Ellen G. White Writings

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Lt 55, 1895

Lt 55, 1895

Olsen, O. A.

Norfolk Villa, Prospect St., Granville, Australia

September 19, 1895

See also Lt 54, 1895. This letter is published in entirety in 1888 1425-1454. +NoteOne or more typed copies of this document contain additional Ellen White handwritten interlineations which may be viewed at the main office of the Ellen G. White Estate.

Dear Brother:

With this letter I send you other important manuscripts. You will see that I have written largely, but as the dates show, not all has been written recently. For three mails some of these writings have been ready, but were not sent. Sister Bolton has not been able to do this work. Again and again I thought that I would send the [manuscripts] without copying, and had had them enveloped, but I was dissuaded from doing this. Well, I thought, next mail they will be ready, but there was no more prospect of having them prepared. This mail I am separated from Fannie; she is at Cooranbong, and I here; but Marian is giving the matter such preparation as is possible under the circumstances, and reading it for the typewriter.

I do not find rest in spirit. Scene after scene is presented in symbols before me, and I find no rest until I begin to write out the matter. I have not slept since two o’clock. I think we will institute at least once each day a season of prayer for the Lord to set things in order at the center of the work. Matters there are being shaped so that every other institution is following in the same course. And the General Conference is itself becoming corrupted with wrong sentiments and principles. In the working up of plans the same principles are manifest that have controlled matters at Battle Creek for quite a length of time.

I have been shown that the Jewish nation were not brought suddenly into their condition of thought and practice. From generation to generation they were working on false theories, carrying out principles that were opposed to the truth, and combining with their religion thoughts and plans that were the product of human minds; human inventions were made supreme.

The holy principles that God has given are represented by the sacred fire; but common fire has been used in place of the sacred. Plans contrary to truth and righteousness are introduced in a subtle manner on the plea that this must be done, and that must be done, because it is for the advancement of the cause of God. But it is the devising of men that leads to oppression, injustice, and wickedness. The cause of God is [to be] free from every taint of injustice. It can gain no advantage by robbing the members of the family of God of their individuality or of their rights. All such practices are abhorrent to God. He inspires no such practices as have been entered into by your councils in regard to the publication of books.

The case of Frank Belden has been presented to me. The office of publication has treated him unjustly, as it has also Edson White. The plea which some are so ready to urge, “the cause of God,” “working in behalf of the cause of God,” to justify themselves in presenting robbery from burnt offering, is an offense to God. He accepts no such transactions; prosperity will not attend these movements. The Lord of heaven does not accept the strange fire offered to Him. Men connected with His work have been dealing unjustly, and it is time to call a halt.

Let men deal with men upon the principles of the ten commandments, and not ignore these principles in business transactions. False propositions are assumed as truth and righteousness, and then everything is worked in such a way as to carry out these propositions, which are not in accordance with the will of God, but are a misrepresentation of His character.

The great and holy and merciful God will never be in league with dishonest practices; not a single touch of injustice will He vindicate. Men have taken unfair advantage of those whom they supposed to be under their jurisdiction. They were determined to bring the individuals to their terms; they would rule or ruin. There will be no material change until a decided movement is made to bring in a different order of things.

Cannot men who have the history of the fall, the workings of the wily foe since Adam’s day, see how the same principles are still at work, and what will be the end thereof? He who has created men, and has given them talent and intellect, seeks to bring these minds into association with the divine; then goodness, love for their fellow men, will be their natural instinct. Infinite wisdom is revealed in Christ, and He suffered in our stead, that men should have another test and trial to prove whether they would be safe subjects of His kingdom. Christ has risen from the dead and ascended on high to intercede for the fallen race. This is now His work before the throne of God. He would have men to love God supremely, and their fellow men impartially. It is His purpose that we should be closely attached to God, and tenderly attached to one another.

