Christ says to His redeemed people: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was anhungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
"Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee anhungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
To become a toiler, to continue patiently in well-doing which calls for self-denying labour, is a glorious work, which Heaven smiles upon. Faithful work is more acceptable to God than the most zealous and thought-to-be holiest worship. It is working together with Christ that is true worship. Prayers, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on; but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.
Pure religion and undefiled before the Father is this: "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Good deeds are the fruit that Christ requires us to bear: kind words, deeds of benevolence, of tender regard for the poor, the needy, the afflicted. When hearts sympathise with hearts burdened with discouragement and grief, when the hand dispenses to the needy, when the naked are clothed, the stranger made welcome to a seat in your parlour and a place in your heart, angels are coming very near, and an answering strain is responded to in heaven. Every act of justice, mercy, and benevolence makes melody in heaven. The Father from His throne beholds those who do these acts of mercy, and numbers them with His most precious treasures. "And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels." Every merciful act to the needy, the suffering, is regarded as though done to Jesus. When you succour the poor, sympathise with the afflicted and oppressed, and befriend the orphan, you bring yourselves into a closer relationship to Jesus.
"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." Matthew 25:41-46.
Jesus here identifies Himself with His suffering people.
It was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was naked. It was I who was sick. It was I who was in prison. When you were enjoying the food from your bountifully spread tables, I was famishing in the hovel or street not far from you. When you closed your doors against Me, while your well-furnished rooms were unoccupied, I had not where to lay My head. Your wardrobes were filled with an abundant supply of changeable suits of apparel, upon which means had been needlessly squandered, which you might have given to the needy. I was destitute of comfortable apparel. When you were enjoying health, I was sick. Misfortune cast Me into prison and bound Me with fetters, bowing down My spirit, depriving Me of freedom and hope, while you roamed free. What a oneness Jesus here expresses as existing between Himself and His suffering disciples! He makes their case His own. He identifies Himself as being in person the very sufferer. Mark, selfish Christian: every neglect of the needy poor, the orphan, the fatherless, is a neglect of Jesus in their person.
I am acquainted with persons who make a high profession, whose hearts are so encased in self-love and selfishness that they cannot appreciate what I am writing. They have all their lives thought and lived only for self. To make a sacrifice to do others good, to disadvantage themselves to advantage others, is out of the question with them. They have not the least idea that God requires this of them. Self is their idol. Precious weeks, months, and years pass into eternity, but they have no record in heaven of kindly acts, of sacrificing for others' good, of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or taking in the stranger. This entertaining strangers at a venture is not agreeable. If they knew that all who sought to share their bounty were worthy, then they might be induced to do something in this direction. But there is virtue in venturing something. Perchance we may entertain angels.
There are orphans that should be cared for; but some will not venture to undertake this, for it would bring them more work than they care to do, leaving them but little time to please themselves. But when the King shall make investigation, these do-nothing, illiberal, selfish souls will learn that heaven is for those who have been workers, those who have denied themselves for Christ's sake. No provisions have been made for those who have ever taken such special care in loving and looking out for themselves. The terrible punishment which the King threatens those on His left hand, in this case, is not because of their great crimes. They are not condemned for the things which they did do, but for that which they did not do. You did not those things which Heaven assigned you to do. You pleased yourself, and can take your portion with self-pleasers.
To my sisters I would say: Be daughters of benevolence. The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. You may have thought that if you could find a child without fault, you would take it, and care for it; but to perplex your mind with an erring child, to unlearn it many things and teach it anew, to teach it self-control, is a work which you refuse to undertake. To teach the ignorant, to pity and to reform those who have ever been learning evil, is no slight task; but Heaven has placed just such ones in your way. They are blessings in disguise.
Years ago I was shown that God's people would be tested upon this point of making homes for the homeless; that there would be many without homes in consequence of their believing the truth. Opposition and persecution would deprive believers of their homes, and it was the duty of those who had homes to open a wide door to those who had not. I have been shown more recently that God would specially test His professed people in reference to this matter. Christ for our sakes became poor that we through His poverty might
be made rich. He made a sacrifice that He might provide a home for pilgrims and strangers in the world seeking for a better country, even an heavenly. Shall those who are subjects of His grace, who are expecting to be heirs of immortality, refuse, or even feel reluctant, to share their homes with the homeless and needy? Shall we, who are disciples of Jesus, refuse strangers an entrance to our doors because they can claim no acquaintance with the inmates?
