The Review and Herald

639/1902

October 18, 1892

The Opposer's Work

EGW

“Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.” RH October 18, 1892, par. 1

Just before Jesus uttered these words, he had been speaking of John the Baptist. He had said to the multitudes, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold they that wear soft clothing are in king's houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” RH October 18, 1892, par. 2

Those who rejected the testimony of John were unwilling to receive the testimony of him of whom John declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The scribes, Pharisees, and rulers were determined that they would not see the evidences of truth, and they evaded the most manifest conclusions. To justify their course of stubborn unbelief, they lost no possible opportunity of seizing upon anything in the teaching of Jesus that they could misconstrue, misapply, or falsify. When there was no possibility of misapplying the truth of Christ's words, these men who rejected the counsel of God against themselves, started questions that had no reference to the matter in hand, so as to attract the attention of the people away from the lesson that Jesus sought to teach, and adroitly evade the truth. The Pharisees were not blindly opposing the doctrines of Christ; for the truth made deep impressions upon their minds; but they resisted truth, and went contrary to their convictions, closing their eyes lest they should see, hardening the heart, lest they should perceive, and be converted, and Christ should heal them. In their self-righteousness they were too proud to accept the help that Christ came to bring to them. RH October 18, 1892, par. 3

The manner in which the Pharisees sought to evade the truth, and to turn the attention of the people away from vital lessons,—by starting questions that did not bear upon the subject,—is one in which the opposers of truth in all ages have taken refuge. Satan, who is proficient in all manner of arts for the resisting of truth, suggests to his agents plans whereby they may reject the counsel of God against themselves. He incites the opposers of truth to start false issues, to discuss questions that are not to the point, in order that those who are convicted and half convinced, may be turned aside from their investigation and acceptance of truth. Ever since the days of Christ there have been men whose attitude toward truth has said, “Depart from me, O God. I want not thy way, but my own way.” RH October 18, 1892, par. 4

There are many who seek to evade the truth, to run away from the Lord. If they perceive that arguments are presented which will overthrow the opinion they have held; if they see that there is a possibility of their being convinced of some truth they have not advocated, and that they may be compelled to give up their resistance, and yield to the truth, straightway they flee from the influence of its propagators, in order that they may still walk in the sparks of their own kindling; but the Lord declares of this class, “They shall lie down in sorrow.” RH October 18, 1892, par. 5

The messenger of heaven cannot hope to please those who are determined to resist the truth. Christ describes them as saying, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Whatever course the messenger may pursue, it will be objectionable to the opposers of truth; and they will make capital of every defect in the manners, customs, or character of its advocate, in order that they may prevent those from giving it their candid attention who would listen to the evidences. If there is anything through which the opposers can find occasion to falsify the character or misinterpret the action of him who presents the truth, they will take advantage of it to deter those who would accept and obey the truth from hearing or believing the message. RH October 18, 1892, par. 6

The Lord sent messages to his people through the agency of patriarchs and prophets, in order that the evils which existed in his people might be corrected. Had it been possible for them to discern the traditions and interpretations of men from the truth of God, there would have been no need of sending the message of the prophet; but this was not possible; for the maxims of the world were woven into their teaching as the warp is with the woof, and the commandments of men were regarded with more reverence than were the commandments of God. Man-made theories pass from one to another, and the doctrines of men, like evil leaven, work actively till the whole lump is leavened. When the Lord sends a message, he gives sufficient evidence to convince the honest in heart of its truth; but those who would resist the truth call for greater evidence. Should the Lord give them a greater evidence, it would only make their opposition more determined. RH October 18, 1892, par. 7

The work of John the Baptist was to exhort the people to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight in the desert a highway for our God. The angel announced John's mission to Zacharias, saying, “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” His message was to startle and arouse the people. He was not to associate with men, but wait in the wilderness, and the people were to come to him to hear his message. He was clothed in coarse raiment, such as was customary for the clothing of prophets, and he refused everything that savored of self-indulgence. He lifted up his voice as a trumpet in warning and reproof, and many were converted, and baptized of him in Jordan. RH October 18, 1892, par. 8

