God’s Estimate of Character
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
When the law of God is written in the heart, it will be shown in a pure and holy life. The commandments of God are no dead letter. They are spirit and life, bringing the imagination and even the thoughts into subjection to the will of Christ. The heart in which they are written will be kept with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. All who love Jesus and keep the commandments will seek to avoid the very appearance of evil; not because they are constrained thus to do, but because they are copying a pure model, and feel averse to everything contrary to the law written in their hearts. They will not feel self-sufficient, but their trust will be in God, who alone is able to keep them from sin and impurity. The atmosphere surrounding them is pure; they will not corrupt their own souls or the souls of others. It is their pleasure to deal justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.
The danger that lies before those living in these last days, is the absence of pure religion, the absence of heart holiness. The converting power of God has not wrought in transforming their characters. They profess to believe sacred truths, as did the Jewish nation; but failing to practice the truth, they are ignorant both of the Scriptures and the power of God. The power and influence of God’s law are around about, but not within, the soul, renewing it in true holiness. Therefore the Lord sends his appeals to them to urge upon them the practice of what is right. The appeals of his Spirit are neglected and rejected. The barriers are broken down, and the soul is weak, and for want of moral force to overcome, is polluted and debased. They are binding themselves in bundles as fagots, ready to be consumed at the last day.
The Jewish priests were required to be in person all that was symmetrical and well proportioned, that they might reflect a great truth: “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” The Lord required not only a well-proportioned mind and symmetrical body of the Jews who ministered in holy office, but he required also pure and uncorrupted minds. And he requires no less of us, in this dispensation, in the ministry of the gospel. His called and chosen are to show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. The same Bible that contains the privileges of God’s people and his promises to them, contains also the sacred duties and the solemn obligations he requires of the shepherd who has charge of the flock of God, so that the people can see by comparing the living preacher with the divine picture whether he has credentials from heaven in likeness of character to him who is the Chief Shepherd. God designs that the teacher of the Bible should in his character and home life be a specimen of the principles of the truth which he is teaching to his fellow-men.
What a man is, has a greater influence than what he says. The quiet, consistent, godly life is a living epistle, known and read of all men. A man may speak and write like an angel, but in his practices resemble a fallen fiend. God will have the believers of the truth zealous to maintain good works. As they occupy high positions, they will be tested by a higher standard. They will be sifted, defects and vices will be searched out; for if such exist, they will be developed in words and deportment. True character is not something shaped from without, or put on, but it is something radiating from within. If true goodness, purity, meekness, lowliness, and equity are dwelling in the heart, that fact will be reflected in the character; and such a character is full of power.
The officers who were sent to take Jesus reported that never man spake like this man. But the reason of this was, that never man lived like this man; for if he had not so lived, he could not so have spoken. His words bore with them a convincing power, because they came from a heart pure, holy, burdened with love and sympathy, beneficence and truth. How rejoiced are those who hate God’s law, to find spot and stain of character in one who stands in defense of that law! They are only too glad to cast a reproach upon all the loyal and true, because of the faults and impure practices of a few. There is eloquence in the quiet and consistent life of a pure, true, unadulterated Christian. We shall have temptations as long as we are in this world. But instead of injuring us, they will only be turned to our advantage, if resisted. The bounds are placed where Satan cannot pass. He may prepare the furnace that consumes the dross; but instead of injuring, it can only bring forth the gold of character purer than before the trial.
God would not permit Balaam to curse Israel; but Satan compassed their overthrow. Balak, by the advice of Balaam, laid the snare. Israel would have resisted their enemies in battle bravely, and come off conquerors; but when they were invited to idolatrous feasts, and indulgence in wine had clouded their minds, they did not resist temptation. And the sin of the Hebrews brought destruction upon them, as warfare with the nations and the enchantments of Balaam could not do. Their covering and protection were removed from them. They became separated from God, and he turned to be their enemy. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and his judgments fell upon them. The plague immediately broke out, and those who were most guilty were its victims. They realized that “the wages of sin is death.”
The very same Satan is now working to the same end, to weaken and destroy the people of God as they are on the borders of the heavenly Canaan. He knows his time is short, and with his subtle temptations he will work with tremendous power to ensnare them upon their weak points of character. Those who have dishonored their minds and affections by placing them where God’s Word forbids, will not scruple to dishonor God by various species of idolatry, and they will be left to their vile affections. It is necessary to guard the thoughts, to fence the soul about with the injunctions of God’s holy Word, and to guard constantly against being betrayed into sin.
There is to be a people fitted up for translation to heaven, whom Enoch represents. They are looking and waiting for the coming of the Lord. The work of preparation for this event will go on with all who will co-operate with Jesus in his efforts in their behalf. He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. God has made every provision that we may become intelligent Christians, filled with a knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. A theoretical knowledge of the truth is essential, but such a knowledge of even the greatest truth will not save us; our knowledge must be practical. God’s people must not only know his will, but they must practice it also. Many will be purged out from the number of those who know the truth, because they are not sanctified by it. The truth must be brought into their hearts, sanctifying them, and cleansing from all earthliness and sensuality in the most private life. Every secret act is as if we were in the presence of God and holy angels, as all things are open before God, and from him nothing can be hid.
It is only through Christ that his people can resist temptation, and become men and women of high and holy purpose, of noble integrity, who will not be swayed from truth, right, and justice. The Christian must be much in prayer. Prayer takes hold upon Omnipotence, and gains us the victory. It was thus that Enoch walked with God. And those who thus make Christ their daily companion and familiar friend will feel that the powers of an unseen world are all around them, and by looking unto Jesus they will become assimilated to his image.
— Bible Echo, October 1, 1889