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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899) - Contents
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    Ms 88, 1899

    Lessons from the Christ-Life


    June 14, 1899 [typed]

    Portion of this manuscript are published in RH 02/13/1900. +NoteOne or more typed copies of this document contain additional Ellen White handwritten interlineations which may be viewed at the main office of the Ellen G. White Estate.

    “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” [Matthew 21:12, 13.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 1

    As the priests and rulers looked upon the face of Him who said this to them, terror took possession of them, for divinity was flashing through humanity. They fled from the humble, travel-stained Nazarene as though He had been surrounded by an avenging army of heavenly beings. What a revelation this was to them! But as they hurried with their cattle and sheep away from the sacred precincts of the temple, they found that they had received no bodily harm, and their terror-stricken souls began to recover. They said, “We will return to the temple, and demand by what authority he is doing this work.”14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 2

    But they did not confront Jesus with the assurance that they thought they would when they saw the work He had been doing since their expulsion. On their ears fell the sound of thanksgiving from the lips of children who were singing the praises of God and waving palm branches. The people were rejoicing, for those among them who had been sick and dying were now restored to perfect health. But the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep was as music in the ears of the priests when compared with these sounds of rejoicing. Cattle sales meant money to them. But the gladness and joy of the people who had been restored was not acceptable to them.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 3

    “Hearest thou what these say?” they asked Christ; and He answered, “Yea; and have ye never read, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” [Verse 16.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 4

    After Christ had cleansed the temple courts and healed the sick, “he went out of the city into Bethany. Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and he said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto ye, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done.” [Verses 17-21.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 5

    The fig tree was covered with promising, pretentious leaves, but was entirely destitute of fruit. It represented impenitent Israel, who had failed to do the work of God’s appointment. And not only does this lesson apply to the Jews, but in its terrible significance it reaches to every age, warning each soul of the sure result of profession without practice. Let the professing Christians inquire into the meaning of the curse pronounced upon the fig tree. It was full of promise, but investigation revealed its barrenness. It bore no fruit, and because of this defect words were spoken which caused it almost immediately to wither away.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 6

    A fig tree is created to bear fruit, and if it does not do this, it is not fit for a place in the orchard. It is treated as a cumberer of the ground. So the Lord created men and women to bear fruit to His glory and for the good of their fellow creatures, and He has provided them with every facility necessary to enable them to do this. By creation and by redemption we are God’s. Christ came as our substitute and surety, that we might bear fruit for Him. A probation has been granted us that we might not be like the fig tree, full of flourishing leaves, making great pretensions of success, yet destitute of good works.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 7

    Soon after this Christ again entered the temple, and as He was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the people came to Him with the question, “By what authority doest thou these things, and who gave thee this authority?” [Verse 23.] They had been given unmistakeable evidence of Christ’s power. Amazed and terrified they had fled from His presence, returning to find Him healing the sick and suffering, who were rejoicing, not only in the courts, but in the temple itself. And yet after passing through this wonderful experience, the Jewish rulers asked Christ, “By what authority doest thou these things?”14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 8

    In answer the Saviour said, “I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” [Verses 24-27.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 9

    “We cannot tell.” [Verse 27.] What an admission this was for men to make who had the living Oracles of God as their guide, who by their privileges were exalted to heaven. This answer was a falsehood. But they saw the position they were in, and falsified to save themselves. John had preached the coming of the Messiah.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 10

    In trumpet tones the words of the forerunner of Christ had rung in their ears: “There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked, and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” [Isaiah 11:1-5.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 11

    “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly will he repay, fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.” [Isaiah 59:16-20.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 12

    John came bearing witness of the One whose divinity they were now questioning. He had pointed Him out, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29.] He had baptized Him, and after the baptism, as Christ was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Him like a dove, while a voice from heaven was heard, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:16, 17.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 13

    Remembering the power with which John had repeated the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and the scene at the baptism, the priests and rulers dared not say that his baptism was from heaven. If they had acknowledged John to be a prophet, as they believed him to be, how could they deny the testimony of John that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God? Neither could they say his baptism was from men, because of the people who believed John to be a prophet. So they said, “We cannot tell.” [Matthew 21:27.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 14

    Then Christ gave the parable of the father and the two sons. A certain man had two sons, and he went to the first, saying, “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” He promptly answered, “I will not.” [Verses 28, 29.] He refused to obey, and gave himself up to wicked ways and association. But afterward he repented and obeyed the call.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 15

    The father went to the second son, saying, “Go work today in my vineyard.” He promptly made reply, “I go, sir;” but he went not. [Verse 30.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 16

    Christ gave this parable to the multitude which surrounded Him. In the company there were scribes and Pharisees, priests and rulers, and when, in making an application of the parable, Christ asked, “Whether of them twain did the will of his father?” They answered, “The first.” [Verse 31.] This answer was correct, but they gave it without realizing that they were pronouncing sentence against themselves.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 17

    Then there fell from Christ’s lips the denunciation, “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” [Verses 31, 32.] John came teaching truth, and by his teaching sinners were convicted and converted. These would go into the kingdom of heaven before those who in self-righteousnesss had resisted warning which abandoned sinners had received.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 18

