I have been shown that those who have a knowledge of the truth, and yet allow all their powers to be absorbed in worldly interests, are unfaithful. They are not, by their good works, letting the light of truth shine to others. Nearly all their ability is devoted to becoming sharp, skillful men of the world. They forget that their talents were given them of God to be used in advancing His cause. If they were faithful to their duty, the result would be great gain of souls to the Master, but many are lost through their neglect. God calls upon those who know His will to be doers of His word. Weakness, halfheartedness, and indecision provoke the assaults of Satan; and those who permit these traits to grow will be borne helplessly down by the surging waves of temptation. Everyone who professes the name of Christ is required to grow up to the full stature of Christ, the Christian's living head.
We all need a guide through the many strait places in life as much as the sailor needs a pilot over the sandy bar or up the rocky river, and where is this guide to be found? We point you, dear brethren, to the Bible. Inspired of God, written by holy men, it points out with great clearness and precision the duties of both old and young. It elevates the mind, softens the heart, and imparts gladness and holy joy to the spirit. The Bible presents a perfect standard of character; it is an infallible guide under all circumstances, even to the end of the journey of life. Take it as the man of your counsel, the rule of your daily life.
Every means of grace should be diligently improved that the love of God may abound in the soul more and more, "that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness." Your Christian life must take on vigorous and stalwart forms. You can attain to the high standard set before you in the Scriptures, and you must if you would be children of God. You cannot stand still; you must either advance or retrograde. You must have spiritual knowledge, that you "may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ," that you may "be filled with all the fullness of God."
Many who have an intelligent knowledge of the truth, and are able to defend it by arguments, are doing nothing for the upbuilding of Christ's kingdom. We meet them from time to time, but they bear no fresh testimonies of personal experience in the Christian life; they relate no new victories gained in the holy warfare. Instead of this you notice the same old routine, the same expressions in prayer and exhortation. Their prayers have no new note; they express no greater intelligence in the things of God, no more earnest, living faith. Such persons are not living plants in the garden of the Lord, sending forth fresh shoots and new foliage, and the grateful fragrance of a holy life. They are not growing Christians. They have limited views and plans, and there is no expansion of mind, no valuable additions to the treasures of Christian knowledge. Their powers have not been taxed in this direction. They have not learned to view men and things as God views them, and in many cases unsanctified sympathy has injured souls and greatly crippled the cause of God. The spiritual stagnation that prevails is terrible. Many lead a formal Christian life and claim that their sins have been forgiven, when they are as destitute of any real knowledge of Christ as is the sinner.
Brethren, will you have a stinted Christian growth, or will you make healthy progress in the divine life? Where there is spiritual health there is growth. The child of God grows up to the full stature of a man or woman in Christ. There is no limit to his improvement. When the love of God is a living prin ciplein the soul, there are no narrow, confined views; there is love and faithfulness in warnings and reproofs; there is earnest work and a disposition to bear burdens and take responsibilities.
Some are not willing to do self-denying work. They show real impatience when urged to take some responsibility. "What need is there," say they, of an increase of knowledge and experience? This explains it all. They feel that they are "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," while heaven pronounces them poor, miserable, blind, and naked. To these the True Witness says: "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." Your very self-complacency shows you to be in need of everything. You are spiritually sick and need Jesus as your physician.
In the Scriptures thousands of gems of truth lie hidden from the surface seeker. The mine of truth is never exhausted. The more you search the Scriptures with humble hearts, the greater will be your interest, and the more you will feel like exclaiming with Paul: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" Every day you should learn something new from the Scriptures. Search them as for hid treasures, for they contain the words of eternal life. Pray for wisdom and understanding to comprehend these holy writings. If you would do this you would find new glories in the word of God; you would feel that you had received new and precious light on subjects connected with the truth, and the Scriptures would be constantly receiving a new value in your estimation.
