Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2


Chapter 37—Severity in Family Government

Brother L,

Last June I was shown that there is a work before you to correct your ways. You do not see yourself. Your life has been a mistake. You do not pursue a wise and merciful course in your family. You are exacting. If you continue to pursue the course that you have been pursuing toward your wife and children, her days will be shortened, and your children will fear, but not love, you. You feel that your course is in Christian wisdom, but in this you deceive yourself. 2T 253.1

You have peculiar views in regard to managing your family. You exercise an independent, arbitrary power which permits no liberty of will around you. You think yourself sufficient to be head in your family, and feel that your head is sufficient to move every member, as a machine is moved in the hands of the workmen. You dictate and assume authority. This displeases Heaven and grieves the pitying angels. You have conducted yourself in your family as though you alone were capable of self-government. It has offended you that your wife should venture to oppose your opinion or question your decisions. 2T 253.2

After much long-suffering on her part, and patient waiting upon your whims, she has rebelled against unjust authority, and has become nervous and distracted, and shown contempt for your course. You have made the most of these manifestations on her part, and have charged her with sin and being led by the spirit of the devil, when you were the one at fault. You drove her almost to desperation, and afterward taunted her with it. How easy it would have been for you to have made her life cheerful and pleasant. But it has been the opposite of this. 2T 253.3

You have been rather indolent. You have not been ambitious to exercise the strength the Lord has given you. This is your capital. A judicious use of this strength, and persevering, industrious habits, would have enabled you to obtain the comforts of life. You have erred, and thought it was pride which led your wife to desire to have things more comfortable around her. She has been stinted and dealt closely with by you. She needs a more generous diet, a more plentiful supply of food upon her table; and in her house she needs things as comfortable and convenient as you can make them, things to make her work as easy as possible. But you have viewed matters from a wrong standpoint. You have thought that almost anything which could be eaten was good enough, if you could live upon it and retain strength. You have pleaded the necessity of spare diet to your feeble wife. But she cannot make good blood or flesh upon the diet to which you could confine yourself, and flourish. Some persons cannot subsist upon the same food upon which others can do well, even though it be prepared in the same manner. 2T 254.1

You are in danger of becoming an extremist. Your system could convert a very coarse, poor diet into good blood. Your blood-making organs are in good condition. But your wife requires a more select diet. Let her eat the same food which your system could convert into good blood, and her system could not appropriate it. She lacks vitality, and needs a generous, strengthening diet. She should have a good supply of fruit, and not be confined to the same things from day to day. She has a slender hold of life. She is diseased, and the wants of her system are far different from those of a healthy person. 2T 254.2

Brother L, you possess considerable dignity, but have you earned that dignity? Oh, no! You have assumed it. You have loved your ease. You and hard work have not agreed. Had you not been slothful in business, you could have had many of the comforts of life which you cannot now command. You have wronged your wife and your children by your indolent habits. Hours which should have been occupied in earnest labor have been passed away by you in talking and reading, and taking your ease. 2T 254.3

You are just as accountable for your capital of strength as the wealthy man is for his riches. Both of you are stewards. To each is committed a work. You are not to abuse your strength, but to use it to acquire that with which you may liberally supply the wants of your family, and have wherewith to render to God by aiding in the cause of present truth. You have been aware of the existence of pride, and show, and vanity in -----, and have felt determined that your example should not countenance this pride and extravagance. In your effort to do this, your sin has been as great on the other side. 2T 255.1

You have been greatly at fault in your religious experience. You have stood to one side as a looker-on, as a spectator, watching the deficiencies and faults of others, and building yourself up because you see wrongs in them. You have been careful, and upright in deal, and as you have seen slackness in this respect in others who make a high profession, you have contrasted their wrong with your principles in reference to deal, and have said in your heart, “I am better than they,” while at the same time you were standing off from the church, watching and finding fault, yet doing nothing, not coming up to the help of the Lord, to remedy the evil. You had a standard by which you measured others. If they failed to meet your idea, your sympathy was not with them, and you had a self-complacent feeling in regard to yourself. 2T 255.2