    The second son said, “I go, sir;” but he went not. [Verse 30.] Like this Son the Jewish leaders were impenitent and self-sufficient. The religious life of the Jewish nation had become a pretense. When the law was proclaimed upon Mount Sinai, God spoke with a voice of divine authority; and all the people intended to obey. They said, “I go, sir;” but they went not. Christ gave the Jewish leaders abundant evidence of His authority and divine power, but although they were convinced, they would not receive this evidence. He showed them that they continued to disbelieve because they had not the spirit which leads to obedience. He said to them, Ye make void the law of God by your traditions. In vain do ye worship Me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 19

    Today God speaks to professing Christians, saying, “Go work today in my vineyard.” Many say, “I go sir,” but they go not. [Verses 28, 30.] Their pretensions are not acknowledged by God. There are many who while they promise obedience have no intention of obeying any law but one of their own invention. God’s law is holy, just, and good. It is perfect, converting the soul. This law is plainly defined; and yet the professed Christian churches of today do not obey it, but set up a standard of their own. How many there are today who hear the truth and do it not. They refuse to obey the first four commandments, which reveal their duty to their Creator, and the last six, which command them to love their fellow men as themselves. Many make false promises to God, saying, “I go;” but they do not obey Him. They have never surrendered the will to God.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 20

    Are not professing Christians making void the law of God by setting aside the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and exalting in its place the first day of the week? The law of God requires nothing short of unquestioning obedience and spiritual perfection. The words found in (Exodus 31:12-18) make this matter perfectly plain. God there declares, “Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations.” [Verse 13.] Should not those now living in delusion arouse to the true state of things? The time is coming when disobedience will be called by its true name.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 21

    God requires His followers to devote heart, mind, soul, and strength to Him in perfect obedience. He has given the Sabbath to be a sign between Him and His people, and they should obey no law which is contrary to His law. Many regard themselves as religious because they trust in a delusion. They are inventing laws to take the place of God’s law, and trust in a gospel which excuses their disobedience.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 22

    There are millions in our world who do not make any attempt to look to the uplifted Saviour. Instead they obey the laws of the great apostate, who thought to change times and laws, and they bear his sign.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 23

    The gospel of Christ recognizes God’s law, but men have substituted for the law of God laws which are entirely contrary to the mind of God; and this they call the gospel. They forget that there is a penalty for all transgression. Christ came to save sinners from transgression, but today He sees those who claim to be Christians violating the fourth commandment by accepting a sabbath which God has not instituted, while they trample on the Sabbath instituted in Eden as their fancy shall dictate.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 24

    Obedience was ever the Lord’s due from the creatures He formed, and His requirements have not been relaxed one jot or tittle to meet man in his fallen condition. Christ made a full atonement for man. He bore the penalty of transgression that the human race might return to their loyalty. He imputes His righteousness to repentant, believing sinners. The provisions of heaven are pledged to those who believe the promises, for Christ has made a peace offering, and He presents our penitence and obedience to God.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 25

    Thousands of professing Christians say, like the second son, “I go, sir;” but they go not. [Matthew 21:30.] The promise of positive obedience is fulfilled if they find that they can lift the cross without inconvenience to themselves. But self-denial is required to do this, and as time passes the conviction of truth wears away; known transgression of God’s commandments becomes habit. There are many who do not realize that God is holy, and that He requires holiness in all who serve Him. Nadab and Abihu used common fire in the service of God, and the record says that fire went out from God and destroyed them.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 26

    In the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah God has given us direct warning and encouragement. The positive statements contained in this chapter must be repeated over and over again. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen?” God asks, “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee: and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 27

    “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day; and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations, and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” [Verses 6-12.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 28

    A breach has been made in God’s law by the papacy, and God calls for those who will build up that which has been broken down. He declares, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” [Verses 13, 14.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 29

    And again He says, “This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply; and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 30

    “But if thine heart turn away, so that thou will not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto thee this day that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live; that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” [Deuteronomy 30:11-20.]14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 31

    The teaching in the parable of the two sons should be carefully and thoroughly studied. On every hand may be seen vice and irreligion. Disobedience to God’s law is taught from the pulpits throughout our land. Those who have had their duty clearly laid out before them, and yet continue in transgression of the law, will not meet their record with joy in the great day when every man shall be judged according to his works. What answer can they give when their cases are tested by the great standard of character for every one—the law of God?14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 32

    Those who by pen or voice are aping the supposedly great men of the world, who say, “I go, sir,” but do not go, are hindering others instead of helping them. [Matthew 21:30.] Their own hearts are not controlled by the Holy Spirit. A personal religious experience has not found place in their life. Their stewardship will not bear the inspection of the great Judge. They say to the Master, “I go, sir,” but they are exalting self in the place of Jesus. Precious truth is buried under a display of fancied merit and smartness. They wear their own garments in the place of the garments Christ has prepared for them, and in the day of final reckoning they will find themselves last and least.14LtMs, Ms 88, 1899, par. 33

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