Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3


Chapter 35—Individual Independence

Dear Brother A,

My mind is exercised in regard to your case. I have written you some things which have been shown me in regard to your past, present, and future course. I feel anxious for you because I have seen your dangers. Your former experience in spiritualism exposes you to temptations and severe conflicts. When once the mind has been yielded to the direct control of the enemy through evil angels, that person should be very distrustful of impressions and feelings which would lead him on an independent track, away from the church of Christ. The first step that such a one would take independently of the church should be regarded as a device of the enemy to deceive and destroy. God has made His church a channel of light, and through it He communicates His purposes and His will. He does not give one an experience independent of the church. He does not give one man a knowledge of His will for the entire church, while the church, Christ's body, is left in darkness. 3T 414.1

Brother A, you need to watch with the greatest care how you build. There is a storm coming which will test your hope to the utmost. You should dig deep and lay your foundation sure. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Steadily the builder places one stone upon another until the structure rises stone upon stone. The gospel builder frequently carries on his work in tears and amid trials, storms of persecution, bitter opposition, and unjust reproach; but he feels deeply in earnest, for he is building for eternity. Be careful, Brother A, that your foundation is solid rock, that you are riveted to it, Christ being that Rock. 3T 414.2

You have a strong, set will, a very independent spirit, which you feel that you must preserve at all hazards. And you have carried this same spirit into your religious experience and life. You have not always been in harmony with the work of God as carried on by your American brethren. You have not seen as they see nor been in union with their manner of proceeding. You have had very little acquaintance with the work in its different departments. You have not felt very anxious to become acquainted with the various branches of the work. You have looked with suspicion and distrust upon the work, and upon God's chosen leaders to carry it forward. You have been more ready to question and surmise and be jealous of those upon whom God has laid the heavier responsibilities of His work, than to investigate and to so connect yourself with the cause of God as to become acquainted with its workings and advancement. 3T 414.3

God saw that you were not fitted to be a shepherd, a minister of righteousness to proclaim the truth to others, until you should be a thoroughly transformed man. He permitted you to pass through real trials and feel privation and want, that you might know how to exercise pity and sympathy, and tender love for the unfortunate and oppressed, and for those borne down with want and passing through trial and affliction. 3T 415.1

While you prayed in your affliction for peace in Christ, a cloud of darkness seemed to blacken across your mind. The rest and peace did not come as you expected. At times your faith seemed to be tested to the utmost. As you looked back to your past life, you saw sorrow and disappointment; as you viewed the future, all was uncertainty. The divine Hand led you wondrously to bring you to the cross and to teach you that God was indeed a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Those who ask aright will receive. He that seeketh in faith shall find. The experience gained in the furnace of trial and affliction is worth more than all the inconvenience and painful experience it costs. 3T 415.2

The prayers that you offered in your loneliness, in your weariness and trial, God answered, not always according to your expectations, but for your good. You did not have clear and correct views of your brethren, neither did you see yourself in a correct light. But, in the providence of God, He has been at work to answer the prayers you have offered in your distress, in a way to save you and glorify His own name. In your ignorance of yourself you asked for things which were not best for you. God heard your prayers of sincerity, but the blessing granted was something very different from your expectations. God designed, in His providence, to place you more directly in connection with His church, that your confidence might be less in yourself and greater in others whom He is leading out to advance His work. 3T 415.3

God hears every sincere prayer. He would place you in connection with His work that He might bring you more directly to the light. And unless you should seal your vision against evidence and light you would be persuaded that if you were more distrustful of yourself and less distrustful of your brethren you would be more prosperous in God. It is God who has led you through strait places. He had a purpose in this, that tribulation might work in you patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. He permitted trials to come upon you, that, through them, you might experience the peaceable fruits of righteousness. 3T 416.1

