If those who profess the truth do not now improve their privileges and opportunities to grow up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus, they will be no honor to the cause of truth, no honor to Christ.
If you, my brother, had studied the Holy Scriptures as faithfully as you have watched to get gain, you would now be an able man in the word of God and able also to teach others. It is your own fault that you are not qualified to teach the truth to others. You have not been cultivating that set of faculties which will make you an intelligent, successful, spiritual worker for your Master. Such traits of character as acquisitiveness and shrewdness in worldly dealing have been exercised so much that your mind has been largely developed in the direction of buying and selling, and getting the best end of the bargain. Instead of establishing yourself in the confidence of your brethren and sisters and friends as a man who possesses true nobility of character, elevating you above all smallness and avariciousness, you make them afraid of you. Your religious faith has been used to secure the confidence of your brethren that you might practice your sharp dealing and make a saving. This has been done so much by you that it has become second nature, and you do not realize how your course appears to others. True godliness must mark all your future life and course of action if you would counteract the influence you have exerted to scatter from Christ and the truth.
Your relation to God and your fellow men demands a change in your life. In the Sermon on the Mount the injunction of the world’s redeemer was: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” These words are of the highest value to us, a golden rule given us by which to measure our conduct. This is the true rule of honesty. Very much is comprehended in these words. We are here required to deal with our neighbors as we would wish them to deal with us were we in their circumstances.
Plano, Texas, Nov. 24, 1878.
Chap. 32 – Religion in the Daily Life
Brother H: I was shown that you really love the truth, but that you are not sanctified through it. You have a great work before you to do. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” You have this work to do, and you have no time to lose. I was shown that your life has been a stormy one. You have not been right yourself; but you have been deeply wronged, and your motives have been misjudged. But your disappointments and pecuniary losses have, in the providence of God, been overruled for your good.
It has been difficult for you to feel that your heavenly Father is still your kind benefactor. Your troubles and perplexities have had a tendency to discourage, and you have felt that death would be preferable to life. But at a certain time, could your eyes have been opened, you would have seen angels of God seeking to save you from yourself. The angels of God led you where you could receive the truth and plant your feet upon a foundation that would be more firm than the everlasting hills. Here you saw light and cherished it. New faith, new life, sprang up in your pathway. God in His providence connected you with His work in the office of the Pacific Press. He has been at work for you, and you should see His guiding hand. Sorrow has been your portion; but you have brought much of it upon yourself because you have not had self-control. You have been very severe at times. You have a quick temper, which must be overcome. In your life you have been in danger, either of indulging in self-confidence or else of throwing yourself away and becoming despondent. A continual dependence upon the word and providence of God will qualify you to exert your powers wholly for your Redeemer, who has called you, saying: “Follow Me.” You should cultivate a spirit of entire submission to the will of God, earnestly, humbly seeking to know His ways and to follow the leadings of His Spirit. You must not lean to your own understanding. You should have deep distrust of your own wisdom and supposed prudence. Your condition demands these cautions. It is unsafe for man to confide in his own judgment. He has limited capacities at best, and many have received, as their birthright, both strong and weak points of character, which are positive defects. These peculiarities color the entire life.
The wisdom which God gives will lead men to self-examination. The truth will convict them of their errors and existing wrongs. The heart must be open to see, realize, and acknowledge these wrongs, and then, through the help of Jesus, each must earnestly engage in the work of overcoming them. The knowledge gained by the wise of the world, however diligent they may be in acquiring it, is, after all, limited and comparatively inferior. But few comprehend the ways and works of God in the mysteries of His providence. They advance a few steps, and then are unable to touch bottom or shore. It is the superficial thinker who deems himself wise. Men of solid worth, of high attainments, are the most ready to admit the weakness of their own understanding. God wants everyone who claims to be His disciple to be a learner, to be more inclined to learn than to teach.
How many men in this age of the world fail to go deep enough. They only skim the surface. They will not think closely enough to see difficulties and grapple with them, and will not examine every important subject which comes before them with thoughtful, prayerful study and with sufficient caution and interest to see the real point at issue. They talk of matters which they have not fully and carefully weighed. Frequently persons of mind and candor have opinions of their own which need to be firmly resisted, or these of less mental strength will be in danger of being misled. Through the mental bias, habits are formed, and customs, feelings, and wishes have a greater or less influence. Sometimes a course of conduct is pursued every day, and persisted in, because it is a habit, and not because the judgment approves. In these cases, feeling, rather than duty, bears sway.
If we could understand our own weakness, and see the sharp traits in our character which need repressing, we should see so much to do for ourselves that we would humble our hearts under the mighty hand of God. Hanging our helpless souls upon Christ, we should supplement our ignorance with His wisdom, our weakness with His strength, our frailty with His enduring might, and, connected with God, we should indeed be lights in the world.
