There are families residing in Battle Creek who have seen these institutions grow up, and who need and are worthy of positions in them, but who are not able to obtain them because so many from abroad will suffer if not employed. This brings upon the church and these institutions burdens of perplexity to know how to treat all these cases with wisdom, offending none, and showing mercy to all. Our institutions have sustained loss by seeking to help these cases, for frequently the applicants are in poor health and therefore not to be relied upon. Could their places be supplied with able, efficient workers, it would save quite a sum to the cause of God.
It is the duty of every church to feel an interest for its own poor. But many selfish ones have felt gratified to have their poor members move to Battle Creek; for then they would not be required to help support them. The Battle Creek church spend every year from one to five hundred dollars for the support of the poor and sick, whose families must suffer unless they are sustained by charity. God would not be pleased to have this church allow the poor among them to suffer for the necessaries of life; therefore there is a continual draft upon the funds of those at the heart of the work.
Our brethren must retain their poor at home and take those already at Battle Creek off from the hands of the church. They could do very much more than they now do for the poor by furnishing them with work, thus helping them to help themselves. It would be much better to employ these persons in your temporal matters than to send them to the great heart of the work, and let the cause of God be burdened by this inefficient class of workers. Only men and women of culture and of physical and mental strength, caretakers, who have been accustomed to using their own brains rather than the brains of others, are needed at Battle Creek. Would you think it advisable, my brethren, to crowd into responsible positions persons who are incompetent to obtain a livelihood in the common business of life?
There are youth, and men and women, who need to be taught how to employ their ability just where they are. This is no pleasant duty; but every church is responsible for its individual members, and it should not allow a class who cannot obtain a living where they are in the country, to move to Battle Creek. Brethren in the country have farms and can raise their own supplies. It is therefore much less expensive for the poor to be supported in the country, where provisions are cheap, than to have them come to Battle Creek, where, instead of helping the church and our institutions, means must be continually drawn from the treasury to help them. Those living in the city have to buy nearly all their provisions, and it costs something to take care of the poor.
Brethren in smaller churches, if God has left a work for you to do in caring for His poor, in comforting the desponding, in visiting the sick, in dispensing to the needy, do not be so liberal as to want the Battle Creek church to have all the blessings of this work. You will be justified in coveting the blessings God has promised to those who will care for the poor and sympathize with the suffering.
There must be a charity fund raised to meet the necessities of the poor who are permitted to come to Battle Creek. Each year the sanitarium gives thousands of dollars to charity patients, but who appreciates this great tax upon the institution? None whose names are on the church book should be left to suffer year after year from sickness, when a few months at the sanitarium would give them relief and a valuable experience how to take care of themselves and others when sick. Every church should feel it a Bible duty devolving upon them to care for their own worthy poor and sick.
When a worthy child of God needs the benefit of the sanitarium and can pay but a small amount toward his expenses, let the church act a noble part and make up the sum. Some may not be able to pay anything themselves, but do not let them continue to suffer because of your selfishness. Send them to the sanitarium, and send your pledges and your money with them to pay their expenses. In doing this you will gain a precious blessing. It costs something to run such an institution, and it should not be required to treat the sick for nothing. Could the sum which that institution has expended for charity patients be refunded, it would go a long way toward relieving it of its present embarrassments.
Brethren, do not leave the burden of your poor upon the people and institutions at Battle Creek, but come up nobly to the work and do your duty. Deny yourselves of some things in your houses or in your dress, and lay by in some safe place a sum for the needy poor. Let not your tithes and thank offerings to God be less, but let this be in addition. God does not propose to rain means from heaven with which to sustain the poor, but He has placed His goods in the hands of agents. They are to recognize Christ in the person of His saints. And what they do for His suffering children they do for Him, for He identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity.
God calls upon the young to deny themselves of needless ornaments and articles of dress, even if they cost but a few dimes, and place the amount in the charity box. He also calls upon those of mature age to stop when they are examining a gold watch or chain, or some expensive article of furniture, and ask themselves the question: Would it be right to expend so large an amount for that which we could do without or when a cheaper article would serve our purpose just as well? By denying yourselves and lifting the cross for Jesus, who for your sakes became poor, you can do much toward relieving the suffering of the poor among us; and by thus imitating the example of your Lord and Master, you will receive His approval and blessing.
Chap. 48 – The Cause at Battle Creek
Many who have come to Battle Creek have not come for the purpose of bearing burdens. They have not come because they feel any special anxiety for the prosperity of the cause here, but for their own interest, because they wish to advantage themselves. They hope to secure the benefits to be derived from the institutions located here, without bearing any responsibilities themselves.
Some who have located in Battle Creek in order to have a more favorable opportunity to benefit themselves, are guilty of selfishness and even fraud in dealing with our brethren who have come from abroad. If there are any advantages to be gained, our institutions should receive them, and not those individuals who have done nothing toward building them up and who have only a selfish interest in them. Many who come to Battle Creek are no strength, religiously, to the cause. At heart they are like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and if a favorable opportunity were presented, they would follow the example of these wicked men. True, their fraudulent transactions may be concealed from the eyes of their brethren generally; but God marks their course and will finally reward them according to their works.
