By Mrs. E. G. White
In his word the Lord has shown what man may become if connected with the Source of all wisdom. The soul of every one is precious. All heaven is interested in the plan of salvation, and its power is waiting our demand. We may choose wisely, and through Christ become more precious in the sight of God than the golden wedge of Ophir, or we may become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; but if we do choose to degenerate, we shall become wholly worthless, and lose heaven with all its riches.
Character cannot be bought with gold; it does not come to us by accident. Character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. It is formed by hard, stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be urged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely, and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected, unreformed.
If the character is left to be molded as chance may direct, it will become deformed and unlovely. There are in every one weak points that need to be strengthened; for Satan will take advantage of every unguarded spot. The question to be settled is, Will you follow the light God has given? If you would do so, close the door against your own suggestions, desires, and doubts. Temptations will thicken about your pathway; but the Lord will be nigh to you if you call upon him in sincerity. Stand fast in the strength of Jesus. Swerve not from the right to gain any one's friendship or to avoid difficulty. Christians can afford to be straight-forward, and firm as a rock to principle. All the excellence of character we attain will be gained in moving in this straight line. Be kind and considerate to others; but at the same time be frank and sincere; for the Lord despises dissembling. Never allow the gold of character to be dimmed with the dross of earthly, corruptible metal. The standard of the world is not the criterion for the Christian. Reputation, property, everything earthly, may be sacrificed; for this will not lessen our value in the heavenly records; but principle must be preserved.
Truthfulness and frankness should be ever cherished by all who claim to be followers of Christ. God and the right should be the motto. Deal honestly and righteously in this present evil world. Some will be honest when they see that honesty will not endanger their worldly interests; but all who act from this principle will have their names blotted out of the book of life.
Strict honesty must be cultivated. We can go through the world but once; we cannot come back to rectify any mistakes; therefore every move made should be with godly fear and careful consideration. Honesty and policy will not harmonize; either policy will be subdued, and truth and honesty hold the lines of control, or policy will take the lines, and honesty cease to direct. Both cannot act together; they can never be in agreement. When God makes up his jewels, the true, the frank, the honest, will be his chosen ones, his treasures. Angels are preparing crowns for such; and light from the throne of God will be reflected in its splendor from these star-gemmed diadems.
These things will bear thoughtful consideration,Śclose, critical examination. With your Bible in your hand, study its claims with earnest prayer that you may never be self-deceived. We are now living in an age when the question is asked, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" In this age of degeneracy, where we are surrounded with moral pollution, God's people are to form characters for heaven. This work is to go on daily.
We are in the investigative judgment; and the work for the time is solemn heart-searching. The duty devolves upon every one to consider, to watch, and to pray. You are not bidden by the Lord to examine your neighbor's heart. Let your investigative powers be put to work to discover what evil is lurking in your own heart, what defects are in your character; what work needs to be done in your own home. Parents are responsible for the souls of their children; they are accountable for the mold of character they give them. They will, if they realize their duty, work most earnestly for their own salvation and for the salvation of their children. When parents are careless in their own ways, and in regard to the character and deportment of their children, they lose the favor of God. But every family that will seek God with humiliation and prayer will be doing the work that is essential for eternal salvation.
Satan is working diligently and most successfully to put his selfish stamp upon the characters of even professed Christians, and many are becoming narrow in their ideas of duty and obligation. They are degenerating, and receiving a stamp of character which is offensive to God. Self-love and unholy passions occupy the citadel of the soul. To those who are professedly keeping the law of God, but are daily transgressing its holy principles, let me say, Search, O search and see how little reverence you have for eternal things, how little love for devotion.
The proving time has come, and angels are watching the development of character. How many, since they have professed Christ, have changed for the better? My brother, my sister, are you becoming more and more like Jesus, who is pure, holy, undefiled? Can your associates see in you the likeness of Christ? Can they see that you maintain in your dress, in your conversation, your daily life, the simplicity of your Master?
Many know so little about their Bibles that they are unsettled in the faith. They remove the old landmarks, and fallacies and winds of doctrine blow them hither and thither. Science, falsely so-called, is wearing away the foundation of Christian principle; and those who once were in the faith drift away from the Bible landmarks, and divorce themselves from God, while still claiming to be his children. But are they?ŚNo; no. The relation they sustain to God is truly represented in Matthew 7:22, 23: "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."
Christ is our Pattern. Separated from God, leaning to their own understanding, men become fools; and yet in their own estimation, and in the estimation of others, they are often the wisest of men. Their sayings are eagerly caught up, repeated, extolled, and adopted, while the utterances of the living God, who made heaven and earth, are disregarded because not in harmony with their ideas of science. Could these once see themselves as God views them, how soon their attitude would change, how soon the godless prating would cease, how ashamed they would be of their boasting and their vanity; how their vain imaginations would change. Their corrupt hearts, roving on the enemy's ground, can find no happiness, no peace. We are not safe in trusting in ourselves. Unless divested of the robes of our own wisdom and self-righteousness, and clothed with Christ's robe of spotless purity, we shall be in infinite peril. We shall not appear of half the value in our own estimation when we view Jesus in his matchless charms.
The ambition of every soul should be to make straight his paths, that the feet of others may not be led astray. But the care and anxiety with many is to shape their course to be admired by men. The highest effort of their mental powers is directed to this end. They speak and act that they may float upon the tide of popularity. There is no dependence to be placed upon this class; for they will betray sacred trusts, if by so doing they can serve their own interests. They study their own purposes so intently that they have no time for the study of God's word. The day of retributive judgment is coming on apace, and it will find them unprepared.
What value can Christians place on the praise and flattery of men who have no reverence for God nor love for his truth? The honor of such persons is of no worth. We should not aim to receive the applause of the world, but to render honor to Him who is worthy of the heart's best and holiest affections. This is a worthy ambition, and it brings the highest reward; for God has promised, "Them that honor me I will honor."
O how much the Spirit of Christ is needed by every one who has any interest or acts any part in the work of God! God would have every one make the most of his own talents and opportunities. Brethren, show your appreciation of the gifts of God by putting them to a wise use, with an eye single to his glory. Self must not gain the mastery. Hide yourself in Jesus, and let the precious Redeemer appear as the One altogether lovely, the chiefest among ten thousand. You must become a partaker of the divine nature if you would escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.
There are many men of noble qualities whom God would use in his cause; but the bewitching power of Satan has been cast over them like a spell. Science, falsely so-called, would lead them to reason away the very foundation of true religion. It has so confused their senses that the testimony of the Spirit and word of God is questioned. Doubts are entertained because they cannot harmonize these with their views of science and natural principles. Thus they enter the wilderness of unbelief, and make shipwreck of their faith. The truth as it is in Jesus, in its simplicity, would have proved an anchor to them; but they have broken away from the stronghold, and drifted about, beaten by the winds and waves of unbelief.
It is the duty and privilege of all to use reason as far as man's finite faculties can go; but there is a boundary where man's resources must cease. There are many things that can never be reasoned out by the strongest intellect, or discerned by the most penetrating mind. Philosophy cannot determine the ways and works of God; the human mind cannot measure infinity. Jehovah is the fountain of all wisdom, of all truth, of all knowledge. There are high attainments that man can reach in this life through the wisdom that God imparts; but there is an infinity beyond that will be the study and the joy of the saints throughout eternal ages. Man can now only linger upon the borders of that vast expanse, and let imagination take its flight. Finite man cannot fathom the deep things of God; for spiritual things are spiritually discerned. The human mind cannot comprehend the wisdom and power of God.