The truth is holy and powerful, and will effect a thorough reformation in the hearts and lives of those who are sanctified by it. Brother E is capable of exerting an influence for good. If he subdues self and humbles his heart before God he can become a true bearer of the yoke of Christ. He can be a help instead of a hindrance to his family and to others. He weakens the cause of God in Bordoville because of the defects in his Christian character. If Brother E lives according to the light he has received, he will work out his salvation with fear and trembling, and, in so doing, will let a bright light shine upon the pathway of others and will glorify God. The case of Brother E represents that of others in the church who need the same work of transformation in their hearts in order to be right.
Brother F can be more useful in his life than he now is or has ever been. God has not called him especially to minister in word and doctrine. He is not qualified for this position, yet he can do errands for the Lord and be a help in the meetings. If he lives in the light himself he can reflect light to others. He can be a blessing to others; he can speak words of comfort and encouragement to the desponding. But in order to do this, he should encourage a more hopeful, cheerful spirit himself, refusing to look upon the dark side or to talk unbelief. He should express cheerfulness, hope, and courage in his words and even in the tones of his voice.
Sister G has infirmities, yet she does not make the best of her case. She permits the enemy to control her mind and increase her difficulties by an unsubmissive spirit. She suffers from bodily infirmities and should have sympathy; but restlessness, peevishness, complaints, murmuring, and useless regrets do not alleviate her sufferings or bring happiness to her, but only aggravate the difficulty.
The world is full of dissatisfied spirits who overlook the happiness and blessings within their reach, and are continually seeking for happiness and satisfaction that they do not realize. They are constantly on the stretch for some expected, far-off good greater than they possess, and are ever in a state of disappointment. They cherish unbelief and ingratitude, in that they overlook the blessings right in their pathway. The common, everyday blessings of life are unwelcome to them, as was the manna to the children of Israel.
Sister G is addressed by Christ: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” The words, deportment, and general example of Sister G teach a lesson entirely different from that taught by our Lord. She loses much in overlooking the present blessings within her grasp and uneasily searching for happiness. Her efforts are unrewarded, and her fruitless search makes great unhappiness for herself and for all who associate with her. Her unrest, her anxious, troubled spirit, is expressed in her countenance and casts a shadow. This gloom, unbelief, and discontent encourages the temptations of the enemy. By her continual distrust, by borrowing trouble, she casts a shadow instead of shedding a sunbeam.
Brother G should be patient and forbearing, and carefully shield her from unnecessary burdens; for she is not prepared to bear them. She, in her turn, should watch against the incoming foe, should take up her life burdens unmurmuringly and bear them with cheerfulness, sweetening them all with gratitude because they are no heavier. Brother G is prone to look upon the dark side. He should hold himself in readiness to do the will of God and use to the very best advantage the influence which God has given him. He should cheerfully perform the duties of today and not borrow tomorrow’s trouble to make himself miserable over. He has not to perform the duties of next week, but the work and duties which the day brings.
Brother and Sister G should unite their influence in saying: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” It is a misfortune to borrow the trouble of next week to embitter the present week. When real trouble comes, God will fit every meek and lowly one to bear it. When His providence permits it to come, He will provide help to endure it. Fretting and murmuring cloud and stain the soul, and shut out the bright sunlight from the pathway of others.
Brother G might have pursued a course to help Brother H and at the same time help himself; but selfishness deprived Brother H of advantages, and Brother G himself was disadvantaged through fear that he would advantage others. Brother G has not loved his neighbor as himself, and his supreme selfishness in many things has deprived him of good and shut away from him the blessing of God. In the end, it does not profit any man to be selfish; for God marks it all and will render to every man according to his works. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.”
I have mentioned these persons to represent the true state of many in the church at Bordoville whose cases are similar. The many congregated at that place have brought burdens and cares upon Brother D to keep them straight. Had they been free from jealousy, and kept themselves in the love of God, they would have stayed up his hands, comforted his heart, and sent him forth to labor for the salvation of souls, while their prayers would have followed him as sharp sickles in the harvest field. Their lack of consecration and devotion to God has weakened their own faith, weakened the hands of Brother D, destroyed his courage, and made his labors in the gospel field nearly useless. Church trials at home have crippled his efforts both at home and abroad, and kept his labors confined, in a great measure, to the locality of his place. This confining of the labor mostly to one locality has a withering influence upon the spiritual interest and zeal of a minister of Christ.
