Mr. ----- has a nature that Satan plays upon with wonderful success. This case is one that should teach the young a lesson in regard to marriage. His wife followed feeling and impulse, not reason and judgment, in selecting a companion. Was their marriage the result of true love? No, no; it was the result of impulse,--blind, unsanctified passion. Neither was at all fitted for the responsibilities of married life. When the novelty of the new order of things wore away, and each became acquainted with the other, did their love become stronger, their affection deeper, and their lives blend
together in beautiful harmony? It was entirely the opposite. The worst traits of their characters began to deepen by exercise, and, instead of their married life being one of happiness, it has been one of increasing trouble, especially to the wife. God in His mercy has tested her, spared her life, and lengthened her probation in order that she might obtain a fitness for the future life.
Her husband has a very defective character. Without a thorough transformation by the grace of God he would be unfit to connect in marriage with any woman. He is so thoroughly impregnated with self, so entirely given up to habits of self-indulgence and easy indolence, that he needs to be under discipline himself, rather than have anything to do in disciplining wife or children. This man's mind has been cast in an inferior mould. He has encouraged coarseness and objectionable traits of character, until he was presented to me as having scarcely a redeeming quality in his character. There is only one hope, and that is that he will see himself, and so despise and loathe himself that he will seek a new heart, be born again, and become a new man in Christ Jesus. He should become a diligent man. Industry will be of great advantage to him. His course is offensive to God, in that he invites temptation. His rudeness, his threats, his untamable, uncourteous spirit, will make him a curse to himself and to others. His conduct toward his wife's mother has been rude and ungentlemanly. It should henceforth be the life study of both husband and wife how to avoid everything that creates contention and to keep unbroken the marriage vows.
Just such unsanctified marriages are filling up the ranks of Sabbathkeepers. God wants His children to be happy, and, if they would learn of Him, He would save them from the daily misery which comes in consequence of these unhappy unions. Many marriages can only be productive of misery; and yet the minds of the youth run in this channel because
Satan leads them there, making them believe that they must be married in order to be happy, when they have not the ability to control themselves or support a family. Those who are not willing to adapt themselves to each other's disposition, so as to avoid unpleasant differences and contentions, should not take the step. But this is one of the alluring snares of the last days, in which thousands are ruined for this life and the next. Imagination, lovesick sentimentalism, should be guarded against as would be the leprosy. Very many of the young men and women in this age of the world are lacking in virtue; therefore great caution is needed. A virtuous character is the foundation upon which to build; but if the foundation is gone, the building is worthless. Those who have preserved a virtuous character, although they may lack in other desirable qualities, may be of real moral worth.
In order for the church to prosper there must be a studious effort on the part of its members to cherish the precious plant of love. Let it have every advantage that it may flourish in the heart. Every true Christian will develop in his life the characteristics of this divine love; he will reveal a spirit of forbearance, of beneficence, and a freedom from envy and jealousy. This character developed in word and act will not repulse, and will not be unapproachable, cold, and indifferent to the interests of others. The person who cultivates the precious plant of love will be self-denying in spirit, and will not yield self-control even under provocation. He will not impute wrong motives and evil intentions to others, but will feel deeply over sin when discovered in any of the disciples of Christ.
Love vaunteth not itself. It is a humble element; it never prompts a man to boast, to exalt himself. Love for God and for our fellow men will not be revealed in acts of rashness nor lead us to be overbearing, faultfinding, or dictatorial. Love is not puffed up. The heart where love reigns will be
guided to a gentle, courteous, compassionate course of conduct toward others, whether they suit our fancy or not, whether they respect us or treat us ill. Love is an active principle; it keeps the good of others continually before us, thus restraining us from inconsiderate actions lest we fail of our object in winning souls to Christ. Love seeks not its own. It will not prompt men to seek their own ease and indulgence of self. It is the respect we render to I that so often hinders the growth of love.
