When you had such evidences that God was waiting to be gracious to His people, that mercy's voice was inviting sinners and backsliders to the cross of Christ, why did you not unite with those who had the burden of the work upon them? Why did you not come up to the help of the Lord? Some of you seemed benumbed, stupefied, and amazed, and were unprepared to participate fully in the work. Many assented to it, but their hearts were not in it. This was a great evidence of the lukewarm condition of the church.
Your worldliness does not incline you to throw wide open the door of your hard hearts at the knock of Jesus, who is seeking an entrance there. The Lord of glory, who has redeemed you by His own blood, waited at your doors for admittance; but you did not throw them open wide and welcome Him in. Some opened the door slightly and permitted a little light from His presence to enter, but did not welcome the heavenly Visitor. There was not room for Jesus. The place which should have been reserved for Him was occupied with other things. Jesus entreated you: "If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." There was a work for you to do to open the door. For a time you felt inclined to hear and
open the door; but even this inclination departed, and you failed to secure the communion with the heavenly Guest which it was your privilege to have. Some, however, opened the door and heartily welcomed their Saviour.
Jesus will not force open the door. You must open it yourselves and show that you desire His presence by giving Him a sincere welcome. If all had made thorough work in clearing away the world's rubbish and preparing a place for Jesus, He would have entered and abode with you, and would have done a great work through you for the salvation of others. But notwithstanding you were unprepared for the work, it commenced among you in mighty power. Backsliders were reclaimed, sinners were converted, and the sound went out into the region round about. The community was stirred. Had the church come up to the help of the Lord, and had the way been fully opened for further labour, a work would have been accomplished in ----- and ----- and the region round about, such as you have never witnessed. But the minds of the brethren were not aroused, and they were in a great degree indifferent to the matter. Some who had ever been seeking their own interest could not think of having their minds drawn away from themselves on this occasion, even though the salvation of souls might be at stake.
The Lord had laid upon us the burden. We were willing to give you all there was of us for a time, if you would come up with us to the help of the Lord. But in this there was a decided failure. Great ingratitude was shown for the manifestations of the power of God among you. Had you received the tokens of God's mercy and loving-kindness as you should, with thankful hearts, and united your interest to work with the Spirit of God, you would not be in your present condition. But since that precious work was done among you, you have been going down and withering spiritually.
The parable of the lost sheep you do not yet understand. You have not learned the lesson the divine Teacher designed you should. You have been dull scholars. Read the parable in Luke 15: "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost."
Here were the cases of several who had backslidden, who had been in darkness, and who had strayed from the fold. But especially was the case of Brother A prominent. All the efforts were not made which should have been made in wisdom to prevent his straying from the fold; and after he had strayed, diligent efforts were not put forth to bring him back. There was more gossiping over his case than sincere sorrow for him. All these things kept him from the fold and caused his heart to be separated farther and farther from his brethren, making his rescue still more difficult. How different was this course from that pursued by the shepherd in the parable, when in pursuit of the lost sheep. The whole ninety and nine were left in the wilderness to care for themselves, exposed to dangers; yet the lone sheep, separated from the flock, was in greater danger, and to secure the one, the ninety and nine were left.
Some of the church had no special anxiety to have Brother A return. They cared not enough to unbend from their dignity and pride and make special efforts to help him to the light. They stood back on their dignity and said: "We will not go after him; let him come to us." Viewing the feelings of his brethren toward him as he did, it was impossible for him to do this. Had they regarded the lesson taught by Christ, they
would have been willing to yield their dignity and pride, and go after the wandering ones. They would have wept over them, prayed for them, implored them to be faithful to God and the truth, and to abide with the church. But the feeling of many was: "If he wants to go, let him go."
When the Lord sent His servants to do for these wanderers the work which you ought to have done, and even when you had evidence that the Lord was giving a message of mercy to these poor straying ones, you were unprepared to give up your ideas. You did not feel like leaving the ninety and nine, and searching after the lost sheep till it was found, and you did not do it. And when the sheep was found, and brought back to the fold with rejoicing, did you rejoice? We tried to arouse you. We tried to call you together, as the shepherd called his neighbours and friends, to have you rejoice with us; but you seemed unwilling. You felt that the sheep had done a great wrong in leaving the fold, and instead of rejoicing that he had returned, you were anxious to make him feel that he should be very sorry for leaving, and should come back just according to your ideas. And since his return, you have had a feeling of jealousy in regard to him. You have kept watching to see if all was right. Some have not been exactly satisfied; they have felt an unwillingness to have things just as they are.
