Our Saviour represents Himself as a man taking his journey into a far country, who left his house in charge of chosen servants, giving to every man his work. Every Christian has something to do in the service of his Master. We are not to seek our own ease or convenience, but rather to make the upbuilding of Christ's kingdom our first consideration. Unselfish efforts to help and bless our fellow men will not only evince our love for Jesus, but will keep us near Him in dependence and faith, and our own souls will be constantly growing in grace and in a knowledge of the truth.
God has scattered His children in various communities that the light of truth may be kept shining amid the moral darkness that enshrouds the earth. The deeper the darkness around us, the greater the need that our light should shine for God. We may be placed in circumstances of great difficulty and trial, but this does not prove that we are not in the very position assigned us by Providence. Among the Christians at Rome in Paul's day the apostle mentions them "that are of Caesar's household." Nowhere could the moral atmosphere be more unfavorable to Christianity than at that Roman court under the cruel and profligate Nero. Yet those who had, while in the emperor's service, accepted Christ did not feel at liberty, after their conversion, to leave their post of duty. In the face of seductive temptations, fierce opposition, and appalling dangers they were faithful witnesses for Christ.
Whoever will rely wholly upon divine grace may make his life a constant testimony for the truth. No one is so situated that he cannot be a true and faithful Christian. However great the obstacles, all who are determined to obey God will find the way opening as they go forward.
Those who maintain their fidelity to God in the midst of opposing influences are gaining an experience of the highest value. Their strength increases with every obstacle surmounted, every temptation overcome. This fact is often overlooked. When a person has received the truth, mistaken friends fear to expose him to any test or trial, and they immediately endeavor to secure for him an easier position. He goes to some place where all are in harmony with him. But is his spiritual strength increased thereby? In many cases not. He comes to have as little real stamina as a hothouse plant. He ceases to watch; his faith becomes weak; he is neither growing in grace himself nor aiding others.
Do any shrink from maintaining the truth in the midst of unbelief and opposition? I ask them to call to mind the believers in Nero's household; consider the depravity and persecution which they encountered, and gather from their example a lesson of courage, fortitude, and faith.
It may at times be advisable for those who are young in the faith to be withdrawn from great temptations or opposition and to be placed where they can enjoy the care and counsel of experienced Christians. But it should be ever kept before their minds that the Christian life is a constant warfare; that the indulgence of sloth or indolence will be fatal to success.
We should not, after accepting the truth, unite with those who oppose it, nor in any manner place ourselves where it will be difficult for us to live out our faith. But should anyone while thus situated receive the truth, he should weigh the matter carefully before leaving his position. It may be the design of Providence that his influence and example shall bring others to the knowledge of the truth.
Many are connected in family relations with opposers of the faith. These believers are often subjected to great trials, but by divine grace they may glorify God by obedience to the truth.
As servants of Christ we should be faithful in the position where God sees that we can render most efficient service. If opportunities of greater usefulness are presented to us, we should accept them at the Master's bidding, and His approving smile will be upon us. But we should fear to leave our appointed work unless the Lord clearly indicates our duty to serve Him in another field.
Different qualifications are needed for different departments of the work. The carpenter is not fitted to work at the anvil, nor the blacksmith to use the plane. The merchant would be out of place beside the sickbed, and the doctor in the counting room. Those who become weary with the work which God has committed to them, and place themselves in positions where they cannot or will not work, will be accounted slothful servants. "To every man his work." Not one is excused.
Our duty to act as missionaries for God in the very position where He has placed us has been greatly overlooked by us as a people. Many are eagerly turning from present duties and opportunities to some wider field; many imagine that in some other position they would find it less difficult to obey the truth. Our larger churches are looked upon as enjoying great advantages, and there is among our people a growing tendency to leave their special post of duty and move to Battle Creek or to the vicinity of some other large church. This practice not only threatens the prosperity and even the life of our smaller churches, but it is preventing us from doing the very work which God has given us to do, and is destroying our spirituality and usefulness as a people.
