Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)

414/448

Ms 55, 1886

Visit to Bobbio, Italy

Bobbio, Italy

April 25, 1886

Portions of this manuscript are published in VSS 400; CTr 29; 2MR 303-304; 5MR 273.

Sunday, April 25, 1886. We rode up to Bobbio which is two miles above Villar Pellice. We left the horses and carriages at a stable and then climbed up, up the winding path of the steep ascent to the house which was occupied by the Vaudois in the time of their persecution by the Catholics. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 1

On out way to this place we were much surprised to meet hundreds of people who had attended services—some the Catholic service, some the Protestant chapel. All, both men and women, greeted us respectfully as we passed through the crowd. I was informed that many of the company had come down from the mountain summit to which they resort in summer with their cattle—cows and goats and flocks of sheep. The houses in the valleys are left almost entirely empty. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 2

We attended our appointment at Villar. The room could not possibly hold one third of the people. The seats were removed and placed in the yard in the open air, with the canopy of heaven for a covering. Women and young girls, with but few exceptions, were dressed with white cap-like bonnets, white as snow, with quilted fronts, and light and dark colored blue cotton dresses. They looked neat in their Sunday best. Between three and four hundred composed the congregation. But one third could be provided with seats. The rest were obliged to stand through the services. I expected the novelty of having a meeting in the open air would lead some to feel at liberty to amuse themselves and disturb the meeting, but I was happily disappointed. With but few exceptions they were as quiet and orderly as in a meetinghouse, and the only disturbance was when some new ones would come in to find a place favorable to hear. To hear a woman speak and to have services in the open air was to them an entirely new thing. After I had spoken a few moments there was the best of attention. A solemn hush seemed to be upon the people. Young men and young women looked serious. Many were in tears. My text was Matthew 9:28-30. The congregation were, many of them, intelligent men and women. I presented the truth in its simplicity, that old and young could understand. This was the manner of Jesus’ preaching. He taught the people in simplicity. He used no large words that the unlearned could not understand. The unlearned, the veriest child, could understand His words. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 3

Jesus declared in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” Luke 4:18. How many of the professed ministers of Jesus Christ are copying this example of our divine Teacher? 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 4

The elder of the Baptist church sent a request by one for the privilege of asking some questions and making some remarks after the discourse. Some prominent members of his church were present. He stated he wished to present his ideas. Elder A. C. Bourdeau said he would have a few words with the gentleman first, else he could not give him permission to speak. He chose not to have an interview, and the meeting passed off without anything unpleasant. None of these men will open their churches for us to speak to their congregations, and yet when we have to crowd into little rooms and go out in the open air, they would press their opposition to the truth even under these circumstances. We rode back to Villar and two meetings were held—one Bible reading and one giving instruction as to the best and most successful manner of giving Bible readings and doing missionary work. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 5

[April 26]

April 26 we had profitable conversation with Brother Biglia in regard to his future field of labor, as he is now desirous to give himself fully to the work. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 6

We see how difficult it is to reach the hearts of the people with the truth when customs, traditions, and the testimony of the fathers are brought in to take the place of the Word of God. Fables are ready and presented to every one who has any inclination to turn from the truth of the Bible. The spirit that is prevailing in Italy and in every place in Europe is to make of none effect the Lord’s great moral standard of righteousness. Here, especially in these Waldensian valleys, as far as doctrine and faith and vital godliness are concerned, it is exactly the reverse from the ancient Waldenses. There seems to be a most discouraging condition in regard to religious faith. The teachers do not lead the people to the light of the Bible for they themselves are ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God, and the greatest effort is made to shut out any advance light that may come to the people. God can change this order of things, and He will do it. He will break this spell upon them. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 7

