When the Lord sent His servants to do for these wanderers the work which you ought to have done, and even when you had evidence that the Lord was giving a message of mercy to these poor straying ones, you were unprepared to give up your ideas. You did not feel like leaving the ninety and nine, and searching after the lost sheep till it was found, and you did not do it. And when the sheep was found, and brought back to the fold with rejoicing, did you rejoice? We tried to arouse you. We tried to call you together, as the shepherd called his neighbors and friends, to have you rejoice with us; but you seemed unwilling. You felt that the sheep had done a great wrong in leaving the fold, and instead of rejoicing that he had returned, you were anxious to make him feel that he should be very sorry for leaving, and should come back just according to your ideas. And since his return, you have had a feeling of jealousy in regard to him. You have kept watching to see if all was right. Some have not been exactly satisfied; they have felt an unwillingness to have things just as they are.
You are unacquainted with yourselves. Some possess selfishness, which leads to the narrowing up of their influence and efforts. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. Had the church been prepared to appreciate the work the Lord was doing among them, they would since that ingathering have been growing stronger and stronger. But instead of all throwing their whole soul into the work, and feeling a special, sincere interest to do all in their power to follow up the work after we left it, they acted very much as if the work did not specially concern them, and as though they were only spectators, ready to distrust and find fault wherever there was opportunity.
I was shown the case of Brother B. He feels unhappy. He is dissatisfied with his brethren. His mind has been exercised for some time that it was his duty to carry the message. He has the ability, and, as far as his knowledge of the truth is concerned, he is capable; but he lacks culture. He has not learned to control himself. It requires great wisdom to deal with minds, and he is not qualified for this work. He understands the theory, but has not educated himself in forbearance, patience, gentleness, kindness, and true courteousness. If anything arises which does not meet his mind, he does not stop to consider whether it is wisdom to take notice of it, or to let it pass until it shall be fully considered. He braces himself at once for battle. He is harsh, severe, denunciatory, and if things do not meet his mind, he raises disturbance at once.
He possesses in his organization the elements of war rather than of sweet peace and harmony. He has not wisdom to give to all their portion of meat in due season. “And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Brother B has but little knowledge of making this difference. He is rough in his manners, and indiscreet in his dealing with souls. This disqualifies him for making a wise, careful shepherd. A shepherd must have noble generosity, courage, fortitude, love, and tenderness combined.
Brother B will be in danger of tearing down more than he can build up. He has not brought all his powers in subjection to the will of God. He has not been transformed by the renewing of his mind. He is self-sufficient, and does not rely wholly upon the grace of God; his works are not wrought in God. To be a shepherd is to occupy a very important, responsible position; to feed the flock of God is an exalted and sacred work. Brother B, the Lord does not regard you fit to be an overseer of His flock. Had you been learning the lesson of self-government in your religious experience, and had you felt the necessity of elevating your mind and purifying your heart by the sanctification of the Spirit, and of bringing all your powers into subjection to the will of God, seeking humility and meekness, you might now be in a position to do good and to exert an influence which would be elevating and saving.
Brother and Sister B, you have a work to do for yourselves which no one can do for you. You are inclined to murmur and complain. You have something to do to subdue your natural feelings. Live for God yourselves, knowing that you have not to answer for the wrongs of others. I saw, Brother B, that you would certainly be overcome by Satan, and make utter shipwreck of faith, unless you stop your faultfinding, and seek pure and undefiled religion before God. You need to be elevated in your thoughts and conversation; you need a thorough conversion.
Life or death is before you. You should solemnly consider that you are dealing with the great God, and should ever remember that He is not a child, to be trifled with. You cannot engage in His service at will and let it alone at pleasure. Your inmost soul needs to be converted. All who, like you, my brother, have failed to grow in the grace of God, and to perfect holiness in His name, will, in these days of peril and trial, meet with great loss. Their foundation will prove to be sliding sand instead of the Rock Christ Jesus.
You move by impulse. You feel unreconciled to your brethren because you are not sent out to preach the truth. You are not fit for this trust. More than one efficient preacher would be required to follow in your wake to bind up the wounds and bruises which your harsh dealing would make. God is not pleased with you, and I fear that you will fail of everlasting life.
You have no time to lose. Make mighty efforts to rescue yourself from Satan’s snare. You need to learn of Jesus, who is meek and lowly of heart, and then you will obtain rest. Oh, what a work you have to do to perfect holiness in the fear of God, and be prepared for the society of the pure and holy angels. You need to humble your heart before God, and seek meekness and righteousness, that you may be hid in the day of the Lord’s fierce anger.
