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Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2

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    Chapter 56—Importance of Self-Government

    Dear Brother P,

    I have several times attempted to write to you, but have as often been hindered. I will delay no longer. I have felt for a few days past especially anxious in regard to you. Last June some things were shown me in regard to you. I was carried back in the past and shown your unsettled, roving life. You were without God. Yours has been a hard, reckless life. Yet I saw that God had in mercy spared your life many times when it seemed that no human power or wisdom could preserve it. You now stand a miracle of mercy. When your life has been in imminent peril, Christ, your Advocate, has pleaded in your behalf: “Father, spare his life a little longer. He has been an unfruitful tree, which has cumbered the ground; yet cut it not down. I will patiently wait a little longer, and see if it will not bear fruit. I will impress his heart with the truth. I will convict him of sin.”2T 421.1

    I was shown that the Lord opened the way for you to obey and serve Him. Your steps were directed West, where your surroundings would be more favorable to a growth in grace, and where it would be less difficult for you to form a character for heaven. You came into our family and were received into our hearts. This was all ordered of the Lord. You had not the experience which was necessary in order to live a life that God would approve. You were situated where in a few short months you could obtain more light and a more correct knowledge of present truth than you could have obtained in years if you had remained East.2T 421.2

    Our compassionate High Priest was acquainted with your weakness and your errors and did not leave you in your inexperience to battle with the great foe amid unfavorable surroundings. Had you remained in ----- you would not have retained the truth. The opposition you would have received would have raised your combativeness, and you would have dishonored the truth by a hasty spirit; and then, as obstacles arose in your Christian journey, you would have become discouraged and yielded the truth. You have much to be thankful for. Your heart should be filled with gratitude to your loving Saviour for His mercy to you, to you who have so long abused His love.2T 421.3

    I was shown that you were a rough stone from the quarry, which needed much hewing, squaring, and polishing before it could fill a place in the heavenly building. Some of this work has been done for you; but, oh, there is a much greater work yet to be done! You have had a very unhappy spirit. You have seen the rough side of life. You have not had much happiness; but you were the one who stood in your own light, debarring yourself from good. In your youth you encouraged a spirit of discontent; you would not be ruled; you chose to walk in your own way, irrespective of others’ judgment or counsel. You would not submit to be controlled by your stepfather, because you wanted to follow your own way. He did not understand the best way to manage you, and you were determined not to respect his authority. As soon as he would speak to you, you would place yourself upon the defensive. Your combativeness was large, and you would battle everything and everybody that crossed your plans. Even when suggestions were made of a better course to pursue in your plans and labors, you would fly in an instant. You thought you were censured, thought you were blamed, and felt grieved with those who were your true friends. Your imagination was diseased. You thought that everybody was against you and that your lot was exceedingly hard. It has been hard, but you have made it so.2T 422.1

    Your course toward your stepfather was unbecoming. He did not deserve to be treated by you as he was. He had faults and had committed errors, but while you were awake to see these in an aggravated light you did not see your own errors. In the providence of God your wife was prostrated by disease. She was a proud-spirited woman; but she repented of her sins, and her repentance was accepted of God.2T 422.2

    Your way has been hedged up, on the right hand and on the left, to hinder your progress to perdition. The Lord has brought your unruly, untamable spirit to submit to Him. By a mixture of judgment and mercy you have been brought to repentance. Like Jonah, you fled from present duty to sea. God hedged up your way by the visitations of His providence. You could not prosper or be happy, because you could not leave yourself behind. You took self and sin with you. You cherished a discontented, restless spirit and would not do the duties in your path. You wanted a change, some larger work. You became roving in disposition.2T 423.1

    The eye of the dear Saviour has been upon you, or you would have been left in your unsettled state, and in your sins, to become abandoned in character and miserable in circumstances. While in the land of strangers and in the hour of sickness, you have sadly felt your forlorn, desolate condition. You have passed long nights and weary days of restlessness and pain, away from your mother and sisters, with none but stranger hands to do a kindly office for you, and no Christian hope to sustain you.2T 423.2

    You were seeking after happiness, but did not obtain it. You had neglected the advice of your mother and her entreaties not to violate the commands of God. At times this neglect has caused you bitterness of spirit. But I cannot enter into every particular, for I am not strong. I will dwell upon the most essential things shown me.2T 423.3

    I saw that a work is before you which you do not comprehend. It is to die to self, to crucify self. You have a quick, impetuous temper, which you must subdue. You possess noble traits of character, which will secure you friends if your hasty spirit does not wound. You have a strong attachment for those who manifest an interest for you. When you comprehend things aright you are conscientious; but you often move from impulse, without stopping to reflect.2T 423.4

    You pass your judgment upon individuals, and comment upon their ways and manners, when you do not understand their position or their work. You view things from your standpoint and then are ready to question or condemn the course they pursue, without candidly viewing matters on all sides. You have no knowledge of the duties of others and should not feel responsible for their acts, but do your duty, leaving others with the Lord. Possess your spirit in patience, preserve peace and calmness of mind, and be thankful.2T 424.1

