That great city is in darkness and error, and we have left it so thus long. Will God pardon this negligence on our part? What account shall we give for the men and women who have died without hearing the sound of present truth, who would have received it had the light been brought to them? My spirit is stirred that the work in —– has been delayed so long. The work that is now being done there might have been done years ago and could then have been accomplished with far less expenditure of money, time, and labor. Nevertheless it must not be left undone now. A small beginning has been made on a very economical plan, and much more has been accomplished than could have been expected considering the facilities that have been provided. But better facilities must be furnished. There must be a place where people can hear the truth. There must be means to support the workers in this mission field, not in ease and luxury, but in a plain, comfortable manner. They are God’s instruments, and nothing should be said or done to discourage them. On the contrary, let their hands be strengthened and their hearts encouraged.
There is enough wealth in your conference to carry forward this work successfully; and shall the prince of darkness be left in undisputed possession of our great cities because it costs something to sustain missions? Let those who would follow Christ fully come up to the work, even if it be over the heads of ministers and president. Those who in such a work as this will say, “I pray thee have me excused,” should beware lest they receive their discharge for time and for eternity. Let Christians who love duty lift every ounce they can and then look to God for further strength. He will work through the efforts of thoroughgoing men and women and will do what they cannot do. New light and power will be given them as they use what they have. New fervor and zeal will stir the church as they see something accomplished.
We rejoice in spirit as we contemplate what may be done; but we blush before our Maker at the thought of the little that has been accomplished. Shepherds have neglected their God-given responsibilities; they have become narrow and faithless, and have encouraged unpardonable cowardice, slothfulness, and covetousness. They have not realized the magnitude and importance of the work. Men are wanted whose eyes are anointed to see and understand heaven’s designs. Then the standard of piety will be raised, and there will be real missionaries who will be ready to sacrifice for the truth’s sake. There is no room in the church of God for the selfish and ease-loving; but men and women are called for who will make exertions to plant the standard of truth in our large cities, in the great thoroughfares of travel.
A world is to be warned, and in humility we should work as God has given us ability. Let every state come up to the work. What right have those with narrow and unconsecrated ideas to say what their conference will do and what it will not do? The —– mission will not be left wholly to your state; but if your conference had a heart to work, it could sustain two such missions and not feel the burden. Come, brethren, arouse to action. Time lost through your unbelief and want of courage is lost forever. Let the ministers act as though something were to be done, and the largehearted men who love God and keep His commandments will come up to the help of the Lord. In this way the church will be disciplined for future efforts; for their beneficence is never to cease.
Elder M, as president of the —– Conference, you have shown by your general management that you are unworthy of the trust reposed in you. You have shown that you are conservative, and that your ideas are narrow. You have not done one half what you might have done had you had the true spirit of the work. You might have been far more capable and experienced than you now are; you might have been far better prepared to manage successfully this sacred and important mission–a work which would have given you the strongest claim to the general confidence of our people. But, like the
other ministering brethren in your state, you have failed to advance with the opening providence of God; you have not shown that the Holy Spirit was deeply impressing your heart, so that God could speak through you to His people. If in this crisis you do anything to strengthen doubt and distrust in the churches of your state, anything that will prevent the people from engaging heartily in this work, God will hold you responsible. Has God given you unmistakable evidence that the brethren of your state are excused from the responsibility of putting their arms about the city of —– as Christ has put His arms about them? If you were standing in the light, you would encourage this mission by your faith.
You need to drink deep of the streams of grace and salvation before you can lead others to the Fountain of living waters. Holding the office of president of a conference, with the experience and influence that this office gives, instead of discouraging the people you should have urged them to new exertion, to bear weightier responsibilities. There are special duties devolving upon men in responsible positions; there are laborious efforts to be made which it would be convenient to neglect. But when the shepherds are negligent of duty, may the Lord pity the poor sheep.
Your work, my brother, does not show that you have realized that your obligations are sacred and weighty. I have been shown that you are capable of doing much better work than you have done, and that God requires more and better work at your hands. He requires integrity and faithfulness. The work of saving souls is the highest and noblest ever entrusted to mortal man; and you should allow nothing to come in between you and this sacred work to absorb your mind and confuse your judgment. One standing in the responsible position that you occupy should make eternal interests first, and temporal matters of secondary importance. You are an ambassador for Christ; and you should encourage those under your charge to seek for higher spiritual attainments, to live holier and purer lives. In your efforts to save souls from perdition and to build up the church in truth and righteousness,
you should use tact, wisdom, and the power that it is your privilege to have through constant communion with God. God requires this of you and of every other minister engaged in His work. You should show your loyalty to your crucified Redeemer by acting as though you realized that you have a solemn charge to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, wanting in nothing.
