Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Lt 52, 1886

Bourdeau, A. C.

Lausanne, Switzerland

November 20, 1886

Portions of this letter are published in AH 307; 3SM 53.

Dear Brother A. C. Bourdeau:

I have a duty to do to you once more, and then I shall feel that I have said and done all that it is possible for me to do in your case. While I have seen and felt your danger, you have thought that there was no particular cause of alarm. For this reason and for others best known to yourself, all the letters that I have written to you have worked no reformation in your life. The experience of the last evening spent at your house was peculiar. The Lord unexpectedly rolled a burden upon me, His blessing being over us, and I felt it all through my body. I was urged by the Spirit of God to make supplication as I did, and to wrestle till the victory was gained or till you surrendered yourself to God; but you did not come to the point. You did not grasp the promises, neither did you gain the victory. I knew that after such a struggle, if you did not free your soul, you would be enshrouded in dense darkness; therefore for two hours I held your case before the Lord and before yourself, hoping that you would wrench yourself away from where you had moored, to the rock self-righteousness. But you did not. You are anchored there yet, just as firmly as ever the Pharisees were. Whenever I made an effort to help your wife, instead of looking to God for herself and grasping every ray of light, her mind was diverted from the point by your case. She wanted to set you free. But neither of you received that which the Lord brought within your reach. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 1

Now, Bro. A. C. Bourdeau, you are entrenched in the fortress of self-righteousness; and while there, neither God nor man can do anything for you. Through the help of God you could have broken down these walls that night; but you had so little experience in seeking God and wrestling with Him that you were like a child that knows not how to pronounce his A, B, C’s. I never realized that you were so far from God. You seemed to have no knowledge of how to seek the Lord, nor how to surrender yourself to Him. I knew that the next morning would tell the story. If you felt a burden of your own case, you would not dare to sleep without a thorough work of the Spirit of God upon hour heart. The next morning I waited to see what the influence of that meeting had been upon you. I knew if the arrows of God had pierced your self-righteous armor, we should know something about the matter before we parted. But not a reference was made by you to that solemn, important occasion. The burden of your heart, however, was soon revealed. You began about your son and excused his faults, repeating the same things you had told me no less than three times. I was too much pained and too thoroughly disgusted with your commonplace talk to say a word in reply. I was seeking to commune with Jesus, to welcome His presence, to say, “Abide with me and bless and keep me.” I [had] had a very solemn experience, and I had no desire to thus engage in cheap conversation and lose the companionship of Jesus. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 2

Your case looks exceedingly dark to me. I am now certain that the work must commence with yourself; you need to be a converted man. You are filled with self-conceit. You talk of yourself and of what you have done in the past until the Spirit of God is grieved and departs from you. You have much to say about the past, but what about your present experience? Have you no Christ for today? Have you nothing to say about what Jesus is doing for you now? Must self be the center, the alpha and omega? How can you expect to have the companionship of heavenly angels, and the presence of Jesus, when your thoughts and your words are mostly in reference to your own precious self. All the good things you have done are magnified by you, while your mistakes and the things you did not do, which God required you to do, are covered by your ingenious excuses. Your self-love has barred the way to your usefulness all through your Christian experience. You have not used your God-given powers in a way to please Him. In your conversation, in your preaching, and in all your efforts you have brought self to the front; you have talked of self, exalted self, and Jesus has been kept in the background. Your ways have been faultless in your own eyes. In the name of the Lord, I tell you that unless you are a converted man, you will never see the King of heaven. You need the transforming grace of Christ. Those who know you say that A. C. Bourdeau is a good brother, but he talks too much about what he has done, and the people become tired of hearing it. This is not the testimony of one or two, but all who have any acquaintance with you tell the same story. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 3

Christ said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [John 3:3.] In astonishment this ruler in Israel listened to these words. Was it possible that one so righteous as himself needed any such spiritual work done for him? The startled hearer could only utter the words scarcely above a whisper, “How can these things be?” [Verse 9.] He had been praised and exalted by men, but Jesus tore away his self-righteousness by telling him that his whole conceptions were wrong. Neither his benevolence, his many good deeds, nor his exalted position as a teacher in Israel was sufficient to entitle him to heaven. He must be born again if he would see the kingdom of God. But his comprehension was so dull that he took this in a literal instead of a spiritual sense. Jesus then explained to him that the divine Spirit must work a moral transformation in all who would have a part in His kingdom, a transformation which would lead them to seek the pure, the holy, and the divine as earnestly as they had sought things of an opposite character. They must be divested of self, that Jesus may receive undivided worship. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 4

