Testimonies to Southern Africa


Chapter 2—Letter to a Minister and His Wife Bound for Africa

Stockholm, Sweden

June 25, 1887

Dear Brother _____,

There are some things I wish to address particularly to yourself and to your wife. You both need to be guarded; you both have strong wills, and are not wanting in self-confidence TSA 14.1

In your association with others, there is danger of your both being over-bearing and exacting. You will also be in danger of this in your own married life, unless you daily humble your hearts before God, and individually feel the great need of learning in the school of Christ the lessons of meekness, humility, and lowliness of heart. TSA 14.2

Your ways seem to be right in your own eyes, when they may be far from right. God would have you less self-confident, self-sufficient TSA 14.3

Your ideas and plans should be closely and critically examined, for you are in danger of circumscribing the work, of placing your own mould upon it, and of using your narrow ideas and cheap plans, which generally prove to be the dearest in the end. You belittle the work by so doing. While it is well to exercise economy, let the work of God ever stand in its elevated noble dignity. TSA 14.4

As you are to begin work in a new mission, be careful that your defects are not exalted as virtues, and thus retard the work of God. It is testing truths we are bringing before the people, and in every movement these truths should be elevated to stand in moral beauty before those for whom we labour. Do not throw about the truth the peculiarities of your own character, or your own manner of labour.... TSA 14.5

Do not cheapen the work of God. Let it stand forth as from God. Let it bear no human impress, but the impress of the divine. Self is to be lost sight of in Jesus. It is not safe to allow your own ideas and judgment, your set ways, your peculiar traits of character, to be a controlling power. There is a great need of breadth in your calculations in order to place the work high in all your plans, proportionate to its importance. TSA 14.6

Much has been lost through following the mistaken ideas of some of our good brethren. Their plans were narrow, and they lowered the work to their peculiar ways and ideas so that the higher classes were not reached. The appearance of the work impressed the minds of unbelievers as being of very little worth—some stray offshoot of religious theory entirely beneath their notice. Much also has been lost through want of wise methods of labour. Every effort should be made to give dignity and character to the work. Special efforts should be made to secure the goodwill of men in responsible positions, not by sacrificing even one principle of truth or righteousness, but by simply giving up our own ways and manner of approaching the people. TSA 15.1

Much more would be effected if more tact and discretion were used in the presentation of the truth. Through the neglect of this many have a misconception of our faith and of our doctrine which they would not have if the very first impression made upon their minds had been more favourable. TSA 15.2

It is our duty to get as close to the people as we can. This kind of labour will not have an influence to exclude the poorer and lower classes, but both high and low will have an opportunity to be benefited by the truths of the Bible; both will have a chance to become acquainted with you and to understand that the religion of the Bible never degrades the receiver. They will perceive the duties and responsibilities resting upon them to be representatives of Jesus Christ upon the earth. TSA 15.3

The truth received in the heart is constantly elevating, refining, and ennobling the receiver. This is not a worldly wisdom, but a God-given wisdom, the ways and means of which the believers in the truth should study, so that the truth may reach those classes who can exert an influence in its favour, and who will sustain its advancement with their means. The duty we owe to our fellow men places us under moral obligation of putting out our talents to the exchangers so that we may double them by winning many souls to Jesus Christ,—souls who have influence, whom God has seen fit to entrust with large capacity for doing good. TSA 15.4

The workers in this cause should not feel that the only way they can do is to go at the people pointedly, with all subjects of truth and doctrine as held by Seventh-day Adventists, for this would close their ears at the very onset. You will be inclined to do this, for it would please your inclination and be in harmony with your character. God would have you be as lambs among wolves, as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. You cannot do this and follow your own ideas and your own plans. You must modify your method of labour. You need not feel that all the truth is to be spoken to unbelievers on any and every occasion. You should plan carefully what to say and what to leave unsaid. This is not practising deception; it is working as Paul worked. He says, “Being crafty, I caught you with guile.” Your method of labour would not have that effect. TSA 16.1