From nearly all our churches in Michigan, and, to some extent, from other states, our brethren and sisters have been crowding into Battle Creek. Many of them were efficient helpers in smaller churches, and their removal has greatly weakened those little companies; in some cases the church has thus been completely disorganized.
Have those who moved to Battle Creek proved a help to the church? As the matter was presented before me, I looked to see who were bearing a living testimony for God, who were feeling a burden for the youth, who were visiting from house to house, praying with families and laboring for their spiritual interests. I saw that this work had been neglected. On coming to this large church, many feel that they have no part to act. Hence they fold their hands and shun all responsibility and effort.
There are some who come here merely to secure financial benefit. This class are a heavy burden to the church. They are cumberers of the ground, their unproductive boughs shutting from other trees the glory of heaven's sunlight.
It is not pleasing to God that so many of our ministers should settle at Battle Creek. If their families were scattered in different parts of the field, they might be far more useful. It is true that the minister spends but a short time at home, yet there are many places where that time would be of far greater benefit to the cause of God.
The Lord says to many at Battle Creek: What doest thou here? What account can you render for leaving your appointed work and becoming a hindrance rather than a help to the church?
Brethren, I entreat you to compare your own spiritual state as it now is with what it was when you were actively engaged in the cause of Christ. While helping and encouraging the church you were gaining a useful experience and keeping your own souls in the love of God. As you have ceased to work for others, has not your own love grown cold and your zeal languid? And how is it with your children? Are they more firmly established in the truth and more devoted to God than before coming to this large church?
The influence exerted by some who have long been connected with the work of God is fatal to spirituality and devotion. These gospel-hardened youth have surrounded themselves with an atmosphere of worldliness, irreverence, and infidelity. Dare you risk the effect of such associations upon your children? It would be better for them never to obtain an education than to acquire it at the sacrifice of principle and the blessing of God.
Among the youth who come to Battle Creek there are some who maintain their fidelity to God in the midst of temptation, but the number is small. Many who come here with confidence in the truth, in the Bible, and in religion have been led astray by irreligious associates and have returned to their homes doubting every truth which we as a people hold dear.
Let all our brethren who contemplate removing to Battle Creek, or sending their children here, consider the matter well before taking this step. Unless the forces at this great center are keeping the fort, unless the faith and devotion of the church are proportioned to her privileges and opportunities, this is the most dangerous position which you can choose. I have seen the condition of this church as angels look upon it. There is a spiritual deception upon both the people and the watchmen. They maintain the forms of religion, but lack the abiding principles of righteousness. Unless there is a decided change, a marked transformation in this church, the school here should be removed to some other locality.
Had the youth who have lived here for years improved their privileges, several who are now skeptics would have devoted themselves to the work of the ministry. But they have considered it an evidence of intellectual superiority to doubt the truth and have been proud of their independence in cherishing infidelity. They have done despite to the Spirit of grace and have trampled upon the blood of Christ.
Where are the missionaries who should be raised up at the heart of the work? From twenty to fifty should be sent out from Battle Creek every year to carry the truth to those who sit in darkness. But piety is at so low an ebb, the spirit of devotion is so weak, worldliness and selfishness so prevalent, that the moral atmosphere begets a lethargy fatal to missionary zeal.
We need not go to foreign lands to become missionaries for God. All around us are fields "white already to harvest," and whoever will may gather "fruit unto life eternal." God calls upon many in Battle Creek who are dying of spiritual sloth to go where their labor is needed in His cause. Move out of Battle Creek, even if it requires a pecuniary sacrifice. Go somewhere to be a blessing to others. Go where you can strengthen some weak church. Put to use the powers which God has given you.
Shake off your spiritual lethargy. Work with all your might to save your own souls and the souls of others. It is no time now to cry, "Peace and safety." It is not silver-tongued orators that are needed to give this message. The truth in all its pointed severity must be spoken. Men of action are needed -men who will labor with earnest, ceaseless energy for the purifying of the church and the warning of the world.
A great work is to be accomplished; broader plans must be laid; a voice must go forth to arouse the nations. Men whose faith is weak and wavering are not the ones to carry forward the work at this important crisis. We need the courage of heroes and the faith of martyrs.