The Southern Work


The Southern Field

“Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, N.S.W.,

March 2, 1897.

The Southern field is a hard field, a very unsightly field, because it has been so long uncultivated. All who take hold of the work in the cause of God and suffering humanity will have to be one in their designs and plans. They will have plenty of trials and discouragements to meet, but they must not allow these to hinder or dishearten or handicap them in their work. In love for Christ, who died to save this poor, downtrodden people, in love for the souls of the perishing thousands, they are to labor for this worse than heathen country. SWk 79.1

Brethren, you have a work to do which you have left undone. A long-neglected field stands out in plain view before God to shame the people who have light and advanced truth but who have done so little to remove the stones and the rubbish that have been accumulating for so long a time. Those who have enjoyed every privilege and blessing have passed by on the other side. As a Christian people, God has called you to prepare the way of the Lord in this unpromising field. SWk 79.2

God sent a message to Nineveh by his servant Jonah, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” SWk 79.3

When the people of Nineveh humbled themselves before God and cried to Him for mercy, He heard their cry. “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he said he would do unto them; and he did it not.” But Jonah revealed that he did not value the souls in that wretched city. He valued his reputation, lest they should say that he was a false prophet. He said, “O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” Now when he sees the Lord exercise His compassionate attributes, and spare the city that had corrupted its ways before Him, Jonah does not cooperate with God in His merciful design. He has not the people's interests in view. It does not grieve him that so large a number must perish, who have not been educated to do right. Listen to his complaint: SWk 79.4

“Therefore, now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord prepared a gourd, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” SWk 80.1

Then the Lord gave Jonah an object lesson. He prepared a worm when the morning sun rose next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. “And it came to pass, when the sun did rise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night; and should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” SWk 80.2

In the history of Nineveh there is a lesson which you should study carefully. This lesson is to be learned for yourselves, and in regard to your relation to the Southern States. You must know your duty to your fellow beings who are ignorant and defiled and who need your help. SWk 80.3

The Southern field is a hard field, but is this any excuse for your doing scarcely anything for it? Read the eighth and ninth chapters of Second Corinthians. Study and heed these lessons, for you need such examples kept ever before you. The Lord is not pleased with your treatment of the Southern field.... SWk 80.4

What deep humiliation should be felt by those whom God has so greatly favored with His blessing of light, whom He has made the repositories of truth, the most sacred truth ever given to our world, but who have neglected their God-given work. What far-seeing judgment they would now have if at the heart of the work men had been careful to seek their counsel from God as to who should connect with His great work to prepare a people to stand in these last days against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.... SWk 80.5

The deepest humility should be felt by those who have the privileges of enlightenment and education in missionary lines. The Lord God of heaven, by whom all actions are weighed in the golden balances of the sanctuary, looks upon the thousands of colored people, our neighbors, who in their destitution are spreading their cases before the Giver of all mercies and blessings. These people are perishing in their sins. As a people they are ignorant, many knowing nothing of purity and godliness and elevation. But among them are men and women of quick perceptions, excellent talents, and these will be revealed when once the Spirit of God shall turn their attention to the Word. But they need ministry not in the Word alone. Those who would do God service in this field must go among the people. SWk 81.1

There are those who, while they profess godliness, are not pure. They have corrupted their ways before God. And when these people meet those who have no disguise for their corruption, they have so little sense of what constitutes a high and holy character that they are in danger of revealing that they are of a class as degraded as their fellow beings of the Southern States. The people of the South do not need those to go among them who have not the love of the truth in their hearts, and who will easily yield to temptation, who, with all the light they have, will descend to the low level of the moral corruption of those they are professedly trying to save. This will be the danger of those whose minds are not pure, therefore be sure that men of steadfast principle be sent to work for God in this field. SWk 81.2

In His providence God is saying as He has been saying for years past: Here is a field for you to work. Those who are wise in agricultural lines, in tilling the soil, those who can construct simple, plain buildings, may help. They can do good work and at the same time show in their characters the high morality which it is the privilege of this people to attain to. Teach them the truth in simple object lessons. Make everything upon which they lay their hands a lesson in character building. SWk 81.3

The South is calling to God for temporal and spiritual food, but it has been so long neglected that hearts have become hard as stone. God's people need now to arouse and redeem their sinful neglect and indifference of the past. These obligations now rest heavily upon the churches, and God will graciously pour out His Spirit upon those who will take up their God-given work.—Manuscript 164, 1897. SWk 82.1

Ellen G. White