Your singing schools have ever been a snare to you. Neither you nor your sisters have a depth of experience that will enable you to be brought in contact with the influences you meet in your singing schools, without being affected. It would take stronger minds, with greater decision of character than you three possess, to be brought into the society you are and not
be affected. Listen to the words of Christ: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Have your example and influence been of that positive character that has impressed and convicted your associates? I think not. You have been injured. Darkness has settled upon you and dimmed your light so that it has not burned with that lustre to dispel the darkness about others. You have been separating further and further from God.
You, my brother, have but a faint sense of what you have been doing. You have been standing directly in the way of your sisters' advancement in the divine life. They, more especially F, have been entangled with the bewitching, satanic wiles of spiritualism, and if she rids herself of this unholy slime of Satan, which has perverted her sense of eternal things, she will have to make a mighty effort. It will be but a hairbreadth escape. You have been blinded, deceived, and enchanted yourself. You do not see yourself. You are all very weak, when you might be strong in the precious, saving truth, strengthened, established, and settled upon the Rock Christ Jesus. I feel deeply. I tremble for you. I see temptations on every hand, and you wish so little power to resist them.
Brother E, I was shown that you are infatuated; you are deceived as to your motives and the real purposes of your heart. I saw you in the society of Brother G's daughter. She has never yielded her heart to Christ. I was shown her affected and convicted. But your course was not of that character to deepen conviction, or to give her the impression that there was special importance attached to these matters. You profess to hold sacred the salvation of the soul, and the present truth. She does not respect the Sabbath from principle. She loves the vanity of the world and enjoys the pride and amusements of
life. But you have been departing so gradually from God, and from the light, that you do not see the separation which the truth necessarily brings between those who love God and those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. I saw that you were attracted to her society. Religious meetings and sacred duties were of minor importance, while the presence of a mere child, who has no knowledge of the truth or of heavenly things, fascinated you. You have overlooked self-denial and the cross, which lie directly in the pathway of every disciple of Christ.
I was shown that if you had been walking in the light you would have taken your position decidedly for the truth. Your example would have shown that you considered the truth you profess of that importance that your affections and heart could go only where the image of Christ was discernible. Christ now says to you: Which will you have, Me or the world? Your decision is to be made here. Will you follow the promptings of an unsanctified heart, turn away from self-denial for Christ's sake, and step over the cross without lifting it? Or will you lift that cross, heavy though it may be, and make some sacrifice for the truth's sake? May God help you to see where you are, that you may place a true estimate upon eternal things. You now have so little spiritual eyesight that the holy and sacred are placed upon a level with the common. You have responsibilities. Your influence affects your sisters to a great extent. Your only safety is in separation from the world.
I was shown you, my brother, taking the young with you to scenes of amusement at the time of a religious interest, and also engaging in singing schools with worldlings who are all darkness and who have evil angels all around them. How does your feeble, dim light appear amid this darkness and temptation? Angels of God do not attend you upon these occasions. You are left to go in your own strength. Satan is well pleased with your position; for he can make you more efficient in his service than if you did not profess to be a Christian keeping all
the commandments of God. The True Witness addresses the Laodicean church: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
You are blinded and infatuated. You have felt strong when you were weakness itself. You can be strong in the Mighty One. You can be an instrument of righteousness if you are willing to suffer for Christ's sake. You and your sisters may redeem the time if you will, but it will cost an effort. Your younger sister is linked to one who is not worthy of her affections. There are serious defects in his character. He does not have reverence for sacred and holy things; his heart has not been changed by the Spirit of God. He is selfish, boastful, and loves pleasure more than duty. He has no experience in self-denial and humiliation.
