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General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1

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    L. T. NICOLA

    Reading for Wednesday, December 25.GCB December 1895, page 618.4

    THIS remarkable chapter has long been recognized as having special reference to the times in which we live, and to the special people whose God-given mission is the restoration of the true Sabbath. In making the application of this portion of the Scripture to our people, however, it has been the common custom to begin the consideration of the subject with the thirteenth verse, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath,” etc., reading backward and claiming the promise, “Thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in,” (verse thirteen) instead of considering the chapter as a whole, beginning with the first verse (Isaiah 58:1.), “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”GCB December 1895, page 618.5

    We learn three things in this verse:—GCB December 1895, page 618.6

    1. The matter to be presented is evidently a most important one, for the prophet is instructed to “cry aloud.” He is not only meekly to whisper the message, or gently to hint as he has opportunity, that there is something wrong, but he is to cry, and to cry with a loud voice “like a trumpet.”GCB December 1895, page 618.7

    2. We learn that the message is not to the heathen, to sinners, to worldly persons who have made no profession of religion, but is sent to God’s special people - to a select class of his people — “the house of Jacob.”GCB December 1895, page 618.8

    3. We learn that this is a message of reproof for “transgression” and “sins.” The case is a most distressing and urgent one. The people of God are guilty of transgressions and sins so serious that the Lord sends them a reprover who is instructed to speak to them in tones so loud that all may hear, and that even their enemies also may perhaps hear the reproof administered. Moreover, the prophet is instructed to show no partiality, but to “spare not,” no matter what may be an individual’s profession, his position in society, or in the church. The highest, as well as the lowest, must receive the words of divine rebuke and instruction. How emphatic are the words “their sins!” The Lord does not say the house of Jacob must be instructed because of their sins, or must be reminded of their oversights or neglect, or that their pure minds must be stirred up to remembrance, but that they must be reproved for “their sins.”GCB December 1895, page 618.9

    Verse 2: “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.”GCB December 1895, page 618.10

    This verse shows us very clearly that the people to whom this stirring message is sent, is one which, from a human standpoint, is a model church, and above reproach. They are represented as seeking the Lord daily, delighting to know his ways, a nation that did righteousness, that forsook not the ordinance of God, — that is, they kept the Law, — outwardly, at least; they “take delight in approaching to God,” are very zealous in attending meeting, are always on hand at church; are always to be found at prayer-meeting and camp-meeting, and are among the first to bear testimony and to offer prayer in public; observe all the forms of religion, and lead what might be termed irreproachable lives; are, perhaps, even regarded as ornaments to the church, as most excellent and pious people, and yet the Lord sends his servants to reprove them for “their sins.”GCB December 1895, page 618.11

    Verse 3: “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?”GCB December 1895, page 619.1

    From the next verse we learn that the very pious people to whom this message is addressed, in addition to attending to ordinary religious duties have not neglected the less ordinary duty of fasting; they have even afflicted their souls. But they themselves seem to have discovered that all is not well, for they ask “wherefore have we fasted and thou seest not?” The Lord answers this question in the fourth and fifth verses:—GCB December 1895, page 619.2

    Verse 4: “Behold, ... ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.”GCB December 1895, page 619.3

    Verse 5: “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”GCB December 1895, page 619.4

    It might seem that the mode of fasting which the Lord condemns, ought to be most acceptable to him. If afflicting one’s soul, bowing down one’s head like a bulrush, and as the Jewish version reads, “spreading sackcloth and ashes for his couch,” would not indicate earnestness and humility, by what means could one indicate such a state of mind? Nevertheless, the Lord declares that this is not the way in which to fast, and that he will not hear the prayers of those who fast in this manner. The Lord then describes the fast which is acceptable to him.GCB December 1895, page 619.5

    Verse 6: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”GCB December 1895, page 619.6

    Verse 7: “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”GCB December 1895, page 619.7

    Let us consider each of the ten conditions which the Lord declares with his own mouth must be fulfilled before those who send up petitions to him can expect to be heard, even though their prayers are accompanied by all the outward tokens of earnestness, sincerity, and humility. Those conditions are:—GCB December 1895, page 619.8

    1. “To loose the bands of wickedness.” Another version reads, “To open the snares of wickedness.” If one has been guilty of deception, if any fellow-mortal has been deceived, or ensnared in any way - this wrong must be made right.GCB December 1895, page 619.9

    2. “To undo the heavy burdens.” If burdens of any sort have been unfairly imposed upon any one, if their load of cares has been made heavier, or their lot in life harder, by any fault of ours, the wrong must be made right, — the burden must be removed.GCB December 1895, page 619.10