Some who have been long in Battle Creek, and who ought to be responsible men, are occupying positions of trust in name only. They have been made guardians of our institutions; but their course of action shows that they have no special interest in them nor burden for them. Their thoughts center upon themselves. If we were to judge them by their works we should decide that they consider their own energies too precious to be exercised for these instrumentalities of God, unless they can secure temporal advantages to themselves. These are neglecting to keep the fort, not because they cannot do it, but because they are self-caring, and are content to rock themselves to sleep in the cradle of carnal security.
Men who make it their aim and object in life to please and benefit themselves ought not to remain at this important post. They have no right to be here; for they stand directly in the way of the work of God. Those who neglect the Lord’s poor, and who feel no burden for the widow and the fatherless, not making these cases their own and laboring to see justice and equity between man and man, are guilty of neglecting Christ in the person of His saints, because the cause that they know not they do not search out. They have no burdens, and make no effort to sustain the right. If most earnest vigilance is not manifested at the great heart of the work to protect the interests of the cause, the church will become as corrupt as the churches of other denominations.
All who live in Battle Creek will have a fearful account to render to God if they suffer sin upon a brother. It is an alarming fact that indifference, sleepiness, and apathy have characterized men in responsible positions, and that there is a steady increase of pride and an alarming disregard of the warnings of the Spirit of God. The barriers which God’s word places about His people are being broken down. Men who are acquainted with the way in which God has led His people in the past, instead of inquiring for the old paths and defending our position as a peculiar people, have linked hands with the world. The most alarming feature in the case is that warning voices have not been heard in remonstrance, entreaties, and warnings. The eyes of God’s people seem to be blinded, while the church is fast drifting into the channel of worldliness.
God does not desire wooden men to guard the interests of His institutions and the church, but He wants living, working men,–men who have ability and quick perception,–men who have eyes, and open them that they may see, and hearts that are susceptible to the influences of His Spirit. He holds men to a strict accountability in guarding the interests of His cause at Battle Creek.
There are some in Battle Creek who have never fully submitted to reproof. They have taken a course of their own choosing. They have ever, to a greater or less degree, exerted an influence against those who have stood up to defend the right and reprove the wrong. The influence of these persons upon individuals who come here, and who are brought in contact with them as roomers or boarders, is very bad. They fill the minds of these newcomers with questionings and doubts in regard to the testimonies of the Spirit of God. They put false constructions upon the Testimonies; and instead of leading persons to become consecrated to God and to listen to the voice of the church, they teach them to be independent and not to mind the opinions and judgment of others. The influence of this class has been secretly at work. Some are unconscious of the harm they are doing; but, unconsecrated, proud, and rebellious themselves, they lead others in the wrong track. A poisonous atmosphere is inhaled from these unconsecrated ones. The blood of souls is in the garments of such, and Christ will say to them in the day of final settlement: “Depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.” Astonished they will be; but their professedly Christian lives were a deception, a fraud.
If all in Battle Creek stood true to the light God has given them, true to the interests of the church, feeling the worth of souls for whom Christ died, a different influence would be exerted. But here we see acted over to a great extent the experience of the children of Israel. As the people stood before Mount Sinai, listening to the voice of God, they were so forcibly impressed with His sacred presence that they retreated in terror and cried out to Moses: “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” There before the mount they made solemn vows of allegiance to God; but scarcely had the thunders and the trumpet and the voice of the Lord ceased, when they were bowed upon their knees before an idol. Their leader had been called away from their sight and was enveloped in a thick cloud, in converse with God.
The fellow laborer of Moses, who was left with the solemn charge of the people in his absence, heard them uttering complaints that Moses had left them, and expressing a desire to return to Egypt; yet, through fear of offending the people, he was silent. He did not stand up boldly for God, but to please the people he made a golden calf. He seemed to be asleep to the beginning of the evil. When the first rebellious word was spoken, Aaron might have checked it; but so fearful was he of offending the people that he apparently united with them and was finally persuaded to make a golden calf for them to worship.
Ministers should be faithful watchmen, seeing the evil and warning the people. Their dangers must be set before them continually and pressed home upon them. The exhortation given to Timothy was: “Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.”
There have been marriage relations formed in Battle Creek with which God has had nothing to do. Marriages have been ill-assorted in some cases, immature in others. Christ has warned us that this state of things would exist prior to His second appearing. It constitutes one of the signs of the last days. A similar state of things existed before the Flood. The minds of the people were bewitched upon the subject of marriage. When there is so much uncertainty, so great danger, there is no reason why we should make great parade or display, even if the parties were perfectly suited to each other; but that remains to be tested.
When those who profess to be reformers, those in humble life, ape the customs and fashions of the worldly wealthy, it is a reproach to our faith. There are some to whom God gave the word of warning; but did that stop them? No; they did not fear God, for the bewitching power of Satan was upon them. And some in Battle Creek have influenced these poor infatuated ones to follow their own judgment, and by doing this they have crippled their usefulness and incurred the displeasure of God.