Has the injunction of the apostle no force in this age: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares"? I am daily pained with exhibitions of selfishness among our people. There is an alarming absence of love and care for those who are entitled to it. Our heavenly Father lays blessings disguised in our pathway, but some will not touch these for fear they will detract from their enjoyment. Angels are waiting to see if we embrace opportunities within our reach of doing good--waiting to see if we will bless others, that they in their turn may bless us. The Lord Himself has made us to differ,--some poor, some rich, some afflicted,--that all may have an opportunity to develop character. The poor are purposely permitted to be thus of God, that we may be tested and proved, and develop what is in our hearts.
I have heard many excuse themselves from inviting to their homes and hearts the saints of God. "Why, I have nothing prepared, I have nothing cooked; they must go to some other place." And at that place there may be some other excuse invented for not receiving those who need hospitality, and the feelings of the visitors are deeply grieved, and they leave with unpleasant impressions in regard to the hospitality of these professed brethren and sisters. If you have no bread, sister, imitate the case brought to view in the Bible. Go to your neighbour and say: "Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to
set before him." We have not an example of this lack of bread ever being made an excuse to refuse entrance to an applicant. When Elijah came to the widow of Sarepta, she shared her morsel with the prophet of God, and he wrought a miracle, and caused that in that act of making a home for his servant, and sharing her morsel with him, she herself was sustained, and her life and that of her son preserved. Thus will it prove in the case of many, if they do this cheerfully, for the glory of God.
Some plead their poor health--they would love to do if they had strength. Such have so long shut themselves up to themselves, and thought so much of their own poor feelings, and talked so much of their sufferings, trials, and afflictions, that it is their present truth. They can think of no one but self, however much others may be in need of sympathy and assistance. You who are suffering with poor health, there is a remedy for you. If thou clothe the naked, and bring the poor that are cast out to thy house, and deal thy bread to the hungry, "then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily." Doing good is an excellent remedy for disease. Those who engage in the work are invited to call upon God, and He has pledged Himself to answer them. Their soul shall be satisfied in drought, and they shall be like a watered garden, whose waters fail not.
Wake up, brethren and sisters. Do not be afraid of good works. "Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Do not wait to be told your duty. Open your eyes and see who are around you; make yourselves acquainted with the helpless, afflicted, and needy. Hide not yourselves from them, and seek not to shut out their needs. Who gives the proofs mentioned in James, of possessing pure religion, untainted with selfishness or corruption? Who are anxious to do all in their power to aid in the great plan of salvation?
I am acquainted with a widow who has two small children to support, wholly by the use of her needle. She looks pale and careworn. All through the hard winter she has struggled to sustain herself and her children. She has received a little help, but who would feel any lack if a still greater interest were manifested in this case? Here are her two boys, aged about nine and eleven years, who need homes. Who are willing to give them homes for Christ's sake? The mother should be released from this care and close confinement to her needle. These boys are in a village, their only guardian their hard-working mother. They need to be taught how to work as their age will admit. They need to be patiently, kindly, lovingly instructed. Some may say: "Oh, yes, I would take them and teach them how to work." But they should not lose sight of other things which these children need besides being taught to work. They need to be instructed how they shall develop good Christian character. They want love and affection, they need to be fitted to become useful here, and finally to be prepared for heaven. Disrobe yourselves of selfishness, and see if there are not many whom you can help and bless with your homes, your sympathy, your love, and in pointing them to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. Do you wish to make any sacrifice to save souls? Jesus, the dear Saviour, is preparing a home for you; and why will not you in your turn prepare a home for those who need it, and in thus doing imitate the example of your Master? If you are not willing to do this, when you shall feel that you need a habitation in the heavens, none will be awarded you. For Christ declares: "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me." You that have been selfish, studying your own ease and advantage all your life, your hours of probation are fast closing. What are you doing to redeem your life of selfishness and uselessness? Wake up! wake up!
