The Signs of the Times


July 7, 1887

Fruits Meet for Repentance


When John was preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and the Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism, that fearless preacher of righteousness addressed them: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” In coming to John, these men were not actuated by right motives. They were corrupt in principles and practice; yet they had no sense of their true condition. Filled with pride and ambition, they would not hesitate at any means which would enable them to exalt self and strengthen their influence with the people. And baptism at the hands of this popular young teacher might, they thought, aid them in carrying out these designs more successfully. ST July 7, 1887, par. 1

Their motives were not hidden from John, and he met them with the searching inquiry, “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Had they heard the voice of God speaking to their hearts, they would have given evidence of the fact by bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. No such fruit was seen. They had heard the warning as merely the voice of man. They were charmed with the power and boldness with which John spoke; but the Spirit of God did not send conviction to their hearts, and as a sure result the word spoken did not bring forth fruit unto life eternal. ST July 7, 1887, par. 2

None are farther from the kingdom of Heaven than self-righteous formalists, who are perhaps filled with pride at their own attainments, while they are wholly destitute of the Spirit of Christ, and are controlled by envy, jealousy, and love of praise and popularity. They belong to the class that John addressed as a generation of vipers, children of the wicked one. They serve the cause of Satan more effectively than the vilest profligate; for the latter does not disguise his true character; he appears what he really is. ST July 7, 1887, par. 3

Nothing short of an amended life,—fruits meet for repentance,—will meet the requirements of God. Without such fruit, our profession of faith is of no value. The Lord is able to raise up true believers among those who have never heard his name. “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” ST July 7, 1887, par. 4

“And now the ax is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” God is not dependent upon men who are unconverted in heart and life to carry on his work. He will never favor any who practice iniquity. ST July 7, 1887, par. 5

Those who love and flatter the minister who speaks to them the word of life, while they neglect the works of righteousness, give unmistakable evidence that they are not converted to God. Of such we would inquire, “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Was it the voice of the Holy Spirit, or merely the voice of man, which you heard in the message sent from God? The fruit borne will testify to the character of the tree. ST July 7, 1887, par. 6

There is great responsibility resting upon those who are called to preach the word. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord,” is the message to them. There is need of a converted ministry, as well as of a converted church; for the church will rarely take a higher stand than is taken by her ministers. Shepherds who watch for souls as they that must give account, will lead the flock on in ways of holiness. And their success in this work will be in proportion to their own growth in grace and knowledge of the truth. When the teachers are sanctified, soul, body, and spirit, they can impress upon their hearers the importance of a closer walk with God. ST July 7, 1887, par. 7

The minister of Christ should in an eminent degree possess true humility. Those who have the deepest experience in the things of God, are the farthest removed from pride or self-exaltation. While self is abased, they have the most exalted conceptions of the glory and excellence of Christ, and feel that the lowest place in his service is too honorable for them. ST July 7, 1887, par. 8

When Moses came down from the mountain, where he had spent forty days in communion with God, he did not know that his face shone with a brightness that was painful and terrifying to those who had not had this exalted privilege. Paul had a very humble opinion of his own advancement in the Christian life. He speaks of himself as the “chief of sinners.” And again he says, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” Yet Paul had been highly honored of the Lord. In holy vision he had been shown revelations of divine glory which he could not be permitted to make known. ST July 7, 1887, par. 9

Our Saviour pronounced John the Baptist to be the greatest of prophets; yet what a contrast there is between the language of this man of God, and that of many who profess to be ministers of the cross. When asked if he was the Christ, John declared himself unworthy even to unloose his Master's sandals. When his disciples came with the complaint that the attention of the people was turned to the new Teacher, John reminded them that he himself had claimed to be only the forerunner of the Promised One. To Christ, as the bridegroom, belongs the first place in the affections of his people. “The friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth because of the bridegroom's voice; this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all.” ST July 7, 1887, par. 10

Workers with this spirit are needed today. The self-sufficient, the envious and jealous, the critical and fault-finding, can well be spared from the sacred work of God. Our Lord is not straitened for men or means. He calls for laborers in his cause who are true and faithful; for those who have felt their need of the atoning blood of Christ and have experienced in their own hearts the sanctifying grace of his Spirit. ST July 7, 1887, par. 11

There is no person, no matter what his life may have been, who can be saved in any way except that of God's appointing. He must repent; he must feel his need of a physician, and of the one only remedy for sin, the blood of Christ. This work is yet to be begun by many who profess to be Christians. Like the Pharisees of old, they feel no need of a Saviour. They are self-sufficient, self-exalted. Such have no part in the blood of Christ. That cleansing stream avails only for those who feel their need. Said Christ: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” ST July 7, 1887, par. 12

Many believe in the wrath of God, but put forth no earnest efforts to escape it. They believe in Heaven, but make no sacrifice to obtain it. They believe in the value of the soul, and that erelong its redemption ceaseth forever; yet they neglect precious opportunities to make their peace with God. They read the Bible; but its threatenings do not alarm nor its promises win them. They approve things that are excellent; yet they follow the way which God has forbidden them to take. They know a refuge, but do not avail themselves of it. They know a remedy for sin, but do not use it. They know the right, but have no relish for it. They have never tasted, and learned by experience, that the Lord is good; and all their knowledge will but increase their condemnation. ST July 7, 1887, par. 13

What we need is experimental religion. How shall we know for ourselves the goodness and love of God? The psalmist tells us, It is not to hear and know, to read and know, to believe and know, but, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Instead of relying upon the word of another, taste for yourself. ST July 7, 1887, par. 14

All that we have is from the exceeding riches of divine grace. God spared not his own Son, but delivered him to death for our offenses, and raised him again for our justification. Through him we may present our petitions to the throne of grace. Through him we may obtain all spiritual blessings. Do we come to him that we may have life? Jesus, the meek and lowly One, asks admittance as our guest, shall we not open the door of our heart, and bid him enter? ST July 7, 1887, par. 15

In view of the grace of God granted to us, shall not the language of our hearts be, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.” ST July 7, 1887, par. 16

Basel, Switzerland.