Although some may be restricted to one talent, yet if they will exercise that one, it will increase. God values the service according to what a man has and not according to what he has not. If we perform our daily duties with fidelity and love we shall receive the approval of the Master as if we had performed a greater work. We must cease longing to do great service and to trade on large talents, while we have been made accountable only for small talents and the performance of humble duties. In overlooking the small daily duties, and reaching for higher responsibilities, we utterly fail to do the very work which God has given us.
Oh, that I might impress upon this church the fact that Christ has claims upon their service! My brethren and sisters, have you become servants of Christ? Then if you devote the most of your time to serving yourselves, what answer will you give the Master when He shall bid you render an account of your stewardship? The talents entrusted to us are not ours, be they talents of property, of strength, or of mental ability. If we abuse any or all of these, we shall be justly condemned for our unworthy stewardship. How great are the obligations resting upon us to render to God the things that are His.
Unless this church shall arouse from their lethargy and shake off the spirit of the world, they will mourn when, too late, they find their opportunities and privileges lost, lost forever. The Lord sometimes tests His people with prosperity in temporal things. But He intends that they shall make a right use of His gifts. Their property, their time, their strength, and their opportunities are all of God. For all these blessings they must account to the Giver. While want and destitution are seen among our brethren, and we withhold relief from them when our own necessities are supplied, we neglect a plain duty revealed in the word of God. He gives to us liberally that we may give to others. It is beneficence that overcomes selfishness and ennobles and purifies the soul. Some abuse the talents given them of God; they close their eyes that they may not see the necessities of His cause and turn away their ears that they may not hear His voice showing them their duty to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Some who profess to be children of God seem anxious to invest their means in the world lest it shall return to the Giver in gifts and offerings. They forget their divine mission, and if they continue to follow the dictates of their selfish hearts, and expend precious time and means to gratify their pride, God will send reverses, and they will feel pinching want because of their ingratitude. He will entrust His talents to more faithful stewards, who will acknowledge His claims upon them.
Wealth is a power with which to do good or to do evil. If it is rightly used it becomes a source of continual gratitude, because the gifts of God are appreciated and the Giver acknowledged by using them as God intended they should be used. Those who rob God by withholding from His cause and from the suffering poor will meet His retributive justice. Our heavenly Father, who has given us in trust every good gift, pities our ignorance, our frailty, and our hopeless condition. In order to save us from death, He freely gave His beloved Son. He claims from us all that we claim as our own. A neglect of His suffering poor is a neglect of Christ, for He tells us that the poor are His representatives on earth. Pity and benevolence shown to them are accepted of Christ as if shown to Him.
When the Lord’s poor are neglected and forgotten or greeted with cold looks and cruel words, let the guilty one bear in mind that he is neglecting Christ in the person of His saints. Our Saviour identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity. As the heart of the parent yearns with pitying tenderness over the suffering one of her little flock, so the heart of our Redeemer sympathizes with the poorest and lowliest of His earthly children. He has placed them among us to awaken in our hearts that love which He feels toward the suffering and oppressed, and He will let His judgments fall upon anyone who wrongs, slights, or abuses them.
Let us consider that Jesus took all the woes and griefs, the poverty and suffering, of man into His own heart and made them a part of His own experience. Although He was the Prince of life, He did not take His position with the great and honorable, but with the lowly, the oppressed, and the suffering. He was the despised Nazarene. He had not where to lay His head. He became poor for our sakes, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He is now the King of glory, and should He come crowned with majesty, millions would do Him homage. All would vie with one another in bestowing honors upon Him; all would plead to be found in His presence. An opportunity is now granted us to receive Christ in the person of His saints. God wants you to appreciate His gifts and use them to His glory. I entreat you to open your hearts to true and disinterested benevolence.
Dear brethren, as a church you have sadly neglected your duty toward the children and youth. While rules and restrictions are laid upon them, great care should be taken to show them the Christlike side of your character and not the satanic side. Children need constant watchcare and tender love. Bind them to your hearts, and keep the love as well as the fear of God before them. Fathers and mothers do not control their own spirit and therefore are not fit to govern others. To restrain and caution your children is not all that is required. You have yet to learn to do justly and love mercy, as well as to walk humbly with God. Everything leaves its impress upon the youthful mind. The countenance is studied, the voice has its influence, and the deportment is closely imitated by them. Fretful and peevish fathers and mothers are giving their children lessons which at some period in their lives they would give all the world, were it theirs, could they unlearn. Children must see in the lives of their parents that consistency which is in accordance with their faith. By leading a consistent life and exercising self-control, parents may mold the characters of their children.
Too many cares and burdens are brought into our families, and too little of natural simplicity and peace and happiness is cherished. There should be less care for what the outside world will say and more thoughtful attention to the members of the family circle. There should be less display and affectation of worldly politeness, and much more tenderness and love, cheerfulness and Christian courtesy, among the members of the household. Many need to learn how to make home attractive, a place of enjoyment. Thankful hearts and kind looks are more valuable than wealth and luxury, and contentment with simple things will make home happy if love be there.
