Learn of Christ. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, overcome the temptations of Satan as He overcame, and come off conqueror over all your defects of character.
Christ was a perfect overcomer; and we must be perfect and entire, wanting nothing, without spot or blemish. The redemption which Christ achieved for man was at infinite cost to Himself. The victory we gain over our own evil hearts and over the temptations of Satan will cost us strong effort, constant watchfulness, and persevering prayer; and we shall then not only reap the reward, which is the gift of eternal life, but shall increase our happiness on earth by a consciousness of duty performed, and by the greater respect and love of those about us.
I was shown that there is a general lack of devotion, and of sincere, earnest effort in the church. There are many who need to be converted. Brother C is not a stay and strength to the church. He does not advance in the divine life as he advances in years. He has professed the truth many years, yet has been slow to learn and live its principles; therefore he has not been sanctified through the truth. He holds himself in a position to be tempted of Satan. He is still as a child in experience. He is watching others and marking their failings, when he should be diligently searching his own heart. That readiness to question, and to see faults in his brethren and talk of them to others, is reproved by the words of Christ to one who, He saw, was more interested in the course of his brethren than careful to watch and pray lest Satan should overcome him. Said Christ to His disciples: “What is that to thee? follow thou Me.”
It is all that Brother C can do, in the weakness of his nature, to guard his own soul and close every avenue whereby Satan can gain access to insinuate doubts in regard to others. He is in great danger of losing his soul by failing to perfect Christian character during probationary time. He is slow to follow Christ. His senses seem to be clouded and almost paralyzed so that he does not place a proper estimate upon sacred things. He may even now correct his errors and overcome his defects, if he will work in the strength of God.
There are several in the church at —– whose names I cannot call who have victories to gain over their appetites and passions. Some talk too much; they stand in this position: “Report, . . . and we will report it.” Miserable indeed is such a position! If all these gossipers would ever bear in mind that an angel is following them, recording their words, there would be less talking and much more praying.
There are children of Sabbathkeepers who have been taught from their youth to observe the Sabbath. Some of these are very good children, faithful to duty as far as temporal matters are concerned; but they feel no deep conviction of sin and no need of repentance from sin. Such are in a dangerous condition. They are watching the deportment and efforts of professed Christians. They see some who make high professions, but who are not conscientious Christians, and they compare their own views and actions with these stumbling blocks; and as there are no outbreaking sins in their own lives, they flatter themselves that they are about right.
To these youth I am authorized to say: Repent ye and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. There is no time for you to waste. Heaven and immortal life are valuable treasures that cannot be obtained without an effort on your part. No matter how faultless may have been your lives, as sinners you have steps to take. You are required to repent, believe, and be baptized. Christ was wholly righteous; yet He, the Saviour of the world, gave man an example by Himself taking the steps which He requires the sinner to take to become a child of God, and heir of heaven.
If Christ, the spotless and pure Redeemer of man, condescended to take the steps necessary for the sinner to take in conversion, why should any, with the light of truth shining upon their pathway, hesitate to submit their hearts to God, and in humility confess that they are sinners, and show their faith in the atonement of Christ by words and actions, identifying themselves with those who profess to be His followers? There will ever be some who do not live out their profession, whose daily lives show them to be anything but Christians; but should this be a sufficient reason for any to refuse to put on Christ by baptism into the faith of His death and resurrection?
Even when Jesus Himself was upon earth, and walked with and taught His disciples, there was one among the twelve who was a devil. Judas betrayed his Lord. Christ had a perfect knowledge of the life of Judas. He knew of the covetousness which Judas did not overcome, and in His sermons to others He gave him many lessons upon this subject. Through indulgence, Judas permitted this trait in his character to grow and take so deep a root that it crowded out the good seed of truth sown in his heart; evil predominated until, for love of money, he could sell his Lord for a few pieces of silver.
The fact that Judas was not right at heart, that he was so corrupted by selfishness and love of money that he was led to commit a great crime, is no evidence that there were not true Christians, genuine disciples of Christ, who loved their Saviour and tried to imitate His life and example, and to obey His teachings.
I was shown that the fact that Judas was numbered among the twelve, with all his faults and defects of character, is an instructive lesson, one by the study of which Christians may be profited. When Judas was chosen by our Lord, his case was not hopeless. He had some good qualities. In his association with Christ in the work, by listening to His discourses, he had a favorable opportunity to see his wrongs, to become acquainted with his defects of character if he really desired to be a true disciple. He was even placed in a position by our Lord where he could have his choice either to develop his covetous disposition or to see and correct it. He carried the little means collected for the poor and for the necessary expenses of Christ and the disciples in their work of preaching.
