(Excerpt of larger chapter)
The position of suspense is not the most happy one. Those who wait for the return of the Lord in uncertainty as to the definite period of his second advent, are in danger of becoming restless. Hence the application of certain texts to this time, and to the people who are waiting for their Lord. "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." Heb. x, 36. "Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." James v, 8. "Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev. xiv, 12.
In such a position, how natural the often-repeated inquiry, "How long before the Lord will come?" But no definite answer can be given to this inquiry. And it is best that this question cannot be definitely answered. Definite time has answered the purpose of God. It brought the Advent people to the waiting time, requiring great patience. Throughout this entire period of the patience of the saints, the only safe position is to keep the coming of Christ ever before us, and to regulate all our acts in full view of the terrible realities of the Judgment. To put off the coming of the Lord, and view that event in the distance, and enter into the spirit of the world, would be dangerous in the extreme. It is true that there are prophecies to be fulfilled, just prior to the coming of the Lord; but their fulfillment is of such a nature that it can be realized in a short time. Unbelief may suggest that as the time has continued longer than the waiting ones expected, it may still continue many years. But saving faith takes the safe position, and views the event at the door. This fact should ever be borne in mind, that while we have no means of showing that the Lord will come at an immediate definite point, no one can prove that he may not very soon come. And while it cannot be proved that the Lord will not very soon come, I call attention to the following facts which show that the second advent cannot he a distant event.
1. The three messages constitute a solemn warning to the world to prepare for the coming of Christ. The closing division of this great warning is a test to the world and ripens the harvest of the earth. Those who receive the warning and prepare for the coming of the Lord, are ripened by it for immortality. Those who reject it, are ripened for the day of slaughter.
2. The warning given by Noah, the manner his message was treated, and the wrath of God in a flood of water, illustrate the closing events of the present state of things. "As the days of Noah were, so also shall the coming of the Son of man be." God did not call this preacher of righteousness to warn the next to the last generation before the flood, but the very last. The very generation which drank the waters of the flood, saw Noah build the ark, and heard his warning voice. How absurd the supposition that Noah built the ark, and gave his warning message in the time of next to the last generation, so that those who heard his message and saw his work, passed into the grave, and the ark went to decay, and their children came upon the stage of action to witness unwarned the terrors of the flood.
3. The last great warning was to be given to the last generation of men. The very ones who hear it, receive it, obey it, and are waiting for the Lord, will exclaim, as the Son of man shall return with his angels down the blazing vault of heaven, " Lo! this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us." And the very men who reject the warning, and justly merit the wrath of God, will also witness the second advent in flaming fire with terror and anguish. This warning is not given to next to the last generation, but to the very last. Then, as certain as the great warning, illustrated by the three messages of Rev. xiv, has been, and is being given in our day, just so certain the generation that has heard the warning will witness the day of wrath, and the revelation of the Son of God from Heaven. One of two things is certain; either Seventh-day Adventists are wrong in the application of the messages, or Christ is very soon coming. If they are correct in their application of the great warning, then the very men who hear it will witness its terrible realities.
"Verily I say unto you," says Christ, "this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matt. xxiv, 34, 35. We do not believe that the word generation marks any definite number of years. The Lord designed to teach that the people who should live at the time of the fulfillment of the last sign mentioned, (falling stars of 1833.) and should hear the proclamation of the coming of Christ, based partly upon the fulfilled signs, should witness the scenes connected with his coming. God has raised up men to give the solemn warning to the world at the right time. The signs were fulfilled at the right time to give force to the warning. And the very generation of men that live after the three great signs are fulfilled, and who hear and reject the warning message, will drink the unmingled cup of the wrath of God. And those of this very generation who receive the message, suffer disappointment and endure the trials of the waiting position, will witness the coming of Christ, and exclaim, "Lo! this is our God, we have waited for him."
Dear reader, if watchful and faithful to duty, we shall very soon enter the harbor of eternal rest. Keep a good look-out. Oh, be not deceived, and overcome by the world, the flesh, and the Devil. True faith forbids your looking into the future, and laying plans for the benefit of the next generation. It shuts you up to the present. But it is to be feared that those who are employing their physical and mental forces to accumulate wealth for their children, while they are neglecting their duty to the cause of present truth, and do not give themselves and families time to seek and serve God, are making a terrible mistake. They not only fail to help the cause, and fail to walk with God, and fail to exert the best influence in their own families, but their influence in professing so solemn and definite a position as that the present is the period for the third and last solemn warning, while in works they deny their faith, is decidedly against the cause.
The world exhibits madness in grasping for wealth. A spirit of insanity has taken hold of men upon the subject of worldly gain; and many who profess present truth are more or less imbued with it. With those who do not fear God and keep his commandments, and are not looking for the soon coming of his Son, this is what might be expected. But with Seventh-flay Adventists there is no excuse. With them it is insanity and madness. Why should they accumulate wealth for their children? Should the Lord remain away a hundred years, wealth handed down to them would be their almost certain ruin. Look to the history of truly good and great men. Have they sprung up amid wealth? Or have they come from families trained in the school of poverty and want? Read the histories of the early lives of Martin Luther and Abraham Lincoln. Both were poor boys. But they both became great men, by facing want. grappling with poverty, and overcoming those obstacles ever lying in the path of want. Such a struggle in early life gave them experience, and was the safeguard of their purity. While the names of these good men are embalmed in the memory and affection of the people, those of hundreds, who received riches from their parents, have rotted, because money was in the way of their doing what they should have done, and being what they might have been. Setting aside the coming of the Lord, there is no more certain ruin to the children than for them to look to, and lean upon, their parents' wealth.
But what can be said of the influence of those brethren who profess to believe that the last great warning to the world is being given, yet devote their entire energies to accumulating wealth for their children? What can be the influence upon their children? Is it not to lead them to love this world? to put off the coming of the Lord? to neglect the necessary preparation? Are they not taking a course directly to shut them out of the kingdom of Heaven? And is there any hope of the salvation of either parents or children while pursuing such an inconsistent course? Without the faith of the soon coming of the Lord, they are pursuing a course to secure their ruin. With this faith, while pursuing a course to deny it in work, they are making that ruin certain.
The short period of probation remaining should be improved in laying up treasure in Heaven, and seeking that preparation necessary to its enjoyment in the next life. Parents, I entreat of you, live out the precious Advent faith before your children. Lead them to Jesus, and teach them by your faith and works to secure a preparation for his coming. Let your influence in favor of truth and holiness extend to all around, that it may be said to you, " Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.—James White, Life Incidents, Vol. 1, (Battle Creek, MI, 1868), 337-342