Dear brother, God loves you, and is very patient toward you, notwithstanding your many errors and mistakes. In view of the tender, pitying love of God exercised in your behalf, should you not be more kind, forbearing, patient, and forgiving to your children? Your harshness and severity is weaning their hearts from you. You cannot give them lessons in regard to patience, forbearance, long-suffering, and gentleness, when you are overbearing and manifest temper in dealing with them. They have the stamp of character which their parents have given them; and if you wish to counsel and direct them, and turn them from following any wrong course, the object cannot be gained by harshness and that which looks to them like tyranny. When in the fear of God you can advise and counsel them with all the solicitude and tender love which a father should manifest toward an erring child, then you will have demonstrated to them that there is power in the truth to transform those who receive it. When your children do not act according to your ideas, instead of manifesting sorrow for their wrongs, and earnestly pleading with and praying for them, you fly into a passion and pursue a course that will do them no good, but will only wean their affections and finally separate them from you.
Your youngest son is perverse; he does not do right. His heart is in rebellion against God and the truth. He is affected by influences which only make him coarse, rough, and uncourteous. He is a trial to you, and, unless converted, he will be a great tax upon your patience. But harshness and overbearing severity will not reform him. You must seek to do what you can for him in the spirit of Christ, not in your own spirit, not under the influence of passion. You must control yourself in the management of your children. You must remember that Justice has a twin sister, Mercy. When you would exercise justice, show mercy, tenderness, and love, and you will not labor in vain.
Your son has a perverse will, and he needs the most judicious discipline. Consider what have been your children’s surroundings, how unfavorable to the formation of good characters. They need pity and love. The youngest is now in the most critical period of his life. The intellect is now taking shape; the affections are receiving their impress. The whole future career of this young man is being determined by the course he now pursues. He is entering upon the path which leads to virtue, or that which leads to vice. I appeal to the young man to fill his mind with images of truth and purity. It will be no advantage to him to indulge in sin. He may flatter himself that it is very pleasant to sin and to have his own way; but it is a fearful way after all. If he loves the society of those who love sin and love to do evil, his thoughts will run in a low channel, and he will see nothing attractive in purity and holiness. But could he see the end of the transgressor, that the wages of sin is death, he would be overcome with alarm and would cry out: “O my Father, be Thou the guide of my youth.”
His success in this life depends very much upon the course he now pursues. The responsibilities of life must be borne by him. He has not been a promising youth. He has been impatient and is wanting in self-control. This is the seed his father is sowing, which will produce a harvest for the sower to reap. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” With what care should we cast in the seed, knowing that we must reap as we have sown. Jesus still loves this young man. He died for him and invites him to come to His arms and find in Him peace and happiness, quiet and rest. This youth is forming associations which will mold his whole life. He should connect with God and without delay give to Him his unreserved affections. He should not hesitate. Satan will make his fiercest assaults upon him, but he must not be overcome by temptation.
I have been shown the dangers of youth. Their hearts are full of high anticipations, and they see the downward road strewn with tempting pleasures which look very inviting; but death is there. The narrow path to life may appear to them to be destitute of attractions, a path of thorns and briers, but it is not. It is the path which requires a denial of sinful pleasures; it is a narrow path, cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. None can walk this path and carry with them their burdens of pride, self-will, deceit, falsehood, dishonesty, passion, and the carnal lusts. The path is so narrow that these things will have to be left behind by those who walk in it, but the broad road is wide enough for sinners to travel it with all their sinful propensities.
Young man, if you reject Satan with all his temptations you may walk in the footsteps of your Redeemer and have the peace of heaven, the joys of Christ. You cannot be happy in the indulgence of sin. You may flatter yourself that you are happy, but real happiness you cannot know. The character is becoming deformed by the indulgence of sin. Danger is encountered at every downward step, and those who could help the youth do not see or realize it. The kind and tender interest which should be taken in the young is not manifested. Many might be kept from sinful influences if they were surrounded with good associations and had words of kindness and love spoken to them.
My dear brother, I hope you will not become discouraged because your feelings so often master you when your way or will is crossed. Never despond. Flee to the Stronghold. Watch and pray, and try again. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.”
Upon another point be guarded. You are not at all times as cautious as you should be to abstain from the very appearance of evil. You are in danger of being too familiar with the sisters, of talking with them in a light and foolish way. This will injure your influence. Guard carefully all these points; watch against the first approach of the tempter. You are highly nervous and excitable. Tea has an influence to excite the nerves, and coffee benumbs the brain; both are highly injurious. You should be careful of your diet. Eat the most wholesome, nourishing food, and keep yourself in a calm state of mind, where you will not become so excited and fly into a passion.
You can be of great service in the office, for you can fill a place of importance if you will become transformed; but as you now are you will certainly fail of doing what you might do. I have been shown that you are rough and coarse in your feelings. These need to be softened, refined, elevated. In all your course of action you should discipline yourself to habits of self-control. With the spirit you now possess you can never enter heaven.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” Can any human dignity equal this? What higher position can we occupy than to be called the sons of the infinite God? You would be ready to do some great thing for the Master; but the very things which would please Him most, you do not do. Will you not be faithful in overcoming self, that you may have the peace of Christ and an indwelling Saviour?
