Chapter 77—Love of Gain
Dear Brother B,
I have twice commenced a testimony to you, but have been unable to complete it for want of time. I must delay no longer, for I feel sadly burdened over your case. I have written a testimony for several of the ministers, and as their cases recur to my mind, I fully realize that their condition is deplorable. Your case is not an exception. The love of gain, the love of money, is becoming prominent with many of our ministers who profess to be representatives of Christ. The example of some of these is such that the people are becoming discouraged.
Some of our ministers are standing directly in the way of the advancement of the work of God, and the people who look to them for an example are backsliding from God. About two years ago I was shown the dangers of our ministers and the result of their course upon the cause of God. I have spoken in general terms in reference to these things, but those most at fault are the last to apply the testimonies to themselves. Some are so blinded by their own selfish interest that they lose sight of the exalted character of the work of God.
Brother B, your life has been almost a failure. You had talents of influence, but you have not improved them to the best account. You have failed in your family; you have let things go at loose ends there, and the same deficiencies are felt in the church. The Lord has given you light in regard to your neglect of duty in your family and the course which you should pursue to redeem the past. Your deficiencies were pointed out, but you did not feel the sinfulness of bringing children into the world to come up without proper training. You have excused their errors, their sins, and their wayward, reckless course, and have flattered yourself that they would come out right by and by.
Eli exactly represents your case. You have occasionally remonstrated with your children, saying: Why do ye so wickedly? but you have not exercised your authority as a father, as a priest of the household, to command and have your words as law in your family. Your own, and also your wife’s, mistaken fondness for your children has led you to neglect the solemn obligation devolving upon you as parents.
A double obligation rested upon you, Brother B, as a minister of God, to rule well your own house and bring your children into subjection. But you have been pleased with their aptness and have excused their faults. Sin in them did not appear very sinful. You have displeased God and nearly ruined your children by your neglect of duty, and you have continued this neglect after the Lord had reproved and counseled you. The injury done to the cause of God by your influence as a family in the different places where you have lived has been greater than the good that you have accomplished. You have been blinded and deceived by Satan in regard to your family. You and your wife have made your children your equals. They have done about as they pleased. This has been a sad drawback to you in your work as a minister of Christ, and the neglect of your duty to bring your children into subjection has led to a still greater evil, which threatens to destroy your usefulness. You have been apparently serving the cause of God, while you have been serving yourself more. The cause of God has languished; but you have been earnestly figuring and planning how to advantage yourself, and souls have been lost through your neglect of duty. Had you, during your ministry, occupied a position to build up this work, had you set an example by serving the cause of God irrespective of your own interest, and become worn through your devotion to it, your course would be more excusable, though even then it would not be approved of God. But when your deficiencies have been so apparent in some things, and the cause of God has suffered greatly because of the example you have given by your neglect of duty in your family, it is grievous in the sight of God for you to be professedly serving the cause, yet making your own selfish interests prominent.
In your labors you have frequently aroused an interest, and at the very point when you could work to the best advantage have allowed home interests to draw you away from the work of God. In many cases you have not perseveringly continued your efforts until you were satisfied that all had decided for or against the truth. It is not wise generalship to commence a warfare against the power of Satan and ingloriously leave the field at the height of the conflict, thus giving the enemy opportunity to bind more securely those who were upon the point of leaving his ranks and taking their position on the side of Christ. That interest, once broken, can never again be raised. A few may be reached, but the greater portion can never be affected and their hearts softened by the presentation of the truth.
Elder C lost his influence and the power of the truth by engaging in speculations, and that out of his brethren. This was peculiarly offensive to God in a minister of Christ. But you have done the same. You have made Elder C’s course an excuse for your love of traffic. You have justified your course of advantaging yourself, because other ministers have pursued this course. Other ministers are no criterion for you. If they injure their influence, and deprive themselves of the approbation of God and the confidence of their brethren, their course should be shunned. Christ is your example, and you have no excuse for taking the course of erring men for example unless their lives are in accordance with the life of Christ. Your influence will be death to the cause of God if you continue to pursue the course that you have pursued for a few years past. Your trafficking and trading, and gathering up from your brethren means that you have not earned, is a great sin in the sight of God.
