If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” If we have not the light and love of God we are not His children. If we gather not with Christ we scatter abroad. We all have an influence, and that influence is telling upon the destiny of others for their present and future good or for their eternal loss.
J and K both lack sympathy and love for those outside of their own families. They are in danger of watching to see defects in others while greater evils exist undiscerned in themselves. If these dear souls ever enter heaven, they must die to self and obtain an experience in well-doing. They have lessons to learn in the school of Christ in order to perfect Christian characters and have a oneness with Christ. Said Christ to His disciples: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He explained His meaning to them. He did not wish them to become children in understanding, but in malice. Little children do not manifest feelings of superiority and aristocracy. They are simple and natural in their appearance. Christ would have His followers cultivate unaffected manners, that their whole bearing may be humble and Christlike. He has made it our duty to live for others’ good. He came from the royal courts of heaven to this world to show how great an interest He had in man, and the infinite price paid for the redemption of man shows that man is of so great value that Christ could sacrifice His riches and honor in the royal courts to lift him from the degradation of sin.
If the Majesty of heaven could do so much to show His love for man, what ought not men to be willing to do to help one another out of the pit of darkness and suffering! Said Christ, “Love one another, as I have loved you;” not with a greater love; for “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Our love is frequently selfish, for we confine it to prescribed limits. When we come into close union and fellowship with Christ, our love and sympathy and our works of benevolence will reach down deeper and will widen and strengthen with exercise. The love and interest of Christ’s followers must be as broad as the world. Those who live merely for “me and mine” will fail of heaven. God calls upon you as a family to cultivate love, to become less sensitive in regard to yourselves and more sensitive to the griefs and trials of others. This selfish spirit that you have cherished all your lives is correctly represented by the priest and the Levite who passed by the unfortunate on the other side. They saw that he needed help, but purposely avoided him.
Each one of you needs to awake and face square about to get out of the cart rut of selfishness. Improve the short, probationary time given you by working with your might to redeem the failures of your past life. God has placed you in a world of suffering to prove you, to see if you will be found worthy of the gift of eternal life. There are those all around you who have woes, who need words of sympathy, love, and tenderness, and our humble, pitying prayers. Some are suffering under the iron hand of poverty, some with disease, and others with heartaches, despondency, and gloom. Like Job, you should be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame, and you should inquire into the cause which you know not and search it out with the object in view to relieve their necessities and help just where they most need help.
L needs to cultivate love for his wife, love that will find expression in words and deeds. He should cultivate tender affection. His wife has a sensitive, clinging nature and needs to be cherished. Every word of tenderness, every word of appreciation and affectionate encouragement, will be remembered by her and will reflect back in blessings upon her husband. His unsympathizing nature needs to be brought into close contact with Christ, that that stiffness and cold reserve may be subdued and softened by divine love. It will not be weakness or a sacrifice of manhood and dignity to give his wife expressions of tenderness and sympathy in words and acts; and let it not end with the family circle, but extend to those outside the family. L has a work to do for himself that no one can do for him. He may grow strong in the Lord by bearing burdens in His cause. His affection and love should be centered upon Christ and heavenly things, and he should be forming a character for everlasting life.
Dear K has very limited ideas of what constitutes a Christian. She has freed herself from burdens which Christ has borne for her. She is not willing to bear His cross and has not exercised to the best account the ability, the talents, given her of God. She has not grown strong in moral fortitude and courage, nor felt the weight of individual responsibility. She has not loved to bear reproach for Christ’s sake, considering the promise: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” The Master has a work for each to do. None can be idle, none can be careless and selfish, and yet perfect Christian character. He wants all of your family to unclose their hearts to the benign influence of His love and grace, that their compassion for others may overflow the boundaries of self and the enclosures of family walls, as did the Samaritan’s to the poor, suffering stranger who was neglected and left to die by the priest and the Levite. I was shown that there are many who need our sympathy and advice; and when we consider that we can pass through this world but once, that we can never return to repair the errors and mistakes we have made, how important that we go through it as we ought!
Some time ago I was shown the case of J. Her errors and wrongs were faithfully portrayed before her; but in the last view given me I saw that the wrongs still existed, that she was cold and unsympathizing with her husband’s children. Correction and reproof are not given by her for grave offenses merely, but for trivial matters that should be passed by unnoticed. Constant faultfinding is wrong, and the Spirit of Christ cannot abide in the heart where it exists. She is disposed to pass over the good in her children without a word of approval, but is ever ready to bear down with censure if any wrong is seen. This ever discourages children and leads to habits of heedlessness. It stirs up the evil in the heart and causes it to cast up mire and dirt. In children who are habitually censured there will be a spirit of “I don’t care,” and evil passions will frequently be manifested regardless of consequences.
Whenever the mother can speak a word of commendation for the good conduct of her children, she should do so. She should encourage them by words of approval and looks of love. These will be as sunshine to the heart of a child and will lead to the cultivation of self-respect and pride of character. Sister J should cultivate love and sympathy. She should manifest tender affection for the motherless children under her care. This would be a blessing to these children of God’s love and would be reflected back upon her in affection and love.
