In this day we have been privileged to have increased light and large opportunities, and we are held responsible for the improvement of light. This will be manifested by increased piety and devotion. Our loyalty to God should be proportionate to the light which shines upon us in this age. But the fact that we have increased light does not justify us in dissecting and judging the character of men whom God raised up in former times to do a certain work and to penetrate the moral darkness of the world. In the past the servants of God wrestled with principalities and powers, and with the rulers of the darkness of this world, and with spiritual wickedness in high places, the same as we, who bear aloft the banner of truth, do today. These men were God's noblemen, His living agencies, through whom He wrought in a wonderful manner. They were depositories of divine truth to the extent that the Lord saw fit to reveal the truth that the world could bear to hear. They proclaimed the truth at a time when false, corrupt religion was magnifying itself in the world.
I could wish that the curtain could be rolled back, and that those who have not spiritual eyesight might see these men as they appear in the sight of God; for now they see them as trees walking. They would not then put their human construction upon the experience and works of the men who parted the darkness from the track, and prepared the way for future generations. Living down in our own generation, we may pronounce judgement upon the men whom God raised up to do a special work, according to the light given to them in their day. Though they may have been overcome with temptation, they repented of their sins; and no opportunity is left for us to depreciate their characters or to excuse sin. Their history is a beacon of warning to us, and points out a safe path for our feet if we will but shun their mistakes. These noble men sought the mercy seat, and humbled their souls before God.
Let not our voices or pens show that we are disregarding the solemn injunctions of the Lord. Let no one depreciate those who have been chosen of God, who have fought manfully the battles of the Lord, who have woven heart and soul and life into the cause and work of God, who have died in faith, and who are partakers of the great salvation purchased for us through our precious sin-bearing, sin-pardoning Saviour. God has inspired no man to reproduce their mistakes, and to present their errors to a world that is lying in wickedness, and to a church composed of many who are weak in faith. The Lord has not laid the burden upon men to revive the mistakes and errors of the living or the dead. He would have His labourers present the truth for this time. Speak not of the errors of your brethren who are living, and be silent as to the mistakes of the dead. Let their mistakes and errors remain where God has put them--cast into the depths of the sea. The less that is said by those who profess to believe present truth, in regard to the past mistakes and errors of the servants of God, the better it will be for their own souls, and for the souls of those whom Christ has purchased with His own blood. Let every voice proclaim the words of the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. John heard a voice saying, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Revelation 14:13.
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Galatians 6:1. If you think your brethren are in error, or in danger of making strong statements and of going to extremes, in the love of Christ and in the spirit of meekness, go to them and talk the matter over with them. If you wish to be labourers together with God, if you are spiritually minded yourself, you will not seek to expose the errors and mistakes of your brethren, but will seek to correct them, and will restore the one you deem to be in danger. When this work of restoring those who err is neglected, sin lies upon those who have seen their brethren's defects, and have not followed out the gospel rule. God would have His labourers upbuild and strengthen and save those who are in danger of falling. Those who are in close connection with God, and who have a sense of the sacred character of His work, will bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. This is the special work of those who believe the present truth.
Those who neglect their God-given responsibilities, and who will not take every means in their power to save those for whom Christ died from making a misstep, are neglecting His work, and are failing to be co-labourers with Christ. But if, through lack of foresight, mistakes are made by men who are chosen and beloved of God, and they make haste to correct their errors as soon as their attention is called to their mistakes, shall a brother take advantage of the circumstance? Shall articles be traced by an unfriendly pen calculated to weaken the confidence of others in the man who honestly erred in judgement, when he thought he was in the right? Let those who would do this kind of work consider how they would like to have it done to themselves, were they in similar circumstances. Let them consider whether they would have received reproof in the spirit of meekness, or whether pride would have had the mastery, and they become doubly guilty in expressing, in word and attitude, sullen defiance of the reprover. Would they have been obedient to correction, and received reproof in that spirit of meekness which yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness?
The word of caution comes down along the line to our time: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived [in your opinion of your own piety]; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:6. No frost shall blight the crop, no mildew blast it, no palmerworm devour it; the harvest is sure. Then be careful what seed you sow. God calls upon every man, woman, and youth to sow precious seed in time, that with joy he may reap in eternity.
We have no time now, and should have no disposition to stand as spectators of the great warfare between good and evil. We should be actively engaged in fighting the good fight of faith, and this will demand all the energies of the mind, all the capabilities and powers of the being. We are to be faithful soldiers, obeying the orders of the Captain of our salvation. We are not to take the Captain's place; but hourly to live in constant contact with Christ. We must know, individually, that we know the truth, not only theoretically, but practically. We must bring its divine principles into our daily life. God requires truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part wisdom. He requires us to practice righteousness, to manifest patience, mercy, and love. We should carefully review our character in the light of the character of God, as expressed in His holy law. There should be no deviating from the perfect standard. The Lord says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48.
Ample provision has been made that the people of God may attain perfection of character. The apostle says, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Let every individual draw for himself from the inexhaustible Source of all moral and intellectual power, in order that he may work the works of righteousness. Through the cross of Calvary every facility is furnished whereby man may be in union with his fellow men, and in harmony with Christ in God. The Father says that He will love those who believe that Christ died for them, even as He loves His only begotten Son. The cross of Christ is the assurance that we may be complete in Him. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. In Christ is excellence, in Him is intellectual greatness and moral efficiency.
The Holy Spirit ever abides with him who is seeking for perfection of Christian character. The Holy Spirit furnishes the pure motive, the living, active principle, that sustains striving, wrestling, believing souls in every emergency and under every temptation. The Holy Spirit sustains the believer amid the world's hatred, amid the unfriendliness of relatives, amid disappointment, amid the realisation of imperfection, and amid the mistakes of life. Depending upon the matchless purity and perfection of Christ, the victory is sure to him who looks unto the Author and Finisher of our faith. We shall be more that conquerors through Him who hath loved us, and given Himself for us. See Romans 8:37. He has borne our sins, in order that through Him we might have moral excellence, and attain unto the perfection of Christian character. Our righteousness is our Substitute and Surety. See Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16.
Let no one think he can hide his imperfection behind men who have been chosen of God, yet who have shown weakness, who have made mistakes, and who have been guilty of sin. The Lord has recorded the mistakes and sins of His servants, not that they may be reproduced, but that their experience may serve as a danger signal, that others need not fall in going over the ground where they stumbled. If you are ambitious for self-preferment, you must overcome, or you will never enter the courts of heaven. Let selfishness be rooted out of the heart. In the life of Christ there was no fibre of selfishness. He lived not to please Himself. Are you covetously retaining the means which God would have you use to His name's glory? Bear in mind that covetousness is idolatry. If you keep the commandments of God, you will love God with all your heart, mind, might, soul, and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. You will not cherish an overbearing, dictatorial spirit. There will be no place in the heavenly courts for anything save sympathy and love, kindness and goodness. Mercy, long-suffering, and tender compassion are the attributes of the character of Christ. The opposite of these attributes belong to the character of Satan, and will never find an entrance into the city of our God. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, are the fruits that appear on the Christian tree. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:20. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Galatians 5:24. Christians reveal the fact that they have a heavenly endowment. They think upon "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Philippians 4:8.
Review and Herald, November 30, 1897, originally entitled "Exposing of the Brethren's Mistakes Reproved."