    3. “To let the oppressed go free.” There are many other forms of oppression besides slavery. In society, even in the church, and also in the family, the weaker are often oppressed by the stronger - the non-combative. Those who for the sake of peace are willing to endure much without protest - to suffer wrong - are many times oppressed by those whose self-assertion and lack of appreciation of the rights of others lead them to assume an attitude which is as truly one of oppression as the attitude of a master toward a slave; such cannot expect their prayers will be heard in heaven until they have allowed the oppressed to go free.GCB December 1895, page 619.11

    4. “And that ye break every yoke.” What yoke is so galling as poverty? The poor man often finds himself unable to earn enough to feed, clothe, and warm those dependent upon him. He sees himself, week by week, getting deeper and deeper into debt, and though his weary form may be bent with care and toil, the galling yoke of want and indigence weighs heavier upon him day by day. The professed Christian who expects God to listen when he addresses the throne of grace, is here notified, that to the extent of his ability, he must break the yokes which bind and embitter the lives of his fellows, before he can hope that his voice will “be heard on high.”GCB December 1895, page 619.12

    5. “To deal thy bread to the hungry.” Here we are informed that there is no virtue in abstaining from bread; that the Lord does not listen to a man who is voluntarily hungry, because of his hunger, unless he has done something more than simply to abstain from food and has distributed his bread to those who are hungry by force of circumstances. Evidently the man who neglects to divide with his less fortunate and hungry neighbor, cannot consistently entertain a hope that God will listen to his prayers, even though accompanied by fasting and affliction of soul.GCB December 1895, page 619.13

    6. “That thou bring the poor who are cast out to thy house.” Other versions read, “The wandering poor,” or “afflicted poor.” Still, the Lord continues to point out practical duties to our fellows as a condition of the hearing of prayer, and the instruction becomes more and more specific. We are not only to feed the hungry, but we are to go out and hunt up the afflicted poor, the sick, the suffering, the needy, — even those who have been cast out, who are absolutely friendless, who are wandering in the street, neglected, forlorn, perhaps ragged, dirty, repulsive, even loathsome because of neglect, discouragement, deterioration, and degradation resulting from disease and sin. We are to seek them out, and to bring them, not to the hospital, the poor house, the neighbor’s house, but to our own home. It is easy to exercise charity toward those who are attractive and grateful, — those who naturally and readily appeal to our sympathy, — and especially those who may sometime, somehow, be able to return the favors shown them; but it is by no means so easy to bring ourselves to conform to the requirements of the text in bringing the rejected, the castaways, — those whom nobody wants, — to our homes, and yet the Lord himself tells us that on no other condition is he willing to hear our prayers, even though we may fast and bow down our heads and deprive ourselves of all our ordinary comforts, as an evidence of our humility and sincerity.GCB December 1895, page 619.14

    7. “When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him.” If we pass by the thinly-clad woman whose pinched features and sunken eyes tell of the penury and want in which she lives, and of the bitter struggle she is making to keep the wolf from her door, and to warm, clothe, and feed her little ones, — a struggle so fierce that she quite forgets herself; if one heedlessly neglects to look into the case of the coatless or shoeless boy or girl whom he meets shivering with hungry face upon the street corner; if one turns away from the appeals which poverty thus makes to the eye or to the ear, and makes no attempt to relieve their suffering, he can entertain no hope that God will hear or answer his prayers, no matter how earnest or vehement may be his appeals.GCB December 1895, page 620.1

    8. “Hide not thyself from thine own flesh.” It appears that to close one’s eyes to the want and misery about him - to avoid contact with scenes of distress - does not relieve him of responsibility, since we are expressly commanded not to do thus.GCB December 1895, page 620.2

    9. “Draw out thy soul to the hungry.” Some versions read, “Draw out thy bread to the hungry.” Either rendering expresses a most emphatic command. The thought evidently is, that we should not only feed the hungry with bread, but that we should enter into his sorrows and his needs, satisfying his soul’s hunger as well as his desire for bread. How perfectly in accord with the character of a great, all-merciful Father is this thought. God counts it no merit or recommendation to favor that a man should deprive himself of food, unless it be to enable him to feed some hungry brother. This suggests the thought that it is not merely from our abundance that we should give, but that we are even required to divide the pittance we may possess with those who are still more unfortunate than ourselves.GCB December 1895, page 620.3

    10. “And satisfy the afflicted soul.” To satisfy the afflicted, must mean to comfort, to offer sympathy, to give relief from pain by proper medical means, if possible; to lighten, so far as possible, the burden of disease, misfortune, bereavement, or sorrow.GCB December 1895, page 620.4

