The youth who are growing up among us are not cared for as they should be. Some of the brethren must have duties which they are not willing and ready to see and perform. The fear of inconveniencing themselves is a sufficient excuse for many. The day of God will reveal unfulfilled duties—souls lost because the selfish would not take pains to interest themselves in their behalf.
I was shown that should professed Christians cultivate more affection and kind regard in caring for others, they would be repaid fourfold. God marks. He knows for what object we live, and whether our living is put to the very best account for poor, fallen humanity, or whether our eyes are eclipsed to everything but our own interest, and to everyone but our own poor selves. I entreat you, in behalf of Christ, in behalf of your own souls, and in behalf of the youth, not to think so lightly of this matter as many do. It is a grave, a serious thing, and affects your interest in the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as the salvation of precious souls is involved. Why is it not a duty which God enjoins upon you who are able, to expend something for the benefit of the homeless, even though they may be ignorant and undisciplined? Shall you study to labor only in the direction where you will receive the most selfish pleasure and profit? It is not meet for you to neglect the divine favor that Heaven offers you if you will care for those who need your care, and thus let God knock in vain at your door. He stands there in the person of the poor, the homeless orphans, and the afflicted widows, who need love, sympathy, affection, and encouragement. If you do it not unto one of these, you would not do it unto Christ were He upon the earth.
Call to mind your former wretchedness, your spiritual blindness, and the darkness which enshrouded you before Christ, a tender, loving Saviour, came to your aid and reached you where you were. If you let these seasons pass without giving tangible proofs of your gratitude for this wonderful and amazing love which a compassionate Saviour exercised toward you, who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, there is reason to fear that still greater darkness and misery will come upon you. Now is your sowing time. You will reap that which you sow. Avail yourselves while you may of every privilege of doing good. These privileges improved are as a passing shower, which will water and revive you. Lay hold of every opportunity within your reach of doing good. Idle hands will reap a small harvest. For what do older persons live but to care for the young and help the helpless? God has committed them to us who are older and have experience, and He will call us to account if our duties in this direction are neglected. What though our labor may not be appreciated! what though it prove a failure many times, and a success but once! This once will outweigh all the discouragements previously borne.
But few have a true sense of what is comprised in the word Christian. It is to be Christlike, to do others good, to be divested of all selfishness, and to have our lives marked with acts of disinterested benevolence. Our Redeemer throws souls into the arms of the church, for them to care for unselfishly and train for heaven, and thus be co-workers with Him. But the church too often thrusts them away, upon the devil’s battlefield. One member will say, “It is not my duty,” and then bring up some trifling excuse. “Well,” says another, “neither is it my duty;” and finally it is nobody’s duty, and the soul is left uncared for to perish. It is the duty of every Christian to engage in this self-denying, self-sacrificing enterprise. Cannot God return into their granaries and increase their flocks, so that instead of loss there shall be increase? “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.”
But every man’s work is to be tested, and brought into judgment, and he be rewarded as his works have been. “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty.” “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” Read the next verse, and notice the rich reward promised to those who do this. “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily.” Here is an abundantly precious promise for all who will interest themselves in the cases of those who need help. How can God come in and bless and prosper those who have no special care for anyone except themselves, and who do not use that which He has entrusted to them, to glorify His name on the earth?
Sister Hannah More is dead, and died a martyr to the selfishness of a people who profess to be seeking for glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. Exiled from believers during the past cold winter, this self-sacrificing missionary died because no heart was bountiful enough to receive her. I blame no one. I am not judge. But when the Judge of all the earth shall make investigation, somebody will be found to blame. We are all narrowed up and consumed in our own selfishness. May God tear away this cursed covering and give us bowels of mercy, hearts of flesh, tenderness and compassion, is my prayer, offered from an oppressed, anguished soul. I am sure that a work must be done for us or we shall be found wanting in the day of God.
In regard to E, do not, I entreat of you, forget that he is a child, with only a child’s experience. Do not measure him, a poor, weak, feeble boy, with yourselves and expect of him accordingly. I fully believe that it is in your power to do the right thing by this orphan. You can present inducements to him so that he will not feel that his task is cheerless, unrelieved by a ray of encouragement. You, my brother and sister, can enjoy yourselves in each other’s confidence, you can sympathize with each other, interest and amuse each other, and tell your trials and burdens to each other. You have something to cheer you, while he is alone. He is a thinking boy, but has no one to confide in or to give him a cheering word amid his discouragements and severe trials, which I know he has as well as those more advanced in years.
