Dear Brethren and Sisters: God designed that the light of the church should increase and grow brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. Precious promises are made to God's people upon condition of obedience. If, like Caleb and Joshua, you had wholly followed the Lord, He would have magnified His power in your midst. Sinners would have been
converted, and backsliders reclaimed, by your influence; and even the enemies of our faith, although they might oppose and speak against the truth, could but admit that God was with you.
Many of the professed, peculiar people of God are so conformed to the world that their peculiar character is not discerned, and it is difficult to distinguish "between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not." God would do great things for His people if they would come out from the world and be separate. If they would submit to be led by Him, He would make them a praise in all the earth. Says the True Witness: "I know thy works." Angels of God who minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation are acquainted with the condition of all and understand just the measure of faith possessed by each individual. The unbelief, pride, covetousness, and love of the world, which have existed in the hearts of God's professed people, have grieved the sinless angels. As they have seen that grievous and presumptuous sins exist in the hearts of many professed followers of Christ, and that God has been dishonored by their inconsistent, crooked course, they have been caused to weep. And yet those most at fault, those who cause the greatest feebleness in the church and bring a stain upon their holy profession, do not seem to be alarmed or convicted, but seem to feel that they are flourishing in the Lord.
Many believe that they are on the right foundation, that they have the truth; they rejoice in its clearness and boast of the powerful arguments in proof of the correctness of our position. Such reckon themselves among the chosen, peculiar people of God, yet they experience not His presence and power to save them from yielding to temptation and folly. These profess to know God, yet in works deny Him. How great is their darkness! The love of the world with many, the
deceitfulness of riches with others, have choked the word, and they have become unfruitful.
I was shown that the church at ----- have partaken of the spirit of the world and become lukewarm to an alarming extent. When efforts are made to set things in order in the church and bring the people up to the position God would have them occupy, a class will be affected by the labor, and will make earnest efforts to press through the darkness to the light. But many do not persevere in their efforts long enough to realize the sanctifying influence of the truth upon their hearts and lives. The cares of the world engross the mind to that degree that self-examination and secret prayer are neglected. The armor is laid off and Satan has free access to them, benumbing their sensibilities and causing them to be unsuspicious of his wiles.
Some do not manifest a desire to know their true state and escape from Satan's snares. They are sickly and dying. They are occasionally warmed by the fire of others, yet are so nearly chilled by formality, pride, and the influence of the world that they have no sense of their need of help.
There are many who are deficient in spirituality and the Christian graces. A weight of solemn responsibility should daily rest upon them as they view the perilous times in which we live and the corrupting influences which are teeming around us. Their only hope of being partakers of the divine nature is to escape the corruption that is in the world. These brethren need a deep and thorough experience in the things of God, and this can only be obtained by an effort on their part. Their position requires them to possess earnestness and unabated diligence, so as not to be found sleeping at their post. Satan and his angels sleep not.
Christ's followers should be instruments of righteousness, workmen, living stones, emitting light, that they may encourage the presence of heavenly angels. They are required
to be channels, as it were, through which the spirit of truth and righteousness shall flow. Many have partaken so largely of the spirit and influence of the world that they act like the world. They have their likes and dislikes, and discern not excellence of character. Their conduct is not governed by the pure principles of Christianity; therefore they think only of themselves, their pleasure and enjoyment, to the disregard of others. They are not sanctified through the truth, therefore realize not the oneness of Christ's followers the world over. Those who are most loved of God are those who possess the least self-confidence and are adorned with a meek and quiet spirit; whose lives are pure and unselfish, and whose hearts are inclined, through the abundant measure of the spirit of Christ, to obedience, justice, purity, and true holiness.
If all were devoted to God, a precious light would shine forth from them, which would have a direct influence upon all who are brought in contact with them. But all need a work done for them. Some are far from God, variable and unstable as water; they have no idea of sacrifice. When they desire any special indulgence or pleasure, or any article of dress, they do not consider whether or not they can do without the article, or deny themselves the pleasure, and make a freewill offering to God. How many have considered that they were required to make some sacrifice? Although it may be of less value than that of the wealthy man who possesses his thousands, yet that which really costs self-denial would be a precious sacrifice, an offering to God. It would be a sweet-smelling savor, and come up from his altar like sweet incense.