As you regard your eternal interest, arouse yourselves, and begin to sow good seed. That which you sow, you shall also reap. The harvest is coming--the great reaping time, when we shall reap what we have sown. There will be no failure in the crop; the harvest is sure. Now is the sowing time. Now make efforts to be rich in good works, "ready to distribute, willing to communicate," laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye "may lay hold on eternal life." I implore you, my brethren in every place, rid yourselves of your icy coldness. Encourage in yourselves a love of hospitality, a love to help those who need help.
You may say you have been taken in and have bestowed your means upon those unworthy of your charity, and therefore have become discouraged in trying to help the needy. I present Jesus before you. He came to save fallen man, to bring salvation to His own nation; but they would not accept Him. They treated His mercy with insult and contempt, and at length they put to death Him who came for the purpose of giving them life. Did our Lord turn from the fallen race because of this? Though your efforts for good have been unsuccessful ninety-nine times, and you received only insult, reproach, and hate, yet if the one-hundredth time proves a success, and one soul is saved, oh, what a victory is achieved! One soul wrenched from Satan's grasp, one soul benefited, one soul encouraged. This will a thousand times repay you for all your efforts. To you will Jesus say: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Should we not gladly do all we can to imitate the life of our divine Lord? Many shrink at the idea of making any sacrifice for others' good. They are not willing to suffer for the sake of helping others. They flatter themselves that it is not required of them to disadvantage themselves for the benefit of others. To such we say: Jesus is our example.
When the request was made for the two sons of Zebedee to sit the one on His right hand and the other on His left in His kingdom, Jesus answered: "Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with? They say unto Him, We are able. And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father." How many can answer: We can drink of the cup; we can be baptised with the baptism; and make the answer understandingly? How many imitate the great Exemplar? All who have professed to be followers of Christ have, in taking this step, pledged themselves to walk even as He walked. Yet the course of many who make high professions of the truth shows that they make but little reference to the Pattern in conforming their lives thereto. They shape their course to meet their own imperfect standard. They do not imitate the self-denial of Christ or His life of sacrifice for others' good.
The poor, the homeless, and the widows are among us. I heard a wealthy farmer describe the situation of a poor widow among them. He lamented her straitened circumstances, and then said: "I don't know how she is going to get along this cold winter. She has close times now." Such have forgotten the pattern, and by their acts say: "Nay, Lord, we cannot drink of the cup of self-denial, humiliation, and sacrifice which You drank of, nor be baptised with the suffering which You were baptised with. We cannot live to do others good. It is our business to take care of ourselves." Who should know how the widow should get along unless it be those who have well-filled granaries? The means for her to get along are at hand. And dare those whom God has made His stewards,
to whom He has entrusted means, withhold from the needy disciples of Christ? If so, they withhold from Jesus. Do you expect the Lord to rain down grain from heaven to supply the needy? Has He not rather placed it in your hands, to help and bless them through you? Has He not made you His instrument in this good work to prove you, and to give you the privilege of laying up a treasure in heaven?
Fatherless and motherless children are thrown into the arms of the church, and Christ says to His followers: Take these destitute children, bring them up for Me, and ye shall receive your wages. I have seen much selfishness exhibited in these things. Unless there is some special evidence that they themselves are to be benefited by adopting into their family those who need homes, some turn away and answer: No. They do not seem to know or care whether such are saved or lost. That, they think, is not their business. With Cain they say: "Am I my brother's keeper?" They are not willing to be put to inconvenience or to make any sacrifice for the orphans, and they indifferently thrust such ones into the arms of the world, who are sometimes more willing to receive them than are these professed Christians. In the day of God, inquiry will be made for those whom Heaven gave them the opportunity of saving. But they wished to be excused, and would not engage in the good work unless they could make it a matter of profit to them. I have been shown that those who refuse these opportunities for doing good will hear from Jesus: "As ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me." Please read Isaiah 58:
"Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye
break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
This is the special work now before us. All our praying and abstinence from food will avail nothing unless we resolutely lay hold of this work. Sacred obligations are resting upon us. Our duty is plainly stated. The Lord has spoken to us by His prophet. The thoughts of the Lord and His ways are not what blind, selfish mortals believe they are or wish them to be. The Lord looks on the heart. If selfishness dwells there, He knows it. We may seek to conceal our true character from our brethren and sisters, but God knows. Nothing can be hid from Him.
