Dear Sister: I have been shown that you have certain faults that you should feel the importance of correcting, in order to enjoy the blessing of God. Many of your trials you have brought upon yourself by your freedom of speech. You feel that it is a virtue to talk plainly, and tell people just what you think of them and their acts. You call this frankness; but it is downright discourtesy, and arouses the combativeness of those with whom you are brought in contact. If others should pursue the same course toward you, it would be more than you could bear. Those who are accustomed to speak plainly and severely to others, are not pleased to receive the same treatment in return.
You have brought upon yourself many grievances that could have been avoided had you possessed a meek and quiet spirit. You provoke contention; for when your will is crossed, your spirit rises for conflict. Your disposition to rule is a constant source of trouble to yourself. Your nature has become jealous and distrustful. You are overbearing, and stir up strife by faultfinding and hasty condemnation. You have so long cultivated a spirit of retaliation that you continually need the grace of God to soften and subdue your nature. The dear Saviour has said: "Bless them that curse you," "and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
Dear sister, I was shown that you bring darkness into your own soul by dwelling upon the mistakes and imperfections of others. You will never have their sins to answer for, but you have a work to do for your own soul and for your own family that no other can do for you. You need to crucify self and to check the disposition to magnify your neighbors' faults and to talk thoughtlessly. There are subjects upon which you may converse with the very best results. It is always safe to speak of Jesus, of the Christian's hope, and of the beauties of our faith. Let your tongue be sanctified to God, that your speech may be ever seasoned with grace. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
The apostle's exhortation should be explicitly followed. There is often a great temptation to talk of things which do not profit the speaker or the hearer, but which bring evil and barrenness to both. Our probationary time is too brief to be spent in dwelling upon the shortcomings of others. We have a work before us which requires the closest diligence and the strictest watchfulness, united with unceasing prayer, or we shall be unable to overcome the defects in our characters and to copy the divine Pattern. We should all study to imitate the life of Christ. Then we shall have a sanctifying influence upon those with whom we associate. It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian, truly Christlike, peaceable, pure, and undefiled. Dear sister, God must be with us in all our efforts, or they will avail nothing. Our good works will end in self-righteousness.
In your own family there is much to correct. You have failed to give your children the attention and encouragement they need. You have not bound them to your heart by the tenderest cords of love. Your business is a great tax upon your time and energies, and causes you to neglect home duties. Yet you have become so accustomed to this burden that it would seem a great sacrifice to lay it down; still, if you could do this,
it would be for your spiritual interest and for the happiness and morals of your children. It would be well for you to lay by your perplexing cares and find a retreat in the country, where there is not so strong an influence to corrupt the morals of the young.
True, you would not be entirely free from annoyances and perplexing cares in the country; but you would there avoid many evils, and close the door against a flood of temptations which threaten to overpower the minds of your children. They need employment and variety. The sameness of their home makes them uneasy and restless, and they have fallen into the habit of mingling with the vicious lads of the town, thus obtaining a street education.
You have devoted so much time to missionary work which has no connection with our faith, and been so pressed with cares and responsibilities, that you have not kept pace with the work of God for this time, and have had little leisure to make the narrow precincts of home attractive to your children. You have not studied their needs, nor understood their active, developing minds; therefore you have withheld from them simple indulgences that would have gratified them without injury. It would have been a trifling tax upon you to give your children greater attention, and it would have been of the greatest value to them.
To live in the country would be very beneficial to them; an active, out-of-door life would develop health of both mind and body. They should have a garden to cultivate, where they might find both amusement and useful employment. The training of plants and flowers tends to the improvement of taste and judgment, while an acquaintance with God's useful and beautiful creations has a refining and ennobling influence upon the mind, referring it to the Maker and Master of all.
The father of your children was harsh, relentless, and unfeeling, cold and stern in his associations with them, severe in his discipline, and unreasonable in his demands. He was a man of peculiar temperament, wrapped up in himself, thinking
only of his own pleasure, and reaching out for means to gratify himself and secure the esteem of others. His indolence and his dissipated habits, together with his lack of sympathy and love for you and his children, weaned your affections from him at an early day. Your life was filled with hard and peculiar trials, while he was utterly indifferent to your cares and burdens.
These things have left their impress upon you and your children. Especially have they tended to warp your character. You have almost unconsciously developed an independent spirit. Finding that you could not depend upon your husband, you have taken that course which you thought best, without taking him into your confidence. As your best endeavors were not appreciated, you mentally braced yourself to move forward according to your best judgment, regardless of censure or approval. Conscious of being wronged and misjudged by your husband, you have cherished a feeling of bitterness against him, and when censured you have retaliated upon those who questioned your course.
