Danger of Rejecting the Truth Through Clinging to Tradition

The people of all ages will be judged according to the light they have received. The church that has been favored with great light and with precious opportunities, as were Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, will be held accountable for the use they have made of the light. As Jesus preached throughout these cities, how he longed to see fruits of his labor! How he longed to see the church struggling to be delivered from the bondage of sin! Every effort put forth through faith in him, would make them stronger in him. Charged with his exalted mission, he stood before the world as the representative of the Father. He said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” and again, “I and my Father are one.” O that the inhabitants of these cities had followed his example and imitated his character! O that by partaking of his grace, by joining with him in his labors, they had cheered the heart of Christ! O that they had manifested faith in him, by taxing their powers to the utmost in diffusing the light shining upon them! O that they had come into companionship with him who is the Fountain of healing waters, that through them streams of salvation might have reached a lost world!

Those who receive Christ are changed in nature, and instead of selfishness and self-love, they love God and their fellow men, presenting to the world a spectacle of what the grace of Christ can do. In order to present the grace of Christ to the world, it is necessary that those who profess his name should consecrate their all to God, that their hearts should be filled with love, that they may give the world an idea of the love wherewith the Father hath loved us. There is no way whereby the love of God can be measured save by the gift of his Son to the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus could best express the love of God in deeds of mercy; and so ample, so abundant were his deeds of love, that man could not imitate them, save by becoming partaker of the divine nature.

The deeds of love and compassion performed by Jesus in the cities of Judea, were regarded with wonder by the angels of heaven; and yet multitudes in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum looked on with indifference, and in their hardness of heart they acted as though time or eternity was scarcely worth their attention. The majority of the inhabitants of these cities spent their time in caviling over themes of little importance, and but a few took the position that the Saviour of mankind was the Christ.

The prophecies of the Scriptures were plain, and gave clear predictions of his life, character, and work; and from the testimony of men who had spoken as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, evidence was sufficient to prove that Jesus was all he claimed to be,—the Son of God, the Messiah of whom Moses and the prophets did write, the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel. But it was in vain that he sought to convince the priests and rulers, and to draw the hearts of common people to his light. Priests and rulers, scribes and Pharisees, clung to their traditions, their ceremonies, customs, and theories, and suffered not their hearts to be touched and cleansed and sanctified by divine grace. The few who did follow Christ came from among the lowly and unlearned. “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Jesus was accused of eating with publicans and sinners, as though it were a crime to associate with the fallen, and he replied, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Had his accusers been truly righteous by faith in God, they would gladly have received the Son of God, and would have profited by his instructions; but those who were self-righteous, rich in their supposed knowledge, and far advanced in their own eyes in spiritual things, felt no need of receiving more truth and light. Christ said of these who supposed themselves wise, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” Jesus recognized their difficulty and said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” The Pharisees believed themselves very prudent in withholding their faith and sympathy from Christ; for though they had the Scriptures, they misinterpreted them.

Jesus unfolded to men the real import of the Scriptures, and revealed to them the significance of the words that holy men of God had written as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit. The prophets had desired to see the day of Christ, and searched what the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify. And yet Jesus stood among the people who claimed to believe the prophets, who were looked up to as wise and righteous, and “they knew him not.” Had they opened their hearts to Jesus, he would have opened to them veins of the precious ore of truth, and made them rich in knowledge to give to those who were sadly impoverished and ready to perish. Jesus would have endowed them with power to communicate the knowledge of true holiness. The Holy Ghost would have been given unto them, and they would have perceived that there were advanced steps to be taken; and becoming like the holy men of old, they would have desired to look into those things which they now saw but dimly. But filled with their own self-importance, they accepted the traditions, theories, and customs of men, and rejected the commandments of God. They had made of no effect the significance of symbols, types, and shadows, and through their meaningless exactions covered up the import of the commands of God.

The work of Jesus was to reveal the character of the Father, and to unfold the truth which he himself had spoken through prophets and apostles; but there was found no place for the truth in those wise and prudent men. Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, had to pass by the self-righteous Pharisees, and take his disciples from unlearned fishers and men of humble rank. These who had never been to the rabbis, who had never sat in the schools of the prophets, who had not been members of the Sanhedrin, whose hearts were not bound about with their own ideas,—these he took and educated for his own use. He could make them as new bottles for the new wine of his kingdom. These were the babes to whom the Father could reveal spiritual things; but the priests and rulers, the scribes and Pharisees, who claimed to be the depositaries of knowledge, could give no room for the principles of Christianity, afterward taught by the apostles of Christ. The chain of truth, link after link, was given to those who realized their own ignorance, and were willing to learn of the great Teacher.

Jesus knew that he could do the scribes and Pharisees no good, unless they would empty themselves of self-importance. He chose new bottles for his new wine of doctrine, and made fishermen and unlearned believers the heralds of his truth to the world. And yet, though his doctrine seemed new to the people, it was in fact not a new doctrine, but the revelation of the significance of that which had been taught from the beginning. It was his design that his disciples should take the plain, unadulterated truth for the guide of their life. They were not to add to his words, or give a forced meaning to his utterances. They were not to put a mystical interpretation upon the plain teaching of the Scriptures, and draw from theological stores to build up some man-made theory. It was through putting a mystical meaning upon the plain words of God, that sacred and vital truths were made of little significance, while the theories of men were made prominent. It was in this way that men were led to teach for doctrines the commandments of men, and that they rejected the commandment of God, that they might keep their own tradition.

If the self-righteous priests and Pharisees had been willing to look into God’s great moral mirror, and had caught but one glimpse of their own imperfection of character, they would have said with Daniel, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption.” They would then have regarded it as the greatest possible blessing to learn the lesson of the great Teacher, which would have made them wise unto salvation. If they had learned from him who was meek and lowly of heart, the scribes and Pharisees would have shared with the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and would have been filled with the Holy Spirit. They would have had Christ’s mold upon them. The cold, stubborn heart would have been kindled into love by his grace, and they would have been conformed to the image of Christ. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The Holy Spirit will enter the heart that can boast of nothing. The love of Jesus will fill the vacuum that is made by the emptying out of self. “All things,” Jesus says, “are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” O let us heed the words of earnest entreaty that are spoken to every soul burdened with a weight of woe, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”1White, Ellen Gould. “Danger of Rejecting the Truth Through Clinging to Tradition.” The Review and Herald [Battle Creek, MI] 2 June 1896: n. pag. Print.

References   [ + ]

The Watchman

The Watchman

In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light - bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import, - the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention. Evangelism, p. 119

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That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.

— Job 21:30