You are naturally devotional. If you would train your mind to dwell upon elevated themes which have nothing to do with yourself, but are of a heavenly nature, you could yet be of use. But much of your life has been wasted in dreaming of doing some great work in the future, while the present duty, small though it may appear to you, has been neglected. You have been unfaithful. The Lord will not commit to your trust any larger work until the work now before you has been seen and performed with a ready, cheerful will. Unless the heart is put into the work, it will drag heavily, whatever that work may be. The Lord tests our ability by first giving us small duties to perform. If we turn from these with dissatisfaction and murmuring, no more will be entrusted to us until we cheerfully take hold of these small duties and do them well; then greater responsibilities will be committed to us.
You have been entrusted with talents not to be squandered, but to be put out to the exchangers, that at the Master’s coming He may receive His own with usury. God has not distributed these talents indiscriminately. He has dispensed these sacred trusts according to the known capacity of His servants. “To every man his work.” He gives impartially, and expects a corresponding return. If all do their duty according to the measure of their responsibility, the amount entrusted to them, be it large or small, will be doubled. Their fidelity is tested and proved, and their faithfulness is positive evidence of their wise stewardship, and of their worthiness to be entrusted with the true riches, even the gift of everlasting life.
At the conference in New York, October, 1868, I was shown many who are now doing nothing, who might be accomplishing good. There was presented before me a class who are conscious that they possess generous impulses, devotional feelings, and a love of doing good; yet at the same time they are doing nothing. They possess a self-complacent feeling, flattering themselves that if they had an opportunity, or were circumstanced more favorably, they could and would do a great and good work; but they are waiting the opportunity. They despise the narrow mind of the poor niggard who grudges the small pittance to the needy. They see that he lives for self, that he will not be called from himself to do good to others, to bless them with the talents of influence and of means which have been committed to him to use, not to abuse, nor to permit to rust, or lie buried in the earth. Those who give themselves up to their stinginess and selfishness are accountable for their niggardly acts and are responsible for the talents they abuse. But more responsible are those who have generous impulses and are naturally quick to discern spiritual things, if they remain inactive, waiting an opportunity they suppose has not come, yet contrasting their readiness to do with the unwillingness of the niggard, and reflecting that their condition is more favorable than that of their mean-souled neighbors. Such deceive themselves. The mere possession of qualities which are not used only increases their responsibility; and if they keep their Master’s talents unimproved, or hoarded, their condition is no better than that of their neighbors for whom their souls feel such contempt. To them it will be said: Ye knew your Master’s will, yet did it not.
Had you trained your mind to dwell upon elevated subjects, meditating upon heavenly themes, you could have done much good. You could have had an influence upon the minds of others, to turn their selfish thoughts and world-loving dispositions into the channel of spirituality. Were your affections and thoughts brought into subjection to the will of Christ, you would be capable of doing good. Your imagination is diseased because you have permitted it to run in a forbidden channel, to become dreamy. Daydreaming and romantic castle-building have unfitted you for usefulness. You have lived in an imaginary world; you have been an imaginary martyr and an imaginary Christian.
There is much of this low sentimentalism mingled with the religious experience of the young in this age of the world. My sister, God requires you to be transformed. Elevate your affections, I implore you. Devote your mental and physical powers to the service of your Redeemer, who has bought you. Sanctify your thoughts and feelings that all your works may be wrought in God.
You have been in a sad deception. God would have you investigate closely every thought and purpose of your heart. Deal truly with your own soul. Had your affections been centered upon God as He requires, you would not have passed through the trials you have. There is a restlessness of spirit with you which will not be relieved until your thoughts are changed; until daydreaming and castle-building cease, and you do the work of the present.
In your letter writing, leave matchmaking and guessing about the marriages of your friends. The marriage relation is holy, but in this degenerate age it covers vileness of every description. It is abused, and has become a crime which now constitutes one of the signs of the last days, even as marriages, managed as they were previous to the Flood, were then a crime. Satan is constantly busy to hurry inexperienced youth into a marriage alliance. But the less we glory in the marriages which are now taking place, the better. When the sacred nature and the claims of marriage are understood, it will even now be approved of Heaven, and the result will be happiness to both parties, and God will be glorified. May the Lord enable you to do the work before you to do.
