Three years ago the Lord gave me a view of things past, present, and future. I saw young men preaching the truth, some of whom, at that time, had not yet received it themselves. They have since taken hold of the truth and are trying to lead others to it. I was shown your case, Brother I. Your past life has not been of a character to lead you away from and above yourself. You are naturally selfish and self-sufficient, having all confidence in your own strength. This will prevent you from acquiring the experience necessary to make you a humble, efficient minister of Christ.
There are many in the field who are in a similar condition. They can present the theory of the truth, but are wanting in true godliness. If the ministers now laboring in the gospel field, yourself included, felt the necessity of daily examination of self and daily communion with God, they would then be in a condition to receive the words from God to be given to the people. Your words and daily life will be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death.
You may intelligently believe the truth, but the work is still before you to bring every action of your life and every emotion of your heart into harmony with your faith. The prayer of Christ for His disciples just prior to His crucifixion was: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." The
influence of the truth should affect not merely the understanding, but the heart and life. Genuine, practical religion will lead its possessor to control his affections. His external conduct should be sanctified through the truth. I assure you before God that you are seriously deficient in practical piety. Ministers should not assume the responsibility of teachers of the people, in imitation of Christ, the great Exemplar, unless they are sanctified to the great work, that they may be ensamples to the flock of God. An unsanctified minister can do incalculable harm. While professing to be the ambassador of Christ, his example will be copied by others; and if he lacks the true characteristics of a Christian, his faults and deficiencies will be reproduced in them.
Men may be able to repeat with fluency the great truths brought out with such thoroughness and perfection in our publications; they may talk fervently and intelligently of the decline of religion in the churches; they may present the gospel standard before the people in a very able manner, while the everyday duties of the Christian life, which require action as well as feeling, are regarded by them as not among the weightier matters. This is your danger. Practical religion asserts its claims alike over the heart, the mind, and the daily life. Our sacred faith does not consist either in feeling or in action merely, but the two must be combined in the Christian life. Practical religion does not exist independent of the operation of the Holy Spirit. You need this agency, my brother, and so do all who enter upon the work of laboring to convince transgressors of their lost condition. This agency of the Spirit of God does not remove from us the necessity of exercising our faculties and talents, but teaches us how to use every power to the glory of God. The human faculties, when under the special direction of the grace of God, are capable of being used to the best purpose on earth, and will be exercised in the future, immortal life.
My brother, I have been shown that you could make a very successful teacher if you would become thoroughly sanctified
to the work, but that you would be a very poor laborer if not thus consecrated. You will not, as did the world's Redeemer, accept the servant's capacity, the laborious part of the gospel preacher's duty; and in this particular there are many as deficient as yourself. They accept their wages with scarcely a thought as to whether they have done most to serve themselves or the cause, whether they have given their time and talents entirely to the work of God, or whether they have only spoken in the desk and devoted the balance of their time to their own interests, inclination, or pleasure.
Christ, the Majesty of heaven, laid aside His robes of royalty and came to this world, all seared and marred by the curse, to teach men how to live a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice, and how to carry out practical religion in their daily lives. He came to give a correct example of a gospel minister. He labored constantly for one object; all His powers were employed for the salvation of men, and every act of His life tended to that end. He traveled on foot, teaching His followers as He went. His garments were dusty and travel-stained, and His appearance was uninviting. But the simple, pointed truths which fell from His divine lips soon caused His hearers to forget His appearance, and to be charmed, not with the man, but with the doctrine He taught. After teaching throughout the entire day, He frequently devoted the night to prayer. He made His supplications to His Father with strong crying and tears. He prayed, not for Himself, but for those whom He came to redeem.
Few ministers pray all night, as did our Saviour, or devote hours in the day to prayer that they may be able ministers of the gospel and effectual in bringing men to see the beauties of the truth and to be saved through the merits of Christ. Daniel prayed three times a day, but many who make the most exalted profession do not humble their souls before God in prayer even once a day. Jesus, the dear Saviour, has given marked lessons in humility to all, but especially to the gospel minister. In His humiliation, when His work upon earth
was nearly finished and He was about to return to His Father's throne whence He had come, with all power in His hands and all glory upon His head, among His last lessons to His disciples was one upon the importance of humility. While His disciples were contending as to who should be greatest in the promised kingdom, He girded Himself as a servant and washed the feet of those who called Him Lord and Master.
