"The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord."
"And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil."
"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger."
We are near the close of time. I have been shown that the retributive judgments of God are already in the land. The Lord has given us warning of the events about to take place. Light is shining from His word; yet darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people. "When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them; . . . and they shall not escape."
It is our duty to inquire the cause of this terrible darkness, that we may shun the course by which men have brought upon themselves so great delusion. God has given the world an opportunity to learn and to obey His will. He has given them, in His word, the light of truth; He has sent them warning, counsel, and admonition; but few will obey His voice. Like the Jewish nation, the majority, even of professed Christians, pride themselves on their superior advantages, but make no returns to God for these great blessings. In infinite mercy a last warning message has been sent to the world, announcing that Christ is at the door and calling attention to God's broken law. But as the antediluvians rejected with scorn the warning of Noah, so will the pleasure lovers of today reject the message of God's faithful servants. The world pursues its unvarying round, absorbed as ever in its business and its pleasures, while the wrath of God is about to be visited on the transgressors of His law.
Our compassionate Redeemer, foreseeing the perils that would surround His followers at this time, has given them special warning: "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." If the church pursue a course similar to that of the world, they will share the same fate. Nay, rather, as they have received greater light, their punishment will be greater than that of the impenitent.
We as a people profess to have truth in advance of every other people upon the earth. Then our life and character should be in harmony with such a faith. The day is just upon us when the righteous shall be bound like precious grain in bundles for the heavenly garner, while the wicked are, like the tares, gathered for the fires of the last great day. But the wheat and tares "grow together until the harvest." In the discharge of life's duties the righteous will to the last be brought in contact with the ungodly. The children of light are scattered among the children of darkness, that the contrast may be seen by all. Thus are the children of God to "show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The divine love glowing in the heart, the Christ like harmony manifested in the life, will be as a glimpse of heaven granted to men of the world that they may see and appreciate its excellence.
Like will attract like. Those who are drinking from the same fountain of blessing will draw nearer together. Truth dwelling in the hearts of believers will lead to blessed and happy assimilation. Thus will be answered the prayer of Christ that His disciples might be one even as He is one with the Father. For this oneness every truly converted heart will be striving.
With the ungodly there will be a deceptive harmony that but partially conceals a perpetual discord. In their opposition to the will and the truth of God they are united, while on every other point they are rent with hatred, emulation, jealousy, and deadly strife.
The pure and the base metal are now so mingled that only the discerning eye of the infinite God can with certainty distinguish between them. But the moral magnet of holiness and truth will attract together the pure metal, while it will repel the base and counterfeit.
"The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly;" but where do we behold the true advent spirit? Who are preparing to stand in that time of temptation which is just before us? The people to whom God has entrusted the sacred, solemn, testing truths for this time are sleeping at their post. They say by their actions: We have the truth; we are "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;" while the True Witness declares: Thou "knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
With what fidelity do these words portray the present condition of the church: "Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Messages of warning, dictated by the Holy Spirit, are borne by the servants of God, defects of character are presented before the erring; but they say: "That does not represent my case. I do not accept the message you bring. I am doing the best I can. I believe the truth."
That evil servant who said in his heart, "My Lord delayeth His coming," professed to be waiting for Christ. He was a "servant," outwardly devoted to the service of God while at heart he had yielded to Satan. He does not, like the scoffer, openly deny the truth, but reveals in his life the sentiment of the heart--that the Lord's coming is delayed. Presumption renders him careless of eternal interests. He accepts the world's maxims and conforms to its customs and practices. Selfishness, worldly pride, and ambitions predominate. Fearing that his brethren may stand higher than himself, he begins to disparage their efforts and impugn their motives. Thus he smites his fellow servants. As he alienates himself from the people of God he unites more and more with the ungodly. He is found eating and drinking "with the drunken"--joining with worldlings and partaking of their spirit. Thus he is lulled into a carnal security and overcome by forgetfulness, indifference, and sloth.
The very beginning of the evil was a neglect of watchfulness and secret prayer, then came a neglect of other religious duties, and thus the way was opened for all the sins that followed. Every Christian will be assailed by the allurements of the world, the clamors of the carnal nature, and the direct temptations of Satan. No one is safe. No matter what our experience has been, no matter how high our station, we need to watch and pray continually. We must be daily controlled by the Spirit of God or we are controlled by Satan.
