Chapter 67—Unfaithfulness in Stewardship
Dear Brother K,
A few things which are pressing upon my mind I feel a duty to write to Brother L and you. I have related the substance of the matter before you; but as my mind is still burdened, I will write.
I was shown that with you, I and mine have come to be first. You have had so great a care for yourself that the Lord has had no room to work for you. You have given Him no chance. He has, in a great measure, given Brother L and yourself up to work according to your own judgment, that you might be convinced that your wisdom is foolishness. You have not worked for the interest of the widow and fatherless, as the Lord has especially enjoined upon His followers; neither have you made the cases of the Lord’s poor your own, by taking a special interest in them, nor have you sought to glorify God and magnify His name; therefore the Lord has suffered you and Brother L to pursue a course of your own choosing. He has permitted you to look out for yourselves. Your own selfish interests have been the foundation of your actions, and you will reap the harvest which you yourselves have sown. I saw that you would verily receive the reward that sooner or later follows the serving of your own selfish interest. “Give an account of thy stewardship,” must be heard by you. You are accountable to God for the work entrusted to you, which you have shamefully neglected in order to serve yourselves.
Had you been seeking to show yourselves approved unto God, seeking the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of Christ, you would have been doing the works of Christ. The poor, the widows, the fatherless, would have called forth from you the tenderest pity and sympathy; you would have been interested in them and treated them as you would wish your wife and children treated were they left dependent and afflicted to the cold mercies of the world or of unfeeling, heartless professed Christians. There has been on your part a sad, unfeeling, heartless neglect of the unfortunate. You have served your own interest, irrespective of their great need. God cannot bless you until you see your sin in regard to these things.
I saw that the Lord’s work has not been more sacred in your eyes than your own business. Eternal things have not been discerned. The Lord has sent warnings and reproofs to arouse you to a sense of your duty by letting you know what is expected of you, but you have not regarded these warnings. You have not realized that you were dealing with God. You have robbed God and served yourselves.
There are many who in good faith have sent in to the office means which they had to make a sacrifice to obtain. Some, both men and women, have worked very hard, and consecrated to the Lord the means obtained by hard labor and the closest economy, and have sent it to the office to advance the cause. Poor widows have sent nearly their whole dependence, trusting in God to take care of them, and the means has been consecrated with prayers and tears, yet sent with joyfulness, they feeling that they were aiding in the great work of saving souls. Poor families have sold their only cow, denying themselves and their little children of milk, feeling that they were making a sacrifice for God. They have put their means into the office in good faith. Selfishness and mismanagement have helped to squander this means. God holds those accountable who have had the handling of it. “Give an account of thy stewardship,” will soon be heard. May the Lord help you to free yourselves from every blemish.
Battle Creek, Michigan,
January 17, 1870.
Chapter 68—Mistaken Sensitiveness
Dear Sister M,
Your case is upon my mind, and I cannot forbear to commit to writing my convictions from what I have seen in regard to you. I am satisfied that you are wandering in mist and darkness. You do not see things in the right light. You blind your eyes in regard to your own case by excusing yourself thus: “I would not have done this or that if it had not been for certain influences of others which led me to that course of action.”
You are continually finding fault with circumstances, which is nothing less than finding fault with providences. You are continually casting about for somebody or something to answer the place of a scapegoat, upon which you can lay the blame of having brought you into a position to feel and speak unworthy of a Christian. Instead of simply censuring yourself for your defects, you censure the circumstances and occasions which led you to develop the traits in your character which lie dormant or hid beneath the surface unless something arises to disturb and arouse them to life and action. Then they appear in all their deformity and strength.
You deceive yourself with the idea that these unamiable traits do not exist, until you are brought into positions which make you act and speak in a manner that reveals them to all. You are not willing to see and confess that it is your carnal nature which has not yet been transformed and brought into subjection to Christ. You have not yet crucified self.
You sometimes pass along days and weeks without developing the spirit of evil which I have named impatience, and a dictatorial spirit, a desire to control your husband. Your loving to rule and to bring others to your ideas has nearly ruined yourself and him. You love to suggest and to dictate to others. You love to have them feel and see that you have the very best light, and are especially led of God. If they do not, you begin to surmise, to become jealous, to feel a spirit of unrest; you are dissatisfied and exceedingly unhappy.
