Through severe attacks of sickness or by powerful conviction the consciences of some of the guilty have been aroused and have so scourged them that it has led to confession of these things with deep humiliation. Others are equally guilty. They have practiced this sin nearly their whole lifetime and, in their broken-down constitutions and sievelike memories, are reaping the result of this pernicious habit; yet they are too proud to confess. They are secretive, and have not shown compunctions of conscience for this great sin. My confidence in the Christian experience of such is very small. They seem to be insensible to the influence of the Spirit of God. The sacred and common are alike to them. The common practice of a vice so degrading as the polluting of their own bodies has not led to bitter tears and heartfelt repentance. They feel that their sin is against themselves alone. Here they mistake. Are they diseased in body or mind, others are made to feel, others suffer. The imagination is at fault, the memory is deficient, mistakes are made, and there is a deficiency everywhere which seriously affects those with whom they live and who associate with them. Mortification and regret are felt because these things are known by others.
I have mentioned these cases to illustrate the power of this soul-and-body-destroying vice. The entire mind is given up to low passion. The moral and intellectual faculties are over-borne by the baser powers. The body is enervated, the brain weakened. The material deposited there to nourish the system is squandered. The drain upon the system is great. The fine nerves of the brain, being excited to unnatural action, become benumbed and in a measure paralyzed. The moral and intellectual powers are weakening, while the animal passions are strengthening and being more largely developed by exercise. The appetite for unhealthful food clamors for indulgence. When persons are addicted to the habit of self-abuse, it is impossible to arouse their moral sensibilities to appreciate eternal things or to delight in spiritual exercises. Impure thoughts seize and control the imagination and fascinate the mind, and next follows an almost uncontrollable desire for the performance of impure actions. If the mind were educated to contemplate elevating subjects, the imagination trained to reflect upon pure and holy things, it would be fortified against this terrible, debasing, soul-and-body-destroying indulgence. It would, by training, become accustomed to linger upon the high, the heavenly, the pure, and the sacred, and could not be attracted to this base, corrupt, and vile indulgence.
What can we say of those who are living right in the blazing light of truth, yet daily practicing and following in a course of sin and crime? Forbidden, exciting pleasures have a charm for them and hold and control their entire being. Such take pleasure in unrighteousness and iniquity, and must perish outside of the city of God, with every abominable thing.
I have sought to arouse parents to their duty, yet they sleep on. Your children are practicing secret vice, and they deceive you. You have such implicit confidence in them that you think them too good and innocent to be capable of secretly practicing iniquity. Parents fondle and pet their children, and indulge them in pride, but do not restrain them with firmness and decision. They are so much afraid of their willful, stubborn spirits that they fear to come in contact with them; the sin of negligence, which was marked against Eli, will be their sin. The exhortation of Peter is of the highest value to all who are striving for immortality. He addresses those of like precious faith:
“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your 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. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
We are in a world where light and knowledge abound, yet many claiming to be of like precious faith are willingly ignorant. Light is all around them, yet they do not appropriate it to themselves. Parents do not see the necessity of informing themselves, obtaining knowledge, and putting it to a practical use in their married life. If they followed out the exhortation of the apostle, and lived upon the plan of addition, they would not be unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But many do not understand the work of sanctification. They seem to think they have attained to it, when they have learned only the first lessons in addition. Sanctification is a progressive work; it is not attained to in an hour or a day, and then maintained without any special effort on our part.
Many parents do not obtain the knowledge that they should in the married life. They are not guarded lest Satan take advantage of them and control their minds and their lives. They do not see that God requires them to control their married lives from any excesses. But very few feel it to be a religious duty to govern their passions. They have united themselves in marriage to the object of their choice, and therefore reason that marriage sanctifies the indulgence of the baser passions. Even men and women professing godliness give loose rein to their lustful passions, and have no thought that God holds them accountable for the expenditure of vital energy, which weakens their hold on life and enervates the entire system.
The marriage covenant covers sins of the darkest hue. Men and women professing godliness debase their own bodies through the indulgence of the corrupt passions, and thus lower themselves beneath the brute creation. They abuse the powers which God has given them to be preserved in sanctification and honor. Health and life are sacrificed upon the altar of base passion. The higher, nobler powers are brought into subjection to the animal propensities. Those who thus sin are not acquainted with the result of their course. Could all see the amount of suffering which they bring upon themselves by their own sinful indulgence, they would be alarmed, and some, at least, would shun the course of sin which brings such dreaded wages. So miserable an existence is entailed upon a large class that death would to them be preferable to life; and many do die prematurely, their lives sacrificed in the inglorious work of excessive indulgence of the animal passions. Yet because they are married they think they commit no sin.
