The Spirit of Christ illuminating the soul is represented by the light, which dispels all darkness; it is compared to salt, because of its preserving qualities; and to leaven, which secretly exerts its transforming power.
Those whom Christ has connected with Himself will, as far as in them lies, labor diligently and perseveringly, as He labored, to save souls who are perishing around them. They will reach the people by prayer, earnest, fervent prayer, and personal effort. It is impossible for those who are thoroughly converted to God, enjoying communion with Him, to be negligent of the vital interests of those who are perishing outside of Christ.
The minister should not do all the work himself, but he should unite with him those who have taken hold of the truth. He will thus teach others to work after he shall leave. A working church will ever be a growing church. They will ever find a stimulus and a tonic in trying to help others, and in doing it they will be strengthened and encouraged.
I have read of a man who, journeying on a winter’s day through the deep, drifted snow, became benumbed by the cold, which was almost imperceptibly stealing away his vital powers. And as he was nearly chilled to death by the embrace of the frost king, and about to give up the struggle for life, he heard the moans of a brother traveler, who was perishing with cold as he was about to perish. His humanity was aroused to rescue him. He chafed the ice-clad limbs of the unfortunate man, and, after considerable effort, raised him to his feet; and as he could not stand, he bore him in sympathizing arms through the very drifts he had thought he could never succeed in getting through alone. And when he had borne his fellow traveler to a place of safety, the truth flashed home to him that in saving his neighbor he had saved himself also. His earnest efforts to save another quickened the blood which was freezing in his own veins, and created a healthful warmth in the extremities of the body.
These lessons must be forced upon young believers continually, not only by precept, but by example, that in their Christian experience they may realize similar results. Let the desponding ones, those disposed to think the way to life is very trying and difficult, go to work and seek to help others. In such efforts, mingled with prayer for divine light, their own hearts will throb with the quickening influence of the grace of God; their own affections will glow with more divine fervor, and their whole Christian life will be more of a reality, more earnest, more prayerful.
The minister of Christ should be a man of prayer, a man of piety; cheerful, but never coarse and rough, jesting or frivolous. A spirit of frivolity may be in keeping with the profession of clowns and theatrical actors, but it is altogether beneath the dignity of a man who is chosen to stand between the living and the dead, and to be mouthpiece for God.
Every day’s labor is faithfully chronicled in the books of God. As men claiming spiritual illumination, you will give moral tone to the character of all with whom you are connected. As faithful ministers of the gospel, you should bend all the energies of the mind and all the opportunities of your life to make your work wholly successful, and present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. In order to do this, you must pray earnestly. Ministers of the gospel must be in possession of that power which wrought such wonders for the humble fishermen of Galilee.
Moral and intellectual powers are needed in order to discharge with fidelity the important duties devolving upon you; but these may be possessed, and yet there may be a great lack of godliness. The endowment of the Holy Spirit is indispensably essential to success in your great work. Said Christ: “Without Me ye can do nothing.” But through Christ strengthening you, you can do all things.
Chap. 28 – Sympathy for the Erring
Dear Brother A: I have risen early to write to you. Additional light has been given me of late, for which I am responsible. Twice while in this state has the Lord revealed Himself to me. While pleading with Him in the night season, I was shown in vision many things connected with the cause of God. The state of things in the church, the college, the sanitarium, and the publishing houses located at Battle Creek, and the work of God in Europe and England, in Oregon and Texas, and in other new fields, was presented before me. There is the greatest need of the work in new fields starting right, bearing the impress of the divine. Many in these new fields will be in danger of accepting the truth or assenting to it, who have not a genuine conversion of heart. When tested by storm and tempest, it will be found that their house is not built upon a rock but upon sliding sand. Practical godliness must be possessed by the minister and developed in his daily life and character. His discourses should not be exclusively theoretical.
I was shown some things not favorable to the prosperity of the cause of truth in Texas. The Brethren B and their families have not heretofore been a blessing or help to the cause of God in any place. Their influence has been shown me before this as not being a sweet-smelling savor. They cannot build up the cause of God because they have not the elements within them which make them capable of exerting a healthful influence on the side of God and the truth. If you had had the mind of God you would not have been so void of discernment, especially after you had been faithfully warned by those in whom you should have had confidence. Smooth words and fair speeches have deceived you. These brothers are not all alike, but all have defective characters. By constant watchfulness over themselves, and by earnest prayer to God in faith, they may make a success of keeping self in its proper position. Through Jesus Christ they may be transformed in character and obtain a moral fitness to meet the Lord when He shall come, but God will not lay any important responsibility upon them, for souls would thus be imperiled. These men are unfitted to lead the flock of God. At the very time when their words should be few and well chosen, modest and unassuming, their natural traits of character are woven into all they do and say, and the work of God is marred.
You and Brother C have not had true discernment. You have had too great confidence in the ability of these men. A ship may be sound in nearly every respect; but if there is one defect,–a bit of timber worm-eaten,–the lives of all on board are imperiled. Nearly all the links of a chain may be sound, but one defective link destroys its worth. Individuals who possess excellent qualities may have some marked traits of character which unfit them to be entrusted with the solemn, sacred work of God. But these men are deficient in nearly everything that pertains to Christian character. Their example is not worthy of imitation.
