Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

May 22, 1888

Missionary Work in the Neighborhood

By Mrs. E. G. White

Before his ascension to heaven, Jesus with hands outstretched in blessing to his disciples, gave them their commission: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in his name among all nations, but the work was to begin at Jerusalem. Before going out into new fields of labor, the disciples of Christ were to give the message to their own people. Home missions were to receive their first attention.

Wherever the people of God are placed, in the crowded cities, in the villages, or among the country by-ways, there is a home mission field, for which a responsibility is laid upon them by their Lord's commission. They are to take up the duty which lies nearest. First of all is the work in the family; next they should seek to win their neighbors to Christ, and to bring before them the great truths for this time.

This work places upon us a responsibility to recommend by our daily life the faith which we profess. The piety of its believers is the standard by which worldlings judge of the truth. In all our associations with unbelievers, be careful to give them no occasion to misjudge your faith, or to reproach the cause of truth which you advocate. Many hedge up the way by their own course of action. There is some indiscretion on their part. They are easily provoked. Little difficulties arise in trade or in some other temporal matter, which lead them to think themselves misjudged or wronged by their neighbors. These things are allowed to create coldness or ill feeling, and thus to close the door of access to those who might be reached by the truth. We should never allow matters of temporal interest to quench our love for souls. Brethren, be kind and courteous on all occasions. Never be sharp, critical, or exacting in your deal. If there is any advantage to be gained, give it to your neighbor, whom you are required to love as you love yourself. With the patience and love of Jesus, watch for opportunities to do him a kindness. Let him see that the religion which we profess does not close up nor freeze over the avenues of the soul, making us unsympathizing and exacting. Let a well-ordered life and a godly conversation testify to your sincerity and piety; and when you have thus gained his confidence, the way is opened for you to reach the heart by introducing the truth.

If these matters, which may appear of minor consequence, are neglected, you may present the most convincing arguments in favor of the truth, but they will have no weight. If your family government is not according to the Bible rule, if your children are not brought up with habits of order and industry, if they are selfish, proud, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, be sure that your unbelieving neighbor will see and remark upon your neglect. “They would better spend their labor at home,” he will say, “teaching piety and good behavior to their children, instead of trying to convert me.” Very many have been caused to stumble by the inconsistencies of professed Christians, and have been led to reject the precious truths of the Bible.

The books of heaven will reveal a terrible record of unfulfilled home duties against parents who were considered intelligent missionary workers. How much more influence these parents might have had, how much more good they might have done, had they commenced the work at the right point, by setting their own house in order, and presenting to their neighbors a well-ordered family as evidence of the power of the truth! When it is seen that the children are not like worldlings, when the beauty of faith and the spirit of genuine Christianity are seen in them, it will be as a light pointing heavenward.

It is the acts of faith and sacrifice in the so-called little things of life, the Spirit of Christ manifested at home, in the field, in the work shop, as well as in the church, that make us living epistles known and read of all. Men may combat and defy our logic, they may resist our appeals; but a life of holy purpose, of disinterested love, is an argument in favor of the truth that they cannot gainsay. Far more can be accomplished by humble, devoted, virtuous lives than can be gained by preaching when a godly example is lacking.

There is a sad neglect of personal effort, both for the members of the family and for our neighbors. Many seem to rest perfectly easy, as if the heavenly messengers were to come to earth and in an audible voice proclaim the message of warning. They stand idle, virtually saying, “Am I my brother's keeper?” Many associate almost wholly with those of the same faith, and feel no duty to become acquainted with their neighbors who are ignorant of the great and testing truths for the last days. Ladies who in the parlor can engage in conversation with wonderful tact and earnestness, shrink from pointing the sinner to the Lamb of God. Oh! there is so much work for souls that is left undone because it is a cross, and because each seeks his own amusement, and works for his own selfish interest. Because of our unbelief, worldliness, and indolence, blood-bought souls in the very shadow of our homes are dying in their sins, and dying unwarned.