Peter denied the Man of Sorrows in His acquaintance with grief in the hour of His humiliation. But he afterward repented and was reconverted. He had true contrition of soul and gave himself afresh to his Saviour. With blinding tears he makes his way to the solitudes of the Garden of Gethsemane and there prostrates himself where he saw his Saviour's prostrate form when the bloody sweat was forced from His pores by His great agony. Peter remembers with remorse that he was asleep when Jesus prayed during those fearful hours. His proud heart breaks, and penitential tears moisten the sods so recently stained with the bloody sweat drops of God's dear Son. He left that garden a converted man. He was ready then to pity the tempted. He was humbled and could sympathize with the weak and erring. He could caution and warn the presumptuous, and was fully fitted to strengthen his brethren. 3T 416.2

God led you through affliction and trials that you might have more perfect trust and confidence in Him, and that you might think less of your own judgment. You can bear adversity better than prosperity. The all-seeing eye of Jehovah detected in you much dross that you considered gold and too valuable to throw away. The enemy's power over you had at times been direct and very strong. The delusions of spiritualism had entangled your faith, perverted your judgment, and confused your experience. God in His providence would try you, to purify you, as the sons of Levi, that you might offer to Him an offering in righteousness. 3T 416.3

Self is mingled too much with all your labors. Your will must be molded by God's will, or you will fall into grievous temptations. I saw that when you labor in God, putting self out of sight, you will realize a strength from Him which will give you access to hearts. Angels of God will work with your efforts when you are humble and little in your own eyes. But when you think you know more than those whom God has been leading for years, and whom He has been instructing in the truth and fitting for the extension of His work, you are self-exalted and will fall into temptations. 3T 417.1

You need to cultivate kindness and tenderness. You need to be pitiful and courteous. Your labors savor too much of severity and an exacting, dictatorial, overbearing spirit. You are not always kindly considerate of the feelings of others, and you create trials and dissatisfaction needlessly. More love in your labors, and more kindly sympathy, would give you access to hearts and would win souls to Christ and the truth. 3T 417.2

You are constantly inclined to individual independence. You do not realize that independence is a poor thing when it leads you to have too much confidence in yourself and to trust to your own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly estimate the judgment of your brethren, especially of those in the offices which God has appointed for the saving of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for in so doing he despises the voice of God. 3T 417.3

It is not safe for you to trust to impressions and feelings. It has been your misfortune to come under the power of that satanic delusion, spiritualism. This pall of death has covered you, and your imagination and nerves have been under the control of demons; and when you become self-confident and do not cling with unwavering confidence to God you are in positive danger. You may, and frequently do, let down the bars and invite the enemy in, and he controls your thoughts and actions, while you are really deceived and flatter yourself that you are in favor with God. 3T 418.1

Satan has tried to prevent you from having confidence in your American brethren. You have regarded them and their moves and experience with suspicion, when they are the very ones who could help you and would be a blessing to you. It will be Satan's studied effort to separate you from those who are as channels of light, through whom God has communicated His will and through whom He has wrought in building up and extending His work. Your views and your feelings and experience are altogether too narrow, and your labors are of the same character. 3T 418.2

In order to be a blessing to your people, you need to improve in many things. You should cultivate courtesy and cherish a tender sympathy for all. You should have the crowning grace of God, which is love. You criticize too much and are not so forbearing as you must be if you would win souls. You could have much more influence if you were less formal and rigid, and were actuated more by the Holy Spirit. Your fear of being led by men is too great. God uses men as His instruments and will use them as long as the world shall stand. 3T 418.3

The angels who fell were anxious to become independent of God. They were very beautiful, very glorious, but dependent on God for their happiness and for the light and intelligence they enjoyed. They fell from their high estate through insubordination. Christ and His church are inseparable. To neglect or despise those whom God has appointed to lead out and to bear the responsibilities connected with His work and with the advancement and spread of the truth is to reject the means which God has ordained for the help, encouragement, and strength of His people. 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. 3T 418.4

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. 3T 419.1

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. 3T 419.2

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. 3T 419.3

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. 3T 419.4

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. 3T 420.1

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. 3T 420.2

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. 3T 420.3

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. 3T 421.1

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. 3T 421.2

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. 3T 421.3

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. 3T 422.1

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. 3T 422.2

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. 3T 423.1

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. 3T 423.2

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. 3T 423.3