I saw that it is in the providence of God that widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the lame, and persons afflicted in a variety of ways, have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character. Angels of God are watching to see how we treat these persons who need our sympathy, love, and disinterested benevolence. This is God's test of our character. If we have the true religion of the Bible we shall feel that a debt of love, kindness, and interest is due to Christ in behalf of His brethren; and we can do no less than to show our gratitude for His immeasurable love to us while we were sinners unworthy of His grace, by having a deep interest and unselfish love for those who are our brethren and who are less fortunate than ourselves.
The two great principles of the law of God are supreme
love to God and unselfish love to our neighbour. The first four commandments and the last six hang upon, or grow out of, these two principles. Christ explained to the lawyer who his neighbour was in the illustration of the man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and who fell among thieves and was robbed and beaten and left half dead. The priest and the Levite saw this man suffering, but their hearts did not respond to his wants. They avoided him by passing by on the other side. The Samaritan came that way, and when he saw the stranger's need of help he did not question whether he was a relative or was of his country or creed; but he went to work to help the sufferer because there was work which needed to be done. He relieved him as best he could, put him upon his own beast, and carried him to an inn and made provision for his wants at his own expense. This Samaritan, said Christ, was neighbour to him who fell among thieves. The Levite and the priest represent a class in the church who manifest an indifference to the very ones who need their sympathy and help. This class, notwithstanding their position in the church, are commandment breakers. The Samaritan represents a class who are true helpers with Christ and who are imitating His example in doing good.
Those who have pity for the unfortunate, the blind, the lame, the afflicted, the widows, the orphans, and the needy, Christ represents as commandment keepers, who shall have eternal life. There is in ----- a great lack of personal religion and of a sense of individual obligation to feel for others' woes and to work with disinterested benevolence for the prosperity of the unfortunate and afflicted. Some have no experience in these duties. They have all their lives been like the Levite and the priest, who passed by on the other side. There is a work for the church to do, which, if left undone, will bring darkness upon them. The church as a whole and individually should bring their motives under faithful examination and compare their lives with the life and teachings of the only correct Pattern. Christ regards all acts of mercy, benevolence, and thoughtful consideration for the unfortunate, the blind,
the lame, the sick, the widow, and the orphan as done to Himself; and these works are preserved in the heavenly records and will be rewarded. On the other hand, a record will be written in the book against those who manifest the indifference of the priest and the Levite to the unfortunate, and those who take any advantage of the misfortunes of others and increase their affliction in order to selfishly advantage themselves. God will surely repay every act of injustice and every manifestation of careless indifference to and neglect of the afflicted among us. Everyone will finally be rewarded as his works have been.
I was shown in regard to Brother E that he has not been dealt justly with by his brethren. Brethren F, G, and others pursued a course toward him which was displeasing to God. Brother F had no special interest in Brother E, only so far as he thought he could advantage himself through him. I was shown that some looked upon Brother E as being penurious and dishonest. God is displeased with this judgement. Brother E would have had no trouble and would have had means to abundantly sustain himself had it not been for the selfish course of his brethren who had eyesight and property, and who worked against him by seeking to turn his abilities to their own selfish interest. Those who take advantage of the hard study of a blind man and seek to benefit themselves with his inventions, commit robbery and are virtually commandment breakers.
There are some in the church who profess to be keeping the law of Jehovah, but who are transgressors of that law. There are men who do not discern their own defects. They possess a selfish, penurious spirit and blind their own eyes to their sin of covetousness, which the Bible defines as idolatry. Men of this character may have been esteemed by their brethren as most exemplary Christians; but the eye of God reads the heart and discerns the motives. He sees that which man cannot see in the thoughts and character. In His providence He brings these persons into positions which will in time reveal the defects in their character, that if they wish
to see and correct them they can do so. There are some who have all their lives studied their own interest and been swallowed up in their own selfish plans and who have been anxious to advantage themselves without much thought whether others would be distressed or perplexed by any plans or actions of theirs. Selfish interest overbears mercy and the love of God. The Lord sometimes permits this class to go on in their selfish course in spiritual blindness until their defects are apparent to all who have spiritual discernment and they evidence by their works that they are not genuine Christians.
Men who have property and a measure of health, and who enjoy the inestimable blessing of sight, have every advantage over a blind man. Many ways are open to them in their business career that are closed to a man who has lost his sight. Persons enjoying the use of all their faculties should not look to their own selfish interest and deprive a blind brother of one iota of his opportunity to gain means. Brother E is a poor man. He is a feeble man; he is also a blind man. He has had an earnest desire to help himself, and, although living under a weight of discouraging infirmities, his affliction has not dried up the generous impulses of his soul. In his limited circumstances he has had a heart to do and has done more in the sight of God for those who were in need of help than many of his brethren who are blessed with sight and who have a good property. Brother E has a capital in his business calculation and inventive faculty. He has worked earnestly with high hopes of inventing a business by which he might support himself and not be dependent upon his brethren.
