In the invitation to the gospel supper the Lord Jesus has specified the work to be done--the work that the churches in every locality, north, south, east, and west, should do.
The churches need to have their eyes anointed with the heavenly eyesalve, that they may see the many opportunities all about them to minister for God. Repeatedly God has called upon His people to go out into the highways and hedges, and compel men to come in, that His house may be full; yet even within the shadow of our own doors are families in which we have not shown sufficient interest to lead them to think that we cared for their souls. It is this work lying nearest us that the Lord now calls upon the church to undertake. We are not to stand, saying: "Who is my neighbor?" We are to remember that our neighbor is the one who most needs our sympathy and help. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the adversary. Our neighbor is everyone who is the property of God. In Christ the distinctions made by the Jews as to who was their neighbor are swept away. There are no territorial lines, no artificial distinctions, no caste, no aristocracy.
The spirit of the good Samaritan has not been largely represented in our churches. Many in need of help have been passed by, as the priest and Levite passed by the wounded and bruised stranger who had been left to die by the wayside. The very ones who needed the power of the divine Healer to cure their wounds have been left uncared for and unnoticed. Many have acted as if it were enough to know that Satan had his trap all set for a soul, and they could go home and care not for the lost sheep. It is evident that those who manifest such a spirit have not been partakers of the divine nature, but of the attributes of the enemy of God.
Someone must fulfill the commission of Christ; someone must carry on the work which He began to do on earth; and the church has been given this privilege. For this purpose it has been organized. Why, then, have not church members accepted the responsibility? There are those who have seen this great neglect; they have seen the needs of many who are in suffering and want; they have recognized in these poor souls those for whom Christ gave His life, and their hearts have been stirred with pity, every energy has been roused to action. They have entered upon a work of organizing those who will co-operate with them in bringing the truth of the gospel before many who are now in vice and iniquity, that they may be redeemed from a life of dissipation and sin. Those who have been engaged in this Christian help work have been doing what the Lord desires to have done, and He has accepted their labors. That which has been done in this line is a work which every Seventh-day Adventist should heartily sympathize with and indorse, and take hold of earnestly. In neglecting this work which is within their own borders, in refusing to bear these burdens, the church is meeting with great loss. Had the church taken up this work as they should have done, they would have been the means of saving many souls.
Because of their neglect the Lord has looked with disfavor upon the church. A love of ease and selfish indulgence has been shown by many. Some who have had the privilege of knowing Bible truth have not brought it into the inner sanctuary of the soul. God holds all these accountable for the talents which they have not returned to Him in honest, faithful service in making every effort possible to seek and to save those who were lost. These slothful servants are represented as coming to the wedding supper without the wedding garment, the robe of the righteousness of Christ. They have nominally accepted the truth, but they do not practice it. Professedly circumcised, they are in reality among the uncircumcised.
Why do we not become enthused with the Spirit of Christ? Why are we so little moved by the pitiful cries of a suffering world? Do we consider our exalted privilege of adding a star to Christ's crown--a soul cut loose from the chains with which Satan has bound him, a soul saved in the kingdom of God? The church must realize its obligation to carry the gospel of present truth to every creature. I entreat of you to read the third and fourth chapters of Zechariah. If these chapters are understood, if they are received, a work will be done for those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, a work that means to the church: "Go forward and upward."
Results of Neglect
Wherever a church is established, all the members should engage actively in missionary work. They should visit every family in the neighborhood and know their spiritual condition. If professed Christians had engaged in this work from the time when their names were first placed on the church books, there would not now be such widespread unbelief, such depths of iniquity, such unparalleled wickedness, as is seen in the world at the present time. If every church member had sought to enlighten others, thousands upon thousands would today stand with God's commandment-keeping people.
And not only in the world do we see the result of the church's neglect to work in Christ's lines. By this neglect a condition of things has been brought into the church that has eclipsed the high and holy interests of the work of God. A spirit of criticism and bitterness has come into the church, and the spiritual discernment of many has been dimmed. Because of this the cause of Christ has suffered great loss. Heavenly intelligences have been waiting to co-operate with human agencies, but we have not discerned their presence.
Need of Repentance
It is now high time that we repent. All the people of God should interest themselves in the work of doing good. They should unite heart and soul in earnest endeavor to uplift and enlighten their fellow men. They should put on the wedding garment that Christ has provided, that they may be prepared to work in His lines. They should not receive the grace of God in vain. With humble, devoted reverence they should labor on the right hand and on the left, consecrating to God their entire service and all their capabilities.
