The Review and Herald

164/1902

June 3, 1880

A Living Church

EGW

A living church will be a working church. Practical Christianity will develop earnest workers for the advancement of the cause of truth. There is a great lack of this practical religion among us as a people. Worldliness and pride, love of dress and display, are steadily increasing among those who profess to be keeping God's commandments, and to be waiting for their Lord. RH June 3, 1880, par. 1

The great sin of ancient Israel was in turning from God to idols. This is also the great sin of modern Israel. The apostle Paul said to the Gentile churches that he had raised up, “Ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from Heaven.” He could truly say to many of them, “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” When he saw them becoming indifferent, the ardor of their faith chilled by backslidings, he exclaimed, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” He entreats them to be followers of God as dear children, and to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Again, he exhorts them to walk in Christ Jesus, even as they had received him, that they might be rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith. He reminds them, “Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” To the Thessalonians he writes, “We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us [the ministers of Christ] how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.” RH June 3, 1880, par. 2

We long to see the true Christian character manifested in the church; we long to see its members free from a light, irreverent spirit; and we earnestly desire that they may realize their high calling in Christ Jesus. Some who profess Christ are exerting themselves to the utmost to so live and act that their religious faith may commend itself to people of moral worth, that they may be induced to accept the truth. But there are many who feel no responsibility, even to keep their own souls in the love of God, and who, instead of blessing others by their influence, are a burden to those who would work and watch and pray. These careless, indifferent ones are a dead weight upon our churches everywhere. Their principal study is not how they can let their light so shine that others will be drawn to God and the truth, but how they will manage, by affectation and display, to attract attention to themselves. Those who are seeking in humbleness of mind to exalt the truth of Christ by their exemplary course, are represented in the word of God as fine gold; while the class whose chief thought and study is to exhibit themselves, are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. RH June 3, 1880, par. 3

The latter class are far more numerous in our churches than the former. These idle, frivolous persons will never be anything better than driftwood unless there is a decided change in their life and character. They are Christians only in profession; their life, their deportment, is a constant testimony to the world that they know nothing of experimental godliness, of a self-denying life of cross-bearing for Christ's sake. They are ever studying their convenience, ever planning for their own comfort, their amusement or gratification. They are as salt without the savor. In the day when the Judge of all the earth shall balance the accounts of men, this class will be pronounced wanting. RH June 3, 1880, par. 4

What the church needs is to be cleansed of those who defile it. The spirit of reformation must be kindled among us, and this class must be converted or be separated from the church. We entreat those who have a connection with God to pray earnestly and in faith, and not to stop here, but to work as well as pray, for the purification of the church. The present time calls for men and women who have a moral fixedness of purpose, men and women who will not be molded or subdued by any unsanctified influences. Such persons will make a success in the work of perfecting Christian character through the grace of Christ so freely given. For those who are ready to be discouraged at every unfavorable circumstance, the great enemy of souls will so shape circumstances as to give them abundant reason to be always discouraged. RH June 3, 1880, par. 5

Oh that I could speak in language so plain and convincing as to move souls from their position of careless ease and worldly conformity! A genuine experience alone will qualify us to join the throng who come up out of great tribulation, having washed our robes of character, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. I am alarmed because of the indifference and inactivity of those who profess the truth. Satan is untiring in his efforts; he is on the alert continually, to delude and ensnare. How are the watchmen on the walls of Zion doing their work? Are they watching for souls as they that must give account? Are they awake? Are they in earnest? and do they show that they are in full faith of the doctrines they hold? RH June 3, 1880, par. 6

No man can succeed in the service of God unless his whole soul is in the work, and he counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. Whoever makes any reserve, whoever refuses to give all that he has, cannot be the disciple of Christ; much less can he be his co-laborer. The consecration must be complete. Father, mother, wife and children, houses and lands, everything which the servant of Christ possesses, must be held subject to God's call,—bound upon the sacred altar. He must be earnest, he must be willing to deny self and lift the cross, to do and suffer cheerfully and with fortitude whatever may be required of him to push forward the great work of reform. The glory of God and the salvation of souls will be his grand aim and purpose of life. He will not go here and there to please himself; but, when duty calls, he will be found, if need be, in the thickest of the fight, and will suffer without reluctance, without repining, irrespective of worldly interest or personal consequences. All this we pledge ourselves to do when we accept the name of Christian, and more especially when we consent to take upon ourselves the work of Christ's embassadors. RH June 3, 1880, par. 7

