The Signs of the Times


March 30, 1888

Faith and Works


The tendency of the popular religious teaching of the day is to make the Christian's pathway as easy and attractive as possible. There is a great deal said concerning faith, but the necessity of performing the sacred obligations set forth in the word of God, the necessity of living consistent, godly lives, of being workers together with God, of denying self, of coming out from the world and separating from its fashions and follies, is not presented as it should be presented, from the pulpits of the land. “Believe, only believe,” is the burden of the instruction from the sacred desk. Repentance, confession, and thorough reformation in life and character are not dwelt on, or required from those who would take part in the privileges of church-fellowship. The line of distinction between the church and the world has become less positive, because the great standard of righteousness has not been the standard by which the faith of men and women was tested and proven. “Only believe” is echoed by thousands who catch up the words parrot-fashion, and repeat them with no sense of their importance or significance. Says the prophet, “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” ST March 30, 1888, par. 1

Many of these religious teachers have developed characters in harmony with their shallow appreciation of divine truth. It has been agreeable to their carnal hearts to be released from all responsibility and obligation. They did not desire the inconvenience of denying self, of taking up the warfare against besetting sins, and of correcting the defects that marred their characters. They have persuaded themselves that Christ has relieved them from the duty of purifying themselves even as he is pure. They declare that Christ has done all, that men have nothing to do but to believe, that good works are impossible and unnecessary. Such souls are deceived themselves and are agents used of Satan to deceive others. They do not believe in Jesus. If they had a connection with him, they would know that he is not the minister of sin. Those who have faith in the Son of God make manifest what is the character of his mission, by lives of devotion, integrity, and self-sacrifice, and prove to the world that he came, not to save men in their sins, but from their sins. He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” ST March 30, 1888, par. 2

The apostle Paul realized what his words meant when he said, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He knew it meant the surrender of every power of his being to the service of God. It meant an entire renouncing of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It meant that he must follow in the blood-stained path of the Man of Calvary, and walk even as he walked. ST March 30, 1888, par. 3

How different is the faith that is presented to the world today as essential to salvation. It has no vitality, no reality. It does not unite the believers as branches to the living Vine. It is not the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. It is a formal, nominal acceptance of a popular story, and has about as much efficacy as the faith that accepted Abraham Lincoln as a good administrator of governmental affairs. Genuine faith will show definite results in the character, and will exert a controlling influence over the thoughts of the heart, and the affairs of the life. It will lead its possessor to practice the principles of his belief. Says Jesus, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.” Says the apostle, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” It is the doing of the words and works of Christ that testifies to the saving qualities of your faith. ST March 30, 1888, par. 4

The law of God is the great standard of righteousness, and it will measure every man's profession and progress. It is a mirror which discovers the defects of our characters, and shows us the requirements of God. It is holy and just and good. Says the wise man, “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” When Jesus was asked by the lawyer, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? he said unto him, What saith the law? how readest thou? And he answering 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 March 30, 1888, par. 5

The law of God condemns all selfishness, all pride of heart, every species of dishonesty, every secret or open transgression. The natural heart is not inclined to love its precepts, or obey its requirements. “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But genuine faith in Christ converts the heart, works a change in its attitude to the law, until it delights in the law of God. The man who manifests enmity to the law has not submitted to the converting power of God. It is the keeping of the commandments that proves the sincerity of our professions of love. Says John, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” Satan is engaged in leading men to pervert the plain meaning of God's word. He desires that the world should have no clear idea in regard to the plan of salvation. He well knows that the object of Christ's life of obedience, the object of his suffering, trial, and death upon the cross, was to magnify the divine law, to become a substitute for guilty man, that he might have remission for sins that are past, and grace for future obedience; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in him—and he be transformed and fitted for the heavenly courts. Satan knows that no transgressor of the divine law will ever enter the kingdom of Heaven, and to rob God of the devotion and service of man, to thwart the plan of salvation, and work the ruin of those for whom Christ died, is the motive that actuates his warfare against the law of Heaven. He caused the fall of the holy pair in Eden by leading them to lightly esteem the commandment of God, to think his requirements unjust, and unreasonable, that they were not binding, and that their transgression would not be visited, as God had said, with death. ST March 30, 1888, par. 6

The law of God is the foundation of his Government in Heaven and in earth, and as long as the follower of Jesus imitates his Lord by exalting the divine precepts in word and life, Satan has no power to deceive or mislead his soul. ST March 30, 1888, par. 7

The fatal deception of the religious world is the old disregard for the claims of the law of God. The desire for an easy religion that requires no striving, no self-denial, no divorce from the follies of the world, has made the doctrine of faith, and faith only, a popular doctrine; but we must sound a note of warning. What saith the word of God? Says the apostle James, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? ... Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” ST March 30, 1888, par. 8

The testimony of the word of God is against this ensnaring doctrine of faith without works. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions upon which mercy is to be granted; it is presumption; for genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures. ST March 30, 1888, par. 9

The Jews had faith of a similar character to that of many professed Christians today. They believed the prophecies predicting the advent of Messiah; but their faith was not of that spiritual nature which discerned in the Son of God the Saviour of their expectations. They could not accept the work of God for their time, and they rejected the truth because their faith did not see the relation of the shadow to the substance. They clung tenaciously to the offering of their sacrifices, to the rites of the church and the traditions of the fathers; but they refused the Lamb of God, the great antitype of all the services of the past. They were very zealous for the observance of form, and claimed to trust in Moses and the prophets; but he who had inspired the words of the Scriptures, and whose life was the fulfillment of their prophecies, was a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. He did not meet their ideal of what the coming One should be. They had imagined a Messiah whose power and majesty would gratify the pride of their carnal hearts, and exalt them to a position of supreme power among the nations. When Jesus unfolded to them the character of his kingdom, and what his disciples must possess in order to be elect, and favored of God, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” ST March 30, 1888, par. 10

The Saviour was invested with the credentials of Heaven. The word of God sustained his claims. His miracles, his holy character, his power over men and devils, all spoke conviction to the hearts of his hearers; but they refused him. He came in accordance with the prophecies they professed to believe, but he was “despised and rejected of men,” as the prophets had foretold he would be. ST March 30, 1888, par. 11

The Jews could not give up their dreams of a great Prince who would rule all nations. They could not relinquish their hopes of temporal power and glory to take up with the Man of Sorrows, to follow in his steps of self-denial and purity. They loved darkness rather than light and the errors they loved wrought out their destruction. ST March 30, 1888, par. 12

There is no need of any soul being deceived. The teaching of priest and rabbi cannot make the word of God of no authority. It is the duty of each man to know what the Scriptures teach and to take his position in harmony with the truth. The Lord has commanded us to “search the Scriptures.” We are instructed to “prove all things,” to “hold fast that which is good.” God has given us an unfailing test to apply to every man's life and doctrine. Says the prophet, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” We are not to live by the doctrines of men, not by a fragment, or a perversion of the truth; but by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” ST March 30, 1888, par. 13

Genuine faith will lead men to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. They will not follow the course of this world. The Spirit and works of Christ will be manifested in their lives and the word of God will be made the rule of their action. They will do and teach the commandments of God, and will walk humbly before men and angels. They will discern the work of God in the earth, and prejudice will not be permitted to close their hearts against the truth for their time. They will strive to enter in at the strait gate, they will take the narrow way and follow the Redeemer of the world. ST March 30, 1888, par. 14

Those who are not “doers of the word” may boast of their empty faith. They may boast of their holiness, while trampling on the law of God; but Jesus says to them, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” and the final sentence will come, “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” For “faith without works is dead.” ST March 30, 1888, par. 15