Those who have the cause of God at heart and feel love for precious souls for whom Christ died, will not seek their own ease or pleasure. They will do as Christ has done. They will go forth “to seek and to save that which was lost.” He said: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
If ministers in New York wish to help the church, they can do so in no better way than to go out into new fields and labor to bring souls into the truth. When the church see that the ministers are all aglow with the spirit of the work, that they feel deeply the force of the truth, and are seeking to bring others to the knowledge of it, it will put new life and vigor into them. Their hearts will be stirred to do what they can to aid in the work. There is not a class of people in the world who are more willing to sacrifice of their means to advance the cause than are Seventh-day Adventists. If the ministers do not utterly discourage them by their indolence and inefficiency, and by their lack of spirituality, they will generally respond to any appeal that may be made that commends itself to their judgment and consciences. But they want to see fruit. And it is right that the brethren in New York should demand fruit of their ministers. What have they done? What are they doing?
Ministers in New York should have been far in advance of what they are. But they have not engaged in that kind of labor which called forth earnest effort and strong opposition. Had they done so they would have been driven to their Bibles and to prayer in order to be able to answer their opponents, and in the exercise of their talents would have doubled them. There are ministers in New York who have been preaching for years, but who cannot be depended upon to give a course of lectures. They are dwarfed. They have not exercised their minds in the study of the word and in meeting opposition, so that they might become strong in God. Had they, like faithful soldiers of the cross of Christ, gone forth “without the camp,” depending upon God and their own energies, rather than leaning so heavily upon their brethren, they would have obtained an experience, and would now be qualified to engage in the work wherever their help is most needed. If the ministers generally in New York had left the churches to labor for themselves, and had not stood in their way, both churches and ministers would now be further advanced in spirituality and in the knowledge of the truth.
Many of our brethren and sisters in New York have been backsliding upon health reform. There is but a small number of genuine health reformers in the state. Light and spiritual understanding have been given to the brethren in New York. But the truth that has reached the understanding, the light that has shone upon the soul, which has not been appreciated and cherished, will witness against them in the day of God. Truth has been given to save those who would believe and obey. Their condemnation is not because they did not have the light, but because they had the light and did not walk in it.
God has furnished man with abundant means for the gratification of natural appetite. He has spread before him, in the products of the earth, a bountiful variety of food that is palatable to the taste and nutritious to the system. Of these our benevolent heavenly Father says that we may “freely eat.” We may enjoy the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, without doing violence to the laws of our being. These articles, prepared in the most simple and natural manner, will nourish the body, and preserve its natural vigor without the use of flesh meats.
God created man a little lower than the angels and bestowed upon him attributes that will, if properly used, make him a blessing to the world and cause him to reflect the glory to the Giver. But although made in the image of God, man has, through intemperance, violated principle and God’s law in his physical nature. Intemperance of any kind benumbs the perceptive organs and so weakens the brain-nerve power that eternal things are not appreciated, but placed upon a level with the common. The higher powers of the mind, designed for elevated purposes, are brought into slavery to the baser passions. If our physical habits are not right, our mental and moral powers cannot be strong; for great sympathy exists between the physical and the moral. The apostle Peter understood this and raised his voice of warning to his brethren: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
There is but little moral power in the professed Christian world. Wrong habits have been indulged, and physical and moral laws have been disregarded, until the general standard of virtue and piety is exceedingly low. Habits which lower the standard of physical health enfeeble mental and moral strength. The indulgence of unnatural appetites and passions has a controlling influence upon the nerves of the brain. The animal organs are strengthened, while the moral are depressed. It is impossible for an intemperate man to be a Christian, for his higher powers are brought into slavery to the passions.
Those who have had the light upon the subjects of eating and dressing with simplicity in obedience to physical and moral laws, and who turn from the light which points out their duty, will shun duty in other things. If they blunt their consciences to avoid the cross which they will have to take up to be in harmony with natural law, they will, in order to shun reproach, violate the Ten Commandments. There is a decided unwillingness with some to endure the cross and despise the shame. Some will be laughed out of their principles. Conformity to the world is gaining ground among God’s people, who profess to be pilgrims and strangers, waiting and watching for the Lord’s appearing. There are many among professed Sabbathkeepers in New York who are more firmly wedded to worldly fashions and lusts than they are to healthy bodies, sound minds, or sanctified hearts.
God is testing and proving individuals in New York. He has permitted some to have a measure of prosperity, to develop what is in their hearts. Pride and love of the world have separated them from God. The principles of truth are virtually sacrificed, while they profess to love the truth. Christians should wake up and act. Their influence is telling upon, and molding, the opinions and habits of others. They will have to bear the weighty responsibility of deciding by their influence the destiny of souls.