Nothing so readily arouses the evil traits in your character as to dispute your wisdom and judgment in exercising your authority. Your strong, overbearing spirit, which has appeared to slumber, is roused to its fullest energy. Self then controls you, and you are no more governed by candid reason and calm judgment than is an insane person. Self in all its strength wrestles for the mastery, and it will take the firmest mind to hold you in restraint. After your fit of insanity has gone by, then you can bear to have your course questioned. But you stand ready to justify yourself by the plea that you are so sensitive; you feel so deeply; you suffer so much. I saw that all this will not excuse you in the sight of God. You mistake pride for sensitiveness. Self is prominent. When self is crucified, then this sensitiveness, or pride, will die; until then you are not a Christian. To be a Christian is to be Christlike, to possess humility and a meek and quiet spirit that will bear contradiction without being enraged or becoming insane. If the deceptive covering which is about you could be rent asunder, so that you could see yourself as God sees you, you would no longer seek to justify self, but would fall all broken upon Christ, the only One who can remove the defects in your character and then bind you up.
God gave direction to the Israelites to assemble before Him at set periods, in the place which He should choose, and observe special days wherein no unnecessary work was to be done, but the time was to be devoted to a consideration of the blessings which He had bestowed upon them. At these special seasons they were to bring gifts, freewill offerings, and thank offerings unto the Lord, according as He had blessed them. The manservant and maidservant, the stranger, the fatherless and widow, were directed to rejoice that God had by His own wonderful power brought them from servile bondage to the enjoyment of freedom. And they were commanded not to appear before the Lord empty. They were to bring tokens of their gratitude to God for His continual mercies and blessings bestowed upon them. These offerings were varied according to the estimate which the donors placed upon the blessings they were privileged to enjoy. Thus the characters of the people were plainly developed. Those who placed a high value upon the blessings which God bestowed upon them brought offerings in accordance with their appreciation of these blessings. Those whose moral powers were stupefied and benumbed by selfishness and idolatrous love of the favors received, rather than inspired by fervent love for their bountiful Benefactor, brought meager offerings. Thus their hearts were revealed. Besides these special religious feast days of gladness and rejoicing, the yearly Passover was to be commemorated by the Jewish nation. The Lord covenanted that if they were faithful in the observance of His requirements, He would bless them in all their increase and in all the work of their hands.
God requires no less of His people in these last days, in sacrifices and offerings, than He did of the Jewish nation. Those whom He has blessed with a competency, and even the widow and the fatherless, should not be unmindful of His blessings. Especially should those whom God has prospered render to Him the things that are His. They should appear before Him with a spirit of self-sacrifice and bring their offerings in accordance with the blessings which He has bestowed upon them. But many whom God prospers manifest base ingratitude to Him. If His blessings rest upon them, and He increases their substance, they make these bounties as cords to bind them to the love of their possessions; they allow worldly business to take possession of their affections and their entire being, and neglect devotion and religious privileges. They cannot afford to leave their business cares and come before God even once a year. They turn the blessings of God into a curse. They serve their own temporal interests to the neglect of God’s requirements.
Men who possess thousands remain at home year after year, engrossed in their worldly cares and interests, and feeling that they cannot afford to make the small sacrifice of attending the yearly gatherings to worship God. He has blessed them in basket and in store, and surrounded them with His benefits on the right hand and on the left, yet they withhold from Him the small offerings He has required of them. They love to serve themselves. Their souls will be like the unrefreshed desert without the dew or rain of heaven. The Lord has brought to them the precious blessing of His grace. He has delivered them from the slavery of sin and the bondage of error, and has opened to their darkened understandings the glorious light of present truth. And shall these evidences of God’s love and mercy call forth no gratitude in return? Will those who profess to believe that the end of all things is at hand be blind to their own spiritual interest and live for this world and this life alone? Do they expect that their eternal interest will take care of itself? Spiritual strength will not come without an effort on their part.
Many who profess to be looking for the appearing of our Lord are anxious, burdened seekers for worldly gain. They are blind to their eternal interest. They labor for that which satisfieth not. They spend their money for that which is not bread. They strive to content themselves with the treasures they have laid up on the earth, which must perish. And they neglect the preparation for eternity, which should be the first and only real work of life.