You, my brother, are in no better condition before God than Nicodemus. You build yourself up in your good works and prefer to remain in spiritual darkness than to be disturbed. You are whole in your own sight, rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. Your prayers are formal and spiritless. You live in a past experience instead of having a fresh experience daily. You seem to choose to be mixed up with common things. When you have writing to do, you seat yourself in the dining room, amid the confusion of the children’s voices, where it is impossible for your thoughts to be elevated and deep. You do not choose to take time to examine yourself, to test your own heart, to pray and wrestle with God as did Jacob. Secret prayer is neglected. In short, Jesus is not brought into your life, because you are so perfectly satisfied with yourself. When the Lord has sent you reproofs, warnings, and appeals, your first work has been to make excuses; to make your defects appear like something you cannot help, or rather like virtues to be praised. This is why you have not reformed. When reproved you have gone back over your past life and like the Pharisee thanked God that you were not as other men are, extortioners, adulterers, and the like; but you are a very liberal, kindhearted man, ever ready to do a good work, and always anxious to make friends of everybody, that you may have their praise and commendation. I has been brought in whenever there was the least chance, and Christ has been left out. You have not been where it was safe for the Lord to bless your labors. If He had blessed them, He would not have received the glory, but it would have been taken to yourself. You would have felt that it is I who has done all this. I have made this stir. When you see yourself as you are, when you are conscious of your weakness and will put forth determined effort to obtain divine aid, your soul will be filled with all the fulness of God. Your course of exaltation is abhorrent to Jesus. You parade yourself to notice and make yourself a subject of comment by your self-complacency and self-esteem. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 5

Now I shall have to make a report of the work in the Valleys, and what shall I say? I shall have to state the case as it is and then leave it. You set the two men who are with you in the field to traveling about to get the people to come to hear you preach, and then your discourses are dry and spiritless. Now this order of things must be changed. Let not these men work under your supervision, but let them gain an experience for themselves. The mold you are giving them is such that in many things they will need remolding. These men are used too much as your servants. The time occupied by them in getting the people out to hear you preach would be much better employed in doing their specific work. If you were left to create your own interest and to bring the people together by your own efforts, you would feel the necessity of keeping your own soul filled with the love of God and of giving them interesting discourses, fresh food from God’s abundant treasure house. Then, too, you would better understand the real interest among the people. These colporteurs are holding you up, wearying themselves and using up precious time to no account, when they should be engaged in personal efforts themselves. I tell you there must be a different plan of labor in these Valleys. It will be much better for these two men to work in the fear of God among the people than for you to try to hold so many meetings in different places while they have to make so great efforts to get you a congregation. Your preaching will do but little good till you are a converted man, and the less there is of it the better. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 6

You need the vitalizing influence of the Spirit of God; you need a living connection with heaven. You do not study your Bible. You do not pray. You are far, very far from being the man God would have you be. Please reckon up the hours you have spent in bed during the last year and see how much of your time has been squandered. You are paid for your time, and to be just and honest with God, who has made you His hired servant. You are under obligation to make the best possible use of your powers and your time in His service. You are to cultivate habits of industry, to gather up the golden moments, and studiously dig for the truth as for hid treasurers. If you lie in bed an hour longer than is necessary each morning, you gather no physical or mental strength, but have during the year wasted 365 hours; but you may safely reckon on two hours, which doubles the record. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 7

Every moment of this time is reckoned as wasted, when it should have been spent to sharpen up your mind, in directing your thoughts in the right channel, and in searching the Scriptures, that you may receive new and fresh ideas. Unless you change your manner of life, the very best course you can pursue is to go on to a farm and labor with your hands, and let the money that you would have received from the conference be used to put those in the field who will improve their ability to make themselves thorough workmen. Now you may call to mind special occasions when you have risen from your bed early, and you will no doubt go back and tell what you have done in the past. Now we want to hear no more of this. We want to know what you are doing now, not what you did once. You go by fits and starts. For a little while you will be fully active, and then back you go to the same self-indulgent habits. If you have had so remarkable experience in your past life, do show it by making advancement at the present time. Be a man, and do with thoroughness the work God has given you to do. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 8

