Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Ms 3, 1885

The Obedience of the Sabbath

Christiania, Norway

October 8 [November 7 (?)], 1885

Portions of this manuscript are published in 3SM 259-260; HP 150, 151; 1BC 1099-1100; 6BC 1102; 5MR 3-6; CTr 109.

My mind has been burdened in regard to the condition of the church in this place. When the mission fields in this country were opened before me, I was shown many things in every branch of the mission that needed a different mold. There was much need of exalting the standard in this place in many respects before a correct and saving influence could go forth to other places. As the truth has been presented here, it has taken persons from the world and from the churches and brought them together in church capacity; but not all who have professed to believe the truth are sanctified through it. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 1

One matter has troubled me exceedingly; that is your manner of keeping the Sabbath. While some have been urging their manmade test upon the people, the claims of the fourth commandment have been held very lightly. The blessing of God cannot rest upon this church until there is a reformation on this point. Those who teach the Word should take a higher position in regard to the Lord’s claims. They should be careful that in no way they belittle the requirements of God, but that their example is such as will lead the people to correct views and practices. Because the fourth commandment is so widely disregarded, we are to be the more earnest and decided in seeking to honor this precept of God’s holy law. The third angel’s message is what we are to present to the world. Here God has a test for us; and if we come up to the standard, we shall be a peculiar people. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 2

The Sabbath draws a separating line between us and the world, not faintly, but in plain, distinct colors. To those who have received the light of this truth, the Sabbath is a test; it is not a human requirement, but God’s test. It is what will distinguish between those who serve God and those who serve Him not; and upon this point will come the last great conflict between truth and error. All who profess to keep God’s law should stand united in the sacred observance of His holy Sabbath. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 3

Among our people generally in these kingdoms the Sabbath has not stood in the exalted position where God has placed it. The world is the instrument that sifts the church and tests the genuineness of its members. The world holds out inducements that, when accepted, place the believer where his life is not in harmony with his profession. Some of our brethren, engaged in business, have not kept the Sabbath according to the commandment. Some have been in partnership with unbelievers, and the influence of these Sabbathbreaking associates has had its effect upon them. Some have been so blinded that they could not discern the dangers in such connections; but it is only the greater because unperceived. While one partner is professedly observing the Sabbath, the other, with the laborers employed, is carrying on the business of the firm. The Sabbathkeeper, though not outwardly engaged in labor, cannot keep his thoughts from business matters. He may be drawn into settling accounts, receiving or paying out money, or by sharing the profits of Sabbath labor he becomes a violator of the commandment. While he professes to keep the Sabbath, he does not keep it. The Lord looks upon him as a transgressor. He will not accept the gifts and sacrifices of those who are thus disregarding His requirements. Even in business relations we cannot, without involving principle, connect ourselves with those who are not loyal to God. The general whom worldlings serve is in deadly opposition to the Prince of life. Satan works through his subjects to ensnare the followers of Christ. The principles of the Christian are diverse from those of the ungodly. What the one party feels that conscience forbids, the other allows. And this not merely in regard to religious matters, but in business transactions. One acts from selfish motives, regardless of God’s law or the faith of those connected with him; and if the other sincerely loves God and the truth, there must be either a sacrifice of principle or frequent and painful differences. A man who has not a daily experience in the things of God will be very likely to choose an easy, compromising course; but one who has a true sense of spiritual things, and regards the salvation of the soul as the very first consideration, will have a continual struggle to guard against yielding to the influence of his ungodly associate, and he will be constantly pained by the conflict. He has great difficulties to meet. To sacrifice the principles of his faith in the slightest particular places him on the enemy’s ground; thus he separates himself from God, and he fails of that spiritual growth which is his privilege. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 4

Redemption was purchased for us at an infinite cost, and its reality and its magnitude we should keep ever before us. Man has a continual battle with his own heart, with the world, the flesh, and the devil, that are constantly seeking to interpose between him and his God. The only safe course for the followers of Christ is to give heed to the inspired injunction, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? or what communion hath light with darkness?” [2 Corinthians 6:14.] “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you.” [Verse 17.] 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 5

