The Signs of the Times


April 20, 1891

The Character of John


John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, because he was believing and trustful, and loved his Master with devotion. His love for Christ was characterized by simplicity and ardor. There are many who think that this love for Christ was something natural to the character of John, and the disciple is frequently represented by the artist as of a soft, languid, feminine appearance, but such representations are incorrect. John and his brother were called the “sons of thunder.” John was a man of decided character, but he had learned lessons from the great Teacher. He had defects of character, and any slight shown to Jesus aroused his indignation and combativeness. His love for Christ was the love of a soul saved through the merits of Jesus; but with this love there were natural evil traits that had to be overcome. At one time he and his brother claimed the right to the highest position in the kingdom of heaven, and at another he forbade a man to cast out devils and heal diseases because he followed not with the disciples. At another time when he saw his Lord slighted by the Samaritans he wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them. But Christ rebuked him, saying, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” ST April 20, 1891, par. 1

In the character and teaching of Christ, the disciples had both precept and example, and the grace of Christ was a transforming power, working marvelous changes in the life of the disciples. The natural traits of character, the spirit of criticism, revenge, ambition, evil temper, were all in the beloved disciple, and had to be overcome in order that he might be a representative of Christ. He was not only a hearer but a doer of the words of his Lord. He learned of Jesus to be meek and lowly of heart, to wear his yoke, to bear his burden. This was the result of companionship with his Master. ST April 20, 1891, par. 2

The opportunities and advantages offered to John were given to Judas also. The same principles of truth were set before his understanding, the same example in the character of Christ was his to contemplate and imitate. But Judas failed to become a doer of the words of Christ. Evil temper, revengeful passions, dark and sullen thoughts, were cherished, until Satan had full control of the man. John walked in the light, and improved the opportunities given him to overcome; but Judas chose his defects, and refused to be transformed into the image of Christ, and therefore became a representative of the enemy of Christ, and manifested the attributes of the evil one. When Judas came into association with Christ, he had some precious traits of character that might have been used of God and made a blessing to the church. If he had been willing to wear the yoke of Christ, to become meek and lowly of heart, he might have been among the chief of the apostles; but he hardened his heart when his defects were pointed out, and in pride and rebellion chose his own selfish ambitions, and so unfitted himself for the work God might have given him. John and Peter, though imperfect, became sanctified through the truth. ST April 20, 1891, par. 3

It is the same today as it was in the days of Christ. As the disciples were brought together, each with different faults, some inherited or cultivated tendency to evil, so in our church relations we find men and women whose characters are defective; not one of us is perfect. But in Christ, and through Christ, we are to dwell in the family of God, learning to become one in faith, in doctrine, in spirit, that at last we may be received into our eternal habitation. We shall have our tests, our grievances, our differences of opinion; but if Christ is abiding in the heart of each, there can be no dissension. The love of Christ will lead to love of one another, and the lessons of the Master will harmonize all differences, bringing us into unity, till we shall be of one mind and one judgment. Strife for supremacy will cease, and no one will be disposed to glory over another, but we shall esteem others better than ourselves, and so be built up into a spiritual temple for the Lord. ST April 20, 1891, par. 4

In the work of overcoming there will be confessions to be made one to another, but the word of God forbids man to put an erring man in God's place, making confessors of frail humanity. We are to confess our faults one to another, and pray one for another that we may be healed. The appointment of men to the confessional of the Roman Church is the fulfillment of the design of Satan to confer upon men power which belongs to God only. God is dishonored by the absolution of the priest and by the confession of the soul to man. Confessions of secret sins are made to men whose own hearts may be as sinks of iniquity. There are sins which are to be confessed to God only, for he knows the whole heart and will not take advantage of the trust reposed in him; he will not betray our confidence, and if we submit ourselves to him, he will cleanse the heart from all iniquity. ST April 20, 1891, par. 5

The lessons given to Peter, Judas, and the other disciples are profitable to us, and have a special importance at this time. We have need of constant watchfulness, for we are nearing the coming of Christ, nearing the time when Satan is to work “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” We must study the Pattern, and become like Jesus, who was meek and lowly of heart, pure and undefiled. We should ever remember that God is near us, and all things great and small are under his control. We must obey his law, come to Christ in faith as to him who is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek him; thus we shall be overcomers, and at last have a seat with him upon his throne. ST April 20, 1891, par. 6