Luke 18:9-14: “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
I wonder in how many minds the feeling would rise, But that was the prayer of the publican, and we are not publicans! That is just exactly what the other Pharisee thanked God for, - that he was not. That is just what the Pharisee said, - he thanked God that he was not that way. “I thank thee that I am not as this publican.” The prayer of the publican was: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That is all. And the Saviour says: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” Why? Because he was a sinner, and he knew it; God knew it, and they agreed together that it was so. When he asked God to be merciful to him, the only way that God could be merciful to him was to forgive the sin, is to make one righteous instead of sinful. God wanted this man to be made righteous, and he himself wanted it, and they could agree on that, and thus it was so.
Take the case of Paul as he states it in his first letter to his son Timothy: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15. Now, I say this should be the experience of every one of us: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Now, Paul does not say that he was the chief of sinners before he was converted. He simply says, in the most emphatic way, in the present tense: “I am chief of sinners.” What will give to anyone, whether it be Paul the apostle or whether it be you, any one of us, that view of ourselves, that we will be ready to say that, not simply as a form of words, but from the heart? What only can do it? The very same thing that wrought that experience in the apostle Paul, and it works that experience in everyone who knows it, when one sees Jesus Christ.
Now, I cannot abhor myself by looking at myself, and you cannot hate sin and be troubled at your sinful condition by looking at yourselves. Not at all. To attempt to do this, would be just like this: Suppose all the lights here were at once put out. Who could say then whether his neighbor was good-looking or bad-looking? Who then, by holding up his hand before him, could tell whether it was white or black? - There is no light, everything is the same, there is no chance to tell anything about it. The reason why we don’t see these things, is because Satan has put his own hellish shadow over us, and has brought darkness over us. And it is only as light from God shines into our hearts, that we can have any idea of our own sinfulness before God, and our need of him.
When Paul was on his way to Damascus, what were his feelings? He describes them to us in Philippians 3, “A Pharisee of the Pharisees, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel,” etc. He had everything to congratulate himself for. But, when Paul, Saul of Tarsus, even that satisfied man, who would have put to death at that very moment, every Christian, met the Lord in the way, he said: “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” He was converted, and acknowledged the very thing he had been fighting, and yielded up the whole thing right there. The moment he said “Lord,” he acknowledged Jesus Christ, the very one whose disciples he was on his way to Damascus to persecute. Now concerning his conversion, we read: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen: immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Galatians 1:15, 16. It was after this experience, and after this Son had been revealed to him, that he wrote to his son Timothy: “I am the chief.”
It was the same experience in Job’s case. In Job 42:1-6, we read, “Then Job answered the Lord and said, I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understand not; things too wonderful for me which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Now, I say, that will be the experience of everyone, and it is not an experience simply once in a life-time. It is not simply the experience that comes at conversion: but every time that one catches a glimpse of the glory and purity of Jesus Christ, he can but abhor himself.
I am really troubled to know how to find words to express these things. It is necessary to present before our minds the need of self-abhorrence for those who stand in the presence of God. There is nothing that I can say that can help the matter, but it must be with us just as it was with those on the day of Pentecost. They really did not have any appreciation of what Jesus Christ was; but while Peter was talking to them in a plain and simple manner about the Spirit, the Holy Spirit told them about Jesus Christ: the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to them - a man they had never seen before - and instead of seeing him merely as he had been reported to them, as a wine-bibber, as one who ate and drank with sinners, as an imposter, they saw Jesus Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour. They saw something of the purity of his character, and they saw him, of course, in a true light.
It is only as the Spirit teaches you and me something about Jesus Christ, that we can have any idea of how we stand before God. A good lesson on this matter is found in the ninth chapter of Ezra. In his prayer, Ezra says: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up into the heavens.” I do not know what to say. When a servant of God like Ezra comes before God with such a statement as that, what shall we say, what shall we do? That was the prayer of a man who saw something of the sinfulness of sin, - who saw something of what it meant to be out of harmony with God.
Now, we are taught that the servants of God are to “weep between the porch and the altar and cry, Spare thy people, Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach.” But it seems to me, in considering this question, that before we can do that, we ought to weep for ourselves.
Look over the record of the past three or four years and see what God has been doing for us, and then see where we stand now. God has been dealing with his people in a very remarkable manner, and God is dealing with his people still in a very remarkable manner. God has been waiting for the co-operation of human agents in his work. That word he has sent to us again and again: but the last word is that God is waiting impatiently. It is a wonder to me, that instead of impatiently waiting, he does not sweep us out of his sight, and take a people that will be ready to co-operate with him. What shall we do when God sends us word right here and now that he is waiting impatiently for us? How long did he wait for the fruit on the tree? He waited three years did he not? Then was he going to cut it down? No. He said just wait one more year, then if it does not bear fruit, let it go. How long has it been since God in a special manner began to send this light and this instruction and this reproof for you and me? Reckon it up. Four years. It is the fourth year since Minneapolis, and going on the fifth.
