“Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) We are living in a time when we should individually ask ourselves, “How do I stand related to God and eternity?” It will not matter to what nation we may have belonged, or what sect we have followed; but it will matter upon which side we have stood between good and evil. Daily you should ask yourself, “Am I a Christian? Am I a servant of sin, or am I following Christ? Am I renewed in the image of Christ by his transforming grace? Has a moral change taken place in me? Do I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ? Do I feel that I am not my own, but that I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and must consecrate myself to his service?”
Let no soul risk his eternal future upon a supposition. The Lord never designed that any one should go blindfolded to heaven. He who sincerely desires to know, may understand whether his steps are tending heavenward or earthward. In the living oracles of God a description is given of the road leading heavenward, and the road leading to perdition, and no one need be deceived as to which one he is traveling. There is no need that one should be lost. God willeth not the misery of any one of his creatures. It is his desire that all men should come to repentance and to the acknowledging of the truth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The Lord has provided ample means for our salvation; but he can do nothing for us without our co-operation. Paul says, “We are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
What honor has been bestowed upon man, in that he is privileged to come into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ; for if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him in glory. The command is given, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” but this encouragement is added: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13) “We, then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2) A power above and outside of man is to work upon him, that solid timbers may be brought into his character building. In the inner sanctuary of the soul the presence of God is to abide. “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17) “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18-22)
Man does not build himself into a habitation for the Spirit, but unless there is a co-operation of man’s will with God’s will, the Lord can do nothing for him. The Lord is the great Master worker, and yet the human agent must cooperate with the divine worker, or the heavenly building cannot be completed. All the power is of God, and all the glory is to redound to God, and yet all the responsibility rests with the human agent; for God can do nothing without the cooperation of man. When a man believes in Jesus as his personal Saviour, and accepts of his righteousness by faith, he becomes a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; and he escapes from corruption through the indwelling of the holy Spirit. Without divine nature, without the influence of the Spirit of God, man cannot work out his own salvation. Said Christ, “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5) When human effort does not combine with divine agency, how deficient is its influence; but he who is endowed with divine power can present Christ to the world as one who is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God through him. The angels of heaven are commissioned of the Lord God of hosts to cooperate with human agency in lifting up the standard of the gospel in every city, village, and town, both at home and in foreign lands.
In every home there is missionary work to be done; for the children in every family are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Evil propensities are to be controlled, evil tempers subdued, and the children are to be instructed that they are the Lord’s property, bought with his own precious blood, and that they cannot live a life of pleasure and vanity, have their own will and carry out their own ideas, and yet be numbered among the children of God. The children are to be instructed with kindness and patience. They are to be taught, line upon line and precept upon precept, the requirements of a holy God. Let the parents teach them of the love of God in such a way that it will be a pleasant theme in the family circle, and let the church take upon them the responsibility of feeding the lambs as well as the sheep of the flock. Let the church take a special care of the lambs of the flock, exerting every influence in their power to win the love of the children, and to bind them to the truth. Ministers and church-members should second the efforts of parents to lead the children into safe paths. The Lord is calling for the youth; for he would make them his helpers to do good service under his banner.
How sad it is that many parents have cast off their God-given responsibility to their children, and are willing that strangers should bear it for them. They are willing that others should labor for their children, and relieve them of all burden in the matter. From the indifference of their parents, many children are left to feel that their parents have no care for their souls. This ought not to be so, but those who have children should so manage their domestic and business affairs that nothing may come in between them and the children, that would lessen the parents’ influence in directing them to Christ. You should teach your children the lesson of the love of Jesus, that they may be pure in heart, in conduct, and conversation. Teach them how to seek divine aid, how to give themselves unreservedly to God.
The Lord would work upon the hearts of the children if the parents would but cooperate with the divine agencies; but he will not undertake to do that which has been appointed as your part of the work. Parents, you must awake from your death-like slumber. The church must arise from the dead, that Christ may give her life.
The work of God is not divided; it is one vast plan in which all have a part to act. God would have you laborers together with him for the saving of your own children. The children must not be left to themselves to become the slaves of Satan; those who have taken the responsibility of bringing them into the world will be held responsible to a large degree for the characters they form. In order to do their God-given work to save their own households, parents will have to search the Scriptures to know the ways of the Lord. They should be much in secret prayer, that they may be holy in all manner of conversation. Their hearts should be filled with cheerfulness and thanksgiving, that there be no tale-bearing, no false accusation, but only such themes of conversation as will elevate and ennoble those who hear and take a part in it.
Parents should work to this end, that themselves and their children may become missionaries for God. This means that you should be vigilant, diligent in searching and teaching the Scriptures, pouring out your soul before God in your closet, that you may not fail nor be discouraged.
