To pass these by and think your light must come through no other channel than directly from God places you in a position where you are liable to deception and to be overthrown.
God has placed you in connection with His appointed helps in His church that you may be aided by them. Your former connection with spiritualism makes your danger greater than it otherwise would be, because your judgment, wisdom, and discrimination have been perverted. You cannot of yourself always tell or discern the spirits; for Satan is very wily. God has placed you in connection with His church that they may help you.
You are sometimes too formal, cold, and unsympathizing. You must meet the people where they are, and not place yourself too far above them and require too much of them. You need to be all softened and subdued by the Spirit of God while you preach to the people. You should educate yourself as to the best manner of laboring to secure the desired end. Your labor must be characterized by the love of Jesus abounding in your heart, softening your words, molding your temperament, and elevating your soul.
You frequently talk too long when you do not have the vitalizing influence of the Spirit of heaven. You weary those who hear you. Many make a mistake in their preaching in not stopping while the interest is up. They go on speechifying until the interest that had risen in the minds of the hearers dies out and the people are really wearied with words of no special weight or interest. Stop before you get there. Stop when you have nothing of special importance to say. Do not go on with dry words that only excite prejudice and do not soften the heart. You want to be so united to Christ that your words will melt and burn their way to the soul. Mere prosy talk is insufficient for this time. Arguments are good, but there may be too much of the argumentative and too little of the spirit and life of God.
Without the special power of God to work with your
efforts, your spirit subdued and humbled in God, your heart softened, your words flowing from a heart of love, your labors will be wearing to yourself and not productive of blessed results. There is a point which the minister of Christ reaches, beyond which human knowledge and skill are powerless. We are struggling with giant errors, and evils which we are impotent to remedy or to arouse the people to see and understand, for we cannot change the heart. We cannot quicken the soul to discern the sinfulness of sin and to feel the need of a Saviour. But if our labors bear the impress of the Spirit of God, if a higher, a divine power attends our efforts to sow the gospel seed, we shall see fruits of our labor to the glory of God. He alone can water the seed sown.
Thus with you, Brother A. You must not get in too great a hurry and expect too much of darkened minds. You must cherish humble hope that God will graciously impart the mysterious, quickening influence of His Spirit, by which alone your labors will not be in vain in the Lord. You need to cling to God by living faith, every moment realizing your dangers and your weakness, and constantly seeking that strength and power which God alone can give. Try the best you may, of yourself you can do nothing.
You need to educate yourself, that you may have wisdom to deal with minds. You should with some have compassion, making a difference, while others you may save with fear, pulling them out of the fire. Our heavenly Father frequently leaves us in uncertainty in regard to our efforts. We are to sow beside all waters, not knowing which shall prosper, this or that. We may stimulate our faith and energy from the Source of our strength, and lean with full and entire dependence upon Him.
Brother A, you need to work with the utmost diligence to control self and develop a character in harmony with the principles of the word of God. You need to educate and train yourself in order to become a successful shepherd. You need to cultivate a good temper–kindly, cheerful, buoyant,
generous, pitiful, courteous, compassionate traits of character. You should overcome a morose, bigoted, narrow, faultfinding, overbearing spirit. If you are connected with the work of God you need to battle with yourself vigorously and form your character after the divine Model.
Without constant effort on your part some development, under the influence of a corrupt mind, will appear and block up your way, which hindrance you will be inclined to charge to some other than the true cause. You need self-discipline. Our piety should not appear sour, cold, and morose; but lovable and teachable. A censorious spirit will hedge up your way and close hearts against you. If not humbly dependent on God, you will frequently close your own path with obstacles and charge the same to the course of others.
You need to stand guard over yourself, that you do not teach the truth or perform duties in a bigoted spirit that will excite prejudice. You need to study how you may show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Inquire of yourself what your natural disposition is, what character you have developed. It should be your study, as well as that of every minister of Christ, to exercise the greatest watchfulness that you do not cherish habits of action, or mental and moral tendencies, which you would not wish to see appear among those whom you bring out upon the truth.
Ministers of Christ are enjoined to be examples to the flock of God. The influence of a minister can do much toward molding the character of his people. If the minister is indolent, if he is not pure in heart and life, and if he is sharp, critical, and faultfinding, selfish, independent, and lacking self-control, he will have these same unpleasant elements in a large degree to meet and deal with among his people, and it is hard work to set things in order where wrong influences have made confusion. What is seen in their minister will make a great difference in regard to the development of Christian virtue in the people. If his life is a combination of excellences, those whom he brings to the knowledge of the truth through
his labors will, to a great degree, if they truly love God, reflect his example and influence, for he is a representative of Christ. Thus the minister should feel his responsibility to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
The highest efforts of the gospel minister should be to devote all his talents to the work of saving souls; then he will be successful. Wise and watchful discipline is necessary for everyone who names the name of Christ; but in a much higher sense is it essential for a gospel minister, who is a representative of Christ. Our Saviour awed men by His purity and elevated morality, while His love and gentle benignity inspired them with enthusiasm. The poorest and humblest were not afraid to approach Him; even little children were attracted to Him. They loved to climb upon His lap and to kiss that pensive face, benignant with love. This loving tenderness you need. You should cultivate love. Expressions of sympathy and acts of courtesy and respect for others would not detract from your dignity one particle, but would open to you many hearts that are now closed against you.
