They are not self-confident nor boastful; but in view of the higher attainments to which they might rise in intellectual greatness, they seem to themselves to have but just begun the ascent. It is the superficial thinker, the one who has but a beginning or smattering of knowledge, who deems himself wise and who takes on disgusting airs of importance.
You might today be men of honor and of trust, but you have all been so well satisfied with yourselves that you have not improved the light and privileges which have been graciously granted you. Your minds have not been expanded by the Christian graces, neither have your affections been sanctified by communion with the Life-giver. There is a littleness, an earthliness, which stamps the outer character and reveals the fact beyond doubt that you have been walking in the way of your own heart and in the sight of your own eyes and that you are filled with your own devices.
When connected with God and sincerely seeking His approval, man becomes elevated, ennobled, and sanctified. The work of elevation is one that man must perform for himself through Jesus Christ. Heaven may give him every advantage so far as temporal and spiritual things are concerned, but it is all in vain unless he is willing to appropriate these blessings and to help himself. His own powers must be put to use, or he will finally be weighed in the balances and pronounced wanting; he will be a failure so far as this life is concerned, and will lose the future life.
All who will with determined effort seek help from above, and subdue and crucify self, may be successful in this world, and may gain the future, immortal life. This world is the field of man’s labor. His preparation for the future world depends upon the way he discharges his duties in this world. He is designed of God to be a blessing to society; and he cannot, if he would, live and die to himself. God has bound us together as members of one family, and this relationship everyone is bound to cherish. There are services due to others which we cannot ignore and yet keep the commandments of God. To live, think, and act for self only is to become useless as servants of God. High-sounding titles and great talents are not essential in order to be good citizens or exemplary Christians.
We have in our ranks too many who are restless, talkative, self-commending, and who take the liberty to put themselves forward, having no reverence for age, experience, or office. The church is suffering today for help of an opposite character –modest, quiet, God-fearing men, who will bear disagreeable burdens when laid upon them, not for the name, but to render service to their Master, who died for them. Persons of this character do not think it detracts from their dignity to rise up before the ancient and to treat gray hairs with respect. Our churches need weeding out. Too much self-exaltation and self-sufficiency exists among the members.
Those who fear and reverence God, He will delight to honor. Man may be so elevated as to form the connecting link between heaven and earth. He came from the hand of his Creator with a symmetrical character, endowed with such capacities for improvement that, combining divine influence with human effort, he might elevate himself almost to an angel’s sphere. Yet, when thus elevated, he will be unconscious of his goodness and greatness.
God has given man intellectual faculties capable of the highest cultivation. Had the Brethren B seen the natural coarseness and roughness of their characters, and with assiduous care cultivated and trained the mind, strengthening their weak points of character and overcoming their glaring defects, some of them would have been accepted as Christ’s messengers. But as they now are, God cannot accept any one of them as His representative. They have not sufficiently realized the need of improvement to cause them to seek for it. Their minds have not been trained by study, observation, reflection, and a constant effort to thoroughly discipline themselves for the duties of life. The means of improvement are within the reach of all. None are so poor or so busy but that with Jesus to help them they can make improvements in their life and character.
Chap. 30 – Self-Caring Ministers
Brother and Sister F: I have been shown the great mercy and infinite love of God in giving you another trial. There will be a positive necessity of your holding fast to the mighty Healer, that you may have physical and spiritual strength. You have poor health, but you are in danger of thinking that you are in a worse condition than you really are. You have not had power of endurance, because you have not cherished a patient, hopeful, courageous spirit. You yield to infirmities instead of rising above them. Temptations will assail you on the right hand and on the left, but by patient continuance in well-doing you may overcome the defects in your characters. I was shown that your feet had indeed taken hold on perdition, but God did not wholly forsake either of you. His matchless mercy in giving you another opportunity to prove your loyalty to Him calls upon you to walk with great humility and to guard self. You have petted and indulged yourselves so much that you need now to work in an opposite direction.
