The Signs of the Times


December 9, 1886

The Standard of Christian Excellence


“Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth; even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Ephesians 1:8-11. ST December 9, 1886, par. 1

Our heavenly Father presents before his finite creatures no impossibilities; he requires not at their hands that which they cannot perform. He has not set before his church a standard to which they cannot attain; yet he designs that they shall labor earnestly to reach the high standard set before them in the text. He would have them pray that they may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness,” and then expect this blessing and receive it, and in all things grow up into Christ their living Head. This was the apostle's great desire, not with reference to the church at Ephesus only, but to all the churches that he had been instrumental in raising up. ST December 9, 1886, par. 2

It is because the individual members of the church do not cultivate personal piety, that they do not realize more of the help of God and of their own personal responsibility. There is a higher standard for us to meet. The world has too much of our thoughts, and the kingdom of Heaven too little. God has given us talents that he requires us to use for the upbuilding of his kingdom. Reader, will you look upon these talents as a sacred trust? Will you today inquire, “What use have I made of these entrusted talents, and what use am I now making of them? Have I given to temporal, earthly things my strength of purpose, my ability to plan and devise, my tact and skill, and brought to the Lord's work only a feeble, inefficient service? Shall the eternal be made secondary to the temporal? Will the Lord accept this at my hands?” ST December 9, 1886, par. 3

We often hear Christians express the desire that husband, or wife, or children, may join them in serving the Lord. This desire is right. It is the true missionary spirit,—the spirit that should actuate all the followers of Christ. His first disciples felt thus when they listened to the words of life from the lips of the divine Master. They were convinced that he was the Messiah, and they wanted their relatives and friends to acknowledge his claims. ST December 9, 1886, par. 4

But while we desire the conversion of our friends, are we doing all we can on our part? Are we faithful in our appointed work? On the contrary, do we not often come short of the duty required of us as co-laborers with Christ? Are we setting a right example in our families and before the world? Are we, like Abraham, commanding our children and our households after us, that they may keep the way of the Lord and do justice and judgment? Is Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith? and do we show forth in our character and our daily life, the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light? If we are doers of the word, and not hearers only, we shall be earnest, thorough, whole-hearted, and God will work with our efforts in behalf of our friends. ST December 9, 1886, par. 5

There is a work for each one to do; and none need err in that work; for the counsels of God in his word are broad and full. If we sincerely desire to make the name of God a praise in the earth, if we walk in the light that he permits to shine upon our pathway, we shall be children of the day, and not of the night. We shall know the will of God, and shall carry it out in all the transactions of our every-day life. ST December 9, 1886, par. 6

Many lack moral power, and know very little of the peace, and happiness, and joy of Heaven, because they do not live where Christ can be in them a well of water springing up into everlasting life. They claim to be children of God; but they are only a burden to the church, when God has given them the capacity to be great helps, and requires them to be co-laborers with Christ in the work of saving souls. ST December 9, 1886, par. 7

If those who are so wanting in spiritual life would see the force of the words of the text, and would realize their duty to heed and obey the lesson here given, there would be greater power in the church. If all the members would improve their talents to the best of their ability, their light would not be hidden under a bushel, but placed on a candlestick, where its clear, steady rays would shine forth to all around them. ST December 9, 1886, par. 8

We need greater earnestness in the cause of Christ. The solemn message of truth should be given with an intensity that would impress unbelievers that God is working with our efforts, that the Most High is our living source of strength. In this great work, not one-third is accomplished that might be done, because a few willing ones take the burden, and the careless and ease-loving shirk all responsibility. This is not in the order of God, neither is it well-pleasing to him. He has not selected a few to become efficient laborers and bear all the burdens of the cause of God, to do all the praying and all the watching, all the winning and entreating of sinners, while the majority of professed Christians have nothing to do but to look on. He does not want the powers of the workers taxed to the utmost to counteract the influence of worldly-minded, halting, doubting ones, who bear no burdens and show no efficiency as workers. ST December 9, 1886, par. 9

Is this indifference to continue from year to year? Is Satan always to triumph, and Christ to be disappointed in the servants whom he has redeemed at an infinite price? We are looking forward to the time when the latter rain will be poured out, confidently hoping for a better day, when the church shall be endued with power from on high, and thus fitted to do more efficient work for God. But the latter rain will never refresh and invigorate indolent souls, that are not using the power God has already given them. Spiritual laziness will not bring us nearer to God. There must be energy and zeal as well as devotion and personal piety, woven into all our works. ST December 9, 1886, par. 10

Those who cherish this inexcusable indolence, this feeling that they have no burden of the work of God, are recorded in the books of Heaven as unfaithful servants. The “Well done, good and faithful servants,” will never be spoken to them; it will be spoken to those only who have done well,—to those who have been faithful, earnest, unselfish workers in the Master's vineyard. ST December 9, 1886, par. 11

There is on the part of many a bustling, out-of-door piety, but little of that heart and home religion which gathers the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and diffuses them to warm and gladden sorrowing hearts. The great need of such is a higher, purer, nobler life. A holy joy should reign in the soul, and then the daily life will be as a heavenly radiance to brighten the pathway of others. ST December 9, 1886, par. 12

If we love God with all the heart, we must love his children also. This love is of the Spirit of God. It is the heavenly adorning that gives true nobility and dignity to the soul, and assimilates our lives to that of the Master. No matter how many good qualities we may have, no matter how honorable and refined we may consider ourselves, if the soul is not baptized with the heavenly grace of love, we are deficient in true goodness, and unfit for Heaven, where all is love and unity. ST December 9, 1886, par. 13

When the heavenly principle of love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not merely because favors are received of them, but because love is the principle of action, and modifies the character, governs the impulses, subdues enmity, and elevates and ennobles the affections. This love is not contracted so as to include only the home-circle, but is as broad as the world, and is in harmony with that of the angel-workers. This love cherished in the soul sweetens the entire life, and exerts a refining influence on all around. Possessing it, we cannot but be happy, let fortune smile or frown. God, in his providence, has willed that no one can secure happiness by living for himself alone. The joy of our Lord consisted in enduring toil and suffering for others; and we shall find true happiness in following his example, and living to do good to our fellow-men. ST December 9, 1886, par. 14

The mission of the church is to save souls. When Jesus was about to ascend on high, he pointed to the harvest fields, and said to his followers: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel.” “Freely ye have received, freely give.” God calls for talents of influence and of means; he calls for earnest, faithful toil. Shall we refuse to obey? Shall we not rather deny self that the wasting harvest may be gathered? ST December 9, 1886, par. 15

In order to have our labors accepted, we must learn in the school of Christ; we must have practical godliness. When we have the saving power of truth in our own souls, we cannot forbear communicating to others the practical truths that have made our own hearts joyful in God. ST December 9, 1886, par. 16

“Being filled with the fruits of the Spirit,” said the apostle. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” ST December 9, 1886, par. 17

Basel, Switzerland.