Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2

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Lt 3, 1870

Shields, Brother

Battle Creek, Michigan

March 15, 1870

Previously unpublished.

Dear Brother Shields:

I have something to write you for some time but have been unable to write. I recollected your countenance as I met you coming out of the Office one day. I knew not your name but knew that I had been shown your case. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 1

I saw that you had a high opinion of your own abilities. You have imagined you had a duty to labor in word and doctrine. Here you have been deceived. God has not called you. You are not qualified for the work. You esteem yourself too highly. Had you taken up the burdens of life as you should, settled your mind that you had no duty to labor for the salvation of others, and perseveringly engaged in physical labor, you would have been in a better condition of health. You have not kept your body under. You have not controlled your passions. Your wrong habits have been telling upon your constitution until you are ruined mentally and physically. You have eaten a large amount of food, more than your system could dispose of and convert into good blood. The digestive organs have been severely taxed. Nature has been greatly burdened by overeating. Your lack was not having physical exercise, which increased the difficulties upon you. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 2

You have gratified your animal passions at the expense of the mental and physical. You have had but little control over yourself. Before your marriage you were far from being that which God would have you. Your ways were right in your own eyes. You have used the arguments of truth to exalt and glorify yourself, and as weapons with which to combat others. You have not possessed meekness and self-denial. You have warred against friends and relatives, using the truth to quarrel over rather than in meekness and gentleness instructing those who oppose the counsel of God against themselves. You are deficient in reverence and amiability of character. You possess stubbornness and self-sufficiency, traits of character very objectionable in a Christian. You are not always frank, open, and candid, as is becoming in one professing godliness. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 3

You are an invalid. What has made you so? Your indulgence of the animal passions and your intemperance in eating. After you have sinned against God in the manner that you have in your lifetime in polluting your own body, when, by disease and suffering you are reaping the fruit of your own wrong course of action, then you let the burden of your case fall upon those who should not bear it. You have cursed yourself by your own wrong habits and the people of God are made to suffer because of your sins. They have to bear your weight, your burden. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 4

Your married life, what has it been? You have been wrapped up in each other. Your wife has loved you, but this love has not been of a high, refined, and elevated order. It has been of a low order. You both have abused your own bodies by the indulgence of the baser passions. You both might have preserved to yourselves a much better condition of health physically and mentally if you had sought to glorify God in your bodies and spirits, which are His. How can God accept your efforts to obey the truth when your mind take a low and sensual level? 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 5

Sister Shields, you have had an adulterous love for your husband. You have not had an elevated love which would sanctify and ennoble, but that love of a quality that savors of a sickish sentimentalism which has an influence to disgust others. You have both had an exalted opinion of your own abilities and have felt that you were not appreciated. Sister Shields, your idolatrous love has had the effect upon you to lead to the sacrifice of your health. You are not clear before God for thus bringing upon yourself so poor a condition of health that it is impossible for you to glorify God in your body and spirit which are God’s. You are devoted to each other, worshiping one another. Brother and Sister Shields, you are not devotional. You do not enjoy the love of God. You cannot enjoy His blessing until you are both converted and transformed. Then your affections, instead of being centered upon yourselves, will be placed upon God. He will be the object of your earnest, fervent love. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 6

But you have not, either of you, a work to do for others. You have not the work assigned you that you imagine. You have thought you had a high, exalted calling. You have felt qualified to handle five talents, when you are not in every respect fully qualified to handle even one. If you do the work the Master has left you to do with faithfulness, you will be blessed; but if you neglect the small duties and work that you are capable of doing, and are constantly getting out of your place to reach up for a higher work, a more exalted position, you will be a burden to yourself and a burden to your brethren. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 7

Your mind, Brother Shields, is scattered. You have some knowledge and intelligence, but no anchor. You have not the ability to put to the right use what you do have. Your wife has hurt you in regard to this matter. She has encouraged your exalted ideas of yourself and has helped make you think you can do some great work and fill some exalted position. This you cannot do. You are not the man God calls to win souls to Him. Your course, your acts, your pomposity of manner, God hates; and these very things make you positively disgusting and very repulsive to others. Your influence is such as to drive men and women from the truth. You are a very poor representative of the holy, sacred truth which we profess. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 8

All that God requires of you is to save your own souls and do no harm to others in making yourself repulsive. Take an humble position. You feel so puffed up, so high-minded, you are not teachable. You think you know all that is worth knowing, but the most important lesson that you have yet to learn, which concerns your own eternal interest, is to know yourself, to know your weakness, your foolishness. When you can see that you are poor and wretched and blind and naked, then you will begin to be wise. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 9

You have been a great burden to the people of God. You have felt that the brethren had a duty to take care of you and supply your needs, when at the same time you were, by indulging your appetite and passions, destroying your vital energy and then throwing your unworthy weight upon God’s people. You will talk, you can be wordy. Your language is good, while you have no real sense of the words you use. Your precepts are not always as objectionable as your life, your acts. Your example is not good. You know not by experience what it is to be a Christian. You boast much and know in reality but little. Your words are frequently good, but they do not come from a renewed mind, a sanctified heart. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 10

A few imperfect, broken sentences from an humble Christian, however humble and lowly and illiterate, can be, with the blessing of God, wholly successful in reaching the heart of a sinner. God can use humble instruments to accomplish His great purposes, and God’s name be wholly glorified thereby. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 11

You possess an unfeeling, ungrateful heart. You have exalted self until the Lord has but very little to do with you. Without an entire reformation, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Your ways are not pleasing to God. 2LtMs, Lt 3, 1870, par. 12