Mrs. White's doctrine of sanctification is quite orthodox. There is certainly no pretense to anything new. Some of the definitions given sound very much like what could be read in Hodge, Strong, Berkhof or even the Westminster Catechism.
Definition and General Concepts
In general terms, sanctification is viewed as the process of divine grace which restores the whole man to the image of God.(1) It begins the moment the sinner is justified(2) and is completed at glorification.(3) It is the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,(4) but especially is it the work of the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers.(5) "Divine grace is needed at the beginning, divine grace at every step of advance, and divine grace alone can complete the work.6
Although man is called to a life of dependence, restfulness, and reliance upon God to do this work,(7) it must not be a one-sided quietism. The Holy Spirit's work is not substitutionary, as was the death of Christ on the cross. He does not take the place of human effort.(8) Man is called on to cooperate with God. God's plan is to employ the human faculties, while man must strive, fight, watch and pray.9
The great means of sanctification is the Word of God. The Word is the "channel" for the Spirit's work (10) "the great agency in the transformation of character."(11) God's Spirit is in His Word and never works apart from or outside the Word.12
Sanctification is the obverse side of justification. Together they are the twofold benefit of union with Christ. God justifies no one whom He does not also sanctify.(13) One blessing cannot be possessed without the other. If one is absent, so is the other. Sanctification therefore is not optional.(14) We are not saved by sanctification, yet we cannot be saved without it. It is not our title to heaven, but it is our fitness for heaven.(15) That is to say, we could have no enjoyment of heaven unless our hearts were changed to love the things of heaven.(16) Sanctification and glory differ only in degree, for sanctification is the life of heaven begun in the soul.17
So much for a "bare bones" summary of this doctrine of sanctification. Yet bare bones have no feeling and soul. This alone would not give us a true idea of how the doctrine of sanctification "comes through" in the pages of this author.
The amount of material which Mrs. White writes on the Christian life is vast. In it sanctification is portrayed in a great variety of hues. In some places the concept of sanctification sounds much like Luther. "The sum and substance of the whole matter of Christian grace and experience is contained in believing on Christ, in knowing God and His Son whom He hath sent."(18) Faith in Jesus, faith that works by love (a favorite expression), faith that buds and blossoms and bears a harvest of precious fruit,(19) faith that relies wholly on Christ's merit and through His merit fetches the Holy Spirit(20)—that is the essence of sanctification. "The sanctification of the soul is accomplished through steadfastly beholding Him [Christ] by faith. . . ."(21) "Our faith increases by beholding Jesus. . . ."(22) "Our greatest need is faith. . . ."(23) It would not be difficult to make a good case for the life of faith being the dynamic of sanctification, in real Luther style.
Another could examine the literature and see the reflection of Calvin, who beheld Christian existence as the life of self-denial. Self-denial is Christ's mission,(24) the foundation of the very stuff of the divine economy, the essential character of God, and the law of life for the universe.(25) "Those who would gain the blessing of sanctification must first learn the meaning of self-sacrifice."(26) Self-denial must be the foundation of the Christian's life, its essential character, and be woven into all experience.(27) One feels the disciplined spirit of Geneva and the Puritans--strict self-denial it must be at that!(28) Yet it is the image of a smiling, happy Puritan (there were some who really were such!), for self-denial is a cheerful privilege, the secret of true happiness.(29) And so another could make an equally good case for self-denial as being the rock-bottom element in Mrs. White's doctrine of sanctification.
On other occasions there is no effort to disguise the Wesleyan flavor. In one place a statement is lifted right out of John Wesley: "The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven."(30) Not only the formal definition, but the pervading spirit reflects Wesley. What could be more like John Wesley than the following? "True sanctification is nothing more or less than to love God with all the heart. . . ."(3l) "To love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves is genuine sanctification."32
Walter Marshall, the Puritan (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification), lives again in this definition of sanctification: "Obedience to the law is sanctification."(33) "Sanctification is the doing of all the commandments of God."34
Here is another definition for young Bill Blogsmith, who gets overwhelmed with a lot of theological jargon: " . . . sanctification consists in the cheerful performance of daily duties. . . .(35) "Sanctification means the culture and training of every capability for the Lord's service.(36) But lest one would get the idea that sanctification is being Martha-like alone, the author also says, "Sanctification is habitual communion with God."37
Then again, one can make a good case out of union with Christ or the reception of the Holy Spirit as being the theme of Mrs. White's concept of the Christian life. Here she is a quietist, telling us that the Christian life is a life of trust and restfulness. There she is a full-blooded activist, urging the reader to action, telling him that the Christian life is a fight, a battle, a march, that he must steel every nerve and fiber in what promises to be "slow, toilsome steps" toward perfection.(38) Now she is brimming with optimism about going on toward perfection—no talk of failure, impossibility or defeat!(39) Set the mark high—higher yet—and never suggest that overcoming this sin, that sin, or any kind of sin is an impossibility!(40) Next we are reminded of the inevitability of continual confession of sins and mistakes. "Let us remember that we are struggling and falling, failing in speech and action to represent Christ, falling and rising again, despairing and hoping."(41) "Are you in Christ? Not if you do not acknowledge yourself erring, helpless, condemned sinners.42
Contradictions? Paradoxes? That is for the reader to judge, but he who does not recognize (or refuses to recognize) these factors in Mrs. White is like the man who comes to the United States, takes a look around Los Angeles, and is satisfied that America boils down to smog and freeways.
