Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 6 (1889-1890)


Ms 14, 1889

The Elevating Character of True Religion



This manuscript is published in entirety in HM Extra 12/1889.

True religion ennobles the mind, refines the taste, and sanctifies the judgment. It makes the soul a partaker of the purity of heaven, brings angels near, and separates more and more from the spirit and influence of the world. It reveals to man an infinite and all-wise Creator, a protector, a redeemer from sin, a comforter in sorrow, a light in darkness, a guide in obscurity. It invites man to become a son of God, an heir of heaven. It fills the soul “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” [1 Peter 1:8.] 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 1

This precious gift of heaven is freely offered to all who will accept it. Our brightest hopes, our loftiest aspirations, can ask nothing more complete, more noble, more exalted. The tokens of infinite love, the pleadings of divine mercy, are ever wooing us to turn to God. The prophet says, “Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.” [Isaiah 55:2, 3.] 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 2

Truth has power to elevate the receiver. If Bible truth exerts its sanctifying influence upon the heart and mind of its recipient, it will make him more intelligent. A Christian will understand his responsibilities to God and to his fellow men if he is truly connected with the Lamb of God, who gave His life for the world. It is only by the improvement of the intellectual as well as the moral powers that we can hope to answer the purpose of our Creator. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 3

The Redeemer of the world has warned us against the pride of life, but not against its grace and natural beauty. He pointed to the flowers of the field, and said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” [Matthew 6:28, 29.] 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 4

“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” [Proverbs 4:18.] But light becomes darkness to all those who will not walk in it. In order to be accepted and blessed of God as our fathers were, we must be faithful as they were faithful. We must improve our light as the ancient, faithful prophets improved theirs. God requires of us according to the grace He bestows upon us. He will not accept less than He claims. All His righteous demands must be fully met. In order for us to meet all our responsibilities, we must stand on that elevated ground that the order and advancement of holy, sacred truth has prepared for us. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 5

But few have a true sense of what is comprised in the word Christian. It is to be Christlike, to do others good, to be divested of all selfishness, and to have our lives marked with acts of disinterested benevolence. Our Redeemer places souls in the arms of the church, for the members to care for unselfishly, and train them for heaven, and thus be co-workers with Him. But the church too often thrusts them away upon Satan’s battlefield. One member will say, “It is not my duty,” and bring up some trifling excuse. And another will say, “It is not my duty;” and finally it is no one’s duty, and the soul is left to perish. It is the duty of every Christian to engage in the self-denying, self-sacrificing enterprise of saving souls, and every man’s work is to be tested, and brought into judgment, and he is to be rewarded as his works have been. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 6

The good works of God’s people have a more powerful influence than words. By their virtuous life and unselfish acts, the beholder is led to desire the same righteousness which produced such good fruit. He is charmed with the power of God which transforms selfish human beings into the divine image, and God is honored and His name glorified. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 7

The Christian must be like the palm tree of the desert. The sky may be brass, the desert sand may beat about the palm tree’s roots, and pile itself in heaps about its trunk; yet the tree lives as an evergreen, fresh and vigorous. If you remove the sand till you reach its roots, you will discover the secret of its life—it strikes down deep beneath the surface, to secret waters hidden in the earth. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 8

Many profess to come to Christ, while they yet cling to their own ways, which are a painful yoke. Selfishness, covetousness, ambition, love of the world, or some other cherished sin, destroys their peace and joy. They are restless, impatient, dissatisfied; their spirits chafe under the weight of care and responsibility, all because they have not made a complete surrender to Jesus, but are seeking to carry their burden without His aid. If He were by their side, the sunshine of His presence would scatter every cloud; the help of His strong arm would lighten every burden. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 9

