Chap. 41 – Redeeming the Time
Dear Brother J:
I have arisen at twelve o’clock to write to you because my mind is burdened. I am troubled on your account; for I know that we are near the close of earth’s history, and your life record is not such a one as you will be pleased to meet in the great day when every man will receive as his works have been.
You may feel that others have done wrong, and I know as well as you do that a Christlike spirit has not been manifested in the church. But will this avail you in the judgment? Will two wrongs make one right? Though one, two, or three in the church have done wrong, this will not blot out or excuse your sin. Whatever course others may take, your work is to set your own heart in order. God has claims upon you which no circumstances should lead you to forget or neglect, for every soul is precious in His sight.
My heart is drawn out after those who have stumbled on the dark mountains of unbelief, and I want to help them. There is good material in the church in —–; but the members have not been transformed by the Spirit of God, and brought into a position where they can let their light shine to the world. Some, with the best of motives, and possessing capabilities for great usefulness, utterly fail in times of trial in the church, for want of the love and mercy that dwelt so richly in the heart of Christ. They see one in error; and instead of helping him they hold themselves aloof. They are inclined to make unpleasant allusions, and to touch sensitive spots when they might avoid them. Self comes up and bears sway, and they give pain and stir up wrong feelings. However pure their intentions, their efforts to do good nearly always result in failure, if not in actual harm, because the tenderness and compassion of Christ are wanting. They would make very good surgeons, but they are poor nurses. They have not the tact that is born of love. If they had this they would know how to speak the right word and do the right thing at the right time and in the right place. Others may have no more sincere desires to do right, no deeper interest in the cause of God; they may be no more true and loyal, their sympathies no deeper, their love no warmer; yet because of their gentleness and tact they are far more successful in winning back the erring.
The Lord would be pleased to have His people more considerate than they now are, more merciful and more helpful to one another. When the love of Christ is in the heart, each will be tenderly regardful of the interests of others. Brother will not take advantage of brother in business transactions. One will not charge exorbitant interest because he sees his brother in a close place where he must have help. Those who will take advantage of the necessities of another prove conclusively that they are not governed by the principles of the gospel of Christ. Their course is recorded in the books of heaven as fraud and dishonesty; and wherever these principles rule, the blessing of the Lord will not come into the heart. Such persons are receiving the impress of the great adversary rather than that of the Spirit of God. But those who shall finally inherit the heavenly kingdom must be transformed by divine grace. They must be pure in heart and life and possess symmetrical characters.
I regard you, my brother, as in great peril. Your treasure is laid up on the earth, and your heart is upon your treasure. But all the means you may accumulate, even though it should be millions, will not be sufficient to pay a ransom for your soul. Then do not remain in impenitence and unbelief, and in your case defeat the gracious purposes of God; do not force from His reluctant hand destruction of your property or affliction of your person.
How many there are who are now taking a course which must erelong lead to just such visitations of judgment. They live on day by day, week by week, year by year, for their own selfish interest. Their influence and means, accumulated through God-given skill and tact, are used upon themselves and their families without thought of their gracious Benefactor. Nothing is allowed to flow back to the Giver. Indeed, they come to regard life and its entrusted talents as their own; and if they render back to God that portion which He justly claims, they think that they have placed their Creator under obligation to them. At last His patience with these unfaithful stewards is exhausted; and He brings all their selfish, worldly schemes to an abrupt termination, showing them that as they have gathered for their own glory, He can scatter; and they are helpless to resist His power.
Brother J, I address you today as a prisoner of hope. But will you consider that your sun passed its meridian some time ago and is now rapidly declining? The evening has come. Do you not discern the lengthening shadows? You have but a little time left in which to work for yourself, for humanity, and for your Master. There is a special work to be done for your own soul if you are ever to be numbered with the overcomers. How stands your life record? Is Jesus pleading in your behalf in vain? Shall He be disappointed in you? Some of your companions, who stood side by side with you, have already been summoned away. Eternity will reveal whether they were bankrupt in faith and failed to secure eternal life, or whether they were rich toward God and heirs of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Will you not consider that the long forbearance of God toward you calls for repentance and humiliation of soul before Him?
