I have been shown that the youth of today have no true sense of their great danger. There are many of the young whom God would accept as laborers in the various branches of His work, but Satan steps in and so entangles them in his web that they become estranged from God and powerless in His work. Satan is a sharp and persevering workman. He knows just how to entrap the unwary, and it is an alarming fact that but few succeed in escaping from his wiles. They see no danger and do not guard against his devices. He prompts them to fasten their affections upon one another without seeking wisdom of God or of those whom He has sent to warn, reprove, and counsel. They feel self-sufficient and will not bear restraint.
Your own case, Brother -----, is a forcible illustration of this. You have become infatuated with the thought of marriage. As is generally the case with those who have their minds directed in this channel, the warnings of the servants of God have but little influence upon you. I have been shown how easily you are affected by surrounding influences. Should you connect with associates whose minds are cast in an inferior mold, you would become like them. Unless the love and fear of God were before you, their thoughts would be your thoughts; if they lacked reverence, you also would be come irreverent, if they were frivolous and given to pleasure seeking, you would follow in the same path with a zeal and perseverance worthy of a better cause.
The young lady upon whom you have placed your affections has not depth of thought or character. Her life has been frivolous, and her mind is narrow and superficial. Yet you have steadily refused to be cautioned by your father, your loving sister, or by your friends in the church. I came to you as Christ's ambassador; but your strong feelings, your self-confidence, closed your eyes to danger and your ears to warnings. Your course has been as persistent as though no one knew quite so much as yourself or as though the salvation of your soul depended upon your following your own judgment.
Should every young man who professes the truth do as you have done, what would be the condition of families and of the church? Consider the influence of the disrespect you have shown for your parents by your self-will and self-sufficiency. You are among the class described as heady, high-minded. This infatuation has caused you to lose your interest in religious things and to think only of yourself instead of the glory of God. No good can come of this intimacy or attachment. The blessing of God will not attend any such willful course as you are pursuing. You should not be eager to enter the marriage relation and assume the care of a family before you have thoroughly established your own character. I regard you as in great darkness but unable to realize your peril.
The truth was reforming your life and character, and you were gaining the confidence of the brethren; but Satan saw that he was losing you, and therefore he increased his efforts to entangle you in his wily snare and has succeeded wonderfully. The weakness of your nature, hitherto undiscovered, is now developed. You do not see your condition, although it is very apparent to others. Light does not come to a man who makes no effort to obtain it. When you saw that your brethren and sisters were grieved with your course, then it was time for you to stop and consider what you were doing, to pray much, and to counsel with men of experience in the church and gratefully accept their advice.
"But," say you, "should I follow the judgment of the brethren independent of my own feelings?" I answer: The church is God's delegated authority upon earth. Christ has said: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." There is altogether too little respect paid to the opinion of members of the same church. It is the want of deference for the opinions of the church that causes so much trouble among brethren. The eyes of the church may be able to discern in its individual members that which the erring may not see. A few persons may be as blind as the one in error, but the majority of the church is a power which should control its individual members.
The apostle Peter says: "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." Paul exhorts: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another," "submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Unless the advice and counsel of the church can be respected, it is indeed powerless. God has placed a voice in the church which must control its members.
If you are led by truth rather than error you will be willing to obey your parents and sacredly regard the voice of the church. Your prayers have been made with a determination to carry out what you regarded as right, irrespective of the wishes of your parents or of the church. All through your life you have been actuated in a large degree by selfish feelings. Ofttimes a great sacrifice of feeling has to be made in order to comply with the conditions laid down in God's word and to act from principle.
"Should parents," you ask, "select a companion with out regard to the mind or feelings of son or daughter?" I put the question to you as it should be: Should a son or daughter select a companion without first consulting the parents, when such a step must materially affect the happiness of parents if they have any affection for their children? And should that child, notwithstanding the counsel and entreaties of his parents, persist in following his own course? I answer decidedly: No; not if he never marries. The fifth commandment forbids such a course. "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Here is a commandment with a promise which the Lord will surely fulfill to those who obey.
Wise parents will never select companions for their children without respect to their wishes. No one has ever proposed to do this in your case. But most of that which the youth of our day term love is only blind impulse, which originates with Satan to compass their destruction.
Should you, my brother, go to our college now, as you have planned, I fear for your course there. Your expressed determination to have a lady's company wherever you should go shows me that you are far from being in a position to be benefited by going to Battle Creek. The infatuation which is upon you is more satanic than divine. I do not wish to have you disappointed in regard to Battle Creek. The rules are strict there. No courting is allowed. The school would be worth nothing to students were they to become entangled in love affairs as you have been. Our college would soon be demoralized. Parents do not send their children to our college or to our offices to commence a lovesick, sentimental life, but to be educated in the sciences or to learn the printer's trade. Were the rules so lax that the youth were allowed to become bewildered and infatuated with the society of the opposite sex as you have been for some months past, the object of their going to Battle Creek would be lost. If you cannot put this entirely out of your mind and go there with the spirit of a learner and with a purpose to arouse yourself to the most earnest, humble, sincere efforts, praying that you may have a close connection with God, it would be better for you to remain at home.
