The Signs of the Times


January 31, 1878

The Duty of Christians


[A sermon preached in Battle Creek, Mich., June 19, 1877, and phonographically reported.] ST January 31, 1878, par. 1

“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” ST January 31, 1878, par. 2

Here is a promise to us on condition of obedience. If we will come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean he will receive us. Here are the conditions of our acceptance with God. We have something to do ourselves. Here is a work for us. We are to show our separation from the world. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. It is impossible for us to be friends of the world and yet be in union with Christ. But what does this mean: to be friends of the world? It is to unite hands with them, to enjoy what they enjoy, to love that which they love, to seek for pleasure, to seek for gratification, to follow our own inclinations. We do not in following inclination have our affections upon God; we are loving and serving ourselves. But here is a grand promise: “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” Separate from what? The inclinations of the world, their tastes, their habits; the fashions, the pride, and the customs of the world. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you.” In making this move, in showing that we are not in harmony with the world, the promise of God is ours. He does not say perhaps I will receive you; but, “I will receive you.” It is a positive promise. You have a surety that you will be accepted of God. Then in separating from the world you connect yourself with God; you become a member of the royal family; you become sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty; you are children of the heavenly King; adopted into his family, and have a hold from above; united with the infinite God whose arm moves the world. What an exalted privilege is this to be thus favored, thus honored of God; to be called sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. It is incomprehensible; but still with all these promises and encouragements there are many who question and hesitate. They are in an undecided position. They seem to think that if they were to become Christians, there would be a mountain of responsibilities to be borne in religious duties and Christian obligations. There is a mountain of responsibility, a life-time of watchfulness, of battling with their own inclinations, with their own wills, with their own desires, with their own pleasures; and as they look at it, it seems like an impossibility for them to take the step, to decide that they will be children of God, servants of the Most High. ST January 31, 1878, par. 3

By this I am reminded of an incident I once read, of an aged gentleman who had been broken down by hard labor yet was seeking some employment by which he could obtain means. A nobleman who had a hundred cords of wood to cut, was informed of the wish of the old gentleman. He told him that if he would cut the wood he should have one hundred dollars for the job. But the old gentleman replied, No, he could never do that. It was impossible. He was an old man, and not able to undertake such a job. “Well,” said the nobleman, “we will make a different bargain. Can you cut one cord today? if so, I will give one dollar.” The bargain was made, and the cord of wood was cut that day. “Now,” said the nobleman, “you may cut another cord tomorrow;” and another cord was cut the next day; and thus the whole job was accomplished. In one hundred days the work was completed, and the laborer was in just as good health as when he commenced the work. He could take it cord by cord, but when presented to him in one large job the accomplishment of it seemed impossible. ST January 31, 1878, par. 4

This well represents the cases of many who are undecided. They have a desire to be Christians, yet the responsibilities of a Christian life seem so great to them that they fear they will make a failure, are almost certain they can never reach the mark if they make the attempt. But when it is taken into consideration that it is not for them to see the end of the Christian's journey; it is not for them to comprehend and accomplish it at once. Only one day at a time with its burdens and responsibilities is presented to us. Yes, dear friends, dear youth, tomorrow is not yours. It is the duties of today that you are to perform. If you resolve to be on the Lord's side, and come out from among the world, and be separate, and choose to be sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, to leave the ranks of the enemy, the service of sin and of Satan, make up your mind to always do present duty. Take hold of the duties of today, realizing that the Lord has claims upon you, that you are responsible to your Creator; these claims are to be met only a day at a time. In the strength of God take hold believing that you can overcome for that one day. That day must be commenced with watchfulness and prayer. Learn to give your heart's best affections to God. Signify in noble work and in your conversation that you love your heavenly Father. Let him apportion to you your work. ST January 31, 1878, par. 5

The Christian life is a battle and a march. It is to work for today and not for tomorrow. It is to do the duties of today; it is, when you rise in the morning, to think, now I am wholly dependent upon God, and I will ask him to take care of me; and when I ask him to take care of me today, I believe that he will do so. I will lay my burden of care, and my troubles at the feet of Jesus, and he will gather them up. You must trust in his love; and if he has given you a small work, take that up, and do it today; and if you have been faithful in doing that little work today, tomorrow you will be capable of bearing a greater responsibility, and of doing a greater work; and he will give you a greater work and responsibility to bear on the morrow. ST January 31, 1878, par. 6

To every one there is given talents of influence; and how many have an unconscious influence which is daily exerted on those around us. If this influence is saving, if it is gathering with Christ, in the day of final accounts it will tell to our advantage; but if we are exerting an influence which leads souls from God, from the truth, a scattering influence which separates from God, and heaven, we are paving the way, the broad way that leads to death. ST January 31, 1878, par. 7

