The Bible requires thought and prayerful research. It is not enough to skim over the surface. While some passages are too plain to be misunderstood, others are more intricate, demanding careful and patient study. Like the precious metal concealed in the hills and mountains, its gems of truth are to be searched out and stored in the mind for future use. Oh, that all would exercise their minds as constantly in searching for celestial gold as for the gold that perishes!
When you search the Scriptures with an earnest desire to learn the truth, God will breathe His Spirit into your heart and impress your mind with the light of His word. The Bible is its own interpreter, one passage explaining another. By comparing scriptures referring to the same subjects, you will see beauty and harmony of which you have never dreamed. There is no other book whose perusal strengthens and enlarges, elevates and ennobles the mind, as does the perusal of this Book of books. Its study imparts new vigor to the mind, which is thus brought in contact with subjects requiring earnest thought, and is drawn out in prayer to God for power to comprehend the truths revealed. If the mind is left to deal with commonplace subjects, instead of deep and difficult problems, it will become narrowed down to the standard of the matter which it contemplates and will finally lose its power of expansion.
That which is the most to be deplored in regard to your course is that your errors and mistakes are being reproduced in your children. I is becoming absorbed in reading; her mental powers are receiving injury, permanent injury, from following your example. She will have no taste or aptitude for study. In early life the mind is impressible. Let the good seed then be sown upon good soil, and it will bear fruit unto eternal life.
The habits formed in youth, although they may in after-life be somewhat modified, are seldom essentially changed. Your entire life has been molded by the legacy of character transmitted to you at birth. Your father’s perverse temperament is seen in his children. The grace of God can overcome these wrong tendencies; but what a battle must be fought. Thus it is with your children. You indulge them as you indulge yourself. You have no power to deny the appetite what you desire, and you thus place terrible burdens upon your digestive organs. No woman can have good health and indulge her fancy as you do.
The same is true of your children. Their mother’s wrong discipline when she has been able to care for them, and their being left so much of the time without a mother’s care, have nearly ruined them. Yet even now a firm, undeviating course will make great improvement in them; they are not beyond control, although it will be most difficult to make them what they might have been had the parents been right. The mother can see the result of the course she has pursued if she wishes, or she can reform and try to counteract the wrong done. The path upon which her children are now entering may lead to virtue or to vice, to honor or to infamy, to heaven or to hell. The influence of a praying, God-fearing mother will last through eternity. She may die, but her work will endure.
Brother and Sister H, neither of you realizes the sad condition of your children. Brother H has neglected to take a decided stand to control them. The little boy, to a great extent, rules the household. The management of your two elder children was entirely wrong. While at times Brother H was too severe and exacting, requiring of them that which he would not have required of his own children, your course, Sister H, was far worse. You took the part of the children in their presence and fired their young hearts with revenge. You gave them lessons of insubordination and talked disrespectfully of your husband before them. This course was just calculated to lead them to despise restraint. An indelible impression was thus made upon their minds.
You are now beginning to see in your elder children the results of this training; yet you are doing the same work, to a great extent, with the children that God has since entrusted to your care. Your inconsistent, uncontrollable spirit is like an insidious poison taken into the system, and its bitter results will appear sooner or later. Its mark is being made, not on sand, but on rock; and in after years it will testify of your work.
My sister, you have not a sensitive conscience. You must consider carefully what habits you are forming, and pray earnestly that your perverse character may be washed from its defilement, in the blood of the Lamb. The conscience must be enlightened, the passions restrained, and the love of truth cherished in the soul before you can see the kingdom of God.
All through your life you have needed fixed and settled principles. Satan is still on your track. Your only hope now is in a thorough conversion to God. Do not be deceived, for God is not mocked. Should your probation close today, I could have no hope of your being saved. Your own health, physical, mental, and moral, depends upon a proper government of your temper. You will doubtless meet with things that will ruffle your spirit and severely test you; but self-control may be yours in the strength of Jesus. Solomon places the one who controls himself above him who conquers in battle: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
By permitting yourself to become unduly excited, you have established a condition of things in your system which will, unless changed, cost you your life. You abuse your husband; you say things to him which no wife should be guilty of saying. You have prevaricated again and again, and have gone so far as to be guilty of deliberate falsehoods to accomplish your ends. A determination to carry out their own will at all hazards is a leading characteristic of your family.
The course of Brother H has not been what it should have been. His likes and dislikes are very strong, and he has not kept his own feelings under the control of reason. Brother H, your health is greatly injured by overeating and eating at improper times. This causes a determination of blood to the brain. The mind becomes confused, and you have not the proper control of yourself. You appear like a man whose mind is unbalanced. You make strong moves, are easily irritated, and view things in an exaggerated and perverted light. Plenty of exercise in the open air, and an abstemious diet, are essential to your health. You should not eat more than two meals a day. If you feel that you must eat at night, take a drink of cold water, and in the morning you will feel much better for not having eaten.
