All heaven was waiting the hour of triumph when Jesus should ascend to His Father. Angels came to receive the King of glory and to escort Him triumphantly to heaven. After Jesus had blessed His disciples, He was parted from them and taken up. And as He led the way upward, the multitude of captives who were raised at His resurrection followed. A multitude of the heavenly host were in attendance, while in heaven an innumerable company of angels awaited His coming. As they ascended to the Holy City, the angels who escorted Jesus cried out, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." The angels in the city cried out with rapture, "Who is this King of glory?" The escorting angels answered in triumph, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in!" Again the waiting angels asked, "Who is this King of glory?" and the escorting angels answered in melodious strains, "The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory." And the heavenly train passed into the city of God. Then all the heavenly host surrounded their majestic Commander, and with the deepest adoration bowed before Him and cast their glittering crowns at His feet. And then they touched their golden harps, and in sweet, melodious strains filled all heaven with rich music and songs to the Lamb who was slain, yet lives again in majesty and glory.
As the disciples gazed sorrowfully toward heaven to catch the last glimpse of their ascending Lord, two angels clothed in white apparel stood by them and said to them, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." The disciples and the mother of Jesus, who with them had witnessed the ascension of the Son of God, spent the following night in talking over His wonderful acts and the strange and glorious events which had taken place within a short time.
Satan again counseled with his angels, and with bitter hatred against God's government told them that while he retained his power and authority upon earth their efforts must be tenfold stronger against the followers of Jesus. They had prevailed nothing against Christ but must overthrow His followers, if possible. In every generation they must seek to ensnare those who would believe in Jesus. He related to his angels that Jesus had given His disciples power to rebuke them and cast them out, and to heal those whom they should afflict. Then Satan's angels went forth like roaring lions, seeking to destroy the followers of Jesus.
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With mighty power the disciples preached a crucified and risen Saviour. Signs and wonders were wrought by them in the name of Jesus; the sick were healed; and a man who had been lame from his birth was restored to perfect soundness and entered with Peter and John into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God in the sight of all the people. The news spread, and the people began to press around the disciples. Many ran together, greatly astonished at the cure that had been wrought.
When Jesus died, the priests thought that no more miracles would be performed among them, that the excitement would die out and the people would again turn to the traditions of men. But lo! right among them the disciples were working miracles, and the people were filled with amazement. Jesus had been crucified, and they wondered where His followers had obtained this power. When He was alive, they thought that He imparted power to them; but when He died, they expected the miracles to cease. Peter understood their perplexity and said to them, "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know."
The chief priests and elders could not bear these words, and at their command Peter and John were seized and put in prison. But thousands had been converted and led to believe in the resurrection and ascension of Christ by hearing only one discourse from the disciples. The priests and elders were troubled. They had slain Jesus that the minds of the people might be turned to themselves; but the matter was now worse than before. They were openly accused by the disciples of being the murderers of the Son of God, and they could not determine to what extent these things might grow or how they themselves would be regarded by the people. They would gladly have put Peter and John to death, but dared not, for fear of the people.
On the following day the apostles were brought before the council. The very men who had eagerly cried for the blood of the Just One were there. They had heard Peter deny his Lord with cursing and swearing when charged with being one of His disciples, and they hoped again to intimidate him. But Peter had been converted, and he now saw an opportunity to remove the stain of that hasty, cowardly denial and to exalt the name which he had dishonored. With holy boldness, and in the power of the Spirit, he fearlessly declared unto them, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
The people were astonished at the boldness of Peter and John and took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus; for their noble, fearless conduct was like that of Jesus when before His enemies. Jesus, by one look of pity and sorrow, reproved Peter when he had denied Him, and now as he boldly acknowledged his Lord, Peter was approved and blessed. As a token of the approbation of Jesus, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
The priests dared not manifest the hatred which they felt toward the disciples. They commanded them to go aside out of the council, and then conferred among themselves, saying, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it." They were afraid to have the report of this good deed spread among the people. Should it become generally known, the priests felt that their own power would be lost, and they would be looked upon as the murderers of Jesus. Yet all that they dared to do was to threaten the apostles and command them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, lest they die. But Peter declared boldly that they could but speak the things which they had seen and heard.
By the power of Jesus the disciples continued to heal the afflicted and the sick who were brought to them. Hundreds enlisted daily under the banner of a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour. The priests and elders, and those particularly engaged with them, were alarmed. Again they put the apostles in prison, hoping that the excitement would subside. Satan and his angels exulted; but the angels of God opened the prison doors, and, contrary to the command of the high priests and elders, bade the apostles, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life."
The council assembled and sent for their prisoners. The officers unclosed the prison doors; but those whom they sought were not there. They returned to the priests and elders and said, "The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within." "Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
Those Jewish leaders were hypocrites; they loved the praise of men more than they loved God. Their hearts had become so hardened that the most mighty works wrought by the apostles only enraged them. They knew that if the disciples preached Jesus, His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, it would fasten guilt upon them as His murderers. They were not as willing to receive the blood of Jesus as when they vehemently cried, "His blood be on us, and on our children."
The apostles boldly declared that they ought to obey God rather than men. Said Peter, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him." At these fearless words those murderers were enraged, and determined to imbrue their hands again in blood by slaying the apostles. They were planning to do this, when an angel from God moved upon the heart of Gamaliel to counsel the priests and rulers: "Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." Evil angels were moving upon the priests and elders to put the apostles to death; but God sent His angel to prevent it by raising up among the Jewish leaders themselves a voice in favor of His servants. The work of the apostles was not finished. They were to be brought before kings to witness to the name of Jesus and to testify of the things which they had seen and heard.
The priests unwillingly released their prisoners, after beating them and commanding them to speak no more in the name of Jesus. "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Thus the word of God grew and multiplied. The disciples boldly testified to the things which they had seen and heard, and through the name of Jesus they performed mighty miracles. They fearlessly charged the blood of Jesus upon those who had been so willing to receive it when they were permitted to have power over the Son of God.