    I saw that the Lord had given you light and experience, that you might see the sinfulness of a hasty spirit and control your passions. So surely as you fail to do this, just so surely you will fail of everlasting life. You must overcome this disease of the imagination. You are extremely sensitive, and if a word is spoken favoring an opposite course from that which you have been pursuing, you are hurt. You feel that you are blamed, and that you must defend yourself, save your life; and in your earnest effort to save your life, you lose it. You have a work to do to die to self and to cultivate a spirit of forbearance and patience. Get over the idea that you are not used right, that you are wronged, that somebody wants to crowd or harm you. You see through false eyes. Satan leads you to take these distorted views of things.2T 424.2

    Dear Brother P, at Adams Center your case was again shown me. I saw that you had ever failed to exercise true self-government. You have made efforts; but these efforts have only reached the external, they have not touched the spring of action. Your hasty temper often causes you sincere and painful regret and self-condemnation. This passionate spirit, unless subdued, will increase to a peevish, faultfinding spirit; indeed, this is already upon you in a degree. You will be ready to resent everything. If jostled upon the sidewalk, you will be offended, and a word of complaint will spring to your lips. When driving in the street, if full half the road is not given you, you will feel stirred in a moment. If asked to put yourself out of your course to accommodate others, you will chafe and fret, and feel that your dignity is imposed upon. You will show to all your besetting sin. Your very countenance will indicate an impatient spirit, and your mouth will seem always ready to utter an angry word. In this habit, as in tobacco using, total abstinence is the only sure remedy. An entire change must take place in you. You frequently feel that you must be more guarded. You resolutely say, “I will be more calm and patient;” but in doing this you only touch the evil on the outside; you consent to retain the lion and watch him. You must go further than this. Strength of principle alone can dislodge this destroying foe and bring peace and happiness.2T 424.3

    You have repeatedly said: “I can't keep my temper.” “I have to speak.” You lack a meek, humble spirit. Self is all alive, and you stand guard continually to preserve it from mortification or insult. Says the apostle: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Those who are dead to self will not feel so readily and will not be prepared to resist everything which may irritate. Dead men cannot feel. You are not dead. If you were, and your life were hid in Christ, a thousand things which you now notice, and which afflict you, would be passed by as unworthy of notice; you would then be grasping the eternal and would be above the petty trials of this life.2T 425.1

    “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.” Margin, “a cool spirit.”2T 426.1

    Our great Exemplar was exalted to be equal with God. He was high commander in heaven. All the holy angels delighted to bow before Him. “And again, when He bringeth in the First-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.” Jesus took upon Himself our nature, laid aside His glory, majesty, and riches to perform his mission, to save that which was lost. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister unto others. Jesus, when reviled, abused, and insulted, did not retaliate. “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again.” When the cruelty of man caused Him to suffer painful stripes and wounds, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously. The apostle Paul exhorted his Philippian brethren: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Is the servant greater than his master? Christ has given us His life as a pattern, and we dishonor Him when we become jealous of every slight, and are ready to resent every injury, supposed or real. It is not an evidence of a noble mind to be prepared to defend self, to preserve our own dignity. We would better suffer wrongfully a hundred times than wound the soul by a spirit of retaliation, or by giving vent to wrath. There is strength to be obtained of God. He can help. He can give grace and heavenly wisdom. If you ask in faith, you will receive; but you must watch unto prayer. Watch, pray, work, should be your watchword.2T 426.2

    Your wife might be a blessing if she would only take upon her the responsibility that it is her duty to take. But she has shunned responsibility all her life, and now is in danger of being influenced, instead of influencing you. Instead of having a softening, elevating influence upon you, there is danger of her thinking as you think, and acting as you act, without reaching down deep to be guided by principle in all her actions. You sympathize with each other, and, unfortunately, help each other to view matters incorrectly. She can exert an influence for good, but she possesses a spirit which savors of spiritual indolence and sloth. She is reluctant to engage in any good work if it is not pleasant and agreeable. What was the sin of Meroz? Doing nothing. It was not because of great crimes that they were condemned, but because they did not come up to the help of the Lord.2T 427.1

    I was shown that your wife does not understand herself. She shunned caretaking in her youth and is not disposed to engage in it even now. She is inclined to lean upon others, rather than upon her own powers. She has not encouraged a noble independence. She should, for years back, have been educating herself to bear burdens. She is not in health. She is predisposed to torpidity of the liver and is not inclined to exercise. She has not the faculty of setting herself to work unless she sees that she must. She eats nearly double the amount which she ought to eat. All that she takes into her stomach, above that which her system can convert into good blood, becomes waste matter, to burden nature in the disposal of it. Her system is clogged with a mass of matter which hinders her in her work, clogs the machinery, and weakens the life forces.2T 427.2

