The Review and Herald

200/1902

December 20, 1881

Witnesses for Christ

EGW

“Ye shall be witnesses unto me,” were the parting words of our Saviour to his disciples, ere the cloud received him from their sight. In his absence, they were to be his representatives in the world. How faithfully they fulfilled their high commission, is testified by their life of self-denial for their Master's cause; by their joyful, triumphant witness for Christ and the truth in the face of torture, imprisonment, and death. RH December 20, 1881, par. 1

These words of Jesus have lost none of their force through the lapse of ages. Our Saviour calls for faithful witnesses in these days of hypocrisy and religious formalism. But how few, even among the professed ambassadors for Christ, are ready to give a faithful, personal testimony for their Master. Many can tell what the great and good men of generations past have done, and dared, and suffered, and enjoyed. They become eloquent in setting forth the power of the gospel which has enabled others to rejoice in trying conflicts, and to stand firm against fierce temptations. But while so earnest in bringing forward other Christians as witnesses for Jesus, they seem to have no fresh, timely experience of their own to relate. RH December 20, 1881, par. 2

Ministers of Christ, what have you to say for yourselves? What soul-conflicts have you experienced that have been for your good, for the good of souls, and for the glory of God? You who profess to be proclaiming the last solemn message to the world, what is your experience in the knowledge of the truth and its effect upon your own hearts? Will your character testify for Christ? Can you speak of the refining, ennobling, sanctifying influence of the truth as it is in Jesus? What have you seen, and what have you known, of the power of Christ? RH December 20, 1881, par. 3

This is the kind of witness for which the Lord calls, and for which churches are suffering. The spirit of Christ—true faith, that works by love and purifies the heart—is a priceless jewel, rare indeed in this degenerate age. “If ye love me,” says the Saviour, “keep my commandments.” Do we obey the law of God, or are we cherishing idols in our hearts? How many manifest their love by willing obedience, making the service of Christ their first consideration, and worldly things secondary? RH December 20, 1881, par. 4

Unbelievers sometimes look upon our faith as unattractive, cold, and forbidding. There is reason for this. Ministers of the gospel present to the people the theory of truth, while He who is the Truth and the Life is left in the background. Some preachers are more zealous to make a good argument upon doctrinal points, than to present a self-denying, crucified Saviour to the people. RH December 20, 1881, par. 5

A minister may gain a reputation for ability and shrewdness, and yet not be the acknowledged witness of Christ. He may talk of the truth, and boast of the truth, while yet his heart has not felt its sanctifying power. Self is exalted, and the glory of God forgotten. If true piety and the influence of the Holy Spirit are wanting, a minister's labors will be an injury to the people and to the cause of truth. He does not preach Christ from an experimental knowledge of him, but, parrot-like, he repeats what he has learned from others. The Lord addresses to this class the question, “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?” RH December 20, 1881, par. 6

Lift up Jesus,—lift him up before the people; dwell upon his matchless love. But the heart must first be imbued with that love, in order to speak it, to preach it, to pray it, to live it. We must have personal communion with Christ, in order to reveal him to the people. The graces of his Spirit, the loveliness of his character, must be shining forth in the characters of his witnesses. RH December 20, 1881, par. 7

How many cling with tenacious grasp to their self termed dignity, which is only self-esteem. These seek to honor themselves, instead of waiting in humbleness of heart for Christ to honor them. In conversation, more time is spent in talking of self than in exalting the riches of the grace of Christ. These persons teach others just how to perfect a Christian character, but they do not these things themselves. They have not learned of Him who says, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” RH December 20, 1881, par. 8

True holiness and humility are inseparable. The nearer the soul comes to God, the more completely is it humbled and subdued. When Job heard the voice of the Lord out of the whirlwind, he exclaimed, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” It was when Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord and heard the cherubim crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” that he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” Daniel, when visited by the holy messenger, says, “My comeliness was turned in me to corruption.” Paul, after he was caught up into the third Heaven and heard things that it was not lawful for a man to utter, speaks of himself as “less than the least of all saints.” It was the beloved John, that leaned on Jesus’ breast, and beheld his glory, who fell as one dead before the angel. The more closely and continuously we behold our Saviour, the less shall we see to approve in ourselves. RH December 20, 1881, par. 9

There is a feverish love of pleasure at this time, a fearful increase of licentiousness, a contempt for all authority. Not only worldlings, but professed Christians also, are governed by inclination rather than duty. The words of Christ are sounding down through the ages, “Watch and pray.” Says Paul, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” The signs of the times are pointing us to the near approach of our Lord. Is it indeed true that the end of this world's history is near? that Christ is at the door? Are we preparing for the great judgment scene? RH December 20, 1881, par. 10

