Here [Matthew 7:22–28] are brought before us two classes—the hearer and the doer. There is one that hears and does not; there is one that hears and does. This is he that not only hears but is a doer of the Word of the Lord, and this is the class that is building on the Rock. We want to be among the class that is riveted to the eternal Rock, and not of that class that is building upon the sand. For in these two classes of builders brought to view here, the one is laying his foundation in the sand, the other on the rocks. And the question comes home to us, How are we building?
How we are building is of great consequence. We want to know that the foundation is deep, so that the floods shall not move us. Our salvation cost something; it cost us the blood of the Son of God. While everything has been done that can be done to bring us into right relation with God, we want to think much of every privilege brought to us, and not to be always questioning God’s dealings with us, whether this is right or that is right; but pursue a course that will stand the test of His law, a test that shall work out for us an eternal weight of glory.
God demands of us that we build a character that will stand that close test of the judgment. We will not have His protection in the time when the flood comes, if at that time it is found that we have wasted the hours of probation granted us now to build characters for eternity. For the character which we now build is not only for time, but for eternity. Those that are set forth in this parable as building on the sand are they that feel that they are all right. They come right up before the Lord and say, I have done this, I have done that. “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” But this goes for nothing to the Lord. “Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22, 23.
What is iniquity? Sin. And what is sin? Sin, says the beloved John, is the transgression of the law. [I John 3:4.] Here is a class that is transgressing the law of God, and at the same time they come to Him boasting of what they have done, expecting His favor. And it is this class that is here represented as building on the sand. They have erected a standard of their own.
What is a perfect standard of character? The only standard ever given to man is the law of God, His holy commandments. If we have been building upon this rock, it will stand the test. If we have been erecting a standard of our own, and claim by that standard that we are perfect, and that we have reached perfect righteousness and holiness, we shall know in the day of God. No one will claim that they are perfect and holy if they tremble before the exalted standard of God. Is it safe to do this and cast aside the immutable law of God and then to claim to be holy?
Here is a mirror into which we are to look, and search out every defect of character. But suppose that you look into this mirror and see many defects in your character, and then go away and say, “I am righteous,” will you be righteous? In your own eyes you will be righteous and holy. But how will it be at the bar of God? God has given us a rule, and we are to comply with its requirements and if we dare to do otherwise, to trample this under our feet, and then stand up before God and say, “I am holy, I am holy,” we shall be lost in the great day of accounts.
What if we were to go out into the streets and soil our clothes with mud, and then come into the house and, beholding our filthy garments as we stand before the glass, we should say to the mirror, “Cleanse me from my filth,” would it cleanse us from our filth? That is not the office of the looking glass. All that it can do is to reveal that our garments are defiled; it cannot take the defilement away.
So it is with the law of God. It points out the defects of character. It condemns us as sinners, but it offers no pardon to the transgressor. It cannot save him from his sins. But God has made a provision. Says John, “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” [I John 2:1.] So we come to Him and there we find the character of Jesus, and the righteousness of His character saves the transgressor—if we have done on our part all that we could.
And yet while He saves the transgressor, He does not do away with the law of God, but He exalts the law. He exalts the law because it is the detector of sin. And it is Christ’s cleansing blood that takes away our sins when we come to Him with contrition of soul seeking His pardon. He imputes His righteousness; He takes the guilt upon Himself.
Now, suppose that someone shall say, “Jesus has pardoned me and I have no need of the law any further. I will no longer live in obedience to the law.” The question may be asked, “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound”? No. If one should steal the money out of my purse, and then come, and confessing the crime, ask me to forgive him, and I shall pardon him, and then he go and do the same thing again, does not this show that there is no change in his life? So it is with those who have asked God to forgive them and then gone right on transgressing His law. They say, “Lord, Lord,” but He says, “Depart from Me.” [Matthew 7:22, 23.] While I freely pardoned you, you were doing the same thing again. Your very course was leading others in the way of the transgressor. For this reason they were called the workers of iniquity. This very course of action was the means of leading others astray.
Christ offers a prayer to the Father, and He uses these words in this prayer, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17. I have sent them into the world as thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:17–19.) Mark these words, “I sanctify Myself.” Thus He observes a life of perfect obedience, for He is the perfect pattern. Then He goes on and says, “That they may be sanctified”—by what? Through emotion? through feeling? No. Through the truth. We cannot trust to feeling; we must know the truth.
Now, here is Christ praying to His Father that He will sanctify His followers through the truth. Then there is a truth that sanctifies, that has a sanctifying power upon the believer. And it becomes every one of us in this congregation to inquire what is the truth.
If we are to believe the truth and be sanctified by the truth, then we must search the Scriptures that we may know what is the truth. If we do this, we shall not build upon a false foundation. But if we do not, we shall find at last that we have made a great mistake and laid our foundation in the sand, to be swept away in the time of storm and tempest. I want eternal life if it takes out the right eye and if it takes off the right arm. The question with me is, am I right with God? Am I serving Him in humility and meekness of soul?
