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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899) - Contents
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    Ms 134, 1899

    The Unfaithful Husbandmen


    September 20, 1899 [typed]

    Portions of this manuscript are published in 2BC 998-999; CTr 133. +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 parable of the vineyard clearly sets forth the spiritual condition of the Jewish nation. “There was a certain householder,” Christ said, “which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and killed one, and beat another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, they will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and let us seize on the inheritance.” [Matthew 21:33-38.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 1

    Christ declared to the teachers in Israel, “Ye are both ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God.” “Ye teach for doctrine the commandments of men.” [Matthew 22:29; 15:9.] The guilt of these rulers was not in the sight of Christ like the guilt of the ordinary sinner. These men stood under the most solemn obligations to God. They had pledged themselves to teach a “Thus saith the Lord,” and to bring strict obedience into their practical lives. But instead of doing this, they were perverting the Scriptures. Their religion consisted in a round of ceremonies, and the object of their worship was lost sight of. They did not do the work connected with their sacred office as if they were handling the property given them in trust by God. Their selfishness and covetousness and greed caused them to be despised by all the nations.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 2

    The promises of God had been given to Israel rich and full and free on condition of their obedience to His requirements. When the Jews entered the land of Canaan their responsibilities were enlarged. They digged and planted. They built the tower, the temple of God. And they were hedged about by the laws of God’s kingdom. They were to be in the world, but not of the world. They were taught to abhor all phases of idolatry, and were forbidden to intermarry with other nations.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 3

    The kingdom of God was to be established in the earth, and it was for this reason that the children of Israel were brought up from Egypt and placed in possession of the vineyard. In the parable Christ spoke to the priests and teachers who had been so greatly favored. As a chosen generation, a royal nation, they were to show forth the praises of Him who had called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Not only the priests and rulers, but the whole nation were accountable for the talents with which God had blessed them from the time of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 4

    In the early history of the Hebrew nation, Christ was more decidedly with them, instructing them and preparing their way at every point of difficulty, than at any subsequent period in their national career. Every spiritual advantage had been given to this people. They had a knowledge of the Scripture, and God designed that they should be exalted before every other nation on the earth. If they were obedient, God promised that they should become all that He had proposed they should be. Their worship of the true God, the principles they revealed in their lives, were to be the means of restoring the moral image of God in man.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 5

    The children of Israel were to occupy all the territory God had specified, dispossessing those nations that were confirmed in idolatry. And as their numbers increased, they were to enlarge their borders and occupy still more of the land in the possession of those who were transgressing God’s law. Their obedience to the righteous law of God would make them marvels of prosperity before the nations of the world until Christ’s kingdom should extend over all the earth. The God who could give them skill and wisdom in all cunning work would be their teacher to ennoble and elevate them through obedience to His laws. The glory of God, His majesty and power was to be seen in all their prosperity. Thus God set them off, His vineyard, to come to the perfection of righteousness. If obedient, they would be preserved from the diseases which afflicted other nations, and be blessed with vigor of intellect.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 6

    They were to produce fruits altogether different from those of the other nations around them. The habitations of the idolaters were constantly increasing. Degradation was to be seen on every hand. Suffering was multiplying in the earth, and violence and oppression was exercised by man on his fellow man. This was the fruit borne of the corrupt tree, and God designed that the elevating principles of heaven should be revealed in works of righteousness by His chosen people. And He promised to cooperate with His chosen instruments in demonstrating that the commandment-keeping people of God were in every way superior to those people who had not the knowledge of the true God. But the children of Israel became disloyal to the commandments of God. They appropriated all their God-given advantages for their glorification. Counsels, reproofs and warnings were rejected, and instead of yielding good fruit, they became like that class of soil which absorbs everything and yields nothing in return.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 7

    All the benefits sent them to use in blessing others they used for self-aggrandizement, to follow out, as did the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, every evil imagination. The world was not improved by the instruction they had received. They perverted the purposes of God, and sullied the purity of their religion. They made sacred and holy things appear a farce, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 8

