Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2 (1869 - 1875)


Ms 5, 1874

Testimony Concerning Brother Stockings



Portions of this manuscript are published in 3SM 332-335; 9MR 21-22.

I was shown the case of Brother Stockings—that he would be a burden to the church unless he comes into a closer relation with God. He is self-conceited. If his course is questioned, he feels hurt. If he thinks another is preferred before him, he feels that it is an injury done to him. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 1

Brother Stockings has made a mistake in his life. He has lived mostly for himself. He has a work to do for himself in order to do good to others and glorify God. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 2

Brother Stockings has a good knowledge of music, but his education in music was of a character to suit the stage rather than the solemn worship of God. Singing is just as much the worship of God in a religious meeting as speaking, and any oddity or peculiarity cultivated attracts the attention of the people and destroys the serious, solemn impression which should be the result of sacred music. Anything strange and eccentric in singing detracts from the seriousness and sacredness of religious service. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 3

Bodily exercise profiteth little. Everything that is connected in any way with religious worship should be dignified, solemn, and impressive. God is not pleased when ministers professing to be Christ’s representatives so misrepresent Christ as to throw the body into acting attitudes, making undignified and coarse gestures, unrefined, coarse gesticulations. All this amuses and will excite the curiosity of those who wish to see strange, odd, and exciting things, but these things will not elevate the minds and hearts of those who witness them. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 4

The very same may be said of singing. You assume undignified attitudes. You put in all the power and volume of the voice you can. You drown the finer strains and notes of voices more musical than your own. This bodily exercise and the harsh, loud voice makes no melody to those who hear on earth and those who listen in heaven. This singing is defective and not acceptable to God as perfect, softened, sweet strains of music. There are no such exhibitions among the angels as I have sometimes seen in our meetings. Such harsh notes and gesticulations are not exhibited among the angel choir. The singing does not grate upon the ear. It is soft and melodious and comes without this great effort I have witnessed. It is not forced and strained, requiring physical exercise. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 5

Brother Stockings is not aware how many are amused and disgusted. Some cannot repress thoughts not very sacred and feelings of levity to see the unrefined motions made in the singing. Brother Stockings exhibits himself. His singing does not have an influence to subdue the heart and touch the feelings. Many have attended the meetings and listened to the words of truth spoken from the pulpit, which have convicted and solemnized their minds; but many times the way the singing has been conducted has not deepened the impression made. The demonstrations and bodily contortions, the unpleasant appearance of the strained, forced effort have appeared so out of place for the house of God, so comical, that the serious impressions made upon the minds have been removed. Those who believe the truth are not as highly thought of as before the singing. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 6

Brother Stockings’s case has been a difficult one to manage. He has been like a child undisciplined and uneducated. When his course has been questioned, instead of taking reproof as a blessing, he has let his feelings get the better of his judgment, and he has become discouraged and would do nothing. If he could not do in everything as he wanted to do, all in his way, he would not help at all. He has not taken hold of the work earnestly to reform his manners, but has given up to mulish feelings that separate the angels from him and bring evil angels around him. The truth of God received in the heart commences its refining, sanctifying influence upon the life. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 7

Brother Stockings is too cowardly. He has too good an opinion of himself, and he has not made that effort to elevate his life and be an honor to the cause of God that he should. He has let his mind take a low level. He has thought that singing was about the greatest thing to be done in this world and that he had a very large and grand way of doing it. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 8

Your singing is far from pleasing to the angel choir. Imagine yourself standing in the angel band, elevating your shoulders, emphasizing [?] the words, motioning your body, and putting in the full volume of your voice. What kind of concert and harmony would there be with such an exhibition before the angels? 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 9

Music is of heavenly origin. There is great power in music. It was music from the angelic throng that thrilled the hearts of the shepherd’s on Bethlehem’s plains and swept round the world. It is in music that our praises rise to Him who is the embodiment of purity and harmony. It is with music and songs of victory that the redeemed shall finally enter upon the immortal reward. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 10

There is something peculiarly sacred in the human voice. Its harmony and its subdued and heaven-inspired pathos exceeds every musical instrument. Vocal music is one of God’s gifts to men, an instrument that cannot be surpassed or equalled when God’s love abounds in the soul. Singing with the spirit and the understanding also is a great addition to devotional services in the house of God. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 11

How this gift has been debased! When sanctified and refined it would accomplish great good in breaking down the barriers of prejudice and hard-hearted unbelief and would be the means of converting souls. It is not enough to understand the rudiments of singing, but with the understanding, with the knowledge, must be such a connection with heaven that angels can sing through us. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 12

Your voice has been heard in church so loud, so harsh, accompanied or set off with your gesticulations not the most graceful, that the softer and more silvery the strains, more like angel music, could not be heard. You have sung more to men than to God. As your voice has been elevated in loud strains above all the congregation, you have been thoughtful of the admiration you were exciting. You have really had such high ideas of your singing that you have had some thoughts that you should be remunerated for the exercise of this gift. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 13