We are right amid the trials that shall try every soul of men that dwelleth upon the face of the earth. We may know what is the truth, and we may know what is error. We may know that we are laying our souls upon the foundation; we may know that we are not leading souls away from the truth. God help us that we may every one of us make sure of eternal life.
Test of Character
And here is another Scripture. [Deuteronomy 13:1-5 quoted.] Here the commandments are set before them as a test of character. Said Christ, “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” [John 15:10.] And He is our pattern in all things. Now do we do the commandments from the heart? Are we studying to carry out in our lives the principle of the Sabbath commandment which God has put right in the bosom of His law?
We may go to the heathen and say to them that we love the truth and serve the true God; and they will tell you that they worship the true and living God. We have no other way to tell who the true and living God is, only as we turn to this commandment. That God who made the lofty trees and every thing that is lovely and beautiful under the heavens, He that weighs the hills in the balances—that God is the true and living God; He created the whole universe. And these commandments tell us who the true God is. If Satan can get this fourth commandment out of the Decalogue, then you will not be able to tell who the true and living God is.
Well, who is the true God? The God that created everything that is beautiful in nature. We are to look up through nature to nature’s God. There we are to see the true God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth. The first four of these commandments show our duty to God, and the last six to our fellow men. We cannot break one of these first four and be in favor with God. Neither can we break one of the last six and be in favor with God. These we must urge upon the people.
Here are the words of David, “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.” Psalm 119:126. David refers to the last days, the very time when we are to know and be sanctified by the truth. We must cling to the truth. We must not let go the truth for friend or foe. There is a time coming when there will be great tribulation, such as never was or ever will be. Men will come claiming to be Christ. And here is a class that say, “I am sinless, I am holy.” I have never heard one claim that who was not a sinner. They are not doers of the Word. …
The Great Deceiver
John saw the temple of God opened in heaven, and in that temple he saw the ark of His testimony. Says John, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. The path of true obedience is found in the commandments of God. But Satan is going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He does not always appear like a lion; he has the power of clothing himself like a lamb, and he has a soft and a tender voice. And how shall we meet him? shall we let him come in and take the control of our hearts? shall we let him have the charge of our minds and lives? We cannot afford it. …
Men will arise saying, Here is Christ, here, here, here; but is He there? While they are trampling the commandments under their feet, Christ says, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, (MacNight) you shall be of no esteem in the reign of heaven. Not as long as the heavens remain, shall one jot or one tittle pass.” (Matthew 5:19, 18.) And one said to me, why do you talk so much about the law, why not talk more about Jesus? We honor both the Father and the Son when we talk about the law. The Father gave us the law, and the Son died to magnify it and make it honorable.
But, says John, in speaking of the deceiver that doeth great wonders, He shall make an image to the beast, and shall cause all to receive his mark. (See Revelation 13:14–16.) Will you please consider this matter? Search the Scriptures and see. There is a wonder-working power to appear, and it will be when men are claiming sanctification, and holiness, lifting themselves up higher and higher and boasting of themselves.
Claims of Holiness
Look at Moses and the prophets; look at Daniel and Joseph and Elijah. Look at these men and find one sentence where they ever claimed to be sinless. The very soul that is in close relation to Christ, beholding His purity and excellence, will fall before Him with shamefacedness. …
Why is it that so many claim to be holy and sinless? It is because they are so far from Christ. … Those that get sight of the loveliness and the exalted character of Jesus Christ, who was holy and lifted up, and His train fills the temple, will never say it. Yet we are to meet with those that will say such things more and more, every year. …
In the days of Martin Luther, there were those that came to him and said, “We do not want your Bible, we want the Spirit.” Martin Luther said to them, “I will rap your spirit on the snoot.” However great their pretences, they are not the children of God. …
I want you to understand that pretences are not the evidences of true character. Now I speak these words to you because wherever there is a little company raised up, Satan is constantly trying to annoy and distract them. When one of the people turns away from his sins, do you suppose that he will let him alone? No, indeed. We want you to look well to the foundation of your hope. We want you to let your life and your actions testify of you that you are the children of God.
Let there be that littleness, that humbleness of soul, that they may know that you have been taught in the school of Christ. And when He shall appear in the clouds of heaven, we shall exclaim, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us.” Isaiah 25:9. Then it is that the crown of life will be placed upon the brow of the faithful ones. Then will come the voice of the Saviour saying, “Well done thou good and faithful servant; … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21–23.) What, faithful in putting their feet upon the law of God? No, No. These have not the mark of the beast upon them. I want that peace that comes through an obedience to all of the commandments of God.
Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, 13–24.