There are only two roads; one leads to heaven, the other to death and hell. Every one has a work to do. Every one of us, that have reasoning powers, knows that there is a God. As we look at the heavens above, upon the earth beneath with its stately trees, shrubs and every opening bud and blooming flower we know there is a God, a Creator. The glories of the moon and stars in the firmament, the clouds tinted with gold and silver, and the heavens spanned with the beautiful rainbow, speak to us of the goodness, mercy and love of God. All these things are evidences of his care for us. He loves us, oh! so dearly. That love is incomprehensible. It is as high as the heavens, and as broad as the world. A love that is immeasurable. This love that we can trace in every cloud, in every tree, shrub, and vernal branch, in everything our eyes behold, is seeking a place in our hearts. God is love; and oh! what love he has revealed to us in giving his Son to die for us. How can we be indifferent to the claims God has upon us? How can we devote our God-given time, the hours of probation granted us here in which to prepare for a higher and immortal life, to thinking of ourselves, of our appearance, in allowing pride to take possession of our hearts when we consider the infinite price that has been paid for our redemption? ST January 31, 1878, par. 8

We want an arm to lean upon in the hours of affliction that can sustain. We want such an arm to rely upon when the earth shall reel to and fro, and be removed as a cottage. We want to know then that God is our father, that our life is hid with Christ in God. Every one of you need this assurance. The students at our school need this assurance. Some will soon return to their homes. How many of them have come to this school without a hope in Christ? How many have given their hearts to him since they have been attending our college? How many are still in a position of indecision, sometimes inclined to be wholly on the Lord's side, and then again draw back for the very reasons I have mentioned, the responsibilities and duties devolving upon the Christian? These seem so great that they hesitate and remain undecided. ST January 31, 1878, par. 9

But how many of you, should another year roll round from today, will be alive? Many may be snatched away in a few months. Here was one of your number, Brother Morrison, who came here to attend our college and become able to enter the gospel ministry, and a few weeks has ended his career in this life. Only a few weeks and you followed him to his grave in Oak Hill Cemetery,* there to rest until the morning of the resurrection. ST January 31, 1878, par. 10

How long is the extent of your life? Who of you have the assurance that you will live until the next term of school? How many of you have any surety of your life? But if you had a life-time before you, if you knew that you should live your three-score years and ten, what is that little span of life? Is it too much for you to give to God? What do you give to him? What does he require? Does he require you to give anything that is for your interest or happiness to retain? Oh no. What are the claims that God has upon you? It is, my son, or my daughter, give me thine heart. It is to come out from among the world, and to be separate, “and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you.” Who is the “I?” It is the great “I AM;” he who holds the worlds in his hands; he who gives you life, and gives you health. “And I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” Oh what a relationship is this! How can any feel as though they were making a sacrifice, to be adopted into the family of the King of kings; the Lord who reigns in the heavens; know you not that it is the highest exaltation to become children of God, “sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty?” ST January 31, 1878, par. 11

Ever since I was eleven years old I have been in the service of this heavenly King. I can speak from experience. He has asked me to give him nothing that was for my best interest to retain. Precious Jesus; precious Saviour; I love him; and I love his service. Oh! that my poor name can be registered in the Lamb's book of life. Let it stand there; let it be honored among the holy angels; let it remain there when this earth shall pass away; and when the King of kings shall come in his majesty, and in his glory, to take his faithful ones to himself, oh, let my name then be among the ransomed. Let it be among the names of those who shall have the crown of glory upon their brows. Let me have a home with the dear Redeemer, and with an immortal tongue, praise him. Upward to God is the soul's adoration. Oh, glorious prospect, to be among the ransomed in the kingdom of glory. ST January 31, 1878, par. 12

But here we have duties to perform. God has given us our work. There are none of us who should feel because we do not have a great work to do, that there is no special responsibility resting upon us. Dear friends, it is your duty to do the little things right in your pathway, to fulfill your part in the college where you are, and among your associates; and to speak a word for your Master wherever you are; it is to put away vanity; it is to put away frivolity; it is to overcome pride; it is to put away selfishness, and to seek earnestly for the meekness of Christ. ST January 31, 1878, par. 13

Jesus left his majesty, his glory, and high command, and came to our earth, suffered for our sins, and for our sake became poor. He died that you, through his poverty might be made rich. He was a man of sorrows, and was acquainted with grief. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. When such an infinite price has been paid for us, shall we shrink at the thought, that perhaps we shall not devote so much time to personal adornment, to dress and to display? Shall we shrink at the idea that we must devote our time, our hearts, and our holiest affections to God? ST January 31, 1878, par. 14