I wish that we might all see as God sees. I wish all could realize how God looks upon those men who profess to be followers of Christ, who have the blessing of sight and the advantage of means in their favour, and who yet envy the little prosperity enjoyed by a poor blind man and would benefit themselves, increase their stock of means, at the disadvantage of their afflicted brother. This is regarded of God as the most criminal selfishness and robbery, and is an aggravating sin, which He will surely punish. God never forgets. He
does not look upon these things with human eyes and with cold, unfeeling, human judgement. He views things, not from the worldling's standpoint, but from the standpoint of mercy, pity, and infinite love.
Brother H tried to help Brother E, but not with unselfish motives. At first his pity was excited. He saw that Brother E needed help. But soon he lost his interest, and selfish feelings gathered strength, until the course of his brethren resulted in Brother E's being disadvantaged rather than benefited. These things have greatly discouraged Brother E and have had a tendency to shake his confidence in his brethren. They have resulted in involving him in debts which he could not pay. As he has realised the selfish feelings exercised toward him by some of his brethren, it has grieved him and sometimes stirred him. His feelings at times have been almost uncontrollable as he has realised his helpless condition, without sight, without means, without health, and with some of his brethren working against him. This has added greatly to his affliction and told fearfully upon his health.
I was shown that Brother E has some good qualities of mind which would be better appreciated if he had greater power of self-control and would not become excited. Every exhibition of impatience and fretfulness tells against him, and is made the most of by some who are guilty of much more grievous sins in the sight of God, Brother E's principles are good. He has integrity. He is not a dishonest man. He would not knowingly defraud any man. But he has faults and sins which must be overcome. He, as well as other men, has to deal with human nature. He is too often impatient and is sometimes overbearing. He should cherish a more kindly, courteous spirit and should cultivate gratitude of heart toward those who have felt an interest in his case. Naturally he has an impetuous temper when suddenly aroused or unreasonably provoked. But, notwithstanding this, he has a heart to do right, and he feels sincere repentance toward God when he reflects upon his wrongs.
If he sees his brethren inclined to do him justice he will
be generous to forgive and humble enough to desire peace, even if he has to make great sacrifices to obtain it. But he is easily excited; he is of a nervous temperament. He has need of the subduing influence of the Spirit of God. If those who are ready to censure him would consider their own wrongs and kindly overlook his faults as generously as they should, they would manifest the spirit of Christ. Brother E has a work to do to overcome. His words and deportment to others should be gentle, kind, and pleasant. He should strictly guard against everything which savours of a dictatorial spirit or of overbearing manners or words.
While God is a friend to the blind and the unfortunate, He does not excuse their sins. He requires them to overcome and to perfect Christian character in the name of Jesus, who overcame in their behalf. But Jesus pities our weakness, and He is ready to give strength to bear up in trial and to resist the temptations of Satan, if we will cast our burden upon Him. Angels are sent to minister to the children of God who are physically blind. Angels guard their steps and save them from a thousand dangers, which, unknown to them, beset their path. But His Spirit will not attend them unless they cherish a spirit of kindness and seek earnestly to have control over their natures and to bring their passions and every power into submission to God. They must cultivate a spirit of love and control their words and actions.
I was shown that God requires His people to be far more pitiful and considerate of the unfortunate than they are. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Here genuine religion is defined. God requires that the same consideration which should be given to the widow and fatherless be given to the blind and to those suffering under the affliction of other physical infirmities. Disinterested benevolence is very rare in this age of the world.
I was shown, in Brother E's case, that those who would in any way deal unjustly with him and discourage him in his
efforts to help himself, or who, coveting the poor blind man's prosperity, would advantage themselves to his disadvantage, will bring upon themselves the curse of God, who is the blind man's friend. Special injunctions were given to the children of Israel in reference to the blind: "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgement: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour." "Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that perverteth the judgement of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen."
It is strange that professed Christian men should disregard the plain, positive teachings of the word of God and feel no compunctions of conscience. God places upon them the responsibility of caring for the unfortunate, the blind, the lame, the widow, and the fatherless; but many make no effort to regard it. In order to save such, God frequently brings them under the rod of affliction and places them in positions similar to those occupied by the persons who were in need of their help and sympathy, but who did not receive it at their hands.
God will hold the church at ----- responsible, as a body, for the wrong course of its members. If a selfish and unsympathising spirit is allowed to exist in any of its members toward the unfortunate, the widow, the orphan, the blind, the lame, or those who are sick in body or mind, He will hide His face from His people until they do their duty and remove the wrong from among them. If any professing the name of Christ so far misrepresent their Saviour as to be unmindful of their duty to the afflicted, or if they in any way seek to advantage themselves to the injury of the unfortunate
and thus rob them of means, the Lord holds the church accountable for the sin of its members until they have done all they can to remedy the existing evil. He will not hearken to the prayer of His people while the orphan, the fatherless, the lame, the blind, and the sick are neglected among them.
