Dear Sister O: It was my intention to have some conversation with you before leaving -----, but I was prevented by many things. I do not write with very hopeful feelings that this letter will make any special change in your course of conduct so far as your religious experience is concerned.
I have felt very sad in regard to you. In the meetings held in -----, I dwelt upon general principles, and sought to reach hearts by bearing a testimony which I hoped would effect a change in your religious life. I have tried to write, as given in Testimony No. 12, in regard to the dangers of the young. That view was given in Rochester. There I was shown that a mistake had been made in your instruction from your childhood up. Your parents had thought, and had talked it in your hearing, that you were a natural Christian. Your sisters had a love for you which savored of idolatry more than of sanctification. Your parents have had an unsanctified love for their children, which has blinded their eyes to their defects. At times, when they have been somewhat aroused, this has
been different. But you have been petted and praised until your eternal interest is endangered.
I saw that you do not know yourself. You have a self-righteousness which fastens you in deception in regard to your spiritual attainments. At times you have felt something of the influences of the Spirit of God. But to the transformation by the renewing of the mind you are a stranger. "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." You have not had this experience, therefore have no anchor. You are not a Christian, and yet it has been talked to you all your life that you were a natural Christian. You have taken it for granted that you were all right, when you were very far from being accepted of God. This deception has grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength, and threatens to prove your ruin. Your parents have felt jealous for their children, and if reports of supposed slights have been brought to them by their children, they have felt interested and aroused at once, and have sympathized with them, and stood directly in the way of their spiritual good.
You and your sister P have had a great amount of pride, which will be as stubble in the day of God. Self-love and self-pride, pride of dress and appearance, have prevailed. Selfishness has kept you from good. You both must have a thorough conversion, a thorough renewing of the mind, a thorough transformation, or you will have no part in the kingdom of God. Your appearance, your good looks, your dress, will not bring you into favor with God. It is moral worth that the great I am notices. There is no real beauty of person or of character out of Christ, no real perfection of manners or deportment without the sanctifying graces of the spirit of humility, sympathy, and true holiness.
I have been shown that souls will be lost through your influence and example. You have had light and privileges, and for them you will have to render an account. You are not naturally religious or devotional, but have to make special effort to keep your minds upon religious things. Self is prominent with you. Your self-esteem is very large; but remember that Heaven looks at moral worth, and estimates the character as precious and valuable by the inward adorning, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Costly array, outward adorning, personal attractions, all sink into insignificance in comparison with this valuable attainment, a meek and quiet spirit. Your love for your own enjoyment and gratification, your lack of consecration and of devotion, have been detrimental to many. Those who were backslidden you could not benefit, for your lives were like the worldlings' in general.
Those who visit ----- carry away the impression made by you and other of the youth who do not enjoy experimental religion, that there is no reality in religion. Pride is strengthened in them; love of show, love of lightness and of pleasure are increased, and sacred things are not discerned. They receive the impression that they have been too conscientious, too particular. For if those who live right at the center of the great work are influenced so little by the solemn truths so often presented, why should they be so particular? Why should they be afraid of enjoying themselves, when this seemed to be the aim of those who were of longer experience in -----?
The influence of the youth in ----- extends as far as they are known, and their unconsecrated lives are proverbial; and none have had more influence in the wrong direction than you. You have dishonored your profession and been miserable representatives of the truth. Says the True Witness: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou
wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth." Were you cold, there would be some hope that you would be converted; but where self-righteousness girds one about, instead of the righteousness of Christ, the deception is so difficult to be seen, and the self-righteousness so hard to be put away, that the case is the most difficult to reach. An unconverted, godless sinner stands in a more favorable condition than such.
You are a stumbling block to sinners. Your lack of consecration is marked. You are scattering from Christ instead of gathering with Him. If God will help me to tear off your self-righteous garments, I will have hope that you may yet redeem the time and lead exemplary lives. You have been frequently aroused, but as often have sunk back into your former do-nothing, self-righteous condition, having a name to live while you are dead. Your pride threatens to be your ruin. God has spoken to you upon this point. If you make no reformation, affliction will come upon you, and your joy be turned to heaviness, until you humble your hearts under the hand of God. Your prayers God does not accept. They come from hearts filled with pride and selfishness. You, my dear sister, are vain; you have lived an aimless life, when, had you been humble and lived to bless others, you would have been a blessing to yourself and to all around you. May God forgive your parents and sisters for the part they have acted in making you what you are--just that which God cannot accept, just that which, if you remain the same, will be stubble for the fire to consume in the day of God.
