Reflections on Sermon 18 of AT Jones’ 1893 Sermons
“How can I love my Enemy?”
“How can I love God with all my heart?”
These questions were asked sincerely by separate new Thai converts to me. I answered that if God says we can do it, then we can. We must believe we can, that he will show us how and give us power to do it.
I was not so satisfied with my answer. Believing it is possible is one thing, figuring out the actual logistics of the matter another. Is faith not a science, consisting of certain processes? Ellen White seems to think so:
“Paul saw that the character of Christ must be understood before men could love Him or view the cross with the eye of faith. Here must begin that study which shall be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity.” AA 273.1
“The science of salvation, the science of true godliness, the knowledge which has been revealed from eternity, which enters into the purpose of God, expresses His mind, and reveals His purpose—this Heaven deems all-important.” CT14.2
God has a system, a plan for how to save us. Christ is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He does this work in us. But we need to be aware of how it works, for how can we submit to God’s will when we have no understanding of the workings of His will?
“The work of God in the earth is of immeasurable importance, and it is Satan's special object to crowd it out of sight and mind, that he may make his specious devices effectual in the destruction of those for whom Christ died. It is his purpose to cause the discoveries of men to be exalted above the wisdom of God. When the mind is engrossed with the conceptions and theories of men to the exclusion of the wisdom of God, it is stamped with idolatry. Science, falsely so-called, has been exalted above God, nature above its Maker, and how can God look upon such wisdom?” CE 83.3
When I read Sermon 18 of AT Jones’ 1893 sermons I see the gospel explained clearly and beautifully. It is incredible to reflect that, though it is there in the Holy Word as plain as day, after millions of words and 2000 years we still are just putting the “science of salvation” together. Satan had very nearly succeeded in fooling us into thinking that this science was simple and already perfectly understood, and we had supposed weightier matters to consider. But it is questions from those children in the faith, who earnestly want to do what the Word commands but can’t see how it is to be done, that awaken our need to understand these first principles again.
Sermon 18…buried near the end of the series, hidden treasure. I remember being given a CD with the 1893 sermons on it and struggling through the first ten; they were interesting no doubt but did I make it to 18? I can’t remember. But after coming back from Passover this time, its magnificent clarity and its systematic articulation of the Gospel was a joy to behold. How powerfully God moved upon the minds of the pioneers! The foundation has been set, the platform for us is there, Jesus our ladder has paved the way and all we need to do is continue the progression! Must we always seek to find our own way, too proud to build off the work of our spiritual forefathers? “If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3) Is it not the “3rd Angel’s Message in Verity”? And what is it that is laid out in these sermons on “Righteousness by Faith”? Exactly that, how God systematically does the work in us that allows us to have his character, how we believe and know that God is preparing us for heaven.
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Romans 10: 3-4
Firstly God convicts us of our sin through the law. We know this well. It is here Jones begins. The Holy Spirit does this as described in Romans 5:20-21, words I pray I never forget: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” It’s hard for me to think of more comforting words than these in all the scriptures. Jones recognizes this and he makes this connection of how and why conviction of sin is done – to comfort us – by the Holy Spirit who is therefore our comforter to allow us to receive grace.
Don’t you see then, that when we bear in mind just at the moment and at the time and at the place that where sin abounds there grace much more abounds, and just at the time when the Holy Spirit is giving conviction of sin, He is the Comforter that does it. Don’t you see that in all that—remembering all that—we have an everlasting victory over Satan? Does Satan get the advantage of that man who believes God right then? No. Satan comes and says, “See what a sinner you are.” Thank the Lord, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” [Congregation: “Amen!”] “Well”, says another, “I have such a deep conviction of sin. It seems to me I was never convicted of sin so deeply before in all my life.” Thank the Lord, we have got more comfort than ever before in our lives. Don’t you see, brethren, that that is so? [Congregation: “It is so.”] Well then, let us thank the Lord for that. [Congregation: “Amen!”] I should like to know why we should not praise the Lord right along.
But that is just step one. Jones continues with the logic of Romans 5:21, that “grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord…” and that the “law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Well, the law then brings us to Christ. That’s certain. What for? [Congregation: “That we may be justified.”] What does the law want of you and me? Does it make any demands of us before we reach Jesus Christ? When the law finds us, does it want anything from us? [Congregation: It wants righteousness.”] What kind? [Congregation: “Perfect righteousness.”] Whose? [Congregation: “God’s”] God’s righteousness? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Just such righteousness alone as God manifests in His own life, in His own way of doing things? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Will that law be content with anything less than that for you and me? Will it accept anything less than that, a hair’s breadth less? [Congregation: “No.”]
It is at this point that Jones makes an inspired connection, by connecting this thread to 1 Timothy 1:5 – “Now the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” I thought the law wanted righteousness from us, but now we see that righteousness comes by love, a love GIVEN TO US BY GOD, to be expressed out of our newly purified heart. Now I am getting close to answering the original questions on how to love purely! The law wants perfect love, the pure love that only Jesus has because it is only He who truly knows the Father. “Justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5: 1,5
Then that faith which He gives, which he enables us to keep—the faith of Jesus which enables us to keep the commandments of God—there is the love of God by a faith unfeigned. Oh then the message of the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ, brings us to, and brings to us, the perfect fulfillment of the law of god, does it not? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Then that is the object and the aim and the one single point of the third angel’s message, is it not? [Congregation: “Yes.”] That is Christ. Christ in His righteousness. Christ in His purity. Christ in His love. Christ in His gentleness. Christ in His entire being. Christ and Him crucified.
