If men fail to render to God that which He has lent them to use to His glory, and thus rob Him, they will make an entire failure. He has lent them means which they can improve upon by losing no opportunity to do good, and thus they may be constantly laying up treasure in heaven. But if, like the man who had one talent, they hide it, fearing that God will get that which their talent gains, they will not only lose the increase which will finally be awarded the faithful steward, but also the principal which God gave them to work upon. Because they have robbed God, they will not have laid up treasure in heaven, and they lose their earthly treasure also. They have no habitation on earth, and no Friend in heaven to receive them into the everlasting habitation of the righteous.
Christ declares: “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”—cannot serve God and your riches, too. “The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him.” Mark the words of Christ to them: “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men [which is riches acquired by oppression, by deception, by overreaching, by fraud, or in any other dishonest manner] is abomination in the sight of God.” Then Christ presents the two characters, the rich man who was clothed with purple and fine linen, and who fared sumptuously every day, and Lazarus, who was in abject poverty and loathsome to the sight, and who begged the few crumbs which the rich man despised. Our Saviour shows His estimate of the two. Although Lazarus was in so deplorable and mean a condition, he had true faith, true moral worth, which God saw, and which He considered of so great value that He took this poor, despised sufferer and placed him in the most exalted position, while the honored and ease-loving man of wealth was thrust out from the presence of God and plunged into misery and woe unutterable. God did not value the riches of this wealthy man, because he had not true moral worth. His character was worthless. His riches did not recommend him to God nor have any influence to secure His favor.
By this parable Christ would teach His disciples not to judge or value men by their wealth or by the honors which they received of others. Such was the course pursued by the Pharisees, who, while possessing both riches and worldly honor, were valueless in the sight of God and, more than this, were despised and rejected of Him, cast out from His sight as disgusting to Him because there was no moral worth or soundness in them. They were corrupt, sinful, and abominable in His sight. The poor man, despised by his fellow mortals and disgusting to their sight, was valuable in the sight of God because he possessed moral soundness and worth, thus qualifying him to be introduced into the society of refined, holy angels and to be an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ.
In Paul’s charge to Timothy he warns him of a class who will not consent to wholesome words and who place a wrong estimate on riches. He says: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
Paul in this letter to Timothy would impress upon his mind the necessity of giving such instruction as should remove the deception which so easily steals upon the rich, that because of their riches they are superior to those who are in poverty, that because of their ability to acquire they are superior in wisdom and judgment—in short, that gain is godliness. Here is a fearful deception. How few heed the charge which Paul commissioned Timothy to make to the rich! How many flatter themselves that their acquisitiveness is godliness! Paul declares, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Although rich persons may devote their whole lives to the one object of getting riches, yet as they brought nothing into the world, they can carry nothing out. They must die and leave that which cost them so much labor to obtain. They staked their all, their eternal interest, to obtain this property, and have lost both worlds.
Paul shows what risks men will run to become rich. But many are determined to be rich; this is their study, and in their zeal eternal considerations are overlooked. They are blinded by Satan and make themselves believe that it is for good purposes they desire this gain; they strain their consciences, deceive themselves, and are constantly coveting riches. Such have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. They have sacrificed their noble, elevated principles, given up their faith for riches, and, if not disappointed in their object, they are disappointed in the happiness which they supposed riches would bring. They are entangled, perplexed with care; they have made themselves slaves to their avarice and compelled their families to the same slavery, and the advantages they reap are “many sorrows.” “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” Men are not to hoard up their riches and take no good of them, depriving themselves of the comforts of life and virtually becoming slaves in order to retain or increase their earthly treasure.
The apostle Paul shows the only true use for riches, and bids Timothy charge the rich to do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; for in so doing they are laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come,—referring to the close of time,—that they may lay hold on eternal life. The teachings of Paul harmonize perfectly with the words of Christ: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” Godliness with contentment is great gain. Here is the true secret of happiness, and real prosperity of soul and body.
Chapter 95—Obedience to the Truth
Dear Brother D,
I recollect your countenance among several others that were shown me in vision in Rochester, New York, December 25, 1865. I was shown that you were upon the background. Your judgment is convinced that we have the truth, but you have not as yet experienced its sanctifying influence. You have not followed closely the footsteps of our Redeemer, therefore you are unprepared to walk even as He walked. As you listen to the words of truth, your judgment says that it is correct, it cannot be gainsaid; but immediately the unsanctified heart says: “These are hard sayings, who can hear them? you would better give up your efforts to keep pace with the people of God, for new and strange and trying things will be continually arising; you will have to stop sometime, and you may just as well stop now, and better than to go further.”
