In their disappointment some of the brethren give up to a feeling of impatience and desperation, as they see the selfishness and covetousness manifested by their teachers. The people are in advance of many of their ministers. If the ministers manifest a spirit of self-sacrifice and a love for souls, means will not be withheld from the cause. Let the ministers come up to the exalted standard as representatives of Christ and we shall see the glory of God attending the presentation of truth, and souls will be constrained to acknowledge its clearness and power. The cause of God must be made primary.
My brother, you could do a good work. You have a knowledge of the truth and could be a great blessing to the cause of present truth if you were consecrated and sanctified to the work, having no selfish interest aside from it. God has committed to you a sacred trust, precious talents; and if you are found true to your trust, faithfully improving your talents, you will not be ashamed when the Master shall come, requiring both principal and interest. It is not safe to slight, or in any sense disregard, the light which God has been pleased to give. You have something to do to bring yourself into a position where God can especially work for you.
The prosperity of the cause of God in Minnesota is due more to the labors of Brother Pierce than to your own efforts. His labors have been a special blessing to that state. He is a man of tender conscience. The fear of God is before him. Infirmities have weighed heavily upon him, and this has led him to question whether he was in the way of his duty and to fear that God was not favoring his efforts. God loves Brother Pierce. He has but little self-esteem, and he fears and doubts and dreads labor; for the thought is constantly upon his mind that he is not worthy or capable to help others. If he would overcome timidity and possess more confidence that God would be with him and strengthen him he would be much more happy and a greater blessing to others. In the life of Brother Pierce there has been a failure to read character. He believed others to be as honest as himself, and in some cases he has been deceived. He has not the discernment that some have. You also have failed, in your life, to read character. You have spoken peace to those against whom God has declared evil. In his age and feebleness Brother Pierce may be imposed upon, yet all should esteem him highly for his work’s sake. He commands the love and tenderest sympathy of his brethren, for he is a conscientious, God-fearing man.
God loves Sister Pierce. She is one of the timid, fearing ones, conscientious in the performance of her duty; and she will receive a reward when Jesus comes if she is faithful to the end. She has not made a display of her virtues, she has been retiring, one of the more silent ones; yet her life has been useful; she has blessed many by her influence. Sister Pierce has not much self-esteem and self-confidence. She has many fears, yet does not come under the head of the fearful and unbelieving, who will find no place in the kingdom of God. Those outside of the city are among the most confident, boastful, and apparently zealous ones who love in word, but not in deed and in truth. Their hearts are not right with God. His fear is not before them. The fearful and unbelieving, who are punished with the second death, are of that class who are ashamed of Christ in this world. They are afraid to do right and follow Christ, lest they should meet with pecuniary loss. They neglect their duty, to avoid reproach and trials, and to escape dangers. Those who dare not do right because they will thus expose themselves to trials, persecution, loss, and suffering are cowards, and, with idolaters, liars, and all sinners, they are ripening for the second death.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount declares who are the truly blessed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit [those who are not self-exalted, but candid, and of a humble disposition, not too proud to be taught, not vain and ambitious for the honors of the world]: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn [those who are penitential, submissive, and who grieve over their failures and errors because the Spirit of God is grieved]: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek [those who are gentle and forgiving, who, when reviled, will not revile again, but who manifest a teachable spirit, and do not hold themselves in high esteem]: for they shall inherit the earth.” Those who possess the qualifications here enumerated will not only be blessed of God here in this life, but will be crowned with glory, honor, and immortality in His kingdom.
Chapter 78—The Cause in Vermont
I have been shown that the disciples of Christ are His representatives upon the earth; and God designs that they shall be lights in the moral darkness of this world, dotted all over the country, in the towns, villages, and cities, “a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” If they obey the teachings of Christ in His Sermon on the Mount, they will be seeking continually for perfection of Christian character, and will be truly the light of the world, channels through which God will communicate His divine will, the truth of heavenly origin, to those who sit in darkness and who have no knowledge of the way of life and salvation.
God cannot display the knowledge of His will and the wonders of His grace among the unbelieving world unless He has witnesses scattered all over the earth. It is His plan that those who are partakers of this great salvation through Jesus Christ should be His missionaries, bodies of light throughout the world, to be as signs to the people, living epistles, known and read of all men, their faith and works testifying to the near approach of the coming Saviour and showing that they have not received the grace of God in vain. The people must be warned to prepare for the coming judgment. To those who have been listening only to fables, God will give an opportunity to hear the sure word of prophecy, whereunto they do well that they take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place. He will present the sure word of truth to the understanding of all who will take heed; all may contrast truth with the fables presented to them by men who claim to understand the word of God and to be qualified to instruct those in darkness.
