There is precious talent in the churches in Oregon and Washington Territory; and had it been developed by well-directed labor, there might now be efficient workers in these conferences. A live church is always a working church. The truth is a power, and those who see its force will stand boldly and fearlessly in its defense. Truth must be apprehended by the intellect, received into the heart, and its principles incorporated into the character; and then there must be a constant effort to win others to accept it, for God holds men responsible for the use they make of the light He imparts to them.
The Lord calls upon all His people to improve the ability He has given them. The mental powers should be developed to the utmost; they should be strengthened and ennobled by dwelling upon spiritual truths. If the mind is allowed to run almost entirely upon trifling things and the common business of everyday life, it will, in accordance with one of its unvarying laws, become weak and frivolous, and deficient in spiritual power.
Times that will try men's souls are just before us, and those who are weak in the faith will not stand the test of those days of peril. The great truths of revelation are to be carefully studied, for we shall all want an intelligent knowledge of the word of God. By Bible study and daily communion with Jesus we shall gain clear, well-defined views of individual responsibility and strength to stand in the day of trial and temptation. He whose life is united to Christ by hidden links will be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
More thought should be given to the things of God, and less to temporal matters. The world-loving professor, if he will exercise his mind in that direction, may become as familiar with the word of God as he now is with worldly business. "Search the Scriptures," said Christ; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me." The Christian is required to be diligent in searching the Scriptures, to read over and over again the truths of God's word. Willful ignorance on this subject endangers the Christian life and character. It blinds the understanding and corrupts the noblest powers. It is this that brings confusion into our lives. Our people need to understand the oracles of God; they need to have a systematic knowledge of the principles of revealed truth, which will fit them for what is coming upon the earth and prevent them from being carried about by every wind of doctrine.
Great changes are soon to take place in the world, and everyone will need an experimental knowledge of the things of God. It is the work of Satan to dishearten the people of God and to unsettle their faith. He tries in every way to insinuate doubts and questionings in regard to the position, the faith, the plans, of the men upon whom God has laid the burden of a special work and who are zealously doing that work. Although he may be baffled again and again, yet he renews his attacks, working through those who profess to be humble and God-fearing, and who are apparently interested in, or believers of, present truth. The advocates of truth expect fierce and cruel opposition from their open enemies, but this is far less dangerous than the secret doubts expressed by those who feel at liberty to question and find fault with what God's servants are doing. These may appear to be humble men; but they are self-deceived, and they deceive others. In their hearts are envy and evil surmisings. They unsettle the faith of the people in those in whom they should have confidence, those whom God has chosen to do His work; and when they are reproved for their course they take it as personal abuse. While professing to be doing God's work they are in reality aiding the enemy.
Brethren, never allow anyone's ideas to unsettle your faith in regard to the order and harmony which should exist in the church. Many of you do not see all things clearly. The directions in regard to order in the tabernacle service were recorded that lessons might be drawn from it by all who should live upon the earth. Men were selected to do various parts of the work of setting up and taking down the tabernacle, and if one strayed in carelessly and put his hands to the work assigned to another, he was to be put to death. We serve the same God today. But the death penalty has been abolished; had it not been, there would not now be so much careless, disorderly work in His cause. The God of heaven is a God of order, and He requires all His followers to have rules and regulations, and to preserve order. All should have a perfect understanding of God's work.
It is unsafe to cherish doubt in the heart even for a moment. The seeds of doubt which Pharaoh sowed when he rejected the first miracle were allowed to grow, and they produced such an abundant harvest that all subsequent miracles could not persuade him that his position was wrong. He continued to venture on in his own course, going from one degree of questioning to another, and his heart became more and more hardened until he was called to look upon the cold, dead faces of the first-born.
God is at work, and we are not doing one half that must be done to prepare a people to stand in the day when the Son of man shall be revealed. Woe be to the man that shall in the least degree seek to hinder the work which God is doing. We must labor for others; we must try to weaken the hold of our brethren upon their earthly treasures; for many will sell their birthright to eternal life for worldly advantages. How much better to encourage them to lay up their treasure in heaven than complainingly to drop the words: "It is money, money, that these men are continually calling for; and they are getting rich by it." How sweet are words like these to the world-loving professor! How they strengthen his courage to withhold from God the proportion which belongs to Him and which should be returned to Him in tithes and offerings! The curse of the Lord will rest upon those who fail to render to Him His own. Let us work in harmony with God. His servants have a message to bear to money lovers; why should they not bear a close testimony in regard to bringing all the tithes into the storehouse, when the Lord Himself has set them the example?
