Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 45—Importance of Self-Control

Sister H,

I know but little of your life before you professed Christ; but since that time you have not been a truly converted woman; you have not rightly represented Christ, your Master. You accepted the theory of the truth, but have failed to become sanctified through it. You have not practiced self-control, but have gratified your desires and wishes at the expense of health and religion. You are easily irritated, and, instead of putting a strict guard upon your words and actions, you have given loose rein to your passions. The mind is controlled either by Satan or by Jesus; and when you practice no self-control, Satan rules and leads you to do and say things that are wholly satanic. This has been repeated so often that it has become habitual. 4T 495.2

Since you have been living with your present husband you have allowed yourself to become exasperated at very trivial matters; and at such times you seem to have a frenzied passion, while Satan stands by and laughs at the misery you are bringing upon yourself and those whom it is your duty to make happy. Your children have had transmitted to them your traits of character, and, besides this, they are daily copying your example of blind, unreasonable passion, impatience, and fretfulness. 4T 495.3

In the human heart there is natural selfishness and corruption, which can only be overcome by most thorough discipline and severe restraint; and even then it will require years of patient effort and earnest resistance. God permits us to experience the ills of poverty, and places us in difficult positions, that the defects in our characters may be revealed and their asperities be smoothed away. But after privileges and opportunities have been given of God, after light and truth have been brought home to the understanding, if persons still make excuses for their deformity of character, and continue in their selfishness and jealousy, their hearts become as granite, making it impossible for them to be reformed, except by the chisel, the hammer, and the polishing of the Spirit of God. 4T 496.1

I was pointed back to your life and experience when you first came to -----. Your conduct was not consistent; your associations were not right. Your course in visiting the beer gardens with your children did not make a favorable impression upon others in reference to your moral standing. These are sad chapters in your experience. You had light and knowledge, but your inclinations and follies separated you from God. 4T 496.2

Many circumstances which occurred while you were living in ----- were shown me. Your strong, perverse will led you to disgrace the truth which you professed. Your conduct before the world was not justifiable. The punishment which your daughter received in school for willful disobedience was exaggerated in your mind till it became so heinous an offense as to lead you to seek the protection of the law. The deception you there practiced, your exaggeration of the truth, was a lesson most dangerous to morals. These things stand registered against you in the books of heaven. You have a stubborn disposition and will not humble your heart to confess a wrong, but will justify your course before men without reference to how it appears in the sight of God. Can you wonder that under such deceptive training your daughter has become what she is? What influence could such a course of training have upon the youthful mind but to make her feel that no one had a right to control her perverse will? The seed sown by your own hand has blossomed and borne fruit which is most bitter. 4T 496.3

Love for your soul causes me to write at the present time. I am oppressed with the burden of responsibility which I now take upon myself in writing out these things for you. By your own course you are closing the gates of heaven against yourself and your children, for neither you nor they will ever enter there with your present defective characters. You, my sister, are playing a sad, losing game in life. Holy angels are watching you with sadness; and evil spirits are looking on with triumph as they see you losing, fast losing, the graces that adorn the Christian character, while in their place Satan is implanting his own evil traits. 4T 497.1

You have indulged in novel and story reading until you live in an imaginary world. The influence of such reading is injurious to both the mind and the body; it weakens the intellect and brings a fearful tax upon the physical strength. At times your mind is scarcely sane because the imagination has been overexcited and diseased by reading fictitious stories. The mind should be so disciplined that all its powers will be symmetrically developed. A certain course of training may invigorate special faculties and at the same time leave other faculties without improvement so that their usefulness will be crippled. The memory is greatly injured by ill-chosen reading, which has a tendency to unbalance the reasoning powers and to create nervousness, weariness of the brain, and prostration of the entire system. If the imagination is constantly overfed and stimulated by fictitious literature, it soon becomes a tyrant, controlling all the other faculties of the mind and causing the taste to become fitful and the tendencies perverse. 4T 497.2

You are a mental dyspeptic. Your mind has been crammed with knowledge of all sorts,—politics, history, theology, and anecdote,—only a part of which can be retained by the abused memory. Much less information, with a mind well disciplined, would be of far greater value. You have neglected to train your mind to vigorous action; therefore your will and inclination have controlled you and been your masters instead of your servants. The result is a loss of physical and mental power. 4T 497.3

