Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1


Chapter 107—Danger of Self-Confidence

Brother F,

December 25, 1865, I was shown that a good work had commenced in Maine. Especially was the field of labor shown me where a company have been raised up as fruits of the labors of Brother Andrews and yourself, where they have manifested their interest and love for the truth by erecting a house of worship. There is yet a great work to be done for this company. Quite a number have been converted to the theory of the truth; some have decided from the weight of evidence; they see a beauty in the connected chain of truth, all uniting in a harmonious, perfect whole; they love the principles of the truth, yet they have not realized its sanctifying influence. These souls are exposed to the perils of the last days. Satan has prepared his deceptions and snares for the inexperienced. He is working through his agents, even ministers who despise the truth and trample upon the law of God themselves and teach all who will listen to them to do the same. 1T 621.1

This company who have received unpopular truth can be safe only as they make God their trust and are sanctified by the truth which they profess. They have taken an important step and now need a religious experience which will make them sons and daughters of the most high God and heirs to the immortal inheritance purchased for them by His dear Son. Those who have been instrumental in presenting the truth to them should not withdraw their labors at this important period, but should still persevere in their efforts until these souls are gathered into the fold of Christ. Sufficient instruction should be given for them to understandingly obtain for themselves the evidence that the truth is to them salvation. 1T 621.2

I saw that God would do a still greater work in Maine if all who labor in the cause there are consecrated to Him and trust not to their own strength, but to the Strength of Israel. I was shown that Brother Andrews and yourself have labored hard and have not had the rest which you should have given yourselves in order to preserve health. You should labor with care and observe periods of rest. By so doing you will retain your physical and mental vigor, and render your labor much more efficient. Brother F, you are a nervous man and move much from impulse. Mental depression influences your labor very much. At times you feel a want of freedom and think it is because others are in darkness or wrong, or that something is the matter, you can hardly tell what, and you make a drive somewhere and upon somebody, which is liable to do great harm. If you would quiet yourself when in this restless, nervous condition, and rest and calmly wait on God and inquire if the trouble is not in yourself, you would save wounding your own soul and wounding the precious cause of God. 1T 622.1

I saw that Brother F was in danger of becoming lifted up if he was enabled in his discourses to strongly move the feelings of the congregation. He would often think himself the most effectual preacher on that account. Here he sometimes deceives himself. Although he may be for the time the most acceptable preacher, yet he may fail to accomplish the most good. The preacher who can affect the feelings to the greatest degree does not thereby give evidence that he is the most useful. 1T 622.2

When Brother F is humble and makes God his trust, he can do much good. Angels come to his help, and he is blessed with clearness and freedom. But after a time of special victory he has too often been lifted up and thought himself equal to anything, thought that he was something, when he was only an instrument in the hands of God. After such seasons angels of God have left him to his own weak strength, and then, though he himself was the one at fault, he would too frequently charge upon his brethren and the people the darkness and weakness he felt. While in this unhappy state of mind he frequently bears down upon this one and that one, and, even when his work is not half done, feels that he must remove and commence labor elsewhere. 1T 623.1

I saw that Brother F was in danger of going into battle in his own strength, but he will find that strength but weakness in the conflict. While he made God his trust, he has often been successful in combats with opposers of our faith. But he has sometimes felt elated with the victory which God has given truth over error, and has taken the glory to himself in these conflicts. Self has been magnified in his eyes. 1T 623.2

I was shown that in his last two discussions he did not have the right spirit. Previous to the first he became exalted by the flattery of men who love not the truth. As he listened to, and acted some part in, a discussion carried on between two who were not in the faith, he became lifted up and thought himself sufficient to enter the battle with anyone. And while he was so confident, he was, in the very act, shorn of his strength. God was displeased with his disregard of the counsel of Brother Andrews. His self-sufficient spirit came near making that discussion an utter failure. Unless there is a decided gain in these combats, there is always a loss. They should never be rushed into heedlessly, but every move should be made cautiously, with the greatest wisdom, for far more is pending than in a national battle. Satan and his host are all astir at these conflicts between truth and error, and if the advocates of truth do not go into battle in the strength of God, Satan will manage to outgeneral them every time. 1T 623.3

In the second combat there was much, very much at stake. Yet here again Brother F failed. He did not engage in that conflict feeling his weakness and in humility and simplicity relying upon the strength of God. He again felt a sufficiency in himself. His past successes had lifted him up. He thought that the victories he had gained were very much due to his aptness in using the powerful arguments furnished in the word of God. 1T 624.1

I was shown that the advocates of truth should not seek discussions. And whenever it is necessary for the advancement of the cause of truth and the glory of God that an opponent be met, how carefully and with what humility should they go into the conflict. With heart-searching, confession of sin, and earnest prayer, and often fasting for a time, they should entreat that God would especially help them and give His saving, precious truth a glorious victory, that error might appear in its true deformity and its advocates be completely discomfited. Those who battle for the truth, against its opposers, should realize that they are not meeting merely men, but that they are contending with Satan and his angels, who are determined that error and darkness shall retain the field and the truth be covered up with error. As error is most in accordance with the natural heart, it is taken for granted to be clear. Men who are at ease love error and darkness, and are unwilling to be reformed by the truth. They do not love to come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved. 1T 624.2

