Ellen White Clarifies the Issues
A GENERAL MANUSCRIPT WRITTEN IN 1890 AT THE TIME OF THE MINISTERIAL INSTITUTES IN
BATTLE CREEK, ON FILE AS MANUSCRIPT 36, 1890, AND PUBLISHED IN THE REVIEW AND HERALD,
FEBRUARY 24 AND MARCH 3, 1977. THIS VITAL CLARIFYING STATEMENT FORMS AN APPROPRIATE
INTRODUCTION TO THE EIGHTEEN PRESENTATIONS THAT FOLLOW, ARRANGED IN CHRONOLOGICAL SEQUENCE
Said the apostle Paul, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
kingdom of God? . . . And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified,
but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1
Corinthians 6:9-11). The absence of devotion, piety, and sanctification of the outer man
comes through denying Jesus Christ our righteousness. The love of God needs to be
constantly cultivated. . . .
While one class pervert the doctrine of justification by faith and neglect to comply
with the conditions laid down in the Word of God--"If ye love Me, keep My
commandments"-- there is fully as great an error on the part of those who claim to
believe and obey the commandments of God but who place themselves in opposition to the
precious rays of light--new to them--reflected from the cross of Calvary. The first class
do not see the wondrous things in the law of God for all who are doers of His Word. The
others cavil over trivialities and neglect the weightier matters, mercy and the love of
Many have lost very much in that they have not opened the eyes of their understanding
to discern the wondrous things in the law of God. On the one hand, religionists generally
have divorced the law and the gospel, while we have, on the other
hand, almost done the same from another standpoint. We have not held up before the
people the righteousness of Christ and the full significance of His great plan of
redemption. We have left out Christ and His matchless love, brought in theories and
reasonings, and preached argumentative discourses.
Unconverted men have stood in the pulpits sermonising. Their own hearts have never
experienced, through a living, clinging, trusting faith, the sweet evidence of the
forgiveness of their sins. How, then, can they preach the love, the sympathy, the
forgiveness of God for all sins? How can they say, "Look and live"? Looking at
the cross of Calvary, you will have a desire to bear the cross. A world's Redeemer hung
upon the cross of Calvary. Behold the Saviour of the world, in whom dwelt all the fullness
of the Godhead bodily. Can any look and behold the sacrifice of God's dear Son, and their
hearts not be melted and broken, ready to surrender to God heart and soul?
Let this point be fully settled in every mind: If we accept Christ as a Redeemer, we
must accept Him as a Ruler. We cannot have the assurance and perfect confiding trust in
Christ as our Saviour until we acknowledge Him as our King and are obedient to His
commandments. Thus we evidence our allegiance to God. We have then the genuine ring in our
faith, for it is a working faith. It works by love. Speak it from your heart: "Lord,
I believe Thou hast died to redeem my soul. If Thou hast placed such a value upon the soul
as to give Thy life for mine, I will respond. I give my life and all its possibilities, in
all my weakness, into Thy keeping."
The will must be brought into complete harmony with the will of God. When this is done,
no ray of light that shines into the heart and chambers of the mind will be resisted. The
soul will not be barricaded with prejudice, calling light darkness and darkness light. The
light from heaven is welcomed, as light filling all the chambers of the soul. This is
making melody to God.
Belief and Unbelief
How much do we believe from the heart? Draw nigh to God, and God will draw nigh to you.
This means to be much with the Lord in prayer. When those who have educated themselves in
scepticism and have cherished unbelief, weaving questioning doubts into their experience,
are under conviction of the Spirit of God, they see it to be their personal duty to
confess their unbelief. They open their hearts to accept the light sent them and throw
themselves by faith over the line from sin to righteousness, from doubt to faith. They
consecrate themselves unreservedly to God, to follow His light in the place of the sparks
of their own kindling. As they maintain their consecration, they will see increased light
and the light will continue to grow brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
The unbelief which is cherished in the soul has a bewitching power. The seeds of doubt
that they have been sowing will produce their harvest but they must continue to dig up
every root of unbelief. When these poisonous plants are pulled up, they cease to grow for
want of nourishment in word and action. The soul must have the precious plants of faith
and love put in the soil of the heart and enthroned there.
Confused Ideas of Salvation
Can we not understand that the most costly thing in the world is sin? It is at the
expense of purity of conscience, at the cost of losing the favour of God and separating
the soul from Him, and at last losing heaven. The sin of grieving the Holy Spirit of God
and walking contrary to Him has cost many a one the loss of his soul.