Some have really deprived themselves of means necessary for the comfort of their families, and some of even the necessaries of life, to help you, and you have received it. Paul writes to his Philippian brethren: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” He also writes to his Corinthian brethren: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” Again, he mournfully says: “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
The spirit which you cherish, of looking out for your selfish interest, is increasing upon you, and your conversation has been with covetousness. Paul admonishes his Hebrew brethren: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” You are sacrificing your reputation and your influence to an avaricious spirit. God’s precious cause is reproached because of this spirit that has taken hold of its ministers. You are blinded and do not see how peculiarly offensive to God these things are. If you have decided to go in and get all of the world you can, do so; but do not do it under cover of preaching Christ. Your time is either devoted to the cause of God or it is not. Your own interest has been paramount. The time that you should devote to the cause of God is devoted too much to your own personal concerns, and you receive, from the treasury of God, means that you do not earn. You are willing to receive means from those who are not as comfortable as yourself. You do not look on their side and have bowels of sympathy and compassion. You do not closely investigate to see whether those who help you can afford to do so. Frequently it would be more in place for you to help those from whom you receive help. You need to be a transformed man before the work of God can prosper in your hands. Your home and farm cares have occupied your mind. You have not given yourself to the work. As an excuse for being so much at home, you have said that your children needed your presence and care, and that you must be with them in order to carry out the light given you in vision. But, Brother B, have you done this? You excuse yourself by saying that your children are now beyond your control, too old for you to command. In this you mistake. None of your children are too old to respect your authority and obey your commands while they have the shelter of your roof. How old were Eli’s sons? They were married men; and Eli, as a father and a priest of God, was required to restrain them.
But allowing that the two eldest are now beyond your control, they were not when God sent you the light that you were indulging them to their ruin; that you should discipline them. But you have three younger children who are walking in the way of sinners, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Your youngest son is following in the footsteps of his brother. What course are you pursuing toward him? Do you train him to habits of industry and usefulness? Are you taking up your fearfully neglected work and redeeming the past? Do you tremble at the word of God?
Your neglect at home is wonderful in one that has God’s written word and also testimonies borne especially to you, showing your neglect. Your boy does as he pleases. You do not restrain him. You have not educated and trained him to bear his share of the burdens of life. He is a bad boy because of your neglect. His life is a reproach to his father. You knew your duty, but you did it not. He has no convictions of the truth. He knows he can have his own way, and Satan controls his mind. You have made your children an excuse to keep you at home; but, Brother B, the things of this world have come first
The cause of God does not lie near your soul, and the example you have given the people of God is not worthy of imitation. In Minnesota they need laborers, not merely ministers who go from place to place when it is convenient. God’s cause must have minutemen who will not be hindered from the work of God or the call of duty by any selfish or worldly interest. Minnesota is a large field, and many there are susceptible to the influence of the truth. Could the churches be brought into working order, thoroughly disciplined, a light would shine forth from them that would tell all through the state. You might have done tenfold more in Minnesota than you have done. But the world has come in between you and the work of God, and divided your interest. Selfish interest has come into your heart, and the power of the truth has been going out. There is need of a great change in you, that you may be brought into working order. You have accomplished but little real, earnest labor. Yet you have been in earnest to obtain all the means you could as your right. You have overreached; you have looked out for your own interest, and have advantaged yourself at the disadvantage of others. You have for some time been going in this direction; and unless you are checked, your influence is at an end. Moses Hull went in this direction. His conversation was with covetousness, and he gathered all the means that he could obtain. His hold of the truth was not strong enough to overcome his selfishness.
When B. F. Snook embraced the truth, he was very destitute. Liberal souls deprived themselves of conveniences, and even of some of the necessaries of life, to help this minister, whom they believed to be a faithful servant of Christ. They did all this in good faith, helping him as they would have helped their Saviour. But it was the means of ruining the man. His heart was not right with God; he lacked principle. He was not a truly converted man. The more he received, the greater was his desire for means. He gathered all he could from his brethren, until he had been helped, through their liberalities, to a valuable home; then he apostatized, and became the bitterest enemy of the very ones who had been most liberal to him. This man will have to render an account for the means that he has taken from truehearted believers in the truth. He did not rob them, but the treasury of God. We wish him no evil; for “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” He has walked in the ways of his heart and in the sight of his eyes, but for all these things God will bring him into judgment. All the hidden things of darkness will then be brought to light, and the secret counsels of the heart shall be made manifest.
