With many in Vermont there has been a decided failure to come up to the requirements of God. Some have fallen into a cold and lifeless condition spiritually because they are unfaithful servants. The love of the world has so filled their hearts that they have lost their relish for heavenly things and have become dwarfs in spiritual attainments. The state has been deprived of the right kind of labor. Bordoville has been the center of attraction. All the large gatherings have been held in one locality, which has been like putting light under a bushel; its rays have not benefited the people of the state at large. Many are still in darkness who might now be rejoicing in the knowledge of the truth. The talents and special efforts have been drawn to one locality. This is not as the Lord would have it. He designs that the warning, testing message should be given to the world, and that His people, who are the light of the world, should be scattered as witnesses amid the moral darkness of the world; that their lives, their testimony, and their example may be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death.
The Brethren D will need to be guarded, that they do not thwart the purposes of God by plans of their own. They are in danger of narrowing down the work of God, which is deep and extended.
Brother D will be in danger of taking too narrow views of the work. God has given him an experience which will be of value if he makes the right use of it. But there is danger that his peculiarities will shape that experience and that other minds will become affected. Brother D’s usefulness as a laborer is not what it otherwise would be if he were not so prone to concentrate the strength of his mind upon one idea. He dwells upon incidents and upon thoughts that he has had, and repeats them at length, when they are unimportant to others.
His mind was aroused in reference to the subject of his health. He concentrated the strength of his mind on this point. He and his symptoms were the principal subjects of conversation. He was particular to go through with the course he had established in his mind; and, when seeking his own accommodation, he failed to consider how inconvenient he made it for others. His mind has been, to a great extent, shut up to his own case. This was the burden of his thoughts and the theme of his conversation. In this precise, systematic course he has failed to receive the benefit, in point of health, that he might have realized if he had been more forgetful of himself and, from day to day, engaged in physical exercise, which would have diverted his mind from himself.
The same deficiencies have marked his labor in the gospel field. In speaking to the people, he has many apologies to make and many preliminaries to repeat, and the congregation become wearied before he reaches his real subject. As far as possible, ministers should avoid apologies and preliminaries.
Brother D is too specific. He dwells upon minutiae. He takes time to explain points which are really unimportant and would be taken for granted without producing proof, for they are self-evident. But the real, vital points should be made as forcible as language and proof can make them. They should stand forth as prominent as mileposts. He should avoid many words over little particulars, which will weary the hearer before the important points are reached.
Brother D has large concentrativeness. When he gets his mind in a certain direction, it is difficult for him to place it anywhere else; he lingers tediously upon one point. In conversation he is in danger of wearying the listener. His writings lack a free, easy style. The habit of concentrating the mind upon one thing, to the exclusion of other things, is a misfortune. This should be understood by him, and he should labor to restrain and control this power of the mind, which is too active. Too great activity of one organ of the mind strengthens that organ to the enfeebling of other organs. If Brother D would make a successful laborer in the gospel field, he should educate his mind. The large development of this organ impairs his health and his usefulness. There is a lack of harmony in the organization of his mind, and his body suffers in consequence.
It would be greatly for the interest of Brother D to cultivate simplicity and ease in his writings. He needs to avoid dwelling at length upon any point that is not of vital importance; and even the most essential, manifest truths, those which are of themselves clear and plain, may be so covered up with words as to be made cloudy and indistinct.
Brother D may be sound upon all points of present truth and yet not be qualified in every respect to give the reasons of our hope to the French people in writing. He can aid in this work. But the matter should be prepared by more than one or two minds, that it may not bear the stamp of any one’s peculiarities. The truth which was reached and prepared by several minds, and which in God’s time was brought out link after link in a connected chain by the earnest searchers after truth, should be given to the people, and it will be adapted to meet the wants of many. Brevity should be studied in order to interest the reader. Long, wordy articles are an injury to the truth which the writer aims to present.
Brother D should have his mind less occupied with himself and talk less of himself. He should keep himself out of sight and, in conversation, avoid making reference to himself and making his peculiarities of life a pattern for others to imitate. He should encourage genuine humility. He is in danger of thinking his life and experience superior to that of others.