The fact is that the amount of material which Mrs. White has written on the Christian life and its practice is vast. This reviewer has walked among the works of the Puritans. These take to the subject of sanctification with a disciplined thoroughness which is well-nigh overwhelming. But the length and breadth of Mrs. White's material makes the Puritans look like a one-stringed instrumentalist trying to compete with an orchestra.
Leaving aside the more doctrinal, devotional and exhortatory material on sanctification, let us consider just the extent of the material of a practical nature. Since sanctification embraces the whole man, Mrs. White writes enough on the sanctification of the body to fill several volumes. In the days when doctors were still bloodletting and performing crude surgery with unwashed hands, she wrote entire books on hygiene. Before nutrition became a modern science, she wrote whole volumes on diet and food. She wrote extensively on the care of the sick, the duties of Christian physicians, the building and operation of Christian medical institutions, the value of exercise, the effects of smoking, tea and coffee, the dangers of excess sugar consumption, and cautions to vegetarians against extremes. She wrote a book on the principles of Christian temperance and called for extensive reforms among Christians in many such areas. What do all these things about the physical man have to do with the matter of sanctification? Mrs. White claims that the body has more to do with sanctification than many suppose. Many Christians treat their bodies with shameful indifference. Not only do they lessen their effectiveness in service for God and man, but their abuse of the laws of life constitutes a great hindrance to soul sanctification.43
Sanctification of the whole man includes the mental faculties. So there are books on the philosophy and principles of Christian education and the founding of schools, instruction to Christian teachers and students, articles on the Christian home, child guidance, and the advantages of country living. Then there are books on evangelism and welfare ministry, counsels to ministers on church polity and organization. The Testimonies to the Church alone number nine volumes. The greatest proportion of all this material is on what is often called "practical godliness"—how a Christian is privileged to live, what manner of man he ought to be, what it means to make God first and last and best in everything. Christian living (holiness)—this was Mrs. White's forte. Whether he agrees with most of it or little of it, one would be hard pressed not to concede that it is an astonishing performance for an ordinary wife and mother who, owing to extremely poor health as a girl, had no more than a third grade education.
What does all this have to do with understanding this author's theology? To begin with, it illustrates how easy it is to take a plunge into a mere part of the forest and come out with either an unbalanced or distorted picture of what the whole forest looks like. This hazard faces both the critic and the follower of Mrs. White.
Any authority on Luther will warn you how easy it is to take a quick plunge into his works and fish out some evidence that looks like antinomian-ism, quietism, mysticism, or something else that does not really reflect his theology. Some critics have thought that Luther's concept of sanctification is expressed in the two words he wrote to Melancthon: "Sin bravely!" Even John Wesley remarked that there was no one who knew less about sanctification than Luther—a fantastic claim which makes us wonder, Is there anyone who knew less about Luther's doctrine of sanctification than John Wesley? Likewise, it is not difficult to take a plunge into the works of Mrs. White and come up with evidence that looks like legalism, quietism, perfectionism, or maybe anything one is determined to find.
There are hazards facing the noncritical reader too—we mean the one who believes in the genuineness of Mrs. White's charismatic gift. The danger of distorting such a voluminous author is obvious enough, but we refer to something else. Mrs. White believed that people should go to the Bible and derive a sound, well-balanced theology from the Word. She did not believe that her work was to set out any systematic theology, to write biblical commentary, or to engage in the more formal science of scriptural exegesis. Her writings never pretend to be the source of all theological information or the definitive and final statement on all theological questions.(44) But there has been a tendency on the part of some to treat them as such.(45) The result is a theology which is neither biblical nor New Testamental. Without a sound biblical theology—especially a theology with justification by faith at the center—people treat Mrs. White as if she had a wax nose.
Without such a sound biblical perspective, Mrs. White's admirers can easily run into another hazard. Her material on Christian living is so vast, it so uncompromisingly demands radical holiness in everything, that the devoted reader can become lost in a program of sanctification and inward grace. The well-meaning pursuit of inward holiness and victory-life piety can be put in the place of the righteousness of faith. Salvation by character takes the place of salvation by grace.