Jesus, our Redeemer, walked the earth with the dignity of a king; yet He was meek and lowly of heart. He was a light and blessing in every home because He carried cheerfulness, hope, and courage with Him. Oh, that we could be satisfied with less heart longings, less striving for things difficult to obtain wherewith to beautify our homes, while that which God values above jewels, the meek and quiet spirit, is not cherished. The grace of simplicity, meekness, and true affection would make a paradise of the humblest home. It is better to endure cheerfully every inconvenience than to part with peace and contentment.
You greatly need to humble your hearts before God as you see the sad condition of your children, without God and without hope in the world. They do not appreciate and reverence sacred things because common, worldly affairs have been placed on a level with eternal interests. There are youth among you whose service God will accept if they will yield their hearts to Him and connect with Him, as did Daniel and his fellows. But few have a true idea of the peril surrounding the youth of today. It requires a great amount of moral courage, and a constant resistance of temptation, to reach a noble manhood. A character unsullied before God is rare. Many who have not the fear of God before them, and whose feet are in the broad road to death, are waiting to be the companions of your children. I wish I could make the youth see and feel their danger, especially the danger of making unhappy marriages.
A little time spent in sowing your wild oats, dear young friends, will produce a crop that will embitter your whole life; an hour of thoughtlessness, once yielding to temptation, may turn the whole current of your life in the wrong direction. You can have but one youth; make that useful. When once you have passed over the ground you can never return to rectify your mistakes. He who refuses to connect with God, and puts himself in the way of temptation, will surely fall. God is testing every youth. Many have excused their carelessness and irreverence because of the wrong example given them by more experienced professors. But this should not deter any from rightdoing. In the day of final accounts you will plead no such excuses as you plead now. You will be justly condemned because you knew the way but did not choose to walk in it.
Satan, that archdeceiver, transforms himself into an angel of light and comes to the youth with his specious temptations and succeeds in winning them, step by step, from the path of duty. He is described as an accuser, a deceiver, a liar, a tormentor, and a murderer. “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” Every transgression brings the soul into condemnation and provokes the divine displeasure. The thoughts of the heart are discerned of God. When impure thoughts are cherished, they need not be expressed by word or act to consummate the sin and bring the soul into condemnation. Its purity is defiled, and the tempter has triumphed.
Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. He is turned away from the course of virtue and real good by following his own inclinations. If the youth possessed moral integrity, the strongest temptations might be presented in vain. It is Satan’s act to tempt you, but your own act to yield. It is not in the power of all the host of Satan to force the tempted to transgress. There is no excuse for sin.
While some of the youth are wasting their powers in vanity and folly, others are disciplining their minds, storing up knowledge, girding on the armor to engage in life’s warfare, determined to make it a success. But they cannot make life a success, however high they may attempt to climb, unless they center their affections upon God. If they will turn to the Lord with all the heart, rejecting the flatteries of those who would in the slightest degree weaken their purpose to do right, they will have strength and confidence in God.
Those who love society frequently indulge this trait until it becomes an overruling passion. To dress, to visit places of amusement, to laugh and chat upon subjects altogether lighter than vanity–this is the object of their lives. They cannot endure to read the Bible and contemplate heavenly things. They are miserable unless there is something to excite. They have not within them the power to be happy, but they depend for happiness upon the company of other youth as thoughtless and reckless as themselves. The powers which might be turned to noble purposes they give to folly and mental dissipation.
The youth who finds joy and happiness in reading the word of God and in the hour of prayer is constantly refreshed by drafts from the Fountain of life. He will attain a height of moral excellence and a breadth of thought of which others cannot conceive. Communion with God encourages good thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, and lofty purposes of action. Those who thus connect their souls with God are acknowledged by Him as His sons and daughters. They are constantly reaching higher and still higher, obtaining clearer views of God and of eternity, until the Lord makes them channels of light and wisdom to the world.
Some of the youth in—–are in a hardened state of sin; they are coarse, uncourteous, rough, and rebellious. They have had great light, and have rejected it. If they now choose the way of peace, they must do so from principle rather than from feeling. Sin and holiness can make no compromise. The Bible contains no sanction of ungodliness, no sweet words of forbearance and charity for the persistently impenitent. Jesus came to draw all men unto Himself, and His followers must walk in the light of His glorious example, at whatever sacrifice of ease or reputation, at whatever peril of property or life. In this way only can they fight the good fight of faith.
A pearl of great price is offered to the youth. They may sell all and buy this pearl, or they may refuse it to their own infinite loss. Heaven may be attained by all who will comply with the conditions laid down in the word of God. Our Redeemer was obedient unto death; He gave Himself an offering for sin. Ye are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish.” “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Young friends, you may form earnest purposes in your own strength, you may flatter yourselves that you can pursue a straightforward course without yielding the heart to the controlling influence of the Spirit of God; but you are not thus made happy. Your restless spirit needs change and thirsts for pleasure in amusement and hilarity and the society of your young associates. You are hewing out to yourselves broken cisterns which contain no water. A deceptive power controls your mind and actions. Happiness is to be found only in repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ; for your heart is filled with rebellion; it breathes forth in your words. Your selfish prayers and religious forms may soothe the conscience, but they only increase your peril. Your nature is unrenewed.
