Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4

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Lt 47a, 1886

Bourdeau, D. T.

[Basel, Switzerland]

[June 5, 1886]

Variant of Lt 47, 1886. Portions of this letter are published in 8MR 328-330.

My Dear Brother:

We feel deeply interested in your work, and God will give success if you go forward in His name and heed the cautions He has given you from time to time. He does not require you to place yourself in a position where you must necessarily be constantly wearied. I have seen that you, as well as others of our brethren, make mistakes in your methods of labor; and I feel urged to keep this matter before you because you are blind to these mistakes yourself. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 1

Your error has been this: Just as soon as you enter upon a ministerial effort, you begin to write letters and articles for the press, which tax your brain, exhaust your nerve power, and unfit you for labor in the pulpit. In order to be successful, you must do but one thing at a time, concentrating all your powers upon that. If God has said to you as he did to John, “Write” [Revelation 1:11], then give yourself to that, and do not attempt more. But if you are to give discourses, your mind, although intensely active, is not vigorous enough to sustain the strain of speaking and visiting, and writing too. You should let your pen rest in a great measure when you engage in an effort to present new and startling truths to the people, the reception of which involves a cross. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 2

Elders Waggoner and Loughborough were reproved for this same error. The Lord showed me that the message for this time was being marred in their hands. The work just before them did not receive half their strength, because they devoted so much time to writing. They excused themselves from visiting, which is an important part of labor, because they were so busy and so tired. As the result of this extra work, they were brainweary when they entered the pulpit and were not prepared to do a work upon which God could set his seal. They made nothing plain. Everything they presented was confused, and thus the people were robbed of the clear, convincing exposition of Scripture. The devotional part of the work also was neglected. Their manner of presenting the truth was far from having that strength and perfection it should have had; yet if they worked themselves up to a high pitch of excitement in delivery, they thought their discourses were powerful. They were well satisfied with their own efforts and did not discern their mistakes nor see that their work was far from being what their capabilities might have made it. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 3

In their discourses, they touched here and there, bringing in a large mass of matter which they regarded as convincing and overwhelming evidence for the truth; but in fact the proof was so buried up that the people could never find it. So many subjects, too, were brought into one discourse, that not one point stood out clear in the minds of those unacquainted with our peculiar views. That which was perfectly clear to the speaker he thought must be so to the hearers; but the brethren did not realize that these are new and starting subjects and should be presented slowly. The mind cannot grasp so much at once. One subject brought out at a time, a few points made clear and strong, would be of more value to the hearer than such a mass of matter poured on to the people to substantiate the points. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 4

In your own work, you should select your subjects carefully and bring out important points of doctrine very plain. It will cost you an effort to take up one point at a time, making it clear and strong with proofs drawn from the Word of God that all may understand; but it is the only way that you can be really successful. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 5

And make your discourses short. When you speak at great length, the minds of your hearers cannot grasp one quarter of what you say. The mistake of preaching long discourses is one which you should correct at once. You express strong faith in God, and in what He is ready to do for His people; but on one point you do not trust Him; that is, to do His part of the work. You not only try to do your own part, but you take God’s part out of His hands to do yourself. You seem to think that the Lord cannot bless a short discourse to the good of the hearers. Remember that while you may give the whole counsel of God, it is not all to be given in one discourse. Let the people have the heavenly food in such a measure that they can retain it, and carry it away with them, and digest it, that their minds may comprehend the truth and their souls be impressed with it. It should be uttered in the most pleasant manner, that the people may want to hear again. You should govern your voice and put all the melody and pathos into it you can. Then this terrible exhaustion which is liable to come through long-protracted preaching will be avoided. When you cannot speak without being obliged to cough quite frequently, do not try to speak; for you so enlist the sympathies of your hearers that they can get no true sense of what you are saying. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 6

I write thus because I want you to preserve your life and influence, and because I want the cause of God to have the very best service you can give it. Nervous prostration comes from overwork. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 7

