Has the injunction of the apostle no force in this age: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”? I am daily pained with exhibitions of selfishness among our people. There is an alarming absence of love and care for those who are entitled to it. Our heavenly Father lays blessings disguised in our pathway, but some will not touch these for fear they will detract from their enjoyment. Angels are waiting to see if we embrace opportunities within our reach of doing good—waiting to see if we will bless others, that they in their turn may bless us. The Lord Himself has made us to differ,—some poor, some rich, some afflicted,—that all may have an opportunity to develop character. The poor are purposely permitted to be thus of God, that we may be tested and proved, and develop what is in our hearts.
I have heard many excuse themselves from inviting to their homes and hearts the saints of God. “Why, I have nothing prepared, I have nothing cooked; they must go to some other place.” And at that place there may be some other excuse invented for not receiving those who need hospitality, and the feelings of the visitors are deeply grieved, and they leave with unpleasant impressions in regard to the hospitality of these professed brethren and sisters. If you have no bread, sister, imitate the case brought to view in the Bible. Go to your neighbor and say: “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.” We have not an example of this lack of bread ever being made an excuse to refuse entrance to an applicant. When Elijah came to the widow of Sarepta, she shared her morsel with the prophet of God, and he wrought a miracle, and caused that in that act of making a home for his servant, and sharing her morsel with him, she herself was sustained, and her life and that of her son preserved. Thus will it prove in the case of many, if they do this cheerfully, for the glory of God.
Some plead their poor health—they would love to do if they had strength. Such have so long shut themselves up to themselves, and thought so much of their own poor feelings, and talked so much of their sufferings, trials, and afflictions, that it is their present truth. They can think of no one but self, however much others may be in need of sympathy and assistance. You who are suffering with poor health, there is a remedy for you. If thou clothe the naked, and bring the poor that are cast out to thy house, and deal thy bread to the hungry, “then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily.” Doing good is an excellent remedy for disease. Those who engage in the work are invited to call upon God, and He has pledged Himself to answer them. Their soul shall be satisfied in drought, and they shall be like a watered garden, whose waters fail not.
Wake up, brethren and sisters. Do not be afraid of good works. “Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Do not wait to be told your duty. Open your eyes and see who are around you; make yourselves acquainted with the helpless, afflicted, and needy. Hide not yourselves from them, and seek not to shut out their needs. Who gives the proofs mentioned in James, of possessing pure religion, untainted with selfishness or corruption? Who are anxious to do all in their power to aid in the great plan of salvation?
We are living in the midst of an “epidemic of crime,” at which thoughtful, God-fearing men everywhere stand aghast. The corruption that prevails, it is beyond the power of the human pen to describe. Every day brings fresh revelations of political strife, bribery, and fraud. Every day brings its heart-sickening record of violence and lawlessness, of indifference to human suffering, of brutal, fiendish destruction of human life. Every day testifies to the increase of insanity, murder, and suicide. Who can doubt that satanic agencies are at work among men with increasing activity to distract and corrupt the mind, and defile and destroy the body?
And while the world is filled with these evils, the gospel is too often presented in so indifferent a manner as to make but little impression upon the consciences or the lives of men. Everywhere there are hearts crying out for something which they have not. They long for a power that will give them mastery over sin, a power that will deliver them from the bondage of evil, a power that will give health and life and peace. Many who once knew the power of God's word have dwelt where there is no recognition of God, and they long for the divine presence.
The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago—a revelation of Christ. A great work of reform is demanded, and it is only through the grace of Christ that the work of restoration, physical, mental, and spiritual, can be accomplished.
Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”
There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.
Men and women are not fulfilling the design of God, when they simply express affection for their own family circle, for their rich relatives and friends, while they exclude those from their love whom they could comfort and bless by relieving their necessities. It is true that where large affection is manifested in the home circle, it not only brightens the home and brings cheerfulness and happiness to the entire family, but if love is unselfish, it will extend without the walls of the home. The manifestation of kindness, tenderness, Christian courtesy, is approved of God. The affection manifested in the home is a manifestation of Christ's love that flows through him from the heart of infinite love to bless the members of the family circle. It is love that will constitute the bliss of the heavenly family. Those who cultivate love in the homelife will form characters after Christ's likeness, and they will be constrained to exert a helpful influence beyond the family circle, in order that they may bless others by kind, thoughtful ministrations, by pleasant words, by Christlike sympathy, by acts of benevolence. They will be quick to discern those who have hungry hearts, and will make a feast for those who are needy and afflicted. Those who have heavenly discernment, who exercise tender regard for every member of the family, will, in doing their whole duty, fit themselves to do a work that will brighten other homes, and will teach others by precept and example what it is that will make home happy.
When the Lord bids us do good for others outside our home, he does not mean that our affection for home shall become diminished, and that we shall love our kindred or our country less because he desires us to extend our sympathies. But we are not to confine our affection and sympathy within four walls, and inclose the blessing that God has given us so that others will not be benefited with us in its enjoyment. However low, however fallen, however dishonored and debased others may be, we are not to despise them and pass them by with indifference; but we should consider the fact that Christ has died for them, and that if he had not given his life for us, had not caused his light to shine into our souls, we might have been even worse than those we are inclined to despise. We should remember that Jesus has purchased the fallen man or woman or youth that we are tempted to despise. They may be giving themselves over to the power of Satan, and may be uniting with Satan in obliterating the moral image of God from themselves and from others, yet the Lord Jesus looks with yearning tenderness upon the debased and profligate. He desires to redeem those who are corrupting soul, spirit, and body. He sends out his invitation to them, saying: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
How great should be the interest of professed followers of Christ in those whom Satan has brought under his control in both mind and body, when they consider the fact that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ longs to reshape the marred human character, to restore the moral image of God in men. Shall those who profess to be laborers together with God look upon those who are wretched, who are bruised, robbed, and left to perish by the adversary of God and man, and pass by on the other side as did the priest and the Levite? Though you do not say it in words, do you in sentiment entertain the thought, “Am I my brother's keeper?”
