Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

April 12, 1892

Sanctification Through the Truth

By Mrs. E. G. White

It is through the truth, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that we are to be sanctified,—transformed into the likeness of Christ. And in order for this change to be wrought in us, there must be an unconditional, whole-hearted acceptance of the truth, an unreserved surrender of the soul to its transforming power.

Our characters are by nature warped and perverted. Through the lack of proper development they are wanting in symmetry. With some excellent qualities are united objectionable traits, and through long indulgence wrong tendencies become second nature, and many persons cling tenaciously to their peculiarities. Even after they profess to accept the truth, to yield themselves to Christ, the same old habits are indulged, the same self-esteem is manifested, the same false notions entertained. Although such ones claim to be converted, it is evident that they have not yielded themselves to the transforming power of the truth.

These things are not only harming their own souls, but are misleading others, who look to them as representatives of the truths which they profess to believe. Here we may see why some of our ministers as well as laymen have not greater power. They have not made an entire surrender to God. They do not realize the sinfulness of clinging to their own ways, following their own ideas, which are crude and narrow, and without symmetry. They hold tenaciously to the theory of the truth, and try to present it to others, but it is so beclouded by their own peculiarities that its brightness is obscured; it appears unattractive, and too often is refused.

Those who accept unpopular truth must receive it in the face of many opposing influences. Tradition, custom, and prejudice barricade their souls against the light. The advocates of truth must give evidence in their own character of its reforming, transforming power, or their labors will have little effect.

Again: those who do accept the truth naturally expect that the one who presents it to them is right in his ideas of general principles and of what constitutes Christian character. When associated with him, they incline to do as he does. If his practices are wrong, they almost imperceptibly become partakers of the evil. His defects are reproduced in their religious experience. Often, through their love and reverence for him, some objectionable feature of his character is even copied by them as a virtue. If the one who is thus misrepresenting Christ could know what harm has been wrought by the faults of character which he has excused and cherished, he would be filled with horror.

All who receive the truth are to stand as its representatives and advocates; the same responsibility rests in a degree upon all members of the church, whether ministers or laymen. Every soul who receives the truth should make the fullest possible surrender of himself to God,—a surrender represented as falling upon the Rock and being broken. Our old habits, our hereditary and cultivated traits of character, must all be yielded to the transforming power of Christ if we would become vessels unto honor, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work.

As the Comforter shall come, and reprove you of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, be careful lest you resist the Spirit of God, and thus be left in darkness, not knowing at what you stumble. Be willing to discern what it shall reveal to you. Yield up your self-will, the long idolized habits peculiar to yourself, that you may receive the principles of truth. Thus you become a branch of the True Vine, and you will not bear wild grapes or thorn-berries, but rich clusters of precious fruit, just like that which grows upon the parent stock.

Said Christ, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Why prune the branch that is already bearing fruit? Because its tendrils are fastening upon earthly rubbish, too much of its strength has gone to the growth of the stem and leaves, and too little to the production of fruit. The vine must be cut away, the tendrils that bind it earthward must be severed. It must be rightly directed. Then it will produce more fruit, and of more precious quality.

John says, “The light”—Christ—“shineth in darkness,” that is, in the world, “and the darkness comprehended it not.... But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The reason why the unbelieving world are not saved is that they do not choose to be enlightened. The old nature, born of blood and the will of the flesh, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The old ways, the hereditary tendencies, the former habits, must be given up; for grace is not inherited. The new birth consists in having new motives, new tastes, new tendencies. Those who are begotten unto a new life by the Holy Spirit, have become partakers of the divine nature, and in all their habits and practices, they will give evidence of their relationship to Christ. When men who claim to be Christians retain all their natural defects of character and disposition, in what does their position differ from that of the worldling? They do not appreciate the truth as a sanctifier, a refiner. They have not been born again.

The command, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” would never have been given, if every provision had not been made whereby we may become as perfect in our sphere as God is in his. We are to be ever advancing from light to a greater light, holding fast what we have already received, and praying for more. Thus we shall never be left in darkness.

