Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 18—Faithful Reproofs Necessary

The following testimony, given in my last vision, January 5, 1875, I wrote in my tent between the services of the Vermont camp meeting, August, 1875. It sets forth the condition of things at ----- in January, 1875. Developments during the following summer fully justified the apparent severity of the testimony. In September I read portions of it to that church, and a great work commenced under our labors; yet, for the benefit of that church and others, I give the testimony in this humble work. 4T 186.1

Darkness is getting the control where only the Spirit of God should rule. But few who engage in the work realize the necessity of personal effort and individual responsibility in whatever department they occupy. Few feel the sacredness of the work in which they are engaged. They regard it as upon a common level with ordinary enterprises. 4T 186.2

Selfishness predominates with many who should know that a life of self-sacrificing love is a life of peace and liberty. Those who seek happiness by gratifying themselves and looking out mainly for their own interests are on the wrong track to secure happiness even upon earth. Whoever is unfaithful in the least of his duties is unfaithful in greater ones. If he neglects to faithfully perform the small tasks devolving upon him, he proves himself incapable of bearing weightier responsibilities; he indicates that he is not wholehearted in the work and that he does not have an eye single to the glory of God. 4T 186.3

Some are ready to define the duties that belong to others, and realize the full importance of their responsibilities, but fail to readily perceive their own. Personal fidelity and individual responsibility are needed especially in the Health Institute [now sanitarium], and in the office, the church, and the school. If all connected with these institutions were listening eagerly to hear what Jesus directed them to do, instead of turning to ask what this man or that man shall do, we should witness a great change in every department of the work. If the language of each heart was, “I must listen to Christ's teachings, and obey His voice; no one can do my work for me; the attention of others can never repair my negligence,” then we might see the cause of God advancing as it has never yet advanced. 4T 186.4

It is this holding back, waiting for others to do, that brings spiritual feebleness. To reserve one's energies is a sure way to lessen them. Jesus requires implicit obedience and willing submission from all His servants. There must be no halting or self-indulgence in the service of Christ. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. What a lack of devotion to the work of God, what a want of caretaking, has there been at -----. 4T 187.1

The heart of A has not been devoted to God. He has capabilities and talents for which he must render an account to the great Giver of all. His heart has been unconsecrated and his life unworthy of his profession; yet he has been closely connected with the sacred work of God for more than a score of years. What light he has had, what privileges! He has enjoyed the rarest opportunities to develop a substantial Christian character. The words of Christ when He wept over Jerusalem are applicable to him: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” A, the retribution of God hangs over you, “because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” 4T 187.2

B is of the same cast of mind, but not so thoroughly selfish. Both are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Their course is entirely inconsistent with the Christian life. They lack stability, sobriety, and devotion to God. With B the work of grace is altogether too superficial. He desires to be a Christian, but does not strive to maintain the victory over self and act up to his convictions of right and wrong. Deeds, not idle words and empty intentions, are acceptable to God. 4T 187.3

A, you have heard the word of God in reproofs, in counsels, in warnings, as well as in the entreaties of love. But hearing is not enough. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” It is easy to be borne along by the current, and to cry Hosannah with the multitude; but in the calm of everyday life, when there is no special excitement or exaltation, then comes the test of true Christianity. It is then that your heart becomes cold, and your zeal abates, and religious exercises become distasteful to you. 4T 187.4

You positively neglect to do the will of God. Says Christ: “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” This is the condition imposed; this is the test that proves men's characters. Feelings are often deceiving, emotions are no sure safeguard; for they are variable and subject to external circumstances. Many are deluded by relying on sensational impressions. The test is: What are you doing for Christ? What sacrifices are you making? What victories are you gaining? A selfish spirit overcome, a temptation to neglect duty resisted, passion subdued, and willing, cheerful obedience rendered to the will of Christ are far greater evidences that you are a child of God than spasmodic piety and emotional religion. 4T 188.1

Both of you have been averse to reproof; it has ever awakened disaffection and murmuring in your hearts against your best Friend, who has ever sought to do you good, and whom you have every reason to respect. You have separated yourselves from Him and have vexed the Spirit of God by rising up against the words He has given His servants to speak in regard to your course. You have not listened to these admonitions, and have thus rejected the Spirit of God and turned it from your hearts, and have become careless and indifferent in your deportment. 4T 188.2

Brother A, you should have gained a valuable experience during the many years that you have been blessed with the great light God has permitted to shine upon your pathway. I heard a voice saying in reference to you: “It is an unfruitful tree; why should its fruitless branches shadow the space that a fruitful tree might occupy? Cut it down; for why cumbereth it the ground?” Then I heard the pleading tones of Mercy's sweet voice, saying: “Spare it a little longer. I will dig about its roots; I will prune it. Give it one more trial; if it fails to be fruitful then, you may cut it down.” So a little longer probation is granted the unproductive tree, a little longer time for the barren life to blossom and bear fruit. Will the opportunity given be improved? Will the warnings of God's Spirit be heeded? The words of Jesus in regard to Jerusalem after she had slighted the salvation graciously offered by her Redeemer are also, in substance, spoken unto you: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ... how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Christ pleaded, He invited; but His love was unrequited by the people He came to save. You have done no better in your day than did the poor, self-deceived and blinded Jews in theirs. You might have improved your blessed privileges and opportunities, and perfected Christian character; but your heart has been rebellious, and you “would not” humble yourself to be truly converted and live in obedience to God's requirements. 4T 188.3