Such was the condition that existed in heaven before the disaffection of Satan. The heavenly current flowed through the universe of God without one cloud of evil to cast a shadow upon its bright waters. Everywhere spotless purity was reflected as in a mirror. And God was over all. But Satan fell. The human race was created. Adam and Eve fell. And now the Lord Jesus has Himself bridged the gulf that sin has made, and the whole scheme of redemption has been put in operation to restore the moral image of God in man.

We are all on trial during probationary time, and those who consent to receive the moral image of God become like Him in character. But if they refuse the character of Christ, heaven is lost to them. And when we have so gracious an opportunity of working out our own victory through our choice of the character we form, why will we not lay hold of the Saviour, and by faith receive His merits, and perfect a character like His? Satan is playing the game of life for every soul; Christ is at work for every soul. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them which believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” [John 1:12-14.] These words are written of Christ. He is our representative before the Father. Whatsoever was given to Christ—the “all things” to supply every need of fallen man—was given to Him as the head and representative of humanity. Who will be the receivers of eternal life? All who before the universe of heaven are adjudged to have in Christ endured the penalty of the law, and in Him fulfilled its righteousness. We are to be one in character with Christ. He said, “The glory (character) which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” [John 17:22, 23.] Mark these words.

There is a heaven of bliss, free from all dissension, free from all selfishness, free from poverty, sickness, oppression. Then I entreat you who have a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, Do not be presumptuous. Link up in the closest relationship with Christ, and depart from every species of iniquity. That character which expresses the glory, the character of Christ, will be received into the Paradise of God. A renovated race will walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy. The likeness of Christ’s character is revealed in every soul. There is a new heaven, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. O shall we not here form characters after the divine similitude? Shall we not become transformed into the likeness of God? If Christ died to destroy the works of the devil, it is essential for us to understand what these works are.

The divine decrees are to be vindicated; it will be demonstrated that they are not accessory to sin. There was not withdrawal of divine influences from Lucifer. There was not in the slightest particular a deficiency in God’s government that would afford a cause for disaffection in heaven. So in the administration of affairs in connection with God’s work on earth, He requires that those who bear the responsibility of the work give no cause for disaffection. Those principles must be maintained that are according to heaven’s order.

It was a wonderful thing for God to create man, to make mind. The glory of God is to be revealed in the creation of man in God’s image, and in his redemption. One soul is of more value than a world. God created man that every faculty might be the faculty of the divine mind. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Author of our being, and He is also the Author of our redemption, and everyone who will enter the kingdom of God will develop a character that is the counterpart of the character of God. None can dwell with God in the holy heaven but those who bear His likeness. Those who are to be redeemed are to be overcomers; they are to be elevated, pure, one with Christ.

Christ’s blood was our ransom, His death brings life and immortality to light. In and through Christ we are complete in every grace. We share His throne. O that God would give us the divine perception to comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with the fullness of God! Then would man look upon his fellow man as God’s own purchased possession. You would keep your own souls in the love of God, and would not undertake to lord it over His heritage.

Christ said of the Jews, “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxen gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” [Matthew 13:14, 15.] Thus it is with some men who are connected with the great and important interests in our institutions.

Let all bear in mind that the Lord’s eye is upon all their works, and that He expects fidelity from His servants. When the four Hebrew youth were receiving an education for the king’s court in Babylon, they did not feel that the blessing of the Lord was a substitute for the taxing effort required of them. They were diligent in study, for they discerned that through the grace of God their destiny depended upon their own will and action. They were to bring all their ability to the work; and by close, severe taxation of their powers, they were to make the most of their opportunities for study and labor.

September 24

Everything in our world is in agitation. “Coming events cast their shadows before.” The signs of the times are ominous indeed. There is assurance in nothing that is human or earthly. The winds are held by the four angels, a moment of respite has been graciously given us of God. Every power lent us of God, whether physical, mental, or moral, is to be sacredly cherished to do the work designed us for our fellow men who are perishing in their ignorance. The warning is to go forth to all parts of the world. There must be no delay.