Children are brought into the world without a voice in the matter, and if parents do not work faithfully to save them for Christ, Satan will supply their neglect by his own devices, that he may win them to rebel against God, and war against his kingdom. Parents, unless you are workers together with God, to save the souls of your children, they may be lost. If they are, it will be through no fault of the Lord; for he loved your children, and has given his only begotten Son, that they should not perish, but have everlasting life. When Jesus was upon earth, and mothers brought their children to him, he placed his hand upon their heads and blessed them. He would do the same today; for he hath said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 10:14)
The mother’s work begins when her child is a babe in her arms, and she should realize that heaven is looking upon her with intense interest, ready to cooperate with her efforts to rear her child for God. In view of the responsibility that devolves upon parents, it should be carefully considered whether it is best to bring children into the family. Has the mother sufficient strength to care for her children? And can the father give such advantages as will rightly mold and educate the child? How little is the destiny of the child considered. The gratification of passion is the only thought, and burdens are brought upon the wife and mother which undermine her vitality, and paralyze her spiritual power. In broken health and with discouraged spirits, she finds herself surrounded by a little flock when she cannot care for as she should. Lacking the instruction they should have, they grow up to dishonor God and to communicate to others the evil of their own natures, and thus an army is raised up whom Satan manages as he pleases.
You cannot bring up your children as you should without divine help; for the fallen nature of Adam always strives for the mastery. The heart must be prepared for the principles of truth, that they may root in the soul, and find nourishment in the life. Parents, lay hold upon divine help, and bring no more children into the world than those to whom you can give a training and education that will fit them for this life and the life which is to come. Follow the example of Abraham. The Lord said of him, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” (Genesis 18:19) Human effort alone will not result in helping your children to perfect a character for heaven; but with divine help a grand and holy work may be accomplished, and you may be able to present yourselves and your children before God, saying, “Here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me.”
“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only…. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:24, 26) It is essential to have faith in Jesus, and to believe you are saved through him; but there is danger in taking the position that many do take in saying, “I am saved.” (Many people say they are saved and think that they can live as they please without any possibility of losing their salvation. They are deluded. They think that they are saved, but they are not. Editor) Many have said: “You must do good works, and you will live;” but apart from Christ no one can do good works. Many at the present day say, “Believe, only believe, and live.” Faith and works go together, believing and doing are blended. The Lord requires no less of the soul now, than he required of Adam in paradise before he fell,—perfect obedience, unblemished righteousness. The requirement of God under the covenant of grace is just as broad as the requirement he made in paradise,—harmony with his law, which is holy, and just, and good. The gospel does not weaken the claims of the law; it exalts the law and makes it honorable. Under the New Testament, no less is required than was required under the Old Testament. Let no one take up with the delusion so pleasant to the natural heart, that God will accept of sincerity, no matter what may be the faith, no matter how imperfect may be the life. God requires of his child perfect obedience.
In order to meet the requirements of the law, our faith must grasp the righteousness of Christ, accepting it as our righteousness. Through union with Christ, through acceptance of his righteousness by faith, we may be qualified to work the works of God, to be co-laborers with Christ. If you are willing to drift along with the current of evil, and do not cooperate with the heavenly agencies in restraining transgression in your family, and in the church, in order that everlasting righteousness may be brought in, you do not have faith. Faith works by love and purifies the soul. Through faith the holy Spirit works in the heart to create holiness therein; but this cannot be done unless the human agent will work with Christ. We can be fitted for heaven only through the work of the holy Spirit upon the heart; for we must have Christ’s righteousness as our credentials if we would find access to the Father. In order that we may have the righteousness of Christ, we need daily to be transformed by the influence of the Spirit, to be a partaker of the divine nature. It is the work of the holy Spirit to elevate the taste, to sanctify the heart, to ennoble the whole man.
Let the soul look to Jesus. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) No one will be forced to look to Christ; but the voice of invitation is sounding in yearning entreaty, “Look and live.” In looking to Christ, we shall see that his love is without a parallel, that he has taken the place of the guilty sinner, and has imputed unto him his spotless righteousness. When the sinner sees his Saviour dying upon the cross under the curse of sin in his stead, beholding his pardoning love, love awakes in his heart. The sinner loves Christ, because Christ has first loved him, and love is the fulfilling of the law. The repenting soul realizes that God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) The Spirit of God works in the believer’s soul, enabling him to advance from one line of obedience to another, reaching on from strength to greater strength, from grace to grace in Christ Jesus.
God justly condemns all who do not make Christ their personal Saviour; but he pardons every soul who comes to him in faith, and enables him to work the works of God, and through faith to be one with Christ. Jesus says of these, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one [this unity brings perfection of character]; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:23) The Lord has made every provision whereby man may have full and free salvation, and be complete in him. God designs that his children shall have the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness, that all may have the light of truth. God has provided salvation for the world at infinite cost, even through the gift of his only begotten Son. The apostle asks, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Then if we are not saved, the fault will not be on the part of God, but on our part, that we have failed to co-operate with the divine agencies. Our will has not coincided with God’s will.
