Truth, principle, and conscience are desirable for you to retain. The favor of God is better than houses of silver and of gold. The deepest joy of the heart comes from the deepest humiliation. Trust and submission to God work out strength and nobleness of character. Tears are not in every case evidences of weakness. In order for you to build up a character which is symmetrical in the sight of a pure and holy God you must begin at the foundation. The heart must be broken before God, and true repentance for sin must be shown, till you meet the demands of truth and duty. Then you will have true respect for yourself and true confidence in God. You will have tenderness of feeling. All that braggadocio spirit will be gone. In the place of harshness will be great tenderness blended with firmness of purpose to stand for the truth at all events. You will then see much in the world and in your own heart to make you weep.
Chap. 37 – True Refinement in the Ministry
Brother E: I have designed to write to you for some time past, but have not found an opportunity to do so until now. While speaking to the people last Sabbath, I felt so clearly impressed with your case that I could with difficulty refrain from calling your name in public. I will now unburden my mind by writing you. In my last vision I was shown the deficiencies of those who profess to labor in word and doctrine. I saw that you had not been improving your abilities, but had been growing less and less efficient to teach the truth. You need a thorough conversion. You have a strong, set will, even to stubbornness. You might now have been fitted for the solemn work of bearing the message of truth to others had you been less self-confident and more humble and meek in spirit.
You do not love close application nor the taxation of continued effort. You have not been a persevering student of the word of God, neither have you been a zealous worker in the cause of God. Your life has been far from representing the life of Christ. You are not discriminating. You are not a wise, judicious worker. You do not study to win souls to Christ, as every minister of Christ should. You have a set track, a standard of your own, to which you wish to bring the people; but you fail to do this because they will not accept your standard. You are bigoted and frequently carry things to extremes and thereby seriously hurt the cause of God and turn souls from the truth instead of winning them to it.
I was shown that you had spoiled several good openings by your injudicious manner of laboring, and what shall I say to you in regard to this matter? Souls have been lost through your lack of wisdom in presenting the truth and your failure to adorn your calling as a gospel minister by courtesy, kindness, and long-suffering. True Christian politeness should characterize all the actions of a minister of Christ. Oh, how poorly have you represented our pitiful, compassionate Redeemer, whose life was the embodiment of goodness and true purity. You have turned souls from the truth by a harsh, censorious, overbearing spirit. Your words have not been in the gentleness of Christ, but in the spirit of E. Your nature is naturally coarse and unrefined, and because you have never felt the necessity of true refinement and Christian politeness, your life has not been as elevated as it might have been.
You have remained in the rut of habit. Your education and training have not been correct, and therefore your efforts should have been the more earnest to improve, to reform, and make decided and thorough changes. Unless you realize a decided and thorough conversion in almost every respect you are entirely unfitted to preach the truth, and unless you can have a proper and becoming elevation of character, manners, and address, you will do more harm than you can do good. You have not done much in advancing the truth, for you have lingered about the churches too much, when you could do them no good, but only injury. Your ways and manners need refining and sanctifying. You should no longer mar the work of God by your deficiencies, since you have shown no decided improvement in becoming a workman in the cause of God.
It is impossible for you to bring others up to any higher standard than that to which you yourself attain. If you do not advance, how can you lead the church of God forward to a higher standard of piety and holiness? All such ministers as you have been for several years are more of a curse than a blessing to the cause of God, and the fewer we have of them the more prosperous will be the cause of present truth.
You are not elevated in your ideas, or aspiring in your labors. You are content to be commonplace and to make a cheap minister. You do not aspire to perfection of Christian character and to that position in the work that Christ requires every one of His chosen ministers to attain. No one professing to bear the truth to others is fitted for the responsible work unless he is making advancement in knowledge and in consecration to the work, and is improving his manners and temper, and growing in true wisdom from day to day. Close communion with God is necessary for every man who would guide souls into the truth. It should ever be borne in mind by those who take upon themselves the burden of guiding souls out of nature’s darkness into the marvelous light that they themselves must be advancing in that light, else how can they lead others? If they are walking in darkness themselves, it is a most fearful responsibility which they assume in pretending to teach others the way.
You have engaged in labor in places where you were not competent to do justice to the work which you undertook. You did not labor judiciously. You sought to make up for your lack of real knowledge by censuring other denominations, running down others, and making hard and bitter criticisms upon their course and condition. Had your heart been all aglow with the spirit of truth, had you been sanctified to God and walking in the light as Christ is in the light, you would have moved in wisdom and would have had enough ways and means at your command to maintain an interest without going out of your way and aside from your specific work to rail out against others who profess to be Christians.