If you shut yourselves up to each other, it is selfish love, unattended with Heaven’s blessing. I have strong hope that you will love the orphan for Christ’s sake, that you will feel that your possessions are but worthless unless employed in doing good. Do good; be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come that you may lay hold on eternal life. None will reap the reward of everlasting life but the self-sacrificing. A dying father and mother left their jewels to the care of the church to be instructed in the things of God and fitted for heaven. When these parents shall look about for their dear ones, and one is found missing because of neglect, what will the church answer? It is in a great degree responsible for the salvation of these orphan children.
In all probability you have failed to gain the boy’s confidence and affection by not giving him more tangible proofs of your love by holding out some inducements. If you could not expend money you could at least in some way encourage him by letting him know you were not indifferent to his case. That the love and affection is to be all on one side is a mistake. How much affection have you educated yourselves to manifest? You are too much shut up to yourselves, and do not feel the necessity of surrounding yourselves with an atmosphere of tenderness and gentleness, which comes from true nobility of soul. Brother and Sister F left their children to the care of the church. They had plenty of wealthy relatives who wanted the children; but they were unbelievers, and if allowed to have the care, or become the guardians, of the children, would lead their hearts away from the truth into error, and endanger their salvation. Because these relatives were not allowed to take the children, they were dissatisfied, and have done nothing for them. The confidence of the parents in the church should be considered, and not be forgotten because of selfishness.
We have the deepest interest for these children. One has already developed a beautiful Christian character and married a minister of the gospel. And now, in return for the care and burdens borne for her, she is a true burden bearer in the church. She is sought unto for advice and counsel by the less experienced, and they seek not in vain. She possesses true Christian humility, with becoming dignity, which can but inspire respect and confidence in all who know her. These children are as near to me as my own. I shall not lose sight of them, nor cease my care for them. I love them sincerely, tenderly, affectionately.
Chapter 50—Appeal to Ministers
October 2, 1868, I was shown the great and solemn work before us of warning the world of the coming judgment. Our example, if in accordance with the truth we profess, will save a few, and condemn the many, leaving them without excuse in the day when the cases of all will be decided. The righteous are to be prepared for everlasting life, and sinners, who will not become acquainted with the will and ways of God, are appointed to destruction.
Not all who preach the truth to others are sanctified by it. Some have but faint views of the sacred character of the work. They fail to trust in God and to have all their works wrought in Him. Their inmost souls have not been converted. They have not in their daily life experienced the mystery of godliness. They are handling immortal truths, weighty as eternity, but are not careful and earnest to have these truths inwrought in their souls, made a part of themselves, so that they shall influence them in all they do. They are not so wedded to the principles which these truths inculcate that it is impossible to separate any part of the truth from them.
Sanctification of heart and life is alone acceptable with God. Said the angel, as he pointed to the ministers who are not right: “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” God calls for integrity of soul; for truth in the inward parts, transforming the entire man by the renewing of the mind through the influences of the divine Spirit. Not all the ministers are devoted to the work; not all have put their hearts into it. They move as listlessly as though a temporal millennium were allowed them in which to work for souls. They shun burdens and responsibilities, care and privations. Self-denial, suffering, and weariness are not pleasant nor convenient. It is the study of some to save themselves from wearing labor. They study their own convenience and how to please themselves, their wives, and their children; and the work upon which they have entered is nearly lost sight of.
God calls for humiliation of soul and humble confessions from the ministers whose works have not been wrought in Him. I was cited to men who engage in worldly enterprises. They know that if they would gain their object they must suffer fatigue. They sacrifice ease and love of home, and endure privations; they are persevering, energetic, and ardent. Our ministers do not all manifest half the zeal shown by those who are securing earthly gain. They are not as intent upon their purpose, nor as earnest in their efforts; they are not as persevering, and are not as willing to deny themselves, as those who engage in worldly pursuits.
Compare these two enterprises. One is certain, eternal, enduring as the life of God; the other is a thing of this life, changeable, perishable, and if men succeed in their ambitious pursuits, that which they gain frequently stings like an adder, and drowns them in perdition. Oh, why should there be so great a contrast in the efforts of those who are engaged—the one class in a worldly enterprise, the other in a heavenly? the one laboring for a treasure here that is perishable, and in the effort suffering much pain for that which is frequently a source of great evil, the other putting forth efforts for the salvation of precious souls, which will be approved of Heaven and rewarded with heavenly riches. There are no risks to run here, no losses to be sustained, the profits are sure and immense.
