We analyze. You decide!

An Analysis of the Literary Dependency
of The Desire of Ages, Chapter 85

      Some critics have accused Ellen White of plagiarizing the contents of The Desire of Ages from the writings of various authors. But, did she really? Below is an analysis of one chapter of The Desire of Ages for which examples of alleged plagiarism are given. This particular one is from Walter Rea found online at http://www.ellenwhite.org/egw89.htm. In this case, Rea simply claims that Ellen G. White was simply "paraphrasing" pages 433-448 of Daniel March's Night Scenes in the Bible when she wrote this chapter. But, without actually presenting the evidence this claim cannot be evaluated.

      Since Rea failed to present the evidence to support his claim it is now presented here. What we want to do here is to determine whether the critics did a fair analysis, or whether their comparisons actually distorted the real situation. Accordingly, we have color-coded the text so that you, the reader, can easily come to your own conclusion.

Color Key

Material in Ellen G. White that is an exact, word-for-word match to her alleged source.

Material in Ellen G. White that is similar to her alleged source.

Material in Ellen G. White that is an exact match to Biblical material.

      Typical author's caveat: all errors are, of course, mine. If you find any errors please let me know and I'll fix them.

March, Night Scenes in the Bible.
(Zeigler, McCurdy & Co., 1868)
Desire of Ages. (1898)
Page 433

The Night of Fruitless Toil

      The last chapter in the Gospel of John is the second ending of the sacred story, as told by the beloved disciple, concerning all things that Jesus did and said. It seems to have been added in the old age of the last surviving apostle, for the express purpose of telling what Jesus said to Peter on the shore of Galilee after his resurrection, and what he did not say to John.1 The narrative takes us back to the scene and circumstances of the early ministry of Christ, and it shows us that the Divine Saviour, in passing through the gates of death and completing the great work of redemption, had lost some of his interest in the homely and common things of daily life.2 The place of his appearance on this occassion is invested with peculiar sacredness in the Gospel history, and the words which he spoke are embalmed with the most tender and hallowed associations in millions of Christian hearts. We shall do well to make both the words and the place as familiar as possible to our minds, and to invest them with the utmost degree of clearness and reality.


      1 Contrary to what March wrote the last chapter of John does not say what Jesus did not say to John. It does point out that Jesus did not tell Peter what was to happen to John.    Return to text

      2 Note that in fact the chapter does have Jesus telling the disciples where to cast their net and prepared a meal for the disciples.    Return to text

page 434

      In the vivid and artless style of the old man, who could talk of little but love, two pictures rise to view. The first is night on the Sea of Galilee. It is in the balmy and beautiful bloom of the Syrian spring. The peculiar quietude and peace which breathe through the inspired narrative of the beloved disciple persuade us to think of it as a night of deep calm. There is no breeze in motion. Not a ripple breaks on the white sand of the silent shore. The lake lies as clear and calm within its lofty banks as the crystal sea of heaven. The stars and the mountains are mirrored in its glassy face. The dark wall of frowning rock that frames the picture seems to rise from foundations deep beneath the wave. The lights in the watch-towers on the distant hills, reflected from beneath the surface of the sea, look as if they were set in the same under-firmament with the stars. From the solitary heights and pasture lands, where the flock sleeps in the fold, the occassional call of the shepherd and the answering howl of the watch-dog break upon the stillness of the night. A pleasure-boat darts out from the Roman town of Tiberias, and a wild heathen song, softened and chastened by the still air, floats over the waters, and seems in the distance as if it were a sacred melody to which the stars and the sea listen in silent rapture. Once an hour is heard the clank of steel scabbards and the clatter of iron-shod hoofs when the Roman horsemen pass on their solitary patrol along the paved road under the cliffs close by the water's edge.3 But all else is still.

Page 435

The shore is silent as the sea, and the sea is silent as the stars.


      3 There's two historical anomalies in this sentence. The first is the use of "steel scabbards". In that day and age? How about iron instead. The second is the lack of consideration given to the remoteness of the area and how rare Roman cavalry was. It is highly unlikely, tho' possible, that such were used to patrol that region of Palestine.    Return to text

Page 809

By the Sea Once More

[This chapter is based on John 21:1-22.]