    In reviewing these ten requirements upon which God conditions the hearing and answering of prayer, and which are held up as the standard for a consistent foundation upon which to exercise faith, let us note again that they are contrasted with a mode of fasting and prayer which might be considered in full conformity with the most rigorous observance of religious forms and ceremonies and so-called worship.GCB December 1895, page 620.5

    Two other noteworthy facts to which our attention may be profitably directed are the following:—GCB December 1895, page 620.6

    1. In showing the Lord’s people their sins, the prophet, or rather the Lord through the prophet, does not bring forward a list of crimes that had been committed, — open violations of the law, breaking the Sabbath, speaking untruths, backbiting, gluttony, intemperance, or so-called immoralities of any sort. The prophet is speaking to a people “that did righteousness,” and “forsook not the ordinance (law) of their God;” the transgression of which they are guilty, the sins which they have committed, are sins of omission, sins of neglect.GCB December 1895, page 620.7

    2. The sins of neglect referred to, are those which relate to our fellow-men. They are sins which are the outgrowth of the principle expressed by Cain when he sought to excuse himself from sin by the wicked query, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is interesting to note that the principle which is here presented as the test which God applies to those who come to him in prayer, is precisely the same as that by which all men will be measured in the great day of judgment, so graphically portrayed in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew twenty-five. The description of the character of those who are invited to sit at the King’s right hand is identical with that of those whose prayers are accepted, “For I was a hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Verses 35, 36.) While the description of those who were sent away among the goats is the exact antithesis (Verses 42, 43): “For I was a hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”GCB December 1895, page 620.8

    It is interesting also to note that those who have thus, by their kindness to their fellow-men, been counted worthy of a seat at the King’s right hand, are unconscious that they have ever done any meritorious act; for they say, “Lord, when saw we thee a hungered and fed thee, or thirsty and gave thee drink; when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in; or naked, and clothed thee; or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee;” And with what surprise they will hear the reply, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”GCB December 1895, page 621.1

    In neither one of these most striking passages which refer to the most important things in spiritual experience, — (1) The communication with God through prayer, and (2) The investigation of character at the final judgment, — it is indeed important to note that in neither one is there any reference whatever to those things which are commonly considered of fundamental importance as religious duties, — such duties as attending religious service, speaking in prayer-meeting, tract distribution, preaching, exhortation, etc. Not that those are valueless or unimportant, but they are rather of the nature of Christian recreation and education; their chief value is in the benefit which the individual himself derives from them. Their real purpose is to bring the individual under those spiritual influences which will enable him to see that the true service of God is to be found in the service of humanity.GCB December 1895, page 621.2

    This thought is the central one of Christ’s teaching, “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” is the fundamental principle inculcated by him. He went about doing good, and taught his disciples that he was greatest who served most. Christ gave a new commandment: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34. This commandment James calls the royal law, — “according to the Scripture thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Paul tells us (Galatians 6:2) that the fulfillment of this “law of Christ” requires that we should bear each other’s burdens, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In Galatians 5:14, Paul tells us that not only the “law of Christ,” but all the law is fulfilled “in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And Christ himself said (Matthew 7:12): “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” That the apostles recognized this practical teaching of the Saviour is evidenced by the teaching of the apostle James (James 1:27): “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” The apostle Paul emphasizes the same thought (1 Timothy 1:5): “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart.” And the apostle John expresses the same thought in another way (1 John 3:16): “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”GCB December 1895, page 621.3

    In these texts we are taught that the love of God and the service of God consist in loving and serving our neighbor, and that we ought to lay down our lives for our fellows. This teaching does not necessarily imply death in the ordinary sense, but rather the dedication of our lives to the service of humanity, as we are exhorted to do by Paul in Romans 12:1. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” In laying down our lives for Christ or the brethren, we offer ourselves a “living,” not a dead, sacrifice upon God’s altar, to be used by him in whatever service he may find for us in the great work of helping and blessing and lifting up humanity. Paul speaks of this sacrifice, not as a debt, but as a reasonable service. How otherwise can we serve God except in helping and blessing and saving our fellow-men? God needs no assistance; he can have no assistance from us in the governing of the universe; in the miraculous working of the divine power in the natural world about us. It is only as his agents in helping and blessing those about us through the promptings of his Spirit in us, and the power of his grace, that we can truly serve him. Prayer is not service; it is rather a method by which we are brought into such relations with God as fit us for his service.GCB December 1895, page 621.4

    The thought that true love to God is that practical, tangible love which is manifested in loving deeds and acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice toward our neighbors, has been grasped, even by those who have not enjoyed the benefit of the full light of the gospel. The thought is very forcibly expressed in a story of the far East, which recounts the dream of Abou Ben Adhem. In his dream he saw an angel writing in a book of gold, and asked,GCB December 1895, page 621.5

    “What writest thou?” The angel said, “The names of those who love the Lord.” “Is my name there?” Ben Adhem asked, “No,” said the angel. Then Abou Ben Adhem softly said, “I pray thee, then, write me as one that loves his fellow-men.” The next night, the story runs, the vision came again, and in it there appeared -GCB December 1895, page 622.1

    “The names of those whom love of God had blest;GCB December 1895, page 622.2

    And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.”