I saw that angels of God were commissioned to guard with special care the sacred, important truths which were to serve as an anchor to the disciples of Christ through every generation. The Holy Spirit especially rested upon the apostles, who were witnesses of our Lord's crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension-- important truths which were to be the hope of Israel. All were to look to the Saviour of the world as their only hope, and walk in the way which He had opened by the sacrifice of His own life, and keep God's law and live. I saw the wisdom and goodness of Jesus in giving power to the disciples to carry on the same work for which He had been hated and slain by the Jews. In His name they had power over the works of Satan. A halo of light and glory centered about the time of Jesus' death and resurrection, immortalizing the sacred truth that He was the Saviour of the world.
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Disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Stephen, full of faith, was doing great wonders and miracles among the people. The Jewish leaders were stirred to greater anger as they saw priests turning from their traditions, and from the sacrifices and offerings, and accepting Jesus as the great sacrifice. With power from on high, Stephen reproved the unbelieving priests and elders, and exalted Jesus before them. They could not withstand the wisdom and power with which he spoke, and as they found that they could prevail nothing against him, they hired men to swear falsely that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. They stirred up the people and took Stephen, and, through false witnesses, accused him of speaking against the temple and the law. They testified that they had heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the customs which Moses gave them.
As Stephen stood before his judges, the light of the glory of God rested upon his countenance. "And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." When called upon to answer to the charges brought against him, he began at Moses and the prophets and reviewed the history of the children of Israel and the dealings of God with them and showed how Christ had been foretold in prophecy. He referred to the history of the temple and declared that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands. The Jews worshiped the temple and were filled with greater indignation at anything spoken against that building than if it had been spoken against God. As Stephen spoke of Christ and referred to the temple, he saw that the people were rejecting his words; and he fearlessly rebuked them: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." While they observed the outward ordinances of their religion, their hearts were corrupt and full of deadly evil. He referred to the cruelty of their fathers in persecuting the prophets, and declared that those whom he addressed had committed a greater sin in rejecting and crucifying Christ. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers."
As these plain, cutting truths were spoken, the priests and rulers were enraged, and they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God," and said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." The people would not hear him. "They cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
I saw that Stephen was a mighty man of God, especially raised up to fill an important place in the church. Satan exulted in his death; for he knew that the disciples would greatly feel his loss. But Satan's triumph was short; for in that company, witnessing the death of Stephen, there was one to whom Jesus was to reveal Himself. Saul took no part in casting the stones at Stephen, yet he consented to his death. He was zealous in persecuting the church of God, hunting them, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them to those who would slay them. Saul was a man of ability and education; his zeal and learning caused him to be highly esteemed by the Jews, while he was feared by many of the disciples of Christ. His talents were effectively employed by Satan in carrying forward his rebellion against the Son of God, and those who believed in Him. But God can break the power of the great adversary and set free those who are led captive by him. Christ had selected Saul as a "chosen vessel" to preach His name, to strengthen His disciples in their work, and to more than fill the place of Stephen.
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As Saul journeyed to Damascus, with letters authorizing him to take men or women who were preaching Jesus, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, evil angels exulted around him. But suddenly a light from heaven shone round about him, which made the evil angels flee and caused him to fall quickly to the ground. He heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Saul inquired, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And Saul, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And the Lord said, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
The men who were with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. As the light passed away and Saul arose from the earth and opened his eyes, he found himself totally deprived of sight. The glory of the light of heaven had blinded him. They led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus, and he was three days without sight, neither did he eat nor drink. The Lord then sent His angel to one of the very men whom Saul had hoped to take captive and revealed to him in vision that he should go into the street called Straight, "and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."
Ananias feared that there might be some mistake in this matter, and began to relate to the Lord what he had heard of Saul. But the Lord said unto Ananias, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." Ananias followed the directions of the Lord, and entered into the house, and putting his hands on him, said, "Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."
Immediately Saul received sight and arose and was baptized. He then taught in the synagogues that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. All who heard him were amazed and inquired, "Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?" But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews. They were again in trouble. All were acquainted with Saul's opposition to Jesus and his zeal in hunting out and delivering up to death all who believed on His name; and his miraculous conversion convinced many that Jesus was the Son of God. Saul related his experience in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was persecuting unto death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women, when, as he journeyed to Damascus, suddenly a great light from heaven shone round about him, and Jesus revealed Himself to him, and taught him that He was the Son of God.
As Saul thus boldly preached Jesus, he exerted a powerful influence. He had a knowledge of the Scriptures, and after his conversion a divine light shone upon the prophecies concerning Jesus, which enabled him clearly and boldly to present the truth and to correct any perversion of the Scriptures. With the Spirit of God resting upon him, he would in a clear and forcible manner carry his hearers down through the prophecies to the time of Christ's first advent and show them that the scriptures had been fulfilled which referred to His sufferings, death, and resurrection.
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As the chief priests and rulers witnessed the effect of the relation of Paul's experience, they were moved with hatred against him. They saw that he boldly preached Jesus and wrought miracles in His name, that multitudes listened to him and turned from their traditions and looked upon the Jewish leaders as the murderers of the Son of God. Their anger was kindled, and they assembled to consult as to what was best to be done to put down the excitement. They agreed that the only safe course was to put Paul to death. But God knew of their intention, and angels were commissioned to guard him, that he might live to fulfill his mission.
Led by Satan, the unbelieving Jews watched the gates of Damascus day and night, that as Paul should pass out, they might immediately kill him. But Paul had been informed that the Jews were seeking his life, and the disciples let him down over the wall in a basket by night. At this failure to carry out their purposes, the Jews were ashamed and indignant, and Satan's object was defeated.
