The Southern Work


Words of Precaution Regarding Sunday Labor

The Colored People, and the Way to Oppose Error. (Report of the Interview)

On the morning of November 20, 1895, a council meeting was called at the large tent on the Armadale campground to consider some questions arising from the discussions of our brethren regarding the religious liberty work. The positions recently taken by some of our brethren indicated that there was necessity for a more thorough understanding of the principles which must govern our work. SWk 66.1

There were present brethren W. W. Prescott, A. G. Daniells, W. C. White, M. C. Israel, L. J. Rousseau, W. A. Colcord, M. G. Kellogg, W. D. Salisbury, James Smith, and sisters E. G. White and E. J. Burnham. SWk 66.2

Several letters were read with reference to the questions at issue, then Sister White read a letter which she had written to Elder A. T. Jones, in May, 1894, which had been unavoidably withheld until very recently. SWk 66.3

In this letter reference was made to the necessity of our speakers presenting the truth in such a simple manner that even the small children could comprehend the lessons which it was designed to teach. Remarking on this, Sister White said: “According to the light which has been given to me, when the heavenly intelligences see that men will no longer present the truth in simplicity as did Jesus, the very children will be moved upon by the spirit of God, and will go forth proclaiming the truth for this time.” SWk 66.4

The brethren were invited to discuss the points treated in the letters, but all were desirous of hearing further from Sister White, and she made the following remarks: SWk 67.1

“There is a terrible crisis just before us, through which all must pass, and especially will it come and be felt in Battle Creek. My mind has been much troubled over the positions which some of our brethren are liable to take in regard to the work to be done among the colored people in the Southern States. There is one point that I wish to lay before those who work in the Southern field. Among the colored people they will have to labor in different lines from those followed in the North. They cannot go to the South and present the real facts in reference to Sundaykeeping being the mark of the beast, and encourage the colored people to work on Sunday; for the same spirit that held the colored people in slavery is not dead, but alive today, and ready to spring into activity. The same spirit of oppression is still cherished in the minds of many of the white people of the South, and will reveal itself in cruel deeds, which are the manifestation of their religious zeal. Some will oppose in every possible way any action which has a tendency to uplift the colored race and teach them to be self-supporting. SWk 67.2

“When the whites show an inclination to help the colored people by educating them to help themselves, a certain class of the white people are terribly annoyed. They do not want the colored people to earn an independent living. They want them to work their plantations. SWk 67.3

“When the white people try to educate the colored people in the truth, jealousy is aroused, and ministers, both colored and white, will bitterly oppose the truth. The colored ministers think that they know how to preach to their own race better than the white ministers can, and they feel that the whites are taking the work out of their hands. By falsehood they will create the most decided opposition, and those among the white people who are opposed to the truth will help them, and will make it exceedingly hard for the work of the message to advance. SWk 67.4

“When the truth is proclaimed in the South, a marked difference will be shown by those who oppose the truth in their greater regard for Sunday, and great care must be exercised not to do anything to arouse their prejudice. Otherwise, we may just as well leave the field entirely, for the workers will have all the white people against them. Those who oppose the truth will not work openly, but through secret organizations, and they will seek to hinder the work in every possible way. Our laborers must move in a quiet way, striving to do everything possible to present the truth to the people, remembering that the love of Christ will melt down the opposition. SWk 68.1

“From the light that I have received, I see that if we would get the truth before the Southern people, we must not encourage the colored people to work on Sunday. There must be a clear understanding regarding this, but it need not be published in our papers. You must teach these people as you would teach children. Not a word should be spoken to create prejudice, for if by any careless or impulsive speech to the colored people in regard to the whites any prejudice is created in their minds against the whites, or in the minds of the whites against them, the spirit of the enemy will work in the children of disobedience. Thus an opposition will be aroused which will hinder the work of the message, and will endanger the lives of the workers and of the believers. SWk 68.2

“We are not to make efforts to teach the Southern people to work on Sunday. That which some of our brethren have written upon this point is not based upon right principles. When the practices of the people do not come in conflict with the law of God, you may conform to them. If the workers fail to do this, they will not only hinder their own work, but they will place stumbling blocks in the way of those for whom they labor, and hinder them from accepting the truth. On Sunday there is the very best opportunity for those who are missionaries to hold Sunday schools, and come to the people in the simplest manner possible, telling them of the love of Jesus for sinners and educating them in the scriptures. There are many ways of reaching all classes, both white and black. We are to interest them in the life of Christ from his childhood up to manhood, and through his life of ministry to the cross. We cannot work in all localities in the same way. We must let the Holy Spirit guide, for men and women cannot convince others of the wrong traits of character. While laboring to introduce the truth, we must accommodate ourselves as much as possible to the field and the circumstances of those for whom we labor.” SWk 68.3