But while you have fully realized your husband's faults, you have failed to mark your own. You have erred in talking of his failings to others, thus cultivating a love for dwelling upon disagreeable topics, and keeping your disappointments and trials constantly before you. You have thus fallen into the habit of making the most of your sorrows and difficulties, many of which you create by exaggeration and by talking to others.
If you should turn your attention away from outside annoyances and center them upon your family you would be happier and would become the means of doing good. The very fact that your children have missed the proper counsel and example of a father renders it more obligatory upon you to be a tender and devoted mother. Your duty is more in your home and with your family. Here is real missionary labor to perform. This responsibility cannot be shifted upon another; it is the lifework God has appointed for you.
In devoting yourself so entirely to the details of business,
you are robbing yourself of time for meditation and prayer, and are robbing your children of the patient care and attention that they have a right to claim from their mother. You find that you can hurry through with many tasks yourself, easier and quicker than you can patiently teach your children to do them for you; yet it would be much better to put certain responsibilities upon them and instruct them to be useful. This would encourage and occupy them, as well as relieve you in part.
You give considerable time to those who have no special claims upon you, and in so doing you neglect the sacred duties of a mother. God has not laid upon you many of the burdens which you have assumed. You have visited and helped those who did not need your time and care half so much as your own children, who are now forming characters for heaven or perdition. God will not sustain you in ministering to many who are really suffering under the curse of God for their dissolute and wicked lives.
The first great business of your life is to be a missionary at home. Clothe yourself with humility and patience, forbearance and love, and go about the work that God has ordained you should do, which no other one can do for you. It is a work for which you will be held responsible in the day of retribution. God's blessing cannot rest upon an ill-disciplined household. Kindness and patience must rule in the home to make it happy.
From a worldly point of view, money is power; but from the Christian standpoint, love is power. Intellectual and spiritual strength are involved in this principle. Pure love has special efficacy to do good, and can do nothing but good. It prevents discord and misery, and brings the truest happiness. Wealth is often an influence to corrupt and destroy; force is strong to do hurt; but truth and goodness are the properties of pure love.
My sister, if you could see yourself as God sees you, it would be plain to your mind that without a thorough conversion you can never enter the kingdom of God. If you would
bear in mind that whatever measure you mete to others it shall be meted to you again, you would be more cautious in your speech, milder and more forgiving in your disposition. Christ came into the world to bring all resistance and authority into subjection to Himself, but He did not claim obedience through the strength of argument or the voice of command; He went about doing good and teaching His followers the things which belonged to their peace. He stirred up no strife, He resented no personal injuries, but met with meek submission the insults, the false accusations, and the cruel scourging of those who hated Him and condemned Him to death. Christ is our example. His life is a practical illustration of His divine teachings. His character is a living exhibition of the way to do good and overcome evil.
You have nursed your resentment against your husband and others who have wronged you, but have failed to perceive wherein you have erred and made matters worse by your own wrong course. Your spirit has been bitter against those who have done you injustice, and your feelings have found vent in reproaches and censure. This would give momentary relief to your burdened heart, but it has left a lasting scar upon your soul. The tongue is a little member, but you have cultivated its improper use until it has become a consuming fire.
All these things have tended to check your spiritual advancement. But God sees how hard it is for you to be patient and forgiving, and He knows how to pity and to help. He requires you to reform your life, to correct your defects. He desires that your firm, unyielding spirit should be subdued by His grace. You should seek the help of God, for you need peace and quiet instead of storm and contention. The religion of Christ enjoins upon you to move less from impulse, and more from sanctified reason and calm judgment.
You allow your surroundings to affect you too much. Let daily watchfulness and prayer be your safeguard. Then the angels of God will be around you to shed clear and precious light upon your mind and to uphold you with their heavenly strength. Your influence over your children, and your course
toward them, should be such as to attract these holy visitors to your dwelling, that they may assist you in your efforts to make your family and your home what God would have them. When you essay to independently fight your own way through, the heavenly angels are repelled, and retire from your presence in grief, leaving you to struggle on alone.
Your children have the stamp of character that their parents have given them. How careful, then, should be your treatment of them; how tenderly should you rebuke and correct their faults. You are too stern and exacting, and have frequently dealt with them when you were excited and angry. This has almost fretted away the golden cord of love that binds their hearts to yours. You should ever impress upon your children the fact that you love them; that you are laboring for their interest; that their happiness is dear to you; and that you design to do only that which is for their good.
You should gratify their little wants whenever you can reasonably do so. Your present location affords but little variety or amusement to their young and restless minds, and every year the difficulty increases. In the fear of God, your first consideration should be for your children. As a Christian mother, your obligations to them are neither light nor small; and in order to fill them properly, you should lay down some of your other burdens, and devote your time and energies to this work. The home of your children should be the most desirable and happy place in the world to them, and the mother's presence should be the greatest attraction.
