Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 10—Influence of Social Surroundings

I was shown, December 10, 1872, the state of Brother K's family. He has been a true believer and lover of the truth, but has been drinking in the spirit of the world. Said Christ: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Brother K, your earthly treasure claims your interest and attention to such an extent that you do not afford time to serve God; yet your wife is dissatisfied that you give Him the meager pittance that you do. A worldly insanity has taken possession of her heart. Neither of you takes sufficient time for meditation and prayer. God is robbed of your daily service, and you yourselves are meeting with a greater loss than that of every earthly treasure. 4T 104.3

Sister K, you are still farther from God than your husband is. Your conformity to the world has banished your Saviour from your heart; there is no room for Him in your affections. You have but little inclination for prayer and searching your heart. You are yielding yourself to obey the prince of the powers of darkness. “To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” 4T 104.4

Sister K, you know not what you are doing; you do not realize that you are warring against your Creator in drawing your husband away from the truth. Your attention is on the advantages that the world gives. You have not cultivated a love for devotion, but are better pleased with the stir and bustle of laboring to acquire wealth. You are absorbed in your desire to be like the world, that you may receive the happiness that the world gives. Your earthly ambitions and interests are greater than your desire for righteousness and for a part in the kingdom of God. 4T 105.1

Your precious probationary time is spent in laboring for your temporal welfare, in dressing, and eating, and drinking after the manner of the world. Oh, how unsatisfying, how meager is the recompense obtained! In your worldly desires and pursuits you are carrying a heavier burden than your Saviour has ever proposed to lay upon you. Your Redeemer invites you: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” My sister, Christ would have you lay down your heavy weight at His feet and submit your stubborn neck to His easy yoke. 4T 105.2

What if your probation should close at this time? How would you bear the investigation of the Master? How have you employed the talents of means and influence lent you of God for wise improvement to His glory? God has given you life and its blessings, not to be devoted to your own pleasure and selfish gratification merely, but that you may benefit others and do good. The Master has entrusted you with talents that you should put out to the exchangers, that when He requires them again He may receive His own with usury. 4T 105.3

Your influence and means have been given you to test you, to reveal what is in your heart; you should use them to win souls to Christ and thus advance the cause of your Redeemer. If you fail to do this you are making a terrible mistake. Every day that you devote to serving yourself, and to pleasing your friends by yielding to their influence in loving the world and neglecting your best Friend, who died to give you life, you are losing much. 4T 106.1

Sister K, you have thought that it was not well for you to be different from those around you. You are in a community that has been tested on the truth and has rejected it, and you have linked your interests and affections with theirs until you are to all intents one of them. You love their society; yet you are not happy, though you flatter yourself that you are. You have said in your heart: “It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” 4T 106.2

It is no small matter for a family to stand as representatives of Jesus, keeping God's law in an unbelieving community. We are required to be living epistles known and read of all men. This position involves fearful responsibilities. In order to live in the light, you must come where the light shines. Brother K, at any sacrifice, should feel under solemn obligation to attend, with his family, at least the yearly gatherings of those who love the truth. It would strengthen him and them, and fit them for trial and duty. It is not well for them to lose the privilege of associating with those of like faith; for the truth loses its importance in their minds, their hearts cease to be enlightened and vivified by its sanctifying influence, and they lose spirituality. They are not strengthened by the words of the living preacher. Worldly thoughts and worldly enterprises are continually exercising their minds to the exclusion of spiritual subjects. 4T 106.3

The faith of most Christians will waver if they constantly neglect to meet together for conference and prayer. If it were impossible for them to enjoy such religious privileges, then God would send light direct from heaven by His angels, to animate, cheer, and bless His scattered people. But He does not propose to work a miracle to sustain the faith of His saints. They are required to love the truth enough to take some little pains to secure the privileges and blessings vouchsafed them of God. The least they can do is to devote a few days in the year to a united effort to advance the cause of Christ and to exchange friendly counsel and sympathy. 4T 106.4

Many devote nearly all their time to their own temporal interests and pleasures, and grudge the few days spent and the expense involved in going a distance from their homes to meet with a company gathered together in the name of the Lord. The word of the Lord defines covetousness as idolatry; then how many idolaters are there, even among those who profess to be the followers of Christ! 4T 107.1