    This is not a modern notion, nor a New Testament idea, but the Prophet Jeremiah says, “He judged the cause of the poor and needy: then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 22:16. Or as the Jewish Version reads, “Is not this the proper knowledge of me? saith the Lord.”GCB December 1895, page 622.3

    We are apt to think of religion as a thing so wholly self-relative and as a thing having for its sole purpose, at least so far as we are concerned, our individual and personal good that we may become constantly more and more selfish, rather than the reverse, as we advance in the Christian experience. If we think constantly of ourselves, pray for ourselves, talk of ourselves, our hopes, and our fears, we may be so wrapped up even in our own spiritual interests that we may be deaf and blind to the interests of others, and may be as really ignorant of the pure and undefiled religion of which James speaks, as are the monks and nuns of Catholicism, who shut themselves up in monasteries and cloisters, and devote their whole lives to prayers, fastings, and penances, with the idea that by so doing they may reach a degree of spiritual perfection otherwise unattainable. This monkish religion, repulsive as it appears, is nevertheless, in a modified form, the prevalent type of the present day. We may be devoting our lives to gathering in blessings and graces through Christian privileges, and yet be growing constantly more and more selfish. Right doing, doing good in God’s sight, is not a gathering in, but a scattering out; it is not an enfolding, but an unfolding. It is not in receiving, that one is really enriched, but in giving.GCB December 1895, page 622.4

    The real spirit of the gospel, is helpful service to others, and this principle is brought out in the chapter under consideration in a most graphic manner. Having considered the condition of an acceptable fast and acceptable prayer, let us note the promises made in this same chapter for the encouragement of those who are willing to fast and pray in accordance with these conditions:—GCB December 1895, page 622.5

    1. “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,” or “as the morning dawn” (Jewish Bible). What more beautiful and inspiring figure could be used? What greater encouragement could we ask? The people to whom this instruction is given are represented as having a light for the world, and God has entrusted in their hands a truth, a light, which the world needs, and the Lord says if we will only comply with these conditions, — feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widows and fatherless, — our light shall no longer be hid under a bushel, but shall break forth like the morning dawn, and like the rising sun, shall spread its rays over the whole earth. We have long been looking for the time to come when the light of present truth should thus shine out upon the world. Is it not evident that there is a preliminary work which must come first, which we have largely neglected, and is it not high time that we were doing this work?GCB December 1895, page 622.6

    2. “Thine health shall spring forth speedily.” The most healthful occupation in this world is doing good to others. If you are despondent, go to work to cheer up somebody else, and see how quickly sunlight will burst into the gloomy chambers of your own soul. Many persons are sick because their minds are continually fastened upon their own maladies and symptoms. The diversion of the mind, and self-forgetfulness resulting from devotion to the interests of others, are many times the most helpful means of recovery. More than this, God promises the special blessing of healing to those who will unselfishly devote their lives to ministering to the wants of others, — to those who bring the afflicted poor into their homes, who lift the burden of sorrow and care from some poor mother’s heart.GCB December 1895, page 622.7

    3. “Thy righteousness shall go before thee.” The Saviour said, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:3, 4. We are not to parade our good works before men; we are not to be anxious to call their attention to our charitable or philanthropic work of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. Both the Saviour and the prophecy declared that the Lord will keep a careful note of all our unselfish deeds, and that our righteousness, or right doing - our good works - shall go before us. Can we mention any way so well calculated to destroy prejudice, to break the force of persecution, to open the hearts of the people for the reception of Bible truth to inspire respect for true religion, to soften hard hearts, to prepare a way for the gospel of Christ?GCB December 1895, page 622.8

