Epistle Number Four. DEAR CHILDREN —— AND ——: You are deceived in regard to yourselves. You are not Christians. To be true Christians is to be Christ-like. You are far from the mark in this respect; but I hope you will not be deceived until it is too late for you to form characters for Heaven.
Your example has not been good. You have not come to the point to obey the words of Christ: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Here are lessons you have not learned. The denial of self has not been a part of your education. You have neglected to study the words of life. "Search the Scriptures," said the heavenly Teacher. He knew that this was necessary for all, in order to be Christ's true followers. You love to read story books, but do not find the word of God interesting. You should restrict your reading to the word of God, and to books that are of a spiritual and useful character. In so doing, you will close a door against temptation, and you will be blessed.
Had you improved the light that has been given in Battle Creek, you would now be far in advance of what you are in the divine life. You are vain and proud children. You have not felt that you must give an account of your stewardship. You are accountable to God for all your privileges, and for all the means which passes through your hands. Your pleasure and your selfish gratification have been indulged at the expense of conscience and the approval of God. You do not act like servants of Jesus Christ, responsible to your Saviour who has bought you by his own precious blood. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness?" "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you; being then made free from sin, ye become the servants of righteousness."
You are professedly the servants of Jesus Christ. Do you then yield to him ready and willing obedience? Do you earnestly inquire how you shall best please Him who has called you to be soldiers of the cross of Christ? Do you both lift the cross and glory in it? Answer these questions to God. All your acts, however secret you may think they may be, are open to your Heavenly Father. Nothing is hidden, nothing covered. All your acts, and the motives which prompt them, are open to his sight. He has full knowledge of all your words and thoughts. You have a duty to control your thoughts. You will have to war against a vain imagination. You may think that there can be no sin in permitting your thoughts to run as they naturally would without restraint. But this is not so. You are responsible to God for the indulgence of vain thoughts, for from vain imagination arises the actual doing of the things the mind has dwelt upon, and the commital of sins. Govern your thoughts, and it will then be much easier to govern your actions. Your thoughts need to be sanctified. Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." When you come into this position, the work of consecration will be better understood by you both. Your thoughts will be pure, chaste, and elevated. Your actions will be pure and sinless. Your bodies will be preserved in sanctification and honor, that you may present them "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." You are required to deny self in little as well as greater things. You should make an entire surrender to God. You are not approved of God in your present state.
You have had an unsanctified influence over the youth in ——. Your love of show leads to the expenditure of means, which is wrong. You do not realize the claims the Lord has upon you. You have not become acquainted with the sweet result of self-denial. Its fruits are sacred. To serve yourselves, and to please yourselves, has been the order of your lives. To spend your means to gratify pride, has been your practice. Oh! how much better it would have been for you to have restrained your desires, and made some sacrifice for the truth of God, and in thus denying the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, have something to put into the treasury of God. Instead of purchasing frivolous things, put your little into the bank of Heaven, that when the Master comes, you may receive both principal and interest.
Have you both studied how much you could do to honor your Redeemer upon the earth? Oh, no! You have been pleased to honor yourselves, and to receive honor of others; but to study to show yourselves approved of God has not been the burden of your lives. Religion, pure and undefiled, with its strong principles, would prove to you an anchor. In order to answer life's great ends, you must avoid the example of those who are seeking for their own enjoyment and their own pleasure, who have not the fear of God before them. God has made provisions for you that are ample, that if you comply with the conditions laid down in his word, separation from the world, you may receive strength from him to repress every debasing influence, and develop that which is noble, good, and elevating. Christ will be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The will, the intellect, and every emotion, when controlled by religion, has a transforming power.
"Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Here is a principle lying at the foundation of every act, thought, and motive; the consecration of the entire being, both physical and mental, to the control of the Spirit of God. The unsanctified will and passions must be crucified. This may be regarded as a close and severe work. Yet it must de done, or you will hear the terrible sentence from the mouth of Jesus, "Depart." You can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth you. You are of that age when the will, the appetites, and passions, clamor for indulgence. God has implanted these in your nature for high and holy purposes. It is not necessary that these should become to you a curse by being debased. They only will be found so when you refuse to submit to the control of reason and conscience. Restrain, deny, are words and works you are not familiar with by experience. Temptations have swayed you. Unsanctified minds fail to receive the strength and comfort God has provided for them. They are restless, and possess a strong desire for something new, to gratify, to please and excite the mind, and this is called pleasure. Satan has alluring charms to engage the interest and excite the imagination of the youth in particular, that he may fasten them in his snare. You are building upon the sand. You need to cry earnestly, "O Lord, my inmost soul convert." You can have an influence for good over other young people, or you can have an influence for evil.
May the God of peace sanctify you wholly, soul, body, and spirit.