It is required that we meet together and bear testimony to the truth. The angel of God said: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” 4T 107.2

It will pay, then, to improve the privileges within our reach, and, even at some sacrifice, to assemble with those who fear God and speak for Him; for He is represented as hearkening to those testimonies, while angels write them in a book. God will remember those who have met together and thought upon His name, and He will spare them from the great conflagration. They will be as precious jewels in His sight, but His wrath will fall on the shelterless head of the sinner. It is not a vain thing to serve God. There is a priceless reward for those who devote their life to His service. Dear brother and sister, you have been gradually entering the darkness until almost imperceptibly it has grown to appear like the light to you. Occasionally a feeble glimmer penetrates the gloom and arouses the mind; but surrounding influences shut out the ray of light, and the darkness seems denser than before. 4T 107.3

It would have been better for your spiritual welfare had you changed your place of residence some years ago. The light of truth tested the community in which you live. A few received the message of mercy and warning, while it was rejected by many. Still another class did not accept it because there was a cross to lift. They took a neutral position and thought that if they did not war against the truth they would be doing quite well, but the light they neglected to receive and cherish went out in darkness. They endeavored to quiet conscience by saying to the Spirit of God: “Go Thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for Thee.” That convenient season has never come. They neglected the golden opportunity that has never again returned to them, for the world has shut out the light that they refused. The interests of this life and the charm of exciting pleasures absorb their minds and hearts, while their best Friend, the blessed Saviour, is rejected and forgotten. 4T 108.1

Sister K, although possessing excellent natural qualities, is being drawn away from God by her unbelieving friends and relatives, who love not the truth and have no sympathy with the sacrifice and self-denial that must be made for the truth's sake. Sister K has not felt the importance of separation from the world, as the command of God enjoins. The sight of her eyes and the hearing of her ears have perverted her heart. 4T 108.2

John the Baptist was a man filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth, and if there was anyone who could remain unaffected by the corrupting influences of the age in which he lived, it was surely he. Yet he did not venture to trust his strength; he separated himself from his friends and relatives, that his natural affections might not prove a snare to him. He would not place himself unnecessarily in the way of temptation nor where the luxuries or even the conveniences of life would lead him to indulge in ease or to gratify his appetite, and thus lessen his physical and mental strength. By such a course the important mission upon which he came would have failed of its accomplishment. 4T 108.3

He subjected himself to privation and solitude in the wilderness, where he could preserve the sacred sense of the majesty of God by studying His great book of nature and there becoming acquainted with His character as revealed in His wonderful works. It was an atmosphere calculated to perfect moral culture and to keep the fear of the Lord continually before him. John, the forerunner of Christ, did not expose himself to evil conversation and the corrupting influences of the world. He feared the effect upon his conscience, that sin might not appear to him so exceedingly sinful. He chose rather to have his home in the wilderness, where his senses would not be perverted by his surroundings. Should we not learn something from this example of one whom Christ honored and of whom He said: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist”? 4T 109.1

The first thirty years of Christ's life were passed in retirement. Ministering angels waited upon the Lord of life as He walked side by side with the peasants and laborers among the hills of Nazareth, unrecognized and unhonored. These noble examples should teach us to avoid evil influences and to shun the society of those who do not live aright. We should not flatter ourselves that we are too strong for any such influences to affect us, but we should in humility guard ourselves from danger. 4T 109.2

Ancient Israel were especially directed by God to be and remain a people separate from all nations. They were not to be subjected to witnessing the idolatry of those about them, lest their own hearts should be corrupted, lest familiarity with ungodly practices should make them appear less wicked in their eyes. Few realize their own weakness and that the natural sinfulness of the human heart too often paralyzes their noblest endeavors. 4T 109.3

The baleful influence of sin poisons the life of the soul. Our only safety is in separation from those who live in its darkness. The Lord has enjoined upon us to come out from among them and be separate, and to touch not the unclean thing, and He will receive us and will be a Father unto us, and we shall be His sons and daughters. If we wish to be adopted into the family of God, to become children of the heavenly King, we must comply with His conditions; we must come out from the world and stand as a peculiar people before the Lord, obeying His precepts and serving Him. 4T 109.4