If Mrs. White believed in the centrality of justification by faith, if she longed for the day when the Adventist people would become the foremost exponents of grace, why did she make holiness so prominent? In fact, why did she respond to legalism and lack of appreciation for justification by faith by laying on the demand for holiness more than ever—holiness both practical and spiritual in every thought, word and action, holiness in every area of a man's existence until he neatly folds his very grave clothes.(46) One may climb the alpine heights of holiness, and still this voice cries, "Holier yet!"(47) until at last one stands before the High and Holy One, before whose glory the seraphim veil their faces. Behold now how much holiness is required of man—holiness that is high as the Eternal! That is the only holiness which will satisfy the law. When at last the Advent people discover this, they will fall down and afflict their souls as did Yahweh's congregation on the Day of Yom Kippur.(48) Then they will appreciate the glory and power of that message of justification by faith which was spurned in 1888.
That is the tack which this most unusual author appears to take. That appears to be the self-confessed purpose of her charismatic gift.
Perfectionism—Yes or No?
Some critics feel that Mrs. White is guilty of the heresy of perfectionism (i.e., Douty in Another Look at Seventh-day Adventism). Others, like Hoekema (Four Major Cults), are satisfied that she does not teach perfectionism.
It is not difficult to present a strong case to support the contention that Mrs. White teaches that God requires His people to be perfect—fully without sin. The statements which can be used to support this contention are legion. On the other hand, neither is it difficult to present ample evidence that she denied the possibility of any state of sinlessness here and now. In fact, this was one of the points upon which she dissented from the American holiness movement in the last century.
There is in the religious world a theory of sanctification which is false in itself and dangerous in its influence. In many cases those who profess sanctification do not possess the genuine article. Their sanctification consists in talk and will worship. Those who are really seeking to perfect Christian character will never indulge the thought that they are sinless. Their lives may be irreproachable, they may be living representatives of the truth which they have accepted; but the more they discipline their minds to dwell upon the character of Christ, and the nearer they approach to His divine image, the more clearly will they discern its spotless perfection, and the more deeply will they feel their own defects.49
What then shall we make of these two diverse sides of Mrs. White? Three suggestions have been offered:
But he who is truly seeking for holiness of heart and life delights in the law of God, and mourns only that he falls so far short of meeting its requirements.50
So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience.
None of the apostles and prophets ever claimed to be without sin. Men who have lived the nearest to God, men who would sacrifice life itself rather than knowingly commit a wrong act, men whom God has honored with divine light and power, have confessed the sinfulness of their nature. They have put no confidence in the flesh, have claimed no righteousness of their own, but have trusted wholly in the righteousness of Christ.
So will it be with all who behold Christ. The nearer we come to Jesus, and the more clearly we discern the purity of His character, the more clearly shall we see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the less shall we feel like exalting ourselves. There will be a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the heart before Him. At every advance step in our Christian experience our repentance will deepen.51
No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness.52
1. One suggestion concludes that we have before us a clear case of self-contradiction. This solution would be easier to believe if one view represented an earlier stage of the writer, and the other view a more mature stage. But both sides are presented by the same author side by side, deliberately and persistently.
2. Another suggestion explains the statements by taking the Arminian, or what is classically called the neo-nomian, approach. This approach tries to strike a balance. (All wise people are balanced, are they not?) The rationale goes something like this: God requires perfection, but it is relative perfection—relative to man's present (sinful) capacities and capabilities. God's grace can give us the victory over all sin, but that is relative too—relative to what we know and are able to do in our sinful state. In this effort to obtain a balance, God's demand is qualified (made easier), and His promise is also qualified (made lighter).(53) The gospel therefore creates a lower standard which man is able to reach with the assisting grace of God. In order to justify his doctrine of perfection, John Wesley adopted these premises. Did Mrs. White, who followed Wesley on some points, follow him on his doctrine of perfection? The answer must be, Decidedly not! Besides being openly critical of what she calls "Methodist sanctification,"(54) certain of Mrs. White's statements on perfection do not sound relative at all—at least not in the neo-nomian sense:
The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been,—just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents,—perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness.55
3. The third solution simply recognizes that Mrs. White understood the old Reformed and Lutheran concept of law and gospel. The gospel does not dilute the demand of the law; neither does the law weaken the promise of the gospel. Law and gospel are not harmonized by blending 50% law with 50% gospel any more than Christology is harmonized by proposing that Christ was half divine and half human. The paradox of law and gospel is preserved, not destroyed.
