Dear Brother and Sister P: My soul is exceedingly sorrowful as I review your cases. Last night my mind was heavily burdened. In dreams I was conversing with you, Brother P. Your separation from God was so evident, and you were so blind in regard to your true condition, that it seemed like saying to a blind man, "See," to try to make you discern your true standing.
I have not been able to sleep since three o'clock, and have been pleading with God for a larger measure of His Spirit. I inquire over and over again: Who is sufficient for these things? I dare not hold my peace when light has been given me of God. I must speak; and yet it is with trembling, fearing that the message will be rejected, and the souls to whom it is addressed will be enshrouded in darkness more dense than before the light came to them. I must come close to Jesus. I have laid my hand in His, with the earnest prayer: "Lead me, guide me; I have not wisdom to go alone." Jesus seems very near; and I am deeply impressed that He is about to do a special work for His people, particularly for those that labor in word and doctrine. He is willing to help you both if you will receive help in His own appointed way, but I cannot speak one word of encouragement to you while you remain in your present position. The words of Christ to the Pharisees, "Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life," are applicable to you.
I wish we could do something to help you; but while you remain in the worldly channel in which you have placed yourselves, what can be done for you? You love the world, and the world loves you, because, so far as practical godliness is concerned, there is no separation between yourselves and worldlings. In their eyes you are agreeable, smart, and good; they find in you both that which pleases them. They have praised you and spoken to you smooth things, and thus have had an influence to soothe and comfort you; and you, in your turn, have soothed and comforted them in their careless indifference to the claims of God. You have encouraged them in their pride and love of pleasure; for your actions have said to the sinner: "It shall be well with thee." By mingling with worldlings, your judgment has become perverted; and sins which God abhors are tame and harmless in your sight.
I greatly fear that by your self-righteousness you are building around your souls barriers that nothing can break down. You have been no nearer to God, no more working His works, no more imbued with His Spirit, than the professors in the nominal churches. You have had no real sense of the sacredness of the Sabbath, and God has not accepted your observance of His holy day. You have had no true consecration, no sincere devotion. God has not been honored by either of you; you have not known Him experimentally. You have walked apart from Him so long that He is nearly a stranger to you. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; but you have so long cultivated worldly tastes and habits that it will not be easy for you to bend your mind in an opposite direction.
You will feel: "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" But the world cannot understand the people of God. There is no harmony between the children of light and the children of darkness. Paul asks: "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." John testifies: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" asks James. "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
Jesus said to His disciples: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever [not a profession of the truth, not a form of godliness, but]: even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings."
The words of Christ find no response in your hearts, for you have blinded your eyes and hardened your hearts. In the books of heaven you are both accounted as of the world. Your hearts are sometimes troubled, but not enough to lead you to repent and change your course of action. The world holds your affections, and its customs are more agreeable to you than obedience to the heavenly Teacher.
Your example before your children is not at all in accordance with the truth you profess to love. The truth does not sanctify you or them. You love selfish enjoyment; and the lessons taught your children, both by precept and example, have not been of a character to foster in them humility, meekness, and a Christlike disposition. You are molding them after the world's standard. When Jesus shall open before you the book of records, where day by day your words and actions have been faithfully registered, you will see that with both of you life has been a terrible failure.
What your recent affliction may have done for you, I am unable to say; but if it has had power to open your eyes and convict your souls, you will certainly take a course to make this evident. Without a thorough conversion, you can never receive the crown of everlasting life; and your children will never have part with the blood-washed throng unless they first unlearn the lessons you have taught them, which have become a part of their life and character. Your example has led them to think that religion is like a garment that may be worn or laid off as occasion requires or convenience dictates; and unless there is an entire change in the influences brought to bear upon them, these lax ideas of the claims of God will cling to them. They do not know what constitutes the Christian life; they have not learned what it is to live the truth and bear the cross.
"If the world hate you," said Christ, "ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." You have entertained the opinion that the reason why the world is so much opposed to us as a people is that we are too unsocial, too plain in our dress, and too strict in regard to amusements, withdrawing ourselves from them too much in practice as well as in precept. You have thought that if we would be less exclusive and would mingle more with the world, their opinions and impressions of us would be greatly modified. But no greater mistake could affect the human mind. Said Christ: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for My name's sake, because they know not Him that sent Me."
