Larger font
Smaller font
Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899) - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    Ms 87, 1899

    “The Last Shall Be First, And The First Last.”


    June 13, 1899 [typed]

    Portions of this manuscript are published in 2SM 182. +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.

    “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early into the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market place; and said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right, I will give you. And they went their way.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 1

    “Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 2

    “So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard said unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny. Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” [Matthew 20:1-16.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 3

    In this parable Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to a man in search of workmen. Those who wanted work took their position in the market place, and at several different hours during the day the husbandman went there and engaged men. The steward was directed to call them together in the evening, that they might receive their wages. Beginning with those hired last, he paid them all the same sum. This offended those who had begun work early in the day. Had they not worked for twelve hours, they reasoned, and was it not right that they should receive more than those who had worked for only a few hours in the cooler part of the day? “These last have wrought but one hour,” they said, “and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.” [Verse 12.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 4

    “Friend,” the householder said to one of them, “I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto these last even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” [Verses 13-16.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 5

    On another occasion Christ said, “Which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants we have done that which it was our duty to do.” [Luke 17:7-10.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 6

    By these parables Christ would teach us a lesson of humble service. He who reads the hearts of all men knew that in the spiritual life of men and women traits of character would appear which would lead them to indulge in proud boasting and in demeriting others, as though they understood the value of service. Those indulging these attributes would regard their work as of much value, while the work of their fellow laborers would be looked upon as inferior.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 7

    The law of nature is that we reap that which we sow. But Christ was here dealing with the principles of the law of His kingdom. He did not care how other people regarded Him, but steadily worked out His purpose according to His own standard. His management of the workers in His vineyard represents God’s dealing with the human family. God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. ... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8, 9.] Christ came to this earth to represent God, and He was not bound about by the actions of any other householder. He worked according to the laws of the kingdom which is not of this world. He did not aim to follow any human standard.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 8

    The gospel of the kingdom is not to be confined by any precise regulations. Christ dealt with men in a way that cultivated their moral and spiritual capabilities. He does not reward His servants according to the amount of labor done or according to the visible results, but according to the spirit brought into the work. To observers this dealing may seem unequal, and their sympathy goes out to those who say, “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.” [Matthew 20:12.] But the Lord makes no excuse for this supposed unfairness. “Those who came first,” He says, “received the amount for which they agreed to work. The last made no stipulated terms. They left the matter of payment with Me, having faith that I would do what is right and just.”14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 9

    The steward represents Christ; and no one should enter His service with the spirit of a hireling. Such ones continue in their work for the remuneration they receive. They think their work is of greater value than the work of those who come in later; but in the estimation of God they are last. Those with this spirit try to make terms with God, saying they will work for a certain sum, that for a stated reward they will do a stated amount of work. Thus did those in the parable who were first called. There are many professed believers who possess a large measure of the hireling spirit. They work for the wages they hope to receive.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 10

    Those who came at the eleventh hour were so thankful for a chance to work that they left the matter of payment with their employer. They were glad to work at any price. Their hearts were full of thanksgiving, full of love for the one who had accepted them, and they showed their faith in him by asking no questions in regard to reward. And when at the close of the day the householder began with them and paid them for a full day’s work, they were greatly surprised. This was unlike any treatment they had ever received. They knew they had not earned the money given them. The kindness expressed in the countenance of their employer went to their hearts and filled them with gratitude. They never forgot the goodness of the householder and the gracious compensation they received.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 11

    Thus it is with the poor sinner who knows his unworthiness, who has long neglected to enter the Master’s vineyard, but who comes at the eleventh hour. His time of service seems so short and his wages so large. He expects very little, and is satisfied with little, if only Christ will accept Him in His service.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 12

    Those who made a definite demand received their wages—nothing more. Does not this teach us that faith is needed in the service of Christ? To the hireling God shows Himself true to the bargain made. He holds them to the exact sum they specified. Thus He would teach us to trust implicitly in Him. To the humble and confiding, who are willing to accept any sum, however meagre, He surprises with a large reward because they put thankfulness and joy into their work. David declares, “Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the forward thou wilt show thyself forward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people, but will bring down high looks.” [Psalm 18:24-27.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 13

    Those who think more of their wages than of the privilege of being honored as a servant of the Lord, who take up their work in a self-congratulatory spirit because they are to receive wages, do not bring self-denial and self-sacrifice into their work. The last men hired believed the word of the householder, “Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” [Matthew 20:7.] They knew that they would receive all that they deserved, and they were placed first because they brought faith into their work. If those who had labored during the whole day had brought a loving, trusting spirit into their work, they would have continued to be first. The Lord Jesus estimates the work done by the spirit in which it is done. At a late hour He will accept penitent sinners who come to him in humble faith and are obedient to His commandments.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 14

    Christ warns those in His service that they are not to bargain for a stipulated sum, as though their Master would not deal truly with them. He gave this parable that murmurers would not receive sympathy on account of their supposed grievances. Grumblers will find something to grumble at if they possibly can. Their hearts need to be purified. If the hearts of those first called had been purified, they would have seen only liberality in the action of the householder. Those who are in the service of Christ must have faith in Him. The men and women who watch for something in their brethren and sisters of which they can make capital demonstrate before the heavenly universe that to them the goodness and liberality of God is an occasion of murmuring.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 15