What the law demanded of Adam and Eve in Eden, and what it demanded of Christ, the second Adam, it demands of every human being.56
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.57
The righteousness of God is absolute. This righteousness characterizes all His works, all His laws. As God is, so must His people be.58
Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.59
Are we striving with all our power to attain to the stature of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord's people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads.60
God requires perfection of His children. His law is a transcript of His own character, and it is the standard of all character. This infinite standard is presented to all that there may be no mistake in regard to the kind of people whom God will have to comprise His kingdom.61
This means that the demand for holiness is unqualified by man's fallen condition. The law is presented in its relentless, terrifying demand. There is no compromise with sin, no excuse for falling short. There is no place to hide under the "two-bit humpy" of relative perfection, and there is no sop at all for the wounded ego. Even to be sick(62) or to forget is sin!(63) To fail to praise God constantly with the whole ardor of the being(64) or with any less fervor than the sinless seraphim is sin. God requires exactly what His justice required of sinless Adam and of Jesus Christ.
How then can we escape the charge, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting"? We are to look to Christ. At infinite cost he has covenanted to be our representative in the heavenly courts, our advocate before God.
Faith does not say, "Christ will help me satisfy the claims of the law." Faith says:
Weighed in the balances, and found wanting. Man, weighed against God's holy law, is found wanting. We are enlightened by the precepts of the law, but no man can by them be justified. Weighed and found wanting is our inscription by nature. But Christ is our Mediator, and accepting him as our Saviour, we may claim the promise, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."65
But that which God required of Adam in paradise before the fall, He requires in this age of the world from those who would follow Him,—perfect obedience to His law. But righteousness without a blemish can be obtained only through the imputed righteousness of Christ.66
Christ died for us, and receiving His perfection, we are entitled to heaven.67
By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting righteousness.68
We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute.69
Law and Gospel in Sanctification
Justification does not mean that the believer can bid the law goodbye as if he were to have no further dealings with it. If the law points to Christ, Christ points back to the law, saying, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments."(70) The justified believer, being no longer under the law's condemnation, nor under it as a covenant of works, has a new attitude toward the law. He delights in it after the inward man, he wants to be perfect, but he mourns because he falls so far short of it.(71) The law thus reminds him of how he must continue to hide his lack of perfection in Christ.(72) Thus the believer always sees himself a sinner and counts himself vile,(73) but God sees him as righteous and counts him precious for the sake of Christ in whom he believes.(74) "In ourselves we are sinners; but in Christ we are righteous"(75) —simil justus et peccator, as Luther would say. To be thus strong in the knowledge of the law is to be strong in the knowledge of grace. Weaken the law, and you weaken grace. Forget the law, and you forget grace. How else can a people become foremost exponents of grace except by being foremost in the chastening of law?
A further word needs to be said here lest the impression is left that the law represents only the stern, harsh element of the divine government. That is not the picture given in the literature under review. Mrs. White feels that when the law is presented as it should be, it reveals the love of God.76 Every effort is made to present the law in the beauty of the character of Christ. When the law is seen in Christ, the believer is charmed by the beauty of holiness and longs for Godlikeness—harmony with God. The law becomes his idea,(77) and like David in Psalm 119, he rejoices in the will of God as one who finds great spoil. " . . . [he] mourns only that he falls so far short of meeting its requirements."78
Here is the paradox of joy and sorrow. "The deepest joy of heart comes from the deepest humiliation."(79) Sanctification therefore means progress in two directions. "The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature."(80) "At every advance step in our Christian experience our repentance will deepen."(81) "The more our sense of need drives us to Him [Christ] and to the word of God, the more exalted views we shall have of His character, and the more fully we shall reflect His image."82
Law and gospel, deep repentance and joyous faith, sinful and righteous, must always be kept together in Christian existence. It is not a matter of leaving the law behind and going on with the gospel. It is not a matter of exchanging repentance for faith. It is not a matter of leaving the sense of our sinfulness and going on to be righteous. It is not a matter of either/or, but of both/and.
This leads to another concept. Christian existence is not a matter of leaving justification behind and going on to sanctification—any more than one can leave the law and go on to the gospel, or leave repentance and go on to faith. Justification is not a filling station that is passed but once, or a one-time event which is followed by sanctification—with perhaps an occasional looking back to justification. This theology will not allow that. Justification and sanctification must be kept together. One blessing is the obverse side of the other. Justification feeds sanctification, and sanctification must continually return to justification.
Both blessings are received by union with the living, personal Christ. This means that justification as well as sanctification must be a dynamic, ongoing relationship with Christ. Not that the blessing of justification is piecemeal (for at every point it is full and complete),(83) but as the law keeps us continually repentant, Christ's intercession keeps us continually justified.(84) There is no such thing as going beyond repentance, beyond the need of forgiveness and justification. To reach up in faith for acceptance with God is not one act in a lifetime. That no point in our experience can we dispense with the assistance of that which enables us to make the first start."85
When law and gospel, repentance and faith, sanctification and justification are thus kept together (but not confused), we have a soteriological concept which is neither Calvinistic nor Arminian. The Calvinistic concept of a once-and-for-all justification lends itself to the doctrine of "once saved, always saved." The Arminian concept of forgiveness (justification) without the imputation of Christ's active obedience leads to the idea that final salvation will depend on sanctification.
