His commandments and grace are adapted to our necessities, and without them we cannot be saved, do what we may. Acceptable obedience He requires. The offering of goods, or any service, will not be accepted without the heart. The will must be brought into subjection. The Lord requires of you a greater consecration to Him and a greater separation from the spirit and influence of the world.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Christ has called you to be His followers, to imitate His life of self-sacrifice and self-denial, to be interested in the great work of the redemption of the fallen race. You have no just sense of the work that God requires you to perform. Christ is your pattern. That in which you are deficient is love. This pure and holy principle distinguishes the character and conduct of Christians from those of worldlings. Divine love has a powerful, purifying influence. It is to be found only in renewed hearts, and naturally flows out to their fellow men.
“Love one another,” says our Saviour, “as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Christ has given us an example of pure, disinterested love. You have not as yet seen your deficiency in this respect, and your great need of this heavenly attainment, without which all your good purposes, and your zeal, even if it be of that nature that you could give your goods to feed the poor and your body to be burned, is nothing. You need that charity which suffereth long, is not easily provoked, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Without the spirit of love, no one can be like Christ. With this living principle in the soul, no one can be like the world.
The conduct of Christians is like that of their Lord. He erected the standard, and it is left for us to say whether or not we will rally around it. Our Lord and Saviour laid aside His dominion, His riches and glory, and sought after us, that He might save us from misery and make us like Himself. He humbled Himself and took our nature that we might be able to learn of Him and, imitating His life of benevolence and self-denial, follow Him step by step to heaven. You cannot equal the copy; but you can resemble it and, according to your ability, do likewise. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Such love must dwell in your hearts, that you will be ready to give the treasures and honors of this world if thereby you may influence one soul to engage in the service of Christ.
God bids you with one hand, faith, take hold of His mighty arm, and with the other hand, love, reach perishing souls. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Follow Him. Walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Walk even as He walked. This is the will of God, even your sanctification. The work you have to perform is to do the will of Him who sustains your life for His glory. If you labor for yourselves, it can profit you nothing. To labor for others’ good, to be less self-caring and more in earnest to devote all to God, will be acceptable to Him and be returned by His rich grace.
God has not apportioned you your lot to merely watch over and care for yourselves. You are required to minister to, and watch over, others, and in this exercise you will manifest those evils in your character which need correcting, and will strengthen those weak points that need strengthening. This is the part of the work we have to perform; not impatiently, fretfully, unwillingly, but cheerfully, gladly, in order to reach Christian perfection. To remove from us everything which is not exactly agreeable is not imitating Christ. You should be very jealous for the honor of God. How circumspectly should you walk, where now your course is not as it should be. If you could see the pure angels with their bright, searching eyes intently fixed on you, watching to record how the Christian glorifies his Master; or could you observe the exulting, sneering triumph of the evil angels, as they trace out every crooked way, and then quote Scripture which is violated, and compare the life with this Scripture which you profess to follow but from which you swerve, you would be astonished and alarmed for yourselves. It takes the entire man to make a valiant Christian. Oh, what blind, shortsighted creatures we are! How little do we discern sacred things, and how feebly do we comprehend the riches of His grace!
One thing I wish to impress upon your minds. You have the special mediums of Satan closely connected with you, and their power and influence have a manifest effect upon you, because you do not remain near enough to God to ensure the special aid of angels that excel in strength. Your union is altogether too strong with your Lord’s enemies, and you perceive not that you are in danger of making shipwreck of your faith. If you encourage, in the least, the temptations of Satan, you place yourself upon his battleground, and then the conflict will be long and sore before you obtain the victory and triumph in the name of Jesus, who has conquered him.
Satan has great advantages. He possessed the wonderful intellectual power of an angel, of which few form any just idea. Satan was conscious of his power, or he would not have engaged in a conflict with the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Satan closely watches events, and when he finds one who has a specially strong spirit of opposition to the truth of God he will even reveal to him unfulfilled events, that he may more firmly secure himself a seat in his heart. He who did not hesitate to brave a conflict with Him who holds creation as in His hand, has malignity to persecute and deceive. He holds mortals in his snare at the present time. During his experience of nearly six thousand years he has lost none of his skill and shrewdness. All this time he has been a close observer of all that concerns our race.
