“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers [not talking the truth in a boasting, triumphant manner], but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.” “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
Brother C wants his mind to control others, and unless he can have this privilege he is dissatisfied. He is not a peacemaker. His course will cause more confusion and distrust in a church than any ten persons can counteract. His peculiar temperament is such that he will be picking flaws, and finding fault with all but himself. He will not prosper until he learns the lesson that he ought to have learned years ago, humbleness of mind. At his age he will learn this lesson at much cost to self. All his life he has been trying to build himself up, to save himself, to preserve his own life; and he has lost his labor every time.
What Brother C needs is to have the deceptive gloss taken from his eyes, that he may look, with eyes enlightened by the Spirit of God, into his own heart, and test and weigh every motive, and not let Satan put a false coloring upon his course of action. His position is extremely perilous. He will soon turn decidedly to the right, or he will go on deceiving others and deceiving himself. He needs to have his inmost soul converted, and to be subdued and transformed by the renewing of his mind. Then he can do good. But he can never come into the light until he encourages a spirit of humble confession and takes hold with decision to right his wrongs and, as far as he can, to do away the reproach he has brought upon the cause of God.
Chapter 54—Sensuality in the Young
Dear Brother and Sister E,
It has been some time since I have taken my pen to write anything except urgent letters which could not be delayed. I have had a discouraging weight upon my spirits for months, which has nearly crushed me. That which discourages me the most is the fear that all I may write will do no more good than has our earnest, anxious, wearing labor in —– the past winter and spring. The hopeless view I have taken of matters and things at that place has kept my pen nearly still and my voice nearly silent. My hands have been weakened and my heart depressed, to see nothing gained by the protracted effort there. I am nearly hopeless in regard to our efforts’ being successful to awaken the sensibilities of our Sabbathkeeping people to see the elevated position which God requires them to occupy. They do not view religious things from an elevated standpoint. This is just your condition.
The Lord has given me a view of some of the corruptions everywhere existing. Wickedness, crime, and sensuality exist even in high places. Even in the churches professing to keep God’s commandments there are sinners and hypocrites. It is sin, not trial and suffering, which separates God from His people and renders the soul incapable of enjoying and glorifying Him. It is sin that is destroying souls. Sin and vice exist in Sabbathkeeping families. Moral pollution has done more than every other evil to cause the race to degenerate. It is practiced to an alarming extent and brings on disease of almost every description. Even very small children, infants, being born with natural irritability of the sexual organs, find momentary relief in handling them, which only increases the irritation, and leads to a repetition of the act, until a habit is established which increases with their growth. These children, generally puny and dwarfed, are prescribed for by physicians and drugged; but the evil is not removed. The cause still exists.
Parents do not generally suspect that their children understand anything about this vice. In very many cases the parents are the real sinners. They have abused their marriage privileges, and by indulgence have strengthened their animal passions. And as these have strengthened, the moral and intellectual faculties have become weak. The spiritual has been overborne by the brutish. Children are born with the animal propensities largely developed, the parents’ own stamp of character having been given to them. The unnatural action of the sensitive organs produces irritation. They are easily excited, and momentary relief is experienced in exercising them. But the evil constantly increases. The drain upon the system is sensibly felt. The brain force is weakened, and memory becomes deficient. Children born to these parents will almost invariably take naturally to the disgusting habits of secret vice. The marriage covenant is sacred, but what an amount of lust and crime it covers! Those who feel at liberty, because married, to degrade their bodies by beastly indulgence of the animal passions, will have their degraded course perpetuated in their children. The sins of the parents will be visited upon their children because the parents have given them the stamp of their own lustful propensities.
Those who have become fully established in this soul-and-body-destroying vice can seldom rest until their burden of secret evil is imparted to those with whom they associate. Curiosity is at once aroused, and the knowledge of vice is passed from youth to youth, from child to child, until there is scarcely one to be found ignorant of the practice of this degrading sin.
Your children have practiced self-abuse until the draft upon the brain has been so great, especially in the case of your eldest son, that their minds have been seriously injured. The brilliancy of youthful intellect is dimmed. The moral and intellectual powers have become weakened, while the baser part of their nature has been gaining the ascendancy. For this reason your son turns with loathing from religious things. He has been losing his power of self-restraint, and has less and less reverence for sacred things, and less respect for anything of a spiritual character. You have charged this to your surroundings, but you have not known the real cause. Your son can be said to bear the impress of the satanic instead of the divine. He loves sin and evil rather than true goodness, purity, and righteousness. It is a deplorable picture.
