Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 539-548 Day 125

Chapter 63—Selfishness Rebuked

Dear Brother A,

Since the Illinois camp meeting, your case has pressed with weight upon my mind. As I recall some things shown me in regard to ministers, especially yourself, I am exceedingly distressed. At the meeting in Illinois I spoke especially upon the qualifications of a gospel minister. When I presented before the people the qualifications of a minister bearing the solemn message for these last days, much that I said applied to you, and I expected to hear some acknowledgment from you. Previous to my speaking, your wife talked with Sister Hall in regard to your discouragements. She said you did not know as it was your duty to preach; you had been unsettled in regard to your duty, and were discouraged, and did not enter into the work as you would if you felt settled. Sister Hall intimated to me that if I had a word of encouragement for you, your wife would be glad to have me say it. I told Sister Hall that I had not a word of encouragement to speak, and that if you were unsettled you would better wait until you knew your duty for yourself. I then spoke upon the qualifications of a minister of Christ; and, if I had fully performed my duty, I should have spoken definitely to you while in the stand. The presence of unbelievers was the only reason which deterred me.

In Minnesota I was again burdened in regard to the course of our ministers, by seeing Brother B and talking with him in regard to his defects which stood right in the way of his work for the salvation of souls. His course in caring for the things of this life again brought your case so distinctly before me that, had I been as well as usual, I should have written to you before I left the campground. We had no period of rest, but came directly to Wisconsin. I was sick, yet God strengthened me to do my duty before the people. As I stood before the public I recognized countenances that I had no knowledge of ever having seen before. Again your case, in connection with others, came distinctly before me. This was the vicinity where your influence had been a blighting curse rather than a blessing. It was also a place where much good might have been accomplished, even by you. Had you been consecrated to God, and unselfishly working for the salvation of souls for whom Christ died, your labors would have been wholly successful. You understood the arguments of our position. The reasons of our faith, brought before the minds of those who have not been enlightened in regard to them, make a decided impression if minds are not filled with prejudice so that they will not receive the evidences given. I saw some of the very best material to make excellent Sabbathkeeping Christians in the vicinity of —– and —–; but while some were charmed with the beautiful chain of truth, and were about ready to decide upon it, you left the field without completing the work you had undertaken. This was worse than if you had never entered it. That interest can never be raised again.

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For years light has been given upon this point, showing the necessity of following up an interest that has been raised, and in no case leaving it until all have decided that lean toward the truth and have experienced the conversion necessary for baptism and united with some church or formed one themselves. There are no circumstances of sufficient importance to call a minister from an interest created by the presentation of truth. Even sickness and death are of less consequence than the salvation of souls for whom Christ made so immense a sacrifice. Those who feel the importance of the truth, and the value of souls for whom Christ died, will not leave an interest among the people for any consideration. They will say: Let the dead bury their dead. Home interests, lands and houses, should not have the least power to attract from the field of labor. If ministers allow these temporal things to divert them from the work, the only course for them to pursue is to leave all, possess no lands or temporal interests which will have an influence to draw them from the solemn work of these last days. One soul is of more value than the entire world. How can men who profess to have given themselves to the sacred work of saving souls, allow their small temporal possessions to engross their minds and hearts, and keep them from the high calling they profess to have received from God?

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I saw, Brother A, that your influence in the vicinity of —– and —– has done great injury to the cause of God. I knew what that influence was while you were at Battle Creek last. As I have been writing out important matter for ministers, your case has been brought before me, and I intended ere this to have written you; but it was impossible. For three nights I have slept but little. Your case has been upon my mind almost constantly. I was mentally writing to you in my sleep, and also when awake. When I recognized in the congregation the very individuals that had been injured by your influence, I should have brought the matter out, had you been present. Not one word from any mortal was intimated to me in regard to your course. I felt compelled to speak to one or two in reference to the matter, stating to them that I recollected their countenances in connection with some things shown me in regard to you. Then, very reluctantly, facts were related to me confirming all I had stated to them. I have said only what I believed I should say in the fear of God, discharging my duty as His servant.

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Two years ago I saw that you and your wife were both very selfish, grasping persons. Your own selfish interests were dearer to you than souls for whom Christ died. I was shown that you were not generally successful in your labors. You have the ability to present the truth; you have an investigating mind; and if it were not for the many defects in your Christian character, you could accomplish good. But, for many reasons, you have not made the preaching of the truth a success. One of the greatest curses of your life, Brother A, has been your supreme selfishness. You have been figuring for your own advantage. You both have made yourselves the center of sympathy and attention. When you go to a place and enter a family, you throw your whole weight upon them, let them cook for you and wait upon you; and neither of you seeks to do as much work as you make. The family may be toiling hard, bearing their own burdens and yours; but you are both so selfish that you cannot see that they are worn and that you are both physically better able than they to perform the labor which they do for you. Brother A, you are too indolent to please God. When wood or water is needed, you do not know it, and you let these be brought by those who are already overworked, and frequently by females, when these little errands, these courtesies of life, are what you need to perform for the benefit of your health. You are full of flesh and blood, and do not exercise half enough for your own good. The indolence you manifest, and the disposition to grasp everything whereby you may be advantaged, has been a reproach to the truth and a stumbling block to unbelievers.

