The Principles of Righteousness Revealed in the Life
March 21, 1893
The Principles of Righteousness Revealed in the Life
By Mrs. E. G. White
The question is often asked. Why do you keep the commandments of God? Did not Jesus come to abolish the law? The Son of God gave the law, and was it given only to be abolished? Did Jesus leave the royal courts of heaven to die upon the cross of Calvary, in order that he might give the world license to break the law? Is there reason in this? Was the wonderful, costly process that the Father and his dear Son underwent, only to abolish the law, and give men perfect freedom to trample it in the dust?—No, no. The Lord's standard of righteousness remains as firm as his eternal throne. It is his holy law, and because not one precept of this law could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition, the Father consented to give his only begotten Son to die. To abolish the law?—No; but to save the sinner. The cross of Calvary is the unanswerable argument as to the perpetuity of the law of Jehovah. When the great Teacher gave his sermon on the mount, showing the immutability of the law of God, he was expounding the law that he himself gave.
Satan had so beclouded the understanding of even the chosen people of God, that in their separation from God they could not discern sacred things. The prophecies were made so indistinct, that truth, precious above gold, or silver, or precious stones, was buried beneath a mass of rubbish, and its glorious character was hidden from view. The precious Sabbath given at the creation of the world lost its true significance. The rubbish of human inventions, maxims, and traditions hid its true character. Said Christ, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Jesus Christ was the foundation of the whole Jewish economy. He established the sacrificial offerings which typified himself. The whole system of types and symbols was one compacted prophecy of the gospel, a presentation of Christianity. Christ presented to the multitude of Jews and Gentiles of all nations the real original truths connected with his kingdom, which had been buried out of sight. He sought to clear away the mist and fog of their false, long-cherished ideas in regard to his mission and his kingdom. They supposed it was a temporal, earthly kingdom; but he showed them its spiritual and eternal nature. He unfolded before them the far-reaching principles of the law of God; commandment after commandment he opened before them in its true spiritual bearing, and showed the extent of the requirements of God's precepts. They are not only to direct conduct, but to control the heart. The lessons given by Christ were so different from anything to which the people had listened from the scribes and Pharisees, that they were astonished at his doctrines. He did not present labored, intricate arguments that buried with exactions the commandments of God, so that no one could ever hope to keep them. Jesus, the great Teacher, laid open in the simplest language, the great moral truths, clothing them with freshness and power.
The scribes and Pharisees that were listening to his words, thought in their hearts that he was making of no account the law of God. But as if Jesus had read their hearts as an open book, there fell upon their startled ears these words: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise 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." The heavenly intelligences look upon the human agents, and estimate their value according to the respect and reverence they manifest toward the great moral standard of righteousness—the holy law of God. And Jesus added, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." With what excuse could we meet the great Lawgiver over his broken law when the Redeemer has so plainly stated its importance. The righteousness of the Pharisees consisted mainly in a form of ceremonies. They complicated the plain and simple precepts, and made them a rigorous burden of exactions, while they neglected and contradicted the vital principles and spirit of the law. This error, fatal to the soul, Christ in his sermon on the mount sought to correct. The Pharisees in their false ideas as to what constituted the keeping of the commandments of God, cherished malice and revenge; but Christ taught that all malice must be expelled from the soul. The evil done to us by another must remain unresented, unavenged. He who was an enemy was to be loved, because God loved the sinner when he was his enemy. Jesus taught, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Here are the principles of true Christianity, and he presented these principles in no hesitating manner, but taught them as one having authority. They must be imitators of God, pure and holy and undefiled by the maxims and traditions of men. These principles were too holy to be corrupted by the inventions of man.
Note by Ron: Strangely, I know some who claim to be Christians, but swear they will never forgive some who have offended them. The Lord’s prayer teaches that we will be forgiven AS WE FORGIVE. Ellen White says we are to forgive even when those who have offended us don’t ask for forgiveness. Then there is that admonition (above) about the Lord instructing us to love our enemies! A lot of folk are going to flunk heaven on this note!
I once had an acquaintance cuss me out on an internet forum. He never apologized. But later, when he thought I offended him, he said he implied to another person that he would never forgive me. Is anyone’s offense worth the loss of heaven? By the way, that acquaintance earlier told me he felt he was as Elisha to God’s people! Interesting! End note.
No man can serve two masters. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." We are but living, human agents, dependent upon God for every breath we draw, and we are not to be anxious about food and raiment, and to be distrustful of God. The Lord has his thoughts of love toward us, and will care for the future. It is God's will that we are to be anxious to know and to do his requirements at all hazards; but we are to trust God implicitly not only for the little things, the temporal things of life, but for the redemption of our souls. Having faith, and confidence, and trust in God, we have everything, and God will never betray our confidence. He is ever loving, and patiently bears with our weaknesses and infirmities, and is ever willing to forgive our perversities. Then let us walk meekly, trustingly, and humbly before him. Commit your way to him. Cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
The world's Redeemer was treated as we deserve to be treated, in order that we might be treated as he deserved to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins upon his own divine soul, that we might receive his imputed righteousness. He was condemned for our sins, in which he had no share, that we might be justified by his righteousness, in which we had no share. The world's Redeemer gave himself for us. Who was he?—The Majesty of heaven, pouring out his blood upon the altar of justice for the sins of guilty man. We should know our relationship to Christ and his relationship to us. We are to trust God fully, and ask him to supply the least as well as the greatest want. The Lord encourages our confidence; and the great proof of our union with Christ, and the best manifestation of our love to him, is in yielding obedience to his claims. If you have love to Jesus Christ, which is an expression of the life of Christ in the soul, then you will do what he commands you. This is practical religion. Redeemed by the ransom money paid for your souls, you will go forth and show how much you love Jesus by obedience to his commandments. You are to bring forth fruit by doing his commandments, because you are branches of the living Vine. It is his prayer that his joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
What was Christ's joy?—It was the joy of saving the lost. The prophet says, "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame. His suffering, his agony, his death, were counted by him nothing that souls might be rescued from sin. Whenever there is a soul converted and brought to Jesus Christ, a thrill of joy is felt in heaven. A soul is saved, a precious soul snatched from Satan's grasp and given as a precious token to Jesus Christ that he has not suffered and died in vain, and then there is joy and rejoicing in heaven. The lost is found, the dead in trespasses and sins is alive; and Christ prays that this joy may be ours,—a joy that is rich, deep, full, and abiding,—a joy springing from the triumphs of the cross of Christ.
Christ calls for those who have turned from him. He says, Return unto me, and I will return unto you, and heal all thy backslidings. He calls for those who are standing apart from him to be laborers together with God. He says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." O how true are these words. We did not make the first movement toward Christ; but he made the first movement toward us. He drew us by the cords of his love. He touched our hearts by his grace. Our approach to him was but a response to his drawing. No longer cherish doubt and walk in darkness. Jesus has purchased us with his own blood. We are not our own, we are bought with a price, and our time, our intrusted capabilities, belong to God. He has given his only begotten Son to a life of humiliation and shameful death for us, and in return he has asked us to give ourselves to him. And through the grace of God, let us do this. The Lord help us to plant our feet on the solid Rock.