God is displeased with the slack, loose manner in which many of His professed people conduct their worldly business. They seem to have lost all sense of the fact that the property they are using belongs to God, and that they must render to Him an account of their stewardship. Some leave their worldly business in perfect confusion. Satan has his eye on it all, and he strikes at a favorable opportunity, and by his management takes much means out of the ranks of Sabbathkeepers. And this means goes into his ranks. Some who are aged are unwilling to make any settlement of their worldly business, and in an unexpected moment they sicken and die. Their children who have no interest in the truth, take the property. Satan has managed it as suited him. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”
I was shown the awful fact that Satan and his angels have had more to do with the management of the property of God’s professed people than the Lord has. Stewards of the last days are unwise. They suffer Satan to control their business matters, and get into his ranks what belongs to, and should be in, the cause of God. God takes notice of you, unfaithful stewards; He will call you to account. I saw that the stewards of God can by faithful, judicious management keep their business in this world square, exact, and straight. And it is especially the privilege and duty of the aged, the feeble, and those who have no children, to place their means where it can be used in the cause of God if they should be suddenly taken away. But I saw that Satan and his angels exult over their success in this matter. And those who should be wise heirs of salvation almost willingly let their Lord’s money slip out of their hands into the enemy’s ranks. In this way they strengthen Satan’s kingdom, and seem to feel very easy about it!
Chapter 36—Surety for Unbelievers
I saw that God was displeased with His people for becoming surety for unbelievers. I was directed to these texts: Proverbs 22:26: “Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.” Proverbs 11:15: “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretyship is sure.” Unfaithful stewards! They pledge that which belongs to another,—their heavenly Father,—and Satan stands ready to aid his children to wrench it out of their hands. Sabbathkeepers should not be in partnership with unbelievers. God’s people trust too much to the words of strangers, and ask their advice and counsel when they should not. The enemy makes them his agents, and works through them to perplex and take from God’s people.
Some have no tact at wise management of worldly matters. They lack the necessary qualifications, and Satan takes advantage of them. When this is the case, such should not remain in ignorance of their task. They should be humble enough to counsel with their brethren, in whose judgment they can have confidence, before they carry out plans. I was directed to this text: “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” Some are not humble enough to let those who have judgment calculate for them until they have followed their own plans, and have involved themselves in difficulties. Then they see the necessity of having the counsel and judgment of their brethren; but how much heavier the burden then than at first. Brethren should not go to law if it can be possibly avoided; for they thus give the enemy great advantage to entangle and perplex them. It would be better to make a settlement at some loss.
Chapter 37—Oath Taking
I saw that some of God’s children have made a mistake in regard to oath taking, and Satan has taken advantage of this to oppress them, and take from them their Lord’s money. I saw that the words of our Lord, “Swear not at all,” do not touch the judicial oath. “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” This refers to common conversation. Some exaggerate in their language. Some swear by their own life; others swear by their head—as sure as they live; as sure as they have a head. Some take heaven and earth to witness that such things are so. Some hope that God will strike them out of existence if what they are saying is not true. It is this kind of common swearing against which Jesus warns His disciples.
We have men placed over us for rulers, and laws to govern the people. Were it not for these laws, the condition of the world would be worse than it is now. Some of these laws are good, others are bad. The bad have been increasing, and we are yet to be brought into strait places. But God will sustain His people in being firm and living up to the principles of His word. When the laws of men conflict with the word and law of God, we are to obey the latter, whatever the consequences may be. The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law. The slave is not the property of any man. God is his rightful master, and man has no right to take God’s workmanship into his hands, and claim him as his own.
I saw that the Lord still has something to do with the laws of the land. While Jesus is in the sanctuary, God’s restraining Spirit is felt by rulers and people. But Satan controls to a great extent the mass of the world, and were it not for the laws of the land, we should experience much suffering. I was shown that when it is actually necessary, and they are called upon to testify in a lawful manner, it is no violation of God’s word for His children to solemnly take God to witness that what they say is the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Man is so corrupt that laws are made to throw the responsibility upon his own head. Some men do not fear to lie to their fellow man; but they have been taught, and the restraining Spirit of God has impressed them, that it is a fearful thing to lie to God. The case of Ananias and Sapphira his wife is given for an example. The matter is carried from man to God, so that if one bears false witness, it is not to man, but to the great God, who reads the heart, and knows the exact truth in every case. Our laws make it a high crime to take a false oath. God has often visited judgment upon the false swearer, and even while the oath was on his lips, the destroying angel has cut him down. This was to prove a terror to evildoers.