Children have sensitive, loving natures. They are easily pleased and easily made unhappy. By gentle discipline in loving words and acts, mothers may bind their children to their hearts. To manifest severity and to be exacting with children are great mistakes. Uniform firmness and unimpassioned control are necessary to the discipline of every family. Say what you mean calmly, move with consideration, and carry out what you say without deviation.
It will pay to manifest affection in your association with your children. Do not repel them by lack of sympathy in their childish sports, joys, and griefs. Never let a frown gather upon your brow or a harsh word escape your lips. God writes all these words in His book of records. Harsh words sour the temper and wound the hearts of children, and in some cases these wounds are difficult to heal. Children are sensitive to the least injustice, and some become discouraged under it and will neither heed the loud, angry voice of command nor care for threatenings of punishment. Rebellion is too frequently established in the hearts of children through the wrong discipline of the parents, when if a proper course had been taken, the children would have formed good and harmonious characters. A mother who does not have perfect control of herself is unfit to have the management of children.
Brother M is molded by the positive temperament of his wife. He has become in a degree selfish like her. His mind is almost completely occupied by “me and mine,” to the exclusion of other things of infinitely more importance. He does not take his position in his family as father of his flock and, unprejudiced and uninfluenced, pursue a uniform course with his children. His wife is not, and without a transformation never can be, a true mother to his motherless children. Brother M, as a father to his children, has not stood in the position that God would have him. These motherless children are God’s little ones, precious in His sight. Naturally Brother M has a tender, refined, loving, generous, sensitive nature, while his wife is exactly the opposite. Instead of his molding and softening the character of his wife, she is transforming him.
He thinks that in order to have peace he must let things pass which trouble his mind. He has learned that submission and the yielding of her opinion are not to be expected. She will rule; she will carry out her ideas at any cost. Unless they are both in earnest in their efforts to reform, they will not obtain eternal life. They have had light, but have neglected to follow it. Selfish love of the world has blinded their perceptions and hardened their hearts. J needs to see that unless she lays aside her selfishness, and overcomes her will and her temper, she cannot have heaven. She would mar all heaven with these elements in her character. I warn Sister J to repent. I call upon her in the name of my Master to arouse quickly from her stupid indifference, to heed the counsel of the True Witness, and zealously repent; for she is imperiling her soul.
God is merciful. He will now accept the offering of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Will Sister J excuse herself as did the Levite and the priest, for not seeing and feeling others’ woes, and pass by on the other side? God holds her accountable for neglect of duty in not exercising sympathy and tenderness for the unfortunate. She does not keep the commandments of God which plainly show her duty to her neighbor. Said Christ to the lawyer: “This do, and thou shalt live.” Thus a neglect of duty to our neighbor will result in our loss of eternal life.
K, poor child, like many others, has a work to do that she has never dreamed of. She has backslidden from God. Her thoughts are too much upon herself, and she seeks to please the world, not by disinterested love for souls and by seeking to turn them to Christ, but by her lack of spirituality, and her conformity to the world in spirit and works. She should die to self and obtain an experience in well-doing. She is cold and unsympathizing. She needs to have all this icy, unapproachable spirit subdued, melted away by the sunshine of Christ’s love. She is very much shut up to herself. God saw that she was a poor dwarfed plant, bearing no fruit, nothing but leaves. Her thoughts were almost exclusively occupied with “me and mine.” In mercy He has been pruning this plant of His love, lopping off the branches, that the roots might strike down deeper. He has been seeking to draw this child to Himself. Her religious life has been almost entirely without fruit. She is accountable for the talent God has given her. She may be useful; she may be a co-worker with Christ if she will break down the wall of selfishness which has shut her away from God’s light and love.
There are many who need our sympathy and advice, but not that advice which implies superiority in the giver and inferiority in the receiver. K needs the softening, melting love of God in her heart. The looks and tones of the voice should be modulated by thoughtful consideration and tender, respectful love. Every look and every tone of voice that implies, “I am superior,” chills the atmosphere of her presence and is more like an icicle than a ray of light that gives warmth. My sister, your influence is positive. You mold those with whom you associate, or else you cannot agree with them. You have not the least thought of being molded yourself by the better influence of others and of yielding your judgment and your opinions to them. You will reason for your way and justify your ideas and your course. If you do not convince others you will recur again and again to the same point. This trait in your character will be a valuable one if sanctified to God and controlled by His Holy Spirit; but if not, it will prove a curse to you and a curse to others. Assertions and advice which savor of a dictatorial spirit are not good fruit. You need the softening, melting love of Christ in your heart, which will be reflected in all your acts toward your family and to all who are brought under your influence.
I fear, greatly fear, that J will fail of heaven. She loves the world and the things of the world so well that she has no love to spare for Jesus. She is so incrusted in selfishness that the illuminating light from heaven cannot penetrate the cold, dark walls of self-love and self-esteem which she has been building up for a lifetime. Love is the key to open hearts, but the precious plant of love has not been cherished. J has so long blinded her eyes to her selfishness that she cannot now discern it. She has had so little experimental religion that in heart she is of the world, and I fear that this world is all the heaven she will ever have. Her influence over her husband is not good. He is swayed by it and does not see the necessity of being fortified by the grace of God to stand for the right with true moral courage. Not only does she fail to realize and do the work that God requires of her, but she exerts an overpowering influence to hold her husband and tie his hands. And she has succeeded to a great extent. He is blinded.