The love of praise has been the mainspring of your life. This is a poor motive for a Christian. You have wanted to be petted and praised like a child. You have had much to contend with in your own nature. It has been hard work for you to overcome your natural besetments and live a self-denying, holy life. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 14

Your manner of life in eating and in working has not been the most conducive to health. You gratify your taste at the expense of health. Tea and coffee are both hurtful indulgences and should not be used. You would be much better without these. You do not need anything to excite your nervous system and have a debilitating influence after the excitement is gone. All these exciting substances are habits that are warring against the soul. All your habits are not of a character to increase your spirituality. The indulgence of passions and appetites causes misery. Only their right exercise makes us happy. Virtue is enjoyment, and enjoyment is virtue. We should not seek for indulgence and pleasure of today, but of a lifetime, and that which we can take with us into our future life. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 15

The inquiry with you should not be, How can I serve myself best without taxation or care? You have too little care. Small responsibilities and burdens seem to you to be grave responsibilities that will crush you. This is because you have lived for self. You have followed the bent of your own mind and dwarfed your powers to the limited, narrow manner of your life. Eternity is before us. All improvements we make here of our mental powers, all the high attainments we make in refining and elevating ourselves by connecting closely with heaven will be translated with us, while if we dwarf our capabilities by inaction, if we deteriorate our talents, which are susceptible of the highest cultivation, we cannot in a better world redeem that past neglect of self-culture, that great loss. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 16

Some may be saved as by fire. Their useless life has brought to them infinite loss. We should make improvement in this life all that we can by the help and grace of God, knowing we can take these improvements with us into heaven. We will glorify our Father in heaven in proportion as we purify and perfect our characters here. The greatest possible good we can do to our fellow men is to overcome our own faults and improve our characters, making them as excellent and symmetrical as possible. Then our influence upon our fellow men will be more effectual then even the pulpit labor of the most learned ministers without their seeking to improve the character and purify the life. Let your light so shine before men that they, in seeing your good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 17

Your powers, Brother Stockings, should be carefully preserved, that you may answer the end of your being. Your life is not what it might be and what it is in your power to make it. You do not economize your time and strength and means as you could and do not realize that this neglect is sin. You can command large wages, but you do not employ your time steadily. It is your duty not only to have means amply to sustain yourself, but to do good to others. If your means were wisely spent, and if you were industrious as it is your duty to be, even if you have to accept moderate wages when you cannot find labor which commands the highest price, you should have a margin of means over and above all your expenses. Should you be sick, should misfortune come upon you, you would fall a helpless burden on the church. This is all wrong. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 18

The burdens of life sit lightly on you, but it is your duty to have a surplus of means, that you can do good. Why should you not have it? You have a good business. You have not a family to support. You should lay by every day a sum for future use, and you should feel that God requires something more of you in blessing the needy and in advancing His cause. You are not to be excused in these things. Be careful that the sin of robbery toward God is not charged against you. “I would not,” says the apostle, “that you should be eased and others burdened.” [2 Corinthians 8:13.] “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” [Galatians 6:2.] 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 19

You have been a recipient of charity more than a giver of charity. You are a close and selfish man. You have scarcely thought that God will require something more of you than you have given Him. There are those who do much more than you, who have not the capital of strength you have, and who have greater burdens and more expense in caring for their families. You have been childish—not brave, not courageous, not valiant for the Lord. You desire to be sustained, stayed up by others. You are not self-reliant. You cannot endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 20

You have allowed jealousy and envy to come into your heart. If you thought another was preferred to you, you were like a pettish, stubborn child. You excuse this in yourself and desire others should excuse your faults, but you do not correct them. You do not make strong efforts to overcome. You are weak in moral power. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 21

You have no time to lose to confer with flesh and blood, but you must take hold of this work manfully to master and control yourself. In the name and strength of Jesus you may obtain precious victories. When Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven, not one wrong that exists uncorrected in your life can then be corrected. It will then be too late for wrongs to be righted. He that is pure and holy will remain so forever. He that is unholy and sinful will remain so forever. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 22

Oh, that the people of God would take this to heart! That they would consider that not one wrong will be right after Jesus comes! Not one error of character will be removed when Christ shall come. Now is our time of preparation. Now is our time of washing our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. If we go on excusing our errors and trying to make ourselves believe we are about right, we deceive our own souls and will find ourselves weighed in the balance and found wanting. Many profess the truth, but are not sanctified through the truth. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 23

Your life should be elevated, adorned with a meek and quiet spirit. But it has been difficult to help you, because your feelings have controlled you. You have become jealous and stubborn when your faults have been pointed out. You have made some little advance in reform, but it has been very slow because you do not bring your mind to feel and realize the necessity of reform. It is now time, while Mercy’s sweet voice invites, to make the most of your God-given opportunities and get ready. You know not how soon your life may close. You have not time to linger, no time to delay. Now, while it is called today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart. Seek for purity, for holiness; seek for a deep work of grace in the soul. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 24

We cannot afford to sin. We cannot afford to indulge appetite and passions at the expense of health and spiritual strength. We must aim for perfection of character, holiness of heart, without which no man shall see God. 2LtMs, Ms 5, 1874, par. 25