The youth are not authorized to do just as they please with their means, regardless of the requirements of God. With David they should say: "Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." Quite an amount of means has been expended to multiply copies of their pictures. Could all enumerate the amount given
to the artist for this purpose, it would swell to quite a large sum. And this is merely one way in which means is squandered, invested for self-gratification, from which no profit is received. By this outlay, they are not clothed or fed, the widow and the fatherless are not relieved, the hungry are not fed, the naked are not clothed.
While money is spent lavishly in self-gratification, stinted offerings are brought to God almost unwillingly. How much of the wages earned by the young finds its way into the treasury of God to aid in the advancement of the work of saving souls? They give a mite each week and feel that they do much. But they have no sense that they are just as much stewards of God over their little as are the wealthy over their larger possessions. God has been robbed and themselves indulged, their pleasure consulted, their taste gratified, without a thought that He would make close investigation of how they have used His goods. While such unhesitatingly gratify their supposed wants and withhold from God the offering they ought to make, He will no more accept the little pittance they hand into the treasury than He accepted the offering of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who purposed to rob Him in their offerings.
As a general thing, the young among us are allied to the world. But few maintain a special warfare against the internal foe, few have an earnest, anxious desire to know and do the will of God. But few hunger and thirst after righteousness, and few know anything of the Spirit of God as a reprover or comforter. Where are the missionaries? Where are the self-denying, self-sacrificing ones? Where are the cross bearers? Self and self-interest have swallowed up high and noble principles. Things of eternal moment bear with no special weight upon the mind. God requires them individually to come up to the point to make an entire surrender. "Ye cannot
serve God and mammon." You cannot serve self and at the same time be servants of Christ. You must die to self, die to your love of pleasure, and learn to inquire: Will God be pleased with the objects for which I purpose to spend this means? Shall I glorify Him?
We are commanded, whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to the glory of God. How many have conscientiously moved from principle rather than from impulse, and obeyed this command to the letter? How many of the youthful disciples in ----- have made God their trust and portion, and have earnestly sought to know and do His will? There are many who are servants of Christ in name, but who are not so in deed. Where religious principle governs, the danger of committing great errors is small; for selfishness, which always blinds and deceives, is subordinate. The sincere desire to do others good so predominates that self is forgotten. To have firm religious principles is an inestimable treasure. It is the purest, highest, and most elevated influence mortals can possess. Such have an anchor. Every act is well considered, lest its effect be injurious to another and lead away from Christ. The constant inquiry of the mind is: Lord, how shall I best serve Thee, and glorify Thy name in the earth? How shall I conduct my life to make Thy name a praise in the earth, and lead others to love, serve, and honor Thee? Let me only desire and choose Thy will. Let the words and example of my Redeemer be the light and strength of my heart. While I follow and trust in Him, He will not leave me to perish. He will be my crown of rejoicing.
If we mistake the wisdom of man for the wisdom of God we are led astray by the foolishness of man's wisdom. Here is the great danger of many in -----. They have not an experience for themselves. They have not been in the habit of prayerfully considering for themselves, with unprejudiced,
unbiased judgment, questions and subjects that are new and that are ever liable to arise. They wait to see what others will think. If these dissent, that is all that is needed to convince them that the subject under consideration is of no account whatever. Although this class is large, it does not change the fact that they are inexperienced and weak-minded through long yielding to the enemy, and will always be as sickly as babes, walking by others' light, living on others' experience, feeling as others feel, and acting as others act. They act as though they had not an individuality. Their identity is submerged in others; they are merely shadows of those whom they think about right. Unless these become sensible of their wavering character and correct it, they will all fail of everlasting life; they will be unable to cope with the perils of the last days. They will possess no stamina to resist the devil, for they do not know that it is he. Someone must be at their side to inform them whether a foe or a friend is approaching. They are not spiritual, therefore spiritual things are not discerned. They are not wise in those things which relate to the kingdom of God. Neither young nor old are excusable in trusting to another to have an experience for them. Said the angel: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." A noble self-reliance is needed in the Christian experience and warfare.
