November 23, 1879, some things were shown me in reference to the institutions among us and the duties and dangers of those who occupy a leading position in connection with them. I saw that these men have been raised up to do a special work as God's instruments, to be led, guided, and controlled
by His Spirit. They are to answer the claims of God and never to feel that they are their own property and that they can employ their powers as they shall deem most profitable to themselves. Although it is their purpose to be and to do right, yet they will most surely err unless they are constant learners in the school of Christ. Their only safety is in humbly walking with God.
Dangers beset every path, and he who comes off conqueror will indeed have a triumphant song to sing in the city of God. Some have strong traits of character that will need to be constantly repressed. If kept under the control of the Spirit of God, these traits will be a blessing; but if not, they will prove a curse. If those who are now riding upon the wave of popularity do not become giddy, it will be a miracle of mercy. If they lean to their own wisdom, as so many thus situated have done, their wisdom will prove to be foolishness. But while they shall give themselves unselfishly to the work of God, never swerving in the least from principle, the Lord will throw about them the everlasting arm and will prove to them a mighty helper. "Them that honor Me, I will honor."
This is a dangerous age for any man who has talents which can be of value in the work of God; for Satan is constantly plying his temptations upon such a person, ever trying to fill him with pride and ambition; and when God would use him, it is too often the case that he becomes independent and self-sufficient, and feels capable of standing alone. This will be your danger, brethren, unless you live a life of constant faith and prayer. You may have a deep and abiding sense of eternal things and that love for humanity which Christ has shown in His life. A close connection with heaven will give the right tone to your fidelity and will be the ground of your success. Your feeling of dependence will drive you to prayer, and your sense of duty summon you to effort. Prayer and effort, effort and prayer, will be the business of your life. You must pray as though the efficiency and praise were all due to God, and labor as though duty were all your own. If you want power
you may have it; it is waiting your draft upon it. Only believe in God, take Him at His word, act by faith, and blessings will come.
In this matter, genius, logic, and eloquence will not avail. Those who have a humble, trusting, contrite heart, God accepts, and hears their prayer; and when God helps, all obstacles will be overcome. How many men of great natural abilities and high scholarships have failed when placed in positions of responsibility, while those of feebler intellect, with less favorable surroundings, have been wonderfully successful. The secret was: The former trusted to themselves, while the latter united with Him who is wonderful in counsel and mighty in working to accomplish what He will.
Their work being always urgent, it is difficult for some to secure time for meditation and prayer; but this they should not fail to do. The blessing of heaven, obtained by daily supplication, will be as the bread of life to the soul and will cause them to increase in moral and spiritual strength, like a tree planted by the river of waters, whose leaf will be always green and whose fruit will appear in due time.
Some have made a serious mistake in neglecting to attend the public worship of God. The privileges of divine service will be as beneficial to them as to others, and are fully as essential. They may be unable to avail themselves of these privileges as often as do many others. Physicians will frequently be called upon the Sabbath to visit the sick and may be obliged to make it a day of exhausting labor. Such labor to relieve the suffering was pronounced by our Saviour a work of mercy and no violation of the Sabbath. But those who regularly devote their Sabbaths to writing or labor, making no special change, harm their own souls, give to others an example that is not worthy of imitation, and do not honor God.
Some have failed to see the real importance, not only of attending religious meetings, but also of bearing testimony for Christ and the truth. If these brethren do not obtain spiritual strength by the faithful performance of every Christian
duty, thus coming into a closer and more sacred relation to their Redeemer, they will become weak in moral power. They will surely wither spiritually unless they change their course in this respect.
The men who have been placed in charge of our institutions occupy important and responsible positions. They cannot well be spared from their post of duty, yet they should not feel that they are indispensable. God could do without them, but they cannot do without God. These men should endeavor to work in harmony. If he fills his position honorably, each must guard the financial interests of the institution committed to his care. But these men should be exceedingly cautious that they look not alone on their own branch of the work and labor for their own department to the injury of other branches of equal importance.
Brethren, you are in danger of making grave mistakes in your business transactions. God warns you to be on your guard lest you indulge a spirit of crowding one another. Be careful not to cultivate the sharper's tact, for this will not stand the test of the day of God. Shrewdness and close calculation are needed, for you have all classes to deal with; you must guard the interests of our institutions, or thousands of dollars will go into the hands of dishonest men. But let not these traits become a ruling power. Under proper control, they are essential elements in the character; and if you keep the fear of God before you, and His love in the heart, you will be safe.
It is far better to yield some advantages that might be gained than to cultivate an avaricious spirit and thus make it a law of nature. Petty sharpness is unworthy of a Christian. We have been separated from the world by the great cleaver of truth. Our wrong traits of character are not always visible to ourselves, although they may be very apparent to others. But time and circumstances will surely prove us and bring to light the gold of character or discover the baser metal. Not one of us is known or read of all men, till the crucible of God tests us. Every base thought, every wrong action, reveals some
defect in the character. These rugged traits must be brought under the chisel and hammer in God's great workshop, and the grace of God must smooth and polish before we can be fitted for a place in the glorious temple.
God can make these brethren more precious than fine gold, even the golden wedge of Ophir, if they will yield themselves to His transforming hand. They should be determined to make the noblest use of every faculty and every opportunity. The word of God should be their study and their guide in deciding what is the highest and best in all cases. The one faultless character, the perfect Pattern set before them in the gospel, should be studied with deepest interest. The one lesson most essential for them to learn is that goodness alone gives true greatness. May God deliver us from the philosophy of worldly-wise men. Their only hope is in becoming fools, that they may be wise indeed.