"The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly." Jesus says: "Behold, I come quickly." We should keep these words ever in mind, and act as though we do indeed believe that the coming of the Lord is nigh, and that we are pilgrims and strangers upon the earth. The vital energies of the church of God must be brought into active exercise for the great object of self-renovation; every member must be an active agent for God. "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." This is a particular work, which must be carried forward in all harmony, in unity of Spirit, and in the bonds of peace. No place should be given to criticisms, doubts, and unbelief.
The Upper Columbia and North Pacific Conferences years behind. Some who ought to be strong and established in Christ are as babes in understanding and experimental knowledge of the workings of the Spirit of God. After years of experience they are able to comprehend only the first principles of that grand system of faith and doctrine that constitutes the Christian religion. They do not comprehend that perfection of character which will receive the commendation: "Well done."
Brethren, your duty, happiness, future usefulness, and final salvation call upon you to sever the tendrils of your affections from everything earthly and corruptible. There is an unsanctified sympathy that partakes of the nature of lovesick sentimentalism and is earthly, sensual. It will require no feeble effort for some of you to overcome this and change the course of your life, for you have not placed yourselves in connection with the Strength of Israel and have become enfeebled in all your faculties. Now you are loudly called upon to be diligent in the use of every means of grace, that you may be transformed in character and may grow to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.
We have great victories to gain, and a heaven to lose if we do not gain them. The carnal heart must be crucified; for its tendency is to moral corruption, and the end thereof is death. Nothing but the life-giving influences of the gospel can help the soul. Pray that the mighty energies of the Holy Spirit, with all their quickening, recuperative, and transforming power, may fall like an electric shock on the palsy-stricken soul, causing every nerve to thrill with new life, restoring the whole man from his dead, earthly, sensual state to spiritual soundness. You will thus become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; and in your souls will be reflected the image of Him by whose stripes you are healed.
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord requires that we return to Him in tithes and offerings a portion of the goods He has lent us. He accepts these offerings as an act of humble obedience on our part and a grateful acknowledgment of our indebtedness to Him for all the blessings we enjoy. Then let us offer willingly, saying with David: "All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee." Withholding more than is meet tends to poverty. God will bear long with some, He will test and prove all; but His curse will surely follow the selfish, world-loving professor of truth. God knows the heart; every thought and every purpose is open to His eye. He says: "Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed." He knows whom to bless and who are deserving of His curse. He makes no mistakes, for angels are keeping a record of all our works and words.
When the people of God were about to build the sanctuary in the wilderness, extensive preparations were necessary. Costly materials were collected, and among them was much gold and silver. As the rightful owner of all their treasures, the Lord called for these offerings from the people; but He accepted only those that were given freely. The people offered willingly, until word was brought to Moses: "The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make." And the proclamation was made to all the congregation: "Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."
Had some men of limited ideas been on the ground they would have opened their eyes in horror. Like Judas they would have asked: "To what purpose is this waste?" "Why not make everything in the cheapest manner?" But the sanctuary was not designed to honor man, but the God of heaven. He had given specific directions how everything was to be done. The people were to be taught that He was a being of greatness and majesty, and that He was to be worshiped with reverence and awe.
The house where God is worshiped should be in accordance with His character and majesty. There are small churches that ever will be small because they place their own interests above the interests of God's cause. While they have large, convenient houses for themselves, and are constantly improving their premises, they are content to have a most unsuitable place for the worship of God, where His holy presence is to dwell. They wonder that Joseph and Mary were obliged to find shelter in a stable, and that there the Saviour was born; but they are willing to expend upon themselves a large part of their means, while the house of worship is shamefully neglected. How often they say: "The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built." But the word of the Lord to them is: "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?"
The house where Jesus is to meet with His people should be neat and attractive. If there are but few believers in a place, put up a neat but humble house, and by dedicating it to God invite Jesus to come as your guest. How does He look upon His people when they have every convenience that heart could wish, but are willing to meet for His worship in a barn, some miserable, out-of-the-way building, or some cheap, forsaken apartment? You work for your friends, you expend means to make everything around them as attractive as possible; but Jesus, the One who gave everything for you, even His precious life,--He who is the Majesty of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords,--is favored with a place on earth but little better than the stable which was His first home. Shall we not look at these things as God looks at them? Shall we not test our motives and see what kind of faith we possess?