Some of the people have been sending their children to school on the Sabbath. And some have tried to justify their course by quoting the words of Christ, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” [Matthew 12:12.] But the same reasoning would prove that men may labor on the Sabbath because they must earn bread for their children; and there is no limit, no boundary line, to show what should and what should not be done. Had these dear brethren possessed greater spirituality, had they realized the binding claims of God’s law as every one of us should, they would have known their duty and need not have been walking in darkness. They cannot enjoy the approval of God while they place their children where it is impossible for them to obey the fourth commandment. They should endeavor to make some arrangements with the authorities whereby their children can be excused from attendance at school upon the seventh day. If this fails, then their duty is plain—to obey God’s requirements at whatever cost. Whenever it can be done, our people should establish schools of their own. If, after they have plainly stated their faith, the officer of justice comes to their doors and compels their children to attend school, then they should faithfully instruct the children, and as soon as possible remove to some place where there are different laws, and they can be free to keep the commandments of God. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 6

Still some will urge that the Lord is not so particular in His requirements as we would have them believe. They profess to keep the Sabbath; but in order to keep their business moving forward, some things must be attended to on the seventh day. If they were to observe the Sabbath so strictly, they would suffer much loss, and they claim that a departure from the exact letter of the commandment is excusable for them. Others urge the difficulty of giving their children an education if they do not send them to school on the Sabbath, and the danger of being brought in conflict with the laws of the land. But here is just where the test is coming, whether we will honor the law of God above the requirements of men. Here is where we are to prove our loyalty. God does not consult our convenience in regard to His commandments. He expects us to obey them, and to teach them to our children, as did Abraham. Abraham commanded his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, and this was why such great blessings were pronounced upon him and his posterity. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 7

When the destroying angel was about to pass through the land of Egypt and smite the first-born of both man and beast, the Israelites were directed to bring their children into the house with them, and to strike the doorpost with blood; and none were to go out of the house, for all that were found among the Egyptians would be destroyed with them. We should take this lesson to ourselves. Again the destroying angel is to pass through the land. There is to be a mark placed upon God’s people, and that mark is the keeping of His holy Sabbath. We are not to follow our own will and judgment, and flatter ourselves that God will come to our terms. Suppose an Israelite had neglected to place the sign of blood upon his door, saying that the angels of God would be able to distinguish between the Hebrews and the Egyptians: would the heavenly sentinels have stood to guard that dwelling? That which looks unimportant to you may be of the highest consequence in God’s special plans for the preservation of your life or the salvation of your soul. God tests our faith by giving us some part to act in connection with His interposition in our behalf. To those who comply with the conditions, His promise will be fulfilled. But all that venture to depart from His instructions, to follow a way of their own choosing, will perish with the wicked when His judgments are visited upon the earth. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 8

If parents allow their children to receive an education with the world and make the Sabbath a common day, then the seal of God cannot be placed upon them. They will be destroyed with the world; and will not their blood rest upon the parents? We are faithfully to teach our children God’s commandments; we should bring them into subjection to parental authority and then by faith and prayer commit them to God, and He will work with our efforts, for He has promised it. And when the overflowing scourge shall pass through the land, they, with us, may be hidden in the secret of the Lord’s pavilion. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 9

The Lord suffered His people Israel to go into bondage in Egypt because they did not walk in His ways, but dishonored Him by their continual transgressions. Here, subjected to oppression and hard servitude, they could not keep God’s Sabbath, and by their long mingling with a nation of idolaters their faith became confused and corrupted. Association with the ungodly and unbelieving will have the same influence upon those who believe the present truth, unless they keep the Lord ever before them so that His Spirit shall be their shield. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 10

When the Israelites cried unto God in their distress, He heard them and wrought through Moses for their deliverance. Pharaoh saw the mighty working of the Spirit of God; he saw the miracles which the Lord performed by His servant; but he refused obedience to God’s command. The rebellious king had proudly inquired, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” [Exodus 5:2.] And as the judgments of God fell more and more heavily upon him, he persisted in stubborn resistance. By rejecting light from heaven, he became hard and unimpressible. The providence of God was revealing His power, and these manifestations, unacknowledged, were the means of hardening Pharaoh’s heart against greater light. Those who exalt their own ideas above the plainly specified will of God are saying, as did Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” Every rejection of light hardens the heart and darkens the understanding; and thus men find it more and more difficult to distinguish between right and wrong, and they become bolder in resisting the will of God. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 11