We felt distressed and sore at heart to have men, professing to believe the Lord is soon coming, as does Elder Grant, confuse the understanding of a people who know so little of the Bible and excite their prejudice and opposition against the law of God; and while claiming to be sanctified, transgress the commandments, standing by the side of one who is filled with bitterness against the truth. These men have done their work in sowing the seed which they will harvest in the near future. We were obliged to say some things in answer to the statements these two men have made, which places them as bearing false witness. If they did not originate the falsehoods they have uttered, they have loved them and eagerly gathered them up, going back forty years and gathering up reports from some of those who have been reproved for their dishonesty, their sins and wickedness. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 8

Notwithstanding these reports have been answered and proved to be false, yet that makes no difference to these men who love to have it so. And why is Elder Grant so earnest to present me in this light while he unites in his work with men who break God’s law and whose spotted characters leave wretchedness and ruin in their track wherever they go? Can these claim holiness after God’s standard? No, but after their own standard. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 9

The testimony of those who have heard the calumny of these men is that one of these—Elder Grant or Mrs. White—must be wrong. I answer them, I have no controversy with anyone. It is not my work to devote my time to the vindication of myself and the denial of the reports of these men. They love this kind of work. They have educated themselves for years in this work, and they know not any other way. You have a sample of a similar work done by the scribes and elders and Sadducees in Christ’s day. If the pure and spotless character of Christ, all His precious teachings and the works of mercy and love that He wrought, did not guarantee Him freedom from reproach and from the tongue of slander, what could the followers of Christ expect? The very bitterest and most vile implications came from those who stood in high places. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 10

When some things which had been spoken against me were repeated to me, and the remark was made, “Both cannot be right. The one who reports these sayings or the one of whom these things are said must be wicked,” I answered, “Elder Grant has never come to me like an honest man who loved his neighbor as himself and asked me if these things were so.” While he claims to be sanctified, he is dealing in slander and falsehoods. That which he dares not utter in public he will talk in private families. But if they falsified the purest Model that the world ever had, what may I expect? I could go around from place to place and call the people together and testify to the falsity of these statements, but did Jesus do this? He told the men who accused Him, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44); and those who do just as the accusers of Christ did have the denunciation of Jesus Christ. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 11

There is nothing which wings its flight so swiftly as calumny. Nothing is uttered in a smoother tongue. Statements may be made that it is with grief and sorrow they say these things; but while the words are as smooth as oil, the poison of asps is under the tongue. Nothing is listened to and relished with more readiness than slander. Nothing is dispersed more widely. Should you attempt to meet it in one place, and root it out, it will appear with added intensity in another. The tongue of slander is never tired. It keeps itself in constant employment. Sometimes it drips honey, sometimes gall. It assails or insinuates according to circumstances. It hides a curse under a smooth word and administers poison. “What shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?” (Psalm 120:3) the prophet exclaims. The treatment is hot coals of juniper. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 12

The work of Satan is to accuse the brethren before God day and night. Then we may expect that those who do not reverence God, who break His commandments and teach others to do so, will not respect the work or character of anyone who does not believe just as they do but, who is engaged in doing a work entirely the opposite, who is keeping and teaching others to keep the law of Jehovah. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 13

I would remain entirely silent upon this point were it not for those who know me not, who have had no knowledge of my work in seeking to win souls to Christ, either in speaking or in writing. I take no credit to myself in this work. The Lord has put His Spirit upon me; and as the end is near, the Lord has said, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their transgression, and the house of Israel their sins.” Isaiah 58:1. I have a work to do—not pleasant at all times, or agreeable-but I will not consult my wishes and choose the easy part of saying Peace, peace, when there is no peace for the transgressor. Warnings must be given, messages from heaven must be borne to them. Whether they will receive or reject the voice of God speaking to them, the warnings must come to them all the same. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 14

