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    May 10, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. Acts, Chapter 5” The Signs of the Times, 9, 18.

    E. J. Waggoner

    LESSON FOR THE PACIFIC COAST - MAY 19. ACTS, CHAPTER 5.
    Daily reading in Connection with the Lesson.

    NOTES ON THE LESSON

    There are probably very few who really comprehend the crime for which Ananias and Sapphira were punished. It has been customary to refer to them and to their punishment as an example of what an awful thing it is to lie, and of the terrible consequence of lying. Now while it is impossible to exaggerate or even to fully comprehend how heinous a sin lying is. It is a fact that simply lying is not the sin for which these unfortunate persons suffered. Their sin was hypocrisy of the worst kind. They wished to have a reputation for generosity and benevolence, without the necessary self-denial. In the high priest’s palace, Peter himself had told an open lie, and had added profanity to his lying. In his case it was unpremeditated; he fell under the temptation almost before he was aware of it.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.1

    But in this case there was design; Ananias and his wife had agreed together to practice this deception, and they dared to persist in it even in the place of solemn prayer. They lied to the Holy Ghost. If Peter had not questioned them, they would have simply handed in a part of the money and said nothing; but there sin would have been the same. Their lying words to Peter were wicked, but the enormity of their crime consisted in their desire to appear better than they really were. From this we may learn how God regards the hypocrite. There are many ways in which we act the same part. God does not punish every case of this sin as he did in this instance, but he takes notice of it none the less, and at the last day, “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” 1 Corinthians 4:5.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.2

    But even hypocrisy was not the whole of their crime. The text says they “kept back” part of the price of the land. The original word occurs elsewhere but once in the New Testament, Titus 2:10, where it is rendered “purloining.” Greenfield defines it, “to keep back anything unlawfully, secrete, purloined, and embezzle.” The case, then, was this: It was understood that those who at that time sold property, did it not for gain, but for benevolent purposes. Whether they had made a formal vow or not, the act of selling the land was evidence of at least an outward consecration of it to the cause of God. And yet so lightly did they regard their vow that they dared to appropriate a portion of the property to their own use. But this was simply stealing, for as soon as the decision was made to devote the proceeds of the sale to the cause, the land belonged to God. Then we may also learn from this how serious a matter it is to vow to the Lord and then neglect to pay our vows. It is a terrible thing to refuse to help support God’s cause, but it is still worse to vow and not pay. No wonder the question is asked in astonishment, “Will a man rob God?” Let each one ask himself this question.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.3

    The signal manifestation of the wrath of God upon the dissemblers was a check which Infinite Wisdom knew was needed. The church would have been disgraced, if, in the rapid increase of professed Christians, there were persons professing to serve God, but worshiping mammon. There are many Ananiases and Sapphiras in our day, whom Satan tempts to dissemble because of their love of money. By various plans and the excuses they withhold from the treasury of God the means entrusted to them for the advancement of the cause of God. Should the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira be visited upon this class there would be many dead bodies in our churches requiring burial.-Spirit of Prophecy.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.4

    “And of the rest durst no man join himself to them, but the people magnified them.” Verse 13. This passage is rather obscure, and various fanciful opinions are given by different commentators in regard to it. The following seems to us the most reasonable explanation of it: There is a contrast between “the rest” and “the people,” the former term being used with reference to the wealthy class, to which Ananias evidently belonged, and the latter term being applied to the common people. We learn from this verse, then, that the judgment upon Ananaias and Sapphira accomplished just what was intended,-it kept the young church free from those who would use its growing popularity as a means of gaining honor for themselves. The church of God was never intended to be used as a means of gaining access to “good society.”SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.5

    “Ye intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” These wicked rulers had no fear of God before their eyes, but they feared the people. Verse 26 says, “They fear the people lest they should have been stoned.” The people had been healed in the name of Jesus; but every sermon of the apostle showed that the Jewish rulers had crucified him. The rulers did not by these words intend to deny that they had put Jesus to death; they simply showed that they feared the consequences if the people should have the matter set before them in its true light.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.6

    “We ought to obey God rather than men.” This is a truth which is recognized by all, and acted upon by but few. A writer in the Christian at Work truly says: “In all human things it is our duty to be submissive, as Paul shows, to the government under which we live; but in divine things, where God speaks and his voice is against the decree of government, we are justified in disobedience.” But who cares to disobey a decree of men, that he may obey God? There are few, but the majority of those who read of and approve the apostle’s course, dare not take their stand upon an unpopular truth, against which there is no positive law. The most weighty excuse that can be urged against the keeping of the Sabbath of the Lord is that it is peculiar and inconvenient. It is easier to approve of the good deeds of men in past ages than it is to follow their example. But if we approve of their course, we condemn ourselves if we do not do likewise.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.7