Your children should not be allowed to eat candies, fruit, nuts, or anything in line of food, between their meals. Two meals a day are better for them than three. If the parents set the example, and move from principle, the children will soon fall into line. Irregularities in eating destroy the healthy tone of the digestive organs, and when your children come to the table they do not relish wholesome food; their appetites crave that which is the most hurtful for them. Many times your children have suffered from fever and ague brought on by improper eating, when their parents were accountable for their sickness. It is the duty of parents to see that their children form habits conducive to health, thereby saving much distress.
Brother H is in danger of apoplexy, and if he continues to disobey the laws of health, his life will be cut short suddenly. As a family you can be happy or miserable. It rests with yourselves. Your own course of action will determine the future. You both need to soften the sharp points of your characters and to speak such words only as you will not be ashamed to meet in the day of God. Make it the rule of your life to go straight forward in the path of duty. In defiance of numerous temptations which will assail you, be true to a good conscience and to God, and your pathway will be plain to your feet. You may contend about little things that are not worthy of contention, and the result will be trouble. The path of the upright is the path of peace. It is so plain that the humble, God-fearing man can walk in it without stumbling and without making crooked paths. It is a narrow path; but men of different temperaments can walk side by side if they but follow the Captain of their salvation. Those who wish to carry along all their evil traits and selfish habits cannot walk in this path, for it is too straight and narrow.
What pains the Great Shepherd takes to call His sheep by name and invite them to follow in His footsteps. He seeks the wandering. He flashes light from His word to show them their peril. He speaks to them from heaven in warnings and reproofs, and in invitations to return to the right path. He seeks to help the erring by His presence and to lift them when they fall. But many have followed the path of sin so long that they will not hear the voice of Jesus. They leave all that can give them rest and security, yield themselves up to a false guide, and presumptuously hurry on in blind self-confidence, going further and further from light and peace, from happiness and rest.
I implore you to heed the light which God has given, and reform. The cross of Christ is our only hope. It reveals to us the greatness of our Father’s love and the fact that the Majesty of heaven submitted to insult, mockery, humiliation, and suffering for the joy of seeing perishing souls saved in His kingdom. If you love your children, let it be your chief study to prepare them for the future, immortal life. With the unhappy dispositions they now possess, they will never see the paradise of God. Work while it is day; redeem the time, and win the crown of immortal glory. Save yourself and your household, for the salvation of the soul is precious.
Chap. 46 – Unscriptural Marriages
We are living in the last days, when the mania upon the subject of marriage constitutes one of the signs of the near coming of Christ. God is not consulted in these matters. Religion, duty, and principle are sacrificed to carry out the promptings of the unconsecrated heart. There should be no great display and rejoicing over the union of the parties. There is not one marriage in one hundred that results happily, that bears the sanction of God, and places the parties in a position better to glorify Him. The evil consequences of poor marriages are numberless. They are contracted from impulse. A candid review of the matter is scarcely thought of, and consultation with those of experience is considered old-fashioned.
Impulse and unsanctified passion exist in the place of pure love. Many imperil their own souls, and bring the curse of God upon them, by entering into the marriage relation merely to please the fancy. I have been shown the cases of some who profess to believe the truth, who have made a great mistake by marrying unbelievers. The hope was cherished by them that the unbelieving party would embrace the truth; but after his object is gained, he is further from the truth than before. And then begin the subtle workings, the continued efforts, of the enemy to draw away the believing one from the faith.
Many are now losing their interest and confidence in the truth because they have taken unbelief into close connection with themselves. They breathe the atmosphere of doubt, of questioning, of infidelity. They see and hear unbelief, and finally they cherish it. Some may have the courage to resist these influences, but in many cases their faith is imperceptibly undermined and finally destroyed. Satan has then succeeded in his plans. He has worked through his agents so silently that the barriers of faith and truth have been swept away before the believing ones have had any thought of where they were drifting.
It is a dangerous thing to form a worldly alliance. Satan well knows that the hour that witnesses the marriage of many young men and women closes the history of their religious experience and usefulness. They are lost to Christ. They may for a time make an effort to live a Christian life, but all their strivings are made against a steady influence in the opposite direction. Once it was a privilege and joy to them to speak of their faith and hope; but they become unwilling to mention the subject, knowing that the one with whom they have linked their destiny takes no interest in it. As the result, faith in the precious truth dies out of the heart, and Satan insidiously weaves about them a web of skepticism.
It is carrying that which is lawful to excess that makes it a grievous sin. Those who profess the truth trample on the will of God in marrying unbelievers; they lose His favor and make bitter work for repentance. The unbelieving may possess an excellent moral character; but the fact that he or she has not answered to the claims of God, and has neglected so great salvation, is sufficient reason why such a union should not be consummated. The character of the unbelieving may be similar to that of the young man to whom Jesus addressed the words, “One thing thou lackest;” that was the one thing needful.
The plea is sometimes made that the unbeliever is favorable to religion and is all that could be desired in a companion except in one thing–he is not a Christian. Although the better judgment of the believer may suggest the impropriety of a union for life with an unbeliever, yet, in nine cases out of ten, inclination triumphs. Spiritual declension commences the moment the vow is made at the altar; religious fervor is dampened, and one stronghold after another is broken down, until both stand side by side under the black banner of Satan. Even in the festivities of the wedding, the spirit of the world triumphs against conscience, faith, and truth. In the new home the hour of prayer is not respected. The bride and bridegroom have chosen each other and dismissed Jesus.