After this, Paul went to Jerusalem to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him. They could not believe that he was a disciple. His life had been hunted by the Jews in Damascus, and his own brethren would not receive him; but Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way and that he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
But Satan was stirring up the Jews to destroy Paul, and Jesus bade him leave Jerusalem. In company with Barnabas, he went into other cities, preaching Jesus and working miracles, and many were converted. As one man was healed who had always been lame, the people who worshiped idols were about to sacrifice to the disciples. Paul was grieved, and told them that he and his fellow laborer were only men and that the God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein, must alone be worshiped. Thus Paul exalted God before the people; but he could scarcely restrain them. The first conception of faith in the true God, and of the worship and honor due to Him, was being formed in their minds; and as they were listening to Paul, Satan was urging on the unbelieving Jews of other cities to follow after Paul to destroy the good work wrought through him. These Jews stirred up the minds of those idolaters by false reports against Paul. The wonder and admiration of the people now changed to hate, and they who a short time before were ready to worship the disciples, stoned Paul and drew him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But as the disciples were standing about Paul and mourning over him, to their joy he rose up and went with them into the city.
Again, as Paul and Silas preached Jesus, a certain woman possessed with a spirit of divination followed them, crying, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation." Thus she followed the disciples many days. But Paul was grieved; for this crying after them diverted the minds of the people from the truth. Satan's object in leading her to do this was to disgust the people and destroy the influence of the disciples. Paul's spirit was stirred within him, and he turned and said to the spirit, "I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her"; and the evil spirit was rebuked, and left her.
Her masters were pleased that she cried after the disciples; but when the evil spirit left her, and they saw her a meek disciple of Christ, they were enraged. They had gathered much money by her fortunetelling, and now the hope of their gain was gone. Satan's object was defeated; but his servants caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place, unto the rulers, and to the magistrates, saying, "These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city." And the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks. But the angels of the Lord accompanied them within the prison walls, and caused their imprisonment to tell to the glory of God, and show to the people that God was in the work, and with His chosen servants.
At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and I saw that immediately the angel of God loosed everyone's bands. The keeper of the prison, upon awaking and seeing the prison doors open, was affrighted. He thought that the prisoners had escaped, and that he must be punished with death. But as he was about to kill himself, Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."
The power of God there convicted the jailer. He called for a light, and springing in, came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." The keeper of the prison then assembled his whole household, and Paul preached unto them Jesus. Thus the jailer's heart was united to those of his brethren, and he washed their stripes, and he and all his house were baptized that night. He then set food before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
The wonderful news of the manifestation of the power of God in opening the prison doors, and in the conversion of the keeper and his family, was soon spread abroad. The rulers heard of these things, and were afraid, and sent to the jailer, requesting him to let Paul and Silas go. But Paul would not leave the prison in a private manner; he was not willing that the manifestation of the power of God should be concealed. He said unto them, "They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out." When these words were told to the magistrates, and it was known that the apostles were Roman citizens, the rulers were alarmed for fear they would make complaint to the emperor of their unlawful treatment. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
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After Paul's conversion, he visited Jerusalem and there preached Jesus and the wonders of His grace. He related his miraculous conversion, which so enraged the priests and rulers that they sought to take his life. But that he might be saved, Jesus again appeared to him in a vision while he was praying, and said unto him, "Get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me." Paul answered, "Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee: and when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him." Paul thought that the Jews in Jerusalem could not resist his testimony; that they would consider that the great change in him could be wrought only by the power of God. But the reply was more decided than before: "Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
During Paul's absence from Jerusalem, he wrote many letters to different places, relating his experience and bearing a powerful testimony. But some strove to destroy the influence of those letters. They were forced to admit that his letters were weighty and powerful, but they declared that his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible.
The facts in the case were that Paul was a man of great learning, and his wisdom and manners charmed his hearers. Learned men were pleased with his knowledge, and many of them believed on Jesus. When before kings and large assemblies, he would pour forth such eloquence as would fascinate all before him. This greatly enraged the priests and elders. Paul could readily enter into deep reasoning and, soaring up, carry the people with him in the most exalted trains of thought, bringing to view the deep riches of the grace of God and portraying before them the amazing love of Christ. Then with simplicity he would come down to the understanding of the common people and in a most powerful manner relate his experience, which called forth from them an ardent desire to become the disciples of Christ.
Again the Lord appeared to Paul and revealed to him that he must go up to Jerusalem, that he would there be bound and suffer for His name. Although he was a prisoner for a great length of time, yet the Lord carried forward His special work through him. His bonds were to be the means of spreading the knowledge of Christ and thus glorifying God. As he was sent from city to city for his trial, his testimony concerning Jesus and the interesting incidents of his own conversion were related before kings and governors, that they should be left without excuse concerning Jesus. Thousands believed on Him and rejoiced in His name. I saw that God's special purpose was fulfilled in the journey of Paul upon the sea; He designed that the ship's crew might thus witness the power of God through Paul and that the heathen also might hear the name of Jesus, and that many might be converted through the teaching of Paul and by witnessing the miracles he wrought. Kings and governors were charmed by his reasoning, and as with zeal and the power of the Holy Spirit he preached Jesus and related the interesting events of his experience, conviction fastened upon them that Jesus was the Son of God. While some wondered with amazement as they listened to Paul, one cried out, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Yet the most of those who heard thought that at some future time they would consider what they had heard. Satan took advantage of the delay, and, as they neglected the opportunity when their hearts were softened, it was forever lost. Their hearts became hardened.
I was shown the work of Satan in first blinding the eyes of the Jews so that they would not receive Jesus as their Saviour; and next in leading them, through envy because of His mighty works, to desire His life. Satan entered one of Christ's own followers and led him on to betray Him into the hands of His enemies, that they might crucify the Lord of life and glory.
After Jesus arose from the dead, the Jews added sin to sin as they sought to hide the fact of His resurrection by hiring the Roman guard to testify to a falsehood. But the resurrection of Jesus was made doubly sure by the resurrection of a multitude of witnesses at the same time. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples, and to above five hundred at once, while those whom He brought up with Him appeared unto many, declaring that Jesus had risen.