It is not the work of the messengers of God to make men believe. This is left to the will of the individual. And the positions men take in receiving or rejecting the message God sends them determines their case. Their names will be registered in the book of life if they are loyal to God. If they choose to war against the law of Jehovah, then they take sides with the first great rebel, the prince of darkness and all evil. There can be none of this special enmity between fallen angels and fallen men who are engaged in the same work of making void the law of God. Both are evil, both have forsaken God. While the Jews claimed to believe in God and worship Him, Christ calls them children of their father the devil, doing his work, possessing his spirit. [John 8:44.] So not all who claim to have the knowledge of the Scriptures and to be teachers of the people are safe guides. Some have rejected light given them of God because it did not come in the manner and suggest the things agreeable to their ideas. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 15

Christ said of these teachers, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29. They had blocked out their own way of being saved in the place of taking God’s way. They had forsaken the path of self-denial, had mingled the commandments of men with the commandments of God, and presented and urged all upon the people as if direct from God. The commandments of God were not kept by them and carried into the practical life, and the purity which distinguished the life and character of Christ was dropped out of their religion. Evil, wherever it exists, is in rejecting light and truth and departing from the living God; and then there is enmity always against those who cherish the light and walk in its rays. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 16

These words would not have been written except to put some honest souls on their guard. When men claim to be sanctified, see wherein the sanctity consists. Is it in slander? In falsehood? Does it consist in tearing down God’s great moral standard of character, and tearing down every one who does not agree with them in doctrine? Then know that they claim sanctity by a standard they have made for themselves. They are not only breaking God’s law, but teaching others to break it. Beware of the man—or the woman—who tells you he is sanctified and holy. You cannot have a more sure evidence that in heart he is the exact opposite of what he professes. Those who have no reverence for the holy law of God and can say such bitter things against it, and will pervert the Scriptures and wrest them from their true meaning, will not have any compunctions of conscience to assail the characters of those who stand in defense of that law which they are trampling in the dust and upon which they pour contempt. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 17

The work of seeking to do good to those who are in midnight darkness is uphill work. Jesus met the spirit of prejudice, envy, and opposition at every place where He entered with His teachings. There was an element to resist Him, and this element was the strongest among those who claimed the greatest piety. It was the Jewish nation who made the work of Christ so exceedingly hard. Jesus, the great Teacher, had a work to do in introducing a new principle into the hearts of men who claimed to be righteous above all others, but who taught for doctrines the commandments of men. When there had been no power to rise above this deceptive influence, the divine Teacher brought to man divine aid to help him in his depraved nature, with a renovating moral energy, so that he would not love sin, but be endued with a hatred of sin. Through this divine aid he could resist the natural passions which held sway within his heart and overcome day by day the temptations of the great adversary of souls, who claims dominion over the earth. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 18

This principle must come alone from the One who kept all His Father’s commandments, who was without stain or spot during the great rebellion in heaven. There is not enmity between fallen angels and fallen men. Both are evil, both are doing the same work, both are in apostasy and rebellion, both claim to be that which they are not—angels of light—and are covering their transgression with robes of righteousness and apparently pure angel garments. They deceive the children of men. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 19

Evil, wherever it exists, will always league against good. So fallen angels and fallen men will join in a desperate companionship. The lofty prince of darkness calculated that if he could induce men—as he had induced angels—to join in the rebellion, he should have them as his working agents, his allies, in every enterprise against heaven. There was no enmity between himself and the spirits who had joined him in the effort to change or annul the law of God and make his own word and his own commands equal with that of Jehovah. Whatever contentions there might be among themselves, which were many, in one thing they were united as with iron bands—that of opposing the law of God and with determined energy tearing down the great moral standard which governs all intelligences in Paradise and in the many worlds which God had created. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 20

We see and feel the same work of Satan carried forward in our world through his generalship, to unite all diverse elements on one point—that is, to make void the law of Jehovah. Not all the human race will fight against Satan. The enmity is exercised through the Spirit and power of God. Only a portion of the race will return to their loyalty to God. All who stand on Satan’s side of the question will perish in their sins. Satan is the root of rebellion and transgression, and all who are engaged in doing the same work of transgression will receive the same wrath of God, and therefore all will finally perish, root and branch. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 21

