Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 5—Choosing Earthly Treasure

I have been shown the condition of God's people. They are stupefied by the spirit of the world. They are denying their faith by their works. I was pointed back to ancient Israel. They had great light and exalted privileges; yet they did not live up to the light nor appreciate their advantages, and their light became darkness. They walked in the light of their own eyes instead of following the leadings of God. The history of the children of Israel was written for the benefit of those who live in the last days, that they may avoid following their example of unbelief. 4T 43.3

Brother E, you were shown me enshrouded in darkness. The love of the world had taken entire control of your being. The very best of your days are past. Your vitality and power of endurance, as far as physical labor is concerned, are enfeebled; and now, when you should be able to look back on a life of noble effort in blessing others and glorifying God, you can only have regret, and realize a want of happiness and peace. You are not living a life which will meet the approval of God. Your spiritual, your eternal interests, are made secondary. Brain, bone, and muscle have been taxed to the utmost. Why all this expenditure of strength? Why this accumulation of cares and burdens for your family to bear? What is your reward? The satisfaction of laying up for yourself a treasure upon earth, which Christ has forbidden and which will prove a snare to your soul. 4T 43.4

In Christ's Sermon on the Mount He says: “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.” If you lay up treasures in heaven, you do it for yourself, you are working for your own interest. Your treasure, my dear brother, is laid up on the earth, and your interest and affections are on your treasure. You have cultivated a love for money, for houses and lands, until it has absorbed the powers of your mind and being, and your love for worldly possessions has been greater than your love for your Creator and for the souls for whom Christ died. The god of this world has blinded your eyes so that eternal things are not valued. 4T 44.1

In the wilderness of temptation Christ met the great leading temptations that would assail man. There He encountered, singlehanded, the wily, subtle foe, and overcame him. The first great temptation was upon appetite; the second, presumption; the third, love of the world. Satan has overcome his millions by tempting them to the indulgence of appetite. Through the gratification of the taste, the nervous system becomes excited and the brain power enfeebled, making it impossible to think calmly or rationally. The mind is unbalanced. Its higher, nobler faculties are perverted to serve animal lust, and the sacred, eternal interests are not regarded. When this object is gained, Satan can come with his two other leading temptations and find ready access. His manifold temptations grow out of these three great leading points. 4T 44.2

Presumption is a common temptation, and as Satan assails men with this, he obtains the victory nine times out of ten. Those who profess to be followers of Christ, and claim by their faith to be enlisted in the warfare against all evil in their nature, frequently plunge without thought into temptations from which it would require a miracle to bring them forth unsullied. Meditation and prayer would have preserved them and led them to shun the critical, dangerous position in which they placed themselves when they gave Satan the advantage over them. The promises of God are not for us rashly to claim while we rush on recklessly into danger, violating the laws of nature and disregarding prudence and the judgment with which God has endowed us. This is the most flagrant presumption. 4T 44.3

The thrones and kingdoms of the world and the glory of them were offered to Christ if He would only bow down to Satan. Never will man be tried with temptations as powerful as those which assailed Christ. Satan came with worldly honor, wealth, and the pleasures of life, and presented them in the most attractive light to allure and deceive. “All these things,” said he to Christ, “will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Christ repelled the wily foe and came off victor. 4T 45.1

Satan has better success in approaching man. All this money, this gain, this land, this power, these honors and riches, will I give thee—for what? His conditions generally are, that integrity shall be yielded, conscientiousness blunted, and selfishness indulged. Through devotion to worldly interests, Satan receives all the homage he asks. The door is left open for him to enter as he pleases, with his evil train of impatience, love of self, pride, avarice, overreaching, and his whole catalogue of evil spirits. Man is charmed and treacherously allured on to ruin. If we yield ourselves to worldliness of heart and life, Satan is satisfied. 4T 45.2

Christ's example is before us. He overcame Satan, showing us how we may also overcome. Christ resisted Satan with scripture. He might have had recourse to His own divine power, and used His own words; but He said: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” To the second temptation He said: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Christ's example is before us. If the Sacred Scriptures were studied and followed, the Christian would be fortified to meet the wily foe; but the word of God is neglected, and disaster and defeat follow. 4T 45.3