Christ was just what every minister should strive to be. We should learn to imitate His character and combine strict justice, purity, integrity, love, and noble generosity. A pleasant face in which love is reflected, with kind and courteous manners, will do more, aside from pulpit efforts, than labor in the desk can do without these. It becomes us to cultivate a deference to other people’s judgment, when, to a greater or less extent, we are absolutely dependent upon them. We should cultivate true Christian courtesy and tender sympathy, even for the roughest, hardest cases of humanity. Jesus came from the pure courts of heaven to save just such. You close your heart too readily to many who have apparently no interest in the message you bear, but who are still subjects of grace and precious in the sight of the Lord. “He that winneth souls is wise.” Paul became all things to all men if by any means he might save some. You must be in a similar position. You must bend from your independence. You lack humbleness of mind. You need the softening influence of the grace of
God upon your heart, that you may not irritate, but melt your way to the hearts of men, although these hearts may be affected by prejudice.
The cause of God is in great need of earnest men, men who abound in zeal, hope, faith, and courage. It is not self-willed men who can meet the demands for this time, but men who are in earnest. We have too many sensitive ministers who are feeble in experience, deficient in the Christian graces, lacking in consecration, and are easily discouraged; who are earnest to gratify their own wills and are persevering in their efforts to accomplish their own selfish purposes. Such men will not fill the demands for this time. We need men in these last days who are ever awake. Minutemen are wanted who are sincere in their love for the truth and willing to labor at a sacrifice if they can advance the cause of God and save precious souls. Men are wanted in this work who will not murmur or complain at hardships or trials, knowing that this is a part of the legacy that Jesus has left them. They should be willing to go without the camp and suffer reproach and bear burdens as good soldiers of Christ. They will bear the cross of Christ without complaint, without murmuring or fretfulness, and will be patient in tribulation.
The solemn, testing truth for these last days is committed to us, and we should make it a reality. Brother A, you should avoid making yourself a criterion. Avoid, I entreat you, appealing to your own sympathies. All that we can suffer, and all that we may ever be called to suffer, for the truth’s sake will seem too small to be compared with what our Saviour endured for us sinners. You need not expect always to be correctly judged or correctly represented. Christ says that in the world we shall have tribulation, but in Him we shall have peace.
You have cultivated a combative spirit. When your track is crossed, you immediately throw yourself into a defensive position; and, although you may be among your brethren who love the truth and have given their lives to the cause of God, you will justify yourself, while you criticize them and
become jealous of their words and suspicious of their motives, and thus lose great blessings that it is your privilege to gain through the experience of your brethren.
Discussions to be Avoided
You have loved to debate the truth and loved discussions; but these contests have been unfavorable to your forming a harmonious Christian character, for in this is a favorable opportunity for the exhibition of the very traits of character that you must overcome if you ever enter heaven. Discussions cannot always be avoided. In some cases the circumstances are such that of the two evils the choice must be made of the least, which is discussion. But whenever they can be avoided, they should be, for the result is seldom honoring to God.
People who love to see opponents combat, may clamor for discussion. Others, who have a desire to hear the evidences on both sides, may urge discussion in all honesty of motive; but whenever discussions can be avoided, they should be. They generally strengthen combativeness and weaken that pure love and sacred sympathy which should ever exist in the hearts of Christians although they may differ in opinions.
Discussions in this age of the world are not real evidences of earnest desire on the part of the people to investigate the truth, but come through the love of novelty and the excitement which generally attends discussions. God is seldom glorified or the truth advanced in these combats. Truth is too solemn, too momentous in its results, to make it a small matter whether it is received or rejected. To discuss truth for the sake of showing opponents the skill of the combatants is ever poor policy, for it does but very little to advance the truth.
Opponents to the truth will show skill in misstating their opponent. They will make the most solemn, sacred truths the subject of ridicule. They will generally sport and deride precious, sacred truth, and place it in so false a light before the people that minds that are darkened by error and polluted by
sin do not discern the motives and objects of these designing men in thus covering up and falsifying precious and important truth. Because of the men who engage in them, there are but few discussions that it is possible to conduct upon right principles. Sharp thrusts are too frequently given by both parties, personalities are indulged in, and frequently both parties descend to sarcasm and witticism. The love of souls is lost in the greater desire for the mastery. Prejudice, deep and bitter, is often the result of discussions.
I have beheld angels grieved as the most precious jewels of truth have been brought before men utterly incapable of appreciating the evidences in favor of the truth. Their entire being was at war with the principles of truth; their natures were at enmity with it. Their object in discussing was not that they might get hold of the evidences of the truth themselves or that the people might have a fair understanding of our true position, but that they might confuse the understanding by placing the truth in a perverted light before the people. There are men who have educated themselves as combatants. It is their policy to misstate an opponent and to cover up clear arguments with dishonest quibbles. They have devoted their God-given powers to this dishonest work, for there is nothing in their hearts in harmony with the pure principles of truth. They seize any argument they can get with which to tear down the advocates of truth, when they themselves do not believe the things they urge against them. They bolster themselves up in their chosen position, irrespective of justice and truth. They do not consider that before them is the judgment, and that then their ill-gotten triumph, with all its disastrous results, will appear in its true character. Error, with all its deceptive policies, its windings and twistings and turnings to change the truth into a lie, will then appear in all its deformity. No victory will stand in the day of God, except that which truth, pure, elevated, sacred truth, shall win to the glory of God.