God's character is expressed in his law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He has expressed this love in giving his only begotten Son to a life of humiliation, of poverty, of shame, of denial, of rejection, mockery, and anguish. He expressed this love when he permitted Christ to be brought before the priests and the rulers and before the maddened multitudes, and placed beside Barabbas. Barabbas was a noted robber and murderer, and Christ was the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; but when Pilate asked, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” the hoarse voice of the mob shrieked out, “Barabbas!” They had been instructed to make this choice by the priests and the rulers, and all heaven witnessed the result of their moral taste in the choice which they had made. They had what they desired. Barabbas, with all the stamp of crime and debasement upon him, was released unto them. When Pilate asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” their voices were heard like the bellowing of wild beasts, “Let him be crucified!” When the governor asked, “Why, what evil hath he done?” they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified!” When Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” (now listen, O heaven, and be astonished, O earth, at the answer), they said, “We have no king but Caesar.” They virtually said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” But the sacrifice that God made to redeem the fallen sons of Adam will one day appear in its true significance before those who have refused the Son of God, and rejected his invitation to come to the marriage supper. God proved that he loved his neighbor as himself by giving his only begotten Son to die for the world. We also are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. Some may ask, as did the lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” The Lord Jesus has made it plain that every one who is in temporal or spiritual need is our neighbor. He has revealed the fact that it is our duty to make straight paths for our feet, lest by precept or example we lead others in the path of transgression. But the poor are never to cease out of the land. The poor are God's legacy to those who are more favorably situated. “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker.” The Lord has left the poor to the mercy of his church, not to be neglected, not to be despised and scorned, but to be treated as the Lord's inheritance. There will always be those who will need to be ministered unto. How inconsistent it is for the professed followers of Christ to furnish their own tables with everything that appetite shall dictate, while they neglect to consider the poor as the Lord has bidden them to do.
The Lord saw that it was essential for us to be surrounded with the poor, who in their helplessness and need would lay claim to our ministration. They would be an aid to us in perfecting Christian character; for in providing food for their tables and clothing for their bodies, we would cultivate the attributes of the character of Christ. If we had not the poor among us, we would lose much; for in order to perfect Christian character, we must deny self, take up the cross, and follow where Christ, our Example, leads the way. Those who extravagantly expend means in pleasing themselves in the gratification of appetite or in any other way, make self an idol, and sacrifice at the altar of self that which would give bread to the hungry, provide comfortable clothing for the naked, furnish homes for the homeless, and relieve the sorrows of the poor. The Lord says, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” Let us at once seek to realize what is our obligation to the Lord's human family, and do our duty to as many as possible. We may minister to few or many, but if we do our best, it is all the Lord requires. The King will say to such, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” Christ himself became poor for our sake, that we, through his poverty, might come into possession of eternal riches. He has adopted the poor and the suffering as his own peculiar treasure, and has left them to the care of his church. His disciples are to be stewards of his gifts, and to use his bounties in relieving suffering humanity. They are to feed and clothe and shelter those who have need. Parents are to present to their children the example of being God's almoners, in order that they in turn may become missionaries, may be tenderhearted, pitiful, kind, patient laborers together with God. They are to work as co-partners with Christ to restore, to heal, to save those who are perishing.
It is by the occurrence of small things that character is developed, and that the manner of spirit that dwelleth in us is made known in our lives. There are many who undervalue the small events of life, the little deeds that are to be performed day by day; but these are not to be estimated as small, as every action tells either for the blessing or the injuring of some one. Every action tells its own story, it bears its own history to the throne of God. It is known whether it is on the side of right or on the side of wrong. It is only by acting in accordance with the principles of God's word in the small transactions of life, that we place ourselves on the right side. We are tried and tested by these small occurrences, and our character will be estimated according as our work shall be. By studying the word of God, by becoming doers of that word, we shall be strengthened of God when placed in a trying, perilous position. As we attain power to stand the small tests of every-day life, we shall thereby gain strength and knowledge that will enable us to bear the more important tests that we shall be called upon to endure. It is well for us individually to understand what a privilege is that of prayer. Nothing can so arm the soul for the conflicts of life as prayer to our Heavenly Father. Day by day as we learn of Jesus, we can display his attributes, and we shall not waver between right and wrong. As circumstances arise that require a right attitude, we shall be loyal to God, because we have trained ourselves in habits of faithfulness and truth. He who is faithful in that which is least, will acquire strength to become faithful in that which is much. The faithful soul will permit nothing to come in between itself and God; but those who are not loyal to God cannot be esteemed as wise, true, or good. Their opinion and wisdom cannot be relied upon, or trusted to control. Those who turn cowards before men's ridicule, prove that they have lost all realization of the value of Jesus. Shall we join the company of those who are acting as Satan's agents to compass the ruin of our souls? Shall we choose Barabbas before Christ? God forbid!