Dear brother, you have neglected to heed the testimonies of warning given you years ago showing you that the enemy was upon your track to open before you the charms of this world, urging you to choose earthly treasure and sacrifice the heavenly reward. Brother E, you cannot afford to do this; there is too much at stake. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” You are selling your soul at a cheap market. You cannot afford to make this great sacrifice. God has entrusted talents to your stewardship. They are your means and your influence. He wishes to test and prove you. You should have lost no time, but should have commenced immediately to increase your Master's store. Had you done this, your success would have been equal to your industry, perseverance, and zeal in applying the capital placed in your hands; your talents or influence—setting aside the means which you could have called to your aid—would have turned many souls from error to truth and righteousness. These souls would have labored for others, and thus influence and means would have constantly increased and multiplied in the Master's cause; and for the faithful improvement of your talents you would have heard from the Master the most gracious words that shall ever fall upon the ear: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” 4T 46.1

Brother E, had you directed the powers of your intellect into the right channel, serving your heavenly Father, you would have been growing stronger in the truth, stronger in spirit and power, and would now be a pillar of the church in -----, and, by your example as well as by giving the reasons of our faith from the Scriptures, would be a successful teacher of the truth. Had the powers of mind which you have employed in getting property been used to bring souls from darkness to the light, you would have met the approval of God and been highly successful. 4T 46.2

Those who have but small capacities, sanctified by the love of God, can do good for the Master; but those who have quick, discerning minds may employ them in His exalted work with grand results. To wrap in a napkin the talents God has entrusted to them, and hide them in the earth, thus depriving Him of their increase, is a great wrong. We are probationers. The Master is coming to investigate our course, and He will inquire what use has been made of the talents lent us. 4T 47.1

Brother E, what use are you making of the talents God has placed in your care? Have you done what you could to enlighten the minds of men in regard to truth, or have you found no time from your business cares and perplexities to devote to this work? It is a crime to use the bounties of God as you have done, to diminish your physical strength and separate your affections from God. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You cannot love this world and love the truth of God. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You are not a happy man. Your family is not a happy family. Angels of God do not come in and abide with you. When the religion of Christ rules in the heart, conscience approves, and peace and happiness reign; perplexity and trouble may surround, yet there is light in the soul. 4T 47.2

Submission, love, and gratitude to God keep sunshine in the heart, though the day may be ever so cloudy. Self-denial and the cross of Christ are before you. Will you lift the cross? Your children have been blessed by a mother's prayers. They have loved religion. They have tried to resist temptation and to live lives of prayer. Sometimes they have tried very hard; but your example before them, your love and devotion to the world, and your close application to business, have withdrawn their minds from spiritual things and turned them to earth again. Satan has been upon their track to lead them to love the world and the things of the world. They have gradually lost their confidence in God, have neglected secret prayer and religious duties, and have withdrawn their interest from holy things. 4T 47.3

Dear Brother E, you have made a great mistake in giving this world your ambition. You are exacting and sometimes impatient, and at times require too much of your son. He has become discouraged. At your house it has been work, work, work, from early morning until night. Your large farm has brought extra cares and burdens into your house. You have talked upon business; for business was primary in your mind, and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Has your example in your family exalted Christ and His salvation above your farming interest and your desire for gain? If your children fail of everlasting life, the blood of their souls will surely be found on the garments of their father. 4T 48.1

The mother did her duty faithfully. She will hear the “Well done” as she rises in the resurrection morning. Her first inquiry will be for her children, who were the burden of her prayers during the latter portion of her life. Can you present them with beautiful characters that will give them a moral fitness for the society of angels, or will they be tarnished and sullied by the pollutions of the world? Will they be found “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”? Will they be as pillars polished after the similitude of a palace; or will they be found lovers of the world, cursed with the spirit of avarice, and their bright and noble qualities buried in oblivion? Your course will do much to determine the future destiny of your children. If you continue to drown your powers of mind in worldly care and scheming, you will remain a stumbling block to them. They see that, while professing Christianity, you have made no spiritual advancement, but are morally dwarfed. This is true. Your mind has been concentrated on earthly things, and, as a result, you have developed great power in this direction. You are decidedly a worldly businessman, but God designed that you should use your ability and influence in a higher calling. 4T 48.2

You are dazzled and blinded by the god of this world. Oh, what a terrible insanity is upon you! You may gather together earthly treasure, but it will be destroyed in the great conflagration. If you now return unto the Lord, use your talents of means and influence for His glory, and send your treasure before you to heaven, you will not meet with a total loss. 4T 49.1

