The Signs of the Times


July 16, 1894

“This Do, and Thou Shalt Live”


“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” ST July 16, 1894, par. 1

With breathless attention the large congregation awaited Jesus’ answer. The priests and Pharisees hoped to find something against him, and listened, that they might take advantage of his words, and interpret them in such a way as to bring upon him condemnation. But Christ, the true searcher of hearts, understood the intents and purposes of his enemies. He turned the matter over to the lawyer who had asked the question, saying, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” The Jews accused Jesus of making too little of the law, but he turned the question of salvation the lawyer had asked to the keeping of God's commandments. And the lawyer said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live.” ST July 16, 1894, par. 2

The lawyer had asked a plain, decided question, and the answer is equally plain and decided. The scribes, priests, and Pharisees could find nothing by which to put him on trial for his life, except through the testimony of false witnesses, who accused him of violating the law. They had thought to entangle Jesus by having the lawyer ask this question, but the answering of it is required at the questioner's hand. Christ knew that the lawyer was not satisfied with the position and works of the Pharisees, and, by the answer that he made to his own question, it is evident that he had been studying the Scriptures with a desire to obtain their real meaning. He had a vital interest in the matter, and asked in sincerity, “What shall I do?” The answer of the lawyer, commended by Jesus, and coming from one well instructed in the law, placed Jesus in such a position that the priests and Pharisees could not find occasion against him. In answering the question, “What is written in the law?” the lawyer passed over all the mass of ceremonial and ritualistic ordinances as of no value, and presented only the two great principles on which hang all the law and the prophets, and Jesus commended his wisdom, and said, “This do, and thou shalt live.” Jesus presented the law as a divine unity, and showed that it is not possible to keep one precept and break another, but that man's position in the courts above will be according to his obedience to the whole law. ST July 16, 1894, par. 3

In his sermon on the mount Jesus had presented the truth concerning his estimation of the law. He had said: “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 nowise 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. For ... except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” ST July 16, 1894, par. 4

The views entertained by the scribes and Pharisees are still in vogue in the world, and men think that by a partial obedience to the law, they will be cleared from sin; but Jesus taught that if any man offended in one point, he was guilty of breaking the whole law. The commandments are connected one with another as links in a chain, and if one link is broken, the chain is worthless. It is impossible for a man to obtain eternal life and break the commandments of Jehovah. Men cannot obey one commandment without rendering obedience to all the commandments. We are to regard the whole law as holy, just, and good. The first four precepts reveal the duty of man to God, and the last six reveal the duty of man to his fellow-man. On these two great principles hang all the law and the prophets; and when they are carried out in the life, they constitute the righteousness of their keeper. ST July 16, 1894, par. 5

In all the instructions of Jesus, he presents before us the character of God. We are called upon to love God with undivided heart. We are not to render to him a formal service, a barren faith, to acknowledge his superior power in a casual way, but we are to render to him praise and thanksgiving, and make it manifest that we are under his rule and dominion. He will accept nothing but the whole heart, the supreme love. There must be nothing that will draw the mind away from him. Anything that interposes itself between God and the soul, assumes the form of an idol. Every other thing that can attract the heart is inferior to God, and no man can serve two masters whose interests are at variance. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” ST July 16, 1894, par. 6

Jesus found himself surrounded by scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers, and the lawyer asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” To this question Jesus presented a parable that laid bare the sanctimonious pretensions of priests and Levites. With fearlessness and fidelity he exposed the false doctrine of those who taught the traditions of man, and disregarded the commandments of God. He illustrated what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. But he also showed that this love will never be exercised by those who do not keep the first four precepts of the law. Where love to God is practiced, natural self-idolatry will not exist. No man can love God supremely unless he loves his neighbor as himself. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?” Love to God is the golden chain that binds the ten precepts of Jehovah together. ST July 16, 1894, par. 7

To answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus presented the parable of the good Samaritan. He knew that the Jews included only those of their own nation under the title of neighbors, and looked upon the Gentiles with contempt, calling them dogs, uncircumcised, unclean, and polluted. But above all others they despised the Samaritans. They cursed them, and would have no dealings with them. Jesus himself had been taught, both by precept and example, thus to regard this hated people, and the lawyer had been educated by the same kind of teaching. Yet Jesus said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” ST July 16, 1894, par. 8

In journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho the traveler had to pass through a portion of the wilderness of Judea, and the road led through a wild, rocky ravine. It was here that robbers attacked the traveler, stripped him of all that was valuable, wounding and bruising him, and leaving him half dead by the wayside. As the sufferer lies thus, a priest passes by, but merely glances at the wounded man; and, as he does not wish to be put to the trouble and expense of helping him, he passes by on the other side. Then a Levite passes. Curious to know what has happened, he stops and looks at the sufferer; but he has no feeling of compassion to prompt him to help the dying man. He does not like the work, and, as he thinks it is no concern of his, he too passes by. Both these men were in sacred office, and claimed to know and to expound the Scriptures. They had been trained in the school of national bigotry, and had become selfish, narrow, and exclusive, and they felt no sympathy for anyone unless he was of the Jews. They look upon the wounded man, but cannot tell whether he is of their nation or not. He might be of the Samaritans—and they turn away. Had they not read of Job, who said, “The stranger did not lodge in the street; but I opened my doors to the traveler”? Had they not read of Lot, when the two angels came to Sodom, how he bowed himself to the ground, and said, “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways”? ST July 16, 1894, par. 9

Jesus, enshrouded in the pillar of cloud and fire, had taught them a very different lesson from the lesson they had received from bigoted and exclusive teachers. The merciful Saviour of the Gospels was the One who had instructed the Hebrews in the wilderness; and, had they read the Scriptures correctly, and practiced the teaching he had given, they would have pursued a very different course of action from the one they did pursue. The weightier matters of the law were judgment, mercy, and love. The stranger was to be treated with kindness, and it was to be understood that strangers were under God's special protection. Directions had been given to Moses for the children of Israel to this effect: “If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help him.” And was not a man better than an ox? ST July 16, 1894, par. 10

(Concluded next week.)