You have never enjoyed mental toil, and however physically industrious you may have been through your past life, you are none too much so now. You are not even enough so for your own good intellectually; you are too lazy to read, to reflect, to study. You would delight to have a commanding influence, to be honored and respected; but you are too slothful to elevate the mind to high aims. Knowledge is power. It is elevating to the possessor and will command respect and influence anywhere. But you do not master circumstances and make it your earnest purpose to place yourself in positions where your mind will strengthen and expand. A prayerful study of the Scriptures will help greatly in developing the intellect. Others older than yourself, and who do not have as good health as you, arise early and in quiet, peaceful morning hours devote time to the improvement of the mind and to scriptural culture. But many a precious hour is lost by you, forever lost, by idly lounging in bed. And what is the result? A want of physical strength and a sluggishness of thought, a dulness of intellect. The mind is the glory of the man. The power of the voice and the expression of the countenance will be improved by quickening yourself and spiritualizing your thoughts. For years you could have been cultivating the intellect by studious habits, but instead of this you have been losing the vital energy of thought. You cannot bear to put your powers to the stretch, to tax them to the uttermost, to master your inclination and indolence and slothfulness. God demands of you that you cultivate diligently the reasoning powers He has given you. Oh, the opportunities that you have wasted through disorderly habits! 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 9

You need not boast of superiority in the past. It is now that you are to be tested and tried; it is now that angels are weighing moral worth. It is now that they are watching the development of character; and you will be judged according to what you might have been had you improved all the light and the privileges given you of God. It is your duty to dig after knowledge as men search for concealed goods. But you have not felt disposed to exert yourself sufficiently to put you on the right track of reading, studying, reflection, and execution. God has done His part for you, but you have neglected your part of the work in not making the most of your faculties. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 10

My brother, cease to preach until you are endowed with power from on high. Gird up the loins of your mind for the work of self-cultivation. Set a high price upon your morning hours and your leisure moments. There are precious, golden threads from which you are to manufacture thoughts that will stir your very being and expand your soul to a realizing sense of the great plan of salvation. Learn to reflect upon elevated things. Searching the Scriptures is essential for your success. It is as necessary for your spiritual growth as eating is for your physical strength. Your mind has been growing weak and seems to be paralyzed. Wake up, for Christ’s sake, awake! Weigh every thought and motive. Under such a discipline the intellect will increase in strength. Let conviction chase your dormant soul; let your mind be driven from its narrow boundaries of common thought, and in the vastness of the subject of redemption let the moral perceptions unfold by dwelling on the matchless love of Jesus. It is impossible for your thoughts to be brought into contact with these great subjects without your awakening from the torpor in which you have been so long. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 11

You need more faith in Christ. Rest not day nor night until you have a knowledge of the mystery of godliness. You may be a spiritual, intellectual Christian. Your moral and intellectual powers will then grow in harmonious proportion. You will not be satisfied with a superficial love, but will have a deep, abiding, fervent love in your heart for God and His followers. You are satisfied with giving expressions of love to human beings, but seem incapable of giving devotion and affection to Him in whom your hopes of eternal life are centered. Your conscience must be quickened and you be purified, refined, ennobled. You must be upright in your character and firm and decided in your family government. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 12

I feel deeply that the truth needs to be planted more firmly in your soul. Then its principles will control your life. Unless it is stamped by God upon the soul, it will be constantly kept in the outer court of the soul temple. It is not brought into the soul. If the truth were an abiding principle in your soul, you would be full of grace to spread it. The truth must first be planted deep in your own soul, and then you will with wisdom, with intense interest, and living faith seek to plant it in the souls of others. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 13