The great conflagrations and the disasters by sea and land that have visited our country were the special providences of God, a warning of what is about to come upon the world. God would show man that He can kindle upon his idols a fire that water cannot quench. The great general conflagration is but just ahead, when all this wasted labor of life will be swept away in a night and day. The treasure laid up in heaven will be safe. No thief can approach nor moth corrupt it. 4T 49.2

A young man came to Christ and said: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus bade him keep the commandments. He returned answer: Lord, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” Jesus looked with love upon the young man, and faithfully pointed out to him his deficiency in keeping the commandments. He did not love his neighbor as himself. Christ showed him his true character. His selfish love of riches was a defect, which, if not removed, would debar him from heaven. “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.” Christ would have him understand that He required nothing of him more than He Himself had experienced. All He asked was that he should follow His example. 4T 49.3

Christ left His riches and glory, and became poor, that man through His poverty might be made rich. He now requires him for the sake of these riches to yield earthly things and secure heaven. Christ knew that while the affections were upon worldly treasure, they would be withdrawn from God; therefore He said to the lawyer: “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.” How did he receive the words of Christ? Was he rejoiced that he could secure the heavenly treasure? He was very sorrowful, for he had great possessions. To him riches were honor and power. The great amount of his treasure made such a disposal of it seem like an impossibility. 4T 49.4

Here is the danger of riches to the avaricious man. The more he gains, the harder it is for him to be generous. To diminish his wealth is like parting with life. Rather than do this, he turns from the attractions of the immortal reward, in order to retain and increase his earthly possessions. He accumulates and hoards. Had he kept the commandments, his worldly possessions would not have been so great. How could he, while plotting and striving for self, love God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his strength, and his neighbor as himself? Had he distributed to the necessities of the poor and blessed his fellow men with a portion of his means as their wants demanded, he would have been far happier and would have had greater heavenly treasure and less of earth upon which to place his affections. 4T 50.1

Christ assured the young man who came to Him that if he would obey His requirements, he should have treasure in heaven. This world-loving man was very sorrowful. He wanted heaven, but he desired to retain his wealth. He renounced immortal life for the love of money and power. Oh, what a miserable exchange! Yet many are doing this who profess to keep all the commandments of God. You, dear brother, are in danger of doing the same, but you do not realize it. Be not offended because I lay this matter so plainly before you. God loves you. How poorly have you returned His love! 4T 50.2

I was shown that in your first experience your heart was all aglow with the truth; your mind was absorbed in the study of the Scriptures; you saw new beauty in every line. Then the good seed sown in your heart was springing up and bearing fruit to the glory of God. But after a time the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choked the good seed of the word of God sown in your heart, and you failed to bring forth fruit. The truth struggled for supremacy in your mind, but the cares of this life and the love of other things gained the victory. Satan sought, through the attractions of this world, to enchain you and paralyze your moral powers so that you should have no sense of God's claims upon you, and he has nearly succeeded. 4T 50.3

Now, dear brother, you must make a most earnest, persevering effort to dislodge the enemy and assert your liberty; for he has made you a slave to this world until your love of gain has become a ruling passion. Your example to others has been bad; selfish interests have been prominent. By profession you say to the world: My citizenship is not here, but above; while your works decidedly say that you are a dweller on the earth. As a snare shall the day of judgment come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth. Your profession is only a hindrance to souls. You have not corresponding works. “I know thy works” (not thy profession), says the True Witness. God is now sifting His people, testing their purposes and their motives. Many will be but as chaff—no wheat, no value in them. 4T 51.1

Christ has committed to your trust talents of means and of influence, and He has said to you: Improve these till I come. When the Master cometh and reckoneth with His servants, and all are called to the strictest account as to how they have used the talents entrusted to them, how will you, my dear brother, bear the investigation? Will you be prepared to return to the Master His talents doubled, laying before Him both principal and interest, showing that you have been a judicious as well as faithful and persevering worker in His service? Brother E, if you follow the course that you have pursued for years, your case will be correctly represented by the servant who wrapped his talent in a napkin and buried it in the earth, that is, hid it in the world. Those to whom talents were entrusted, received reward for the labor expended in exact proportion to the fidelity, perseverance, and earnest effort made in trading with their Lord's goods. 4T 51.2

God holds you as His debtor, and also as debtor to your fellow men who have not the light and truth. God has given you light, not to hide under a bushel, but to set on a candlestick that all in the house may be benefited. Your light should shine to others to enlighten souls for whom Christ died. The grace of God ruling in your heart, and bringing your mind and thoughts into subjection to Jesus, would make you a powerful man on the side of Christ and the truth. 4T 52.1

