Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)

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Lt 17, 1878

Belden, F. E.

Healdsburg, California

March 14, 1878

This letter is published in entirety in 20MR 70.

Dear Nephew:

Since our last conversation with you my mind has been drawn to you instinctively. I have earnest hope that you will not allow the present opportunity to slip of making a determined effort to recover yourself from the snare of the devil. You are the child of my dear sister. I have a few thoughts I wish to present for your consideration. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 1

Be careful of your associates. If you had been more circumspect in this you would not now be where you are. Your associates may not be expected to be free from imperfections or sin. But in choosing your friends, you should place your standard as high as possible. The tone of your morals is estimated by the associates you choose. You should avoid contracting an intimate friendship with those whose example you would not choose to imitate. The influence and tendency of such friendship is to assimilate you to their ideas and their views; and unless there is a continual counteracting influence, all unrealized by you, their spirit and habits have become yours. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 2

There may be those who have naturally a good intellect and a good cultivated understanding, who have so misapplied and abused these precious gifts of heaven that their standard is low and their habits dissipated. This was the character of one employed in the office. I knew him only by the name of Guss. I learn he died without repentance and without God. How much his associates are accountable for their influence which they might have exerted and did not, over this sad case, must be left for the judgment to unfold, when every man’s work will stand for just what it is. There will be no glossing over of wrongs and sins. Right will stand out, clear and prominent, as right; fidelity and true integrity will not be called narrowness or meanness. Lawlessness and unfaithfulness will not be termed liberality, toleration, and benevolence. Neglect and unfaithfulness will be neglect and unfaithfulness. God’s estimate will be placed upon character. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 3

If your most intimate associates are persons of moral worth, you may gain advantage in mingling in their society. Intelligence with moral worth in your associates will have no deleterious influence upon you, but will insensibly invigorate your powers of mind and your morals. If you are found in the society of those whose minds are cast in an inferior mold, and whose opportunities of mental and moral culture have been narrow and low, you will, in the minds of others, lose their respect, and your mind will gradually come to sympathize with the imbecility and barrenness with which it is constantly brought in contact. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 4

Will you please send me the last two letters I have written you. I will not weary you with a long letter which you may wish I had never written, but I would say, before I close, in no case neglect your present opportunities and privileges. Choose for your associates those who hold religion and its practical influence in high respect. Keep the future life constantly in view. Let not your associations put these thoughts out of your mind. Nothing will so effectually banish serious impressions than intercourse with the vain, careless, and irreligious. Whatever intellectual greatness such persons may attain, if they treat religion with levity or even with indifference, they should not be your chosen friends. The more engaging their manners in other respects, the more should you dread their influence as companions, because they would throw around you an irreligious, godless, irreverent influence and yet combine it with so many attractions that it is positively dangerous to morals. If you rightly improve your privileges you will have reason to rejoice, at the close of your probation, that your most intimate associates were persons whom God loved, persons of exemplary piety. Should you choose associates of an opposite character, there will come a period when on your side there will be unavailing regrets. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 5

Frank, I have been troubled by dreams on your account. I know that you will make decisions at once, decided for time and eternity. You will not be long in deciding whether you will be the servant of Christ or the servant of Satan. May God help you to choose rightly. The loss of a soul is of more consequence than the loss of a world. You need religion. Religion comprises practice as well as faith; the regulations of the life as well as the rectification of the heart. No man can be a correct citizen without true piety—the strictest integrity combined with the purest devotion. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 6

Sinners are continually crying, “You are narrow, so narrow.” “Liberalism,” cry the lawless; “Bring not your claims of law upon us.” “The religion of Christ,” says another, “is too hard. I cannot be a Christian; it involves too much.” 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 7

I present before you the great Exemplar. “Great is the mystery of godliness.” 1 Timothy 3:16. To explain the doctrine of regeneration is impossible. Finite minds cannot soar high enough to understand its depths and yet it is felt, although inexpressible and unexplainable in all its particulars. Jesus identified His interest with suffering humanity, and yet He is man’s judge. He was a child once and had a child’s experience, a child’s trials, a child’s temptation. As really did He meet and resist the temptations of Satan as any of the children of humanity. In this sense alone could He be a perfect example for man. He subjected Himself to humanity to become acquainted with all the temptations wherewith man is beset. He took upon Him the infirmities and bore the sorrows of the sons of Adam. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 8