I think of the many cities and towns, even in our own country, that have never heard a discourse upon present truth, and have no knowledge of our faith, or of us as a people. The solemn warnings for this time have never fallen upon their ears or convicted their consciences. My burdened heart goes up to God in the wakeful hours of the night that he would work by whom he will, to warn the world of their coming doom. Who are living out their faith? Who, with singleness of purpose, are lifting up to the view of the impenitent, Jesus Christ and his matchless love? Where is the living zeal that will make the impression upon minds paralyzed with sin, that we believe what we profess, that the end of all things is at hand, and that what is done in the work of preparation must be done quickly? RH June 3, 1880, par. 8

The people of God should awaken to a keen perception of the grievous character of transgression. Sin is disguised, and many are deceived in regard to its nature. Satan has planned it thus, that the understanding may be clouded, the spiritual vision obscured, the perceptive faculties of the soul blunted. But God would not have one of us to be ensnared, therefore the nature of sin is faithfully portrayed in the inspired pages,—its offensive character before God, its corruption, its shame, and its results. Everything has been done that God could do to save man from the power of sin, which defaces the divine image, frustrates God's purpose in man's existence, degrades his God-given powers, narrows his capacity, leads to unholy imaginations, and gives loose rein to unsanctified passions. Sin! how hateful in the sight of God! Holy angels look upon it with abhorrence. RH June 3, 1880, par. 9

What is sin? The transgression of God's law. God wants all connected with him to loathe sin, to hate anything that approaches to it. Transgression is a serpent with a deadly sting. Grant it no indulgence, for it will imperil the soul. Rather choose privation, suffering, hunger, reproach, imprisonment, and death, than the indulgence of sin. RH June 3, 1880, par. 10

Will the professed followers of Christ cleanse the soul-temple of its defilement? Will those who profess to be his representatives sacrifice anything and everything rather than offend God? A deep-settled conviction is needed in every soul to strengthen the abhorrence of sin. Meditation should be encouraged. We should view ourselves as ever in the presence of God, whose eye searches the soul and reads the most secret thoughts. Since we know this to be true, why is there such a careless disregard of God's claims? Why such thoughtlessness in regard to the solemn realities of life? RH June 3, 1880, par. 11

I call upon you, my dear brethren and sisters, to cultivate spirituality, to put away your idols, and in the fear of God, to work for time and for eternity. Again and again have our sisters been warned against indulging pride of dress, which is idolatry; yet they pass on, making no change, and their example is leading others away from Christ, instead of leading to him. Why is it so hard to arouse the conscience upon this subject, when the inspired apostle has spoken so explicitly upon this point? Will my sisters dress plainly for Christ's sake? for the love of souls for whom he died? Will they remember that they must meet their life-record at the bar of God, and must answer for the money and the time squandered in needless adornment? RH June 3, 1880, par. 12

Those who seek by earnest study of God's word and fervent prayer the guidance of his Spirit, will be led by him. The pillar of cloud will guide them by day, the pillar of fire by night; and with an abiding sense of God's presence it will not be possible to disregard his holy law. The reason why there is so much transgression is that little time is devoted to meditation and prayer. Dress and display and sinful gratification put God out of the thoughts, and sin does not appear exceeding sinful. Satan's angels are at hand to gloss it over with a semblance of righteousness. If the light from the burning glory of the throne of God should shine forth upon the sinful practices of professors of religion, how terrible would sin appear, how perilous would seem its indulgence. Oh, how soon the desire for sinful gratifications would perish in the withering light of the glory from the Divine Presence! RH June 3, 1880, par. 13

