Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [Hebrews 10:38; James 2:20, 24.]
We profess to be pilgrims and strangers on earth, journeying to a better country, even an heavenly. If we are indeed but sojourners here, traveling to a land where none but the holy can dwell, we shall make it our first business to become acquainted with that country; we shall make diligent inquiry as to the preparation needed, the manners and character which we must have, in order to become citizens there. Jesus, the King of that land, is pure and holy. He has commanded his followers, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:16.] If we are hereafter to associate with Christ and sinless angels, we must here obtain a fitness for such society.
This is our work,—our all-important work. Every other consideration is of minor consequence. Our conversation, our deportment, our every act, should be such as to convince our family, our neighbors, and the world, that we expect soon to remove to a better country. More than this, our godly example should keep ever before their minds the preparation needed by all who would enter that blessed home. Our acts must correspond with our faith, and faith will then be made perfect. We should not engage in the work of preparation merely as a duty, a necessity, but as a privilege which we are happy in accepting. Those whose faith is daily confirmed and strengthened by their works, will become acquainted with self-denial in restricting appetite, controlling ambitious desires, bringing every thought and feeling into harmony with the divine will. They will beware lest they be brought into the bondage of sin by conforming to a worldly standard, and thus, before many witnesses, denying their faith.
Land of Canaan
The land to which we are traveling is in every sense far more attractive than was the land of Canaan to the children of Israel. They were led by the hand of God. Christ himself gave them a description of the country in which they were to find a home; for he wished to place before them every incentive to press on with hope and courage. They were brought where they could look over into the land of Canaan, and behold its pleasant landscapes, its wooded hills and fertile fields, and were permitted to eat of its rich fruit. But at the same time the difficulties to be encountered were not concealed from them. There was earnest effort before them if they possessed the land. They had need of courage and constant faith. If they would trust in God, his presence and power would be with them, and would at last bring them off victorious over all their enemies. But they become discouraged as the spies tell them of giants, warlike nations, and high-walled cities, which they must encounter. They doubt, hesitate, and propose to go back to Egypt. By their unbelief they doom themselves to suffering, humiliation, and defeat, and at last die in the wilderness.
What stayed their progress just in sight of the goodly land? The difficulties before them were not so great as they had previously encountered. The great obstacle was in themselves. It was their own willful unbelief that turned them back. They were unwilling to risk anything upon the promises of God. The land was good; but the giants were mighty, and the walls of the cities high. They lost sight of the great advantages to be gained in possessing Canaan. They ceased conversing about the good land and its blessings, and permitted their minds to dwell upon the trials and difficulties lying between them and the desired haven.
The more they conversed upon these things, the greater the difficulties appeared, and the more determined their opinion that the conditions imposed upon them were such as they could not meet; that the Lord was unreasonable and severe with them. Satan presented matters before them in the worst light, and they felt that they were an abused people. They appealed to their own sympathies, and forgot the wondrous works of God in their behalf. They lost faith in God at the very time when it should have been strongest. When the Lord was about to manifest to them his great power and goodness, to make his name glorious in the earth, and exalt his people as a nation favored and honored of Heaven, they became discouraged. They knew that whenever they had trusted in God he had mightily wrought for them. Yet their unbelief strengthened into rebellion; their own perverse wills obstructed the way, making walls before them higher than had been built by their enemies.
The history of the children of Israel is written as a warning to us, “upon whom the ends of the world are come.” [1 Corinthians 10:11.] We are standing, as it were, upon the very borders of the heavenly Canaan. We may, if we will, look over on the other side, and behold the attractions of the goodly land. If we have faith in the promises of God, we shall show in conversation and in deportment that we are not living for this world, but are making it our first business to prepare for that holy land.
Dangers and Difficulties
The dangers and difficulties before us are increasing as we near the heavenly rest. Satan is filled with deadly hatred against all who are seeking to gain the land which was once his home. His envy has lost none of its bitterness since he was excluded from the brightness and glory of Heaven. Before his fall an enemy to Christ, seeking to rob him of his honor and glory, he is no less his enemy now. He has determined to take the world captive. He sees that his time is short, that a mightier than he will soon take away his power, and he will make one last mighty effort against Christ and his church.
Now is the time for the friends of Jesus to be decided, faithful, and valiant for the Captain of their salvation. Now is the time to show who are the true Calebs, who will not deny that the walls are high, the giants mighty, but who believe that this very fact will make the victory more glorious. There are great difficulties and trials before us. It will require strong courage and persevering effort to go forward. But all now depends on our faith in the Captain who has led us safely thus far. Shall we let unbelief come in now? Shall we weakly yield to distrust and fear? Shall we compromise with the world, and turn away from the heavenly Canaan? Shall we make extensive plans for this life, as did the inhabitants of the old world, planting, building, marrying, and giving in marriage?
The solemn message for this time has a certain sound which we all should heed. The signs of the times tell us that the end of all things is at hand. Prophecies fulfilled have become facts of history, clearly defining our position. We are standing upon the verge of the eternal world. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many is waxing cold. Instead of this, love for God, love for purity, truth, and holiness, should be increasing in our hearts. The increase of wickedness around us should awaken in us more earnest zeal and stronger determination. The faith of God’s true people, manifested, as was Noah’s, by their works, should stand as a beacon of warning to the world. If our works do not correspond with our profession, we present to the world a false light, and thus lure them on to destruction.
Our Lord forewarned his people that iniquity would abound in the last days, and would have a paralyzing influence upon true godliness. Wickedness is seen and heard and felt all around us. It seems to permeate the very atmosphere, and affects the faith and love of God’s professed people. It is difficult to hold fast Christian integrity. The fact is, much which is current in our day as Christianity is indebted for its very existence to the absence of persecution. When the test of fiery trial comes, a great proportion of these who profess the faith will show that their religion was hollow formalism. Instead of being strengthened and confirmed by opposition, their faith grows feeble and becomes extinct.
Days of Peril
The days in which we live are days of peril. Carelessness, levity, love of pleasure and selfish gratification, are seen in the lives of very many professed Christians. Is this the time for Seventh-day Adventists to lose their faith and grow cold and formal? God forbid! Shall we turn traitor at the very moment when God would be most glorified by our steadfast adherence to principle? Shall we turn from the heavenly attractions now, when we can almost see the glories on the other shore? We are living in the most important period of earth’s history. By maintaining our allegiance to God, we may bear the noblest testimony for Christ and the truth.
The true Christian will cling to the promises of God more firmly now than ever before. His heart is where he has laid up his treasure—in Heaven. When right principles are despised and forsaken, then the true and loyal will show their warmest zeal and deepest love; then they will stand most firmly for truth, unpopular though it be. The true soldier will be ready to fight the battles of the Lord when his enemies appear strongest; and it is then that the victory will be most complete and triumphant.
Brethren and sisters of like precious faith, shall we give heed to the last warning message? Is this a time to use the Lord’s money in ministering to our pride and ambition?—a time to add land to land, or to build grand houses for ourselves and our children?—a time to lay up our treasures and fix our affections here? The Lord is coming. In his great mercy he has delivered us from the darkness of error, and has permitted the bright beams of truth to shine into our souls. We should manifest our gratitude by so reflecting the light from Heaven, in our words and works, that others may be led to believe the truths we advocate. Let us beware that we be not swept away by the current of worldliness, thus saying to unbelievers, “The time is not. Be not alarmed. My Lord delayeth his coming.” Let us be consistent; let our works correspond with our profession of faith.
Review and Herald, November 29, 1881.