The following is an excerpt from a book called Education, written by Ellen G. White, just over a hundred years ago. In it she writes what the condition of human-kind was when Jesus came to earth to save us. But, it also gives us a clear thinking view of today’s world.
This little old lady has many other insights into our relationship with Jesus and our lives today. You will see the relevance.They can be found in the books authored by her on our Books page, which are available free online.
“God’s greatest gift was bestowed to meet man’s greatest need. The Light appeared when the world’s darkness was deepest. Through false teaching the minds of men had long been turned away from God.
In the prevailing systems of education, human philosophy had taken the place of divine revelation. Instead of the heaven-given standard of truth, men had accepted a standard of their own devising. From the Light of life they had turned aside to walk in the sparks of the fire which they had kindled.
Having separated from God, their only dependence being the power of humanity, their strength was but weakness. Even the standard set up by themselves they were incapable of reaching. The want of true excellence was supplied by appearance and profession. Semblance took the place of reality.
From time to time, teachers arose who pointed men to the Source of truth. Right principles were enunciated, and human lives witnessed to their power. But these efforts made no lasting impression. There was a brief check in the current of evil, but its downward course was not stayed. The reformers were as lights that shone in the darkness; but they could not dispel it. The world “loved darkness rather than light.” Job 7:9 & 10
When Christ came to the earth, humanity seemed to be fast reaching its lowest point. The very foundations of society were undermined. Life had become false and artificial. The Jews, destitute of the power of God’s word, gave to the world mind-benumbing, soul-deadening traditions and speculations.
The worship of God “in Spirit and in truth” had been supplanted by the glorification of men in an endless round of man-made ceremonies. Throughout the world all systems of religion were losing their hold on mind and soul. Disgusted with fable and falsehood, seeking to drown thought, men turned to infidelity and materialism. Leaving eternity out of their reckoning, they lived for the present.
As they ceased to recognize the Divine, they ceased to regard the human. Truth, honor, integrity, confidence, compassion, were departing from the earth. Relentless greed and absorbing ambition gave birth to universal distrust. The idea of duty, of the obligation of strength to weakness, of human dignity and human rights, was cast aside as a dream or a fable.
The common people were regarded as beasts of burden or as the tools and the steppingstones for ambition. Wealth and power, ease and self-indulgence, were sought as the highest good. Physical degeneracy, mental stupor, spiritual death, characterized the age.
As the evil passions and purposes of men banished God from their thoughts, so forgetfulness of Him inclined them more strongly to evil.
The heart in love with sin clothed Him with its own attributes, and this conception strengthened the power of sin. Bent on self-pleasing, men came to regard God as such a one as themselves-a Being whose aim was self-glory, whose requirements were suited to His own pleasure; a Being by whom men were lifted up or cast down according as they helped or hindered His selfish purpose.
The lower classes regarded the Supreme Being as one scarcely differing from their oppressors, save by exceeding them in power. By these ideas every form of religion was molded. Each was a system of exaction. By gifts and ceremonies, the worshipers sought to propitiate the Deity in order to secure His favor for their own ends.
Such religion, having no power upon the heart or the conscience, could be but a round of forms, of which men wearied, and from which, except for such gain as it might offer, they longed to be free. So evil, unrestrained, grew stronger, while the appreciation and desire for good diminished. Men lost the image of God and received the impress of the demoniacal power by which they were controlled. The whole world was becoming a sink of corruption.
There was but one hope for the human race-that into this mass of discordant and corrupting elements might be cast a new leaven; that there might be brought to mankind the power of a new life; that the knowledge of God might be restored to the world.
Christ came to restore this knowledge. He came to set aside the false teaching by which those who claimed to know God had misrepresented Him. He came to manifest the nature of His law, to reveal in His own character the beauty of holiness.
Christ came to the world with the accumulated love of eternity. Sweeping away the exactions which had encumbered the law of God, He showed that the law is a law of love, an expression of the Divine Goodness. He showed that in obedience to its principles is involved the happiness of mankind, and with it the stability, the very foundation and framework, of human society.
So far from making arbitrary requirements, God’s law is given to men as a hedge, a shield.
Whoever accepts its principles is preserved from evil. Fidelity to God involves fidelity to man. Thus the law guards the rights, the individuality, of every human being. It restrains the superior from oppression, and the subordinate from disobedience. It ensures man’s well-being, both for this world and for the world to come. To the obedient it is the pledge of eternal life, for it expresses the principles that endure forever.
Christ came to demonstrate the value of the divine principles by revealing their power for the regeneration of humanity. He came to teach how these principles are to be developed and applied.
With the people of that age the value of all things was determined by outward show. As religion had declined in power, it had increased in pomp. The educators of the time sought to command respect by display and ostentation.
To all this the life of Jesus presented a marked contrast. His life demonstrated the worthlessness of those things that men regarded as life’s great essentials. Born amidst surroundings the rudest, sharing a peasant’s home, a peasant’s fare, a craftsman’s occupation, living a life of obscurity, identifying Himself with the world’s unknown toilers, amidst these conditions and surroundings, Jesus followed the divine plan of education.
The schools of His time, with their magnifying of things small and their belittling of things great, He did not seek. His education was gained directly from the Heaven-appointed sources; from useful work, from the study of the Scriptures and of nature, and from the experiences of life, God’s lesson books, full of instruction to all who bring to them the willing hand, the seeing eye, and the understanding heart.”
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