It is not preachers merely, to go among the churches and pray and exhort occasionally, that Vermont needs. A cry for laborers could be consistently raised among God’s people in Vermont. Earnest, zealous workmen are needed to strengthen the things that remain by ministering to the spiritual wants of the people. The cause of God everywhere, especially in Vermont, needs burden bearers. Men go over and over the same ground, but accomplish very little, if anything. They have a good visit with their brethren, and this is frequently all that is accomplished; and yet they expect to be remunerated for their time.
The case of Brother and Sister K comes before me as I write. They have not practiced caring for others. They have not felt the responsibility resting upon them to be burden bearers. Brother K was shown me among others who have felt that they had a work to do for the Lord. Indeed he has, and so have very many others, if they will do it. There are thorough workmen in the cause of God, who have an experience in the work and who devote their time and strength to the service of God. These should be liberally sustained. But those who are merely starting out to visit the churches occasionally—especially those who have no families to provide for and who have a competency themselves—should not draw upon the treasury of the Lord.
Neither Brother nor Sister K has an experience in sacrificing for the truth, in being rich in good works, laying up their treasures in heaven. Their sympathy, care, and patience have not been called into exercise by dependent, loving children. They have consulted their own selfish convenience. Their hearts have not been a wellspring sending forth the living streams of tenderness and affection. In blessing others by kindly words of love and acts of mercy and benevolence, they would realize a blessing themselves. They have been too narrow in their sphere of usefulness. Unless such become transformed in mind and being, and are renewed by the spirit of Christ, they cannot become thorough, efficient workmen in the Redeemer’s cause. His life is the example for Christians. Self-sacrifice and disinterested benevolence should characterize their lives. Self-interest is too prominent. Oh, how little does Brother K know of what it is to labor for God, to lift the cross of Christ and walk in the footsteps of the self-denying Redeemer!
A minister of Christ, a teacher of the truth, a true shepherd, is in one sense a servant of all, anticipating the wants of those who need help, and knowing how to be useful here and there in the great work of saving souls. A man who professes to teach the truth, and goes just where he pleases, and works when and how he pleases, yet shuns responsibilities, is not bearing the cross after Christ nor fulfilling the commission of a gospel minister. Few know by experience what it is to suffer for Christ’s sake. They desire to be like Christ, but wish to avoid poverty and crucifixion. They would gladly be with Him in glory, but do not love to come to Him through much self-denial and tribulation.
It has not cost Brother K hard effort to search out the truth; for chosen men of God have prepared arguments to his hand, clear, plain, and convincing. Difficult points of present truth have been reached by the earnest efforts of a few who were devoted to the work. Fasting and fervent prayer to God have moved the Lord to unlock His treasuries of truth to their understanding. Wily opponents and boasting Goliaths have had to be met, sometimes face to face, but more frequently with the pen. Satan has urged men on to fierce opposition, to blind the eyes and darken the understanding of the people. The few who had the interest of the cause and truth of God at heart were aroused to its defense. They did not seek for ease, but were willing to venture even their lives for the truth’s sake.
These zealous searchers after truth risked their capital of strength and their all in the work of defending the truth and spreading the light. Link after link of the precious chain of truth has been searched out, until it stands forth in beautiful harmony, uniting in a perfect chain. These men of investigating minds have brought out arguments and made them so plain that a schoolboy may understand them. How easy now for men to become teachers of the truth, while they shun self-sacrifice and self-denial.
These searchers for truth have suffered for it and know what it cost. They value it and feel the most intense interest in its advancement. Self-denial and the cross lie directly in the pathway of every follower of Christ. The cross is that which crosses the natural affections and the will. If the heart is not wholly sanctified to God, if the will and affections and thoughts are not brought into subjection to the will of God, there will be a failure to carry out the principles of true religion and to exemplify in the life the life of Christ. There will not be a true desire to sacrifice ease and self-love, and the carnal mind will not be crucified to work the works of Christ.
There is a work to be accomplished for many who live at Bordoville. I saw that the enemy was busily at work to carry his points. Men to whom God has entrusted talents of means have shifted upon their children the responsibility which Heaven has appointed them of being stewards for God. Instead of rendering to God the things that are His, they claim that all they have is their own, as though by their own might and power and wisdom they had obtained their possessions. Who gave them power and wisdom to obtain earthly treasure? Who watered their lands with the dew of heaven and with the showers of rain? Who gave them the sun to warm the earth and awaken into life the things of nature, causing them to flourish for the benefit of man? Men whom God has blessed with His bounties clasp their arms about their earthly treasure and make these bounties and blessings, which God has graciously given them, a curse by filling their hearts with selfishness and distrust of Him. They accept the goods lent them, yet claim them as their own, forgetting that the Master has any claim upon them, and refusing to yield to Him even the interest that He demands. Riches cause the professed followers of Christ many perplexities and pierce them through with many sorrows because they forget God, and love and worship mammon. They allow worldly treasures to embitter their lives and prevent them from perfecting Christian character. And, as though this were not enough, they transmit to their children, to curse them, that which has proved the bane of their own lives. God has entrusted men with means to prove them, to see if they are willing to acknowledge Him in His gifts, and use them to advance His glory upon the earth.