This little money was to Judas a continual temptation, and from time to time, when he did a little service for Christ, or devoted a little time to religious purposes, he paid himself out of the meager fund collected to advance the light of the gospel. He finally became so penurious that he made bitter complaint because the ointment poured upon the head of Jesus was expensive. He turned it over and over in his mind, and counted the money that might have been placed in his hands to expend if that ointment had been sold. His selfishness grew stronger until he felt that the treasury had really met with a great loss in not receiving the value of the ointment in money. He finally made open complaint of the extravagance of this expensive offering to Christ. Our Saviour rebuked him for this covetousness. This rankled in the heart of Judas, until, for a small sum of money, he consented to betray his Lord. There will be those among Sabbathkeepers who are no truer at heart than was Judas; but the cases of such should be no excuse to keep others from following Christ.
God loves the children of Brother D, but they are in fearful danger of feeling whole, and in no need of a physician. Trusting in their own righteousness will never save them. They must feel the need of a Saviour. Christ came to save sinners. Said Jesus: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The Pharisees, who felt that they were righteous, and who trusted in their good works, felt no need of a Saviour. They felt that they were well enough off without Christ.
The dear children of Brother D should plead with Jesus to reveal to them their sinfulness, and then ask Him to reveal Himself as their sin-pardoning Saviour. These precious children must not be deceived and miss eternal life. Except they are converted they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. They must wash their robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. Jesus invites them to take the steps that sinners must take in order to become His children. He has given them an example in life in submitting to the ordinance of baptism. He is our example in all things.
God requires these children to give Him their hearts’ best and holiest affections. He has bought them with His own blood. He claims their service. They are not their own. Jesus has made infinite sacrifice for them. A pitying, loving Saviour will receive them if they will come to Him just as they are, and depend on His righteousness and not on their own merits.
God pities and loves the youth of —–, and He wants them to find happiness in Him. He died to redeem them. He will bless them if they come to Him in meekness and sincerity. He will be found of them, if they seek Him with all the heart.
Chap. 5 – Choosing Earthly Treasure
I have been shown the condition of God’s people. They are stupefied by the spirit of the world. They are denying their faith by their works. I was pointed back to ancient Israel. They had great light and exalted privileges; yet they did not live up to the light nor appreciate their advantages, and their light became darkness. They walked in the light of their own eyes instead of following the leadings of God. The history of the children of Israel was written for the benefit of those who live in the last days, that they may avoid following their example of unbelief.
Brother E, you were shown me enshrouded in darkness. The love of the world had taken entire control of your being. The very best of your days are past. Your vitality and power of endurance, as far as physical labor is concerned, are enfeebled; and now, when you should be able to look back on a life of noble effort in blessing others and glorifying God, you can only have regret, and realize a want of happiness and peace. You are not living a life which will meet the approval of God. Your spiritual, your eternal interests, are made secondary. Brain, bone, and muscle have been taxed to the utmost. Why all this expenditure of strength? Why this accumulation of cares and burdens for your family to bear? What is your reward? The satisfaction of laying up for yourself a treasure upon earth, which Christ has forbidden and which will prove a snare to your soul.
In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount He says: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” If you lay up treasures in heaven, you do it for yourself, you are working for your own interest. Your treasure, my dear brother, is laid up on the earth, and your interest and affections are on your treasure. You have cultivated a love for money, for houses and lands, until it has absorbed the powers of your mind and being, and your love for worldly possessions has been greater than your love for your Creator and for the souls for whom Christ died. The god of this world has blinded your eyes so that eternal things are not valued.
In the wilderness of temptation Christ met the great leading temptations that would assail man. There He encountered, singlehanded, the wily, subtle foe, and overcame him. The first great temptation was upon appetite; the second, presumption; the third, love of the world. Satan has overcome his millions by tempting them to the indulgence of appetite. Through the gratification of the taste, the nervous system becomes excited and the brain power enfeebled, making it impossible to think calmly or rationally. The mind is unbalanced. Its higher, nobler faculties are perverted to serve animal lust, and the sacred, eternal interests are not regarded. When this object is gained, Satan can come with his two other leading temptations and find ready access. His manifold temptations grow out of these three great leading points.
Presumption is a common temptation, and as Satan assails men with this, he obtains the victory nine times out of ten. Those who profess to be followers of Christ, and claim by their faith to be enlisted in the warfare against all evil in their nature, frequently plunge without thought into temptations from which it would require a miracle to bring them forth unsullied. Meditation and prayer would have preserved them and led them to shun the critical, dangerous position in which they placed themselves when they gave Satan the advantage over them. The promises of God are not for us rashly to claim while we rush on recklessly into danger, violating the laws of nature and disregarding prudence and the judgment with which God has endowed us. This is the most flagrant presumption.
The thrones and kingdoms of the world and the glory of them were offered to Christ if He would only bow down to Satan. Never will man be tried with temptations as powerful as those which assailed Christ. Satan came with worldly honor, wealth, and the pleasures of life, and presented them in the most attractive light to allure and deceive. “All these things,” said he to Christ, “will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Christ repelled the wily foe and came off victor.
