By Mrs. E. G. White
The religion of Jesus Christ means something more than talk. The righteousness of Christ consists in right actions and good works from pure, unselfish motives. Outside righteousness, while the inward adorning is wanting, will be of no avail. “This, then, is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” If we have not the light and love of God, we are not his children. If we gather not with Christ, we scatter abroad. We all have an influence, and that influence is telling upon the destiny of others, for their present and future good, or for their eternal loss.
All have lessons to learn in the school of Christ, in order to perfect Christian characters, and have a oneness with Christ. Said Christ to his disciples, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He explained his meaning to them. He did not wish them to become children in understanding, but in malice. Little children do not manifest feelings of superiority and aristocracy. They are simple and natural in their appearance. Christ would have his followers cultivate unaffected manners, that their whole bearing might be humble and Christ-like. He has made it our duty to live for others’ good. He came from the royal courts of heaven to this world, to show how great an interest he had in man; and the infinite price paid for the redemption of man shows that man is of so great value that Christ could sacrifice his riches and honor in the royal courts, to lift him from the degradation of sin.
If the Majesty of heaven could do so much to evidence his love for man, what ought not men to be willing to do for each other, to help one another up out of the pit of darkness and suffering? Said Christ, “Love one another as I have loved you;” not with a greater love, for “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Our love is frequently selfish; for we confine it to prescribed limits. When we come into close union and fellowship with Jesus Christ, our love and sympathy, and our works of benevolence, will reach down deeper, and will widen and strengthen with exercise. The love and interest of Christ's followers must be as broad as the world; and those who live merely for “me and mine” will fail of heaven.
“Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” This is close language. Who can stand the test? The word of God is to us a daguerreotype of the mind of God and of Christ, also of man fallen, and man renewed after the image of Christ, possessing the divine mind. We may compare our thoughts, feelings, and intentions, with the picture of Christ. We have no relationship with him unless we are willing to work the works of Christ.
Christ came to do his Father's will. Are we following in his steps? All who have named the name of Christ should be constantly seeking for a more intimate acquaintance with him, that they may walk even as he walked, and do the works of Christ. We should appropriate the lessons of his life to our lives. “Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Hereby perceive we the love of God; because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Here is the work of self-denial which we must enter upon with cheerfulness, in imitation of the example of our Redeemer. The Christian's life must be one of conflict and of sacrifice. The path of duty should be followed; not the path of inclination and of choice.
We must let Christ into our hearts and homes if we would walk in the light. Home should be made all that the name implies. It should be a little heaven upon the earth, a place where the affections are cultivated instead of being studiously repressed. Our happiness depends upon this cultivation of love, sympathy, and polite courtesy to one another. The reason why there are so many hard-hearted men and women in our world, is because true affection has been regarded as weakness, and has been discouraged and repressed. The better part of the nature of those of this class was perverted and dwarfed in childhood; and unless rays of divine light can melt away their coldness and hard-hearted selfishness, the happiness of such is buried forever. If we would have tender hearts, such as Jesus had when he was upon the earth, and sanctified sympathy, such as the angels have for sinful mortals, we must cultivate the sympathies of childhood, which are simplicity itself. Then we shall be refined, elevated, and directed by heavenly principles.
A cultivated intellect is a great treasure; but without the softening influence of sympathy and sanctified love, it is not of the highest value. We want words and deeds of tender consideration for others. A thousand little attentions we can manifest in friendly words and pleasant looks, which will be reflected back upon us again. Thoughtless Christians manifest in their neglect of others that they are not in union with Christ. It is impossible to be in union with Christ and yet be forgetful of others’ rights, and be unkind to others. Many long intensely for friendly sympathy. God has given each of us an identity of our own, which cannot be submerged in another; but our individual characteristics will be much less prominent if we are indeed Christ's, and his will is ours. Our lives should be, as was our Saviour's, consecrated to the good and happiness of others. We should be self-forgetful, and ever looking out for opportunities, even in little things, to show gratitude for the favors we have received of others, and watching for opportunities to cheer and lighten, and relieve the sorrows and burdens of others, by acts of tender kindness and little deeds of love. These thoughtful courtesies in our families, that extend outside the family circle, help make up the sum of life's happiness; and the neglect of these little things makes up the sum of life's bitterness and sorrow.