The religion of Christ subdues the selfish spirit and transforms the mind and the affections; it lays low the pride of men, that God alone may be exalted. This is what Brother A wants. He needs a practical faith in God. He needs to see and feel the glory of serving Christ; he needs to exalt principle and elevate the Christian standard; he needs to store his mind with the rich promises, the warnings, the counsels and threatenings, of God's word; he needs to see the importance of having faith and corresponding works, that he may fairly represent, at home, in the church, and in his business, the purity and elevated character of religion. He should place himself in connection with Christ, that he may have spiritual power. His connection with the world, and with influences adverse to the spirit of truth, have greater power over him than the Spirit of Christ. Here is his danger; and he will eventually make shipwreck of faith unless he changes his course of action and firmly connects with the Source of light.
If his interest in spiritual things were as great as it is in the things of the world, his consecration to God would be entire; he would show himself a true disciple of Christ, and God would accept and use the talents which are now wholly devoted to the service of the world. The very same ability is required in the cause of God that is now given to the accumulation of property. Managers are needed in every branch of His work, that it may be carried on with energy and system. If a man has tact, industry, and enthusiasm, he will make a success in temporal business, and the same qualities, consecrated to the work of God, will prove even doubly efficient; for divine power will be combined with human effort. The best of plans, either in temporal or spiritual matters, will prove a failure if their execution is entrusted to inexperienced, incapable hands.
Those who bury their talents in this world are not pleasing God. All their powers are devoted to the accumulation of property, and the desire to accumulate becomes a passion. Brother A is an active man, and he takes pride in carrying out worldly projects. If the same interest, tact, and ambition were exercised in trading for the Lord, how much grander, nobler results would he realize! The education obtained in worldly business will not be of the least advantage in the future life, for no such business will be carried on in heaven; but if the faculties which God has given are used to His glory, to the upbuilding of His kingdom, and education is received which will be taken into heaven.
What is our position in the world? We are in the waiting time. But this period is not to be spent in abstract devotion. Waiting, watching, and vigilant working are to be combined. Our life should not be all bustle and drive and planning about the things of the world, to the neglect of personal piety and of the service that God requires. While we should not be slothful in business, we should be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. The lamp of the soul must be trimmed, and we must have the oil of grace in our vessels with our lamps. Every precaution must be used to prevent spiritual declension, lest the day of the Lord overtake us as a thief. That day is not to be put far off; it is near, and no man should say, even in his heart, much less by his works, "My Lord delayeth His coming," lest for so doing his portion be appointed with hypocrites and unbelievers.
I saw that God's people are in great peril; many are dwellers upon the earth; their interest and affections are centered in the world. Their example is not right. The world is deceived by the course pursued by many who profess great and noble truths. Our responsibility is in accordance with the light given, the graces and gifts bestowed. On the workers whose talents, whose means, whose opportunities and abilities, are greatest rests the heaviest responsibility. God calls upon Brother A to change his course of action, to use his ability to God's glory instead of debasing it to sordid worldly interests. Now is his day of trust; soon will come his day of reckoning.
Brother A was presented before me to represent a class who are in a similar position. They have never been indifferent to the smallest worldly advantage. By diligent business tact and successful investments, by trading, not on pounds, but on pence and farthings, they have accumulated property. But in doing this they have educated faculties inconsistent with the development of Christian character. Their lives in no way represent Christ; for they love the world and its gain better than they love God or the truth. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
All the abilities which men possess belong to God. Worldly conformity and attachments are emphatically forbidden in His word. When the power of the transforming grace of God is felt upon the heart, it will send a man, hitherto worldly, into every pathway of beneficence. He who has in his heart a determination to lay up treasure in the world, will "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil [the foundation of all avarice and worldliness]: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
Each member of the church should feel under sacred obligations to guard strictly the interests of the cause of God. The individual members of the church are responsible for its distracted, discouraged state, by which the most sacred truths ever committed to man are dishonored. There is no excuse for this condition of things. Jesus has opened to everyone a way by which wisdom, grace, and power may be obtained. He is our example in all things, and nothing should divert the mind from the main object in life, which is to have Christ in the soul, melting and subduing the heart. When this is the case, every member of the church, every professor of the truth, will be Christlike in character, in words, in actions.
Some who have been channels of light, whose hearts have been made glad by the precious light of truth, have denied that truth by assimilating to the world. They have thus lost the spirit of self-sacrifice and the power of the truth, and have depended for happiness upon unstable things of earth. They are in great peril. Having once rejoiced in the light, they will be left in total darkness unless they speedily gather up the rays that are still shining upon them and return to the Lord with repentance and confession. We are in a day of peril, when error and deception are captivating the people. Who will warn the world, who will show them the better way, unless those who have had the light of truth are sanctified through it and shall let their light so shine that others may see their good works and glorify God? I wish I could impress upon all the danger they are in of losing heaven. Joining the church is one thing, and connecting with Christ is quite another. Not all the names registered in the church books are registered in the Lamb's book of life. Many, though apparently sincere believers, do not keep up a living connection with Christ. They have enlisted, they have entered their names on the register; but the inner work of grace is not wrought in the heart. As the result they are not happy, and they make hard work of serving God.