You, Brother F, have been very selfish, and this has been contemptible in the sight of God. You and your wife have stumbled again and again over this evil. Your powers have been greatly dwarfed by self-gratification and self-indulgence. Neither of you is deficient in natural reason and judgment; but you have followed inclination rather than the path of duty, and have failed to repress the wrong traits of character and to strengthen weak moral power.
Brother F, you are naturally an impatient, fretful, exacting man at home; and after a short acquaintance you show this out in new places. You frequently talk in an impatient, overbearing manner. This must all be repented of. You may now begin anew. God has in His boundless mercy given you another chance. Your wife has much in herself to contend against, and you should be on your guard that you do not throw her upon Satan’s ground. Fretting, faultfinding, and making strong statements must be given up. What time have you set to gain the victory over your perverse will and the defects in your character? With the advancement you now make, your probation may close before you have made the determined efforts essential to give you the victory over self. You will, in the providence of God, be placed in positions where your peculiarities, if existing, will be tried and revealed. You neither see nor realize the effect of your thoughtless, impatient, complaining, whining words.
You and your wife have another golden opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake. If you do this complainingly you will have no reward; if willingly, gladly, having the same spirit which Peter possessed after his apostasy, you will be victors. He felt a sense of his cowardly denial of Christ throughout his lifetime; and when called to suffer martyrdom for his faith, this humiliating fact was ever before him, and he begged that he might not be crucified in the exact manner in which his Lord suffered, fearing that it would be too great an honor after his apostasy. His request was that he might be crucified with his head downward. What a sense did Peter have of his sin in denying his Lord! What a conversion he experienced! His life ever after was a life of repentance and humiliation.
You may have cause to tremble when you see God through His law. When Moses thus saw the majesty of God, he exclaimed: “I exceedingly fear and quake.” The law pronounced death upon the transgressor; then the atoning sacrifice was presented before Moses. The cleansing blood of Christ was revealed to purify the sinner, and his fears were swept away, as the morning fog before the beams of the rising sun. Thus he saw it might be with the sinner. Through repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, pardon is written, and the Sun of Righteousness sheds His bright, healing beams upon him, dispelling the doubt and fear that befog the soul. Moses came down from the mount where he had been in converse with God, his face shining with a heavenly luster which was reflected upon the people. He appeared to them like an angel direct from glory. That divine brightness was painful to those sinners; they fled from Moses and begged that the bright glory might be covered from their sight lest it slay them if they came near him.
Moses had been a student. He was well educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, but this was not the only qualification which he needed to prepare him for his work. He was, in the providence of God, to learn patience, to temper his passions. In a school of self-denial and hardships he was to receive an education which would be of the utmost importance to him. These trials would prepare him to exercise a fatherly care over all who needed his help. No knowledge, no study, no eloquence, could be a substitute for this experience in trials to one who was to watch for souls as they that must give an account. In doing the work of a humble shepherd, in being forgetful of self and interested for the flock given to his charge, he was to become fitted for the most exalted work ever entrusted to mortals, that of being a shepherd of the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. Those who fear God in the world must be connected with Him. Christ is the most perfect educator the world ever knew. To receive wisdom and knowledge from Him was more valuable to Moses than all the learning of the Egyptians.
Brother and Sister F, I entreat you to be in earnest and come to God through Jesus Christ. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” He who spends his talents and his means in self-indulgence, in gratification of the lower passions, will reap corruption. His harvest is sure. His mind will lose its susceptibility and power. His intellect will be shattered and his life shortened. God requires you to make more thorough efforts to subdue and control self. I was shown that God and angels are ready and waiting to help you in this important work. If you delay, if you are even dilatory, it may be too late. Your probation is lengthened, your character is now forming, and soon, my dear brother and sister, it will be stereotyped forever. Halfway work with you will not advance you one step toward heaven. Indecision soon becomes decision in the wrong direction. Many decide to serve themselves and Satan by not making determined efforts to overcome their defects of character. While many are petting sinful propensities, expecting to be overcomers sometime, they are deciding for perdition. Brother and Sister F, in the name of Jesus Christ you may be victorious even now “in this thy day.” Do not plan and study for self. You cannot be wholly the Lord’s while encouraging any degree of selfishness. Such great love as the Redeemer has shown you should be received with great humility and continual rejoicing. In order to be happy, you must control your thoughts and words. It will require a masterly effort on your part; nevertheless it must be done if you are to be the acknowledged children of God. Be not weary in your efforts. Satan is battling for your souls, and he must be disappointed.