In order to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, laborers must have a varied experience. This will be best acquired in extended labor in new fields, in different localities, where they will come in contact with all classes of people and all varieties of minds, and where various kinds of labor will be required to meet the wants of many and varied minds. This drives the true laborer to God and the Bible for light, strength, and knowledge, that he may be fully qualified to meet the wants of the people. He should heed the exhortation given to Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” Wisdom is needed to discern the most appropriate subject for the occasion.
Brother D has not been growing up into a successful workman. He has become dwarfed. His mind has been narrowed down, and his spiritual strength has been waning. He should now be a successful laborer, a thorough workman. Instead of giving himself wholly to the work, he has been serving tables. Paul exhorted Timothy: “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Brother D is active and willing to do, willing to bear burdens that are not connected with his calling; and he has had his mind and time too much engrossed in temporal things. Some ministers maintain a certain dignity not in accordance with the life of Christ, and are unwilling to make themselves useful by engaging in physical labor, as occasion may require, to lighten the burdens of those whose hospitalities they share, and to relieve them of care. Physical exercise would prove a blessing to them, rather than an injury. In helping others they would advantage themselves. But some go to the other extreme. When their time and strength are all required in the work and cause of God, they are willing to engage in labor and become servants of all, even in temporal things; and they really rob God of the service He requires of them. Thus trivial matters take up precious time which should be devoted to the interests of God’s cause.
Brother J. N. Andrews has erred here. The time and strength which he has devoted to correspondence with his brethren, answering their private letters of inquiry, should have been given to the special interests of the work of God at large. But few realize the responsibilities resting upon the few ministers who bear the burdens in this cause. The brethren frequently call these men from the work to attend to their little matters, or to settle some church trial, which they can and should attend to themselves. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” He must be earnest and persevering. If he is irresolute, doubting continually whether the Lord will indeed do as He has promised, he will receive nothing.
Many look to their ministers to bring the light from God to them, seeming to think this a cheaper way than to be to the trouble of going to God for it themselves. Such lose much. If they would daily follow Christ and make Him their guide and counselor, they might obtain a clear knowledge of His will, and thus be gaining a valuable experience. For want of this very experience, brethren professing the truth walk in the sparks of others’ kindling; they are unacquainted with the Spirit of God and have not a knowledge of His will, and are therefore easily moved from their faith. They are unstable, because they trusted in others to obtain an experience for them. Ample provisions have been made for every son and daughter of Adam to obtain individually a knowledge of the divine will, to perfect Christian character, and to be purified through the truth. God is dishonored by that class who profess to be followers of Christ and yet have no experimental knowledge of the divine will or of the mystery of godliness.
Brother D has had a multiplicity of home cares. The increase of numbers in the church has not lessened his burdens. The increase of numbers in his family has been too heavy a tax upon himself and his family, and these things have been a hindrance to his becoming a successful laborer. He has become rusty in the work of God and needs burnishing. His testimony needs to be vitalized by the Spirit and power of God. His brethren in Bordoville, who have not a special work to do in laboring in word and doctrine, should be awake to see where others need help, and should help them. Many close their eyes to the good which they have opportunity to do for others, and by their neglect they lose the blessing which they might obtain. Brother D has been left to bear burdens that his brethren should have considered it their duty and privilege to bear.
Our work in this world is to live for others’ good, to bless others, to be hospitable; and frequently it may be only at some inconvenience that we can entertain those who really need our care and the benefit of our society and our homes. Some avoid these necessary burdens. But someone must bear them; and because the brethren in general are not lovers of hospitality, and do not share equally in these Christian duties, a few who have willing hearts, and who cheerfully make the cases of those who need help their own, are burdened. A church should take special care to relieve its ministers of extra burdens in this direction. The ministers who are actively engaged in the cause of God, laboring for the salvation of souls, have continual sacrifices to make.
Brother D’s testimony needs to be enlivened by the grace of God. He needs a new anointing, that he may be able to comprehend the magnitude of the work and devote his entire being to the advancement of the cause of God. The Lord has work enough to employ all His followers. All can show forth His glory if they will. But the majority refuse to do this. They profess faith, but have not works. Their faith is dead, being alone. They shun responsibilities and burdens, and will be rewarded as their works have been. Because some will not lift the burdens they could lift, or do the work they might do, the work is too great for the few who will engage in it. They see so much to do that they overtax their strength and are fast wearing out.