The effect of such debasing habits is not the same upon all minds. There are some children who have the moral powers largely developed, who, by associating with children that practice self-abuse, become initiated into this vice. The effect upon such will be too frequently to make them melancholy, irritable, and jealous; yet such may not lose their respect for religious worship, and may not show special infidelity in regard to spiritual things. They will at times suffer keenly from feelings of remorse, and will feel degraded in their own eyes, and lose their self-respect.
Brother and sister, you are not clear before God. You have failed to do your duty at home, in your own family. You have not controlled your children. You have greatly failed to know and do the will of God, and His blessing has not rested upon your family. Brother E, you have been selfish. You have had large self-esteem. You have thought that you possessed a good degree of humility, but you have not understood yourself. Your ways are not right before God. Your influence and example have not been in accordance with your profession. You have much fault to find with others; you see deviations from the right in them, but you are blind to the same in yourself.
Sister E has been far from God. Her heart has not been subdued by grace. Her love of the world, and of the things that are in the world, has closed her heart to the love of God. The love of dress and appearance has kept her from good, and led her to place her mind and affections upon these frivolous things. Unbelief has been strengthening in her heart, and she has had less and less love for the truth, and could see but little attraction in the simplicity of true godliness. She has not encouraged a growth of Christian graces. She has not loved humility or devotion. She has taken the errors of those who professed to be devoted to the truth, and made their lack of spirituality, their errors, and their sins an excuse for her world-loving disposition. She has watched the course of those who were connected with the —–, and who were forward to take upon them the burdens of the church, and has offset her failures to their wrongs, saying that she was no worse than they. Such and such individuals in good standing did this or that, and she had as good a right as they. Such and such ones did not live the health reform any better than she; they purchased and ate meat, and they were in high standing in the church, and she was excusable, of course, with such an example, if she did the same.
This is not the only case where neglect to follow the light which the Lord has given has been shielded behind the faults of others. It is to the shame of men and women of intelligence that they have no higher standard than that of imperfect human beings. The course of those around them, however imperfect, is considered by some a sufficient excuse for them to follow in the same path. Many will be swayed by the influence of some leading brother. If he departs from the counsel of God his example is at once gladly seized by the unconsecrated, who now feel that they are free from restraint. They now have an excuse; and their unconsecrated hearts glory in the opportunity of indulging their desires and taking a step nearer the fellowship with the spirit of the world, where they can enjoy its pleasures and gratify their appetite. They therefore place upon their tables those things which are not the most healthful, and from which they have been taught to abstain, that they may preserve to themselves a better condition of health.
There has been a war in the hearts of some ever since the health reform was first introduced. They have felt the same rebellion as did the children of Israel when their appetites were restricted on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. Professed followers of Christ, who have all their lives consulted their own pleasure and their own interests, their own ease and their own appetites, are not prepared to change their course of action and live for the glory of God, imitating the self-sacrificing life of their unerring Pattern. A perfect example has been given for Christians to imitate. The words and works of Christ’s followers are the channel through which the pure principles of truth and holiness are conveyed to the world. His followers are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
Sister E, you cannot realize the many blessings you have lost by making the failings of others a balm to soothe your conscience for a neglect of your duty. You have been measuring yourself by others. Their crooked paths, their failings, have been your textbook. But their errors, their follies and sins, do not make your disobedience to God less sinful. We regret that those who should be a strength to you in your efforts to overcome your love of self, your pride of heart, your vanity and love of the approbation of worldlings, have been only a hindrance by their own lack of spirituality and true godliness. We cannot tell you how much we regret that those who should be self-denying Christians are so far from coming up to the standard. Those who should be steadfast, abounding in the work of God, are weakened by Satan because they remain at such a distance from God. They fail to obtain the power of His grace, through which they might overcome the infirmities of their nature, and, by obtaining signal victories in God, show those of weaker faith the way, the truth, and the life.
