THERE is nothing which will weaken the strength of a church like pride and passion. If one engaged in the work of God does things in contradiction to another engaged in the same work, that is strife and variance. If we do this to be esteemed or to exalt self, it is vainglory, and death to spirituality and to Christian love and unity of action. Let there be no spirit of opposition among Christians. Christ has given us an example of love and humility, and has enjoined upon His followers to love one another as He has loved us. We must in lowliness of mind esteem others better than ourselves. We must be more severe upon our own character defects, be quick to discern our own errors and mistakes, and make less of the faults of others than of our own. We must feel a special interest in looking upon the things of others—not to covet them, not to find fault with them, not to remark upon them and present them in a false light, but to do strict justice in all things to our brethren and all with whom we have any dealings. A spirit to work plans for our own selfish interest, so as to grasp a little gain, or to labor to show a superiority or rivalry, is an offense to God. The Spirit of Christ will lead His followers to be concerned, not only for their success and advantage, but to be equally interested for the success and advantage of their brethren. This will be loving our neighbor as ourselves; and an opposite spirit from this creates differences and alienations and want of love and harmony.
Oh, how out of place is all this strife for supremacy! Jesus alone is to be exalted. Whatever may be the ability or the success of any one of us, it is not because we have manufactured these powers ourselves; they are the sacred trust given us of God, to be wisely employed in His service to His glory. All is the Lord's intrusted capital. Why, then, should we be lifted up? Why should we call attention to our own defective selves? What we do possess in talent and wisdom, is received from the Source of wisdom, that we may glorify God.
The apostle would call our attention from ourselves to the Author of our salvation. He presents before us His two natures, divine and human. Here is the description of the divine: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." He was "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person."
Now, of the human: "He was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death." He voluntarily assumed human nature. It was His own act, and by His own consent. He clothed His divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God, but He did not appear as God. He veiled the demonstrations of Deity, which had commanded the homage, and called forth the admiration, of the universe of God. He was God while upon earth, but He divested Himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man. He walked the earth as a man. For our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He laid aside His glory and His majesty. He was God, but the glories of the form of God He for a while relinquished. Though He walked among men in poverty, scattering His blessings where-ever He went, at His word legions of angels would surround their Redeemer, and do Him homage. But He walked the earth unrecognized, unconfessed, with but few exceptions, by His creatures. The atmosphere was polluted with sin and curses, in place of the anthem of praise. His lot was poverty and humiliation. As He passed to and fro upon His mission of mercy to relieve the sick, to lift up the depressed, scarce a solitary voice called Him blessed, and the very greatest of the nation passed Him by with disdain.
Contrast this with the riches of glory, the wealth of praise pouring forth from immortal tongues, the millions of rich voices in the universe of God in anthems of adoration. But He humbled Himself, and took mortality upon Him. As a member of the human family, He was mortal; but as a God, He was the fountain of life to the world. He could, in His divine person, ever have withstood the advances of death, and refused to come under its dominion; but He voluntarily laid down His life, that in so doing He might give life and bring immortality to light. He bore the sins of the world, and endured the penalty, which rolled like a mountain upon His divine soul. He yielded up His life a sacrifice, that man should not eternally die. He died, not through being compelled to die, but by His own free will. This was humility. The whole treasure of heaven was poured out in one gift to save fallen man. He brought into His human nature all the life-giving energies that human beings will need and must receive.
Wondrous combination of man and God! He might have helped His human nature to withstand the inroads of disease by pouring from His divine nature vitality and undecaying vigor to the human. But He humbled Himself to man's nature. He did this that the Scripture might be fulfilled; and the plan was entered into by the Son of God, knowing all the steps in His humiliation, that He must descend to make an expiation for the sins of a condemned, groaning world. What humility was this! It amazed angels. The tongue can never describe it; the imagination cannot take it in. The eternal Word consented to be made flesh! God became man! It was a wonderful humility.
But He stepped still lower; the Man must humble Himself as a man to bear insult, reproach, shameful accusations, and abuse. There seemed to be no safe place for Him in His own territory. He had to flee from place to place for His life. He was betrayed by one of His disciples; He was denied by one of His most zealous followers. He was mocked. He was crowned with a crown of thorns. He was scourged. He was forced to bear the burden of the cross. He was not insensible to this contempt and ignominy. He submitted, but, oh! He felt the bitterness as no other being could feel it. He was pure, holy, and undefiled, yet arraigned as a criminal! The adorable Redeemer stepped down from the highest exaltation. Step by step He humbled Himself to die—but what a death! It was the most shameful, the most cruel—the death upon the cross as a malefactor. He did not die as a hero in the eyes of the world, loaded with honors, as men in battle. He died as a condemned -criminal, suspended between the heavens and the earth—died a lingering death of shame, exposed to the tauntings and revilings of a debased, crime-loaded, profligate multitude! "All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head." Ps. 22:7. He was numbered with the transgressors, He expired amid derision, and His kinsmen according to the flesh disowned Him. His mother beheld His humiliation, and He was forced to see the sword pierce her heart. He endured the cross, despised the shame. He made it of small account in consideration of the results that He was working out in behalf of, not only the inhabitants of this speck of a world, but the whole universe, every world which God had created.
