Parents, the recording angel writes every impatient, fretful word you utter to your children. Every failure on your part to give them proper instruction, and show them the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the final result of a sinful course, is marked against your name. Every unguarded word spoken before them, carelessly or in jest, every word that is not chaste and elevated, the recording angel marks as a spot against your Christian character. All your acts are recorded, whether they are good or bad.
Parents cannot succeed well in the government of their children until they first have perfect control of themselves. They must first learn to subdue themselves, to control their words, and the very expression of the countenance. They should not suffer the tones of their voice to be disturbed or agitated with excitement and passion. Then they can have a decided influence over their children. Children may wish to do right, they may purpose in their hearts to be obedient and kind to their parents or guardians; but they need help and encouragement from them. They may make good resolutions; but unless their principles are strengthened by religion and their lives influenced by the renewing grace of God, they will fail to come up to the mark.
Parents should redouble their efforts for the salvation of their children. They should faithfully instruct them, not leaving them to gather up their education as best they can. The young should not be suffered to learn good and evil indiscriminately, with the idea that at some future time the good will predominate and the evil lose its influence. The evil will increase faster than the good. It is possible that the evil they have learned may be eradicated after many years; but who will venture this? Time is short. It is easier and much safer to sow clean and good seed in the hearts of your children than to pluck up the weeds afterward. It is the duty of parents to watch lest surrounding influences have an injurious effect upon their children. It is their duty to select the society for them and not suffer them to choose for themselves. Who will attend to this work if the parents do not? Can others have that interest for your children which you should have? Can they have that constant care and deep love that parents have?
Sabbathkeeping children may become impatient of restraint, and think their parents too strict; hard feelings may even arise in their hearts, and discontented, unhappy thoughts may be cherished by them against those who are working for their present and their future and eternal good. But if life shall be spared a few years, they will bless their parents for that strict care and faithful watchfulness over them in their years of inexperience. Parents should explain and simplify the plan of salvation to their children that their young minds may comprehend it. Children of eight, ten, or twelve years are old enough to be addressed on the subject of personal religion. Do not teach your children with reference to some future period when they shall be old enough to repent and believe the truth. If properly instructed, very young children may have correct views of their state as sinners and of the way of salvation through Christ. Ministers are generally too indifferent to the salvation of children and are not as personal as they should be. Golden opportunities to impress the minds of children frequently pass unimproved.
The evil influence around our children is almost overpowering; it is corrupting their minds and leading them down to perdition. The minds of youth are naturally given to folly; and at an early age, before their characters are formed, and their judgment matured, they frequently manifest a preference for associates who will have an injurious influence over them. Some form attachments for the other sex, contrary to the wishes and entreaties of their parents, and break the fifth commandment by thus dishonoring them. It is the duty of parents to watch the going out and the coming in of their children. They should encourage them, and present inducements before them which will attract them at home, and lead them to see that their parents are interested for them. They should make home pleasant and cheerful.
Fathers and mothers, speak kindly to your children; remember how sensitive you are, how little you can bear to be blamed; reflect, and know that your children are like you. That which you cannot bear, do not lay upon them. If you cannot bear censure and blame, neither can your children, who are weaker than you and cannot endure as much. Let your pleasant, cheerful words ever be like sunbeams in your family. The fruits of self-control, thoughtfulness, and painstaking on your part will be a hundredfold. Parents have no right to bring a gloomy cloud over the happiness of their children by faultfinding or severe censure for trifling mistakes. Actual wrong and sin should be made to appear just as sinful as it is, and a firm, decided course should be pursued to prevent its recurrence. Children should be impressed with a sense of their wrongs, yet they should not be left in a hopeless state of mind, but with a degree of courage that they can improve and gain your confidence and approval.
Some parents mistake in giving their children too much liberty. They sometimes have so much confidence in them that they do not see their faults. It is wrong to allow children, at some expense, to visit at a distance, unaccompanied by their parents or guardians. It has a wrong influence upon the children. They come to feel that they are of considerable consequence and that certain privileges belong to them, and if these are not granted, they think themselves abused. They refer to children who go and come, and have many privileges, while they have so few.
And the mother, fearing that her children will think her unjust, gratifies their wishes, which in the end proves a great injury to them. Young visitors, who have not a parent’s watchful eye over them to see and correct their faults, often receive impressions which it will take months to remove. I was referred to cases of parents who had good, obedient children, and who, having the utmost confidence in certain families, trusted their children to go from them at a distance to visit these friends. From that time there was an entire change in the deportment and character of their children. Formerly they were contented and happy at home, and had no great desire to be much in the company of other young persons. When they return to their parents, restraint seems unjust, and home is like a prison to them. Such unwise movements of parents decide the character of their children.