Sin is the transgression of the law; and never was there a being on earth who had so intense a hatred of sin as Jesus Christ, who came to destroy him who had brought sin into our world. All sin was odious in His sight. It was the purity and holiness of Christ which stirred up against Him all the malice and hatred of those whose carnal hearts were not in harmony with God’s law. He provoked from the despisers of God’s law the assaults of reprobate spirits. A perpetual reproach was thrown on a proud and sensual generation by the spotless life of the righteous Son of God who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. If vice had not received so severe a rebuke from the Son of God in His blameless life, the multitude would never have been worked up to demand His crucifixion. All who follow Christ will bear the reproach and the shame and contempt that Jesus bore for them. They can expect no better portion in this life than that which was given to our Lord. If the Master of the house suffer, how much more they of His household. See Matthew 10:24, 25. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 22

April 27

We have another beautiful morning. The snow-covered Alps look beautiful with the sun resting upon them. Brother Bourdeau, Brother Geymet, W. C. White and his wife, and I started, some on foot and some in a carriage, to ascend the mountains to Angrogna. We went up and up. We had a strong horse and carriage, but much of the way I was the only one in the carriage. This is the most striking scenery we have yet seen. It resembles Colorado very much in its wild rocky mountains, precipices, gulches, deep ravines, and very narrow valleys. These mountains of so great height are cultivated to the very summit. Dwellings are like nests, glued to the mountainsides, and houses are built upon the tops of the mountains. There are three villages in this mountainous place. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 23

These villages were once inhabited by the Waldenses. But the Catholics came in from Milan and Turin, both strong Catholic cities, and persecuted the Waldenses. One village that we are now in has been burned several times. The inhabitants were driven from their homes and burning buildings, surrounded by their inhuman persecutors, and driven off from a high precipice. We left the carriage and walked on the very spot where those poor souls were compelled to go. It is a beautiful, level, grassy plot of ground, and hundreds, yes, thousands, could be congregated here. I was thinking what a beautiful place for an out-of-door meeting. Here a large congregation could be assembled to hear the truth. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 24

A venerable looking Vaudois, about sixty-eight years old, was at work in the field. He gave us information concerning the events that had taken place which are mentioned in history. He led us along to the edge of this smiling, grassy field, and we looked over an abrupt, deep precipice, hundreds of feet down. Here the poor souls were driven. Being too few to help themselves, there was no escape for them. They were thrown off from this height upon the jagged rocks which composed a part of the embankment of the precipice and into the deep ravine below. And the only reason was that they did not receive the Catholic faith, but made their home in these wild mountain regions to escape their persecutors and that they might worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. Thousands found their graves in the ravines below this precipice. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 25

We read in Luke of a time when an attempt was made upon the life of Christ, when He announced His mission in Nazareth. See Luke 4:18-29. The first impression made upon the hearts of the people by the Spirit of God broke down their prejudice, and they witnessed to the gracious words that proceeded from His lips. But unbelief, whispered to them by the enemy, turned the current of their feelings, and next they were filled with madness because they thought Jesus reflected upon them for their lack of piety and loyalty to God, setting before them their spiritual apostasy. They rose up, thrust Him out of the city, and led Him with no gentle hands to the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong and murder Him then and there. But His time had not yet come. His mission was not ended. Heavenly angels guarded Him and held the eyes of the infuriated priests and elders of Israel so that Jesus passed through the midst unharmed to prosecute His work in cities more favorable to the reception of light and truth. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 26