Now, I say, these things are terribly solemn for us to face, and I know not what to say. But from my soul I can only say that we have come to a terrible, solemn time for us. God has waited and sent reproof, and waited and sent reproof - four years.
Notice the special force of the expression found in the first appeal that was sent out to ministers and Conference committees, p.34:-
“Will you exchange your hope of heaven for worldly gain? Many are doing this very thing. Satan has held out his tempting bribe, and they have accepted his terms. Should the tree be cut down, it would lie prone to the earth, - lost, lost, eternally lost!”
What is the meaning of this? When you put that with your own experience you can see what it means. It means that it is time to bear fruit, or to cut down the tree.
I have no disposition to try to crowd anyone, but I feel that it is my duty to present these things in the plainest manner possible, and to let the Spirit of God do its own work upon our hearts. That is all I can do. Just take a few words, to show how we are to take a view of Christ, and that we are not to look to ourselves to see whether we are wrong, but to the light from God, in Christ. “One ray of the glory of God, one beam of the purity of Christ, pervading the soul, makes every spot of defilement painfully distinct.” Why, I tell you the simple fact when I say that if God would to-night let some additional rays of his Spirit shine in our hearts, we could not go home and rest easy, and sleep quietly, and take matters the same as usual.
I tell you, it is a terrible thing to be wilfully sinning against God, and it is a terrible thing to be cherishing sin against him. Words simply fail to express my horror of such a situation. Here we are, and this message is to be given with a “loud cry,” and who can say in the spirit of it: “Here am I, send me to give that loud cry”? God must visit his people. God must enlighten our minds and give us some new views of Jesus Christ. I pray he may do it right early. It is only his Spirit that can do this. We have had these words before our minds for years and years, but God’s Spirit must teach us what they mean. God’s Spirit must really teach us what the purity of Jesus Christ is. We are utterly unable to comprehend it, to understand it.
There is another phase of this matter that I want to speak about, and that is, What are we going to confess? Now, I apprehend that many would say: “If there is anything sinful about me, I want to confess it:” and many confess to God just that way, and say: “Lord, if I have sinned, I am sorry for it.” Now, when God sends us word that we have sinned, it is an insult to high heaven to come to him and say: “If I have sinned.” Well, if I have not sinned, He is a liar, because He has sent word to me that I have. How is it? Shall I come to God and say: “If I have sinned, I hope you will forgive me”? You see it is impossible to say it. There is no if about it. He tells us that it is so, and it is time for us to confess it without any “ifs” in the matter.
You do not find any such confession of sin as that in the Scripture. You don’t find Daniel, the one greatly beloved, to whom the Lord sent that special word, “Thou art greatly beloved,” confessing sin with an “if” in it. Not at all. Notice his confession, the way it reads: “We have sinned and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets.” I will just stop there a moment and consider that. “Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets.” How is that?
“Some criticize the message and the messengers. They dare even to reject the words of reproof sent to them from God through his Holy Spirit.” - Danger in Adopting Worldly Policy, p.8.
Now Daniel says: “Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets.” The fact is, as it seems to me, that we have become so accustomed to the idea of regarding or disregarding these things, as our interests are at stake, that we have utterly lost the sense of the sanctity of God’s Word and of his message. It is a fearful thing to disregard God’s word and message; yet we have become so accustomed to do this. Why? Because sin is there, and because God does not immediately send evils upon us, we disregard these warnings. We do not appreciate what a terrible thing it is in the sight of God to disregard the plain statement of his Word, and the plain reproofs of his Spirit. We have been doing this for years and years, and this should be our prayer: “God be merciful to us, and save us.”
That must come from hearts that appreciate the situation. Notice these words:-
“Those who are carnally minded now, notwithstanding the warnings given of God in his word and through the testimonies of his Spirit, will never unite with the holy family of the redeemed.” - Special Testimony, p.39.
Someone asks, Well what shall we confess? Let me read this statement found in Gospel Workers, 83. I do not want you to lose this thought:-
“We are just as accountable for evils that we might have checked in others, by reproof, by warning, by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves.”
That statement almost took me out of my chair when I read it. If God does not have mercy upon us what will become of us? I want to read that statement again, to see whether we have any need of making a confession, or whether there is anything in our past experience that is not just right.
“We are just as accountable for evils that we might have checked in others, by reproof, by warning, by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves.”
What shall we say other than “We have sinned and done wickedly in thy sight”? What shall we say before God? Will it not be true that we shall be obliged with Ezra to say: “I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God”? Do you think I am overdrawing the picture just for the sake of a little temporary effect, or to work up a sensation? There are the simple statements in the matter. Now, if God’s word has any effect upon our hearts, if the testimony of his Spirit meets with any response from us, we shall not have to ask any more: “What is there for me to confess?”