A side note here. It becomes clear that understanding Christ and his ministry is exceedingly important in enabling us to fully receive Him, retaining His righteousness, faith, and love, and thereby enabling us to keep the law of God. Thus Jesus’ work as our priest, how He was slain from the foundation of the world, how He “carried us all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9), and how our sins continue to pierce Him is necessary to receiving Him in His fullness. This is the true cross, of which Christ’s physical suffering and incarnation is only a window into understanding. But here is light so bright it becomes difficult to bear. But it is where we must go if we are to pass the perfect searching of the soul done by the law as it is in the most holy place.
Christ could love his enemies. Christ could forgive those who put him on the cross. Christ loves his Father, his God and our God (John 20:17) with a perfect love and trusts his Father with a perfect faith, a faith unfeigned, and has a perfectly clear conscience because he never sinned. We cannot do these things. We cannot generate a love for God, but God gives us His love in Christ which is then “shed abroad”. This resonates with me very much, because I was never one to love, I distrusted my own love, I came from a family that never said “I love you” to each other; if we did we would suspect ourselves, our words, and our motives of insincerity. With good reason maybe, seeing how superficially and cheaply the word 'love' is used in the world. But for God to give me His love, and for me to see the love that He and His son have for each other and how much they loved us to go through all they went through – this is love I want to receive, this is love that softens my proud heart and I willingly submit to. I step forward towards a genuine faith, which Jones describes:
And what is genuine faith? Submission of the will to Him, a yielding of the heart to Him, a fixing of the affections upon Him. That is what He means here to those who will receive Him, because believing is receiving when God speaks. He says so in the first chapter of John, 12th verse. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” Then can everyone here have it tonight? Can have it? Have it, because we believed it.
God in his great mercy doesn’t just leave it at that. He doesn’t leave us to wonder if we have received that righteousness, that Godly character, that we are really His children. The law, whose original work was to show us our sin and bring it to light that we may receive grace, now becomes a delight, witnessing that Jesus lives in us and pushing us to come ever closer to Christ and helping us to know him better – for the “law is a transcript of God’s character” (CG 69.2). We are wicked, we cannot witness for ourselves, nor for each other. Thus God has set Christ and the law working together for our good.
So that the tabernacle was the tabernacle of witness or testimony, the ark was the ark of the testimony or witness, because it contained the tables of the testimony. The tables of stone, the tables of the law, were the tables of the testimony, because they were the evidence of the witness, which God appointed to witness to the righteousness of God, which comes without the law, by faith of Jesus Christ alone. Then it is everlastingly true throughout the universe that “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal 2:21. Forever and everywhere it is true that “Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord. ”Isaiah 54:17. And the law witnesses to the righteousness which all obtain from God without the law, but by Jesus Christ.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). We look at Christ and we see the glory of the Father, his character, we see how Jesus perfectly kept the law, which is a transcript of the Character of God. Then when we look at the law through Christ we can see Christ in the law, using the law to show us our sin which is keeping us from knowing and receiving Christ more. Yet without the spirit of God which we receive through Christ, to look at the law is death, therefore righteousness is by faith in the merits of Jesus whose spirit we receive, not the spirit of the world, which "lusteth to envy" (James 4:5), which is worthless to stand up to the requirements of the law.
What a beautiful, profound, yet simple process, powered by faith and prayer and the Spirit of the Lord. So how do I answer the questions of how to love God with all my heart and all my soul? I cannot, but Christ can, who by the infinite grace of God our Father is given to us to “reign through righteousness unto eternal life.” To love our enemies and to love God truly, we must behold and receive Christ.
And so those ten [commandments] are brought up and they say, “Why, yes, we are perfectly satisfied with him. Why, yes, the deliverance that he obtained from his wretchedness is that which our Lord wrought; the comfort that he had all the way and that he needed so much is that which our Lord gave. The wealth that he has, whatever he has, poor as he was, the Lord gave it, and blind, whatever he sees, it is the Lord that gave it to him. And he sees only what is the Lord’s. And naked as he was, that garment that he has on, the Lord gave it to him. The Lord wove it, and it is all divine. It is only Christ. Why, yes, he can come in.”
[Here the congregation began singing: --
“Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain:
He washed it white as snow.”]
The congregation broke out into song at the end of this Sermon. Why this song? "Jesus paid it all." What is it that Jesus paid? The wages of sin, the end of which is death. Just as the Spirit is life unto life, of which we bear the fruits of in this life (love, joy peace...), sin also has its corrupt fruit of death unto death, corrupt fruit that would not exist without sin, that we must live with that draws us step by step to death. Pride, guilt, shame hate, envy, jealousy, fear, pain, bitterness, loneliness, frustration, despair, arrogance, anymosity, paranoia , strife, malevolence, malice, self-deception. Our sins should lead us into all these things, they are its awful fruit. How deep and terrible is the pit of sin! How far we could and should fall!
I think of my own melancholic tendencies to fall into despair. My overactive carnal mind turns on itself in spirals of negative thinking. A sinful nature and a sinful world cause me to alternatingly loathe the world and then loathe myself. But how unfair this is to Christ. Must I add to His burden when He has already shown me how He has completed the work? Will I not enter into His rest? Father help me. My own doubt is almost unbearable, what of the unbelief of the entire world? The Father has "laid on him the iniquity of us ALL" (Isaiah 53:6); therefore "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to ALL men" (Titus 2:11). We owe it all to him that our own sins and wickedness don't overwhelm us. Praise God his grace abounds more! "For we were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25) May God grant us wisdom to understand this grace ever more .
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5: 4-5