He subjected himself to privation and solitude in the wilderness, where he could preserve the sacred sense of the majesty of God by studying His great book of nature and there becoming acquainted with His character as revealed in His wonderful works. It was an atmosphere calculated to perfect moral culture and to keep the fear of the Lord continually before him. John, the forerunner of Christ, did not expose himself to evil conversation and the corrupting influences of the world. He feared the effect upon his conscience, that sin might not appear to him so exceedingly sinful. He chose rather to have his home in the wilderness, where his senses would not be perverted by his surroundings. Should we not learn something from this example of one whom Christ honored and of whom He said: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist”?
The first thirty years of Christ’s life were passed in retirement. Ministering angels waited upon the Lord of life as He walked side by side with the peasants and laborers among the hills of Nazareth, unrecognized and unhonored. These noble examples should teach us to avoid evil influences and to shun the society of those who do not live aright. We should not flatter ourselves that we are too strong for any such influences to affect us, but we should in humility guard ourselves from danger.
Ancient Israel were especially directed by God to be and remain a people separate from all nations. They were not to be subjected to witnessing the idolatry of those about them, lest their own hearts should be corrupted, lest familiarity with ungodly practices should make them appear less wicked in their eyes. Few realize their own weakness and that the natural sinfulness of the human heart too often paralyzes their noblest endeavors.
The baleful influence of sin poisons the life of the soul. Our only safety is in separation from those who live in its darkness. The Lord has enjoined upon us to come out from among them and be separate, and to touch not the unclean thing, and He will receive us and will be a Father unto us, and we shall be His sons and daughters. If we wish to be adopted into the family of God, to become children of the heavenly King, we must comply with His conditions; we must come out from the world and stand as a peculiar people before the Lord, obeying His precepts and serving Him.
Lot chose Sodom for his home because he saw that there were advantages to be gained there from a worldly point of view. But after he had established himself, and grown rich in earthly treasure, he was convinced that he had made a mistake in not taking into consideration the moral standing of the community in which he was to make his home.
The dwellers in Sodom were corrupt; vile conversation greeted his ears daily, and his righteous soul was vexed by the violence and crime he was powerless to prevent. His children were becoming like these wicked people, for association with them had perverted their morals. Taking all these things into consideration, the worldly riches he had gained seemed small and not worth the price he had paid for them. His family connections were extensive, his children having married among the Sodomites.
The Lord’s anger was finally kindled against the wicked inhabitants of the city, and angels of God visited Sodom to bring forth Lot, that he should not perish in the overthrow of the city. They bade Lot bring his family, his wife, and the sons and daughters who married in wicked Sodom, and told him to flee from the place. “For,” said the angels, “we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.”
And Lot went out and entreated his children. He repeated the words of the angel: “Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city.” But he seemed unto his sons-in-law as one who mocked; for they had lived so long in Sodom that they had become partakers of the sins of the people. And the daughters were influenced by their husbands to believe that their father was mad. They were well enough off where they were. They were rich and had great possessions; and they could not believe it possible that beautiful Sodom, a rich and fertile country, would be destroyed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God.
Lot returned sorrowfully to the angels and repeated the story of his failure. Then the angels commanded him to arise, and take his wife and the two daughters who were yet in his house, and leave the city. But Lot was sad; the thought of leaving his children and his wife, for she refused to go without them, almost broke his heart. They would all have perished in the terrible ruin of Sodom, had not the Lord, in His great mercy, sent His angels to the rescue.
Lot was paralyzed by the great calamity about to occur; he was stupefied with grief at the thought of leaving all he held dear on earth. But as he lingered, the angels of God laid hold upon his hand, and the hands of his wife and two daughters, and brought them out of the city, and charged them to flee for their lives, neither to look behind them nor to stay upon all the plain, but to escape to the mountains.
How reluctant was Lot to obey the angel and go as far as possible from corrupt Sodom, appointed to utter destruction! He distrusted God and pleaded to remain. Living in the wicked city had weakened his faith and confidence in the justice of the Lord. He pleaded that he could not do as he was required, lest some evil should overtake him, and he should die. Angels were sent on a special mission to save the lives of Lot and his family; but Lot had so long been surrounded by corrupting influences that his sensibilities were blunted, and he could not discern the works of God and His purposes; he could not trust himself in His hands to do His bidding. He was continually pleading for himself, and this unbelief cost him the life of his wife. She looked back to Sodom, and, murmuring against the dealings of God, she was changed to a pillar of salt, that she might stand as a warning to all those who disregard the special mercies and providences of Heaven.
After this terrible retribution, Lot no longer dared to linger by the way, but fled into the mountains, according to the direction of the angels. The sinful conduct of his daughters after leaving Sodom was the result of wicked associations while there. The sense of right and wrong was confused in their minds, and sin did not appear as sin to them.
The case of Lot should be a warning to all those who wish to live godly lives, to separate themselves from all influences calculated to lead them away from God. Lot remained so long among the wicked that he was only able to save himself and two daughters, and even they were corrupted in morals by their sojourn in Sodom.
