Chapter 4—Ellen White Clearly Draws the Lines
Portion of a sermon at Worcester, Massachusetts, July 31, 1885, titled “The True Standard of Righteousness.” published in The Review and Herald, August 25, 1885.
The question now to be asked is, Are the professed followers of Christ complying with the conditions upon which the blessing is pronounced? Are they separating in spirit and practice from the world? How hard to come out and be separate from worldly habits and customs! But let us look well to it that Satan does not allure and deceive us through false representations. Eternal interests are here involved. God's claims should come first; His requirements should receive our first attention.
Every child of fallen Adam must, through the transforming grace of Christ, become obedient to all God's requirements. Many close their eyes to the plainest teachings of His Word because the cross stands directly in the way. If they lift it, they must appear singular in the eyes of the world; and they hesitate and question and search for some excuse whereby they may shun the cross. Satan is ever ready, and he presents plausible reasons why it would not be best to obey the Word of God just as it reads. Thus souls are fatally deceived.
A Successful Deception
One of Satan's most successful deceptions is to lead men to claim to be sanctified, while at the same time they are living in disobedience to God's commandments. These are described by Jesus as those who will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?”
Yes, those who claim to be sanctified have a great deal to say about being saved by the blood of Jesus, but their sanctification is not through the truth as it is in Jesus. While claiming to believe in Him, and apparently doing wonderful works in His name, they ignore His Father's law and serve as agents of the great adversary of souls to carry forward the work which he began in Eden, that of making plausible excuses for not obeying God implicitly. Their work of leading men to dishonor God by ignoring His law will one day be unfolded before them with its true results.
The conditions of eternal life are made so plain in God's Word that none need err, unless they choose error rather than truth because their unsanctified souls love the darkness rather than the light.
The lawyer who came to Christ with the question, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” thought to catch Christ, but Jesus laid the burden back upon the lawyer. “What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Then said Christ, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25-28). These words meet the individual cases of all. Are we willing to comply with the conditions? Will we obey God and keep His commandments? Will we be doers of the Word and not hearers only? God's law is as immutable and unchangeable as His character. Whatever men may say or do to make it void does not change its claims or release them from their obligation to obey.
We need divine enlightenment daily; we should pray as did David, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Psalm 119:18). God will have a people upon the earth who will vindicate His honor by having respect to all of His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous, not a yoke of bondage. David prayed in his day, “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law” (Verse 126).
Not one of us can afford to dishonor God by living in transgression of His law. To neglect the Bible and give ourselves up to the pursuit of worldly treasure is a loss which is beyond estimate. Eternity alone will reveal the great sacrifice made by many to secure worldly honor and worldly advantages, at the loss of the soul, the loss of eternal riches. They might have had that life which measures with the life of God; for Jesus died to bring the blessings and treasures of heaven within their reach, that they might not be accounted poor and wretched and miserable in the high estimate of eternity.
None Enter As Commandment-breakers
None who have had the light of truth will enter the city of God as commandment-breakers. His law lies at the foundation of His government in earth and in heaven. If they have knowingly trampled upon and despised His law on the earth, they will not be taken to heaven to do the same work there; there is no change of character when Christ comes.
The character building is to go on during the hours of probation. Day by day their actions are registered in the books of heaven, and they will in the great day of God be rewarded as their works have been. It will then be seen who receives the blessing. “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).
Those who make a raid against God's law are warring against God Himself; and many who are filled with the greatest bitterness against the commandment-keeping people of God make the loudest boast of living holy, sinless lives. This can be explained only in one way: they have no mirror in which to look to discover to themselves the deformity of their character. Neither Joseph, Daniel, nor any of the apostles claimed to be without sin. Men who have lived nearest to God, men who would sacrifice life itself rather than to knowingly sin against Him, men whom God has honored with divine light and power, have acknowledged themselves to be sinners, unworthy of His great favors. They have felt their weakness and, sorrowful for their sins, have tried to copy the pattern Jesus Christ.
Just Two Classes—Obedient and Disobedient
There are to be but two classes upon the earth, the obedient children of God and the disobedient. Upon one occasion Christ thus set before His hearers the judgment work: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
“Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
“Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:31-40).
Thus Christ identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity. Every attention given to His children He considers done to Himself personally. Those who claim modern sanctification would have come boastingly forward, saying, “Lord, Lord, do You not know us? Have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?” The people here described, who make these pretentious claims, apparently weaving Jesus into all their doings, fitly represent those who claim modern sanctification but who are at war with the law of God. Christ calls them workers of iniquity because they are deceivers, having on the garments of righteousness to hide the deformity of their characters, the inward wickedness of their unholy hearts.
Satan has come down in these last days to work with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. His satanic majesty works miracles in the sight of false prophets, in the sight of men, claiming that he is indeed Christ Himself. Satan gives his power to those who are aiding him in his deceptions; therefore those who claim to have the great power of God can only be discerned by the great detector, the law of Jehovah. The Lord tells us if it were possible they would deceive the very elect. The sheep's clothing seems so real, so genuine, that the wolf can be discerned only as we go to God's great moral standard and there find that they are transgressors of the law of Jehovah.
Now, if There Was Ever a Time
If ever there was a time when we needed faith and spiritual enlightenment, it is now. Those who are watching unto prayer and are searching the Scriptures daily with an earnest desire to know and do the will of God will not be led astray by any of the deceptions of Satan. They alone will discern the pretext which cunning men adopt to beguile and ensnare. So much time and attention are bestowed upon the world, upon dress and eating and drinking, that no time is left for prayer and the study of the Scriptures.
We want the truth on every point, and we must search for it as for hid treasures. Dishes of fables are presented to us on every hand, and men choose to believe error rather than truth, because the acceptance of the truth involves a cross. Self must be denied; self must be crucified. Therefore Satan presents to them an easier way by making void the law of God. When God lets man have his own way, it is the darkest hour of his life. For a willful, disobedient child to be left to have his own way, to follow the bent of his own mind and gather the dark clouds of God's judgment about him, is a terrible thing.
But Satan has his agents who are too proud to repent and who are constantly at work to tear down the cause of Jehovah and trample it under their feet. What a day of sorrow and despair when these meet their work with all its burden of results! Souls who might have been saved to Jesus Christ have been lost through their teachings and influence.
Christ died for them that they might have life. He opened before them the way whereby they might, through His merits, keep the law of God. Christ says, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Revelation 3:8). How hard men work to close that door; but they are not able. John's testimony is, “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament” (Revelation 11:19). Beneath the mercy seat, within the ark, were the two tables of stone, containing the law of Jehovah. God's faithful ones saw the light that shone forth to them from the law, to be given to the world. And now Satan's intense activity is to close that door of light; but Jesus says that no man can shut it. Men will turn from the light, denounce it, and despise it, but it still shines forth in clear, distinct rays to cheer and bless all who will see it.
God's children will have a fierce conflict with the adversary of souls, and it will become more exceedingly bitter as we approach the close of the conflict. But the Lord will help those who stand in defense of His truth.