    The disposition to find fault and complain too often finds place among believers. Many professed Christians manifest the spirit of the elder brother. They may be first in enduring hardship, privation, and trial, but the spirit they indulge is unchristlike, and renders them untrustworthy. They think that they are entitled to a large reward because of the work they do. Thus it was with the Jews. They depended for reward on the long years of service they had given, believing that a certain amount of work must receive a certain remuneration, and that therefore they would be more highly rewarded than those who had done less, who had not borne the heavy taxation. They represented service as earning salvation.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 16

    The gift of God is eternal life on condition of entire obedience. But we should not think selfishly of the reward we are to receive. Of ourselves we have nothing. Our time, our talents, our capabilities, all are entrusted to us by the Lord to be used in His service and thus returned to Him.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 17

    God has given to every man his work. In temporal and spiritual lines we are to work for Him. Never are we to boast of our endowments. “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.] The apostle Paul reached the point where faith in God’s Word had become assurance. He wrote to Timothy, “Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 18

    “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” [2 Timothy 4:5-8.] This is the battle cry of one who had been faithful with his Lord’s goods, and who was waiting to receive the benediction, “Well done, good and faithful servant, ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” [Matthew 25:23.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 19

    In the book of Malachi God specifies the reward to be given to those who are faithful. All nations will see the power of God exercised in behalf of those whom He can safely bless as His chosen ones. “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,” He declares, and “he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground, neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field. ... And all nations shall call you blessed; for ye shall be a delightsome land.” [Malachi 3:11, 12.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 20

    There is another class, who complain of God. “Your words have been stout against me,” He says. “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” [Verses 13-15.] These weigh God’s actions in human scales. Their words are stout against Him, as they strive to vindicate themselves. By their words and actions they dishonor God and create an atmosphere of evil about their souls.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 21

    “Many are called, but few are chosen.” [Matthew 22:14.] The Lord’s invitation continued from early morning till the last hour of the day. But many who accept His invitation possess only the theory of the truth. They have not that faith which works by love and purifies the soul. They think they are entitled to large wages because of their service. They claim to have served God all their lives, as did the Jews, but they reveal a spirit that is querulous and faultfinding. Thus they show that there is no connection between God and their souls.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 22

    The indulgence of this spirit of self-exaltation makes those who might have been first last. They will be placed last because self has not been hid with Christ in God. We are not to esteem our work as worthy of large recognition. God will reward us in accordance with the spirit that has characterized our work.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 23

    In strong contrast to the murmurers are the ones of whom God says, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” [Malachi 3:16-18.] The Lord has a people on the earth, and His working with them reveals the supernatural results which are seen when the human will is under the control of the will of God. Of them He says, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” [1 Peter 2:9.]14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 24

    This parable does not excuse anyone who after hearing the truth assents to it, saying, “That is all true,” and then fails to comply with it. These refuse to walk in the light, because by so doing they would displease their friends or disturb their satisfied condition of self-righteousness. The parable does not mean that the Lord will vindicate those who, because they want their own time and their own way, refuse the first call to work. When the householder went to the market and found men unhired, he said, “Why stand ye all the day idle?” and the reply was, “Because no man hath hired us.” [Matthew 20:6, 7.] None of those called later in the day were there in the morning. They had never refused the call. Those who refuse and afterward repent, do well to repent; but it is not safe to trifle with the invitations of mercy. God will not be trifled with.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 25

    The Lord requires that sacred fire be used in His service. We are to bear the message of the divine Householder to our fellow men. This will impress hearts. In whatever part of the Lord’s vineyard men and women are working, they need to closely examine their own hearts. If they are inclined to exalt themselves and demerit others, their hearts need to be changed, till they shall no longer place their own estimate upon their own work and the work of others.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 26

    We need a spirit of love and true dependence upon God. When we have implicit faith in Him who is Truth, we shall realize that worry and anxiety are unnecessary.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 27

    Whatever work we do, we are to do it for Christ. There is temporal work to be done in the missionary fields, such as bookkeeping. An unbeliever would do this work mechanically, for the wages he receives. He does not know the joy of co-operation with the Master-worker. Those who are truly united with Christ do not work for the wages they receive. Laborers together with God, they do not strive to exalt self. There is no spirituality in the work of him who serves self. Common motives, common inspirations, an aspiration to be thought smart by men, rule in his life. Such a one may receive praise from men, but not from God.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 28

    In the last great day decisions will be made that will be a decided surprise to many. Human judgment will have no place in the decisions made in the last day. This point is to be carefully studied. Christ can and will judge every case, for all judgment has been committed to Him by the Father. Christ estimates service by that which is invisible to men. The most secret things lie open to His all-seeing eye. When the Judge of all men shall make His investigation, many of those whom human estimation has placed first will be placed last, and those who have been put in the lowest place by men will be taken out of the ranks and made first.14LtMs, Ms 87, 1899, par. 29

    Larger font
    Smaller font