By EDWIN G. ESSERY, M.D., Medical Secretary, Middle East Union Mission
The master stroke of Satan, to which he returns again and again in his efforts to snare human souls, is the old Galatian bewitchment—the striving after perfection "by the flesh." The gospel of externalism is always dear to the human heart, and we must, therefore, constantly be on our guard, lest anything entangle us with the "yoke of bondage," thus removing us from "the liberty wherewith Christ bath made us free."
Health reform is an essential accompaniment of our message for today, and we shall, in a moment, see the reason why. But we must take care lest our health principles degenerate into a matter of "Touch not, taste not, handle not." When individuals fall into this, or any other formalism, they lose the deep joy of fellowship in the Spirit and become removed from the grace of Christ. Furthermore, such people, like Judaizers of Paul's day, tend to "trouble" others and, with misplaced zeal, make "the heart of the righteous sad" whom the Lord hath "not made sad."
I have not space to go into this subject in detail, but for my present purpose it will suffice for me to say rather crudely but plainly that we cannot be saved by giving up a cup of tea or a lamb chop ! But who said we could? No one, obviously. The gospel of works is rarely seen in so blatant a guise. Satan is far too clever for that. It should ever be remembered that the central feature of our message is righteousness by faith. In these days when people trust so much in their own merits, we must keep this great truth absolutely untarnished. As Luther finely says, "If the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost. . . . He then that strayeth from this Christian righteousness must needs fall into the 'righteousness of the law' ; that is to say, when he hath lost Christ, he must fall into the confidence of his own works."—Luther on Galatians, p. 136.
Seventh-day Adventists do not believe that the keeping of the Sabbath or any of the other commandments, or abstinence from this or that article of food or drink, can ever give them the slightest credit with God. Christ alone is our righteousness. Either we accept Him to stand in our stead, or we are left naked or clothed in filthy rags. This is God's method; it lays the glory of man in the .dust, and does for him that which he cannot do for himself. In the whole plan of salvation there is no place at all for human merit. The glory is All His.
"What, then," one may ask, "is the real place of health reform?" This is a very wide subject, and I must leave its fuller discussion to later articles, but the little I can say now will enable the reader to gauge its importance. We should, first of all, be clear that when the sinner accepts Christ as his personal Saviour, he is, in the words of Scripture, "Justified" ; that is, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and he then stands before God as though he had never sinned. But the -plan of salvation does not stop there; the righteousness which is imputed to the sinner, will, through the work of sanctification, gradually be imparted to him.
At no step of the way will one who has so•yielded his life to his Lord, feel that there is any merit in these things. God forbid that anything which the controlling Spirit will use in the renewed life as an aid to sanctification, should, through carelessness, be perverted by Satan into a subtle system of works. "Having begun in the Spirit," we cannot now be "made perfect by the flesh." The old man is dead, but Christ liveth, and Christ in us is "the hope of glory."
"And every virtue we possess And every goodness known, And every thought of holiness, Are His alone."
May God help us to have an intelligent understanding of the true scope and purpose of health reform, and may we be saved from the Galatian heresy.
Now the true objective of health reform for one who is justified is that he intelligently yield his body as an instrument "of righteousness unto God." Note the following statements in this connection: "The body is the only medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character."—Ministry of Healing, p. 130. "A pure, healthy life is most favorable for the perfection of Christian character."—Counsels on Health, p. 41. There are other important thoughts from the Testimonies which amplify these statements, and show that health reform is of far wider scope and of much greater importance than is generally realized.
We should understand, therefore, that health reform is no fetish, no substitute for divine grace, no subtle system whereby the unregenerate may "climb up some other way," but definite light for the remnant church who, in a special sense, are called to show forth "the praises of Him" who hath called us into His "marvelous light." Let us, therefore, no more be children in the things of salvation, but let us intelligently understand the laws of our physical being, and, by obedience to the principles of health, yield ourselves more fully to Jesus, that He may will and do of His good pleasure in us.