Some have no experience in taking hold of the work as though it was of vital importance. They do not enter upon it with that zeal and earnestness which would show that they are doing work which will have to bear the test of the judgment. They work too much in their own strength. They do not make God their trust, and therefore errors and imperfections mark all their efforts. They do not give the Lord an opportunity to do anything for them. They do not walk by faith, but by sight. They will go no faster or further than they can see. They do not seem to understand that venturing something for the truth’s sake has any part in their religious experience.
Some go from their homes to labor in the gospel field, but do not act as though the truths which they speak were a reality to them. Their actions show that they have not experienced the saving power of the truth themselves. When out of the desk, they appear to have no burden of the truth. They labor sometimes apparently to profit, but more frequently to no profit. Such feel as much entitled to the wages they receive as though they had earned them; notwithstanding their unconsecration has cost more labor, anxiety, and pain of heart to those laborers who have the burden of the work upon them than all their efforts have done good. Such are not profitable workmen. But they will have to bear this responsibility themselves.
It is often the case that ministers are inclined to visit almost entirely among the churches, devoting their time and strength where their labor will do no good. Frequently the churches are in advance of the ministers who labor among them, and would be in a more prosperous condition if those ministers would keep out of their way and give them an opportunity to work. The effort of such ministers to build up the churches only tears them down. The theory of the truth is presented over and over again, but it is not accompanied by the vitalizing power of God. They manifest a listless indifference; the spirit is contagious, and the churches lose their interest and burden for the salvation of others. Thus by their preaching and example the ministers lull the people to carnal security. If they would leave the churches, go out into new fields, and labor to raise up churches, they would understand their ability and what it costs to bring souls out to take their position upon the truth. And they would then realize how careful they should be that their example and influence might never discourage or weaken those whom it had required so much hard, prayerful labor to convert to the truth. “Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”
The churches give of their means to sustain the ministers in their labors. What have they to encourage them in their liberality? Some ministers labor from month to month and accomplish so little that the churches become disheartened; they cannot see that anything is being done to convert souls to the truth nor to make those who are church members more spiritual or fervent in their love to God and His truth. Those who are handling sacred things should be wholly consecrated to the work. They should possess an unselfish interest in it and a fervent love for perishing souls. If they do not have this they have mistaken their mission and should cease their labor of teaching others, for they do more harm than they can possibly do good. Some ministers display themselves, but do not feed the flock that are perishing for meat in due season.
There is a disposition with some to shrink from opposition. They fear to go into new places because of the darkness and the conflicts they expect to meet. This is cowardice. The people must be met where they are. They need stirring appeals and practical, as well as doctrinal, discourses. Precept backed up by example will have a powerful influence.
A faithful shepherd will not study his own ease and convenience, but will labor for the interest of the sheep. In this great work he will forget self; in his search for the lost sheep he will not realize that he himself is weary, cold, and hungry. He has but one object in view: to save the lost and wandering sheep at whatever expense it may be to himself. His wages will not influence him in his labor nor turn him from his duty. He has received his commission from the Majesty of heaven, and he expects his reward when the work entrusted to him is done.
Those who engage in the business of schoolteaching prepare for the work. They qualify themselves by attending school and interesting their minds in study. They are not allowed to teach children and youth in the sciences unless they are capable of instructing them. Upon applying for a situation as teacher, they have to pass an examination before competent persons. It is an important work to deal with young minds and instruct them correctly in the sciences. But of how much greater importance is the work of the ministry! Yet many engage in the important business of interesting men and women to enter the school of Christ, where they are to learn how they may form characters for heaven, who need to become students themselves. Some who enter the ministry do not feel the burden of the work upon them. They have received incorrect ideas of the qualifications of a minister. They have thought that it required but little close study in the sciences or in the word of God to make a minister. Some who are teaching present truth are not acquainted with their Bibles. They are so deficient in Bible knowledge that it is difficult for them to quote a text of Scripture correctly from memory. By blundering along in the awkward manner they do, they sin against God. They mangle the scripture, and make the Bible say things that are not written therein.