You have been exacting in your religious experience. Should God deal with you as you would have dealt with those you supposed in error in the church, and as you have dealt with your own family, your condition would be bad indeed. But a merciful God, who is of tender pity, whose loving-kindness changeth not, has been forgiving, and has not cast you aside nor cut you off for your transgressions, your numerous errors and backsliding. Oh, no! He has loved you still. 2T 255.3

Have you really considered that “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”? You have seen pride, and vanity, and a world-loving spirit in some who profess to be Christians in -----. This is a great evil; and because this spirit is indulged, angels are grieved. Those who thus follow the example of the unconsecrated are exerting an influence to scatter from Christ, and are gathering in their garments the blood of souls. If they continue the same course they will lose their own souls, and will know one day what it is to feel the terrible weight of other souls who have been led astray by their unconsecration, while professing to be governed by religious principles. 2T 256.1

You have just reason to be grieved with the pride and lack of simplicity in those who profess better things. But you have watched others, and talked of their errors and wrongs, and neglected your own soul. You are not accountable for any of the sins of your brethren, unless your example has caused them to stumble, caused their feet to be diverted from the narrow path. You have a great and solemn work before you to control and subdue yourself, to become meek and lowly of heart, to educate yourself to be tenderhearted, pitiful in your family, and to possess that nobleness of spirit and true generosity of soul which despises everything niggardly. 2T 256.2

You have thought that there was too much work put upon the meetinghouse, and have remarked upon the unnecessary expense. It is needless in you to have these special conscientious scruples. There is nothing in that house which is prepared with too much care, neatness, or order. The work is none too nice. The arrangement is not extravagant. Do those who are ready to complain of this house of worship consider for whom it was built? that it was made especially to be the house of God; to be dedicated to Him; to be a place where the people assemble to meet God? Many act as though the Creator of the heavens and the earth, He who has made everything that is lovely and beautiful in our world, would be pleased to see a house erected for Him without order or beauty. Some build large, convenient houses for themselves, but cannot afford to spend much upon a house which they are to dedicate to God. Every dollar of the means in their hands is the Lord's. He has lent it to them for a little while, to use to His glory; yet they hand out this means for the advancement of the cause of God as though every dollar thus expended were a total loss. 2T 256.3

God would not have His people expend means extravagantly for show or ornament, but He would have them observe neatness, order, taste, and plain beauty in preparing a house for Him in which He is to meet with His people. Those who build a house for God should manifest as much greater interest, care, and taste in its arrangement as the object for which it is prepared is higher and more holy than that for which common dwelling houses are prepared. 2T 257.1

The Lord reads the intents and purposes of men. Those who have exalted views of His character will feel it their highest pleasure to have everything which has any connection with Him of the very best work and displaying the very best taste. But those who can grudgingly build a poorer house to dedicate to God than they would accept to live in themselves show their lack of reverence for God and for sacred things. Their work shows that their own temporal concerns are of more value in their eyes than matters of a spiritual nature. Eternal things are made secondary. It is not considered essential to have good and convenient things to use in the service of God, but they are considered highly essential in the concerns of this life. Men will reveal the true moral tone of the principles of their hearts. 2T 257.2

Many of our people have become narrowed in their views. Order, neatness, taste, and convenience are termed pride and love of the world. A mistake is made here. Vain pride, which is exhibited in gaudy trappings and needless ornaments, is not pleasing to God. But He who created for man a beautiful world, and planted a lovely garden in Eden with every variety of trees for fruit and beauty, and who decorated the earth with most lovely flowers of every description and hue, has given tangible proofs that He is pleased with the beautiful. Yet He will accept the most humble offering from the poorest, weakest child, if he has no better to present. It is the sincerity of the soul that the Lord accepts. The man who has God enshrined in his heart, exalted above all, will be led to a thorough submission of his will to God, and will make an entire surrender of himself to His rule and reign. 2T 258.1