It is the work we do, or do not do, that tells with tremendous power upon our lives and destinies. God requires us to improve every opportunity for usefulness that is offered us. Neglect in doing this is perilous to our spiritual growth. We have a great work to do. Let us not pass in idleness the precious hours that God has given us in which to perfect characters for heaven. We must not be inactive or slothful in this work; for we have not a moment to spend without a purpose or object. God will help us to overcome our wrongs, if we will pray, and believe on him. We shall be more than conquerors through Him who hath loved us. When this short life in this world is ended, and we see as we are seen, and know as we are known, how short in duration and how small will appear to us the things of this world in comparison with the glory of the better world. Christ would never have left the royal courts and taken humanity, and become sin for the race, had he not seen that man might, with his help, become infinitely happy, and attain durable riches, and a life that would run parallel with the life of God. He knew that without his help sinful man could not attain these things.
We should have the spirit of progress. We must guard continually against being fixed in our views, feelings, and actions. The work of God is onward. Reforms must be carried on, and we must take hold and help move on the car of reform. Energy, tempered with patience and ambition, balanced by wisdom, are now needed by every Christian. The work of saving souls is yet left to us, the disciples of Christ. We are not one of us excused. Many in their Christian life have become dwarfed and stunted, from inaction. We should employ our time diligently while in this world. How earnestly should we improve every opportunity of doing good, of bringing others to the knowledge of the truth. Our motto should ever be, “Onward, higher,”—surely, steadily onward to duty and to victory.
“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” Here is the process, the refining, purifying process, to be carried on by the Lord of hosts. The work is most trying to the soul, but it is only through this process that the rubbish and defiling impurities can be removed. Our trials are all necessary to bring us close to our Heavenly Father, in obedience to his will, that we may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. God has given each of us capabilities, talents to improve. We need a new and living experience in the divine life, in order to do the will of God. No amount of past experience will suffice for the present, or will strengthen us to overcome the difficulties in our path. We must have new grace and fresh strength daily in order to be victorious.
We are seldom, in all respects, placed in the same condition twice. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and many others, were all sorely tried, but not in the same way. Every one has his individual tests and trials in the drama of life, but the very same trial seldom comes twice. Each has his own experience, peculiar in its character and circumstances, to accomplish a certain work. God has a work, a purpose, in the life of each and all of us. Every act, however small, has its place in our life experience. We must have the continual light and experience that come from God. We all need them, and God is more than willing we should have them, if we will take them. He has not closed the windows of heaven to our prayers, but there are those who have felt satisfied to pass on without the divine help they so much need.
How little many of us realize the bearing of our daily acts upon the history of others. We may think that what we do and what we say are of little consequence, when the most important results for good or evil are the consequence of our words and actions. The words and actions looked upon as so unimportant and so small, are links in the long chain of human events. With our first parents, the desire for a single gratification of appetite opened the flood-gate of woe and sin to this world. Would that all might feel that every step they take may have a lasting and controlling influence upon their own lives and the characters of others. Oh, how much need, then, of communion with God! What need of divine grace to direct every step, and show us how to perfect Christian characters!
Christians will have new scenes and new trials to pass through, where their past experience cannot be a sufficient guide. We need to learn of the divine Teacher as much now as at any period of our lives, and even more. And the more experience we gain, the nearer we draw toward the pure light of heaven, the more shall we discern in ourselves that needs reforming. We may all do a good work in blessing others, if we will seek counsel of God, and follow on in obedience and faith. The path of the just is a progressive one, from strength to strength, from grace to grace, and from glory to glory. The divine illumination will increase more and more, corresponding with our onward movements, qualifying us to meet the responsibilities and emergencies before us.
Real godliness is diffusive and communicative. The psalmist says, “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart. I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation. I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” Wherever the love of God is, there is always a desire to express it. It is hard for us to submit to the crucifixion of self; but when the work is all submitted to God, to him who knows our weaknesses and our sinfulness, he takes the very best way to bring about the desired results. It was through constant conflict and simple faith that Enoch walked with God. We may all do the same. We may be thoroughly converted and transformed, and be indeed children of God, enjoying not only the knowledge of his will, but leading others, by our example, in the same path of humble obedience and consecration.