Dear Sister G: My heart is drawn out in love and sympathy for you. The present state of things in your family is the sure result of following out your mistaken ideas, and the end is not yet. You have not seen the danger of associating so freely with your relatives. They have had a far greater influence over you and yours than you have had over them. Their being your relatives makes them no less a hindrance to your spiritual welfare and no less transgressors of God's holy law. Their course is fully as offensive to God as that of any others who refuse light and truth, and will not listen to any evidence in its favor. Injurious impressions have been made upon your mind and have influenced your course of action. God has made every provision to bring salvation within our reach, but He will not thrust it upon us against our will. He has laid down conditions in His word, and we should diligently, interestedly, with heart and mind, set about the task of learning these conditions, lest we make some mistake and fail to secure our title to the mansions above.
We cannot serve God and the world at the same time. We must not center our affections on worldly relatives, who have no desire to learn the truth. We may seek in every way, while associated with them, to let our light shine; but our words, our deportment, our customs and practices, should not in any sense be molded by their ideas and customs. We are to show forth the truth in all our intercourse with them. If we cannot do this, the less association we have with them, the better it will be for our spirituality. If we place ourselves among associates whose influence has a tendency to make us forgetful of the high claims the Lord has upon us we invite temptation and become too weak in moral power to resist it. We come to partake of the spirit and cherish the ideas of our associates and to place sacred and eternal things lower than the ideas of our friends. We are, in short, leavened just as the enemy of all righteousness designed we should be.
The young, if brought under this influence, are more easily affected by it than those who are older. Everything leaves its impress upon their minds, the countenances they look upon, the voices they hear, the places they visit, the company they keep, and the books they read. It is impossible to overestimate the importance for this world and the next of the associations we choose for ourselves and, more especially, for our children.
The first years of life are more important than any other period. Decided progress will be made either in a right direction or a wrong one. On one hand, any amount of frivolous attainment may be gained; and on the other, any amount of solid, valuable knowledge for practical life, in becoming acquainted with God, and in learning how to strengthen every faculty that God has entrusted to us. Most important and essential for our present and eternal good is the knowledge of divine truth as revealed in the word of God.
We are living in a time when everything that is false and superficial is exalted above the real, the natural, and the enduring. The mind must be kept free from everything that would lead it in a wrong direction. It should not be encumbered with trashy stories, which do not add strength to the mental powers. The thoughts will be of the same character as the food we provide for the mind. The time devoted to needless, unimportant things would better be spent in contemplating the wonderful mysteries of the plan of salvation and in using every God-given power to learn the ways of the Lord, that our feet may not stumble upon the dark mountain of unbelief or stray from the path of holiness which was cast up by infinite sacrifice for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. The strength of intellect, the substantial knowledge gained, are acquisitions which the gold of Ophir could not buy. Their price is above gold and silver. This kind of education the young do not usually choose. They urge their desires, their likes and dislikes, their preferences and inclinations; but if the parents have correct views of God, of the truth, and of the influences and associations which should surround their children, they will feel their God-given responsibility to firmly guide the inexperienced youth in the right away, knowing that what they sow they will also reap.
Could my voice reach the parents all through the land, I would warn them not to yield to the desires of their children in choosing their companions or associates. Little do parents consider that injurious impressions are far more readily received by the young than are divine impressions; therefore their associations should be the most favorable for the growth of grace and for the truth revealed in the word of God to be established in the heart. If children are with those whose conversation is upon unimportant, earthly things, their minds will come to the same level. If they hear the principles of religion slurred and our faith belittled, if sly objections to the truth are dropped in their hearing, these things will fasten in their minds and mold their characters. If their minds are filled with stories, be they true or fictitious, there is no room for the useful information and scientific knowledge which should occupy them. What havoc has this love for light reading wrought with the mind! How it has destroyed the principles of sincerity and true godliness, which lie at the foundation of a symmetrical character. It is like a slow poison taken into the system, which will sooner or later reveal its bitter effects. When a wrong impression is left upon the mind in youth, a mark is made, not on sand, but on enduring rock.
The associations of your children are of a character to draw them away from every influence that would interfere with, or break up, their health-destroying habits. They are impatient if they cannot have their own way. The advice of Christians is distasteful to them. They are traveling the road to ruin, and any influence which seeks to lead them in an opposite direction stirs the worst impulses of their hearts. They are creatures of circumstances. The formation of these early ties which are unfavorable to religious impressions has had a powerful, controlling influence over them at every subsequent step. Let the youth be placed in the most favorable circumstances possible; for the company they keep, the principles they adopt, the habits they form, will settle the question of their usefulness here, and of their future, eternal interests, with a certainty that is infallible. The parents should not concede to the inclinations of their children, but should follow the plain path of duty which God has marked out, restraining them in kindness, denying with firmness and determination, yet with love, their wrong desires, and with earnest, prayerful, persevering effort leading their steps away from the world upward to heaven. Children should not be left to drift into whatever way they are inclined, and to go into avenues which are open on every side, leading away from the right path. None are in so great danger as those who apprehend no danger and are impatient of caution and counsel.