Who can measure the responsibilities of the influence of every human agent whom our
Redeemer has purchased at the sacrifice of His own life? What a scene will be presented
when the judgement shall sit and the books shall be opened to testify
the salvation or the loss of all souls! It will require the unerring decision of One
who has lived in humanity, loved humanity, given His life for humanity, to make the final
appropriation of the rewards to the loyal righteous, and the punishment of the
disobedient, the disloyal, and unrighteous. The Son of God is entrusted with the complete
measurement of every individual's action and responsibility. To those who have been
partakers of other men's sins and have acted against God's decision, it will be a most
awfully solemn scene.
The danger has been presented to me again and again of entertaining, as a people, false
ideas of justification by faith. I have been shown for years that Satan would work in a
special manner to confuse the mind on this point. The law of God has been largely dwelt
upon and has been presented to congregations, almost as destitute of the knowledge of
Jesus Christ and His relation to the law as was the offering of Cain. I have been shown
that many have been kept from the faith because of the mixed, confused ideas of salvation,
because the ministers have worked in a wrong manner to reach hearts. The point that has
been urged upon my mind for years is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I have wondered
that this matter was not made the subject of discourses in our churches throughout the
land, when the matter has been kept so constantly urged upon me, and I have made it the
subject of nearly every discourse and talk that I have given to the people.
In examining my writings fifteen and twenty years old [I find that they] present the
matter in this same light--that those who enter upon the solemn, sacred work of the
ministry should first be given a preparation in lessons upon the teachings of Christ and
the apostles in living principles of practical godliness. They are to be educated in
regard to what constitutes earnest, living faith.
Through Faith Alone
Many young men are sent forth to labour who do not
understand the plan of salvation and what true conversion is; in fact, they need to be
converted. We need to be enlightened on this point, and the ministers need to be educated
to dwell more particularly upon the subjects which explain true conversion. All who are
baptised are to give evidence that they have been converted. There is not a point that
needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently, or established more
firmly in the minds of all than the impossibility of fallen man meriting anything by his
own best good works. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
When this question is investigated we are pained to the heart to see how trivial are
the remarks of those who ought to understand the mystery of godliness. They speak so
unguardedly of the true ideas of our brethren who profess to believe the truth and teach
the truth. They come far short of the real facts as they have been laid open before me.
The enemy has so entangled their minds in the mist and fog of earthliness and it seems so
ingrained into their understanding that it has become a part of their faith and character.
It is only a new conversion that can change them and cause them to give up these false
ideas--for this is just what they are shown to me to be. They cling to them as a drowning
man clings to a life preserver, to keep them from sinking and making shipwreck of faith.
Christ has given me words to speak: "Ye must be born again, else you will never
enter the kingdom of heaven." Therefore all who have the right understanding of this
matter should put away their controversial spirit and seek the Lord with all their hearts.
Then they will find Christ and can give distinctive character to their religious
experience. They should keep this matter--the simplicity of true
godliness--distinctly before the people in every discourse. This will come home to
the heart of every hungering, thirsting soul who is longing to come into the assurance of
hope and faith and perfect trust in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not
possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us
through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone,
then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood
to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is
in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is
partly of debt, that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works,
merit salvation, then it must be wholly of grace, received by man as a sinner because he
receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed
beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled
that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him.
Wholly of Grace
The light given me of God places this important subject above any question in my mind.
Justification is wholly of grace and not procured by any works that fallen man can do. The
matter has been presented before me in clear lines that if the rich man has money and
possessions, and he makes an offering of the same to the Lord, false ideas come in to
spoil the offering by the thought he has merited the favour of God, that the Lord is under
obligation to him to regard him with special favour because of this gift.
There has been too little educating in clear lines upon this point. The Lord has lent
man His own goods in trust--means which He requires be handed back to Him when His
providence signifies and the upbuilding of His cause demands it. The Lord gave the
intellect. He gave the health and the ability to gather earthly gain. He created the
things of earth. He manifests His divine power to develop all its riches. They are His
fruits from His own husbandry. He gave the sun, the clouds, the showers of rain, to cause
vegetation to flourish. As
God's employed servants you gathered in His harvest to use what your wants required in
an economical way and hold the balance for the call of God. You can say with David,
"For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee" (1 Chronicles
29:14). So the satisfaction of creature merit cannot be in returning to the Lord His own,
for it was always His own property to be used as He in His providence should direct.
God's Favour Forfeited
By rebellion and apostasy man forfeited the favour of God; not his rights, for he could
have no value except as it was invested in God's dear Son. This point must be understood.
He forfeited those privileges which God in His mercy presented him as a free gift, a
treasure in trust to be used to advance His cause and His glory, to benefit the beings He
had made. The moment the workmanship of God refused obedience to the laws of God's
kingdom, that moment he became disloyal to the government of God and he made himself
entirely unworthy of all the blessings wherewith God had favoured him.
