Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Lt 33, 1886

Bourdeau, A. C.

Basel, Switzerland

February 27, 1886

Portions of this letter are published in 1MCP 101; 2MCP 399, 592, 656, 801; VSS 323-324.

Brother A. C. Bourdeau:

You should cultivate energy of character, for the example of an energetic man is far-reaching and compels imitation. He seems to have an electric power on other minds. The earnest men are few in our world. Obstacles and barriers will meet every worker for God. But men must have the push in them. The energetic, earnest worker will not allow his way to be hedged up. He will force down the barriers. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 1

You want a steady, uniform, unyielding energy. You must discipline yourself. Make an entire change. Put forth exertions, and overcome all childish feelings. You have pitied yourself too much. You should have a determination that life shall not pass with you in working at trifles. You should determine to accomplish something and do it. You have had good resolutions. You are ever going to do something, but you do not get at it and do it. Much of your doing is in talk rather than action. You would have far better health if you would have more earnest energy and accomplish something in spite of obstacles. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 2

Be not dismayed at difficulties. You magnify seeming difficulties to large proportions and yield to weakness and despondency. A spirit of heroism would put them to flight. There are thorns in every path. All who follow the Lord’s leadings have cares, disappointments, crosses, and losses. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 3

The thoughts must be trained. Gird up the loins of the mind, that it shall work in the right direction and after the order of well-formed plans; then every step is one in advance, and no effort or time is lost in following vague ideas and random plans. We must consider the aim and object of life and ever keep worthy purposes in view. Every day the thoughts should be trained and kept to the point as the compass to the pole. Every one should have his aims and purposes and then make every thought and action of that character to accomplish that which he purposes. The thoughts must be controlled. There must be a fixedness of purpose to carry out that which you shall undertake. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 4

You have lost much time and valuable acquisitions through your neglect to search the Scriptures and to gather ideas of other minds. You should be a diligent student. But you are not to rely upon the ideas of others. Do not through indolence neglect to search the Scriptures. Take the ideas you have found by a careful study; and instead of repeating them in a parrot-like manner, make them your own from the material you have searched out. Frame these arguments yourself. Do not borrow the productions of others’ brains and pens and recite them as a lesson, but make the most of the brainpower God has given you; use your talents and not other man’s as your own. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 5

No one but yourself can control your thoughts. In the struggle to reach the highest standard, success or failure will depend much upon the character and the manner in which the thoughts are disciplined. If the thoughts are well girded, as God directs they shall be each day, they will be upon those subjects that will help us to greater devotion. If the thoughts are right, then as a result the words will be right; the actions will be of that character to bring gladness and comfort and rest to souls. Every right action in the fear of God brings us nearer to Him. If the thoughts, the dreamings of the mind, are of great purposes in which self figures, there will be revealed in words and actions self-exaltation, a lifting up of self. These thoughts are not such as lead to a close walk with God. Those who move without thoughtful consideration move unwisely. They make fitful efforts, strike out here and there, catch at this and that, but it amounts to nothing. They resemble the vine; its tendrils untrained and left to straggle out in every direction will fasten upon any rubbish within their reach; but before the vine can be of any use, these tendrils must be broken off from the things they have grasped and trained to entwine about those things which will make them graceful and well formed. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 6

Brother Bourdeau, the afternoon sun of life may be brighter and more mellow and fruitful than the morning sun, and may continue to grow larger till it drops behind the western hills. Better, far better to die of hard work in some far-off mission field than to be rusting with inaction. A true minister of Christ ought to be continually improving, and not settling down without improvement and without study. He can and should dig in the Word of God studiously for subjects that will feed the flock of God and instruct the ignorant. He should be full of matter and bring from the treasure house of God’s Word things both new and old. His experience should not be ten, twenty years old, but a daily, living experience that he can give to each his portion in due season. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 7

Your sermons should not be dull and lifeless, but all aglow with light, full of instruction. Look forward, not backward. Keep your heart and mind young by continuous exercise. Never be obliged to tug at your memory to relate your past experience. What is that to you today, or to others? You should have a fresh experience. Do not boast of what you have done in the past, but give evidence what you can do by doing something now. Let your works and not your words praise God. Prove the promises of God, that they who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age, to show that the Lord is upright and that there is no unrighteousness in Him. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 8

You need the quickening grace of Christ to energize your movements, that you will not be so slow in all you do. You need to put earnestness into your sermons. You need not be lengthy, but have your subject matter clear and well defined. Do not deliver your discourses with hesitancy as though you did not yourself half believe what you were saying. You must learn to be a minuteman. Overcome slowness, hesitation, and undecided, sluggish movements. You are one of those who needs intellectual discipline. You need training of the mind as well as of the habits and the character. You have been altogether too well content with yourself as you are. Your education is not finished and never will be. Education is the work of a lifetime; and when this life ends, it goes forward into the future life. You have subjects which you present before the people, but they are not half what they should be in strength of argument, in connection of ideas, and in presentation. They lack in force. You have not improved your capabilities; the faculties of the mind have not been cultivated. For this reason the precious fruit does not appear. Because of the want of protracted, determined, painstaking endeavor, there will flow out from you an influence that will be decided upon those who are young in the faith and experimenting as workers in the cause of God. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 9

