You should also have an aim, a purpose, in life. Where there is no purpose, there is a disposition to indolence, but where there is a sufficiently important object in view, all the powers of the mind will come into spontaneous activity. In order to make life a success, the thoughts must be steadily fixed upon the object of life, and not left to wander off and be occupied with unimportant things, or to be satisfied with idle musing, which is the fruit of shunning responsibility. Castle-building depraves the mind.
Take up present duty. Do it with a will, with all the heart. You should resolve to do something which will require an effort of the mental as well as the physical powers. Your heart should be in your present labor. The duty now before you is the very work which Heaven wishes you to do. To dream of a work far off, and imagine and plan in regard to the future, will prove unprofitable, and will unfit you for the work, small though it may be, which Heaven now places before you. It should not be your study to do some great work, but to do cheerfully and well the work which you see to do today. Talents are entrusted to your care, to be doubled. You are responsible for their proper use or their abuse. You are not to aspire after great things in order to do great service, but to do your little work. Improve your talents, even though they are few, and let a sense of your responsibility to God for their right use rest upon you.
You need not expect to avoid pain and weariness in the toils and trials of life. The Son of God was partaker of the human frame. He was frequently wearied in body and spirit. Said He: “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” You should cease your far-off dreaming, and bring your mind to present duties, and cheerfully perform them.
This world is not the Christian’s heaven. It is merely the fitting-up place. It is the scene of our life battles, our conflicts and sorrows; and it is important that we all have a firm grasp of the better world, where will be found, when the warfare is ended, peace, joy, and bliss, to be enjoyed forever. I saw that you would both be in greater danger of making shipwreck of faith were you united, because you would look upon matters in a false light. You both have a great work to do for yourselves, but you are in danger of blinding your eyes to each other’s faults.
Sister P should be guarded so as not to stir up the hasty spirit of her husband by relating her supposed grievances to him to obtain sympathy. He views things in a strong light and feels deeply over matters which are not worthy of notice. She will have to learn this and understand that it is wisdom to be silent. She needs the power of endurance. It is much easier to throw a thing into the mind than to get it out when once it is there. It is easier to dwell upon a supposed wrong than to pacify or control the feelings when once aroused.
Brother P has qualities which would be excellent if they were refined by the elevating influences of pure religion. He can be useful. Sincere piety alone can qualify him to perform his duties well in this world and give him a fitness for heaven. A heavenly character must be acquired upon earth, my brother, or you will never possess it; therefore you should engage at once in the work which you have to do. You should labor earnestly to obtain a fitness for heaven. Live for heaven. Live by faith.
Brother P, you are a rough stone; but the hand of a skillful workman is upon you. Will you let Him hew and square you, and polish you for that building which is coming together without the sound of ax or hammer? Not a blow is to be struck after probation closes. You must now, in the hours of probation, overcome your impetuous temper, or be separated from God at last.
Jesus loves you both and will save you if you will be saved in His own appointed way. You may have experimental religion if you really hunger and thirst for it. Go to God in faith and humility, and ask, and you will receive; but remember that the disciple is not above his Master nor the servant greater than his Lord. You need to cherish that humility and humbleness of mind which dwelt in Christ.
Battle Creek, Michigan,
February 9, 1869.
Chapter 57—Industry and Economy
Dear Brother and Sister R,
I have been seeking an opportunity to write to you, but have been sick, and unable to write to anyone. But I will try to write a few lines this morning.
As I was shown the duties resting upon God’s people in regard to the poor, especially the widows and orphans, I was shown that my husband and I were in danger of taking upon us burdens which God has not laid upon us, and thereby lessening our courage and strength by increasing our cares and anxiety. I saw that my husband went farther in your case than it was his duty to go. His interest in you led him to take a burden which carried him beyond his duty, and which has been no benefit to you, but has encouraged in you a disposition to depend upon your brethren. You look to them to help and favor you, while you do not labor as hard as they, nor economize at all times as they feel it their duty to do.
I was shown that you, my brother and sister, have much to learn. You have not lived within your means. You have not learned to economize. If you earn high wages, you do not know how to make it go as far as possible. You consult taste or appetite instead of prudence. At times you expend money for a quality of food in which your brethren cannot afford to indulge. Dollars slip from your pocket very easily.
Sister R is in poor health. She indulges her appetite and places too heavy a tax upon her stomach. She burdens it by overeating and by placing in it a quality of food not best calculated to nourish her system. Her food is taken in immoderate quantities, and she takes but little exercise; thus the system is severely taxed. According to the light which the Lord has given us, simple food is the best to ensure health and strength. Exercise is necessary to her health.