Where are our responsible men at this crisis? Are they living like men who wait for their Lord? Are there not men in the ministry who are indifferent and careless? Are there any among us who are eating and drinking with the drunken? Inebriates are not the special ones here meant; all are included whose senses are so confused and benumbed by the spirit of the times that eternal things are not realized. If there was ever a time when men of God should stand aloof from the corruptions of the world, it is now. The Lord is at hand. Let the trumpet have a certain sound. Let the people be warned. RH December 20, 1881, par. 11

“Ye are my witnesses,” saith the Lord. A living Christian will have a living testimony to bear. If you have been following Jesus step by step, you will have something right to the point to relate of the way he has led you. You can tell how you tested his promise, and found the promise true. You can point to the living spots in your experience, without going back for years into the past. Would that we could oftener hear the simple, earnest testimony of heart conflicts and victories: RH December 20, 1881, par. 12

“I have been fighting the battles of the Lord, and have made conquests over self. I was sorely assaulted by the great adversary, tempted to neglect prayer, and to seek my own pleasure. I did not faithfully discharge my duty to God. He has bestowed upon me Heaven's richest blessing, in the gift of his Son; yet I made his service secondary to my own. But I have seen my sin in so doing, and have repented before the Lord. I have battled against self, which was striving for the mastery. The conflict was grievous, but I would not yield to the clamors of the carnal heart. I humbled my soul before God, and wept in penitence before him. My trembling faith grasped the promises, and appropriated them to myself. Jesus revealed himself as a present help in my emergency. I have gained the victory.” What a blessed, softening, subduing influence such testimonies would have upon the hard heart of the unconverted or the backslider. God is speaking through clay. Religion seems a reality. RH December 20, 1881, par. 13

At this time of general intemperance and worldliness, every true Christian will have a battle to fight to practice the principles of truth as well as to assent to them. It is genuine, personal experience in the Christian life, the Christian warfare, that ministers of the gospel need. The Captain of our salvation calls for witnesses fresh from the field of action. Those who have been fiercely assaulted by the enemies of truth and the adversary of souls, and who have conducted themselves as did Jesus in his hour of trial, will have a testimony to bear which will thrill the hearts of the hearers. They will indeed be witnesses for Jesus. RH December 20, 1881, par. 14

Brethren, the biographies of good men of the past will not meet the demand for this time. The Saviour whom you profess to love and serve, wants you to have an experience of your own to relate. What do you believe? Is probation soon to close? Is the time at hand when the Judgment shall sit, and the books shall be opened, and we be judged according to our works? RH December 20, 1881, par. 15

Witnesses for Christ will manifest piety at home. Those who fail to do this are denying their faith. Ministers who preach close, practical discourses to the people, should themselves give a practical illustration of the truths taught. Piety in the daily life will give power to the public testimony. Patience, forbearance, and love will make an impression upon hearts that sermons have failed to reach. Christ is not pleased with the fruit that many bear. He pronounces the tree corrupt, for its character is determined by the fruit. RH December 20, 1881, par. 16

There is a sad lack of tenderness and sympathy among the servants of Christ. They do not love as brethren. They are harsh and dictatorial. Especially is their conduct toward the erring destitute of pity or compassion. Said the apostle, “Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” We shall surely be judged by our Heavenly Father in the same manner that we have judged others. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” “He shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy.” Oh that these hard-hearted, exacting ones would fall upon the Rock and be broken, lest theirs be the terrible alternative, that the Rock shall fall upon them and grind them to powder. RH December 20, 1881, par. 17

Jesus has given us in his life an example of pity and love for the erring. While he fearlessly reproved sin, he regarded the sinner with compassion. Looking upon the cross of Calvary, where Christ poured out his life to atone for our sins, let us recall his words, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Oh that we all, both ministers and people, might heed the tender entreaty! RH December 20, 1881, par. 18

But while the servant of Christ should seek with all patience and love to save sinners, he should on no account give license to sin. He must not allow his perceptions to be dulled by contact with iniquity, or his judgment to be perverted by the world's opinion. By excusing and palliating sin, we lose a sense of its heinous character. Compassion for the erring should not degenerate into indulgence for transgression. In order to preserve the safe mean, the Christian must add to patience godliness. Then he will see as God sees. RH December 20, 1881, par. 19

The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Under-shepherds should watch for souls as they that must give account, remembering that they are to be “ensamples to the flock.” He who takes upon himself the responsibility of instructing others in the things of God, should himself be a constant learner in the school of Christ. God will accept the labors of all who obey the Saviour's call, “Follow me.” As they continue to follow Jesus, they will become more like him in character. Love to God and man will pervade the life. The thoughts will linger naturally upon heavenly things. The theme of conversation will be the subject of greatest interest, the Christian's hope. The very countenance will express the peace which passeth knowledge. Such a life is the best testimony that can be borne for Christ. RH December 20, 1881, par. 20