"With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged." Remember that your brethren are fallible creatures like yourself, and regard their mistakes and errors with the same mercy and forbearance that you wish them to exercise toward you. They should not be watched and their defects paraded to the front for the world to exult over. Those who dare to do this have climbed upon the judgment seat and made themselves judges, while they have neglected the garden of their own hearts and have allowed poisonous weeds to obtain a rank growth.
We individually have a case pending in the court of heaven. Character is being weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and it should be the earnest desire of all to walk humbly and carefully, lest, neglecting to let their light shine forth to the world, they fail of the grace of God and lose everything that is valuable. All dissension, all differences and faultfinding, should be put away, with all evil speaking and bitterness; kindness, love, and compassion for one another should be cherished, that the prayer of Christ that His disciples might be one as He is one with the Father may be answered. The harmony and unity of the church are the credentials that they present to the world that Jesus is the Son of God. Genuine conversion will ever lead to genuine love for Jesus and for all those for whom He died.
Everyone who does what he can for God, who is true and earnest to do good to those around him, will receive the blessing of God upon his efforts. A man may render effective service for God although he is not the head or the heart of the body of Christ. The service represented in the word of God by that of the hand or the foot, though lowly, is nevertheless important. It is not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is done, the motive underlying the action, that determines its worth. There is work to be done for our neighbors and for those with whom we associate. We have no liberty to cease our patient, prayerful labors for souls as long as any are out of the ark of safety. There is no release in this war. We are soldiers of Christ, and are under obligation to watch lest the enemy gain the advantage and secure to his service souls that we might win to Christ.
The day of trust and responsibility is ours; we have a work to do for God. The church in ----- has been gradually growing cold and irreligious. There is much to be done for its individual members. Great light has shone upon their pathway. For this they will be held accountable. Said Christ: "Ye are the light of the world;" "ye are the salt of the earth." They need a deeper work of grace in their hearts. There must be a reformation before God can bless them. There are plenty of formal professors. A selfish grasping for gain eclipses the heavenly inheritance. If the kingdom of heaven is made first, noble integrity will shine forth in the life and character. This is what Brother A needs if he would exert an influence for good. He loves to handle money, and to see it accumulate by turning it one way and another. His mind and affections are absorbed in worldly enterprises. He is drunken with the cares of this life; that is, he is so swallowed up in his business that he cannot think rationally and intelligently of the things of God; his vision is obscured by love of money. The truth should reach down deep into his heart and develop fruit in his private and public life.
Brother A has excused himself for not making the Scriptures his study because he was a businessman. But to one pressed with business cares the Scriptures will be a source of strength and safety. Such a man has greater need of light from the word of God, of its counsels and warnings, than if he were not placed in such a dangerous position. If Brother A would exercise the same forethought and business tact in the things of God that he has given to worldly matters, he would realize blessed results. If he thinks that God is satisfied with him while giving his talent and energy almost entirely to the service of mammon, he is fearfully deceived. Said Christ: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." If Brother A continues to make eternal things subordinate to his worldly interests, his passion for accumulating will steadily increase until it will overrule principle, and he will be so blinded by the god of this world that he will be unable to discern between the sacred and the common.
Brother A has a strong influence upon the minds of his brethren; they view things largely from his standpoint. He needs to improve in spiritual soundness and be wise in the things of God. He should begin to show an interest in and devotion to heavenly things and to so educate his powers that they may be of service in the cause of God. He needs the armor of righteousness with which to ward off the darts of the enemy. It is impossible for him to obtain salvation unless there is a decided change in the objects and pursuits of his life, unless he exercises himself continually in spiritual things.
God calls upon the individual members of the churches in these two conferences to arouse and be converted. Brethren, your worldliness, your distrust, your murmuring, have placed you in such a position that it will be exceedingly difficult for anyone to labor among you. While your president neglected his work and failed in his duty, your attitude was not such as to give him any encouragement. The one in authority should have acquitted himself as a man of God, reproving, exhorting, encouraging, as the case demanded, whether you would receive or reject his testimony. But he was easily discouraged, and left you without the help that a faithful minister of Christ should have given. He failed in not keeping up with the opening providence of God, and in not showing you your duty and educating you up to the demands of the time; but the minister's neglect should not dishearten you and lead you to excuse yourselves for neglecting duty. There is the more need of energy and fidelity on your part.
Vowing and Not Paying
Some of you have been stumbling over your pledges. The Spirit of the Lord came into the ----- meeting in answer to prayer, and while your hearts were softened under its influence, you pledged. While the streams of salvation were pouring upon your hearts, you felt that you must follow the example of Him who went about doing good and who cheerfully gave His life to ransom man from sin and degradation. Under the heavenly, inspiring influence you saw that selfishness and worldliness were not consistent with Christian character and that you could not live for yourselves and be Christlike. But when the influence of His abundant love and mercy was not felt in so marked a manner in your hearts, you withdrew your offerings, and God withdrew His blessing from you.