Lot chose Sodom for his home because he saw that there were advantages to be gained there from a worldly point of view. But after he had established himself, and grown rich in earthly treasure, he was convinced that he had made a mistake in not taking into consideration the moral standing of the community in which he was to make his home. 4T 110.1

The dwellers in Sodom were corrupt; vile conversation greeted his ears daily, and his righteous soul was vexed by the violence and crime he was powerless to prevent. His children were becoming like these wicked people, for association with them had perverted their morals. Taking all these things into consideration, the worldly riches he had gained seemed small and not worth the price he had paid for them. His family connections were extensive, his children having married among the Sodomites. 4T 110.2

The Lord's anger was finally kindled against the wicked inhabitants of the city, and angels of God visited Sodom to bring forth Lot, that he should not perish in the overthrow of the city. They bade Lot bring his family, his wife, and the sons and daughters who married in wicked Sodom, and told him to flee from the place. “For,” said the angels, “we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.” 4T 110.3

And Lot went out and entreated his children. He repeated the words of the angel: “Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city.” But he seemed unto his sons-in-law as one who mocked; for they had lived so long in Sodom that they had become partakers of the sins of the people. And the daughters were influenced by their husbands to believe that their father was mad. They were well enough off where they were. They were rich and had great possessions; and they could not believe it possible that beautiful Sodom, a rich and fertile country, would be destroyed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God. 4T 110.4

Lot returned sorrowfully to the angels and repeated the story of his failure. Then the angels commanded him to arise, and take his wife and the two daughters who were yet in his house, and leave the city. But Lot was sad; the thought of leaving his children and his wife, for she refused to go without them, almost broke his heart. They would all have perished in the terrible ruin of Sodom, had not the Lord, in His great mercy, sent His angels to the rescue. 4T 111.1

Lot was paralyzed by the great calamity about to occur; he was stupefied with grief at the thought of leaving all he held dear on earth. But as he lingered, the angels of God laid hold upon his hand, and the hands of his wife and two daughters, and brought them out of the city, and charged them to flee for their lives, neither to look behind them nor to stay upon all the plain, but to escape to the mountains. 4T 111.2

How reluctant was Lot to obey the angel and go as far as possible from corrupt Sodom, appointed to utter destruction! He distrusted God and pleaded to remain. Living in the wicked city had weakened his faith and confidence in the justice of the Lord. He pleaded that he could not do as he was required, lest some evil should overtake him, and he should die. Angels were sent on a special mission to save the lives of Lot and his family; but Lot had so long been surrounded by corrupting influences that his sensibilities were blunted, and he could not discern the works of God and His purposes; he could not trust himself in His hands to do His bidding. He was continually pleading for himself, and this unbelief cost him the life of his wife. She looked back to Sodom, and, murmuring against the dealings of God, she was changed to a pillar of salt, that she might stand as a warning to all those who disregard the special mercies and providences of Heaven. After this terrible retribution, Lot no longer dared to linger by the way, but fled into the mountains, according to the direction of the angels. The sinful conduct of his daughters after leaving Sodom was the result of wicked associations while there. The sense of right and wrong was confused in their minds, and sin did not appear as sin to them. 4T 111.3

The case of Lot should be a warning to all those who wish to live godly lives, to separate themselves from all influences calculated to lead them away from God. Lot remained so long among the wicked that he was only able to save himself and two daughters, and even they were corrupted in morals by their sojourn in Sodom. 4T 112.1

God means what He says, and He will not be trifled with. Oh! how many shortsighted, sinful mortals plead with God to induce Him to come to their terms, while if they would only yield themselves unreservedly into His hands He would compass their salvation and give them precious victories. 4T 112.2

Sister K, you are in danger of making decisions that will be very injurious to you. God has a work for you to do which none can do for you, and without doing this your soul cannot be saved. God loves you and is unwilling that you should perish in the general ruin. He invites you to leave those things which hinder your spiritual advancement, and to find in Him that strength and consolation which you need. You have cares and burdens to bear in your family that often worry you; but if you do only those things necessary to your temporal comfort and happiness, you will find time to read your Bible with prayerful interest and to perfect a Christian character. 4T 112.3