In order to increase the numbers at Bordoville, brethren have moved there, leaving the places from which they came destitute of strength and influence to sustain meetings. This has pleased the enemies of God and the truth. Those brethren should have remained as faithful witnesses, their good works testifying to the genuineness of their faith by exemplifying in their lives the purity and power of the truth. Their influence would convict and convert, or condemn.
Every follower of Jesus has a work to do as a missionary for Christ in the family, in the neighborhood, in the town or city where he lives. All who are consecrated to God are channels of light. God makes them instruments of righteousness to communicate to others the light of truth, the riches of His grace. Unbelievers may appear indifferent and careless; yet God is impressing and convicting their hearts that there is a reality in the truth. But when our brethren leave the field, give up the contest, and allow the cause of God to languish, before God says, “Let them alone,” they will be only a burden to any church where they may move. Those whom they leave, who were convicted, frequently quiet their consciences with thinking that, after all, they were needlessly anxious; they decide that there is no reality in the profession made by Seventh-day Adventists. Satan triumphs to see the vine of God’s planting either entirely uprooted or left to languish. It is not the purpose of God that His people should cluster together and concentrate their influence in a special locality.
The efforts of the Brethren D to encourage brethren to move to their place were made in good faith, yet not according to the mind of God. God’s ways are not as our ways. He seeth not as man seeth. Their object was good; but, in so doing, the purposes of God in regard to the salvation of souls could not be carried out.
God designs that His people shall be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. The plan of gathering together in large numbers, to compose a large church, has contracted their influence, and narrowed down their sphere of usefulness, and is literally putting their light under a bushel. It is God’s design that the knowledge of the truth should come to all, that none may remain in darkness, ignorant of its principles; but that all should be tested upon it and decide for or against it, that all may be warned and left without excuse. The plan of colonizing, or moving from different localities where there is but little strength or influence, and concentrating the influence of many in one locality, is removing the light from places where God would have it shine.
The followers of Christ scattered throughout the world do not have a high sense of their responsibility and the obligation resting upon them to let their light shine forth to others. If there are but one or two in a place, they can, although few in number, so conduct themselves before the world as to have an influence which will impress the unbeliever with the sincerity of their faith. The followers of Jesus are not meeting the mind and will of God if they are content to remain in ignorance of His word. All should become Bible students. Christ commanded His followers: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Peter exhorts us: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
Many who profess to believe the truth for these last days will be found wanting. They have neglected the weightier matters. Their conversion is superficial, not deep, earnest, and thorough. They do not know why they believe the truth, only because others have believed it, and they take it for granted that it is the truth. They can give no intelligent reason why they believe. Many have allowed their minds to be filled with things of minor importance, and their eternal interest is made secondary. Their own souls are dwarfed and crippled in spiritual growth. Others are not enlightened or edified by their experience or by the knowledge which it was their privilege and duty to obtain. Strength and stability are with truehearted professors.
Christ and Him crucified should become the theme of our thoughts and stir the deepest emotions of our souls. The true followers of Christ will appreciate the great salvation which He has wrought for them; and wherever He leads the way, they will follow. They will consider it a privilege to bear whatever burdens Christ may lay upon them. It is through the cross alone that we can estimate the worth of the human soul. Such is the value of men for whom Christ died that the Father is satisfied with the infinite price which He pays for the salvation of man in yielding up His own Son to die for their redemption. What wisdom, mercy, and love in its fullness are here manifested! The worth of man is known only by going to Calvary. In the mystery of the cross of Christ we can place an estimate upon man.
What a responsible position, to unite with the Redeemer of the world in the salvation of men! This work calls for self-denial, sacrifice, and benevolence, for perseverance, courage, and faith. But those who minister in word and doctrine have not the fruit of the grace of God in their hearts and lives; they have not faith. This is why there are so small results from their labor. Many who profess to be ministers of Christ manifest a wonderful submission as they see the unconverted all around them going to perdition. A minister of Christ has no right to be at ease and sit down submissively in view of the fact that his presentation of the truth is powerless and souls are not stirred by it. He should resort to prayer, and should work and pray without ceasing. Those who submit to remain destitute of spiritual blessings, without earnest wrestling for those blessings, consent to have Satan triumph. Persistent, prevailing faith is necessary. God’s ministers must come into closer companionship with Christ and follow His example in all things, in purity of life, in self-denial, in benevolence, in diligence, in perseverance. They should remember that a record will one day appear in evidence against them for the least omission of duty.
Brother D did not discern that in thus encouraging brethren to move to his place he was bringing burdens upon himself and into the church; he did not see that it would require much time and labor to keep them in a condition where they could be a help instead of a hindrance. He thought that if he could collect families at his place they would help compose a church and relieve him of care and burdens. But it has proved at Bordoville as at Battle Creek; the more the brethren moved there, the heavier were the burdens which fell upon the laborers who had the cause of God at heart. Men and women of varied minds and different organizations could cluster together and live in sweet harmony, if they would esteem others better than themselves, if they would love their neighbors as themselves, as Christ enjoined upon them.