Brother B, the Lord let His blessing rest upon you last spring; but you did not see the relation which watchfulness and prayer sustain to a progress in the divine life. You have neglected these duties, and the result is that darkness has enshrouded you. You have been in a state of uncertainty and distrust, and have frequently chosen the society of those who are in darkness, those whom Satan uses to scatter from Christ. You could live among the most corrupt, and remain unstained, unsullied, if God in His providence thus directed you. But it is dangerous for those who wish to honor God to find their pleasure and entertainment with companions who fear Him not. Satan ever surrounds such with great darkness; and if those who profess Christ go unbidden into this darkness, they tempt the devil to tempt them. If, in order to do good and glorify His name, the Lord requires us to go among infernal spirits, where is the blackest darkness, He will encircle us with His angels and keep us unsullied. But if we seek the company of sinners, and are pleased with their coarse jests, and entertained and amused with their stories, sports, and ribaldry, the pure and holy angels remove their protection and leave us to the darkness we have chosen.
Brother B, I wish to alarm you; I wish to arouse you to action. I wish to entreat of you to seek God while He invites you to come to Him that you may have life. Watch, pray, work,” are the Christian’s watchwords. Satan is vigilant in his efforts; his perseverance is untiring, his zeal earnest and unabated. He does not wait for his prey to come to him; he seeks for it. To wrench souls from the hand of Christ is his determined purpose; yet professed Christians are asleep in their blindness, insane in their pursuits. God is not in their thoughts. A vigilant foe is upon their track; yet they are in no danger while they make God their trust. But unless they do this, their strength will be weakness, and they will be overcome by Satan.
Brother B, it is dangerous for you to yield to doubts. You must not permit yourself to go any further in the direction in which you have been going. You are in constant danger. Satan is on your track, suggesting doubts and causing unbelief. Had you stood clear in the counsel of God you could have had an influence for good over those who love your society now.
Poor Brother C felt the influence of the Spirit of God, but was deficient in experience. He did not fully turn from his old habits. He failed to make God his strength continually, and his feet slipped. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. You might have helped him, had you been connected with Heaven as you should have been. But your course of inactivity, your manner of conversation, your influence, have strengthened him in his backsliding and quieted the voice of conscience within him. Your course has not been a reproof to him in his downward track. You could do good, were you living for God. Your strength is utter weakness, your wisdom foolishness; but you do not realize it. You have been too well satisfied with a theory, a correct form of doctrine, but have not felt the necessity of the power of God; you have neglected the spiritual part of religion. Your whole being should cry out for the Spirit of God—the life and power of religion in the soul, which would lead to the crucifixion of self and a firm trust in your Redeemer.
You are in terrible darkness, and unless you arise in the name of God, and break asunder the fetters of Satan, and assert your freedom, you will make shipwreck of the faith. So great is the unwillingness of the Lord to leave you, and such is His love toward you, that notwithstanding your life has not been in accordance with His will, and your works and ways have been offensive to Him, the Majesty of heaven condescends to beg the privilege of making you a visit and leaving you His blessing: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” The mansions in glory are His, and the joy of that heavenly abode; yet He humbles Himself to seek an entrance at the door of your heart, that He may bless you with His light and make you to rejoice in His glory. His work is to seek and to save that which is lost and ready to perish. He wishes to redeem as many as He can from sin and death, that He may elevate them to His throne and give them everlasting life.
Brother B, be entreated to arise and cast aside your doubts. What makes you inclined to doubt? It is your life of departure from God, your life of unconsecration, your jesting and joking. Your lack of sobriety is endangering your eternal interests. Christ is inviting you to turn from these follies to Him. You are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. You are not an honor to the cause. You are not becoming elevated, but are sinking lower and lower in the scale. You are not forming a character for heaven and everlasting life.
You are pleasing yourself, passing away time in frivolity which should be spent with your family, teaching your children the ways and works of God. The hours that you spend in company that does you only harm should be devoted to prayer and the study of God’s word. You should feel that a responsibility rests upon you, as head of your family, to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. What account will you render to God for misspent time? What influence are you having over those who have not the fear of God before them? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” May God anoint your eyes that you may see your peril. I feel deeply for you. My heart yearns over you. I long to see you coming up to the high standard that it is your privilege to attain. You can do good. Your influence, if exerted on the right side, will tell. Brother B, your footsteps are in the downward path. “Turn ye, turn ye,” “for why will ye die?”
If you much longer pursue the course you are now following, you will become infidel in regard to the truth and in regard to the word of God. Watch and pray always. Dedicate yourself unreservedly to the Lord, and it will not then be difficult to serve Him. You have a divided heart. This is the reason that darkness, instead of light, encircles you. The last message of mercy is now going forth. It is a token of the long-suffering and compassion of God. Come, is the invitation now given. Come, for all things are now ready. This is mercy’s last call. Next will come the vengeance of an offended God.