This was the position of the human race after man divorced himself from God by
transgression. Then he was no longer entitled to a breath of air, a ray of sunshine, or a
particle of food. And the reason why man was not annihilated was because God so loved him
that He made the gift of His dear Son that He should suffer the penalty of his
transgression. Christ proposed to become man's surety and substitute, that man, through
matchless grace, should have another trial--a second probation--having the experience of
Adam and Eve as a warning not to transgress God's law as they did. And inasmuch as man
enjoys the blessings of God in the gift of the sunshine and the gift of food, there must
be on the part of man a bowing before God in thankful acknowledgement that all things come
of God. Whatever is rendered back to Him is only His
own who has given it.
Man broke God's law, and through the Redeemer new and fresh promises were made on a
different basis. All blessings must come through a Mediator. Now every member of the human
family is given wholly into the hands of Christ, and whatever we possess--whether it is
the gift of money, of houses, of lands, of reasoning powers, of physical strength, of
intellectual talents--in this present life, and the blessings of the future life, are
placed in our possession as God's treasures to be faithfully expended for the benefit of
man. Every gift is stamped with the cross and bears the image and superscription of Jesus
Christ. All things come of God. From the smallest benefits up to the largest blessing, all
flow through the one Channel--a superhuman mediation sprinkled with the blood that is of
value beyond estimate because it was the life of God in His Son.
Now not a soul can give God anything that is not already His. Bear this in mind:
"All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee" (1 Chronicles
29:14). This must be kept before the people wherever we go--that we possess nothing, can
offer nothing in value, in work, in faith, which we have not first received of God and
upon which He can lay His hand any time and say, They are Mine--gifts and blessings and
endowments I entrusted to you, not to enrich yourself, but for wise improvement to benefit
All Is of God
The creation belongs to God. The Lord could, by neglecting man, stop his breath at
once. All that he is and all that he has pertains to God. The entire world is God's. Man's
houses, his personal acquirements, whatever is valuable or brilliant, is God's own
endowment. It is all His gift to be returned back to God in helping to cultivate the heart
of man. The most splendid offerings may be laid upon the altar of God, and men will
praise, exalt, and laud the giver because of His liberality. In
what? "All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee" (1
Chronicles 29:14). No work of man can merit for him the pardoning love of God, but the
love of God pervading the soul will lead him to do those things which were always required
of God and that he should do with pleasure. He has done only that which duty ever required
The angels of God in heaven that have never fallen do His will continually. In all that
they do upon their busy errands of mercy to our world, shielding, guiding, and guarding
the workmanship of God for ages--both the just and the unjust-- they can truthfully say,
"All is Thine. Of Thine own do we give Thee." Would that the human eye could
catch glimpses of the service of the angels! Would that the imagination could grasp and
dwell upon the rich, the glorious service of the angels of God and the conflicts in which
they engage in behalf of men to protect, to lead, to win, and to draw them from Satan's
snares. How different would be the conduct, the religious sentiment!
Discussions may be entered into by mortals strenuously advocating creature merit, and
each man striving for the supremacy, but they simply do not know that all the time, in
principle and character, they are misrepresenting the truth as it is in Jesus. They are in
a fog of bewilderment. They need the divine love of God which is represented by gold tried
in the fire; they need the white raiment of Christ's pure character; and they need the
heavenly eyesalve that they might discern with astonishment the utter worthlessness of
creature merit to earn the wages of eternal life. There may be a fervour of labour and an
intense affection, high and noble achievement of intellect, a breadth of understanding,
and the humblest self-abasement, laid at the feet of our Redeemer; but there is not one
jot more than the grace and talent first given of God. There must be nothing less given
than duty prescribes, and there
cannot be one jot more given than they have first received; and all must be laid upon
the fire of Christ's righteousness to cleanse it from its earthly odour before it rises in
a cloud of fragrant incense to the great Jehovah and is accepted as a sweet savour.
I ask, How can I present this matter as it is? The Lord Jesus imparts all the powers,
all the grace, all the penitence, all the inclination, all the pardon of sins, in
presenting His righteousness for man to grasp by living faith--which is also the gift of
God. If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in
man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of
the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason. Standing in the
presence of their Creator and looking upon the unsurpassed glory which enshrouds His
person, they are looking upon the Lamb of God given from the foundation of the world to a
life of humiliation, to be rejected of sinful men, to be despised, to be crucified. Who
can measure the infinity of the sacrifice!
Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And
any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are
made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ's righteousness. The idea of doing
anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. "Lord, in my
hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling."