      Jesus had appointed to meet His disciples in Galilee; and soon after the Passover week was ended, they bent their steps thither. Their absence from Jerusalem during the feast would have been interpreted as disaffection and heresy, therefore they remained till its close; but this over, they gladly turned homeward to meet the Saviour as He had directed.

      In the midst of this deep calm, seven men come slowly and thoughtfully down to the narrow beach, enter a stranded boat and push out a little way from the land. They are clad in the coarse garb of fishermen.4 Their faces have been bronzed with exposure to wind and sun. Their hands have been swollen with dragging the dripping net, and hardened with pulling the laboring oar. But they are men destined to hold the highest rank among the great masters and teachers of mankind. Their rude minds have already caught fire from the Fountain of light, and they are to spend their lives in carrying the torch of heavenly truth through the world. They have just begun to understand a little that there is a remedy for all our human woe, and it is to be their Divine commission to offer healing and salvation to the wretched and lost of every land.

      Seven of the disciples were in company. They were clad in the humble garb of fishermen; they were poor in worldly goods, but rich in the knowledge and practice of the truth, which in the sight of Heaven gave them the highest rank as teachers. They had not been students in the schools of the prophets, but for three years they had been taught by the greatest Educator the world has ever known. Under His instruction they had become elevated, intelligent, and refined, agents through whom men might be led to a knowledge of the truth.


      4 Note that while there is some minor verbal similarity here Ellen G. White does not continue to describe the fisherman in the detail that March has.    Return to text

      Foremost of them all is the fiery-souled Simon Peter, ready to walk on the waters or to smite with the sword or to weep in sorrow at a look from his Lord. There is the gentle and loving John, who leaned upon Jesus' bosom in the blessed feast of the upper chamber. There is the slow, distrustful Thomas, so honest and obstinate in his doubts, and so quick to surpass all others in his faith when once he had seen the face and heard the voice of his risen Lord. There is the guile-less Nathaniel, from the hill-town of Cana, who was so

Page 436

startled when Jesus read the thought of his heart that he exclaimed, "Thou art the Son of God!" And there is James, at once impetuous in spirit and practical in judgment, and destined to be the first of the apostlic band to seal his faith with the blood of martyrdoom.5


      5 Note that John 21:2 only names the first three disciples and the sons of Zebedee (James and John). Note that March does not mention John being there.    Return to text

      These men begin to ply their hard and homely trade of fishing. Having pushed out a sufficient distance from the land, they cast the net into the deep sea, draw it up and find it empty. They change their ground, pass up and down the coast, row out into deeper water and come nearer to the shore, everywhere letting down the net, and always drawing it up and taking nothing. And so they spend the long hours of the weary night in fruitless toil, thinking and talking more of their absent and beloved Lord than of the toilsome occupation.

      Twice have they seen him since his resurrection, but as yet their faith cannot fully grasp the great fact that he is actually risen from the dead. They are trying to live over the past, and they have no plan and little hope for the future. On this very lake they saw him walk in the wildest storm, as one would walk the solid earth. Here, he said "Peace" to the winds, and the winds were hushed. On yonder height he stilled a fiercer tempest in the human soul. In the dim starlight can be seen the grassy bank where he fed five thousand in the desert place.6 Nearer by is Capernaum, where he so often healed the sick and raised the dead and spoke the words of eternal life. Outlined on the

Page 437

western sky, under the evening star, are the twin heights of the Beatitudes and the oak-crowned dome of the Transfiguration. And a little way over the ridge where the sun went down in Cana, where "the conscious water saw its Lord and blushed to wine," and Nain hallowed for evermore by the raising of the widow's son, and Nazareth nestled among the hills, where the Divine Child was sheltered in a human home and nursed with a mother's love.