Rapidly are men ranging themselves under the banner they have chosen, restlessly waiting and watching the movements of their leaders. There are those who are watching and waiting and working for our Lord’s appearing, while the other party are rapidly falling into line under the generalship of the first great apostate. They look for a god in humanity, and Satan personifies the one they seek. Multitudes will be so deluded through their rejection of truth that they will accept the counterfeit. Humanity is hailed as God.

One has come from the heavenly courts to represent God in human form. The Son of God was made man, and dwelt among us. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. ... That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” [John 1:4, 5, 9-12.]

There are but two parties, Satan works with his crooked, deceiving power, and through strong delusions he catches all who do not abide in the truth, who have turned away their ears from the truth, and have turned unto fables. Satan himself abode not in the truth; he is the mystery of iniquity. Through his subtlety he gives to his soul-destroying errors the appearance of truth. Herein is their power to deceive. It is because they are a counterfeit of the truth that spiritualism, theosophy, and the like deceptions gain such power over the minds of men. Herein is the masterly working of Satan. He pretends to be the Saviour of man, the benefactor of the human race, and thus he more readily lures his victims to destruction.

We are warned in the Word of God that sleepless vigilance is the price of safety. Only in the straight path of truth and righteousness can we escape the tempter’s power. But the world is ensnared. Satan’s skill is exercised in devising plans and methods without number to accomplish his purposes. Dissimulation has become a fine art with him, and he works in the guise of an angel of light. God’s eye alone discerns his schemes to contaminate the world with false and ruinous principles, bearing on their face the appearance of genuine goodness. He works to restrict religious liberty, and to bring into the religious world a species of slavery.

Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men; and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth, and for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Whatever in our practice is not as open as the day, belongs to the methods of the prince of evil. His methods are practiced even among Seventh-day Adventists, who claim to have advanced truth.

If men resist the warnings the Lord sends them, they become even leaders in evil practices; such men assume to exercise the prerogatives of God—they presume to do that which God Himself will not do in seeking to control the minds of men. They introduce their own methods and plans, and through their misconceptions of God, they weaken the faith of others in the truth and bring in false principles that will work like leaven to taint and corrupt our institutions and churches. Anything that lowers man’s conception of righteousness and equity and impartial judgments, any device or precept that brings God’s human agents under the control of human minds, impairs their faith in God; it separates the soul from God, for it leads away from the path of strict integrity and righteousness.

God will not vindicate any device whereby men shall in the slightest degree rule or oppress his fellow man. The only hope for fallen man is to look to Jesus, and receive Him as the only Saviour. As soon as man begins to make an iron rule for other men, as soon as he begins to harness up and drive men according to his own mind, he dishonors God, and imperils his own soul and the souls of his brethren. Sinful man can find hope and righteousness only in God; and no human being is righteous any longer than he has faith in God and maintains a vital connection with Him. A flower of the field must have its root in the soil; it must have air, dew, showers, and sunshine. It will flourish only as it receives these advantages, and all are from God. So with men. We receive from God that which ministers to the life of the soul. We are warned not to trust in man, nor to make flesh our arm. A curse is pronounced upon all who do this.

Let no plans or methods be brought into any of our institutions that will bind minds or talent under the control of human judgment, for this is not in God’s order. God has given to men talents of influence which belong to Him alone, and no greater dishonor can be done to God than for one finite agent to purchase from men their God-given talent, or the product of such talent, to be absolutely under his control, even though the benefits of the same be used to the advantage of the cause. In such arrangements one man’s mind is ruled by another man’s mind, and the human agency is separated from God and exposed to temptations. Satan’s methods tend to one end, to make men the slaves of men. And when this is done, confusion and distrust, jealousies and evil surmisings are the result. Such a course destroys man’s faith in God, and in the principles which are to control, to purge from guile and from every species of selfishness and hypocrisy.