    We might relate almost numberless incidents in which this promise has been absolutely verified. Here are a few, briefly stated: When spending a few hours one day with one of our visiting nurses in Chicago, while calling upon some of her most serious cases, we picked our way through dark and grimy halls, and up the rickety stairways of a wretched tenement house, into a little back room in which we found two Syrian women, one of whom had been sick while the other had a very sick child, who was just recovering. Both the patients had been under the care of the nurse, but were then out of danger. The instant they saw the nurse, both the ladies rushed forward, and dropping upon their knees each seized a hand, and covered it with kisses, at the same time uttering words of the deepest gratitude for what had been done for them, and devoutly praying for blessings upon the nurse for her patient skill whereby two lives had been saved. A benighted woman in a foreign land, falling upon her knees at the feet of a missionary, begged to be allowed to worship him, as the wonderful cures which he wrought through the divine blessing had convinced her that he was not a human being but a god in human form. A medical missionary kindly cared for the sick little ones in a family who were much prejudiced against religion. Nothing special was said upon religious subjects while the little ones were being cared for, as no really suitable opportunity seemed to offer, but within a week after the children were out of danger, both parents had sought and found the Saviour and were rejoicing in the light of the gospel, having sought the missionary for instruction and enlightenment.GCB December 1895, page 622.9

    4. “The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” When leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, the angel of the Lord and a pillar of cloud moved before them by day as a guide, and stood behind them for protection at night, as a glorious pillar of light. The Lord tells us that the righteousness, deeds, and good works of his people, in loving service to the sick, the afflicted, and the needy, shall in like manner constitute a guide to his people in these last days, — a guide in providentially opening up the way before them, and a protection in the honor and glory that this practical service of God shall bring to his name, and the favorable and protective influence which it may create.GCB December 1895, page 623.1

    5. “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer.” No more positive and explicit promise than this is to be found in the Bible. He who lays down his life for his brethren, who offers himself upon God’s altar a living sacrifice to be consumed, — not in the service of self, but in the service of needy humanity, — has the consolation of knowing that whenever he calls upon God, he is certain to receive an answer.GCB December 1895, page 623.2

    “Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am.” What a consolation to those who are willing to devote their lives to loving and helpful service of Christ in the persons of needy humanity! Such have the consolation of knowing that God is ever near; that he is always close at hand, ready to protect from danger, to guide by divine wisdom, to comfort in distress, to help and bless those who are devoting their lives to helping and blessing others. What an inexpressibly precious promise this is! When a working Christian finds himself in perplexity and trouble, he has but to cry to God, and he will say, “Here am I; I am not far away; I am close at hand; the work in which you are engaged is my work: it is the work in which Christ and all the heavenly angels are engaged. When you are visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the outcast, the needy, and the sorrowing, you will always find me close at hand, for these sad and suffering ones are the special objects of divine care and protection.” Is there any more blessed work on earth in which one can engage than this which receives the love and constant association of the angels, Christ, and God himself?GCB December 1895, page 623.3

    7. “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity.” The Hebrew Bible reads, “Then shall shine forth in the darkness thy light.” Here is a reiteration of the promise, “Thy light shall break forth as the morning dawn.” The rays of the morning sun dissipate the darkness of the night; so will the darkness of this world be illuminated by the light of the saving influence, the example, the loving kindness of those who go about in the spirit of their divine Master, doing good. This light is one which cannot be extinguished, — a light which can dissipate the moral darkness of the most benighted places on earth, whether found in the forests and jungles of heathenism or in the back lanes and alleys of our great cities. This is not the light of religious propagandism, of theological controversy, of sectarian zeal, or denominational enterprise. Whatever light emanates from such influences, is only reflected light. The light that shines forth in the darkness, which sends its rays far out among the deepest shadows of vice and immorality, — this divine search-light whose powerful rays may even penetrate the black darkness of the most wretched and vice-hardened criminal’s heart, — this powerful illuminator is the light of which our Saviour speaks, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. It is not man, but God, who is glorified by the good works done in the Saviour’s name, and by the strength imparted through his grace.GCB December 1895, page 623.4

    8. “Thy darkness be as the noonday,” or, as another version reads, “Thy obscurity be as the noonday.” Here the Lord points out how an obscure people may make themselves as conspicuous as the noonday sun. When the sun is just appearing above the horizon, or when it has sunken low beyond the western sky, it is easily hidden from view by a hill or a tree or even a smaller object, but the noonday sun nothing can hide. It stands conspicuous in the blue dome of heaven, sending out its illuminating rays, infusing light and life and warmth and energy into all nature, and cheering, brightening, strengthening, and blessing the whole earth by its beneficent influence.GCB December 1895, page 624.1

    What a wonderful picture the prophet here spreads out before us! An insignificant people, small, without wealth, without great learning, without authority, but the possessors of a great and precious body of truth, and standing in the presence of a grand, divinely offered opportunity. It is only necessary to comply with the conditions, to take God at his word, to go to work feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and the afflicted, relieving the suffering and the sorrowing, and with the glory of God as a guide before, as a guard behind, and God himself ever ready to say, “Here I am.” This small, obscure people, charged with a mighty mission and with the most glorious truth ever given to any people, may see their obscurity give place to the glorious brilliancy of noonday, — not a vanishing noonday, but a light which, the wise man says, “Shall shine more and more unto the perfect day.” Righteousness is right doing, and God has declared that the righteous “shall shine forth as the sun.” If in even so small a denomination as this, — with only fifty thousand communicants, — each one could be made to see, and feel, and each one practically adopt the teaching of this wonderful prophecy, what a mighty illumination these fifty thousand suns might make, even in a world so grossly dark as this.GCB December 1895, page 624.2