    “But,’ some will say, “we are commanded to be ‘subject unto the higher powers,’ and are told that ‘whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God;’ so then, if the Government should command us to observe the first day of the week, it would be our duty as good citizens to obey.” But the example of Peter and John, of Paul himself, of Daniel and the three Hebrew children, is sufficient to teach us that Paul in Romans 13 refers simply to ordinary, human affairs, and not to matters of conscience, for which a person is answerable to God alone. The saying, “The voice of the people is the voice of God,” is one of Satan’s lies; “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.8

    While we cannot obey earthly governments when they come in conflict with the law of God, we need not resist them. This point is well put by Dr. Lyman Abbott, as follows:-SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.9

    “The church may impose the creed or the ritual against which the conscientious judgment of the individual revolts; the State may call upon the Quaker to bear arms in war; and thus not merely the opinion or taste of the individual, but his conscience, may be brought into collision with the judgment or even the conscience of the community or the family. What then? The answer of the Scriptures to this question is plainly submission, but not obedience. The individual is not even then to set the community at defiance by resistance; neither is he to yield to the community by acquiescence. He is simply to disobey the law, act on his own conscience, and accept the consequences. Thus Daniel, forbidden to pray, raised no revolts against the palpably unjust decree, but prayed and bore the penalty. Thus the apostles, forbidden to preach, organized no resistance to the probably illegal decree of the Sanhedrin-for freedom of speech was a constitutional right in the Jewish Commonwealth-but went on with their preaching and submitted to arrest and trial.”SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.10

    “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” The apostles had been beaten-a punishment that carries with it more disgrace than anything else. And yet they rejoiced. As we study the lesson, it is easy for us to see why they should rejoice; but how would it be if we were in similar circumstances? If we think that we would do as they did, we can easily test the matter. If we endure the little trials that befall us, uncomplainingly; if we are patient under abuse or ridicule, then it may be that we could rejoice in persecutions. It is not a hardship, but a privilege, for the Christian to suffer for Christ. It is accounted as much a blessing as it is to be allowed to believe on him. Philippians 1:29. See also 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Matthew 5:10-12. E. J. W.SITI May 10, 1883, page 209.11

    “Visit to Healdsburg” The Signs of the Times, 9, 18.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The meeting at this place was in many respects one of the most important that has ever been held in the State. Many advanced steps were taken; and the plans adopted, if properly carried out, cannot fail to have an influence on the cause for good, until the close of time. These things will appear more fully in the official reports of the business meetings, and in special report. We design to simply speak of the general features of the meeting, and give some items in regard to the work here, in which all our people on the coast have, or should have, an interest.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.1

    Friday afternoon was devoted to a meeting of the stockholders of the College. On entering the building we were struck with the floral decorations of the school-room. The busy hands of students had been at work, and the doors, chandeliers, rostrum, organ, and clock had been neatly ornamented with roses and evergreens. We are pleased with this, not so much for the decoration itself, as for the evidence it afforded that the students have a love for the school-room, which can only come from a love of the studies there pursued.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.2

    The favorable impression thus received was deepened by a brief visit to the school on Monday. About ninety students were present, and quiet study seemed to be the order of the day. The professors have naturally felt a little discouragment because as yet there are no students in the higher branches; but we could see no reason for discouragement. The recitations showed that the students have already received a discipline of mind that will not readily be lost; they are forming correct habits of study, which is the essential thing. These things would be more readily noticed by a visitor than by one closely connected with the school. We can most heartily recommend the Healdsburg College; and we feel assured that the improvements and contemplation by the professors, who are devoted to the work, will add a hundred-fold to its usefulness. Opportunities for mental and spiritual culture are here afforded, which it would be a sin for our people to neglect.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.3

    We were much pleased to note the interest manifested in the Sabbath-school. This is now the second school in size in the State, and with the influx of students will doubtless soon be the first. The school will be, from the nature of the case, the most important school in the State. An increase in numbers will bring increased responsibility in far greater measure than in ordinary cases, for as the students go to their homes, the influence of the school will be felt on all the schools on the coast. We believe that the officers of the school realize this responsibility, and will do all in their power to make the school what should be. We hope that all who attend will second their efforts.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.4