Men and women, you will one day learn what is lust and the result of its gratification. Passion of just as base a quality may be found in the marriage relation as outside of it. The apostle Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” It is not pure love which actuates a man to make his wife an instrument to minister to his lust. It is the animal passions which clamor for indulgence. How few men show their love in the manner specified by the apostle: “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might [not pollute it, but] sanctify and cleanse it; … that it should be holy and without blemish.” This is the quality of love in the marriage relation which God recognizes as holy. Love is a pure and holy principle; but lustful passion will not admit of restraint, and will not be dictated to or controlled by reason. It is blind to consequences; it will not reason from cause to effect. Many women are suffering from great debility and settled disease because the laws of their being have been disregarded; nature’s laws have been trampled upon. The brain nerve power is squandered by men and women, being called into unnatural action to gratify base passions; and this hideous monster, base, low passion, assumes the delicate name of love.
Many professed Christians who passed before me seemed destitute of moral restraint. They were more animal than divine. In fact, they were about all animal. Men of this type degrade the wife whom they have promised to nourish and cherish. She is made an instrument to minister to the gratification of low, lustful propensities. And very many women submit to become slaves to lustful passion; they do not possess their bodies in sanctification and honor. The wife does not retain the dignity and self-respect which she possessed previous to marriage. This holy institution should have preserved and increased her womanly respect and holy dignity; but her chaste, dignified, godlike womanhood has been consumed upon the altar of base passion; it has been sacrificed to please her husband. She soon loses respect for the husband, who does not regard the laws to which the brute creation yield obedience. The married life becomes a galling yoke; for love dies out, and frequently distrust, jealousy, and hate take its place.
No man can truly love his wife when she will patiently submit to become his slave and minister to his depraved passions. In her passive submission, she loses the value she once possessed in his eyes. He sees her dragged down from everything elevating, to a low level; and soon he suspects that she will as tamely submit to be degraded by another as by himself. He doubts her constancy and purity, tires of her, and seeks new objects to arouse and intensify his hellish passions. The law of God is not regarded. These men are worse than brutes; they are demons in human form. They are unacquainted with the elevating, ennobling principles of true, sanctified love.
The wife also becomes jealous of the husband and suspects that if opportunity should offer he would just as readily pay his addresses to another as to her. She sees that he is not controlled by conscience or the fear of God; all these sanctified barriers are broken down by lustful passions; all that is god-like in the husband is made the servant of low, brutish lust.
The world is filled with men and women of this order; and neat, tasty, yea, expensive houses contain a hell within. Imagine, if you can, what must be the offspring of such parents. Will not the children sink still lower in the scale? The parents give the stamp of character to their children. Therefore children that are born of these parents inherit from them qualities of mind which are of a low, base order. And Satan nourishes anything tending to corruption. The matter now to be settled is: Shall the wife feel bound to yield implicitly to the demands of her husband, when she sees that nothing but base passions control him, and when her reason and judgment are convinced that she does it to the injury of her body, which God has enjoined upon her to possess in sanctification and honor, to preserve as a living sacrifice to God?
It is not pure, holy love which leads the wife to gratify the animal propensities of her husband at the expense of health and life. If she possesses true love and wisdom, she will seek to divert his mind from the gratification of lustful passions to high and spiritual themes by dwelling upon interesting spiritual subjects. It may be necessary to humbly and affectionately urge, even at the risk of his displeasure, that she cannot debase her body by yielding to sexual excess. She should, in a tender, kind manner, remind him that God has the first and highest claim upon her entire being, and that she cannot disregard this claim, for she will be held accountable in the great day of God. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”
If she will elevate her affections, and in sanctification and honor preserve her refined, womanly dignity, woman can do much by her judicious influence to sanctify her husband, and thus fulfill her high mission. In so doing, she can save both her husband and herself, thus performing a double work. In this matter, so delicate and so difficult to manage, much wisdom and patience are necessary, as well as moral courage and fortitude. Strength and grace can be found in prayer. Sincere love is to be the ruling principle of the heart. Love to God and love to the husband can alone be the right ground of action.