The earth is the Lord’s, and all the treasures it contains. The cattle upon a thousand hills are His. All the gold and silver belongs to Him. He has entrusted His treasures to stewards, that with them they may advance His cause and glorify His name. He did not entrust these treasures to men that they might use them to exalt and glorify themselves, and have power to oppress those who were poor in this world’s treasure. God does not receive the offerings of any because He needs them and cannot have glory and riches without them, but because it is for the interest of His servants to render to God the things which are His. The freewill offerings of the humble, contrite heart He will receive, and will reward the giver with the richest blessings. He receives them as the sacrifice of grateful obedience. He requires and accepts our gold and silver as an evidence that all we have and are belongs to Him. He claims and accepts the improvement of our time and of our talents as the fruit of His love existing in our hearts. To obey is better than sacrifice. Without pure love the most expensive offering is too poor for God to accept.
Many have their hearts so fixed upon their earthly treasure that they do not discern the advantage of laying up for themselves treasures in heaven. They do not realize that their freewill offerings to God are not enriching Him, but themselves. Christ counsels us to lay up treasures in heaven. For whom? For God, that He may be enriched? Oh, no! The treasures of the entire world are His, and the indescribable glory and priceless treasures of heaven are all His own, to give to whom He will. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Men whom God has made stewards are so infatuated by the riches of this world that they do not discern that by their selfishness and covetousness they are not only robbing the Lord in tithes and offerings, but robbing themselves of eternal riches. They could be daily adding to their heavenly treasure by doing the very work that the Lord has left them to do, and which He has entrusted them with means to carry out. The Master would have them watch for opportunities to do good and, while they live, apply their means themselves to aid in the salvation of their fellow men and in the advancement of His cause in its various branches. In so doing they only do that which God requires of them; they render to God the things that are His. Many willingly close their eyes and hearts, lest they should see and feel the wants of the Lord’s cause, and by helping in its advancement should lessen their increase by detracting from the interest or the principal. Some feel that what they give to advance the cause of God is really lost. They consider so many dollars gone and feel dissatisfied unless they can immediately replace them so that their earthly treasure may not decrease. They exercise closeness and even sharpness in dealing with their brethren and also with worldlings. They do not scruple to overreach in deal in order to advantage themselves and gain a few dollars.
Some, fearing they will suffer loss of earthly treasure, neglect prayer and the assembling of themselves together for the worship of God, that they may have more time to devote to their farms or their business. They show by their works which world they place the highest estimate upon. They sacrifice religious privileges, which are essential to their spiritual advancement, for the things of this life and fail to obtain a knowledge of the divine will. They come short of perfecting Christian character and do not meet the measurement of God. They make their temporal, worldly interests first, and rob God of the time which they should devote to His service. Such persons God marks, and they will receive a curse rather than a blessing. Some place their means beyond their control by putting it into the hands of their children. Their secret motive is to place themselves in a position where they will not feel responsible to give of their property to spread the truth. These love in word, but not in deed and in truth. They do not realize that it is the Lord’s money they are handling, not their own.
Many would love to see souls converted if it could be done without any sacrifice on their part; but if their property is touched, they draw back, for it is of more value to them than the souls of men and women for whom Christ died. If those to whom God has entrusted means understood their responsibilities as His stewards, they would retain in their own hands that which God has lent them, that they might faithfully perform the duty devolving upon them to do their part in helping carry forward the work of God. If all could comprehend the plan of salvation, and the worth of even one soul purchased by the blood of Christ, they would make every other interest of minor consequence.
Parents should have great fear in entrusting children with the talents of means that God has placed in their hands, unless they have the surest evidence that their children have greater interest in, love for, and devotion to, the cause of God than they themselves possess, and that these children will be more earnest and zealous in forwarding the work of God, and more benevolent in carrying forward the various enterprises connected with it which call for means. But many place their means in the hands of their children, thus throwing upon them the responsibility of their own stewardship, because Satan prompts them to do it. In so doing they effectually place that means in the enemy’s ranks. Satan works the matter to suit his own purpose and keeps from the cause of God the means which it needs, that it may be abundantly sustained. The efforts made to get the truth before the people are not half as thorough and extensive as they should be. Not a fiftieth part is now being done to extend the truth that might be done by scattering publications and bringing within the sound of the truth all that can be induced to come.