      Much of the time of Christ's ministry had been passed near the Sea of Galilee. As the disciples gathered in a place where they were not likely to be disturbed, they found themselves surrounded by reminders of Jesus and His mighty works. On this sea, when their hearts were filled with terror, and the fierce storm was hurrying them to destruction, Jesus had walked upon the billows to their rescue. Here the tempest had been hushed by His word. Within sight was the beach where above ten thousand persons had been fed from a few small loaves and fishes. Not far distant was Capernaum, the scene of so many miracles. As the disciples

Page 810

looked upon the scene, their minds were full of the words and deeds of their Saviour.


      6 Note the difference in the figures as to how many were fed and the setting for that miracle. Note also the other differences in the paragraphs of each writer.    Return to text

      They think on all these things and are sad, while the long hours of the weary night are spent in fruitless toil. They keep letting down the net into the dark depths of the sea, and it always comes up empty. So in thought they plunge into the deeper and darker mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, and they can bring nothing to light. Sometimes it seems to them that they have only just waked up from a beautiful dream of their Master's reign on the earth, and found themselves nothing but peasants and fishermen, just as they were before he said to them, "Follow me." Weary, disappointed, and deprived of the presence of their Lord, they toil all night and take nothing.

      The evening was pleasant, and Peter, who still had much of his old love for boats and fishing, proposed that they should go out upon the sea and cast their nets.7 In this plan all were ready to join; they were in need of food and clothing, which the proceeds of a successful night's fishing would supply. So they went out in their boat, but they caught nothing. All night they toiled, without success. Through the weary hours they talked of their absent Lord, and recalled the wonderful events they had witnessed in His ministry beside the sea. They questioned as to their own future, and grew sad at the prospect before them.


      7 Note that while there is some very minor verbal similarity between the two paragraphs they are quite different in thought and flow. On the latter there is more similarity between this paragraph in Ellen G. White and that of March two paragraphs above under note 5. Note also that Ellen G. White is closer to the Bilical text in stating that it was Peter who suggested that they go fishing.    Return to text

      Alas! that there should be so many even now among us who spend whole years, even a whole life, as the disciples spent that sad night on the Sea of Galilee, toiling in darkness and perplexity and taking nothing! The world is full of toilers who never get any satisfactory return for their labor. Losing sight of Him who is the Light of the world, they work blindly and in-

Page 438

effectually, putting forth great effort and pouring out all their strength, and coming to the end of life without ever having found anything worth living for. The world is full of the disappointed and the unhappy, just because it is full of those who set their hearts upon securing that which, gained or not gained, can never satisfy the deepest want of the soul.

      A young man launches his life-boat upon the troubled sea of toil and competition and temptation in the great city. He has firm health, a fair address, a quick mind and an eager heart. He has a high estimate of his abilities, and he means to make something out of life to be proud of and to enjoy. He puts a severe restraint upon appetite and passion. He has nothing to do with the idle and the vicious. He is intent upon turning every hour, every acquaintance, every opportunity to some account in advancing his own interest, enlarging his own possessions, securing a high position in the world. And he succeeds. In middle life he is rich, and in old age he is a millionaire, with everything that money can buy at his command. But, alas! money cannot buy that which man most needs. Money cannot buy happiness, it cannot buy faith, love, cheerfulness, buoyancy of heart. Money cannot buy pardon of sin, preparation for death and the hope of heaven. The capacity to make money is a great and sacred talent, which God gives men to be used in enriching their souls, enlarging their hearts and lifting up their hopes and desires to a better life. But when men use

Page 439

that talent only for self and the world, it only makes them poor in the priceless jewels of the heart, the more it gives them of the perishable treasures of earth. The harder they toil the less they get-the more they succeed, the worse they fail.

      And now this poor-rich man feels that he has spent all his labor for naught. With all his success he has gained nothing that can satisfy the soul. He has lived only for the world, and the world is only waiting for him to die and get out of the way for others to fill his place and enjoy his possessions. Weary, disappointed, heart-broken old man, he has toiled all night and taken nothing. If he had given himself to Christ in early youth, and made it the great business of life to follow him who became poor that he might make many rich, if he had determined to use the peculiar talent which God had given him in making the world wiser and better, he would have been happier all the way while engaged in the severest toil, he would have had many to call him blessed in his old age, and in dying he would have entered upon the possession of infinite and eternal riches. There is not a sadder place on earth than the death-chamber of a successful man of the world, who has secured all that the world can ever give, and in dying must leave all his good things behind him and go into eternity to be poor for ever.