    9. “The Lord shall guide thee continually.” The man who has devoted his whole heart and soul and life to serving God in working for humanity in the practical ways pointed out in this chapter, need have no fear of getting lost. He may forget all about himself; he may even get so concerned in helping and blessing and saving other souls that his own soul’s salvation may cease to be the uppermost thought in his mind. He may so far forget his own interests that his friends and neighbors think him lacking in worldly wisdom, and set him down as a fanatic, as an extremist, as an enthusiast, but he need have no fears; his friends need not be concerned about him; that which the world calls folly will turn out to be heavenly wisdom; the self-forgetfulness will entail no loss, for God says, “I will guide thee continually.”GCB December 1895, page 624.3

    10. “And satisfy thy soul in drought.” Another version reads “famine.” Many of us are afraid to part with any of our careful savings for the benefit of our neighbor, for fear we may ourselves come to want; we are afraid to feed the hungry, for fear we ourselves may be hungry; we are afraid to clothe the naked, lest we may be obliged to wear plainer clothes than we would like to wear, or perhaps suffer a little from cold ourselves. We are afraid to take into our homes the afflicted poor, lest we become weary in caring for them, or, possibly, catch some disease. We are afraid to permit the Lord’s Spirit, which is always striving with us, to draw out our souls to the hungry, lest we may give away more of our substance than it would be prudent for us to spare. So we hoard our worldly possessions until some storm or conflagration or bank failure sweeps them away, and leaves us to become the objects of other charity, to be fed by others who are willing to divide their pittance with the unfortunate, even though they may be unworthy. The Lord wants to silence such fears which may arise in our hearts, so he gives us the assurance that if we will trust him to take care of us, if we will lay up our treasures in the heavenly bank, we need not be afraid of famine, for he will feed us; we need not be afraid of drought, for he will take care that we do not thirst.GCB December 1895, page 624.4

    11. “And make fat thy bones.” A clearer version reads, “And strengthen thy bones,” from which we have the assurance that the man who becomes poor through dividing his substance with others whom misfortune has deprived of the necessities of life, may safely trust God, not only to feed him, but to feed him well. The psalmist (Psalm 37:25) has left on record a testimony upon this point to strengthen our feeble faith. He says, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”GCB December 1895, page 624.5

    12. “Thou shalt be like a watered garden.” The gardens of Palestine, we are told by travelers, are still the most magnificent gardens in the world. When supplied with water, the wonderful soil of that choice bit of earth produces specimens of every class of plants which grow on the surface of the earth, from the tropics to the pole. The flowers, foliage, fruits, and climbing vines, stately palms and luxuriant verdure, were, and still are, even in these degenerate days, beautiful beyond description. This is the figure which God uses to describe the experience of the man who trusts him sufficiently to turn deliberately away from allurements and temptations, and the ambitions of a worldly life, and enters so heartily into the work of raising the fallen, helping the needy, and cheering the sorrowing, that he utterly forgets himself, and depends on God for guidance and care and success and prosperity in this world and the next. What greater inducement could be offered?GCB December 1895, page 624.6

    13. “Like a spring of water whose waters fail not.” The margin reads “deceive not.” The picture is that of a spring of water in a dry and thirsty desert which catches the eye of the traveler, and when he approaches it to moisten his parched and burning tongue, and quench his thirst, it gives him refreshment and relief and new life and strength, in place of disappointment, chagrin and despair in finding the draught a nauseous and brackish one, instead of a life-giving and reviving one. How like such a spring is the man whose occupation in life is that of his Master going about doing good. No pathetic appeal is ever lost upon his ear; no sorrowing soul is ever turned away without comfort; no sufferer from hunger or cold is ever turned away without relief. His very presence has the refreshing quality of a cup of cold water to the thirsty traveler, and every blessing that he imparts to others, brings comfort and divine refreshing to his own soul, so that he is, to himself as well as to those about him, a spring of water whose waters fail not.GCB December 1895, page 625.1

