Chapter 81—The Minister’s Wife
June 5, 1863, I was shown that Satan is ever at work to dishearten and lead astray ministers whom God has chosen to preach the truth. The most effectual way in which he can work is through home influences, through unconsecrated companions. If he can control their minds, he can through them the more readily gain access to the husband, who is laboring in word and doctrine to save souls. I was referred to the warnings which God has repeatedly given, and to the duties which have been pointed out as belonging to the wife of a minister; yet these warnings have not had a lasting influence. The testimonies given have had effect but a short time. The light has been but partially followed. Obedience and devotion to God have been forgotten, many have disregarded the sacred obligation resting upon them to improve the light and privileges given, and walk as children of the light. If the veil could be parted and all could see just how their cases are regarded in heaven, there would be an awakening, and each would with fear inquire, What shall I do to be saved?
The minister’s wife who is not devoted to God is no help to her husband. While he dwells upon the necessity of bearing the cross and urges the importance of self-denial, the daily example of his wife often contradicts his preaching and destroys its force. In this way she becomes a great hindrance and often leads her husband away from his duty and from God. She does not realize what a sin she is committing. Instead of seeking to be useful, seeking with true love for souls to help such as need help, she shrinks from the task and prefers a useless life. She is not constrained by the power of Christ’s love and by unselfish, holy principles. She does not choose to do the will of God, to be a co-worker with her husband, with angels, and with God. When the wife of the minister accompanies her husband in his mission to save souls, it is a great sin for her to hinder him in his work by manifesting unhappy discontent. Yet instead of entering heartily into his labors, seeking every opportunity to unite her interest and labor with his, she often studies how she can make it more easy or pleasant for herself. If things around them are not as agreeable as she could wish (as they will not always be), she should not indulge homesick feelings, or by lack of cheerfulness and by spoken complaints harass the husband and make his task harder, and perhaps by her discontent draw him from the place where he could do good. She should not divert the interest of her husband from laboring for the salvation of souls, to sympathize with her ailments and gratify her whimsical, discontented feelings. If she would forget herself and labor to help others, talk and pray with poor souls, and act as if their salvation was of higher importance than any other consideration, she would have no time to be homesick. She would feel from day to day a sweet satisfaction as a reward for her unselfish labor; I cannot call it sacrifice, for some of our ministers’ wives do not know what it is to sacrifice or suffer for the truth’s sake.
In former years the wives of ministers endured want and persecution. When their husbands suffered imprisonment, and sometimes death, those noble, self-sacrificing women suffered with them, and their reward will be equal to that bestowed on the husband. Mrs. Boardman and the Mrs. Judsons suffered for the truth, suffered with their companions. They sacrificed home and friends in every sense of the word to aid their companions in the work of enlightening those who sat in darkness, to reveal to them the hidden mysteries of the word of God. Their lives were in constant peril. To save souls was their great object, and for this they could suffer cheerfully.
I was shown the life of Christ. When His self-denial and sacrifice is compared with the trials and sufferings of the wives of some of our ministers, it causes anything which they may call sacrifice to sink into insignificance. If the minister’s wife speaks words of discontent and discouragement, the influence upon the husband is disheartening and tends to cripple him in his labor, especially if his success depends upon surrounding influences. Must the minister of God in such cases be crippled or torn from his field of labor to gratify the feelings of his wife, which arise from an unwillingness to yield inclination to duty? The wife should conform her wishes and pleasures to duty, and give up her selfish feelings for the sake of Christ and the truth. Satan has had much to do with controlling the labors of the ministers through the influence of selfish, ease-loving companions.
If a minister’s wife accompanies her husband in his travels, she should not go for her own special enjoyment, to visit, and to be waited upon, but to labor with him. She should have a united interest with him to do good. She should be willing to accompany her husband, if home cares do not hinder, and she should aid him in his efforts to save souls. With meekness and humility, yet with a noble self-reliance, she should have a leading influence upon minds around her, and should act her part and bear her cross and burden in meeting, and around the family altar, and in conversation at the fireside. The people expect this, and they have a right to expect it. If these expectations are not realized, the husband’s influence is more than half destroyed. The wife of a minister can do much if she will. If she possesses the spirit of self-sacrifice and has a love for souls, she can with him do almost an equal amount of good.