The weakest follower of Christ has entered into alliance with infinite power. In many cases God can do little with men of learning because they feel no need of leaning upon Him who is the Source of all wisdom; therefore, after a trial, He sets them aside for men of inferior talent who have learned to rely upon Him, whose souls are fortified by goodness, truth, and unwavering fidelity, and who will not stoop to anything that will leave a stain upon the conscience.
Brethren, if you connect your souls with God by living faith, He will make you men of power. If you trust to your own strength and wisdom, you will surely fail. It is not pleasing to God that you take so little interest in religious service. You are representative men, and as such, you exert a wider influence than persons in less prominent positions. You should ever seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. You should be active, interested workers in the church, cultivating your religious faculties, and keeping your own souls in the love of God. The Lord has claims upon you in this matter that you cannot lightly disregard; you must either grow in grace or be dwarfed and crippled in spiritual
things. It is not only your privilege but your duty to bear testimony for Christ when and where you can; and by exercising the mind in this way, you will cultivate a love for sacred things.
We are in danger of regarding Christ's ministers simply as men, not recognizing them as representatives of Him. All personal considerations should be laid aside; we must listen for the word of God through His ambassadors. Christ is ever sending messages to those who listen for His voice. On the night of our Saviour's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane the sleeping disciples heard not the voice of Jesus; they had a dim sense of the angel's presence, but lost the power and glory of the scene by drowsiness and stupor, and thus failed to receive the evidence which would have strengthened their souls for the terrible scenes before them. Thus the very men who most need divine instruction often fail to receive it because they do not place themselves in communication with heaven. Satan is ever seeking to impress and control the mind, and none of us are safe except as we have a constant connection with God. We must momentarily receive supplies from heaven, and if we would be kept by the power of God we must be obedient to all His requirements.
The condition of your bearing fruit is that you abide in the living Vine. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
All your good purposes and good intentions will not enable you to withstand the test of temptation. You must be men of prayer. Your petitions must be not faint, occasional, and fitful, but earnest, persevering, and constant. It is not necessary to be alone, or to bow upon your knees, to pray; but in
the midst of your labor your souls may be often uplifted to God, taking hold upon His strength; then you will be men of high and holy purpose, of noble integrity, who will not for any consideration be swayed from truth, right, and justice.
You are pressed with urgent cares, burdens, and duties; but the greater the pressure upon you, and the heavier the burdens you have to bear, the greater your need of divine aid. Jesus will be your helper You need constantly the light of life to lighten your own pathway, and then its divine rays will reflect upon others. The work of God is a perfect whole, because perfect in all its parts. It is the conscientious attention to what the world calls little things that makes the great beauty and success of life. Little deeds of charity, little words of kindness, little acts of self-denial, a wise improvement of little opportunities, a diligent cultivation of little talents, make great men in God's sight. If those little things be faithfully attended to, if these graces be in you, and abound, they will make you perfect in every good work.
It is not enough to be willing to give liberally of your means to the cause of God. He calls for an unreserved consecration of all your powers. Withholding yourselves has been the mistake of your life. You may think it very difficult in your position to maintain a close connection with God, but your work will be tenfold harder if you fail to do this. Satan will beset your path with his temptations, and it is only through Christ that you can gain the victory. The same indomitable will that gives success in intellectual pursuits is essential in the Christian course. You must be representatives of Jesus Christ. Your energy and perseverance in perfecting a Christian character should be as much greater than that displayed in any other pursuit as the things of eternity are of more importance than temporal affairs.
If you ever achieve success in the Christian life you must resolve that you will be men after God's own heart. The Lord wants your influence to be exerted in the church and in the world to elevate the standard of Christianity. True Christian
character should be marked by firmness of purpose, an indomitable determination, which cannot be molded or subdued by earth or hell. He who is not blind to the attraction of worldly honors, indifferent to threats, and unmoved by allurements will be, all unexpectedly to himself, overthrown by Satan's devices.
God calls for complete and entire consecration, and anything short of this He will not accept. The more difficult your position the more you need Jesus. The love and fear of God kept Joseph pure and untarnished in the king's court. He was exalted to great wealth, to the high honor of being next to the king; and this elevation was as sudden as it was great. It is impossible to stand upon a lofty height without danger. The tempest leaves unharmed the modest flower of the valley, while it wrestles with the lofty tree upon the mountaintop. There are many men whom God could have used with wonderful success when pressed with poverty,-- He could have made them useful here, and crowned them with glory hereafter,-- but prosperity ruined them; they were dragged down to the pit because they forgot to be humble, forgot that God was their strength, and became independent and self-sufficient.
Joseph bore the test of character in adversity, and the gold was undimmed by prosperity. He showed the same sacred regard for God's will when he stood next the throne as when in a prisoner's cell. Joseph carried his religion everywhere, and this was the secret of his unwavering fidelity. As representative men you must have the all-pervading power of true godliness. I tell you, in the fear of God, your path is beset by dangers which you do not see and do not realize. You must hide in Jesus. You are unsafe unless you hold the hand of Christ. You must guard against everything like presumption and cherish that spirit that would suffer rather than sin. No victory you can gain will be so precious as that gained over self.