The goodness, mercy, and love of God was proclaimed by Christ to Moses. This was God’s character. When men who profess to serve God ignore His parental character, and depart from honor and righteousness in dealing with their fellow men, Satan exults, for he has inspired them with his attributes. They are following in the track of Romanism. Those who are enjoined to represent the attributes of the Lord’s character step from the Bible platform, and in their own human judgment devise rules and resolutions to force the will of others. The devisings for forcing men to follow the prescriptions of other men are instituting an order of things that overrides sympathy and tender compassion, that blinds the eyes to mercy, justice, and the love of God. Moral influence and personal responsibility are trodden under foot.

The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some, for it is contrary to their spirit, and their whole life experience. Rule, rule, has been their course of action. Satan has had an opportunity of representing himself. When one who professes to be a representative of Christ engages in sharp dealing and pressing men into hard places, those who are thus oppressed will either break every fetter of restraint, or they will be led to regard God as a hard master. They cherish hard feelings against God, and the soul is alienated from Him, just as Satan planned it should be.

This hard-heartedness on the part of men who claim to believe the truth, Satan charges to the influence of the truth itself, and thus men become disgusted, and turn from the truth. For this reason no man should have a responsible connection with our institutions who thinks it no important matter whether he has a heart of flesh or a heart of steel. Men think they are representing the justice of God, and they do not represent His tenderness and the great love wherewith He has loved us. Their human invention, originating with the specious devices of Satan, appears fair enough to the blinded eyes of men, because it is inherent in their nature.

A lie, believed, practiced, becomes as truth to them. Thus the purpose of the satanic agencies is accomplished, that men should reach these conclusions through the working of their own inventive minds. But how do men fall into such error? By starting with false premises, and then bringing everything to bear to prove the error true. In some cases the first principles have a measure of truth interwoven with the error, but it does not lead to just actions, and this is why men are misled. In order to reign and become a power, they employ Satan’s methods to justify their own principles. They exalt themselves as men of superior judgment, and they have stood as representatives of God. These are false gods.

“Thus saith the Lord: cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. ... O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from thee shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” [Jeremiah 17:5-10, 13.]

Elder Olsen, the present state of things has continued long enough. Your spiritual eyesight has become imperfect. You link up with men whom God is not leading. You accept as sound the propositions of men, who in some things start you on a wrong track, for you sanction these propositions and give them authority and power. I am not sorry that these things, which have been so long brewing in unsanctified minds have become more pronounced, that you may the better discern their true character before some other agent shall come in to preside over the conference your place. I now beg of you to arise in the name of the Lord, and He will help you to retrieve the errors of the past that are leading to serious results.

The lack of consecration and self-denial on the part of leading men, their spurious devotion, has been made manifest in the grasping of the high wages, and in their resistance to the messages that God has sent. They have continually and persistently turned from these warnings, and yet you have given them influence, you have linked up _____ and _____ together, and sent them to different localities to transact business, giving the impression that they were the reliable men upon whom you depended. How could you do this, when it is too apparent that they need to be born again before they can see the kingdom of God? They need the work of the truth upon the heart to make them men of opportunity.

While they have been very ready to accept benefits for themselves, they seek to wrest every advantage from their brethren, and say that it is for the cause. What is the cause? God demands an altogether different record. He expects His workers to be tender-hearted. How merciful are the ways of God. See Deuteronomy 10:17-20; 2 Chronicles 20:5-7, 9; 1 Peter 1:17. The rules that God has given have been disregarded, and strange fire has been offered before the Lord.

I have borne abundant testimony, setting forth the fact that the ability to write a book is like every other talent, a gift from God, for which the possessor is accountable to Him. This talent no man can buy or sell without incurring great and dangerous responsibility. Those who labor to bring about changes in the publication of books, to place the books wholly under the control of the publishing house or the conference, know not what they are talking about. Their eyes are blinded, and they work from a wrong standpoint. Selfishness is a root of bitterness whereby many are defiled.