God calls at this time for laborers whose interests are fully identified with His work and His cause. The ministers engaged in this work must be energized by the spirit and power of the truths they preach, and then they will have an influence. The people will seldom rise higher than their minister. A world-loving spirit in him has a tremendous influence upon others. The people make his deficiencies an excuse to cover their world-loving spirit. They quiet their own consciences, thinking that they may be free to love the things of this life and be indifferent to spiritual things because their ministers are so. They deceive their own souls and remain in friendship with the world, which the apostle declares to be enmity with God.
Ministers should be examples to the flock. They should manifest an undying love for souls and the same devotion to the cause which they desire to see in the people. The ministers in Vermont have made a mistake in their labor. They have passed over the same ground again and again to help the churches, when frequently they needed labor bestowed upon themselves, to bring them into a position where God could bless their labors and make them fruitful. There has not been one efficient, thorough laborer, fully qualified to keep up all parts of the work, in Vermont.
Brother and Sister I are invalids. God does not lay very heavy responsibilities upon them. They need to watch closely, lest they narrow down their influence. They have no children of their own to call into exercise parental love and care, and are in danger of becoming narrow, selfish, and notional in their views and feelings. All these things have a bad influence upon the cause of God. They should labor to keep their minds elevated above themselves and should not make themselves a criterion for others. Those who have no children of their own to share their thoughts and labor, and to call for the exercise of forbearance, patience, and love, should guard themselves lest their thoughts and labor center upon themselves. They are poorly qualified to instruct parents as to the training of their children, for they have not had experience in this work. Yet in very many cases those who have no children are the most ready to instruct those who have, when, at the same time, the former make children of themselves in many respects. They cannot be turned out of a certain course, and they require even more patience exercised toward them than children do. It is selfish to have a certain course marked out and pursue this course to the inconvenience of others.
It is little things which test the character. It is the unpretending acts of daily self-denial, with cheerfulness and gentleness, that God smiles upon. We should not live for ourselves, but for others. We should be a blessing by our forgetfulness of self and our thoughtfulness of others. We should cherish love, forbearance, and fortitude.
Very few realize the benefits of the care, responsibility, and experience that children bring to the family. Many have large families coming up without discipline; the parents are neglecting a precious trust and sacred duty, which, if faithfully performed in the fear of God, would obtain, not only for their children, but for themselves, a fitness for the kingdom of heaven. But a childless house is a desolate place. The hearts of the inmates are in danger of becoming selfish, of cherishing a love for their own ease, and consulting their own desires and conveniences. They gather sympathy to themselves, but have little to bestow upon others. Care and affection for dependent children removes the roughness from our natures, makes us tender and sympathetic, and has an influence to develop the nobler elements of our character. Many are diseased physically, mentally, and morally, because their attention is turned almost exclusively to themselves. They might be saved from stagnation by the healthy vitality of younger and varying minds, and the restless energy of children.
Brother J is aged. No weighty responsibility should now rest upon him. He has displeased God in his misapplied love for his children. He has had too much anxiety to help them pecuniarily that he might not offend them. In order to please, he has injured them. They are not wise and faithful in the management of means, even from the worldling’s standpoint. Viewed from a religious standpoint, they are very deficient. They have not conscientious scruples in regard to religious things. They do not adorn society by their position and influence in the world, nor do they adorn the cause of God by pure Christian morals and virtuous acts in the service of Christ. They have not been trained to habits of self-denial and self-reliance as their safeguards in life. Here is the great sin resting upon parents. They do not discipline their children and do not train them up for God. They do not teach them self-government, stability of character, and the necessity of a resolute, well-directed will. Most children, in this age, are left to come up. They are not taught the necessity of developing their physical and mental powers for some good purpose, to bless society with their influence, to be well qualified to adorn the Christian life, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
Brother J has erred in entrusting his property to his children. He has laid upon them responsibilities which they were not qualified to bear. He placed his means out of his control and has gathered up means from his brethren for his feeble labors. God has not been glorified by the course which he has pursued in regard to his property. He has excused a wrong course pursued by his children, which is not in keeping with our faith or the Bible standard. He has virtually said to the wicked, It shall be well with thee; when God has plainly declared it shall be ill with him.
These errors upon the part of Brother J show a great lack of heavenly wisdom and have, in a great degree, disqualified him for the solemn work resting upon the faithful minister of Christ. What can Brother J plead before God when the Master shall bid him give an account of his stewardship? He has been led by the unconsecrated minds of his children and has not felt the necessity of seeking counsel and advice from God’s servants who were standing in the light. He has been led by a perverted sympathy and has failed in judgment. He has been moving like a blind man. His course has injured himself and the cause of God.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 639-648