Angels weep to see the precious truth of heavenly origin cast before swine, to be seized by them and trampled with
the mire and dirt. Cast not “your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” These are the words of the world’s Redeemer.
God’s ministers should not count the opportunity of engaging in discussion a great privilege. All points of our faith are not to be borne to the front and presented before the prejudiced crowds. Jesus spoke before the Pharisees and Sadducees in parables, hiding the clearness of truth under symbols and figures because they would make a wrong use of the truths He presented before them; but to His disciples He spoke plainly. We should learn from Christ’s method of teaching and be careful not to cut off the ears of the people by presenting truths which, not being fully explained, they are in no way prepared to receive.
The truths that we hold in common should be dwelt upon first and the confidence of the hearers obtained; then, as the people can be brought along, we can advance slowly with the matter presented. Great wisdom is needed to present unpopular truth before a prejudiced people in the most cautious manner, that access may be gained to their hearts. Discussions place before the people, who are unenlightened in regard to our position and who are ignorant of Bible truth, a set of arguments skillfully gotten up and carefully arranged to cover over the clear points of truth. Some men have made it their business to cover up plain statements of facts in the word of God by their deceptive theories, which they make plausible to those who have not investigated for themselves.
These agents of Satan are hard to meet, and it is difficult to have patience with them. But calmness, patience, and self-control are elements which every minister of Christ should cultivate. The combatants of the truth have educated themselves for intellectual battle. They are prepared to present on the surface sophistry and assertions as the word of God. They confuse unsuspecting minds and place the truth in obscurity, while pleasing fables are presented to the people in the place of pure Bible truth.
Many choose darkness rather than light because their
deeds are evil. But there are those who, if the truth could have been presented in a different manner, under different circumstances, giving them a fair chance to weigh the arguments for themselves and to compare scripture with scripture, would have been charmed by its clearness and would have taken hold upon it.
It has been very indiscreet for our ministers to publish to the world the wily sophistry of error, furnished by designing men to cover up and make of none effect the solemn, sacred truth of Jehovah. These crafty men who lie in wait to deceive the unwary give their strength of intellect to perverting the word of God. The inexperienced and unsuspecting are deceived to their ruin. It has been a great error to publish to all the arguments wherewith opponents battle the truth of God, for in so doing minds of every class are furnished with arguments which many of them had never thought of. Someone must render an account for this unwise generalship.
Arguments against the sacred truth, subtle in their influence, affect minds that are not well informed in regard to the strength of the truth. The moral sensibilities of the community at large are blunted by familiarity with sin. Selfishness, dishonesty, and the varied sins which prevail in this degenerate age have blunted the senses to eternal things so that God’s truth is not discerned. In giving publicity to the erroneous arguments of our opponents, truth and error are placed upon a level in their minds, when, if they could have the truth before them in its clearness long enough to see and realize its sacredness and importance, they would be convinced of the strong arguments in its favor and would then be prepared to meet the arguments urged by opposers.
Those who are seeking to know the truth and to understand the will of God, who are faithful to the light and zealous in the performance of their daily duties, will surely know of the doctrine, for they will be guided into all truth. God does not promise, by the masterly acts of His providence, to
irresistibly bring men to the knowledge of His truth, when they do not seek for truth and have no desire to know the truth. Men have the power to quench the Spirit of God; the power of choosing is left with them. They are allowed freedom of action. They may be obedient through the name and grace of our Redeemer, or they may be disobedient, and realize the consequences. Man is responsible for receiving or rejecting sacred and eternal truth. The Spirit of God is continually convicting, and souls are deciding for or against the truth. The deportment, the words, the actions, of the minister of Christ may balance a soul for or against the truth. How important that every act of the life be such that it need not be repented of. Especially is this important among the ambassadors of Christ, who are acting in the place of Christ.
The Authority of the Church
The world’s Redeemer has invested great power with His church. He states the rules to be applied in cases of trial with its members. After He has given explicit directions as to the course to be pursued, He says: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever [in church discipline] ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Thus even the heavenly authority ratifies the discipline of the church in regard to its members when the Bible rule has been followed.
The word of God does not give license for one man to set up his judgment in opposition to the judgment of the church, neither is he allowed to urge his opinions against the opinions of the church. If there were no church discipline and government, the church would go to fragments; it could not hold together as a body. There have ever been individuals of independent minds who have claimed that they were right, that God had especially taught, impressed, and led them. Each has a theory of his own, views peculiar to himself, and each claims that his views are in accordance with the word of God. Each one has a different theory and faith, yet each claims special light from God. These draw away from the body, and each one is a separate church of himself.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3 pp. 419-428