The Lord God of heaven who made our world, and who created man, guards the interest of every soul. To every man He has given his work. We are laborers together with God. There are diversities of gifts, and every man should appreciate the moral and spiritual capital which God has entrusted to him. No one should treat these entrusted talents with indifference. No one is accountable for talents he has never had; none should complain of the smallness of their gifts. Every one is to trade on that which God has entrusted to him, working where he can, doing the best possible service for the Master. One talent, well used, will gain other talents, and these still others. The man with a few pence can serve God with his pence; if he does this, he is in God’s sight judged as faithful as the one who has improved five talents.

But all are to realize their individual responsibility to employ their talents to the glory of God according to their ability. Let no man or council of men assume the responsibility of making as little of these talents as possible, according to their human estimate of God’s entrusted qualifications. No man is to weigh in the balances of human judgment the talents God has given to other men. Let every man appreciate God’s gifts to himself, and faithfully trade upon them. No man is to merge his individuality in that of any other man. No man should be urged to make another man his steward. There are diversities of gifts, and a large work to be done in our world in the use of God’s entrusted goods, and the efforts that have been made to turn all the profits from the talents of writers into the hands of the conference or the publishing house will not prove a success, for the plan is not just and equal.

From the light given me of God, the efforts made in this direction by those at the heart of the work are not heaven-inspired. It is a very narrow, conceited arrangement, devised by human minds, and it does not bear the marks of God. Every man’s special work is appointed him of God, and he is individually responsible to God. When men connected with the publishing business make decisions and transact business as they have done and fully proposed to do at Battle Creek, they give evidence that changes should be made as soon as possible, for God is not in any such plan.

Let men to connected with God’s work who will represent His character. They may have much to learn in regard to business management, but if they pray to God as did Daniel, if with true contrition of mind they seek that wisdom which comes from above, the Lord will give them an understanding heart. Read carefully and prayerfully the third chapter of James, especially verses 13-16. The whole chapter is an eye-opener, if men wish to open their eyes.

Those who write books are not to be left under the control of men who have no experimental knowledge of authorship. These men have a high appreciation of their own ability, but they have shown how little they appreciate the human agent, to whom God has given a certain work to do. They belittle men to whom God has given talents to use to His glory. He never designed that any man should sell his stewardship, as though he was not capable of managing the talents God has given him. The idea which prevails that in order to give to the cause of God, a writer, must place all the profits of his work, beyond a mere pittance, where other men shall control it for him, or invest as shall suit their ideas, is an error.

Long ago, when such ideas were first advanced, they should have been treated as they deserved. Men were taking into their own hands responsibilities which they were not capable of treating justly or managing successfully. They have given evidence of this in the past in the fact that they would resort to unfair means in order to wring from men God’s entrusted talents for themselves to appropriate. But the very persons whom God has entrusted with his goods, are held responsible to trade upon them, and thus develop character. Can any more striking demonstration be required to open the eyes of men and councils to this matter than the history of the past few years?

Every soul who has become the servant of God through the grace of Christ has his own peculiar sphere of labor. He is not to be bought or sold, but to understand that “ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” [1 Peter 1:18-22.] Who have greater need to be doers of this inspired injunction than have those who are living in the very close of this earth’s history?

It is not our own property that is entrusted to us for investment. If it had been, we might claim discretionary power; we might shift the responsibility upon others, and leave our stewardship with others, but this cannot be, because the Lord is testing us individually. If we act wisely in trading upon our Lord’s goods and multiplying the talents, we shall invest this gain for the Master, praying for wisdom from God that we may be divested of all selfishness, and laboring most earnestly to advance the precious truth in our world.