You must vary your labour, and not think there is only one way which must be followed at all times and in all places. Your ways may seem to you a success, but if you had used more tact, more of the heavenly wisdom, you would have seen much more good results from your work. Paul's manner was not to approach the Jews in a way to stir up their worst prejudice and run the risk of making them his enemies by telling them the first thing that they must believe in Jesus of Nazareth. But he dwelt upon the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures that testified of Christ, of His mission, and of His work. Thus he led them along step by step, showing them the importance of honouring the law of God. He gave due honour to the ceremonial law, showing that Christ was the One who instituted the whole Jewish economy in sacrificial service. And after dwelling upon these things and showing that he had a clear understanding of these matters, then he brought them down to the first advent of Christ, and showed that in the crucified Jesus every specification had been fulfilled. TSA 16.2

This is the wisdom Paul exercised. He approached the Gentiles not by exalting the law, but by exalting Christ, and then showing the binding claims of the law. He plainly presented before them how the light reflected from the cross of Calvary gave significance and glory to the whole Jewish economy. Thus he varied his manner of labour, always shaping his message to the circumstances under which he was placed. He was, after patient labour, successful to a large degree, yet many would not be convinced. Some there are who will not be convinced by any method of presenting truth that may be pursued; but the labourer for God is to study carefully the best method, that he may not raise prejudice nor stir up combativeness. TSA 16.3

Here is where you have failed of reaching souls in the past. When you have followed your natural inclination, you have closed the door whereby you might, with a different method of labour, have found access to hearts, and through them to other hearts. The influence of our work through gaining one soul is far-reaching; the talent is put out to the exchangers and is constantly doubling. TSA 17.1

Now it will be well, my brother, for you to carefully consider these things; and when you labour in your new field, do not feel that as an honest man you must tell all that you do believe at the very onset, for Christ did not do that way. Christ said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” And there were many things He did not say to them, because their education and ideas were of such a character that it would have confused their minds and raised questioning and unbelief that it would have been difficult to remove. TSA 17.2

God's workmen must be many-sided men; that is, they must have breadth of character, not be one-idea men, stereotyped in one manner of working, getting into a groove, and being unable to see and sense that their words and their advocacy of truth must vary with the class of people they are among, and the circumstances they have to meet. All should be constantly seeking to develop their minds evenly and to overcome ill-balanced characteristics. This must be your constant study if you make a useful, successful labourer. God would have you, old as you are, continually improving and learning how you can better reach the people.... TSA 17.3

A great and solemn work is before us—to reach the people where they are. Do not feel it your bounden duty the first thing to tell the people, “We are Seventh-day Adventists; we believe the seventh day is the Sabbath; we believe in the non-immortality of the soul,” and thus erect most formidable barriers between you and those you wish to reach. But speak to them, as you may have opportunity, upon points of doctrine wherein you can agree, and dwell on practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian, desiring peace, and that you love their souls. Let them see that you are conscientious. Thus you will gain their confidence, and then there will be time enough for the doctrines. Let the hard iron heart be subdued, the soil prepared, and then lead them along cautiously, presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. TSA 17.4

It requires great wisdom to reach ministers and noblemen. Why should these be neglected or passed by, as they certainly have been by our people? These classes are responsible to God just in proportion to the capital of talents entrusted to them. Should there not be greater study and much more humble prayer for wisdom to reach these classes? Where much is given, much will be required. Then should there not be wisdom and tact used to gain these souls to Jesus Christ, who will be, if converted, polished instruments in the hands of the Lord to reach others? The Lord's help we must have to know how to undertake His work in a skillful manner. Self must not be prominent. TSA 18.1

God has a work to be done that the workers have not yet fully comprehended. Their message is to go to ministers and to worldly-wise men, for these are to be tested with the light of truth. It is to be set forth before the learned ones of this world judiciously and in its native dignity. There must be most earnest seeking of God, most thorough study; for the mental powers will be taxed to the uttermost to lay plans according to the Lord's order that shall place His work on the higher and more elevated platform where it should ever have stood. Men's little ideas and narrow plans have bound about the work.... TSA 18.2