Brother K, you have had many discouragements; but you must be earnest, firm, and decided to do your duty in your family, and take them with you if possible. You should spare no effort to prevail upon them to accompany you on your heavenward journey. But if the mother and the children do not choose to accompany you, but rather seek to draw you away from your duties and religious privileges, you must go forward even if you go alone. You must live in the fear of God. You must improve your opportunities of attending the meetings and gaining all the spiritual strength you can, for you will need it in the days to come. Lot's property was all consumed. If you should meet with loss you should not be discouraged; and if you can save only a part of your family, it is much better than to lose all. 4T 112.4

Dear brother and sister, as parents you are in a great measure accountable for the souls of your children. You have brought them into existence; and you should, by precept and example, lead them to the Lord and the courts of heaven. You should impress them with the thought that their temporal interests are of little consequence when compared with their eternal welfare. 4T 113.1

These dear children are living among worldly people, and they are imbibing a love for the vanities of life. Your son L is a kindhearted, fine-spirited boy; but he needs the watchful care of a mother whose daily experience in the Christian life will fit her to counsel and instruct him. He is at just that age when a tender, judicious mother can mold him by her influence; but I fear, Sister K, that you seek rather to mold your children after the fashion of this world, and neglect to teach them that the important work of life is to form characters that will ensure immortality. 4T 113.2

If L neglects to become acquainted with religious subjects and practical Christianity, his life will be a mistake. He should see that he needs an education in spiritual things, that he may use his abilities wholly for God. The Lord calls for young men to work in His vineyard. Young men should not neglect the essential branches of education. But if they turn their entire attention to secular study, and neglect to become intelligent on the great subject of religion, and do not acquire a Christian experience, they are becoming disqualified for the work of God. However favorable the educational advantage may be, something besides the knowledge of books is necessary to save the soul and lead others to repentance. Devoting a period of years to the acquisition of scientific knowledge alone is not preparing to be an efficient laborer in the service of God. 4T 113.3

Young men should devote much time to study; but they should also unite physical labor with their mental efforts, and put in practice the knowledge they have gained, that by useful exercise all the faculties of the mind and powers of the body may be equally developed. They should not neglect the things necessary to salvation, nor consider them secondary to anything in this life. 4T 114.1

Dear brother and sister, God loves your family, and desires to shower His special blessings upon you, that you may become instruments of righteousness in leading others toward heaven. If entirely consecrated to God, Brother K could do a great amount of good in a community where his advice and influence would be better received and appreciated. We have strong hopes that both of you will correct that which is wrong in your lives, and renew your faith and obedience to God, receiving new strength from Him who has promised to help those who call upon His name. 4T 114.2

Young Brother L, you have made a mistake in your life. In closely pursuing your studies you have neglected the development of all your faculties. The moral growth should never be dwarfed in the effort to acquire an education, but should be cultivated in a far higher degree than is usually deemed necessary. My dear young brother, you have been ambitious to secure knowledge. This ambition is praiseworthy; but in order to gratify it, you have neglected your eternal interests and made them secondary to your studies. God and heaven have occupied a subordinate position in your affections. The claims of God's holy law have not been sacredly observed in your daily life. You have desecrated the Sabbath by bringing your studies into that holy time which was not yours to occupy for your own purposes. God has said: “In it thou shalt not do any work.” 4T 114.3

“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” You have yielded to inclination rather than duty and made your studies paramount to the expressed command of the Most High. 4T 114.4

Our camp meetings are arranged and held at great expense. God's ministers who advocate unpopular truth, labor excessively at these large gatherings to bear the message of mercy from a crucified Redeemer to poor fallen sinners. To neglect or treat these messages with indifference is to slight the mercy of God and His voice of warning and entreaty. Your absence from these meetings has been very detrimental to your spiritual welfare. You have missed the strength that you might have gained there by listening to the preached word of God, and mingling with the believers of the truth. Your mind has been lulled into a fatal apathy in regard to the well-being of your soul. You have exalted your secular education above the knowledge to be gained in the school of Christ. Experience in a true religious life is necessary in order to form a character acceptable to God and to secure the pure virtues that will bear the light of heaven. 4T 115.1

