The Review and Herald

317/1902

August 18, 1885

Our Lord's Command to Watch

[A sermon delivered at Healdsburg (Cal.) College, March 14, 1885.]

EGW

Text.—Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded his porter to watch. Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. Mark 13:33-37. RH August 18, 1885, par. 1

In these words of the Saviour is brought before our minds the importance of being always on guard. And when we take into consideration the value of these words, uttered by Him whom we expect soon to see coming in the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory, we should be vigilant, lest he come and find us sleeping; and hence the admonition, “Watch,” “watch; ... lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.” There is no safety in a state of stupor or calm indifference. There is no safety in placing our affections upon the earth or earthly things. We want to work for our best interest, not only for time but for eternity. We should act like sensible men and women, working not from impulse, nor from passion, but from an exalted sense of duty. We do not want a sensational nor an emotional religion, but one that leads to the performance of sacred duties, and that brings us into daily communion with God,—a religion that enlists in his service all our powers and all that we possess; one that leads us to do his will, and not our own; to forsake our carnal inclinations, and be led by the divine mind. RH August 18, 1885, par. 2

There is an important work for every one to do; and that work must be performed with reference to the decisions of the Judgment and the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of glory. Whatever else may take our attention in the common affairs of life, we want to constantly be mindful of our duty and obligation to God. The things of God must not be suffered to drop out of mind, though a thousand other things may press themselves upon our attention. Our great work here is to press the triumphs of the cross of Christ to the very gates of the enemy. Such a work requires untiring vigilance. And to do this, we must have a living connection with Jesus, the great conqueror. RH August 18, 1885, par. 3

Christ said to his disciples: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” This is the work we have to do, let our light shine, that others may see our good works, and glorify God. This is one of the express claims which is binding upon us, to keep all the commandments of God; and this claim is to be satisfied only by a thorough obedience to his divine law, in the first four precepts of which is set forth the duty of loving God supremely, and in the last six, our duty to our fellow-men. This holy law of rectitude and right, how just are all its requirements! We must acknowledge its claims, and seek to form characters that will be in harmony with the will of Him who gave it, doing all we can to help others do the same. If we are indifferent to his claims, we not only imperil our own souls but those of others around us. RH August 18, 1885, par. 4

Some seem to think that there is a certain amount of virtue in expressing their dissatisfaction in whatever is being done by others; and those who do the least to properly represent the cause of the Master, and who will not bear responsibilities, are the very ones that will do the most grumbling. To them things either go too slow or too fast. Some one takes hold of the truth; they take upon themselves the work of criticising them. They neglect the interest of their own souls, neglect to make straight paths for their own feet. They fix their eyes upon the errors of their brethren, talk about them, exaggerate them, brood over them, and live upon them; and it is like living upon husks; they receive no strength, and their souls are as destitute of the love of God as were the hills of Gilboa of dew or rain. RH August 18, 1885, par. 5

There was Judas; Christ permitted him to be a member of the church, notwithstanding his covetous, avaricious character. He had some traits that might have been used to the glory of God; but he did not try to overcome the defects in his character. Christ bore with him long and patiently, setting before him in his lessons general principles; but he failed again and again, until finally all the strength of his moral powers was gone. He had the same lessons set before him that were given to the other apostles, which would have set him right had he made a right use of them; but he did not sustain a right relation to Heaven. Christ knew his true condition, and gave him an opportunity. He connected John with the church, not because John was above human frailties, but that he might bind him to his great heart of love. If John overcame his defects of character, he would stand as a light to the church. Peter, if he corrected his faults, would inherit the promises of God. And Jesus said to him, after his resurrection, notwithstanding that he had but a few days before denied him, “Feed my sheep,” and “Feed my lambs.” He could trust Peter now; for he had obtained an experience in the things of God, he had found out that he could trust no longer in his own strength, that his strength must be in God. RH August 18, 1885, par. 6