In your case very much more might have been accomplished by holy living, by fervent prayer, and by a careful, painstaking discharge of every duty. You might have done much by faithful warnings and reproofs and by affectionate appeals. It is not brain power alone that is needed, but heart power. The truth presented as it is in Jesus will have an effect. You lack ardent, active home religion. Selfish interests have clouded your mind and perverted your judgment, and the claims of God have not been realized. You need to unburden your soul of worldly cares and business, and to have an eye single to the glory of God.
The eternal destiny of all is soon to be decided. From Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and other conferences scores of ministers should go forth with burning zeal to proclaim the last message of warning. And at such a time as this will the presidents of our conferences lie back in the harness and refuse to draw the heavy load? Will they by voice or pen exert an influence to discourage those who have a mind to work? Any course on their part that would encourage indolence and unbelief is criminal in the highest degree. They should encourage the people to diligence in the cause of God, to make every exertion for the salvation of souls; but they should never leave even the slightest impression on their minds that they are sacrificing too much for the cause of God, or that more is required of them than is reasonable. In the heavenly warfare something must be ventured. Now is our time to work, to encounter difficulties and dangers. The providence of God says, “Go forward,” not back into Egypt; and instead of framing a testimony to please the people, ministers should seek to arouse those who are asleep.
I discern in your letter, Elder M, a vein of unbelief, a lack of judgment and discernment. Your position confirms the testimony I have had that you are giving the conference a narrow mold and have stood in the way of its advancement because you have not elevated the standard of truth. I will here quote a few paragraphs from this testimony, which was written during the General Conference at Battle Creek, in November, 1883:
“Our conversation in regard to the —– mission has left a disagreeable impression on my mind. Do not think me severe in my remarks in regard to this mission. You spoke with great satisfaction of the way this work had been carried forward. You said that Brother O and those associated with him were willing to do any way to get along; that they had a small room in a loft, where they prepared their food; and that they were doing a good work in the most economical way. Your ideas on this subject are not correct. The light which God has given us, precious above the price of silver and gold, is to go forth in a way to give character to the work. The brethren connected with this mission are not free from the infirmities of humanity; and unless attention is given to their health, their work must be greatly embarrassed. Those who stand at the head of the work in the conference should not permit such a state of things to exist. They should educate the people to give of their means, that no pinched want may be experienced by the workers. As the stewards of God the responsibility rests upon them to see that one or two do not have all the sacrificing to do while others are taking their ease, eating, drinking, and dressing, without a thought of our sacred missions or of their duty with reference to them.
“I have been shown, Elder M, that you do not take a correct view of the work, that you do not realize its importance. You have failed to educate the people in the true spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion. You have feared to urge duty upon wealthy men; and when you have made a feeble effort in the right direction, and they have begun to make excuses and to
find a little fault with someone in regard to the management of the work, you have thought perhaps they were right. This subterfuge, which has developed in them doubt and unbelief, has taken effect in your own heart, and they have turned this to account and have learned just how to treat your efforts. When they have encouraged doubt in regard to the Testimonies, you have not done what you should to uproot this feeling. You should have shown them that Satan is always picking flaws, questioning, accusing, and laying reproach upon the brethren, and that it is unsafe to be in any such position.”
“My brother, you have not taken a course to encourage men to give themselves to the ministry. Instead of bringing the expense of the work down to a low figure, it is your duty to bring the minds of the people to understand that ‘the laborer is worthy of his hire.'” “The churches need to be impressed with the fact that it is their duty to deal honestly with the cause of God, not allowing the guilt of the worst kind of robbery to rest upon them, that of robbing God in tithes and offerings. When settlements are made with the laborers in His cause, they should not be forced to accept small remuneration because there is a lack of money in the treasury. Many have been defrauded of their just dues in this way, and it is just as criminal in the sight of God as for one to keep back the wages of those who are employed in any other regular business.
“There are men of ability who would like to go out and labor in our several conferences; but they have no courage, for they must have means to support their families. It is the worst kind of generalship to allow a conference to stand still or to fail to settle its honest debts. There is a great deal of this done; and whenever it is done, God is displeased.
“If the presidents and other laborers in our conferences impress upon the minds of the people the character of the crime of robbing God, and if they have a true spirit of devotion and a burden of the work, God will make their labors a blessing to the people, and fruit will be seen as the result of
their efforts. Ministers have failed greatly in their duty to so labor with the churches. There is important work to be done aside from that of preaching. Had this been done, as God designed it should be, there would have been many more laborers in the field than there now are. And had the ministers done their duty in educating every member, whether rich or poor, to give as God has prospered him, there would be a full treasury from which to pay the honest debts to the workers; and this would greatly advance missionary work in all their borders. God has shown me that many souls are in danger of eternal ruin through selfishness and worldliness; and the watchmen are guilty, for they have neglected their duty. This is a state of things that Satan exults to see.
