Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2


Chapter 32—Systematic Benevolence

The plan of Systematic Benevolence is pleasing to God. I was pointed back to the days of the apostles, and saw that God laid the plan by the descent of his Holy Spirit, and by the gift of prophecy counseled his people in regard to a system of benevolence. All were to share in this work of imparting of their carnal things to those who ministered unto them in spiritual things. They were also taught that the widows and fatherless had a claim upon their charity. Pure and undefiled religion is defined, to visit the widows and fatherless in their affliction, and to keep unspotted from the world. I saw it was not merely to sympathize with them in their affliction by comforting words, but to aid them, if needy, with their substance. God has given health to young men and women, and they can obtain a great blessing by aiding the widow and fatherless in their affliction. I saw that God required young men to sacrifice more for the good of others. He claims more of them than they are willing to perform. If they keep themselves unspotted from the world, cease to follow its fashions, and lay by that which the lovers of pleasure spend in useless articles to gratify pride, and give it to the worthy afflicted ones, and to sustain the cause, they will have the approval of Him who says, “I know thy works.” 2SG 230.1

There is order in heaven, and God is well pleased with the efforts of his people in trying to move with the system and order in his work. I saw that there should be order in the church of God, and arrangement in regard to carrying forward successfully the last great message of mercy to the world. God is leading his people in the plan of Systematic Benevolence, and this is one of the very points which will cut the closest with some, to which God is bringing up his people. To them this point cuts off the right arm, and plucks out the right eye, while to others it is a great relief. To noble, generous souls the demands upon them seem very small, and they cannot be content to do so little. Some have large possessions, and if they lay by them in store for charitable purposes as God has prospered them, it seems to them like a large sum. The selfish heart clings as closely to a little offering as to a larger one, and makes the small offering look very large. I was pointed back to the commencement of this last work. Then some who loved the truth could consistently talk of sacrificing. They devoted much to the cause of God to send the truth to others. They have sent their treasure beforehand to heaven. Brethren, you who have received the truth at a later period, and have large possessions, God has called you into the field, not merely that you may enjoy the truth, but that you may aid with your substance in carrying forward this great work. And if you have an interest in this work, you will venture out, and invest something in it, that others may be saved by your efforts, and you reap with them the final reward. Great sacrifices have been made, and privations endured to place the truth in a clear light before you. Now God calls upon you, in your turn, to make great efforts, and to sacrifice in order to place the truth before those who are in darkness. God requires this. You profess to believe the truth; let your works testify to the fact. Unless your faith works, it is dead. Nothing but a living faith will save you in the fearful scenes which are just before you. 2SG 231.1

I saw that it was time that those who have their large possessions begin to work fast. It is time they were not only laying by them in store as God is now prospering them, but as he has prospered them. Plans were especially laid in the days of the apostles that some should not be eased and others burdened. Arrangements were made that all should share equally in the burdens of the church of God according to their several ability. Said the angel, The axe must be laid at the root of the tree. If the heart is wrapt in earthly treasures, like Judas they will complain. His heart coveted the costly ointment poured upon Jesus, and he sought to hide his selfishness under a pious, conscientious regard for the poor. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?” He wished he had the ointment in his possession; it would not thus be lavished upon the Saviour. He would apply it to his own use; sell it for money. He prized his Lord just enough to sell him to wicked men for a few pieces of silver. As Judas brought up the poor as an excuse for his selfishness, professed Christians, whose hearts are covetous, will seek to hide their selfishness under a put-on conscientiousness. O, they fear Systematic Benevolence is getting like the nominal churches! Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth! They seem conscientious to follow exactly the Bible as they understand it in this matter; but they entirely neglect the plain declaration of Christ, “Sell that ye have and give alms.” 2SG 232.1