You cannot consent to profess the truth and not live it; you have ever admired a life consistent with profession. I was shown a book in which was written your name with many others. Against your name was a black blot. You were looking upon this and saying: “It can never be effaced.” Jesus held His wounded hand above it and said: “My blood alone can efface it. If thou wilt from henceforth choose the path of humble obedience, and rely solely upon the merits of My blood to cover thy past transgressions, I will blot out thy transgressions, and cover thy sins. But if you choose the path of transgressors you must reap the transgressor’s reward. The wages of sin is death.”
I saw evil angels surrounding you seeking to divert your mind from Christ, causing you to look upon God as a God of justice and to lose sight of the love, compassion, and mercy of a crucified Saviour who will save to the uttermost all that come unto Him. Said the angel: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
When you are under the pressure of mental anxieties, when you are hearkening to the suggestions of Satan and murmuring and complaining, a ministering angel is commissioned to bear you the succor you need and put to shame the language of your unbelieving mind. You distrust God; you disbelieve in His power to save to the uttermost. You dishonor God by this cruel unbelief and cause yourself much needless suffering. I saw heavenly angels surrounding you, driving back the evil angels, and looking with pity and sorrow upon you, and pointing you to heaven, the crown of immortality, saying: “He that would win must fight.”
Although you have been in doubt and perplexity, you have not dared to entirely sever the connecting link between yourself and God’s commandment-keeping people. Yet you have not yielded all for the truth’s sake; you have not yielded yourself, your own will. You fear to lay yourself and all that you have upon the altar of God, lest you may be required to yield back to Him some portion of that which He has lent you. Heavenly angels are acquainted with our words and actions, and even with the thoughts and intents of the heart. You, dear brother, fear that the truth will cost you too much, but this is one of Satan’s suggestions. Let it take all that you possess, and it does not cost too much; the value received, if rightly estimated, is an eternal weight of glory. How little is required of us! How small the sacrifice that we can make in comparison with that which our divine Lord made for us! And yet a spirit of murmuring comes over you because of the cost of everlasting life. You, as well as others of your brethren at ——, have had severe conflicts with the great adversary of souls. You have several times nearly yielded the conflict, but the influence of your wife and eldest daughter has prevailed. These members of your family would obey the truth with the whole heart could they have your influence to sustain them.
Your daughters look to you for an example, for they think their father must be right. Their salvation depends much upon the course which you pursue. If you cease striving for everlasting life, you will exert a powerful influence to carry your children with you, you will bow down the spirit of your faithful wife, crush her hopes, and lessen her hold on life. How can you in the judgment meet these to testify that your unfaithfulness proved their ruin?
I saw that you had several times yielded to the suggestions of Satan to cease striving to live out the truth, for the tempter told you that you would fail with the best endeavors you might make, that with all your weakness and failings it was impossible for you to maintain a life of devotion. I was shown that your wife and eldest daughter have been your good angels, to grieve over you, to encourage you to resist in a measure the powerful suggestions of Satan; and through your love for them you have been induced to try again to fix your trembling faith upon the promises of God. Satan is waiting to overthrow you that he may exult over your downfall. Those who are trampling underfoot the law of God are strengthened by you in their rebellion. It is impossible for you to be strong until you take a decided stand for the truth.
Systematic benevolence looks to you as needless; you overlook the fact that it originated with God, whose wisdom is unerring. This plan He ordained to save confusion, to correct covetousness, avarice, selfishness, and idolatry. This system was to cause the burden to rest lightly, yet with due weight, upon all. The salvation of man cost a dear price, even the life of the Lord of glory, which He freely gave to lift man from degradation and to exalt him to become heir of the world. God has so ordained that man shall aid his fellow man in the great work of redemption. He who excuses himself from this, who is unwilling to deny himself that others may become partakers with him of the heavenly benefit, proves himself unworthy of the life to come, unworthy of the heavenly treasure which cost so great a sacrifice. God wants no unwilling offering, no pressed sacrifice. Those who are thoroughly converted and who appreciate the work of God will give cheerfully the little required of them, considering it a privilege to bestow.