Those who are in Christ’s stead beseeching souls to be reconciled to God should by precept and example manifest an undying interest to save souls. Their earnestness, perseverance, self-denial, and spirit of sacrifice should as far exceed the diligence and earnestness of those securing earthly gain as the soul is more valuable than the trash of earth and the subject more elevated than earthly enterprises. All worldly enterprises are of trifling importance compared with the work of saving souls. Earthly things are not enduring, although they cost so much. But one soul saved will shine in the kingdom of heaven throughout eternal ages.
Some of the ministers are asleep, and the people are also asleep; but Satan is wide awake. There is but little sacrificing for God or the truth. Ministers must set the example. In their labors they should show that they esteem eternal things of infinite value and earthly things as nothing in comparison. There are ministers preaching present truth who must be converted. Their understanding must be invigorated, their hearts purified, their affections centered in God. They should present the truth in a manner which will arouse the intellect to appreciate its excellence, purity, and sacredness. In order to do this, they should keep before their minds objects which are elevated and which have a purifying, quickening, and exalting influence upon the mind. They must have the purifying fire of truth burning upon the altar of their hearts, to influence and characterize their lives; then, go where they will, amid darkness and gloom, they will illuminate those in darkness with the light dwelling in them and shining round about them.
Ministers must be imbued with the same spirit as was their Master when He was upon earth. He went about doing good, blessing others with His influence. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Ministers should have clear conceptions of eternal things and of God’s claims upon them; then they can impress others and excite in them a love for contemplating heavenly things.
Ministers should become Bible students. Are the truths which they handle mighty? Then they should seek to handle them skillfully. Their ideas should be clear and strong, and their spirits fervent, or they will weaken the force of the truth which they handle. By tamely presenting the truth, merely repeating the theory without being stirred by it themselves, they can never convert men. If they should live as long as did Noah, their efforts would be without effect. Their love for souls must be intense and their zeal fervent. A listless, unfeeling manner of presenting the truth will never arouse men and women from their deathlike slumber. They must show by their manners, by their acts and words, and by their preaching and praying, that they believe that Christ is at the door. Men and women are in the last hours of probation, and yet are careless and stupid, and ministers have no power to arouse them; they are asleep themselves. Sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people!
A great work must be accomplished for ministers in order for them to make the preaching of the truth a success. The word of God should be thoroughly studied. All other reading is inferior to this. A careful study of the Bible will not necessarily exclude all other reading of a religious nature; but if the word of God is studied prayerfully, all reading which will have a tendency to divert the mind from it will be excluded. If we study the word of God with an interest, and pray to understand it, new beauties will be seen in every line. God will reveal precious truth so clearly that the mind will derive sincere pleasure and have a continual feast as its comforting and sublime truths are unfolded.
Visiting from house to house forms an important part of the minister’s labors. He should aim to converse with all the members of the family, whether they profess the truth or not. It is his duty to ascertain the spiritual condition of all; and he should live so near to God that he can counsel, exhort, and reprove, carefully and in wisdom. He should have the grace of God in his own heart and the glory of God constantly in view. All lightness and trifling is positively forbidden in the word of God. His conversation should be in heaven, his words seasoned with grace. All flattery should be put away, for it is Satan’s work to flatter. Poor, weak, fallen men generally think enough of themselves and need no help in this direction. Flattering your ministers is out of place. It perverts the mind and does not lead to meekness and humility; yet men and women love to be praised, and it is too frequently the case that ministers love it. Their vanity is gratified by it, but it has proved a curse to many. Reproof is more to be prized than flattery.
Not all who are preaching the truth realize that their testimony and example are deciding the destiny of souls. If they are unfaithful in their mission, and become careless in their work, souls will be lost as the result. If they are self-sacrificing and faithful in the work which the Master has given them to do, they will be instrumental in the salvation of many. Some permit trifles to divert them from the work. Bad roads, rainy weather, or little matters at home are sufficient excuses for them to leave the work of laboring for souls. And frequently this is done at the most important time in the work. When an interest has been raised and the minds of the people are agitated, the interest is left to die out because the minister chooses a more pleasant and easy field. Those who pursue this course show plainly that they do not have the burden of the work upon them. They wish to be carried by the people. They are not willing to endure the privations and hardships which are ever the lot of a true shepherd.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 329-338