Some men or councils may say, That is just what we wish you to do. The Conference Committee will take your capital, and will appropriate it for this very object. But the Lord has made us individually His stewards. We each hold a solemn responsibility to invest this means ourselves. A portion it is right to place in the treasury to advance the general interests of the work; but the steward of means will not be guiltless before God, unless, so far as he is able to do this, he shall use that means as circumstances shall reveal the necessity. We should be ready to help the suffering, and to set in operation plans to advance the truth in various ways. It is not in the province of the conference or any other organization to relieve us of this stewardship. If you lack wisdom, go to God; ask Him for yourself, and then work with an eye single to His glory.

By exercising your own judgment, giving where you see there is need in any line of the work, you are putting out your money to the exchangers. If you see in any locality that the truth is gaining a foothold, and there is no place of worship, then do something to meet the necessity. By your own action encourage others to act, in building a humble house for the worship of God. Have an interest in the work in all parts of the field.

While it is not your property that you are handling, yet you are made responsible for its wise investment, for its use or abuse. God does not lay upon you the burden of asking the conference or any council if you shall use your own means as you shall see fit, to advance the work of God in destitute towns and cities and impoverished localities. If the right plan had been followed, there would not have been so much means used in some localities and so little in other places where the banner of truth has not been raised. We are not to merge our individuality in any institution in our world.

The high-handed power that has been developed, as though positions had made men gods, makes me afraid, and ought to cause fear. It is a curse wherever and by whomsoever it is exercised. This lording it over God’s heritage will create such a disgust of man’s jurisdiction that a state of insubordination will result. The people are learning that men in high positions of responsibility cannot be trusted to mold and fashion other men’s minds and characters. The result will be a loss of confidence even in the management of faithful men. But the Lord will raise up laborers who realize their own nothingness without special help from God.

Age after age Jesus has been delivering His goods to His church. At the time of the first advent of Christ to our world the men who composed the Sanhedrin exercised their authority in controlling men according to their will. Thus the souls whom Christ had given His life to free from the bondage of Satan were brought under bondage to him in another form.

Do we individually realize our true position that as God’s hired servants we are not to bargain away our stewardship? We have an individual accountability before the heavenly universe to administer the trust committed us of God. Our own hearts are to be stirred, our hands are to have something to impart of the income that God entrusts to us. The humblest of us may be an agent for God, using our gifts for His name’s glory. He who improves his talents to the best of his ability may present to God his offering as a consecrated gift that shall be as fragrant incense before Him. It is the duty of every one to see that his talents are turned to advantage as a gift that he must return, having done his best to improve it.

The spirit of domination is extending to the presidents of our conferences. If a man is sanguine of his own powers and seeks to exercise dominion over his brethren, feeling that he is invested with authority to make his will the ruling power, the best and only safe course is to remove him, lest great harm be done, and he lose his own soul and imperil the souls of others. “All ye are brethren.” [Matthew 23:8.] This disposition to lord it over God’s heritage will cause a reaction unless these men change their course. Those in authority should manifest the Spirit of Christ. They should deal as He would deal with every case that requires attention. They should go weighted with the Holy Spirit. A man’s position does not make him one jot or tittle greater in the sight of God; it is character alone that God values.

Nicodemus sought an interview with Jesus at night saying, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” All this was true, as far as it went, but what said Jesus? He “answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [John 3:2, 3.] Here was a man in high position of trust, a man who was looked up to as one educated in Jewish customs, one whose mind was stored with wisdom. He was indeed in possession of talents of no ordinary character. He would not go to Jesus by day, for this would make him the subject of remark. It would be too humiliating for a ruler of the Jews to acknowledge himself in sympathy with the despised Nazarene.

Nicodemus thinks, I will ascertain for myself the mission and claims of this teacher, whether He is indeed the light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel. Jesus virtually says to Nicodemus, It is not controversy that will help your case. It is not arguments that will bring light to the soul. You must have a new heart, or you cannot discern the kingdom of heaven. It is not greater evidence that will bring you into a right position, but new purposes, new springs of action; you must be born again. Until this change takes place, making all things new, the strongest evidences that could be presented would be useless. The want is in your own heart; everything must be changed, or you cannot see the kingdom of God.