His ministry was nearly completed; He had only a few more lessons to impart. And that they might never forget the humility of the pure and spotless Lamb of God, the great and efficacious Sacrifice for man humbled Himself to wash the feet of His disciples. It will do you good, and our ministers generally, to frequently review the closing scenes in the life of our Redeemer. Here, beset with temptations as He was, we may all learn lessons of the utmost importance to us. It would be well to spend a thoughtful hour each day reviewing the life of Christ from the manger to Calvary. We should take it point by point and let the imagination vividly grasp each scene, especially the closing ones of His earthly life. By thus contemplating His teachings and sufferings, and the infinite sacrifice made by Him for the redemption of the race, we may strengthen our faith, quicken our love, and become more deeply imbued with the spirit which sustained our Saviour. If we would be saved at last we must all learn the lesson of penitence and faith at the foot of the cross. Christ suffered humiliation to save us from everlasting disgrace. He consented to have scorn, mockery, and abuse fall upon Him in order to shield us. It was our transgression that gathered the veil of darkness about His divine soul and extorted the cry from Him, as of one smitten and forsaken of God. He bore our sorrows; He was put to grief for our sins. He made Himself an offering for sin, that we might be justified before God through Him. Everything noble and generous in man will respond to the contemplation of Christ upon the cross.
I long to see our ministers dwell more upon the cross of
Christ, their own hearts, meanwhile, softened and subdued by the Saviour's matchless love, which prompted that infinite sacrifice. If, in connection with the theory of the truth, our ministers would dwell more upon practical godliness, speaking from a heart imbued with the spirit of truth, we should see many more souls flocking to the standard of truth; their hearts would be touched by the pleadings of the cross of Christ, the infinite generosity and pity of Jesus in suffering for man. These vital subjects, in connection with the doctrinal points of our faith, would effect much good among the people. But the heart of the teacher must be filled with the experimental knowledge of the love of Christ.
The mighty argument of the cross will convict of sin. The divine love of God for sinners, expressed in the gift of His Son to suffer shame and death that they might be ennobled and endowed with everlasting life, is the study of a lifetime. I ask you to study anew the cross of Christ. If all the proud and vainglorious, whose hearts are panting for the applause of men and for distinction above their fellows, could rightly estimate the value of the highest earthly glory in contrast with the value of the Son of God, rejected, despised, spit upon, by the very ones whom He came to redeem, how insignificant would appear all the honor that finite man can bestow.
Dear brother, you feel, in your imperfect accomplishments, that you are qualified for almost any position. But you have not yet been found sufficient to control yourself. You feel competent to dictate to men of experience, when you should be willing to be led and to place yourself in the position of a learner. The less you meditate upon Christ and His matchless love and the less you are assimilated to His image, the better will you appear in your own eyes, and the more self-confidence and self-complacency will you possess. A correct knowledge of Christ, a constant looking unto the Author and Finisher of our faith, will give you such a view of the character of a true Christian that you cannot fail to make a right estimate of your own life and character in contrast with those of the great
Exemplar. You will then see your own weakness, your ignorance, your love of ease, and your unwillingness to deny self.
You have but just begun the study of God's Holy Word. You have picked up some gems of truth, which, with much toil and many prayers, have been dug up by others; but the Bible is full of them; make that Book your earnest study and the rule of your life. Your danger will ever be in despising counsel and in placing a higher value on yourself than God places upon you. There are many who are always ready to flatter and praise a minister who can talk. A young minister is ever in danger of being petted and applauded to his own injury, while at the same time he may be deficient in the essentials which God requires of everyone who professes to be a mouthpiece for Him. You have merely entered the school of Christ. The fitting up for your work is a life business, a daily, laborious, hand-to-hand struggle with established habits, inclinations, and hereditary tendencies. It requires a constant, earnest, and vigilant effort to watch and control self, to keep Jesus prominent and self out of sight.
It is necessary for you to watch for the weak points in your character, to restrain wrong tendencies, and to strengthen and develop noble faculties that have not been properly exercised. The world will never know the work secretly going on between the soul and God, nor the inward bitterness of spirit, the self-loathing, and the constant efforts to control self; but many of the world will be able to appreciate the result of these efforts. They will see Christ revealed in your daily life. You will be a living epistle, known and read of all men, and will possess a symmetrical character, nobly developed.
"Learn of Me," said Christ; "for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." He will instruct those who come to Him for knowledge. There are multitudes of false teachers in the world. The apostle declares that in the last days men will "heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears," because they desire to hear smooth things. Against these Christ has warned us: "Beware of false prophets, which
come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." The class of religious teachers here described profess to be Christians. They have the form of godliness and appear to be laboring for the good of souls, while they are at heart avaricious, selfish, ease-loving, following the promptings of their own unconsecrated hearts. They are in conflict with Christ and His teachings, and are destitute of His meek and lowly spirit.