It is because I see your danger, my sister, that I write you now as I do. While there may be many to flatter you and enjoy your hospitality without seeking to impart a blessing by right counsel, I must warn you of unseen danger, which will imperil your present and eternal happiness. We are approaching stormy times, and we want to study the true foundation of our faith. We need to search the Lawbook to see if our title to the immortal inheritance is without a flaw.
Our people have been regarded as too insignificant to be worthy of notice, but a change will come. The Christian world is now making movements which will necessarily bring commandment-keeping people into prominence. There is a constant supplanting of God's truth by the theories and false doctrines of human origin. Movements are being set on foot to enslave the consciences of those who would be loyal to God. The lawmaking powers will be against God's people. Every soul will be tested. Oh, that we would, as a people, be wise for ourselves, and by precept and example impart that wisdom to our children! Every position of our faith will be searched into; and if we are not thorough Bible students, established, strengthened, and settled, the wisdom of the world's great men will lead us astray.
The world is busy, anxious, and devoted. Evil is eagerly followed as though it were righteousness, error as though it were truth, and sin as though it were holiness. Darkness is covering the earth, and gross darkness the people. And shall God's people be asleep at such a time as this? Shall those who hold the truth be silent, as if paralyzed? Infidels declare that if they believed what Christians profess to believe, they would be far more in earnest than they. If we believe that the end of all things is at hand, "what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
Every soul who truly believes the truth will have corresponding works. All will be earnest and solemn, and unwearied in their efforts to win souls to Christ. If the truth is first planted deep in their own souls, then they will seek to plant it in the hearts of others. The truth is kept altogether too much in the outer court. Bring it into the inner temple of the soul, enthrone it in the heart, and let it control the life. The word of God should be studied and obeyed, then the heart will find rest and peace and joy, and the aspirations will tend heavenward; but when truth is kept apart from the life, in the outer court, the heart is not warmed with the glowing fire of God's goodness.
The religion of Jesus is, by many, reserved for certain days, or certain occasions, and at other times is laid aside and neglected. The abiding principle of truth is not merely for a few hours on the Sabbath, or for a few acts of charity, but it is to be brought into the heart, refining and sanctifying the character. If there is a moment when man is safe without this special light and strength from heaven, then he may dispense with the truth of God. The Bible, God's pure, holy word, must be his counselor and guide, the controlling power of his life. It gives forth its lessons to us if we will take them to heart.
Abraham was a man favored of God. The Lord said: "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." Abraham was honored of God because he cultivated home religion and caused the fear of the Lord to pervade his whole household. It is God who says: "I know him, that he will command"-there will be no betraying of sacred trust on his part, no yielding to anyone but God; there is a law, and Abraham will keep it; no blind affection will cloud his sense of right and interfere between God and the souls of his children; that kind of indulgence which is the veriest cruelty will not lead Abraham astray.
Parents and children alike belong to God to be ruled by Him. By affection and authority combined, Abraham ruled his house. God's word has given us rules for our guidance. These rules form the standard from which we cannot swerve if we would keep the way of the Lord. God's will must be paramount. The question for us to ask is not: What have others done? What will my relatives think? or, What will they say of me if I pursue this course? but, What has God said? Neither parent nor child can truly prosper in any course excepting in the way of the Lord.
I am thankful that you have noble sons who are seeking to walk in the ways of the Lord; but I hope you will discern more clearly the path of duty in respect to their associations. This will determine whether you are growing in spirituality, or whether you are dwarfed in your religious life. The stern dictates of conscience must be obeyed, even though it be difficult; and it will help you to gain in moral power. Duties are often crosses which we must lift. Prayer and praise to God are not always offered without a struggle. Self-denial and cross bearing lie directly in the path we must travel if we reach the gates of the city of God. Jesus has led the way; will we follow?
We must be workers together with God, not alone for our own salvation, but in doing all we can for the salvation of others. Thus we become partners in the great plan of redemption, and will be sharers in the eternal weight of glory by and by. God calls upon you to press your way "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." May the Lord bless you, is my prayer. But remember, if you are united with Christ, you must be a co-worker with Him. Our piety and religious duties will become narrowed down to our own interests unless we are daily partakers of the spirit of Christ. Interest for the souls of others is calculated to give breadth and depth and stability to Christian character.
The Lord is coming. We are nearing home, and we want to take large inspirations of the heavenly atmosphere; then we shall become identified with the Saviour in all His plans. We shall be elevated and able to elevate others, and shall be efficient in good works.