The soteriology of Mrs. White does not take either position, but with Luther, it stands between. On the one hand, it is always possible to fall from grace; but on the other hand, the one who believes (present continuous) can never perish.(86) One cannot boast that he is finally saved,(87) although he may rejoice in the full assurance that he is forgiven and accepted.(88) The believer has no reason to presume he is "once in grace, always in grace." "There is no such thing in the Word of God as . once in grace, always in grace."(89) On the other hand, those in covenant relationship with God are not in grace and out of grace at the point of every misdeed or mistake. "Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God."(90) "The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts."91
Neither life nor death, height nor depth, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus; not because we hold Him so firmly, but because He holds us so fast. If our salvation depended on our own efforts, we could not be saved; but it depends on the One who is behind all the promises. Our grasp on Him may seem feeble, but His love is that of an elder brother; so long as we maintain our union with Him, no one can pluck us out of His hand.92
Unless His followers choose to leave Him, He will hold them fast.93
In this outline we are committed to a thorough and objective analysis of the structure of Mrs. White's theology. We must come to grips with the nitty-gritty theological points. But in doing this it is easy to lose or even obtain the wrong idea of the real spirit, soul and feeling in this doctrine of sanctification. We refer again to our illustration of Beethoven. He would prefer a few wrong notes to be struck rather than to have the whole spirit of his composition misinterpreted. We have taken meticulous care to strike the notes as given by our author, but we do not want to neglect the spirit of her writings. We have dissected the arrangement and looked at the varied features. We have seen how paradoxes are everywhere—law and gospel, mourning and rejoicing, pietism and quietism, full-blooded activism and passive resting, practicality and spirituality, the sanctification of Martha and the sanctification of Mary. There is also profound humility blended with unbounded, irrepressible optimism. These writings continually oscillate between imperative and indicative. They warn and comfort, sometimes in one breath. Let us pause and listen as these elements are blended together.
Christ does not weigh character in scales of human judgment. He says, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Every soul who responds to this drawing will turn from iniquity. Christ is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto Him. He who comes to Jesus is setting his feet upon a ladder that reaches from earth to heaven. Teach it by pen, by voice, that God is above the ladder; the bright rays of His glory are shining upon every round of the ladder. He is looking graciously upon all who are climbing painfully upward, that He may send them help, divine help, when the hand seems to be relaxing and the foot trembling. Yes, tell it, tell it in words that will melt the heart, that not one who shall perseveringly climb the ladder will fail of an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; those who believe in Christ shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them Out of His hand.
Tell the people in clear, hopeful language how they may escape the heritage of shame which is our deserved portion. But for Christ's sake do not present before them ideas that will discourage them, that will make the way to heaven seem very difficult. Keep all these overstrained ideas to yourself.
While we must often impress the mind with the fact that the Christian life is a life of warfare, that we must watch and pray and toil, that there is peril to the soul in relaxing the spiritual vigilance for one moment, the completeness of the salvation proffered us from Jesus who loves us and gave Himself that we should not perish but have everlasting life, is to be the theme.
Day by day we may walk with God, day by day following on to know the Lord, entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, laying hold on the hope set before us. If we reach heaven it must be by binding the soul to the Mediator, becoming partakers of the divine nature. Leaning on Christ, your life being hid with Christ in God and led by His Spirit, you have the genuine faith.94
The Lord is constantly at work to open the understanding, to quicken the perceptions, that man may have a right sense of sin and of the far-reaching claims of God's law. The unconverted man thinks of God as unloving, as severe, and even revengeful; His presence is thought to be a constant restraint, His character an expression of "Thou shalt not." His service is regarded as full of gloom and hard requirements. But when Jesus is seen upon the cross, as the gift of God because He loved man, the eyes are opened to see things in a new light. God as revealed in Christ is not a severe judge, an avenging tyrant, but a merciful and loving Father.
As we see Jesus dying upon the cross to save lost man, the heart echoes the words of John, "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." There is nothing that more decidedly distinguishes the Christian from the worldly man than the estimate he has of God.
Some workers in the cause of God have been too ready to hurl denunciations against the sinner; the grace and love of the Father in giving His Son to die for the sinful race have been put in the background. The teacher needs the grace of Christ upon his own soul, in order to make known to the sinner what God really is—a Father waiting with yearning love to receive the returning prodigal, not hurling at him accusations in wrath, but preparing a festival of joy to welcome his return.
