They should not be watched and their defects paraded to the front for the world to exult over. Those who dare to do this have climbed upon the judgment seat and made themselves judges, while they have neglected the garden of their own hearts and have allowed poisonous weeds to obtain a rank growth.
We individually have a case pending in the court of heaven. Character is being weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and it should be the earnest desire of all to walk humbly and carefully, lest, neglecting to let their light shine forth to the world, they fail of the grace of God and lose everything that is valuable. All dissension, all differences and faultfinding, should be put away, with all evil speaking and bitterness; kindness, love, and compassion for one another should be cherished, that the prayer of Christ that His disciples might be one as He is one with the Father may be answered. The harmony and unity of the church are the credentials that they present to the world that Jesus is the Son of God. Genuine conversion will ever lead to genuine love for Jesus and for all those for whom He died.
Everyone who does what he can for God, who is true and earnest to do good to those around him, will receive the blessing of God upon his efforts. A man may render effective service for God although he is not the head or the heart of the body of Christ. The service represented in the word of God by that of the hand or the foot, though lowly, is nevertheless important. It is not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is done, the motive underlying the action, that determines its worth. There is work to be done for our neighbors and for those with whom we associate. We have no liberty to cease our patient, prayerful labors for souls as long as any are out of the ark of safety. There is no release in this war. We are soldiers of Christ, and are under obligation to watch lest the enemy gain the advantage and secure to his service souls that we might win to Christ.
The day of trust and responsibility is ours; we have a work to do for God. The church in —– has been gradually growing cold and irreligious. There is much to be done for its individual members. Great light has shone upon their pathway. For this they will be held accountable. Said Christ: “Ye are the light of the world;” “ye are the salt of the earth.” They need a deeper work of grace in their hearts. There must be a reformation before God can bless them. There are plenty of formal professors. A selfish grasping for gain eclipses the heavenly inheritance. If the kingdom of heaven is made first, noble integrity will shine forth in the life and character. This is what Brother A needs if he would exert an influence for good. He loves to handle money, and to see it accumulate by turning it one way and another. His mind and affections are absorbed in worldly enterprises. He is drunken with the cares of this life; that is, he is so swallowed up in his business that he cannot think rationally and intelligently of the things of God; his vision is obscured by love of money. The truth should reach down deep into his heart and develop fruit in his private and public life.
Brother A has excused himself for not making the Scriptures his study because he was a businessman. But to one pressed with business cares the Scriptures will be a source of strength and safety. Such a man has greater need of light from the word of God, of its counsels and warnings, than if he were not placed in such a dangerous position. If Brother A would exercise the same forethought and business tact in the things of God that he has given to worldly matters, he would realize blessed results. If he thinks that God is satisfied with him while giving his talent and energy almost entirely to the service of mammon, he is fearfully deceived. Said Christ: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” If Brother A continues to make eternal things subordinate to his worldly interests, his passion for accumulating will steadily increase until it will overrule principle, and he will
be so blinded by the god of this world that he will be unable to discern between the sacred and the common.
Brother A has a strong influence upon the minds of his brethren; they view things largely from his standpoint. He needs to improve in spiritual soundness and be wise in the things of God. He should begin to show an interest in and devotion to heavenly things and to so educate his powers that they may be of service in the cause of God. He needs the armor of righteousness with which to ward off the darts of the enemy. It is impossible for him to obtain salvation unless there is a decided change in the objects and pursuits of his life, unless he exercises himself continually in spiritual things.
God calls upon the individual members of the churches in these two conferences to arouse and be converted. Brethren, your worldliness, your distrust, your murmuring, have placed you in such a position that it will be exceedingly difficult for anyone to labor among you. While your president neglected his work and failed in his duty, your attitude was not such as to give him any encouragement. The one in authority should have acquitted himself as a man of God, reproving, exhorting, encouraging, as the case demanded, whether you would receive or reject his testimony. But he was easily discouraged, and left you without the help that a faithful minister of Christ should have given. He failed in not keeping up with the opening providence of God, and in not showing you your duty and educating you up to the demands of the time; but the minister’s neglect should not dishearten you and lead you to excuse yourselves for neglecting duty. There is the more need of energy and fidelity on your part.
Vowing and Not Paying
Some of you have been stumbling over your pledges. The Spirit of the Lord came into the —– meeting in answer to prayer, and while your hearts were softened under its influence, you pledged. While the streams of salvation were pouring upon your hearts, you felt that you must follow the
example of Him who went about doing good and who cheerfully gave His life to ransom man from sin and degradation. Under the heavenly, inspiring influence you saw that selfishness and worldliness were not consistent with Christian character and that you could not live for yourselves and be Christlike. But when the influence of His abundant love and mercy was not felt in so marked a manner in your hearts, you withdrew your offerings, and God withdrew His blessing from you.