These are the words of One of whom even His enemies were forced to admit: "Never man spake like this Man." The words of men express their own human thoughts; but those of Christ are spirit and life. "If ye continue in My word," He says, "then are ye My disciples indeed." "He that is of God heareth God's words," but these divine utterances find no place in the heart of one who is of the world and loves its pleasures.
God has given us specific directions so that no one need err. "Man shall not live by bread alone," He says, "but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The truth given by inspiration "is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Not by one word, not by many words, but by every word that God has spoken, shall man live. You cannot disregard one word, a single injunction that He has given, however trifling it may seem to you, and be safe. "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Whosoever will willfully break one command cannot in spirit and in truth keep any of them. He may claim that, with the exception of what he may regard as slight deviations, he keeps them all; yet if he willingly offends in one point he is guilty of all.
Brother and Sister P, while you have been making a profession of Christianity you have been keeping back part of the price. You have robbed God of thought and devotion; you have robbed Him of your talents and influence. Your inclinations have been a snare to you. You have not followed the light that God has graciously given you in testimonies; and you have done things that without repentance and reformation on your part will exclude you from heaven. Had you heeded the reproofs sent to you by the Holy Spirit you would now be strong in God and far advanced in Christian experience, and you would have had an entirely different record in the books of heaven.
"He that rejecteth Me," says Christ, "and receiveth not My words, hath One that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." In that day what shame and confusion of face will cover those who have had such light and privileges, who have had salvation brought within their reach by the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God, and yet have not availed themselves of these precious gifts. Through His word God is constantly pointing out to us the right path, even the high and glorious path of the just. The travelers in this path do not walk in darkness, for it is illuminated by the Sun of Righteousness; but you have rejected it because it was too far separated from the world. Self-love and selfish ambition cannot pass the strait gate and walk the narrow, upward way.
It will be found in the day of final settlement that God was acquainted with everyone by name. There is an unseen witness to every action of the life. "I know thy works," says He that "walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." It is known what opportunities have been slighted, how untiring have been the efforts of the Good Shepherd to search out those who were wandering in crooked ways, and to bring them back to the path of safety and peace. Again and again God has called after the pleasure lovers; again and again He has flashed the light of His word across their path, that they might see their peril, and escape. But on and on they go, jesting and joking as they travel the broad road, until at length their probation is ended. God's ways are just and equal; and when sentence is pronounced against those who are found wanting, every mouth will be stopped.
How different it would now be with you both had you regarded in their true light the praise and honor that come from men. You both thirst more for the praise of the world than for the waters of life. The idea of being thought of importance among men of the world has intoxicated you; their words of esteem have deceived you. When you place a right estimate on eternal things, the friendship and esteem of the rich and the learned will have no influence over you. Pride, in whatever form it may manifest itself, will no longer live in your heart. But you have so long drunk of the turbid stream of worldliness that you see no better way to live.
Again and again God has stretched out His hand to save you by showing you your duties and obligations. These duties change in character with the increase of light. When the light shines, making manifest and reproving the errors that were undiscovered, there must be a corresponding change in the life and character. The mistakes that are the natural result of blindness of mind are, when pointed out, no longer sins of ignorance or errors of judgment; but unless there are decided reforms in accordance with the light given, they then become presumptuous sins. The moral darkness that surrounds you will become more dense; your heart will become harder and harder, and you will be more offensive in the sight of God. You do not realize the great peril you are in, the danger there is that in your case the light will become entirely obscured, veiled in complete darkness. When the light is received and acted upon, you will be crucified to sin, being dead indeed unto the world, but alive to God. Your idols will be abandoned, and your example will be on the side of self-denial rather than that of self-indulgence.
