Men are not to rejoice in their wisdom, their strength, or their riches, but in the fact that they have a knowledge of Christ. This knowledge is the most excellent, the most precious, that we can possess. It is the pledge of everlasting life. For "this is life eternal, that we might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Money cannot buy it, intellect cannot grasp it, power cannot command it; but to all who will accept it, God's glorious grace is freely given. But men may feel their need, and, renouncing all self-dependence, accept salvation as a gift. Those who enter heaven will not scale its walls by their own righteousness, nor will its gates be opened to them for costly offerings of gold or silver; but they will gain an entrance to the many mansions of the Father's house through the merits of the cross of Christ.
It is only when the sinner feels the need of a Saviour, that his heart goes after the One who can help him. When Jesus walked among men, it was the sick that wanted a physician. The poor, the afflicted and distressed, followed after him, to receive the help and comfort which they could not find elsewhere. Blind Bartimaeus is waiting by the wayside; he has waited long to meet Christ. Throngs of people who possess their sight are passing to and fro, but they have no desire to see Jesus. One look of faith would touch his heart of love, and bring them the blessings of his grace; but they know not the sickness and poverty of their souls, and they feel no need of Christ. Not so with the poor blind man. His only hope is in Jesus. As he waits and watches, he hears the tread of many feet, and he eagerly inquires, What means this noise of travel? The by-standers answer that "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by." With the eagerness of intense desire, he cries, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" They try to silence him, but he cries the more vehemently, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" This appeal is heard. His persevering faith is rewarded. Not only is physical sight restored, but the eyes of his understanding are opened. In Christ he sees his Redeemer, and the Sun of righteousness shines into his soul. All who feel their need of Christ as did blind Bartimaeus, and who will be as earnest and determined as he was, will, like him, receive the blessing which they crave.
The afflicted, suffering ones who sought Christ as their helper, were charmed with the divine perfection, the beauty of holiness, that shone forth in his character. But the Pharisees could see no beauty in him that they should desire him. His simple attire, and humble life, devoid of outward show, rendered him to them as a root out of dry ground.
The self-righteous feel no need of Christ. And when those who profess his name extol their own wisdom and goodness, they give evidence that they are not acquainted with him. As soon as Christ is revealed to the soul, the sinner feels that his only hope is in the Lamb of God as the propitiation for sin. As Christ begins to open his love before him, watch the effect, and see what it is. Many claim this experience who are strangers to the love of Christ. But if it leads one to look with humility upon himself to place the honour of Christ above his own, if he gives evidence that the heavenly reward is of more value to him than his worldly possessions, we may know that beams of light from Christ are shining upon his soul.
The Scriptures speak of some who thought they possessed love for Christ, when the test showed that self was uppermost in their affections. Simon the Pharisee was one of these. He professed to be a disciple of Jesus; and wishing to show his Master special honour, he made a supper, and invited Christ and his friends as guests. But Jesus shocked his narrow prejudice by showing that Heaven esteemed a penitent sinner above a Pharisee. The woman who had been a sinner, longed for purity of heart. She had seen the works of Jesus, and she greatly desired to become like him in character. The words of Christ had kindled the hope of a better life, and her deep love and gratitude prompted the offering of the precious ointment. The Pharisee was offended that Jesus should permit a sinner to approach him. Unbelief filled his heart, and doubts arose as to Christ's divine mission. The Saviour, reading his unspoken thoughts, reproved him by a parable:--
"There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged." Jesus takes Simon on his own ground, as feeling himself more righteous than the woman. Then he proceeds to draw the contrast between the love and devotion of the poor penitent, and the unbelief and cold neglect of the self-righteous Jew.
"Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss; but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."
Simon had been a great sinner, and also a loathsome leper. Christ had pardoned his sins, and cleansed him from the terrible disease that was upon him. He had as much cause as the woman he despised, for humility and gratitude to Jesus. But he esteemed himself so highly, he was so intent upon maintaining his own honour and standing, that he was blind to the great debt of gratitude he owed. He had withheld from his Saviour even the acts of courtesy due to a common guest. He did not look upon himself as so great a sinner as he really was. Self-love opened the door to pride, unbelief, and ingratitude. So long as he cherished self-righteousness, he could not place a right estimate upon Christ.
The command is not, Let him that glorieth glory in himself, but in God. For sinful men, the highest consolation, the greatest cause of rejoicing, is that Heaven has given Jesus to be the sinner's Saviour. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, there was no hope for the sinful race; but Christ offered to take the sin upon himself. He offered to go over the ground where Adam stumbled and fell; to meet the tempter on the field of battle, and conquer him in man's behalf. Behold him in the wilderness of temptation. Forty days and forty nights he fasted, enduring the fiercest assaults of the powers of darkness. He trod the "wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with" him. It was not for himself, but that he might break the chain that held the human race in slavery to Satan. He saw that man had become so weakened by disobedience that he had not wisdom or strength to meet the wily foe, and this is why the Son of God takes upon himself man's nature, and, gaining the victory in our behalf, brings to us divine power, that, combined with human effort, will enable us to overcome.