Let all who possibly can, attend these yearly gatherings. All should feel that God requires this of them. If they do not avail themselves of the privileges which He has provided that they may become strong in Him and in the power of His grace, they will grow weaker and weaker, and have less and less desire to consecrate all to God. Come, brethren and sisters, to these sacred convocation meetings, to find Jesus. He will come up to the feast. He will be present, and He will do for you that which you most need to have done. Your farms should not be considered of greater value than the higher interests of the soul. All the treasures which you possess, be they ever so valuable, would not be rich enough to buy you peace and hope, which would be infinite gain, if it cost you all you have and the toils and sufferings of a lifetime. A strong, clear sense of eternal things, and a heart willing to yield all to Christ, are blessings of more value than all the riches and pleasures and glories of this world.
These camp meetings are of importance. They cost something. The servants of God are wearing out their lives to help the people, while many of them appear as if they did not want help. For fear of losing a little of this world’s gain, some let these precious privileges come and go as though they were of but little importance. Let all who profess to believe the truth respect every privilege that God offers them to obtain clearer views of His truth, of His requirements, and of the necessary preparation for His coming. A calm, cheerful, obedient trust in God is what He requires.
You need not weary yourselves with busy anxieties and needless cares. Work on for the day, faithfully doing the work which God’s providence assigns you, and He will have a care for you. Jesus will deepen and widen your blessings. You must make efforts if you have salvation at last. Come to these meetings prepared to work. Leave your home cares, and come to find Jesus, and He will be found of you. Come with your offerings as God has blessed you. Show your gratitude to your Creator, the Giver of all your benefits, by a freewill offering. Let none who are able come empty-handed. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Number Twenty—Testimony for the Church
Chapter 70—Social Meetings
I recently received a letter from a brother whom I highly respect, making inquiries in regard to how meetings should be conducted. He inquires if there should be many prayers offered in succession, and then a relief of a few moments, and quite a number of prayers again.
From the light I have had upon the subject I have decided that God does not require us, as we assemble for His worship, to make these seasons tedious and wearisome by remaining bowed quite a length of time, listening to several long prayers. Those in feeble health cannot endure this taxation without extreme weariness and exhaustion. The body becomes weary by remaining bowed down so long; and what is worse still, the mind becomes so wearied by the continuous exercise of prayer that no spiritual refreshment is realized, and the meeting is to them worse than a loss. They have become wearied mentally and physically, and they have obtained no spiritual strength.
Meetings for conference and prayer should not be made tedious. If possible, all should be prompt to the hour appointed; and if there are dilatory ones, who are half an hour or even fifteen minutes behind the time, there should be no waiting. If there are but two present, they can claim the promise. The meeting should open at the appointed hour if possible, be there few or many present. Formality and cold stiffness should be laid aside, and all should be prompt to duty. Upon common occasions there should not be prayer of more than ten minutes’ duration. After there has been a change of position, and the exercise of singing or exhortation has relieved the sameness, then, if any feel the burden of prayer, let them pray.
All should feel it a Christian duty to pray short. Tell the Lord just what you want, without going all over the world. In private prayer all have the privilege of praying as long as they desire and of being as explicit as they please. They can pray for all their relatives and friends. The closet is the place to tell all their private difficulties, and trials, and temptations. A common meeting to worship God is not the place to open the privacies of the heart.
What is the object of assembling together? Is it to inform God, to instruct Him by telling Him all we know in prayer? We meet together to edify one another by an interchange of thoughts and feelings, to gather strength, and light, and courage by becoming acquainted with one another’s hopes and aspirations; and by our earnest, heartfelt prayers, offered up in faith, we receive refreshment and vigor from the Source of our strength. These meetings should be most precious seasons and should be made interesting to all who have any relish for religious things.
There are some, I fear, who do not take their troubles to God in private prayer, but reserve them for the prayer meeting, and there do up their praying for several days. Such may be named conference and prayer meeting killers. They emit no light; they edify no one. Their cold, frozen prayers and long, backslidden testimonies cast a shadow. All are glad when they get through, and it is almost impossible to throw off the chill and darkness which their prayers and exhortations bring into the meeting. From the light which I have received, our meetings should be spiritual and social, and not too long. Reserve, pride, vanity, and fear of man should be left at home. Little differences and prejudices should not be taken with us to these meetings. As in a united family, simplicity, meekness, confidence, and love should exist in the hearts of brethren and sisters who meet to be refreshed and invigorated by bringing their lights together.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 569-578