The Review and Herald


July 19, 1887

Our Spiritual Warfare

[Discourse at Copenhagen, Denmark, June 4, 1887.]


“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. RH July 19, 1887, par. 1

Paul had been at Athens, and his spirit was stirred within him as he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore he disputed in the synagogues with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market-place daily with those with whom he came in contact. Certain philosophers of the stoics encountered him, and some said, What will this babbler say? Others said, He seems to be a setter-forth of strange gods; because he preached unto them Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Paul, standing in the midst of Mars’ Hill, before the most educated and intellectual, met logic with logic, philosophy with philosophy, learning with learning, and oratory with oratory. At the end of his labors he looked at the result, and could see only three who had been benefited. He decided that henceforth he would maintain the simplicity of the gospel. He would preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. RH July 19, 1887, par. 2

He writes to his Corinthian brethren, “When I came to you, [I] came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He declares: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” RH July 19, 1887, par. 3

Peter exhorts his beloved brethren to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” He seeks to impress upon them that there is a necessity of increased knowledge daily, and that there is to be with the gospel believers a growing up in Christ, their living head. The individual Christian will grow in grace in proportion as he depends upon and appreciates the messages from God in preaching the word of God, and habituates himself to meditate upon divine things. We should ever keep in mind that unseen agencies are at work, both evil and good, to take the control of the mind. They act with unseen yet effectual power. Good angels are ministering spirits, exerting a heavenly influence upon heart and mind, while the great adversary of souls, the Devil, and his angels are continually laboring to accomplish our destruction. RH July 19, 1887, par. 4

There would be an additional solemnity, order, and reverence in the place where Christians assemble to worship God, could they realize that there are besides those whom their eyes rest upon, also unseen divine agencies. We have in our midst those heavenly messengers who listen to every discourse. And not only do the listeners pass under the inspection of these angels who keep up the communication between heaven and earth, but the minister, also, who preaches the word of God. And if the worshipers bear in mind that when assembled for worship they are in the company of beings who dwell in the presence of the holy God, earthly thoughts will be banished from their minds. To realize that these heavenly beings are in the midst of an assembly where the word of God is spoken by his messengers, solemnizes the heart. RH July 19, 1887, par. 5

The parable that Jesus gave of the sower was in these words: “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in the heart.” Thus we see that Satan and his angels are also in every assembly where the gospel of the kingdom is preached. Then how important that we take heed how we hear! While the ministration of angels is in behalf of those who are assembled, the enemy is ever watching the effect that the truth has wrought upon minds and hearts, and with an earnestness only equaled by his malice, he labors to thwart the operation of the Spirit on the heart of the hearer; for he sees that if the truth is accepted in the heart, he has lost his control over the individual who accepts the word of life. RH July 19, 1887, par. 6

Evil angels are as verily present on this occasion as are good angels, working every device of which they are capable, to make the message of God sent through his delegated servants of none effect upon the hearts of his hearers. They are earnestly seeking to counteract the heavenly influence of good angels. We should not be indifferent to the fact that good angels are ever present to minister unto those who shall be heirs unto salvation, and at the same time we are to remember that there are contending forces under the guidance of their master, laboring to effect our destruction. While we should be keenly alive to our exposure to the assaults of unseen and invisible foes, we are to be sure that they cannot harm us without gaining our consent; for we have on our side the armies of heaven to shield and protect us, and to press back the powers of evil that are constantly striving for the ascendency over the minds and hearts of men. If we are dull, and think but little of the heavenly helps provided for us; if we are not striving with these angels to preserve purity of thought, and encourage the graces of the Spirit of God, thus working in unity with the holy angels in this contest, we shall not be aware of Satan's devices, and we shall not press close to the side of Jesus and of his holy angels; but we shall, through want of watchfulness and prayer, depreciate the power and evil designs of our most determined foes, and expose ourselves, and next there will be a falling under temptation, and then Satan will obtain the advantage. RH July 19, 1887, par. 7