Take another phase of it as presented in the following familiar scripture, which I will not take time to read, but will simply bring the thought before your minds. Mark 7:21, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts.” Verse 20: “That which cometh out of the man, defileth the man.” We are to purify that which comes out of the heart. It is that which is evil, it is the foundation that is defiled. Now, one may address himself with all earnestness, and with all the will-power at his command, to make his outward acts perfect, and he may even be able to do it as far as his outward actions are concerned; and yet every one of them be tainted with evil, because that which cometh out of the heart of man defileth and is evil. The heart must be changed by the power of God, and until that is the case, every action is evil. Now, what is the power, - how do we link ourselves to the power that purifies? It is by faith. “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Acts 15:9.
Let us see how this connects with this thought:-
“A living faith in Christ will bring every action of the life and every emotion of the soul into harmony with God’s truth and righteousness.” - Gospel Workers, 23.
That is simply another way of saying: bringing into perfect harmony with the law of God, - with the character of God. That is the living faith that brings us into perfect harmony with God. Well, can we see the reason of that statement, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”? Now, faith is not simply a thing that comes at conversion, and then we are through with it. Faith must be a living, active principle in us. That is the living faith that brings us into harmony with God. Faith is that power which brings the divine light into the soul, it is the only thing that brings us into harmony with God, the only thing that prevents every action from being sin. But “whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” because it is faith and faith only that purifies the heart and that sanctifies its motives, so that the spring of action may be right; and unless that is so, the outward action cannot be right in God’s sight. That is the teaching of the Saviour about obeying the commandments. He says “he that hates his brother is a murderer.”
Last summer when I was attending the Indiana camp-meeting, I was invited to speak in the woman’s prison. I think there were eighty three women in this prison. They told me that ten of them were under life sentence for murder. Well, some of the brethren afterward asked me if they were not a pretty hard-looking company to speak to, whether they were not a pretty hard set. I tell you in my soul, I felt they were not any worse than many of the people I had spoken to at the camp-meeting: and if all the murderers in the world were shut up in jail, there would not be people enough left to guard them. Now, you see God does not look at these things as we do. A man that walks up and down the street and hates his brother, is a murderer in the sight of God. We can’t deal with that, but God does deal with that.
Now, it seems to me that that alienation, that hard feeling and suspicion among brethren, is a most terrible thing in God’s sight. That is simply murder in one degree: this is murder in another degree, that is all. God has been sending us special instruction upon that point, putting away differences. (We have been talking, you know, about what it is that hinders the Holy Spirit’s coming in.) Notice this statement in Gospel Workers, 370:-
“It is our privilege to take God at his word. As Jesus was about to leave his disciples, to ascend into heaven, he commissioned them to bear the gospel message to all nations, tongues and peoples. He told them to tarry in Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high. This was essential to their success. The holy unction must come upon the servants of God. All who were fully identified as disciples of Christ and associated with the apostles as evangelists, assembled together at Jerusalem. They put away all differences.”
And the instruction that was for them is for us now, for we want the same experience, the same experience that they had: and what we are trying to find out, is what hinders it, that it may be removed, and that that experience may be ours. “They removed all differences.” And has not the instruction come to us that companies should be gathered together, and pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit, pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, more than the ordinary workings and the ordinary outpouring of the Spirit, - the abundance of it? “They continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, that they might receive the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit.” And have we not got to do that very thing, if we do anything at all? If we do it at all, we have.
“They continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, that they might receive the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit: for they were to preach the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit and in the power of God. It was a time of great danger to the followers of Christ. They were as sheep in the midst of wolves, yet they were of good courage, because Christ had risen from the dead, and had revealed himself to them, and had promised them a special blessing which would qualify them to go forth to preach his gospel to the world. They were waiting in expectation of the fulfillment of his promise, and were praying with special fervency.
“This is the very course that should be pursued by those who act a part in the work of proclaiming the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven: for a people are to be prepared to stand in the great day of God. Although Christ had given the promise that they should receive the Holy Spirit, this did not remove the necessity of prayer. They prayed all the more earnestly: they continued in prayer with one accord. Those who are now engaged in the solemn work of preparing a people for the coming of the Lord, should also continue in prayer. The early disciples were of one accord. They had no speculations, no curious theory to advance as to how the promised blessing was to come. They were one in faith and spirit. They were agreed.
“Put away all doubt. Dismiss your fears, obtain the experience that Paul had when he exclaimed, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ Surrender everything to Christ, and let your life be hid with Christ in God. Then you will be a power for good. One shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight.” - Gospel Workers, 370.