Satan had caused the Jews to rebel against God by refusing to receive His Son, and by staining their hands with His most precious blood. No matter how powerful the evidence now produced that Jesus was the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, they had murdered Him, and would not receive any evidence in His favor. Their only hope and consolation, like that of Satan after his fall, was in trying to prevail against the Son of God. They therefore continued their rebellion by persecuting the disciples of Christ, and putting them to death. Nothing fell so harshly on their ears as the name of Jesus whom they had crucified; and they were determined not to listen to any evidence in His favor. As when the Holy Spirit through Stephen declared the mighty evidence of Jesus' being the Son of God, they stopped their ears lest they should be convinced. Satan had the murderers of Jesus fast in his grasp. By wicked works they had yielded themselves his willing subjects, and through them he was at work to trouble and annoy the believers in Christ. He worked through the Jews to stir up the Gentiles against Jesus and against those who followed Him. But God sent His angels to strengthen the disciples for their work, that they might testify of the things they had seen and heard, and at last by their steadfastness, seal their testimony with their blood.
Satan rejoiced that the Jews were safe in his snare. They still continued their useless forms, their sacrifices, and ordinances. As Jesus hung upon the cross and cried, "It is finished," the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, to signify that God would no longer meet with the priests in the temple, to accept their sacrifices and ordinances, and also to show that the partition wall between the Jews and the Gentiles was broken down. Jesus had made an offering of Himself for both, and if saved at all, both must believe in Him as the only offering for sin, the Saviour of the world.
When the soldier pierced the side of Jesus as He hung upon the cross, there came out two distinct streams, one of blood, the other of water. The blood was to wash away the sins of those who should believe in His name, and the water was to represent that living water which is obtained from Jesus to give life to the believer.
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I was carried forward to the time when heathen idolaters cruelly persecuted and killed the Christians. Blood flowed in torrents. The noble, the learned, and the common people were alike slain without mercy. Wealthy families were reduced to poverty, because they would not yield their religion. Notwithstanding the persecution and sufferings which these Christians endured, they would not lower the standard. They kept their religion pure. I saw that Satan exulted and triumphed over their sufferings. But God looked upon His faithful martyrs with great approbation. The Christians who lived in that fearful time were greatly beloved of Him, because they were willing to suffer for His sake. Every suffering endured by them increased their reward in heaven.
Although Satan rejoiced because of the sufferings of the saints, yet he was not satisfied. He wanted control of the mind as well as the body. The sufferings that they endured only drove them closer to the Lord, leading them to love one another, and causing them to fear more than ever to offend Him. Satan wished to lead them to displease God; then they would lose their strength, fortitude, and firmness. Although thousands were slain, yet others were springing up to supply their places. Satan saw that he was losing his subjects; for although they suffered persecution and death, yet they were secured to Jesus Christ, to be the subjects of His kingdom. Satan therefore laid his plans to fight more successfully against the government of God and overthrow the church. He led the heathen idolaters to embrace a part of the Christian faith. They professed to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and proposed to unite with the followers of Jesus, without a change of heart. Oh, the fearful danger of the church. It was a time of mental anguish. Some thought that if they should come down and unite with those idolaters who had embraced a portion of the Christian faith, it would be the means of their full conversion. Satan was seeking to corrupt the doctrines of the Bible.
I saw that at last the standard was lowered, and that the heathen were uniting with the Christians. Although these worshipers of idols professed to be converted, they brought their idolatry with them into the church, only changing the objects of their worship to images of saints, and even of Christ and of Mary His mother. As the followers of Christ gradually united with them, the Christian religion became corrupted and the church lost its purity and power. Some refused to unite with them; such preserved their purity and worshiped God alone. They would not bow down to an image of anything in the heavens above or in the earth beneath.
Satan exulted over the fall of so many; and then he stirred up the fallen church to force those who would preserve the purity of their religion either to yield to their ceremonies and image worship or be put to death. The fires of persecution were again kindled against the true church of Christ, and millions were slain without mercy.
It was presented before me in the following manner: A large company of heathen idolaters bore a black banner, upon which were figures of the sun, moon, and stars. This company seemed to be very fierce and angry. I was then shown another company bearing a pure white banner, upon which was written, "Purity and holiness unto the Lord." Their countenances were marked with firmness and heavenly resignation. I saw the heathen idolaters approach them, and there was a great slaughter. The Christians melted away before them; and yet the Christian company pressed the more closely together, and held the banner more firmly. As many fell, others rallied around the banner and filled their places.
I saw the company of idolaters consulting together. Failing to make the Christians yield, they agreed to another plan. I saw them lower their banner and then approach that firm Christian company and make propositions to them. At first their propositions were utterly refused. Then I saw the Christian company consulting together. Some said that they would lower the banner, accept the propositions, and save their lives, and at last they could gain strength to raise their banner among the heathen. A few, however, would not yield to this plan, but firmly chose to die holding their banner rather than to lower it. Then I saw many lower the banner and unite with the heathen; but the firm and steadfast would again seize it and bear it on high. I saw that persons were continually leaving the company of those who bore the pure banner, and were uniting with the idolaters under the black banner, to persecute those bearing the white banner. Many were slain, yet the white banner was held high, and believers were raised up to rally around it.
The Jews who first aroused the rage of the heathen against Jesus were not to escape unpunished. In the judgment hall, as Pilate hesitated to condemn Jesus, the infuriated Jews cried, "His blood be on us, and on our children." The fulfillment of this terrible curse which they called down upon their own heads, the Jewish nation has experienced. The heathen and those called Christians alike have been their foes. Those professed Christians, in their zeal for Christ, whom the Jews crucified, thought that the more suffering they could bring upon them, the better would God be pleased. Many of the unbelieving Jews were therefore killed, while others were driven from place to place and were punished in almost every manner.
The blood of Christ and of the disciples, whom they had put to death, was upon them, and they were visited with terrible judgments. The curse of God followed them, and they were a byword and a derision to the heathen and to so-called Christians. They were degraded, shunned, and detested, as if the brand of Cain were upon them. Yet I saw that God had marvelously preserved this people and scattered them over the world that they might be looked upon as specially visited by the curse of God. I saw that God had forsaken the Jews as a nation; but that individuals among them will yet be converted and be enabled to tear the veil from their hearts and see that the prophecy concerning them has been fulfilled; they will receive Jesus as the Saviour of the world and see the great sin of their nation in rejecting and crucifying Him.
