Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

August 6, 1896

Child Life of Jesus—No. 2

By Mrs. E. G. White

In the child life of Jesus the condition of society began to open to his mind, as he saw the great contrast between the practices of men and the teachings of the Old Testament Scriptures. When reproved for his simple habits and practices, he presented the word of God as a justification of his actions; but his brethren charged him with supposing himself superior to them, and reproved him for setting himself up above their teachers, and the priests and rulers of the people. He knew that if he obeyed the word of God, it would be impossible to find rest and peace in the home circle among his brethren. He had a deep and growing knowledge concerning the erroneous ideas, customs, and traditions which were increasing among men, and bringing about a decrease of piety, simplicity, and truth. Men were departing from the Scriptures and giving heed to the doctrines of men. He saw the people following superstitious rites which possessed no virtue. He looked upon men engaging in a service that was a mere round of ceremony, in which, by human tradition, the sacred truth was hidden from the worshiper. He knew that in their faithless services they could find neither peace, rest, nor satisfaction. They could not know the freedom of spirit that would come to them by serving God in truth.

Jesus was a nonconformist, and did not always remain a silent spectator to men's erroneous practices. His clear penetration in distinguishing between the false and the true, greatly annoyed his brethren, who held to the traditions of men. They insisted that the traditions of the rabbis must be heeded, as tho they were the requirements of God. He taught by precept and example that religious service should be divested of all human inventions; but his non-performance of the things which the rabbis prescribed, and which were not according to divine directions, was a source of annoyance to his brethren, to the Pharisees, and the priests.

When they sought to bring Jesus to accept the minute human inventions, maxims, and traditions, that they claimed came from the ancient rabbis, he asked them for their authority in Holy Writ. He told them that he would heed every word that proceeded from the mouth of God; but that he would not proceed to obey the inventions of men. He pointed out to them the fact that it was evident that through their traditions and inventions, they were exalting the word of men above the word of God. The rabbis knew that they had no authority in Holy Scripture for demanding his obedience to their traditions; they realized that in spiritual understanding and practice he was far in advance of them; and yet they were angry because he would not implicitly obey their dictates. Failing to convince him that human tradition was to be considered sacred, they sought Joseph and Mary, and set before them his course of non-compliance to their traditions and customs.

Jesus knew what it was to have his family divided against him on account of his religious faith. He loved peace, he craved the love and confidence of the members of the family, but he knew what it was to have their affections alienated from him. Because he pursued a straightforward course, and would not conform to the practices of men, but was true to the requirements of Jehovah, he suffered rebuke and censure. His brethren reproved him for standing aloof from the ceremonies that were taught by the rabbis; for they regarded the traditions of men more highly than the word of God. Jesus made the Scriptures, which were read in the synagogues, his constant study, and when the scribes and Pharisees sought to enforce upon him their rigid exactions, they found him thoroughly furnished with the word of God. They could prevail nothing against him. He seemed to know the Scriptures from beginning to end, and presented them in their true import. They were ashamed to be worsted by a child, who they claimed ought to obey every injunction, and not show disrespect to their traditions and maxims. They claimed that it was their business to explain the Scriptures, and that it was his place to accept their interpretation. They were indignant that this child should stand in opposition to their word when it was their calling to study and explain the Scriptures.

The scribes, rabbis, and Pharisees could not force Jesus to neglect the word of God, and follow the traditions of men; but they influenced his brethren to make his life a bitter one. His brethren threatened him, and sought to intimidate him, and to compel him to take a wrong course; but he passed on, making the Scriptures his guide. From the time his parents found him in the temple asking and answering the questions among the doctors, his course of action was a mystery to them. He would not enter into controversy, yet his example was a constant lesson. He seemed as one who was set apart. Whenever it was possible he went out alone to contemplate the scenes of nature, and to commune with the God of nature. Whenever it was his privilege, he turned aside from the scene of his labor and responsibility to go into the field, to wander by the lakeside, to meditate in the green valleys, to hold communion with God on the mountain side or amid the trees of the forest. He would return to his home to take up again the humble duties, and to give an example of patient labor.

Jesus loved the society of children, and he exerted a great influence over them. The poor and the needy were objects of his special attention. In every gentle, tender, and submissive way, he sought to please those with whom he came in contact. But tho so gentle and submissive, nothing could induce him to practice ceremonies, to follow maxims and customs, that led away from the word of God. Some admired his perfection of character and often sought his company. But those who accepted the sayings of men as the word of God, when they saw his non-conformity to the traditions of men, turned away from him, and avoided his presence.

Throughout his childhood and youth, he manifested the perfection of character that marked his after life. He grew in wisdom and knowledge. As he witnessed the sacrificial offerings, the Holy Spirit taught him that his life was to be sacrificed for the life of the world. He grew up as a tender plant, not in the large and noisy city, that is full of confusion and strife, but in the retired valleys among the hills. He was guarded from his earliest years by heavenly angels, yet his life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. Satanic agencies combined with human instrumentalities to make his life one of temptation and trial. Through supernatural agencies, his words, which were life and salvation to all who received and practiced them, were perverted and misinterpreted.