Until the judgment it will never be known how much might have been done, how many plans might have been devised, to save souls by bringing them to the knowledge of the truth. But self-indulgence, unwillingness to sacrifice, and a lack of true spiritual discernment, have led many to overlook the open doors which they might have entered to do a good work for the Master. Love of ease has caused them to shun the wearing of Christ's yoke, the lifting of his burden.

Many, many, are approaching the day of God doing nothing, shunning responsibilities, and as the result they are religious dwarfs. So far as work for God is concerned, the pages of their life history present a mournful blank. They are trees in the garden of God, but only cumberers of the ground, darkening with their unproductive boughs the ground which fruit-bearing trees might have occupied.

Those who neglect their duty in the home and among their neighbors are, by their unfaithfulness, separating themselves from God. Their piety becomes tame and weak. Unfaithfulness at home leads to unfaithfulness in the church. They do not strengthen and build it up. Through their failures in duty, all their work is marked with blunders and defects. Their indifference and neglect have a molding influence upon all who have confidence in them as Christians. The errors of one are copied by many, and thus the evil goes on deepening and widening. Brethren, you may not see this, but so it stands in God's sight, and you must meet in it the judgment.

In the day of God how many will confront us and say, “I am lost! I am lost! and you never warned me; you never entreated me to come to Jesus. Had I believed as you did, I would have followed every judgment-bound soul with prayers and tears and warnings.”

In that day the Master will demand of his professed people, “What have you done to save the souls of your neighbors? There were many who were connected with you in worldly business, who lived close beside you, whom you might have warned. Why are they among the unsaved?”

Brethren and sisters, what excuse can you render to God for this neglect of souls? I would present this matter to you as it has been presented to me; and in the light from the life of the Master, from the cross of Calvary, I urge you to arouse. I entreat you to take upon your own hearts the burden of your fellow-men.

No one who professes to love Jesus can long retain the favor of God if he feels no interest for sinners around him. Those who seek merely to save their own souls and are indifferent to the condition and destiny of their fellow-men, will fail to put forth sufficient effort to secure their own salvation. In hiding their talents in the earth, they are throwing away their opportunities to obtain a star-gemmed crown.

I write plainly that every effort may be made on the part of all to remove the frown of God from them by sincere repentance. Whatever the neglect of duty, of parents to children or of neighbor to neighbor, let it now be understood and repented of. If we have sinned against the Lord, we shall never have peace and restoration to his favor without full confession and reformation in regard to the very things in which we have been remiss. Not until we have used every means in our power to repair the evil, can God approve and bless us. The path of confession is humiliating, but it is the only way by which we can receive strength to overcome. All the dropped stitches may never be picked up so that our work shall be as perfect and God-pleasing as it should have been; but every effort should be made to do this so far as it is possible to accomplish it.

We have the promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,” even so was “the Son of man...lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” We are to “look and live.” Sinful and unworthy, we must cast our helpless souls upon the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Then will God restore unto us the joy of his salvation, and uphold us by his free Spirit. Then we may teach transgressors his way, and sinners shall be converted unto him.

Brethren, the Lord calls upon you to redeem the time. Draw nigh to God. Take on your neck the yoke of Christ; stretch out your hands to lift his burden. Stir up the gift that is within you. You who have had opportunities and privileges to become acquainted with the reasons of our faith, use this knowledge in giving light to others. And do not rest satisfied with the little knowledge you already have. Search the Scriptures. Let no moment be unimproved. Dig for the precious gems of truth as for hid treasures, and pray for wisdom that you may present the truth to others in a clear, connected manner.

Many who have been left to darkness and ruin might have been helped, had their neighbors, common men and women, come to them with the love of Christ glowing in their hearts, and put forth personal efforts for them. Many are waiting to be addressed thus personally. Humble, earnest conversation with such persons, and prayer for them, heart being brought close to heart, would in most cases be wholly successful.

Let labor for souls become a part of your life. Go to the homes even of those who manifest no interest. While mercy's sweet voice invites the sinner, work with every energy of heart and brain, as did Paul, who “ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” The heavenly messengers are waiting to co-operate with your efforts. Will you do the work appointed you of God?

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