God means what He says, and He will not be trifled with. Oh! how many shortsighted, sinful mortals plead with God to induce Him to come to their terms, while if they would only yield themselves unreservedly into His hands He would compass their salvation and give them precious victories.
Sister K, you are in danger of making decisions that will be very injurious to you. God has a work for you to do which none can do for you, and without doing this your soul cannot be saved. God loves you and is unwilling that you should perish in the general ruin. He invites you to leave those things which hinder your spiritual advancement, and to find in Him that strength and consolation which you need. You have cares and burdens to bear in your family that often worry you; but if you do only those things necessary to your temporal comfort and happiness, you will find time to read your Bible with prayerful interest and to perfect a Christian character.
Brother K, you have had many discouragements; but you must be earnest, firm, and decided to do your duty in your family, and take them with you if possible. You should spare no effort to prevail upon them to accompany you on your heavenward journey. But if the mother and the children do not choose to accompany you, but rather seek to draw you away from your duties and religious privileges, you must go forward even if you go alone. You must live in the fear of God. You must improve your opportunities of attending the meetings and gaining all the spiritual strength you can, for you will need it in the days to come. Lot’s property was all consumed. If you should meet with loss you should not be discouraged; and if you can save only a part of your family, it is much better than to lose all.
Dear brother and sister, as parents you are in a great measure accountable for the souls of your children. You have brought them into existence; and you should, by precept and example, lead them to the Lord and the courts of heaven. You should impress them with the thought that their temporal interests are of little consequence when compared with their eternal welfare.
These dear children are living among worldly people, and they are imbibing a love for the vanities of life. Your son L is a kindhearted, fine-spirited boy; but he needs the watchful care of a mother whose daily experience in the Christian life will fit her to counsel and instruct him. He is at just that age when a tender, judicious mother can mold him by her influence; but I fear, Sister K, that you seek rather to mold your children after the fashion of this world, and neglect to teach them that the important work of life is to form characters that will ensure immortality.
If L neglects to become acquainted with religious subjects and practical Christianity, his life will be a mistake. He should see that he needs an education in spiritual things, that he may use his abilities wholly for God. The Lord calls for young men to work in His vineyard. Young men should not neglect the essential branches of education. But if they turn their entire attention to secular study, and neglect to become intelligent on the great subject of religion, and do not acquire a Christian experience, they are becoming disqualified for the work of God. However favorable the educational advantage may be, something besides the knowledge of books is necessary to save the soul and lead others to repentance. Devoting a period of years to the acquisition of scientific knowledge alone is not preparing to be an efficient laborer in the service of God.
Young men should devote much time to study; but they should also unite physical labor with their mental efforts, and put in practice the knowledge they have gained, that by useful exercise all the faculties of the mind and powers of the body may be equally developed. They should not neglect the things necessary to salvation, nor consider them secondary to anything in this life.
Dear brother and sister, God loves your family, and desires to shower His special blessings upon you, that you may become instruments of righteousness in leading others toward heaven. If entirely consecrated to God, Brother K could do a great amount of good in a community where his advice and influence would be better received and appreciated. We have strong hopes that both of you will correct that which is wrong in your lives, and renew your faith and obedience to God, receiving new strength from Him who has promised to help those who call upon His name.
Young Brother L, you have made a mistake in your life. In closely pursuing your studies you have neglected the development of all your faculties. The moral growth should never be dwarfed in the effort to acquire an education, but should be cultivated in a far higher degree than is usually deemed necessary. My dear young brother, you have been ambitious to secure knowledge. This ambition is praiseworthy; but in order to gratify it, you have neglected your eternal interests and made them secondary to your studies. God and heaven have occupied a subordinate position in your affections. The claims of God’s holy law have not been sacredly observed in your daily life. You have desecrated the Sabbath by bringing your studies into that holy time which was not yours to occupy for your own purposes. God has said: “In it thou shalt not do any work.”
“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” You have yielded to inclination rather than duty and made your studies paramount to the expressed command of the Most High.
Our camp meetings are arranged and held at great expense. God’s ministers who advocate unpopular truth, labor excessively at these large gatherings to bear the message of mercy from a crucified Redeemer to poor fallen sinners. To neglect or treat these messages with indifference is to slight the mercy of God and His voice of warning and entreaty. Your absence from these meetings has been very detrimental to your spiritual welfare. You have missed the strength that you might have gained there by listening to the preached word of God, and mingling with the believers of the truth. Your mind has been lulled into a fatal apathy in regard to the well-being of your soul. You have exalted your secular education above the knowledge to be gained in the school of Christ. Experience in a true religious life is necessary in order to form a character acceptable to God and to secure the pure virtues that will bear the light of heaven.