“All branches of the work belong to the ministers. It is not God’s order that someone should follow after them and bind off their unfinished work. It is not the duty of the conference to be at the expense of employing other laborers to follow after and pick up the stitches dropped by negligent workers. It is the duty of the president of the conference to have an oversight of the laborers and their work, and to teach them to be faithful in these things; for no church can prosper that is robbing God. The spiritual dearth in our churches is frequently the result of an alarming prevalence of selfishness. Selfish, worldly pursuits and schemes interpose between the soul and God. Men cling to the world, seeming to fear that should they let go their hold upon it, God would not care for them. And so they attempt to take care of themselves; they are anxious, troubled, distressed, holding on to their large farms and adding to their possessions.
“The word of God speaks of ‘the hire of the laborers, . . . which is of you kept back by fraud.’ This is generally understood to apply to wealthy men who employ servants and do not pay them for their labor, but it has a broader meaning than this. It applies with great force to those who have been enlightened by the Spirit of God and yet in any degree work upon the same principle that these men do in hiring servants, grinding them down to the lowest price.”
I solemnly warn you not to stand in an attitude similar to that of the unfaithful spies, who went up to view the land of promise. When these spies returned from their search, the congregation of Israel were cherishing high hopes and were waiting in eager expectancy. The news of their return is carried from tribe to tribe and is hailed with rejoicing. The people rush out to meet the messengers, who have endured the fatigue of travel in the dusty highways and under a burning sun. These messengers bring specimens of the fruit, showing the fertility of the soil. The congregation rejoice that they are to come into possession of so goodly a land; and they listen intently as the report is brought to Moses, that not a word shall escape them. “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us,” the spies begin, “and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.” The people are enthusiastic; they would eagerly obey the voice of the Lord and go up at once to possess the land.
But the spies continue: “Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.” Now the scene changes. Hope and courage give place to cowardly despair as the spies utter the sentiments of their unbelieving hearts, which are filled with discouragement prompted by Satan. Their unbelief casts a gloomy shadow over the congregation, and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in behalf of the chosen nation, is forgotten.
The people are desperate in their disappointment and despair. A wail of agony arises and mingles with the confused murmur of voices. Caleb comprehends the situation and, bold to stand in defense of the word of God, does all in his power to counteract the evil influence of his unfaithful associates. For an instant the people are stilled to listen to his words of hope and courage respecting the goodly land. He does not contradict what has already been said; the walls are high and the Canaanites strong. “Let us go up at once, and possess it,” he urges; “for we are well able to overcome it.” But the ten
interrupt him and picture the obstacles in darker colors than at first. “We be not able to go up against the people,” they declare, “for they are stronger than we.” “All the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.” The men who have so long borne with the perversity of Israel know too well what the next scene will be. Revolt and open mutiny quickly follow; for Satan has had full sway, and the people seem bereft of reason. They curse Moses and Aaron, forgetting that God hears their wicked speeches, and that, enshrouded in the cloudy pillar, the Angel of His presence is witnessing their terrible outburst of wrath. In bitterness they cry out: “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.”
In humiliation and distress, Moses and Aaron fall on “their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel,” not knowing what to do to turn them from their rash and passionate purpose. Caleb and Joshua attempt to quiet the tumult. With their garments rent in token of grief and indignation, they rush in among the people, and their ringing voices are heard above the tempest of lamentation and rebellious grief: “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.”
The false report of the unfaithful spies was fully accepted, and through it the whole congregation were deluded, just as Satan meant that they should be; and the voice of God through His faithful servants was disregarded. The traitors had done their work. All the assembly, as with one voice, cried out in favor of stoning Caleb and Joshua.
And now the mighty God reveals Himself, to the confusion of His disobedient, murmuring people. “And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.” What a burden was brought upon Moses and Aaron, and how earnest were their entreaties that God would not destroy His people! Moses pleads before the Lord the wonderful manifestations of divine power that have made the name of Israel’s God a terror to their enemies, and entreats that the enemies of God and of His people may have no occasion to triumph, saying: “Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which He sware unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness.” The Lord hearkened unto the prayer of Moses; but he declared that those who had rebelled against Him, after having witnessed His power and glory, should fall in the wilderness; they should never see the land which was their promised inheritance. But of Caleb He said: “My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed Me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.”
It was Caleb’s faith in God that gave him courage; that kept him from the fear of man, even the mighty giants, the sons of Anak, and enabled him to stand boldly and unflinchingly in defense of the right. From the same exalted source, the mighty General of the armies of heaven, every true soldier of the cross of Christ must receive strength and courage to overcome obstacles that often seem insurmountable. The law of God is made void; and those who would do their duty must be ever ready to speak the words that God gives them, and not the words of doubt, discouragement, and despair.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 pp. 369-378