There are many things that need to be corrected in the Upper Columbia and North Pacific Conferences. The Creator expected the brethren there to bear fruit according to the light and privileges bestowed upon them, but in this He has been disappointed. He has given them every advantage; but they have not improved in meekness, godliness, benevolence. They have not pursued that course of life, have not revealed that character nor exercised that influence, which would tend most to honor their Creator, ennoble themselves, and make them a blessing to their fellow men. Selfishness exists in their hearts. They love to have their own way and seek their own ease, honor, and wealth, and their own pleasure in its grosser or more refined forms. If we pursue the course of the world and follow the bent of our own minds, will that work for our best good? Does not God, who formed man, look for something better from us?
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." Christians must be like Christ. They should have the same spirit, exert the same influence, and have the same moral excellence that He possessed. The idolatrous and corrupt in heart must repent and turn to God. Those who are proud and self-righteous must abase self and become penitent and meek and lowly in heart. The worldly-minded must have the tendrils of the heart removed from the rubbish of the world, around which they are clinging, and entwined about God; they must become spiritually minded. The dishonest and untruthful must become just and true. The ambitious and covetous must be hid in Jesus and seek His glory, not their own. They must despise their own holiness and lay up their treasure above. The prayerless must feel the need of both secret and family prayer, and must make their supplications to God with great earnestness.
As the worshipers of the true and living God we should bear fruit corresponding to the light and privileges we enjoy. Many are worshiping idols instead of the Lord of heaven and earth. Anything that men love and trust in instead of loving the Lord and trusting wholly in Him becomes an idol and is thus registered in the books of heaven. Even blessings are often turned into a curse. The sympathies of the human heart, strengthened by exercise, are sometimes perverted until they become a snare. If one is reproved, there are always some who will sympathize with him. They entirely overlook the harm that has been done to God's cause by the wrong influence of one whose life and character do not in any way resemble those of the Pattern. God sends His servants with a message to the people professing to be followers of Christ; but some are children of God only in name, and they reject the warning.
God has in a wonderful manner endowed man with reasoning powers. He who fitted the tree to bear its burden of goodly fruit has made man capable of bearing the precious fruits of righteousness. He has planted man in His garden and tenderly cared for him, and He expects him to bear fruit. In the parable of the fig tree Christ says: "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit." For more than two years has the Owner looked for the fruit that He has a right to expect from these conferences, but how has His search been rewarded? How anxiously we watch a favorite tree or plant, expecting it to reward our care by producing buds, blossoms, and fruit; and how disappointed we are to find upon it nothing but leaves. With how much more anxiety and tender interest does the heavenly Father watch the spiritual growth of those whom He has made in His own image and for whom He condescended to give His Son that they may be elevated, ennobled, and glorified.
The Lord has His appointed agencies to meet men in their errors and backslidings. His messengers are sent to bear a plain testimony to arouse them from their sleepy condition and to open the precious words of life, the Holy Scriptures, to their understanding. These men are not to be preachers merely, but ministers, light bearers, faithful watchmen, who will see the threatened danger and warn the people. They must resemble Christ in their earnest zeal, in their thoughtful tact, in their personal efforts--in short, in all their ministry. They are to have a vital connection with God, and are to become so familiar with the prophecies and the practical lessons of the Old and the New Testament that they may bring from the treasure house of God's word things new and old.
Some of these ministers make a mistake in the preparation of their discourses. They arrange every minutia with such exactness that they give the Lord no room to lead and impress their minds. Every point is fixed, stereotyped as it were, and they cannot depart from the plan marked out. This course, if continued, will cause them to become narrow-minded, circumscribed in their views, and will soon leave them as destitute of life and energy as are the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. They must throw the soul open and let the Holy Spirit take possession to impress the mind. When everything is laid out beforehand, and they feel that they cannot vary from these set discourses, the effect is little better than that produced by reading a sermon.
God would have His ministers wholly dependent upon Him, but at the same time they should be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. No subject can be treated before all congregations in the same manner. The Spirit of God, if allowed to do its work, will impress the mind with ideas calculated to meet the cases of those who need help. But the tame, formal discourses of many who enter the desk have very little of the vitalizing power of the Holy Spirit in them. The habit of preaching such discourses will effectually destroy a minister's usefulness and ability. This is one reason why the efforts of the workers in ----- and ----- have not been more successful. God has had too little to do with impressing the mind in the desk.
