Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)

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Ms 35, 1896

Adopting Infant Children

NP

December 16, 1896

This manuscript is published in entirety in 14MR 301-310.

From time to time, persons have asked my counsel in regard to the advisability of adopting infant children. Among these were several wives of ministers. Before answering these questions, I have tried, as far as possible, to learn all the circumstances of the case. And I have not dared to give counsel unless I knew that the Lord was leading me. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 1

There are some who have no little ones of their own, who may do good by adopting children. Those who have not the sacred responsibility of proclaiming the Word and laboring directly for the salvation of souls, have duties in other lines of work. If they are consecrated to God, and are qualified to mold and fashion human minds, the Lord will bless them in caring for the children of others. But let the children of believers have our first consideration. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 2

There are among Sabbathkeepers very many large families of children that are not properly cared for. Many parents give evidence that they have not learned of Christ the lessons that would make them safe guardians of children. Their children do not receive proper training. And there are among us many children whom death has deprived of the parent’s care. There are those who might take some of these children, and seek to mould and fashion their characters according to Bible principles. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 3

My husband and I, though called to arduous labor in the ministry, felt it our privilege to gather into our home children who needed care, and helped them to form characters for heaven. We could not adopt infants, for this would have engrossed our time and attention, and would have robbed the Lord of the service He required of us in bringing many sons and daughters to Him. But we felt that the Lord’s instruction in (Isaiah 58) was for us, and that His blessing would attend us in obedience to His Word to His Word. All can do something for the needy little ones by helping to please them in homes where they can be cared for. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 4

But I dare not counsel our ministers and missionaries, who are continually moving from place to place, to encumber themselves by adopting children, especially helpless infants. Those who have children of their own must share the responsibility of training them to do service for God. It is the wife’s duty to care for her children and her husband. The Lord will give her strength to do this work if she will put her trust in Him and obey the laws of life and health. And husband and wife are to unite in the work of bringing up their children in the love and fear of God. A well-ordered, well-disciplined family will have a powerful influence for good. But if you have no children of your own, it may be that the Lord has a wise purpose in withholding from you this blessing. It should not be taken as evidence that it is your duty to adopt a child. In some cases this might be advisable. If the Lord bids you take an infant to bring up, then the duty is too plain to be misunderstood. But as a rule, it would not be wise for a minister’s wife to encumber herself with such a responsibility. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 5

The work of God demands most earnest labor. And the Lord would have ministers and their wives closely united in this work. The husband and wife can so blend in labor that the wife shall be the complement of the husband. The Lord desires them unitedly to watch for His voice, to draw closer and still closer unto Him, feeding upon His Word, and receiving light and blessing to impart to others. They should be as free as possible to attend camp meetings and other general gatherings. And the wife may continually be a great help to her husband in visiting and other personal labor. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 6

If the companion of a minister is united with her husband in the work of saving souls, it is the highest work she can do. But the care of a little child would absorb her attention, so that she could not attend meetings and labor successfully in visiting and personal effort. Even if she accompanies her husband, the child is too often the burden of thought and conversation, and the visit is made of no effect. Those whom God has called to be co-laborers with Him are to have no idols to absorb and affection that He would have directed in other lines. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 7

The wives of many of the Lord’s servants have united heartily with their husbands in the work of saving souls. Through her unselfish interest to advance the cause of God, the wife has made her husband’s work much more complete. But with some it is a hard lesson to learn to bring their will into harmony with the will of God. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 8

The experience of one sister, as she related it to me some years ago, is full of instruction. She inquired of me: “Do you think I am assuming too great responsibility in seeking to understand the reasons of our faith, so that I can do missionary work with my husband? I greatly desire to grow into a self-sacrificing worker with him. Am I out of my place in trying, as far as possible, to keep pace with him in understanding the Word of God and the various lines of the work? He has sometimes asked me questions which made me feel that I ought to be able to help him see some things in a clearer light. Am I wrong in this earnest desire? I pray much that I may make no mistake. But it seems to me that the relation of husband and wife is most sacred and solemn. If I thought I was bound in marriage ties merely to be petted, and treated as a child, that I was to amuse my husband and he to amuse me, I should be most unhappy. God has given me reason, capabilities, talents, which I must increase by using. I feel that they are a sacred trust, which I must employ to the glory of God. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 9