But although John was a messenger of God, not all received his testimony. Many set themselves against him, and strove to counteract his influence. They pointed in scorn to his abstemious life, his simple habits, his coarse garments, and declared that he was a fanatic. They resisted his words because he denounced their hypocrisy with scathing rebukes, and they sought to stir up the people against him by declaring that he set aside their religious ceremonies, and held in contempt their traditions. Nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord was at work upon the hearts of these scorners, convincing them of sin; but they rejected the counsel of God, and in the face of the evidence he had given them to the contrary, declared that John was possessed of a devil. Thus they cut the last link that bound them to heavenly influences, and were left in darkness. RH October 18, 1892, par. 9

After John had given his message, Jesus began his ministry. He had clothed his divinity with humanity, in order that humanity might touch humanity, and divinity lay hold on the infinite One. He came to reach the people, and to lift them up. He came to represent to them the character of the Father. Wherever he had opportunity, wherever he found a hungry soul, he presented the bread which cometh down from heaven. Worldly position, worldly honor, had no attraction for him, but that which appealed to his heart was a soul thirsting for the water of life. While he rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, he did not refuse to sit at the table of publicans and sinners, since it afforded him an opportunity of presenting to them lessons of divine truth. Many who thus received a favorable impression of the Saviour were converted after his ascension. Three thousand were converted in a day when the holy Spirit was poured out, and many of them were of those who had listened to Christ's gracious utterances while at the tables of the publicans. RH October 18, 1892, par. 10

Because of his association with sinners, Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a winebibber; but the very ones who made this charge were themselves the guilty ones. Satan's method of misrepresenting the character of God is to attribute to him his own characteristics, and thus do wicked men falsify the messenger of the Lord. Those who accused Jesus, and who had said that John had a devil, knew that they were bearing false witness; but they were filled with jealousy, because, though they had so long been the acknowledged leaders of the people, they were set aside, and the people thronged to hear the words of another. RH October 18, 1892, par. 11

So selfish were the Pharisees and teachers, that they did not stop to consider the fact that Jesus was eating with publicans and sinners in order to diffuse the light of heaven to those who sat in darkness. They did not stop to notice that every word dropped by the divine Teacher was as a living seed that should germinate, and bear fruit to the glory of God. They did not realize that every action of his life was fraught with eternal influence that should never lose its force. The Pharisees and rabbis had determined that they would not accept the light given by Christ; and he turned to the common people, who heard him gladly, whose hearts were not fortified against the entrance of his words that give light and understanding unto the simple. Jesus had come to be the Saviour of all,—Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, free and bond. He identified his interest with that of suffering humanity; but when accused of friendship for publicans and sinners, he said: “I am come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” RH October 18, 1892, par. 12

Prompted by pride, prejudice, and hatred, the Pharisees, priests, and rulers rejected the Lord of glory. His mighty works had no softening influence upon their minds; for they hardened their hearts lest they should be converted. When evidence is given that a man is a messenger of the Lord of hosts, that he speaks in God's stead, it is perilous to the soul to reject and despise the message. To turn away from heaven's light and refuse the light-bearer, is to take a course similar to that which Satan took in the courts of heaven when he created rebellion in the ranks of the angels. He misrepresented the character of God, and placed in a false light his gracious commandments. He evaded the truth, and subtly worked to make good appear as evil, and evil as good. He has lost none of his tact, and through his agents, manifests the same diplomacy and skill in evading truth, in creating false issues, in misrepresenting the message and the messenger. Not only do we see his working in the world among those who openly oppose the truth, but also in the church his art is manifested in the divisions and controversies among those who profess to be the children of God. RH October 18, 1892, par. 13

Whenever the Lord has a special work to do among his people, when he would arouse their minds to contemplate vital truth, Satan will work to divert the mind by introducing minor points of difference, in order that he may create an issue concerning doctrines that are not essential to the understanding of the point in hand, and thus bring about disunion, and distract attention from the essential point. When this occurs, the Lord is at work making impressions upon the hearts of men, concerning that which is necessary to their salvation. Then if Satan can draw the mind away to some unimportant issue, and cause the people to divide on some minor point, so that their hearts are barricaded against light and truth, he exults in malicious triumph. This he has done in the past, and this he purposes to do still, in order that he may cast his hellish shadow between the people and their God, and cut off the light that the Lord would have shine upon his children. RH October 18, 1892, par. 14