Shortsighted mortals do not comprehend the ways and works of God. Their eyes are not directed upward to Him as they should be. They do not have exalted views of eternal things. They only look at these things with a clouded vision. They take no special delight in contemplating the love of God, the glory and splendor of heaven, the exalted character of the holy angels, the majesty and inexpressible loveliness of Jesus, our Redeemer. They have so long kept earthly things before their vision that eternal scenes are vague and indistinct to them. They have limited views of God, heaven, and eternity. 2T 258.2

Sacred things are brought down upon a level with common; therefore in their dealing with God they manifest the same close, penurious spirit as in dealing with their fellow men. Their offerings to the Lord are lame, sick, or deficient. They carry on the same robbery with Him that they have with their fellow men. Their minds do not reach up to an exalted moral standard, but remain on a low level; they are constantly breathing the impure miasma of the lowlands of earth. 2T 258.3

Brother L, you rule with a rod of iron in your family. You are severe in the government of your children. You will not gain their love by this course of management. You are not tender, loving, affectionate, and courteous to your wife; but are harsh, and bear down upon her, blaming and censuring her. A well-regulated, orderly family is a pleasing sight to God and ministering angels. You must learn how to make a home orderly, comfortable, and pleasant. Then adorn that home with becoming dignity, and the spirit will be received by the children; and order, regularity, and obedience will be more readily secured by both of you. 2T 259.1

Brother L, have you considered what a child is, and whither it is going? Your children are the younger members of the Lord's family—brothers and sisters entrusted to your care by your heavenly Father for you to train and educate for heaven. When you are handling them so roughly as you have frequently done, do you consider that God will call you to account for this dealing? You should not use your children thus roughly. A child is not a horse or a dog to be ordered about according to your imperious will, or to be controlled under all circumstances by a stick or whip, or by blows with the hand. Some children are so vicious in their tempers that the infliction of pain is necessary, but very many cases are made much worse by this manner of discipline. 2T 259.2

You should control yourself. Never correct your children while impatient or fretful, or while under the influence of passion. Punish them in love, manifesting the unwillingness you feel to cause them pain. Never raise your hand to give them a blow unless you can with a clear conscience bow before God and ask His blessing upon the correction you are about to give. Encourage love in the hearts of your children. Present before them high and correct motives for self-restraint. Do not give them the impression that they must submit to control because it is your arbitrary will; because they are weak, and you are strong; because you are the father, they the children. If you wish to ruin your family, continue to govern by brute force, and you will surely succeed. 2T 259.3

Your wife is tenderhearted and easily agitated. She feels your harshness of discipline, and it leads her to the opposite extreme. She seeks to counteract your severity, and you charge this as a great lack in her of doing her duty and controlling her children. You think her indulgent, overfond, and tender. You cannot help her in this respect until you correct yourself and manifest that parental tenderness which you should in your family. It is your wrong management which leads your wife to be lax in her discipline. You must have your nature softened. You need to be refined by the influences of the Spirit of God. You need a thorough conversion; then you can work from the right standpoint. You need to let love into your soul and permit it to occupy the place of self-dignity; self must die. 2T 260.1

Your wife needs tenderness and love. The Lord loves her. She is much nearer the kingdom of heaven than you. But she is dying by inches, and you are the one who is slowly taking her life. You can make her life happy if you will. You can encourage her to lean upon your large affections, to confide in you and love you. You are weaning her heart from you. She shrinks from opening to you all the emotions of her soul, for you have treated her feelings with contempt; you have ridiculed her fears and pompously advanced your opinion as though there were no appeal from that. Her respect for you will surely die if you continue the course you have commenced; and when respect is gone, love does not long abide. 2T 260.2

I implore you to turn rightabout and humble yourself to confess that you have wronged your wife. She is not perfect. She has faults, but she sincerely desires to serve God and to patiently endure your course toward her and your children. You are quick to detect your wife's errors, and when you can pick a flaw you will. She is weak; yet with her weaker strength she glorifies God better than you do with your stronger powers. 2T 261.1

Battle Creek,

January 17, 1869.