    Taking more food into the system than it can convert into good blood causes a depraved quality of blood and taxes the vitality to a much greater degree than labor or physical exercise. This overeating causes a dull stupor. The brain nerves are called upon to aid the digestive organs, and are thus constantly overtaxed, weakened, and benumbed. This leaves a sense of dullness in the head, and makes your wife liable to a shock of paralysis any day. What she requires is not encouragement to cease exercise. There would be nothing so dangerous for her as to remain where her physical powers would not be called into active exercise. Physical exercise is very essential. This will strengthen her body and mind. When she awakes to the responsibility of her position, and sees the benefit which will result from her seeking to have an aim in life, she will not be so disposed to sink down in indolence and to shun hardships. She does not put her heart into what she does; therefore she moves about too much like a machine, feeling that labor is a burden. She cannot, while she feels thus, realize that new life and vigor which it is her privilege to have. She lacks spirit and energy. She is too much inclined to be lost in dullness and leaden insensibility. The heavy torpor she feels can only be overcome by a spare diet, perfect control over her appetite and all her passions, and by calling her will to aid her in taking exercise. She wants the will to electrify the nerve power so that she may resist indolence.2T 428.1

    Sister P, you never can be of use in the world unless your purposes are strong enough to enable you to overcome this unwillingness to take care and bear burdens. As you daily exercise the forces within you, the task will grow less difficult, until it will become second nature for you to do duty, to be careful and diligent. You can accustom yourself to think, when you lay less burden upon your stomach. This burden taxes the brain.2T 428.2

    You should also have an aim, a purpose, in life. Where there is no purpose, there is a disposition to indolence, but where there is a sufficiently important object in view, all the powers of the mind will come into spontaneous activity. In order to make life a success, the thoughts must be steadily fixed upon the object of life, and not left to wander off and be occupied with unimportant things, or to be satisfied with idle musing, which is the fruit of shunning responsibility. Castle-building depraves the mind.2T 429.1

    Take up present duty. Do it with a will, with all the heart. You should resolve to do something which will require an effort of the mental as well as the physical powers. Your heart should be in your present labor. The duty now before you is the very work which Heaven wishes you to do. To dream of a work far off, and imagine and plan in regard to the future, will prove unprofitable, and will unfit you for the work, small though it may be, which Heaven now places before you. It should not be your study to do some great work, but to do cheerfully and well the work which you see to do today. Talents are entrusted to your care, to be doubled. You are responsible for their proper use or their abuse. You are not to aspire after great things in order to do great service, but to do your little work. Improve your talents, even though they are few, and let a sense of your responsibility to God for their right use rest upon you.2T 429.2

    You need not expect to avoid pain and weariness in the toils and trials of life. The Son of God was partaker of the human frame. He was frequently wearied in body and spirit. Said He: “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” You should cease your far-off dreaming, and bring your mind to present duties, and cheerfully perform them.2T 429.3

    This world is not the Christian's heaven. It is merely the fitting-up place. It is the scene of our life battles, our conflicts and sorrows; and it is important that we all have a firm grasp of the better world, where will be found, when the warfare is ended, peace, joy, and bliss, to be enjoyed forever. I saw that you would both be in greater danger of making shipwreck of faith were you united, because you would look upon matters in a false light. You both have a great work to do for yourselves, but you are in danger of blinding your eyes to each other's faults.2T 430.1

    Sister P should be guarded so as not to stir up the hasty spirit of her husband by relating her supposed grievances to him to obtain sympathy. He views things in a strong light and feels deeply over matters which are not worthy of notice. She will have to learn this and understand that it is wisdom to be silent. She needs the power of endurance. It is much easier to throw a thing into the mind than to get it out when once it is there. It is easier to dwell upon a supposed wrong than to pacify or control the feelings when once aroused.2T 430.2

    Brother P has qualities which would be excellent if they were refined by the elevating influences of pure religion. He can be useful. Sincere piety alone can qualify him to perform his duties well in this world and give him a fitness for heaven. A heavenly character must be acquired upon earth, my brother, or you will never possess it; therefore you should engage at once in the work which you have to do. You should labor earnestly to obtain a fitness for heaven. Live for heaven. Live by faith.2T 430.3

    Brother P, you are a rough stone; but the hand of a skillful workman is upon you. Will you let Him hew and square you, and polish you for that building which is coming together without the sound of ax or hammer? Not a blow is to be struck after probation closes. You must now, in the hours of probation, overcome your impetuous temper, or be separated from God at last.2T 430.4

    Jesus loves you both and will save you if you will be saved in His own appointed way. You may have experimental religion if you really hunger and thirst for it. Go to God in faith and humility, and ask, and you will receive; but remember that the disciple is not above his Master nor the servant greater than his Lord. You need to cherish that humility and humbleness of mind which dwelt in Christ.2T 431.1

    Battle Creek, Michigan,

    February 9, 1869.


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