The Saviour's instructions to His disciples were given for the benefit of His followers in every age. He had those in view who were living near the close of time, when He said: "Take heed to yourselves." It is our work, each for himself, to cherish in the heart the precious graces of the Holy Spirit.
Satan is working with unfailing perseverance and intense energy to draw into his ranks the professed followers of Christ. He is working "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." But Satan is not the only worker by whom the kingdom of darkness is supported. Whoever solicits to sin is a tempter. Whoever imitates the great deceiver becomes his aid. Those who give their influence to sustain an evil work are doing Satan's drudgery.
Actions reveal principles and motives. The fruit borne by many who claim to be plants in the Lord's vineyard shows them to be but thorns and briers. A whole church may sanction the wrong course of some of its members, but that sanction does not prove the wrong to be right. It cannot make grapes of thorn berries.
If some who profess to believe present truth could understand their true position, they would despair of the mercy of God. They have been exerting all their influence against the truth, against the voice of warning, against the people of God. They have been doing the work of Satan. Many have become so infatuated by his deceptions that they will never recover. Such a state of backsliding cannot exist without causing the loss of many souls.
The church has received warning after warning. The duties and dangers of God's people have been plainly revealed. But the worldly element has proved too strong for them. Customs, practices, and fashions which lead the soul away from God have been for years gaining ground in defiance of the warnings and entreaties of the Holy Spirit, until at last their ways have become right in their own eyes, and the Spirit's voice is scarcely heard. No man can tell how far he may go in sin when once he yields himself to the power of the great deceiver. Satan entered into Judas Iscariot and induced him to betray his Lord. Satan led Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Ghost. Those who are not wholly consecrated to God may be led to do the work of Satan, while yet they flatter themselves that they are in the service of Christ.
Brethren and sisters, I entreat you to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." To maintain the warmth and purity of Christian love requires a constant supply of the grace of Christ. Have you employed every means that your "love may abound yet more and more," "that ye may approve things that are excellent," and be filled with the fruits of righteousness "which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God"?
Many who should stand firm for righteousness and truth have manifested weakness and indecision that have encouraged the assaults of Satan. Those who fail to grow in grace, not seeking to reach the highest standard in divine attainments, will be overcome.
This world is to the Christian a land of strangers and enemies. Unless he shall take for his defense the divine panoply and wield the sword of the Spirit he will become the prey of the powers of darkness. The faith of all will be tested. All will be tried as gold is tried in the fire.
The church is composed of imperfect, erring men and women, who call for the continual exercise of charity and forbearance. But there has been a long period of general lukewarmness; a worldly spirit coming into the church has been followed by alienation, faultfinding, malice, strife, and iniquity.
Should there be less sermonizing by men who are unconsecrated in heart and life, and were more time devoted to humbling the soul before God, then might we hope that the Lord would appear to your help and heal your backslidings. Much of the preaching of late begets a false security. Important interests in the cause of God cannot be wisely managed by those who have had so little real connection with God as some of our ministers have had. To entrust the work to such men is like setting children to manage great vessels at sea. Those who are destitute of heavenly wisdom, destitute of living power with God, are not competent to steer the gospel ship amid icebergs and tempests. The church is passing through severe conflicts, but in her peril many would trust her to hands that will surely wreck her. We need a pilot on board now, for we are nearing the harbor. As a people we should be the light of the world. But how many are foolish virgins, having no oil in their vessels with their lamps. May the Lord of all grace, abundant in mercy, full of forgiveness, pity and save us, that we perish not with the wicked!
In this season of conflict and trial we need all the support and consolation we can derive from righteous principles, from fixed religious convictions, from the abiding assurance of the love of Christ, and from a rich experience in divine things. We shall attain to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus only as the result of a steady growth in grace.
Oh, what can I say to open blind eyes, to enlighten the spiritual understanding! Sin must be crucified. A complete moral renovation must be wrought by the Holy Spirit. We must have the love of God, with living, abiding faith. This is the gold tried in the fire. We can obtain it only of Christ. Every sincere and earnest seeker will become a partaker of the divine nature. His soul will be filled with intense longing to know the fullness of that love which passes knowledge; as he advances in the divine life he will be better able to grasp the elevated, ennobling truths of the word of God, until by beholding he becomes changed and is enabled to reflect the likeness of his Redeemer.