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It has ever been the design of Satan to draw the minds of the people from Jesus to man, and to destroy individual accountability. Satan failed in his design when he tempted the Son of God; but he succeeded better when he came to fallen man. Christianity became corrupted. Popes and priests presumed to take an exalted position, and taught the people to look to them for the pardon of their sins, instead of looking to Christ for themselves.
The people were wholly deceived. They were taught that the popes and priests were Christ's representatives, when in fact they were the representatives of Satan, and those who bowed to them worshiped Satan. The people called for the Bible; but the priests considered it dangerous to let them have it to read for themselves, lest they should become enlightened and expose the sins of their leaders. The people were taught to receive every word from these deceivers as from the mouth of God. They held that power over the mind which God alone should hold. If any dared to follow their own convictions, the same hate which Satan and the Jews exercised toward Jesus would be kindled against them, and those in authority would thirst for their blood.
I was shown a time when Satan especially triumphed. Multitudes of Christians were slain in a dreadful manner, because they would preserve the purity of their religion. The Bible was hated, and efforts were made to rid the earth of it. The people were forbidden to read it, on pain of death; and all the copies which could be found were burned. But I saw that God had a special care for His Word. He protected it. At different periods there were but a very few copies of the Bible in existence, yet He would not suffer His Word to be lost, for in the last days copies of it were to be so multiplied that every family could possess it. I saw that when there were but few copies of the Bible, it was precious and comforting to the persecuted followers of Jesus. It was read in the most secret manner, and those who had this exalted privilege felt that they had had an interview with God, with His Son Jesus, and with His disciples. But this blessed privilege cost many of them their lives. If discovered, they were taken to the headsman's block, to the stake, or to the dungeon to die of starvation.
Satan could not hinder the plan of salvation. Jesus was crucified, and rose again the third day. But Satan told his angels that he would make the crucifixion and resurrection tell to his advantage. He was willing that those who professed faith in Jesus should believe that the laws regulating the Jewish sacrifices and offerings ceased at the death of Christ, if he could push them farther and make them believe that the law of ten commandments also died with Christ.
I saw that many readily yielded to this device of Satan. All heaven was moved with indignation as they saw the holy law of God trampled underfoot. Jesus and all the heavenly host were acquainted with the nature of God's law; they knew that He would not change or abrogate it. The hopeless condition of man after the fall caused the deepest sorrow in heaven, and moved Jesus to offer to die for the transgressors of God's holy law. But if that law could be abrogated, man might have been saved without the death of Jesus. Consequently His death did not destroy the law of His Father, but magnified and honored it and enforced obedience to all its holy precepts.
Had the church remained pure and steadfast, Satan could not have deceived them, and led them to trample on the law of God. In this bold plan, Satan strikes directly against the foundation of God's government in heaven and on earth. His rebellion caused him to be expelled from heaven. After he rebelled, in order to save himself he wished God to change His law, but was told before the whole heavenly host that God's law was unalterable. Satan knows that if he can cause others to violate God's law, he has gained them to his cause; for every transgressor of that law must die.
Satan decided to go still farther. He told his angels that some would be so jealous of God's law that they could not be caught in this snare; the ten commandments were so plain that many would believe that they were still binding, and therefore he must seek to corrupt only one of the commandments. He then led on his representatives to attempt to change the fourth, or Sabbath, commandment, thus altering the only one of the ten which brings to view the true God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth. Satan presented before them the glorious resurrection of Jesus, and told them that by His rising on the first day of the week, He changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week.
Thus Satan used the resurrection to serve his purpose. He and his angels rejoiced that the errors they had prepared took so well with the professed friends of Christ. What one looked upon with religious horror, another would receive. Thus different errors were received and defended with zeal. The will of God, so plainly revealed in His Word, was covered up with errors and traditions, which have been taught as the commandments of God. Although this heaven-daring deception will be suffered to be carried on until the second appearing of Jesus, yet through all this time of error and deception, God has not been left without witnesses. Amid the darkness and persecution of the church there have always been true and faithful ones who kept all of God's commandments.
I saw that the angelic host were filled with amazement as they beheld the sufferings and death of the King of glory. But I saw that it was no marvel to them that the Lord of life and glory, He who filled all heaven with joy and splendor, should break the bands of death, and walk forth from His prison house, a triumphant conqueror. Therefore, if either of these events should be commemorated by a day of rest, it is the crucifixion. But I saw that neither of these events was designed to alter or abrogate God's law; on the contrary, they give the strongest proof of its immutability.
Both of these important events have their memorials. By partaking of the Lord's supper, the broken bread and the fruit of the vine, we show forth the Lord's death until He comes. The scenes of His sufferings and death are thus brought fresh to our minds. The resurrection of Christ is commemorated by our being buried with Him by baptism, and raised out of the watery grave, in likeness of His resurrection, to live in newness of life.
I was shown that the law of God would stand fast forever, and exist in the new earth to all eternity. At the creation, when the foundations of the earth were laid, the sons of God looked with admiration upon the work of the Creator, and all the heavenly host shouted for joy. It was then that the foundation of the Sabbath was laid. At the close of the six days of creation, God rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made; and He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that in it He had rested from all His work. The Sabbath was instituted in Eden before the fall, and was observed by Adam and Eve, and all the heavenly host. God rested on the seventh day, and blessed and hallowed it. I saw that the Sabbath never will be done away; but that the redeemed saints, and all the angelic host, will observe it in honor of the great Creator to all eternity.
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Satan commenced his deception in Eden. He said to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die." This was Satan's first lesson upon the immortality of the soul, and he has carried on this deception from that time to the present, and will carry it on until the captivity of God's children shall be turned. I was pointed to Adam and Eve in Eden. They partook of the forbidden tree, and then the flaming sword was placed around the tree of life, and they were driven from the garden, lest they should partake of the tree of life, and be immortal sinners. The fruit of this tree was to perpetuate immortality. I heard an angel ask, "Who of the family of Adam have passed that flaming sword, and have partaken of the tree of life?" I heard another angel answer, "Not one of the family of Adam has passed that flaming sword, and partaken of that tree; therefore there is not an immortal sinner." The soul that sinneth, it shall die an everlasting death-- a death from which there will be no hope of resurrection; and then the wrath of God will be appeased.