This was a very humiliating statement to Nicodemus, and with a feeling of irritation he takes up the words of Christ, saying, “How can a man be born when he is old?” [Verse 4.] He was not spiritual minded enough to discern the meaning of the words of Christ. But the Saviour did not meet argument with argument. Raising His hand in solemn, quiet dignity, He presses home the truth with greater assurance, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is very one that is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said unto him, “How can these things be?” [Verses 5-9.]

Some gleams of the truth were penetrating the ruler’s mind. Christ’s words filled him with awe, and led to the inquiry, “How can these things be?” With deep earnestness Jesus answered, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” [Verses 9, 10.] His words convey to Nicodemus the lesson that instead of feeling irritated over the plain words of truth, and indulging in irony, he should have a far more humble opinion of himself, because of his spiritual ignorance. Yet the words of Christ were spoken with such solemn dignity, and both look and tone expressed such earnest love to him, that he was not offended as he realized his humiliating position.

Surely one entrusted with the religious interests of the people should not be ignorant of truth so important for them to understand as the condition of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,” continued Jesus, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things?” [Verses 11, 12.]

This lesson to Nicodemus I present as highly applicable to those who are today in responsible positions as rulers in Israel, and whose voices are often heard in council giving evidence of the same spirit that Nicodemus possessed. Will the lesson given to the chief ruler have the same influence upon their heart and life? Nicodemus was converted as the result of this interview. The words of Christ are spoken just as verily to presidents of conferences, elders of churches, and those occupying official positions in our institutions, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [Verse 3.] “A new heart also will I give you.” [Ezekiel 36:26.]

If you have the Holy Spirit molding and fashioning your heart daily, then you will have divine insight to perceive the character of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus received the lesson of Christ and became a true believer. His voice was heard in the Sanhedrin council in opposition to their measures for compassing the death of Christ. “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?” he said. The scornful answer was returned, “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” [John 7:51, 52.]

Jesus had a disciple in Nicodemus. In that night conference with Jesus the convicted man stood before the Saviour under the softening, subduing influence of truth which was shining into the chambers of his mind, and impressing his heart. Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believed not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” [John 3:12, 13.]

Jesus not only tells Nicodemus that he must have a new heart in order to see the kingdom of heaven, but tells him how to obtain a new heart. He reads the inquiring mind of a true seeker after truth, and presents before him the representation of himself: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Good news, good news, ring the good news throughout the world! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [Verses 14-16.] This lesson is of the greatest importance to every soul that lives, for the terms of salvation are here laid out in distinct lines; if one had no other text in the Bible this alone would be a guide for the soul.

Especially to every man who accepts responsibilities as a counselor, every one who is dealing with human souls, is this grand, beautiful truth to be a bright and shining light. It is no credit to one who has the Word of God in his possession to say, I have no experience. I do not understand these things. He will never be wiser until he becomes of much less consequence in his own estimation. He must learn his lesson as a little child. He must make it his first duty to understand the work of God in the regeneration of the soul. This change should take place in every man before he accepts a position as leader or ruler in connection with the sacred work of God. If one has not a vital connection with God, his own spirit and sentiments will prevail. These may well be represented as the strange fire offered in place of the sacred. Man has woven into the work of God his own defects of character, devices that are human and earthly, delusions ensnaring to himself and to all who accept them.

Consider the incident that Christ presents before Nicodemus in referring to the uplifted serpent. The Lord Jesus had protected the children of Israel from the venomous serpents in the wilderness, but this part of their history they did not know. Angels from heaven had accompanied them, and in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night Christ had been their protection through all their journeyings. But they became selfish and discontented, and in order that they might not forget His great care over them, the Lord gave them a bitter lesson. He permitted them to be bitten by the fiery serpents, yet in His great mercy He did not leave them to perish.