Adversity came upon some. There was a failure in their crops, so that they could not redeem their pledges; and some were even brought into straitened circumstances. Then, of course, they could not be expected to pay. But had they not murmured and withdrawn their hearts from their pledges, God would have worked for them and would have opened ways whereby every one could have paid what he had promised. They did not wait in faith, trusting God to open the way so that they could redeem their pledges. Some had means at their command; and had they possessed the same willing mind as when they pledged, and had they heartily rendered to God in tithes and offerings that which He had lent them for this purpose, they would have been greatly blessed. But Satan came in with his temptations and led some to question the motives and the spirit which actuated the servant of God in presenting the call for means. Some felt that they had been deceived and defrauded. In spirit they repudiated their vows, and whatever they did afterward was with reluctance, and therefore they received no blessing.
In the parable of the talents the man to whom was entrusted one talent manifested a grudging spirit and hid his money so that his lord could not be benefited by it. When his master required him to give an account of his stewardship, he excused his neglect by laying blame upon his lord. "I knew thee [he professes to be acquainted with his lord] that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: and I was afraid [that all my improvements would not be mine, but that you would claim them], and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath [made a right use of my goods] shall be given, and he shall have abundance [for I can trust him, knowing that he will make right improvement of what is lent him]: but from him that hath not [who has been fearful to trust me] shall be taken away even that which he hath. [I shall deprive him of what he claims as his; he shall forfeit all right of trust; I will take away his talents and give them to one who will improve them.] And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The spirit manifested by the brethren in regard to their pledges has been very offensive to God. Had they seen the cause prospering in the fields already entered they would have felt differently. There was no deception practiced upon them, and the charge of deception which they made was against the Spirit of God and not against the servant He sent. Had Brother A occupied the right position in this matter, had he cherished the spirit which influenced him to make the pledge, he would not have felt such an unwillingness to invest in the cause of God. But he thought how much he could do with his means by investing it in worldly enterprises. Avarice, worldliness, and covetousness are defects in character which are opposed to the exercise of the Christian graces. Said the apostle: "Let your conversation [your very deportment and habits of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
It was evident that many who vowed had no faith and believed themselves wronged. They talked of it and dwelt upon it until it seemed a reality to them. They felt that they ought not to have aided the General Conference, and urged that they ought to have had the means to use in their own field. The Lord worked for them according to their limited faith. Satan, who had been holding their minds in deception, caused them to think that they had done a liberal thing in sending means to the General Conference, when, upon investigation, the facts showed that they still lacked a considerable of returning to the conference the amount that had been paid out in sending them laborers and in helping them in various ways to start the work and carry it forward. Yet these persons have been grieved, dissatisfied, unhappy, and have backslidden from God, because they thought they were doing such great things. This only shows what a terrible deception can come upon minds when they are not under the special control of the Spirit of God. Their doubting, their suspicions, their prejudice in regard to the General Conference, were all prompted by Satan. The cause of God is one the world over. Every branch of the work centers in Christ. No one portion of the field is independent of the rest.
Dear brethren, you have let Satan into your hearts, and he will never be fully vanquished until you repent of your wicked doubts and the withdrawal of your pledges. The Lord's messenger was despised and charged with bringing an undue pressure upon the people. God was displeased with Brother B because he did not bear a decided testimony against everything of that sort and show you your sin as it really was.
"When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error; wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?"
Here the matter is presented in its true light. Your work was done before the angel of God. Your words were not only heard by men, but the angel of God listened to them, and can you be surprised that God was angry with you? Can you wonder that He has not blessed you and made you able to pay your pledges? When you have grumbled and murmured and withdrawn your pledges and felt that God's servants had deceived you and extorted from you pledges that were not just, the enemy has exulted. Could you see your course as it is you would never make one semblance of an excuse for it.
Be careful how you speak one word to lessen the influence of God's messengers. There may sometimes have been too much urging for means. But when the light and love of Jesus illuminates the hearts of His followers, there will be no occasion for urging or begging their money or their service. When they become one with Jesus, and realize that they are not their own, that they are bought with a price and are therefore the Lord's property, and that all they have is simply entrusted to them as His stewards, they will with cheerful heart and unswerving fidelity render to God the things that are His. The Lord will not accept an offering that is made unwillingly, grudgingly. With your present feelings there would be no virtue in making more pledges. When you recover from this snare of the enemy, when you heal the breach that you have made, and realize that the wants of God's cause are as continual as are His gifts to the children of men, your works will correspond with your faith, and you will receive a rich blessing from the Lord.