Because his life was free from all taint of sin, and condemned all impurity, he was opposed both at home and abroad. His hours of happiness were found when communing with nature and with nature's God. Because he conformed to a “Thus saith the Lord” with such fidelity, he presented a marked contrast to those who were around him, and many felt rebuked by his stainless life, and avoided his presence. But there were some who sought his society, feeling at peace in his presence, because he never contended for his rights. Tho he loved his brethren, yet they hated him, and manifested the most decided unbelief and contempt. In his home life, where all should have been at peace, he was constantly confronted by envy and jealousy. His labors were made unnecessarily severe because he was willing and uncomplaining. He did not fail nor become discouraged. He lived above these difficulties, as if in the light of God's countenance. He did not retaliate when he was roughly used, but bore insult patiently, and in his human nature became an example for all children and youth. He endured the heat and the cold, the sun and the rain, of his native hills and valleys.

The life of Christ was marked with respect, devotion, and love for his mother. She often remonstrated with him, and sought to have him concede to the wishes of his brethren. His brethren could not persuade him to change his habits of life in contemplating the works of God, in manifesting sympathy and tenderness toward the poor, the suffering, and the unfortunate, and in seeking to alleviate the sufferings of both men and dumb animals. When the priests and rulers came to Mary to persuade her to force Jesus to give allegiance to their ceremonies and traditions, she felt much troubled. But peace and confidence came to her troubled heart as her Son presented the clear statements of the Scriptures in upholding his practices. At times she wavered between Jesus and his brethren, who did not believe that he was the Sent of God. But evidence was powerful and abundant that his was a divine character. She saw him sacrificing himself for the good of others. She saw him meeting the people where they were. She saw him constantly growing in grace and knowledge, and in favor with God and man. His life was as leaven working amid the elements of society. Harmless and undefiled, he walked amid the careless, the thoughtless, the rude, the uncourteous; amid the unjust publicans, the reckless prodigals, the unrighteous Samaritans, the heathen soldiers, the rough peasants, and the mixed multitudes. All were objects of his compassion. He addressed himself to them, not to upbraid and discourage, not to utter words unwisely, but to present lessons from his childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, that would be a savor of life unto life to those who should believe.

He treated every human being as possessed of value. He taught men to look upon themselves as endowed with precious talents, that, if rightly employed, would elevate and ennoble them, and secure for them eternal riches. By his example and character, he taught that every moment of life was fraught with eternal results. From childhood to youth, from youth to manhood, his life was the outworking of the standard of righteousness. He weeded life from all vanities, and taught that it was to be cherished as a treasure, and to be employed for holy purposes. He taught that the character was precious, and that every moment of life was to be passed in the service of God, was to be as saving salt, to preserve society from moral corruption. Christ passed by no human being as worthless and hopeless, but sought to apply the saving remedy to every soul who needed help. In whatever company he found himself, he presented lessons by precept and example that were appropriate to the time and circumstances. He sought to inspire with hope the most rough and unpromising, setting before them the idea that they might become blameless and harmless, attaining such a character as would make them manifest as the children of God among a crooked and perverse generation, among whom they would shine as lights in the world. This was the reason that, after his public ministry began, so many heard him gladly.

From his very childhood he had worked for the people in an unobtrusive manner, letting his light shine amid the moral darkness of a crooked and perverse nation. He made manifest the character of God to our world in bearing the burdens of private life, and in the larger field of activity. He encouraged everything that pertained to the real interests of life, but labored to break up romantic and dreamy contemplations. He taught by precept and example the fact that future position would be decided by human beings themselves, that destiny is marked by our own course of action. Those who cherish right principles, who work out God's plan in a narrow sphere of action, doing right because it is right, will find wider fields of usefulness. Those who are true to God's holy commandments in a humble place, are qualifying themselves to do God's service in ministering to their fellow-men in a higher position. The Lord will give such clear insight and discernment, and bless them with such views of eternity as will elevate and purify their characters. It is possible for us to be conscious of the favor of God, as was Christ.

The Jews had built up walls of separation between themselves and other nations, and the brethren of Christ were angry because he did not heed the prescribed boundaries, but mingled with all classes of people. Through childhood, youth, and manhood Christ walked alone. In his purity, in his faithfulness, he trod the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with him. But now it is our privilege to act a part in the work and mission of Christ. We may wear the yoke with him, and be laborers together with God. To whatever work we are called, Christ will work with us and in our behalf. He is doing all that is possible to set us free, and to make our cramped and narrow lives broad and efficient. He would have us recognize our responsibility, and realize that in shunning our work we are incurring great loss. In his day he saw many that were falling far below their privilege of usefulness. To the indolent he said, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?”

We are enjoined to work while it is today, for the night cometh, in which no man can work. Jesus recognized and carried the awful weight of responsibility for the salvation of the human family. He knew that unless there was a decided change in the principles and purposes of the human race, all would be irretrievably lost. This was the burden of his soul, and he was alone in carrying this load. No one could appreciate the weight that rested upon his heart. Filled with intense purpose, he designed that his life should be a lamp in the world, that he himself should be “the Light of the world.”

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