He will carry himself with great wisdom and will manifest a tender consideration for all, being courteous and compassionate to all, especially to the tempted, the afflicted, and the desponding. Instead of giving this class the sympathy that their particular cases have demanded and that their infirmities have required, you, my brother, have shunned this class, while you have drawn largely upon others for sympathy. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” “But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.”
It is not the work of a gospel minister to lord it over God’s heritage, but in lowliness of mind, with gentleness and long forbearance, to exhort, reprove, rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine. How will the foregoing scriptures compare with your past life? You have been cultivating a selfish disposition nearly all your life. You married a woman of a strong, set will. Her natural disposition was supremely selfish. You were both lovers of self, and uniting your interests did not help the case of either, but increased the peril of both. Neither of you were conscientious, and neither had the fear of God before you in a high sense. Love of self, self-gratification, has been the ruling principle. Both of you have had so little consecration to God that you could not benefit each other. You have each wanted your own way; each has wanted to be petted and praised and waited upon.
The Lord saw your dangers and time and again sent you warnings through the Testimonies that your eternal interests were endangered unless you overcame your love of self, and
conformed your will to the will of God. Had you heeded the admonitions and warnings from the Lord, had you turned square about, made an entire change, your wife would not now be in the snare of the enemy, left of God to believe the strong delusions of Satan. Had you followed the light that God has given, you would now be a strong and efficient laborer in the cause of God, qualified to accomplish tenfold more than you are now competent to do. You have become weak because you have failed to cherish the light. You have been able but a small part of the time to discern the voice of the True Shepherd from that of a stranger. Your neglect to walk in the light has brought darkness upon you, and your conscience, by being often violated, has become benumbed.
Your wife did not believe and follow the light that the Lord in mercy sent her. She despised reproof, and herself closed the door through which the voice of the Lord was heard to counsel and warn her. Satan was pleased, and there was nothing to hinder him from insinuating himself into her confidence, and, by his pleasing, flattering deceptions, leading her captive at his will.
The Lord gave you a testimony that your wife was a hindrance to you in your labors and that you should not have her accompany you unless you had the most positive evidence that she was a converted woman, transformed by the renewing of her mind. You then felt that you had an excuse to plead for a home; you made this testimony your excuse and worked accordingly, although you had no need of a home of your own. Your wife had duties to do to her parents which she had neglected all her life. If she had taken up this long-neglected duty with a cheerful spirit she would not now be left captive to Satan to do his will and to corrupt her heart and soul in his service.
Your want of a home was imaginary, like many of your supposed wants. You obtained the home that your selfishness desired, and you could leave your wife comfortably situated. But God was preparing a final test for her. The affliction of her mother was of a nature which would have aroused
sympathy in her heart if it had not been thoroughly seared, calloused by selfishness. But this providence of God failed to arouse the filial love of the daughter for her suffering mother. She had no home cares to stand in her way, no children to share her love and care, and her attention was devoted to her poor self.
The burden of care that her father had to bear was too much for his age and strength, and he was prostrated with keen sufferings. Surely then, if the daughter had a sensitive spot in her heart, she could not help feeling and arousing to a sense of her duty to share the burdens of her sister and her sister’s husband. But she revealed by her indifference, and by shunning all the care and burden that she well could, that her heart was well-nigh as unimpressible as a stone.
To be close by her parents and yet be so indifferent would tell against her. She communicated the state of things to her husband. Brother R was as selfish as his wife, and he sent an urgent request for her to come to him. How did angels of God, the tender, pitying, loving, ministering angels, look upon this act? The daughter left strangers to do those tender offices that she should have cheerfully shared with her burdened sister. Angels looked with astonishment and grief upon the scene and turned from this selfish woman. Evil angels took the places of these, and she was led captive by Satan at his will. She was a medium of Satan and so proved to be a great hindrance to her husband; his labors were of but little account.
The cause of God would have stood higher in —– if that last effort had not been made, for the work was not completed. An interest was raised, but was left to sink where it could never be raised again. I ask you, Brother R, to compare the scriptures previously quoted relative to the work and ministry of Christ with your course of conduct through your labors as a gospel minister, but more especially in the instance I have mentioned, where duty was too plain for any mistake, if the conscience and affections had not become paralyzed by a long course of continued idolatry of self.
Because of your leaving your parents in their suffering when they needed help, the church was obliged to take this burden and to watch with the suffering members of Christ’s body. In this heartless neglect you brought the frown of God upon yourselves. God does not lightly pass by such things. They are recorded by the angels. God cannot prosper those who go directly contrary to the plainest duty specified in His word, the duty of children to their parents. Children who feel under no more obligation to their earthly parents than you have done, but can so easily step out from the responsibilities upon them, will not have due respect for their heavenly Father; they will not reverence or respect the claims that God has upon them. If they disrespect and dishonor their earthly parents they will not respect and love their Creator. In neglecting her parents, your wife transgressed the fifth precept of the Decalogue: “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” This is the first commandment with promise. Those who disrespect or dishonor their parents need not expect that the blessing of God will attend them. Our parents have claims upon us that we cannot throw off or lightly regard. But children who have not been trained and controlled in childhood, and who have been permitted to make themselves the objects of their care, selfishly seeking their own ease and avoiding burdens, become heartless and do not respect the claims of their parents, who watched over them in their infancy.