I am about to write upon this wrong, deceptive work which is carried on under the cover of religion. The lust of the flesh has control of men and women. The mind has been depraved through a perversion of the thoughts and feelings, and yet the deceptive power of Satan has so blinded their eyes that poor, deceived souls flatter themselves that they are spiritually minded, especially consecrated, when their religious experience is composed of lovesick sentimentalism more than of purity, true goodness, and humility of soul; the mind is not drawn out of self, is not exercised and elevated by blessing others, by doing good works. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” True religion ennobles the mind, refines the taste, sanctifies the judgment, and makes its possessor partaker of the purity and influences of heaven; it brings angels near, and separates more and more from the spirit and influence of the world.
Battle Creek, Michigan.
Chapter 37—Severity in Family Government
Last June I was shown that there is a work before you to correct your ways. You do not see yourself. Your life has been a mistake. You do not pursue a wise and merciful course in your family. You are exacting. If you continue to pursue the course that you have been pursuing toward your wife and children, her days will be shortened, and your children will fear, but not love, you. You feel that your course is in Christian wisdom, but in this you deceive yourself.
You have peculiar views in regard to managing your family. You exercise an independent, arbitrary power which permits no liberty of will around you. You think yourself sufficient to be head in your family, and feel that your head is sufficient to move every member, as a machine is moved in the hands of the workmen. You dictate and assume authority. This displeases Heaven and grieves the pitying angels. You have conducted yourself in your family as though you alone were capable of self-government. It has offended you that your wife should venture to oppose your opinion or question your decisions.
After much long-suffering on her part, and patient waiting upon your whims, she has rebelled against unjust authority, and has become nervous and distracted, and shown contempt for your course. You have made the most of these manifestations on her part, and have charged her with sin and being led by the spirit of the devil, when you were the one at fault. You drove her almost to desperation, and afterward taunted her with it. How easy it would have been for you to have made her life cheerful and pleasant. But it has been the opposite of this.
You have been rather indolent. You have not been ambitious to exercise the strength the Lord has given you. This is your capital. A judicious use of this strength, and persevering, industrious habits, would have enabled you to obtain the comforts of life. You have erred, and thought it was pride which led your wife to desire to have things more comfortable around her. She has been stinted and dealt closely with by you. She needs a more generous diet, a more plentiful supply of food upon her table; and in her house she needs things as comfortable and convenient as you can make them, things to make her work as easy as possible. But you have viewed matters from a wrong standpoint. You have thought that almost anything which could be eaten was good enough, if you could live upon it and retain strength. You have pleaded the necessity of spare diet to your feeble wife. But she cannot make good blood or flesh upon the diet to which you could confine yourself, and flourish. Some persons cannot subsist upon the same food upon which others can do well, even though it be prepared in the same manner.
You are in danger of becoming an extremist. Your system could convert a very coarse, poor diet into good blood. Your blood-making organs are in good condition. But your wife requires a more select diet. Let her eat the same food which your system could convert into good blood, and her system could not appropriate it. She lacks vitality, and needs a generous, strengthening diet. She should have a good supply of fruit, and not be confined to the same things from day to day. She has a slender hold of life. She is diseased, and the wants of her system are far different from those of a healthy person.
Brother L, you possess considerable dignity, but have you earned that dignity? Oh, no! You have assumed it. You have loved your ease. You and hard work have not agreed. Had you not been slothful in business, you could have had many of the comforts of life which you cannot now command. You have wronged your wife and your children by your indolent habits. Hours which should have been occupied in earnest labor have been passed away by you in talking and reading, and taking your ease.
You are just as accountable for your capital of strength as the wealthy man is for his riches. Both of you are stewards. To each is committed a work. You are not to abuse your strength, but to use it to acquire that with which you may liberally supply the wants of your family, and have wherewith to render to God by aiding in the cause of present truth. You have been aware of the existence of pride, and show, and vanity in —–, and have felt determined that your example should not countenance this pride and extravagance. In your effort to do this, your sin has been as great on the other side.
You have been greatly at fault in your religious experience. You have stood to one side as a looker-on, as a spectator, watching the deficiencies and faults of others, and building yourself up because you see wrongs in them. You have been careful, and upright in deal, and as you have seen slackness in this respect in others who make a high profession, you have contrasted their wrong with your principles in reference to deal, and have said in your heart, “I am better than they,” while at the same time you were standing off from the church, watching and finding fault, yet doing nothing, not coming up to the help of the Lord, to remedy the evil. You had a standard by which you measured others. If they failed to meet your idea, your sympathy was not with them, and you had a self-complacent feeling in regard to yourself.