It was a marvel to me that Satan could succeed so well in making men believe that the words of God, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," mean that the soul that sinneth it shall not die, but live eternally in misery. Said the angel, "Life is life, whether it is in pain or happiness. Death is without pain, without joy, without hatred."
Satan told his angels to make a special effort to spread the lie first repeated to Eve in Eden, "Ye shall not surely die." And as the error was received by the people, and they were led to believe that man was immortal, Satan led them on to believe that the sinner would live in eternal misery. Then the way was prepared for Satan to work through his representatives and hold up God before the people as a revengeful tyrant--one who plunges all those into hell who do not please Him, and causes them ever to feel His wrath; and while they suffer unutterable anguish, and writhe in the eternal flames, He is represented as looking down upon them with satisfaction. Satan knew that if this error should be received, God would be hated by many, instead of being loved and adored; and that many would be led to believe that the threatenings of God's Word would not be literally fulfilled, for it would be against His character of benevolence and love to plunge into eternal torments the beings whom He had created.
Another extreme which Satan has led the people to adopt is entirely to overlook the justice of God, and the threatenings in His Word, and to represent Him as being all mercy, so that not one will perish, but that all, both saint and sinner, will at last be saved in His kingdom.
In consequence of the popular errors of the immortality of the soul and endless misery, Satan takes advantage of another class and leads them to regard the Bible as an uninspired book. They think it teaches many good things; but they cannot rely upon it and love it, because they have been taught that it declares the doctrine of eternal misery.
Another class Satan leads on still further, even to deny the existence of God. They can see no consistency in the character of the God of the Bible, if He will inflict horrible tortures upon a portion of the human family to all eternity. Therefore they deny the Bible and its Author and regard death as an eternal sleep.
There is still another class who are fearful and timid. These Satan tempts to commit sin, and after they have sinned, he holds up before them that the wages of sin is not death but life in horrible torments, to be endured throughout the endless ages of eternity. By thus magnifying before their feeble minds the horrors of an endless hell, he takes possession of their minds, and they lose their reason. Then Satan and his angels exult, and the infidel and atheist join in casting reproach upon Christianity. They claim that these evils are the natural results of believing in the Bible and its Author, whereas they are the results of the reception of popular heresy.
I saw that the heavenly host were filled with indignation at this bold work of Satan. I inquired why all these delusions should be suffered to take effect upon the minds of men when the angels of God were powerful, and if commissioned, could easily break the enemy's power. Then I saw that God knew that Satan would try every art to destroy man; therefore He had caused His word to be written out, and had made His purposes in regard to the human race so plain that the weakest need not err. After having given His word to man, He had carefully preserved it from destruction by Satan or his angels, or by any of his agents or representatives. While other books might be destroyed, this was to be immortal. And near the close of time, when the delusions of Satan should increase, it was to be so multiplied that all who desired might have a copy, and, if they would, might arm themselves against the deceptions and lying wonders of Satan.
I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible; yet when copies of it were few, learned men had in some instances changed the words, thinking that they were making it more plain, when in reality they were mystifying that which was plain, by causing it to lean to their established views, which were governed by tradition. But I saw that the Word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another. True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the Word of God plain and simple in declaring the way of life, but the Holy Spirit is given as a guide in understanding the way to life therein revealed.
I saw that the angels of God are never to control the will. God sets before man life and death. He can have his choice. Many desire life, but still continue to walk in the broad road. They choose to rebel against God's government, notwithstanding His great mercy and compassion in giving His Son to die for them. Those who do not choose to accept of the salvation so dearly purchased, must be punished. But I saw that God would not shut them up in hell to endure endless misery, neither will He take them to heaven; for to bring them into the company of the pure and holy would make them exceedingly miserable. But He will destroy them utterly and cause them to be as if they had not been; then His justice will be satisfied. He formed man out of the dust of the earth, and the disobedient and unholy will be consumed by fire and return to dust again. I saw that the benevolence and compassion of God in this matter should lead all to admire His character and to adore His holy name. After the wicked are destroyed from off the earth, all the heavenly host will say, "Amen!"
Satan looks with great satisfaction upon those who profess the name of Christ, yet closely adhere to the delusions which he himself has originated. His work is still to devise new delusions, and his power and art in this direction continually increase. He led his representatives, the popes and the priests, to exalt themselves, and to stir up the people to bitterly persecute and destroy those who were not willing to accept his delusions. Oh, the sufferings and agony which the precious followers of Christ were made to endure! Angels have kept a faithful record of it all. Satan and his evil angels exultingly told the angels who ministered to these suffering saints that they were all to be killed, so that there would not be left a true Christian upon the earth. I saw that the church of God was then pure. There was no danger of men with corrupt hearts coming into it; for the true Christian, who dared to declare his faith, was in danger of the rack, the stake, and every torture which Satan and his evil angels could invent or inspire in the mind of man.
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Notwithstanding all the persecution of the saints, living witnesses for God's truth were raised up on every hand. Angels of the Lord were doing the work committed to their trust. They were searching in the darkest places and selecting out of the darkness men who were honest in heart. These were all buried up in error, yet God called them, as He did Saul, to be chosen vessels to bear His truth and raise their voices against the sins of His professed people. Angels of God moved upon the hearts of Martin Luther, Melanchthon, and others in different places, and caused them to thirst for the living testimony of the Word of God. The enemy had come in like a flood, and the standard must be raised against him. Luther was the one chosen to breast the storm, stand up against the ire of a fallen church, and strengthen the few who were faithful to their holy profession. He was ever fearful of offending God. He tried through works to obtain His favor, but was not satisfied until a gleam of light from heaven drove the darkness from his mind and led him to trust, not in works, but in the merits of the blood of Christ. He could then come to God for himself, not through popes or confessors, but through Jesus Christ alone.