      Another starts with the purpose to enjoy life as he goes along. He means to take it easy. He never strains himself up to meet the demands of any high

Page 440

and exacting principle. He never sets up any standard of success which it will cost him great effort to gain. Self-indulgence is his first law, and self-denial his greatest horror. Conscience speaks with too solemn and awful a voice for him to heed. He has little patience to listen when duty asserts its sacred claims upon his life and his heart. He is ready for anything that will divert the mind or lend wings to a weary hour. He means to enjoy himself while young, and make a merry life while it lasts.

      And yet the poor, frivolous creature is never happy. He has no solid peace in himself. His life is a pretence and an imposture. He lives to enjoy himself, and yet it is himself that he is least able to enjoy. He wearies himself to be happy and he wonders that he cannot succeed. If he lives to old age without changing his course, it is only to be a poor, heartless, disappointed man of the world, who has never found anything worth living for, and who in dying has less to hope for in the life to come.

      O ye ardent, warm-hearted young men, who would enjoy life while it lasts! look for something higher, nobler, purer than a life of worldly pleasure. Do not consider it success to shun responsibility and leave the heavy burdens for other shoulders to bear. Bind yourselves in willing and holy alliance to Him who is infinite, unchanging, everlasting love, and you will find,

Page 441

even in suffering for him, a higher happiness than can ever be known by those who live only to gratify taste and indulge the senses. Let duty to God be bound as a law of affection and obedience to the heart, and you can find joy in anything. Let loving, grateful, enthusiastic devotion to truth, to purity, to everything that is good and lovely in Christ, become the animating, soul-stirring principle of your life, and you will not need to study the best ways of enjoying yourself. The brave, the self-denying, the dutiful are always happy. Everything in the world is made tributary to their happiness. It is impossible for anything to take from them the success, the joy of living. They have in their own souls exhaustless sources of peace and satisfaction. They come to the close of this earthly life with the assurance that the higher joy and the endless glory are just about to begin.

      Here again is a young lady, whose susceptible heart is fascinated with the glitter and gayety of fashionable life. She turns away from her Saviour with graceful excuses, and she dismisses the claims of duty with a smile. She estimates the joy of life by the music and mirth, the gay diversion and the giddy dance. She learns to talk of trifles with glowing animation, and give delighted attention to those who make serious things a jest. She chooses the society of those who are never in earnest, who never speak truthfully of the great and awful things which concern us all infinitely and for ever. She loves light literature, light conver-

Page 442

sation, light company, light amusements, and so flatters herself that she can make life all a holiday, drinking only the froth and foam of its full cup, and pushing aside from her lips the bitter contents of toil and trial and sorrow.

      Alas, mistaken creature! she wearies herself all night in the whirl of gayety and the giddy dance of pleasure, only to bring darkness and disappointment upon her soul when the struggle of life comes, and she needs to be fresh as the morning and full of the light as the day. She makes the great mistake of supposing that world gayety is happiness, and that there is a portion of life too cheerful, too hopeful, too light-hearted to be given to God. That mistake has made multitudes of the young throw away their best years and then find that their hearts are empty and unsatisfied. It has made them waste their young affections and buoyant susceptibilities upon trifles, and then left them to recover the lost capacity for happiness, if at all, only through the stern discipline of trial and sorrow.

      Let every young woman put forth her purest and noblest capacities for trust and devotion by giving herself to that Divine Saviour who, when he rose from the dead, showed himself first of all to Mary in the garden of the sepulcher. Let her prolong and glorify the bright and beautiful vision of youth by lifting her hopes to that better land where the beautiful bloom in immortal youth. Let her keep her heart fresh and

Page 443

cheerful by setting her strongest and holiest affections upon that one Friend who changes not. Let goodness lend its nameless charm, and devotion to duty give its Divine strength to womanly character, and the woman, so endowed and disciplined, will find a joy and a satisfaction, a beauty and a grace in living, such as the most caressed and flattered creature of fashion and frivolity never knows.