The power of Satan over the youth of this age is fearful. Unless their minds are firmly balanced by religious principle, their morals will become corrupted by the vicious children with whom they come in contact. You think you understand these things, but you fail to fully comprehend the seducing power of evil upon youthful minds. Their greatest danger is from a lack of proper training and discipline. Indulgent parents do not teach their children self-denial. The very food they place before their children is such as to irritate the tender coats of the stomach. This excitement is communicated to
the brain through the nerves, and the result is that the animal passions are roused and control the moral powers. Reason is thus made a servant to the lower qualities of the mind. Anything which is taken into the stomach and converted into blood becomes a part of the being. Children should not be allowed to eat gross articles of food, such as pork, sausage, spices, rich cakes and pastry; for by so doing their blood becomes fevered, the nervous system unduly excited, and the morals are in danger of being affected. It is impossible for anyone to live intemperately in regard to diet and yet retain a large degree of patience. Our heavenly Father sent the light of health reform to guard against the evils resulting from a debased appetite, that those who love purity and holiness may use with discretion the good things He has provided for them, and by exercising temperance in their daily lives, may be sanctified through the truth.
You are not uniform in your treatment of your children. At times you indulge them to their injury, while at other times you refuse them some innocent gratification that would make them very happy. You turn from them with impatience and scorn their simple requests, forgetting that they can enjoy pleasures that to you seem foolish and childish. You do not stoop from the dignity of your age and station to understand and minister to the wants of your children. In this you fail to imitate Christ. He identified Himself with the lowly, the needy, and the afflicted. He took little children in His arms, and descended to the level of the young. His large heart of love could comprehend their trials and necessities, and He enjoyed their happiness. His spirit, wearied with the bustle and confusion of the crowded city, tired of association with crafty and hypocritical men, found rest and peace in the society of innocent children. His presence never repulsed them. The Majesty of heaven condescended to answer their questions and simplified His important lessons to meet their childish understanding. He planted in their young, expanding minds the seeds of truth that would spring up and produce a plentiful harvest in their riper years.
In these children who were brought to Him that He might bless them He saw the future men and women who should be heirs of His grace and subjects of His kingdom, and some of whom would become martyrs for His name's sake. Certain unsympathizing disciples commanded that the children be taken away, lest they should trouble the Master; but as they were turning away in sadness, Christ rebuked His followers, saying: "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
He knew that these children would listen to His counsel and accept Him as their Redeemer, while those who were worldly-wise and hardhearted would be less likely to follow Him and find a place in the kingdom of God. These little ones, by coming to Christ and receiving His advice and benediction, had His image and His gracious words stamped upon their plastic minds, never to be effaced. We should learn a lesson from this act of Christ, that the hearts of the young are most susceptible to the teachings of Christianity, easy to influence toward piety and virtue, and strong to retain the impressions received. But these tender, youthful ones should be approached with kindness and taught with love and patience.
My sister, bind your children to your heart by affection. Give them proper care and attention in all things. Furnish them with becoming garments, that they may not be mortified by their appearance, for this would be injurious to their self-respect. You have seen that the world is devoted to fashion and dress, neglecting the mind and morals to decorate the person; but in avoiding this evil you verge upon the opposite extreme, and do not pay sufficient attention to your own dress and that of your children. It is always right to be neat and to be clad appropriately in a manner becoming to your age and station in life.
Order and cleanliness is the law of heaven; and in order to come into harmony with the divine arrangement, it is our duty to be neat and tasty. Your ideas upon this subject are perverted. While condemning the extravagance and vanity of the world, you fall into the error of stretching economy
into penuriousness. You deny yourself that which it is right and proper that you should have, and which God has furnished you means to procure. You do not suitably clothe yourself or your children. Our outward appearance should not dishonor the One we profess to follow, but should reflect credit upon His cause.
The apostle says: "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." Your means are given you to use where needed, not to hoard up for destruction in the great conflagration. You are bidden to enjoy the good gifts of the Lord, and should use them for your own comfort, for charitable purposes, and in good works to advance His cause, thereby laying up for yourself treasures in heaven.
Many of your afflictions have been visited upon you, in the wisdom of God, to bring you closer to the throne of grace. He softens and subdues His children by sorrows and trials. This world is God's workshop, where He fashions us for the courts of heaven. He uses the planing knife upon our quivering hearts until the roughness and irregularities are removed and we are fitted for our proper places in the heavenly building. Through tribulation and distress the Christian becomes purified and strengthened, and develops a character after the model that Christ has given. The influence of a true, godly life cannot be measured. It reaches beyond the immediate circle of home and friends, shedding a light that wins souls to Jesus.