There are men of poverty and obscurity whose lives God would accept and make full of usefulness on earth and of glory in heaven, but Satan is working persistently to defeat His purposes and drag them down to perdition by marriage with those whose character is such that they throw themselves directly across the road to life. Very few come out from this entanglement triumphant. Brother -----, you are willing to experiment and try to prove that you will be an exception to the general rule. Joseph was one of the few who could withstand temptation. He showed that he had an eye single to the glory or God. He evidenced a lofty regard for God's will, alike when occupying the prisoner's cell and when standing next the throne. He carried his religion with him wherever he went and in whatever situation he was placed. True religion has an all-pervading power. It gives tone to everything man does. You need not go out of the world in order to be a Christian, but you may carry your religion, with all its sanctifying influences, into all you do and say. You may discharge well the duties belonging to the situation where God has placed you, by keeping the heart fixed upon heavenly things, and thus break the spell now upon you through unwise association. Had you followed the light you would now be able to escape the snares which those who discern not the will of God have laid to captivate your soul.
Another striking point in the character of Joseph, worthy
of imitation by all youth, is his deep filial reverence. As he meets his father with tears streaming from his eyes, he hangs upon his neck in an affectionate, loving embrace. He seems to feel that he cannot do enough for his parent's comfort and watches over his declining years with a love as tender as a mother's. No pains is spared to show his respect and love upon all occasions. Joseph is an example of what a youth should be. Love manifested for your mother would disclose a beautiful trait of character such as God would approve.
The want of respect for the counsel of a godly parent is one of the marked sins of this degenerate age. There are many lives in our land that are dark and wretched because of one step taken in the dark. By one act of disobedience many a youth has blighted his whole life and weighed down a loving mother's heart with anguish. God will not hold you guiltless if you follow in this course. By despising the counsel of a God-fearing mother, who would willingly give her life for her children, you are transgressing the fifth commandment. You know not where your steps are leading you.
I again plead a mother's claim, a mother's love. There can be no baser ingratitude than that which marks the sin of disobedience to a Christian mother. In the days of your helpless infancy she watched over you; her prayers and tears were witnessed of heaven as she affectionately cherished you. For her children she has toiled and planned, thought, prayed, and exercised self-denial. Through your whole life her true heart has been anxious and earnest for your welfare. And yet now you choose your own course; you follow your own blind, stubborn will, irrespective of the bitter harvest you will reap and the sorrow you will bring upon her.
Infirmities are gathering about your mother. She needs you; any attention you may render will be very precious to her. There are none of her other children to whom she can look. They feel under no obligation to her. But you will find
the privilege which is now yours may soon be lost. Do not think, however, that should you neglect your privilege and your duty as a son, your mother would suffer. She has true friends who will feel it a privilege to do the duties from which you withdraw yourself. God loves your mother and will care for her. If her own children neglect her, He will raise up others to do the work they might have done, and receive the blessing which was offered them. It is their privilege to make her last days her best and happiest.
I tell you plainly, God is displeased with your course. There are troubles before you that you do not discern and which may be avoided if you choose to follow wise counsel. Our Saviour has made you the object of His unwearied labours and tender solicitude, that you may be wise and not ruin your self. He yearns over you in boundless compassion and love, exclaiming: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" Your foolish heart has turned from the counsel of your best friends.
Because of earnest, faithful warnings to guard you against the mistakes of a lifetime, you have imagined you were a great benefit to the church. True, you are capable, in Jesus Christ, of being useful; but, notwithstanding this, the Lord and the church can get along without you. You can join the army of Christ's followers if you will; you may share in its conflicts and triumphs. But if you choose not to do this, the self-denying army under the bloodstained banner of the cross will move on to certain victory, and leave you behind. If you choose to guide your own frail bark across life's stormy waters you must answer for the presumption and be held responsible for the result.