You need to have much done for you, my brother, before your labors can be what they might and should be. Your understanding has been darkened. Sympathy and union with those whose characters have been cast in an inferior mold will not elevate and ennoble you, but will rust and corrode your spirit, and will mar your usefulness and disconnect you from God. You are of an impulsive nature. Burdens of domestic life and of the cause do not rest very heavily upon you, and unless you are constantly under the refining influence of the Spirit of God you will be in danger of becoming coarse in your manners. In order to rightly represent the character of Christ, you need to be spiritualized and brought into a closer connection with God in the great work in which you are engaged. Your own thoughts must be elevated, your own heart sanctified, in order for you to be a co-worker with Jesus Christ. “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
The work of God in Texas would stand higher today if the B brothers had no connection with it. I might mention more particular reasons why this is so, but will not at this time. Suffice it to say that these men are not right with God. Feeling self-sufficient and competent for almost any calling, they have not made efforts to correct the objectionable traits of character which were transmitted to them as a birthright, but which by education, culture, and training might have been overcome. They have made some improvements in this direction; but if weighed in the balances, they would still be found wanting.
The word of God abounds in general principles for the formation of correct habits of living, and the testimonies, general and personal, have been calculated to call their attention more especially to these principles; but all these have not made a sufficient impression upon their hearts and minds to cause them to realize the necessity of decided reform. If they had correct views of themselves in contrast with the perfect Pattern, they would cherish that faith that works by love and purifies the soul. These brothers, A B excepted, are naturally arbitrary, dictatorial, and self-sufficient. They do not consider others better than themselves. They are envious and jealous of any member of the church who, they think, will be esteemed more highly than themselves. They profess conscientiousness; but they strain at a gnat and swallow a camel in their dealings with their brethren, who, they fear, will be considered superior to themselves. They seize upon little things, and talk over particulars, putting their own construction upon words and acts. This is particularly true of two of these brothers.
These men, especially A B, are free, easy speakers. Their smooth manner of relating things has such an appearance of honesty and genuine interest for the cause of God that it has a tendency to deceive and becloud the minds of those who hear them. My heart aches with sadness as I write, because I know the influence of this family wherever it is felt. I did not design to speak in regard to these persons again, but the solemn opening of these matters before me compels me to write once more. If the ministers of the word, who profess to be connected with God, cannot discern the influence of such men, they are unfit to stand as teachers of the truth of God. If these persons would only keep their proper position and never attempt to teach or to lead, I would be silent; but when I see that the cause of God is in danger of suffering I can hold my peace no longer.
These brothers should not be allowed to all locate in one place and compose the leading element in the church. They are wanting in natural affection. They do not manifest sympathy, love, and refined feeling toward one another, but indulge in envy, jealousy, bickerings, and strife among themselves. Their consciences are not tender. The love, gentleness, and meekness of Christ does not help to compose their experience. God forbid that such an element should exist in the church. Unless these persons are converted, they cannot see the kingdom of heaven. It is much more congenial to their feelings to be tearing down, picking flaws, and seeking spot and stain in others, than to be washing their own robes of character from the defilement of sin and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.
But I now come to the most painful part of this history, that concerning Brother D. The Lord caused me to pass through an investigation in which you and Brother C figured largely. God was grieved with you both. I saw and heard that which caused me pain and regret. Such an unreasonable, godless course as was pursued in this investigation was just what might have been looked for from the Brethren B; but my greatest surprise and grief was that such men as Brother C and yourself should bear an active part in this shameful, one-sided investigation.
To Brother C, who acted the lawyer, to question and bring out the minutiae in the strongest light, I would say: I would not have that work laid to my charge for the riches of the world. You were simply deceived and deluded by a strange spirit that should have had no semblance of quarter, no grain of respect. Envy, jealousy, evil surmisings, and doubtful disputations held a carnival on that occasion.
You may think me too severe, but I cannot be more severe than the transaction deserves. Did you all think, when you condemned the guiltless, that God was altogether such a one as yourselves? The subsequent condition of Brother D was the result of the position taken by you on that occasion. Had you shown fairness and sympathy, he would stand today where his influence would tell on the side of truth with the power that a meek and quiet spirit exerts. Brother D was not a ready speaker, and the smooth words and fair speeches of A B, uttered with apparent coolness and candor, had effect. The poor, sightless man should have been regarded with pity and tenderness; but, instead of this, he was placed in the worst possible light. God saw and will not hold one of you guiltless who acted a part in that unfair investigation. Brother A, it will not then appear so amusing to you as when you were sitting in judgment against a blind brother. You should learn a lesson from this experience; namely, to close your ears to those who would prejudice you against the very ones whom God would have you sustain, pity, and strengthen.
Brother C and you could not see the defects in the Brethren B; neither could you discern the opposite traits of character in Brother D. But his influence, sanctified by the Spirit of God, would tell upon the cause of God with tenfold greater power than that of the Brethren B. You have done much to injure Brother D; and I advise you to repent of this wrong as heartily as you committed it. In the name of the Master, I entreat you to shake yourself from human influences and close your ears to gossiping reports. Let no person put a testimony in your mouth; but let God, rather than men who are unconsecrated at home and abroad, give you a burden for His cause.