    14. “Shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” What great honors are promised as the reward of meeting God’s requirements! A literal rendering of the Hebrew, reads, “And they that spring from thee shall build up the ancient ruins, the foundations of many generations shalt thou raise up again, and thou shalt be called the repairer of breaches, the restorer of paths to the dwelling-place.” We have not space to dwell upon the wonderful privileges granted those who will accept of God’s invitation to join with him in helping and blessing humanity. They have the blessed privilege of aiding not only to repair the wastes and the breaches which men have made in God’s truth and God’s law, and to build up anew the bulwarks of truth against the armies and engines of error which are dominant in these last days, but also to engage in building up the ruins which sin has made; in repairing the sad wrecks of humanity that are to be found stranded, broken, despairing, in every city and in every community.GCB December 1895, page 625.2

    In view of such explicit instruction, such unparalleled encouragement, — for in all God’s Word there is not to be found such unlimited pledges of privilege and reward, — is it not clearly the duty of every Seventh-day Adventist to awaken from the lethargy of self-serving, and enter upon the grand work of saving souls for eternity in the practical manner pointed out in this chapter? One may say, “But I have not even the five barley loaves which one brought to the Saviour when five thousand hungry people were waiting to be fed.” Very well, bring your one little loaf. With God’s blessing upon it, you may go out and feed thousands. But, like the loaves, we must be broken before we can be used. We must remember that when the disciples brought the loaves to Jesus, after breaking and blessing them, he gave them back to use and to distribute. We are God’s agents. We live in the midst of great human needs. The poor need our assistance, our sympathy, our care, and our personal service. The rich need the inspiration of our example. The rich man of the Scripture was not censured for being rich; God gave him the rain, the sunshine, the fertility of soil which brought him the abundant harvests. His sin only began when he said, “I will build larger barns to store my goods,” instead of distributing the Lord’s bounty to the poor.GCB December 1895, page 625.3

    God gives to every Christian a field or a workbench, but provides no easy chair. The excuse so often heard, “I have no time for Christian Help work, no time to think of medical missionary work, no time to think of my neighbors; I have all I can do in looking after my own affairs,” means, no time for God and humanity; it means all the time for self and the world. O, that we all might be able to join in the petition of one who prayed, —GCB December 1895, page 625.4

    “O, Lord, that I may spend myself for others,GCB December 1895, page 625.5

    With no ends of my own;
    That I may pour myself into my brothers,
    And live for them alone.”

    Each of us has sometime greatly felt the need of a friend. How many of us are filled with an equally intense longing to be a friend to some friendless one?GCB December 1895, page 625.6

    This whole chapter in Isaiah contains practical instruction in brotherly kindness, and encouragement to give ourselves to others; in return for which, God promises to give himself to us. That it applies especially to this people, we need not argue. The great question is, How can we all be awakened to the necessity for putting these principles into immediate operation in our lives, each beginning in his own neighborhood? For more than a quarter of a century God has been, by special means, placing these principles before us, and especially within the last two or three years the most stirring exhortations have been given respecting our duty in the direction of Christian philanthropy. I quote only a few brief extracts from recent writings by Sister White, the most of which have appeared in the Review and Herald within the last three years:—GCB December 1895, page 625.7

    “We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. This command is not that we shall simply love those who think and believe exactly as we do. Christ illustrated the meaning of the commandment by the parable of the Good Samaritan .... How tenderly the Lord regards all who are suffering or in want. They are to be helped, not to be oppressed.”GCB December 1895, page 626.1

    “The angels ... are prepared to cooperate with human agents in relieving oppression and suffering. They will cooperate with ‘those who break every yoke,’ who ‘bring the poor that are cast out to thy house;’ who, ‘when they see the naked that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.’GCB December 1895, page 626.2

    “To leave the suffering neighbor unrelieved is a breach of the law of God. God brought the priest along that way in order that with his own eyes he might see a case that needed mercy and help; but the priest, though holding a holy office, whose work it was to bestow mercy and to do good, passed by on the other side. His character was exhibited in its true nature before the angels of God. For a pretense he could make long prayers, but he could not keep the principles of the law, in loving God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. The Levite was of the same tribe as was the wounded, bruised sufferer. All heaven watched as the Levite passed on the road, to see if his heart would be touched with human woe. As he beheld the man, he was convicted of what he ought to do; but as it was not an agreeable duty, he wished he had not come that way, so that he need not have seen the man who was wounded and bruised, naked and perishing, and in want of help from his fellow-men. He passed on his way, persuading himself that it was none of his business, and that he had no need to trouble himself over the case.GCB December 1895, page 626.3

    “Enshrined in the pillar of the cloud, the Lord Jesus had given special direction in regard to the performance of acts of mercy toward man and beast. While the law of God requires supreme love to God and impartial love to our neighbors, its far-reaching requirements also take in the dumb creatures that cannot express in words their wants or sufferings. He who loves God will not only love his fellow-men, but will regard with tender compassion the creatures which God has made. When the Spirit of God is in man, it leads him to relieve rather than to create suffering....GCB December 1895, page 626.4