The Lord brought Israel from Egypt, that they might keep His Sabbath, and He gave them special directions how to keep it. The instructions given to Moses were recorded for the benefit of all who should live upon the earth to the close of time. God has spoken; let us listen to His words and obey them. When the manna was given, the people were tested upon God’s law. Then said the Lord to the children of Israel through Moses, “I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no. ... And it came to pass that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.” [Exodus 16:4, 22, 23.] Notwithstanding this special direction of God, some did go out to gather manna on the seventh day, but they found none; and the Lord said unto Moses, “How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?” [Verse 28.] 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 12

That there might be no mistake in the matter, the Father and the Son descended upon Mount Sinai, and there the precepts of His law were spoken in awful grandeur in the hearing of all Israel. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 13

The fourth commandment is explicit. We are not to do our own work upon the Sabbath. God has given man six days for labor, but He has reserved the seventh to Himself, and He has pronounced a blessing upon those who keep it holy. On the sixth day all needful preparation for the Sabbath is to be made. “Bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe.” “To morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” [Verse 23.] All purchases should be made, and all our cooking should be done, on Friday. Let baths be taken, shoes be blacked, and clothing be put in readiness. The sick require care upon the Sabbath; and whatever it may be necessary to do for their comfort is an act of mercy, and not a violation of the commandment. God does not desire the sacrifice of health, even on the Sabbath. But nothing of our own work should be permitted to encroach upon holy time. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 14

Sunday is generally made a day of feasting and pleasure-seeking; but the Lord would have His people give the world a higher, holier example. Upon the Sabbath there should be a solemn dedication of the family to God. The commandment includes all within our gates; all the inmates of our house are to lay aside their worldly business and employ the sacred hours in devotion. Let all unite to honor God upon His holy day. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 15

God calls upon the workers in this mission to elevate the standard and to show their regard for His requirements by honoring the Sabbath. Christiania is an important point in our mission fields: it is the great center of our work for the Scandinavian peoples. From this place the publications are sent out, and the laborers go forth to proclaim the commandments of God; and it is of the greatest importance that a right influence be exerted by this church, both by precept and example. The standard must not be placed so low that those who accept the truth shall transgress God’s commandments while professing to obey them. Better, far better, would it be to leave them in darkness until they could receive the truth in its purity. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 16

There are those who are watching this people to see what is the influence of the truth upon them. The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light; when the claims of the fourth commandment are set before them, they look to see how it is regarded by those who profess to obey it. They study the life and character of its advocates to learn whether these are in harmony with their profession of faith; and upon the opinions thus formed, many are influenced very largely in the acceptance or rejection of the truth. If this people will conform their lives to the Bible standard, they will be indeed a light in the world, a city set upon a hill. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 17

But those who have decided to make their own standard, to be their own criterion, will take positions that will lead the uninformed astray. While professing to love the truth, some betray worldliness in their faith and experience. There is a vein of unbelief running through their experience, because they do not keep near to Jesus, the Light of the world. The cross of Christ is but partially lifted by them. They have not made an entire surrender of their own will and ways to God. They do not love self-denial and are unwilling to conform in every respect to His requirements. They know but little of fervent love or true gratitude to God, and they are satisfied with their attainments, though they have but little knowledge of the Scriptures. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 18

From the first, some in Christiania have bargained that they will come so far in their faith, and no further. They only decided to hold with the church and the world; and unless they are converted, when these separate, they will be swept in with the world. With some, business has come first; it has been a mental reservation with them; and when it comes in conflict with the truth, it is more afflicting with them to give up their idol than to retain a wicked heart. Conscience is on the side of the truth, but their hearts are with the world, and Satan makes speedy work with all such when the test comes. All who venture to choose their own way before God’s requirements are on dangerous ground. When the Lord comes closer to them with startling truths and warning, saying, “Thou art the man” [2 Samuel 12:7], and urging them to separate from the world, Satan takes the words right out of their hearts and minds. They see no real force in them; their feelings rise up against God, and in their hearts, if not with their lips, they say, like Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” [Exodus 5:2.] Many will be deceived to the last because they feel themselves all-sufficient. May God pity the ones whose influence has helped to cause this deathlike slumber. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 19

