Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

May 30, 1882

Growth in Grace

By Mrs. E. G. White

We can never see our Lord in peace, unless our souls are spotless. We must bear the perfect image of Christ. Every thought must be brought into subjection to the will of Christ. As expressed by the great apostle, we must “come into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” We shall never attain to this condition without earnest effort. We must strive daily against outward evil and inward sin, if we would reach the perfection of Christian character.

Those who engage in this work will see so much to correct in themselves, and will devote so much time to prayer and to comparing their characters with God's great standard, the divine law, that they will have no time to comment and gossip over the faults or dissect the characters of others. A sense of our own imperfections should lead us to humility and earnest solicitude lest we fail of everlasting life. The words of inspiration should come home to every soul: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” If the professed people of God would divest themselves of their self-complacency and their false ideas of what constitutes a Christian, many who now think they are in the path to Heaven would find themselves in the way of perdition. Many a proud-hearted professor would tremble like an aspen leaf in the tempest, could his eyes be opened to see what spiritual life really is. Would that those now reposing in false security could be aroused to see the contradiction between their profession of faith and their every-day demeanor.

To be living Christians, we must have a vital connection with Christ. The true believer can say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” This intimate communion with our Saviour will take away the desire for earthly and sensual gratifications. All our powers of body, soul, and spirit should be devoted to God. When the affections are sanctified, our obligations to God are made primary, everything else secondary. To have a steady and ever-growing love for God, and a clear perception of his character and attributes, we must keep the eye of faith fixed constantly on him. Christ is the life of the soul. We must be in him and he in us, else we are sapless branches.

God must be ever in our thoughts. We must hold converse with him while we walk by the way, and while our hands are engaged in labor. In all the purposes and pursuits of life, we must inquire, What will the Lord have me to do? How shall I please Him who has given his life a ransom for me? Thus may we walk with God, as did Enoch of old; and ours may be the testimony which he received, that he pleased God.

To comprehend and enjoy God, is the highest exercise of the powers of man. This may be attained only when our affections are sanctified and ennobled by the grace of Christ: “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” In Christ was “God manifested in the flesh, reconciling the world unto himself.” In Christ was the brightness of his Father's glory, the express image of his person. Said our Saviour, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” In Christ is the life of the soul. In the outgoings of our hearts to him, in our earnest, affectionate yearnings for his excellence, in our eager searching into his glory, we find life. In communion with him we eat the bread of life.

When we allow objects of minor importance to absorb our attention, to the forgetfulness of Christ, turning away from him to accept other companionship, we set our feet in a path which leads away from God and from Heaven. Christ must be the central object of our affections, and then we shall live in him, then we shall have his spirit, and follow his example.

If we would walk in the light, we must follow Jesus, the light of life. What constitutes the brightness of Heaven? In what will consist the happiness of the redeemed? Christ is all in all. They will gaze with rapture unutterable upon the Lamb of God. They will pour out their songs of grateful praise and adoration to Him whom they loved and worshiped here. That song they learned and began to sing on earth. They learned to put their trust in Jesus while they were forming characters for Heaven. Their hearts were attuned to his will here. Their joy in Christ will be proportioned to the love and trust which they learned to repose in him here.

A living Christian will cultivate gratitude of heart. He will seriously, earnestly recount the blessings of his life and the precious results of all his afflictions. He will recall every occasion upon which the hand of Christ has lifted up a standard for him against the enemy. The great love of Jesus, the infinite sacrifice made for man's redemption, will be an unfailing theme for grateful, humble praise.

Those who are learning at the feet of Jesus will surely exemplify by their deportment and conversation the character of Christ. Their spiritual life is sustained in the closet, by secret communion with God. Their experience is marked less with bustle and excitement, than with a subdued and reverent joy. Their love for Christ is a quiet, peaceful, yet all-controlling power. The light and love of an indwelling Saviour are revealed in every word and every act. Outward troubles cannot reach that life which we live by faith on the Son of God. Its richest, purest joys are felt when Christ is the theme of thought and conversation.