A sister laborer in the cause of truth can understand and reach some cases, especially among the sisters, that the minister cannot. A responsibility rests upon the minister’s wife which she should not and cannot lightly throw off. God will require the talent lent her, with usury. She should work earnestly, faithfully, and unitedly with her husband to save souls. She should never urge her wishes and desires, or express a lack of interest in her husband’s labor, or dwell upon homesick, discontented feelings. All these natural feelings must be overcome. She should have a purpose in life which should be unfalteringly carried out. What if this conflicts with the feelings, and pleasures, and natural tastes? These should be cheerfully and readily sacrificed in order to do good and save souls.
The wives of ministers should live devoted, prayerful lives. But some would enjoy a religion in which there are no crosses and which calls for no self-denial and exertion on their part. Instead of standing nobly for themselves, leaning upon God for strength and bearing their individual responsibility, they have much of the time been dependent upon others, deriving their spiritual life from them. If they would only lean confidingly, in childlike trust, upon God, and have their affections centered in Jesus, deriving their life from Christ, the living Vine, what an amount of good they might do, what a help they might be to others, what a support to their husbands, and what a reward would be theirs in the end! “Well done, good and faithful servants,” would fall like sweetest music upon their ears. The words, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” would repay them a thousand times for all suffering and trials endured to save precious souls.
Those who will not improve the talent which God has given them will fail of everlasting life. Those who have been of but little use in the world will be rewarded accordingly, as their works have been. When everything goes smoothly, they are borne along on the wave; but when they need earnestly and untiringly to apply the oar, and row against wind and tide, there seems to be no energy in their Christian character. They will not take the trouble to work, but lay down their oars and contentedly let the current carry them downstream. Thus they generally remain until someone takes the burden and labors earnestly and energetically to pull them upstream. Every time they yield to such indolence they lose strength and have less inclination to work in the cause of God. It is only the faithful conqueror who wins eternal glory.
A minister’s wife should ever have a leading influence on the minds of those with whom she associates, and she will be a help or a great hindrance. She either gathers with Christ or scatters abroad. A self-sacrificing missionary spirit is lacking among the companions of our ministers. It is self first, and then Christ secondly, and even thirdly. Never should a minister take his wife with him unless he knows that she can be a spiritual help, that she is one who can bear, and endure, and suffer, to do good, and to benefit souls for Christ’s sake. Those who accompany their husbands should go to labor unitedly with them. They must not expect to be free from trials and disappointments. They should not think too much of pleasant feelings. What have feelings to do with duty?
I was cited the case of Abraham. God said to him, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Abraham obeyed God. He did not consult his feelings, but with a noble faith and confidence in God he prepared for his journey. With a heart rent with anguish he beheld the proud and loving mother gazing with fond affection upon the son of promise. But he led that loved son away. Abraham suffered, yet he did not let his will rise in rebellion against the will of God. Duty, stern duty, controlled him. He dared not consult his feelings or yield to them for one moment. His only son walked by the side of the stern, loving, suffering father, talking engagedly, uttering over and over the fond name of father, and then inquiring: “Where is the sacrifice?” Oh, what a test for the faithful father! Angels looked with pleased wonder upon the scene. The faithful servant of God even bound his beloved son and laid him upon the wood. The knife was raised, when an angel cried out: “Abraham, Abraham…. Lay not thine hand upon the lad.”
I saw that it is no light thing to be a Christian. It is a small matter to profess the Christian name; but it is a great and sacred thing to live a Christian life. There is but a little time now to secure the immortal crown, to have a record of good acts and fulfilled duties recorded in heaven. Every tree is judged by its fruit. Everyone will be judged according to his deeds, not his profession or his faith. The question will never be asked, How much did he profess? but, What fruit did he bear? If the tree is corrupt, the fruit is evil. If the tree is good, it cannot produce evil fruit.
Chapter 82—Patent Rights
Many of our brethren involve themselves by engaging in new enterprises which look flattering; but in a short time they find themselves disappointed and their means gone, which should have been used to support their families and advance the cause of present truth. Then come remorse, regret, and self-reproach; and some conscientious ones cast away their confidence, and lose their spiritual enjoyment, and in consequence of mental distress their health also suffers.
Those who believe the truth should practice economy, live upon plain, wholesome food, always making it a rule to live within their means. Brethren should never engage in new enterprises without consulting those of experience who are good managers in temporal and spiritual matters. By doing this they would save themselves much perplexity.