The fast which God can accept is described. It is to deal thy bread to the hungry and to bring the poor which are cast out to thy house. Wait not for them to come to you. The labour rests not on them to hunt you up and entreat of you a home for themselves. You are to search for them and bring them to your house. You are to draw out your soul after them. You are with one hand to reach up and by faith take hold of the mighty arm which brings salvation, while with the other
hand of love you reach the oppressed and relieve them. It is impossible for you to fasten upon the arm of God with one hand while the other is employed in ministering to your own pleasure.
If you engage in this work of mercy and love, will the work prove too hard for you? Will you fail and be crushed under the burden, and your family be deprived of your assistance and influence? Oh, no; God has carefully removed all doubts upon this question, by a pledge to you on condition of your obedience. This promise covers all that the most exacting, the most hesitating, could crave. "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily." Only believe that He is faithful that hath promised. God can renew the physical strength. And more, He says He will do it. And the promise does not end here. "Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward." God will build a fortification around thee. The promise does not stop even here. "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am." If ye put down oppression and remove the speaking of vanity, if ye draw out your soul to the hungry, "then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought [famine], and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Read Isaiah 58, ye who claim to be children of the light. Especially do you read it again and again who have felt so reluctant to inconvenience yourselves by favouring the needy. You whose hearts and houses are too narrow to make a home for the homeless, read it; you who can see orphans and widows oppressed by the iron hand of poverty and bowed down by hardhearted worldlings, read it. Are you afraid that an influence will be introduced into your family that will cost you
more labour, read it. Your fears may be groundless, and a blessing may come, known and realised by you every day. But if otherwise, if extra labour is called for, you can draw upon One who has promised: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily." The reason why God's people are not more spiritually minded and have not more faith, I have been shown, is because they are narrowed up with selfishness. The prophet is addressing Sabbathkeepers, not sinners, not unbelievers, but those who make great pretensions to godliness. It is not the abundance of your meetings that God accepts. It is not the numerous prayers, but the rightdoing, doing the right thing and at the right time. It is to be less self-caring and more benevolent. Our souls must expand. Then God will make them like a watered garden, whose waters fail not.
Read Isaiah 1: "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
The gold mentioned by Christ, the True Witness, which all must have, has been shown me to be faith and love combined, and love takes the precedence of faith. Satan is constantly at work to remove these precious gifts from the hearts of God's people. All are engaged in playing the game of life. Satan is well aware that if he can remove love and faith,
and supply their place with selfishness and unbelief, all the remaining precious traits will soon be skilfully removed by his deceitful hand, and the game will be lost.
My dear brethren, will you allow Satan to accomplish his purpose? Will you submit to lose the game in which you desire to win everlasting life? If God has ever spoken by me, you will just as surely be overcome by Satan, instead of being overcomers, as the throne of God stands sure, unless you are entirely transformed. Love and faith must be won back. Will you engage in this conflict anew and win back the precious gifts of which you are nearly destitute? You will have to make efforts more earnest, more persevering and untiring, than you have ever yet made. It is not merely to pray or fast, but it is to be obedient, to divest yourselves of selfishness, and keep the fast which God has chosen, which He will accept. Many may feel grieved because I have spoken plainly; but this I shall continue to do, if God lays the burden upon me.
God requires that those who occupy responsible positions should be consecrated to the work; for if they move wrong, the people feel at liberty to follow in their footsteps. If the people are wrong, and the leaders lift not their voice against the wrong, they sanction the same, and the sin is charged upon them as well as the offenders. Those who occupy responsible positions should be men of piety, who continually feel the burden of the work resting upon them.