Self-denial is a lesson which you both have yet to learn. Restrict your appetite, Brother R. God has given you a capital of strength. This is of more value to you than money and should be more highly prized. Strength cannot be purchased with gold or silver, houses or lands. It is a great possession that you have. God requires you to make a judicious use of the capital of strength with which He has blessed you. You are just as much His steward as is the man who has a capital of money. It is as wrong for you to fail to use your strength to the best advantage as it is for a rich man to covetously retain his riches because it is agreeable to do so. You do not make the exertion that you should to support your family. You can and do work if work is conveniently prepared to hand, but you do not exert yourself to set yourself to work feeling that it is a duty to use your time and strength to the very best advantage and in the fear of God.
You have been in a business which would at times yield you large profits at once. After you have earned means you have not studied to economize in reference to a time when means could not be earned so easily, but have expended much for imaginary wants. Had you and your wife understood it to be a duty that God enjoined upon you to deny your taste and your desires, and make provision for the future instead of living merely for the present, you could now have had a competency and your family have had the comforts of life. You have a lesson to learn which you should not be backward in learning. It is to make a little go the longest way.
Sister R has leaned too heavily upon her husband. She has been all her life too dependent upon others for sympathy, thinking of herself, making herself a center. She has been petted too much, and has not learned to be self-reliant. She has not been the help to her husband that she might have been in temporal or spiritual things. She must learn to bear bodily infirmities and not dwell upon them as she does. She must fight the battles of life for herself; an individual responsibility rests upon her.
Sister R, your life has been a mistake. You have indulged in reading anything and everything. Your mind has not been benefited by so much reading. Your nerves have been excited while hurriedly chasing through the story. If your children interrupt you while thus employed, you speak fretfully, impatiently. You do not have self-control, and therefore fail to hold your children with a firm, steady hand. You move from impulse. You pet and indulge them, and then fret and scold, and are severe. This variable manner is very detrimental to them. They need a firm, steady hand; for they are wayward. They need regular, wise, judicious discipline.
You might save yourself much perplexity if you would put on the woman and move from principle, not from impulse. You have imagined that your husband must be with you, that you could not stay alone. You should see that his duty is to labor to sustain his family. You should bring yourself to deny your desires and wishes, and not lead him to feel that he must accommodate himself to you. You have a part to act in bearing the burdens of life. You must put on courage and fortitude. Be a woman, not a capricious child. You have been petted and have had your burdens borne for you too long. It is now your duty to seek to deny your wishes and desires, and act from principle, for the present and future good of your family. You are not well; but if you should cultivate a contented, cheerful mind, it would help you to a better hold on this life, and also on the life to come.
Brother R, it is your duty to make a careful, judicious use of the capital of strength which God has given you.
Sister R, your brain is wearied and taxed by reading. You should deny your propensity for crowding your mind with everything it can devour. Your lifetime has not been spent in the best manner. You have not benefited yourself, nor those around you. You have leaned on your mother more than has been for your good. If you had depended more upon the powers within yourself, if you had been more self-reliant, you would have been happier. Now you should bear your own burdens as well as you can, and encourage your husband to bear his in doing his work.
If you had denied your taste for reading and seeking to please yourself, had devoted more time to prudent physical exercise, and had eaten carefully of proper, healthful food, you would have avoided much suffering. A part of this suffering has been imaginary. If you had braced your mind to resist the disposition to yield to infirmities, you would not have had nervous spasms. Your mind should be drawn away from yourself to household duties, keeping your house with order, neatness, and taste. Much reading, and permitting your mind to be diverted with small things, has led to a neglect of your children and your household duties. These are the very duties which God has given you to perform.
You have had much sympathy for yourself. You have called your mind to yourself and have dwelt upon your poor feelings. My sister, eat less. Engage in physical labor, and devote your mind to spiritual things. Keep your mind from dwelling upon yourself. Cultivate a contented, cheerful spirit. You talk too much upon unimportant things. You gain no spiritual strength from this. If the strength spent in talking were devoted to prayer, you would receive spiritual strength and would make melody in your heart to God.
You have been controlled by feeling, not by duty and principle. You have given up to homesick feelings and injured your health by indulging a spirit of unrest. Your habits of life are not healthful. You need to reform. Neither of you is willing to work as others work, or to eat as your brethren eat. If it is in your power to get things, you have them. It is your duty to economize.
In contrast with your case was presented that of Sister S. She is in feeble health, and has two children to support with her needle at the very low prices which are paid for her work. For years she received scarcely a farthing of help. She suffered with ill health, yet she carried her own burdens. Here was an object of charity indeed. Now look at your case. A man with a small family and a good capital of strength, yet constantly involved in debt and leaning upon others. This is all wrong. You have lessons to learn. With Sister S, economy is the battle of life. Here you are with a man’s strong energies, and yet are not self-sustaining. You have a work to do. You should have uniformity of diet. Live at all times as simply as your brethren live. Live out the health reform.
