Dear Brethren and Sisters Who Shall Assemble at the Michigan Camp Meeting: [THIS APPEAL WAS WRITTEN FOR THE MICHIGAN CAMP MEETING, BUT BEING FORGOTTEN AT THAT TIME, WAS READ BEFORE THE GENERAL CONFERENCE, DECEMBER, 1881.]
I feel a deeper interest in this meeting than in any other that has been held this season. Michigan has not had the labor which she should have had. God has planted important institutions among you, and this brings upon you greater responsibilities than upon any other conference in the whole field. Great light has been given you, and few have responded to it; yet my heart goes out in tender solicitude for our beloved people in Michigan. The warning that the Son of man is soon to come in the clouds of heaven has become to many a familiar tale. They have left the waiting, watching position. The selfish, worldly spirit manifested in the life reveals the sentiment of the heart, "My Lord delayeth His coming." Some are enveloped in so great darkness that they openly express their unbelief, notwithstanding our Saviour's declaration that all such are unfaithful servants and their portion shall be with hypocrites and unbelievers.
Our ministers are not doing their whole duty. The attention of the people should be called to the momentous event which is so near at hand. The signs of the times should be kept fresh before their minds. The prophetic visions of Daniel and John foretell a period of moral darkness and declension; but at the time of the end, the time in which we are now living, the vision was to speak and not lie. When the signs predicted begin to come to pass, the waiting, watching ones are bidden to look up and lift up their heads and rejoice because their redemption draweth nigh.
When these things are dwelt upon as they should be, scoffers will be developed who walk after their own lusts, saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." But "when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them." "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." Thank God, all will not be rocked to sleep in the cradle of carnal security. There will be faithful ones who will discern the signs of the times. While a large number professing present truth will deny their faith by their works, there will be some who will endure unto the end.
The same spirit of selfishness, of conformity to the practices of the world, exists in our day as in Noah's. Many who profess to be children of God follow their worldly pursuits with an intensity that gives the lie to their profession. They will be planting and building, buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the last moment of their probation. This is the condition of a large number of our own people. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. To but few can it be said: "Ye are all ... the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness."
My soul is burdened as I see the great want of spirituality among us. The fashions and customs of the world, pride, love of amusement, love of display, extravagance in dress, in houses, in lands--these are robbing the treasury of God, turning to the gratification of self the means which should be used to send forth the light of truth to the world. Selfish purposes are made the first consideration. The work of qualifying men to labor for the salvation of souls is not considered of so great consequence as worldly enterprises. Souls are perishing for want of knowledge. Those who have had the light of present truth, and yet feel no spirit of labor to warn their fellow men of the coming judgment, must give an account to God for their neglect of duty. The blood of souls will be upon their garments.
The old standard-bearers are fainting and falling. Our young men have not been educated to feel their accountability to God; little inducement is presented for them to labor in the cause, and they enter the fields that promise the largest remuneration with the least toil and responsibility. As a people we are not advancing in spirituality as we near the end. We do not realize the magnitude and importance of the work before us. Hence our plans are not becoming wider and more comprehensive. There is a sad lack of men and women prepared to carry forward the increasing work for this time.
We are not doing one-twentieth part of what God requires us to do. There has been a departure from the simplicity of the work, making it intricate, difficult to understand, and difficult to execute. The judgment and wisdom of man rather than of God has too often guided and controlled. Many feel that they have not time to watch for souls as they that must give account. And what excuse will they render for this neglect of the important work which was theirs to do?
At our college young men should be educated in as careful and thorough a manner as possible that they may be prepared to labor for God. This was the object for which the institution was brought into existence. Our brethren abroad should feel an interest not only to sustain but to guard the college, that it may not be turned away from its design and be molded after other institutions of the kind. The religious interest should be constantly guarded. Time is drawing to a close. Eternity is near. The great harvest is to be gathered. What are we doing to prepare for this work?
The leading men in our college should be men of piety and devotion. They should make the Bible the rule and guide of life, giving heed to the sure word of prophecy as to "a light that shineth in a dark place." Not one of us should dare to be off guard for a moment, for "in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." It is only those who continue faithful in well-doing that shall reap the reward. Much that has no part in Christ is allowed a place among us. Unconsecrated ministers, professors, and teachers assist Satan to plant his banner in our very strongholds.
The design of our college has been stated again and again, yet many are so blinded by the god of this world that its real object is not understood. God designed that young men should there be drawn to Him, that they should there obtain a preparation to preach the gospel of Christ, to bring out of the exhaustless treasury of God's word things both new and old for the instruction and edification of the people. Teachers and professors should have a vivid sense of the perils of this time and the work that must be accomplished to prepare a people to stand in the day of God.
Some of the teachers have been scattering from Christ instead of gathering with Him. By their own example they lead those under their charge to adopt the customs and habits of worldlings. They link the hands of the students with fashionable, amusement-loving unbelievers, and carry them an advance step toward the world and away from Christ. And they do this in the face of warnings from heaven, not only those given to the people in general, but personal appeals to themselves. The anger of the Lord is kindled for these things.