Brother M should consider that God has claims upon him which are above every earthly relationship. He needs the eye-salve, the white raiment, and the gold, that he may have a symmetrical character and an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God. Nothing short of an entire conversion can ever open the soul of his wife to see her errors and to confess her wrongs. She has great changes to make, which she has not made because she did not realize her true condition and could not see the necessity of reform. So far from being willing to learn of the heavenly Teacher, who was meek and lowly of heart, she considers meekness servility; and a becoming spirit, lowliness of mind to esteem others better than herself, she regards as degrading and humiliating.
J has a positive, imperious, proud, self-willed spirit. She does not see anything particularly desirable in a meek and quiet spirit that she should covet it. This valuable ornament possesses so little value for her that she cannot consent to wear it. She has, too frequently, a spirit of resentment which is as opposite to the Spirit of God as the east is to the west. True gentleness is a gem of great value in the sight of God. A meek and quiet spirit will not be ever looking out for happiness for itself, but will seek for self-forgetfulness and find sweet content and true satisfaction in making others happy.
In the providence of God, Sister N has been separated from her father’s family. Although, with others, she shares the characteristics of the family association, bearing grave responsibilities has led her out of herself and has given her an interest in others’ woes. She has, in a measure, opened her heart in sympathy and love for God’s family, taking an interest in others. The work and cause of God have engaged her attention. She has felt, in some degree, that poor fallen mortals are one great brotherhood. She has had to educate herself to think for others, do for others, and forget self; and yet she has not cultivated as thoroughly as she should the interest, sympathy, and affection for others that are necessary for the followers of Christ. She needs to have greater sympathy and less tense, rigid justice. As she has given her interest and time to the great subject of health reform she has reached out beyond self. As she has done this she has been blessed. The more she does for others’ good, the more she sees to do and the more she feels inclined to do.
Her work for others frequently brings her where the exercise of faith is necessary to bring her through hard and trying positions. But answers to earnest prayers are realized, and faith, love, and confidence in God are strengthened. Through oft repeated perplexities and trials, experience is obtained. God is molding the heart into something more like Himself. And yet self clamors constantly for the victory. Sister N needs to cultivate more tenderness and thoughtful care in her daily connection with others. She needs to study to subdue self. If she is indeed a Christian she will feel that she must devote the best part, and if need be the whole, of her life to unselfish, patient toil and thus show her love for the Master. Without this experience she would fall far short of perfection of Christian character.
Sister N has taken some advance steps, and the family feel that she has left them, and this is a crucifixion to them. They do not feel that she now has the same interest and affections and objects in life as themselves. They feel that they can no longer enjoy, as formerly, the society of their sister. They feel that she is to blame, that she has changed, and that her sympathy is no longer one with theirs. The reason for this lack of assimilation of feeling is that Sister N has been advancing in feeling for others’ woes, while they have been slothful servants, not doing the work God has given them to do on earth. Consequently they have been retrograding. The family have selfishly shut up their interest and affection to themselves and the love of the world.
N has been a worker in a good cause. The health reform has been to her a subject of great importance, for her experience has shown her its necessity. Her father’s family have not seen the necessity of health reform. They have not seen the part that it acts in the closing work of these last days, because they have not been inclined to see. They have dropped into the cart rut of custom, and it is a difficult work to make the effort required to get out. They would rather be let alone. It is a terrible thing to rust from inaction. But this family will surely be weighed in the balances and found wanting unless they begin at once to do something. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” This is close language. Who can stand the test? The word of God is to us a daguerreotype of the mind of God and of Christ, also of man fallen, and of man renewed after the image of Christ, possessing the divine mind. We may compare our thoughts, feelings, and intentions with the picture of Christ. We have no relationship with Him unless we are willing to work the works of Christ.
Christ came to do His Father’s will. Are we following in His steps? All who have named the name of Christ should be constantly seeking for a more intimate acquaintance with Him, that they may walk even as He walked, and do the works of Christ. We should appropriate the lessons of His life to our lives. Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Here is the work of self-denial upon which we must enter with cheerfulness, in imitation of the example of our Redeemer. The Christian’s life must be one of conflict and of sacrifice. The path of duty should be followed, not the path of inclination and choice.
When the family of Brother I see the work before them, and do the work God has left them to do, they will not be so widely separated from Brother and Sister O and Sister N, and those who are working in union with the Master. It may take time to attain perfect submission to God’s will, but we can never stop short of it and be fitted for heaven. True religion will lead its possessor on to perfection. Your thoughts, your words, and your actions, as well as your appetites and passions, must be brought into subjection to the will of God. You must bear fruit unto holiness. Then you will be led to defend the poor, the fatherless, the motherless, and the afflicted. You will do justice to the widow and will relieve the needy. You will deal justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3 pp. 529-538