The very same enmity that was in the hearts of these would-be murderers of Christ was in the hearts of the murderers of the Vaudois—the Catholic religious zealots—making them satanic in their character. These are the religionists who display the cross of Christ and the image of Christ and the apostles and the virgin Mary as objects of worship. While they have the symbol of the cross, they have none of the spirit of Him who bore the cross. Should He come on earth today as at His first advent, they could be of the number who would cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” as did the Jews [Luke 23:21], because the life and mission of Christ would strike directly at the root and foundation of their religion. These men claim to be Christ’s representatives on earth, as the priests and rulers claimed to be the exalted of God in the days of Christ, and as Satan claimed to be an angel of light. He was the first great rebel. He deceived thousands and thought to deceive the Son of God with his pretentious claims, and to overcome Him with his temptations. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 27

Christ was our example in all things. Where do the Romanists find the first intimation of an excuse for their wicked cruelty? Is it like Christ? No, but it is precisely like the character of Satan and his works. When John felt wounded in spirit because he saw that his beloved Teacher was insulted and treated with contempt by the Samaritans, the indignant spirit of revenge stirred his soul and he asked with deep earnestness, “Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” Luke 9:54. Christ did not justify this spirit for a moment. He replied, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” Verse 55. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 28

The Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. The manner of spirit these men are of, who claim to be Christ’s representatives upon the earth, yet who would torture and murder, is not that of Christ. They are men moved upon and controlled by the spirit of their master the devil, and by their pretentious claims they deceive many honest souls into the belief that they must be reverenced and worshiped as Christ Himself. Herod was a murderer. Stirred up by the chief priests, in union with Pilate, he killed the just and holy Son of God while they supplied the place of Christ with a murderer. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 29

The Catholic hierarchy is not tested and proved by having the Son of God in its midst to reprove its hypocrisy and rebuke its corruptions as Jesus did those of the priests and Pharisees. Its emissaries show the same spirit against Christ’s followers and treat them exactly as [they] would treat the Son of God were He in their place. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40. Christ identifies His interest with suffering humanity. Christ’s great heart of love was ever ready to sympathize with suffering humanity and to relieve human woe and affliction. The spirit of persecution of those who claim religious freedom to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience is not of Christ, for there is not a vestige of this spirit in all His life or in any of His teachings. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 30

The Lord said concerning Satan, that old serpent, that he should bruise the heel of Christ, but Christ would bruise his head. Thank God, he cannot touch the head. “With the mind I myself serve the law of God” (Romans 7:25), said the prophet. The mind and heart are enlisted in the service of Christ, while Satan has enlisted men and fallen angels to join in his company to league against good. They can only bruise the heel, while in the very act, when Satan seems to have triumphed in putting them to torture and to death, the faithful who stand in defense of the law of Jehovah are wounding the head of the great rebel. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 31

This prophecy of enmity between Satan and Christ is far-reaching. It is a delineation of an unwearied conflict between Christ and His followers and Satan and his angels and fallen men united in a desperate companionship to reproach, bruise, wound, and exterminate the followers of Christ to the close of time. This controversy between Satan and Christ was carried on here in this world. Satan was constantly afflicting the Son of God and creating prejudice in the minds of men. Not only were Christ’s doctrines and teachings perverted, misinterpreted, and wrested from their true meaning, but falsehoods followed Him everywhere. His pure character was assailed, and He was compelled to flee from one city to another because of the spies upon His track. The falsehoods and misrepresentations that the chief priests and Pharisees and Sadducees poured into the ears of the people appealed to the worst passions of adulterers, fornicators, and dishonest men, exciting a burning prejudice that made it almost impossible for Him to live upon the earth for even three years and a half after His public ministry began. Why, then, should those who bear the truth of God to the world be discouraged and fainthearted? Christ has said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18. Ye “are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” John 17:14. They will “revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My name’s sake.” Matthew 5:11. “Yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor Me.” John 16:2, 3. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 32

Satan’s malignity reached its height when the Lord of glory was crucified, and we may expect in our day that men’s hearts will be open to prejudice and to the falsehoods and wicked misrepresentations and slander of those who love this kind of satanic work. It is a wisdom from beneath. It is hell-born, and its results will be as in Christ’s day. “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42, 43. 4LtMs, Ms 55, 1886, par. 33