The Righteousness of Christ
[The following letter was written in answer to a letter from a brother minister. As the subject dwelt upon is of general interest, it may be a help to others besides the one specially addressed.]
Dear Brother: It was with pleasure that I read your letter of inquiry to me, for the thought that the work of the Spirit of God wrought upon your heart at the Kansas meeting has so far not been effaced, is of great satisfaction. You have had a glimpse of the righteousness of Christ which you have not lost, as I am sure some others did when they came in contact with those who did not appreciate this blessed truth. I am glad that Jesus does indeed make his presence manifest when it is eagerly sought for and gratefully acknowledged.
When the third angels message is preached as it should be, power attends its proclamation, and it becomes an abiding influence. It must be attended with divine power, or it will accomplish nothing. I am often referred to the parable of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise, and five foolish. This parable has been and will be fulfilled to the very letter, for it has a special application to this time, and, like the third angels message, has been fulfilled and will continue to be present truth till the close of time. In the parable, the ten virgins had lamps, but only five of them had the saving oil with which to keep their lamps burning. This represents the condition of the Church. The wise and the foolish have their Bibles, and are provided with all the means of grace; but many do not appreciate the fact that they must have the heavenly unction. They do not heed the invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.
Jesus desires to efface the image of the earthly from the minds of His followers, and to impress upon them the image of the heavenly, that they may become one with Himself, reflecting His character, and showing forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. If you have been permitted to stand in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness, it is not that you may absorb and conceal the bright beams of Christs righteousness, but that you may become a light to others. The enemy has men in our ranks through which he works, that the light, which God has permitted to shine upon the heart and illuminate the chambers of the mind may be darkened. There are persons who have received the precious light of the righteousness of Christ, but they do not act upon it; they are foolish virgins. They prefer the sophistry of the enemy rather than the plain "Thus saith the Lord." When the blessing of God rested upon them in order that they might become channels of light, they did not go forward from light to a greater light; they permitted doubt and unbelief to come in, so that the truth which they had seen, became an uncertainty to them.
Satan uses those who claim to believe the truth, but whose light has become darkness, as his mediums to utter his falsehoods and transmit his darkness. They are foolish virgins indeed, choosing darkness rather than light, and dishonoring God. The character we cultivate, the attitude we assume today is fixing our future destiny. We are all making a choice, either to be with the blessed, inside the city of light, or to be with the wicked, outside the city. The principles which govern our actions on earth, are known in heaven, and our deeds are faithfully chronicled in the books of record. It is there known whether our characters are after the order of Christ or the order of the arch-deceiver who caused rebellion in heaven. Are we wise virgins, or must we be classed among the foolish? This is the question which we are deciding today by our character and attitude. That which passes with many for the religion of Christ, is made up of ideas and theories, a mixture of truth and error. Some are trying to become good enough to be saved. They continually complain of their sins. The Lord says of them, "And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand." "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?" Verse 17
Penances, mortifications of the flesh, constant confession of sin, without sincere repentance; fasts, festivals, and outward observances, unaccompanied by true devotionall these are of no value whatever. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient; he made a whole, efficacious offering to God; and human effort without the merit of Christ, is worthless. We not only dishonor God by taking this course, but we destroy our present and future usefulness. A failure to appreciate the value of the offering of Christ, has a debasing influence; it blights our expectations, and makes us fall short of our privileges; it leads us to receive unsound and perilous theories concerning the salvation that has been purchased for us at infinite cost. The plan of salvation is not understood to be that through which divine power is brought to man in order that his human effort may be wholly successful.
To be pardoned in the way that Christ pardons, is not only to be forgiven, but to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. The Lord says, "A new heart will I give unto thee." The image of Christ is to be stamped upon the very mind, heart, and soul. The apostle says, "And we have the mind of Christ." Without the transforming process which can come alone through divine power, the original propensities to sin are left in the heart in all their strength, to forge new chains, to impose a slavery that can never be broken by human power. But men can never enter heaven with their old tastes, inclinations, idols, ideas, and theories. Heaven would be no place of joy to them; for everything would be in collision with their tastes, appetites, and inclinations, and painfully opposed to their natural and cultivated traits of character.
In the parable of the virgins, five are represented as wise and five as foolish. The name "foolish virgins" represents the character of those who have not the genuine heart-work wrought by the Spirit of God. The coming of Christ does not change the foolish virgins into wise ones. When Christ comes, the balances of Heaven will weigh the character, and decide whether it is pure, sanctified, and holy, or whether it is unclean, and unfit for the kingdom of heaven. Those who have despised the divine grace that is at their command, that would have qualified them to be the inhabitants of heaven, will be the foolish virgins. They had all the light, all the knowledge, but they failed to obtain the oil of grace; they did not receive the truth in its sanctifying power.