God wants men to cultivate force of character. Those who are merely timeservers are not the ones who will receive a rich reward by and by. He wants those who labor in His cause to be men of keen feeling and quick perception. They should be temperate in eating; rich and luxurious food should find no place upon their tables; and when the brain is constantly taxed and there is a lack of physical exercise, they should eat sparingly, even of plain food. Daniel’s clearness of mind and firmness of purpose, his strength of intellect in acquiring knowledge, were due in a great degree to the plainness of his diet in connection with his life of prayer.
Eli was a good man, pure in morals; but he was too indulgent. He incurred the displeasure of God because he did not strengthen the weak points in his character. He did not want to hurt the feelings of anyone and had not the moral courage to rebuke and reprove sin. His sons were vile men; yet he did not remove them from their position of trust. These sons profaned the house of God. He knew this, and felt sad in consequence of it, for he loved purity and righteousness; but he had not sufficient moral force to suppress the evil. He loved peace and harmony, and became more and more insensible to impurity and crime. But the great God takes the matter in hand Himself. When the rebuke falls upon him, through the instrumentality of a child, he accepts it, feeling that it is what he deserves. He does not show any resentment toward Samuel, the messenger of God; he loves him as he has done, but condemns himself.
The guilty sons of Eli were slain in battle. He could endure to hear that his sons were slain, but he could not bear the news that the ark of God was taken. He knew that his sin of neglect in failing to stand for the right and restrain wrong had at last deprived Israel of her strength and glory. The pallor of death came upon his face, and he fell backward and died.
What a lesson have we here for parents and guardians of youth, and for those who minister in the service of God. When existing evils are not met and checked, because men have too little courage to reprove wrong, or because they have too little interest or are too indolent to tax their own powers in putting forth earnest efforts to purify the family or the church of God, they are accountable for the evil which may result in consequence of neglect to do their duty. We are just as accountable for evils that we might have checked in others, by reproof, by warning, by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves.
Eli should have first attempted to restrain evil by mild measures; but if that would not avail, he should have subdued the wrong by the sternest measures. God’s honor must be sacredly preserved, even if it separates us from the nearest relative. One defect in a man otherwise talented may destroy his usefulness in this life and cause him to hear in the day of God the unwelcome words: “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”
Eli was gentle, loving, and kind, and had a true interest in the service of God and the prosperity of His cause. He was a man who had power in prayer. He never rose up in rebellion against the words of God. But he was wanting; he did not have firmness of character to reprove sin and execute justice against the sinner so that God could depend upon him to keep Israel pure. He did not add to his faith the courage and power to say No at the right time and in the right place. Sin is sin; righteousness is righteousness. The trumpet note of warning must be sounded. We are living in a fearfully wicked age. The worship of God will become corrupted unless there are wide-awake men at every post of duty. It is no time now for any to be absorbed in selfish ease. Not one of the words which God has spoken must be allowed to fall to the ground.
While some in Battle Creek have professedly believed the Testimonies, they have been trampling them under their feet. But few have read them with interest; but few have heeded them. The indulgence of self, pride, fashion, and display are mingled with the worship of God. He wants brave men for action, who will not regard the setting up of idols and the coming in of abominations without lifting up the voice like a trumpet, showing the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins.
As soon as Samuel began to judge Israel, even in his youth, he called an assembly of the people for fasting and prayer, and deep humiliation before God. He bore his solemn testimony from the mouth of God. The people then began to learn where their strength was. They entreated Samuel to cease not to cry unto God for them. Their enemies were aroused to meet them in battle, but God heard prayer in their behalf. He wrought for them, and victory turned on the side of Israel.
There is a great work to be done in Battle Creek. Duties have been neglected, important trusts have been betrayed. Men have come here who have added nothing to the strength of the cause, but who are constantly at work to gather the little means possessed by others into their own hands, and thus rob God’s treasury. The natural selfishness of their hearts is exhibited wherever a favorable opportunity presents itself to advantage themselves at the disadvantage of others. They have done so until the standard of the worldling is met, and there is but little difference between their manner of dealing and that of the world.
Our people in Battle Creek have greater responsibilities to bear than those in any other place. All who choose to locate here should do so, not merely for their own convenience and benefit, but with an eye single to the glory of God. They should be fully prepared to lift the burdens where and when they need to be lifted; and with self-sacrificing devotion sustain the institutions which God has placed among them. Those who are unwilling to follow this course should go where there are not so heavy burdens to be borne. At this important post, where so much depends upon personal effort, all must act their part unflinchingly; they must be wide awake, that the cause of their Master may not suffer the loss of one soul. Many fail to come up to the gospel standard; they have a selfish regard for their own interest and neglect to see what they can do to be a blessing to their fellow men. Christ wants no idlers in His vineyard. He requires that everyone shall work for time and for eternity.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 509-518