The preacher who bears the sacred truth for these last days must be the opposite of all this and, by his life of practical godliness, plainly mark the distinction existing between the false and the true shepherd. The Good Shepherd came to seek and to save that which was lost. He has manifested in His works His love for His sheep. All the shepherds who work under the Chief Shepherd will possess His characteristics; they will be meek and lowly of heart. Childlike faith brings rest to the soul and also works by love and is ever interested for others. If the Spirit of Christ dwells in them, they will be Christlike and do the works of Christ. Many who profess to be the ministers of Christ have mistaken their master. They claim to be serving Christ and are not aware that it is Satan's banner under which they are rallying. They may be worldly wise and eager for strife and vainglory, making a show of doing a great work; but God has no use for them. The motives which prompt to action give character to the work. Although men may not discern the deficiency, God marks it.
The letter of the truth may convince some souls who will take firm hold of the faith and be saved at last; but the selfish preacher who presented the truth to them will have no credit with God for their conversion. He will be judged for his unfaithfulness while professing to be a watchman on the walls of Zion. Pride of heart is a fearful trait of character. Pride goeth before destruction." This is true in the family, the church, and the nation. As when He was upon earth, the Saviour of the world is choosing plain, uneducated men and teaching them to carry His truth, beautiful in its simplicity, to
the world and especially to the poor. The Chief Shepherd will collect the undershepherds with Himself. He does not design that these unlearned men should remain ignorant while pursuing their labor, but that they shall receive knowledge from Himself, the Source of all knowledge, light, and power.
It is the absence of the Holy Spirit and of the grace of God that makes the gospel ministry so powerless to convict and convert. After the ascension of Jesus, doctors, lawyers, priests, rulers, scribes, and theologians listened with astonishment to words of wisdom and power from unlearned and humble men. These wise men marveled at the success of the lowly disciples, and finally accounted for it to their own satisfaction from the fact that they had been with Jesus and learned of Him. Their character and the simplicity of their teachings were similar to the character and teachings of Christ. The apostle describes it in these words: "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence."
Those who teach unpopular truth today must have power from on high to combine with their doctrine, or their efforts will be of little account. The precious grace of humility is sadly wanting in the ministry and the church. Men who preach the truth think too highly of their own abilities. True humility will lead a man to exalt Christ and the truth, and to realize his utter dependence upon the God of truth. It is painful to learn lessons of humility, yet nothing is more beneficial in the end. The pain attendant upon learning lessons of humility is in consequence of our being elated by a false estimate of ourselves, so that we are unable to see our great need. Vanity and pride fill the hearts of men. God's grace alone can work a reformation.
It is your work, my brother, to humble yourself and not wait for God to humble you. God's hand at times bears heavily
upon men to humble them and bring them into a proper position before Him; but how much better it is to keep the heart daily humbled before God. We can abase ourselves, or we can build ourselves up in pride and wait till God abases us. Ministers of the gospel suffer little for the truth's sake today. If they were persecuted, as were the apostles of Christ, and as were holy men of God in later times, there would be a pressing closer to the side of Christ, and this closer connection with the Saviour would make their words a power in the land. Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He endured the persecutions and contradiction of sinners; He was poor, and suffered hunger and fatigue; He was tempted by the devil, and His works and teachings called forth the bitterest hatred. Of what do we deny ourselves for Christ's sake? Where is our devotion to the truth? We shun the things which do not please us, and avoid care and responsibilities. Can we expect the power of God to work with our efforts when we have so little consecration to the work?
My brother, I was shown that your standard of piety is not high. You need to have a deeper sense of your responsibility to God and to society. Then you will not feel satisfied with yourself, nor will you try to excuse yourself by pointing to the deficiencies of others. You have not so thorough a knowledge of the truth that you should relax your efforts to qualify yourself to instruct others. You need to have a new conversion in order to become an able, devoted minister of the gospel, a man of piety and holiness. If you should devote all your energies to the cause of God, you would give none too much. It is a lame offering at best that any of us can make. If you are continually reaching out after God, and seeking a deeper consecration to Him, you will be gathering new ideas from searching the Scriptures for yourself.
In order to comprehend the truth, you should discipline and train the mind, and seek continually to possess the graces of genuine piety. You scarcely know what this is now. When Christ is in you, you will have something more than a theory
of the truth. You will not only be repeating the lessons Christ gave when upon the earth, but you will be educating others by your life of self-denial and devotion to the cause of God. Your life will be a living sermon, possessing greater power than any discourse given in the desk.