There are other weighty considerations aside from your own personal salvation which demand your attention. Late as it now is, with your sun about to sink behind the western hills, you have still a great work to do for your children, who have allowed the love of the world to separate them from God. You have also unsaved relatives, neighbors, and friends. Had your example been consistent with the light given you; had you been as diligent to save these precious souls as you have been to gather earthly treasure; had you used your means and influence, your wisdom and tact, in an effort to gather these straying ones into the fold of Christ–had this been your lifework, you would have secured a harvest of souls and would have ensured a rich reward in the day of God. You would thus have been building upon the true foundation valuable and imperishable material; but instead of this you have been building wood, hay, and stubble, to be consumed when every man’s work shall be tried, of what sort it is.
Your life has been a failure. You have been a stumbling block to sinners. They have said of you: “If the religion which this man professes is indeed genuine, why is he so eager after this world? Why does he not in his own conduct show the spirit of Christ?” Hasten, my brother, before it is forever too late, to remove this stumbling block from the way of sinners. Can you look with pleasure upon your life or upon the influence you have exerted? Will you now consider your ways? Will you now make efforts to come into right relations with God? I do not believe your heart is unimpressible, and I know that the loving-kindness and tender mercy of God are marvelous. You have a little time of probation; will you improve it now while Jesus is pleading His blood before the Father? He has graciously spared your life; but it has been like the barren fig tree upon which year after year there appeared no fruit, nothing but leaves. How long will you continue to disappoint the Master? Will you compel Him to say: “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever;” or, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground”? Oh, wait not for the Lord to put His hand against you and scatter the property which you have accumulated. Remember that all your wealth will not give you one moment of sweet assurance and peace upon your dying bed.
I earnestly urge upon you the necessity of returning to the Lord at once. I entreat you to disappoint the enemy. Break from off you his cruel power. Seek, during the remainder of your life, to make an entirely different record in heaven, one of which you will not be ashamed when the books shall be opened and the Judge shall pronounce sentence upon those who have neglected this great salvation.
Paul exhorts his Ephesian brethren to redeem the time because the days are evil. This exhortation is very applicable to you. In one sense it is impossible to redeem the time; for once gone, it is gone forever. But you are called upon to reform, to be zealous of good works in the same degree that you have been negligent of duty. Turn square about. Double your diligence to make your calling and election sure. Keep God’s commandments, and live, and His law as the apple of your eye. Tax every moment to the utmost in laboring for your own eternal interest and for the salvation of souls around you. By so doing you may save both yourself and those who are more or less controlled by your example. These are motives which should be duly considered.
Wake up! wake up! You have work to do, and your sun is fast hastening to its setting. Your powers are becoming enfeebled; but all there is of you, every particle of your ability, belongs to God, and should be used earnestly and disinterestedly in His service. Work while the sun still lingers in the heavens; for the “night cometh, when no man can work.”
Come, my brother, come just as you are, sinful and polluted. Lay your burden of guilt on Jesus, and by faith claim His merits. Come now, while mercy lingers; come with confession, come with contrition of soul, and God will abundantly pardon. Do not dare to slight another opportunity. Listen to the voice of mercy that now pleads with you to arise from the dead that Christ may give you light. Every moment now seems to connect itself directly with the destinies of the unseen world. Then let not your pride and unbelief lead you to still further reject offered mercy. If you do you will be left to lament at the last: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Wait in deep humiliation before God. From this hour resolve to be the Lord’s, doing your whole duty, trusting implicitly in the great atonement. Do this and you will have nothing to fear. The remainder of your life journey will be tranquil and happy, and you will secure to yourself that life which shall continue as long as God shall live.