We have not watched unto prayer as we should have done, but have worked many times in harmony with the enemy instead of vigorously resisting his insinuations. While the truth is being preached, Satan is waiting to drop in the seeds of questioning and of doubt. The truth is not treasured as a precious gem. The mind fastens upon the sentences, and the manner of the speakers does not exactly meet their ideas. There is not perfection in the language, and the defects are much dwelt upon. This is the work of the enemy, and the very truth you need, which God has graciously sent you, finds no entrance into your heart. But the seeds of doubt and criticism spring up in the soul, and Satan obtains a hold upon the mind to counteract the work of the heavenly angels by catching away the precious seeds that have been sown in the heart. RH July 19, 1887, par. 8

Those who are exalting education above everything else, may become much more intelligent in regard to the work that is going forward in this high contest of the two opposing forces between the principalities and powers. They need not imagine a battle going on in some distant field with celestial pomp, in all the terribleness of superhuman strength, but bring the imagination down to the reality of the war and conflict in the domain of the human heart, and give this battle the character of a moral conflict, a struggle between principles supported by opposite parties which appear as combatants. They must consider they are either to become champions of falsehood or of truths. But this view of things is not poetical enough for the fancy of very many who are fighting with Satan the game of life for their souls. RH July 19, 1887, par. 9

This very place, this very assembly, is the scene of a hostile meeting of evil angels and the heavenly host. There is not an individual who does not furnish a field in his own heart for this strife between invisible powers. As the message of God comes to you, and sets before you your sins, and pleads for you to cease the transgression of the law of God, and points you to the provision made for your salvation by a sin-pardoning Saviour, and urges you to accept the truth, the words which God designs should reach the heart are the very weapons the evil angels love to seize, that they may, through their suggestions, blunt and throw away the very words of life, hope, and pardon; while the good angels are seeking to soften the soil of the heart, that the seed of truth may be planted in the understanding, and bring forth fruit to the glory of God. We are individually responsible for the result of this conflict. Neither good nor evil angels can reach their end successfully except they have the cooperation and the determined effort of the individual. RH July 19, 1887, par. 10

There is not the least excuse for any of us to remain in indifference, because angels of God are engaged in the warfare for our benefit, against the power of the adversary of God and of man for the soul. The light will gain no admission into the soul unless the door of the heart is open to welcome the Holy Spirit. In proportion as we work with the Holy Spirit's influence will the truth find admission to the soul, and transform the character. The truth must be received in the love of it, with meekness and with love. If you open your heart to receive the suggestions of Satan, in criticising the language of the messenger you will give evidence that you do not value the truth which he brings to you as a precious jewel. There is prejudice, and your unsatisfied likes and dislikes bar the way, and prevent the entrance of the message God has sent you in warnings, admonitions, and reproofs, which if you do reject, it will be at the peril of your souls. RH July 19, 1887, par. 11

There is great need for close watchfulness and most earnest prayer, lest we make a mistake and grieve the Holy Spirit of God by questioning and criticism, and so lose the force of the precious message. It is the truth we need in the heart to sanctify the soul. Satan plants his seeds of unbelief, of picking flaws, and of finding fault, when you should be diligently listening to the message which God is addressing to every one of you. He wants you to hear and obey, and so escape the snares which Satan has set for your feet. By cherishing doubts in thoughts, and expressing criticism, you can start a train of thought which will make the truth of God of none effect in the minds of those who have a constant struggle to cherish humility and faith, and they will give your words place in their heart, and thus lose the benefit of the message God has sent them. Anything like pride and wisdom of learning or science that you place between your soul and the words of truth spoken to you, will effectually close the door to the humble religion of Jesus Christ. The truth is a sanctifier of the life and character. RH July 19, 1887, par. 12