Those who have bitterly opposed the truth of God, Satan uses as his mediums. To such he will appear in the assumed person and garb of another, it may be a friend of the medium. He will increase their faith by using the words of this friend and relating circumstances which are about to take place or which really have taken place and of which the medium knew nothing. Sometimes previous to a death or an accident he gives a dream or, personating another, converses with the medium, even imparting knowledge by means of his suggestions. But it is wisdom from beneath and not from above. The wisdom taught by Satan is opposed to the truth, unless, to serve his purpose, he apparently clothes himself with the light which enshrouds angels. To a certain class of minds he will come sanctioning a part of what Christ’s followers believe to be truth, while he warns them to reject the other part as dangerous and fatal error.
Satan is a master workman. His infernal wisdom he employs with good success. He is ready and able to teach those who reject the counsel of God against their own souls. The bait which he has found will avail in bringing souls into his net, that he may fasten his hellish grasp upon them, he will clothe with every possible good and make as attractive as possible. All who are thus ensnared will learn at a dreadful expense the folly of selling heaven and immortality for a deception that is fatal in its consequences. Our adversary, the devil, is not void of wisdom or strength. He goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He will work “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Because they rejected the truth, “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” We have a powerful, deceptive foe with whom to contend, and our only safety is in Him who is to come, who will consume this archdeceiver with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
I commend this to you in the fear of God, and implore you to arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you life.
Chapter 27—Pride in the Young
Dear Sister O,
It was my intention to have some conversation with you before leaving —–, but I was prevented by many things. I do not write with very hopeful feelings that this letter will make any special change in your course of conduct so far as your religious experience is concerned.
I have felt very sad in regard to you. In the meetings held in —–, I dwelt upon general principles, and sought to reach hearts by bearing a testimony which I hoped would effect a change in your religious life. I have tried to write, as given in Testimony No. 12, in regard to the dangers of the young. That view was given in Rochester. There I was shown that a mistake had been made in your instruction from your childhood up. Your parents had thought, and had talked it in your hearing, that you were a natural Christian. Your sisters had a love for you which savored of idolatry more than of sanctification. Your parents have had an unsanctified love for their children, which has blinded their eyes to their defects. At times, when they have been somewhat aroused, this has been different. But you have been petted and praised until your eternal interest is endangered.
I saw that you do not know yourself. You have a self-righteousness which fastens you in deception in regard to your spiritual attainments. At times you have felt something of the influences of the Spirit of God. But to the transformation by the renewing of the mind you are a stranger. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” You have not had this experience, therefore have no anchor. You are not a Christian, and yet it has been talked to you all your life that you were a natural Christian. You have taken it for granted that you were all right, when you were very far from being accepted of God. This deception has grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength, and threatens to prove your ruin. Your parents have felt jealous for their children, and if reports of supposed slights have been brought to them by their children, they have felt interested and aroused at once, and have sympathized with them, and stood directly in the way of their spiritual good.
You and your sister P have had a great amount of pride, which will be as stubble in the day of God. Self-love and self-pride, pride of dress and appearance, have prevailed. Selfishness has kept you from good. You both must have a thorough conversion, a thorough renewing of the mind, a thorough transformation, or you will have no part in the kingdom of God. Your appearance, your good looks, your dress, will not bring you into favor with God. It is moral worth that the great I AM notices. There is no real beauty of person or of character out of Christ, no real perfection of manners or deportment without the sanctifying graces of the spirit of humility, sympathy, and true holiness.
I have been shown that souls will be lost through your influence and example. You have had light and privileges, and for them you will have to render an account. You are not naturally religious or devotional, but have to make special effort to keep your minds upon religious things. Self is prominent with you. Your self-esteem is very large; but remember that Heaven looks at moral worth, and estimates the character as precious and valuable by the inward adorning, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Costly array, outward adorning, personal attractions, all sink into insignificance in comparison with this valuable attainment, a meek and quiet spirit. Your love for your own enjoyment and gratification, your lack of consecration and of devotion, have been detrimental to many. Those who were backslidden you could not benefit, for your lives were like the worldlings’ in general.