Said the angel: “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” You have stumbled at the health reform. It appears to you to be a needless appendix to the truth. It is not so; it is a part of the truth. Here is a work before you which will come closer and be more trying than anything which has yet been brought to bear upon you. While you hesitate and stand back, failing to lay hold upon the blessing which it is your privilege to receive, you suffer loss. You are stumbling over the very blessing which Heaven has placed in your path to make your progress less difficult. Satan presents this before you in the most objectionable light, that you may combat that which would prove the greatest benefit to you, which would be for your physical and spiritual health. Of all men you are one to be benefited by health reform; the truth received on every point in this matter of reform will be of the greatest advantage. You are a man whom a spare diet will benefit. You were in danger of being stricken down in a moment by paralysis, one half of you becoming dead. A denial of appetite is salvation to you, yet you view it as a great privation.
The reason why the youth of the present age are not more religiously inclined is because of the defect in their education. It is not true love exercised toward children which permits in them the indulgence of passion, or allows disobedience of parental laws to go unpunished. “Just as the twig is bent the tree is inclined.” The mother should ever have the co-operation of the father in her efforts to lay the foundation of a good Christian character in her children. A doting father should not close his eyes to the faults of his children because it is not pleasant to administer correction. You both need to arouse and with firmness, not in a harsh manner, but with determined purpose, let your children know they must obey you.
A father must not be as a child, moved merely by impulse. He is bound to his family by sacred, holy ties. Every member of the family centers in the father. His name, “house-band,” is the true definition of husband. He is the lawmaker, illustrating in his own manly bearing the sterner virtues, energy, integrity, honesty, and practical usefulness. The father is in one sense the priest of the household, laying upon the altar of God the morning and evening sacrifice, while the wife and children unite in prayer and praise. With such a household Jesus will tarry, and through His quickening influence the parents’ joyful exclamations shall yet be heard amid more exalted scenes, saying: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.” Saved, saved, eternally saved! freed from the corruption that is in the world through lust, and through the merits of Christ made heirs of immortality! I saw that but few fathers realize their responsibility. They have not learned to control themselves, and until this lesson is learned they will make poor work in governing their children. Perfect self-control will act as a charm upon the family. When this is attained, a great victory is gained. Then they can educate their children to self-control.
My heart yearns over the church at ——, for there is a work to be accomplished there. It is God’s design to have a people in that place. There is material there for a good church, but there is considerable work to be done to remove the rough edges and prepare them for working order, that all may labor unitedly and draw in even cords. It has hitherto been the case that when one or two felt the necessity of arousing and standing unitedly and more firmly upon the elevated platform of truth, others would make no effort to arise. Satan puts in them a spirit to rebel, to discourage those who would advance. They brace themselves when urged to take hold of the work, a stubborn spirit comes upon some, and when they should help they hinder. Some will not submit to the planing knife of God. As it passes over them, and the uneven surface is disturbed, they complain of too close and severe work. They wish to get out of God’s workshop, where their defects may remain undisturbed. They seem to be asleep as to their condition; but their only hope is to remain where the defects in their Christian character will be seen and remedied.
Some are indulging lustful appetite which wars against the soul and is a constant hindrance to their spiritual advancement. They constantly bear an accusing conscience, and if straight truths are talked they are prepared to be offended. They are self-condemned and feel that subjects have been purposely selected to touch their case. They feel grieved and injured, and withdraw themselves from the assemblies of the saints. They forsake the assembling of themselves together, for then their consciences are not so disturbed. They soon lose their interest in the meetings and their love for the truth, and, unless they entirely reform, will go back and take their position with the rebel host who stand under the black banner of Satan. If these will crucify fleshly lusts which war against the soul, they will get out of the way, where the arrows of truth will pass harmlessly by them. But while they indulge lustful appetite, and thus cherish their idols, they make themselves a mark for the arrows of truth to hit, and if truth is spoken at all, they must be wounded. Some think that they cannot reform, that health would be sacrificed should they attempt to leave the use of tea, tobacco, and flesh meats. This is the suggestion of Satan. It is these hurtful stimulants that are surely undermining the constitution and preparing the system for acute diseases by impairing Nature’s fine machinery and battering down her fortifications erected against disease and premature decay.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1 pp. 539-548