    All the advantages that God had given, these husbandmen intercepted, that they might not flow back to God in rich, multiplied productions, to make His name a praise in the earth. They forgot that they had been entrusted with the Lord’s vineyard. A desire for glory and power and riches brought them to the place where no message of warning or instruction would cause them to yield to God. They refused obedience, and as a result, their principles were perverted.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 9

    Peculiar blessings had been given to the children of Israel that the principles of heaven might appear to men. The Lord promised Moses that an angel should go before them to lead them in the way. That angel was Christ. He it was who spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh with his friend. The light of heaven shone upon Israel in their invisible Leader, who communicated to them His statutes and His laws, which were never to be left to the caprice of the people for amendment of the slightest jot or tittle. The laws of God’s kingdom were as unchanging as His throne.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 10

    Other nations had not these privileges, these wonderful revealings of God, for they had corrupted their ways so that they could not discern God. But these privileges brought with them corresponding responsibilities. The more the children of Israel received, the more they must return to the Lord. He called for the improvement of every lent talent. The vineyard, the world, must be worked, and they were to be constantly learning better ways and means of glorifying God. In the purity of their characters, in the holiness and sanctification of their lives, they were to show that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the whole man, heart, mind, strength, and purpose.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 11

    In the land of Canaan, God’s people were to have one general place of assembly, where three times each year they could all meet to worship God. As they would obey the divine laws, they would receive the divine blessing. God would not blot out the idolatrous nations. He would give them opportunity to become acquainted with Him through His church. The experience of His people during the forty years of their wilderness wandering was to be the study of these nations. God’s laws and kingdom were to extend over all the territory of the earth, and His people must be known as the people of the living God.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 12

    Their service was an imposing one, and testified to the truth of a living God. Their sacrifices pointed to a coming Saviour, who would take the kingdoms under the whole heaven, and possess them forever and ever. Evidence had been given of His power to do this, for as their invisible Leader had He not subdued their enemies and made a way for His church in the wilderness? His people would never know defeat if they would abide under the shadow of the Almighty, for one mightier than angels would fight by their side in every battle.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 13

    It was this unseen General of armies who revealed Himself to Joshua. He appeared to Joshua as a man [representing] the Lord God of the host of Israel, for had He appeared in His glory the armies of Israel would have been destroyed. After the death of Moses, the reins of government were placed in the hands of Joshua. As the servant of the Lord, he was given a special work to do. His office carried with it great honor and responsibility, and the instruction given to Moses was transferred to him in a marked manner. “Now therefore,” the Lord said, “arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said to Moses.” [Joshua 1:2, 3.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 14

    The Philistines, with their mysterious divinations and superstitious practices, were a continual snare to Israel, and the Lord said, “Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” [Deuteronomy 18:9.] Christ was to be their life, their light, their prosperity. God warned Israel that the Philistines would be their stumbling block. “You have no need,” He said, “to consult diviners or soothsayers. I will make known my will through my appointed prophets.”14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 15

    As Joshua viewed the city of Jericho, and viewed its fortifications, he lifted up his heart in prayer to God, for appearances seemed against him. “And lo there stood a man over against him, with a sword drawn in his hand.” This was no vision, but Christ in person, His glory hidden by the garb of humanity. “And Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay, but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, loose thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.” [Joshua 5:13-15.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 16

    Had the eyes of Joshua been opened he would have seen the heavenly host present to take down the walls of Jericho and place the city in the hands of God’s people. Now with all confidence Joshua could follow the instruction, and leave his burden, so great and perplexing with the Lord! Will Israel ever forget this wonderful manifestation? Will they ever forget that heavenly instrumentalities were employed to place Jericho in their possession?14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 17

    The Lord favored His chosen people with prosperity. The psalmist says, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.” [Psalm 80:8-11.] God declared this people to be a holy people unto Himself, and He promised that if they would keep their covenant with Him, he would supply them with every necessity for their happiness.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 18

    Very definite was the instruction which Christ gave when He made known to Moses the terms of their prosperity, and their freedom from disease. “The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself,” He said, “above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he sware unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” [Deuteronomy 7:6-9.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 19