When you, Brother F, first commence to labor in a place, you generally have the confidence of the people; but after a more thorough acquaintance your defects of character become so apparent that many lose confidence in your piety. Reflections are thus cast upon all the ministers of the denomination. A short stay in a place would not injure your reputation. While engaged in earnest labor, pressed by opposing influences, your mind is absorbed in the work in which you are engaged, and you have neither time nor opportunity to think and reflect upon yourself. But when the work is over, and you begin to think upon self, as it is natural for you to do, you pet yourself, become babyish, sharp, and cross in temper, and thus greatly mar the work of God. You manifest the same spirit in the church, and thus your influence is greatly injured in the community, in some cases beyond remedy. You have frequently exhibited childish contention, even while laboring to convert souls to the truth; and the impressions made have been terrible upon those who were witnesses. Now, one of two things must be done; you must either be a consecrated man at home, in your family, and in the church, at all times tender and patient, or you must not settle down in a church; for your defects will be made apparent, and the Redeemer you profess to love and serve will be dishonored.
The faith of Moses led him to look at the things which are unseen, which are eternal. He left the splendid attractions of court life because sin was there. He gave up present and seeming good that flattered only to ruin and destroy. The real attractions, the eternal, were of value to him. The sacrifices made by Moses were really no sacrifices. With him it was letting go a present, apparent, flattering good for a sure, high, immortal good.
Moses endured the reproach of Christ, considering reproach greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. He believed what God had said and was not influenced to swerve from his integrity by any of the world’s reproaches. He walked the earth as God’s free man. He had the love of Christ in his soul, which not only made him a man of dignity, but added the luster of the true Christian graces to the dignity of the man. Moses walked a rough and perilous path, but he looked to the things unseen and faltered not. The recompense of reward was attractive to him, and it may be also to us. He was familiar with God.
The work is before you to improve the remnant of your life in reforming and elevating the character. A new life begins in the renewed soul. Christ is the indwelling Saviour. That which may be regarded as hard to give up must be yielded. The overbearing, dictatorial word must be left unspoken; then a precious victory will be gained. True happiness will be the result of every self-denial, every crucifixion of self. One victory won, the next is more easily gained. Had Moses neglected the opportunities and privileges granted him of God, he would have neglected the light from heaven and would have been a disappointed, miserable man. Sin is from beneath; and when it is indulged, Satan is enshrined in the soul, there to kindle the very fires of hell. God has not given His law to prevent the salvation of souls, but He wants all to be saved. Man has light and opportunities, and if he will improve them he may overcome. You may show by your life the power of the grace of God in overcoming. Satan is trying to set up his throne in the soul-temple. When he reigns he makes himself heard and felt in angry passions, in words of bitterness that grieve and wound; but as light has no communion with darkness, and Christ no union with Belial, the man must be wholly for one or the other. In yielding to self-indulgence, avarice, deception, fraud, or sin of any kind, he encourages the principles of Satan in his soul and closes the door of heaven to himself. Because of sin, Satan was thrust out of heaven; and no man indulging and fostering sin can go to heaven, for then Satan would again have a foothold there.