Should you go you ought to be prepared to withstand temptation and to hold up the hands of professors and teachers, letting your influence be wholly on the side of discipline and order. God designs that all who work in His cause shall be subject one to another, ready to receive advice and instruction. They should train themselves by the severest mental and moral discipline, that by the assisting grace of God they may be fitted in mind and heart to train others. Fervent prayer, humility, and earnestness must be combined with God's help, for human frailties and human feelings are continually striving for the mastery. Every man must purify his soul through obedience to the truth, and with an eye single to God's glory he must abase self and exalt Jesus and His grace. By thus continually advancing toward the light he will become acquainted with God and receive His help. Some of those who attend the college do not properly improve their time. Full of the buoyancy of youth, they spurn the restraint that is brought to bear upon them. Especially do they rebel against the rules that will not allow young gentlemen to pay their attentions to young ladies. Full well is known the evil of such a course in this degenerate age. In a college where so many youth are associated, imitating the customs of the world in this respect would turn the thoughts in a channel that would hinder them in their pursuit of knowledge and in their interest in religious things. The infatuation on the part of both young men and women in thus placing the affections upon each other during school days shows a lack of good judgment. As in your own case, blind impulse controls reason and judgment. Under this bewitching delusion the momentous responsibility felt by every sincere Christian is laid aside, spirituality dies, and the judgment and eternity lose their awful significance.
Every faculty of those who become affected by this contagious disease--blind love--is brought in subjection to it. They seem to be devoid of good sense, and their course of action is disgusting to all who behold it. My brother, you have made yourself a subject of talk and have lowered yourself in the estimation of those whose approval you should prize. With many the crisis of the disease is reached in an immature marriage, and when the novelty is past and the bewitching power of love-making is over, one or both parties awake to their true situation. They then find themselves ill-mated, but united for life. Bound to each other by the most solemn vows, they look with sinking hearts upon the miserable life they must lead. They ought then to make the best of their situation, but many will not do this. They will either prove false to their marriage vows or make the yoke which they persisted in placing upon their own necks so very galling that not a few cowardly put an end to their existence.
Associating with the vain, the superficial, and the skeptical will be productive of moral depravity and ruin. Bold, forward young gentlemen or ladies may have something pleasing in their address; they may have brilliant powers of mind and skill to make the bad appear even preferable to the good. Such persons will enchant and bewilder a certain class, and souls will be lost in consequence. The influence of every man's thoughts and actions surrounds him like an invisible atmosphere, which is unconsciously breathed in by all who come in contact with him. This atmosphere is frequently charged with poisonous influences, and when these are inhaled, moral degeneracy is the sure result.
My young brother, would that I could impress upon you your true condition. You must repent or you can never see the kingdom of heaven. Many young men and women who profess godliness do not know what it is to follow Christ. They do not imitate His example in doing good. Love and gratitude toward God are not springing up in the heart nor expressed in their words and deportment. They do not possess the spirit of self-denial, neither do they encourage each other in the way of holiness. We do not want young people to engage in the solemn work of God who profess Christ but have not the moral strength to take their position with those who are sober and watch unto prayer and who have their conversation in heaven, whence they look for the Saviour. We do not feel overanxious for youth to go to Battle Creek who profess to be Sabbath-keepers but who indicate by their choice of companions their low state of morals.
The door of our college will ever be open to those who are not professors of religion, and the youth coming to Battle Creek may have this irreligious society if it is their choice. If they have right motives in associating with these and sufficient spiritual strength to withstand their influence they may be a power for good; while they are learners they may become teachers. The true Christian does not choose the company of the unconverted for love of the atmosphere surrounding their irreligious lives or to excite admiration and secure applause, but for the purpose of communicating light and knowledge, and bringing them up to a noble, elevated standard, the broad platform of eternal truth.
One person with pure motives, intent on becoming intelligent that he may make a right use of his abilities, will be a power for good in the school. He will have a molding influence. When parents justify the complaints of their children against the authority and discipline of the school, they do not see that they are increasing the demoralizing power which now prevails to such a fearful extent. Every influence surrounding the youth needs to be on the right side, for youthful depravity is increasing.
With worldly youth, the love of society and pleasure becomes an absorbing passion. To dress, to visit, to indulge the appetite and passions, and to whirl through the round of social dissipation appears to be the great end of existence. They are unhappy if left in solitude. Their chief desire is to be admired and flattered, and to make a sensation in society; and when this desire is not gratified, life seems unendurable.
Those who will put on the whole armor of God and devote some time every day to meditation and prayer and to the study of the Scriptures will be connected with heaven and will have a saving, transforming influence upon those around them. Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth and duty to God, will be theirs. They will be yearning for purity, for light, for love, for all the graces of heavenly birth. Their earnest prayers will enter into that within the veil. This class will have a sanctified boldness to come into the presence of the Infinite One. They will feel that heaven's light and glories are for them, and they will become refined, elevated, ennobled by this intimate acquaintance with God. Such is the privilege of true Christians.
Abstract meditation is not enough; busy action is not enough; both are essential to the formation of Christian character. Strength acquired in earnest, secret prayer prepares us to withstand the allurements of society. And yet we should not exclude ourselves from the world, for our Christian experience is to be the light of the world. The society of unbelievers will do us no harm if we mingle with them for the purpose of connecting them with God and are strong enough spiritually to withstand their influence.
Christ came into the world to save it, to connect fallen man with the infinite God. Christ's followers are to be channels of light. Maintaining communion with God, they are to transmit to those in darkness and error the choice blessings which they receive of heaven. Enoch did not become polluted with the iniquities existing in his day; why need we in our day? But we may, like our Master, have compassion for suffering humanity, pity for the unfortunate, and a generous consideration for the feelings and necessities of the needy, the troubled, and the despairing.
Those who are Christians indeed will seek to do good to others and at the same time will so order their conversation and deportment as to maintain a calm, hallowed peace of mind. God's word requires that we should be like our Saviour, that we should bear His image, imitate His example, live His life. Selfishness and worldliness are not fruits of a Christian tree. No man can live for himself and yet enjoy the approbation of God.
Sept. 5, 1879.