You need to cultivate in yourself that unselfish spirit, that self-denying grace and pure devotion, which you wish to see others carry out in their lives. In order to continually increase in spiritual intelligence, and to become more and more efficient, you need to cultivate habits of usefulness in the minor duties lying in your pathway. You must not wait for opportunities to do a great work, but seize the first chance to prove yourself faithful in that which is least, and you may thus work your way up from one position of trust to another. You will be apt to think you are not deficient in knowledge, and will be inclined to neglect secret prayer, watchfulness, and a careful study of the Scriptures, and will in consequence be overcome by the enemy. Your ways may appear perfect in your own eyes, while in reality you may be very defective. You have no time to parley with the adversary of souls. Now is the time to take your stand and disappoint the enemy. You need to criticize yourself closely and jealously. You will be inclined to set up your opinion as a standard, irrespective of the opinions and judgment of men of experience, whom God has used to advance His cause. Young men in the ministry now know but little of hardships; and many will fail of becoming as useful as they might, for the very reason that things are made too easy for them.
You have responsibilities in your family which you think you understand, but you know little about them as you ought to know. You have many things to unlearn which you have prided yourself on knowing. I was shown that you had gathered up ideas that you take for verity and truth, which are directly opposed to the Bible. Paul had these things to meet and to contend with in young ministers of his day. You have been too ready to accept as light the sayings and positions of
men, but be careful how you advance your ideas as Bible truth. Be careful of your steps. I had hoped that such a reformation had taken place in your life that I should never be called upon to write these words.
You have a duty to do at home which you cannot shun and yet be true to God and to your God-given trust. That which I now refer to has not been shown me definitely in your case, but in hundreds of similar cases; therefore when I see you falling into the same error into which many parents in this age of the world are falling I cannot excuse your neglect of duty. You have one child, one soul committed to your trust. But when you show such manifest weakness and lack of wisdom in training this one child, following your ideas rather than the Bible rule, how can you be trusted to teach and manage matters where the eternal interests of many are involved?
I address myself to both yourself and your wife. My position in the cause and work of God demands of me an expression in matters of discipline. Your example in your own domestic affairs will do a great injury to the cause of God. The gospel field is the world. You wish to sow the field with gospel truth, waiting for God to water the seed sown that it may bring forth fruit. You have entrusted to you a little plot of ground, but your own dooryard is left to grow up with brambles and thorns, while you are engaged in weeding others' gardens. This is not a small work, but one of great moment. You are preaching the gospel to others; practice it yourself at home. You are indulging the whims and passions of a perverse child, and by so doing are cultivating traits of character which God hates and which make the child unhappy. Satan takes advantage of your neglect, and he controls the mind. You have a work to do to show that you understand the duties devolving upon a Christian father in molding the character of your child after the divine Pattern. Had you commenced this work in her infancy, it would be easy now, and the child would be far happier. But under your discipline the will and perversity of the child have all the while been strengthening.
Now it will require greater severity, and more constant, persevering effort, to undo what you have been doing. If you cannot manage one little child that it is your special duty to control, you will be deficient in wisdom in managing the spiritual interests of the church of Christ.
There are errors lying at the very foundation of your experience that must be rooted out, and you must become a learner in the school of Christ. Open your eyes to discern where the difficulty lies, and then make haste to repent of these things and begin to work from a correct standpoint. Labor not in self, but in God. Put away pride, self-exaltation, and vanity, and learn of Christ the sweet lessons of the cross. You must give yourself unreservedly to the work. Be a living sacrifice upon the altar of God.
If the child of a minister manifests passion, and is indulged in nearly all its wants, it has an influence to counteract the testimonies God has given me for parents in regard to the proper management of their children. You are going directly contrary to the light that God has been pleased to give, and are choosing a picked-up theory of your own. But this experiment, so directly in opposition to the instructions of the word of God, must not be carried out to the injury of the very ones whom God would have us instruct in reference to the training of their children.
Your interest should not be swallowed up in your own family to the exclusion of others. If you share the hospitalities of your brethren, they may reasonably expect something in return. Identify your interests with those of parents and children, and seek to instruct and bless. Sanctify yourself to the work of God and be a blessing to those who entertain you, conversing with parents and in no case overlooking the children. Do not feel that your own little one is more precious in the sight of God than other children. You are liable to neglect others while petting and indulging your little one, and this very child gives evidence of your deficient management. She is guilty of acts of disobedience and passion as many times in a day as her will
is crossed. What an influence is this to bring to bear upon families whom God is seeking to instruct and to reform from lax ideas in regard to discipline!
In your blind and foolish fondness you have both surrendered to your child. You have allowed her to hold the reins in her tiny fists, and she ruled you both before she was able to walk. What can be expected of the future in view of the past? Let not the example of this indulged and petted child give lessons which will testify against you, and which the judgment will show have resulted in the loss of scores of children. If men and women accept you as a teacher from God, will they not be inclined to follow your pernicious example in the indulgence of their children? Will not the sin of Eli be yours? and will not the retribution that fell on him fall on you? Your child will never see the kingdom of God with her present habits and disposition. And you, her parents, will be the ones who have closed the gates of heaven before her. How, then, will it stand in regard to your own salvation? Remember that you will reap what you sow.