Jesus said to His disciples, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart.” [Matthew 11:29.] I would plead with those who have accepted the position of teachers, to become humble learners, and ever remain as pupils in the school of Christ, to receive from the Master lessons of meekness and lowliness of heart. Humility of spirit, combined with earnest activity, will result in the salvation of souls so dearly purchased by the blood of Christ. We may understand and believe the theory of the truth, and be able to present it to others, but this is not all that is required. “Faith without works is dead.” [James 2:26.] We need that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. A living faith in Christ will bring every action of life and every emotion of the soul into harmony with God’s truth and righteousness. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 10

God can make the humblest followers of Christ more precious than fine gold, even than the golden wedge of Ophir, if they yield themselves to His transforming hand. They should be determined to make the noblest use of every faculty and opportunity. The words of God should be their study and their guide in deciding what is the highest and best in all cases. The one faultless character, the perfect Pattern set before them in the gospel, should be studied with deepest interest. The one lesson essential to learn is that goodness alone is true greatness. May God deliver us from the philosophy of the worldly-wise. Their only hope is in becoming fools, that they may be wise indeed. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 11

The weakest follower of Christ has entered into an alliance with Infinite Power. In many cases, God can do little with men of learning, because they feel no need of leaning upon Him, who is the source of all wisdom. Therefore, after a trial, He sets them aside for men of inferior talent who have learned to rely upon Him, whose souls are fortified by goodness, truth, and unwavering fidelity, and who will not stoop to do anything that will leave a stain upon the conscience. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 12

Brethren, if you connect your souls with God by living faith, He will make you men of power. If you trust in your own strength and wisdom, you will surely fail. God calls for complete and entire consecration; and anything short of this He will not accept. The more difficult your position, the more you need Jesus. The love and fear of God kept Joseph pure and untarnished in the king’s court. He was exalted to great wealth, to the high honor of being next the king: and this exaltation was as sudden as it was great. It is impossible to stand upon a lofty height without danger. The tempest leaves unharmed the modest flower of the valley, while it wrestles with the lofty tree upon the mountain height. There are many men whom God could have used in poverty—He could have made them useful there, and crowned them with glory hereafter—but prosperity ruined them. They were dragged down to the pit, because they forgot to be humble—forgot that God was their strength—and became independent and self-sufficient. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 13

Joseph bore the test of character in adversity, and the gold was undimmed by prosperity. He showed the same sacred regard for God’s will when he stood next to the throne as when in the prisoner’s cell. Joseph carried his religion everywhere, and this was the secret of his unwavering fidelity. As a representative of Christ, you must have the all-pervading power of godliness. You must hide in Jesus. You are not safe unless you hold the hand of Christ. You must guard against everything like presumption, and cherish that spirit that would rather suffer than sin. No victory you can gain will be so precious as that gained over self. Selfish ambition, desire for supremacy, will die when Christ takes possession of the affections. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 14

The true spirit of the Christian is one of self-sacrifice; self-denial is required at every step. Jesus came down from heaven to teach us how to live; and His life was one of toil and self-denial. He went about doing good, and those who are truly His representatives will follow His example in working for the good of others. They will delight to advance the interests of the cause of God, both at home and abroad. They will be seen and heard, and their influence will be felt in the prayer meeting. Yet they do not seek to exalt self, or to receive the credit of doing a great work, but labor humbly, meekly, faithfully, doing small errands if they are called for, or a greater work if necessary, to testify their love and gratitude to Christ who has done so much for them. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 15

A genuine Christian experience unfolds day by day, bringing its possessor new strength and earnestness, and leading to constant growth in spiritual life. The Captain of our salvation leads His people on step by step, purifying and fitting them for translation, and leaving in the rear those who are disposed to draw off from the body, who are not willing to be led, and are satisfied with their own righteousness. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 16

The Christian life is constantly an onward march. Jesus sits as a refiner and purifier of His people; and when His image is perfectly reflected in them, they are perfect and holy, and prepared for translation. A great work is required of the Christian. We are exhorted to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Here we see where the great labor rests. There is constant work for the Christian. Every branch in the parent vine must derive life and strength from that vine in order to yield fruit. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 17