Our Redeemer did not come to our world with outward display. The people who rejected him saw nothing of heaven in his appearance. He was to them as a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness, that they should not desire him. They looked not upon a prince attended with armies and gorgeous display. They could not see hidden beneath the humble disguise of humanity the world's Redeemer. They saw before them a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, … wounded for our transgressions, … bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Christ came to preach the gospel to the poor. He reached the people where they were. He brought plain, simple truth to their comprehension. How simple his language! Even the poorest, the unlearned and ignorant, could understand him. Not one needed go to a dictionary to obtain the meaning of the high-sounding titles or words that fell from the lips of the greatest Teacher the world ever knew. While the priests, the rulers, and the expounders of the law were considering themselves as the only teachers of the people, he told these learned rabbis that they were both ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God. RH July 19, 1887, par. 13

It is not the learning of the great men that unfolds to them the mysteries of redemption. Prophecy was open before these great men who claimed to be wise; but they knew not that Christ was the Prince of Light, with all their learning, and with all their wisdom, and with the plainest statement of facts concerning Christ and the manner of his first advent, his mission, and his work. Christ would receive the service of the learned, and of the great men, if they would join themselves to him, but Christ could not join himself to them; for they were not right. They were filled with self sufficiency and self esteem, seeking constantly for the supremacy, spurning everything that did not bear the appearance of worldly wisdom and national pride and religious exclusiveness. His work was to correct these evils, and attract men to virtue, to purity, to humility, and to God; to divest religion of the narrow, conceited formalism which made it a rigorous burden. He presents a complete, harmonious salvation to all. This salvation is great, because pardon to the transgressor of God's law is proffered; a righteousness is presented which will endure the scrutiny of the Omniscient, gain victory over the powerful adversary of God and man, and an eternal reward. It is the completeness of salvation which gives it its greatness. No man can measure it with the most thorough finite perception, nor can any contemplate it and continuously make it the matter of his study, without its reaching the untraceable majesty of its Author, and finite man becoming one with the Deity. The transformation has taken place. The child of sin, of transgression, and of wrath has become the child of God; he has passed from death unto life. Divine wrath against the impenitent transgressor will be proportionate to the extensive preparation and infinite sacrifice made to redeem him. How shall we escape, if we neglect this great salvation? RH July 19, 1887, par. 14

But let us consider, What reason has man to be puffed up? What reason has he to be proud of his religion? He has nothing but that which he has received from God the Redeemer. Learning of the very highest order cannot purchase heaven for any of us. The man possessing large estates and lofty mansions, who walks the earth with all the independence of Nebuchadnezzar as he walked in the palace of the king of Babylon, can claim the right to heaven only through humble obedience to all of God's commandments. And the king's thoughts found utterance in words, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” The Lord heard the proud monarch, and while the words were “in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.” Neither riches nor honor can purchase one of the rich graces of the Spirit of God, or secure for man by all his wisdom a mansion in the heavens. The proud monarch of Babylon was made to feel that there was a power behind and above all his boasted wisdom. God simply removed from the proud boaster his reason, which was the gift of God, and he became degraded to the society of the beasts for seven years. RH July 19, 1887, par. 15

We would not demerit education. God designs we shall be students here as long as we remain in this world, ever learning and bearing the responsibility of teaching others by precept and example that which we have learned. But let no one place himself as a critic to measure the usefulness and the influence of his brother less educated than himself in book knowledge; for he may be much better educated in the practical knowledge of genuine godliness. “The entrance of thy word giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple.” It is not merely the reading of the word or the theoretical knowledge of the Scriptures that gives the light and the understanding; for had this been the case, the Lord would not have said to the Jews, Ye are ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God. The light and the understanding expressed here in inspired words mean, the Scriptures opened and applied to the heart by the Spirit of God which is brought into the practical life, and placed like solid timber in the character. RH July 19, 1887, par. 16