We have an important, solemn truth to give to the people. Thank God, my dear brother, that you can act as a co-laborer with Christ. Do not, I beg of you, groan under a yoke that Jesus has never placed upon your neck; do not bend under a burden which He has not made it your duty to lift. The gospel seed is to be sown, that it may take root and bear fruit. It is more precious that gold; therefore its delivery should be carefully considered, that it may be presented in such a manner that it may be to the hearer as the voice of God. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 8

Much of the effect of many discourses is lost because of the manner in which they are delivered. The speaker forgets that he is God’s messenger, and that Christ and angels are in his audience. He should present the truth in a calm, earnest, impressive manner; for this is the way Jesus did, and He is our example. Then the Holy Ghost will have room to work upon hearts and melt them into tenderness before God. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 9

It is of little consequence how much we either hear or read from the Word of God, or how much we write upon the truth, unless we make the message our own, bring it into our life practice. We ourselves are to be sanctified through the truth, that others may be sanctified through us. The message of salvation, the tidings we proclaim, concern our individual life, our character and practice. We should read the Word of God as if written expressly for us and practice the teachings of Christ for our own individual salvation; then we shall be strong in the strength of the Mighty One. The mere hearing of sermons Sabbath after Sabbath, the reading of the Bible through and through, or the explanation of it verse by verse will not benefit us or those who hear us, unless we bring these precious truths into our own individual experience. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 10

There are sermons that are so filled with heavenly dew and sunshine that the people never get weary of listening to them. When the people are impressed that the message they hear has first been brought home to the soul of the speaker; that he has proved the preciousness of the truth; that his heart, enlarged by the love of God, is reaching out for others, that they may be blessed as he has been, and may be partakers of the same consolation and receive the same joy, then their souls will be stirred. They will come into sympathy with the speaker. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 11

The discourses given upon present truth are full of important matter; and if they are carefully prepared before being presented to the people; if the Spirit of the Master goes with the utterances, no one will be left in darkness or will have cause to complain of being unfed. The preparation, both in speaker and hearer, has very much to do with the result. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 12

My brother, you must take time to be a Christian, not tax brain and nerve to such an extent that you cannot be Christlike under difficulties. It is only by living a life in harmony with that of the Saviour that we meet the requirements of God, to be not only hearers, but doers of the Word of God. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 13

The Lord would not have us be so excitable, in such a hurry. The counsels of God in His Word were not given in a few days, on the high-pressure plan. It took a long period of time to bring out the Bible history. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, a chapter was written, a psalm composed, a proverb penned, a vision recorded, and so down through the ages the will and purposes of God were brought out. About fifteen hundred years passed from the time Moses began to write the book of Genesis, down to the completion of the Revelation by the beloved John. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 14

The people need to be educated. This cannot be done if all the preacher’s powers are given to other things. If your vitality, both mental and physical, has been expended needlessly, you cannot do your work with efficiency. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 15

“I do not like to go much beyond the half hour,” said a faithful and earnest preacher, who certainly never gave to his hearers that which had cost him nothing in the preparation. “I know that the spiritual digest of some is but weak, and I should be sorry for my hearers to spend the second half hour in forgetting what I had said in the first, or in wishing that I would cease when I had given them as much as they could carry away.” 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 16

“I always know by the length of Cannon’s sermons whether he has been much from home during the week,” said one of his flock. “When carefully studied, his discourses are of a moderate length; but it is almost impossible for his hearers to forget the teachings conveyed in them. When he has had no time for preparation, his sermons are unreasonably long; and it is equally impossible to get anything out of them which will stick to the memory.” 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 17

Another able minister was asked how long he was accustomed to preach. “When I prepare thoroughly, half an hour; when only partially, an hour; but when I enter the pulpit without previous preparation, I go on for any length of time you like; in fact, I never know when to stop.” 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 18