Your wife, as well as you, loves her ease. Your time has been spent in bed when you were able to be up actively showing a special interest in the family you were burdening. You have thought that, because you were a minister, they should consider your presence a favor, and should wait upon you, and favor you, while you had nothing to do but to care for your own selfish interests. The impressions which you have given have been very bad. You both have been considered representatives of ministers and their wives who are engaged in presenting to the world the Sabbath and the soon coming of our Lord.

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Those who are acquainted with your course will say that your profession, your teachings, and your life do not agree. They see that your fruits are not good, and decide that you do not believe the things you teach to others. They conclude that all ministers are like yourself, and that sacred and eternal truths are, after all, a deception. Who will be responsible for such impressions and such deplorable results? May you see the heavy weight that rests upon you in consequence of your selfishness, which is a curse to yourself and to all around you.

Again, Brother A, you are troubled with feelings and impressions which are the natural fruit of selfishness. You imagine that others do not appreciate your labors. You think yourself capable of accomplishing a large work, but excuse your failure to do it, because others do not give you room and credit according to your ability. You are jealous of others and have hindered the progress of the cause in Illinois and Wisconsin, doing but little yourself, and hindering those who would work if you were out of their way. Your sensitiveness and jealousy have weakened the hands of those who would set things in order and bring up these conferences. If any improvement is seen in these states, you incline to think that it is attributable in a great measure to yourself, when it is a fact that if things were left to your dictation, they would speedily go into the ground. In your preaching you are generally too dry and formal. You do not weave in the practical with the doctrinal. You talk too long and weary the people. Instead of dwelling only upon that portion of your subject that you can fully make plain to the understanding of all, you go way around and come down to minute particulars that do not help the subject and might as well be passed over. When so much matter not really necessary is brought in, the hearer loses the chain of the argument and cannot keep the subject in mind. When a minister gets the ears of the people, he should go from point to point, as far as possible leaving these points unincumbered with a mass of words and petty details. He should leave his ideas before the people as distinct as mileposts. To cover over the important, vital points with an array of words, dragging in everything which has some distant relationship to the subject, destroys the force of it and obscures the beautiful, connected chain of truth. You are slow and tedious in your preaching, as well as in everything else you undertake. You need, if ever a man did, to be energized by the Spirit of truth. You need Christ formed within you the hope of glory. You need religion, the genuine article.

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I was referred to the following words of inspiration: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” Men whom God has called to the work of saving souls will feel a burden for the people. Selfish interests will be swallowed up in their deep concern for the salvation of souls for whom Christ died. They will feel the force of the exhortation of Peter: “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.”

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You are naturally stubborn. Jealousy and stubbornness are the natural fruits of selfishness. You have made some improvement; but I saw so much yet to be done, I saw so clearly the wretched influence of your selfish, unconsecrated life, that I fear you will never see just how hateful these traits of character are before God. I fear that you will not realize this sufficiently to put them away and become like your self-denying Redeemer, pure and unselfish, your life characterized by disinterested benevolence. Your influence and example are such as to cause some who love the truth and work of God, and who value our faith, to lose their spirit of self-sacrifice and their interest in the cause of present truth. Your selfish, covetous course begets the same spirit in them; and your disposition to grasp and advantage yourself, while professing to be a minister of righteousness, has closed the hearts of very many against giving of their means to advance the cause of truth. If ministers set the people an example of selfishness, that example will tell upon the cause of God with tenfold greater power than all their preaching can.

God has been dishonored by your littleness. Your deal has savored of dishonesty. You have not made a clean track behind you, and until there is an entire transformation in your life, you will be a living curse to any church where you reside. You work for wages, and would not kindle a fire upon the altar of God, or shut the doors, for nought. When you set the people an example of self-sacrifice and of devotion to the cause of God, making the truth and the salvation of the soul primary, then your influence will bring others into the same position of self-sacrifice and devotion, to make the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of Christ first. You feel authorized to advantage yourself from the cause. Your brethren, from the liberality of their souls, favor and help you in various ways, and you receive it as a matter of course, as your due. And if any are not perfectly free with you, and do not favor you, you are jealous, and do not scruple to let them understand that you are not appreciated, and that they are selfish. You frequently refer to others who have done thus and so by you, as examples that they should imitate. These who have especially favored you have gone beyond their duty. You have not earned their confidence or their liberalities. You have had no heavy burdens to bear in this cause, and you have cast on others many more burdens than you have lifted; yet you have been gaining in property, and obtaining the good things of this life, and you regard it all as your right. Though you have received your weekly wages, you have not always been satisfied. Notwithstanding the pay you received, you have been managing continually to advantage yourself. The cause of God has paid you, whether you had much or little to show for your labor. You have not earned the means you have received.