At first the unbelieving one may make no show of opposition in the new relation; but when the subject of Bible truth is presented for attention and consideration, the feeling at once arises: “You married me, knowing that I was what I am; I do not wish to be disturbed. From henceforth let it be understood that conversation upon your peculiar views is to be interdicted.” If the believer should manifest any special earnestness in regard to his faith, it might seem like unkindness toward the one who has no interest in the Christian experience.
The believing one reasons that in his new relation he must concede somewhat to the companion of his choice. Social, worldly amusements are patronized. At first there is great reluctance of feeling in doing this, but the interest in the truth becomes less and less, and faith is exchanged for doubt and unbelief. No one would have suspected that the once firm, conscientious believer and devoted follower of Christ could ever become the doubting, vacillating person that he now is. Oh, the change wrought by that unwise marriage!
What ought every Christian to do when brought into the trying position which tests the soundness of religious principle? With a firmness worthy of imitation he should say frankly: “I am a conscientious Christian. I believe the seventh day of the week to be the Sabbath of the Bible. Our faith and principles are such that they lead in opposite directions. We cannot be happy together, for if I follow on to gain a more perfect knowledge of the will of God, I shall become more and more unlike the world, and assimilated to the likeness of Christ. If you continue to see no loveliness in Christ, no attractions in the truth, you will love the world, which I cannot love, while I shall love the things of God, which you cannot love. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Without spiritual discernment you will be unable to see the claims of God upon me, or to realize my obligations to the Master whom I serve; therefore you will feel that I neglect you for religious duties. You will not be happy; you will be jealous on account of the affections which I give to God; and I shall be alone in my religious belief. When your views shall change, when your heart shall respond to the claims of God, and you shall learn to love my Saviour, then our relationship may be renewed.”
The believer thus makes a sacrifice for Christ which his conscience approves, and which shows that he values eternal life too highly to run the risk of losing it. He feels that it would be better to remain unmarried than to link his interest for life with one who chooses the world rather than Jesus and who would lead away from the cross of Christ. But the danger of giving the affections to unbelievers is not realized. In the youthful mind, marriage is clothed with romance, and it is difficult to divest it of this feature, with which imagination covers it, and to impress the mind with a sense of the weighty responsibilities involved in the marriage vow. This vow links the destinies of the two individuals with bonds which nought but the hand of death should sever.
Shall one who is seeking for glory, honor, immortality, eternal life, form a union with another who refuses to rank with the soldiers of the cross of Christ? Will you who profess to choose Christ for your master and to be obedient to Him in all things, unite your interests with one who is ruled by the prince of the powers of darkness? “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.” But how strange the sight! While one of those so closely united is engaged in devotion, the other is indifferent and careless; while one is seeking the way to everlasting life, the other is in the broad road to death.
Hundreds have sacrificed Christ and heaven in consequence of marrying unconverted persons. Can it be that the love and fellowship of Christ are of so little value to them that they prefer the companionship of poor mortals? Is heaven so little esteemed that they are willing to risk its enjoyments for one who has no love for the precious Saviour?
The happiness and prosperity of the married life depend upon the unity of the parties. How can the carnal mind harmonize with the mind that is assimilated to the mind of Christ? One is sowing to the flesh, thinking and acting in accordance with the promptings of his own heart; the other is sowing to the Spirit, seeking to repress selfishness, to overcome inclination, and to live in obedience to the Master, whose servant he professes to be. Thus there is a perpetual difference of taste, of inclination, and of purpose. Unless the believer shall, through his steadfast adherence to principle, win the impenitent, he will, as is much more common, become discouraged and sell his religious principles for the poor companionship of one who has no connection with heaven.
God strictly forbade the intermarrying of His ancient people with other nations. The plea is now offered that this prohibition was made in order to prevent the Hebrews from marrying idolaters and forming connections with heathen families. But the heathen were in a more favorable condition than are the impenitent in this age, who, having the light of truth, yet persistently refuse to accept it. The sinner of today is far more guilty than the heathen, because the light of the gospel shines clearly all around him. He violates conscience and is a deliberate enemy of God. The reason which God assigned for forbidding these marriages was: “For they will turn away thy son from following Me.” Those among ancient Israel who ventured to disregard the prohibition of God did it at the sacrifice of religious principle. Take the case of Solomon for example. His wives turned away his heart from his God.
Chap. 47 – The Lord’s Poor
I was shown that our people living out of Battle Creek do not appreciate the cares and burdens which come upon those at the heart of the work. They allow their church members who are not able to support themselves to come to Battle Creek, thinking that they can obtain work in our institutions. These do not first write and ascertain if there is an opening for them; but crowd themselves upon the church, and find, upon application, that there is already a surplus of hands employed, many of whom are as needy as themselves. They were taken in out of pity, and are still retained, not because they are of the most service to the institutions, but because they are so needy.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 499-508