Brother R, you have been selfish in these things yourself and greatly deficient in duty. You have required attention and care, but you have not given the same in return. You have been selfish and exacting, and have frequently been unreasonable and given your wife occasion for trial. Both of you have been unconsecrated and astonishingly selfish. You have made but little sacrifice for the truth’s sake. You, as well as your wife, have avoided burdens, and have occupied a position to be waited upon rather than to try to be as little burden as possible.
Ministers of Christ should feel it a duty binding upon them,
if they receive the hospitalities of their brethren or friends, to leave a blessing with the family by seeking to encourage and strengthen its members. They should not neglect the duties of a pastor, as they visit from house to house. They should become familiar with every member of the family, that they may understand the spiritual condition of all, and vary their manner of labor to meet the case of each. When a minister bearing the solemn message of warning to the world receives the hospitable courtesies of friends and brethren, and neglects the duties of a shepherd of the flock and is careless in his example and deportment, engaging with the young in trifling conversation, in jesting and joking, and in relating humorous anecdotes to create laughter, he is unworthy of being a gospel minister and needs to be converted before he should be entrusted with the care of the sheep and lambs. Ministers who are neglectful of the duties devolving on a faithful pastor give evidence that they are not sanctified by the truths they present to others and should not be sustained as laborers in the vineyard of the Lord till they have a high sense of the sacredness of the work of a minister of Christ.
When there are only evening meetings to attend, there is much time that can be used to great advantage in visiting from house to house, meeting the people where they are. And if ministers of Christ have the graces of the Spirit, if they imitate the great Exemplar, they will find access to hearts and will win souls to Christ. Some ministers bearing the last message of mercy are too distant. They do not improve the opportunities that they have of gaining the confidence of unbelievers, by their exemplary deportment, their unselfish interest for the good of others, their kindness, forbearance, humbleness of mind, and their respectful courtesy. These fruits of the Spirit will exert a far greater influence than will the preaching in the desk without individual effort in families. But the preaching of pointed, testing truths to the people, and corresponding individual efforts from house to house to back up pulpit effort, will greatly extend the influence for good, and souls will be converted to the truth.
Some of our ministers carry too light responsibilities, they shun individual care and burdens; for this reason they do not feel that need of help from God that they would if they lifted the burdens that the work of God and our faith require them to lift. When burdens in this cause have to be borne, and when those who bear them are brought into strait places, they will feel the need of living near to God, that they may have confidence to commit their ways to Him and in faith claim that help which He alone can give. They will then be daily obtaining an experience in faith and trust, which is of the highest value to gospel ministers. Their work is more solemn and sacred than ministers generally realize. They should carry with them a sanctified influence. God requires that those who minister in sacred things should be men who feel jealous for His cause. The burden of their work should be the salvation of souls. Brother R, you have not felt as the prophet Joel describes: “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach.” “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Brother R, I was shown in what marked contrast with the requirements of God’s word your course of labor has been. You have been careless in your words and in your deportment. The sheep have had the burden to care for the shepherd, to warn, reprove, exhort, and weep over the reckless course of their shepherd, who, by accepting his office, acknowledges that he is mouthpiece for God. Yet he cares far more for himself than he does for the poor sheep. You have not felt a burden for souls. You have not gone forth to your labors weeping and praying for souls that sinners might be converted. Had you done this you would be sowing seed which would spring up after many days and bear fruit to the glory of God. When there is no work that you can do by the fireside in conversation and prayer with families, you should then show industry
and economy of time, and train yourself to bear responsibilities by useful employment.
You and your wife might have saved yourselves many ill turns and been more cheerful and happy had you sought your ease less and combined physical labor with your study. Your muscles were made for use, not to be inactive. God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden all that their wants required; yet their heavenly Father knew that they needed employment in order to retain their happiness. If you, Brother R, would exercise your muscles in laboring with your hands some portion of each day, combining labor with study, your mind would be better balanced, your thoughts would be of a purer and more elevated character, and your sleep would be more natural and healthful. Your head would be less confused and stupid because of a congested brain. Your thoughts upon sacred truth would be clearer, and your moral powers more vigorous. You do not love labor; but it is for your good to have more physical exercise daily; for it will quicken the sluggish blood to healthful activity, and will carry you above discontent and infirmities.
