Such things should not be countenanced by ministers, elders, or people. The services of the church should be carried forward with an eye single to the glory of God. When men with their peculiar organizations are brought together in church capacity, unless the truth of God softens and subdues the sharp points in the character, the church will be affected and its peace and harmony sacrificed to indulge these selfish, unsanctified traits. Many, in their close watch to discover the faults of their brethren, neglect the investigation of their own hearts and the purification of their own lives. This brings the displeasure of God. The individual members of the church should be jealous for their own souls, critically watching their own actions, lest they should move from selfish motives and be a cause of stumbling to their weak brethren.
God takes men as they are, with the human element in their character, and then trains them for His service if they will be disciplined and learn of Him. The root of bitterness, envy, distrust, jealousy, and even hatred, which exists in the hearts of some church members, is the work of Satan. Such elements have a poisonous influence upon the church. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” The religious zeal which is manifested in a raid upon brethren is a zeal not according to knowledge. Christ has nothing to do with such testimony.
Chap. 44 – Dishonesty in the Church
“The love of money is the root of all evil.” Some who profess the truth do not withstand temptation on this point. Among worldlings in this generation the greatest crimes are perpetrated through the love of money. If wealth cannot be secured by honest industry, men will resort to fraud, deception, and crime in order to obtain it. The cup of iniquity is nearly filled, and the retributive justice of God is about to descend upon the guilty. Widows are robbed of their scanty
pittance by lawyers and professedly interested friends, and poor men are made to suffer for the necessaries of life because of the dishonesty which is practiced in order to gratify extravagance. The terrible record of crime in our world is enough to chill the blood and fill the soul with horror; but the fact that even among those who profess to believe the truth the same evils are creeping in, the same sins indulged to a greater or less degree, calls for deep humiliation of soul.
A man who sincerely fears God would rather toil day and night, suffer privation, and eat the bread of poverty than to indulge a passion for gain which would oppress the widow and the fatherless or turn the stranger from his right. The crimes that are committed through love of display and love of money constitute this world a den of thieves and robbers, and cause angels to weep. But Christians are professedly not dwellers upon the earth; they are in a strange country, stopping, as it were, only for a night. Our home is in the mansions which Jesus has gone to prepare for us. This life is but a vapor, which passes away.
The acquisition of property becomes a mania with some. Every time the golden rule is violated, Christ is abused in the person of His saints. Every advantage that is taken of fellow mortals, be they saints or sinners, will stand as fraud in the Ledger of Heaven. God designed that our lives should represent the life of our great Pattern in doing good to others and in acting a holy part in the elevation of man. About this work there hovers a true dignity and a glory which may never be seen and realized in this life, but which will be fully appreciated in the future life. The record of kindly deeds and generous actions will reach into eternity. Just to the extent that man would advantage himself at the disadvantage of his fellow man will his soul become calloused to the influence of the Spirit of God. Gain obtained thus is a fearful loss.
There have been men in important places who have not been guardians of the interests of others. They have been wholly absorbed in their own interests and have neglected to preserve the reputation of the church. They have been selfish and avaricious, not moving with an eye single to the glory of God. The church as a whole is in a degree responsible for the wrongs of its individual members because they countenance the evil in not lifting up their voice against it. The favor of God is not enjoyed for several reasons. His Spirit is grieved by the pride, extravagance, dishonesty, and overreaching which are indulged by some professing godliness. All these things bring the frown of God upon His people.
The unbelief and sins of ancient Israel were presented before me, and I saw that similar wrongs and iniquity exist among modern Israel. The pen of inspiration recorded their crimes for the benefit of those who live in these last days, that we might shun their evil example. Achan coveted and secreted a wedge of gold and a goodly Babylonish garment that were taken as spoil from the enemy. But the Lord had pronounced the city of Jericho accursed and had commanded the people not to take of the spoil of their enemies for their own use. “And ye, in anywise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.”
But Achan, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing, and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel. When the armies of Israel went out to fight against the enemy, they were repulsed and driven back, and some of them were slain. This brought great discouragement upon the people. Joshua, their leader, was perplexed and confounded. In the greatest humiliation he fell upon his face and prayed: “Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast Thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?”
The answer of the Lord to Joshua was: “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.” Achan had stolen that which was to be reserved for God and placed in His treasury; he had also dissembled in that when he saw the camp of Israel troubled he did not confess his guilt, for he knew that Joshua had repeated the words of the Lord to the people, that if they should appropriate to themselves that which God had reserved, the camp of Israel would be troubled.
While he is rejoicing in his ill-gotten gain, his security is broken in upon; he hears that an investigation is to be made. This makes him uneasy. He repeats over and over to himself: What does it concern them? I am accountable for my acts. He apparently puts on a brave face and in the most demonstrative manner condemns the one guilty. If he had confessed he might have been saved; but sin hardens the heart, and he continues to assert his innocence. Amid so large a crowd he thinks he will escape detection. Lots are cast to search out the offender; the lot falls upon the tribe of Judah. Achan’s heart now begins to throb with guilty fear, for he is one of that tribe; but still he flatters himself that he will escape. The lot is again cast, and the family to which he belongs is taken. Now in his pallid face his guilt is read by Joshua. The lot cast again singles out the unhappy man. There he stands, pointed out by the finger of God as the guilty one who has caused all this trouble.