If you have noticed in the record of the Acts, this idea of agreement is repeated. The book of Acts is specially for our study now. Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Acts 2:1: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Acts 2:46: “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”
There are other references also, containing this same idea of their being of one accord. One is found in the fifteenth chapter, verse 28: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” Now why did it seem good to the Holy Ghost and to them? Why was it? what was the reason for this? They were of one accord, and the Holy Ghost was right there with them, to instruct them, to teach them, to lead them; and that same experience is for us. But has not God been sending his Holy Spirit as a witness, as a seal to alienations, to any hardness, to any evil course persisted in, to those despising this instruction and refusing to give up sins wilfully cherished, to any known sin? Has God not been doing this? He has been sending his Spirit to convince of sin. Whether we see it or not, there needs to be confession, restitution. Notice this word again:-
“I know that a work must be done for the people, or many will not be prepared to receive the light of the angel sent down from heaven to lighten the whole earth with his glory.” - “Danger of Adopting Worldly Policy,” p.11.
Well, perhaps you will say: “Why, when that comes, there will be no resistance, every one will see that, and those who have stood out will have to give in when they see this light and glory and power.” Let me ask you: Did they give up when Christ was here with this light and power? Was there light? Why, look and see what the record says about the light. Did it convince those who would not believe? No. They rejected Jesus Christ and then put him to death, because he did not come and meet their ideas, their own plan and interpretation of the prophecies, and because he did not meet their ideas and did not conform to their plan, they rejected him and put him to death. In the same way, Jesus Christ is being rejected to-day, and crucified afresh.
There is another point that I want to touch (I am not coming back to this again, and harp upon this string. I shall leave it with you and God. I had a few things that I wanted to say, and I want to finish this.) Now, some will begin to ask: How are we going to tell whether sins of the past are brought up to our minds by the Holy Spirit, or by the devil? Unless my experience leads me astray, there are many who have made this inquiry in their own minds, How are we going to tell whether sins that are brought up to our minds are brought up by the Holy Spirit, or by the devil? Now, let me ask you a question. Suppose you were to come into the vestibule, and you were standing out there now when somebody inside was talking, and suppose a stranger should come in with you, and he should ask: “Who is speaking?” Could you tell him? Why? (voice: “you would hear the voice.”) But he would hear the voice too, would he not? (voice: “you would know the voice.”) Now, how are you going to know whether the Lord is talking to you, or whether the devil is? Let us take this word: “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” John 10:4.
Now, I say to those who have been in the ministry, and who have been teaching Christ to the people and to-night can’t tell the difference between the voice of Christ and the voice of the devil, it is time for us to stop and learn the voice of God. Now, if any one who has been a teacher of the people, raises that question in his mind, let him know that the very fact that that question is raised in his mind, is the evidence that he wants to learn Jesus Christ. But, you still ask: “How will they know his voice?” I can’t tell you, and if I could, it would not do any good. He says: “They shall know his voice,” and you will have to take his word for it, not mine. And if you take his word for it, he will see that his word is true; but I can’t tell you how. I know it is true, and I know he makes it true to those who believe. But, to those who stand off as did the Jews, those will never know anything about it. On that basis, they never can and never will; and if we wait to have it all explained, we will not know anything about it, and I cannot tell you, and shall not try to tell you. I can tell you this: he says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27.
Here is a word that will help us on that perhaps, and notice how we have instruction upon every point in this way: “Amid the confusion of innumerable doctrines, the Spirit of God will be our guide and shield to those who have not resisted the evidences of truth.” Now, how are you to know his voice? Because he silences every other voice. If we yield to him, we will know the voice; “my sheep know my voice, and they follow me.” Why, I tell you, brethren, we are coming to times when we can’t sit down week in and week out, and hear God’s side of the question, and wait, and consider, and see how Brother A. goes on, and Brother B. goes on, or what this one or that one says. We must know the truth because the Spirit of truth is in us. That is the reason. We will just as surely, you and I, in spite of all the light we have had under this work, be led astray. The fact is, we will change leaders and not know it, unless we have the Spirit of God with us. That is the simple fact. We will change leaders and not know it. We have been told so, and I can show it to you in so many words. I want to read a word about it:-
“Every soul that is not fully surrendered to God, and kept by divine power, will form an alliance with Satan against heaven, and join in battle against the Ruler of the universe.” - “Danger in Adopting Worldly Policy,” p.7.
You and I will do it, unless we are fully surrendered to God and kept by his divine power, and we will array ourselves against this work, against the truth of God, and will join with Satan and fight God’s work, unless we are kept by the power of God. It is time for us to begin to mistrust self and to flee to God for his keeping power. It must be so.
Now, as I said, I will not come back to this point unless the Lord leads me back, (and I presume some have already thought I have dwelt too long upon it), but I have felt that I wanted to say some of these things in the plainest manner possible. But, if this instruction is from God, I say it is time for us to receive it, and act upon it, and I leave it with you, and for the Spirit of God to lead you.
Taken from the General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 2-4, 1893