There is more meant by "being on the Lord's side" than merely saying so in meeting. The Lord's side is ever the side of mercy, pity, and sympathy for the suffering, as will be seen by the example given us in the life of Jesus. We are required to imitate His example. But there are some who are not on the Lord's side in regard to these things; they are on the side of the enemy. In giving to His hearers an illustration of this subject, Jesus said:
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was anhungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee anhungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
Here in His sermon Christ identifies Himself with suffering humanity and plainly impresses upon us all that indifference or injustice done to the least of His saints is done to Him. Here is the Lord's side, and whoever will be on the Lord's side, let him come over with us. The dear Saviour is wounded when we wound one of His humble saints.
Righteous job moans because of his afflictions and pleads his own cause when unjustly accused by one of his comforters. He says: "I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to
the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth."
The sin of one man discomfited the entire army of Israel. A wrong course pursued by one toward his brother will turn the light of God from His people until the wrong is searched out and the cause of the oppressed is vindicated. God requires His people to be tender in their feelings and discriminations, while their hearts should be enlarged, their feelings should be broad and deep, not narrow, selfish, and penurious. Noble sympathy, largeness of soul, and disinterested benevolence are needed. Then can the church triumph in God. But just as long as the church suffer selfishness to dry up kindly sympathy and tender, thoughtful love and interest for their brethren, every virtue will be corroded. Isaiah's fast should be studied and close self-examination made with a spirit to discern whether there is in them the principles which God's people are required to possess in order that they may receive the rich blessings promised.
God requires that His people should not allow the poor and afflicted to be oppressed. If they break every yoke and release the oppressed, and are unselfish and kindly considerate of the needy, then shall the blessings promised be theirs. If there are those in the church who would cause the blind to stumble, they should be brought to justice; for God has made us guardians of the blind, the afflicted, the widows, and the fatherless. The stumbling block referred to in the word of God does not mean a block of wood placed before the feet of the blind to cause him to stumble, but it means much more than this. It means any course that may be pursued to injure the influence of their blind brother, to work against his interest, or to hinder his prosperity.
A brother who is blind and poor and diseased, and who is making every exertion to help himself that he may not be dependent, should be encouraged by his brethren in every way possible. But those who profess to be his brethren, who
have the use of all their faculties, who are not dependent, but who so far forget their duty to the blind as to perplex and distress and hedge up his way, are doing a work which will require repentance and restoration before God will accept their prayers. And the church of God who have permitted their unfortunate brother to be wronged will be guilty of sin until they do all in their power to have the wrong righted.
All are doubtless familiar with Achan's case. It is recorded in sacred history for all generations, but more especially for those upon whom the ends of the world are come. Joshua lay moaning upon his face before God because the people were obliged to make a disgraceful retreat before their enemies. The Lord bade Joshua arise: "Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" Have I humbled without cause by removing My presence from thee? Does God forsake His people without a cause? No; He tells Joshua that there is a work for him to do before his prayer can be answered. "Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also." He declares: Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you."
Here in this example we have some idea of the responsibility resting upon the church and the work that God requires them to do in order to have His presence. It is a sin in any church not to search for the cause of their darkness and of the afflictions which have been in the midst of them. The church in ----- cannot be a living, prosperous church until they are more awake to the wrongs among them, which hinder the blessing of God from coming upon them. The church should not suffer their brethren in afflict on to be wronged. These are the very ones that should awaken the sympathy of all hearts and call into exercise noble, benevolent feelings from all the followers of Christ. The true disciples of Christ will work in harmony with Him and, following His example will help those who need help. Brother E's blindness
is a terrible affliction, and all should seek to be eyes for the blind and thus make him feel his loss as little as possible. There are some who improve their eyes by watching opportunities to work for their own advantage to get gain, but God may bring confusion upon them in a manner they do not expect.
If God in His mercy has given the blind man inventive faculties that he can use for his own good, God forbid that anyone should grudge him this privilege and rob him of the benefits he might derive from God's gift to him. The blind man has disadvantages to meet on every side in the loss of his sight. That heart in which pity and sympathy are not excited at seeing a blind man groping his way in a world clothed to him in darkness, is hard indeed and must be softened by the grace of God. Not a face can the blind man look upon and there read kindly sympathy and true benevolence. He cannot look upon the beauties of nature and trace the finger of God in His created works. Their cheering gladness does not speak to him to comfort and to bless when despondency broods over him. How quickly would he exchange his blindness and every temporal blessing for the blessing of sight. But he is shut up to a world of darkness, and his God-given rights have been trampled upon that others might get gain.