      Time would fail to tell of the many who make the great mistake of seeking happiness in the world first, hoping to turn to Christ when the world fails to satisfy and the soul longs for rest. The Sabbath-school scholar, just passing from from youth to adult age, becomes ashamed to be seen studying the heavenly oracles, and goes away to toil for long and dark years to find something more interesting than the blessed book which pours light upon the grave and opens the glorious prospect of endless life beyond the river of death. The sons and daughters of parents who have enetered into rest,and whose dying prayer was that their children might meet them in heaven, live on in the hard and unsatisfactory service of the world, seeking their rest here and finding it not. The Divine Comforter strives with many who shut their hearts against his gracious pleadings, and who only desire in their strange infatuation to be let alone, that they may go farther and farther in seeking what nobody ever found--peace without pardon, rest for the soul without coming to Christ. Could such mistakes be corrected, it would

Page 444

save a world of useless toil, it would bring peace to a world of heavy hearts. And I could wish for no loftier endowment or opportunity than to be able to set forth the better life of faith and obedience to God in such a light that the young would choose it in the bloom of youth, while the evil days come not, and those who have wandered far and long would return to the way of peace and salvation. With all the toil and weariness and disappointment inseparable from man's lot in this world, it surely is not necessary for the young to add the greater mortification of spending the best years of life in seeking happiness where none ever found it. It is not necessary for those who have tried for years in vain to satisfy their souls from worldly pursuits and pleasures to continue the experiment longer.

      If we look again at the disciples who have spent the night in fruitless toil, we shall find the scene greatly changed. It is morning on the Sea of Galilee. Pale shafts of light are shooting up the eastern sky where the bright star of dawn hangs over the hills of Bashan. The wavy line of mountain-tops is beginning to redden with the fires of the coming day. Away northward, the white snows of the mighty Hermon are ablaze with the glory of an Eastern dawn. Southward the misty line marking the course of the Jordan brightens and looks as if the shining train of a cometary orb had fallen between the parted hills. A solitary lark springs

Page 445

from her nest and shoots upward with a gash of song, and soon the whole air becomes vocal with happy singers that vie with each other in carrying the morning hymn highest toward the gate of heaven. The dark gray wall of the distant hills draws nearer as the day approaches, and a flush of air shooting across the steel bright water makes a pathway of light, as if an angel's wing had swept the sea from shore to shore.

      The weary disciples now cease from their fruitless toil, for the time of success has passed with the night, and still they have taken nothing. Suddenly they see a once familar form standing on the white sand of the beach, and they hear a voice they have often heard. But they have been so wearied with toil and benumbed with the night that they know not at first who it is that speaks. He tells them to cast the net of the right side of the ship, and the success which follows their obedience to his word reveals the form and the voice of the risen Lord.

      All the while a lone watcher upon the shore followed them with His eye, while He Himself was unseen. At length the morning dawned. The boat was but a little way from the shore, and the disciples saw a stranger standing upon the beach, who accosted them with the question, "Children, have ye any meat?" When they answered, "No," "He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes." [John 21:5-6]

      Immediately they forget the long night and the fruitless toil, in the joy of seeing Jesus manifest in the morning light on the shore. They have cheaply learned the great lesson that the highest skill and the hardest work are vain without the presence of Jesus, and that the success of life is obedience to him.

      John recognized the stranger, and exclaimed to Peter, "It is the Lord." [John 21:7] Peter was so elated and so glad that in his eagerness he cast himself into the water and was soon standing by the side of his Master. The other disciples came in their boat, dragging the net with fishes. [John 21:8] "As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread." [John 21:9]

      Simple, indeed, is the lesson, and yet how hard for the heart to learn! You may work ever so hard and long in the endeavor to draw up riches and pleasures and joys from the deep and dark sea of life. But it

Page 446

will all be a night of disappointment and failure until you see Jesus revealed in heavenly light on the shore. Pursue the most common and menial occupation in obedience to him, and the result will be success and joy. His coming to the weary heart is like morning on the mountains to pilgrims who have spent the night in wandering and terror. The first act of free, genuine, heartfelt obedience to Christ will give more joy than a whole life of bondage to the world.