God will test the fidelity of His people. Many of the mistakes that are made by the professed servants of God are in consequence of their self-love, their desire for approval, their thirst for popularity. Blinded in this manner, they do not realize that they are elements of darkness rather than of light. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." These are the conditions upon which we may be acknowledged as the sons of God-- separation from the world, and renunciation of those things which delude, and fascinate, and ensnare.
The apostle Paul declares that it is impossible for the children of God to unite with worldlings: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." This does not refer to marriage alone; any intimate relation of confidence and copartnership with those who have no love for God or the truth is a snare.
The apostle continues: "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said: I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." In consideration of these facts, he exclaims: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate." Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
If we comply with the conditions, the Lord will fulfill to us His promises. But there is a work for us to do which we should in no wise neglect. In the strength of Jesus we can perform it aright. We may press ever onward and upward, constantly growing in grace and in a knowledge of the truth.
The children of the light and of the day are not to gather about them the shades of night and darkness which encompass the workers of iniquity. On the contrary, they are to stand faithfully at their post of duty as light bearers, gathering light from God to shed upon those in darkness. The Lord requires His people to maintain their integrity, touching not--that is, imitating not--the practices of the ungodly.
Christians will be in this world "an holy nation, a peculiar people," showing forth the praises of Him who hath called them "out of darkness into His marvelous light." This light is not to grow dim, but to shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. Christ's standard-bearers are never to be off duty. They have a vigilant foe who is waiting and watching to take the fort. Some of Christ's professed watchmen have invited the enemy into their stronghold, have mingled with them, and in their efforts to please have broken down the distinction between the children of God and the children of Satan.
The Lord never designed that our college should imitate other institutions of learning. The religious element should be the controlling power. If unbelievers choose this influence, it is well; if those who are in darkness choose to the light, it is as God would have it. But to relax our vigilance, and let the worldly element take the lead in order to secure students, is contrary to the will of God. The strength of our college is in keeping the religious element in the ascendancy. When teachers or professors shall sacrifice religious principle to please a worldly, amusement-loving class, they should be considered unfaithful to their trust and should be discharged.
The thrilling truth that has been sounding in our ears for many years, "The Lord is at hand; be ye also ready," is no less the truth today than when we first heard the message. The dearest interests of the church and people of God, and the destiny of an impenitent and ungodly world, for time and for eternity, are here involved. We are all judgment bound. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain [unto the coming of the Lord] shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Christ will then be revealed from heaven, "taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel."
These momentous events are nigh at hand, yet many who profess to believe the truth are asleep. They will surely be numbered with the unfaithful servant who saith in his heart, "My Lord delayeth His coming," if they remain in their present position of friendship with the world. It is only to those who are waiting in hope and faith that Christ will appear, without sin unto salvation. Many have the theory of the truth who know not the power of godliness. If the word of God dwelt in the heart, it would control the life. Faith, purity, and conformity to the will of God would testify to its sanctifying power.
Responsibility of Ministers
A solemn responsibility rests upon the watchmen. How careful should they be rightly to understand and explain the word of God. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein." Says the prophet Ezekiel: The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
The responsibility of the watchmen of today is as much greater than in the days of the prophet as our light is clearer and our privileges and opportunities greater than theirs. It is the minister's duty to warn every man, to teach every man, in all meekness and wisdom. He is not to conform to the practices of the world, but, as God's servant, he must contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Satan is constantly at work to break down the strongholds which debar him from free access to souls; and, while our ministers are no more spiritually minded, while they do not connect closely with God, the enemy has great advantage, and the Lord holds the watchman accountable for his success.
I would, at this time, sound the note of warning to those who shall assemble at our camp meeting. The end of all things is at hand. My brethren, ministers and laymen, I have been shown you must work in a different manner from what you have been in the habit of working. Pride, envy, self-importance, and unsanctified independence have marred your labors. When men permit themselves to be flattered and exalted by Satan, the Lord can do little for them or through them. To what unmeasured humiliation did the Son of man descend, that He might elevate humanity! Workers for God, not the ministers only, but the people, need the meekness and lowliness of Christ if they would benefit their fellow men. As God, our Saviour humbled Himself when He took upon Him man's nature. But He went lower still. As a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Would that I could find language wherewith to present these thoughts before you. Would that the veil could be rent away and you could see the cause of your spiritual weakness. Would that you could conceive of the rich supplies of grace and power awaiting your demand. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. We must exercise greater faith in calling upon God for all needed blessings. We must strive, agonize, to enter in at the strait gate.
Says Christ: "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." I testify to you, my dear brethren, ministers, and people, you have not yet learned this lesson. Christ endured shame and agony and death for us. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Bear reproach and abuse without retaliation, without a spirit of revenge. Jesus died, not only to make atonement for us, but to be our pattern. Oh, wondrous condescension! matchless love! As you look upon the Prince of Life upon the cross, can you cherish selfishness? Can you indulge hatred or revenge?