In forming friendship, great caution should be exercised lest an intimacy be contracted with one whose example it would not be safe to imitate; for the effect of such an intimacy is to lead away from God, from devotion, and the love of the truth. It is positively dangerous for you to be intimate with friends who have not a religious experience. If either of you, or all three of you, follow the leadings of God's Spirit, or value your soul's salvation, you will not choose as your particular and intimate friends those who do not maintain a serious regard for religious things, and who do not live under its practical influence. Eternal considerations should come first with you. Nothing can have a more subtle and positively dangerous
influence upon the mind, and serve more effectually to banish serious impressions and the convictions of the Spirit of God, than to associate with those who are vain and careless, and whose conversation is upon the world and vanity. The more engaging these persons may be in other respects, the more dangerous is their influence as companions, because they throw around an irreligious life so many pleasing attractions.
God has claims upon all three of you which you cannot lightly throw aside. Jesus has bought you with the price of His own blood. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Have you no sacrifice to make for God? Great responsibilities stand before you each in everyday life. Your record is daily passing up to God. Great dangers lie hidden in your pathway. If I could, I would take you in my arms and bear you safely over them; but this I am not permitted to do. You are in the most critical period of your life history. If you arouse the energies of the soul and direct them to securing things of eternal interest, and if you make everything subordinate to this, you will make a success of perfecting Christian character. You may all engage in the spiritual warfare against besetting sins, and you may, through Christ, come off victors. But it will be no child's play. It will be a stern warfare, involving self-denial and cross bearing. The danger is that you will not fully realize your backslidings and your perilous condition. Unless you view life as it is, cast aside the brilliant fancies of imagination, and come down to the sober lessons of experience, you will awake when it is too late. You will then realize the terrible mistake you have made.
Your education has not been of that kind to form solid, substantial characters, therefore you have to obtain now the education which you should have had years ago. Your mother was too fond of you. A mother cannot love her children too well, but she may love unwisely and allow her affection to blind her to their best interests. You have had an indulgent,
tender mother. She has shielded her children too much. Her life has been nearly crushed out by the burdens which her children should have taken, and which they could have borne better than she.
The lack of firmness and self-denial in your characters is a serious drawback in obtaining a genuine religious experience that will not be sliding sand. Firmness and integrity of purpose should be cultivated. These qualities are positively necessary to a successful Christian life. If you have integrity of soul you will not be swayed from the right. No motive will be sufficient to move you from the straight line of duty; you will be loyal and true to God. The pleadings of affection and love, the yearnings of friendship, will not move you to turn aside from truth and duty; you will not sacrifice duty to inclination.
If you, my brother, are allured to unite your life interest with a young, inexperienced girl, who is really deficient in education in the common, practical, daily duties of life, you make a mistake; but this deficiency is small compared with her ignorance in regard to her duty to God. She has not been destitute of light; she has had religious privileges, and yet she has not felt her wretched sinfulness without Christ. If, in your infatuation, you can repeatedly turn from the prayer meeting, where God meets with His people, in order to enjoy the society of one who has no love for God and who sees no attractions in the religious life, how can you expect God to prosper such a union? Be not in haste. Early marriages should not be encouraged. If either young women or young men have no respect for the claims of God, if they fail to heed the claims which bind them to religion, there will be danger that they will not properly regard the claims of the husband or of the wife. The habit of frequently being in the society of the one of your choice, and that, too, at the sacrifice of religious privileges and of your hours of prayer, is dangerous; you sustain a loss that you cannot afford. The habit of sitting up late at night is customary; but it is not pleasing to God, even if you are both Christians. These untimely hours injure health,
unfit the mind for the next day's duties, and have an appearance of evil. My brother, I hope you will have self-respect enough to shun this form of courtship. If you have an eye single to the glory of God you will move with deliberate caution. You will not suffer lovesick sentimentalism to so blind your vision that you cannot discern the high claims that God has upon you as a Christian.