    This assurance comes to the people of God through their earthly pilgrimage to the heavenly Canaan, where an abundant inheritance is prepared for all who love God and keep His commandments. “Therefore,” God said, “thou shalt keep the commandments and the statutes and the judgments, which I command thee this day to do them. ... And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee. ... Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee: but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.” [Verses 11, 14, 15.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 20

    The eighth chapter of Deuteronomy records the rich blessings God gave to His people. God is speaking to His people of His dealings with them during their wandering in the wilderness: “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee all these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know: that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth men live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 21

    “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of the valleys, and hills, a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of oil olive, and honey. A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land he hath given thee.” [Verses 2-10.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 22

    “A word spoken in season, how good is it!” [Proverbs 15:23.] If this be true of the words coming from uninspired lips, with what interest should the words of infinite truth be regarded. What more could the congregation of Israel ask than this. If they would keep the commandments of God, and instruct their children diligently, God would give them the finest of the wheat. He would bring them honey out of the rock, and feed them from the tree of life. How wonderful are the words spoken to them by a gracious Saviour. They might rest in His love, and place their dependence in Him.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 23

    All the pathway of Israel was cheered by the promises of God. These promises and commandments were to be set to music, and as they travelled through the wilderness they were to educate their children to sing them, lest they should lose them out of their lives. It was their life to obey the law of God. Disobedience would bring the displeasure of God.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 24

    “Beware,” God said, “that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day; lest when thou hast eaten, and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwell therein, and thy flocks and thy herds multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint: who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at the latter end: and thou say in thine heart, my might, and the power of mine arm hath gotten me this wealth.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 25

    “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for he it is that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he mayest observe his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, to walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish: because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God.” [Deuteronomy 8:11-20.] How could Israel forget this warning, and harden their hearts?14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 26

    Here are pointed out the dangers which every child of God must shun—self-appropriation of the Lord’s goods, deception, dishonesty, and self-exaltation. Just as surely as the church forgets God and exalts self, God will withdraw His blessings, and punish them. This work of apostasy began with Satan, in his strife for the pre-eminence. He rejected the divine authority, and became a rebel to the government of God. The hidden principle of all sin is a rejection of the will of God, the refusal [to] acknowledge dependence upon Him. God’s commandments are for the protection of man, and those who render willing obedience to Him will never weary of His service. But when self is allowed to gain the supremacy, then man becomes rebellious and self-exalted.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 27

    God alone is independent. Every being that He has created, in heaven and in earth is dependent upon Him. God designs that man shall subordinate his will to the divine will; the will of God is to be the will of every human being. When man realizes his dependence upon God, and subjects his will to the divine will, he will grow like Christ in character, who lived in entire conformity to the will of His Father.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 28

    The words spoken from the pillar of cloud are spoken to every generation, to every church that believes in Christ as a personal Saviour. “The words that I speak unto you,” Christ says, “they are spirit, and they are life.” [John 6:63.]14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 29

    How great was the sacrifice made by God to bring man back to his loyalty to heaven. All unrighteousness is sin. John writes, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And we know that he was manifested to take away our sins, in whom was no sin.” [1 John 3:4, 5.] When we contemplate the remedy God has provided for the sins of the human race, we shall discern what might have been done, but which has not been done because of unbelief.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 30

    Who can view the covenant mercy and unbounded love of God and not inquire, “What can I do to show my Lord that I appreciate His love? Recompense Him, I cannot, but I can render to Him my humble, grateful, willing service. Thus I will show Him that I live in grateful dependence upon Him, thankful that I can use the advantages and opportunities He gives me, and render them back to Him again improved by the use. I will first give myself to God, and then use all my entrusted gifts in His service. I will bring returns to Him by winning souls to Christ. The broken and contrite heart He will not despise.”14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 31

    “Herein is my Father glorified,” Christ said, “that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” [John 15:8.] We are to seek to point souls to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. Thus we render to God the fruits of His vineyard.14LtMs, Ms 134, 1899, par. 32

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