Your afflicted son needs to be dealt with calmly and tenderly; he needs your compassion. He should not be exposed to your insane temper and unreasonable demands. You must reform in respect to the spirit you manifest. Ungovernable passion will not be subdued in a moment; but your lifework is before you to rid the garden of the heart of the poisonous weeds of impatience, faultfinding, and an overbearing disposition. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts; but the brutish part of your nature takes the lines of control and guides the spiritual. This is God’s order reversed.
Your faithfulness in labor is praiseworthy. Others in the office would do well to imitate your example of fidelity, diligence, and thoroughness. But you lack the graces of the Spirit of God. You are an intelligent man, but your powers have been abused. Jesus presents to you His grace, patience, and love. Will you accept the gift? Be careful of your words and actions. You are sowing seed in your daily life. Every thought, every word uttered, and every action performed, is seed cast into the soil, which will spring up and bear fruit to life eternal or to misery and corruption. Think, my brother, how the angels of God look upon your sad state when you let passion control you. And then it is written in the books of heaven. As is the seed sown, so will be the harvest. You must reap that which you have sown.
You should control the appetite and in the name of Jesus be a conqueror on this point. Your health may improve with correct habits. Your nervous system is greatly shattered; but the Great Physician can heal your body as well as your soul. Make His power your dependence, His grace your strength, and your physical, moral, and spiritual powers will be greatly improved. You have more to overcome than some others, and therefore will have more severe conflicts; but Jesus will regard your earnest efforts; He knows just how hard you have to work to keep self under the control of His Spirit. Place yourself in the hands of Jesus. Self-culture should be your business, with the object before you of being a blessing to your children and to all with whom you associate. Heaven will look with pleasure upon every victory you gain in the work of overcoming. If you put away anger and passion, and look unto Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of your faith, you may, through His merits, develop a Christian character. Make a decided change at once, and be determined that you will act a part worthy of the intellect with which God has endowed you.
When I was shown the present condition of man in physical, mental, and moral power, and what he might become through the merits of Christ, I was astonished that he should preserve such a low level. Man may grow up into Christ, his living head. It is not the work of a moment, but that of a lifetime. By growing daily in the divine life, he will not attain to the full stature of a perfect man in Christ until his probation ceases. The growing is a continuous work. Men with fiery passions have a constant conflict with self; but the harder the battle, the more glorious will be the victory and the eternal reward.
You are connected with the office of publication. In this position your peculiar traits of character will be developed. The little courtesies of life should be cherished. A pleasant and amiable temper, blended with a firm principle of justice and honesty, will make you a man of influence. Now is the time to obtain a moral fitness for heaven. The church to which you belong must have the refining, elevating grace of Christ. God requires His followers to be men of good report, as well as to be pure, elevated, and honest; kind, as well as faithful. It is essential to be right in the weightier matters; but this is no excuse for negligence in things apparently of less importance. The principles of the law of God must be developed in the life and character. An amiable temper, combined with firm integrity and faithfulness, will constitute a moral fitness for any position. The apostle Peter exhorts: “Be courteous.”
We must be learners in the school of Christ. We cannot imitate His example unless we are pleasing in disposition and condescending in deportment. True Christian politeness should be cultivated. No one else can lessen our influence as we ourselves can lessen it through the indulgence of uncontrollable temper. A naturally petulant man does not know true happiness, and is seldom content. He is ever hoping to get into a more favorable position, or to so change his surroundings that he will have peace and rest of mind. His life seems to be burdened with heavy crosses and trials, when, had he controlled his temper and bridled his tongue, many of these annoyances might have been avoided. It is the “soft answer” which “turneth away wrath.” Revenge has never conquered a foe. A well-regulated temper exerts a good influence on all around; but “he that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”
Consider the life of Moses. Meekness in the midst of murmuring, reproach, and provocation constituted the brightest trait in his character. Daniel was of a humble spirit. Although he was surrounded with distrust and suspicion, and his enemies laid a snare for his life, yet he never deviated from principle. He maintained a serene and cheerful trust in God. Above all, let the life of Christ teach you. When reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not. This lesson you must learn, or you will never enter heaven. Christ must be made your strength. In His name you will be more than conqueror. No enchantment against Jacob, nor divination against Israel, will prevail. If your soul is riveted to the eternal Rock, you are safe. Come joy or come sorrow, nothing can sway you from the right.
You have been afloat in the world, but the eternal truth will prove an anchor to you. You need to guard your faith. Do not move from impulse nor entertain vague theories. Experimental faith in Christ and submission to the law of God are of the highest consequence to you. Be willing to take the advice and counsel of those who have experience. Make no delay in the work of overcoming. Be true to yourself, to your children, and to God. Your afflicted son needs to be tenderly dealt with. As a father you should remember that the nerves that can thrill with pleasure can also thrill with keenest pain. The Lord identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity.
Many parents forget their accountability to God to so educate their children for usefulness and duty that they will be a blessing to themselves and to others. Children are often indulged from their babyhood, and wrong habits become fixed. The parents have been bending the sapling. By their course of training, the character develops, either into deformity or into symmetry and beauty. But while many err upon the side of indulgence, others go to the opposite extreme and rule their children with a rod of iron.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 359-368