Unbelievers have been disgusted; they think that Seventh-day Adventists have been fairly represented by you, and they decide that it is enough and that they want no more of such doctrines. Our faith is unpopular at best and is in wide contrast to the faith and practices of other denominations. In order to reach those who are in the darkness of error and false theories, we must approach them with the utmost caution and with the greatest wisdom, agreeing with them on every point that we can conscientiously.
All consideration should be shown for those in error and all just credit given them for honesty. We should come as near the people as possible, and then the light and truth which we have may benefit them. But Brother E, like many of our ministers, commences a warfare at once against the errors that others cherish; he thus raises their combativeness and their set wills, and this holds them encased in an armor of selfish prejudice which no amount of evidence can remove.
Who but yourself will be responsible for the souls that you have turned away from the truth by your unsanctified labors? Who can break down the walls of prejudice which your injudicious labor has built up? I know of no greater sin against God than for men to engage in the ministry who labor in self and not in Christ. They are looked up to as the representatives of Christ, when they do not represent His spirit in any of their labors. They do not see or realize the dangers attending the efforts made by unconsecrated, unconverted men. They move on like blind men, deficient in almost everything and yet self-confident and self-sufficient, themselves walking in darkness and stumbling at every step. They are bodies in darkness.
Brother E, you have narrow ideas, and your labor has a tendency to lower rather than to elevate the truth. This is not because you have no ability. You could have made a good workman, but you are too indolent to make the effort necessary to attain the object. You would rather come down in a harsh and overbearing manner upon those who differ with you than to take the trouble to elevate the tone of your labor. You take positions, and then when they are questioned you are not humble enough to yield your notions though they are shown to be wrong; but you stand up in your independence and firmly hold to your ideas when concession on your part is essential and is required of you as a duty. You have stubbornly and unyieldingly held to your own judgment and opinions to the sacrifice of souls.
Brother E, your set positions and your strong, determined will to carry out your points at all hazards were felt and deplored by your wife, and her health suffered in consequence. You were not gentle and tender to this sensitive child of God; your strong spirit overbore her more gentle disposition. She grieved over many things. You could have made her life happier had you tried; but you sought to have her see things as you saw them, and, instead of trying to assimilate yourself to her refined temperament, you tried to mold her to your coarser nature and your extreme ideas. She was warped in her nature and could not act out herself. She withered like a plant transplanted to an uncongenial soil.
You should not seek to mold minds and characters after your pattern, but should allow your own character to be molded after the divine Pattern. If this world were composed of men like yourself in character and temperament, woe would be to it. As like would meet like whichever way you might turn, you would be disgusted with your associates, the exact patterns of yourself, and would wish to be out of the world.
You boast and glory in yourself. But, oh, how improper is this for any man, even if he have the finest qualities of mind and the most extended influence! Men of fine qualities have the greatest influence because they do not know their worth and how much good they do accomplish in the world. But it is all out of place for men of your stamp of character to be lifted up and boastful in self.
In your labors you frequently start out well; you raise an interest, and conviction rests upon minds that the arguments used cannot be controverted; but just at the time when souls are balancing in favor of the truth, self appears so plainly, is so prominent, that all which might have been gained, had Jesus shone forth in your words and deportment, is lost.
You lack the very graces which are essential to win souls to Christ and the truth. You can argue well; but you have not an experimental knowledge of the divine will, and for want of a religious experience yourself you are unable to lead others to the Fountain of living waters. Your own soul is not in communion with God, but is in darkness; and nothing can supply the deficiency realized by souls groping their way in the dark, except the light of truth. Unless you are thoroughly converted, your efforts to convert others might as well cease now as for you to labor longer, mangling and perverting the religious standard by your narrow and bigoted ideas. You have not an experimental knowledge of the divine will; your own righteousness seems to you to be of value, when it is valueless. You need to be transformed before you can be of use in the cause of God. When you are converted then you can labor to acceptance.
You do not possess the religion of Christ. You must soften your heart and die to self, and Christ must live in you; then you will walk in the light as He is in the light, and you will leave a bright track heavenward to lighten the pathway of others. You have felt too well satisfied with yourself. You should educate yourself and overcome your bigoted and fault-finding spirit. You need to keep the body under and bring it into subjection, lest, after you have preached to others, you yourself should be a castaway.
You take small views of matters, pick at straws, find fault, and question the course of others, when you might far better be overcoming the defects in your own character and life, working from a Christian standpoint, seeking light from God, and preparing to unite with pure angels in the kingdom of heaven. As you are, you would mar all heaven. You are uncultivated, unrefined, and unsanctified. There is no place in heaven for such a character as you now possess.
If you will take hold of the work earnestly and, without making any apology for sin, will condemn sin in the flesh and reach up in faith and hope for divine grace and right judgment, you may overcome those deficiencies in your character which disqualify you for laboring in the cause of God. You have not advanced or improved for many years. You are further today from the standard of Christian perfection, from possessing the qualifications which should be found in the minister of the gospel, than you were a few months after you had received the truth.