Said Paul: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” God had revealed to Paul His truth, and in so doing made him a debtor to those who were in darkness, to enlighten them. You have not had a proper sense of your accountability before God. You are handling your Lord's talents. You have powers of mind that if employed in the right direction would make you a co-worker with Christ and His angels. Had your mind been turned in the direction of doing good, of placing the truth before others, you would now be qualified to become a successful laborer for God, and as your reward you would see many souls saved that would be as stars in the crown of your rejoicing. 4T 52.2

How can the value of your houses and lands bear comparison with that of precious souls for whom Christ died? Through your instrumentality these souls may be saved with you in the kingdom of glory, but you cannot take with you there the smallest portion of your earthly treasure. Acquire what you may, preserve it with all the jealous care you are capable of exercising, and yet the mandate may go forth from the Lord, and in a few hours a fire which no skill can quench may destroy the accumulations of your entire life and lay them a mass of smoldering ruins. This was the case with Chicago. God's word had gone forth to lay that city in ruins. This is not the only city that will realize the visible marks of God's displeasure. He has made a beginning, but not an end. The sword of His wrath is stretched out over the people who by their pride and wickedness have provoked the displeasure of a just God. Storms, earthquakes, whirlwinds, fire, and the sword will spread desolation everywhere, until men's hearts shall fail them for fear and for looking after those things which shall come upon the earth. You know not how small a space is between you and eternity. You know not how soon your probation may close. 4T 52.3

Make ready, my brother, for the Master to demand your talents, both principal and interest! To save souls should be the lifework of everyone who professes Christ. We are debtors to the world for the grace given us of God, for the light which has shone upon us, and for the discovered beauty and power of the truth. You may devote your entire existence to laying up treasures upon earth, but what will they advantage you when your life here closes, or when Christ makes His appearance? Not a farthing can you take with you. And just as high as your worldly honors and riches have exalted you here to the neglect of your spiritual life, just so much lower will you sink in moral worth before the great tribunal of God's judgment. 4T 53.1

How will this wealth for which you have bartered your soul be appropriated, should you be suddenly called to close your probation, and your voice no longer control it? What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Your means are of no more value than sand, only as used to provide for the daily necessities of life and to bless others and advance the cause of God. God has given you testimonies of warning and encouragement, but you have turned from them. You have doubted the Testimonies. When you come back and gather up the rays of light, and take the position that the Testimonies are from God, then you will be settled in your belief and will not thus waver in darkness and weakness. 4T 53.2

You can be a blessing to the church at -----. You can be a pillar there even now if you will come to the light and walk in it. God calls after you again. He seeks to reach you, girded about with selfishness as you are, and covered with the cares of this life. He invites you to withdraw your affections from the world and place them upon heavenly things. In order to know the will of God, you must study it, rather than follow your inclinations and the natural bent of your own mind. What wilt Thou have me to do?” should be the earnest, anxious inquiry of your heart. 4T 53.3

The weight of the wrath of God will fall upon those who have misspent their time and served mammon instead of their Creator. If you live for God and heaven, pointing out the way of life to others, you will go onward and upward to higher and holier joys. You will be rewarded with the “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” The joy of Christ was that of seeing souls redeemed and saved in His glorious kingdom. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 4T 54.1

To gain the treasures of this world, and use them as you have done to separate your affections from God, will be to you in the end a terrible curse. You do not take time to read, to meditate, or to pray; and you have not taken time to instruct your children, keeping before them their highest interest. God loves your children; but they have had little encouragement to live a religious life. If you destroy their faith in the Testimonies you cannot reach them. The minds of poor, fallible mortals should be disciplined and educated in spiritual things. When the training is all in reference to the world, and to making a success of acquiring property, how can spiritual growth be attained? It is an impossibility. You, my brother, and your family might have risen to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus had you felt one half the interest to perfect Christian character and to serve the Lord that you have had to serve the world. 4T 54.2

God is not well pleased that His servants should be ignorant of His divine will, novices in spiritual understanding, but wise in worldly wisdom and knowledge. Your earthly interest can bear no comparison with your eternal welfare. God has a higher work for you to do than that of acquiring property. You need a deep and thorough work accomplished for you. Your entire family need it, and may God help you all to attain perfection of Christian character. Your children can and should be a blessing to the youth of your community. By their example, by their conversation and actions, they can glorify their heavenly Father and grace the cause of religion. 4T 54.3