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Says the apostle Jude, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” The apostles and their colaborers in the early Christian. church were constantly obliged to meet heresies, which were brought in by false teachers in the very bosom of the church. These teachers are represented not as coming openly, but creeping in unawares, with the gliding motion of a serpent. They followed their own pernicious ways, but were not satisfied without drawing away others with them. They had no connected chain of truth, but taught a disjointed medley of ideas, supported bar a passage of Scripture here and another there. These disconnected scriptures were woven together into a tissue of falsehood that would strike the fancy, and would deceive those who had not, by searching the Scriptures for themselves, become established in the truth for that time.
Satan worked through these false teachers. Under a profession of regard for the truth, they concealed base purposes, for their hearts were corrupt. Had they come disclaiming faith in Christ, they would have been rejected at once; but professing to believe in him, they gained the confidence of some, and without shame or conscience perverted the truth to suit their own unsanctified hearts. And when once these deluded souls had departed from the old landmarks of faith, they had let go their anchor, and were tossed about like the waves of the sea. These lying prophets are described in the word of God; their deeds are recorded in the register of Heaven. Their hearts and their deceptive, wicked works were not understood by men; but the Lord saw them; he read their hearts as an open book, and knew that their very thoughts and purposes were corrupt.
False teachers are just as active in our day as they were in the days of the apostles. Satan has many agents, and they are ready to present any and every kind of theory to deceive souls, heresies prepared to suit the varied tastes and capacities of those whom he would ruin. There are cheap fallacies for those who are easily led into error, and who desire something new, odd, or fanciful, which they cannot explain intelligently: or even understand themselves. A mysterious, disconnected set of ideas is more in accordance with their minds than the plain truth, which has a “Thus saith the Lord” for its foundation. He has other heresies, — intellectual poisons, — which he has concocted for another class of minds in this age of skepticism and proud reasoning. These sophistries have a bewitching power over minds, and thousands are deceived by them.
One class have a theory that there is no personal devil, and that Christ had no existence before he came to this earth; and they try to maintain these absurd theories by wresting scriptures frown their true meaning. The utter folly of human wisdom in matters of religious faith is thus made manifest. The heart that is not sanctified, and imbued with the spirit of Christ, is perverse in its interpretation of the inspired word, turning the truth of God into senseless falsehood; and some who have not searched the Scriptures with humble hearts allow these wild speculations to unsettle their faith; they accept them in place of the plainly revealed will of God.
Satan assails another class with arguments that present a greater show of plausibility. Science and nature are exalted. Men consider themselves wiser than the word of God, wiser even than God; and instead of planting their feet on the immovable foundation, and bringing everything to the test of God’s word, they test that word by their own ideas of science and nature, and if it seems not to agree with their scientific ideas, it is discarded as unworthy of credence. Thus the great standard by which to test doctrines and character is set aside for human standards. This is as Satan designed it should be. Some say, “It is no matter what we believe, if we are only honest.” But the law and the testimony remain valid, and we are to seek unto them.
The law of God is the great moral standard by which character is to be judged. It is the expression of his will, and must be obeyed from the heart. Its holy principles must underlie our course of action in all our business relations. Those who belittle their profession of faith by conformity to the world, show that they despise the riches of the grace of Christ. They cry. “The grace of Christ! we are not saved by works, but by Christ;” but they continue in sin, — continue to transgress the law of God. They act as though they considered it their privilege to live in sin that grace may abound. But every indulgence in sin weakens the soul; it welcomes Satan to come in and control the mind, making the individual his effectual servant.
In these days of delusion, every one who is established in the truth will have to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Every variety of error will be brought out in the mysterious working of Satan, which would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect, and turn them from the truth. There will be human wisdom to meet, — the wisdom of learned men, who, as were the Pharisees, are teachers of the law of God, but do not obey the law themselves. There will be human ignorance and folly to meet in disconnected theories arrayed in new and fantastic dress, — theories that it will be all the more difficult to meet because there is no reason in them.
There will be false dreams and false visions, which have some truth, but lead away from the original faith. The Lord has given men a rule by which to detect them: “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” If they belittle the law of God, if they pay no heed to his will as revealed in the testimonies of his Spirit, they are deceivers. They are controlled by impulse and impressions, which they believe to be from the Holy Spirit, and consider more reliable than the inspired word. They claim that every thought and feeling is an impression of the Spirit; and when they are reasoned with out of the Scriptures, they declare that they have something more reliable. But while they think that they are led by the Spirit of God, they are in reality following an imagination wrought upon by Satan.
Their character was described and their doom denounced by the ancient prophets. It was ordained of old that those who unsettle faith in the word of God should bear the condemnation of God.
Jude says, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” This will be the sure fate of all the characters described by Jude, who depart from God, and lead others away from the truth. Although the Lord gave Israel the greatest evidences of his favor, and upon condition of obedience, the rich promise that they should be to him a peculiar people, a royal nation, yet because of their unbelief and disobedience he could not fulfill the promise. Because of their transgressions, he removed his restraining power over their enemies, the ungodly nations around them, and did not protect them as he had done.
Some profess Christianity year after year, and in some things appear to serve God, and yet they are far from him. They give loose rein to appetite and passion, and follow their own unsanctified inclinations, loving pleasure and the applause of men more than God or his truth. But God reads the secrets of the heart. Base thoughts lead to base actions. Self-righteousness, pride, and licentiousness are far-reaching, deep, and almost universal. These tare the sins for which God destroyed the inhabitants of the old world by a flood of water, and they are corrupting the churches in these last days. They are the hidden rocks upon which are wrecked thousands and tens of thousands who profess godliness. Only those who are closely connected with God will escape the devices of Satan and the prevailing moral corruptions of this age.
The character is revealed by the works, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. Those who would put God out of their knowledge will show a want of principle. man will show which master he is serving with the strength of his intellect, his skill, and his ability. The servant of Christ will watch unto prayer; he will be devoted, humble, meek and lowly in heart, seeking to know and do the will of God. Whereas he was once the servant of sin, he has, through the grace of God, become transformed in mind and character. He will love the day of Christ’s appearing; for he will be able to say with Paul. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”