The Grace of Love
Located within the pages of the Spirit of Prophecy is the heartbreaking story of a lonely soul who was neglected and forsaken by the professed people of God. This soul, precious in the sight of Jesus, was left to languish and perish in a hostile environment because the love of many had grown cold. Her name was Hanna More, and her story can be found in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 666–680. If you have not read this story, you should. In it you will see the work of a people whose hearts are void of the love of God and the adverse affects such a people can have in the lives of those whom God has sent to them.
Meeting Cold and Indifference
Hanna More, who died near the age of ninety, had served the Lord as a missionary in Central Africa. It was there that she received the light of the Bible Sabbath and embraced it. Because of this, her services were no longer desired, and she returned to America, hoping to find employment and to find a home among the people who shared her newfound faith. Her journey brought her to Battle Creek, Michigan, but the reception which she received there was cold and indifferent. In need of a home and employment, Hanna was forced to travel to northern Michigan, where she secured both with acquaintances from her missionary work in Africa. It was in their company that this precious soul died.
Her last days, however, were spent sharing her new faith with her acquaintances and attempting to find a home with people who shared her faith. Though her heartfelt desires were never to be realized, neither her faith in God nor her love for His people wavered.
She resigned herself into the hands of God and sought to bring Him honor, either in life or by her death. Even the poor treatment shown her by the professed people of God could not dampen her love and desire for them. She died, as it were, in the wilderness, separated from the company of God’s supposed remnant people. It was not because of anything she did, but because this supposed remnant people had not the love of Jesus in their hearts.
Shame Brought Upon the Name of Jesus
It is the principle of this love which they violated, bringing shame upon the name of Jesus and contempt upon the name of His professed remnant church. Had they possessed the love of God in their hearts, they could not have rejected this child of God. They would have clothed her with the embrace of brotherly love and welcomed her into their homes and into their hearts. They would have rejoiced with her in her joy over the new light which she had received. This poor soul should have found among them the warmth she sought, and then perhaps she would have been spared the chill of winter which took her life. But it was not to be. This woman of God, for whom Jesus had given His life and to whom God had revealed light regarding the Bible Sabbath, who was anxious to prepare people for the Lord’s coming and referred to her new faith as "our faith," considering herself a member of God’s remnant people, was in fact, rejected—just as Christ was rejected by those people whom He came to bless and save. Love was not to be found among them, and the records of heaven will speak out against them in the time of judgment.
Though this sad experience took place many years ago, the heart wherein the love of God dwells cannot but be moved with a deep sense of shame and sadness. When our very work, as a people of God, is to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages, how can we not embrace and care for those who have received it? "In our benevolent work special help should be given to those who, through the presentation of the truth, are convicted and converted. We must have a care for those who have the moral courage to accept the truth.…Those who take their position on the Lord’s side are to see in Seventh-day Adventists a warmhearted, self-denying, self-sacrificing people, who cheerfully and gladly minister to their brethren in need." Testimonies, vol. 6, 85.
History Repeats Itself
Yet history often repeats itself, and some say now, as many did then, "I do not see the need for making such a big fuss about Sister More." But the voice of Sister White echoes down through the annals of time, saying, "It is much worse than we then supposed." Ibid., vol. 1, 677.
It is much worse, because as a people, while we profess godliness, we have not the zealous love for Jesus and for our neighbor which is to distinguish His remnant people from those who worship the god of this world. We profess with our lips, but our hearts are divided. We compromise the commandments of God and fall into the snares which Satan has laid for us. If we refuse to love our neighbor, we cannot keep the commandments of God. "We need to guard against the first deviation from righteousness; for one transgression, one neglect to manifest the spirit of Christ, opens the way for another and still another, until the mind is overmastered by the principles of the enemy." Ibid., vol. 6, 265.
It is the device of Satan to prevent us from having this divine principle at work in our hearts and lives. We must not be too busy to tend to the needs of those whom God has sent into our lives. We cannot let the things of this world steal away our affection for what is right and good and holy. We must not think it too much of an inconvenience to sacrifice that others might be relieved of their burden. We must discharge that duty which is before us and not let go by the opportunity for good. Jesus Christ is our standard. He has shown us how it is to be done. He did not think it an inconvenience to leave heaven and die upon the cross. No, His heart was filled with love for a perishing world, and He did what love demanded that He do. How can we, who profess to be His disciples, do any less? "Those who claim to believe in Christ are to represent Christ in deeds of kindness and mercy. Such will never know until the day of judgment what good they have done in seeking to follow the example of the Saviour." Letter 140, 1908.