By thus visiting, some children form attachments which prove their ruin in the end. Parents, keep your children with you if you can, and watch them with the deepest solicitude. When you let them visit at a distance from you, they feel that they are old enough to take care of and choose for themselves. When the young are thus left to themselves, their conversation is often upon subjects which will not refine or elevate them, or increase their love for the things of religion. The more they are permitted to visit, the greater will be their desire to go, and the less attractive will home seem to them.
Children, God has seen fit to entrust you to the care of your parents for them to instruct and discipline, and thus act their part in forming your character for heaven. And yet it rests with you to say whether you will develop a good Christian character by making the best of the advantages you have had from godly, faithful, praying parents. Notwithstanding all the anxiety and faithfulness of parents in behalf of their children, they alone cannot save them. There is a work for the children to do. Every child has an individual case to attend to. Believing parents, you have a responsible work before you to guide the footsteps of your children, even in their religious experience. When they truly love God, they will bless and reverence you for the care which you have manifested for them, and for your faithfulness in restraining their desires and subduing their wills.
The prevailing influence in the world is to suffer the youth to follow the natural turn of their own minds. And if very wild in youth, parents say they will come right after a while, and when sixteen or eighteen years of age, will reason for themselves, and leave off their wrong habits, and become at last useful men and women. What a mistake! For years they permit an enemy to sow the garden of the heart; they suffer wrong principles to grow, and in many cases all the labor afterward bestowed on that soil will avail nothing. Satan is an artful, persevering workman, a deadly foe. Whenever an incautious word is spoken to the injury of youth, whether in flattery or to cause them to look upon some sin with less abhorrence, Satan takes advantage of it and nourishes the evil seed that it may take root and yield a bountiful harvest. Some parents have suffered their children to form wrong habits, the marks of which may be seen all through life. Upon the parents lies this sin. These children may profess to be Christians, yet without a special work of grace upon the heart and a thorough reform in life their past habits will be seen in all their experience, and they will exhibit just the character which their parents allowed them to form.
The standard of piety is so low among professed Christians generally that those who wish to follow Christ in sincerity find the work much more laborious and trying than they otherwise would. The influence of worldly professors is injurious to the young. The mass of professed Christians have removed the line of distinction between Christians and the world, and while they profess to be living for Christ, they are living for the world. Their faith has but little restraining influence upon their pleasures; while they profess to be children of the light, they walk in darkness and are children of the night and of darkness. Those who walk in darkness cannot love God and sincerely desire to glorify Him. They are not enlightened to discern the excellence of heavenly things, and therefore cannot truly love them. They profess to be Christians because it is considered honorable, and there is no cross for them to bear. Their motives are often selfish. Some such professors can enter the ballroom and unite in all the amusements which it affords. Others cannot go to such a length as this, yet they can attend parties of pleasure, picnics, donation parties, and exhibitions. And the most discerning eye would fail to detect in such professed Christians one mark of Christianity. One would fail to see in their appearance any difference between them and the greatest unbeliever. The professed Christian, the profligate, the open scoffer at religion, and the openly profane all mingle together as one. And God regards them as one in spirit and practice.
A profession of Christianity without corresponding faith and works will avail nothing. No man can serve two masters. The children of the wicked one are their own master’s servants; to whom they yield themselves servants to obey, his servants they are, and they cannot be the servants of God until they renounce the devil and all his works. It cannot be harmless for servants of the heavenly King to engage in the pleasures and amusements which Satan’s servants engage in, even though they often repeat that such amusements are harmless. God has revealed sacred and holy truths to separate His people from the ungodly and purify them unto Himself. Seventh-day Adventists should live out their faith. Those who obey the Ten Commandments view the state of the world and religious things from a standpoint altogether different from that of professors who are lovers of pleasure, who shun the cross, and live in violation of the fourth commandment. In the present state of things in society it is no easy task for parents to restrain their children and instruct them according to the Bible rule of right. Professors of religion have so departed from the word of God that when His people return to His sacred word, and would train their children according to its precepts, and like Abraham of old command their households after them, the poor children with such an influence around them think their parents unnecessarily exacting and overcareful in regard to their associates. They naturally desire to follow the example of worldly, pleasure-loving professors.
In these days, persecution and reproach for Christ’s sake are scarcely known. Very little self-denial and sacrifice is necessary in order to put on a form of godliness and have the name upon the church book; but to live in such a manner that our ways will be pleasing to God, and our names registered in the book of life, will require watchfulness and prayer, self-denial and sacrifice on our part. Professed Christians are no example for the youth, only as far as they follow Christ. Right actions are unmistakable fruits of true godliness. The Judge of all the earth will give everyone according to his works. Children who follow Christ have a warfare before them; they have a daily cross to bear in coming out from the world and being separate, and imitating the life of Christ.