You know how it was with John; when he saw his Master slighted by the Samaritans, he was indignant, and inquired of Jesus if they should not call down fire from heaven upon his enemies; but Christ said he had “not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” John was constantly learning to copy the life of Jesus. He was learning in Christ's school. He says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Thus it was, lesson after lesson Christ gave to his disciples, that they might know the will of the Father, and shine as lights in the world. John and Peter were men whom God could trust, but Judas was not. They had received and heeded the lessons, and gained the victory; but Judas had failed at every trial. He saw his faults, but instead of correcting them revenged himself by picking flaws in others around him. And you see by his sad fate, my brethren, that that is not a safe business for the sons and daughters of God to engage in. I counsel you to be kind, to be courteous, to let no feelings arise against your enemies. You can gain no spiritual strength by talking about the defects of those around you; but if you continue to do this, like Judas you will eventually separate yourselves from God and his work. Paul says to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself;” that is, seek God first for thyself. Let us individually turn our attention to ourselves, diligently guard our own souls, and set a Christ-like example before those whom we would criticise. RH August 18, 1885, par. 7

Let us remember that others’ faults and defects are very poor food. Christ said, “If ye shall eat my flesh and drink my blood,” ye shall have eternal life. We must grow up into Christ, we must be partakers of his divine nature. Just as the branch is joined to the vine, and partakes of the nature of the vine, so we must be daily receiving nourishment from the True Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ. We must be in Christ and he in us; then the defects will disappear from our characters. The closer we live to Jesus, the more we shall reflect in words and character his image. And the farther we separate from God, the farther we live away from the light of life, and, as the sure result, become perverse, dictatorial, hard-hearted. We should make it a life work to gather up the divine rays of light that come from the throne of God, and scatter them upon the pathway of others. Many choose the darkness, and walk in it. If you separate from Jesus and walk in the darkness, where he cannot impart his strength to you, you are alone to blame; and then you complain of your cold and fruitless lives. Jesus does not want you to be unhappy. I beseech you, come close to him, and freely receive from him his grace and peace and love, that you may be filled with light, and go forth shedding that light upon all around. When you have sanctified your own life, your every act will be to attract others, not to yourself, but to Jesus. RH August 18, 1885, par. 8

It is in this time of probation that we are to prepare either for eternal life in glory, or for perdition. It is here that we are engaged in the work of character-building; and if we succeed, we shall merit from the Master the welcome, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Christ has gone into the most holy department, and has left us word to watch and pray, lest he return suddenly and find us sleeping. The character which we are now making will come in review before God before Christ leaves the sanctuary. Here God will see what characters we have been building for time and eternity. How shall we stand before the great Eternal? How many sheaves will we have brought to the Master through our earnest efforts? RH August 18, 1885, par. 9

To every man is given his work, and that work is not to be looking for faults in others, nor to be seeking to imitate the world. Says the apostle, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” This means more than we think it does; dead to worldly interests, dead to worldly ambitions. What a position is this! Christ died that all heaven might be brought within our reach, that we might through such a divine provision be able to form characters for the future immortal life. We now have it our work to climb the ladder of progress, and urge our ways into the kingdom of heaven. We are to go on from strength to strength, and make it our first consideration to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, pursuing such a course as will stimulate others to do the same. RH August 18, 1885, par. 10

All have defects of character to overcome, and therefore no human being can be your pattern. You should not feel content to do merely as others do. If they do not live out the truth, will it excuse you for disobedience? You should not imitate their example; you should try to help them by a right course of living before them. Individually you stand before God as though Christ died for you alone; and you must render your account to him for yourself. But not only for yourself alone are you responsible, but for that soul over whom you have an influence, and for whom God has paid such a price. If you neglect your duty in this matter, what will be your portion in the day of God? How do you think the unfaithful ones will feel to see the nations of the saved walking within the portals of the city of God, and they themselves shut out? But how shall we feel, if we can look around and see many in the kingdom as the results of our labors? We shall be able to swell the songs of glory, saying, “Worthy, worthy, is the Lamb that was slain, and liveth again.” No one shall go into the city unless he is pure in heart. Everything that is polluting, everything that defiles, is outside the city. All who enter there pass in as conquerors. They hold the palm branch of victory in their hands, and they wave it before the throne, singing praises to the Lamb of God. RH August 18, 1885, par. 11

