“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The law of God condemns all selfishness, and is at variance with all evil-thinking and evil-speaking. It enjoins upon men and women that kindness, gentleness, and forbearance, that tender guarding of the interest of others, which was revealed in the life of our Saviour. He who takes this law as his standard must carefully heed the words of Christ, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” By unselfishness of heart and character, by a sincere love for our fellow-men, we may show that we are striving to honor our Maker; but if, finding the last six precepts of the law hard to keep, we transgress them by failing to manifest love for one another, by a lack of kind words and actions, we can not, with any truth, claim to be rendering acceptable service to God.
He who earnestly desires to fulfil the will of God must daily look into the law of God, the great moral looking-glass, that he may see himself as God sees him. But too often Christians neglect to do this. The mirror is not looked into as constantly as it should be, and our defects of character pass unnoticed. The command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is disregarded; we fail to respect the rights of our fellow-men. Self, highly estimated, calls for recognition, and we listen to its voice, walking far apart from those we should help, not regarding their wants and woes.
Many apologize for their spiritual weakness, for their outbursts of passion, for the lack of love they show their brethren. They feel a sense of estrangement from God, a realization of their bondage to self and sin; but their desire to do God’s will is based upon their own inclination, not upon the deep, inward conviction of the Holy Spirit. They believe that the law of God is binding; but they do not, with the eager interest of judgment-bound souls, compare their actions with that law. They admit that God should be worshiped and loved supremely, but God is not in all their thoughts. They believe that the precepts which enjoin love to man, should be observed; but they treat their fellow-men with cold indifference, and sometimes with injustice. Thus they walk away from the path of willing obedience. They do not carry the work of repentance far enough. The sense of their wrong should lead them to seek God most earnestly for power to reveal Christ by kindness and forbearance.
Many spasmodic efforts to reform are made, but those who make these efforts do not crucify self. They do not give themselves entirely into the hands of Christ, seeking for divine power to do his will. They are not willing to be molded after the divine similitude. In a general way they acknowledge their imperfections, but the particular sins are not given up. “We have done the things we ought not to have done,” they say, “and have left undone the things we ought to have done.” But their acts of selfishness, so offensive to God, are not seen in the light of his law. Full contrition is not expressed for the victories that self has gained.
The enemy is willing that these spasmodic efforts should be made; for those who make them engage in no decided warfare against evil. A soothing plaster, as it were, is placed over their minds, and in self-sufficiency they make a fresh start to do the will of God.
But a general conviction of sin is not reformative. We may have a vague, disagreeable sense of imperfection, but this will avail us nothing unless we make a decided effort to obtain the victory over sin. If we wish to cooperate with Christ, to overcome as he overcame, we must, in his strength, make the most determined resistance against self and selfishness.
Genuine reforms of character are not common. This is an obstacle in the way of spiritual advancement. What work shall be instituted to purify and cleanse self of its moral defilement? What shall be done to awaken those who confess their wrong, and yet never forsake their own way? A man who has professed Christ sees his old selfish nature rising, and gaining strength with each wrong action. His besetting sins bind him with fetters of iron, and he sees himself under the condemnation of the law. What shall he do? Whatever his calling or profession, whatever his rank or station in life, that man must realize in himself the truth of the words spoken to Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye must be born again.” “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God.”
There are many, too many, who claim to be servants of God, but who have no experimental knowledge of him. Their acknowledgement of Christ is misleading, because they have not faith to believe that he will give them power to overcome their sins. They do not receive him as their personal Saviour, and their characters reveal hereditary and cultivated defects. Their conduct is not brought into harmony with the law of God, but is influenced by their own inclinations. Selfishness binds them hand and foot. God looks with sorrow upon their bondage. If they would submit to his guidance, the light of his holy Word would flash upon their minds through the Holy Spirit’s power, convicting them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,–of sin, especially because they have claimed to do God’s will, and yet have neglected it. If they receive Christ as their personal Saviour, their sins will be forgiven; for God’s Word declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Of Christ it is written, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
A theory of truth may be taught and accepted, but this is of no avail to save unless the divine power of God is revealed in the life by unselfish actions and kindly words. Are you converted? Is Christ revealed in your daily life? No theory of truth will save you; no partial confessions will avail. With your whole heart you must serve God.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love,” writes Paul, “in honor preferring one another.” “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ be in you, except ye be reprobate.” “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
If men and women will critically examine their conduct, measuring it by the law of Jehovah, they will be enabled to see that sin is not limited to those things which the world condemns, but that selfishness and oppression, even in the smallest degree, are sins against God. They will see that by yielding to their inclinations, and refraining from obedience, they are depriving themselves of the richest blessings God can give.
“A new commandment I give unto you,” said Christ, “that ye love one another. As I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” He who fulfils his duty to his neighbor must of necessity love God supremely; but he who has little love for those who are in darkness, who are in great need of the revelation of the love of Jesus, is marked in the courts of heaven as a defaulter. He is weighed in the balances, and found wanting.
Love to God must be brought into our daily life. Then, and then only, can we show true love for our fellow-men. When this is done, when Christ is enthroned in our hearts, we manifest by our daily life, by our conversation, by our unselfish interest in one another, by our deep love for souls, that we are doers of the Word of God. The reality of our conversation is marked by a deep earnest piety, which purifies the soul, and works unceasingly for the good of others.
“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God.” “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” “The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.” [1 John 4:7; Romans 13:10; 1 Peter 4:7, 8.]
The Signs of the Times, March 11, 1897.