What anxiety you have manifested to discipline your mind by study, to become properly conversant with your textbooks, that you might pass a creditable examination before instructors, friends, and interested spectators! How ambitious you have been to prove that you have been a diligent student and have faithfully employed your time in storing your mind with useful knowledge! You have been as sincerely anxious to progress in your studies as you have been to secure the commendation of your friends and teachers. You have justly earned the honors you have received for scholarship. But how has your mind been disciplined in religion? Have you not unthinkingly placed the kingdom of God and His righteousness below your advancement in the sciences? True, some of the human faculties were given more especially for the purpose of engaging in temporal matters, but the higher powers of the mind should be wholly consecrated to God. These control the man, these form his life and character. And while you should not neglect your secular studies, you have no right to give them all your attention, but should devote yourself especially to the moral and spiritual requirements of your heavenly Father.
How little anxiety you have manifested to improve the religious advantages within your reach to gain a more thorough knowledge of the laws of God, and determination to abide by them! You have made little effort to become a loyal and intelligent Christian. How, then, will you be prepared to pass the grand review, where all your deeds and words, and the inmost thoughts of your heart, will be laid open before the great Judge and the assembled saints and angels? You have had little ambition to obtain a spiritual fitness to bear this close examination in the presence of that exalted throng. What, then, will be the final decision as to your moral and religious attainments, that decision from which there is no appeal? What will be the honors accredited to you because of your faithfulness in preserving the required harmony between religion and the pursuit of the sciences? Will you stand as one possessing unfaltering moral courage, in whom is shown excellence of human knowledge united with a holy zeal for God and the obedience of His law?
My brother, you should consider the wisdom of God as all in all. Religion must go hand in hand with science, in order to make your education a sanctified means of doing good and turning others to the truth. The more we learn in the school of Christ, the more eager we are to advance in that knowledge. All our acquirements are of little value unless the character is ennobled by religion. God has special duties for every individual to perform, and a decision will be passed upon every case as to the faithfulness with which these duties have been accomplished.
The Lord frequently places us in difficult positions to stimulate us to greater exertion. In His providence special annoyances sometimes occur to test our patience and faith. God gives us lessons of trust. He would teach us where to look for help and strength in time of need. Thus we obtain practical knowledge of His divine will, which we so much need in our life experience. Faith grows strong in earnest conflict with doubt and fear. Brother, you may be a conqueror if you take careful heed to your ways. You should devote your young life to the cause of God and pray for success. You should not close your eyes to your danger, but should resolutely prepare for every difficulty in your Christian advancement. Take time for reflection and for humble, earnest prayer. Your talents are marked, and you are hopeful in regard to your future success; but unless you comprehend the weakness of your natural heart you will be disappointed.
You are just starting out in life; you have arrived at an age to bear responsibilities for yourself. This is a critical period in your life. Now, in your youth, you are sowing in the field of life. That which you sow you will also reap; as was the seed, so will be the harvest. If you are neglectful and indifferent concerning eternal things you will sustain a great loss yourself and, through your influence, will prevent others from fulfilling their obligations to God.
Both worlds are before you. Which will you choose? Be wise and lay hold of eternal life. Swerve not from your integrity, however unpleasant your duties may appear in the present emergency. It may seem that you are about to make great sacrifices to preserve your purity of soul, but do not hesitate; press forward in the fear of God, and He will bless your efforts and recompense you a thousandfold. Do not yield your religious claims and privileges in order to gratify the wishes of your unconsecrated friends and relatives. You are called to take your position for the truth, even if it should be in direct opposition to those who are closely connected with you. God forbid that this last trial should ever come to you, to test and prove your integrity for the right.
Lay the foundation of your Christian character upon the eternal Rock of salvation, and let the structure be firm and sound.
We hope that your mother will aid you and your brothers and sisters in your efforts to perfect true characters after the pattern of Christ, that you may have a moral fitness for the society of holy angels in the kingdom of glory.
Chap. 11 – A Divided Interest
Dear Brethren M: In the vision given me last January I was shown some things in reference to you both. I was shown that you are not growing in spirituality as it is your duty and privilege to grow. The greatness of the work and the opening providences of God should stir your hearts. Christ designed that His believing children should be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. The holy life, the Christian example, of one good man in a community sheds a light that is reflected upon others. How great, then, would be the influence of a company of believers all walking in the commandments of God.
The preaching of the word is ordained of God to arouse and convict sinners. And when the living preacher exemplifies in his own life the self-denial and sacrifices of Christ, when his conversation and acts are in harmony with the divine Pattern, then his influence will be a powerful one upon those who listen to his voice. But all cannot be teachers of the word in the pulpit. The duties of different persons vary, and there is work for all to do. All can aid the cause by giving unselfishly of their means to help the various branches of the work, by furnishing means for the publication of tracts and periodicals to scatter among the people and disseminate the truth. Those who give money to promote the cause are bearing a part of the burden of the work; they are colaborers with Christ; for God has furnished men with means on trust, to be used for holy and wise purposes. They are the instrumentalities which Heaven has ordained for doing good, and men are to put these talents out to the exchangers.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 109-118