You are unacquainted with yourselves. Some possess selfishness, which leads to the narrowing up of their influence and efforts. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. Had the church been prepared to appreciate the work the Lord was doing among them, they would since that ingathering have been growing stronger and stronger. But instead of all throwing their whole soul into the work, and feeling a special, sincere interest to do all in their power to follow up the work after we left it, they acted very much as if
the work did not specially concern them, and as though they were only spectators, ready to distrust and find fault wherever there was opportunity.
I was shown the case of Brother B. He feels unhappy. He is dissatisfied with his brethren. His mind has been exercised for some time that it was his duty to carry the message. He has the ability, and, as far as his knowledge of the truth is concerned, he is capable; but he lacks culture. He has not learned to control himself. It requires great wisdom to deal with minds, and he is not qualified for this work. He understands the theory, but has not educated himself in forbearance, patience, gentleness, kindness, and true courteousness. If anything arises which does not meet his mind, he does not stop to consider whether it is wisdom to take notice of it, or to let it pass until it shall be fully considered. He braces himself at once for battle. He is harsh, severe, denunciatory, and if things do not meet his mind, he raises disturbance at once.
He possesses in his organisation the elements of war rather than of sweet peace and harmony. He has not wisdom to give to all their portion of meat in due season. "And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." Brother B has but little knowledge of making this difference. He is rough in his manners, and indiscreet in his dealing with souls. This disqualifies him for making a wise, careful shepherd. A shepherd must have noble generosity, courage, fortitude, love, and tenderness combined.
Brother B will be in danger of tearing down more than he can build up. He has not brought all his powers in subjection to the will of God. He has not been transformed by the renewing of his mind. He is self-sufficient, and does not rely wholly upon the grace of God; his works are not wrought in God. To be a shepherd is to occupy a very important, responsible
position; to feed the flock of God is an exalted and sacred work. Brother B, the Lord does not regard you fit to be an overseer of His flock. Had you been learning the lesson of self-government in your religious experience, and had you felt the necessity of elevating your mind and purifying your heart by the sanctification of the Spirit, and of bringing all your powers into subjection to the will of God, seeking humility and meekness, you might now be in a position to do good and to exert an influence which would be elevating and saving.
Brother and Sister B, you have a work to do for yourselves which no one can do for you. You are inclined to murmur and complain. You have something to do to subdue your natural feelings. Live for God yourselves, knowing that you have not to answer for the wrongs of others. I saw, Brother B, that you would certainly be overcome by Satan, and make utter shipwreck of faith, unless you stop your faultfinding, and seek pure and undefiled religion before God. You need to be elevated in your thoughts and conversation; you need a thorough conversion.
Life or death is before you. You should solemnly consider that you are dealing with the great God, and should ever remember that He is not a child, to be trifled with. You cannot engage in His service at will and let it alone at pleasure. Your inmost soul needs to be converted. All who, like you, my brother, have failed to grow in the grace of God, and to perfect holiness in His name, will, in these days of peril and trial, meet with great loss. Their foundation will prove to be sliding sand instead of the Rock Christ Jesus.
You move by impulse. You feel unreconciled to your brethren because you are not sent out to preach the truth. You are not fit for this trust. More than one efficient preacher would be required to follow in your wake to bind up the wounds and bruises which your harsh dealing would make.
God is not pleased with you, and I fear that you will fail of everlasting life.
You have no time to lose. Make mighty efforts to rescue yourself from Satan's snare. You need to learn of Jesus, who is meek and lowly of heart, and then you will obtain rest. Oh, what a work you have to do to perfect holiness in the fear of God, and be prepared for the society of the pure and holy angels. You need to humble your heart before God, and seek meekness and righteousness, that you may be hid in the day of the Lord's fierce anger.
Brother B, the Lord let His blessing rest upon you last spring; but you did not see the relation which watchfulness and prayer sustain to a progress in the divine life. You have neglected these duties, and the result is that darkness has enshrouded you. You have been in a state of uncertainty and distrust, and have frequently chosen the society of those who are in darkness, those whom Satan uses to scatter from Christ. You could live among the most corrupt, and remain unstained, unsullied, if God in His providence thus directed you. But it is dangerous for those who wish to honour God to find their pleasure and entertainment with companions who fear Him not. Satan ever surrounds such with great darkness; and if those who profess Christ go unbidden into this darkness, they tempt the devil to tempt them. If, in order to do good and glorify His name, the Lord requires us to go among infernal spirits, where is the blackest darkness, He will encircle us with His angels and keep us unsullied. But if we seek the company of sinners, and are pleased with their coarse jests, and entertained and amused with their stories, sports, and ribaldry, the pure and holy angels remove their protection and leave us to the darkness we have chosen.
