Ellen G. White Writings

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The Youth’s Instructor

September 1, 1873

The Life of Christ—No. 9

By Ellen G. White.

His Return From Jerusalem

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” Jesus claimed his sonship to the Eternal. He informed Mary that he must be about his Father's business, and that his obligation to his Heavenly Father was above every other claim.

His first visit to the temple had awakened new impulses. All earthly obligations were, for the time, lost sight of; but with the knowledge of his divine mission, and of his union with God, he did not resist the authority of his parents. At their request he returned with them as a faithful, obedient son, and aided them in their life of toil. He buried in his own heart the secret of his future mission, waiting submissively until the period of his public ministry should commence before announcing to the world that he was the Messiah. He submitted to parental restraint, for the period of eighteen years after he had acknowledged that he was the Son of God, and lived the simple, common life of a Galilean, working at the carpenter's trade with his father.

Children, Jesus, in order to show you your duty to your parents, passed through the period of childhood and youth. He laid aside his exalted character, and became a child, doing the duties which a child should do. For thirty years he submitted to parental restraint. Yet he was the King of glory, the Majesty of Heaven.

It is common for children, even of Christian parents, when not over twelve years old, to feel that they must be allowed to follow their own desires. And parents are ready to be led by their children, rather than to lead them. Instead of the parents, like Abraham, commanding their household after them, their children command them. For this reason many youth come up with habits of selfishness and idleness. They are vain, proud, and headstrong.

The life of Christ demonstrates to all youth that a life of industry and obedience is favorable to the formation of good moral character, firm principles, strength of purpose, sound knowledge, and high spiritual attainments. Most of the youth of the present day cherish a love for exciting amusements, which is unfavorable for high attainments in mental culture, and for physical strength. The mind is not kept in a calm, healthful state for thought, but is, much of the time, under an excitement; in short, is intoxicated with the amusements it craves, which renders it incapable of close application, reflection, and study.

The young who do not cherish a respect for their parents, and a love to make themselves useful, cannot enjoy real pleasure. They do not obey the fifth commandment, and the frown of God is upon them. Disobedience to parents and selfish love of amusements do not make them like Jesus, strong in spirit, and characterized for their wisdom, for their strength of morals, and the favor they obtain with God and man, but to the contrary. The love of vain amusements relaxes the tone of mind, and weakens the morals so that many youth have but little self-control and firm principle.

The life of Christ assures a blessing forever upon a life of cheerful submission to parental restraint and a life of physical and mental industry. The fifth commandment is binding upon children as long as their own lives and the lives of their parents are spared.

The life of Christ was humble, free from affectation or display. He lived mostly in the open air, drinking the pure water of the mountain streams. He passed up and down the steep mountain paths to his life of toil, and to his humble home, for rest and refreshment. He was delighted with the happy songsters, who caroled forth, in their varied notes, praise to their Creator. The birds, the natural flowers that decked the fields with their glowing beauty, the majestic trees and lofty mountains, the ragged rocks and perpetual hills, all had special charms for him. The sun, moon, and stars, the reflecting glory of the evening sunset, were also objects of his contemplation. He gathered knowledge from his Heavenly Father's library of animate and inanimate nature. The olive groves were his sanctuary for prayer. There, secluded from every human eye, he communed with his Heavenly Father. His moral powers were strengthened by his meditation and communion with God.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” It was the simplicity of the life of Christ, and his freedom from pride and vanity, that gave him favor with God and man. He did not seek to attract attention for distinction. His life was characterized with firmness, yet he was ever respectful and obedient. He submitted to the restraint imposed upon children. He took pleasure in discharging his obligations to his parents and to society, without yielding his principles or being contaminated with the impure influence surrounding him in Nazareth.

In the life of Christ, we see the only safe pattern for all children and youth. When children are disposed to rebel against parental authority, they are condemned by the life of their Redeemer, who was himself once a child, and obedient to his parents. In what marked contrast is the character of children now. The majority of children live for their own pleasure, for the purpose of display. Some try to make brilliant speeches, that they may attract notice. Some seem to think that their worth will be estimated by their appearance. They are very precise in their dress, and devote much time and means for display, that they may attract attention, while they do not find time for, and have an interest in, secret prayer. They neglect the inward adorning, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which, the apostle tells us, is of great price in the sight of God. The infinite Eye can search the heart, and read every defect in the character. He does not estimate youth by their outward appearance, but from the goodness they possess at heart, which can only be gained by watchfulness and prayer. He follows them into their homes, and he marks their deportment to their parents and the family circle. If they are there respectful, kind, affectionate, and truly polite, God approbates them, and their characters are recorded in the books of Heaven as valuable.

