Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

April 16, 1895

The Sinner Needs Compassion

By Mrs. E. G. White

On one occasion the disciples came to Jesus with the question: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” The little ones here referred to who believe in Christ, are not simply those who are young in years, but little children in Christ. There is a warning contained in these words lest we shall selfishly neglect or hold in contempt our weak brethren; lest we shall be unforgiving and exacting and judge and condemn others, and thus discourage them. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”

The work of Christ is here plainly presented, and his followers are expected to do a similar work. They must use their God-given talents to save that which was lost. It is not the saint but the sinner that needs compassion, for whom we must labor earnestly and perseveringly. The angels have special charge of weak and trembling souls, those who have many defects, many objectionable traits of character. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” If any injustice is done to them, it is counted as if done to Jesus himself; for Jesus identifies his interest with that of the souls he has purchased at an infinite cost. Angels are ever present where they are most needed. They are with those who have the hardest battles to fight, with those who must battle against inclination and hereditary tendencies, whose home surroundings are the most discouraging. True followers of Christ will be laborers together with God. They will seek for harmony, for peace, for oneness in Christ Jesus. Let no one venture to work with Satan to discourage souls who have much to contend against. Let them not by word or by deed push them upon Satan's battlefield.

Jesus assures us that he came to our world to save those that were lost, those that were dead in trespasses and sins, those who were strangers and enemies to God. Shall those to whom Christ has shown mercy and bestowed forgiveness, neglect or despise those whom Jesus is seeking to take home to his heart of infinite love? It is the work of Christ to bring back to God those who have strayed from him, and he requires every member of the church to work together with him in returning the wanderer to the fold. If those who are unforgiving and merciless would only listen and hear the reproof of the Saviour, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,” would any hand be lifted? Would not every mouth be stopped? These words of Jesus to the Pharisees brought their own sins to their remembrance, and, self-condemned, they went out one by one.

Brethren and sisters, if you are workers together with God, you will not only seek to help those whom you fancy, but you will also seek to help those who most need your help to correct their errors. Many in the church have not the Spirit of Christ; for they neglect the very work that he has given them to do. Unless the converting power of God is felt on their poor hearts, they will not be rich in good works. Jesus thus illustrates the work that devolves upon those who claim to believe on his name: “How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”

What a wonderful lesson of mercy, forbearance, patience, and love is this! As the shepherd cares for the sheep of his flock, so Jesus cares for perishing souls that are helpless in sin and liable to be destroyed by the arts and snares of Satan. Jesus represents himself as the good Shepherd who knows his sheep by name. He gave his life for them, and he goes to seek them before they go to seek him. There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance. Let ministers and people work according to God's plan. Let them exchange their way for God's way; then they will be zealous not to grieve the weak, or cause them to stumble by a hard, unforgiving, accusing spirit, but will seek to encourage and strengthen them.

We greatly need to fall on the Rock and be broken; then the melting, subduing love of Jesus will be in our hearts. We shall then follow the example of Jesus, the Majesty of heaven, and work in co-operation with the angels, and not be like the Pharisees, who were unsympathetic, proud, and hardhearted. God is not willing that even the lowest and most degraded soul should perish. In what light, then, can you regard the neglect of those who need your help?

Many of you are self-willed, proud, hardhearted, and condemnatory, when on the contrary your whole heart should be aroused to devise ways and means for saving souls. You draw apart from your brethren because they do not speak and act in a way that is pleasing to you, when in the sight of God your course is more displeasing than theirs. You do not seek to establish that unity which Christ desires should exist among brethren. What impression do these variances, this emulation and strife, make upon your families and your neighbors, upon those who do not believe the truth? And yet Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

How many of you are unsanctified in heart, and while sensitive yourselves to any reproof, you make another an offender for a word! How many of you speak words which cannot produce union, but only heartache and discouragement! How many give cause for anger and are themselves angry without a cause! Jesus, the world's Redeemer, has laid down a rule to prevent such unhappy conditions, but how many of you in our churches and in our institutions have followed the directions of Christ? “If thy brother shall trespass against thee [tell it to every one you meet?], go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”

When a person comes to a minister or to men in positions of trust with complaints against a brother or a sister, let the minister ask, “Have you complied with the rules our Saviour has given?” And if he has failed to carry out any particular of this instruction, do not listen to a word of his complaint. In the name and Spirit of Jesus, refuse to take up a report against your brother or your sister in the faith. If members of the church go contrary to these rules, they make themselves subjects for church discipline, and should be under the censure of the church. This matter, so plainly taught in the lessons of Christ, has been treated with strange indifference. The church has either neglected her work entirely in the matter of correcting evil, or has done it with harshness and severity, thus wounding and bruising souls. Measures should be taken to correct this cruel spirit of criticism, of judging the motives of others, as though Christ had revealed to men the hearts of their brethren. The neglect of doing aright, with wisdom and grace, the work that ought to have been done, has left churches and institutions almost inefficient and Christless.

Jesus adds to the lesson these words: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” After the rules of Christ have been followed out to the letter, the assurance is given that the decisions of the church will be ratified in heaven. This gives a solemn significance to the action of the church. No hasty action from impulse should be taken to cut off names from the church books or to place a member under censure, until the case has been investigated according to the Bible rule in every particular. The word of God shows that it is necessary for church officers to be free from prejudice and selfish motives, and that they should have the sympathy and the love of Jesus. Human minds and hearts, unless wholly sanctified, purified, and refined from partiality and prejudice, are liable to commit grave errors, to misjudge, and to deal unkindly and unjustly with souls that are the purchase of Christ's blood. The decisions of unjust judges will be of no account in the court of heaven. They will not make an innocent man guilty nor change his character in the least before God. As surely as men in responsible positions become lifted up in their own esteem, and act as though they were to lord it over their brethren, they will render decisions which Heaven cannot ratify.

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