      They were too much amazed to question whence came the fire and the food. "Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught." [John 21:10] Peter rushed for the net, which he had dropped, and helped his brethren drag it to the shore. After the work was done, and the preparation made, Jesus bade the disciples come and dine. [John 21:12] He broke the food, and divided it among them, and was known and acknowledged by all the seven. The miracle of feeding the five thousand on the mountainside was now brought to their minds; but a mysterious awe was upon them, and in silence they gazed upon the risen Saviour.

      O ye weary, toiling, unsuccessful seekers after rest, lift up your heads from your heavy tasks and listen. Jesus calls from the eternal shore. His voice comes sweeter than the harps of angels from the mansions of rest. He says to each of you by name, as he said to Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, "Lovest thou me? Lovest thou me? Follow me." He does not say wait for others, but follow me thyself. He does not say to-morrow or by and by, but follow me now. The first step of obedience to that command will fill the troubled soul with a deeper peace than rested on the sea when Jesus hushed the storm. Every additional step in that course will be an advance toward the blessed shore where Jesus waits your coming and the ransomed host sing the song of the Lamb on the crystal sea of heaven.

      Vividly they recalled the scene beside the sea when Jesus had bidden them follow Him. They remembered how, at His command, they had launched out into the deep, and had let down their net, and the catch had been so abundant as to fill the net, even to breaking. Then Jesus had called them to leave their fishing boats, and had promised to make them

Page 811

fishers of men. It was to bring this scene to their minds, and to deepen its impression, that He had again performed the miracle. His act was a renewal of the commission to the disciples. It showed them that the death of their Master had not lessened their obligation to do the work He had assigned them. Though they were to be deprived of His personal companionship, and of the means of support by their former employment, the risen Saviour would still have a care for them. While they were doing His work, He would provide for their needs. And Jesus had a purpose in bidding them cast their net on the right side of the ship. On that side He stood upon the shore. That was the side of faith. If they labored in connection with Him,--His divine power combining with their human effort,--they could not fail of success.

      The night wanes, the morning is breaking. Some who have long toiled in darkness can now see Jesus walking in heavenly light and calling them from

Page 447

the blessed shore. Look, look in penitence and in hope, and you will see him clothed with such sweetness and majesty that you will forget all worldly attractions for the glory of that sight. Listen, listen with obedience and love, and you will hear him say what would bring a heaven of joy to every longing and weary heart: Come unto me--come unto me."

      Another lesson Christ had to give, relating especially to Peter. Peter's denial of his Lord had been in shameful contrast to his former professions of loyalty. He had dishonored Christ, and had incurred the distrust of his brethren. They thought he would not be allowed to take his former position among them, and he himself felt that he had forfeited his trust. Before being called to take up again his apostolic work, he must before them all give evidence of his repentance. Without this, his sin, though repented of, might have destroyed his influence as a minister of Christ. The Saviour gave him opportunity to regain the confidence of his brethren, and, so far as possible, to remove the reproach he had brought upon the gospel.

      Night wanes, the high places of the earth are bright with the coming of the full day. The night of superstition has been long and dark. The night of error has led millions astray. The night of sorrow has made every home a house of mourning. The night of wrong has laid heavy burdens on the poor and led the innocent into bondage and captivity. The night of conflict hasdarkened the heavens with the cloud of battle and deluged the earth with blood. The great human family has been toiling fruitlessly and in darkness for ages. But now the day approaches. The hours fly swifter as the morning advances. The light of the Sun of Righteousness is glancing from land to land and penetrating all the dark places of the earth. The fetters of the slave are broken. The wall of separation that divided nations is thrown down. Great conflicts turn to the advantage of truth and humanity. Reason and faith have met together. Science and revelation have kissed each other. Christianity is gathering honor and strength from all the arts and inventions, from all the learning and refinement, from all the

Page 448

riches and power of the world. The nations are looking to Jesus as he stands revealed in the glow of the morning on the eternal shore, and when they hear his voice and obey his word the night of fruitless toil will pass away and the full day will come.