Satan has better success in approaching man. All this money, this gain, this land, this power, these honors and riches, will I give thee–for what? His conditions generally are, that integrity shall be yielded, conscientiousness blunted, and selfishness indulged. Through devotion to worldly interests, Satan receives all the homage he asks. The door is left open for him to enter as he pleases, with his evil train of impatience, love of self, pride, avarice, overreaching, and his whole catalogue of evil spirits. Man is charmed and treacherously allured on to ruin. If we yield ourselves to worldliness of heart and life, Satan is satisfied.
Christ’s example is before us. He overcame Satan, showing us how we may also overcome. Christ resisted Satan with scripture. He might have had recourse to His own divine power, and used His own words; but He said: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” To the second temptation He said: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Christ’s example is before us. If the Sacred Scriptures were studied and followed, the Christian would be fortified to meet the wily foe; but the word of God is neglected, and disaster and defeat follow.
Dear brother, you have neglected to heed the testimonies of warning given you years ago showing you that the enemy was upon your track to open before you the charms of this world, urging you to choose earthly treasure and sacrifice the heavenly reward. Brother E, you cannot afford to do this; there is too much at stake. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” You are selling your soul at a cheap market. You cannot afford to make this great sacrifice. God has entrusted talents to your stewardship. They are your means and your influence. He wishes to test and prove you. You should have lost no time, but should have commenced immediately to increase your Master’s store. Had you done this, your success would have been equal to your industry, perseverance, and zeal in applying the capital placed in your hands; your talents or influence — setting aside the means which you could have called to your aid — would have turned many souls from error to truth and righteousness. These souls would have labored for others, and thus influence and means would have constantly increased and multiplied in the Master’s cause; and for the faithful improvement of your talents you would have heard from the Master the most gracious words that shall ever fall upon the ear: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Brother E, had you directed the powers of your intellect into the right channel, serving your heavenly Father, you would have been growing stronger in the truth, stronger in spirit and power, and would now be a pillar of the church in —–, and, by your example as well as by giving the reasons of our faith from the Scriptures, would be a successful teacher of the truth. Had the powers of mind which you have employed in getting property been used to bring souls from darkness to the light, you would have met the approval of God and been highly successful.
Those who have but small capacities, sanctified by the love of God, can do good for the Master; but those who have quick, discerning minds may employ them in His exalted work with grand results. To wrap in a napkin the talents God has entrusted to them, and hide them in the earth, thus depriving Him of their increase, is a great wrong. We are probationers. The Master is coming to investigate our course, and He will inquire what use has been made of the talents lent us.
Brother E, what use are you making of the talents God has placed in your care? Have you done what you could to enlighten the minds of men in regard to truth, or have you found no time from your business cares and perplexities to devote to this work? It is a crime to use the bounties of God as you have done, to diminish your physical strength and separate your affections from God. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You cannot love this world and love the truth of God. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You are not a happy man. Your family is not a happy family. Angels of God do not come in and abide with you. When the religion of Christ rules in the heart, conscience approves, and peace and happiness reign; perplexity and trouble may surround, yet there is light in the soul.
Submission, love, and gratitude to God keep sunshine in the heart, though the day may be ever so cloudy. Self-denial and the cross of Christ are before you. Will you lift the cross? Your children have been blessed by a mother’s prayers. They have loved religion. They have tried to resist temptation and to live lives of prayer. Sometimes they have tried very hard; but your example before them, your love and devotion to the world, and your close application to business, have withdrawn their minds from spiritual things and turned them to earth again. Satan has been upon their track to lead them to love the world and the things of the world. They have gradually lost their confidence in God, have neglected secret prayer and religious duties, and have withdrawn their interest from holy things.
Dear Brother E, you have made a great mistake in giving this world your ambition. You are exacting and sometimes impatient, and at times require too much of your son. He has become discouraged. At your house it has been work, work, work, from early morning until night. Your large farm has brought extra cares and burdens into your house. You have talked upon business; for business was primary in your mind, and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Has your example in your family exalted Christ and His salvation above your farming interest and your desire for gain? If your children fail of everlasting life, the blood of their souls will surely be found on the garments of their father.
The mother did her duty faithfully. She will hear the “Well done” as she rises in the resurrection morning. Her first inquiry will be for her children, who were the burden of her prayers during the latter portion of her life. Can you present them with beautiful characters that will give them a moral fitness for the society of angels, or will they be tarnished and sullied by the pollutions of the world? Will they be found “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”? Will they be as pillars polished after the similitude of a palace; or will they be found lovers of the world, cursed with the spirit of avarice, and their bright and noble qualities buried in oblivion? Your course will do much to determine the future destiny of your children. If you continue to drown your powers of mind in worldly care and scheming, you will remain a stumbling block to them. They see that, while professing Christianity, you have made no spiritual advancement, but are morally dwarfed. This is true. Your mind has been concentrated on earthly things, and, as a result, you have developed great power in this direction. You are decidedly a worldly businessman, but God designed that you should use your ability and influence in a higher calling.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 39-48