If you could see how you have already become weak in principle, if you could see how your honour and honesty are imperiled, you would then see that God is not with you and that you ought not to stand in the place of responsibility you
now occupy; you are unworthy. My heart is sad indeed when I know what you might have been had you yielded yourself wholly to God and then see the power the enemy has had over you.
The Sabbath school work is important, and all who are interested in the truth should endeavour to make it prosperous. Brother ----- could have served well in this branch of the work had he and others in the church pursued a right course. But he has been praised and petted too much. It has nearly ruined him. The Lord can do without him, but he cannot afford to do without God. The Lord will entrust His work to men with clean hands and a pure heart; therefore it is an honour to bear responsibilities in His cause.
The temperance work is also worthy of your best endeavours. But great care should be taken to make the temperance meetings as elevated and ennobling as possible. Avoid a surface work and everything of a theatrical character. Those who realize the solemn character of this work will keep the standard high. But there is a class who have no real respect for the cause of temperance; their only concern is to show off their smartness upon the stage. The pure, the thoughtful, and those who understand the object of the work, should be encouraged to labour in these great branches of reform. They may not be intellectually great, but if pure and humble, God-fearing and true, the Lord will accept their labours.
Literary societies are quite frequently organized, but, in nine cases out of ten, they have proved a damage to souls, rather than a blessing. This is because an alliance is formed with the world or with a class whose influence and tendency is ever to lead away from the solid to the superficial, from the real to the fictitious. Literary societies would be of great advantage if controlled by a religious element; but, sooner or later, the irreligious element is almost certain to gain the ascendancy and have a controlling influence. Just so it is with
our temperance societies. The solemnity of the work is all covered up with the superficial, and a continual temptation is placed before the youth whom we wish to save.
The facts are before us. The burden bearers among us are dropping off into the silent grave. The active members of the church, the true workers in all reforms, are mostly past the meridian of life, and are declining in physical and mental strength. We should anxiously contemplate who are to rise up and fill their places. To whom are to be committed the vital interests of the church? The question may be asked by us with the deepest concern, Who will bear the responsibilities of the cause of God when a few more standard-bearers fall? We can but look anxiously upon the youth of today as those who must take these burdens, and upon whom responsibilities must fall. They must take the work where others leave it; and their course will determine whether morality, religion, and vital godliness shall prevail, or whether immorality and infidelity shall corrupt and blight all that is valuable. It is the way the standard is carried now that will determine the future.
Parents, will you now show by your course of action that wholesome restraint, good order, harmony, and peace shall be the ruling principle? or, shall those whose course of life shows that they have frivolous minds and are low in the scale of moral worth have a moulding, controlling influence? God calls upon His believing people to connect with Him, to purify their souls by humbly walking in the footsteps of Jesus. God calls upon you to put away pride of opinion, pride of dress, and self-exaltation, and let the good and noble faculties of the mind strengthen with use.
Will men and women professing the most solemn truths ever borne to mortals be true to principle? If they would have an influence to lead the world to serious reflection they must be; their dress and conversation must be in strict
accordance with their peculiar faith. Those who are older must educate the young, by precept and example, how to discharge those claims which society and their Maker have upon them. Upon these youth must be laid grave responsibilities. The question is whether they are capable of governing themselves and standing forth in the purity of their God-given manhood, abhorring anything which savours of licentiousness and discord.
Can I say anything that will make an impression upon the young? Never before was there so much at stake; never were there such weighty results depending upon a generation as upon those now coming upon the stage of action. Not for one moment should they think that they can fill any position of trust without possessing a good character. Just as well might they expect to gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. A good character must be built up brick by brick, every day growing in proportion to the effort put forth. Those characteristics which they will take to heaven with them must be obtained by the diligent exercise of their own faculties, by improving every advantage Providence gives them, and by connecting with the Source of all wisdom. Aim for no low standard. Let not your minds be cast in an inferior mould. The characters of Joseph and Daniel are good models for you to follow, but Christ is the perfect pattern.