Dear youth, I address myself to you three. Let it be your aim to glorify God and attain His moral likeness. Invite the Spirit of God to mould your characters. Now is your golden opportunity to wash your robes of character and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. I regard this as the turning point in the destiny of each of you. Which will you choose, says Christ, Me or the world? God calls for an unconditional surrender of the heart and affections to Him. If you love friends, brothers or sisters, father or mother, houses or lands, more than Me, says Christ, you are not worthy of Me. Religion lays the soul under the greatest obligation to her claims, to walk by her principles. As the mysterious magnet points to the north, so do the claims of religion point to the glory of God. You are bound by your baptismal vows to honour your Creator and to resolutely deny self and crucify your affections and lusts, and bring even your thoughts into obedience to the will of Christ.
Avoid running into temptation. When temptations surround you, and you cannot control the circumstances which expose you to them, then you may claim the promise of God, and with confidence and conscious power exclaim: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." There is strength for you all in God. But you will never feel your need of that strength which alone is able to save you, unless you feel your weakness and sinfulness. Jesus, your precious Saviour, now calls you to take your position firmly upon the platform of eternal truth. If you suffer with Him, He will crown you with glory in His everlasting kingdom. If you are willing to sacrifice all for Him, then He will be your Saviour. But if you
choose your own way you will follow on in darkness until it is too late to secure the eternal reward.
What have you been willing to suffer for the truth's sake? You have a very short period in which to cultivate the noble traits of your characters. You have all been, to some extent, dissatisfied and unhappy. You have had many complaints to make. You have talked unbelief and have censured others. Especially is this true of F and H. Your hearts have been filled with pride, and even with bitterness at times. Your closets have been neglected, and you have not loved the exercises of religious duties. If you had been persevering in your efforts to grow up into Christ, your living Head, you would now be strong, and competent to bless others with your influence. If you had cultivated a steady, uniform, unwavering energy you would now be strong to resist temptation. But these precious qualities can only be gained through a surrender of the soul to the claims of religion. Then the motives will be high, and the intellect and affections will be balanced by noble principles. God will work with us if we will only engage in healthy action. We must feel the necessity of uniting our human efforts and zealous action with divine power. We can stand forth in God, strong to conquer. You, Brother E, have greatly failed in energy of purpose to do and to endure.
What a great mistake is made in the education of children and youth, in favouring, indulging, and petting them. They become selfish and inefficient, and lack energy in the little things of life. They are not trained to acquire strength of character by the performance of everyday duties, lowly though they may be. You neglect to do willingly and cheerfully that which lies directly before you to do, and which someone must do. There is a great desire with all of us to find a larger, more exalted work.
No one is qualified for great and important work unless he has been faithful in the performance of little duties. It is by degrees that the character is formed and that the soul is trained to put forth effort and energy proportionate to the task
which is to be accomplished. If we are creatures of circumstance, we shall surely fail of perfecting Christian characters. You must master circumstances, and not allow circumstances to master you. You can find energy at the cross of Christ. You can now grow by degrees, and conquer difficulties, and overcome force of habit. You need to be stimulated by the life-giving force of Jesus. You should be attracted to Christ and clothed with His divine beauty and excellence. Brother G's daughter has an education to gain; she is no more competent for the duties and difficulties of life as a wife than a schoolgirl ten years old.
Religion should dictate and guide you in all your pursuits, and should hold absolute control over your affections. If you yield yourselves unreservedly into the hands of Christ, making His power your strength, then will your moral vision be clear to discern quality of character that you may not be deceived by appearances and make great mistakes in your friendship. Your moral power must be keen and sensitive, that it may bear severe tests and not be marred. Your integrity of soul should be so firm that vanity, display, or flattery will not move you.
Oh, it is a great thing to be right with God, the soul in harmony with its Maker, so that, amid the contagion of evil example, which by its deceitful appearance would lure the soul from duty, angels may be sent to your rescue! But bear in mind, if you invite temptation, you will not have divine aid to keep you from being overcome. The three worthies endured the fiery furnace, for Jesus walked with them in the fiery flame. If they had, of themselves, walked into the fire, they would have been consumed. Thus will it be with you. If you do not walk deliberately into temptation, God will sustain you when the temptation comes.