Number Twenty-One—Testimony for the Church
Chapter 1—An Appeal for Burden Bearers
Dear Brethren and Sisters,
I feel compelled at this time to fulfill a long-neglected duty.
For years previous to my husband’s dangerous and protracted illness he performed more labor than two men should have done in the same time. He saw no time when he could be relieved from the pressure of care and obtain mental and physical rest. Through the testimonies he was warned of his danger. I was shown that he was doing too much brain labor. I will here copy a written testimony, given as far back as August 26, 1855:
“While at Paris, Maine, I was shown that my husband’s health was in a critical condition, that his anxiety of mind had been too much for his strength. When the present truth was first published, he put forth great exertion and labored with but little encouragement or help from his brethren. From the first he has taken burdens upon him which were too taxing for his physical strength.
“These burdens, if equally shared, need not have been so wearing. While my husband took much responsibility, some of his brethren in the ministry were not willing to take any. And those who shunned burdens and responsibilities did not realize his burdens, and were not as interested in the advancement of the work and cause of God as they should have been. My husband felt this lack and laid his shoulder under burdens that were too heavy and which nearly crushed him. As the result of these extra efforts more souls will be saved, but it is these efforts that have told upon his constitution and deprived him of strength. I have been shown that he should in a great measure lay aside his anxiety; God is willing that he should be released from such wearing labor, and that he should spend more time in the study of the Scriptures and in the society of his children, seeking to cultivate their minds.
“I saw that it is not our duty to perplex ourselves with individual trials. Such mental labor endured for others’ wrongs should be avoided. My husband can continue to labor with all his energies, as he has done, and as the result go down into the grave, and his labors be lost to the cause of God; or he can now be released, while he has some strength left, and last longer, and his labors be more efficient.”
I will now copy from a testimony given in 1859: “In my last vision I was shown that the Lord would have my husband give himself more to the study of the Scriptures, that he may be qualified to labor more effectually in word and doctrine, both in speaking and in writing. I saw that in the past we had exhausted our energies through much anxiety and care to bring the church into a right position. Such wearing labor in various places, bearing the burdens of the church, is not required; for the church should bear their own burdens. Our work is to instruct them in God’s word, to urge upon them the necessity of experimental religion, and to define as clearly as possible the correct position in regard to the truth. God would have us raise our voices in the great congregation upon points of present truth which are of vital importance. These should be presented with clearness and with decision, and should also be written out, that the silent messengers may bring them before the people everywhere. A more thorough consecration to the essential work is required on our part; we must be earnest to live in the light of God’s countenance. If our minds were less occupied with the trials of the church they would be more free to be exercised upon Bible subjects; and a closer application to Bible truth would accustom the mind to run in that channel, and we would thus be better qualified for the important work devolving upon us.
“I was shown that God did not lay upon us such heavy burdens as we have borne in the past. It is our duty to talk to the church and show them the necessity of working for themselves. They have been carried too much. The reason why we should not be required to take upon ourselves heavy burdens and engage in perplexing labor is that the Lord has work of another character for us to perform. He would not have us exhaust our physical and mental energies, but hold them in reserve, that upon special occasions, whenever help is actually needed, our voices may be heard.
“I saw that important moves would be made, in which our influence would be demanded to lead out; that influences would arise, and errors would occasionally be brought into the church, and that then our influence would be required. But if exhausted by previous labors, we would not possess that calm judgment, discretion, and self-control necessary for the important occasion in which God would have us act a prominent part.
“Satan has crippled our efforts by so affecting the church as to call forth from us almost double labor to cut our way through the darkness and unbelief. These efforts to set things in order in the churches have exhausted our strength, and lassitude and debility have followed. I saw that we have a work to do, but the adversary of souls will resist every effort that we attempt to make. The people may be in a state of backsliding, so that God cannot bless them, and this will be disheartening; but we should not be discouraged. We should do our duty in presenting the light, and leave the responsibility with the people.”
I will here copy from another testimony, written June 6, 1863: “I was shown that our testimony is still needed in the church, that we should labor to save ourselves trials and cares, and that we should preserve a devotional frame of mind. It is the duty of those in the office to tax their brains more, and of my husband to tax his less. Much time is spent by him upon various matters which confuse and weary his mind, and unfit him for study or for writing, and thus prevent his light from shining in the Review as it should.
“My husband’s mind should not be crowded and overtaxed. It must have rest, and he must be left free to write and attend to matters which others cannot do. Those engaged in the office could lift from him a great weight of care if they would dedicate themselves to God and feel a deep interest in the work. No selfish feelings should exist among those who labor in the office. It is the work of God in which they are engaged, and they are accountable to Him for their motives and the manner in which this branch of His work is performed. They are required to discipline their minds. Many feel that no blame should be attached to forgetfulness. This is a great mistake. Forgetfulness is sin. It leads to many blunders and to much disorder and many wrongs. Things that should be done ought not to be forgotten. The mind must be tasked; it must be disciplined until it will remember.