There is, then, no ground for men to take glory to themselves. For every blessing which they enjoy, for every good quality which they possess, they are indebted to the grace of Christ. None should exalt themselves as possessing wisdom or righteousness. There are many, especially among those who profess holiness, who compare themselves to Christ, as though they were equal with him in perfection of character. This is blasphemy. Could they obtain a view of Christ's righteousness, they would have a sense of their own sinfulness and imperfection. There is not a case recorded in the Bible, of prophet or apostle claiming, as do the "holiness" people of to-day, to be without sin. Daniel humbled himself before God, to confess his sins and the sins of his people. Paul had a very humble opinion of his own advancement in the Christian life. He says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: . . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." And John declares, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Those who have the deepest experience in the things of God, are the farthest removed from pride or self-exaltation. They have the humblest thoughts of self, and the most exalted conceptions of the glory and excellence of Christ. Those who are expecting that Christ is soon to come, and that they are to be translated to a holy heaven, should, of all people upon the earth, walk most carefully and humbly before God. All self-importance must be purged away from us before we can grow in grace and the knowledge of the truth. When we have our eyes fixed upon heaven, and have clear views of the character of Christ, we shall exalt the Lord God in our hearts.
As one becomes acquainted with the history of the Redeemer, he discovers in himself serious defects; his unlikeness to Christ is so great that he sees the necessity for radical changes in his life. Still he studies with a desire to become like his great Exemplar. He catches the looks, the spirit, of his beloved Master. By beholding by "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith," he becomes changed into the same image. It is not by looking away from him that we imitate the life of Jesus, but by talking of him, by dwelling upon his perfections, by seeking to refine the taste and elevate the character, by trying, through faith and love, and by earnest, persevering effort, to approach the perfect Pattern. By having a knowledge of Christ,--his words, his habits, and his lessons of instruction,--we borrow the virtues of the character we have so closely studied, and become imbued with the spirit we have so much admired. Jesus becomes to us "the chiefest among ten thousand," the One "altogether lovely".
In all his dealings with his ancient people, the Lord sought to impress them with the idea that their strength was not in the wisdom of man, nor in his might, but in the God of their salvation. As Joshua, the leader of the children of Israel, went out alone before the taking of Jericho, to pray for God's special presence, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the form of a mighty warrior; and to Joshua's challenge he replied, "As captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. . . .Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy." The Lord marshalled his armies about the doomed city; no human hand was raised against it; the hosts of heaven overthrew its walls, that God's name alone might have the glory. It was that proud city whose mighty bulwarks had struck terror to the unbelieving spies. Now in the capture of Jericho, God declared to the Hebrews that their fathers might have possessed the city forty years before, had they but trusted in him.
These things were written for our benefit. As a people, we lack faith. God will do great things for those who trust in him. The reason why his professed people have so little strength, is that they trust so much in their own their wisdom, and do not give the Lord an opportunity to reveal his power in behalf. He will help his believing children in every emergency if they will place their entire confidence in him, and implicitly obey him.
There are troublous times before us; the judgements of God are coming upon our world. The nations of the earth are to tremble. There will be trials and perplexities on every hand; men's hearts will fail them for fear. And what shall we do in that day? Though the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and be removed like a cottage, if we have made God our trust, he will deliver us. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee. . . . For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
The rich man is not to glory in his riches. If we fix our affections on worldly things, we fail to exalt Christ. Satan would keep our minds absorbed with the things of this life, that we may lose sight of the highest life; but we cannot afford to yield to his devices. Christ is the source of all temporal, as well as all spiritual blessings. If he has given us riches, it is not that we may claim them as our own. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Paul counted all things but loss that he might win Christ. But when the Saviour calls for our possessions and our service, there are many who see they cannot obey God and carry their earthly treasures with them, and they decide to stay by their treasures . Jesus left all his glory, and became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. But how few of his professed followers appreciate his great sacrifice! How few are willing to follow his example! How can those who expect to stand around Christ's throne, and to be clothed with his righteousness, distrust God, and fear that he will leave them to come to want? Where is their faith? Our Heavenly Father feeds the ravens, and will he not much more feed us? "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." If we had a right view of Christ, we would permit nothing to interpose between ourselves and him.
This is a time when the law of God is trodden under-foot; and the great question is, Who will stand for the truth? God is calling for volunteers. Who will respond? Those who study to see how near they can live to the world and yet gain heaven, will come just near enough to be shut out from heaven. We must accept the suffering part of religion if we would sit down with the Suffering One upon his throne. When Christ has done so much for us, shall we refuse to serve him? Shall we not become co-labourers with him in the work he came from heaven to do? There is a great work to be done in the cities, and who is ready to engage in it? Christ says, "Ye are the light of the world." "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." If we will separate from the world, and renounce its sinful practices, God has pledged himself to receive us, and to work with our efforts.
Shall we not consecrate ourselves to God without reserve? Christ, the King of glory, gave himself a ransom for us. Can we withhold anything from him? Shall we think our poor, unworthy selves too precious, our time or property too valuable, to give to Jesus?--No, no; the deepest homage of our hearts, the most skilful service of our hands, our talents of ability and of means,--all are but too poor an offering to bring to Him who was slain and has "redeemed us to God by his blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Lift him up, my brethren, the Man of Calvary. Lift him up before the people, and by and by he will lift you up to his throne, and crown you with glory, honour, and immortality.
Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 15, 1887.