O that we might all learn the way of the Lord in winning souls to Christ! We should learn and teach the precious lessons in the light that shineth from the sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary. There is but one way that leads from ruin, and continuously ascends, faith all the time reaching beyond the darkness into the light, until it rests upon the throne of God. All who have learned this lesson have accepted the light which has come to their understanding. To them this upward way is not a dark, uncertain passage; it is not the way of finite minds, not a path cut out by human device, a path in which toll is exacted from every traveler.
You cannot gain an entrance by penance nor by any works that you can do. No, God Himself has the honor of providing a way, and it is so complete, so perfect, that man cannot, by any works he may do, add to its perfection. It is broad enough to receive the greatest sinner if he repents, and it is so narrow, so holy, lifted up so high, that sin cannot be admitted there.95
Heaven, looking down, and seeing the delusions into which men were led, knew that a divine Instructor must come to earth. Men in ignorance and moral darkness must have light, spiritual light; for the world knew not God, and He must be revealed to their understanding. Truth looked down from heaven and saw not the reflection of her image; for dense clouds of moral darkness and gloom enveloped the world, and the Lord Jesus alone was able to roll back the clouds; for He was the Light of the world. By His presence He could dissipate the gloomy shadow that Satan had cast between man and God. Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people. Through the accumulated misrepresentations of the enemy, many were so deceived that they worshiped a false god, clothed with the attributes of the satanic character.
The Teacher from heaven, no less a personage than the Son of God, came to earth to reveal the character of the Father to men, that they might worship Him in spirit and in truth. Christ revealed to men the fact that the strictest adherence to ceremony and form would not save them; for the kingdom of God was spiritual in its nature. Christ came to the world to sow it with truth. He held the keys to all the treasures of wisdom, and was able to open doors to science, and to reveal undiscovered stores of knowledge, were it essential to salvation. He presented to men that which was exactly contrary to the representations of the enemy in regard to the character of God, and sought to impress upon men the paternal love of the Father, who "so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." He urged upon men the necessity of prayer, repentance, confession, and the abandonment of sin. He taught them honesty, forbearance, mercy, and compassion, enjoining upon them to love not only those who loved them, but those who hated them, who treated them despitefully. In this He was revealing to them the character of the Father, who is long-suffering, merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, and full of goodness and truth. Those who accepted His teaching were under the guardian care of angels, who were commissioned to strengthen, to enlighten, that the truth might renew and sanctify the soul.
Christ declares the mission He had in coming to the earth. He says in His last public prayer, "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." When Moses asked the Lord to show him His glory, the Lord said, "I will make all My goodness pass before thee." "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. . . . And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped." When we are able to comprehend the character of God as did Moses, we too shall make haste to bow in adoration and praise. Jesus contemplated nothing less than "that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me" should be in the hearts of His children, that they might impart the knowledge of God to others.
O what an assurance is this, that the love of God may abide in the hearts of all who believe in Him! O what salvation is provided; for He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. In wonder we exclaim, How can these things be? But Jesus will be satisfied with nothing less than this. Those who are partakers of His sufferings here, of His humiliation, enduring for His name's sake, are to have the love of God bestowed upon them as it was upon the Son. One who knows, has said, "The Father himself loveth you." One who has had an experimental knowledge of the length, and breadth, and height, and depth of that love, has declared unto us this amazing fact. This love is ours through faith in the Son of God, therefore a connection with Christ means everything to us. We are to be one with Him as He is one with the Father, and then we are beloved by the infinite God as members of the body of Christ, as branches of the living Vine. We are to be attached to the parent stock, and to receive nourishment from the Vine. Christ is our glorified Head, and the divine love flowing from the heart of God, rests in Christ, and is communicated to those who have been united to Him. This divine love entering the soul inspires it with gratitude, frees it from its spiritual feebleness, from pride, vanity, and selfishness, and from all that would deform the Christian character.
Look, O look to Jesus and live! You cannot but be charmed with the matchless attractions of the Son of God. Christ was God manifest in the flesh, the mystery hidden for ages, and in our acceptance or rejection of the Saviour of the world are involved eternal interests.
To save the transgressor of God's law, Christ, the one equal with the Father, came to live heaven before men, that they might learn to know what it is to have heaven in the heart. He illustrated what man must be to be worthy of the precious boon of the life that measures with the life of God.
The life of Christ was a life charged with a divine message of the love of God, and He longed intensely to impart this love to others in rich measure. Compassion beamed from His countenance, and His conduct was characterized by grace, humility, truth, and love. Every member of His church militant must manifest the same qualities, if he would join the church triumphant. The love of Christ is so broad, so full of glory, that in comparison to it, everything that men esteem as great, dwindles into insignificance. When we obtain a view of it, we exclaim, 0 the depth of the riches of the love that God bestowed upon men in the gift of His only-begotten Son!