Happiness is the result of holiness, and conformity to the will of God. Those who would be saints in heaven, must first be saints upon the earth; for when we leave this earth, we shall take our character with us, and this will be simply taking with us some of the elements of heaven imparted to us through the righteousness of Christ.
The state of the Church represented by the foolish virgins, is also spoken of as the Laodicean state. The True Witness declares, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in the throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Revelation 13:15-21.
Half-hearted Christians obscure the glory of God, misinterpret piety, and cause men to receive false ideas as to what constitutes vital godliness. Others think that they, also, can be Christians and yet consult their own tastes and make provision for the flesh, if these false-hearted professors can do so. On many a professed Christians banner the motto is written, "You can serve God and please selfyou can serve God and mammon." They profess to be wise virgins, but not having the oil of grace in their vessels with their lamps, they shed forth no light to the glory of God and for the salvation of men. They seek to do what the worlds Redeemer said was impossible to do; he has declared, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Those who profess to be Christians, but do not follow in the footsteps of Christ, make of none effect his words, and obscure the plan of salvation. By their spirit and deportment they virtually say, "Jesus, in your day you did not understand as well as we do in our day, that man can serve God and mammon." These professors of religion claim to keep the law of God, but they do not keep it. O, what would the standard of true manhood have become had it been left in the hands of man! God has lifted his own standardthe commandments of God and the faith of Jesusand the experience that follows complete surrender to God, is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Everything that man touches with unholy hands and unsanctified intellect, even the gospel of truth, becomes, by the contact, contaminated. Man puts confidence in man, and makes flesh his arm, but all the work of man is the earth, earthy.
Christ says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life;" and it is the privilege of every soul to make Christ his personal Saviour. You need not wait to grow good; you need not think that any effort of yours will make your prayers acceptable, and bring you salvation. Let each man and woman pray to God, not to man. Let each one come to Christ in humility, speak to him with your own lips. The request, "Will you pray for me?" has become simply a form of speech; you should pray to God for yourself, believing that he listens to every word you utter. Lay bare your heart for his inspection, confess your sins, asking him to forgive you, pleading the merits of the atonement, and then by faith contemplate the great scheme of redemption, and the Comforter will bring all things to your remembrance.
The more you study the character of Christ, the more attractive will he appear to you. He will become as one near you, in close companionship with you; your affections will go out after him. If the mind is molded by the objects with which it has most to do, then to think of Jesus, to talk of him, will enable you to become like him in Spirit and character. You will reflect his image in that which is great and pure and spiritual. You will have the mind of Christ, and he will send you forth to the world as his spiritual representative. He will be your only glory. You cannot affiliate with the world without becoming a partaker of its spirit, without becoming guilty of treason against the Lord who has bought you. It is the privilege of every earnest seeker for truth and righteousness, to rely upon the sure promises of God. The Lord Jesus makes manifest the fact that the treasures of divine grace are placed entirely at our disposal, in order that we may become channels of light. We cannot receive the riches of the grace of Christ without desiring to impart them to others. When we have the love of Christ in our hearts, we shall feel that it is our duty and privilege to communicate it. The sun shining in the heavens, pours its bright beams into all the highways and by-ways of life. It has sufficient light for thousands of worlds like ours. And so it is with the Sun of Righteousness; his bright beams of healing and gladness are amply sufficient to save our little world, and are efficacious in establishing security in every world that has been created. Christ declares that Our Heavenly Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children. The day of Pentecost furnished a wonderful occasion. In the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, what a testimony was given to the abundance of the grace of Christ! Why is it that those who claim to believe advanced truth, live so far beneath their privileges? Why do they mingle self with all they do? If they will cast out self, Jesus will pour into the thirsty soul a constant supply from the river of life. How can our ministers become the representatives of Christ, when they feel self-sufficientwhen by spirit and attitude they say, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing"? We must not be in a self-satisfied condition, or we shall be described as those who are poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked.
Since the time of the Minneapolis meeting, I have seen the state of the Laodicean Church as never before. I have heard the rebuke of God spoken to those who feel so well satisfied, who know not their spiritual destitution. Jesus speaks to these as he did to the woman of Samaria: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." John 4:10.
Like the Jews, many have closed their eyes lest they should see; but there is as great peril now, in closing the eyes to light, and in walking apart from Christ, feeling need of nothing, as there was when he was upon earth. I have been shown many things which I have presented before our people in solemnity and earnestness, but those whose hearts have been hardened through criticism, jealousy, and evil surmising, knew not that they were poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked. Those who resist the messages of God through his humble servant, think they are at variance with Sister White, because her ideas are not in harmony with theirs; but this variance is not with Sister White, but with the Lord, who had given her her work to do.