He was “made like unto His brethren.” Hebrews 2:17. He felt both joy and grief as they feel. His body was susceptible to weariness, as yours. His mind, like yours, could be harassed and perplexed. If you have hardships, so had He. If you have conflicts, so had He. If you need encouragement, so did He. Satan could tempt Him. His enemies could annoy Him. The ruling powers could torture His body; the soldiers could crucify Him; and they can do no more to us. Jesus was exposed to hardships, to conflict and temptation, as a man. He became the Captain of our Salvation through suffering. He could bear His burden better than we, for He bore it without complaint, without impatience, without unbelief, without repining; but this is no evidence He felt it less than any of the suffering sons of Adam. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 9

Jesus was sinless and had no dread of the consequences of sin. With this exception His condition was as yours. You have not a difficulty that did not press with equal weight upon Him, not a sorrow that His heart has not experienced. His feelings could be hurt with neglect, with indifference of professed friends, as easily as yours. Is your path thorny? Christ’s was so in a tenfold sense. Are you distressed? So was He. How well fitted was Christ to be an example! 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 10

Jesus was thirty years old before He entered His public ministry. The period of His childhood and youth was one of comparative obscurity, but of the highest importance. He was in this obscurity laying the foundation of a sound constitution and vigorous mind. He “grew, and waxed strong in spirit.” Luke 1:80. It is not as a man bending under the pressure of age that Jesus is revealed to us traversing the hills of Judea. He was in the strength of His manhood. Jesus once stood in age just where you now stand. Your circumstances, your cogitations at this period of your life, Jesus has had. He cannot overlook you at this critical period. He sees your dangers. He is acquainted with your temptations. He invites you to follow His example. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 11

The character of Christ was one of unexampled excellence, embracing everything pure, true, lovely, and of good report. We have no knowledge of His ever visiting a party of pleasure or a dance hall, and yet He was the perfection of grace and courtly bearing. Christ was no novice; He was distinguished for the high intellectual powers He possessed even in the morning of His life. His youth was not wasted in indolence, neither was it wasted in sensual pleasure, self-indulgence, or frittered away in things of no profit. Not one of his hours from childhood to manhood was misspent, none were misappropriated. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 12

The inspired record says of Him: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52. As He grew in years, He grew in knowledge. He lived temperately; His precious hours were not wasted in dissipating pleasures. He had a truly healthy body and true powers of mind. His physical and mental powers could be expanded and developed as yours or any other youth’s. The Word of God was His study, as it should be yours. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 13

Take Jesus as your standard. Imitate His life. Fall in love with His character. Walk as Christ walked. A new spring will be given to your intellectual faculties, a larger scope to your thoughts, when you bring your powers into vigorous contact with eternal things, which are intrinsically grand and great. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 14

Thoughts of God and of heaven are ennobling. There is no limit to the height you may reach, for it will be like swimming in waters where there is no bottom. Vital religion is of such a character that it will widen the scope and stimulate the movements of the human understanding. There is nothing belittling in the pure religion of Christ. The gospel received will bow down the loftiness of human understanding and lay the haughtiness of man low, that God alone may be exalted. But in this it does not dwarf the intellect and cripple the energies. It transforms the man, renewing his heart, changing his character, and not cramping the intellect. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 15

True religion unfolds and calls out the mental energies. Conviction and repentance of sin, renunciation of self, and trust in the merits of the blood of Christ cannot be experienced without the individual's [being] made more thoughtful, more intellectual, than he was before. No one will become mentally imbecile by having his attention directed to God. Connection with God is connection with all true wisdom. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 16

But I expect you will become weary of this long letter. Indeed, I had no thought of writing this long letter when I commenced, but I have gone on and on as my thoughts have pressed upon me until you see them on paper. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 17

Frank, will you be a Christian now? Will you be converted to God? Return from your backsliding and repent before God. You alone can break the chains of Satan that bind you. Come fully on the Lord’s side. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 18

I have written in great haste. After reading this letter, return with the other two. Some ideas I wish to preserve. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 19

Your aunt. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878, par. 20