Brother D can be of value to the cause of God if there is a harmony in the character of his labors. If he can see and correct the imperfections of his peculiar organization, which have a tendency to injure his usefulness, God can use him to acceptance. He should avoid lengthy preaching and long prayers. These are no benefit to himself or to others. Long and violent exercise of the vocal organs has irritated his throat and lungs, and injured his general health, more than his precise round of rules for eating and resting have benefited him. One overexertion or strain of the vocal organs may not soon be recovered from, and may cost the life of the speaker. A calm, unhurried, yet earnest, manner of speaking will have a better influence upon a congregation than to let the feelings become excited and control the voice and manners. As far as possible the speaker should preserve the natural tones of the voice. It is the truth presented that affects the heart. If the speaker makes these truths a reality, he will, with the aid of the Spirit of God, be able to impress the hearers with the fact that he is in earnest, without straining the fine organs of the throat or the lungs.
Brother D is deeply interested in his domestic life; yet there is danger, in conversation, of his cultivating the habit of concentrating his whole mind upon the things which especially interest him, but which cannot interest or profit others. He tries to maintain a system which, in itself, is correct; but here again it will be seen that those things which are useful of themselves may become wearisome and burdensome by dwelling too much upon them, and by seeking to carry them out under all circumstances. There is danger of neglecting the weightier matters.
The Brethren D should avoid being tedious in their labor. Their influence has been good in the main. Brother D is naturally a good manager in temporal things. His instruction and example in this direction have helped those who were humble enough to be advised. But the jealousy, distrust, rebellion, complaining, and murmuring which have existed in the church have been disheartening. These brethren should guard against being too exacting.
In order to perfect Christian character, we should not cultivate merely a life of quiet, prayerful abstraction, nor a life of all outward zeal and busy excitement, while personal piety is neglected. But the present time requires us to be waiting for the coming of the Lord and vigilantly working for the salvation of our fellow men. “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” God will not accept the most exalted services unless they are first consecrated by the surrender of the soul to Him and His love. With a certain class of minds there is danger of systematizing away the Spirit of God and the vitality of the religion of Christ, and preserving an exact round of wearisome duties and ceremonies.
We are living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, and our nice and exact plans cannot always be carried out to the advantage of all. If we stand back upon our dignity we shall fail to help those who need help the most. The servants of Christ should accommodate themselves to the varied conditions of the people. They cannot carry out exact rules if they meet the cases of all. Labor will have to be varied to meet the people where they are. “Of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
The apostle counsels his Corinthian brethren: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-33. “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” 1 Corinthians 9:19. “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Verse 22 . “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.” Romans 15:1-3.
Brother and Sister L of Canada have been gradually losing their hold on God and their love for heavenly and divine things as they have been more earnestly grasping for worldly treasures. They have been relaxing their hold on heaven and fastening it more firmly on this world. A few years ago they loved to have an interest in the advancement of the truth and work of God. More recently their love for gain has increased, and they have not felt interested to do their part to save their fellow men. Self-denial and benevolence for Christ’s sake have not characterized their lives. They have done but little for the cause of God. What have they been doing with their talents? They have been burying them in the earth, investing them in lands. They have not been putting them out to the exchangers, that when the Master comes, He may receive His own with usury.
They have a work to do to set their hearts and house in order, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Their hearts have been upon the things of this life, and eternal considerations have been made secondary. They should work earnestly to get the love of the world out of their hearts and should place their affections upon things above, not upon things on the earth. If God’s servants would bear in mind that their work is to do all in their power, with their influence and their means, to save souls for whom Christ died, there would be more unselfish effort, and unbelievers would be stirred; they would be convinced that there is a reality in the truth thus presented and thus backed up by example.
Brother and Sister L should have confidence in the work for these last days and should be perfecting Christian character, that they may receive the eternal reward when Jesus comes. Brother L is failing in physical and mental vigor. He is becoming incapable of bearing much responsibility. He should counsel with his brethren who are discreet and faithful.
Brother L is a steward of God. He has been entrusted with means and should be awake to his duty and render to God the things that are God’s. He should not fail to understand the claims that God has upon him. While he lives, and has his reasoning powers, he should improve the opportunity of appropriating the property that God has entrusted to him, instead of leaving it for others to use and appropriate after the close of his life.
Satan is ever ready to take advantage of the weaknesses and infirmities of men to suit his own purposes. He is a wily adversary, and has outgeneraled many whose purposes were good to benefit the cause of God with their means. Some have neglected the work that God has given them to do in appropriating their means. And while they are negligent in securing to the cause of God the means that He has lent them, Satan comes in and turns that means into his own ranks.