I have written this because I felt urged to do so by the Spirit of God, and because I have a deep interest for you. Do not for one moment let your feelings rise against me; for I have been influenced by love for your soul. We have enjoyed many precious seasons in worshiping God, when our hearts were made joyful by His sweet blessing. Are these seasons forever past? We may never meet again in this life, but shall we not meet when the ransomed are gathered around the great white throne?
Chap. 42 – The Manufacture of Wine and Cider
Dear Brethren and Sisters of the Church at —–:
I have been shown that as a church you are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. There is not that consecration to God, that devotion to His service, and that disinterested labor for the upbuilding of His cause which would make you a prosperous and healthy church. You are not subject one to another. There are too many among you who have their own ideas to maintain and their own selfish plans to carry out, and some who occupy prominent places in the church are of this number.
Brother K has not an eye single to the glory of God; he does not view things from a right standpoint. He is giving heed to suggestions of Satan and taking counsel of his own unsanctified judgment, and he grasps at every word that can be framed into a justification of his wrong course. He is self-deceived; he does not see that he is shutting himself away from the Spirit of God. When he entered upon this path he did not know its dangers nor realize where it would lead him. All who are walking in the same way would do well to turn their feet at once into the path of safety.
We are living in an age of intemperance, and catering to the appetite of the cider bibber is an offense against God. With others you have engaged in this work because you have not followed the light. Had you stood in the light, you would not, you could not, have done this. Every one of you who has acted a part in this work will come under the condemnation of God unless you make an entire change in your business. You need to be in earnest. You need to commence the work at once to clear your souls from condemnation.
Some of you in —– developed wonderful zeal in denouncing the red-ribbon clubs. So far as you were actuated by a desire to condemn the evil in these societies, you were right; but when you acted as though it were a crime to speak at all in their favor, or to show them the least good will, you carried matters to extremes. You should be consistent in all things. You have cherished a hatred for the very name “red-ribbon club” that savors not of the Spirit of Christ, and your feelings of bitterness have not helped you or anyone else.
You have taken the testimonies given in reference to our people’s mingling with the temperance societies to the detriment of their spiritual interest, and by perverting them have used them to oppress and burden souls. By this treatment of the light given you have brought my work into disrepute. There was not the least necessity for this, and some of you have a work to do to make this matter right. You would make an iron bedstead for others; if too short, they must be stretched; if too long, they must be cut off. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”After you had taken a decided stand in opposition to active participation in the work of the temperance societies, you might still have retained an influence over others for good, had you acted conscientiously in accordance with the holy faith which you profess; but by engaging in the manufacture of cider you have hurt your influence very much; and what is worse, you have brought reproach upon the truth, and your own souls have been injured. You have been building up a barrier between yourselves and the temperance cause. Your course led unbelievers to question your principles. You are not making straight paths for your feet, and the lame are halting and stumbling over you to perdition.
I cannot see how, in the light of the law of God, Christians can conscientiously engage in the raising of hops or in the manufacture of wine or cider for the market. All these articles may be put to a good use and prove a blessing, or they may be put to a wrong use and prove a temptation and a curse. Cider and wine may be canned when fresh and kept sweet a long time, and if used in an unfermented state they will not dethrone reason. But those who manufacture apples into cider for the market are not careful as to the condition of the fruit used, and in many cases the juice of decayed apples is expressed. Those who would not think of using the poisonous rotten apples in any other way will drink the cider made from them and call it a luxury; but the microscope would reveal the fact that this pleasant beverage is often unfit for the human stomach, even when fresh from the press. If it is boiled, and care is taken to remove the impurities, it is less objectionable.
