Some of you have been stumbling over your pledges. The Spirit of the Lord came into the ----- meeting in answer to prayer, and while your hearts were softened under its influence, you pledged. While the streams of salvation were pouring upon your hearts, you felt that you must follow the
example of Him who went about doing good and who cheerfully gave His life to ransom man from sin and degradation. Under the heavenly, inspiring influence you saw that selfishness and worldliness were not consistent with Christian character and that you could not live for yourselves and be Christlike. But when the influence of His abundant love and mercy was not felt in so marked a manner in your hearts, you withdrew your offerings, and God withdrew His blessing from you.
Adversity came upon some. There was a failure in their crops, so that they could not redeem their pledges; and some were even brought into straitened circumstances. Then, of course, they could not be expected to pay. But had they not murmured and withdrawn their hearts from their pledges, God would have worked for them and would have opened ways whereby every one could have paid what he had promised. They did not wait in faith, trusting God to open the way so that they could redeem their pledges. Some had means at their command; and had they possessed the same willing mind as when they pledged, and had they heartily rendered to God in tithes and offerings that which He had lent them for this purpose, they would have been greatly blessed. But Satan came in with his temptations and led some to question the motives and the spirit which actuated the servant of God in presenting the call for means. Some felt that they had been deceived and defrauded. In spirit they repudiated their vows, and whatever they did afterward was with reluctance, and therefore they received no blessing.
In the parable of the talents the man to whom was entrusted one talent manifested a grudging spirit and hid his money so that his lord could not be benefited by it. When his master required him to give an account of his stewardship, he excused his neglect by laying blame upon his lord. "I knew thee [he professes to be acquainted with his lord] that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: and I was afraid [that all my improvements would not be mine, but that you would claim them], and went and hid thy talent in the earth:
lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath [made a right use of my goods] shall be given, and he shall have abundance [for I can trust him, knowing that he will make right improvement of what is lent him]: but from him that hath not [who has been fearful to trust me] shall be taken away even that which he hath. [I shall deprive him of what he claims as his; he shall forfeit all right of trust; I will take away his talents and give them to one who will improve them.] And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The spirit manifested by the brethren in regard to their pledges has been very offensive to God. Had they seen the cause prospering in the fields already entered they would have felt differently. There was no deception practised upon them, and the charge of deception which they made was against the Spirit of God and not against the servant He sent. Had Brother A occupied the right position in this matter, had he cherished the spirit which influenced him to make the pledge, he would not have felt such an unwillingness to invest in the cause of God. But he thought how much he could do with his means by investing it in worldly enterprises. Avarice, worldliness, and covetousness are defects in character which are opposed to the exercise of the Christian graces. Said the apostle: "Let your conversation [your very deportment and habits of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
It was evident that many who vowed had no faith and believed themselves wronged. They talked of it and dwelt upon it until it seemed a reality to them. They felt that they ought not to have aided the General Conference, and urged that
they ought to have had the means to use in their own field. The Lord worked for them according to their limited faith. Satan, who had been holding their minds in deception, caused them to think that they had done a liberal thing in sending means to the General Conference, when, upon investigation, the facts showed that they still lacked a considerable of returning to the conference the amount that had been paid out in sending them labourers and in helping them in various ways to start the work and carry it forward. Yet these persons have been grieved, dissatisfied, unhappy, and have backslidden from God, because they thought they were doing such great things. This only shows what a terrible deception can come upon minds when they are not under the special control of the Spirit of God. Their doubting, their suspicions, their prejudice in regard to the General Conference, were all prompted by Satan. The cause of God is one the world over. Every branch of the work centres in Christ. No one portion of the field is independent of the rest.
Dear brethren, you have let Satan into your hearts, and he will never be fully vanquished until you repent of your wicked doubts and the withdrawal of your pledges. The Lord's messenger was despised and charged with bringing an undue pressure upon the people. God was displeased with Brother B because he did not bear a decided testimony against everything of that sort and show you your sin as it really was.
"When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error; wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?"
Here the matter is presented in its true light. Your work was done before the angel of God. Your words were not only heard by men, but the angel of God listened to them, and can you be surprised that God was angry with you? Can you wonder that He has not blessed you and made you able
to pay your pledges? When you have grumbled and murmured and withdrawn your pledges and felt that God's servants had deceived you and extorted from you pledges that were not just, the enemy has exulted. Could you see your course as it is you would never make one semblance of an excuse for it.
Be careful how you speak one word to lessen the influence of God's messengers. There may sometimes have been too much urging for means. But when the light and love of Jesus illuminates the hearts of His followers, there will be no occasion for urging or begging their money or their service. When they become one with Jesus, and realize that they are not their own, that they are bought with a price and are therefore the Lord's property, and that all they have is simply entrusted to them as His stewards, they will with cheerful heart and unswerving fidelity render to God the things that are His. The Lord will not accept an offering that is made unwillingly, grudgingly. With your present feelings there would be no virtue in making more pledges. When you recover from this snare of the enemy, when you heal the breach that you have made, and realize that the wants of God's cause are as continual as are His gifts to the children of men, your works will correspond with your faith, and you will receive a rich blessing from the Lord.