Let the wife decide that it is the husband’s prerogative to have full control of her body, and to mold her mind to suit his in every respect, to run in the same channel as his own, and she yields her individuality; her identity is lost, merged in that of her husband. She is a mere machine for his will to move and control, a creature of his pleasure. He thinks for her, decides for her, and acts for her. She dishonors God in occupying this passive position. She has a responsibility before God which it is her duty to preserve.
When the wife yields her body and mind to the control of her husband, being passive to his will in all things, sacrificing her conscience, her dignity, and even her identity, she loses the opportunity of exerting that mighty influence for good which she should possess to elevate her husband. She could soften his stern nature, and her sanctifying influence could be exerted in a manner to refine and purify, leading him to strive earnestly to govern his passions and be more spiritually minded, that they might be partakers together of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. The power of influence can be great to lead the mind to high and noble themes, above the low, sensual indulgences for which the heart unrenewed by grace naturally seeks. If the wife feels that in order to please her husband she must come down to his standard, when animal passion is the principal basis of his love and controls his actions, she displeases God; for she fails to exert a sanctifying influence upon her husband. If she feels that she must submit to his animal passions without a word of remonstrance, she does not understand her duty to him nor to her God. Sexual excess will effectually destroy a love for devotional exercises, will take from the brain the substance needed to nourish the system, and will most effectively exhaust the vitality. No woman should aid her husband in this work of self-destruction. She will not do it if she is enlightened and has true love for him.
The more the animal passions are indulged, the stronger do they become, and the more violent will be their clamors for indulgence. Let God-fearing men and women awake to their duty. Many professed Christians are suffering with paralysis of nerve and brain because of their intemperance in this direction. Rottenness is in the bones and marrow of many who are regarded as good men, who pray and weep, and who stand in high places, but whose polluted carcasses will never pass the portals of the heavenly city.
Oh, that I could make all understand their obligation to God to preserve the mental and physical organism in the best condition to render perfect service to their Maker! Let the Christian wife refrain, both in word and act, from exciting the animal passions of her husband. Many have no strength at all to waste in this direction. From their youth up they have weakened the brain and sapped the constitution by the gratification of animal passions. Self-denial and temperance should be the watchword in their married life; then the children born to them will not be so liable to have the moral and intellectual organs weak, and the animal strong. Vice in children is almost universal. Is there not a cause? Who have given them the stamp of character? May the Lord open the eyes of all to see that they are standing in slippery places!
From the picture that has been presented before me of the corruption of men and women professing godliness, I have feared that I should altogether lose confidence in humanity. I have seen that a fearful stupor is upon nearly all. It is almost impossible to arouse the very ones who should be awakened, so as to have any just sense of the power which Satan holds over minds. They are not aware of the corruption teeming all around them. Satan has blinded their minds and lulled them to carnal security. The failures in our efforts to bring others up to understand the great dangers that beset souls have sometimes led me to fear that my ideas of the depravity of the human heart were exaggerated. But when facts are brought to us showing the sad deformity of one who has dared to minister in sacred things while corrupt at heart, one whose sin-stained hands have profaned the vessels of the Lord, I am sure that I have not drawn the picture any too strong.
I have been bearing a very strong testimony, both in writing and in speaking, hoping to awaken God’s people to understand that they have fallen upon perilous times. I have felt sick at heart at the indifference manifested by those who should understand the workings of Satan, and who ought to be awake and guarded. I have seen that Satan is leading the minds of even those who profess the truth to indulge in the terrible sin of fornication. The mind of a man or woman does not come down in a moment from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime. It takes time to transform the human to the divine, or to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the satanic. By beholding we become changed. Though formed in the image of his Maker, man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him. As he ceases to watch and pray, he ceases to guard the citadel, the heart, and engages in sin and crime. The mind is debased, and it is impossible to elevate it from corruption while it is being educated to enslave the moral and intellectual powers, and bring them in subjection to grosser passions. Constant war against the carnal mind must be maintained; and we must be aided by the refining influence of the grace of God, which will attract the mind upward and habituate it to meditate upon pure and holy things.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 459-478
- May we discern the difference between the sacred and the common.
- Preserve Your people from soul-destroying vice.
- Protect our children from temptation.
- Multiply grace and peace to us through a knowledge of You and Your Son.
- Sanctify us according to the counsel of the apostles.
- Help us guard our minds and souls in this perilous time.
- Bless our Church leaders as they prepare for Annual Council 2019.
- Bless delegates and leaders as they prepare for General Conference 2020.