 8, 9.] 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 10

The strength of this temptation to the Saviour was greater than the human mind can understand. Christ’s mission could be fulfilled only through suffering. Before Him was a life of sorrow, hardship and conflict, and an ignominious death. He must bear the sins of the world. He must endure separation from the Father’s love. Now the tempter offered to yield up the power he had usurped. Christ might deliver Himself from the dreadful future by acknowledging the supremacy of Satan. But to do this was to yield the victory in the great controversy. It was in seeking to exalt himself above the Son of God that Satan had sinned in heaven. Should he prevail now, it would be the triumph of rebellion. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 11

Christ declared to the tempter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” [Verse 10.] Satan had questioned whether Jesus were the Son of God. In his summary dismissal, he had proof that he could not gainsay. Divinity flashed through suffering humanity. Satan had no power to resist the command. Writhing with humiliation and rage, he was forced to withdraw from the presence of the world’s Redeemer. Christ’s victory was as complete as had been Adam’s failure. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 12

So we may resist temptation and force Satan to depart from us. Jesus gained the victory through submission and faith in God, and by the apostle He says to us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” [James 4:7.] We cannot save ourselves from the tempter’s power; he has conquered humanity, and when we try to stand in our own strength, we shall become a prey to his devices; but “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and are safe.” [Proverbs 18:10.] Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul who finds refuge in that mighty name. 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 13

It is those who have had the most light that Satan most assiduously seeks to ensnare. He knows that if he can deceive them, they will, under his control, clothe sin with garments of righteousness and lead many astray. I say to all, Be on your guard; for as an angel of light, Satan is walking in every assembly of Christian workers, and in every church, trying to win the members to his side. I am bidden to give to the people of God the warning, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” [Galatians 6:7.] 23LtMs, Ms 15, 1908, par. 14