When an interest is aroused in any town or city, that interest should be followed up. The place should be thoroughly worked until a humble house of worship stands as a sign, a memorial of God's Sabbath, a light amid the moral darkness. These memorials are to stand in many places as witnesses to the truth. God in His mercy has provided that the messengers of the gospel shall go to all countries, tongues, and peoples until the standard of truth shall be established in all parts of the inhabited world.
Wherever a company of believers is raised up, a house of worship should be built. Let not the workers leave the place without accomplishing this.
In many places where the message has been preached and souls have accepted it, they are in limited circumstances and can do but little toward securing advantages that would give character to the work. Often this renders it difficult to extend the work. As persons become interested in the truth, they are told by the ministers of other churches--and these words are echoed by the church members: "These people have no church, and you have no place of worship. You are a small company, poor and unlearned. In a short time the ministers will go away, and then the interest will die down. Then you will give up all these new ideas which you have received."
Can we suppose that this will not bring strong temptation to those who see the reasons of our faith and are convicted by the Spirit of God in regard to present truth? It has to be often repeated that from a small beginning large interests may grow. If wisdom and sanctified judgment and skillful generalship are manifested by us in building up the interests of our Redeemer's kingdom, we shall do all in our power to assure the people of the stability of our work. Humble sanctuaries will be erected where those who accept the truth may find a place to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.
Whenever it is possible, let our church buildings be dedicated to God free of debt. When a church is raised up, let the members arise and build. Under the direction of a minister who is guided by the advice of his fellow ministers, let the newly converted ones work with their own hands, saying: "We need a meetinghouse, and we must have it." God calls upon His people to make cheerful, united efforts in His cause. Let this be done, and soon will be heard the voice of thanksgiving: "See what the Lord hath wrought."
There are some cases, however, in which a young church may not be able at once to bear the whole burden of erecting a house of worship. In these cases let the brethren in other churches help them. In some cases it may be better to hire some money than not to build. If a man has money, and, after giving what he can, will make a loan, either without interest or at a low rate, it would be right to use the money until the indebtedness can be lifted. But I repeat: If possible, church buildings should be dedicated free of debt.
In our churches the pews should not be rented. The wealthy are not to be honored above the poor. Let no distinction be made. "All ye are brethren."
In none of our buildings should we seek to make a display; for this would not advance the work. Our economy should testify to our principles. We should employ methods of work that are not transient. Everything should be done solidly for time and for eternity.
The lax way which some churches have of incurring debts and keeping in debt was presented before me. In some cases a continual debt is upon the house of God. There is continual interest to be paid. These things should not, and need not, be. If there is that wisdom and tact and zeal manifested for the Master which God requires, there will be a change in these things. The debts will be lifted. God calls for offerings from those who can give, and even the poorer members can do their little. Self-denial will enable all to do something. Both old and young, parents and children, are to show their faith by their works. Let the necessity of each acting a part be most strenuously impressed upon the members of the church. Let everyone do his best. When there is a will to do, God will open the way. He does not design that His cause shall be trammeled with debt.
God calls for self-sacrifice. This will bring not only financial but spiritual prosperity. Self-denial and self-sacrifice will work wonders in advancing the spirituality of the church.
It is displeasing to God for our churches to be burdened with debt. "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts." Haggai 2:8. When that gold and silver is used for selfish purposes, to gratify ambition or pride or desire for any selfish indulgence, God is dishonored. When the people chosen by God embellish their own houses and invest His money in selfish gratification, leaving His cause to languish, they cannot be blessed.
When you place the Lord first, and determine that His house shall no longer be dishonored by debt, God will bless you. Every week endeavor to lay aside something for this object, something in addition to your tithe money. Have a box for this purpose. Explain to your children that it is the self-denial box, in which you place every dollar and every penny that is not required for actual necessities. It is for the Lord's house, to lift the heaven-dishonoring debt from the place of worship. In making this offering, every member of the family will receive a blessing.
God reads every thought. He notes every action. Everything done with sincere purpose for the advancement of His work will be blessed by Him. The two mites, the cup of cold water, presented in sympathy and love, will be made effective in doing good here and will bring a reward hereafter.
The test question for every Christian to ask himself is: "Have I, in my inmost soul, supreme love for Christ? Do I love His tabernacle? Will not the Lord be honored by my making His sacred institution my first consideration? Is my love for God and my Redeemer strong enough to lead me to deny self? When tempted to indulge in pleasure and selfish enjoyment, shall I not say: No, I will spend nothing for my own gratification while the house of God is burdened with debt?"
Our Redeemer claims far more than we give Him. Self interposes its desire to be first; but the Lord claims the whole heart, the entire affections. He will not come in as second. And should not Christ have our first and highest consideration? Should He not demand this token of our respect and loyalty? These things underlie our very heart life, in the home circle and in the church. If the heart, the soul, the strength, the life, are surrendered wholly to God, if the affections are given wholly to Him, we shall make Him supreme in all our service. When we are in harmony with God, the thought of His honor and glory comes before everything else. No person is preferred before Him in our gifts and offerings. We have a sense of what it means to be partners with Christ in the sacred firm.
The house where God meets with His people will be dear and sacred to every one of His loyal children. It will not be left crippled with debt. To allow such a thing would appear almost like a denial of your faith. You will be ready to make a great personal sacrifice if only you may have a house free from debt, where God can meet with and bless His people.
Every debt upon every house of worship among us may be paid if the members of the church will plan wisely and put forth earnest, zealous effort to cancel the debt. And in every case where a debt is lifted, let there be a service of thanksgiving, which shall be as a rededication to God of His house.
God tries the faith of His people to test their character. Those who in times of emergency are willing to make sacrifices for Him are the ones whom He will honor with a partnership in His work. Those who are unwilling to practice self-denial in order to carry out God's purposes will be tested, that their course may appear to human eyes as it appears to the eyes of Him who reads the heart.
When the Lord sees His people restricting their imaginary wants, practicing self-denial, not in a mournful, regretful spirit, as Lot's wife left Sodom, but joyfully for Christ's sake, then the work will go forward with power.