The Signs of the Times


April 1, 1889

Light and Responsibility

[Morning talk at South Lancaster, Mass., January 19, 1889.]


The blessing of God has rested upon us in a wonderful manner at this meeting; we believe that God has forgiven our sins, and we must never go back of this experience to take up the burden of our sins. The light of Heaven has shone upon us here, and our feelings may change, but this does not change God's love toward us. God wants us to make the best use of it by reflecting it upon others. That which has shut away the light from our souls in the past has been the spirit of criticism. Many have watched the course of others, and have condemned their actions instead of keeping their own hearts with all diligence. They have judged the motives of their brethren; but mortal man is not fitted to do this work. The heart knoweth its own bitterness. We all have hereditary and cultivated weaknesses, but we may obtain precious victories every day. When a man climbs upon the judgment-seat to judge his brother, he makes it manifest that Christ is not enthroned in his heart. The Spirit of God will go out of the soul that admits the spirit of criticism. ST April 1, 1889, par. 1

Suppose that your brother is in error; are you to take a course that will make his case more hopeless? Are you to drive the straying sheep farther from the fold, instead of laboring to bring it back? Says the Good Shepherd, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which is lost.” Do we expect that those who are lost will be faultless? There was once a sister who wrote to me in regard to adopting a child. She described the character of the child she wanted. She must be affectionate, industrious, truthful, pure, and patient. I wrote to her saying: “You cannot find such a child on earth. If you are looking for that kind of character, you must seek it among the angels of Heaven. You think you are offering to do a work of charity in adopting a child; but your motives are wholly selfish. If you would do something to be approved of Heaven, take a child who needs help, who needs forbearance, and the grace of Christ.” We choose associates because we think they will benefit us; but Christ sought associations with those whom he could benefit. True religion will not lead you to do as did the Pharisee, to thank God that you are not as other men are, and congratulate yourself that you have not their faults and weaknesses. It will not lead you to stand off in self-righteousness, and despise and condemn your brethren. ST April 1, 1889, par. 2

The Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost. He left the ninety and nine, to go into the mountains and deserts for the one sheep that had gone astray. And when he had found it, he rejoiced more over that one sheep than over the ninety and nine that had never left the fold. Jesus said, “It is not the will of your Father which is in Heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” How are we to treat those who are found in fault? The Bible gives directions. “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” Go in the spirit of meekness and love, desiring the salvation of his soul. Oh! when the Spirit of God is in the heart, there is no feeling of variance, no desire to criticise and condemn others. It is Satan that is an accuser of the brethren; but we must work the works of Christ. We must learn how to go out and seek for the perishing. Go to your brother in kindness, get your arm about him, say, “Come, my brother, let us talk over this matter of difference kindly, in the Spirit of Christ. Let us seek the Lord together. Let us love one another.” This is the very thing to do. We are not to criticise the erring, pushing them away by our influence; but we are to bring them close to our hearts. Are there those in our neighborhood who are breaking the law of God? Plead with them tenderly. Who has gone in love and kindness to those who are perishing, seeking to save that which was lost? I want you to see that it is not merely to eat the loaf yourselves that constitutes Christianity; you are to offer it to others as well. Did not Christ say, “Feed my sheep”? ST April 1, 1889, par. 3

There are those among us who have inherited weaknesses, and because of these they have been criticised. When they have started in the path of right, there have been those who have raised the cry, “They will never hold out.” And thus they have become discouraged, and have given up the warfare. But to such I would say: “It is not too late to renew the battle. It is not too late to gain the victory.” When the father saw his prodigal son, he did not wait for him to come to the door; but when he was a great way off he ran and met him. Are you ready to treat your brother in this way? or must your brother come up to a certain standard before you can feel justified in extending that sympathy and love toward him that Christ has extended toward you? Oh, go to the straying ones while they are yet a great way off! Labor to bring them back to the fold. We have a work to do for our erring brethren for whom Christ died. You are not to report the failures of others, and to make discouraging remarks as to their steadfastness in the way of truth. You are not to prophesy that this one or that one will fall out by the way, and when your disheartening words reach his ears, and work their evil result, and the trembling, tempted soul gives up, you are not to be ready to exclaim, “I told you so! I knew it would be so!” That is just the work that has been done; but we want that it shall be undone by repentance and confession, and that it shall be left undone in the future. ST April 1, 1889, par. 4

Oh, why not go to the wounded sheep, and bind up their bruises, and lead them to the Healer and the Shepherd of souls? Why not bind these weak ones by the cords of love and sympathy to your hearts, and make it hard for them to fall from their steadfastness, instead of pushing them away from you by evil surmising and evil speaking? Why not be a co-worker with Christ? Why not stand ready to grasp the hand that is stretched out for your help? Here are souls that are to be saved, and how earnestly you should labor for their salvation. This work has been long neglected. Why not do it now in the fear of the Master? Seek the lost, gather in the weak ones, help them by your faith and love, that they may gain victory after victory, and that where they are feeble they may become strong and whole. May God help you that you may be qualified by the Spirit of Heaven to pity and sympathize with the lost! All Heaven rejoices when characters are transformed, and when men work for the glory of God. ST April 1, 1889, par. 5

The blessing that Heaven showers upon men is not simply that they may be made happy. Those who receive it must work for others. I remember at one time we had a special blessing in the Battle Creek church, and many souls were swept into the faith by the heavenly current of God's love. One brother arose and said, “All this blessing means work. It means responsibility, and am I in a situation to bear this responsibility?” There is tenfold greater responsibility resting upon us now than ever before, because of the measure of grace that we have received. Take it up, brethren, and bear it. As you work for God, the light will break in. Gather up the rays of glory, and they will increase more and more. Oh! when I look on others, and know that they are in darkness, my heart goes out in sympathy for them. I was once in the depths of despair myself. I was struggling in a hopeless way. No one seemed to be able to help me; but Jesus pitied me and brought me out of darkness into light. I look upon others, and I wonder, “Are they as restless, as full of suffering, as I was?” Oh, to have the pitying tenderness of Christ! Are there any who have been driven out of the fold because of our lack of love? Go after them, plead with them, pray for them, and draw them back to the tender Shepherd. ST April 1, 1889, par. 6