Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

February 22, 1898

Denouncing the Pharisees

Mrs. E. G. White

For the last time, Christ is in the temple. He has given warnings to the Pharisees and scribes, and uttered denunciations against them, while at their tables, having been invited there that they might find some pretext for causing him to be put to death. Now, addressing them and his disciples, he says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” The Jewish teachers stood up to read the Scriptures, but were seated when they expounded them. As persons exalted, they supposed themselves capable of acting in the place of Moses as interpreters of the law given by God.

“All therefore,” continued Christ, “whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say [when teaching the law from the Scriptures], and do not.” They did not bring their own works into accordance with the written Word. They enjoined duties upon others, but their own teaching they did not practise. “For they bind heavy burdens [of exactions and requirements] and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”

The phylacteries were strips of parchment, with scriptures written upon them, which were worn upon the wrists, the forehead, and the arms. But all this outward appearance of piety was, through their spiritual pride, only violating both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Whatever good thing they do, said Christ, whatever zeal they show, is not that they may obey and honor God, but to gain approval and respect for themselves, that others may think them pious and holy. The oft-repeated “rabbi” was very acceptable to the ear, but Jesus warned his disciples against this. He said to them: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”

By these words Christ meant that no man is to place his spiritual interest under another, as a child is guided and directed by his earthly father. This spirit, whenever encouraged, has led to a desire for ecclesiastical superiority, and has always resulted in the injury of those who have been trusted, and addressed as “father.” It confuses the sense of the sacredness of the prerogatives of God.

Of these sins the scribes and Pharisees were guilty; and it was for this that Christ denounced them, saying, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.” And to the lawyers he said: “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”

Knowledge is the only key that will give entrance into heaven. The inspired John declares, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” A right knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent is eternal life to all who believe.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.... Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”

The most terribly momentous period of the Jewish nation was at the time when Jesus was in the midst of them. Yet it was this generation, that had been honored and favored above all people on the earth, that was guilty of rejecting all the importunity of the yearning love of Christ.

Anguish, deep and unfathomable, pressed upon the soul of Christ; and in the intense pain of unrequited love, he exclaimed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee,” not content to receive with indifference and spurning the message sent by God's servants unto you, your hatred against God you have vented upon his messengers. You will not suffer them to live. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” The same work that you do to my messengers whom I send will be reflected back upon you. Refusing to be gathered, you will realize what it means to be scattered, to be the despised of all nations.

In the lamentation of Christ, the very heart of God was pouring itself forth in his representative. This was the separation struggle, the mysterious farewell of the long-suffering love of the Deity; it was the expression of abused, rejected love. Christ's representation is a most striking one. He would have gathered his chosen people together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing. He would have given them protection, they would not have been left defenseless. When the hen sees that her brood is in danger, she calls them under her sheltering wings. She will resist any enemy that may approach. She will die rather than that those who have fled for protection under her sheltering wings should suffer. This will Christ do for those who fly to him for refuge. He will gather his children together under his mediatorial wings, and there they will be safe.

But the chosen nation of God must receive its eternal retribution for its refusal of the Son of God. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,” Christ said. Christ himself was the Lord of the temple. When he should leave it, its glory would depart,—that glory once visible over the mercy-seat in the holy of holies, where the high priest entered only once a year, on the great day of atonement, with the blood of the slain victim,—typical of the blood of the Son of God,—and sprinkled it upon the altar.

The Jewish nation would none of the counsels of Christ; they despised all his reproofs. They would not come to him, that they might have life. Therefore he declared to them, Your destruction lies at your own door; you yourselves are responsible. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

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