    “By this parable the duty of man to his fellow-man is forever settled. We are to care for every case of suffering, and to look upon ourselves as God’s agents to relieve the needy to the very uttermost of our ability. We are to be laborers together with God. There are some who manifest great affection for their relatives, for their friends and favorites, who yet fail to be kind and considerate to those who need tender sympathy, who need kindness and love. With earnest hearts let us inquire, Who is my neighbor? Our neighbors are not merely our associates and special friends; they are not simply those who belong to our church, or who think as we do. Our neighbors are the whole human family. We are to do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. WE ARE TO GIVE TO THE WORLD AN EXHIBITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO CARRY OUT THE LAW OF GOD. We are to love God supremely, and our neighbors as ourselves.” — The Review and Herald, January 1, 1895.GCB December 1895, page 626.5

    “Every one who has been free to condemn, to dishearten, and to discourage; who has failed to give tender kindness, sympathy, and compassion to the tempted and the tried, will in his own experience be brought over the ground which others have passed, and will feel what others have suffered because of his want and sympathy, until he shall abhor his hardness of heart and open the door for Jesus to come in.... When Christ abides in the soul, he will be revealed in the uplifting of those who most need uplifting. Our neighbor is every person who needs our help. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded, and bruised by the adversary. Our neighbor is every one who is the property of God. We have not seen the good Samaritan largely represented in our churches, or in our offices of publication.” — The Review and Herald, January 8, 1895.GCB December 1895, page 626.6

    “If we desire healthfulness of soul, and a sunny experience, we must put into practice the rules given as in Isaiah fifty-eight.GCB December 1895, page 626.7

    “Every poor, tried soul needs light, needs tender, sympathizing, hopeful words. Every widow needs the comfort of helpful and encouraging words that others can bestow. Orphans who are lent to Christians in trust for God, are too often passed by and neglected, and yet they are bought with a price, and they are just as valuable in the sight of God as we are. They may be ragged, uncouth, rough, destitute, cold, and hungry: yet as God’s property, Christians should have a lively interest in them. They are members of the household of God, for whom Christians are responsible. ‘Their souls,’ saith God, ‘will I require at thy hand.’ They must be cared for, they must receive special attention. You cannot expend your means in a better way than by opening your doors to make homes for them. When the Lord sees that you are faithful in doing what you can to relieve human misery, he will move upon others to provide means to care for those who need help.GCB December 1895, page 626.8

    “Consider these words, ye complaining, downcast, discontented, homesick souls. Here is a prescription that the prophet Isaiah was commanded of the Lord to present to you for the healing of the spiritual, bodily maladies.” — The Review and Herald, January 22, 1895.GCB December 1895, page 626.9

    “In the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, the work the people of God are to do in Christ’s lines, is clearly set forth.... If they carry out the principles of the law of God in acts of mercy and love, they will represent the character of God to the world, and receive the richest blessings of Heaven.” — The Review and Herald, August 20, 1895.GCB December 1895, page 626.10

    Evidently, Seventh-day Adventists ought to be missionaries in the broadest sense of the term. No people have been so fully equipped with knowledge which might be used in successful missionary effort in behalf of both the souls and the bodies of men and women, as are Seventh-day Adventists. The fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah is an exhortation to every Seventh-day Adventist to engage in practical missionary work such as he finds nearest at hand; not simply tract distributing, holding Bible readings, etc., but in doing good in all practical ways. Is there not to be found in every Seventh-day Adventist church, a sufficient number of men and women who appreciate the appeals and the promises of the prophet, and the instruction which the Lord has recently sent us upon this subject, to constitute at least one Christian Help band? In larger churches, a number of bands might be organized for neighborhood work. Every such band will be a training school for missionary work elsewhere, when duty calls in large cities, in foreign lands, in the islands of the sea, or wherever the needs of the work or the cause may demand.GCB December 1895, page 626.11

    As Elder Haskell, our pioneer home missionary, remarks in a recent number of the Medical Missionary, Is it not “strange that people expecting the soon coming of Christ are not more interested in such work as this”? We must be interested in it. The time has certainly come when every Seventh-day Adventist should become an active, working missionary, beginning right at his own home. Let the world no longer point to us as a people zealous for a creed, but let us be known to the world as a people who are “zealous of good works.” Let us imitate the example of Job, who “delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him,” and “caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.” Let us be able to say with Job, “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” Then may we also be able to say with him, “The blessing of him who was ready to perish came upon me.” Then, and only then, may we dare hope to hear the King say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”GCB December 1895, page 627.1


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