Oh, how precious to Luther was this new and glorious light which had dawned upon his dark understanding and driven away his superstition! He prized it higher than the richest earthly treasure. The Word of God was new. Everything was changed. The book he had dreaded because he could not see beauty in it, was now life, eternal life, to him. It was his joy, his consolation, his blessed teacher. Nothing could induce him to leave its study. He had feared death; but as he read the Word of God, all his terrors disappeared, and he admired the character of God and loved Him. He searched the Bible for himself and feasted upon the rich treasures it contained; then he searched it for the church. He was disgusted with the sins of those in whom he had trusted for salvation, and as he saw many others enshrouded in the same darkness which had covered him, he anxiously sought an opportunity to point them to the Lamb of God, who alone taketh away the sin of the world.
Raising his voice against the errors and sins of the papal church, he earnestly endeavored to break the chain of darkness which was confining thousands and causing them to trust in works for salvation. He longed to be enabled to open to their minds the true riches of the grace of God and the excellence of salvation obtained through Jesus Christ. In the power of the Holy Spirit he cried out against the existing sins of the leaders of the church; and as he met the storm of opposition from the priests, his courage failed not; for he firmly relied upon the strong arm of God, and confidently trusted in Him for victory. As he pushed the battle closer and closer, the rage of the priests was kindled still hotter against him. They did not wish to be reformed. The chose to be left in ease, in wanton pleasure, in wickedness; and they desired the church also to be kept in darkness.
I saw that Luther was ardent and zealous, fearless and bold, in reproving sin and advocating the truth. He cared not for wicked men or devils; he knew that he had One with him mightier than they all. Luther possessed zeal, courage, and boldness, and at times was in danger of going to extremes. But God raised up Melanchthon, who was just the opposite in character, to aid Luther in carrying on the work of reformation. Melanchthon was timid, fearful, cautious, and possessed great patience. He was greatly beloved of God. His knowledge of the Scriptures was great, and his judgment and wisdom excellent. His love for the cause of God was equal to Luther's. The hearts of these men the Lord knit together; they were inseparable friends. Luther was a great help to Melanchthon when in danger of being fearful and slow, and Melanchthon in turn was a great help to Luther when in danger of moving too fast. Melanchthon's farseeing caution often averted trouble which would have come upon the cause had the work been left alone to Luther; and ofttimes the work would not have been pushed forward had it been left to Melanchthon alone. I was shown the wisdom of God in choosing these two men to carry on the work of reformation.
I was then carried back to the days of the apostles and saw that God chose as companions an ardent, zealous Peter and a mild, patient John. Sometimes Peter was impetuous, and often when this was the case the beloved disciple would check him. This, however, did not reform him. But after he had denied his Lord, repented, and been converted, all he needed to check his ardor and zeal was a mild caution from John. The cause of Christ would often have suffered had it been left to John alone. Peter's zeal was needed. His boldness and energy often delivered them from difficulty and silenced their enemies. John was winning. He gained many to the cause of Christ by his patient forbearance and deep devotedness.
God raised up men to cry against the existing sins of the papal church and carry forward the Reformation. Satan sought to destroy these living witnesses; but the Lord made a hedge about them. Some, for the glory of His name, were permitted to seal with their blood the testimony they had borne; but there were other powerful men, like Luther and Melanchthon, who could best glorify God by living and exposing the sins of priests, popes, and kings. These trembled before the voice of Luther, and his fellow laborers. Through those chosen men, rays of light began to scatter the darkness, and very many joyfully received the light and walked in it. And when one witness was slain, two or more were raised up to take his place.
But Satan was not satisfied. He could only have power over the body. He could not make believers yield their faith and hope. And even in death they triumphed with a bright hope of immortality at the resurrection of the just. They had more than mortal energy. They dared not sleep for a moment, but kept the Christian armor girded about them, prepared for a conflict, not merely with spiritual foes, but with Satan in the form of men whose constant cry was, "Give up your faith, or die." These few Christians were strong in God, and more precious in His sight than half a world who bear the name of Christ, and yet are cowards in His cause. While the church was persecuted, its members were united and loving; they were strong in God. Sinners were not permitted to unite with the church. Those only who are willing to forsake all for Christ could be His disciples. These loved to be poor, humble, and Christlike.
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After this I saw Satan consulting with his angels and considering what they had gained. True, they had, through fear of death, kept some timid souls from embracing the truth; but many, even of the most timid, had received the truth, and thereupon their fears and timidity immediately left them. As these witnessed the death of their brethren and beheld their firmness and patience, they knew that God and angels assisted them to endure such sufferings, and they grew bold and fearless. And when called to yield their own lives, they maintained their faith with such patience and firmness as caused even their murderers to tremble. Satan and his angels decided that there was a more successful way to destroy souls, one that would be more certain in the end. Although Christians were made to suffer, their steadfastness, and the bright hope that cheered them, caused the weakest to grow strong and enabled them to approach the rack and the flames undaunted. They imitated the noble bearing of Christ when before His murderers, and by their constancy and the glory of God which rested upon them, they convinced many others of the truth.
Satan therefore decided that he must come in a milder form. He had already corrupted the doctrines of the Bible, and traditions which were to ruin millions were taking deep root. Restraining his hate, he decided not to urge on his subjects to such bitter persecution, but lead the church to contend for various traditions, instead of for the faith once delivered to the saints. As he prevailed on the church to receive favors and honors from the world, under the pretense of receiving benefits, she began to lose favor with God. Shunning to declare the straight truths which shut out the lovers of pleasure and friends of the world, she gradually lost her power.
The church is not now the separate and peculiar people she was when the fires of persecution were kindled against her. How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! I saw that if the church had always retained her peculiar, holy character, the power of the Holy Spirit which was imparted to the disciples would still be with her. The sick would be healed, devils would be rebuked and cast out, and she would be mighty and a terror to her enemies.