You have been exacting in your religious experience. Should God deal with you as you would have dealt with those you supposed in error in the church, and as you have dealt with your own family, your condition would be bad indeed. But a merciful God, who is of tender pity, whose loving-kindness changeth not, has been forgiving, and has not cast you aside nor cut you off for your transgressions, your numerous errors and backsliding. Oh, no! He has loved you still.
Have you really considered that “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”? You have seen pride, and vanity, and a world-loving spirit in some who profess to be Christians in —–. This is a great evil; and because this spirit is indulged, angels are grieved. Those who thus follow the example of the unconsecrated are exerting an influence to scatter from Christ, and are gathering in their garments the blood of souls. If they continue the same course they will lose their own souls, and will know one day what it is to feel the terrible weight of other souls who have been led astray by their unconsecration, while professing to be governed by religious principles.
You have just reason to be grieved with the pride and lack of simplicity in those who profess better things. But you have watched others, and talked of their errors and wrongs, and neglected your own soul. You are not accountable for any of the sins of your brethren, unless your example has caused them to stumble, caused their feet to be diverted from the narrow path. You have a great and solemn work before you to control and subdue yourself, to become meek and lowly of heart, to educate yourself to be tenderhearted, pitiful in your family, and to possess that nobleness of spirit and true generosity of soul which despises everything niggardly.
You have thought that there was too much work put upon the meetinghouse, and have remarked upon the unnecessary expense. It is needless in you to have these special conscientious scruples. There is nothing in that house which is prepared with too much care, neatness, or order. The work is none too nice. The arrangement is not extravagant. Do those who are ready to complain of this house of worship consider for whom it was built? that it was made especially to be the house of God; to be dedicated to Him; to be a place where the people assemble to meet God? Many act as though the Creator of the heavens and the earth, He who has made everything that is lovely and beautiful in our world, would be pleased to see a house erected for Him without order or beauty. Some build large, convenient houses for themselves, but cannot afford to spend much upon a house which they are to dedicate to God. Every dollar of the means in their hands is the Lord’s. He has lent it to them for a little while, to use to His glory; yet they hand out this means for the advancement of the cause of God as though every dollar thus expended were a total loss.
God would not have His people expend means extravagantly for show or ornament, but He would have them observe neatness, order, taste, and plain beauty in preparing a house for Him in which He is to meet with His people. Those who build a house for God should manifest as much greater interest, care, and taste in its arrangement as the object for which it is prepared is higher and more holy than that for which common dwelling houses are prepared.
The Lord reads the intents and purposes of men. Those who have exalted views of His character will feel it their highest pleasure to have everything which has any connection with Him of the very best work and displaying the very best taste. But those who can grudgingly build a poorer house to dedicate to God than they would accept to live in themselves show their lack of reverence for God and for sacred things. Their work shows that their own temporal concerns are of more value in their eyes than matters of a spiritual nature. Eternal things are made secondary. It is not considered essential to have good and convenient things to use in the service of God, but they are considered highly essential in the concerns of this life. Men will reveal the true moral tone of the principles of their hearts.
Many of our people have become narrowed in their views. Order, neatness, taste, and convenience are termed pride and love of the world. A mistake is made here. Vain pride, which is exhibited in gaudy trappings and needless ornaments, is not pleasing to God. But He who created for man a beautiful world, and planted a lovely garden in Eden with every variety of trees for fruit and beauty, and who decorated the earth with most lovely flowers of every description and hue, has given tangible proofs that He is pleased with the beautiful. Yet He will accept the most humble offering from the poorest, weakest child, if he has no better to present. It is the sincerity of the soul that the Lord accepts. The man who has God enshrined in his heart, exalted above all, will be led to a thorough submission of his will to God, and will make an entire surrender of himself to His rule and reign.
Shortsighted mortals do not comprehend the ways and works of God. Their eyes are not directed upward to Him as they should be. They do not have exalted views of eternal things. They only look at these things with a clouded vision. They take no special delight in contemplating the love of God, the glory and splendor of heaven, the exalted character of the holy angels, the majesty and inexpressible loveliness of Jesus, our Redeemer. They have so long kept earthly things before their vision that eternal scenes are vague and indistinct to them. They have limited views of God, heaven, and eternity.
Sacred things are brought down upon a level with common; therefore in their dealing with God they manifest the same close, penurious spirit as in dealing with their fellow men. Their offerings to the Lord are lame, sick, or deficient. They carry on the same robbery with Him that they have with their fellow men. Their minds do not reach up to an exalted moral standard, but remain on a low level; they are constantly breathing the impure miasma of the lowlands of earth.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 249-258