Brother B, I wish to alarm you; I wish to arouse you to action. I wish to entreat of you to seek God while He invites you to come to Him that you may have life. Watch, pray,
work," are the Christian's watchwords. Satan is vigilant in his efforts; his perseverance is untiring, his zeal earnest and unabated. He does not wait for his prey to come to him; he seeks for it. To wrench souls from the hand of Christ is his determined purpose; yet professed Christians are asleep in their blindness, insane in their pursuits. God is not in their thoughts. A vigilant foe is upon their track; yet they are in no danger while they make God their trust. But unless they do this, their strength will be weakness, and they will be overcome by Satan.
Brother B, it is dangerous for you to yield to doubts. You must not permit yourself to go any further in the direction in which you have been going. You are in constant danger. Satan is on your track, suggesting doubts and causing unbelief. Had you stood clear in the counsel of God you could have had an influence for good over those who love your society now.
Poor Brother C felt the influence of the Spirit of God, but was deficient in experience. He did not fully turn from his old habits. He failed to make God his strength continually, and his feet slipped. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. You might have helped him, had you been connected with Heaven as you should have been. But your course of inactivity, your manner of conversation, your influence, have strengthened him in his backsliding and quieted the voice of conscience within him. Your course has not been a reproof to him in his downward track. You could do good, were you living for God. Your strength is utter weakness, your wisdom foolishness; but you do not realise it. You have been too well satisfied with a theory, a correct form of doctrine, but have not felt the necessity of the power of God; you have neglected the spiritual part of religion. Your whole being should cry out for the Spirit of God--the life and power of religion in the soul, which would lead to the crucifixion of self and a firm trust in your Redeemer.
You are in terrible darkness, and unless you arise in the name of God, and break asunder the fetters of Satan, and assert your freedom, you will make shipwreck of the faith. So great is the unwillingness of the Lord to leave you, and such is His love toward you, that notwithstanding your life has not been in accordance with His will, and your works and ways have been offensive to Him, the Majesty of heaven condescends to beg the privilege of making you a visit and leaving you His blessing: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." The mansions in glory are His, and the joy of that heavenly abode; yet He humbles Himself to seek an entrance at the door of your heart, that He may bless you with His light and make you to rejoice in His glory. His work is to seek and to save that which is lost and ready to perish. He wishes to redeem as many as He can from sin and death, that He may elevate them to His throne and give them everlasting life.
Brother B, be entreated to arise and cast aside your doubts. What makes you inclined to doubt? It is your life of departure from God, your life of unconsecration, your jesting and joking. Your lack of sobriety is endangering your eternal interests. Christ is inviting you to turn from these follies to Him. You are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. You are not an honour to the cause. You are not becoming elevated, but are sinking lower and lower in the scale. You are not forming a character for heaven and everlasting life.
You are pleasing yourself, passing away time in frivolity which should be spent with your family, teaching your children the ways and works of God. The hours that you spend in company that does you only harm should be devoted to prayer and the study of God's word. You should feel that a responsibility rests upon you, as head of your family, to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. What account will you render to God for misspent time? What influence are you having over those who have not the
fear of God before them? "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." May God anoint your eyes that you may see your peril. I feel deeply for you. My heart yearns over you. I long to see you coming up to the high standard that it is your privilege to attain. You can do good. Your influence, if exerted on the right side, will tell. Brother B, your footsteps are in the downward path. "Turn ye, turn ye," "for why will ye die?"
If you much longer pursue the course you are now following, you will become infidel in regard to the truth and in regard to the word of God. Watch and pray always. Dedicate yourself unreservedly to the Lord, and it will not then be difficult to serve Him. You have a divided heart. This is the reason that darkness, instead of light, encircles you. The last message of mercy is now going forth. It is a token of the long-suffering and compassion of God. Come, is the invitation now given. Come, for all things are now ready. This is mercy's last call. Next will come the vengeance of an offended God.
Brother B, encourage simplicity, love, forbearance, and sweet union with your brethren. But do not, oh, do not sell everlasting life so cheaply. If you go from the truth you will never know real happiness; you will be miserable indeed. Heaven is worth making any and every sacrifice for. Break the bands of Satan. Jesus now invites you; will you listen to His voice? You must take a higher stand than you have hitherto done. Make it your first business to gain the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of Christ. Live for God and heaven, and the eternal reward will be yours at the end of the race.