The following article is excerpted from a sermon preached by James White on March 5, 1870, in Battle Creek, Michigan, during his second period as president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1869-1871). With his wife, Ellen, and Joseph Bates, White is considered one of the co-founders of the church, and founded both the Adventist Review (1849) and the young church’s publishing ministry. The typical hallmarks of an oral presentation have been preserved in this article. —The Editors
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).*
It is our privilege to come to a throne of grace. It is a throne of mercy and of grace, that sinners may approach—to find justice? No, to find grace, to find pardon, to find mercy. Do we go there to obtain our pay for what we have done? No, indeed. After we have done all that we can do, we are but unprofitable servants. We are invited to come where we may find grace, not pay. It is our privilege to find mercy and grace.
Do Not Be Afraid
How does this chapter open? “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Heb. 4:1). Now fear is an element of our nature. We are exhorted to have fear. Fear of what? We should not fear that the Lord will not hear us when we pray. No, we should not; for we are invited to approach the throne of grace, even with boldness. His ear is always open.
We need not fear on the ground that there is any lack of love in Heaven for sinners. After bestowing the greatest gift that Heaven could give, will He withhold the lesser ones? No. In the gift of the Son of God, we have a pledge of the unbounded love of God toward sinners. There is no lack of love on the part of our gracious God, therefore, there is no ground of fear in that respect.
But yet it is right to fear. It is right to watch ourselves with very jealous care, and with great fear, lest we offend with our tongue. Oh, that unruly member! Fearless, careless talk! That terrible sin among men! It is like a desolating hail, or an uncontrollable fire! We should fear lest our words shall be wrong; lest we have a bad influence over others; lest our words shall have a bad influence over ourselves. Oh, how much gossip, and clack, and gabble, and talk, there is in the world about little or nothing!
We may fear, dear brethren and friends, lest our love of the world shall overcome us. We may fear that we are not keeping the body under, not controlling the tongue, and keeping the passions in subjection as we should. We may fear in regard to ourselves. We may fear our inability to stand, but never, never fear in regard to the ability of the Lord to save us. And while we may cast ourselves, as it were, into the dust, and our cry may be, Unworthy! at the same time we may sing, “Worthy, worthy is the Lamb.” While our confidence in ourselves is growing weaker, and we are seeing that we are dependent upon God for everything, our confidence in the Lord may grow stronger and stronger every day.
We Have a Mediator
I am struck with the wisdom that I find in the Blessed Book of God, especially in this chapter that I have read to you. Follow me, watch me closely, and see if you can see that beauty in it that I see. The chapter opens with this exhortation, Fear, and tremble, and watch yourselves. But then, the apostle states in this very chapter: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14). Hundreds and thousands of Christians have suffered the devil to throw this fear and trembling over them, to pervert this wholesome quality of proper fear which all should have, and to drive them to doubt and despair.
Listen to the apostle. Do not let the devil drive you to despair. We have a great High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He was in all points tempted like as we are, and yet without sin. He is willing and mighty to save. Trembling, desponding ones, Look up! Do you say that you are all unworthiness? I respond, Amen! You are. You may just as well set that down for a fact. But Jesus is worthy. He is able. He is willing and ready to save. Then look up, look up. He is your mediator. He is your intercessor with the Father. He has been touched with the feeling of all your infirmities, and woes, and sorrows, and weaknesses, and He knows just how to help you.
The conclusion from all this is found in the words of the text: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). You need not come fearing or trembling. In the name of Jesus you may come boldly. Those whom He forgives most He loves most. Those that have been the greatest sinners, and come along with repentance, will find pardon proportionate to their sins. The blessings will be proportionate to the wrongs committed. Are you a great sinner? Then a great repentance is called for, then a great pardon and a great blessing will be bestowed. Let us come boldly to a throne of grace. We must not carelessly come, not pompously, not presumptuously.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.” A throne supposes a kingdom. If there is a throne of grace, there is a kingdom of grace. I lament that Adventists have labored so hard, so tenaciously, to maintain the idea that the Scriptures, speaking of the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven, always, in some way or other, or in some sense or other, refer to the future kingdom of God. I certainly am looking for a future everlasting kingdom of God. I now repeat that which I have spoken here before. [However], there are two arrangements in reference to the people of God, to which the expressions, kingdom of God, and kingdom of heaven, are applied. Sometimes it refers to one of these arrangements, sometimes to the other. These two relations of God and Christ to His people, I shall call, respectively, the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory. The kingdom of grace exists now. The kingdom of glory is future.
This theme is glorious, but I will not introduce more testimony now. Let me exhort you to seek for that fullness, that richness of experience which is represented by Paul to the Colossians, when he speaks of our being “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9, 10). Amen!
*All Scripture quotations in this article have been updated to reflect current language use and have been taken from the New King James Version.
The complete sermon of James White, one of the early pioneers of Seventh-day Adventism, can be found in The Advent Review and Herald of the Sabbath, August 5, 1873.