I inquire of you again, what does he ask you to give? He asks you to give to him a sin-polluted soul, that he may wash it with his own blood; that he may cleanse it; that he may refine, elevate, and ennoble it; and at last, that you may enjoy the society of the heavenly angels in the kingdom of glory. You must put away pride and selfishness. Do you hesitate to yield your selfishness? Will it make you happy to retain it? The most unhappy persons in the world are those who are selfish, and filled with pride and vanity. It is these things you are to give up. Let it be the language of your heart, “I will give myself to thee just as I am. I will come just now.” But some say, “I am afraid I shall not live a Christian life.” And for fear that you will not live a Christian life you are not going to make an effort. ST January 31, 1878, par. 15

Can you not venture out upon the promises of God? Christ has said not a sparrow falleth to the ground without the notice of your heavenly Father; and even the hairs of your head are numbered. Now, will not he that is able to do this, help you when you ask him to give you grace that you may follow in the path of obedience? Will he not give you that strength, that wisdom, and knowledge that shall lead you to follow in his footsteps? ST January 31, 1878, par. 16

You are seeking to obtain an education. How many of you who are before me may have it laid upon you to be embassadors for Christ, called to point souls to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world? How many of you will bear the burdens, and responsibilities as ministers of the gospel? You must render an account to God for the talents he has given you. Are you going to devote these talents, your ability, to God? If not, your education will only sink you lower at last; because you are gaining more and more knowledge, and you are not putting that knowledge to a good account. You are perverting it. But God is able to do great things for you. He says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” Come out from among the world; let not your aspirations be for the things of this world; for there is something higher after which you may aspire; there are higher attainments which demand your attention. The things of this world perish, are corruptible, and pass away, but there are things that will never perish, things that are eternal; and for these you may aspire. You cannot be loving the things of this world, and taking hold upon God and heaven at the same time. Are you afraid that if you become Christians, the world will look upon you with derision? Do you fear their taunts and their jeers? Jesus bore it before you; he, “who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He who created the world, our Redeemer, our Saviour, bore it before you. ST January 31, 1878, par. 17

But what if you should have all the honor and the applause that the world could give you, what then? Let disease take hold of your mortal frames, can this honor and applause, and the praise of men relieve you of one pang? Can it relieve you of one distress? Can it be of the least advantage to you in healing you of your maladies? It cannot. But what does the Father say? “I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.” He will connect you with himself, crown you with glory and honor, immortality and eternal life. This honor, that you can seek for with a surety of obtaining, will never perish. Do you seek gold, the riches of this world? We read that the streets of the city are paved with pure gold, and that the gates of the city are of gold set with pearls. The riches obtained here may be consumed. There are many ways in which you may be robbed of your earthly treasure. Christ says: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” There no thief shall approach; no moth or rust shall corrupt. Thus, if you lay up your treasures there, you will have an imperishable treasure which you can be in no danger of losing. ST January 31, 1878, par. 18

And now I would say to these, my friends, I have the deepest interest that you should give your hearts to God; that you may be strong in the cause of serving him. You need him for your friend; he will be a friend, indeed. You may come to your earthly friends with burdens; they may sympathize with you, but cannot relieve you; but here is a friend to whom you may come with your troubles and trials who is always ready not only to sympathize with you, but to bear your burdens. He knows all the difficulties of the way, for he has passed through them; and he is touched with the feelings of your infirmities. This great High Priest, who is in the heavens, is pleading in you behalf. He loves you; and when you come to him with your griefs, your sorrows, and your troubles he will listen to you. He will hear your prayers, and answer your petitions. When you pour out your heart before him, then his great heart of love is opened to you, and he will be touched with your griefs and your sorrows. And now I would inquire of the young here tonight, How many want Christ as their Saviour, and their Redeemer? How many want to make a decided move to live for God? How many of the youth who have attended our school, or any here who have backslidden from God, want to renew their covenant with him, want to yield their pride, and to get rid of their selfishness? How many will come to their Saviour this very evening? “Behold I stand at the door,” says Christ, “and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Gracious invitation! Jesus is at the door seeking admittance. Will you open to him? Will you let him take possession of your heart? Will you give him your affections? ST January 31, 1878, par. 19

Now, I wish to say to the youths, and to any who want to start to serve God; here at this very meeting say: I will give myself to God; I will leave the paths of sin, and I will try to be a Christian. Let those who have backslidden, and have not the evidence that they are the children of God, come forward, and we will unite with you in presenting your cases before God in prayer. We want the deep movings of the Spirit of God. We want you to take Jesus with you as you go to your homes. We want you to have a knowledge of Christ, and come to him. We want you to give your hearts to the Lord, and serve and obey him. ST January 31, 1878, par. 20

[This discourse was followed by a large number coming forward for prayers. The interest continued till the camp-meeting, when over one hundred and thirty were baptized, many of whom were students of the Battle Creek College.] ST January 31, 1878, par. 21