Brother B, encourage simplicity, love, forbearance, and sweet union with your brethren. But do not, oh, do not sell everlasting life so cheaply. If you go from the truth you will never know real happiness; you will be miserable indeed. Heaven is worth making any and every sacrifice for. Break the bands of Satan. Jesus now invites you; will you listen to His voice? You must take a higher stand than you have hitherto done. Make it your first business to gain the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of Christ. Live for God and heaven, and the eternal reward will be yours at the end of the race.
Chapter 31—Contemplating Marriage
I was pointed back to last May, when the Lord visited —–, and was shown the case of Brother D. He was not prepared to take part in that work. His mind and heart were elsewhere. He was contemplating marriage and could not listen to the invitation of Jesus: “Come; for all things are now ready.” His contemplated marriage engrossed his attention. He had no time or inclination to open the door of his heart to the gracious Visitor. Had he done this, Christ would have given him good counsel, which, if heeded, would have been of priceless value to him. He would have presented before him in its true light his danger of yielding to the dictates of a wayward inclination and setting aside the glory of God and the decisions of sober reason. He would have charged him to beware how he trod in the footsteps of those who had fallen and been ruined. But this brother did not consider that God had claims upon him; that he should make no move without consulting Him who had bought him. We are instructed that whatever we do, we should do all to His glory.
Did you, Brother D, as a disciple, a learner, of Christ, go to Him in humble, sincere prayer and commit your ways to him? You failed to do this. You did not investigate all your motives and move with carefulness lest you should bring a reproach upon the cause of Christ, your Redeemer. You did not consider whether this move would have an effect to increase your spiritual sensibility, quicken your zeal, and strengthen your steadfastness in the truth and your efforts to deny self. You were ignorant of your own heart. The work of God was seen in the church, but you had no longings for the divine Spirit. The things of heaven were insipid to you. You were infatuated by your new hopes of uniting your interests with those of another. You did not consider that a marriage alliance would vitally affect your interest for life, short though that life must be.
You should have felt that with your own evil heart to subdue you could not be brought in connection with an influence which would make it more difficult for you to overcome self, make your path upward to heaven more rugged. You have now made your religious progress tenfold more difficult than when you stood alone. It is true you were lonely, for you had lost a precious jewel. But if you had counseled with your brethren, and committed your ways to the Lord, He would have opened the way for you to have connected yourself with one who could have been a help to you instead of a hindrance.
If you will now humbly turn to the Lord with all your heart, He will pity and help you. But you are just where you are shorn of your strength, and are prepared to compromise your faith and your allegiance to God to please your new wife. God pity you, for ruin is before you unless you arouse like a true soldier of Christ and engage anew in the warfare for everlasting life. Your only safety is in keeping with your brethren, and obtaining all the strength you can from them to remain in the truth. You are about to sacrifice the truth for the sake of peace and happiness here. You are selling your soul at a cheap market. It is now your duty to do all you can to make your wife happy, and yet not to sacrifice the principles of truth. You should exercise forbearance, patience, and true courtesy. By thus doing, you can show the power of true grace and the influence of the truth.
I was shown that the love of money is a snare to you. Money, independent of the opportunity it furnishes for doing good, blessing the needy, and advancing the cause of God, is really of but little value. The little you possess is a snare to you, and unless you use it as a wise and faithful steward in the service of your Master, it will yield you little else but misery. You are close and penurious. You need to cultivate a noble, liberal spirit and separate your affections from the world or you will be overcome. The deceitfulness of riches will so corrupt your soul that the good will be overcome by evil. Selfishness and love of gain will triumph.
If you, my dear brother, are saved, it will indeed be a miracle of mercy. The love of the world is increasing upon you. Carefully consider the words of Christ: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” My brother, you have obeyed neither the first nor the second of these commandments. You would not hesitate to reach out and advantage yourself, although you knew it would greatly disadvantage your neighbor. You look to your own selfish interest, and say: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
You are not laying up treasure in heaven and becoming rich toward God. Self and selfish interests are eating out true godliness from your soul. You are bowing to the god of this world. Your heart is alienated from God. An inspired writer says: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” The steps of a Christian may at times appear feeble and faltering, yet in his conscious weakness he leans upon the Mighty One for support. He is sustained, and makes sure progress onward and upward toward perfection. He gains new victories daily, and comes nearer and nearer to the standard of perfect holiness. His eye is not downward to the earth, but upward, ever keeping in view the heavenly Pattern.
Brother D, the glitter and tinsel of the corruptible things of earth have eclipsed the charms of heaven, and made eternal life of but little value to you. As a servant of Christ, I entreat you to awake that you may see yourself as you are. The profits you will obtain in the course you are now pursuing will be eternal loss. You will find at last that you have made a terrible mistake which can never be remedied.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 219-228