Adversity came upon some. There was a failure in their crops, so that they could not redeem their pledges; and some were even brought into straitened circumstances. Then, of course, they could not be expected to pay. But had they not murmured and withdrawn their hearts from their pledges, God would have worked for them and would have opened ways whereby every one could have paid what he had promised. They did not wait in faith, trusting God to open the way so that they could redeem their pledges. Some had means at their command; and had they possessed the same willing mind as when they pledged, and had they heartily rendered to God in tithes and offerings that which He had lent them for this purpose, they would have been greatly blessed. But Satan came in with his temptations and led some to question the motives and the spirit which actuated the servant of God in presenting the call for means. Some felt that they had been deceived and defrauded. In spirit they repudiated their vows, and whatever they did afterward was with reluctance, and therefore they received no blessing.
In the parable of the talents the man to whom was entrusted one talent manifested a grudging spirit and hid his money so that his lord could not be benefited by it. When his master required him to give an account of his stewardship, he excused his neglect by laying blame upon his lord. “I knew thee [he professes to be acquainted with his lord] that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: and I was afraid [that all my improvements would not be mine, but that you would claim them], and went and hid thy talent in the earth:
lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath [made a right use of my goods] shall be given, and he shall have abundance [for I can trust him, knowing that he will make right improvement of what is lent him]: but from him that hath not [who has been fearful to trust me] shall be taken away even that which he hath. [I shall deprive him of what he claims as his; he shall forfeit all right of trust; I will take away his talents and give them to one who will improve them.] And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The spirit manifested by the brethren in regard to their pledges has been very offensive to God. Had they seen the cause prospering in the fields already entered they would have felt differently. There was no deception practiced upon them, and the charge of deception which they made was against the Spirit of God and not against the servant He sent. Had Brother A occupied the right position in this matter, had he cherished the spirit which influenced him to make the pledge, he would not have felt such an unwillingness to invest in the cause of God. But he thought how much he could do with his means by investing it in worldly enterprises. Avarice, worldliness, and covetousness are defects in character which are opposed to the exercise of the Christian graces. Said the apostle: “Let your conversation [your very deportment and habits of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
It was evident that many who vowed had no faith and believed themselves wronged. They talked of it and dwelt upon it until it seemed a reality to them. They felt that they ought not to have aided the General Conference, and urged that
they ought to have had the means to use in their own field. The Lord worked for them according to their limited faith. Satan, who had been holding their minds in deception, caused them to think that they had done a liberal thing in sending means to the General Conference, when, upon investigation, the facts showed that they still lacked a considerable of returning to the conference the amount that had been paid out in sending them laborers and in helping them in various ways to start the work and carry it forward. Yet these persons have been grieved, dissatisfied, unhappy, and have backslidden from God, because they thought they were doing such great things. This only shows what a terrible deception can come upon minds when they are not under the special control of the Spirit of God. Their doubting, their suspicions, their prejudice in regard to the General Conference, were all prompted by Satan. The cause of God is one the world over. Every branch of the work centers in Christ. No one portion of the field is independent of the rest.
Dear brethren, you have let Satan into your hearts, and he will never be fully vanquished until you repent of your wicked doubts and the withdrawal of your pledges. The Lord’s messenger was despised and charged with bringing an undue pressure upon the people. God was displeased with Brother B because he did not bear a decided testimony against everything of that sort and show you your sin as it really was.
“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error; wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?”
Here the matter is presented in its true light. Your work was done before the angel of God. Your words were not only heard by men, but the angel of God listened to them, and can you be surprised that God was angry with you? Can you wonder that He has not blessed you and made you able
to pay your pledges? When you have grumbled and murmured and withdrawn your pledges and felt that God’s servants had deceived you and extorted from you pledges that were not just, the enemy has exulted. Could you see your course as it is you would never make one semblance of an excuse for it.
Be careful how you speak one word to lessen the influence of God’s messengers. There may sometimes have been too much urging for means. But when the light and love of Jesus illuminates the hearts of His followers, there will be no occasion for urging or begging their money or their service. When they become one with Jesus, and realize that they are not their own, that they are bought with a price and are therefore the Lord’s property, and that all they have is simply entrusted to them as His stewards, they will with cheerful heart and unswerving fidelity render to God the things that are His. The Lord will not accept an offering that is made unwillingly, grudgingly. With your present feelings there would be no virtue in making more pledges. When you recover from this snare of the enemy, when you heal the breach that you have made, and realize that the wants of God’s cause are as continual as are His gifts to the children of men, your works will correspond with your faith, and you will receive a rich blessing from the Lord.