“My husband has had much care, and has done many things which others ought to have done, but which he feared to have them do, lest, in their heedlessness, they should make mistakes not easily remedied, and thus involve losses. This has been a great perplexity to his mind. Those who labor in the office should learn. They should study, and practice, and exercise their own brains; for they have this branch of business alone, while my husband has the responsibility of many departments of the work. If a workman makes a failure, he should feel that it rests upon him to repair damages from his own purse, and should not allow the office to suffer loss through his carelessness. He should not cease to bear responsibilities, but should try again, avoiding former mistakes. In this way he will learn to take that care which the word of God ever requires, and then he will do no more than his duty.
“My husband should take time to do those things which his judgment tells him would preserve his health. He has thought that he must throw off the burdens and responsibilities which were upon him, and leave the office, or his mind would become a wreck. I was shown that when the Lord released him from his position, he would give him just as clear evidence of his release as he gave him when He laid the burden of the work upon him. But he has borne too many burdens, and those laboring with him at the office, and also his ministering brethren, have been too willing that he should bear them. They have, as a general thing, stood back from bearing burdens, and have sympathized with those who were murmuring against him, and left him to stand alone while he was bowed down beneath censure, until God has vindicated His own cause. If they had taken their share of the burdens, my husband would have been relieved.
“I saw that God now requires us to take special care of the health He has given us, for our work is not yet done. Our testimony must still be borne, and will have influence. We should preserve our strength to labor in the cause of God when our labor is needed. We should be careful not to take upon ourselves burdens that others can and should bear. We should encourage a cheerful, hopeful, peaceful frame of mind; for our health depends upon our so doing. The work that God requires us to do will not prevent our caring for our health, that we may recover from the effect of overtaxing labor. The more perfect our health, the more perfect will be our labor. When we overtax our strength, and become exhausted, we are liable to take cold, and at such times there is danger of disease assuming a dangerous form. We must not leave the care of ourselves with God, when He has placed that responsibility upon us.”
October 25, 1869, while at Adams Center, New York, I was shown that some ministers among us fail to bear all the responsibility that God would have them. This lack throws extra labor upon those who are burden bearers, especially upon my husband. Some ministers fail to move out and venture something in the cause and work of God. Important decisions are to be made; but as mortal man cannot see the end from the beginning, some shrink from venturing and advancing as the providence of God leads. Someone must advance; someone must venture in the fear of God, trusting the result with Him. Those ministers who shun this part of the labor are losing much. They are failing to obtain that experience which God designed they should have to make them strong, efficient men that can be relied upon in any emergency.
Brother A, you shrink from running risks. You are not willing to venture when you cannot see the way perfectly clear. Yet someone must do this very work; someone must walk by faith, or no advance moves will be made, and nothing will be accomplished. A fear that you will make mistakes and mismoves, and then be blamed, binds you. You excuse yourself from taking responsibility because you have made some mistakes in the past. But you should move according to your best judgment, trusting the result with God. Someone must do this, and it is a trying position for anyone. One should not bear all this responsibility alone, but with much reflection and earnest prayer, it should be equally shared.
During my husband’s affliction, the Lord tested and proved His people to reveal what was in their hearts; and in so doing He showed to them what was undiscovered in themselves that was not according to the Spirit of God. The trying circumstances under which we were placed called out from our brethren that which otherwise would never have been revealed. The Lord proved to His people that the wisdom of man is foolishness, and that unless they possess firm trust and reliance on God, their plans and calculations will prove a failure. We are to learn from all these things. If errors are committed, they should teach and instruct, but not lead to the shunning of burdens and responsibilities. Where much is at stake, and where matters of vital consequence are to be considered, and important questions settled, God’s servants should take individual responsibility. They cannot lay off the burden and yet do the will of God. Some ministers are deficient in the qualifications necessary to build up the churches, and they are not willing to wear in the cause of God. They have not a disposition to give themselves wholly to the work, with their interest undivided, their zeal unabated, their patience and perseverance untiring. With these qualifications in lively exercise, the churches would be kept in order, and my husband’s labors would not be so heavy. All ministers do not constantly bear in mind that the labor of all must bear the inspection of the judgment, and that every man will be rewarded as his works have been.
Brother A, you have a responsibility to bear in regard to the Health Institute. [Later Known as the Battle Creek Sanitarium. ] You should ponder, you should reflect. Frequently the time that you occupy in reading is the very best time for you to reflect and to study what must be done to set things in order at the Institute and at the office. My husband takes on these burdens because he sees that the work for these institutions must be done by someone. As others will not lead out, he steps into the gap and supplies the deficiency.
God has cautioned and warned my husband in regard to the preservation of his strength. I was shown that he was raised up by the Lord, and that he lives as a miracle of mercy—not for the purpose of again gathering upon him the burdens under which he once fell, but that the people of God may be benefited by his experience in advancing the general interests of the cause, and in connection with the work the Lord has given me, and the burden He has laid upon me to bear.
Brother A, great care should be exercised by you, especially at Battle Creek. In visiting, your conversation should be upon the most important subjects. Be careful to back up precept by example. This is an important post and will require labor. While you are here, you should take time to ponder the many things which need to be done and which require solemn reflection, careful attention, and most earnest, faithful prayer. You should feel as great an interest in the things relating to the cause, to the work at the Health Institute and at the office of publication, as my husband feels; you should feel that the work is yours. You cannot do the work that God has specially qualified my husband to do, neither can he do the work that God has specially qualified you to do. Yet both of you together, united in harmonious labor, you in your office, and my husband in his, can accomplish much.