But it is most difficult to deal with human minds that are not under the special control of the Spirit of God and are exposed to the control of Satan. Selfishness so possesses the hearts of men and women, and iniquity is so cherished, even by some professing godliness, that the clustering together of a large company should be avoided; for they will not thus be the most happy.
Those whom Brother D really desired to have come to Bordoville were those whom he considered the best of society, capable of exerting a good influence. Just such men and women are wanted to be stationed over the world as faithful sentinels, that those who are without God may be convinced that there is a power in the religion of Christ. Such men of influence are in truth the salt of the earth. God would not be pleased to have them congregate together and narrow down their sphere of usefulness. Reliable men are very scarce for the reason that the hearts of men are so devoted to their own selfish interests that they know no other.
If there could be a number of picked men at the important post at Battle Creek, God would be pleased; and if they would make a sacrifice of their own selfish interests for the sake of the suffering cause, they would only be following in the footsteps of their Redeemer, who left His glory, His majesty and high command, and for our sakes became poor, that we, through His poverty, might be made rich. Christ sacrificed for man; but man, in his turn, will not willingly and cheerfully sacrifice for Christ. If a number of responsible, true-hearted, burden-bearing men and women who could be depended upon as minutemen, who would promptly respond to the call for help when help is needed, would move to Battle Creek, God would be glorified. God wants men at Battle Creek who can be depended upon; who will ever be found on the right side in times of danger; who will faithfully war against the enemy, instead of taking their position with those who trouble the Israel of God, and stand in defense of those who weaken the hands of God’s servants, turning their weapons against the very ones whom God enjoins upon them to sustain. In order to prosper, every church must have men upon whom it can rely in times of peril, men who are as true as steel, unselfish men, who have the interest of God’s cause lying nearer their hearts than anything which concerns their own opinions or their worldly interests.
Churches are not wholly composed of pure, sincere Christians. Not all the names that stand registered upon the church books are worthy to be there. The life and character of some as compared with others is as gold with worthless dross. It need not be so. Those who are valuable in life and influence have felt the importance of following Jesus closely, of making the life of Christ their study and example. This will require effort, meditation, and earnest prayer. It requires exertion to obtain the victory over selfishness and to make the interest of God’s cause primary. Some have made the effort and practiced close discipline of self, and they have gained precious victories. Those who consider their own interest primary, live for self. Their character in the sight of God is as worthless dross.
Brother D has had more than one man should do in working for the interest of the church in his place. If he absented himself for a short time to labor for others, heavier and greater burdens were all ready to be laid upon him when he returned home. He has permitted them to rest upon his shoulders, and has bowed groaning under the load. The Brethren D have been in danger of being too exacting and of presenting their own lives and example as a criterion. Self has not been lost sight of in Christ. These brethren should say little about self, but exalt Christ. They should hide behind Jesus and let Him alone appear as the perfect pattern which all should seek to copy.
Where were the men to be depended upon in times of trial and danger? Where were the God-fearing men to rally around the standard when the foe was seeking an advantage? Some who should have been at their post were unfaithful when their help was most needed. Their course showed that they had no special interest in the advancement of the work and cause of God. Some thought that too much was expected of them; and, instead of cheerfully moving forward to do what they could, they sat down in Satan’s easy chair and refused to do anything.
Some were ever jealous. Brother E was of this class. He has a peculiar stubbornness in his organization that leads him to persist in a wrong course because he thinks it would gratify his brethren for him to change and take an opposite course. At times, when he feels just like it, he is ready to do anything in his power to advance the cause of God. But he loves so well to have his own way that he will let the precious cause of God suffer rather than give up his will and his way. Brother E is not a man who can be depended upon. He is subject to the temptations of Satan and is frequently under his control. He has a selfish, unsubdued heart. He is fitful, impulsive, now hating, then loving. At times he is kind, at other times jealous, envious, and very selfish. He cannot perfect Christian character until he resists temptation, subdues his own stubborn will, and cherishes a spirit of humility, a willingness to see and confess his errors. He has been, at times, true and earnest. Then a wave would carry him in an opposite direction, and he would cherish jealousy, envy, and distrust. Self and selfish interest were paramount, he was full of faultfinding, and suspicious that others did not appreciate him, but wished to injure him. Brother E needs a thorough conversion. It is not enough for men to profess the truth. They may acknowledge the whole truth, and yet know nothing—have no experimental knowledge in their daily life—of the sanctifying influence of the truth upon the heart and life, or of the power of true godliness.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 629-638