Christ was to die as man's substitute. Man was a criminal under the sentence of death for transgression of the law of God, as a traitor, a rebel; hence a substitute for man must die as a malefactor, because He stood in the place of the traitors, with all their treasured sins upon His divine soul. It was not enough that Jesus should die in order to fully meet the demands of the broken law, but He died a shameful death. The prophet gives to the world His words, "I hid not my face from shame and spitting."
In consideration of this, can men have one particle of exaltation? As they trace down the life and sufferings and humiliation of Christ, can they lift their proud heads as if they were to bear no trials, no shame, no humiliation? I say to the followers of Christ. Look to Calvary, and blush for shame at your self-important ideas. All this humiliation of the Majesty of heaven was for guilty, condemned man. He went lower and lower in His humiliation, until there were no lower depths that He could reach, in order to lift man up from his moral defilement. All this was for you who are striving for the supremacy—striving for human praise, for human exaltation; you who are afraid you will not receive all that deference, that respect from human minds, that you think is your due. Is this Chris tlike?
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." He died to make an atonement, and to become a pattern for every one who would be His disciple. Shall selfishness come into your hearts? And will those who set not before them the pattern, Jesus, extol your merits? You have none except as they come through Jesus Christ. Shall pride be harbored after you have seen Deity humbling Himself, and then as man debasing Himself, till there was no lower point to which He could descend? "Be astonished, O ye heavens," and be amazed, ye inhabitants of the earth, that such returns should be made to our Lord! What contempt! what wickedness! what formality! what pride! what efforts made to lift up man and glorify self, when the Lord of glory humbled Himself, agonized, and died the shameful death upon the cross in our behalf!
Who is learning the meekness and lowliness of the Pattern? Who is striving earnestly to master self? Who is lifting his cross and following Jesus? Who is wrestling against self-conceit? Who is setting himself in good earnest and with all his energies to overcome satanic envyings, jealousies, evil-surmisings, and lasciviousness; cleansing the soul temple from all defilements, and opening the door of the heart for Jesus to come in? Would that these words might have that impression upon minds that all who may read them would cultivate the grace of humility, be self-denying, more disposed to esteem others better than themselves, having the mind and Spirit of Christ to bear one another's burdens! Oh that we might write deeply upon our hearts, as we contemplate, the great condescension and humiliation to which the Son of God descended that we might be partakers of the divine nature, and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust! All haughtiness, all self-exaltation, must be put away from us, and we learn the meekness and lowliness of Christ, or we shall find no place in the kingdom of God. The life must be hid with Christ in God. The anchor of every soul is to be cast into the Rock cleft for us, that Rock which bears up a ruined world. Let us keep these things in our minds.
Pride of talent, pride of intellect, cannot exist in hearts that are hid with Christ in God. There would be no strivings to let self stand forth conspicuously unless Deity and humanity combined had stood in the gap to stay the sentence of a broken law. Its penalty would have fallen, without abating a jot of its severity, upon the sinful. It fell on Jesus, the world's Redeemer, to give man another trial. Then let us humble ourselves, and adore Jesus, but never, never, exalt self in the least degree. God forbid that we should foster in ourselves independence. Make haste that none of us may occupy the fearful position of him for whom Christ died in vain.
Will my brethren consider that there is no royal road to heaven? The cross, the cross, lies directly in the path we must travel to reach the crown. Those who will not humble themselves even as a little child, said Jesus Christ, shall have no part in the kingdom of heaven. If the motive of all our life is to serve and honor Christ and bless humanity in the world, then the dreariest path of duty will become a bright way—a path cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. If we are children of God, there will be countless opportunities for serving Him by active ministry to those for whom He died. Jesus looks upon the wants, the necessities, of every soul, and ministers unto them by standing close beside the one whom He uses to be an instrument to help and bless others. All contentions, all envy, is grievous to Jesus Christ.
—Review and Herald, Sept. 4, 1900.