Men, women, and youth, God requires you to possess moral courage, steadiness of purpose, fortitude and perseverance, minds that cannot take the assertions of another, but which will investigate for themselves before receiving or rejecting, that will study and weigh evidence, and take it to the Lord in prayer. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Now the condition: "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave
of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." This petition for wisdom is not to be a meaningless prayer, out of mind as soon as finished. It is a prayer that expresses the strong, earnest desire of the heart, arising from a conscious lack of wisdom to determine the will of God.
After the prayer is made, if the answer is not realized immediately, do not weary of waiting and become unstable. Waver not. Cling to the promise, "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." Like the importunate widow, urge your case, being firm in your purpose. Is the object important and of great consequence to you? It certainly is. Then waver not, for your faith may be tried. If the thing you desire is valuable, it is worthy of a strong, earnest effort. You have the promise; watch and pray. Be steadfast and the prayer will be answered; for is it not God who has promised? If it costs you something to obtain it you will prize it the more when obtained. You are plainly told that if you waver you need not think that you shall receive anything of the Lord. A caution is here given not to become weary, but to rest firmly upon the promise. If you ask, He will give you liberally and upbraid not.
Here is where many make a mistake. They waver from their purpose, and their faith fails. This is the reason they receive nothing of the Lord, who is our Source of strength. None need go in darkness, stumbling along like a blind man; for the Lord has provided light if they will accept it in His appointed way, and not choose their own way. He requires of all a diligent performance of everyday duties. Especially is this required of all who are engaged in the solemn, important work in the office of publication, both of those upon whom rest the more weighty responsibilities of the work, and of those who bear the least responsibilities. This can be done
only by looking to God for ability to enable them faithfully to perform what is right in the sight of Heaven, doing all things as though governed by unselfish motives, as if the eye of God were visible to all, looking upon all, and investigating the acts of all.
The sin which is indulged to the greatest extent, and which separates us from God and produces so many contagious spiritual disorders, is selfishness. There can be no returning to the Lord except by self-denial. Of ourselves we can do nothing; but, through God strengthening us, we can live to do good to others, and in this way shun the evil of selfishness. We need not go to heathen lands to manifest our desire to devote all to God in a useful, unselfish life. We should do this in the home circle, in the church, among those with whom we associate and with whom we do business. Right in the common walks of life is where self is to be denied and kept in subordination. Paul could say: "I die daily." It is the daily dying to self in the little transactions of life that makes us overcomers. We should forget self in the desire to do good to others. With many there is a decided lack of love for others. Instead of faithfully performing their duty, they seek rather their own pleasure.
God positively enjoins upon all His followers a duty to bless others with their influence and means, and to seek that wisdom of Him which will enable them to do all in their power to elevate the thoughts and affections of those who come within their influence. In doing for others, a sweet satisfaction will be experienced, an inward peace which will be a sufficient reward. When actuated by a high and noble desire to do others good, they will find true happiness in a faithful discharge of life's manifold duties. This will bring more than an earthly reward; for every faithful, unselfish performance of duty is noticed by the angels and shines in the life record. In heaven none will think of self, nor seek their own pleasure;
but all, from pure, genuine love, will seek the happiness of the heavenly beings around them. If we wish to enjoy heavenly society in the earth made new, we must be governed by heavenly principles here.
Every act of our lives affects others for good or evil. Our influence is tending upward or downward; it is felt, acted upon, and to a greater or less degree reproduced by others. If by our example we aid others in the development of good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the same beneficial influence upon others, and thus hundreds and thousands are affected by our unconscious influence. If we by acts strengthen or force into activity the evil powers possessed by those around us, we share their sin, and will have to render an account for the good we might have done them and did not do, because we made not God our strength, our guide, our counselor.