Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 23—Selfishness in the Church and in the Family

Dear Brother M,

I have been shown in vision that you have defects in your character which must be remedied. You are not right in your views and feelings in regard to your wife. You do not appreciate her. She has not received the words of sympathy and love from you that you should have given her. It would not lessen the dignity of your manhood to praise her for the care she takes and the burdens she bears in the family. 4T 255.1

You are selfish and exacting. You mark little things and talk of small errors in your wife and children. In short, you seek to gauge their consciences by your own; you try to be conscience for them. Your wife has an identity of her own, which can never be merged in that of her husband. She has an individuality which she should preserve, for she is accountable before God for herself. You cannot, Brother M, be responsible before God for the character your wife forms. She alone will bear this responsibility. God is just as willing to impress the conscience of your God-fearing wife as He is to impress your conscience for her. 4T 255.2

You expect too much of your wife and children. You censure too much. If you would encourage a cheerful, happy temper yourself, and speak kindly and tenderly to them, you would bring sunlight into your dwelling instead of clouds, sorrow, and unhappiness. You think too much of your opinion; you have taken extreme positions and have not been willing that your wife's judgment should have the weight it should in your family. You have not encouraged respect for your wife yourself nor educated your children to respect her judgment. You have not made her your equal, but have rather taken the reins of government and control into your own hands and held them with a firm grasp. You have not an affectionate, sympathetic disposition. These traits of character you need to cultivate if you want to be an overcomer and if you want the blessing of God in your family. 4T 255.3

You are very set and unyielding in your opinion, which makes it very hard for your family. You need to have your heart softened by the grace of God. You need such love in your heart as characterized the works of Christ. Love proceeds from God. It is a plant of heavenly growth, and it cannot live and flourish in the natural heart. Where it exists, there is truth and life and power. But it cannot live without action, and whenever it is exercised it increases and extends. It will not observe little mistakes and be quick to mark little errors. It will prevail when argument, when any amount of words, will prove vain and useless. The very best way to reform the character and regulate the conduct of your family is through the principle of love. It is indeed a power and will accomplish that which neither money nor might ever can. 4T 256.1

My brother, your words that are harsh and unsympathizing cut and wound. It is very easy for you to censure and find fault, but this is only productive of unhappiness. You would quickly resent the words you address to others, were they spoken to you. You have looked upon it as a weakness to be kind, tender, and sympathetic, and have thought it beneath your dignity to speak tenderly, gently, and lovingly to your wife. Here you mistake in what true manliness and dignity consist. The disposition to leave deeds of kindness undone is a manifest weakness and defect in your character. That which you would look upon as weakness, God regards as true Christian courtesy, that should be exercised by every Christian; for this was the spirit which Christ manifested. 4T 256.2

You have a very selfish disposition and think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. You frequently take extremely singular and fanciful views of the Scriptures, and often cling to these as zealously as did the Jews to their traditions. Not possessing a teachable spirit, you will be in constant danger of making trouble in the church unless you set yourself at the work of correcting these wrongs in the strength of the mighty Conqueror. That which makes your case alarming is that you think you know these things better than your brethren, and you are very difficult to be approached. You have a self-righteous, pharisaical spirit, which would say: “Stand off, come not near me; for I am holier than thou.” 4T 256.3

You have not seen the corruptions of your own heart and that you have made life almost a failure. Your opinions cannot and must not rule in the church of God. You need to be cultivating all the Christian graces, but especially charity, which suffereth long and is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, “doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity [love], which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” 4T 257.1

You mark little deviations from what you think is right, and you sternly seek to correct them. While you are thus overbearing and dictatorial, quick to observe a brother's faults, you do not closely search your own heart to see the evils existing in your life. You show great moral weakness in the indulgence of your appetite and passions. The slavery of appetite for tobacco has such control over you that although you resolve and re-resolve to overcome the habit, you do not accomplish it. This wrong habit has perverted your senses. My brother, where is your self-denial? Where is your moral power to overcome? Christ overcame the power of appetite in the wilderness of temptation on your account, making it possible for you to overcome on your own account. Now the battle is yours. In the name of the Conqueror you have an opportunity to deny your appetite and gain a victory for yourself. You require much of others; what are you willing to do to get the victory over a disgusting, health-destroying, soul-polluting indulgence? The battle is yours. No one can fight it for you. Others can pray for you, but the work must be wholly your own. 4T 257.2

God calls upon you to no longer dally with the tempter, but to cleanse yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in His fear. You need to work fast to remove the defects from your character. You are in God's workshop. If you will submit to the process of hewing and squaring and planing, that the rough edges may be removed, the knots and uneven surface smoothed and fitted by the planing knife of God, you will be fitted by His grace for the heavenly building. But if you cling to self, and are not willing to endure the trying process of fitting for the heavenly building, you will have no place in that structure which will come together without the sound of ax or hammer. If your nature is not transformed, if you are not refined and elevated by the sanctifying truth for these last days, you will be found unworthy of a place among the pure and holy angels. 4T 258.1

Can you afford to cling to your defiling habits and at last be found among the unbelieving and the unsanctified? Can you afford to run any risk in this matter? There is too much at stake for you to venture to pursue the course of self-indulgence that you have followed. You have been forward to talk the truth to unbelievers in a very positive, objectionable manner, which has had a very bad influence upon their minds. When there is one inconsistent advocate of the truth, Satan uses him to special advantage to disgust those who, under a proper influence, would have been favorably impressed. You should soften your manners, and when you advocate the truth, let it be with a spirit of meekness. 4T 258.2

“Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” The fear here spoken of does not mean distrust or indecision, but with due caution, guarding every point, lest an unwise word be spoken, or excitement of feeling get the advantage, and thus leave unfavorable impressions upon minds, and balance them in the wrong direction. Godly fear, humility, and meekness are greatly needed by all in order to correctly represent the truth of God. 4T 258.3

One of your greatest dangers is a spirit of self-confidence and pride. The great unhappiness which exists with you and in your family results immediately from the operation of pride. The usefulness of a man who has this pride must be greatly limited, for his pride and self-love keep him in a narrow sphere. His spirit is not generous. His efforts are not extended, but contracted. By his conversation and deportment this pride will be discovered if it exists. 4T 259.1

Dear brother, the influence under which your character has been formed has given you a haughty, overbearing spirit. This spirit you act out in your family and among your neighbors and all with whom you associate. In order to overcome these wrong habits, you must watch unto prayer. You should now be thoroughly in earnest, for you have little time in which to work. Do not feel that you are sufficient in your own strength. Only in the name of the mighty Conqueror can you gain the victory. In conversation with others dwell upon the mercy, goodness, and love of God instead of upon His strict judgment and justice. Cling fast to His promises. You can do nothing in your own strength, but in the strength of Jesus you can do all things. If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, you will be transformed, renewed, and sanctified. “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Be sure that Christ is in you, that your heart is broken and submissive and humble. God will accept only the humble and contrite. Heaven is worth a lifelong, persevering effort; yes, it is worth everything. God will help you in your efforts if you strive only in Him. There is a work to be done in your family which God will help you to perform if you take hold of it aright. I entreat of you to set your own heart in order and then seek patiently to work for the salvation of your family, that the angels of God may come into your house and abide with you. 4T 259.2