Children, in the life of Christ, you are instructed that it is not weakness, but noble, indeed manly and womanly, to give loyal, cheerful obedience to your parents. You may take a course that you will be a curse instead of a blessing to your parents and in your home. You can, by your undutiful conduct, be a perpetual care and anxiety to your parents who love you, or you can be a blessing. The life of Christ teaches you, children, that it should be the study of your life to make your parents happy. It is your privilege to be a comfort and joy, rather than a weight and distressing burden.

The first commandment in the decalogue, to which a promise is annexed, is the fifth. It reads thus: “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” The land here referred to is the new earth when purified from sin and the marks of the curse, which is to be given to the saints of the Most High, and they shall possess it forever and forever. Children and youth who devote time and means to make themselves objects of attraction by outward display, and affected manners, are not working in the right direction. They need to cultivate true, Christian politeness, and nobility of soul, by acts of true goodness, being obedient, gentle, meek, and like their Redeemer.

The beauty of the mind, the purity of the soul, revealed in the countenance, will have more power to attract and exert an influence upon hearts than any outward adorning. I have seen the most beautiful face disfigured by a discontented, peevish, passionate spirit therein reflected. The heart could be read in the face. The absence of the inward adorning, a meek and quiet spirit, was reflected upon the countenance.

Wealth and dress are so common that, while they may excite envy, they cannot command true respect and admiration. A cultivated mind, adorned with the grace of meekness and humility, a pure and upright heart, will be reflected in the countenance, and command love and respect.

We read that “Jesus increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man,” His life of natural simplicity was favorable to the development of a good physical constitution, and a firm, unsullied character. If these advantages are desired by children and youth, they have only to imitate the life of Christ, and copy from him. Will they surrender all to their Redeemer? Will they overcome their pride, and love of self, and inclination to love pleasure and display? Will they set their hearts to self-culture, willing to endure hardships and privations, as was their Redeemer? They can, through cultivation of the intellect, depending upon God for success, develop firm and beautiful characters. The fear of God, the contemplation of the glories of nature in his created works, will never dwarf the intellect, but will have a tendency to strengthen every faculty of the soul.

It is the precious privilege of children and youth to yield their minds to the control of the Spirit of God and become intellectual Christians. Their mental and moral powers may grow in harmonious proportions. Their understanding may be strong, their consciences, pure, and their characters, lovely.

Many children and youth are living in the indulgence of habits which they would not continue if they realized that they were living the last year of their lives. How many forget that God's eye is upon them. They are in the habit of speaking as they would not if they were conscious that what they say is to pass from their lips directly to the book of records in Heaven. Yet this is the case. There is nothing said, or done, or even thought, that can be concealed from God.

Dear children, if you would find happiness and peace in all you do, you must do everything in reference to the glory of God. If you would have peace in your hearts, you must seek earnestly to imitate the life of Christ. Then there will be no need of affecting cheerfulness, or of your seeking for pleasure in the indulgence of pride and the frivolities of the world. You will have a serenity and happiness in right-doing that you can never realize in a course of wrong. Jesus took human nature, passing through infancy, childhood, and youth, that he might know how to sympathize with all, and leave an example for all children and youth. He is acquainted with the temptations and weaknesses of children. He has, in his love, opened a fountain of pleasure and joy for the soul that trusts in him. By seeking to honor Christ and to follow his example, children and youth can be truly happy. They may feel their accountability to labor with Jesus Christ in the great plan of saving souls. If youth will feel their responsibility before God, they will be elevated above everything that is mean, selfish, and impure. Life to such will be full of importance. They will realize that they have something great and glorious to live for. This will have an influence upon youth to make them earnest, cheerful, and strong under all the burdens, discouragements, and difficulties of life, as was their divine Pattern. Dear youth, I entreat of you to ever cultivate thoughtful responsibility to God. The consciousness that you are doing those things which God can approve, will make you strong in his strength; and by copying the Pattern, you may, like him, increase in wisdom, and in favor with God and man.

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