All who desire to draw away from God’s remnant people in order to follow their own corrupt hearts would throw themselves willingly into Satan’s hands, and should have the privilege. There are others among us who are in danger. They have an exalted opinion of their own ability, while their influence in many respects has been but little better than that of Elder Hull. Unless they thoroughly reform, the cause would be better off without them. Unsanctified ministers injure the cause and are a heavy tax upon their brethren. They need someone to follow after them to correct their mistakes and to straighten up and strengthen those who have been weakened and torn down through their influence. They are jealous of those who have borne burdens in the work, those who would sacrifice even their lives if necessary to advance the cause of truth. They judge their brethren to have no higher motives than they have had. Doing much for ministers who are thus subject to Satan’s temptations injures them and is a waste of means. It gives them influence, and thus places them where they can wound their brethren and the cause of God most deeply.
I have been shown that the doubts expressed in regard to the truthfulness of our position and the inspiration of the word of God are not caused as many suppose them to be. These difficulties are not so much with the Bible or with the evidences of our faith as with their own hearts. The requirements of God’s word are too close for their unsanctified natures. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” If the feelings of the natural heart are not restrained and brought into subjection by the sanctifying influence of the grace of God received through the channel of faith, the thoughts of the heart are not pure and holy. The conditions of salvation brought to view in the word of God are reasonable, plain, and positive, being nothing less than perfect conformity to the will of God and purity of heart and life. We must crucify self with the lusts thereof. We must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
In almost every case where persons become unsettled in regard to the inspiration of the word of God, it is on account of their unsanctified lives, which that word condemns. They will not receive its reproofs and threatenings because these reflect upon their wrong course of action. They do not love those who would convert and restrain them. Difficulties and doubts which perplex the vicious heart will be cleared away before the one practicing the pure principles of truth.
Many possess talents which would accomplish much good if sanctified and used in the cause of Christ, or much harm if employed in the service of unbelief and Satan. The gratification of self and its various lusts will pervert the talents and make them a curse instead of a blessing. Satan, the archdeceiver, possesses wonderful talents. He was once an exalted angel, next to Christ. He fell through self-exaltation, and created a rebellion in heaven, and caused many to fall with him. Then his talents and skill were employed against the government of God, to cause all whom he could control to despise the authority of heaven. Those who are charmed with his Satanic majesty may choose to imitate this fallen general and share with him his fate at last.
Purity of life imparts refinement, which will lead those possessing it to shrink more and more from coarseness and indulgence in sin. Such will not be led away from the truth or be given up to doubt the inspiration of the word of God. On the contrary, they will engage in the daily study of the sacred word with ever-increasing interest, and the evidences of Christianity and inspiration will stamp their impress on the mind and life. Those who love sin will turn away from the Bible, will love to doubt, and will become reckless in principle. They will receive and advocate false theories. Such will ascribe man’s sins to his circumstances, and when he commits some great sin they make him a subject of pity instead of looking upon him as a criminal to be punished. This will always suit a depraved heart, which in course of time will develop the principles of fallen nature. By some general process, men abolish sin at once to avoid the unpleasant necessity of individual reformation and exertion. In order to free themselves from the obligation of present effort, many are ready to declare of no account all the labor and effort of their lives while following the sacred principles of God’s word. Elder Hull’s philosophical necessity has its stronghold in the corruptions of the heart. God is raising up men to go forth to labor in the harvest field, and if they are humble, devoted, and godly, they will take the crowns which those ministers lose who concerning the faith are reprobate.
November 5, 1862, I was shown that some men mistake their calling. They think that if a man cannot labor with his hands, or if he is not a business character, he will make a minister. Many make a great mistake here. A man who has no business tact may make a minister, but he will lack qualifications that every minister must possess in order to deal wisely in the church and build up the cause. But when a minister is good in the pulpit, and, like Elder Hull, fails in management, he should never go out alone. Another should go with him to supply his lack and manage for him. And although it may be humiliating, he should give heed to the judgment and counsel of this companion, as a blind man follows one who has sight. By so doing he will escape many dangers that would prove fatal to him were he left alone.
The prosperity of the cause of God depends much upon the ministers who labor in the gospel field. Those who teach the truth should be devotional, self-sacrificing, godly men who understand their business and go about doing good because they know that God has called them to the work, men who feel the worth of souls and will bear burdens and responsibilities. A thorough workman is known by the perfection of his work.
There are but few preachers among us. And because the cause of God seemed to need help so much, some have been led to think that almost anyone claiming to be a minister would be acceptable. Some have thought that because persons could pray and exhort with a degree of freedom in meeting, they were qualified to go forth as laborers. And before they were proved, or could show any good fruit of their labors, men whom God has not sent have been encouraged and flattered by some brethren lacking experience. But their work shows the character of the workman. They scatter and confuse, but do not gather in and build up. A few may receive the truth as the fruit of their labors, but these generally rise no higher than those from whom they learned the truth. The same lack which marked their own course is seen in their converts.