Have You Met Your Hannah More?
In every life there is a Hannah More. God has sent her to us, that by loving her and providing for her needs, we may grow in His love. It is the use of this holy grace that purifies the soul wherein it dwells. We must be in possession of it, or rather be possessed of it, if we are to enter heaven. "It is in the providence of God that widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the lame, and persons afflicted in a variety of ways, have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character." Testimonies, vol. 3, 511.
It is the wisdom of God which calls us into the service of ministering to others. It is to perfect us for heaven, and we cannot afford to look the other way. Sin has extinguished the love that God placed in the heart of man, and sin will continue to strive against the love which is in the Christian heart. God knows that if we do not put to use the graces which He has given us, we will lose them. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love," says the Lord of hosts. Jeremiah 31:3. It is this love, as manifested on the cross of Calvary, which seeks to perfect us. It will not hold back that thing which is for our own good. We, in perfect trust, must obey the word of God and the impression of His Spirit upon our heart, for they work together for our good.
Who Is My Neighbor?
We must learn to love the unlovable, those who appear to be destitute of any hope. It is not our duty to choose whom we shall love. We cannot see the heart as God does. We know not what work has gone before us to prepare this soul for the love of God. We must not ask, as that lawyer, "Who is my neighbor?" (See Luke 10:29.) We must not seek for ways to escape our duty, for this is not acceptable to God. "To become a toiler, to continue patiently in well-doing which calls for self-denying labor, is a glorious work, which Heaven smiles upon. Faithful work is more acceptable to God than the most zealous and thought-to-be holiest worship.…Prayers, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on; but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree." Ibid., vol. 2, 24.
As children of God, this is the fruit that we will bear in our lives. Being rooted and grounded in the Lord, Jesus Christ, we cannot but bear good fruits which are manifest in good deeds unto others. "‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.…’" John 15:5. (NKJV) So we see if we do not bear fruit, it is because we are not abiding in Jesus. And Jesus warns, "‘Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [God] takes away.…’" John 15:2. (NKJV) Those branches which are taken away are cast into the fire, and they are burned.
So what is it that keeps us from abiding in Christ? What disease prevents us from bearing fruit? While God prunes us, it is for the purpose of bearing more fruit of a better quality. But if a branch is so diseased as to bear no fruit, He has no choice but to remove it, lest it infect the other branches. The work of pruning is accomplished through circumstances that manifest the selfishness which still indwells our hearts. We must go to God in true humility and "Pray that He will give you a heart of flesh, a heart that can feel the sorrows of others, that can be touched with human woe. Pray that He will give you a heart that will not permit you to turn a deaf ear to the widow or the fatherless. Pray that you may have bowels of mercy for the poor, the infirm, and the oppressed. Pray that you may love justice and hate robbery, and make no difference in the bestowal of your favors, except to consider the cases of the needy and the unfortunate.…" Letter 24, 1889. We must cooperate with the pruning process, or we will be taken away. We must give up self that the love of God may flow freely through us. This is the great work which is before us. But it is a work which will bring many blessings to those around us. We must be about our Father’s business and work while it is yet day. The end of probation will soon come upon us, and we must be ready. And unless our hearts are filled to over-flowing with the love of God, we cannot expect to receive the Latter Rain. We must have victory, complete victory over sin. This can only be accomplished by a complete surrender to God’s love. For it is love that "will gain the victory.…" Testimonies, vol. 2, 135.
Infinite Mercy and Love
"We should meditate upon the Scriptures, thinking soberly and candidly upon the things that pertain to our salvation. The infinite mercy and love of Jesus, the sacrifice made in our behalf, call for most serious and solemn reflection. We should dwell upon the character of our dear Redeemer and Intercessor. We should seek to comprehend the meaning of the plan of salvation. We should meditate upon the mission of Him who came to save His people from their sins. By constantly contemplating heavenly themes, our faith and love will grow stronger." Review and Herald, June 12, 1888.
Love, that heavenly perfume which sweetens the lives of all who come within its holy fragrance, is the basis of all godliness; it only abounds in the heart when the entire self is merged with Christ. Then it will spring forward naturally, and then we shall know the perfect will of God. We must not let self corrupt that good thing which is in us through Jesus Christ. We must surrender all to God and we shall have success. Then on that marvelous day, when Jesus returns to claim His own, we shall be among them.
December 2001 Table of Contents