May the Lord set these things home to your soul. After the most earnest efforts have been made to bring the truth before those whom God has entrusted with large responsibilities, be not discouraged if they reject it. They did the same in the days of Christ. Be sure to keep up the dignity of the work by well-ordered plans and a godly conversation. Do not think that you have elevated the standard too high. Let families who engage in this missionary work come close to hearts. Let the Spirit of Jesus pervade the soul of the workers. Let there be no self-delusion in this part of the work, for it is the pleasant, sympathetic words spoken in love to each other, the manifestations of disinterested love for their souls, that will break down the barriers of pride and selfishness, and make manifest to unbelievers that we have the love of Christ, and then the truth will find its way to their hearts. This is, at any rate, our work and the fulfilling of God's plans. But the workers must divest themselves of selfishness and criticism. TSA 18.3

My brother, you need to be carefully guarded that those of inexperience who connect with you do not become moulded to your ways, thinking they must do the work just as you do it. All coarseness and roughness must be put aside and separated from our labour, and great wisdom must be exercised in approaching those who are not of our faith. You need to cherish courtesy, refinement, and Christian politeness. There will be need for you to guard against being abrupt and blunt. Do not consider these peculiarities as virtues, because God does not regard them thus. You should seek in all things not to offend those who do not believe as we do by making prominent the most objectionable features of our faith when there is no call for it. You will only do injury by it.... TSA 19.1

We want more, much more, of the Spirit of Christ; and less, much less, of self and the peculiarities of character which build up a wall, keeping you apart from your fellow-labourers. We can do much to break down these barriers. We can do much by revealing the graces of Christ in our own lives. TSA 19.2

Jesus has been entrusting to His church His goods age after age. One generation after another for more than eighteen hundred years has been gathering up the hereditary trust, and these responsibilities, which have increased according to the light, have descended along the lines to our times. Do we feel our responsibilities? Do we feel that we are stewards of God's grace? Do we feel that the lowliest, humblest service may be consecrated, if it is exercised with the high aim of doing, not our own, but our Master's will to promote His glory? We want on the whole armour of righteousness, not our own garments.... TSA 19.3

You do not know yourself, and you need daily to be imbued with the Spirit of Jesus, else you will, in your dealing with your brethren and with unbelievers, become small, narrow, and penurious, and turn souls in disgust from the truth. If you cultivate these peculiar traits of character you will give deformity to the work. You must grow out of this narrowness; you must have breadth; you must get out of this little dealing, for it belittles you in every way.... TSA 19.4

Now as you enter a new field, elevate the work from the very commencement. Place it on a high level, and have all your efforts of such a character as to bring all who are interested in the truth to a noble, elevated platform, corresponding with the magnitude of the work that they may have a proper education and be able to teach others. The truth is of heavenly origin, and it has been mercifully given to us in trust by Heaven. May the Lord strengthen and bless you both, that you may work out self and weave Jesus into all your labours, and then the blessing of God will rest upon you. TSA 20.1

We feel, dear Brother and Sister_____, the tenderest sympathy for you both, and for your little ones, as you enter this new field. We feel deeply for you in your separation from friends and acquaintances, your brethren and sisters whom you love. But we know this message is a worldwide message, and we are and must continue to be labourers together with God. I know the Lord loves you and wants to bring you into more close relationship with Himself. Only seek for the mould of God to be upon you, and you will constantly improve in every way until your labours will bear the full approval of Heaven. But never for a moment entertain the idea that you have no improvements to make; for you have many .... You are not one who is constantly learning, improving, studying how to adjust yourself to circumstances. You have not adapted yourself to the situation of things, but have been inclined to take an independent course, to follow your own plans, in the place of blending with the workers.... TSA 20.2

God will be with you if you will be with Him. Take care that you do not leave a wrong impression upon minds in reference to yourself.... We need the cloudy pillar to lead us constantly. We have the assurance of the presence of God; you have it—“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20.) God bless you. TSA 20.3

In love,

(Signed) Ellen G. White

Letter 12, 1887.