When I was shown in regard to the spirit of selfishness existing in those who were working in the office, that there were some who were merely working for wages, as though engaged in any common enterprise, you were both among the number. You were both selfish and self-caring. Your
anxiety was to please yourselves and to obtain higher wages. This spirit has, to quite an extent, cursed the office, and Heaven frowns upon it. Many have been too eager to grasp means. All this is wrong. A worldly spirit has come in, and Christ has been shut out. May God pity His people. And I hope you will be converted.
You have possessed a spirit of levity, and have been vain and trifling in your conversation. Oh, how seldom has Jesus been mentioned! His redeeming love has not called forth gratitude and praise, and expressions calculated to magnify His name and His undying, self-sacrificing love. What has been the theme for your conversation? What thoughts have been dwelt upon with the greatest pleasure? In truth it can be said that Jesus and His life of sacrifice, His exceeding precious grace and the redemption He has so dearly earned for you, are scarcely in all your thoughts; but trifling things occupy the mind. To please yourselves, to accomplish objects in life which suit your pleasure, this is the burden of the mind. I can but wish you had not professed to be risen with Christ, for you have not complied with the requirement. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Ask yourselves the questions: Have I complied with the requirements here laid down by the inspired apostle? Have I evidenced by my life, my death to the world, that my life is hid with Christ in God? Am I submerged in Christ? Do I draw sustenance and support from Him who has promised to be to me a present help in every time of need? You have a formal religion, but have not a special sense of your weakness, your corruption, and your vileness by nature.
"A natural Christian!" This deceptive idea has served
many as a garment of self-righteousness, and has led many to a supposed hope in Christ, who had no experimental knowledge of Him, of His experience, His trials, His life of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Their righteousness which they count upon so much is only as filthy rags. Says Christ, the beloved Teacher: "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Yes, follow Him through evil as well as through good report. Follow Him in befriending the most needy and friendless. Follow Him in being forgetful of self, abundant in acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice to do others good; when reviled, reviling not again; manifesting love and compassion for the fallen race. He counted not His life dear, but gave it up for us all. Follow Him from the lowly manger to the cross. He was our example. He tells you that if you would be His disciple you must take the cross, the despised cross, and follow Him. Can ye drink of the cup? Can ye be baptized with the baptism?
Your actions testify that you are strangers to Christ. "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
Here are enumerated the fruits which are marked evidences
that one who has been walking in the vigor of life has met with a change--a change so marked as to be represented by death. From living, active life, to death! What a striking figure! None need be deceived here. If this transformation has not been experienced by you, rest not. Seek the Lord with all your hearts. Make this the all-important business of your lives.
You have an account to render for the good you might have done during your life, had you been in the position in which God required you to be, and which He has made ample provision that you might occupy. But you have failed to glorify God upon the earth, and to save souls around you, because you did not avail yourselves of that grace and strength, wisdom and knowledge, which Christ has provided for you. You knew His will, but did it not. There will have to be a most manifest reformation in you both, or you will never hear from Jesus: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
In the evening of June 12, after reading the foregoing to the church, I was shown that while you are careless, proud, selfish, and indifferent to the salvation of souls, death is doing its work. One after another is leaving you, and passing to the grave. What has been your influence over those who assembled in your social gatherings? What has been said or done to lead souls to Christ? Have you been instant in season, out of season, to do your whole duty? Are you ready to meet at the bar of God those with whom you have mingled in your social gatherings, especially that class who have been thrown under your influence and who have died out of Christ? Are you prepared to say that your skirts are clear of their blood? I will mention one case, that of Q. Will no reproach fall upon you from her, upon you who were surrounded with good home influences, you who had every favorable opportunity to develop good Christian characters, but who have felt no burden for souls? Pride, vanity, and love of pleasure were
fostered by you, and you acted your part in disgracing your profession and leading this poor soul, who had been tossed about and buffeted by Satan, to doubt the reality of the truth and the genuineness of the Christian religion.