Chapter 75—Walk in the Light
I was shown that God’s people dwell too much under a cloud. It is not His will that they should live in unbelief. Jesus is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. His children are the children of light. They are renewed in His image, and called out of darkness into His marvelous light. He is the light of the world, and so also are they that follow Him. They shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The more closely the people of God strive to imitate Christ, the more perseveringly will they be pursued by the enemy; but their nearness to Christ strengthens them to resist the efforts of our wily foe to draw them from Christ.
I was shown that there was too much comparing ourselves among ourselves, taking fallible mortals for a pattern, when we have a sure, unerring pattern. We should not measure ourselves by the world, nor by the opinions of men, nor by what we were before we embraced the truth. But our faith and position in the world, as they now are, must be compared with what they would have been if our course had been continually onward and upward since we professed to be followers of Christ. This is the only safe comparison that can be made. In every other there will be self-deception. If the moral character and spiritual state of God’s people do not correspond with the blessings, privileges, and light which have been conferred upon them, they are weighed in the balance, and angels make the report, Wanting.
With some the knowledge of their true state seems to be hidden from them. They see the truth, but perceive not its importance or its claims. They hear the truth, but do not fully understand it, because they do not conform their lives to it, and therefore are not sanctified through obeying it. And yet they rest as unconcerned and well satisfied as though the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, as token of God’s favor, went before them. They profess to know God, but in works deny Him. They reckon themselves His chosen, peculiar people, yet His presence and power to save to the uttermost are seldom manifested among them. How great is the darkness of such! yet they know it not. The light shines, but they do not comprehend it. No stronger delusion can deceive the human mind than that which makes them believe that they are right, and that God accepts their works, when they are sinning against Him. They mistake the form of godliness for the spirit and power thereof. They suppose that they are rich, and have need of nothing, when they are poor, wretched, blind, and naked, and need all things.
There are some who profess to be Christ’s followers, yet put forth no effort in spiritual things. In any worldly enterprise they put forth effort, and manifest ambition to accomplish their object, and bring about the desired end; but in the enterprise of everlasting life, where all is at stake, and their eternal happiness depends upon their success, they act as indifferent as though they were not moral agents, as though another were playing the game of life for them, and they had nothing to do but wait the result. Oh, what folly! what madness! If all will only manifest that degree of ambition, zeal, and earnestness for everlasting life that they manifest in their worldly pursuits, they will be victorious overcomers. Everyone, I saw, must obtain an experience for himself, each must act well and faithfully his part in the game of life. Satan watches his opportunity to seize the precious graces when we are unguarded, and we shall have a severe conflict with the powers of darkness to retain them, or to regain a heavenly grace if through lack of watchfulness we lose it.
But I was shown that it is the privilege of Christians to obtain strength from God to hold every precious gift. Fervent and effectual prayer will be regarded in heaven. When the servants of Christ take the shield of faith for their defense, and the sword of the Spirit for war, there is danger in the enemy’s camp, and something must be done. Persecution and reproach only wait for those who are endowed with power from on high to call them into action. When the truth in its simplicity and strength prevails among believers, and is brought to bear against the spirit of the world, it will be evident that there is no concord between Christ and Belial. The disciples of Christ must be living examples of the life and spirit of their Master.
Young and old have a conflict, a warfare, before them. They should not sleep for a moment. A wily foe is constantly on the alert to lead them astray and overcome them. Believers in present truth must be as watchful as their enemy and manifest wisdom in resisting Satan. Will they do this? Will they persevere in this warfare? Will they be careful to depart from all iniquity? Christ is denied in many ways. We may deny Him by speaking contrary to truth, by speaking evil of others, by foolish talking or jesting, or by words that are idle. In these things we manifest but little shrewdness or wisdom. We make ourselves weak; our efforts are feeble to resist our great enemy, and we are conquered. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and through lack of watchfulness we confess that Christ is not in us. Those who hesitate to devote themselves unreservedly to God make poor work of following Christ. They follow Him at so great a distance that half the time they do not really know whether they are following His footprints or the footsteps of their great enemy. Why are we so slow to give up our interest in the things of this world and take Christ for our only portion? Why should we wish to keep the friendship of our Lord’s enemies, and follow their customs, and be led by their opinions? There must be an entire, unreserved surrender to God, a forsaking and turning away from the love of the world and earthly things, or we cannot be Christ’s disciples.
The life and spirit of Christ is the only standard of excellence and perfection, and our only safe course is to follow His example. If we do this He will guide us by His counsel and afterward receive us to glory. We must strive diligently and be willing to suffer much in order to walk in the footsteps of our Redeemer. God is willing to work for us, to give us of His free Spirit, if we will strive for it, live for it, believe for it; and then we can walk in the light as He is in the light. We can feast upon His love and drink in of His rich fullness.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1 pp. 399-408