When we seek for appropriate language in which to describe the love of God, we find words too tame, too weak, too far beneath the theme, and we lay down our pen and say, "No, it cannot be described." We can only do as did the beloved disciple, and say, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." In attempting any description of this love, we feel that we are as infants lisping their first words. Silently we may adore; for silence in this matter is the only eloquence. This love is past all language to describe. It is the mystery of God in the flesh, God in Christ, and divinity in humanity. Christ bowed down in unparalleled humility, that in His exaltation to the throne of God, He might also exalt those who believe in Him, to a seat with Him upon His throne. All who look upon Jesus in faith that the wounds and bruises that sin has made will be healed in Him, shall be made whole.
The themes of redemption are momentous themes, and only those who are spiritually minded can discern their depth and significance. It is our safety, our life, our joy, to dwell upon the truths of the plan of salvation. Faith and prayer are necessary in order that we may behold the deep things of God. Our minds are so bound about with narrow ideas, that we catch but limited views of the experience it is our privilege to have. How little do we comprehend what is meant by the prayer of the apostle, when he says, "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."96
God has commanded us, "Be ye holy; for I am holy;" and an inspired apostle declares that without holiness "no man shall see the Lord." Holiness is agreement with God. By sin the image of God in man has been marred and well-nigh obliterated; it is the work of the gospel to restore that which has been lost; and we are to co-operate with the divine agency in this work. And how can we come into harmony with God, how shall we receive His likeness, unless we obtain a knowledge of Him? It is this knowledge that Christ came into the world to reveal unto us.
The meager views which so many have had of the exalted character and office of Christ have narrowed their religious experience and have greatly hindered' their progress in the divine life. Personal religion among us as a people is at a low ebb. There is much form, much machinery, much tongue religion; but something deeper and more solid must be brought into our religious experience. With all our facilities our publishing houses, our schools, our sanitariums, and many, many other advantages, we ought to be far in advance of our present position. It is the work of the Christian in this life to represent Christ to the world, in life and character unfolding the blessed Jesus. If God has given us light, it is that we may reveal it to others. But in comparison with the light we have received, and the opportunities and privileges granted us to reach the hearts of the people, the results of our work thus far have been far too small. God designs that the truth which He has brought to our understanding shall produce more fruit than has yet been revealed. But when our minds are filled with gloom and sadness, dwelling upon the darkness and evil around us, how can we represent Christ to the world? How can our testimony have power to win souls? What we need is to know God and the power of His love, as revealed in Christ, by an experimental knowledge. We must search the Scriptures diligently, prayerfully; our understanding must be quickened by the Holy Spirit, and our hearts must be uplifted to God in faith and hope and continual praise.
Through the merits of Christ, through His righteousness, which by faith is imputed unto us, we are to attain to the perfection of Christian character. Our daily and hourly work is set forth in the words of the apostle: "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith." While doing this our minds become clearer and our faith stronger, and our hope is confirmed; we are so engrossed with the view of His purity and loveliness, and the sacrifice He has made to bring us into agreement with God, that we have no disposition to speak of doubts and discouragements.
The manifestation of God's love, His mercy and His goodness, and the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart to enlighten and renew it, place us, through faith, in so close connection with Christ that, having a clear conception of His character, we are able to discern the masterly deceptions of Satan. Looking unto Jesus and trusting in His merits we appropriate the blessings of light, of peace, of joy in the Holy Ghost. And in view of the great things which Christ has done for us, we are ready to exclaim: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."
Brethren and sisters, it is by beholding that we become changed. By dwelling upon the love of God and our Saviour, by contemplating the perfection of the divine character and claiming the righteousness of Christ as ours by faith, we are to be transformed into the same image. Then let us not gather together all the unpleasant pictures—the iniquities and corruptions and disappointments, the evidences of Satan's power—to hang in the halls of our memory, to talk over and mourn over until our souls are filled with discouragement. A discouraged soul is a body of darkness, not only failing himself to receive the light of God, but shutting it away from others. Satan loves to see the effect of the pictures of his triumphs, making human beings faithless and disheartened.