The Lord, by close and pointed truths for these last days, is cleaving out a people from the world and purifying them unto Himself. Pride and unhealthful fashions, the love of display, the love of approbation—all must be left with the world if we would be renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created us. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
The church in —– need sifting. A thorough conversion is necessary before they can be in working order. Selfishness, pride, envy, malice, evil surmising, backbiting, gossiping, and tattling have been cherished among them, until the Spirit of God has but little to do with them. While some who profess to know God remain in their present state, their prayers are an abomination in His sight. They do not sustain their faith by their works, and it would have been better for some never to have professed the truth than to have dishonored their profession as they have. While they profess to be servants of Christ, they are servants of the enemy of righteousness; and their works testify of them that they are not acquainted with God and that their hearts are not in obedience to the will of Christ. They make child’s play of religion; they act like pettish children.
The children of God, the world over, are one great brotherhood. Our Saviour has clearly defined the spirit and principles which should govern the actions of those who, by their consistent, holy lives, distinguish themselves from the world. Love for one another, and supreme love to their heavenly Father, should be exemplified in their conversation and works. The present condition of many of the children of God is like that of a family of ungrateful and quarrelsome children.
There is danger of even ministers in New York being of that class who are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. They do not practice what they learn. They are hearers, but not doers. These ministers need an experience in the truth that will enable them to comprehend the elevated character of the work.
We are living in a most solemn, important time of this earth’s history. We are amid the perils of the last days. Important and fearful events are before us. How necessary that all who do fear God and love His law should humble themselves before Him, and be afflicted and mourn, and confess the sins that have separated God from His people. That which should excite the greatest alarm, is that we do not feel or understand our condition, our low estate, and that we are satisfied to remain as we are. We should flee to the word of God and to prayer, individually seeking the Lord earnestly, that we may find Him. We should make this our first business.
The members of the church are responsible for the talents committed to their trust, and it is impossible for Christians to meet their responsibilities unless they occupy that elevated position that is in accordance with the sacred truths which they profess. The light that shines upon our pathway makes us responsible to let that light shine forth to others in such a manner that they will glorify God.
Relatives in the Church
The advancement of the church in —– in spiritual things is not in proportion to the light which has shone upon their pathway. God has committed to each talents to be improved by putting them out to the exchangers, that when the Master comes He may receive His own with usury. The church at —– is largely composed of valuable material, but its members fail to reach the high standard which it is their privilege to attain.
The working material in the church is found mostly in branches of three families which are connected by marriage. There is more talent in the church, and more material to make good workmen, than can be employed to advantage in that locality. The entire church are not growing in spirituality. They are not favorably situated to develop strength by calling into exercise the talents that God has given them. There is not room for all to work. One gets in the way of another. There is a lack of spiritual strength. If this church were less a family church each would feel individual responsibility.
If the talent and influence of several of its members should be exercised in other churches, where they would be drawn out to help where help is really needed, they would be obtaining an experience of the highest value in spiritual things, and by thus bearing responsibilities and burdens in the work of God would be a blessing to others. While engaged in helping others, they would be following the example of Christ. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister to others. He pleased not Himself. He made Himself of no reputation, but took upon Himself the form of a servant, and spent His life in doing good. He could have spent His days on earth in ease and plenty, and have appropriated to Himself the enjoyments of this life. But He lived not to enjoy, He lived to do good and to save others from suffering, and His example is for us to follow.
If consecrated to God, Brethren I and J could bear greater responsibilities than they have borne. They have thought that they would be prompt to respond to any call that should be made for means, and that this was the principal burden that they had to bear in the cause of God. But God requires more of them than this. If they had trained their minds to a more critical study of the word of God, that they might have become laborers in His cause, and had worked for the salvation of sinners as earnestly as they have to obtain the things of this life, they would have developed strength and wisdom to engage in the work of God where laborers are greatly needed.
These brethren, by remaining in a family community, are being dwarfed in mental and spiritual strength. It is not the best policy for children of one, two, or three families that are connected by marriage, to settle within a few miles of one another. The influence is not good on the parties. The business of one is the business of all. The perplexities and troubles which every family must experience more or less, and which, as far as possible, should be confined within the limits of the family circle, are extended to family connections, and have a bearing upon the religious meetings. There are matters which should not be known to a third person, however friendly and closely connected he may be. Individuals and families should bear them. But the close relationship of several families, brought into constant intercourse, has a tendency to break down the dignity which should be maintained in every family. In performing the delicate duty of reproving and admonishing, there will be danger of injuring feelings, unless it be done with the greatest tenderness and care. The best models of character are liable to errors and mistakes, and great care should be exercised that too much is not made of little things.
Such family and church relationship as exists in —– is very pleasant to the natural feelings; but it is not the best, all things considered, for the development of symmetrical Christian characters. The close relationship and the familiar associations with one another, while united in church capacity, render the influence feeble. That dignity, that high regard, confidence, and love that make a prosperous church is not preserved. All parties would be much happier to be separated and to visit occasionally, and their influence upon one another would be tenfold greater.