The unreconciled feelings and murmurings which have been expressed by some have also been festering in your soul, although you have not dared to speak out plainly to the same effect. It would have been better for the office and for all concerned had you been separated from it years ago. The more light you have had, the more privileges you have enjoyed, the less sincerity and righteousness have you manifested. Your heart has been carnal, and you have neglected the expressed word of God. Although you have been hedged about with warnings and counsels, and have had the strongest evidence that God was in this work and that His voice was speaking to you, yet you have slighted and rejected solemn reproofs, and gone on in your own selfish, willful way. 4T 189.1

Sometimes your fears have been aroused, but still you have never realized your wretched spiritual condition and absolute danger. You have repeatedly fallen back again into the same state of indifference and selfishness. Your repentance has never gone deep enough to perfect a thorough reformation. You have had a surface work, but not that entire transformation which is necessary in order to bring you into acceptance with God. “He that followeth Me,” says Christ, “shall not walk in darkness.” But through the greater part of your professed Christian life you have walked in darkness because you have failed to connect with heaven and receive the pure light of God's Spirit. 4T 189.2

If you were in daily communion with the Lord and cultivated a love for souls you would grow out of self and become an earnest worker in the vineyard of the Lord. You would perceive how the faithful performance of the duties of life would preserve you from self-love and self-gratification. You have not been diligent, seeking to gain an advanced experience every day. You should be at this time a trusty man in any position of responsibility, but selfishness has marked the performance of everything you have set your hand to do. You have been wise in your own conceit, but have failed to gain wisdom from the experience of many years. 4T 190.1

B has been vain. He might have moved steadily forward, growing in grace, but the external appearance has seemed to him more important than the inward adorning, even the garment of a meek and quiet spirit, which God accounts of great value. Unbelievers who have been employed in the office, but have not had the light of present truth as you have had, have nevertheless been far more faithful and conscientious than either of you whom I am addressing. If you had been diligently gathering with Christ, some of these would now be with us in the truth. But your lives were a stumbling block to them. God looks upon these unbelievers with greater pity and favor than upon those who believe the truth, yet deny Him in their works. That belief that is laid aside when convenient, and put on and off like a garment, is not the religion of Christ, but a spurious article that will not bear the tests even of this world. 4T 190.2

True religion is ever distinctly seen in our words and deportment, and in every act of life. With the followers of Christ, religion should never be divorced from business. They should go hand in hand, and God's commandments should be strictly regarded in all the details of worldly matters. The knowledge that we are children of God should give a high tone of character even to the everyday duties of life, making us not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit. Such a religion as this bears the scrutiny of a critical world with a grand consciousness of integrity. 4T 190.3

Every workman in the office should consider himself God's steward and should do his work with exactness and faithful vigilance. The constant inquiry should be: “Is this in accordance with the will of God? Will this please my Redeemer?” Bible religion elevates the reason until Christ is blended with all the thoughts. Every action, every word, and every moment of our lives should bear the impress of our holy faith. The end of all things is at hand, and we have no time to be idle or to live in pleasure, at cross-purposes with God. 4T 191.1

The Lord will not be trifled with. Those who neglect His mercies and blessings in this day of opportunities will bring impenetrable darkness upon themselves and will be candidates for the wrath of God. Sodom and Gomorrah were visited with the curse of the Almighty for their sins and iniquities. There are those in our day who have equally abused the mercies of God and slighted His warnings. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for those who bear the name of Christ, yet dishonor Him by their unconsecrated lives. This class are laying up for themselves a fearful retribution when God in His wrath shall visit them with His judgments. 4T 191.2

Sinners who have not had the light and privileges that Seventh-day Adventists have enjoyed will, in their ignorance, be in a more favorable position before God than those who have been unfaithful while in close connection with His work and professing to love and serve Him. The tears of Christ upon the mount came from an anguished, breaking heart because of His unrequited love and the ingratitude of His chosen people. He had labored untiringly to save them from the fate that they seemed determined to bring upon themselves, but they refused His mercy and knew not the time of their visitation. Their day of privilege was ending, yet they were so blinded by sin that they knew it not. 4T 191.3

Jesus looked down through the centuries even to the close of time, and, taking in the cases of all who had repaid His love and admonitions with selfishness and neglect, and all who would thus repay Him, He addressed to them those solemn words, declaring that they knew not the time of their visitation. The Jews were gathering about themselves the dark clouds of retribution, and many today, in like manner, are drawing upon themselves the wrath of God, because of opportunities unimproved, the counsels and love of Jesus scorned, and His servants despised and hated for speaking the truth. 4T 192.1

There is no place on the face of the earth where so great light has been granted as at -----. Even Jerusalem of old was not more highly favored with the beams of heaven's light shining upon the way that her people should tread. Yet they have failed to walk, by faithful obedience, in the full radiance of the light, serving God night and day. A sickly, dwarfed religion is the result of neglecting to follow the revealed light of the Spirit of the Lord. Energy and love increase as we exercise them, and the Christian graces can be developed only by careful cultivation. 4T 192.2