Another cause of failure in these conferences is that the people to whom God's messenger is sent wish to mold his ideas to theirs and to put into his mouth the words that he should speak. God's watchmen must not study how they shall please the people, nor listen to their words and utter them; but they must listen to hear what saith the Lord, what is His word for the people. If they rely upon discourses prepared years before they may fail to meet the necessities of the occasion. Their hearts should be laid open so that the Lord may impress their minds, and then they will be able to give the people the precious truth warm from heaven. God is not pleased with those narrow-minded ministers who devote their God-given powers to matters of little moment and fail to grow in divine knowledge to the full stature of men in Christ Jesus. He would have His ministers possess breadth of mind and true moral courage. Such men will be prepared to meet opposition and surmount difficulties, and will lead the flock of God instead of being led by them.
There is altogether too little of the Spirit and power of God in the labor of the watchmen. The Spirit which characterized that wonderful meeting on the Day of Pentecost is waiting to manifest its power upon the men who are now standing between the living and the dead as ambassadors for God. The power which stirred the people so mightily in the 1844 movement will again be revealed. The third angel's message will go forth, not in whispered tones, but with a loud voice.
Many who profess to have great light are walking in sparks of their own kindling. They need to have their lips touched with a live coal from off the altar, that they may pour forth the truth like men who are inspired. Too many go into the desk with mechanical discourses that have no light from heaven in them.
There is too much of self and too little of Jesus in the ministry of all denominations. The Lord uses humble men to proclaim His messages. Had Christ come in the majesty of a king, with the pomp which attends the great men of earth, many would have accepted Him. But Jesus of Nazareth did not dazzle the senses with a display of outward glory and make this the foundation of their reverence. He came as a humble man to be the Teacher and Exemplar as well as the Redeemer of the race. Had He encouraged pomp, had He come followed by a retinue of the great men of earth, how could He have taught humility? how could He have presented such burning truths as in His Sermon upon the Mount? His example was such as He wished all His followers to imitate. Where would have been the hope of the lowly in life had He come in exaltation and dwelt as a king upon the earth? Jesus knew the needs of the world better than they themselves knew. He did not come as an angel, clothed with the panoply of heaven, but as a man. Yet combined with His humility was an inherent power and grandeur that awed men while they loved Him. Although possessing such loveliness, such an unassuming appearance, He moved among them with the dignity and power of a heaven-born king. The people were amazed, confounded. They tried to reason the matter out; but, unwilling to renounce their own ideas, they yielded to doubts, clinging to the old expectation of a Saviour to come in earthly grandeur.
When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, His disciples were gathered close about Him, and the multitude, filled with intense curiosity, also pressed as near as possible. Something more than usual was expected. Eager faces and listening attitudes gave evidence of the deep interest. The attention of all seemed riveted upon the speaker. His eyes were lighted up with unutterable love, and the heavenly expression upon His countenance gave meaning to every word uttered. Angels of heaven were in that listening throng. There, too, was the adversary of souls with his evil angels, prepared to counteract, as far as possible, the influence of the heavenly Teacher. The truths there uttered have come down through the ages and have been a light amid the general darkness of error. Many have found in them that which the soul most needed--a sure foundation of faith and practice. But in these words spoken by the greatest Teacher the world has ever known there is no parade of human eloquence. The language is plain, and the thoughts and sentiments are marked with the greatest simplicity. The poor, the unlearned, the most simple-minded, can understand them. The Lord of heaven was in mercy and kindness addressing the souls He came to save. He taught them as one having authority, speaking the words of eternal life.
All should copy the Pattern as closely as possible. While they cannot possess the consciousness of power which Jesus had, they can so connect with the Source of strength that Jesus can abide in them and they in Him, and so His spirit and His power will be revealed in them.
"Walk in the light, as He is in the light." It is earthliness and selfishness that separate from God. The messages from heaven are of a character to arouse opposition. The faithful witnesses for Christ and the truth will reprove sin. Their words will be like a hammer to break the flinty heart, like a fire to consume the dross. There is constant need of earnest, decided messages of warning. God will have men who are true to duty. At the right time He sends His faithful messengers to do a work similar to that of Elijah.