When a man is earnestly engaged day by day in overcoming the defects in his character, he is cherishing Christ in his soul-temple; the light of Christ is in him. Under the bright beams of the light of Christ’s countenance his entire being becomes elevated and ennobled. He has the peace of heaven in his soul. Many give loose rein to passion, avarice, selfishness, and deception, and all the time excuse themselves and lay the blame on the circumstances which brought around the trial to themselves. This has been your case. God permitted your surroundings to exist to develop character. But you could have made your surroundings; for by resisting or enduring temptation, circumstances are controlled by the might of the will in the name of Jesus. This is overcoming as Christ overcame. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
Brother F, God is merciful to you. Your life has been a mistake, nothing like what it might and should have been. There has not been in you genuine manliness, true elevation and purity of feeling. You have not had proper self-respect, and therefore have not had proper respect for others. You have not magnified Christ and the power of His grace. You have needed guardians all the way along through life. The same frivolity and fickleness, the same inconsideration and lack of self-control, the same selfishness and impatience, which were seen in your conduct at an early period of your life, are developed in a marked manner now that you are past the meridian. This need not have been, had you put away childish feelings and childish temper, and put on the firmness of the man. You have favored yourself altogether to your injury. Your pains and infirmities have been magnified. You look at them and talk complainingly of them, but do not look away to Jesus. Think how little you suffer, how little you endure, in comparison with the sufferings of Christ; and He was sinless–the Just suffering for the unjust.
A good tree will not produce corrupt fruit. Good conversation will accompany a good conscience, as surely as good fruit will be produced by a good tree. If a man is unkind and churlish in his family and to others connected with him, no one need to inquire how he will manage in the church. He will exhibit the same petulant, overbearing disposition which he shows at home. No man can have the spirit and the mind of Christ without being rendered better by it in all the relations and duties of life. Murmuring, complaining, and fretful passion are not the fruit of good principles. You will need to be instant in prayer, because you have not strengthened the high, noble, moral traits of character. This is to be done now by you. The work will be difficult, but it is positively essential.
While in Texas you were hopeless and felt yourself forsaken of God and man; but now that you again make a start, let the work of reformation be thorough, your repentance such as needeth not to be repented of. The best of your days, so far as health and vigor are concerned, are in the past; but with proper habits, a cheerful mind, and a clear conscience in reference to your present deportment, you may turn your defeat into victory. You have no time to lose. Your wife can help you in all your efforts in the harvest field. If she is sanctified through the truth she can be a blessing to you and to the cause of God by conversing with others and being social.
Many falter and fall because of the indulgence of a perverse temper. Alexander and Caesar found it much easier to subdue a kingdom than to rule their own spirits. After conquering nations, the world’s so-called great men fell, one of them through the indulgence of appetite, a victim of intemperance, the other through presumption and mad ambition.
God calls upon you to yield pride and stubbornness, and to let His peace rule in your hearts. A meek and quiet spirit must be cherished. Carry Christ’s meekness with you in all your labors. An excited temper and cutting censure will not impress the people or gain their sympathy. If we have the truth, we can afford to be calm and unexcited. Our language should be modest and elevated. The spirit you have cherished within has left its impression upon the countenance. Christ, enthroned in the soul-temple, will efface that fretful, peevish, unhappy look; and as the cloud of witnesses look upon a man reflecting the image of Christ, they will realize that he is surrounded by a pleasant atmosphere. The world will see that amid storms of abuse he stands unmoved, like the lofty cedar. That man is one of God’s heroes. He has overcome himself.
The largest share of the annoyances of life, its daily corroding cares, its heartaches, its irritation, is the result of a temper uncontrolled. The harmony of the domestic circle is often broken by a hasty word and abusive language. How much better were it left unsaid. One smile of pleasure, one peaceful, approving word spoken in the spirit of meekness, would be a power to soothe, to comfort, and to bless. The government of self is the best government in the world. By putting on the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, ninety-nine out of a hundred of the troubles which so terribly embitter life might be saved. Many excuse their hasty words and passionate tempers by saying: “I am sensitive; I have a hasty temper.” This will never heal the wounds made by hasty, passionate words. Some, indeed, are naturally more passionate than others; but this spirit can never harmonize with the Spirit of God. The natural man must die, and the new man, Christ Jesus, take possession of the soul, so that the follower of Jesus may say in verity and truth: “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 339-348