Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

January 31, 1888

Individual Accountability

By Mrs. E. G. White

There are many professors of religion who claim to be servants of God, and yet are filled with spiritual pride and self-exaltation. They make high pretensions to holiness, and feel that they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” They are like the fig tree which put forth its boastful foliage, but when the Master came seeking fruit upon it, he found nothing but leaves. They are ever ready to advance their opinions, to display their attainments, and to interpret the meaning of the word of God. They claim to be led by the Spirit, but they turn away their ear from hearing the law of God. Says the psalmist, “Thy law is the truth,” and “all thy commandments are righteousness.” The Spirit of God will lead us in the path of the commandments; for the promise is, that “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” We should try the spirits by the test of God's word; for there are many spirits in the world. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Some of these false teachers occupy prominent positions in the churches, and they influence others to swerve from the path of humble obedience. God holds every one of us to an individual accountability, and calls upon us to serve him from principle, to choose him for ourselves. We should not hang our souls upon the words and actions of another; for Satan uses men as his agents, and clothes his ministers in garments of light. Not one of us can pardon the sins of any other. In the day of Judgment, when the question comes to you as to why you did not obey the commandments of God, you cannot make an acceptable excuse on the plea of another's disobedience. If your words and example have led others in the path of sin, you alone must bear the responsibility of your actions and influence. Because a man who professes to love God, disobeys the plain word of instruction, you will not be justified in neglect of duty. We should every one ask, How shall I keep the commandments of our God?

God will not lightly esteem the transgression of his law. “The wages of sin is death.” The consequences of disobedience prove that the nature of sin is at enmity with the well-being of God's government and the good of his creatures. God is a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of them that hate him: the results of transgression follow those who persist in wrong-doing; but he shows mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments. Those who repent and turn to his service find the favor of the Lord, and he forgiveth all their iniquities and healeth all their diseases.

In earthly affairs, the servant who seeks most carefully to fulfill the requirements of his office, and to carry out the will of his master, is most highly valued. A gentleman once wanted to employ a trusty coachman. Several men came in answer to his advertisement. He asked each one how near he could drive to the edge of a certain precipice without upsetting the carriage. One and another replied that he could go within a very perilous distance; but at last one answered that he would keep as far as possible from such a dangerous undertaking. He was employed to fill the position. Shall a man be more appreciative of a good servant than is our Heavenly Father? Our anxiety should not be to see how far we can depart from the commandments of the Lord and presume on the mercy of the Lawgiver, and still flatter our souls that we are within the bounds of God's forbearance; but our care should be to keep as far as possible from transgression. We should be determined to be on the side of Christ and our Heavenly Father, and run no risks by heady presumption.

What reason have men for thinking that God is not particular whether they obey him implicitly or take their own course? Adam and Eve lost Eden for one transgression of his command; and how dare we trifle with the law of the Most High, and frame deceitful apologies to our souls? We do it at a terrible peril. We must keep all the law, every jot and tittle; for he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all. Every ray of light must be received and cherished, or we shall become bodies of darkness. The Lord Jesus declares, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” We should magnify the precepts of heaven by our words and actions. He that honors the law shall be honored by it in the Judgment; but he that treats it with contempt shall be condemned by it before the Judge of all the earth.

Before the flood swept upon the world, God sent a message through Noah to warn the people of the coming deluge. There were those who did not believe the warning; but their unbelief did not stay the showers, nor prevent the waters of the great deep from submerging a scoffing world. And today, while the last message is being heralded to bring God's servants into harmony with every precept of his law, there will be scoffers and unbelievers; but every soul must stand in his own integrity. As Noah was faithful in warning the antediluvian world, so we must be faithful to the great trust that God has given us. Although there are scoffers and traducers on every side, we must not shrink from presenting the truth of heaven to this generation.

I have not come to cry peace; you can hear this voice wherever you go. There are those who will be glad to lull you to sleep in your carnal security; but I have a different work. My message is to alarm you, to bid you to reform your lives, and cease your rebellion against the God of the universe. Take the word of God, and see if you are in harmony with it. Is your character such as will bear the search of the heavenly investigation? Remember, Jesus says that not every one that says, “Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, “I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance must be exercised toward God because we have all sinned, broken his righteous law, violated the rule of his government, and brought discord into his harmony. We must exercise faith toward Jesus Christ because he had become our sacrifice and surety. He has died that we might have “remission of sins that are past,” and obtain grace and help so that we may keep the commandments of the Lord our God. Faith in Jesus does not make void the law, but establishes it, and will work the fruits of obedience in our lives. Faith in Christ means that you are to do whatsoever he commands; it means that you are to follow in his footsteps. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

We want to impress upon you the necessity of cleansing yourselves from every stain of sin. The church that Christ presents before the throne of his glory is without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Do you want to be among those who have washed their robes of character in the blood of the Lamb? then, “cease to do evil; learn to do well;” walk in the commandments and ordinances of your God blameless. You are not to ask whether it suits your convenience to keep the truth of Heaven. You are to take up your cross and follow Jesus, cost what it may. You will find that his “yoke is easy, and his burden is light.” When you broke his law and incurred the penalty of death, God did not spare his only begotten Son, that you might be brought from the path of transgression into the way of life and holiness; and will you neglect so great salvation, and refuse to comply with the conditions of eternal life?

