Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

May 13, 1897

“We Ought to Obey God Rather than Men”

Christ declared of the Jews, “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” This is being done today. The commandments of men are exalted, and men are trying to force their fellow-men to render obedience to them. But in no case are we to take the word of men before the Word of God. “We ought to obey God rather than men,” declared Peter. And Christ in his Sermon on the Mount spoke clearly and distinctly regarding the importance of God's commandments. “Think not,” he said, “that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 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.”

But God never compels men to obey him. Together truth and error take the field. The light shines forth amid moral darkness, and men are left to choose their own leader.

After the king of Babylon had witnessed the wonderful deliverance wrought by God for his faithful servants, and had seen the men walk unhurt from the fire, he published a decree that any one speaking a word against the God of heaven, who had so wonderfully saved his servants, should be cut in pieces, “because,” he declared, “there is no other god that can deliver after this sort.” Thus, through the deceiving power of the enemy, God's truth is misinterpreted and misapplied, and his way confused by human inventions.

The king had a right to worship the God of heaven, and to do all in his power to exalt him above other gods; but he had no right to use his authority in compelling his subjects to change from the worship of idols to the worship of the true God. He had no more right to threaten men with death for not worshiping the true God than he had to make the decree consigning to the flames all who refused to worship the golden image.

Today, as in the days of Babylon, the accuser of the brethren is working through human agencies to hurt and destroy those who are dear to the Lord. Men in power do not realize that they can not in justice control the minds of their fellow-men, and Satan works through them to corrupt right dealing. Those who try to keep the commandments of God, will meet with much opposition. Satanic attributes will take possession of the hearts of men, making them as hard as steel; and all who depart from evil will make themselves a prey to the hatred of those that refuse to obey the law of God.

But when the State forms laws directly opposed to the laws of Jehovah, and thus strives to compel men to obey them, it is following the example set by the king of Babylon. When it takes the guardianship of the religious interests of the nation, a spirit of intolerance is manifested if men seek to practise the truth, which, by earnest study, they have found in God's Word. Those who are actuated by such a spirit of oppression can not understand what religious liberty means.

Every man has a right to worship God according to his own convictions; no one is called upon to obey laws that are opposed to the laws of God; and the only position the State can take, and have the approval of God, is to guard the rights of every individual, permitting no oppression to come upon any one because of religious belief.

As Nebuchadnezzar tried to force his subjects to obey his mandates, so men will try to force us to disregard the Word of God. They will endeavor to compel us to render homage to man-made statutes; but in God's strength we are to refuse to dishonor him. The laws of earthly kingdoms are to be obeyed only when they do not conflict with the laws of God. When governments are tyrannical and overbearing, when they trample on God's law, their laws are contemptible in his sight. And when they try to control the minds and consciences of those whom Christ died to make free, God's children are to show their loyalty to him by refusing to disobey his commandments.

When the judgment shall sit, and the books of heaven shall be opened, all will be judged, not by the laws that human minds have enacted, but by the law of God, which existed before the foundations of the world were laid. And the men who have been co-workers with the first great rebel, and who have not, as guardians of the State, searched the Word of God, that as rulers they might deal righteously and mercifully, will be judged by the law they have disregarded and dishonored.

In that day when every work shall be brought into judgment, when the Lord Jesus, with the marks of the crucifixion on his body, shall come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, those who, while holding positions of trust, have caused God's people to suffer, will cast their idols of silver and gold to the moles and to the bats; “to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” “For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”

They have shown no respect for God, no fear to transgress his commandments; but have refused to give their fellow-men rights equal to their own, and have tried to make them disobey God. They have stubbornly adhered to man-made commandments, and they will be judged accordingly. Those who persist in enacting laws which men can not obey without dishonoring God, and those that obey these laws, and trample on the law of the eternal God, must prepare for the result; for God will not change, nor alter the thing which has gone out of his mouth.

“As the Father hath loved me,” said Christ, “so have I loved you; continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him, But whoso keepeth his Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.”

God honors those who honor him by obedience to his precepts. John, the beloved disciple, was banished to the isle of Patmos for his faithfulness. “I John,” he writes, “who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.” Did John here mean Sunday?—There is but one day called the Lord's day, and that is the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath instituted at creation. God created the world in six days, and on the seventh he rested and was refreshed. He blessed and sanctified this day, and set it apart to be observed as a memorial of creation. And on the seventh day John heard behind him “a great voice, as of a trumpet saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches.” “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man.” Thus Christ honored John for his steadfast obedience to him.

Adam and Eve lost all access to Eden and to the tree of life because they took the word of another before the Word of God. By this act of disobedience they opened the flood-gates of woe upon our world. But those who steadfastly adhere to God's Word, will hear the benediction, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” No flaming sword guards that tree from those who, after the light has been given them, in the face of all opposition turn from the commandments of men to obey the commandments of God.

Mrs. E. G. White

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