“We once had two dear children, and I allowed my mind to be almost wholly absorbed with them, notwithstanding my husband was often burdened with the cares of his labor, and wanted counsel. I allowed the care of my children to occupy too much of my time, and I gave him so little. He did not complain; but I was blind, O so blind. Even with the care of my children, I could have united with him in searching the Scriptures, and two of one heart can work more successfully than one. I might have learned to copy his letter, and might have assisted him in keeping his accounts. But when I thought of this, I excused myself by saying, He knows I have my hands full. I was proud of my children, and bought many little needless things to dress them, and spent time needlessly in preparing their clothing to excite admiration. I now know that my children were my idols. I loved them before the Lord. I allowed them to absorb my interest, so that I had little to give to my husband, or to qualify myself to help souls. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 10

“When my little ones were removed from me by death, I murmured and wept as if I were hardly dealt with. I would not be consoled for my loss. I would not admit that my husband loved the children fully as much as I did. I made his heart sad by my rebellious grief. But my eyes were opened, and I saw my error. I saw that he realized the value of the souls of his children, because he was a physician of souls, and he placed a higher estimate upon his loved ones than I did. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 11

“My selfish sorrow nearly killed me, and crippled my husband in his labors. But the Lord had mercy upon us, and he let me see the selfishness of my heart. Now I am as one who has awakened out of a deep sleep. I am not in the world to amuse myself, to seek to be amused or petted, or to work for my own selfish interests. I am here to do my duty. I try to show that I respect and honor my husband by being interested in his work in the various lines of the cause of God. I no longer make myself miserable over things I cannot help, but try to adapt myself to circumstances. If the Lord sees fit to give me another child, I shall hold it, not as a plaything, but as a sacred, entrusted charge; not as an idol, but a soul that I am to train for the courts above. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 12

“I am trying to help my husband bear his burdens. I do most of his copying. The work was not pleasant to me at first, but I have overcome my dislike for it. I no longer feel that sentimentalism must be woven through all our experience in the married life. As God’s workmen, we should be seeking to do Him service, to honor His name, keeping the eye fixed upon Jesus, and encouraging each other to work the works of Christ. My husband says he can rest, and I can encourage him now, because we are both interested in seeking to save souls who are out of Christ. I have for a time to study hard and pray much to overcome my weakness of character, and become, in some degree, what a woman should be, a true helpmeet. I desire not to lead into sin, as did Eve, but with a firm hold upon Jesus I would lead away from sin and pride and love of show, into the quiet paths of meekness and lowliness of heart.” 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 13

Then she said that she had been advised to take an infant to bring up. She asked if I thought it her duty to do this. I advised her to take this question to God. I told her that she should be closely united with her husband in his work. She should keep his respect and love as a true woman whom God was teaching and leading. “You can,” I said, “cultivate an aptitude to work for the children. You can reach their hearts, and win them to Christ. These children you may bring to the gates of the city of God with your own little ones, saying, Here are we, father, mother, children, and a large number whom thou hast given us as sheaves for Christ.” 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 14

We need carefully to search our hearts and study our motives. Selfishness may prompt the desire to do what appears to be an unselfish and praiseworthy act. The reason that many urge for desiring to adopt a child, the longing for something on which to center their affection, reveals the fact that their heart is not centered upon Christ; it is not absorbed in His work. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 15

When I have heard a wife mourning that her husband did not show her all the affection she thought he should, I have sent a silent petition to God that this soul might be refreshed with the Word. From the light God had given me, I knew that she needed to drink deep of the cool waters of Lebanon instead of the turbid streams of the valley. When women will feed upon the words of Christ, when their thirsty souls shall drink of the water of life, they will have far less sentimentalism, and far greater spirituality. They will purify their souls by obeying the truth. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 16