Let none feel that their way needs no changing. Those who decide thus are not fitted to engage in the work of God, for they will not feel the necessity of pressing constantly toward a higher standard, making continual improvement. None can walk safely unless they are distrustful of self, and are constantly looking to the word of God, studying it with willing heart to see their own errors, and to learn the will of Christ, and praying that it may be done in and by and through them. They show that their confidence is not in themselves, but in Christ. They hold the truth as a sacred treasure, able to sanctify and refine, and they are constantly seeking to bring their words and ways into harmony with its principles. They fear and tremble lest something savoring of self shall be idolized, and thus their defects be reproduced in others who confide in them. They are always seeking to subdue self, to put away everything that savors of it, and to supply the place with the meekness and lowliness of Christ. They are looking unto Jesus, growing up into him, gathering from him light and grace, that they may diffuse the same to others.

The truth, the grace of Christ, received into the soul never rests content with its own existence. It is always gathering, diffusing, and increasing by diffusing. It is an active, working principle. As long as there are sinners to be saved, grace and love and truth are seeking for them. Jesus said: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” We are to be laborers together with him; but our work is to lift up Christ. He alone can draw men unto him.

Never think that even when you do your best, you are, of yourself, capable of winning souls to Christ. You must cultivate the habit of discerning a power beyond that which can be seen with human vision,—a power that is constantly at work upon the hearts of men. When you approach the stranger, when you stand face to face with the impenitent, the afflicted, the soul-needy, the Lord is by your side if you have indeed given yourself to him. He makes the impression on the heart. But you may be the instrument for his gracious work. You cannot reach hearts with a mere form of words, a parrot-like repetition of set phrases. What you say must be the expression of a personal experience: If you cheer hearts with words of courage and hope, it will be because the grace and love of God are to you a living reality. It is God's impress that these souls are to receive, not your own. But if the worker has not himself been refined, transformed, he cannot present the truth with a freshness, a force, a power, that awakens responsive feelings in those who hear the word of life.

It is true that some will be found who will accept the truth on its own merits, notwithstanding the defects of the one who presents it to them. Though himself unsanctified in heart, he may bring forward conclusive evidence in favor of the truth; and those upon whose hearts the Spirit of God has been moving, leading them to hunger and thirst for truth, will by the same Spirit be led to accept the truth when it is presented. It was not the man who made the impression, but the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, that Christ promised to send, to lead his disciples into all truth. But how much more might be accomplished in winning souls, if all who present the truth were instruments for the working of the Spirit of God.

Those to whom the message of truth is spoken, seldom ask, “Is it true?” But, “Who are the men that present these doctrines?” They judge of the truth by the character of its advocates. Multitudes estimate it by the numbers who accept it; and the question is often asked, as of old, “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed?” We cannot boast of large numbers, or of the patronage of the wealthy, or the great in the world's estimation. Here is not the source of our strength. God declared to Israel, through Moses, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.” The advocates of truth must hide in Jesus; he is their greatness, their power and efficiency. They must love souls as he loved them, be obedient as he was, be courteous, full of sympathy. They should war with all their power against the least defect of character in themselves. They must represent Jesus. In every act let him appear.

Both in the popular churches and in the world there is a misconception of our faith. Many false reports are circulated, many charges are brought against those who keep the commandments of God, which the world and the church are trampling under their feet. But if the teacher of truth is in close connection with God, the Lord himself will work upon minds, and impress them with the force of truth. The very best work that we can do is to come as close to the people as possible, and reveal in life and character the work wrought upon our own souls by the Spirit of God.

The teacher of truth will have a far-reaching influence, an influence that will be a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. The precepts he advocates, he is under the most sacred obligation to obey. All the principles of truth must be brought into his life and character. Then precept and practice will harmonize.