The probation of many is closing. Satan is daily gathering his harvest of souls. Some are making final decisions against the truth, and many are dying without a knowledge of it. Their minds are unenlightened, and their sins unrepented of; and yet men professing godliness are hoarding up their earthly treasures and directing their efforts to gaining more. They are insensible to the condition of men and women who come within the sphere of their influence and who are perishing for want of knowledge. Well-directed labor, bestowed in love and humility, would do much to enlighten and convert their fellow men; but the example of many who might do great good is virtually saying: Your souls are of less value to me than my worldly interests.
Many love the truth a little, but they love this world more. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Spiritual things are sacrificed for temporal. The fruit that such bear is not unto holiness, and their example will not be such as to convict sinners and convert them from the error of their ways to the truth. They allow souls to go to perdition, when they might save them if they would make as earnest efforts in their behalf as they have made to secure the treasures of this life. To obtain more of the things of the world, which they do not really need and which only increase their responsibility and condemnation, many labor on the high-pressure plan, and peril health and spiritual enjoyment, and the peace, comfort, and happiness of their families. They let souls go to perdition around them because they fear that it will require a little of their time and means to save them. Money is their god. They decide that it will not pay to sacrifice their means to save souls.
The one to whom is entrusted one talent is not responsible for five, or for two, but for the one. Many neglect to lay up for themselves a treasure in heaven by doing good with the means that God has lent them. They distrust God and have a thousand fears in regard to the future. Like the children of Israel they have evil hearts of unbelief. God provided this people with abundance, as their needs required; but they borrowed trouble for the future. They complained and murmured in their travels that Moses had led them out to kill them and their children with hunger. Imaginary want closed their eyes and hearts from seeing the goodness and mercies of God in their journeyings, and they were ungrateful for all His bounties. So also are the distrustful, professed people of God in this age of unbelief and degeneracy. They fear that they may come to want, or that their children may become needy, or that their grandchildren will be destitute. They dare not trust God. They have no genuine faith in Him who has entrusted them with the blessings and bounties of life, and who has given them talents to use to His glory in advancing His cause.
Many have such a constant care for themselves that they give God no opportunity to care for them. If they should be a little short at times, and be brought into strait places, it would be the best thing for their faith. If they would calmly trust in God, and wait for Him to work for them, their necessity would be God’s opportunity; and His blessing in their emergency would increase their love for Him and lead them to prize their temporal blessings in a higher sense than they have ever done before. Their faith would increase, their hope would brighten, and cheerfulness would take the place of gloom and doubts and murmuring. The faith of very many does not grow for want of exercise.
That which is eating out the vitals of God’s people is the love of money and friendship with the world. It is the privilege of God’s people to be bright and shining lights in the world, to increase in the knowledge of God, and to have a clear understanding of His will. But the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the seed sown in their hearts, and they bear no fruit to His glory. They profess faith, but it is not a living faith because it is not sustained by works. Faith without works is dead, being alone. Those who profess great faith, yet have not works, will not be saved by their faith. Satan believes the truth and trembles, yet this kind of faith possesses no virtue. Many who have made a high profession of faith are deficient in good works. If they should show their faith by their works they could exert a powerful influence on the side of truth. But they do not improve upon the talents of means lent them of God. Those who think to ease their consciences by willing their property to their children, or by withholding from God’s cause and suffering it to pass into the hands of unbelieving, reckless children for them to squander or hoard up and worship, will have to render an account to God; they are unfaithful stewards of their Lord’s money. They allow Satan to outgeneral them through these children, whose minds are under his control. Satan’s purposes are accomplished in many ways, while the stewards of God seem stupefied and paralyzed; they do not realize their great responsibility and the reckoning which must shortly come.
Those who have property and whose minds are darkened by the god of this world seem to be controlled by Satan in the disposal of it. If they have true, believing children, and also children whose affections are wholly upon the things of the world, in making a transfer of their means to their children, they generally give a larger amount to those children who do not love God, and who are serving the enemy of all righteousness, than to those who are serving God.
They place in the hands of the unfaithful children the very things that will prove a snare to them and that will be obstacles in the way of their making a surrender to God. While they make large presents to the unbelieving children they make very stinted gifts to those who are of the same faith with themselves. This very fact should startle the men of means who have pursued this course. They should see that the deceitfulness of riches has perverted their judgment. If they could see the influence operating upon their minds they would understand that Satan had these matters very much according to his own purposes and plans. Instead of God’s controlling the mind and sanctifying the judgment, it is controlled by exactly the opposite power. The ones who have been with them in the faith they sometimes even neglect, and are frequently very close and exacting in all their deal with them; while they have an open hand to the unbelieving, world-loving children, who they know will not use the means they have placed in their hands, to advance the cause of God. The Lord requires that those to whom He has lent talents of means make a right use of them, having the advancement of His cause prominent. Every other consideration should be inferior to this.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 649-658