The success of this cause does not depend upon our having a large number of ministers, but it is of the highest importance that those who do labor in connection with the cause of God should be men who really feel the burden and sacredness of the work to which He has called them. A few self-sacrificing godly men, small in their own estimation, can do a greater amount of good than a much larger number if a part of these are unqualified for the work, yet self-confident and boastful of their own talents. A number of these in the field, who would better fill some calling at home, would make it necessary that nearly all the time of the faithful ministers be spent in following after them to correct their wrong influence. The future usefulness of young preachers depends much upon the manner in which they enter upon their labors. Brethren who have the cause of God at heart are so anxious to see the truth advance that they are in danger of doing too much for ministers who have not been proved, by helping them liberally to means and giving them influence. Those who enter the gospel field should be left to earn themselves a reputation, even if it must be through trials and privations. They should first give full proof of their ministry.
Brethren of experience should be guarded; and instead of expecting these young preachers to help and lead them, should feel a responsibility upon them to take charge of these young preachers, to instruct, advise, and lead them, to have a fatherly care for them. Young ministers should have system, a firm purpose, and a mind to work, that they may eat no man’s bread for nought. They should not go from place to place, and introduce some points of our faith calculated to stir up prejudice, and leave before the evidences of present truth are half presented. Young men who think that they have a duty to do in connection with the work should not take the responsibility of teaching the truth until they have availed themselves of the privilege of being under the influence of some experienced preacher who is systematic in his work; they should learn of him as a pupil at school would learn of his teacher. They should not go hither and thither, with no definite object or matured plans to carry out in their labor.
Some who have but little experience, and are least qualified to teach the truth, are the last to ask advice and counsel of their experienced brethren. They put on the minister, and place themselves on a level with those of long and tried experience, and are not satisfied unless they can lead, thinking that because they are ministers, they know all that is worth knowing. Such preachers certainly lack a true knowledge of themselves. They do not possess becoming modesty and have altogether too high an opinion of their own abilities. Ministers of experience, who realize the sacredness of the work, and feel the weight of the cause upon them, are jealous of themselves. They consider it a privilege to advise with their brethren and are not offended if improvements are suggested in their plans of labor or in their manner of speaking.
Those ministers who have come out from the different denominations to embrace the third angel’s message often wish to teach when they should be learners. Some have a great share of their former teaching to unlearn before they can fully learn the principles of present truth. Ministers will injure the cause of God by going forth to labor for others when there is as great a work to be done for them to fit them for their labors as they may wish to do for unbelievers. If they are unqualified for the work, it will require the labor of two or three faithful ministers to follow after and correct their wrong influence. In the end it would be cheaper for the cause of God to give such ministers a good support to remain at home and do no injury in the field.
Preachers have been regarded by some as especially inspired, as being only mediums for the Lord to speak through. If the aged and those of long experience see failings in a minister and suggest improvements in his manners, in the tone of his voice, or in his gestures, he has sometimes felt hurt, and has reasoned that God called him just as he was, that the power was of God and not of himself, and that God must do the work for him, that he did not preach according to man’s wisdom, etc. It is a mistake to think that a man cannot preach unless he becomes wrought up to a high degree of excitement. Men who are thus dependent upon feeling may be of use in exhortation when they feel just like it; but they will never make good, burden-bearing laborers. When the work moves hard and everything assumes a discouraging aspect, the excitable and those dependent upon feeling are not prepared to bear their share of the burdens. In times of discouragement and darkness how important to have calm-thinking men, who are not dependent on circumstances, but who trust God and labor on in the darkness as well as in the light. Men who serve God from principle, although their faith may be severely tried, will be seen leaning securely upon the never-failing arm of Jehovah.
Young preachers, and men who have once been ministers, who have been coarse and rough in their manners, making expressions in their conversation which were not perfectly modest and chaste, are not fit to engage in this work until they give evidence of an entire reform. One word spoken unadvisedly may do more harm than a series of meetings held by them will do good. They leave the standard of truth, which should be ever exalted, lowered to the dust before the community. Their converts generally come up no higher than the standard raised for them by the ministers. Men who are standing between the living and the dead should be just right. The minister should not be off his guard for a single moment. He is laboring to elevate others by bringing them up upon the platform of truth. Let him show to others that the truth has done something for him. He should see the evil of these careless, rough, vulgar expressions, and should put away and despise everything of this character. Unless he does this, his converts will pattern after him. And when faithful ministers shall follow after and labor with these converts to correct their wrongs, they will excuse themselves by referring to the minister. If you condemn his course, they will turn to you and ask: Why do you uphold and give influence to men by sending them out to preach to sinners while they are sinners themselves?