I saw that if there is anyone on earth who can consistently testify under oath, it is the Christian. He lives in the light of God’s countenance. He grows strong in His strength. And when matters of importance must be decided by law, there is no one who can so well appeal to God as the Christian. I was bidden by the angel to notice that God swears by Himself. Genesis 22:16; Hebrews 6:13, 17. He swore to Abraham (Genesis 26:3), to Isaac (Psalm 105:9; Jeremiah 11:5), and to David (Psalm 132:11; Acts 2:30). God required of the children of Israel an oath between man and man. Exodus 22:10, 11. Jesus submitted to the oath in the hour of His trial. The high priest said unto Him: “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said unto him: “Thou hast said.” If Jesus in His teachings to His disciples referred to the judicial oath, He would have reproved the high priest, and there enforced His teachings, for the good of His followers present. Satan has been pleased that some have viewed oath taking in a wrong light; for it has given him opportunity to oppress them and take from them their Lord’s money. The stewards of God must be more wise, lay their plans, and prepare themselves to withstand Satan’s devices; for he is to make greater efforts than ever before.
Some, I saw, have a prejudice against our rulers and laws; but if it were not for law, this world would be in an awful condition. God restrains our rulers; for the hearts of all are in His hands. Bounds are set, beyond which they cannot go. Many of the rulers are those whom Satan controls; but I saw that God has His agents, even among the rulers. And some of them will yet be converted to the truth. They are now acting the part that God would have them. When Satan works through his agents, propositions are made, that, if carried out, would impede the work of God and produce great evil. The good angels move upon these agents of God to oppose such propositions with strong reasons, which Satan’s agents cannot resist. A few of God’s agents will have power to bear down a great mass of evil. Thus the work will go on until the third message has done its work, and at the loud cry of the third angel, these agents will have an opportunity to receive the truth, and some of them will be converted, and endure with the saints through the time of trouble. When Jesus leaves the most holy, His restraining Spirit is withdrawn from rulers and people. They are left to the control of evil angels. Then such laws will be made by the counsel and direction of Satan, that unless time should be very short, no flesh could be saved.
Chapter 38—Errors in Diet
Dear Brother and Sister A,
The Lord has seen fit in His goodness to give me a vision at this place; and among the different things shown were some relating to you. I saw that all was not right with you. The enemy has been seeking your destruction, and endeavoring to influence others through you. I saw that you both take an exalted position that God has never assigned you, and that you both consider yourselves far in advance of the people of God. I saw you looking to Battle Creek with jealousy and suspicion. You would place your hands in there, and mold their acts and doings to what you consider would be right. You are noticing little things that you do not understand, that you have not the least to do with, and that in no way concern you. God has committed His work at B.C. to chosen servants. He has laid the burden of the work upon them. Angels of God are commissioned to have oversight of the work; and if it does not move right, those who are at the head of the work will be corrected, and things will move in God’s order without interference of this or that individual.
I saw that God wants you to turn your attention to yourselves. Try your motives. You are deceived in regard to yourselves. You have an appearance of humility, and this has influence with others, and leads them to think that you are far advanced in the Christian life; but when your peculiar notions are touched, self rises at once, and you manifest a willful, stubborn spirit. This is a sure evidence that you do not possess true humility.
I saw that you had mistaken notions about afflicting your bodies, depriving yourselves of nourishing food. These things lead some of the church to think that God is surely with you, or you would not deny self, and sacrifice thus. But I saw that none of these things will make you more holy. The heathen do all this, but receive no reward for it. A broken and contrite spirit before God is in His sight of great price. I saw that your views concerning these things are erroneous, and that you are looking at the church and watching them, noticing little things, when your attention should be turned to your own soul’s interest. God has not laid the burden of His flock upon you. You think that the church is upon the background, because they cannot see things as you do, and because they do not follow the same rigid course which you think you are required to pursue. I saw that you are deceived in regard to your own duty and the duty of others. Some have gone to extremes in regard to diet. They have taken a rigid course, and lived so very plain that their health has suffered, disease has strengthened in the system, and the temple of God has been weakened.
I was referred back to our experience in Rochester, New York. I saw that when we lived there we did not eat nourishing food as we should, and disease nearly carried us to the grave. I saw that as God gives His beloved sleep, He is willing to grant them suitable food to nourish the strength. The motive we had was pure. It was to save means, that the paper might be sustained. We were poor. I saw that the fault then was in the church. Those who had means were covetous and selfish. If these had done their part, the burden upon us would have been lightened; but as some did not do their part, we were burdened and others eased. I saw that God does not require anyone to take a course of such rigid economy as to weaken or injure the temple of God. There are duties and requirements in His word to humble the church and cause them to afflict their souls, and there is no need of making crosses and manufacturing duties to distress the body in order to cause humility. All this is outside of the word of God.
The time of trouble is just before us; and then stern necessity will require the people of God to deny self, and to eat merely enough to sustain life; but God will prepare us for that time. In that fearful hour our necessity will be God’s opportunity to impart His strengthening power, and to sustain His people. But now God requires them to labor with their hands, the thing that is good, and lay by them in store as He has prospered them, and do their part in sustaining the cause of truth. This is a duty enjoined upon all who are not especially called to labor in word and doctrine, to devote their time to proclaiming to others the way of life and salvation.