That which has caused us the greatest discouragement has been to see those in —– who have had years of experience in the cause and work of God, shorn of their strength by their own unfaithfulness. They are outgeneraled by the enemy in nearly every attack. God would have made these persons strong, like faithful sentinels at their post, to guard the fort, had they walked in the light He had given them and remained steadfast to duty, seeking to know and do the whole will of God. Satan will, no doubt, through his delusions deceive these delinquent souls, and make them believe that they are about right after all. They have committed no grievous, outbreaking sins, and they must, after all, be on the true foundation, and God will accept their works. They see no special sins to repent of, no sins which call for special humiliation, humble confession, and rending of heart. The delusion upon such is strong indeed when they mistake the form of godliness for the power thereof, and flatter themselves that they are rich and have need of nothing. The curse of Meroz rests upon them: “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
My sister, excuse not your defects because others are wrong. In the day of God you will not dare to plead as an excuse for your neglect to form a character for heaven, that others did not manifest devotion and spirituality. The same lack which you discovered in others was in yourself. And the fact that others were sinners makes your sins nonetheless grievous. Both they and you, if you continue in your present state of unfitness, will be separated from Christ, and will with Satan and his angels be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.
The Lord made ample provision for you, that if you would seek Him, and follow the light He would give you, you should not fall by the way. The word of God was given to you as a lamp to your feet, a light to your path. If you stumble, it will be because you have not consulted your guide, the word of God, and made that precious word the rule of your life. God has not given you as a pattern the life of any human being, however good and apparently blameless his life may be. If you do as others do, and act as others act, you will at last be left outside the Holy City, with a vast multitude who have done just as you have done, followed a pattern the Lord did not leave them, and who are lost just as you will be lost.
That which others have done, or may do in the future, will not lessen your responsibility or guilt. A pattern has been given you, a faultless life characterized by self-denial and disinterested benevolence. If you turn from this correct, this perfect pattern, and take an incorrect one, which has been clearly represented in the word of God as one that you should shun, your course of action will receive its merited reward; your life will be a failure.
One of the greatest reasons for the declension of the church at —– is their measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves. There are but few who have the living principle in the soul and who serve God with an eye single to His glory. Many at —– will not consent to be saved in God’s appointed way. They will not take the trouble to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. The latter they do not experience; and, rather than be at the trouble of obtaining an experience through individual effort, they will run the risk of leaning upon others and trusting in their experience. They cannot consent to watch and pray, to live for God and Him only. It is more pleasant to live in obedience to self.
The church at —– are filled with their own backslidings, and they need not dream of prosperity until those who name the name of Christ are careful to depart from all iniquity, until they learn to refuse the evil and choose the good. We are required to watch and pray without ceasing; for a snare is set in our path, and we shall find some device of Satan when and where we least expect it. If at that particular time we are not watching unto prayer we shall be taken by the enemy and meet with decided loss.
What a responsibility has rested upon you as parents! How little have you felt the weight of this burden! Pride of heart, love of show, and the indulgence of appetite have occupied your minds. These things have been first with you, and the incoming of the foe has not been perceived. He has planted his standard in your house and stamped his detestable image upon the characters of your children. But you were so blinded by the god of this world, so deadened to spiritual and divine things, that you could not discern the advantage which Satan had gained nor his workings right in your family.
You have brought children into the world who have had no voice in regard to their existence. You have made yourselves responsible in a great measure for their future happiness, their eternal well-being. The burden is upon you, whether you are sensible of it or not, to train these children for God, to watch with jealous care the first approach of the wily foe and be prepared to raise a standard against him. Build a fortification of prayer and faith about your children, and exercise diligent watching thereunto. You are not secure a moment against the attacks of Satan. You have no time to rest from watchful, earnest labor. You should not sleep a moment at your post. This is a most important warfare. Eternal consequences are involved. It is life or death with you and your family. Your only safety is to break your hearts before God and seek the kingdom of heaven as little children. You cannot be victors in this warfare if you continue to pursue the course you have pursued. You are not very near the kingdom of heaven.
Some who have not professed Christ are nearer the kingdom of God than are very many professed Sabbathkeepers in —–. You have not kept yourselves in the love of God and taught your children the fear of the Lord. You have not taught them the truth diligently, when you rose up, and when you sat down, when you went out, and when you came in. You have not restrained them. You look to other children and solace yourselves by saying: “My children are no worse than they.” This may be true, but does the neglect of others to do their duty lessen the force of the requirements which God has especially enjoined upon you as parents? He has placed upon you the responsibility to bring these children up for Him, and their salvation depends in a great degree upon the education they receive in their childhood. This responsibility others cannot take; it is yours, solely yours, as parents. You may bring to your aid all the helps you can to assist in the solemn and important work; but after you have done this, there is a power above every human agency, that will work with you through the means which it is your privilege to use. God will come to your aid, and upon His power you can rely. This power is infinite. Human agencies may not prove successful, but God can make them fruitful by working in and through them.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 389-398