We are in great danger of looking upon sin as a small matter, unworthy of notice. Sins of unkindness, of impatience, of fault-finding, of unthankfulness, of pride in imitating the fashions of a doomed world, should not be lightly regarded. The channels of thought and action are worn deep and broad by repetition. The longer one pursues a given course of conduct, the greater is the probability that he will continue the same course during life. Evil habits are like chains. to hold one to a wrong course. Then how earnestly should we begin the work of reformation. RH June 3, 1880, par. 14

Let the habits be formed in a safe line of conduct. And for the very reason that religious habits are not so easily established as are those of an opposite character, the more earnest efforts should be put forth to form habits of devotion, of studying the Scriptures, of strict integrity. This will require deliberate purpose, and persistent effort; for the natural heart is opposed to such an education. These habits must be acquired by performing Christian duties with faithfulness and regularity. Make it a habit to attend the prayer-meeting, to be willing and earnest in doing good to others. Let it become a habit to engage in profitable conversation, instead of indulging in idle talk upon temporal concerns, upon dress, or upon the faults of others. “Our conversation is in Heaven,” says the apostle, “from whence also we look for the Saviour.” God has given us our talents, and requires that they be used to glorify him and not ourselves. RH June 3, 1880, par. 15

What grief to the Saviour who bought us with his own blood, that multitudes who profess his name have formed habits which bring them directly under the control of the Prince of darkness! These habits are formed gradually, and almost imperceptibly. Little duties have been neglected. The professed followers of Christ have shunned his cross. Worldly influences have corrupted their purity of soul. They feel no burden for those who are out of Christ, but leave them to go down to death unrebuked and unwarned. Selfish indulgence has hardened the heart and weakened the moral faculties. The Christian course of this class is uncertain. They are looked upon as the representatives of Christ; but they have no living experience, and they are constantly doubting the Saviour's love. They have a spasmodic religion, and walk in the light of others. They have not a strong, firm, earnest hope of Heaven. Their faith is so feeble that they cannot claim and urge the promises of God. Trials crush them, and make them disconsolate and despairing. RH June 3, 1880, par. 16

I lift my warning voice against such a life, and beseech my brethren and sisters to diligently search their own hearts, and see if they have a living faith, which works, yes, works by love, and purifies the soul. May God impress our ministers to teach the young converts by precept and example, that they must start right on the Christian course, and continue right, if they would end right. True conversion of soul is essential; theoretical religion will not take the place of heart-work. We all need to connect more closely with God, and then we may teach others the art of believing. The true, humble, earnest Christian will be receiving the mold of a perfect character, and his heart will ever be conforming to the image of Christ. His life will flow out in channels of beneficence and love. Such will be established in God. The work which grace began, if combined with earnest effort to press close to Jesus, glory shall finish in the kingdom of God. RH June 3, 1880, par. 17

How can I impress upon our dear people, whom God has made the depositaries of his law, a sense of how much is at stake with them. If they sin in words or deportment, they bring dishonor upon the cause they profess to love, and by their example many will be encouraged to turn away from the mirror which discovers the defects of their moral character. What an account will the professed followers of Christ have to render in the day when the Lord will make inquiry for the souls lost in consequence of their unrighteous course. Let us, as the peculiar people of God, elevate the standard of Christian character, lest we come short of the reward that will be given to the good and the faithful. Our probation will soon be ended. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. It is those who hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, that will receive the crown of immortal glory. Those who make so exalted a profession of truth must answer for the intrusted capital. Simplicity, purity, forbearance, benevolence, and love should characterize our Christian experience. We must labor continually, by study of the Scriptures and earnest prayer, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. RH June 3, 1880, par. 18

Jesus has gone to prepare mansions for those who are waiting and watching for his appearing. There they will meet the pure angels and the redeemed host, and will join their songs of praise and triumph. There the Saviour's love surrounds his people, and the city of God is irradiated with the light of his countenance,—a city whose walls, great and high, are garnished with all manner of precious stones, whose gates are pearls, and whose streets are pure gold, as it were transparent glass. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” The shadows of night never fall on that city; it has no need of the sun, neither of the moon; its inhabitants rejoice in the undimmed glory of the Lamb of God. RH June 3, 1880, par. 19