    There has been a vast improvement in this school since we were there last. The organization of the school is good, and there seemed to be a feeling of harmony present. At the teachers’ meeting Monday evening twenty-one of the twenty-five teachers were present, and a good degree of interest was manifested. So long as an interest is kept up in the teachers’ meeting the school cannot fail to prosper. But it should not be forgotten that united prayer is one great object of this meeting.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.5

    There is but one thing now lacking, and that, unfortunately, is not peculiar to the school. The same lack exists in Oakland, and we believe it exists in all our schools, and among our people generally. There is a lack of appreciation of the importance of the Sabbath-school work as supporting discipline of mind and a thorough education, in the things of God. There is a lack of thoroughness in Bible study. The Sabbath-school has been regarded as different from the day-school, and that it was not expected that the lesson should be learned perfectly. There has been such an apparent fear of formalism, and a desire to be able to generalize and state things in our own language, that we have neglected that accurate knowledge of the Bible which alone can enable us to generalize. The particular is before the general. Before we venture to state a Bible event or truth in our own words, we must be familiar with the words of the sacred text; then, if necessary we can paraphrase. But the instances where it is necessary or proper to change the expression in the least, in order to convey its exact meaning, are more rare than is commonly supposed.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.6

    This thoroughness of work depends on the individual members of the schools. The officers and teachers cannot demand a perfect recitation, as they would in ordinary schools, however much they may desire the result; but if each member of the school will realize the importance of being able to think and talk in the language of the Bible, especially in these last days, our schools will be improved a thousand-fold.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.7

    The sermons during the meetings were by Elder Haskell, Elder Waggoner, and Sister White. They were all of a practical nature, designed to show us the necessities of our present position. Sister White’s two sermons were mainly on the subject of the atonement, especially Christ’s closing work in the heavenly sanctuary. Christ will soon cease his pleading, and probation will close for all mankind. We know not how soon our individual cases may come up for decision. As on the typical day of atonement the people were to afflict their souls, so in this most important time, there should be an absence of lightness and frivolity, and, in their stead, the searching of heart and entire consecration to the work. The cause of God is all-important, and we should learn to attend to its once in preference to our own work or pleasure.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.8

    Elder Waggoner spoke Sabbath afternoon from the fifth chapter of Peter’s first the epistle. We are commanded to be sober and vigilant, because the devil as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. The inference is plain that those who are not thus watchful will be devoured. We are helped in this by casting all our care on God, who cares for us. Too often we feel great confidence in God in times of comparative safety, but foolishly attempt to care for ourselves when we see trouble and danger. He dwelt much on the text, “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.” A failure to comply with this injunction is because of all the church difficulties that exist. Many persons quit the service of God because of some grievance, oftener imaginary than real, which they have received from their brethren. The wickedness and absurdities of such a course was vividly illustrated as follows: “I have a father who is kind and loving, lavishing on me every gift that heart could desire. Nothing that is good is withheld from me. He studies my needs, and anticipates my slightest want. But I have a brother who is selfish, and who slights and even abuses me, contrary to my father’s will. Now because of this petty slight from my brother, I will turn my good father out of doors, and refuse to have anything more to do with him!” We believe that many made a profitable application of this sermon to themselves.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.9

    Friday afternoon Elder Haskell spoke briefly of the Waldenses, whom he visited on his recent trip to Europe. He spoke of the persecutions which they had suffered for their unswerving devotion to the truth of the Bible. Their children were instructed from the Bible, and were taught to love it. The Bible was their text-book, and their characters were molded by it. The result is seen in their descendants, who are characterized by a sturdy simplicity and uprightness that is in marked contrast to the morality that prevails in Southern Italy, where Catholicism has borne sway, and the Bible is almost an unknown book. These people are already to receive the whole truth of God, but where are the men who have the knowledge, the missionary zeal, and enough of the Spirit of sacrifice to go and instruct them in the way of life? A strong appeal was made, and both speaker and congregation were deeply affected. His sermon Sunday morning was on the subject of faith applied especially to labor in the cause of God.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.10

    These plain testimonies and earnest appeals were not without effect. As one brother remarked, “Any one who could go through these meetings and not be stirred with a desire to labor in God’s cause, is in a hard case.” Eight or ten students volunteered to spend their vacation in the missionary field, in active service. With most of them this is their first attempt. Others, who are not able to go into the field, will engage in the work at home. If the students spend their vacation in earnest, conscientious labor, they will not only be a great blessing to the cause in this State, but their own souls will be watered, and they will enter upon the work of the next college year with clearer minds and enlarged ideas, much better prepared than now to profit by the instruction which they will receive. We hope to soon see the number of earnest missionary workers who shall go out from the college largely increased. E. J. W.SITI May 10, 1883, page 211.11

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