Brother and Sister P, had you heeded the Testimonies of the Spirit of God, you would now be walking in the light, in harmony with the people of God; but your unbelief has shut you away from great good. Sister P has not risen up against the Testimonies, neither has she shown confidence in them as from the Lord by obeying them. She loves to have her husband praised and honored by the world; it gratifies her pride, which is by no means small. You may each appropriately inquire: "Why am I so slow to come out from the world and take Christ for my portion? Why should I love and honor those whom I know do not love God nor respect His claims? Why should I wish to retain the friendship of my Lord's enemies? Why should I follow their customs or be influenced by their opinions?" You cannot, my dear friends, serve both God and mammon. You must make an unreserved surrender, or in the near future the light that shines upon your pathway will go out in the darkness of despair. You are on the enemy's ground. You have voluntarily placed yourselves there, and the Lord will not protect you against his assaults.
In your present state you are doing far more harm than good; for you have a form of godliness and profess to believe the truth, while your words and actions say: "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way" that leads to life, "and many there be which go in thereat." If your life is a confession of Christ, then we may truly say that the world has gone after Him. Your profession may be right; but have you humility and love, meekness and devotion? "Whosoever shall confess Me before men," by a holy life and godly conversation, "him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God." No one can confess Christ unless he has the mind and spirit of Christ; he cannot communicate that which he does not possess. The daily life must be an expression of the sanctifying power of the truth, and evidence that Christ is abiding in the soul by faith. Whatever is opposed to the fruits of the Spirit, or to the work of God in separating His people from the world, is a denial of Christ; and His words are: "He that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God."
We may deny Christ by our worldly conversation and by our pride of apparel. You have a circle of friends who are a snare to you and to your children. You love their companionship. Through association with them, you are led to dress yourselves and your children after the fashions followed by those who have no fear of God before their eyes. You thus show that you have friendship with the world. "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." Does your intercourse with these friends incline you to visit the closet and ask divine love and grace, or does it estrange your mind from God? And your dear children--what is your neglect of their eternal interests doing for them? Your example has encouraged them to hurry on the life journey with heedless presumption or with blind self-confidence, having no fixed religious principles to guide them. They have no conscientious regard for the Sabbath, or for the claims of God in any respect; they do not love Christian duties, and are straying further and further from the Source of light, peace, and joy.
Without faith it is impossible to please God; "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." The faith that is required is not a mere assent to doctrines; it is the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Humility, meekness, and obedience are not faith; but they are the effects, or fruit, of faith. These graces you have yet to attain by learning in the school of Christ. You do not know the sentiments and principles of heaven; its language is almost a strange language to you both. The Spirit of God still pleads in your behalf; but I have serious, painful doubts whether you will heed that voice that has been appealing to you for years. I hope you will, and that you will turn and live.
Do you feel that it is too great a sacrifice to give your poor unworthy selves to Jesus? Will you choose the hopeless bondage of sin and death rather than to have your life severed from the world and united to Christ by bonds of love? Jesus still lives to intercede for us. This should daily call out the gratitude of our hearts. He that realizes his guilt and helplessness may come just as he is and receive the blessing of God. The promise belongs to him if he will grasp it by faith. But he that in his own eyes is rich, and honorable, and righteous, who sees as the world sees, and calls evil good and good evil, cannot ask and receive, because he feels no need. He feels that he is full; therefore he must go away empty.
Should you become alarmed for your own souls, should you seek God diligently, He will be found of you; but He will accept no halfhearted repentance. If you will forsake your sins, He is ever ready to forgive. Will you just now surrender to Him? Will you look to Calvary and inquire: "Did Jesus make this sacrifice for me? Did He endure humiliation, shame, and reproach, and suffer the cruel death of the cross because He desired to save me from the sufferings of guilt and the horror of despair, and make me unspeakably happy in His kingdom?" Look upon Him whom your sins have pierced, and resolve: "The Lord shall have the service of my life. I will no longer unite with His enemies; I will no longer lend my influence to the rebels against His government. All I have and am is too little to devote to Him who so loved me that He gave His life for me--His whole divine self for one so sinful and erring." Separate from the world, be wholly on the Lord's side, press the battle to the gates, and you will win glorious victories.
Blessed is he who heeds the words of eternal life. Guided by "the Spirit of truth," he will be led into all truth. He will not be loved, honored, and praised by the world; but he will be precious in the sight of heaven. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not."