“These things have I written unto you,” said Jesus, “that in me ye might have peace”—peace in Christ, peace through belief of the truth. The Comforter is called the Spirit of truth because there is comfort and hope and peace in the truth. Falsehood cannot give genuine peace; this can be received only through the truth. We need heavenly culture and refinement. Under all circumstances we should manifest Christian sympathy and politeness. Daily we should send our supplications to heaven for divine grace and power. We must put away selfishness, and seek the heavenly adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, in the sight of God of great price.

Jesus prayed that his followers might be one; but we are not to sacrifice the truth in order to secure this union, for we are to be sanctified through the truth. Here is the foundation of all true peace. Human wisdom would change all this, pronouncing this basis too narrow. Men would try to effect unity through concession to popular opinion, through compromise with the world, a sacrifice of vital godliness. But truth is God's basis for the unity of his people.

Sanctification, unity, peace,—all are to be ours through the truth. The belief of the truth does not make men gloomy and uncomfortable. If you have peace in Christ, his precious blood is speaking pardon and hope to your soul. Yea, more, you have joy in the Holy Spirit, through accepting the precious promises.

Jesus says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.” “Therefore the world shall not overcome you if you believe in me. It is a world that I have conquered. Because I have overcome, if you believe in me, you shall overcome, and have eternal life.”

All that Jesus has promised, he will fulfill; and it is greatly dishonoring to him for us to doubt him. All his words are spirit and life. Accepted and obeyed, they will give peace and happiness and assurance forever. “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Christ declares that he has given us peace; it belongs to us. And he has spoken these things, that in him we may have that which through infinite sacrifice he has purchased for us,—what he holds as ours. This peace we need not seek in the world, for the world has it not to bestow. It is in Christ. He will give it, in spite of the world, notwithstanding its threats and decrees, its alluring, deceiving promises.

In the presentation of truth the great lessons essential to success are to be learned, not from human authors, but from Christ. The teachings of men may be a help to the worker, but not till he has learned in the school of Christ the lesson, “Without me ye can do nothing.” It is while you are humbling yourself in the sight of God that he is lifting you up. By beholding him, you will become changed into his likeness, and thus you will manifest the Christ-like graces that prove you to be one with him.

Of the Comforter it is written, “He will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” Through the Holy Spirit, Christ will open more clearly to those who believe on him that which he has inspired holy men to write concerning the truth. When the Saviour prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth,” he added, “Thy word is truth.” The teachers of the truth need to search the word with great diligence. As represented in the Saviour's parable, they are to dig for the truth as for hid treasure, that the precious jewels may be discovered and revealed to others. But the pearls of truth found in the Scriptures can be discerned only by the eye of faith. “The pure in heart shall see God.” They can hear his voice, and discern his love.

Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I am that ladder which Jacob saw, the base of it resting firmly upon the earth, while the topmost round reaches to the throne of God. I am the light that shines upon every soul who climbs up by me. I am the life, inspiring with faith and love as you move onward and upward.”

All truth is found in Christ. “Ye are complete in him.” Satan is continually seeking to turn minds away from Christ. Through his devices, man has been exalted, and has received confidence and honor that belong only to God. The people have looked to men for wisdom, instead of looking to God. And in order to save man from ruin, God has been compelled to let him see his own weakness by withdrawing, in a great measure, the Holy Spirit from him.

While Christ is everything to us, while our salvation depends upon him, and it is only by beholding him that we can hope to be transformed, why is it that so little is said about him, even by those who profess to preach his word?

“Show us the Father,” said Philip, “and it sufficeth us.” Jesus answered, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” I am “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” You can know God by knowing me. It is the preaching of Christ and him crucified that melts and subdues the soul. Only by presenting the truth as it is in Jesus will our work be effectual in reaching the hearts of men.

Lift up Jesus, you that teach the people. Lift him up in exhortations, in sermons, in songs, in prayer. Let all your efforts be directed to pointing souls, confused, bewildered, and lost, to “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Bid them look and live.

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