Jesus wrought a miracle and fed five thousand, and then He taught an important lesson of economy: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” Duties, important duties, rest upon you. “Owe no man anything.” Were you infirm, were you unable to labor, then your brethren would be in duty bound to help you. As it is, all you needed from your brethren when you changed your location was a start. If you felt as ambitious as you should, and you and your wife would agree to live within your means, you could be free from embarrassment. You will have to labor for small wages as well as for large. Industry and economy would have placed your family, ere this, in a much more favorable condition. God wants you to be a faithful steward of your strength. He wants you to use it to place your family above want and dependence.
Battle Creek, Michigan,
March 22, 1869.
Chapter 58—Stirring Up Opposition
Dear Sister T,
I have been shown that there has been a fault in your religious life. You have possessed too much of a combative spirit. While it is your privilege to think and act for yourself, you have carried the matter too far. You have had more independence than humility. You have pursued a course to irritate rather than to pacify. It has been necessary for you to possess firmness in order to stand in defense of the truth; yet you have frequently erred in not possessing that meek and quiet spirit which God esteems of great price. In your family you have met with opposition and a manifest disrelish of the truth, but you have failed to meet these trials in the best manner. You have talked too much and been too positive. You have mingled too little love and tenderness with your efforts for your family, especially for your husband. You are in danger of carrying points to extremes, overdoing the matter, and hurting instead of healing. Wherever you can yield your judgment and not sacrifice the principles of truth, it is best for you to do so, even if you think you are right. You have a responsibility, an identity, which cannot be merged in your husband. Yet there is a bond which makes you one, and in many things, if you were more yielding, it would be far better for your husband, your children, and yourself. You are too exacting. You do not seek to win those who differ with you. You are quick to discern when you have the advantage, and you make the most of it. If you possessed more forbearance mingled with sweet love, and if you should for Christ’s sake pass over many things without taking them up and pressing them home, thus creating uncomfortable feelings, the influence would be better, more saving. You need love, tender pity, and affection.
You see the truth, and then you mark out how this one and that one should practice it; and if they fail to come up to the mark you set, you feel to draw off from them. You cannot fellowship them, and love dies out of your heart for them, when in reality they are just as near right as you are. You make yourself enemies when you might have friends. You are ardent and positive in your temperament, and when you see points of truth, you carry matters to extremes. You thus repulse persons, instead of winning and binding them to your heart. You look upon the objectionable features in the character of those with whom you associate, and dwell upon their seeming inconsistencies and wrongs, overlooking their redeeming traits. I was referred to this scripture: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Here, dear sister, you may meditate and speculate with profit. Dwell upon the good qualities of those with whom you associate, and see as little as possible of their errors and failings. You possess too much of a spirit of war, and throw things into confusion and strife. You must change your life and character if you are ever classed with those who hear the words: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Let nothing but kind, loving words fall from your lips concerning the members of your family or of the church.
You need to open your heart to love, to that love which dwelt in the bosom of Jesus. Should your Saviour deal with you as you would deal with those with whom you differ, you would certainly be in a distressed condition. Your case would be nearly hopeless. But I thank the Lord that we have a merciful high priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. You have been tried with others, and have pursued a course toward them that Heaven does not approve. You have a work to do to let the softening influence of the grace of God into your heart; seek meekness, seek righteousness.
You are zealous for the truth. You love it and wish to invest something in it. This is all right, but be careful that the precepts you give to others are backed up with example. You must seek for peace. You can do this and not sacrifice one principle of truth. You have stormed and fought your way through, and now you need to soften your influence, to sweeten, to soothe, instead of stirring up opposition. You have possessed a large share of self-confidence and self-esteem, and have been self-exalted. Now you need to exalt Jesus and imitate the harmless life of Him whom peace everywhere followed.
You, my sister, will prove a trial to God’s people unless you are willing to learn, willing to be counseled. You must not continue to feel that you know it all. You have much yet to learn before you can be perfect before God. The sweetest and best lesson to be learned will be that of humility. “Learn of Me,” says the humble Nazarene; “for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” This lesson of meekness, forbearance, patience, and love you have yet to learn and practice. You can be a blessing. You can help such as need help; but you must lay down your measuring tape, for that is not for you to use. One who is unerring in judgment, who understands the weakness of our fallen, corrupt natures, holds the standard Himself. He weighs in the balances of the sanctuary, and His just measure we shall all accept.
You err in your course toward your husband. You need to cultivate more gentleness and deference toward him. You are exacting. You carry matters to extremes and do harm to your own soul and to the truth. You make the truth repulsive and cause souls to be afraid of it. Let love soften your words and give tone to your actions, and you will find a change in those with whom you associate. There will be peace, union, and harmony, instead of strife, jealousy, and discord. Let love and tenderness be exercised, especially in your family, and you will receive a blessing.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 429-438