The greatest conquest for every one of us will be to overcome self, to bring self into obedience to the law of God. This is our work; are we doing it? Are we working to save others by our influence? Do we hold ourselves as God's servants to labor for others? Do we entreat them to flee from the wrath to come? Do we convince them by our course of action, by our every word, that we have been made partakers of the divine nature, and that we are copying after the divine Pattern? If so, we shall surely win souls to Christ, we shall be living epistles known and read of all men. Even if you should never utter one sentence to tell others of the truth, yet if you are circumspect in all your ways, they will see that you have been with Jesus, and learned of him. They know you, for you are read of them. Just as surely as you come into this condition of consecration to God, you will be daily unfurling the banner of Christ, and presenting the light of truth wherever you go. But the truth will burn in your hearts so that you cannot keep still, you are obliged to give it utterance; you must advocate it to all who will hear you. RH August 18, 1885, par. 12

There never was a more solemn and important time than this present period. You may look back, and you will see that there has never been a time when we were doing as much as we are today. Notwithstanding this as a people, the lay members of the church especially are not doing one fiftieth part of what they might and ought to do. From all the ships sailing to all parts of the globe, the truth might reach all nations of the earth. Those who are doing this work will bind it off with their prayers; and, mingling their tears with their prayers, they will labor and weep before God, that these communications may reach the people and affect their hearts, and that the power of the truth may teach the word to the people. But we want greater consecration, hearts that will intercede with God, and have self sacrifice and zeal in this work. And when you desire to make presents, when you want to devote means to gratify and please yourselves, when you want to hoard your means, fearing you will come to want, I want you to think of that eternity that is before you, and the work you have to do before you can enter into it. I want you to think of that Judgment before which you are to stand and render an account to God for the deeds done in the body. And with the Judgment before your eyes, I want you to think of the money you are spending foolishly, to please the taste or for worldly gratifications, and of the souls that are perishing all around you for the truth which God has intrusted to you to spread over the earth, that others may not famish for the word of God. I have no time nor means to spend carelessly. Men and women are taking sides. The law of God is almost entirely made void in the land; and God calls for every man, woman, and child to fight the good fight of faith. He calls for every talent to be employed now. It will be fatal to your souls to be indolent or slothful servants. He has not left it alone for those who minister in the word and doctrine, to bear the burdens and employ their talents. He wants every one of you to put your powers to work for the upbuilding of his kingdom. RH August 18, 1885, par. 13

The third angel's message must go over the land, and awaken the people, and call their attention to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Another angel unites his voice with the third angel, and the earth is lighted with its glory. The light increases, and it shines out to all the nations of the earth. It is to go forth as a light that burneth. It will be attended with great power, until its golden beams have fallen upon every tongue, every people, and every nation upon the face of the whole earth. Let me ask you, What you are doing to prepare for this work? Are you building for eternity? You must remember that this angel represents the people that have this message to give to the world. Are you among that people? Do you really believe that this work in which we are engaged is truly the third angel's message? If so, then you understand that we have a mighty work to do, and that we ought to be about it. We must sanctify ourselves by a strict obedience to the truth, placing ourselves in right relation to God and his work. As the truth goes forth, Satan intensifies his zeal to defeat its progress by presenting pleasing delusions. As we urge the truth, he urges his errors. He will stir up his agents, in view of the coming of the Lord, to go out and cry, “Lo! here is Christ, and lo! there is Christ.” And here arises this superstition, and there arises that heresy. And tell me, what are we to do about it? I will tell you: we can become familiar, with the Bible, and read what saith the Lord. Not only the ministers but all who love and fear God are to do the Master's work; and that is to let the light that he has given you shine before all. Here are two companies; one of them is being bound in bundles to burn, the other is being bound by the cords of truth and love. Satan is binding his followers with the work of iniquity; Christ is binding together his people in love and faith in the keeping of his commandments. And this work will increase more and more, and Satan will work to divide and separate God's people one from the other. And while he is doing this kind of work, be careful that none of you are found helping him. We want to put away our cold-heartedness, and let love, tender compassion, true courtesy, and the spirit of tenderness come into our midst. Here we are in the waiting time, in the day of God's preparation. Here in this world we are to fit up for these great trials that are soon coming upon us. And yet some of us act as though we had a whole millennium before us in which to accomplish the work. But, says the text, “Watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is.” And what Christ said to his disciples, I say unto you, “Take ye heed, watch and pray,” that when the Master comes to reckon with his servants, you may receive from him the crown of life laid up for the overcomer, and rejoice with him in his kingdom. RH August 18, 1885, par. 14