Brother C needs the softening, refining Spirit of God in his heart. He needs to exercise it in his home. “Let love be without dissimulation.” Let the arbitrary, dictatorial, censorious spirit be put away from his home, with all malice. The same overbearing, judging spirit will be carried out in the church. If his feelings are somewhat softened for the time being, he will act in a more kindly manner; but if they happen to be the opposite, he will act accordingly. Self-control and self-discipline he has not exercised. Where Brother D has one defect, his judges and those who condemned him have ten.
Brother A, why did you not fully take the part of the oppressed? Why did you not compromise this matter? Why did you not lift your voice, as did your Saviour, and say: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”? You have made a fearful mistake, which may result in the loss of more souls than one, notwithstanding you did it ignorantly. Had one word of tender, genuine pity been expressed by you to Brother D, it would have been registered to your account in heaven. But you had no more sense of the work you were doing for time and for eternity than had those who condemned Christ; and you have judged and condemned your Saviour in the person of His saint. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Hypocrisy always met the severest rebuke from Jesus; while the veriest sinners who came to Him in sincere repentance were received, pardoned, and comforted.
Did you think Brother D could be made to believe that wrong was right and right was wrong, because his brethren would have him believe it? He was diseased and nervous. Everything looked dark and uncertain to him. His confidence in you and Brother C was gone, and to whom should he look? He was censured for one thing and then for another, until he became confused, distracted, and desperate. Those who drove him to this state have committed the greater sin.
Where was compassion, even on the ground of common humanity? Worldlings would not, as a general rule, have been so careless, so devoid of mercy and courtesy; and they would have exercised more compassion toward a man on account of his very infirmity, considering him entitled to the tenderest consideration and neighborly love. But here was a blind man, a brother in Christ, and several of his brethren were sitting as judges upon his case.
More than once during the progress of the trial, while a brother was being hunted like a rabbit to his death, you would break out into a loud laugh. There sat Brother C, naturally so kind and sympathetic that he censured his brethren for cruelty in killing game to subsist upon, yet here was a poor blind man, of as much more value than birds as man formed in the image of God is above the dumb creatures of His care. Ye “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” would have been the verdict of Him who spake as never man spake, had His voice been heard in your assembly.
He who had such tender compassion for the birds might have exercised a praiseworthy compassion and love for Christ in the person of His afflicted saint. But you were as men blindfolded. Brother B presented a smooth, able speech. Brother D was not a ready speaker. His thoughts could not be clothed in language that would make a case, and he was altogether too much surprised to make the best of the situation. His sharp, criticizing brethren turned lawyers and placed the blind man at great disadvantage. God saw and marked the transactions of that day. These men, adepts in casting mist and making out a case, apparently obtained a triumph, while the blind brother, misused and abused, felt that everything was sinking beneath his feet. His confidence in those whom he had believed were the representatives of Christ was terribly shaken. The moral shock he received has nearly proved his ruin, spiritually and physically. Everyone who was engaged in this work should feel the deepest remorse and repentance before God.
Brother D has made a mistake in sinking under this load of reproach and undeserved criticism, which should have fallen on other heads than his. He has loved the cause of God with his whole soul. God has shown His care for the blind in giving him prosperity, but even this has been turned against him by his envious brethren. God has put it into the hearts of unbelievers to be kind and sympathetic to him because he is a blind man. Brother D has been a Christian gentleman, and has made even his worldly enemies to be at peace with him. God has been to him a tender father and has smoothed his pathway. He should have been true to his knowledge of truth, and served God with singleness of heart, irrespective of censure, envy, and false accusations. It was the position you took, Brother A, that was the finishing stroke to Brother D. But he should not have let go his hold on God, though ministers and people did take a course in which he could see no justice. Riveted to the eternal Rock, he should have stood firm to principle and carried out his faith and the truth at all hazards. Oh, what necessity for Brother D to cling more closely to the Arm that is mighty to save.
All the worth and greatness of this life is derived from its connection with heaven and the future, immortal life. God’s everlasting arm encircles the soul that turns to Him for aid, however feeble that soul may be. The precious things of the hills shall perish; but the soul that lives for God, unmoved by censure, unperverted by applause, shall abide forever with Him. The city of God will open its golden gates to receive him who learned while on earth to lean on God for guidance and wisdom, for comfort and hope amid loss and affliction. The songs of angels will welcome him there, and for him the tree of life will yield its fruits.
Brother D has failed where he should have been victorious. But the pitying eye of God is upon him. Although the compassion of man may fail, still God loves and pities, and reaches out His helping hand. If he will only be humble, meek, and lowly of heart, He will yet lift up his head and plant his feet firmly upon the Rock of Ages. “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”
Not one of us is excusable, under any form of trial, for letting our hold upon God become loosened. He is our source of strength, our stronghold in every trial. When we cry unto Him for help, his hand will be stretched forth mightily to save.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 319-328