The work in which we have a common interest is great; and efficient, willing, burden-bearing laborers are few indeed. God will give you strength, my brother, if you will move forward and wait upon Him. He will give my husband and myself strength in our united labor, if we do all to His glory, according to our ability and strength to labor. You should be located where you would have a more favorable opportunity to exercise your gift according to the ability that God has given you. You should lean your whole weight upon God and give Him an opportunity to teach, lead, and impress you. You feel a deep interest in the work and cause of God, and you should look to Him for light and guidance. He will give you light. But, as an ambassador of Christ, you are required to be faithful, to correct wrong in meekness and love, and your efforts will not prove unavailing.
Since my husband has recovered from his feebleness, we have labored earnestly. We have not consulted our own ease or pleasure. We have traveled and labored in camp meetings, and overtaxed our strength, so that it has brought upon us debility, without the advantages of rest. During the year 1870 we attended twelve camp meetings. In a number of these meetings, the burden of labor rested almost wholly upon us. We traveled from Minnesota to Maine, and to Missouri and Kansas.
My husband and I united our efforts to improve the Health Reformer [Now called Good Health. ] and make it an interesting and profitable journal, one that would be desired, not only by our people, but by all classes. This was a severe tax upon him. He also made very important improvements in the Review and the Instructor. He accomplished the work which should have been shared by three men. And while all this labor fell upon him in the publishing branch of the work, the business departments at the Health Institute and the Publishing Association required the labor of two men to relieve them of financial embarrassment.
Unfaithful men who had been entrusted with the work at the office and at the Institute, had, through selfishness and a lack of consecration, placed matters in the worst possible condition. There was unsettled business that had to be attended to. My husband stepped into the gap and worked with all his energies. He was wearing. We could see that he was in danger; but we could not see how he could stop, unless the work in the office should cease. Almost every day some new perplexity would arise, some new difficulty caused by the unfaithfulness of the men who had taken charge of the work. His brain was taxed to the utmost. But the worst perplexities are now over, and the work is moving on prosperously.
At the General Conference my husband pleaded to be released from the burdens upon him; but, notwithstanding his pleading, the burden of editing the Review and the Reformer was placed upon him, with encouragement that men who would take burdens and responsibilities would be encouraged to settle at Battle Creek. But as yet no help has come to lift from him the burdens of the financial work at the office.
My husband is fast wearing. We have attended the four Western camp meetings, and our brethren are urging us to attend the Eastern meetings. But we dare not take additional burdens upon us. When we came from the labor of the Western camp meetings in July, 1871, we found a large amount of business that had been left to accumulate in my husband’s absence. We have seen no opportunity for rest yet. My husband must be released from the burdens upon him. There are too many that use his brain instead of using their own. In view of the light which God has been pleased to give us, we plead for you, my brethren, to release my husband. I am not willing to venture the consequences of his going forward and laboring as he has done. He served you faithfully and unselfishly for years, and finally fell under the pressure of the burdens placed upon him. Then his brethren, in whom he had confided, left him. They let him drop into my hands, and forsook him. For nearly two years I was his nurse, his attendant, his physician. I do not wish to pass through the experience a second time. Brethren, will you lift the burdens from us, and allow us to preserve our strength as God would have us, that the cause at large may be benefited by the efforts we may make in His strength? Or will you leave us to become debilitated so that we will become useless to the cause?
The foregoing portion of this appeal was read at the New Hampshire camp meeting, August, 1871.
When we returned from Kansas in the autumn of 1870, Brother B was at home sick with fever. Sister Van Horn, at this very time, was absent from the office in consequence of fever brought upon her by the sudden death of her mother. Brother Smith was also from the office, in Rochester, New York, recovering from a fever. There was a great amount of unfinished work at the office, yet Brother B left his post of duty to gratify his own pleasure. This fact in his experience is a sample of the man. Sacred duties rest lightly upon him.
It was a great breach of the trust reposed in him to pursue the course he did. In what marked contrast with this is the life of Christ, our Pattern! He was the Son of Jehovah, and the Author of our salvation. He labored and suffered for us. He denied Himself, and His whole life was one continued scene of toil and privation. Had He chosen so to do, He could have passed His days in a world of His own creating, in ease and plenty, and claimed for Himself all the pleasures and enjoyment the world could give Him. But He did not consider His own convenience. He lived not to please Himself, but to do good and lavish His blessings upon others.
Brother B was sick with fever. His case was critical. In justice to the cause of God, I feel compelled to state that his sickness was not the result of unwearied devotion to the interests of the office. Imprudent exposure on a trip to Chicago, for his own pleasure, was the cause of his long, tedious, suffering sickness. God did not sustain him in leaving the work, when so many who had filled important positions in the office were absent. At the very time when he should not have excused himself for an hour, he left his post of duty, and God did not sustain him.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3 pp. 9-18