Brother B, you are not as these men. We would not compare you to them, but we would say: Beware of walking in their footsteps and of having your conversation with covetousness. This desire on the part of ministers to obtain means for selfish purposes is a snare to them, which, if they continue in, will prove their overthrow. As they get their eyes upon self, their interest in the prosperity of God’s cause, and their love for poor souls, become less and less. They do not lose their love for, and interest in, the truth at once. Their departure from the cause of right is so gradual and imperceptible that it is frequently difficult to tell the time when the change in them took place.
I think your course highly dangerous. You have not felt the necessity of heeding the light which God has given you, and arousing yourself to save your family, acquitting yourself as a father and priest of your household. You did not deny the light given, you did not rise up against it; but you neglected to carry it out because it was not convenient and agreeable to your feelings to do this. Therefore you were like Meroz. You came not up to the help of the Lord, although the matter was of so vital consequence as to affect the eternal interests of your children. You neglected your duty. In this respect you were a slothful servant. You have but little sense of how God regards the neglect of parents to discipline their children. Had you reformed here, you would have seen the necessity of the same effort to maintain discipline and order in the church. Your slackness in your family has been seen also in your labors in the church. You cannot build up the church until you are a transformed man.
The neglect of the light that God has given you has, in a degree, made you captive, subject to Satan’s devices; therefore a door has been left open for him to gain access to you in other directions and make you a weak man. He sees that he has succeeded in blinding your eyes to the interests of your family by leading you to neglect the light which the Lord has given. Then Satan has beset you in another direction. He has excited your love of traffic, your love of gain; and thus your interest has been divided from the cause and work of God. The love of God and the truth is gradually becoming of less importance. Souls for whom Christ died are of less value to you than your temporal interests. If you continue to pursue this course, you will soon become jealous, sensitive, and envious, and will go away from the truth, as others have gone.
You are anxious to obtain labor in your locality, hoping that something can be said or done to awaken your children. You have neglected your duty. When you take up the long-neglected work which the Lord has left for you to do; when you, with the spirit of Christ, resolutely arouse yourself to set your house in order, then you may hope that God will aid your efforts and impress the hearts of your family. While you have made your children an excuse for your remaining at home, you have not done the work for which you pleaded to stay at home. You have not disciplined your children. Your wife is deficient in this respect, therefore there is the greater need that you be in a position to do your duty. Her love is of that kind which will lead her to indulge them in doing as they please and in choosing their own society, which will lead to their ruin. Your presence at home, while you allow your children to do as they please, is worse for your family than if you were away from them; and it has a worse influence upon the cause of truth.
God calls for earnest, unselfish, disinterested laborers in His cause who will keep up the various branches of the work, such as obtaining subscribers for the periodicals, teaching them promptness in paying their dues, and encouraging brethren to keep up their systematic benevolence. Sacrifice, self-denial, toil, and disinterested benevolence characterized the life of Christ, who is our example in all things. The work and character of a true minister will be in accordance with the life of Christ. He laid aside His glory, His high command, His honor, and His riches, and humbled Himself to our necessities. We cannot equal the example, but we should copy it. Love for souls for whom Christ made this great sacrifice should stimulate His ministers to exertion, to self-denial and persevering effort, that they may be co-workers with Him in the salvation of souls. Then will the works of God’s servants be fruitful, for they will indeed be His instruments. The power of God will be seen upon them in the gracious influences of His Spirit. God would have you arouse and possess strength to surmount obstacles; be not easily discouraged; if need be, labor, as did the apostle Paul, in weariness, in painfulness, in watching, forgetting infirmities in the deep interest felt for souls for whom Christ died.
Some of our ministers are taking advantage of the liberalities of our brethren to advantage themselves; and in so doing they are gradually losing their influence; their example in these things is destroying the confidence of their brethren in them. And they are effectually closing the door so that those who really need help and are worthy of it cannot obtain it. They also shut the door whereby help may be expected to sustain the cause. Many of the people are becoming disheartened as they see some of the ministers they employ manifesting so little interest for the prosperity of the cause of God. They do not see a devotion to the work. The people are neglected, and the cause is languishing, because of the lack of well-directed and efficient labor which they have a right to expect from their ministers.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 619-628