Those who visit —– carry away the impression made by you and other of the youth who do not enjoy experimental religion, that there is no reality in religion. Pride is strengthened in them; love of show, love of lightness and of pleasure are increased, and sacred things are not discerned. They receive the impression that they have been too conscientious, too particular. For if those who live right at the center of the great work are influenced so little by the solemn truths so often presented, why should they be so particular? Why should they be afraid of enjoying themselves, when this seemed to be the aim of those who were of longer experience in —–?
The influence of the youth in —– extends as far as they are known, and their unconsecrated lives are proverbial; and none have had more influence in the wrong direction than you. You have dishonored your profession and been miserable representatives of the truth. Says the True Witness: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.” Were you cold, there would be some hope that you would be converted; but where self-righteousness girds one about, instead of the righteousness of Christ, the deception is so difficult to be seen, and the self-righteousness so hard to be put away, that the case is the most difficult to reach. An unconverted, godless sinner stands in a more favorable condition than such.
You are a stumbling block to sinners. Your lack of consecration is marked. You are scattering from Christ instead of gathering with Him. If God will help me to tear off your self-righteous garments, I will have hope that you may yet redeem the time and lead exemplary lives. You have been frequently aroused, but as often have sunk back into your former do-nothing, self-righteous condition, having a name to live while you are dead. Your pride threatens to be your ruin. God has spoken to you upon this point. If you make no reformation, affliction will come upon you, and your joy be turned to heaviness, until you humble your hearts under the hand of God. Your prayers God does not accept. They come from hearts filled with pride and selfishness. You, my dear sister, are vain; you have lived an aimless life, when, had you been humble and lived to bless others, you would have been a blessing to yourself and to all around you. May God forgive your parents and sisters for the part they have acted in making you what you are—just that which God cannot accept, just that which, if you remain the same, will be stubble for the fire to consume in the day of God.
When I was shown in regard to the spirit of selfishness existing in those who were working in the office, that there were some who were merely working for wages, as though engaged in any common enterprise, you were both among the number. You were both selfish and self-caring. Your anxiety was to please yourselves and to obtain higher wages. This spirit has, to quite an extent, cursed the office, and Heaven frowns upon it. Many have been too eager to grasp means. All this is wrong. A worldly spirit has come in, and Christ has been shut out. May God pity His people. And I hope you will be converted.
You have possessed a spirit of levity, and have been vain and trifling in your conversation. Oh, how seldom has Jesus been mentioned! His redeeming love has not called forth gratitude and praise, and expressions calculated to magnify His name and His undying, self-sacrificing love. What has been the theme for your conversation? What thoughts have been dwelt upon with the greatest pleasure? In truth it can be said that Jesus and His life of sacrifice, His exceeding precious grace and the redemption He has so dearly earned for you, are scarcely in all your thoughts; but trifling things occupy the mind. To please yourselves, to accomplish objects in life which suit your pleasure, this is the burden of the mind. I can but wish you had not professed to be risen with Christ, for you have not complied with the requirement. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Ask yourselves the questions: Have I complied with the requirements here laid down by the inspired apostle? Have I evidenced by my life, my death to the world, that my life is hid with Christ in God? Am I submerged in Christ? Do I draw sustenance and support from Him who has promised to be to me a present help in every time of need? You have a formal religion, but have not a special sense of your weakness, your corruption, and your vileness by nature.
“A natural Christian!” This deceptive idea has served many as a garment of self-righteousness, and has led many to a supposed hope in Christ, who had no experimental knowledge of Him, of His experience, His trials, His life of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Their righteousness which they count upon so much is only as filthy rags. Says Christ, the beloved Teacher: “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Yes, follow Him through evil as well as through good report. Follow Him in befriending the most needy and friendless. Follow Him in being forgetful of self, abundant in acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice to do others good; when reviled, reviling not again; manifesting love and compassion for the fallen race. He counted not His life dear, but gave it up for us all. Follow Him from the lowly manger to the cross. He was our example. He tells you that if you would be His disciple you must take the cross, the despised cross, and follow Him. Can ye drink of the cup? Can ye be baptized with the baptism?
Your actions testify that you are strangers to Christ. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
Here are enumerated the fruits which are marked evidences that one who has been walking in the vigor of life has met with a change—a change so marked as to be represented by death. From living, active life, to death! What a striking figure! None need be deceived here. If this transformation has not been experienced by you, rest not. Seek the Lord with all your hearts. Make this the all-important business of your lives.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 169-178