Bro. Bourdeau, if your home is governed by the religion of Christ, then I am a stranger to its workings. The Father of the faithful said of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” [Genesis 18:19.] Abraham cultivated home religion and caused the fear of the Lord to circulate through his tents. It is the voice of God that is to be heard. There is no hypocrisy on the one hand, no deception on the other. “I know him that he will command.” There will be no betraying of sacred trusts, no flinching from the demands of truth, no yielding to human weakness. There is a law, and Abraham will keep it. Now this testimony cannot be borne in your case. Blind affection, a cheap manifestation of love, goes a long ways with you. To encircle the arms about the neck is easy; but manifestations should not be encouraged by you unless they are proved to be of real value by perfect obedience. Your indulgence, your disregard of God’s requirements is the veriest cruelty. You encourage and excuse disobedience by saying, “My boy loves me.” Such love is cheap and deceptive. It is no love at all. The love, the genuine love, to be cultivated in the family is of value because it is verified by obedience. Parents and children alike are to be ruled by Him who is unerring in counsel. This will prevent parental oppression on the one hand and filial love on the other. God has given us rules for the guidance of all, and from these rules there can be no sinless swerving. God’s will must be paramount. The love and fear of God must be brought into the home. The love you seem to cherish and talk so much about is not worth a straw. It is outside show. It is the same in nature as the love the Christian world claim to have for God when they do not obey His commandments. I hope that your eyes will be anointed with eyesalve that you may see that you are tampering with sacred responsibilities. Your house needs to be set in order. I hope that no one will imitate your example and bring into his home such government as you have exercised. I fear that you have become blind, and that you have so long walked in the light of your own eyes, that you will never have the mist and fog removed. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 14

I am distressed over your case. I know it is a hard task to govern a family where God’s law is not acknowledged as the rule of the household, but when that law is clear no man need to err. The Word of God is open before him. Let him ask, What has God spoken? What is the rule from which neither waywardness on the part of children nor engrossment on the part of parents can excuse them from departing from its injunction. Eli’s case is similar to yours. He remonstrated with his children. He said, “My sons, why do ye so wickedly?” [1 Samuel 2:23.] He did not restrain them. He failed to command them. Sr. Bourdeau can exercise her authority with a poor grace when your indulgence and failure to command and restrain are constantly before her. If you love the souls of your children, bring them into order. But abundant kisses and tokens of love blind your eyes, and your children know it. Make less of these outward demonstrations of embracing and kissing, and go down to the bottom of things, and show what constitutes filial love. Refuse these manifestations as a fraud, a deception, unless backed up by obedience and respect for your commands. You are not clear in the sight of God. You will be held to an account for the lessons you are giving your children in disrespecting your authority because, like Eli, it is your weakness to be indulgent. If this is the way you allow your children to disobey your commandments you are teaching them to disregard the commands of God. With Eli the way of the Lord was not observed; and when men choose their own way, what can the end be but sorrow and ruin? 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 15

I write this for I dare not withhold it. You are far from doing the will of God, far from Jesus, far from heaven. It is no marvel to me that God has not blessed your labors. You may say, God has not given Sr. White a vision in my case; why, then, does she write as she does? I have seen the cases of others who like you are neglecting their duties. I have seen many things in your case in your past experience. And when I enter a family and see a course pursued that God has reproved and condemned, I am in grief and distress, whether the special sins have been shown me or the sins of another who has neglected similar duties. I know whereof I speak. I feel deeply over the matter. I say, then, for Christ’s sake make haste to come on the right ground, and harness up for the battle. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 16

I will now bring my epistle to a close by saying that it is much to be lamented that Jesus, the world’s Redeemer, is kept apart from your life, that while preaching the most solemn truths to others, you are almost a stranger to His love and the power of His Spirit. If our experience is of the right quality, our knowledge of Christ Jesus will increase more and more. Our faith in Him will become perfect through our intimate acquaintance with Him, and we shall by this experimental knowledge be in every sense a partaker of the divine nature. The more we view the character of Jesus, the greater will be our consciousness of our necessities. Man if left to himself is blind, naked, and alienated from the life of Christ. He does not know Christ or feel his need of Him. He cries to his own soul and to others, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Erroneous ideas of his own merits and of his God lull him into carnal security. True, he may have seasons of misgivings. Oh, that at such times the earnest cry might come from the agonized soul, “Lord, save or I perish.” 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 17

I fear, my brother, that you will do as you did that night when my soul cried out in agony for you. In the place of trusting, as you might have done, wholly in the merits of Christ, and casting away your own self-righteousness, you console your poor soul with resolutions to make some few changes and set everything right. You make promises and break them as easily as they were made, and yet you fail to discover your own insufficiency and helplessness, that you may found all your hopes on Christ. I write these things to you in the fear of God. I call for no answer, no excuses, no dwelling on what you once did, or once were. I tell you that God is displeased with you, and you need to empty yourself of your self-esteem and self-righteousness before He can manifest Himself unto you and work with your efforts. The only way we can reach the people amid the moral darkness that covers the world is through God. Self must be crucified and Christ alone be glorified. 4LtMs, Lt 52, 1886, par. 18