Some who have all their lives been led by feeling have thought that an education or a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures was of no consequence if they only had the Spirit. But God never sends His Spirit to sanction ignorance. Those who have not knowledge, and who are so situated that it is impossible for them to obtain it, the Lord may, and does, pity and bless, and sometimes condescends to make His strength perfect in their weakness. But He makes it the duty of such to study His word. A lack of knowledge in the sciences is no excuse for a neglect of Bible study; for the words of inspiration are so plain that the unlearned may understand them.
Of all men upon the face of the earth, those who are handling solemn truths for these perilous times should understand their Bibles and become acquainted with the evidences of our faith. Unless they possess a knowledge of the word of life they have no right to undertake to instruct others in the way to life. Ministers should give all diligence to add to their “faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” Some of our ministers graduate when they have scarcely learned the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. Those who are ambassadors for Christ, who stand in His stead, beseeching souls to be reconciled to God, should be qualified to present our faith intelligently and be able to give the reasons of their hope with meekness and fear. Said Christ: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.”
Ministers who teach unpopular truth will be beset by men who are urged on by Satan and who, like their master, can quote Scripture readily; and shall the servants of God be unequal to the servants of Satan in handling the words of Inspiration? They should, like Christ, meet scripture with scripture. Oh, that those who minister in holy things would awake, and, like the noble Bereans, search the Scriptures daily! Brethren in the ministry, I entreat of you to study the Scriptures with humble prayer for an understanding heart, that you may teach the way of life more perfectly. Your counsel, prayers, and example must be a savor of life unto life, or you are unqualified to point out the way of life to others.
The Master requires all His servants to improve upon the talents He has committed to them. But how much more will He require of those who profess to understand the way to life, and who take upon themselves the responsibility of guiding others therein. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy: “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
The glorious results that attended the ministry of the chosen disciples of Christ were the effects of bearing about in their bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus. Some of those who testified of Christ were unlearned and ignorant men; but grace and truth reigned in their hearts, inspiring and purifying their lives, and controlling their actions. They were living representatives of the mind and spirit of Christ. They were living epistles, known and read of all men. They were hated and persecuted by all who would not receive the truth they preached, and who despised the cross of Christ.
Wicked men will not oppose a form of godliness nor reject a popular ministry which presents no cross for them to bear. The natural heart will raise no serious objection to a religion in which there is nothing to make the transgressor of the law tremble or bring to bear upon the heart and conscience the terrible realities of a judgment to come. It is the demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God which raises opposition and leads the natural heart to rebel. The truth that saves the soul must not only come from God; but His Spirit must attend its communication to others, else it falls powerless before opposing influences. Oh, that the truth would fall from the lips of God’s servants with such power as to burn its way to the hearts of the people!
Ministers must be endued with power from on high. When the truth in its simplicity and strength, as it is in Jesus, is brought to bear against the spirit of the world, condemning its exciting pleasures and corrupting charms, it will then be plainly seen that there is no concord between Christ and Belial. The natural heart cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God. An unconsecrated minister, presenting the truth in an unimpassioned manner, his own soul unmoved by the truths he speaks to others, will do only harm. Every effort he makes only lowers the standard.
Selfish interest must be swallowed up in deep anxiety for the salvation of souls. Some ministers have labored, not because they dared not do otherwise, not because the woe was upon them, but having in view the wages they were to receive. Said the angel: “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on Mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.”
It is entirely wrong to buy every errand that is done for the Lord. The treasury of the Lord has been drained by those who have been only an injury to the cause. If ministers give themselves wholly to the work of God, and devote all their energies to building up His cause, they will have no lack. As regards temporal things, they have a better portion than their Lord and better than His chosen disciples whom He sent forth to save perishing man. Our great Exemplar, who was in the brightness of His Father’s glory, was despised and rejected of men. Reproach and falsehood followed Him. His chosen disciples were living examples of the life and spirit of their Master. They were honored with stripes and imprisonment; and it was finally their portion to seal their ministry with their blood.