The work in which we are engaged is a responsible and exalted work. Those who minister in word and doctrine should themselves be patterns of good works. They should be examples in holiness, cleanliness, and order. The appearance of the servant of God, out of the pulpit and in, should be that of a living preacher. He can accomplish far more by his godly example than by merely preaching in the desk, while his influence out of the desk is not worthy of imitation. Those who labor in this cause are bearing to the world the most elevated truth that was ever committed to mortals.
Men who are chosen of God to labor in this cause will give proof of their high calling and will consider it their highest duty to grow and improve until they shall become able workmen. Then, as they manifest an earnestness to improve upon the talent which God has entrusted to them, they should be helped judiciously. But the encouragement given them should not savor of flattery, for Satan himself will do enough of that kind of work. Men who think that they have a duty to preach should not be sustained in throwing themselves and their families at once upon the brethren for support. They are not entitled to this until they can show good fruits of their labor. There is now danger of injuring young preachers, and those who have but little experience, by flattery, and by relieving them of burdens in life. When not preaching they should be doing what they can for their own support. This is the best way to test the nature of their call to preach. If they desire to preach only that they may be supported as ministers, and the church pursue a judicious course, they will soon lose the burden and leave preaching for more profitable business. Paul, a most eloquent preacher, miraculously converted of God to do a special work, was not above labor. He says: “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it.” 1 Corinthians 4:11, 12. “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:8.
I have been shown that many do not rightly estimate the talents which are among them. Some brethren do not understand what preaching talent would be the best for the advancement of the cause of truth, but think only of the present gratification of their feelings. Without reflection they will show preference for a speaker who manifests considerable zeal in his preaching and relates anecdotes which please the ear and animate the mind for a moment, but leave no lasting impression. At the same time they will put a low estimate upon a preacher who has prayerfully studied that he may present before the people the arguments of our position in a calm manner and in a connected form. His labor is not appreciated, and he is often treated with indifference.
A man may preach in a spirited manner and please the ear, but convey no new idea or real intelligence to the mind. The impressions received through such preaching last no longer than while the speaker’s voice is heard. When search is made for the fruit of such labor, there is little to be found. These flashy gifts are not as beneficial, and well calculated to advance the cause of truth, as a gift that can be trusted in hard, difficult places. In the work of teaching the truth it is necessary that the important points of our position be well fortified with Scripture evidences. Assertions may silence the unbeliever, but will not convince him. Believers are not the only ones for whose benefit laborers are sent into the field. The salvation of souls is the great object.
Some brethren have erred in this respect. They have thought that Brother C was the right man to labor in Vermont and that he could accomplish more than any other minister in that state. Such do not view matters from a right standpoint. Brother C can speak in a manner to interest a congregation, and if this were all that is necessary to make a successful preacher, then a class of brethren and sisters would be right in their estimation of him. But he is not a thorough workman; he is not reliable. In church trials he is of no account. He has not experience, judgment, and discernment to be of any benefit to the church when in trial. He has not been a thoroughgoing man in temporal matters, and although he has but a small family, he has needed assistance more or less. The same lack is manifested in spiritual things as in temporal affairs. Had the right course been pursued toward him in the commencement of his preaching, he might now be of some use in this cause. His brethren injured him by making too much of him and by leaving him to bear but few of the burdens of life, until he has thought that his labors were of the greatest consequence. He has been willing that brethren in Vermont should bear his burdens while he was relieved from care. He has not had a suitable amount of exercise to give tone and strength to his muscles, and for the good of his health.
He is not capable of building up churches. When he feels the woe upon him if he preach not the gospel, as self-sacrificing preachers have felt it in the past, then like them he will be willing to labor with his hands a part of the time to earn means to support his family that they may not be burdensome to the church, and then he will go forth, not merely to preach, but to save souls. Efforts made with such a spirit will accomplish something. He has been exalted in his own estimation, has thought himself equal to any of the laborers in Vermont, and has felt that he should be ranked with them and should be consulted in business matters of the church, when he has not earned a reputation nor proved himself worthy. What self-sacrifice or devotion has he manifested for the church? What perils or hardships has he endured, that the brethren can have their confidence established in him as a laborer whom they can trust, whose influence will be good wherever he goes? Until he possesses an entirely different spirit and acts from unselfish principles, he would better give up the idea of preaching.
Brethren in Vermont have overlooked the moral worth of men like the Brethren Bourdeau, Pierce, and Stone, who have a depth of experience and whose influence has been such as to gain the confidence of the community. Their industrious and consistent lives have made them daily, living preachers, and their labors have removed a great amount of prejudice and have gathered and built up. Yet brethren have not appreciated the labor of these men, while they have been pleased with that of some who will not bear to be tested and proved, and who can show but little fruit of their labor.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1 pp. 439-448