If when Achan yielded to temptation he had been asked if he wished to bring defeat and death into the camp of Israel, he would have answered: “No, no! is thy servant a dog that he should do this great wickedness?” But he lingered over the temptation to gratify his own covetousness; and when the opportunity was presented, he went further than he had purposed in his heart. It is exactly in this way that individual members of the church are imperceptibly led on to grieve the Spirit of God, to defraud their neighbors, and to bring the frown of God upon the church. No man lives to himself. Shame, defeat, and death were brought upon Israel by one man’s sin. That protection which had covered their heads in the time of battle was withdrawn. Various sins that are cherished and practiced by professed Christians bring the frown of God upon the church. In the day when the Ledger of Heaven shall be opened, the Judge will not in words express to man his guilt, but will cast one penetrating, convicting glance, and every deed, every transaction of life, will be vividly impressed upon the memory of the wrongdoer. The person will not, as in Joshua’s day, need to be hunted out from tribe to family, but his own lips will confess his shame, his selfishness, covetousness, dishonesty, dissembling, and fraud. His sins, hidden from the knowledge of man, will then be proclaimed, as it were, upon the housetop.
The influence most to be feared by the church is not that of open opposers, infidels, and blasphemers, but of inconsistent professors of Christ. These are the ones who keep back the blessing of the God of Israel and bring weakness upon the church, a reproach that is not easily wiped away. While Joshua was lying on his face upon the ground, pouring out his soul to God with agony of spirit and with tears, God’s command was a reproof: “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?”
The popular churches are filled with men who, while they make a pretense of serving God, are thieves, murderers, adulterers, and fornicators; but those who profess our lowly faith claim a higher standard. They should be Bible Christians, and they must be diligent in the study of the Chart of life. Carefully and prayerfully should they examine the motives which prompt them to action. Those who would put their trust in Christ should begin to study the beauties of the cross now. If they would be living Christians they must begin to fear and obey God now. If they will they can save their souls from ruin and make a success of winning eternal life.
The custom of overreaching in trade, which exists in the world, is no example for Christians. They should not deviate from perfect integrity, even in small matters. To sell an article for more than it is worth, taking advantage of the ignorance of purchasers, is fraud. Unlawful gains, petty tricks of trade, exaggeration, competition, underselling a brother who is seeking to pursue an honest business–these things are corrupting the purity of the church, and are ruinous to her spirituality.
The business world does not lie outside the limits of God’s government. Christianity is not to be merely paraded on the Sabbath and displayed in the sanctuary; it is for every day in the week and for every place. Its claims must be recognized and obeyed in the workshop, at home, and in business transactions with brethren and with the world. With many, an absorbing worldliness eclipses the true sense of Christian obligation. The religion of Christ will have such an influence upon the heart that it will control the life. Men possessing the genuine article of true religion will in all their business transactions show as clear a perception of right as when offering their supplications at the throne of grace. The life, with all its capabilities, belongs to God, and should be used to promote His glory, instead of being perverted to the service of Satan in defrauding our fellow men.
Satan has been the adviser of some. He tells them that if they would prosper they must hearken to his counsel: “Do not be overconscientious in regard to honor or honesty; look out sharply for your own interest, and do not be carried away with pity, softness, and generosity. You need not care for the widow and the fatherless. Do not encourage them to look to you and depend on you; leave them to look out for themselves. Do not inquire whether they have food, or if you can bless them with thoughtful, kindly attention. Take care of yourself. Get all into your hands that you can. Rob the widow and the fatherless, and turn away the stranger from his right, and you will have means to supply your various wants.” Some have heeded this counsel and despised Him who has said: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Satan offers to men the kingdoms of the world if they will yield to him the supremacy. Many do this and sacrifice heaven. It is better to die than to sin; better to want than to defraud; better to hunger than to lie. Let all who are tempted meet Satan with these words: “Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” Here is a condition and a promise which will be unmistakably realized. Happiness and prosperity will be the result of serving the Lord.
Chap. 45 – Importance of Self-Control
Sister H: I know but little of your life before you professed Christ; but since that time you have not been a truly converted woman; you have not rightly represented Christ, your Master. You accepted the theory of the truth, but have failed to become sanctified through it. You have not practiced self-control, but have gratified your desires and wishes at the expense of health and religion. You are easily irritated, and, instead of putting a strict guard upon your words and actions, you have given loose rein to your passions. The mind is controlled either by Satan or by Jesus; and when you practice no self-control, Satan rules and leads you to do and say things that are wholly satanic. This has been repeated so often that it has become habitual.