But if the young worker shows more earnestness than is evidenced by the experienced minister, how can the latter be any help to this man young in the faith and young in experience, and who has need of being educated in every movement, that he shall not receive a wrong mold? Your influence is not what it should be, and what it may be. Your mind needs to be taxed by dwelling upon difficult problems. Diligent, earnest students of the Scriptures will find leisure moments when walking, when riding upon the cars, or when at home with the Bible in hand they read, contemplate, and cultivate the mind to deep and earnest thought which will produce fruit. Vigorous mental efforts, habits of diligence, and prompt action will be established. As for failure, they do not think of this. They will not allow themselves to fail. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 10

You could give an hour each day to your children, to educate them, even if it be in the early morning. You would thus teach them to place a value upon time. You can, when it is thought proper, be diligent in studying German or perfecting yourself more thoroughly in the French language. Efforts made in a determined, unconquerable spirit will succeed. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 11

Many of our laborers might today be intellectual giants had they not been content to meet a low level, but been diligent and let their thoughts and investigations plow deep. Many of our young people are in danger of being superficial, of failing to grow up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. They consider that they have a sufficient degree of knowledge and understanding of subjects; and if they do not love study, they will not plow deep to obtain all the treasures possible for them to acquire. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 12

Some of our ministers have a runway of discourses which they use without variation year after year—the same illustrations, the same figures, and almost the same words. They have ceased to be students. There is an end to improvement, and they stagger under the load of a few set discourses to prevent mental decrepitude. But by the everlearning student, new light, new ideas, new gems of truth will be found and eagerly grasped. He thinks; the laws of the mind require him to think. The human intellect gains expansion and vigor and acuteness by being taxed. The mind must work, or it will dwindle. It will starve unless it has fresh subjects to think upon. Unless it is made to think hard, it will surely lose its power of thinking. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 13

The perusal of works upon our faith, the reading of arguments from other minds, the restoration of old sermons are not that which will make the mind work. There are powers to be brought in to penetrate beneath the surface. This is compared to digging for the truth as for hid treasures. There must be a continual tax placed upon the mind, a continual progress made. The Bible is the best Book in the world for the intellect. The grand themes that are presented, the dignified simplicity of its manner of handling the mysteries which it reveals, the illumination which it throws into the mind bring strength and vigor to the understanding. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 14

Every student of the Scriptures will come from his discipline of study ennobled. His mind will be more elevated and expanded. He will, while searching the Scriptures with a humble heart, have suggestions and fresh ideas that he can present to other minds. The minister must receive a new endowment of life and power and be indeed a channel of light. There are those in the ministry who have been readers of the Bible, but who think themselves so well versed in the Scriptures that they do not study it, notwithstanding this very Book will be unfolding truth through eternal ages. God wants His delegated servants to be good preachers, and in order to do this they must be diligent students; they must bring out from the treasure house of God things new and old; they must understand the doctrinal subjects and be as well versed in the practical. Studious habits, a firm hold from above, will qualify them for their position as ministers of the gospel of Christ. Mental activity will produce health, and this is better than a sluggish, disorderly, untrained mind. Many become worthless as ministers after advancing in age and cease their labors at the very time when their experience would be of advantage and when they can ill be spared. Had they worked the brain, they would have been fruitful in old age. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 15

The gospel is not properly taught and represented before unbelievers by men who have ceased to be students, who have, as it were, graduated as far as the searching of the Scriptures is concerned, and they bring a reproach upon the truth by the manner in which they handle it. If men obtain the ears of the people, [the] very best quality of preaching is needed, because pleasing fables are presented by eloquent lips. Gray hairs may be crowned with superior wisdom and piety. Remember that that which we achieve here is not left behind; it is taken into the future immortal life. The mind must not be the repository of a confused medley of ideas, but it must be trained to bring these ideas into order. The mind must be disciplined and richly furnished with the knowledge of imperishable truths. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 16

Brother Bourdeau, you are the man who has ceased to be a Bible student. You are the man who is intellectually lazy. You may now redeem the past in some degree, but never fully. Begin now and harness up the mind for effort and expansion, and say in the strength of Jesus Christ, I will study for eternity. Then you will rise above and overcome the sluggish temperament. You will do all quickly when the heart is enlisted in the work. 4LtMs, Lt 33, 1886, par. 17