Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

February 26, 1885

Sanctification—The True and the False

By Mrs. E. G. White

The parable of the Pharisee and the publican was given for the benefit of those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” This spirit is the hidden rock upon which thousands are wrecking their hopes of Heaven; and the Savior here shows how offensive it is in the sight of God. Many are self-deceived, filled with spiritual pride and vanity. They do not see the enormity of sin, and go on parading their own virtues, those of poor, fallen humanity, before the Majesty of Heaven, whose eyes read the intents and purposes of the heart, and see disobedience and grave defects of character in these who extol self and claim superior goodness.

John defines sin to be the “transgression of the law.” Paul says: “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came [home to the conscience], sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”

Jesus came into the world because the human race were under sentence of death for their transgressions. His work was to bring them back to allegiance to the law of God, which Paul declares is “holy, and just, and good.” He kept his Father's commandments. Those who by repentance and obedience testify their appreciation of the salvation he came to bring, will show the work of the Spirit on their hearts. And the test is the life. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” “He that saith, I know Him,” says John,” and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Yet, notwithstanding these inspired testimonies as to the nature of sin, many claim to be sanctified, and incapable of sin, while they are constantly transgressing the law of God. Through these the enemy is doing a work of deception. They could never boast so loudly of their own goodness, had they not rejected God's great standard of right and wrong, and set up in its place one of their own devising. Judging themselves by their own imperfect standard, they dare to say, “I am without sin.”

The “holiness people” and the Salvation Army have a great deal of what Paul denominates “bodily exercise,” that “profiteth little.” They follow impressions and claim to be taught of the Spirit; and like the fanatics that troubled Luther, they place these impressions above the written word of God, while they trample upon the divine law because their hearts are not in harmony with its precepts. The Spirit and the word agree. The Spirit of Christ leads into all truth; but there is in these spirit-taught ones an enmity against the plainest statements of the Bible. The spirit that guides them leads to the believing of lies rather than the truth, showing that their teacher is the great master spirit that “worketh in the children of disobedience.”

Those who have had the light on the law of God, and yet have refused to accept that light, are not under the influence of the Spirit of God, whatever professions they may make or whatever wonderful works may be done through them. They are deceived by the sophistry of Satan. But they love his deceptions; for he exalts self, and leads them to trust in their own goodness; and this is more pleasing than to see themselves as they appear before a just and holy God.

Said Christ: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These may profess to be followers of Christ, but they have lost sight of their Leader. They may say, “Lord, Lord;” they may point to the sick who are healed through them, and to other marvelous works, and claim that they have more of the Spirit and power of God than is manifested by those who keep his law. But their works are done under the supervision of the enemy of righteousness, whose aim it is to deceive souls, and are designed to lead away from obedience, truth, and duty. In the near future there will be still more marked manifestations of this miracle-working power; for it is said of him, “and he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”

We are surprised to see so many ready to accept these great pretensions as the genuine work of the Spirit of God; but those who look to wonderful works merely, and are guided by impulse and impressions, will be deceived. My brother, my sister, will you weigh sin in your own balances, or in the balances of Heaven? Realizing its true nature, you will see your undone condition, and will lay hold of offered mercy. But those who feel that their offenses are very small, will never be able to comprehend the perfection of Christ, nor the great sacrifice he has made to rescue them from the thralldom and degradation of sin.

No one who claims holiness is really holy. Those who are registered as holy in the books of Heaven are not aware of the fact, and are the last ones to boast of their own goodness. None of the prophets and apostles ever professed holiness, not even Daniel, Paul, or John. The righteous never make such a claim. The more nearly they resemble Christ, the more they lament their unlikeness to him; for their consciences are sensitive, and they regard sin more as God regards it. They have exalted views of God and of the great plan of salvation; and their hearts, humbled under a sense of their own unworthiness, are alive to the honor of being accounted members of the royal family, sons and daughters of the King Eternal.

Those who love the law of God cannot harmonize in worship or in spirit with the determined transgressors of that law, who are filled with bitterness and malice when the plainly revealed truths of the Bible are taught. We have a detector which discriminates between the true and the false. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

The only safe position for any of us to take is to consider ourselves sinners, daily needing divine grace. Mercy through the atoning blood of Christ is our only plea. But let us shun Phariseeism. When it suits his purpose best, Satan can appear as an angel of light. But he presents before men, not the meekness and humility of the Christian religion, but their own good deeds and wonderful impressions. We can meet his specious temptations only with the word of God. Those who have the truth as it is revealed in that holy word, must stand fast on the platform of truth, relying on, “It is written.” The question for us each to settle is, “Am I exalting self, or am I exalting God and his grace, seeking salvation through Christ alone?”

God has great blessings to bestow upon his people. They may have the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” They “may be able to comprehend with all saints [not sinners, who are transgressors of God's law] what is the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height,” of the love of Christ, being “filled with all the fullness of God.” But it is only to those who are meek and lowly of heart that Christ will thus manifest himself. The ones whom God justifies are represented by the publican rather than by the self-righteous Pharisee. Humility is Heaven-born; and none can enter the pearly gates without it. All unconsciously, it shines in the church and in the world, and it will shine in the courts of Heaven.

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