For years your mind has been like a babbling brook, nearly filled with rocks and weeds, the water running to waste. Were your powers controlled by high purposes, you would not be the invalid that you now are. You fancy you must be indulged in your caprice of appetite and in your excessive reading. I saw the midnight lamp burning in your room while you were poring over some fascinating story, thus stimulating your already overexcited brain. This course has been lessening your hold upon life and enfeebling you physically, mentally, and morally. Irregularity has created disorder in your house, and, if continued, will cause your mind to sink into imbecility. Your God-given probation has been abused, your God-given time wasted. 4T 498.1

God bestows upon us talents for wise improvement, not for abuse. Education is but a preparation of the physical, intellectual, and moral powers for the best performance of all the duties of life. Improper reading gives an education that is false. The power of endurance, and the strength and activity of the brain, may be lessened or increased according to the manner in which they are employed. There is a work before you to dispose of your light reading. Remove it from your house. Do not have before you the temptation to pervert your imagination, to unbalance your nervous system, and to ruin your children. By much reading you are unfitting yourself for the duties of a wife and mother, and, in fact, are disqualifying yourself to do good anywhere. 4T 498.2

The Bible is not studied as it should be; therefore you do not become wise in the Scriptures and are not thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Light reading fascinates the mind and makes the reading of God's word uninteresting. You seek to make others believe that you are conversant with the Scriptures; but this cannot be, for your mind is filled with rubbish. The Bible requires thought and prayerful research. It is not enough to skim over the surface. While some passages are too plain to be misunderstood, others are more intricate, demanding careful and patient study. Like the precious metal concealed in the hills and mountains, its gems of truth are to be searched out and stored in the mind for future use. Oh, that all would exercise their minds as constantly in searching for celestial gold as for the gold that perishes! 4T 498.3

When you search the Scriptures with an earnest desire to learn the truth, God will breathe His Spirit into your heart and impress your mind with the light of His word. The Bible is its own interpreter, one passage explaining another. By comparing scriptures referring to the same subjects, you will see beauty and harmony of which you have never dreamed. There is no other book whose perusal strengthens and enlarges, elevates and ennobles the mind, as does the perusal of this Book of books. Its study imparts new vigor to the mind, which is thus brought in contact with subjects requiring earnest thought, and is drawn out in prayer to God for power to comprehend the truths revealed. If the mind is left to deal with commonplace subjects, instead of deep and difficult problems, it will become narrowed down to the standard of the matter which it contemplates and will finally lose its power of expansion. 4T 499.1

That which is the most to be deplored in regard to your course is that your errors and mistakes are being reproduced in your children. I is becoming absorbed in reading; her mental powers are receiving injury, permanent injury, from following your example. She will have no taste or aptitude for study. In early life the mind is impressible. Let the good seed then be sown upon good soil, and it will bear fruit unto eternal life. 4T 499.2

The habits formed in youth, although they may in after-life be somewhat modified, are seldom essentially changed. Your entire life has been molded by the legacy of character transmitted to you at birth. Your father's perverse temperament is seen in his children. The grace of God can overcome these wrong tendencies; but what a battle must be fought. Thus it is with your children. You indulge them as you indulge yourself. You have no power to deny the appetite what you desire, and you thus place terrible burdens upon your digestive organs. No woman can have good health and indulge her fancy as you do. 4T 499.3

The same is true of your children. Their mother's wrong discipline when she has been able to care for them, and their being left so much of the time without a mother's care, have nearly ruined them. Yet even now a firm, undeviating course will make great improvement in them; they are not beyond control, although it will be most difficult to make them what they might have been had the parents been right. The mother can see the result of the course she has pursued if she wishes, or she can reform and try to counteract the wrong done. The path upon which her children are now entering may lead to virtue or to vice, to honor or to infamy, to heaven or to hell. The influence of a praying, God-fearing mother will last through eternity. She may die, but her work will endure. 4T 500.1

Brother and Sister H, neither of you realizes the sad condition of your children. Brother H has neglected to take a decided stand to control them. The little boy, to a great extent, rules the household. The management of your two elder children was entirely wrong. While at times Brother H was too severe and exacting, requiring of them that which he would not have required of his own children, your course, Sister H, was far worse. You took the part of the children in their presence and fired their young hearts with revenge. You gave them lessons of insubordination and talked disrespectfully of your husband before them. This course was just calculated to lead them to despise restraint. An indelible impression was thus made upon their minds. 4T 500.2