Ministers as Educators
The state of things in ----- is a matter of deep regret. That which the Lord has been pleased to present before me has been of a character to give me pain. Whoever shall labor here or in ----- hereafter will have uphill work and must carry a heavy load because the work has not been faithfully bound off, but has been left in an unfinished state. And this is the more grievous because the failure is not wholly chargeable to worldliness and want of love for Jesus and the truth on the part of the people; but much of it lies at the door of the ministers, who, while laboring among them, have signally failed in their duty. They have not had the missionary spirit; they have not felt the great need of thoroughly educating the people in all branches of the work, in all places where the truth has gained a foothold. The work done thoroughly for one soul is done for many. But the ministers have not realized this and have failed to educate persons who in their turn should stand steadfast in defense of the truth and educate others. This loose, slack, halfway manner of working is displeasing to God.
A minister may enjoy sermonizing, for it is the pleasant part of the work and is comparatively easy; but no minister should be measured by his ability as a speaker. The harder part comes after he leaves the desk, in watering the seed sown. The interest awakened should be followed up by personal labor,--visiting, holding Bible readings, teaching how to search the Scriptures, praying with families and interested ones, seeking to deepen the impression made upon hearts and consciences.
There are many who have no desire to become acquainted with their unbelieving neighbors and those with whom they come in contact, and they do not feel it their duty to overcome this reluctance. The truth they teach and the love of Jesus should have great power to help them to overcome this feeling. They should remember that they must meet these very men and women in the judgment. Have they left words unsaid that should have been spoken? Have they felt interest enough for souls, to warn, to entreat, to pray for them, to make every effort to win them to Christ? Have they united discrimination with zeal, heeding the direction of the apostle: "Of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh"?
There is earnest work to be done by all who would be successful in their ministry. I entreat you, dear brethren, ministers of Christ, not to fail in your appointed duty to educate the people to work intelligently to sustain the cause of God in all its varied interests. Christ was an educator, and His ministers, who represent Him, should be educators. When they neglect to teach the people their obligation to God in tithes and offerings, they neglect one important part of the work which their Master has left them to do, and "Unfaithful servant" is written against their names in the books of heaven. The church come to the conclusion that if these things were essential, the minister, whom God has sent to present the truth to them, would tell them so; and they feel secure and at ease while neglecting their duty. They go contrary to the express requirements of God and as the result become lifeless and inefficient. They do not exert a saving influence upon the world, and they are represented by Christ as salt without savor.
Companies of Sabbathkeepers may be raised up in many places. Often they will not be large companies; but they must not be neglected, they must not be left to die for want of proper personal effort and training. The work should not be left prematurely. See that all are intelligent in the truth, established in the faith, and interested in every branch of the work, before leaving them for another field. And then, like the apostle Paul, visit them often to see how they do. Oh, the slack work that is done by many who claim to be commissioned of God to preach His word, makes angels weep.
The cause might be in a healthful condition in every field, and it would be if ministers would trust in God and allow nothing to come between them and their work. Laborers are needed much more than mere preachers, but the two offices must be united. It has been proved in the missionary field that, whatever may be the preaching talent, if the laboring part is neglected, if the people are not taught how to work, how to conduct meetings, how to act their part in missionary labor, how to reach people successfully, the work will be nearly a failure. There is much to be done in the Sabbath school work also in bringing the people to realize their obligation and to act their part. God calls them to work for Him, and the ministers should guide their efforts.
The sad fact is apparent that the work in these fields ought to be years in advance of what it now is. The negligence on the part of the ministers has discouraged the people, and the lack of interest, self-sacrifice, and appreciation of the work on the part of the people has discouraged the ministers. "Two years behind" stands recorded in the Ledger of Heaven. This people might have done much to advance the cause of truth and to bring souls to Christ in different localities, and at the same time might themselves have been growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, had they improved their opportunities and made the most of their privileges, walking, not with murmuring and complaining, but in faith and courage. Eternity alone can reveal how much has been lost during these years--how many souls have been left to perish through this state of things. The loss is too great to be computed. God has been insulted. The course pursued has brought upon the cause a wound which will be years in healing; and if the mistakes that have been made are not seen and repented of, they will surely be repeated.