What Man Cannot Do
Man can achieve no praiseworthy exploits that give him any glory. Men are in the habit
of glorifying men and exalting men. It makes me shudder to see or hear of it, for there
have been revealed to me not a few cases where the homelife and inner work of the hearts
of those very men are full of selfishness. They are corrupt, polluted, vile; and nothing
that comes from all their doings can elevate them with God, for all that
they do is an abomination in His sight. There can be no true conversion without the
giving up of sin, and the aggravating character of sin is not discerned. With an acuteness
of perception never reached by mortal sight, angels of God discern that beings hampered
with corrupting influences, with unclean souls and hands, are deciding their destiny for
eternity; and yet many have little sense of what constitutes sin and the remedy.
We hear so many things preached in regard to the conversion of the soul that are not
the truth. Men are educated to think that if a man repents he shall be pardoned, supposing
that repentance is the way, the door, into heaven; that there is a certain assured value
in repentance to buy for him forgiveness. Can man repent of himself? No more than he
can pardon himself. Tears, sighs, resolutions--all these are but the proper exercise of
the faculties God has given to man, and the turning from sin in the amendment of a life
which is God's. Where is the merit in the man to earn his salvation, or to place before
God something that is valuable and excellent? Can an offering of money, houses, lands,
place yourself on the deserving list?
There is danger in regarding justification by faith as placing merit on faith. When you
take the righteousness of Christ as a free gift you are justified freely through the
redemption of Christ. What is faith? "The substance of things hoped for, the evidence
of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). It is an assent of the understanding to God's
words which binds the heart in willing consecration and service to God, Who gave the
understanding, Who moved on the heart, Who first drew the mind to view Christ on the cross
of Calvary. Faith is rendering to God the intellectual powers, abandonment of the mind and
will to God, and making Christ the only door to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they
look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be
of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the
heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win
salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the
rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time
and for eternity.
God Works, and Man Works
God has given men faculties and capabilities. God works and co-operates with the gifts
He has imparted to man, and man, by being a partaker of the divine nature and doing the
work of Christ, may be an overcomer and win eternal life. The Lord does not propose to do
the work He has given man powers to do. Man's part must be done. He must be a labourer
together with God, yoking up with Christ, learning His meekness, His lowliness. God is the
all-controlling power. He bestows the gifts; man receives them and acts with the power of
the grace of Christ as a living agent.
"Ye are God's husbandry" (1 Corinthians 3:9). The heart is to be worked,
subdued, ploughed, harrowed, seeded, to bring forth its harvest to God in good works.
"Ye are God's building." You cannot build yourself. There is a Power outside of
yourself that must do the building of the church, putting brick upon brick, always
co-operating with the faculties and powers given of God to man. The Redeemer must find a
home in His building. God works and man works. There needs to be a continual taking
in of the gifts of God, in order that there may be as free a giving out of these gifts. It
is a continual receiving and then restoring. The Lord has provided that the soul shall
receive nourishment from Him, to be given out again in the working out of His purposes. In
order that there be an outflowing, there must be an income of divinity to humanity.
"I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (2 Corinthians 6:16).
The soul temple is to be sacred, holy, pure, and undefiled. There must be a
co-partnership in which all the power is of God
and all the glory belongs to God. The responsibility rests with us. We must receive in
thoughts and in feelings, to give in expression. The law of the human and the divine
action makes the receiver a labourer together with God. It brings man where he can, united
with divinity, work the works of God. Humanity touches humanity. Divine power and the
human agency combined will be a complete success, for Christ's righteousness accomplishes
Supernatural Power for Supernatural Works
The reason so many fail to be successful labourers is that they act as though God
depended on them, and they are to suggest to God what He chooses to do with them, in the
place of their depending on God. They lay aside the supernatural power and fail to do the
supernatural work. They are all the time depending on their own and their brethren's human
powers. They are narrow in themselves and are always judging after their finite human
comprehension. They need uplifting, for they have no power from on high. God gives us
bodies, strength of brain, time and opportunity in which to work. It is required that all
be put to the tax. With humanity and divinity combined you can accomplish a work as
enduring as eternity. When men think the Lord has made a mistake in their individual
cases, and they appoint their own work, they will meet with disappointment.
"By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift
of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Here is truth that will unfold the subject to your mind if
you do not close it to the rays of light. Eternal life is an infinite gift. This places it
outside the possibility of our earning it, because it is infinite. It must necessarily be
a gift. As a gift it must be received by faith, and gratitude and praise be offered to
God. Solid faith will not lead anyone away into fanaticism or into acting the slothful
servant. It is the bewitching power of Satan that leads men to look to themselves in the
place of looking to Jesus. The
righteousness of Christ must go before us if the glory of the Lord becomes our
rereward. If we do God's will, we may accept large blessings as God's free gift, but not
because of any merit in us; this is of no value. Do the work of Christ, and you will
honour God and come off more than conquerors through Him that has loved us and given His
life for us, that we should have life and salvation in Jesus Christ.