There are, thank God, brighter and more cheering pictures which the Lord has presented to us. Let us group together the blessed assurances of His love as precious treasures, that we may look upon them continually. The Son of God leaving His Father's throne, clothing His divinity with humanity, that He might rescue man from the power of Satan; His triumph in our behalf, opening heaven to man, revealing to human vision the presence chamber where Deity unveils His glory; the fallen race uplifted from the pit of ruin into which sin had plunged them, and brought again into connection with the infinite God, and, having endured the divine test through faith in our Redeemer, clothed in the righteousness of Christ and exalted to His throne—these are the pictures with which God bids us gladden the chambers of the soul. And "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen," we shall prove it true that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far mare exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
In heaven God is all in all. There holiness reigns supreme; there is nothing to mar the perfect harmony with God. If we are indeed journeying thither, the spirit of heaven will dwell in our hearts here. But if we find no pleasure now in the contemplation of heavenly things; if we have no interest in seeking the knowledge of God, no delight in beholding the character of Christ; if holiness has no attractions for us--then we may be sure that our hope of heaven is vain. Perfect conformity to the will of God is the high aim to be constantly before the Christian. He will love to talk of God, of Jesus, of the home of bliss and purity which Christ has prepared for them that love Him. The contemplation of these themes, when the soul feasts upon the blessed assurances of God, the apostle represents as tasting "the powers of the world to come."97
1 GC 469, 470; Ed 15, 16
2 7BC 908
3 GC 645; AA 560, 561
4 QD 646
5 1SM 374, 395; TM 378
6 TM 508
7 SC 70; 1SM 353
8 TM 240
9 1SM 381; 8T 65
10 1T 336
11 COL 100
12 CT 171; 2SM 38, 39, 43, 95, 100; GC 9
13 COL 112; 1SM 395; DA 762
14 SC 59, 60; 1SM 377
15 MYP 35
16 1SM 395
17 DA 641
18 RH May 24, 1892
19 1SM 398
20 DA 175, 672
21 6BC 1117
22 HP 127
23 7T 211
24 TM 177
25 DA 20-22
26 AA 560
27 7T 297; MYP 98; 3T 481; CG 116; 1SM 116; MM 131
28 9T 70
29 2T 46, 47; TM 394; 4T 345
30 MYP 35
31 ST May 19, 1890
32 ST Feb. 24, 1890
33 ST May 19, 1890
34 ST Mar. 24, 1890
35 COL 360
36 1SM 33
37 7BC 908
38 ST 500
39 DA 490
40 DA 311; GC 489
41 9T 222
42 ST 48
43 9T 156; CT 83; 2T 414
44 Lay Sister White right to one side; lay her to one side. Don't you ever quote my words again as long as you live, until you can obey the Bible. When you take the Bible and make that your food, and your meat, and your drink, and make that the elements of your character, when you can do that you will know better how to receive some counsel from God. But here is the Word, the precious Word, exalted before you today And don't you give a rap any more what 'Sister White said--Sister White said this, and Sister White said that, and Sister White said the other thing.' But say, 'Thus saith the Lord God of Israel,' and then you do just what the Lord God of Israel does, and what He says. "--Spalding-Magan Collection, p. 167.
"Now God wants every soul here to sharpen up. He wants every soul here to have His converting power. You need not refer, not once, to Sister White; I don't ask you to do it. "--Ibid., p. 170.
"But don't you quote Sister White. I don't want you ever to quote Sister White until you get your vantage ground where you know where you are. Quote the Bible. Talk the Bible. It is full of meat, full of fatness. Carry it right out in your life, and you will know more Bible than you know now. You will have fresh matter; you will have precious matter; you won't be going over and over the same ground, and you will see a world saved. You will see souls for whom Christ has died. And I ask you to put on the armor, every piece of it, and be sure that your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel."--Ibid., p. 174.
45 Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans and many others are often not much different in their attitude toward the writings of their founders.
46 DA 789
47 7BC 908
48 4BC 1139, 1140 (Mrs. White believed that we are living in the eschatological day of atonement [Yom Kippur]. In ancient Israel the congregation gathered about the sacred tent and afflicted their souls in repentance [Lev. 16:29].)
49 SL 7
50 SL 81
51 AA 560, 561
52 SC 65
53 The comments by Berkhof (Systematic Theology) on this line of reasoning are very incisive. If man's obligation is limited by his enfeebled state, he might very well reach a point where he has no obligation at all.
54 1T 335 (The context indicates that the holiness doctrine of the "second blessing" is what is being referred to.)
55 SC 62
56 RH Feb. 26, 1901
57 1SM 373
58 1SM 198
59 EW 71
60 6BC 1118
61 COL 315
62 CH 37
63 COL 359
64 4BC 1140
65 RH Mar. 8, 1906
66 RH Sept. 3, 1901
67 QD 684
68 1SM 396 (emphasis supplied)
69 2SM 32, 33
70 John 14:15
71 SL 81
72 DA 519
73 AA 561
74 OHC 53
75 1SM 394
76 1SM 384
77 1SM 235
78 SL 81
79 3T 459
80 SC 64
81 AA 561
82 SC 65
83 6BC 1071
84 7BC 933; 6BC 1078
85 TM 507
86 DA 429
87 1SM 314, 315
88 SD 240; 1SM 396
89 6BC 1114
90 SC 64
91 SC 58
92 AA 553
93 DA 483
94 1SM 181, 182
95 1SM 183, 184
96 FE 176-180
97 ST 743-745