I have often heard people say: “Oh! this is only sweet cider; it is perfectly harmless, and even healthful.” Several quarts, perhaps gallons, are carried home. For a few days it is sweet; then fermentation begins. The sharp flavor makes it all the more acceptable to many palates, and the lover of sweet wine or cider is loath to admit that his favorite beverage ever becomes hard or sour. Persons may become just as really intoxicated on wine and cider as on stronger drinks, and the worst kind of inebriation is produced by these so-called milder drinks. The passions are more perverse; the transformation of character is greater, more determined and obstinate. A few quarts of cider or wine may awaken a taste for stronger drinks, and in many cases those who have become confirmed drunkards have thus laid the foundation of the drinking habit. For some persons it is by no means safe to have wine or cider in the house. They have inherited an appetite for stimulants, which Satan is continually soliciting them to indulge. If they yield to his temptations they do not stop; appetite clamors for indulgence and is gratified to their ruin. The brain is benumbed and clouded; reason no longer holds the reins, but they are laid on the neck of lust. Licentiousness, adultery, and vices of almost every type are committed as the result of indulging the appetite for wine and cider. A professor of religion who loves these stimulants, and accustoms himself to their use, never grows in grace. He becomes gross and sensual; the animal passions control the higher powers of the mind, and virtue is not cherished.
Moderate drinking is the school in which men are receiving an education for the drunkard’s career. So gradually does Satan lead away from the strongholds of temperance, so insidiously do the harmless wine and cider exert their influence upon the taste, that the highway to drunkenness is entered upon all unsuspectingly. The taste for stimulants is cultivated; the nervous system is disordered; Satan keeps the mind in a fever of unrest; and the poor victim, imagining himself perfectly secure, goes on and on, until every barrier is broken down, every principle sacrificed. The strongest resolutions are undermined; and eternal interests are not strong enough to keep the debased appetite under the control of reason.
Some are never really drunk, but are always under the influence of cider or fermented wine. They are feverish, unbalanced in mind, not really delirious, but in fully as bad a condition; for all the noble powers of the mind are perverted. A tendency to disease of various kinds, as dropsy, liver complaint, trembling nerves, and a determination of blood to the head, results from the habitual use of sour cider. By its use many bring upon themselves permanent disease. Some die of consumption or fall under the power of apoplexy from this cause alone. Some suffer from dyspepsia. Every vital function is deadened and the physicians tell them that they have liver complaint, when if they would break open the cider barrel and never replace it, their abused life forces would recover their vigor.
Cider drinking leads to the use of stronger drinks. The stomach loses its natural vigor, and something stronger is needed to arouse it to action. On one occasion, when my husband and myself were traveling, we were obliged to spend several hours waiting for the train. While we were in the depot, a red-faced, bloated farmer came into the restaurant connected with it, and in a loud, rough voice asked: “Have you first-class brandy?” He was answered in the affirmative, and ordered half a tumbler. “Have you pepper sauce?” “Yes,” was the answer. “Well, put in two large spoonfuls.” He next ordered two spoonfuls of alcohol added, and concluded by calling for “a good dose of black pepper.” The man who was preparing it asked: “What will you do with such a mixture?” He replied: “I guess that will take hold,” and, placing the full glass to his lips, drank the whole of this fiery compound. That man had used stimulants until he had deadened the tender coats of the stomach.
Many, as they read this, will laugh at the warning of danger. They will say: “Surely the little wine or cider that I use cannot hurt me.” Satan has marked such as his prey; he leads them on step by step, and they perceive it not until the chains of habit and appetite are too strong to be broken. We see the power that appetite for strong drink has over men; we see how many of all professions and of heavy responsibilities, men of exalted station, of eminent talents, of great attainments, of fine feeling, of strong nerves, and of good reasoning powers, sacrifice everything for the indulgence of appetite, until they are reduced to the level of the brutes; and in very many cases their downward course commenced with the use of wine or cider.
When intelligent men and women who are professedly Christians plead that there is no harm in making wine or cider for the market because when unfermented it will not intoxicate, I feel sad at heart. I know there is another side to this subject that they refuse to look upon; for selfishness has closed their eyes to the terrible evils that may result from the use of these stimulants. I do not see how our brethren can abstain from all appearance of evil and engage largely in the business of hop raising, knowing to what use the hops are put.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 pp. 349-358