Here is another forcible statement: “A good shepherd should always have abundance of bread in his scrip and his dog under command. His dog is his zeal, which he must lead, order, and moderate. His scrip full of bread is his mind full of useful knowledge, and he should ever be in readiness to give nourishment to his flock.” 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 19

I know that you plead not to be interfered with, that you must work in your own harness, that you must be independent and follow the leadings of your own mind. But in doing this you are far from being a safe, successful worker. Your mind is not always in such a condition that its leading can be safely followed. Frequently things come into your mind which you regard as the special teaching of the Spirit of God—impressions direct from Him—when they are not from Him at all. You cannot rely upon these impressions. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 20

Elder Andrews did this, and it was to a great degree the ruin of body as well as soul. The Lord tried to instruct him and counteract the force of these impressions; but he preferred to rely upon them, and therefore, because the light God gave him did not coincide with these impressions, and sustain the intense feeling he had upon many points, it was rejected. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 21

God has given you light, not because He wants to embarrass you, but so that you may see and correct your mistakes, that you may be built up, strengthened, and established. He does not want you to be so unstable—on the mountaintop that one time, and then in the lowest depths. The reason why these points have to be pressed upon you is because they do not have the force on your mind that your own impressions have. The light God has given you is set aside, and you have your own way, whatever betide. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 22

But you must not trust your own experience or wisdom. God must be your dependence, your trust. If you look to Him, believe in Him, and feel your own utter helplessness, then you will have the right kind of help just when it is most needed. In these important efforts to present the truth before the people, it is best that as strong a force as possible be connected with the work. No one should be ignored, no one should have universal sway; and no one’s freedom is to be limited. They should counsel together and pray together, realizing all the time that they are not to trust in their own strength and wisdom, but in the living God, and then they cannot fail. God help the workers! 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 23

Let no one seek for the supremacy; but let each regard his fellow laborer as a worker for God. Let all plans be opened before the council. Alas! we are blind to our own deficiency. We are not easily impressed with our own weakness. We do not see the necessity of becoming acquainted with our errors; not to discourage us, but to bring us to thorough reformation. The minister himself must stand perfect in Christ, wanting in nothing, if he would present every man perfect, coming behind in no gift. We must have more faith. By our works we shall reveal all the faith we have. We must comprehend the greatness of the work, believing every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 24

Is our estimate of the truth above the estimate we have of ourselves? Do we appreciate it according to its value? If we believe that we are engaged in the work of preparing a people to stand in the great day of God, then we shall labor accordingly. It is not so much the activity that we bring into the work that makes it a success, but it is the well-directed efforts, not trusting in ourselves, but through the grace of Christ, taking God at His word, working humbly with Him, keeping self under strict control, preserving nerve and brain from overtaxation, and having religion the controlling element in our lives, that the atmosphere of heaven may be diffused in the home circle, in the church, everywhere. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 25

Show that you believe in God. Self-will indulged will drive to infidelity. Self subdued will lead to the submission of every thought, word, and action to Christ. The Word of God, not impulses, not impressions, must be your guide. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 26

A solemn, sacred work is this, to preach the truths for these last times to perishing souls. Take the things God has revealed in warnings, reproofs, corrections, encouragements. But if we have eyes that see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that feel not, then it is in vain that the declaration from God has ever come to us. God has honored us by making us the depositaries of His truth; and He has placed us under the most sacred obligations to diffuse that light, that it may illuminate those who are in darkness. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 27

Has God been mistaken in us? Are we not His chosen vessels? Are we not the agents He has selected through whom to send forth the last message of mercy to a world? Oh, if we only had Jesus in our hearts, if His Spirit controlled our actions, if His law was the rule of our life, what a power for good we would be in the world! We must remember that others have pleaded and preached for souls—persons more learned and talented than we—and have pleaded in vain. But the humble, devoted worker, feeling his own weakness, and depending only upon God, will realize the strength and sufficiency of the mighty Helper. 4LtMs, Lt 47a, 1886, par. 28