The life of the soul cannot be sustained, except by the right exercise of the affections Heavenward, Christward, Godward. Repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins are essential, but not all that is required. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” “This is eternal life, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ”—to know him by faith, to receive him into the affections. To accept Christ as our Saviour, we must see him in his work of atonement, and believe that he is able and willing to do what he has promised. The Christian's life is now but just begun. He must, as exhorted by the apostle, “go on unto perfection.” He must bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. If we believe in Jesus, we will love to think of him, love to talk of him, love to pray to him. He is supreme in our affections. We love that which Christ loves, and hate that which Christ hates.

I have deep anguish of soul as I think that many who have great light and great knowledge of Bible truths, and some even who have taken the responsibility of presenting these truths to others, have yet so little of the love of Jesus in their own hearts. Like the religious teachers whom Christ reproved, they say and do not. They are fruitless branches. A mere profession of godliness is of but little account. A nominal, theoretical belief of the truth is of but little value. The devils also believe, and tremble. We must have that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. Our experience in spiritual things must deepen and widen. We need more strength daily, and we may obtain it by constant communion with God.

The Christian life is never at a standstill. It is, it must be, progressive. Our love for Christ should become stronger and stronger. If the heart is devoted to Jesus, its love for earthly friends and worldly treasure becomes subordinate rather than supreme. As we by faith drink from the fountain of life, so will our joy and peace increase. Oh that we were more trustful, and firm, and true, that Christ might not be ashamed to call us brethren!

My brother, my sister, is your soul in the love of God? Many of you have a twilight perception of Christ's excellence, and your soul thrills with joy. You long for a fuller, deeper sense of the Saviour's love. You long to entwine your affections about him more closely. You are unsatisfied. But do not despair. Give to Jesus the heart's best and holiest affections. Treasure every ray of light. Cherish every desire of the soul after God. Give yourselves the culture of spiritual thoughts and holy communings. Make haste to obtain a fitness for the mansions which Christ has gone to prepare for all that love him. The day is far spent, the night is at hand. Make haste to ripen for Heaven.

It is a great, a solemn work to obtain a moral fitness for the society of the pure and the blest. God's word presents the standard to which we are to conform our life and character. We may choose to follow some other standard, which is more in harmony with our own hearts, but we can never thus gain the divine approval. Only by conforming to the word of God, can we hope to come to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” But we must do this, or we shall never enter Heaven. Without purity and holiness of heart, we cannot win the crown of immortal glory.

Many who ought to be teachers, have hardly learned the alphabet of the Christian life. They need constantly that one teach them. They do not grow in holiness, in faith, in hope, in joy, in gratitude. Christ opened the way, at an infinite cost, that we might live a Christian life. He has told us just what that life must be,—consistent, uniform, Christlike,—that at its close we may say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith.” It was by faith in Christ that the great apostle maintained the consistency and beauty of his course. He suffered opposition, insult, persecution, imprisonment, with a firmness and meekness which none but Christ could impart. Our obligations are no less than were his. Our privileges are great, our opportunities abundant. Great light is shining upon us, but it will become darkness to those who refuse to follow its guidance.

Measuring ourselves by the Bible standard will give us no exalted view of our own goodness or greatness. The truths of the gospel and the teachings of the Holy Spirit, will produce in us brokenness of heart, hatred of sin, and an understanding of self. But wishing for holiness of heart and purity of life will not bring us into possession of these blessings. Mourning over religious delinquencies will never make one acquisition. There are thousands of sluggish hypocritical tears, of sighs and groans, that never bring to the soul one cheering beam of light, one manifestation of Christ's approval.

It will cost us something to obtain a Christian experience, and to develop a true and noble character. It requires sacrifice and earnest effort, and this is why so little advancement is made by professing Christians. They do not go to the great source of wisdom, because they shrink from the toil, the cost, the inconvenience. They wish to have righteousness put upon them as a garment. But the white-robed throng of the redeemed ones, are those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Christ has presented the matter as it is: “Agonize to enter in at the strait gate; for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”

We have each a daily work to do, to correct our natural defects of character, and to cultivate the Christian graces. Only by the accomplishment of this work, can we hope to share in the reward of the righteous. Said Christ, “To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

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