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them.” Some think this text teaches that they must be secret in their works of charity. And they do but very little, excusing themselves, because they do not know just how to give. But Jesus explained it to his disciples as follows: “Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” They gave to be regarded noble and generous by men. They received praise of men, and Jesus taught his disciples that it was all the reward they would have. With many, the left hand does not know what the right hand does, for the right hand does nothing worthy of the notice of the left hand. This lesson of Jesus to his disciples was to rebuke those who wished to receive glory of men. They performed their alms-giving upon some very public gathering; and before doing this, a public proclamation was made of their generosity before the people, and many gave large sums merely to have their names exalted by men. And the means given in this manner was often extorted from others by oppressing the hireling in his wages, and grinding the face of the poor. 2SG 234.1

Then I was shown that this scripture does not apply to those who have the cause of God at heart, and use their means humbly to advance it. I was directed to these texts: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” “By their fruits ye shall know them.” I was shown that scripture testimony will harmonize, when it is rightly understood. The good works of the children of God are the most effectual preaching the unbeliever has. He thinks there must be strong motives that actuate the christian to deny self, and with his possessions, try to save his fellow man. It is unlike the spirit of the world. Such fruits testify that they are genuine Christians. They seem to be constantly reaching upward to a treasure that is imperishable. 2SG 234.2

In every gift and offering there should be a suitable object before the giver—not to uphold any in idleness—not to be seen of men or to get a great name—but to glorify God by advancing his cause. Some make large donations to the cause of God, but their brother who is poor may be suffering close by them, and they do nothing to relieve him. Little acts of kindness imparted to their brother in a secret manner would bind their hearts together, and would be noticed in heaven. I saw that the rich should make a difference in their prices and their wages to the afflicted and widows, and the worthy poor among them. But I saw it was too often the case that the poor were taken advantage of, and the rich reap the advantage, if there is any to be gained, and the last penny is exacted for every favor. It is all written in heaven. “I know thy works.” 2SG 235.1

The greatest sin which now exists in the church is covetousness. God frowns upon his professed people for their selfishness. His servants have sacrificed their time and their strength to carry them the word of life, and many have prized it just as highly, and no more, as their works have shown. If they can help the servant of God just as well as not, they sometimes do it; but he is often left to pass on, and but little done for him. But if they employ a day laborer, he must be paid full wages. But the self-sacrificing servant of God labors for them in word and doctrine; he carries the heavy burden of the work on his soul; he patiently shows from the word of God the dangerous errors which are hurtful to the soul; he enforces the necessity of immediately tearing up the weeds which choke the good seed sown; he brings out of the storehouse of God's word things new and old to feed the flock of God. All acknowledge that they have been benefited; but the poisonous weed, covetousness, is so deeply rooted they let the servant of God leave them without administering of their temporal things. They have prized his wearing labor just as highly as they act. Says the True Witness, “I know thy works.” 2SG 236.1

I saw that God's servants are not placed beyond the temptations of Satan. They are often fearfully beset by the enemy, and have a hard battle to fight. If they could be released from their commission, they would gladly labor with their hands. Their labor is called for by their brethren; but when they see it so lightly prized, they are depressed. True, they look to the final settlement for their reward, and this bears them up, but their families must have food and clothing. Their time belongs to the church of God. It is not at their own disposal. They sacrifice the society of their families to benefit others, and there are those who are benefited by their labors who are indifferent to their wants. I saw that it was doing injustice to such, to let them pass on and deceive themselves. They think they are approved of God, when he despises their selfishness. Not only will these selfish ones be called to render an account to God how they have used their Lord's money; but all the depression, and heart-aching feelings they have brought upon God's chosen servants, which have crippled their efforts, will be set to their account. 2SG 237.1

The True Witness declares, “I know thy works.” The selfish, covetous heart will be tested. Some are not willing to devote to God a very small portion of the increase of their earthly treasure. They would start back with horror if you should speak of the principal. What have they sacrificed for God? Nothing. They profess to believe that Jesus is coming; but their works deny their faith. Every individual will live out all the faith he has. False-hearted professor, Jesus knows thy works. He hates your stinted offerings and lame sacrifices. 2SG 237.2