If a woman’s life is connected with one whom God has chosen to be a laborer together with God, let her consider that she can make her husband’s heart tired, and his soul sad by her unconsecrated course of action. If self clamors for attention, and unless great devotion is shown to her, she becomes unhappy, and she may greatly hinder him in his work. She needs to learn of Christ, who lived not to please Himself. He is our example in all things. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 17

If the wife is a co-laborer with Christ in the work of saving souls, she will keep abreast of her husband in cultivating mind and heart. She will endeavor to stand equal with him in knowledge of the Word of God, and in obedience to all its requirements. She will keep her own soul refreshed by eating the Word, and drinking the waters from the wellsprings of life. Then the words she speaks will not be prompted by envy or jealousy; they will proceed from a sanctified heart that has been daily learning lessons at the feet of Jesus. Thus instead of making herself a helpless burden, to be the object of his solicitude, and to demand a large share of his attention, the wife may strengthen her husband to do the highest service for God. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 18

The light which God has given me in regard to ministers’ wives is, If their life is kept in close consecration to God, as is the duty of all who are laborers together with Him, they will find so many souls to minister unto, that they will have no opportunity to be lonesome, or to cultivate selfishness in any line. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:29, 30.] Those who heed this invitation will have no thought of repining, no thought of loneliness. Their work is to do the will of Christ. As they do this, they will have sweet peace and rest of soul. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 19

The question of adopting a child, especially an infant, involves most serious responsibilities. It should not be lightly regarded. One who has herself taken a baby to bring up, may feel that unless other ministers’ wives shall follow her example, they are remiss in their duty, but this is an error. Our duty is not decided by what others may plan for us. The question for each to settle is, in doing this, shall I be merely gratifying my own wishes, or is it a duty the Lord has appointed for me? Is this His way, or a way of my own choosing? All are to be workers for God. Not one is excused. Your talents are not your own, to employ as you shall fancy. Inquire, What would the Lord have me do with His entrusted talents? Shall I labor for the saving of many souls? Shall I follow the directions of Isaiah 58:6-11? 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 20

There are deep, earnest lessons for us to learn, else self will be our center, the controlling power of our lives. The duty is of the present is vigilant working, and earnest, solemn waiting in view of the solemn event of our Lord’s second appearing, working, watching, praying—these constitute the ideal of Christian duty and responsibility, making the perfect man in Christ Jesus. Our life is not to be all waiting, not all bustle and activity and excitement, to the neglect of personal piety. The door of the heart must be always open to Jesus, that we may always hear His voice of invitation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” [Revelation 3:20.] We are to be “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” [Romans 12:11.] 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 21

There is always danger of taking upon ourselves a work that the Lord has not placed in our hands, and neglecting that which He has given us to do, and which would better honor His name. That which to human eyes may appear praiseworthy, may not be the very thing God has chosen for us to do. Then let us individually consider the many branches of the work. There are various kinds of missionary work to do. Consider prayerfully what work would best tell for the advancement of the cause of God. If there is a humble, unselfish heart and a contrite spirit in seeking to know the Lord’s will, He will lead each of us in the path where He would have us walk. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 22

Let no one feel condemned because she does not take a child to care for. The Lord may have greater work for you to do in teaching those who know not God now to do His will. “Thus saith the Lord, ... Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant, even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.” [Isaiah 56:1, 3-5.] 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 23

I have written these things, that Satan may not allure any of my brother ministers or their companions into positions where they will be prevented from doing the very work that the Lord has assigned to them. We must watch, we must pray, and when the Lord says, Whom shall I send to do this errand for Me, we should be ready to respond, “Here am I; send me.” [Isaiah 6:8.] Serious work is to be done. It has been waiting for unselfish, consecrated workers. Brethren and sisters, open your hearts to the Holy Spirit of God, and devote your God-given capabilities to working as for your lives to pull souls out of the fire. Keep in the channel of light, for there is to be more direct communication from heaven to earth. We have not a moment to lose. There is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 24

I call upon my brethren to come to the help of the Lord against the mighty. I call upon my sisters to stand by their side and help them in the work. “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.] 11LtMs, Ms 35, 1896, par. 25