The precious blood of Jesus is the fountain prepared to cleanse the soul from the defilement of sin. When you determine to take Him as your friend, a new and enduring light will shine from the cross of Christ. A true sense of the sacrifice and intercession of the dear Saviour will break the heart that has become hardened in sin; and love, thankfulness, and humility will come into the soul. The surrender of the heart to Jesus subdues the rebel into a penitent, and then the language of the obedient soul is: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” “This is the true religion of the Bible. Everything short of this is a deception.
The youth have not realized that freedom and light can be retained only through self-denial and constant watchfulness and prayer, with a continual reliance upon the merits of the blood of Christ. When the Holy Spirit is breathing upon the soul, the will and the powers of the man must respond to Its influence. Those who abide in Jesus will be happy, cheerful, and joyful in God. A subdued gentleness will mark the voice, reverence for spiritual and eternal things will be expressed in the actions, and music, joyful music, will echo from the lips; for it is wafted from the throne of God. This is the mystery of godliness, not easily explained, but nonetheless felt and enjoyed. A stubborn and rebellious heart can close its doors to all the sweet influences of the grace of God and all the joy in the Holy Ghost; but the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. The more closely we are connected with Christ, the more will our words and actions show the subduing, transforming power of His grace.
I appeal to the youth at —– to consider their ways and change their course of action before it shall be too late. Some of you pride yourselves on your capabilities; but the more valuable the talents entrusted to your keeping, the greater will be your condemnation if these gifts of heaven are employed in the service of Satan. God can do without you, but you cannot do without God. It is you who will suffer without Jesus. The commands of God are as briers and thorns to some of the youth in —–. Their knowledge of the truth makes it hard for them to indulge in sinful pleasures, for they cannot altogether put out of the mind the claims of God upon them. There is a feeling of impatience at the restraint which is thus imposed. They try to get away from this admonitory voice; but they find themselves kicking against the pricks, piercing themselves through with many sorrows. Oh, that they would come to the Fountain of living waters before they shall have grieved away the Spirit of God for the last time!
A few words more to the church members. Said Christ: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” We are not to make crosses for ourselves, by wearing sackcloth, by pinching our bodies, or by denying ourselves wholesome, nourishing food. We are not to shut ourselves in monasteries, away from the world, and do no good to our fellow beings, thinking this is the cross of Christ; neither are we required to expose health and life unnecessarily, nor to go mourning up the hill of Christian life, feeling it a sin to be cheerful, contented, happy, and joyful. These are all self-made crosses, but not the cross of Christ.
To bear the cross of Christ is to control our sinful passions, to practice Christian courtesy even when it is inconvenient to do so, to see the wants of the needy and distressed and deny ourselves in order to relieve them, and to open our hearts and our doors to the homeless orphan, although to do this may tax our means and our patience. Such children are younger members of God’s family and are to receive love and care, and to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is a cross which, if lifted and cheerfully borne for Christ, will prove a diadem of glory in the kingdom of God.
Brethren, for Christ’s sake fill up your lives with good works, even though the world does not appreciate your efforts and gives you no credit. This is self-denial. Selfishness is the most galling yoke the members of the church ever placed upon their necks, but there is much of it cherished by those who profess to be Christ’s followers. All you have belongs to God. Be guarded, lest you selfishly hoard the bounties He has given you for the widow and the fatherless. Christ left His glory, His honor, His high command, and for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. Now the question comes home: What will we individually do for Jesus, who gave His life for a ruined world?
Chap. 62 – Simplicity in Dress
In His Sermon on the Mount Christ exhorts His followers not to allow their minds to be absorbed in earthly things. He plainly says: Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
These words are full of meaning. They were applicable in the days of Christ, and they are applicable in our day. Jesus here contrasts the natural simplicity of the flowers of the field with the artificial adorning of raiment. He declares that the glory of Solomon could not bear comparison with one of the flowers in natural loveliness. Here is a lesson for all who desire to know and to do the will of God. Jesus has noticed the care and devotion given to dress, and has cautioned, yea, commanded, us not to bestow too much thought upon it. It is important that we give careful heed to His words. Solomon was so engrossed with thoughts of outward display that he failed to elevate his mind by a constant connection with the God of wisdom. Perfection and beauty of character were overlooked in his attempt to obtain outward beauty. He sold his honor and integrity of character in seeking to glorify himself before the world, and finally became a despot, supporting his extravagance by a grinding taxation upon the people. He first became corrupt at heart, then he apostatized from God, and finally became a worshiper of idols.
As we see our sisters departing from simplicity in dress, and cultivating a love for the fashions of the world, we feel troubled. By taking steps in this direction they are separating themselves from God and neglecting the inward adorning. They should not feel at liberty to spend their God-given time in the unnecessary ornamentation of their clothing. How much better might it be employed in searching the Scriptures, thus obtaining a thorough knowledge of the prophecies and of the practical lessons of Christ.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 619-628