Some of the brethren and sisters in the ----- church have done a good missionary work, but their interest must not flag. A few have done more than their strength would admit, but it was their meat and drink to do it. All can act a part in this work, and none are excused. Jesus would have all who profess His name become earnest workers. It is necessary that every individual member build upon the Rock, Christ Jesus. A storm is arising that will wrench and test the spiritual foundation of every one to the utmost. Therefore avoid the sand bed; hunt for the rock. Dig deep; lay
your foundation sure. Build, oh, build for eternity! Build with tears, with heartfelt prayers. Let every one of you from henceforth make your life beautiful by good works. Calebs are the men most needed in these last days. That which will make our churches vigorous and successful in their efforts is not bustle, but quiet, humble work; not parade and bombast, but patient, prayerful, persevering effort.
"He that is not with Me," said Christ, "is against Me." It is wholehearted, thoroughly decided men and women who will stand now. Christ sifted His followers again and again, until at one time there remained only eleven and a few faithful women to lay the foundation of the Christian church. There are those who will stand back when burdens are to be borne; but when the church is all aglow, they catch the enthusiasm, sing and shout, and become rapturous; but watch them. When the fervour is gone, only a few faithful Calebs will come to the front and display unwavering principle. These are salt that retains the savour. It is when the work moves hard that the churches develop the true helpers. These will not be talking of self, vindicating self, but will lose their identity in Jesus Christ. To be great in God's kingdom is to be a little child in humility, in simplicity of faith, and in the purity of love. All pride must perish, all jealousy be overcome, all ambition for supremacy be given up, and the meekness and trust of the child be encouraged. All such will find Christ their rock of defence, their strong tower. In Him they may trust implicitly, and He will never fail them.
Oh, that all who believe present truth would be warned to seek the Lord. The thoughts of God's infinite mercy and of His matchless love should influence all to imitate His example. But this is not the case. Some of our sisters indulge too freely in a love for dress and display; they do not dress at all in harmony with our holy faith. This is true of Sister -----. The world should have a better example than this
sister has given it. She should feel her God-given responsibility to cast the entire weight of her influence upon the side of Christ and seek to make those with whom she associates less worldly. She and Sister ----- would be of far greater advantage to the church if they would encourage plainness of dress in themselves and others. Those sisters who are dressmakers and who study the fashion plates frequently lead others in the church to do that which is displeasing to God by encouraging them to cut and trim their dresses in imitation of the world. The efforts of these sisters to do good would be far more acceptable to God were there seen in their lives less dressing, less cheap, worldly talking, and less visiting; less complaining and murmuring against the ministers labouring for you, and more praying and reading of the Bible.
The Lord is displeased with the course pursued by many in the church toward some of their ministering brethren. He bids you cease your cruel speeches and let words of encouragement take the place of your murmuring, your repining, your faultfinding. Christ is speaking to you in the person of His saints, and you have despised His counsel and rejected His reproof. Do this no longer. Elder ----- has a work to do, not only in the East, but in many places. God will be with him and prosper him if he hides in Jesus. He is not infallible; he may at times err in judgment. But be careful how you speak that which will make of none effect the words God bids him utter.
When he knows what the will of God is, he would not hesitate to do it should it cost him his life. While many of you plan only how you can please self and have an easy life, his whole life and interest is wrapped up in the cause of God. While studying and planning for the cause, he has sometimes exercised shrewdness and sharpness, which has led others to misjudge him. His aim was not to advantage himself, but the cause which he loved. While the Lord would have you
faithfully uphold the hands of His tried servants, He would warn you against placing too great confidence in those who have newly come to the faith or with whose past life and labours you are unacquainted.
It is your privilege to be a prosperous, happy church. Let each one of you search his own heart, cleanse the defiled soul temple, and watch unto prayer. Be determined you will seek Jesus until you find Him; release not your grasp until His love dwells in your heart and you have His spirit subduing your life and fashioning your character. Then believe, and with boldness you may approach His throne, knowing that He will hear your prayers.