Chap. 30 – Influence of Unbelief
The church in —– —– has greatly backslidden from God. It is no longer in a state of healthful prosperity. Each individual member of the church has had burdens and discouragements of his own to bear, but these he should have borne and kept his soul alive before God without weakening others in the church. He should have added to the strength of the church instead of diminishing it. Brother C has not taken a position to strengthen his own faith or that of the
church. He has been acting on the side of the enemy to dishearten and discourage. Satan is constantly encouraging unbelief. He notes the mistakes and failings of Christ’s professed followers, and taunts the angels of God with them. He is an accuser of the brethren, and he will influence as many as possible to do the same work. Those who take it upon themselves to watch their neighbor’s garden instead of weeding their own plot of ground will surely find their own gardens so grown up to weeds that every precious plant will be crowded out.
Brother C is not in a position to be a light to the world. Oh, no; he is a body of darkness. Eternity will reveal the fact that his inconsiderate words have planted the seeds of questioning, doubt, and faultfinding in many minds and that his influence has turned many souls from the truth. He has consented to make himself a channel of darkness, to communicate suspicion and bring discouragement upon minds. God is not pleased with him. His own soul is becoming less and less susceptible to the influence of the Spirit of God. He has but little faith; and how could it be otherwise, when by his words he is constantly strengthening unbelief? While he suggests doubts instead of letting beams of precious light shine upon others, he is aiding the enemy in his work. This spirit makes him almost an infidel, and unless he turns square about he will yet become one.
Brother C is thoughtless of his words and actions. Idle words, for which he must render an account in the day of God, are almost continually falling from his lips. He places himself upon the enemy’s ground and, as the result, has not the Spirit of Christ. He will sometime see that he has made a great mistake, that he has been losing precious, golden moments which he might have employed in purifying his own heart. He has been picking flaws in others, living on their mistakes; and this is spiritual starvation. Every revival is liable to bring persons into the church who are not really converted. They hold the truth nominally, but are not sanctified by its sweet influence. Being destitute of grace, they are selfish,
hard, and unyielding. Such persons are always unreliable. They will ever be doing and saying things contrary to our faith. The church that has such a burden inflicted upon it deserves pity. The world is in opposition to the church, and Satan and his angels are constantly at war with it. Therefore the defects of these unworthy members are held up before those who are sound in the faith.
Those who believe the truth should be determined to help and not to hinder the few in —– —– who are struggling under discouragements. The members of the church should each have a jealous care that the enemies of our faith have no occasion to triumph over their lifeless, backslidden state. Some have wasted their influence, when with a little self-denial, earnestness, and zeal, they might have been a power on the side of good. This zeal will not come without effort, without earnest struggles. If only three faithful souls were left in the —– —– church, they would, if connected with God, be living channels of light, and He would add to their numbers. God has raised up standard-bearers in —– —–. Some have moved away, some have died, and some have become spiritually dead; their services are given to Satan. They do not realize that a by-and-by is coming when their account in the heavenly records will be balanced and when every man’s work will be revealed of what sort it is.
Remember that everyone must be judged according to his work. When, in the great day of final reckoning, the record of your life shall be opened before you, my doubting, questioning, accusing brother, how will it stand? “Your words have been stout against Me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against Thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” This has been the language of your heart; and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” By your words you are to be justified or condemned. Accusing the brethren is the very work that Satan has been engaged in since his fall. You have disheartened the church who had
little enough courage at best. You have presented the truth in almost every objectionable light. This is the work Satan is doing. You have no occasion to be proud of your words; for they will bring confusion of face, shame and despair, in the day when every man shall receive according to the deeds done in the body.
Your wife has heard your expressions of darkness until she is molded in a great degree to your ideas. The fear of the Lord is almost entirely removed from you both. You are now sowing seeds of unbelief, and they will produce a plentiful harvest by and by, in the reaping of which you will take no satisfaction. You have lent yourself to the enemy to be his agent to lead souls to doubt and unbelief. Your whole work has been to scatter from Christ. You glory in your sharpness, your aptness in confusing minds. You think it a mark of intelligence; but it is the same kind of intelligence that the prince of darkness possesses, and will receive the same reward that he is winning by his intense activity and shrewdness. The tendency of this age is to unbelief, to making light of godliness and true religion. This is Satan’s plan, and when you yield your powers to unbelief you are led captive by his devices to do his work.
Your wife will have a hard fight to conquer the devices of the enemy, to overcome her own defects of character, and bring all her powers into subjection to the will of God, planting her feet firmly upon the platform of eternal truth. She is not naturally devotional, and you have placed things before her in such an uncertain light that she is left to drift without anchorage. She takes no real comfort in faith and hope, for she has not an intelligent knowledge of the truth. She is greatly affected by the atmosphere of unbelief she breathes, and if she is lost, the blood of her soul will be found on your garments.
You are just as surely doing the work of Satan as is any one of his open agents. The doubts which you have introduced into many minds will bear fruit. Your harvest is ripening for the final gathering. Will you be proud of it then?
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 pp. 279-288