If those who stand in vindication of the truth, trust to the weight of argument, with but a feeble reliance upon God, and thus meet their opponents, nothing will be gained on the side of truth, but there will be a decided loss. Unless there is an evident victory in favor of truth, the matter is left worse than before the conflict. Those who might formerly have had convictions in regard to the truth set their minds at rest and decide in favor of error, because in their darkened state they cannot perceive that the truth had the advantage. These last two discussions did but little to advance the cause of God, and it would have been better had they not occurred. Brother F did not engage in them with a spirit of self-abasement and a firm reliance upon God. He was puffed up by the enemy and had a spirit of self-sufficiency and confidence not becoming a humble servant of Christ. He had on his own armor, not the armor of God. 1T 624.3

Brother F, God had provided you with a laborer of deep experience, the ablest in the field. He was one who had been acquainted in his own experience with the wiles of Satan, and who had passed through most intense mental anguish. He had been permitted in the all-wise providence of God to feel the heat of the refining furnace and had there learned that every refuge but God would fail and every prop upon which he could lean for support would prove but a broken reed. You should have realized that Brother Andrews had as deep an interest in the discussion as yourself, and you should have listened in the spirit of humility to his counsel and profited by his instructions. But Satan had an object to gain here, to defeat the purpose of God, and he stepped in to take possession of your mind and thereby thwart the work of God. You rushed into battle in your own strength, and angels left you to carry it on. But God in mercy to His cause would not suffer the enemies of His truth to obtain a decided victory, and in answer to the earnest, agonizing prayers of His servant, angels came to the rescue. Instead of an utter failure there was a partial victory, that the enemies of truth might not exult over the believers. But nothing was gained by that effort, when there might have been a glorious triumph of truth over error. There were two of the ablest advocates of truth by your side; three men, with the strength of truth, to stand against one man who was seeking to cover up truth with error. In God you could have been a host, had you entered the conflict right. Your self-sufficiency caused it to be almost an entire failure. 1T 625.1

Never should you enter a discussion where so much is at stake, relying upon your aptness to handle strong arguments. If it cannot be well avoided, enter the conflict, but enter upon it with firm trust in God and in the spirit of humility, in the spirit of Jesus, who has bidden you learn of Him, who is meek and lowly in heart. And then in order to glorify God and exemplify the character of Christ, you should never take unlawful advantage of your opponent. Lay aside sarcasm and playing upon words. Remember that you are in a combat with Satan and his angels, as well as with the man. He who overcame Satan in heaven and vanquished the fallen foe and expelled him from heaven, and who died to redeem fallen man from his power, when at the grave of Moses, disputing about his body, durst not bring against Satan a railing accusation, but said: “The Lord rebuke thee.” 1T 626.1

In your last two discussions you despised counsel and would not listen to God's servant, whose whole soul was devoted to the work. God in His providence provided you an adviser whose talents and influence entitled him to your respect and confidence, and it could in no way have injured your dignity to be guided by his experienced judgment. God's angels marked your self-sufficiency and with grief turned from you. He could not safely display His power in your behalf, for you would have taken the glory to yourself, and your future labors would have been of but little value. I saw, Brother F, that you should not, in your labors, lean upon your own judgment, which has so often led you astray. You should yield to the judgment of those of experience. Do not stand upon your own dignity and feel so self-sufficient that you cannot take the advice and counsel of experienced fellow laborers. 1T 626.2

Your wife has been no special help to you, but rather a hindrance. Had she received and heeded the testimonies given her more than two years ago she would now be a strong helper with you in the gospel. But she has not received and really acted upon that testimony. Had she done this, her course would have been entirely different. She has not been consecrated to God. She loves her ease, shuns burdens, and does not deny herself. She indulges in indolence, and her example is not worthy of imitation, but is an injury to the cause of God. At times she exerts a strong influence over you, especially if she feels homesick or discontented. Again, in church affairs she has an influence over you. She forms her opinion of this brother or that sister, and expresses dislike or strong attachment, while it has frequently been the case that the very ones she takes into her heart have been a source of great trial to the church. Her unconsecrated state leads her to feel very strong attachments to those who manifest great confidence and love for her, while precious souls whom God loves may be passed coldly by because no fervent expressions of attachment are heard from them toward herself and Brother F. And yet the love of these very souls is true and is to be more highly prized than that of those who make such protestations of their regard. The opinion your wife forms has a great influence on your mind. You often take it for granted that she is correct and think as she thinks and act in church matters accordingly. 1T 627.1

You must exemplify the life of Christ, for solemn responsibilities rest upon you. Your wife is responsible to God for her course. If she is a hindrance to you she must render an account to God. Sometimes she arouses and humbles herself before God and is a real help; but she soon falls back into the same inactive state, shunning responsibilities, and excusing herself from mental and physical labor. Her health would be far better if she were more active, if she would engage more cheerfully and heartily in physical and mental labor. She does not lack the ability, but the disposition to act; she will not persevere in cultivating a love for activity. God can do nothing for her in her present condition. She has something to do to arouse herself and devote to God her physical and mental energies. God requires this of her, and in the day of God she will be found an unprofitable servant unless there is a thorough reformation on her part and she lives up to the light given. Until this reformation takes place, she should not be at all united with her husband in his labors. 1T 627.2

God will bless and sustain Brother F if he moves forward in humility, leaning upon the judgment of experienced fellow laborers. 1T 628.1