There must be an awakening among the people of God. The entire church is to be tested. The worldly-wise man, who meditates and plans, and whose business is ever in his mind, should seek to become wise in matters of eternal interest. If he would put forth as much energy to secure the heavenly treasure and the life which measures with the life of God as he does to secure worldly gain, what could he not accomplish?
The unfaithful steward did not enrich himself with his master's goods; he merely wasted them. He let idleness take the place of sincere, wholehearted labor. He was unfaithful in the appropriation of his lord's goods. Unfaithful steward, do you not see that you will lose your soul if you do not co-operate with God and make the most of your talents for the Master? Your mind was given that you might understand how to work. Your eyes were given that you might be keen to discern your God-given opportunities. Your ears are to listen for the commands of God. Your knees are to bow three times a day in heartfelt prayer. Your feet are to run in the way of God's commandments. Thought, effort, talent, should be put into exercise, that you may be prepared to graduate into the school above and hear from the lips of One who has overcome all temptations in our behalf the words: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne." "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." Revelation 3:21; Zechariah 3:7. If you do not co-operate with the Lord by giving yourself to Him and doing His service you will be judged unfit to be a subject of His pure, heavenly kingdom.
Neglect by the Ministry
While I have been commissioned to point out the danger of swaying things too heavily in the medical missionary line to the neglect of other lines of service, this does not excuse those who have held themselves aloof from the medical missionary work. Those who have not been in sympathy with this work should now be very careful how they speak, for they are not intelligent on this subject. Whatever their position in the conference, they should be very guarded in giving utterance to sentiments that will help no one. The indifference and opposition that some have manifested in reference to this question makes it inconsistent that their words should have a large influence. They are not clear-sighted.
Some are worried and perplexed because they see that the medical missionary work is becoming disproportionate, because in receiving so much talent and means, this work far exceeds the work being done in other lines. What is the matter? Is it that the leaders of the medical missionary work are doing too much, or that the leaders in other lines of work are doing too little? It is presented to me that in many lines of work we are doing but a small part of what ought to be done. Faith, zeal, and energy are not manifested as they should be in the work of the ministry. The efforts of many are tame and spiritless. It is evident that light given us by God regarding our duty and privileges has not been acted upon. Men have supplanted God's plans with their own plans. I am commissioned to say that the prosperity of the medical missionary work is in God's order. This work must be done; the truth must be carried into the highways and byways. And ministers and church members should awake and see the necessity of co-operating in this work.
With earnest, untiring energy those who have felt the burden of the Christian help work have testified by their works that they are not content to be mere theoretical believers. They have tried to walk in the light. They have put their belief into practice. They have combined faith and works. They have done the very work the Lord has specified should be done, and many souls have been enlightened, and convicted, and helped.
The indifference among our ministers in regard to health reform and the medical missionary work is surprising. Even those who do not profess to be Christians treat the subject with greater respect than do some of our own people, and these are going in advance of us.
Why, I inquire, are some of our ministerial brethren so far behind in proclaiming the exalted theme of temperance?
My brethren, the word given to you is: "Take hold of the work of health reform; go forward." If you think that the medical missionary work is assuming undue proportions, take the men who have been working in these lines with you into your fields of labor, two here and two there. Receive these medical missionaries as you would receive Christ, and see what work they can do. You will not find them dwarfs in religious experience. See if in this way you cannot bring much of heaven's vital current into the churches. See if there are not some who will grasp the education they so much need, and bear the testimony: "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-6. Our great need is unity, perfect oneness in God's work.
Those who cannot see the importance and bearing of the medical missionary work should not feel authorized to endeavor to control any phase of it. They need an increased knowledge in every line of health reform. They need to be purified, sanctified, and ennobled. They need to be molded and fashioned after the divine similitude. Then they will see that the medical missionary work is a part of the work of God. The reason why so many church members do not understand this branch of the work is that they are not following their Leader step by step in self-denial and self-sacrifice. The medical missionary work is God's work and bears His signature, and while means must not be absorbed in this one line so as to hinder or cripple the work that should be done in new fields, it should not be regarded as unimportant.
The gospel ministry is an organization for the proclamation of the truth to the sick and to the well. It combines the medical missionary work and the ministry of the word. By these combined agencies opportunities are given to communicate light and to present the gospel to all classes and all grades of society. God wants the ministers and the church members to take a decided, active interest in the medical missionary work.