You should not neglect diligent study, but should pray for light from God that He would open to your understanding the treasures of His word, that you may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. You will never be in a position where it is not necessary for you to watch and pray earnestly in order to overcome your besetments. You will need to be guarded continually to keep self out of sight. You have encouraged a habit of making yourself very prominent, dwelling upon your family difficulties and your poor health. In short, yourself has been the theme of your conversation and has come in between you and your Saviour. You should forget self and hide behind Jesus. Let the dear Saviour be magnified, but lose sight of self. When you see and feel your weakness you will not see that there is anything in yourself worthy of notice or remark. The people have not only been wearied, but disgusted, with your preliminaries before you present your
subject. Every time that you speak to the people and mention your family trials you lower yourself in their estimation and suggest suspicions that you are not all right.
You have the example of ministers who have exalted themselves and who have coveted praise from the people. They were petted and flattered by the indiscreet until they became exalted and self-sufficient, and, trusting in their own wisdom, made shipwreck of faith. They thought that they were so popular that they could take almost any course and yet retain their popularity. Here has been your presumption. When the deportment of a minister of Christ gives gossiping tongues facts as subject matter to discuss and his morality is seriously questioned, he should not call this jealousy or slander. You should be cautious how you encourage a habitual train of thought from which habits are formed that will prove your ruin. Mark those whose course you should abhor, and then forbear to take the first step in the direction they have traveled.
You have been self-sufficient and so blinded and deluded by Satan that you could not discern your weakness and many errors. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
I was shown fields of labor. Towns, cities, and villages everywhere should hear the message of warning; for all will be tested and proved by the message of present truth. A great work is to be done, but the laborers who enter these fields should be men of sound judgment who know how to deal with minds. They should be men of patience, kindness, and courtesy who have the fear of God before them.
You frequently gain the confidence of the people; but if, by careless deportment or some injudicious move, by severity or an overbearing spirit, you then lose their confidence, more harm will result to the cause of God than if no effort had been
made. Great injury has been done to the cause of God by ministers moving from impulse. Some are easily stirred and frequently become irritated; and, if abused, they retaliate. This is just what Satan exults to have them do. The enemies of truth triumph over this weakness in a minister of Christ, for it is a reproach to the cause of present truth. Those who show this weakness of character do not rightly represent the truth or the ministers of our faith. The indiscretion of one minister throws a cloud of suspicion upon all and makes the labors of those who follow after him exceedingly difficult.
Brother R, when you go out to engage in labor in a new field you love to dwell upon the argumentative, because you have educated your mind for this kind of labor. But your labors have not been one tenth as valuable as they would have been had you qualified yourself by practical experience to give the people discourses upon practical subjects. You need to become a learner in the school of Christ, that you may experience practical godliness. When you have the saving power of truth in your own soul you cannot forbear feeding the flock of God with the same practical truths which have made your own heart joyful in God. The practical and the doctrinal should be combined in order to impress hearts with the importance of yielding to the claims of truth after the understanding has been convinced by the weight of evidence. The servants of Christ should imitate the example of the Master in the manner of their labor. They should constantly keep before the people, in the best manner to be comprehended by them, the necessity of practical godliness, and should bring them, as did our Saviour in His teachings, to see the necessity of religious principle and righteousness in everyday life. The people are not fed by the ministers of popular churches, and souls are starving for food that will nourish and give spiritual life.
Your life has not been marked with humbleness of mind and meekness of deportment. You love God in word, but not in deed and in truth. Your dignity is easily hurt. Ministers should first feel the sanctifying influence of the truth upon
their own hearts and in their own lives, and then their pulpit efforts will be enforced by their example out of the desk. Ministers need to be softened and sanctified themselves before God can in a special manner work with their efforts.
You have let slip the golden opportunity of gathering a harvest of souls because it was impossible for God to work with your efforts, for your heart was not right with Him. Your spirit was not pure before Him who is the embodiment of purity and holiness. If you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear your prayer. Our God is a jealous God. He knoweth the thoughts and the imaginations and devices of the heart. You have followed your own judgment and made a sad failure when you might have had success. There is too much at stake in these efforts, to do the work negligently or recklessly. Souls are being tested upon important, eternal truth, and what you may say or do will have an influence to balance them in deciding either for or against the truth. When you should have been in humility before God, pleading for Him to work with your efforts, feeling the weight of the cause and the value of souls, you have chosen the society of young ladies, regardless of the sacred work of God and of your office as a minister of the gospel of Christ. You were standing between the living and the dead; yet you engaged in light and frivolous conversation, in jesting and joking.
How can ministering angels be round about you, shedding light upon you and imparting strength to you? When you should be seeking to find ways and means to enlighten the minds of those in error and darkness you are pleasing yourself and are too selfish to engage in a work for which you have no inclination or love. If our position is criticized by those who are investigating, you have but little patience with them. You frequently give them a short, severe reply, as though they had no business to search closely, but must take all that is presented as truth, without investigating for themselves. In your ministerial labors you have turned many souls away from the truth by your manner of treating them. You are not always impatient
and unapproachable; when you feel like it you will take time to answer questions candidly; but frequently you are uncourteous and exacting, and are pettish and irritable like a child.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3 pp. 229-238