The Redeemer of the world clothed his divinity with humanity, that he might reach humanity; for it took the divine and the human to bring into the world the salvation that was needed by fallen man. Divinity needed humanity that humanity might afford a channel of communication between God and man. Man needs a power out of and above himself to restore him to the likeness of God; but because he needs divine aid, it does not make human activity unessential. Faith on the part of man is required; for faith works by love and purifies the soul. Faith lays hold upon the virtue of Christ. The Lord does not design that human power should be paralyzed; but by cooperating with God, the power of man may be efficient for good. God does not design that our will should be destroyed; for it is through this very attribute that we are to accomplish the work he would have us to do both at home and abroad. He has given to every man his work; and every true worker sheds forth light to the world, because he is united with God and Christ and heavenly angels in the grand work of saving the lost. From divine association he becomes more and more intelligent in working the works of God. In working out what divine grace works in, the believer becomes spiritually great. He who works according to his intrusted ability will become a wise builder for the Master; for he is under the apprenticeship to Christ, learning to work the works of God. He will not shun burdens of responsibility, for he will realize that each one must lift in the cause of God to the extent of his ability, and he places himself under the pressure of the work; but Jesus does not leave his willing and obedient servant to be crushed. It is not the man who carries heavy responsibilities in the cause of God who needs your pity; for he is faithful and true in cooperation with God; and through union of divine and human effort, the work is made complete. It is he who shuns responsibilities, who has no realization of the privilege to which he is called, who is an object of pity.
The upbuilding of the kingdom of God is retarded or urged forward according to the unfaithfulness or fidelity of human agencies. Unfaithfulness to the cause of Christ makes manifest that love is lacking in the human agent. It was the love of Christ that constrained him to come and seek and save that which was lost. But the love of Christ does not seem to constrain those who profess his name; for a deathlike slumber is upon the human agents, and the work is hindered by failure of the human to cooperate with the divine. Men may pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” but fail in acting upon this prayer in their lives. The living Christian is one who has not left his first love, and his candlestick is not removed out of its place. But those who do not maintain their consecration to God are blind, and cannot see afar off, and have forgotten that they were purged from their old sins. But though you may be weak, erring, frail, sinful, and imperfect, the Lord holds out to you the offer of partnership with himself, inviting you to come under divine instruction. Uniting with Christ, you may work the works of God. “Without me,” said Christ, “ye can do nothing.”
We are to work the works of Christ, to learn the lesson he presented to his disciples, and reflect his character to the world. Isaiah says, “Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” (Isaiah 58:8) This is the righteousness of Christ which goes before us, and the glory of the Lord is to be our rereward. Ye churches of the living God, study this promise, and consider how your lack of faith, of spirituality, of divine power, is hindering the coming of the kingdom of God. Were everyone of you living missionaries, the gospel would be speedily proclaimed in all countries, to all peoples, nations, and tongues. This is the work that must be done before Christ shall come in power and great glory. I call upon the church to pray earnestly that you may understand your responsibilities. Are you individually laborers together with God? If not, why not? When do you mean to do your God-appointed work? God is working, the agencies of heaven are at work that the prayer may be fulfilled, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Man is the agent through whom God works for man, and yet how few have given themselves unreservedly to work the works of God. Man can accomplish nothing without Jesus, and yet it is so arranged in the plan of salvation, that its great object cannot be consummated without human cooperation. Our work may appear small and unimportant, and yet we are laborers together with God. Jesus has given us every temporal and spiritual blessing; he died to make propitiation for our sins and to reconcile us to God. He has sent forth light and truth, that we should walk in the beams of the Sun of righteousness, and not in the sparks of our own kindling.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3) He who hath this hope in him learns from the Scriptures that he must be a worker together with God. There can be no such thing as a slothful Christian. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Those who are waiting to behold a magical change in their characters, without a determined effort on their part, will be disappointed. With our limited powers we are to be as holy in our sphere as God is holy in his sphere. To the extent of our ability we are to make manifest the truth and love and excellence of the divine character, and for this reason we must draw from the living fountain. As the wax takes the impression of the seal, so the soul is to take the impression of the Spirit of God, and retain the moral image of Christ. We are to become partakers of the divine nature, realizing in our experience the vigor and perfection of spiritual life.
We are to look unto Jesus, and by beholding him, we are to become changed. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.… For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:31, 34-36)
Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:11, 12) Of these the Saviour says, “The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27) “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:25, 26)
Christ came to reveal to the world the knowledge of the character of God, of which the world was destitute. This knowledge was the chief treasure which he committed to his disciples to be communicated to men. The truth of God had been hidden beneath a mass of tradition and error. The sacrificial offerings which had been instituted to teach men concerning the vicarious atonement of Christ, to teach them that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, had become to them a stumbling-block. All that was spiritual and holy was perverted to their darkened understanding. They were blinded by pride and prejudice so that they could not see to the end of that which was abolished. Jesus came to change the order of things that then existed, and reveal to them the character of the Father. He drew aside the veil which concealed his glory from the eyes of mortals, and made manifest to the world the only true and living God, whom to know aright is life eternal.
(Review and Herald, October 25 & November 1, 1892)