You are now beginning to see in your elder children the results of this training; yet you are doing the same work, to a great extent, with the children that God has since entrusted to your care. Your inconsistent, uncontrollable spirit is like an insidious poison taken into the system, and its bitter results will appear sooner or later. Its mark is being made, not on sand, but on rock; and in after years it will testify of your work. 4T 500.3

My sister, you have not a sensitive conscience. You must consider carefully what habits you are forming, and pray earnestly that your perverse character may be washed from its defilement, in the blood of the Lamb. The conscience must be enlightened, the passions restrained, and the love of truth cherished in the soul before you can see the kingdom of God. 4T 501.1

All through your life you have needed fixed and settled principles. Satan is still on your track. Your only hope now is in a thorough conversion to God. Do not be deceived, for God is not mocked. Should your probation close today, I could have no hope of your being saved. Your own health, physical, mental, and moral, depends upon a proper government of your temper. You will doubtless meet with things that will ruffle your spirit and severely test you; but self-control may be yours in the strength of Jesus. Solomon places the one who controls himself above him who conquers in battle: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” 4T 501.2

By permitting yourself to become unduly excited, you have established a condition of things in your system which will, unless changed, cost you your life. You abuse your husband; you say things to him which no wife should be guilty of saying. You have prevaricated again and again, and have gone so far as to be guilty of deliberate falsehoods to accomplish your ends. A determination to carry out their own will at all hazards is a leading characteristic of your family. 4T 501.3

The course of Brother H has not been what it should have been. His likes and dislikes are very strong, and he has not kept his own feelings under the control of reason. Brother H, your health is greatly injured by overeating and eating at improper times. This causes a determination of blood to the brain. The mind becomes confused, and you have not the proper control of yourself. You appear like a man whose mind is unbalanced. You make strong moves, are easily irritated, and view things in an exaggerated and perverted light. Plenty of exercise in the open air, and an abstemious diet, are essential to your health. You should not eat more than two meals a day. If you feel that you must eat at night, take a drink of cold water, and in the morning you will feel much better for not having eaten. 4T 501.4

Your children should not be allowed to eat candies, fruit, nuts, or anything in line of food, between their meals. Two meals a day are better for them than three. If the parents set the example, and move from principle, the children will soon fall into line. Irregularities in eating destroy the healthy tone of the digestive organs, and when your children come to the table they do not relish wholesome food; their appetites crave that which is the most hurtful for them. Many times your children have suffered from fever and ague brought on by improper eating, when their parents were accountable for their sickness. It is the duty of parents to see that their children form habits conducive to health, thereby saving much distress. 4T 502.1

Brother H is in danger of apoplexy, and if he continues to disobey the laws of health, his life will be cut short suddenly. As a family you can be happy or miserable. It rests with yourselves. Your own course of action will determine the future. You both need to soften the sharp points of your characters and to speak such words only as you will not be ashamed to meet in the day of God. Make it the rule of your life to go straight forward in the path of duty. In defiance of numerous temptations which will assail you, be true to a good conscience and to God, and your pathway will be plain to your feet. You may contend about little things that are not worthy of contention, and the result will be trouble. The path of the upright is the path of peace. It is so plain that the humble, God-fearing man can walk in it without stumbling and without making crooked paths. It is a narrow path; but men of different temperaments can walk side by side if they but follow the Captain of their salvation. Those who wish to carry along all their evil traits and selfish habits cannot walk in this path, for it is too straight and narrow. 4T 502.2

What pains the Great Shepherd takes to call His sheep by name and invite them to follow in His footsteps. He seeks the wandering. He flashes light from His word to show them their peril. He speaks to them from heaven in warnings and reproofs, and in invitations to return to the right path. He seeks to help the erring by His presence and to lift them when they fall. But many have followed the path of sin so long that they will not hear the voice of Jesus. They leave all that can give them rest and security, yield themselves up to a false guide, and presumptuously hurry on in blind self-confidence, going further and further from light and peace, from happiness and rest. 4T 503.1

I implore you to heed the light which God has given, and reform. The cross of Christ is our only hope. It reveals to us the greatness of our Father's love and the fact that the Majesty of heaven submitted to insult, mockery, humiliation, and suffering for the joy of seeing perishing souls saved in His kingdom. If you love your children, let it be your chief study to prepare them for the future, immortal life. With the unhappy dispositions they now possess, they will never see the paradise of God. Work while it is day; redeem the time, and win the crown of immortal glory. Save yourself and your household, for the salvation of the soul is precious. 4T 503.2