To take people right where they are, whatever their position or condition, and help them in every way possible--this is gospel ministry. Those who are diseased in body are nearly always diseased in mind, and when the soul is sick, the body also is affected. Ministers should feel it a part of their work to minister to the sick and the afflicted whenever opportunity presents itself. The minister of the gospel is to present the message, which must be received if the people are to become sanctified and made ready for the coming of the Lord. This work is to embrace all that was embraced in Christ's ministry.
Then why do not all our ministers heartily co-operate with those who are carrying forward medical missionary work? Why do they not carefully study the life of Christ, that they may know how He labored, and then follow His example? Is it for you, the appointed ministers of Christ, who have His example before you, to stand off and criticize the very work that He came among men to do? The work now being done in medical missionary lines ought to have been done years ago, and would have been done if God's people had been soundly converted to the truth, if they had studied the word with humble hearts, if they had reverenced the God of the universe and studied His will instead of pleasing themselves. Had our people done this work, many persons of ability and influence would have been converted and joined us in giving the message of Christ's soon coming.
Those who understand physiology and hygiene will, in their ministerial labor, find it a means whereby they may enlighten others in regard to the proper and intelligent treatment of the physical, mental, and moral powers. Therefore those who are preparing for the ministry should make a diligent study of the human organism, that they may know how to care for the body, not by means of drugs, but from nature's own laboratory. The Lord will bless those who make every effort to keep themselves free from disease and lead others to regard as sacred the health of the body as well as of the soul.
The ambassadors of Christ, those to whom have been committed the living oracles of God, can be doubly useful if they know how to help the sick. A practical knowledge of health reform will better qualify men and women to proclaim the message of mercy and retribution to the world.
Ministers should be educators who understand and appreciate the needs of humanity. They should encourage the church members to obtain a practical knowledge of all lines of missionary work, that they may be a blessing to all classes of people. They should be quick to discern those who appreciate questions relating to spiritual life, who have tact and ability to watch for and care for souls as those who must give an account. They should assist these to organize the working forces of the church, so that men, women, and youth of various temperaments, in various callings and positions, will take hold of the work that must be done, bringing their God-given talents into most solemn service for the Master.
Our ideas of Christian benevolence must be worked out if we would have them enlarged. Practical work will accomplish far more than sermons. The ideas of our ministers must broaden, and from an earnest personal experience they should speak words that will arouse the dormant energies of the people. By a daily connection with God they should obtain a deeper insight into their own lives and the lives of others, thus enlarging the circle of their influence. In this way they will be co-workers with Christ, able to enlighten others because they are themselves channels of light.
As the members of the church dig deeper and make their foundation sure, riveting their souls to the eternal Rock, as they learn to love God supremely, they will learn to love their neighbor as themselves.
The power of the Lord is magnified when the human heart is tender, sensitive to another's woe, and pitiful for his suffering. Angels of God are ready to co-operate with human instrumentalities in ministering to souls. When the Holy Spirit works upon our hearts and minds, we shall not shun duty and responsibility, and pass by on the other side, leaving the wounded, helpless soul to its misery.
In consideration of the value Christ places upon the purchase of His blood, He adopts men as His children, makes them the objects of His tender care; and in order that they may have their temporal and spiritual necessities supplied, He commits them to His church, saying: Inasmuch as ye do it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye do it unto Me.
This is to be our watchword: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." And if we faithfully carry it into our daily lives we shall hear the benediction: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Will it pay to endure as a Christian the tests and trials of God?
In the work of cleansing and purifying our own souls our intense desire to make our own calling and election sure will inspire us with a yearning for others who are in need. The same energy and careful thought which we once brought into worldly matters will be put into the service of Him to whom we owe everything. We shall do as Christ did, seizing every opportunity to work for those who without help will perish in their degradation. We shall extend to others a helping hand. Then with singing and praise and thanksgiving we shall rejoice with God and the heavenly angels as we see sin-sick souls uplifted and helped, as we see the deluded and insane clothed and in their right minds sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning of Him. As we do this work, receiving of God and rendering back to Him that which He has in confidence lent us to dispose of for His name's glory, His blessing will rest upon us. Then let poor, discouraged, sin-sick souls know that in keeping of His commandments "there is great reward," and by our own experience show to others that blessing and service are linked together.
Though precious time and talent have been spent in caring for and pleasing ourselves, the hand of the Lord is stretched out still; and if we will work today in His vineyard, scattering His invitation of mercy broadcast through the world, He will accept our service. How many will you work for, that they may reach the haven of rest and share the commendation: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"? How many will you help to crown with glory and honor and eternal life? The Saviour calls for workers. Will you volunteer?