As the man is converted by the truth, the work of transformation of character goes on. He has an increased measure of understanding, in becoming a man of obedience to God. The mind and will of God become his will, and by constantly looking to God for counsel, he becomes a man of increased understanding. There is a general development of the mind that is unreservedly placed under the guidance of the Spirit of God. This is not a one-sided education, which develops a one-sided character; but there is revealed a harmoniously developed character. Weaknesses that have been seen in the powerless, vacillating character are overcome, and continual devotion and piety bring the man in such close relation to Jesus Christ that he has the mind of Christ. He is one with Christ, having soundness and strength of principle, and clearness of perception, which is that wisdom that comes from God, who is the source of all light and understanding. The grace of God has fallen upon the humble, obedient, conscientious soul like the Sun of righteousness, strengthening the mental faculties, and in the most astonishing manner making those who long to use their capacity in the Master's service, small though it may be, strong continually by obedience and practice, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and be bearers of much fruit to the glory of God, in good works. So that the men of learning and of high accomplishments have learned most precious lessons from the precepts and examples of the unlearned, as the world would call them. But could they have a deeper sight, it would be seen that they had obtained knowledge in the highest graded school, even the school of Jesus Christ. RH July 19, 1887, par. 17

Those who in this life want to become all that God designs that they should, will ever be learners. This knowledge will not generally come in a supernatural manner, although this is not impossible. There are stores of information to be obtained by pains-taking effort. Thus it was with Daniel. The fear of the Lord was to him the beginning of wisdom. Although he was in king's courts, surrounded by temptations, he refused to participate in selfish indulgence that would weaken physical and moral strength. He kept close to God, and while he applied himself closely and earnestly to acquire all the knowledge possible, God added his blessing. RH July 19, 1887, par. 18

We read that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with a portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank. There was a firm stand taken to resist every inducement to selfish indulgence. As to the result, let the word of inspiration speak: “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.... And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” RH July 19, 1887, par. 19

Now while these youth on their part were working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, it was God who was working in them both to will and to do his own good pleasure. The conditions of the reward for our own good are as if everything depended upon ourselves. To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. There is a work that is laid before us to do, and this work must be done with fidelity, and the fruits we bear will manifest before God, before angels, and before men the character of our work. The penny was given to the laborer in the vineyard, but not to the loiterer in the market place. RH July 19, 1887, par. 20

Of all the people upon the earth, the man whose mind is enlightened by the opening of God's word to his understanding, will feel that he must give himself to greater diligence in the perusal of the word of God, and to a more diligent study of the sciences; for his hope and calling are greater. The more closely connected man is with the Source of all knowledge and wisdom, the more he can be advantaged intellectually, as well as spiritually, through his relation to God. He will have clearer views, unbiased by his own ideas and judgment. His views will be broadened, his discernment quickened, and his understanding enlarged to contemplate the great truths of God's word; and the more he gains of heavenly knowledge, the better will he understand his own weakness, and the more humble will be his views of himself. RH July 19, 1887, par. 21

The opening of God's word is followed by remarkable opening in strengthening man's faculties; for the entrance of God's word is the application of divine truth to the heart, purifying and refining the soul through the agency of the Holy Spirit. He has genuine faith in the truth as it is in Jesus, and that faith works by love and purifies the soul. These are tried workers together with God, and God is to receive all the glory. Whatever progress we make, whatever good we accomplish comes from God, to be reflected upon others in good works, and reflected back to God, the great Source of light. It is the Spirit of God in the soul that quickens its otherwise lifeless faculties, and attracts the soul to God and to the truth. The intellectual talents owe all their advancement to God, and our religious life is dead and spiritless, unless the living Spirit is received from God the life-giving power. Without the enlightenment of his Spirit, we cannot appreciate the things of the heavenly world, and cannot have a relish for communion with God. RH July 19, 1887, par. 22

Religion is not a mere form. Pure and undefiled religion is the life of God in the soul, the abiding of Jesus in the heart. The thoughts are cultivated and trained to think and act in reference to the glory of God. The questions will arise in the mind, Will this course of action please Jesus? Shall I be able to maintain my integrity if I enter into this arrangement? Thus God will be made the counselor, and the soul will be brought into obedience to the will of God, and we shall be led into safe paths; and if we follow on to know the Lord, we shall triumph with the truth and have eternal life. RH July 19, 1887, par. 23