      Here is given a lesson for all Christ's followers. The gospel makes no compromise with evil. It cannot excuse sin. Secret sins are to be confessed in secret to God; but, for open sin, open confession is required. The reproach of the disciple's sin is cast upon Christ. It causes Satan to triumph, and wavering souls to stumble. By giving proof of repentance, the disciple, so far as lies in his power, is to remove this reproach.

      While Christ and the disciples were eating together by the seaside, the Saviour said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" referring to his brethren. Peter had once declared, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended." Matt. 26:33. But he now put a truer estimate upon himself. "Yea, Lord," he said, "Thou knowest that I love Thee." There is no vehement assurance that his love is greater than that of his brethren. He does not express his own opinion of his devotion. To Him who can read all the motives of the heart he appeals to judge as to his sincerity,--"Thou knowest that I love Thee." And Jesus bids him, "Feed My lambs." [John 21:15]

Page 812

      Again Jesus applied the test to Peter, repeating His former words: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" This time He did not ask Peter whether he loved Him better than did his brethren. The second response was like the first, free from extravagant assurance: "Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep." Once more the Saviour put the trying question: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" Peter was grieved; he thought that Jesus doubted his love. He knew that his Lord had cause to distrust him, and with an aching heart he answered, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." Again Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep." [John 21:16-7]

      Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the assurance of his love and loyalty, pressing home that pointed question, like a barbed arrow to his wounded heart. Before the assembled disciples Jesus revealed the depth of Peter's repentance, and showed how thoroughly humbled was the once boasting disciple.

      Peter was naturally forward and impulsive, and Satan had taken advantage of these characteristics to overthrow him. Just before the fall of Peter, Jesus had said to him, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Luke 22:31, 32. That time had now come, and the transformation in Peter was evident. The close, testing questions of the Lord had not called out one forward, self-sufficient reply; and because of his humiliation and repentance, Peter was better prepared than ever before to act as shepherd to the flock.

      The first work that Christ entrusted to Peter on restoring him to the ministry was to feed the lambs. This was a work in which Peter had little experience. It would require great care and tenderness, much patience and perseverance. It called him to minister to those who were young in the faith, to teach the ignorant, to open the Scriptures to them, and to educate them for usefulness in Christ's service. Heretofore Peter had not been fitted to do this, or even to understand its importance. But this was the work which Jesus now called upon him to do. For this work his own experience of suffering and repentance had prepared him.

      Before his fall, Peter was always speaking unadvisedly, from the impulse of the moment. He was always ready to correct others, and to express his mind, before he had a clear comprehension of himself or of what he had to say. But the converted Peter was very different. He retained his former fervor, but the grace of Christ regulated his zeal. He was no longer impetuous, self-confident, and self-exalted, but calm,

Page 815

self-possessed, and teachable. He could then feed the lambs as well as the sheep of Christ's flock.

      The Saviour's manner of dealing with Peter had a lesson for him and for his brethren. It taught them to meet the transgressor with patience, sympathy, and forgiving love. Although Peter had denied his Lord, the love which Jesus bore him never faltered. Just such love should the undershepherd feel for the sheep and lambs committed to his care. Remembering his own weakness and failure, Peter was to deal with his flock as tenderly as Christ had dealt with him.

      The question that Christ had put to Peter was significant. He mentioned only one condition of discipleship and service. "Lovest thou Me?" He said. This is the essential qualification. Though Peter might possess every other, yet without the love of Christ he could not be a faithful shepherd over the Lord's flock. Knowledge, benevolence, eloquence, gratitude, and zeal are all aids in the good work; but without the love of Jesus in the heart, the work of the Christian minister is a failure.