I saw a very large company professing the name of Christ, but God did not recognize them as His. He had no pleasure in them. Satan seemed to assume a religious character and was very willing that the people should think they were Christians. He was even anxious that they should believe in Jesus, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. Satan and his angels fully believe all this themselves, and tremble. But if this faith does not provoke to good works, and lead those who profess it to imitate the self-denying life of Christ, Satan is not disturbed; for they merely assume the Christian name, while their hearts are still carnal, and he can use them in his service even better than if they made no profession. Hiding their deformity under the name of Christian, they pass along with their unsanctified natures, and their evil passions unsubdued. This gives occasion for the unbeliever to reproach Christ with their imperfections, and causes those who do possess pure and undefiled religion to be brought into disrepute.
The ministers preach smooth things to suit carnal professors. They dare not preach Jesus and the cutting truths of the Bible; for if they should, these carnal professors would not remain in the church. But as many of them are wealthy, they must be retained, although they are no more fit to be there than Satan and his angels. This is just as Satan would have it. The religion of Jesus is made to appear popular and honorable in the eyes of the world. The people are told that those who profess religion will be more honored by the world. Such teachings differ very widely from the teachings of Christ. His doctrine and the world could not be at peace. Those who followed Him had to renounce the world. These smooth things originated with Satan and his angels. They formed the plan, and nominal professors carried it out. Pleasing fables were taught and readily received, and hypocrites and open sinners united with the church. If the truth had been preached in its purity, it would soon have shut out this class. But there was no difference between the professed followers of Christ and the world. I saw that if the false covering had been torn off from the members of the churches, there would have been revealed such iniquity, vileness, and corruption that the most diffident child of God would have had no hesitancy in calling these professed Christians by their right name, children of their father, the devil; for his works they did.
Jesus and all the heavenly host looked with disgust upon the scene; yet God had a message for the church that was sacred and important. If received, it would make a thorough reformation in the church, revive the living testimony that would purge out hypocrites and sinners, and bring the church again into favor with God.
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God sent His angel to move upon the heart of a farmer who had not believed the Bible, to lead him to search the prophecies. Angels of God repeatedly visited that chosen one, to guide his mind and open to his understanding prophecies which had ever been dark to God's people. The commencement of the chain of truth was given to him, and he was led on to search for link after link, until he looked with wonder and admiration upon the Word of God. He saw there a perfect chain of truth. That Word which he had regarded as uninspired now opened before his vision in its beauty and glory. He saw that one portion of Scripture explains another, and when one passage was closed to his understanding, he found in another part of the Word that which explained it. He regarded the sacred Word of God with joy and with the deepest respect and awe.
As he followed down the prophecies, he saw that the inhabitants of the earth were living in the closing scenes of this world's history, yet they knew it not. He looked at the churches and saw that they were corrupt; they had taken their affections from Jesus and placed them on the world; they were seeking for worldly honor, instead of that honor which cometh from above; grasping for worldly riches, instead of laying up their treasure in heaven. He could see hypocrisy, darkness, and death everywhere. His spirit was stirred within him. God called him to leave his farm, as He called Elisha to leave his oxen and the field of his labor to follow Elijah. With trembling, William Miller began to unfold to the people the mysteries of the kingdom of God, carrying his hearers down through the prophecies to the second advent of Christ. With every effort he gained strength. As John the Baptist heralded the first advent of Jesus and prepared the way for His coming, so William Miller and those who joined with him proclaimed the second advent of the Son of God.
I was carried back to the days of the disciples and was shown that God had a special work for the beloved John to accomplish. Satan was determined to hinder this work, and he led on his servants to destroy John. But God sent His angel and wonderfully preserved him. All who witnessed the great power of God manifested in the deliverance of John were astonished, and many were convinced that God was with him, and that the testimony which he bore concerning Jesus was correct. Those who sought to destroy him were afraid to attempt again to take his life, and he was permitted to suffer on for Jesus. He was falsely accused by his enemies and was shortly banished to a lonely island, where the Lord sent His angel to reveal to him events which were to take place upon the earth and the state of the church down to the end --her backslidings and the position which she should occupy if she would please God and finally overcome.
The angel from heaven came to John in majesty, his countenance beaming with the excellent glory of God. He revealed to John scenes of deep and thrilling interest in the history of the church of God and brought before him the perilous conflicts which Christ's followers were to endure. John saw them passing through fiery trials, made white and tried, and, finally, victorious overcomers, gloriously saved in the kingdom of God. The countenance of the angel grew radiant with joy and was exceeding glorious, as he showed John the final triumph of the church of God. As the apostle beheld the final deliverance of the church, he was carried away with the glory of the scene and with deep reverence and awe fell at the feet of the angel to worship him. The heavenly messenger instantly raised him up and gently reproved him, saying, "See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The angel then showed John the heavenly city with all its splendor and dazzling glory, and he, enraptured and overwhelmed, and forgetful of the former reproof of the angel, again fell to worship at his feet. Again the gentle reproof was given, "See thou do it not for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God."
Preachers and people have looked upon the book of Revelation as mysterious and of less importance than other portions of the Sacred Scriptures. But I saw that this book is indeed a revelation given for the especial benefit of those who should live in the last days, to guide them in ascertaining their true position and their duty. God directed the mind of William Miller to the prophecies and gave him great light upon the book of Revelation.
If Daniel's visions had been understood, the people could better have understood the visions of John. But at the right time, God moved upon His chosen servant, who, with clearness and in the power of the Holy Spirit, opened the prophecies and showed the harmony of the visions of Daniel and John and other portions of the Bible, and pressed home upon the hearts of the people the sacred, fearful warnings of the Word to prepare for the coming of the Son of man. Deep and solemn conviction rested upon the minds of those who heard him, and ministers and people, sinners and infidels, turned to the Lord and sought a preparation to stand in the judgment.
Angels of God accompanied William Miller in his mission. He was firm and undaunted, fearlessly proclaiming the message committed to his trust. A world lying in wickedness and a cold, worldly church were enough to call into action all his energies and lead him willingly to endure toil, privation, and suffering. Although opposed by professed Christians and the world, and buffeted by Satan and his angels, he ceased not to preach the everlasting gospel to crowds wherever he was invited, sounding far and near the cry, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come."
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