United as these families are by marriage, and mingling as they do in one another’s society, each is awake to the faults and errors of the others, and feels in duty bound to correct them; and because these relatives are really dear to one another, they are grieved over little things that they would not notice in those not so closely connected. Keen sufferings of mind are endured, because feelings will arise with some that they have not been treated impartially and with all that consideration which they deserved. Petty jealousies sometimes arise, and molehills become mountains. These little misunderstandings and petty variances cause more severe suffering of mind than do trials that come from other sources.
These things make these truly conscientious, noble-minded men and women feeble to endure, and they are not developing the character they might were they differently situated. They are dwarfed in mental and spiritual growth, which threatens to destroy their usefulness. Their labors and interests are confined mostly to themselves. Their influence is narrowed down when it should be widening and becoming more general, that they may, by being placed in a variety of circumstances, bring into exercise the powers which God has given them, in such a manner as shall contribute most to His glory. All the faculties of the mind are capable of high improvement. The energies of the soul need to be aroused and brought into action for the glory of God.
Laborers for God
God calls for missionaries. There are men of ability in the church at —– who will grow in capacity and power as they exercise their talents in the work and cause of God. If these brethren will educate themselves to make the cause of God their first interest, and will sacrifice their pleasure and inclination for the truth’s sake, the blessing of God will rest upon them. These brethren, who love the truth, and who have been for years rejoicing because of increasing light upon the Scriptures, should let their light shine forth to those who are in darkness. God will be to them wisdom and power, and will glorify Himself in working with and by those who wholly follow Him. “If any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.” The wisdom and power of God will be given to the willing and faithful.
The brethren in —– have been willing to give of their means for the various enterprises, but they have withheld themselves. They have not said: Here am I, Lord; send me. It is not the strength of human instruments, but the power and wisdom of Him who employs them and works with them that makes men successful in doing the work that is necessary to be done. By offering our goods to the Possessor of heaven and earth while we withhold ourselves, we cannot meet His approbation nor secure His blessing. There must be in the hearts of the brethren and sisters in —– a principle to lay all, even themselves, upon the altar of God.
Men are needed in Battle Creek who can and will take burdens and bear responsibilities. The call has been given time and again, but hardly a response has been made. Some would have answered the call if their worldly interests would have been advanced by so doing. But as there was no prospect of increasing their means by coming to Battle Creek, they could see no duty to come. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” And without obedience and unselfish love, the richest offerings are too meager to be presented to the Possessor of all things.
God calls upon the brethren and sisters in —– to arise and come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. The reason why there is so little strength among those who profess the truth is that they do not exercise the ability that God has given them. Very many have wrapped their talent in a napkin and hid it in the earth. It is by using the talents that they increase. God will test and prove His people.
Brother and Sister I have been faithful burden bearers in the cause of God, and now their children should not stand back and let the burdens rest so heavily upon them. It is time that the powers of the less-worn minds of the children should be exercised and they work more especially in the Master’s vineyard.
Some of the brethren and sisters in New York have felt anxious that Brother and Sister K, especially Sister K, should be encouraged to labor among the churches. But this is the wrong place for them to prove themselves. If God has indeed laid upon them the burden of labor, it is not for the churches; for these are generally in advance of them. There is a world before Brother and Sister K, a world lying in wickedness. Their field is a large one. They have plenty of room to try their gifts and test their calling without entering into other men’s labors and building upon a foundation that they have not laid. Brother and Sister K have been very slow to obtain an experience in self-denial. They have been slow to adopt the health reform in all its branches. The churches are in advance of them in the denial of appetite. Therefore they cannot be a benefit to the churches in this direction, but rather a hindrance.
Brother K has not been a blessing to the church in —–, but a great burden. He has stood directly in the way of their advancement. He has not been in a condition to help when and where they needed help the most. He has not correctly represented our faith; his conversation and life have not been unto holiness. He has been far behind, and has not been ready or willing to discern the leadings of God’s providence. He has stood in the way of sinners; he has not been in such a position that his influence would recommend our faith to unbelievers.
His example has been a hindrance to the church and to his unbelieving neighbors. If Brother K had been wholly consecrated to God, his works would have been fruitful, productive of much good. But that which more especially distinguishes God’s people from the popular religious bodies is not their profession alone, but their exemplary characters and their principles of unselfish love. The powerful, purifying influence of the Spirit of God upon the heart, carried out in words and works, separates them from the world and designates them as God’s peculiar people. The character and disposition of Christ’s followers will be like their Master’s. He is the pattern, the holy and perfect example given for Christians to imitate. His true followers will love their brethren and be in harmony with them. They will love their neighbors as Christ has given them example and will make any sacrifice if they can by so doing persuade souls to leave their sins and be converted to the truth.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3 pp. 49-58