Brethren would better be contented with a small income, and handle that little prudently, rather than run risks to better their condition, and suffer continual losses thereby. Some Sabbathkeepers who have engaged in the sale of patent rights, have traveled among their brethren to save expense, and have induced them to invest their means in patent rights. Such will not be clear before God until they have made up the loss which these brethren have sustained.
Number Eleven—Testimony for the Church
Chapter 83—Reform in Dress
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
My apology for calling your attention again to the subject of dress is that some do not seem to understand what I have before written; and an effort is made, perhaps by those who do not wish to believe what I have written, to make confusion in our churches upon this important subject. Many letters have been written to me, stating difficulties, which I have not had time to answer; and now, to answer the many inquiries, I give the following statements, which it is hoped will forever put the subject at rest, so far as my testimonies are concerned.
Some contend that what I wrote in Testimony for the Church No. 10 does not agree with my testimony in the work entitled, How to Live. They were written from the same view, hence are not two views, one contradicting the other, as some may imagine; if there is any difference, it is simply in the form of expression. In Testimony for the Church No. 10 I stated as follows:
“No occasion should be given to unbelievers to reproach our faith. We are considered odd and singular, and should not take a course to lead unbelievers to think us more so than our faith requires us to be. Some who believe the truth may think that it would be more healthful for the sisters to adopt the American costume, yet if that mode of dress would cripple our influence among unbelievers so that we could not so readily gain access to them, we should by no means adopt it, though we suffered much in consequence. But some are deceived in thinking there is so much benefit to be received from this costume. While it may prove a benefit to some, it is an injury to others.
“I saw that God’s order has been reversed, and His special directions disregarded, by those who adopt the American costume. I was referred to Deuteronomy 22:5: ‘The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.’ God would not have His people adopt the so-called reform dress. It is immodest apparel, wholly unfitted for the modest, humble followers of Christ.
“There is an increasing tendency to have women in their dress and appearance as near like the other sex as possible, and to fashion their dress very much like that of men, but God pronounces it abomination. ‘In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.’ 1 Timothy 2:9.
“Those who feel called out to join the movement in favor of woman’s rights and the so-called dress reform might as well sever all connection with the third angel’s message. The spirit which attends the one cannot be in harmony with the other. The Scriptures are plain upon the relations and rights of men and women. Spiritualists have, to quite an extent, adopted this singular mode of dress. Seventh-day Adventists, who believe in the restoration of the gifts, are often branded as spiritualists. Let them adopt this costume, and their influence is dead. The people would place them on a level with spiritualists and would refuse to listen to them.
“With the so-called dress reform there goes a spirit of levity and boldness just in keeping with the dress. Modesty and reserve seem to depart from many as they adopt that style of dress. I was shown that God would have us take a course consistent and explainable. Let the sisters adopt the American costume and they would destroy their own influence and that of their husbands. They would become a byword and a derision. Our Saviour says: ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ There is a great work for us to do in the world, and God would not have us take a course to lessen or destroy our influence with the world.”
The foregoing was given me as a reproof to those who are inclined to adopt a style of dress resembling that worn by men; but at the same time I was shown the evils of the common style of woman’s dress, and to correct these, also gave the following found in Testimony for the Church, No. 10:
“We do not think it in accordance with our faith to dress in the American costume, to wear hoops, or to go to an extreme in wearing long dresses which sweep the sidewalks and streets. If women would wear their dresses so as to clear the filth of the streets an inch or two, their dresses would be modest, and they could be kept clean much more easily, and would wear longer. Such a dress would be in accordance with our faith.”
I will now give an extract from what I have elsewhere said upon this subject:
“Christians should not take pains to make themselves a gazing-stock by dressing differently from the world. But if, when following out their convictions of duty in respect to dressing modestly and healthfully, they find themselves out of fashion, they should not change their dress in order to be like the world; but they should manifest a noble independence and moral courage to be right, if all the world differ from them. If the world introduce a modest, convenient, and healthful mode of dress, which is in accordance with the Bible, it will not change our relation to God or to the world to adopt such a style of dress. Christians should follow Christ and make their dress conform to God’s word. They should shun extremes. They should humbly pursue a straightforward course, irrespective of applause or of censure, and should cling to the right because of its own merits.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1 pp. 449-458