God is displeased with those who are not intelligent in regard to the Christian religion and yet are trying to lead others. You are correctly represented by the man who sought to pull out a mote from his brother’s eye when a beam was in his own eye. First set your own heart in order, and reform your own character; obtain a connection with God, and gain a daily Christian experience; then you may bear a burden for souls who are out of Christ.
There are but few of the brethren who have taken more time to read different authors than you have, and yet you are very deficient in the qualifications necessary for a minister teaching the truth. You fail to quote, or even read, the Scriptures correctly. This should not be. You have not advanced in mental culture and have not secured a growth of grace in the soul which would shine out in your words and deportment. You have not felt the necessity of reaching up for higher and holier attainments.
Chasing through books superficially clogs the mind and causes you to become a mental dyspeptic. You cannot digest and use one half that you read. If you should read with the one object in view to improve the mind, and should read only as much as the mind can comprehend and digest, and would patiently persevere in such a course of reading, good results would be accomplished. You, as well as other ministers, need to attend school and to commence like a child to master the first branches of knowledge. You can neither read, spell, nor pronounce correctly, and yet there are but few who have had less taxation and less burdens of responsibility to bear than yourself.
The position of our ministers calls for health of body and discipline of mind. Good sound sense, strong nerves, and a cheerful temper will recommend the gospel minister anywhere. These should be sought for and perseveringly cultivated.
Your life thus far has been unprofitable. You have some very good ideas, but the Spirit of God does not dwell in your heart. You are not quickened by His power, and you have not genuine faith, hope, and love. The Spirit of Christ dwelling in you will enable you to take of the things of God and reveal them to others. You can be of no benefit to the cause of God till the work of a faithful minister of Christ is more exalted in your mind. You want a purpose in your life to do good, as did Jesus. The self-denial and love which you manifest in this work will tell upon the lives and characters of others.
You should get rid of your cold, frozen formality as soon as possible. You need to cultivate feelings of tenderness and friendliness in your everyday life. You should exhibit true courtesy and Christian politeness. The heart that really loves Jesus loves those for whom He died. Just as truly as the needle points to the pole, so will the true follower of Christ, with a spirit of earnest labor, seek to save souls for whom Christ has given His life. Working for the salvation of sinners will keep the love of Christ warm in the heart and will give that love a proper growth and development. Without a correct knowledge of the divine will there will be a lack of harmonious development in the Christian character.
I beseech you, my brother, to become acquainted with God. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Ministering angels mark every step of our progress. But your will is not surrendered to God; your thoughts are not holy. You go on, stumbling along in darkness, not knowing where to place your feet. The Lord reveals His will to those who are earnest and anxious to be guided. The reason for your inefficiency is that you have given up the idea of knowing and doing the will of God, therefore you do not know anything positively. Though blind yourself, you attempt to lead the blind.
Oh, in what a position are you and many other ministers! Having forsaken God, the Fountain of living waters, you and they have hewn out to yourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. I entreat of you to be alarmed and turn to the Lord with that deep and earnest repentance which will secure to you His forgiveness and the enduring strength of His might, that you may indeed be filled with all the fullness of God. He frowns upon your course, for you have been as a stumbling block to souls. You have depended on your own works and righteousness for success, and have not a knowledge of the divine will.
May the Lord reveal to you your true character and let you see your real deficiencies. When you are enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand this you will have such a sense of your sinful neglect and unimproved life as will strike terror to your soul and cause you sorrow that will lead to repentance that needeth not to be repented of.
Number Twenty-Five—Testimony for the Church
Chapter 38—Importance of the Work
January 3, 1875, I was shown many things relative to the great and important interests at Battle Creek in the work of the Publishing Association, the school, and the Health Institute. If these institutions were properly conducted, they would greatly advance the cause of God in the spread of the truth and in the salvation of souls. We are living amid the perils of the last days. Consecration to God can alone fit any of us to act a part in the solemn and important closing work for this time. There are but few wholly unselfish men to fill responsible positions, few who have given themselves unreservedly to God to hear His voice and study His glory. There are but few who would, if required, give their lives to advance the cause of God. Yet it is just such devotion as this that God claims.
Men are deceived in thinking they are serving God when they are serving themselves and making the interest of the cause and work of God a secondary matter. Their hearts are not consecrated. The Lord takes no pleasure in the services of this class. From time to time, as the cause has progressed, He has in His providence designated men to fill positions at Battle Creek. These men could have filled important positions if they had consecrated themselves to God and devoted their energies to His work. These men of God’s selection needed the very discipline that a devotion to His work would give them. He would honor them by connecting them with Himself and giving them His Holy Spirit to qualify them for the responsibilities they were called to bear. They could not gain that breadth of experience and knowledge of the divine will unless they were in positions to bear burdens and responsibilities.