Those who travel in the narrow way are talking of the happiness they will have at the end of the journey. Their countenances are often sad, yet often beam with holy joy. They do not dress like the company in the broad road, nor talk like them, nor act like them. A pattern has been given them. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief opened that road for them, and travelled it Himself. His followers see His footprints, and are comforted and cheered. He went through safely; so can they, if they follow in His steps.
In the broad road all are occupied with their persons, their dress, and the pleasures in the way. They indulge freely in mirth and revelry, and think not of their journey's end, of the certain ruin at the termination of the path. Every day they approach nearer their destruction, yet they madly rush on faster and faster.
Many who travel in the broad road have the words written upon them, "Dead to the world. The end of all things is at hand. Be ye also ready." They appear like the gay, thoughtless ones around them, their conversation is like that of their companions; but they occasionally point with great satisfaction to the words on their garments, calling for others to have the same upon theirs. They are in the broad way, yet profess to be of the number who are travelling the narrow path. Those around them say, "There is no distinction between us. We are all alike; we dress and talk and act alike."
When Christ shall come, will He accept a people who are conformed to the world? Will He acknowledge them as His people whom He has purified to Himself? No, never. None but the pure and holy will He acknowledge as His. Only those who have been purified and made white through suffering will Christ accept.
How was it with the people of God in 1843 and 1844? There was a spirit of consecration then that there is not now. What has come over the professed peculiar people of God? Whence is the conformity to the world, the unwillingness to suffer for the truth's sake? Whence so great a lack of submission to the will of God? There is a lesson for us in the experience of the children of Israel after they left Egypt. God in mercy called them out from the Egyptians that they might worship Him without hindrance or restraint. He proved and tried them by bringing them into strait places; He wrought for them in the way by mighty miracles. Yet notwithstanding His wonderful dealings with them, and the manifestations of His power in their deliverance, they murmured when tried or proved by Him. Their language was, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt." Exodus 16:3.
Professed Christians often think it strange that the children of Israel murmured as they journeyed; that they could have been so ungrateful as to forget the gracious dealings of God with them. But many who think thus have done worse than they. God has given us light upon His Word, revealing the great truths for this time, and making them so plain and clear that they cannot be misunderstood by the earnest seeker. Yet how few rightly prize this great blessing. When trials arise, how many are ready to look back and think that their lot is hard. They do not bear in mind that the way which they are travelling is a rugged, self-denying way, and that they must not expect everything to move on as smoothly as if they were in the broad road.
Why is it so hard to lead a humble, self-denying life? Because professed Christians are not dead to the world. It is easy living after we are dead to sin. But many are longing for the leeks and onions of Egypt. They have a disposition to dress and act as much like the world as possible and yet go to heaven. Such are seeking to climb up some other way. They do not enter the strait gate, and walk in the narrow path.
The conformity of professed Christians to the world is a disgrace to their profession, a disgrace to the cause of God. They profess to have come out from the world and to be separate, yet are so near like them in dress, in conversation, and actions, that there is no distinction. While in the possession of life and health, many devote their God-given time and means to the adorning of the poor mortal bodies, forgetting that these are liable at any moment to be touched by the finger of God and laid upon a bed of death. But as they approach their last change, and mortal anguish racks their frames, the great inquiry is, "Am I prepared to die? prepared to appear before God in judgement, and pass the grand review?" Ask them then how they feel about decorating their persons, and if they have any sense of what it is to be prepared to appear before God, they will tell you that if they could take back and live over the past, they would correct their lives and shun the folly of the world, its vanity and pride; they would live to the glory of God, and set an example to all around them.
Why are so few interested in their eternal welfare, so few preparing for their last change? Earth attracts them; its treasures seem of worth to them. They find enough to engross the mind, and have no time to prepare for heaven. Satan is ever seeking to plunge them deeper and deeper into difficulty. As soon as one perplexity or trouble is off the mind, he stands ready to involve them in another by begetting within them an unholy desire for more of the things of earth. Thus their time passes, and when it is too late, they see that they have gained nothing substantial. They have grasped at shadows, and lost eternal life.
Many who imitate the customs and fashions of the world claim that they do this in order to have an influence with worldlings. But here they make a sad and fatal mistake. If they would have a true and saving influence, let them live out their profession, show their faith by their righteous works, and make wide the distinction between the Christian and the world. Our words, our dress, our actions, should tell for God. Then all will take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. Unbelievers will see that the truth which we profess has a holy influence, that faith in Christ's coming affects our character. If any wish to have their influence tell in favour of the truth, let them live it out, and thus imitate the humble Pattern.
Parents, when you set an example of pride for your children, you are sowing seed that will spring up and bear fruit. That which you sow you will reap. The harvest will be plenteous and sure. It is easier to teach a lesson of pride than a lesson of humility. Satan and his angels stand ready to make the act of yours or the word that you may speak effectual to encourage your children to imitate the fashions of the world, and in their pride to mingle with society that is not holy. O parents, you thus plant in your own bosoms a thorn that you will often feel in anguish. When you would counteract the sad lesson you have taught your children, you will find it well-nigh impossible. You may deny them those things that would gratify their pride, yet it still lives in the heart, and nothing can destroy it but the quick and powerful Spirit of God. When this finds its way to the heart, it will work like a refining fire, and pride and love of the world will be consumed.
Unless you awake to the eternal interests of your children, they will surely be lost through your neglect. And the possibility that unfaithful parents will be saved themselves is very small. The lives of parents should be exemplary. They should exert a holy influence in their families. As they value the eternal interests of their children, they should rebuke pride in them, faithfully rebuke it, and encourage it not in word or deed.
Jesus, the King of glory, who gave His life to redeem us, wore a crown of thorns. It was thus that our Master's sacred head was adorned. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5. Yet the very ones that profess to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus, spilled for them, can indulge pride in the adornment of their persons, and still claim to be followers of the holy, humble, self-denying Pattern. Oh that all could see this as God sees it!
Israel have been asleep to the pride, and fashion, and worldliness in the very midst of them. It is these things that separate God from His people, that shut the ark away from them. When the truth affects their hearts, it will cause a death to the world. They will then lay aside the outward adorning, and if they are dead they will not be moved by the laugh, jeer, and scorn of unbelievers. They will feel an anxious desire to be separate from the world, like their Master. They will not imitate its pride, fashions, or customs. The noble object will be ever before them, to glorify God, and gain the immortal inheritance. This prospect will swallow up all beside of an earthly nature. God will have a people separate and distinct from the world. And as soon as any indulge a desire to imitate the fashions of the world, just so soon God ceases to acknowledge them as His children. They show that they are strangers to grace, strangers to the meek and lowly Jesus. If they had acquainted themselves with Him, they would walk worthy of Him.
A form of godliness will not save any. All must have a deep and living experience. This alone will save them in the time of trouble before us. Then their work will be tried, of what sort it is. If it is gold, silver, and precious stones, they will be hid as in the secret of the Lord's pavilion. But if their work is wood, hay, stubble, nothing can shield them from the fierceness of Jehovah's wrath.
Many measure themselves among themselves, and compare their lives with the lives of others. This should not be. No one but Christ is given us as an example, and each should strive to excel in imitating Him. We are co-workers with Christ, or co-workers with the enemy. We either gather with Christ, or scatter abroad. We are decided, whole-hearted Christians, or none at all. None will enter heaven without making a sacrifice. Those who are willing to make any and every sacrifice for eternal life will have it; and it will be worth suffering for, worth crucifying self for, and sacrificing every idol for. The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory outweighs every earthly treasure, and eclipses every earthly attraction.
Review and Herald, December 12, 1882.