Christ is our refuge; and it is only through faith in Him that we form characters that God can accept. We may add knowledge to knowledge, strength to strength, virtue to virtue. But we shall fail in the soul-testing conflict just before us if we do not make Christ our strength and righteousness. All who have not experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit are like chaff among the wheat. Our Lord has His fan in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor. In the coming day He will discern “between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not.” [Malachi 3:18.] 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 18

Keep the spirit humble as that of a little child. Pride, envy, worldly ambition, cupidity, and love of ease must be sacrificed upon the altar of duty. In the simplicity of love, be like those little ones whose angels do always behold the face of our heavenly Father. But unite with these virtues the courage of a tried warrior. We want faithful Calebs who will raise their voices fearlessly in defense of the right, who are the first to press into the front of the battle, and plant the banner of truth in the heart of the enemy’s camp. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 19

Trials patiently borne, blessings gratefully received, temptations manfully resisted, meekness, kindness, mercy, and love, habitually exhibited, are the lights which shine forth in the character before the world, revealing the contrast with the darkness which comes of selfishness and unrestrained passion of the natural heart, into which the light of life has never shone. The grace of God can accomplish this for you. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 20

O love and grace of God! O precious grace, more valuable than fine gold! It elevates and ennobles the spirit beyond all other principles, and sets the affections upon heaven, whence we look for our Saviour. Converse with God and contemplation of things above transform the soul into the likeness of Christ. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 21

Like seeks like; like appreciates like. Christ recognizes His own spirit and image in His followers. As they become more like Him, they seek a closer association with Him. His character shines with new attractions. They see matchless charms in their Redeemer, and He becomes “the chiefest among ten thousand,” and “the one altogether lovely.” [Song of Solomon 5:10, 16.] His ways are precious to them, and it is their delight to do His will. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 22

When perfect faith and perfect love and obedience abound, working in the hearts of those who are Christ’s followers, they will have a powerful influence. Light will emanate from them, dispelling the darkness around them, refining and elevation all who come within the sphere of their influence, and bringing to a knowledge of the truth all who are willing to be enlightened and willing to follow in the humble path of obedience. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 23

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” [Psalm 24:3, 4.] “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” [Psalm 15:1-5.] 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 24

When the judgment shall sit and the books be opened, there will be many astonishing disclosures. Men will not then appear as they now appear to human eyes and finite judgments. Secret sins will then be laid bare to the view of all. Motives which have been hidden in the dark chambers of the heart will then be revealed. Designing ambitions, selfish purposes, will be seen where outward appearances told only of a desire to honor God and to do good to all men. What revelations will then be made! Men of pure motives and true and noble purposes may now be neglected, slandered, and despised; but they will then appear in their true character, and will be honored with the commendation of God. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 25

God is no respecter of persons. Heaven is a place prepared for those who have a fitness of character for the society of angels. Its lofty seats are not reserved for relatives and particular friends, but are given to those who love most. The beautiful mansions are opened to those who have practiced self-denial, who have brought their will into subjection to the will of God, and in life and character have conformed to the divine standard. They may have by nature fierce tempers and grave faults, and these may have been fostered and increased by wrong methods of training; but if through the grace of Christ they subdue these unlovely traits, and fight the good fight of faith, they will receive the overcomer’s reward. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 26

Our work is to copy the divine Pattern. We must rely in loving confidence upon the merits of Christ and take hold of His strength. Day by day we must subdue the evil traits that strive for the mastery. Earnest faith and loving obedience will bring us into close relationship with Christ, as was the beloved John. Those who are faithful in this appointed work will be acknowledged heroes in the heavenly courts. They reflect a bright light to the world now, for the power of divine grace is made manifest in them; and by and by they will shine forever as stars in the kingdom of heaven. 6LtMs, Ms 14, 1889, par. 27