      Jesus walked alone with Peter, for there was something which He wished to communicate to him only. Before His death, Jesus had said to him, "Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards." To this Peter had replied, "Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake." John 13:36, 37. When he said this, he little knew to what heights and depths Christ's feet would lead the way. Peter had failed when the test came, but again he was to have opportunity to prove his love for Christ. That he might be strengthened for the final test of his faith, the Saviour opened to him his future. He told him that after living a life of usefulness, when age was telling upon his strength, he would indeed follow his Lord. Jesus said, "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God." [John 21:18-9]

      Jesus thus made known to Peter the very manner of his death; He even foretold the stretching forth of his hands upon the cross. Again He bade His disciple, "Follow Me." Peter was not disheartened by the revelation. He felt willing to suffer any death for his Lord.

      Heretofore Peter had known Christ after the flesh, as many know Him now; but he was no more to be thus limited. He knew Him no more as he had known Him in his association with Him in humanity.

Page 816

He had loved Him as a man, as a heaven-sent teacher; he now loved Him as God. He had been learning the lesson that to him Christ was all in all. Now he was prepared to share in his Lord's mission of sacrifice. When at last brought to the cross, he was, at his own request, crucified with his head downward. He thought it too great an honor to suffer in the same way as his Master did.

      To Peter the words "Follow Me" were full of instruction. Not only for his death, but for every step of his life, was the lesson given. Hitherto Peter had been inclined to act independently. He had tried to plan for the work of God, instead of waiting to follow out God's plan. But he could gain nothing by rushing on before the Lord. Jesus bids him, "Follow Me." Do not run ahead of Me. Then you will not have the hosts of Satan to meet alone. Let Me go before you, and you will not be overcome by the enemy.

      As Peter walked beside Jesus, he saw that John was following. A desire came over him to know his future, and he "saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou Me." [John 21:21-2] Peter should have considered that his Lord would reveal to him all that it was best for him to know. It is the duty of everyone to follow Christ, without undue anxiety as to the work assigned to others. In saying of John, "If I will that he tarry till I come," [John 21:23] Jesus gave no assurance that this disciple should live until the Lord's second coming. He merely asserted His own supreme power, and that even if He should will this to be so, it would in no way affect Peter's work. The future of both John and Peter was in the hands of their Lord. Obedience in following Him was the duty required of each.

      How many today are like Peter! They are interested in the affairs of others, and anxious to know their duty, while they are in danger of neglecting their own. It is our work to look to Christ and follow Him. We shall see mistakes in the lives of others, and defects in their character. Humanity is encompassed with infirmity. But in Christ we shall find perfection. Beholding Him, we shall become transformed.

      John lived to be very aged. He witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ruin of the stately temple,--a symbol of the final ruin of the world. To his latest days John closely followed his Lord. The burden of his testimony to the churches was, "Beloved, let us love one another;" "he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:7, 16.

Page 817

      Peter had been restored to his apostleship, but the honor and authority he received from Christ had not given him supremacy over his brethren. This Christ had made plain when in answer to Peter's question, "What shall this man do?" [John 21:21] He had said, "What is that to thee? follow thou Me." [John 21:22] Peter was not honored as the head of the church. The favor which Christ had shown him in forgiving his apostasy, and entrusting him with the feeding of the flock, and Peter's own faithfulness in following Christ, won for him the confidence of his brethren. He had much influence in the church. But the lesson which Christ had taught him by the Sea of Galilee Peter carried with him throughout his life. Writing by the Holy Spirit to the churches, he said:

      "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." 1 Peter 5:1-4.

Longest Phrase Index
(only three words or more are included)

      They were clad in the, page 809
      garb of fishermen, page 809
      the highest rank, page 809
      All night they toiled, page 810


      In this chapter of Daniel March's Night Scenes in the Bible we find that it has 24 paragraphs. Ellen G. White's Desire of Ages has 27 paragraphs in this chapter. Of these we can only find four that have any sort of material that could be construed as "matching" one another.

      Given the far greater amount of dissimilarity in thought and the very little similarity (mostly centered around the Biblical text--we should also note that Ellen G. White's text sticks closer to the Biblical text.) it is highly unlikely that Ellen G. White paraphrased any of the above material from Daniel March in the writing of this chapter. The little verbal similarity that we can find could be an artifact of what they called in those days "unconscious plagiarism" but which we now call "cyrptomnesia".

David J. Conklin (December 12, 2005)