Question: Should not those in the Southern field work on Sunday? SWk 69.1

“If they do this, there is danger that as soon as the opposing element can get the slightest opportunity, they will stir up one another to persecute those who do this and to pick off those whom they hate. At present Sundaykeeping is not the test. The time will come when men will not only forbid Sunday work, but they will try to force men to labor on the Sabbath. And men will be asked to renounce the Sabbath and to subscribe to Sunday observance or forfeit their freedom and their lives. But the time for this has not yet come, for the truth must be presented more fully before the people as a witness. What I have said about this should not be understood as referring to the action of old Sabbathkeepers who understand the truth. They must move as the Lord shall direct them, but let them consider that they can do the best missionary work on Sunday.... SWk 69.2

“It will not do for those who labor among the colored people to preach the truth as boldly and openly as they would be free to do in other places. Even Christ clothed his lessons in figures and parables to avoid the opposition of the Pharisees. When the colored people feel that they have the word of God in regard to the sabbath question, and the sanction of those who brought them the truth, some who are impulsive will take the opportunity to defy the Sunday laws, and by a presumptuous defiance of their oppressors they will bring to themselves much sorrow. Very faithfully the colored people must be instructed to be like Christ, to patiently suffer wrongs, that they may help their fellow men to see the light of truth. SWk 69.3

“A terrible condition of things is certainly opening before us. According to the light which is given me in regard to the southern field, the work there must be done as wisely and carefully as possible, and it must be done in the manner in which Christ would work. The people will soon find out what you believe about Sunday and the Sabbath, for they will ask questions. Then you can tell them, but not in such a manner as to attract attention to your work. You need not cut short your work by yourself laboring on Sunday. It would be better to take that day to instruct others in regard to the love of Jesus and true conversion.” SWk 69.4

Question: Should the same principles govern our work and our attitude toward the Sunday question in foreign fields where the prejudices of the people are so strong? SWk 69.5

“Yes; just the same. The light that I have is that God's servants should go quietly to work, preaching the grand, precious truths of the Bible—Christ and him crucified, his love and infinite sacrifice—showing that the reason why Christ died is because the law of God is immutable, unchangeable, eternal. The Spirit of the Lord will awaken the conscience and the understanding of those with whom you work, bringing the commandments of God to their remembrance. I can hardly describe to you the way in which this has been presented to me. The Lord says in Revelation 22:16: ‘I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.’ Have any of you seen this angel? The messengers from heaven are close beside those who stand before the people, holding forth the word of life. In preaching the truth, it is not always best to present those strong points of truth that will arouse prejudice, especially where such strong feelings exist as is felt in the southern states. The Sabbath must be taught in a decided manner, but be cautious how you deal with the idol, Sunday. A word to the wise is sufficient. SWk 69.6

“I have given you the light which has been presented to me. If followed, it will change the course of many, and will make them wise, cautious teachers. Refraining from work on Sunday is not receiving the mark of the beast; and where this will advance the interests of the work, it should be done. We should not go out of our way to work on Sunday. SWk 70.1

“After the Sabbath has been sacredly observed, in places where the opposition is so strong as to arouse persecution if work is done on Sunday, let our brethren make that day an occasion to do genuine missionary work. Let them visit the sick and the poor, ministering to their wants, and they will find favorable opportunities to open the scriptures to individuals and to families. Thus most profitable work can be done for the master. When those who hear and see the light on the Sabbath take their stand upon the truth to keep God's holy day, difficulties will arise, for efforts will be brought to bear against them to compel men and women to transgress the law of God. Here they must stand firm, that they will not violate the law of God, and if the opposition and persecution are determinedly kept up, let them heed the words of Christ, ‘when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the son of man be come.’ SWk 70.2

“The time has not yet come for us to work as though there were no prejudice. Christ said, ‘be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’ If you see that by doing certain things which you have A perfect right to do, you hinder the work of the truth, refrain from doing these things. Do nothing that will close the minds of others against the truth. There is a world to save, and we gain nothing by cutting loose from those we are trying to help. All things may be lawful, but all things are not expedient. SWk 70.3

“We have no right to do anything that will obstruct the light which is shining from heaven; yet by a wrong course of action we may imperil the work, and close the door which God has opened for the entrance of the truth. The final issue on the Sabbath question has not yet come, and by imprudent actions we may bring on a crisis before the time. You may have all the truth, but you need not let it all flash at once upon minds, lest it become darkness to them. Even Christ said to his disciples, ‘I have many things to say unto you, but ye can not bear them now.’ We must not go into a place, open our satchels, show all we have, and tell everything that we know at once. We must work cautiously, presenting the truth by degrees, as the hearers can bear it, but keep close to the word.”—Manuscript 22a, 1895. Published in The Southern Work, 128-136. SWk 71.1

Ellen G. White