Brother L should move more cautiously. Men who are not of our faith obtain means of him upon various pretenses. He trusts them, believing them to be honest. It will be impossible for him to get back all the means he has let slip out of his hands into the enemy’s ranks. He could make a safe investment of his means by aiding the cause of God and thus laying up for himself treasures in heaven. Frequently he is unable to help when he would because he is crippled and cannot command the means to do so. When the Lord calls for his means, it is frequently in the hands of those to whom he has lent it, some of whom never design to pay, and others feel no anxiety in the matter. Satan will accomplish his purpose as thoroughly through dishonest borrowers as in any other way. All that the adversary of truth and righteousness is working for is to prevent the advancement of our Redeemer’s kingdom. He works through agents to carry out his purposes. If he can prevent means from going into the treasury of God he is successful in one branch of his work. That means which should have been used to aid in the great plan of saving souls he has retained in his ranks to aid him in his work.
Brother L should have his business all straight and not left at loose ends. It is his privilege to be rich in good works, and to lay up for himself a good foundation against the time to come, that he may lay hold on eternal life. It is not safe for him to follow his failing judgment. He should counsel with experienced brethren, and seek wisdom of God, that he may do up his work well. He should now be really in earnest, providing himself “bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not.”
Brother M has made a mistake in his domestic life. He has not, in words, expressed that affection for his wife that it was his duty to express. He has failed to cultivate true Christian courtesy and politeness. He has failed to be at all times as kind and considerate of her wishes and comfort as was his duty. Her not uniting in faith with him has led to much unhappiness for both. Brother M has not respected his wife’s judgment and counsel as he should. In many respects her judgment and discernment are better than his. If consulted, she could, by her clearer perception and keener discernment, help him essentially in his business matters, in dealing with his neighbors. He should not stand back upon his dignity, feeling that he understands it all himself. If he would be advised by his wife, and by his kindly actions would show a regard for her, and a desire to please her, he would be doing nothing less than his duty. If her advice conflicts with his duty to God and His claims upon him, then he can choose to differ, and in the most quiet manner possible give as his reason that he cannot sacrifice his faith or his principles. It would be for Brother M’s interest in temporal matters to have his wife’s judgment and counsel.
While he is harsh, rough, and unaccommodating, he can have no influence to win his wife to the truth. He should reform. He needs to become softened, to be tender, gentle, and loving. He should let the sunshine of cheerfulness and happy contentment into his heart, and then let its beams shine into his family. He has brought into his family those whose influence would prove a curse to his wife rather than a blessing. In so doing, he has brought burdens upon her that might have been avoided. She should be consulted, and her wishes regarded, as far as possible without compromising his faith.
Brother M has chosen his own way, and has had a set will, savoring of stubbornness. He has frequently been unyielding. This should not be. He professes to believe a truth which has a sanctifying, softening, refining influence; his wife does not. He should show that the truth is exerting a power over his perverse nature, that it makes him patient, kind, forbearing, tender, affectionate, forgiving. The best way for Brother M to be a living missionary in his family is for him to exemplify in his life the life of our dear Redeemer.
Chapter 79—Transferring Earthly Treasure
Dear Brother N,
I have felt very much burdened over your case since we met you at the Tipton camp meeting. I could scarcely refrain from addressing you personally while speaking to the people upon the words of Christ: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
I recollected your countenance as one that had been shown me in vision some time ago. You were thinking you had a duty to preach the word to others; but your example, as you now are, would hinder more from embracing the truth than your preaching would convert to its belief. You profess to believe a most solemn, testing message; yet your faith has not been sustained by works. You have the truth in theory, but you have not been converted by it. The truth has not fully taken hold of your heart and been carried out in your daily life.
You need to be converted, transformed by the renewing of your mind. When the truth takes hold of your heart, it will work a reformation in the life. The unbelieving world will then be convinced that there is a power in the truth which has wrought so great a change in such a world-loving man as you have been. You love this world. Your treasures are here, and your heart is upon your treasures. And unless the power of the truth shall separate your affections from your god, which is this world, you will perish with your treasures.
You have but little sense of the exalted character of the work for these last days. You have not made sacrifices for the truth. You have a close, penurious spirit, and have closed your eyes to the wants of the distressed and needy. Your compassion has not been stirred to relieve the wants of the oppressed, neither have you had a heart to aid the cause of God with your means or to distribute to the necessities of the suffering. Your heart is on your earthly treasures. Unless you overcome your love of the things of the world you will have no place in the kingdom of heaven.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 669-678