When ministers are so interested in the work that they love it as a part of their existence, then they can say: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
Chapter 51—Moral Pollution
I have been shown that we live amid the perils of the last days. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. The word “many” refers to the professed followers of Christ. They are affected by the prevailing iniquity and backslide from God, but it is not necessary that they should be thus affected. The cause of this declension is that they do not stand clear from this iniquity. The fact that their love to God is waxing cold because iniquity abounds shows that they are, in some sense, partakers in this iniquity, or it would not affect their love for God and their zeal and fervor in His cause.
A terrible picture of the condition of the world has been presented before me. Immorality abounds everywhere. Licentiousness is the special sin of this age. Never did vice lift its deformed head with such boldness as now. The people seem to be benumbed, and the lovers of virtue and true goodness are nearly discouraged by its boldness, strength, and prevalence. The iniquity which abounds is not merely confined to the unbeliever and the scoffer. Would that this were the case, but it is not. Many men and women who profess the religion of Christ are guilty. Even some who profess to be looking for His appearing are no more prepared for that event than Satan himself. They are not cleansing themselves from all pollution. They have so long served their lust that it is natural for their thoughts to be impure and their imaginations corrupt. It is as impossible to cause their minds to dwell upon pure and holy things as it would be to turn the course of Niagara and send its waters pouring up the falls.
Youth and children of both sexes engage in moral pollution, and practice this disgusting, soul-and-body-destroying vice. Many professed Christians are so benumbed by the same practice that their moral sensibilities cannot be aroused to understand that it is sin, and that if continued its sure results will be utter shipwreck of body and mind. Man, the noblest being upon the earth, formed in the image of God, transforms himself into a beast! He makes himself gross and corrupt. Every Christian will have to learn to restrain his passions and be controlled by principle. Unless he does this he is unworthy of the Christian name.
Some who make a high profession do not understand the sin of self-abuse and its sure results. Long-established habit has blinded their understanding. They do not realize the exceeding sinfulness of this degrading sin, which is enervating the system and destroying their brain nerve power. Moral principle is exceedingly weak when it conflicts with established habit. Solemn messages from heaven cannot forcibly impress the heart that is not fortified against the indulgence of this degrading vice. The sensitive nerves of the brain have lost their healthy tone by morbid excitation to gratify an unnatural desire for sensual indulgence. The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which Heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life. Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents in the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind. In consideration of these facts, how important that ministers and people who profess godliness should stand forth clear and untainted from this soul-debasing vice!
My soul has been bowed down with anguish as I have been shown the weak condition of God’s professed people. Iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold. There are but few professed Christians who regard this matter in the right light and who hold proper government over themselves when public opinion and custom do not condemn them. How few restrain their passions because they feel under moral obligation to do so and because the fear of God is before their eyes! The higher faculties of man are enslaved by appetite and corrupt passions.
Some will acknowledge the evil of sinful indulgences, yet will excuse themselves by saying that they cannot overcome their passions. This is a terrible admission for any person to make who names Christ. “Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Why is this weakness? It is because the animal propensities have been strengthened by exercise until they have gained the ascendancy over the higher powers. Men and women lack principle. They are dying spiritually because they have so long pampered their natural appetites that their power of self-government seems gone. The lower passions of their nature have taken the reins, and that which should be the governing power has become the servant of corrupt passion. The soul is held in lowest bondage. Sensuality has quenched the desire for holiness and withered spiritual prosperity.
My soul mourns for the youth who are forming characters in this degenerate age. I tremble for their parents also; for I have been shown that as a general thing they do not understand their obligations to train up their children in the way they should go. Custom and fashion are consulted, and the children soon learn to be swayed by these and are corrupted; while their indulgent parents are themselves benumbed and asleep to their danger. But very few of the youth are free from corrupt habits. They are excused from physical exercise to a great degree for fear they will overwork. The parents bear burdens themselves which their children should bear. Overwork is bad, but the result of indolence is more to be dreaded. Idleness leads to the indulgence of corrupt habits. Industry does not weary and exhaust one-fifth part as much as the pernicious habit of self-abuse. If simple, well-regulated labor exhausts your children, be assured, parents, there is something, aside from their labor, which is enervating their systems and producing a sense of constant weariness. Give your children physical labor, which will call into exercise the nerves and muscles. The weariness attending such labor will lessen their inclination to indulge in vicious habits. Idleness is a curse. It produces licentious habits.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 339-348