Let the proud spirit bow in humiliation. Let the hard heart be broken. No longer pet and pity and exalt self. Look, oh look upon Him whom our sins have pierced. See Him descending step by step the path of humiliation to lift us up; abasing Himself till He could go no lower, and all to save us who were fallen by sin! Why will we be so indifferent, so cold, so formal, so proud, so self-sufficient?
Who of us is faithfully following the Pattern? Who of us has instituted and continued the warfare against pride of heart? Who of us has, in good earnest, brought himself to wrestle with selfishness until it should no longer dwell in the heart and be revealed in the life? Would to God the lessons given us, as we view the cross of Christ and see the signs fulfilling which bring us near to the judgment, might be so impressed upon our hearts as to render us more humble, more self-denying, more kind to one another, less self-caring, less critical, and more willing to bear one another's burdens than we are today.
I have been shown that, as a people, we are departing from the simplicity of the faith and from the purity of the gospel. Many are in great peril. Unless they change their course, they will be severed from the True Vine as useless branches. Brethren and sisters, I have been shown that we are standing upon the threshold of the eternal world. We need now to gain victories at every step. Every good deed is as a seed sown, to bear fruit unto eternal life. Every success gained places us on a higher round of the ladder of progress and gives us spiritual strength for fresh victories. Every right action prepares the way for its repetition.
Some are closing their probation; and is it well with them? have they obtained a fitness for the future life? Will not their record show wasted opportunities, neglected privileges, a life of selfishness and worldliness that has borne no fruit to the glory of God? And how much of the work which the Master has left for us to do has been left undone. All around us are souls to be warned; but how often has the time been occupied in self-serving, and the record gone up to God of souls passing to their graves unwarned and unsaved.
The Lord still has purposes of mercy toward us. There is room for repentance. We may become the beloved of God. I entreat you who have put far off the appearing of our Lord, commence now the work of redeeming the time. Study the word of God. Let all at this meeting make a covenant with God to put away light and trifling conversation and frivolous, unimportant reading, and, for the coming year, diligently and prayerfully study the Bible, that you may be able to give to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is within you, with meekness and fear. Will you not, without delay, humble your hearts before God and repent of your backslidings?
Let none entertain the thought that I regret or take back any plain testimony I have borne to individuals or to the people. If I have erred anywhere, it is in not rebuking sin more decidedly and firmly. Some of the brethren have taken the responsibility of criticizing my work and proposing an easier way to correct wrongs. To these persons I would say: I take God's way and not yours. What I have said or written in testimony or reproof has not been too plainly expressed.
God has given me my work, and I must meet it at the judgment. Those who have chosen their own way, who have risen up against the plain testimonies given them, and have sought to shake the faith of others in them, must settle the matter with God. I take back nothing. I soften nothing to suit their ideas or to excuse their defects of character. I have not spoken as plainly as the case required. Those who would in any way lessen the force of the sharp reproofs which God has given me to speak, must meet their work at the judgment.
Within a few weeks past, standing face to face with death, I have had a near look into eternity. If the Lord is pleased to raise me from my present state of feebleness, I hope, in the grace and strength that comes from above, to speak with fidelity the words which He gives me to speak. All through my life it has been terribly hard for me to hurt the feelings of any, or disturb their self-deception, as I deliver the testimonies given me of God. It is contrary to my nature. It costs me great pain and many sleepless nights. To those who have taken the responsibility to reprove me and, in their finite judgment, to propose a way which appears wiser to them, I repeat: I do not accept your efforts. Leave me with God, and let Him teach me. I will take the words from the Lord and speak them to the people. I do not expect that all will accept the reproof and reform their lives, but I must discharge my duty all the same. I will walk in humility before God, doing my work for time and for eternity.
God has not given my brethren the work that He has given me. It has been urged that my manner of giving reproof in public has led others to be sharp and critical and severe. If so, they must settle that matter with the Lord. If others take a responsibility which God has not laid upon them; if they disregard the instructions He has given them again and again through the humble instrument of His choice, to be kind, patient, and forbearing, they alone must answer for the results. With a sorrow-burdened heart, I have performed my unpleasant duty to my dearest friends, not daring to please myself by withholding reproof, even from my husband; and I shall not be less faithful in warning others, whether they will hear or forbear. When I am speaking to the people I say much that I have not premeditated. The Spirit of the Lord frequently comes upon me. I seem to be carried out of, and away from, myself; the life and character of different persons are clearly presented before my mind. I see their errors and dangers, and feel compelled to speak of what is thus brought before me. I dare not resist the Spirit of God.
I know that some are displeased with my testimony. It does not suit their proud, unconsecrated hearts. I feel more and more deeply the loss which our people have sustained by their failure to accept and obey the light which God has given them. My younger brethren in the ministry, I entreat you to reflect more upon your solemn responsibility. If consecrated to God, you may exert a powerful influence for good in the church and the world; but you lack heartfelt piety and devotion. God has sent you to be a light to the world by your good works as well as by your words and theories. But many of you may truly be represented by the foolish virgins, who had no oil in their lamps.
My brethren, heed the reproof and counsel of the True Witness, and God will work for you and with you. Your enemies may be strong and determined, but One mightier than they will be your helper. Let the light shine, and it will do its work. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.