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Your wife has been petted by her parents and by her husband until she is of but very little use. You have both seen others burdened with care and have not lifted the burdens with them. Your wife has lain as a helpless weight upon families, greatly to her own injury and to theirs, when, in point of health, she was better able to do than some who were bearing her burdens and yours. Yet she did not think of this. Neither of you could see the facts in the case and feel for others. Some from whom you have received help in care for yourselves and your child were not able, financially, to do what they did; but they thought they were ministering to self-sacrificing servants of Christ; therefore they denied themselves and endured inconvenience and trouble, to bear burdens that you were better able to bear for yourselves than they were to bear them for you.

Your wife has been reluctant to take up her life burdens. She wants a higher calling, and neglects the duties of today. Neither of you obeys the commandment of God: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Self and selfishness shut out the needs of your neighbors from you. Your small, mercenary spirit is contagious. Your example has done more to encourage love of the world, and a close, penurious spirit, than anything else which has occurred in Wisconsin and Illinois. Had you done nothing but attend to your temporal interests, the cause of God in these two states would have been in a far better condition than it is in today. The success you have had does not come up to the injury you have done. The cause of God is prostrated. Your sensitiveness and jealousy have been an example for others. We met this spirit in Illinois and in Wisconsin. The state of the churches in —– and vicinity has been deplorable. The lack of love and union, the surmising, jealousy, and stubbornness, apparent in these churches, have been shaped very much by your traits of character. The position which you occupied after the fanaticism at —–, standing back upon your dignity, splitting hairs, dividing the matter with the fanatical and with those whom God had sent with a special message, stood directly in the way of others’ seeing and correcting their wrongs. Your course at that time, in failing to take hold and work on the right side to correct that blasting fanaticism, gave shape to the discouraging state of things which has grown out of that dark reign of fanaticism. Brethren C and D, and the entire church at —–, and the people at —–, were not brought out upon correct positions, as they might have been had you been humble and teachable, working in union with the servants of God.

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When a man who professes to be a teacher, a leader, ventures in the course which you have pursued because of your stubbornness, he will have a heavy weight of responsibility to bear for the souls who have stumbled over him to perdition. A minister cannot be too careful of his influence. Stubbornness, jealousy, and selfishness should have no part in his being; for if they are indulged, he will ruin more souls than he can save. If he does not overcome these dangerous elements in his character, it would be better for him to have nothing to do with the cause of God. The indulgence of these traits, which may not appear very bad to him, will place souls beyond his reach and beyond the reach of others. If such ministers would let things entirely alone, the souls susceptible to the influence of the Spirit of God might be reached by those who can give them an example worthy of imitation, in accordance with the truth they teach. By a consistent life the minister will retain the confidence of the seekers after truth, until he can help them to fasten their grasp firmly upon the Rock of Ages; and afterward, if they are tempted, that influence will enable him to warn, exhort, reprove, and counsel them with success.

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Above all other men, ministers of Christ, bearing the solemn truth for these last days, should be free from selfishness. Benevolence should dwell naturally with them. They should be ashamed of acts toward their brethren which bear the marks of selfishness. They should be patterns of piety, living epistles, known and read of all men. Their fruits should be unto holiness. The spirit which they possess should be the opposite of that manifested by worldlings. By accepting divine truth they become servants of God, and are no more children of darkness and servants of the world. Christ has chosen them out of the world. The worldling understands not the mystery of godliness, therefore he is unacquainted with the motives which actuate them. Yet the spirit and life which is in them, which is manifested in their heavenly conversation, their self-denying, self-sacrificing, blameless life, has a convincing power that will lead unbelievers into all truth, lead them to obedience to Christ. They are living examples because they are like Christ. They are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and their influence upon others is saving. They are Christ’s representatives upon the earth. Their objects and desires are not inspired by earthly things, neither can they labor for gain nor enjoy a selfish love for it. Eternal considerations are sufficient to overbalance every earthly attraction. A genuine Christian will labor only to please God, having an eye single to His glory and enjoying the reward of doing His will.

Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 539-548

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