"God loveth a cheerful giver," and those who love Him will give freely and cheerfully when by so doing they can advance His cause and promote His glory. The Lord never requires His people to offer more than they are able, but according to their ability He is pleased to accept and bless their thank offerings. Let willing obedience and pure love bind upon the altar every offering that is made to God; for with such sacrifices He is well pleased, while those that are offered grudgingly are an offense to Him. When churches or individuals have no heart in their offerings, but would limit the cost of carrying forward the work of God, and gauge it by their own narrow views, they show decidedly that they have no living connection with God. They are at variance with His plan and manner of working, and He will not bless them.
We are builders for God, and we must build upon the foundation which He has prepared for us. No man is to build upon his own foundation, independent of the plan which God has devised. There are men whom God has raised up as counselors, men whom He has taught, and whose heart and soul and life are in the work. These men are to be highly esteemed for their work's sake. There are some who will wish to follow their own crude notions; but they must learn to receive advice and to work in harmony with their brethren, or they will sow doubt and discord that they will not care to harvest. It is the will of God that those who engage in His work shall be subject to one another. His worship must be conducted with consistency, unity, and sound judgment. God is our only sufficient helper. The laws which govern His people, their principles of thought and action, are received from Him through His word and Spirit. When His word is loved and obeyed, His children walk in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in them. They do not accept the world's low standard, but work from the Bible standpoint.
The selfishness which exists among God's people is very offensive to Him. The Scriptures denounce covetousness as idolatry. No "covetous man," says Paul, "who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." The trouble with many is that they have too little faith. Like the rich man in the parable they want to see their supplies piled up in their granaries. The world is to be warned, and God wants us wholly engaged in His work; but men have so much to do to forward their money-making projects that they have no time to push the triumphs of the cross of Christ. They have neither time nor disposition to put their intellect, tact, and energy into the cause of God.
Brethren and sisters, I wish to excite in your minds disgust for your present limited ideas of God's cause and work. I want you to comprehend the great sacrifice that Christ made for you when He became poor, that through His poverty you might come into possession of eternal riches. Oh! do not, by your indifference to the eternal weight of glory which is within your reach, cause angels to weep and hide their faces in shame and disgust. Arouse from your lethargy; arouse every God-given faculty, and work for precious souls for whom Christ died. These souls, if brought to the fold of Christ, will live through the ceaseless ages of eternity; and will you plan to do as little as possible for their salvation, while, like the man with the one talent, you invest your means in the earth? Like that unfaithful servant, are you charging God with reaping where He has not sown, and gathering where He has not strewed?
All that you have and are belongs to God. Then will you not say from the heart: "All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee"? "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase." Paul thus exhorts his Corinthian brethren to Christian beneficence: "As ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also." In his epistle to Timothy he says: "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."
Liberality is not so natural to us that we gain this virtue by accident. It must be cultivated. We must deliberately resolve that we will honor God with our substance; and then we must let nothing tempt us to rob Him of the tithes and offerings that are His due. We must be intelligent, systematic, and continuous in our acts of charity to men and our expressions of gratitude to God for His bounties to us. This is too sacred a duty to be left to chance or to be controlled by impulse or feeling. We should regularly reserve something for God's cause, that He may not be robbed of the portion which He claims. When we rob God we rob ourselves also. We give up the heavenly treasure for the sake of having more of this earth. This is a loss that we cannot afford to sustain. If we live so that we can have the blessing of God we shall have His prospering hand with us in our temporal affairs, but if His hand is against us He can defeat all our plans and scatter faster than we can gather.
I was shown that the situation of things in these two conferences is sad indeed; but God has many precious souls here over whom He has a jealous care, and He will not leave them to be deceived and misled.