A realization of these facts has brought unspeakable burdens upon me, driving sleep from my eyes. At times it has seemed that my heart would break, and I could only pray, while giving vent to my anguish in weeping aloud. Oh, I felt so sorry for my Saviour! His searching for fruit amid the leaf-covered branches of the fig tree and His disappointment in finding nothing but leaves" seemed so vivid before my eyes. I felt that I could not have it so. I could in no way be reconciled to the past years of neglect of duty on the part of ministers and people. I feared that the withering curse passed upon the fig tree might be the fate of these careless ones. The terrible neglect of doing the work and fulfilling the mission which God has entrusted to them incurs a loss which none of us can afford to sustain. It is running a risk too fearful to contemplate and too terrible to be ventured at any time in our religious history, but especially now, when time is so short and so much is to be done in this day of God's preparation. All heaven is earnestly engaged for the salvation of men; light is coming from God to His people, defining their duty, so that none need err from the right path. But God does not send His light and truth to be lightly esteemed and trifled with. If the people are inattentive, they are doubly guilty before Him.
As Christ was riding into Jerusalem, on the crest of Olivet He broke forth in uncontrollable grief, exclaiming in broken utterances as He looked upon Jerusalem: "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." He wept not for Himself, but for the despisers of His mercy, long-suffering, and forbearance. The course taken by the hardhearted and impenitent inhabitants of the doomed city is similar to the attitude of churches and individuals toward Christ at the present time. They neglect His requirements and despise His forbearance. There is a form of godliness, there is ceremonial worship, there are complimentary prayers, but the real power is wanting. The heart is not softened by grace, but is cold and unimpressible. Many, like the Jews, are blinded by unbelief and know not the time of their visitation. So far as the truth is concerned, they have had every advantage, God has been appealing to them for years in warnings, reproofs, corrections, and instruction in righteousness; but special directions have been given only to be disregarded and placed on a level with common things.
Duty to Reprove Money Lovers
Many who are numbered with the believers are not really with them in faith and principle. They are doing exactly that which Jesus told them not to do--seeking to lay up treasures upon the earth. Christ said: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth: . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven: . . . for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Here is one danger which threatens Christians. They are not obedient to Christ's positive directions. They show no real faith and confidence in God. In order to gain riches they accumulate burdens and cares until their minds are almost wholly engrossed with them. They are eager for gains and always anxious for fear of losses. The more money and lands they possess the more eager are they for more. "They are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink." They are surfeited with the cares of this life, which affect them as strong drink does the drunkard. They are so blinded by selfishness that they work night and day to secure perishable treasures. Their eternal interests are neglected; they have no time to attend to these things. The great matters of truth are not kept in mind, as is evidenced by their words, their plans, and their course of action. What if souls around them perish in their sins? This is not of so much consequence to them as their earthly treasures. Let souls for whom Christ died sink to ruin; they have no time to save them. In laying plans for earthly gain they show skill and talent; but these precious qualities are not devoted to winning souls to Christ, to the upbuilding of the Redeemer's kingdom. Are not the senses of such persons perverted? Are they not drunken with the intoxicating cup of worldliness? Is not reason laid aside, and have not selfish aims and purposes be come the ruling power? The work of preparing themselves to stand in the day of the Lord, and employing their God-given abilities in helping to prepare a people for that day, is considered too tame and unsatisfying.
The Saviour of the world has presented a most profitable business in which rich and poor, learned and unlearned, may engage. All may safely lay up for themselves "a treasure in the heavens that faileth not." This is investing their powers on the right side. It is putting out their talents to the exchangers.
Jesus illustrated His teaching by the case of a substantial farmer whom the Lord had greatly favored. The Lord had blessed his grounds, causing them to produce plentifully, thus placing it in his power to exercise liberality to others not so greatly blessed. But when he found that his grounds had produced so abundantly, far beyond his expectation, instead of planning how to relieve the poor in their necessities, he began to devise means to secure all to himself. As he saw the gifts of heaven rolling into his garners he poured not out his soul in thanksgiving to the bounteous Giver, neither did he consider that this great blessing had brought additional responsibility. In the pure selfishness of his nature he inquires: "What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?" Taking counsel with his own covetous heart, he said: "This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." The means of real enjoyment and elevation of soul are activity, self-control, holy purposes; but all that this man proposed to do with the bounties God had given him was to degrade the soul. And what was the result? "God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
This poor rich man possessed great earthly treasure, but was destitute of the true riches. How many today are under condemnation for a similar reason. Streams of salvation are poured in upon us from the throne of God. Temporal blessings are given, but they are not improved to bless humanity or to glorify God. The Lord is our gracious benefactor. He has brought light and immortality to light through Jesus Christ. Yes, through Jesus all our blessings come. Oh, that every tongue would acknowledge the great Giver! Let every voice, in clear and joyful strains, proclaim the glad tidings that through Jesus the future, immortal life is opened to us; and invitations are given for all to accept this great boon. All the treasures of heaven are brought within our reach, waiting our demand. Can we be surprised that this poor rich man was called a fool because he turned away from eternal riches, the priceless gift of immortal life, the eternal weight of glory, and was satisfied with perishable, earthly treasures?