Your frivolous conversation, in common with that of other of the young people, was disgusting. There was nothing noble and elevated in the turn your minds took. It was common chitchat and gossip, the silly, vain laugh, the jesting, and the joking. Angels have written the scenes you have acted over and over again. Notwithstanding the most solemn appeals have been made to you, and you have been reproved, rebuked, and warned, you are more censurable than other youth. You have had longer experience and greater knowledge of the truth. You have lived the longest at -----. You were among the first to profess to believe the truth and to be Christ's followers, and your course of vanity and pride has done more toward shaping the experience of the youth in that place than has that of any of the others. Those who have been converted to the truth you have taken by the hand, as it were, and united to the world.
Great guilt rests upon you and also upon your parents, who have flattered your pride and folly. They have sympathized with you when reproved, and have given you to understand that they thought it uncalled for. You, Sister O, have thought yourself handsome. Your parents have flattered you. You have sought acquaintance with unbelievers. Aside from your profession, your actions have been unbecoming a prudent, modest girl. But when it is taken into the account that you profess to be a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus, you have disgraced your profession. O my sister, did you think those clerks could not see through the gloss you threw about you? Did you think they were so captivated with your pretty face that they could not see beneath the surface and read your true, superficial character? When you placed upon your
head the adorning borrowed from Sister R's store, and then displayed yourself as if on exhibition before those clerks, did you think this was not discerned? Did you forget that angels of God were in attendance, and that their pure eyes were reading your thoughts, the intents and purposes of the heart, and taking cognizance of every act, and delineating your true, frivolous character? While you were engrossed with your small talk to the clerk with whom you were fascinated, because he flattered your vanity, could you have stood before the looking glass you would have seen the gestures, the whisperings, among those who were observing you, and laughing because you were making such a foolish show. You were bringing a stain upon the cause of truth. Could you have entered that store unobserved a short time after you stepped out, and have heard the conversation after you had lingered as long as decency would permit, you would have learned some things you never thought of before. You would have been wounded and humbled to learn how you were viewed by even frivolous clerks. The very one who flattered you to your face joined in the laugh and sport of his companions upon your vain course.
You might have an influence for good in ----- and honor your Redeemer. But instead of this you have made yourself the speech of flattering clerks and beardless youth. This unbecoming course has been remarked by very many, and those who have noticed these inconsistencies, even though they may be unbelievers and profess respect for you, despise you in their hearts. You are following in the footsteps of S, and unless your parents awake and open their eyes to your folly, they will share in your guilt. Sin is upon them and upon your sisters for the course they have taken in fostering your pride and flattering your vanity. If you and your sisters were in a saved state, you would all feel the perilous condition of the unsaved. The day will come, unless a great change is
wrought in you, when you will hear from many lips. "I associated with these Christians, yet they never told me of my danger. They never warned me. I thought that if I was in danger of being lost, they would not rest day or night without arousing me to see my lost condition. Now I am lost. If I had been in their place and had seen one in a similar condition, I would not have rested until I had made them sensible of their state and pointed them to the only One who can save them." You have been good and pleasing servants of Satan while you have professed to be servants of Christ.
Sister O, you have been so exalted by the esteem you have had of yourself that you have had no just sense of the estimate observers have placed upon your shallowness of character. They count you a coquette, and you have justly earned this reputation. It would have been much more profitable for you to have heeded the exhortation of the apostle: "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning; . . . but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
Your parents have greatly failed in the education of their children. They have suffered them to be released from burdens which it was highly important for them to bear. Because they chose to please themselves, they were permitted to remain in bed, dozing away the sweetest and loveliest hours of the morning, while their indulgent parents were up, toiling with life's burdens. These children have not learned to resist their inclinations, to wrestle against their own desires; they have not learned to endure hardness. They have been excused in a great measure from home burdens, and this has been an injury to them. They have never learned the act of self-denial or self-sacrifice. They would not submit to apply themselves to a task which did not meet their taste. Their education is
greatly deficient. Yet pride--vain, vaunting pride--fills their hearts. Sister O has thought herself superior to her associates, that they were not worthy of much attention and courtesy from her. With this she has a stubborn will to do about as she pleases regardless of the wishes, conveniences, and necessities of others. Her disposition is an unhappy one, which, unless entirely overcome, will cause many a shadow to darken her pathway and embitter the lives of her best friends.