Those who labor with their hands must nourish their strength to perform this labor, and those also who labor in word and doctrine must nourish their strength; for Satan and his evil angels are warring against them to tear down their strength. They should seek rest of body and mind from wearing labor when they can, and should eat of nourishing, strengthening food to build up their strength; for they will be obliged to exercise all the strength they have. I saw that it does not glorify God in the least for any of His people to make a time of trouble for themselves. There is a time of trouble just before God’s people, and He will prepare them for that fearful conflict.
I saw that your views concerning swine’s flesh [This remarkable testimony was written October 21, 1858, nearly five years before the great vision of 1863, in which the light upon health reform was given. When the right time came, the subject was given in a manner to move all our people. How wonderful are the wisdom and goodness of God! It might be as wrong to crowd the milk, salt, and sugar question now, as the pork question in 1858.—J.W., note to second edition.] would prove no injury if you have them to yourselves; but in your judgment and opinion you have made this question a test, and your actions have plainly shown your faith in this matter. If God requires His people to abstain from swine’s flesh, He will convict them on the matter. He is just as willing to show His honest children their duty, as to show their duty to individuals upon whom He has not laid the burden of His work. If it is the duty of the church to abstain from swine’s flesh, God will discover it to more than two or three. He will teach His church their duty.
God is leading out a people, not a few separate individuals here and there, one believing this thing, another that. Angels of God are doing the work committed to their trust. The third angel is leading out and purifying a people, and they should move with him unitedly. Some run ahead of the angels that are leading this people; but they have to retrace every step, and meekly follow no faster than the angels lead. I saw that the angels of God would lead His people no faster than they could receive and act upon the important truths that are communicated to them. But some restless spirits do not more than half do up their work. As the angel leads them, they get in haste for something new, and rush on without divine guidance, and thus bring confusion and discord into the ranks. They do not speak or act in harmony with the body. I saw that you both must speedily be brought where you are willing to be led, instead of desiring to lead, or Satan will step in and lead you in his way, to follow his counsel. Some look at your set notions, and consider them an evidence of humility. They are deceived. You both are making work for repentance.
Brother A, you are naturally close and covetous. You tithe mint and rue, but neglect the weightier matters. When the young man came to Jesus, and asked what he should do to have eternal life, Jesus told him to keep the commandments. He declared that he had done so. Said Jesus: Yet lackest thou one thing. Go sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. The result was the young man went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. I saw that you had wrong ideas. God requires economy of His people; but some have stretched their economy into meanness. I wish that you could see your case as it is. The true spirit of sacrifice, which is acceptable to God, you do not possess. You look at others, and watch them, and if they do not bring themselves to the same rigid course that you follow, you can do nothing for them. Your souls are withering beneath the blighting influence of your own errors. A fanatical spirit is with you, that you take to be God’s Spirit. You are deceived. You cannot bear the plain, cutting testimony. You would have a smooth testimony borne to you; but when anyone reproves your wrongs, how quick self rises. Your spirits are not humbled. You have a work to do…. Such acts, such a spirit, I saw, was the fruit of your errors, and the fruit of setting up your judgment and notions as a rule for others, and against those whom God has called into the field. You have both overreached the mark.
I saw that you had thought this one and that one were called to labor in the field, when you know nothing of the matter. You cannot read the heart. If you had drunk deep of the truth of the third angel’s message, you would not be so free to tell who were called of God, and who were not. The fact that one can pray and talk well is no evidence that God has called him. Everyone has an influence, and that influence should tell for God; but the question whether this one or that one should devote his time to labor for souls, is of the deepest importance, and none but God can decide who shall engage in the solemn work. There were good men in the apostles’ days, men who could pray with power and talk to the point; yet the apostles, who had power over unclean spirits and could heal the sick, dared not with merely their wisdom set one apart for the holy work of being mouthpiece for God. They waited unmistakable evidence of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. I saw that God had laid upon His chosen ministers the duty of deciding who was fit for the holy work; and in union with the church and the manifest tokens of the Holy Spirit, they were to decide who should go and who were unfit to go. I saw that if it should be left to a few individuals here and there to decide who was sufficient for this great work, confusion and distraction everywhere would be the fruit.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1 pp. 199-208
Discussion Questions: Day 20
- How should God’s people manage their business?
- What are some important lessons here about civil government?
- What are some important principles to follow in regard to diet?
- What part of this reading was most practical and beneficial to you?
Pioneer Prayer: Week 1
- God’s people to be faithful stewards of resources.
- God’s blessing to be upon our rulers and governments.
- Health and strength for God’s people, and that they would avoid extremes in diet.
- Wisdom for God’s ministers to determine who is fit for holy work in union with the church. Unmistakable evidence of the Holy Spirit.