Moses was bidden to lift the brazen serpent on the pole, and make the proclamation that whosoever should look upon it should live. And all who looked, did live. They recovered health at once. Suppose ye that this life-giving message, the invitation to look upon the representation of Christ, was given in whispered tones? Suppose ye there were meetings for discussion as to how that symbol of the brazen serpent could have any efficacy? Some hesitated, desiring a scientific explanation of the representation, but no light was given. They must accept the word given <of Christ> to Moses. It was proclaimed with the trumpet, and by the voices of the leading men of every tribe throughout the encampment. The word obeyed would bring life and healing.

Nicodemus caught the meaning of Christ’s words. He received his lesson, and carried it with him. He searched the Scriptures in a new way; he could say, Old things have passed away, and behold, all things have become new. He did begin to see the kingdom of heaven, because he submitted himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

What a strange symbol of Christ was that likeness of the serpents which stung them. This symbol was lifted on a pole, and they were to look to it and be healed. So Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He came as the Sin-bearer. Under the symbol of the uplifted serpent, He was presented before the vast congregation of those who were entrusted with sacred truth. It was God’s purpose that when Christ should appear in person, men might recognize His mission and co-operate with Him in the saving of humanity. Christ was to be lifted on the cross, and this cross is to call the attention of all people. He was crucified at one of the yearly gatherings of the Jews, when representatives from all nations were present at Jerusalem. The knowledge of the cruel work done to Jesus was to go to the remotest regions of the inhabited world. The message, Look and live, had been given in a most decided manner, and it meant hope, courage, faith, pardon, and life.

The same healing, life-giving message is now sounding. It points to the uplifted Saviour upon the shameful tree. Those who have been bitten by that old serpent, the devil, are bidden to look and live.

Through the Saviour’s lesson, Nicodemus was brought to see that the ignorant and unbelieving are not to be enlightened by controversy and discussion. They must look and live. Nicodemus hoped that his people would let Christ speak to them as He had spoken to him; then they would no longer remain in unbelief. O that today men would hear the voice of Jesus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [Verse 3.] The explanation of the plan of salvation may today be presented to men who act as rulers and counselors, and yet, having eyes, they see not, and having ears, they hear not; they have no experimental knowledge of what it means to believe in Christ as their personal Saviour. Nicodemus was converted. Will these men learn what it means to have a new heart? what it means to cease from sin? what it means to have the righteousness of Christ, to bear the divine similitude?

Look alone to Jesus as your righteousness and your sacrifice. As you are justified by faith, the deadly sting of the serpent will be healed. Then there will be no more of self; you will have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Open the door of your hearts, and let Jesus in. Some of you have become hard-hearted; you have resisted evidence, and have despised the messages of warning, of light and truth, which the Lord has sent to you by the Holy Spirit, because He loves you and is loath to give you up. As a look to the brazen serpent brought life to the dying, so the look of faith to the Lamb of God will bring life to the soul dead in trespasses and sins. The men in responsible places need the converting power of God daily. If they would co-operate with God, looking to Christ every moment, believing in Him as it is their privilege to do, their eyes would be opened and their hearts would be made new.

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [Verse 16.] O, who can measure such love as this? It is not that God loved us because Christ died for us, but while we were yet sinners, rebels against His law, He gave up Jesus to bear our sins, that pardon may come to all who believe on Him. The only hope of the world was for One who knew no sin, One equal with God, to come to our earth and live the law, testifying that in His humanity He could keep the law, and that sinners might become partakers of the divine nature, and thus be obedient children of God. This is the great work that God has done for the fallen race. He was not willing that any should perish, but that whosoever will, should come to Him through Christ, and live.

Let us never forget that we are here to be fashioned by the hand of God, fitted to do the work He has given us to do. That work is our own, the accountability is our own and cannot be transferred to another. Let not human agents interpose to take another’s work out of the hands of God into their own finite hands.

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