One of God's commandments reads: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” You are robbing God when you refuse to give that day to his service, abstaining from your own work. He has sanctified the seventh day, but you ignore its holiness, and thus cast contempt upon the Law-giver. Still the forbearance of God is exercised toward you. Make up your mind that from henceforth your feet shall go in the path of obedience. The darkness that binds you, like a thick cloud, will part asunder, and heavenly light will shine upon all those who will have the truth at any cost.

The Lord understands all about your trials; and however impossible it may seem to live for God, you will find that the way will appear. When your faith has been tested, as the Lord opened the Red Sea, so the waters will divide, and his providence will make a path for your feet. It is safe to serve God. It may not be to your worldly advantage to keep God's ways; but the transgressor will be at an eternal loss. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” We must walk carefully and humbly before the Lord in these precious hours of probation. We must draw close to Jesus till his light is shed upon us. It is the desire of our Saviour that we should be the light of the world, reflecting every ray that shines upon us. What straight paths should we make for our feet, so that the lame may not be turned out of the way! This is an age of light. The Lord of heaven is sending the rays of light into the homes of the world. A special light is shining upon the commandments of God. The door of the most holy place of the heavenly Sanctuary stands ajar, and within, as in the most holy place of the ancient sanctuary, is the ark of the testimony. The law of the Most High is beneath the mercy-seat. The light of this law is shining upon the world, penetrating the moral darkness that has covered the people.

John beheld an angel flying through the midst of heaven, warning men of the final judgments of God. He proclaimed the position of those who heeded his warning, and who would escape the seven last plagues. He announced them as God's people, and called attention to their peculiar character: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” The time for the fulfillment of this prophecy has come. We hear the sound of this very message calling the attention of men and women to the broken law of God, and demanding repentance and reform.

The children of light are to be as a city set upon a hill that cannot be hid. The world will be condemned by the testimony of those who follow the light as it shines upon their pathway. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” The servants of Jesus are to bear the precious truth to the world, and to present the claims of God to every soul, not pandering to custom, or lessening the responsibility of any soul, but declaring the whole counsel of God.

When the book of the law was found in the house of the Lord, in the time of ancient Israel, it was read before Josiah, the king. And he rent his garments, and bade the men in holy office to inquire of the Lord for him, and for his people; for they had departed from the statutes of the Lord. He called together all the men of Israel, and the words of the book were read in the hearing of the congregation. The sin of the rulers and the people was pointed out, and the king stood up before them, and confessed his transgression. He manifested his repentance, and made a covenant to keep the statutes of the Lord with his whole heart. Josiah did not rest until the people did all that they could to return from their backsliding, and serve the living God.

Is not this our work today? Our fathers have transgressed, and we have followed in their footsteps; but God has opened the book of the law, and backslidden Israel hear the commandments of the Lord. Their transgression stands revealed, and the wrath of God will be upon every soul that does not repent and reform as the light shines upon his pathway.

When Josiah heard the words of warning and condemnation because Israel had trampled upon the precepts of Heaven, he humbled himself. He wept before the Lord. He made a thorough work of repentance and reformation, and God accepted his efforts. The whole congregation of Israel entered into a solemn covenant to keep the commandments of Jehovah. This is our work today. We must repent of the past evil of our doings, and seek God with all our hearts. We must believe that God means just what he says, and make no compromise with evil in any way. We should greatly humble ourselves before God, and consider any loss preferable to the loss of his favor.

Christ left all to save man from the consequence and penalty of the transgression of the law. The way from the manger to Calvary was marked with blood. The Son of God did not deviate from the path of unwavering obedience, even to the death of the cross. He endured all the woe of man's sin; and shall we turn away from the commandments of the Lord because it involves the loss of friends, position, or worldly gain? Will you not take away your feet from trampling upon the Sabbath of Jehovah? Will you continue to rob God of his holy time? You cannot afford to do this work of making void the law of God. It is at an eternal loss that you rebel against the truth of Heaven. I beseech you, in the name of Christ, that you confess your sins, and reform your ways, that your name may not be blotted out from the book of life, but may be confessed before the Father and before his angels. Jesus is pleading his blood before the Father, and now while mercy lingers and probation is prolonged, seek the approbation of Heaven. Delay not to keep the commandments of the Lord. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

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