Those who realize their need of repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, will have contrition of soul, will repent for their resistance of the Spirit of the Lord. They will confess their sin in refusing the light that Heaven has so graciously sent them, and they will forsake the sin that grieved and insulted the Spirit of the Lord. They will humble self, and accept the power and grace of Christ, acknowledging the messages of warning, reproof, and encouragement. Then their faith in the work of God will be made manifest, and they will rely upon the atoning sacrifice. They will make a personal appropriation of Christs abundant grace and righteousness, and he will become to them a present Saviour; for they will realize their need of him, and with complete trust will rest in him. They will drink of the water of life from the divine, inexhaustible fountain. In a new and blessed experience, they will cast themselves upon Christ, and become partakers of the divine nature. The human and the divine will cooperate every day, and the heart will well up in thanksgiving and praise to Christ. Heavenly inspiration will have a part in the Christian experience, and we shall grow to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.
It is growth in knowledge of the character of Christ that sanctifies the soul. To discern and appreciate the wonderful work of the atonement, transforms him who contemplates the plan of salvation. By beholding Christ, he becomes changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. The beholding of Jesus becomes an ennobling, refining process to the actual Christian. He sees the Pattern, and grows into its likeness, and then how easily are dissension, emulation, and strife adjusted. The perfection of Christs character is the Christians inspiration. When we see him as he is, desire awakes to be like him, and this elevates the whole man; for "every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." 1 John 3:3.
I feel sad when I think how for long years there has been a gradual lowering of the standard. I have been shown that very few realize the constant presence of the divine Watcher who declares, "I know thy works." Through the indulgence of sin, many have forfeited the favor of God, misrepresented Jesus, forgotten his presence, forgotten that they are living in his sight, and so have added evil to evil. All such are foolish virgins. They have no abiding consolation. The power of Christ is to be the comfort, the hope, and the crown of rejoicing, of every one that follows Jesus in his conflict, in his struggles in life. He who truly follows the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, can shout as he advances, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4.
What kind of faith is it that overcomes the world?It is that faith which makes Christ your own personal Saviour,that faith which, recognizing your helplessness, your utter inability to save yourself, takes hold of the Helper who is mighty to save, as your only hope. It is faith that will not be discouraged, that hears the voice of Christ saying, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world, and my divine strength is yours." It is the faith that hears him say, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20.
THE REASON WHY THE CHURCHES ARE WEAK AND SICKLY AND READY TO DIE, IS THAT THE ENEMY HAS BROUGHT INFLUENCES OF A DISCOURAGING NATURE TO BEAR UPON TREMBLING SOULS. HE HAS SOUGHT TO SHUT JESUS FROM THEIR VIEW AS THE COMFORTER, AS ONE WHO REPROVES, WHO WARNS, WHO ADMONISHES THEM, SAYING, "THIS IS THE WAY, WALK YE IN IT." See Isaiah 30:21. Christ has all power in heaven and in earth, and he can strengthen the wavering, and set right the erring. He can inspire with confidence, with hope in God; and confidence in God always results in creating confidence in one another.
Every soul must have a realization that Christ is his personal Saviour; then love and zeal and steadfastness will be manifest in the Christian life. However clear and convincing the truth is, it will fail to sanctify the soul, fail to strengthen and fortify it in its conflicts, unless it is brought in constant contact with life. Satan has achieved his greatest success through interposing himself between the soul and the Saviour.
Christ should never be out of the mind. The angels said concerning him, "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21. Jesus, precious Saviour! Assurance, helpfulness, security, and peace are all in him. He is the dispeller of all our doubts, the earnest of all our hopes. How precious is the thought that we may indeed become partakers of the divine nature, whereby we may overcome as Christ overcame! Jesus is the fullness of our expectation. He is the melody of our songs, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. He is living water to the thirsty soul. He is our refuge in the storm. He is our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. When Christ is our personal Saviour, we shall show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This great spiritual destitution is not caused by any failure on the part of Christ doing all that is possible for the Church. Our Heavenly Father bestowed all Heaven in one giftthat of his dear Son. The work of the Holy Spirit is not to daub with untempered mortar, but it is to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment to come. Jesus says, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." The revelation of the Son of God upon the cross, dying for the sins of men, draws the hearts of men by the power of infinite love, and convinces the sinner of sin. Christ died because the law was transgressed, that guilty man might be saved from the penalty of his enormous guilt. But history has proved that it is easier to destroy the world than to reform it; for men crucified the Lord of glory, who came to unite earth with heaven, and man with God. Review and Herald, August 19, 1890, and August 26, 1890