God tests men, some in one way, and some in another. He tests some by bestowing upon them His rich bounties, and others by withholding His favors. He proves the rich to see if they will love God, the Giver, and their neighbor as themselves. When man makes a right use of these bounties, God is pleased; He can then trust him with greater responsibilities. The Lord reveals man's relative estimate of time and eternity, of earth and heaven. He has admonished us: "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them." They have a value when used for the good of others and the glory of God; but no earthly treasure is to be your portion, your god, or your savior.
My brethren, the world will never believe that you are in earnest in your faith until you have less to say about temporal things and more about the realities of the eternal world. The Lord is coming, but many who profess the faith do not realize that that event is nigh. They cannot fasten their faith upon the revealed purposes of God. With some, the passion for money-making has become all-absorbing, and earthly riches have eclipsed the heavenly treasure. Eternal things have faded from the mind as of minor consequence, while worldliness has come in like a flood. The great question is: How can I make money? Men are alive to every hope of gain. They try a thousand plans and devices, among them various inventions and patent rights. Some dig in the earth for the precious metals, others deal in bank stock, still others till the soil; but all have the one object in view of making money. They become bewildered and even insane in the pursuit of wealth, yet they refuse to see the advantage of securing an immortal inheritance.
When Christ was on earth, He was brought in contact with some whose imaginations were fevered with the hope of worldly gain. They were never at rest, but were constantly trying something new, and their extravagant expectations were aroused only to be disappointed. Jesus knew the wants of the human heart, which are the same in all ages; and He called their attention to the only permanent riches. "The kingdom of heaven," said He, "is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy there-of goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." He tells men of treasure beyond estimate, which is within the reach of all. He came to earth to guide their minds in their search for this treasure. The way is marked out; the very poorest who will follow Him will be made richer than the most wealthy upon earth who know not Jesus, and they will be made increasingly rich by sharing their happiness with others.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Those who do this will meet with no loss. The treasure laid up in heaven is secure; and it is put to our account, for Jesus said: "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." Men may sow here, but they reap in eternity.
It is this eternal treasure that ministers of Christ are to present wherever they may go. They are to urge the people to become wise unto salvation. They are not to allow world-loving, timeserving professed believers to influence their course and weaken their faith. It is not their mission to help individuals or churches to contrive how they can save money by narrow plans and circumscribed efforts in the cause of God. Instead of this they are to teach men how to work disinterestedly and thus become rich toward God. They should educate minds to place the right estimate on eternal things and to make the kingdom of heaven first.
Calebs are wanted in these two fields. There must be in these conferences, not children, but men who will move understandingly and bear burdens, letting their voice be heard above the voices of the unfaithful, who present objections, doubts, and criticism. Great interests are not to be managed by children. An undeveloped Christian, dwarfed in religious growth, destitute of wisdom from above, is unprepared to meet the fierce conflicts through which the church is often called to pass. "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night." Unless the minister shall fearlessly declare the whole truth, unless he shall have an eye single to the glory of God and shall work under the direction of the great Captain of his salvation, unless he shall move to the front, irrespective of censure and uncontaminated by applause, he will be accounted an unfaithful watchman.
There are some in ----- who ought to be men instead of boys and heavenly minded instead of earthly and sensual; but their spiritual vision has become obscured; the Saviour's great love has not ravished their souls. He has many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. You are children in growth and cannot comprehend the mysteries of God. When God raises up men to do His work, they are false to their trust if they allow their testimony to be shaped to please the minds of the unconsecrated. He will prepare men for the times. They will be humble, God-fearing men, not conservative, not policy men; but men who have moral independence and will move forward in the fear of the Lord. They will be kind, noble, courteous; yet they will not be swayed from the right path, but will proclaim the truth in righteousness whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.