Many claim that it is consistent to pursue a course which will save them loss or inconvenience, and by which they can avoid ridicule. So might Noah have reasoned when he built that immense boat on dry land. So might the children of Israel have reasoned when the Lord gave them special directions as to what they should do. Whoever will enter the strait gate and travel the narrow path cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in will find obstacles to hinder his progress. Brethren, if you go forward toward heaven, the world will rub hard against you. At very step you will have to urge your way against Satan and his evil angels, and against all who transgress God’s law. Earthly authorities will interpose. You will meet tribulations, bruising of the spirit, hard speeches, ridicule, persecutions. Men will require your conformity to laws and customs that would render you disloyal to God. Here is where God’s people find the cross in the way to life. But if the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is sacred, if it is indeed, as brought to view in the third angel’s message, the sign between God and His people, we must be careful in every word and in every act to show God honor. If God’s requirements are binding, you must obey them all, or you will be found with the rebellious at last. The strong force of the downward current will sweep you off your feet, unless you are united to Christ as the limpet to the rock. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 20

God calls upon His people to come out from the world and to be separate. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Beliel? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” “Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” [2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.] 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 21

Let none continue to transgress, flattering themselves that their way is as good as God’s way. This was what Satan suggested to Eve in Eden. By this means he caused the fall of man, and he is still urging the same deception. There are very many in the churches who are deceiving their own souls. They reach a standard of their own creating. They think that religion consists in going to church to hear sermons and to have a good, happy feeling. If their emotions are stirred, and a few tears are shed, this is positive evidence to them that they are Christians. Upon these feelings, and a general belief that Jesus is the Saviour of the world, they base their hope of salvation. They do not comprehend that if they ever reach heaven it must be by daily self-denial and conflict. Many whose names are on the church books know no more about practical godliness than the veriest sinner. This fair-weather Christianity will not do in the time towards which we are rushing. Under the sun of scorching trial, all such will be found withered away. A new life is taking possession of Satan’s agencies. The test of temptation will reveal whether we are truly the sons and daughters of God. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” [Matthew 7:20.] And the trials here will not be so severe as that of the final judgment. It is not best to meet the Lord unprepared and to find that all our superficial goodness weighs nothing with Him. 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 22

We stand on the threshold of great and solemn events. Prophecy is fast fulfilling. A new life is descending from on high and taking possession of God’s people. Some souls will have to advance fast or they will have to be left far behind in darkness. The judgment is hastening. The Word of God is rebuking, warning, and entreating men to reach the Bible standard, but Satan has brought about such a condition of things in our churches that it will be most difficult to bring them to their senses and arouse them to see their God-given responsibilities. If they will with real contrition of heart confess their sins, they may, through watchfulness and prayer, come off conquerors. But they must look beyond earthly gain, away from worldly advantages, to the great beyond. They must hesitate at no sacrifice for Christ’s sake, who has paid for them the penalty of the law transgressed. We are now living in the solemn period of the antitypical day of atonement. In the type, the sins of the people were, on the atonement day, to be called to mind and repented of. It was a time of humiliation and affliction of soul. The greatest care was enjoined, that every part of the service be attended to with becoming reverence, lest the anger of the Lord be displayed. The high priest was required to make the most careful and solemn preparation, and he must guard himself with the utmost diligence from all contamination. How much more, while the antitypical atonement is going on in heaven, should those who minister in sacred things be holy. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” [Isaiah 52:11.] Said Christ, “I sanctify Myself that they also may be sanctified.” [John 17:19.] Those who are sent to the people in Christ’s stead should be men of God, pure in life, pure in conversation, ensamples to the flock. They have a solemn work before them, “warning every man and teaching every man, in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” “Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.” [Colossians 1:28, 29.] 4LtMs, Ms 3, 1885, par. 23