What anxiety you have manifested to discipline your mind by study, to become properly conversant with your textbooks, that you might pass a creditable examination before instructors, friends, and interested spectators! How ambitious you have been to prove that you have been a diligent student and have faithfully employed your time in storing your mind with useful knowledge! You have been as sincerely anxious to progress in your studies as you have been to secure the commendation of your friends and teachers. You have justly earned the honors you have received for scholarship. But how has your mind been disciplined in religion? Have you not unthinkingly placed the kingdom of God and His righteousness below your advancement in the sciences? True, some of the human faculties were given more especially for the purpose of engaging in temporal matters, but the higher powers of the mind should be wholly consecrated to God. These control the man, these form his life and character. And while you should not neglect your secular studies, you have no right to give them all your attention, but should devote yourself especially to the moral and spiritual requirements of your heavenly Father. 4T 115.2

How little anxiety you have manifested to improve the religious advantages within your reach to gain a more thorough knowledge of the laws of God, and determination to abide by them! You have made little effort to become a loyal and intelligent Christian. How, then, will you be prepared to pass the grand review, where all your deeds and words, and the inmost thoughts of your heart, will be laid open before the great Judge and the assembled saints and angels? You have had little ambition to obtain a spiritual fitness to bear this close examination in the presence of that exalted throng. What, then, will be the final decision as to your moral and religious attainments, that decision from which there is no appeal? What will be the honors accredited to you because of your faithfulness in preserving the required harmony between religion and the pursuit of the sciences? Will you stand as one possessing unfaltering moral courage, in whom is shown excellence of human knowledge united with a holy zeal for God and the obedience of His law? 4T 116.1

My brother, you should consider the wisdom of God as all in all. Religion must go hand in hand with science, in order to make your education a sanctified means of doing good and turning others to the truth. The more we learn in the school of Christ, the more eager we are to advance in that knowledge. All our acquirements are of little value unless the character is ennobled by religion. God has special duties for every individual to perform, and a decision will be passed upon every case as to the faithfulness with which these duties have been accomplished. 4T 116.2

The Lord frequently places us in difficult positions to stimulate us to greater exertion. In His providence special annoyances sometimes occur to test our patience and faith. God gives us lessons of trust. He would teach us where to look for help and strength in time of need. Thus we obtain practical knowledge of His divine will, which we so much need in our life experience. Faith grows strong in earnest conflict with doubt and fear. Brother, you may be a conqueror if you take careful heed to your ways. You should devote your young life to the cause of God and pray for success. You should not close your eyes to your danger, but should resolutely prepare for every difficulty in your Christian advancement. Take time for reflection and for humble, earnest prayer. Your talents are marked, and you are hopeful in regard to your future success; but unless you comprehend the weakness of your natural heart you will be disappointed. 4T 116.3

You are just starting out in life; you have arrived at an age to bear responsibilities for yourself. This is a critical period in your life. Now, in your youth, you are sowing in the field of life. That which you sow you will also reap; as was the seed, so will be the harvest. If you are neglectful and indifferent concerning eternal things you will sustain a great loss yourself and, through your influence, will prevent others from fulfilling their obligations to God. 4T 117.1

Both worlds are before you. Which will you choose? Be wise and lay hold of eternal life. Swerve not from your integrity, however unpleasant your duties may appear in the present emergency. It may seem that you are about to make great sacrifices to preserve your purity of soul, but do not hesitate; press forward in the fear of God, and He will bless your efforts and recompense you a thousandfold. Do not yield your religious claims and privileges in order to gratify the wishes of your unconsecrated friends and relatives. You are called to take your position for the truth, even if it should be in direct opposition to those who are closely connected with you. God forbid that this last trial should ever come to you, to test and prove your integrity for the right. 4T 117.2

Lay the foundation of your Christian character upon the eternal Rock of salvation, and let the structure be firm and sound. 4T 117.3

We hope that your mother will aid you and your brothers and sisters in your efforts to perfect true characters after the pattern of Christ, that you may have a moral fitness for the society of holy angels in the kingdom of glory. 4T 117.4