Since you have been living with your present husband you have allowed yourself to become exasperated at very trivial matters; and at such times you seem to have a frenzied passion, while Satan stands by and laughs at the misery you are bringing upon yourself and those whom it is your duty to make happy. Your children have had transmitted to them your traits of character, and, besides this, they are daily copying your example of blind, unreasonable passion, impatience, and fretfulness.
In the human heart there is natural selfishness and corruption, which can only be overcome by most thorough discipline and severe restraint; and even then it will require years of patient effort and earnest resistance. God permits us to experience the ills of poverty, and places us in difficult positions, that the defects in our characters may be revealed and their asperities be smoothed away. But after privileges and opportunities have been given of God, after light and truth have been brought home to the understanding, if persons still make excuses for their deformity of character, and continue in their selfishness and jealousy, their hearts become as granite, making it impossible for them to be reformed, except by the chisel, the hammer, and the polishing of the Spirit of God.
I was pointed back to your life and experience when you first came to —–. Your conduct was not consistent; your associations were not right. Your course in visiting the beer gardens with your children did not make a favorable impression upon others in reference to your moral standing. These are sad chapters in your experience. You had light and knowledge, but your inclinations and follies separated you from God.
Many circumstances which occurred while you were living in —– were shown me. Your strong, perverse will led you to disgrace the truth which you professed. Your conduct before the world was not justifiable. The punishment which your daughter received in school for willful disobedience was exaggerated in your mind till it became so heinous an offense as to lead you to seek the protection of the law. The deception you there practiced, your exaggeration of the truth, was a lesson most dangerous to morals. These things stand registered against you in the books of heaven. You have a stubborn disposition and will not humble your heart to confess a wrong, but will justify your course before men without reference to how it appears in the sight of God. Can you wonder that under such deceptive training your daughter has become what she is? What influence could such a course of training have upon the youthful mind but to make her feel that no one had a right to control her perverse will? The seed sown by your own hand has blossomed and borne fruit which is most bitter.
Love for your soul causes me to write at the present time. I am oppressed with the burden of responsibility which I now take upon myself in writing out these things for you. By your own course you are closing the gates of heaven against yourself and your children, for neither you nor they will ever enter there with your present defective characters. You, my sister, are playing a sad, losing game in life. Holy angels are watching you with sadness; and evil spirits are looking on with triumph as they see you losing, fast losing, the graces that adorn the Christian character, while in their place Satan is implanting his own evil traits.
You have indulged in novel and story reading until you live in an imaginary world. The influence of such reading is injurious to both the mind and the body; it weakens the intellect and brings a fearful tax upon the physical strength. At times your mind is scarcely sane because the imagination has been overexcited and diseased by reading fictitious stories. The mind should be so disciplined that all its powers will be symmetrically developed. A certain course of training may invigorate special faculties and at the same time leave other faculties without improvement so that their usefulness will be crippled. The memory is greatly injured by ill-chosen reading, which has a tendency to unbalance the reasoning powers and to create nervousness, weariness of the brain, and prostration of the entire system. If the imagination is constantly overfed and stimulated by fictitious literature, it soon becomes a tyrant, controlling all the other faculties of the mind and causing the taste to become fitful and the tendencies perverse.
You are a mental dyspeptic. Your mind has been crammed with knowledge of all sorts,–politics, history, theology, and anecdote,–only a part of which can be retained by the abused memory. Much less information, with a mind well disciplined, would be of far greater value. You have neglected to train your mind to vigorous action; therefore your will and inclination have controlled you and been your masters instead of your servants. The result is a loss of physical and mental power.
For years your mind has been like a babbling brook, nearly filled with rocks and weeds, the water running to waste. Were your powers controlled by high purposes, you would not be the invalid that you now are. You fancy you must be indulged in your caprice of appetite and in your excessive reading. I saw the midnight lamp burning in your room while you were poring over some fascinating story, thus stimulating your already overexcited brain. This course has been lessening your hold upon life and enfeebling you physically, mentally, and morally. Irregularity has created disorder in your house, and, if continued, will cause your mind to sink into imbecility. Your God-given probation has been abused, your God-given time wasted.
God bestows upon us talents for wise improvement, not for abuse. Education is but a preparation of the physical, intellectual, and moral powers for the best performance of all the duties of life. Improper reading gives an education that is false. The power of endurance, and the strength and activity of the brain, may be lessened or increased according to the manner in which they are employed. There is a work before you to dispose of your light reading. Remove it from your house. Do not have before you the temptation to pervert your imagination, to unbalance your nervous system, and to ruin your children. By much reading you are unfitting yourself for the duties of a wife and mother, and, in fact, are disqualifying yourself to do good anywhere.
The Bible is not studied as it should be; therefore you do not become wise in the Scriptures and are not thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Light reading fascinates the mind and makes the reading of God’s word uninteresting. You seek to make others believe that you are conversant with the Scriptures; but this cannot be, for your mind is filled with rubbish.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 489-498