Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)

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Ms 2, 1883

Sermon/Words to Ministers

Battle Creek, Michigan

November 1883

Portions of this manuscript are published in 1MR 19; 5MR 156.

“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to perish; for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” [Revelation 3:1-3.] 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 1

The ministers of the gospel of Christ are to watch for souls as they that must give an account. They are to search the Scriptures earnestly, to be often on their knees in prayer, asking for heavenly wisdom that they may strengthen “the things which remain, that are ready to perish.” [Verse 2.] They are to place themselves under the power of the Scriptures by living in accordance with the will of God. The Word of God is to be their guide. This Word searches the secret working of the human heart. In it there are promises, directions, counsel, and reproof, which are to be used as the case may require. With a humble heart and a willing mind, God’s messenger is to search this Word, that he may understand for himself and draw from the storehouse for the benefit of others, things new and old. Ever he is to seek to lead minds to gain a personal, experimental knowledge of the truth. Many are sorely tempted and ready to die because they have not a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 2

Many think that the work of the minister consists in sermonizing, but in this they are mistaken. There is a work to be done from house to house. In this way many will be brought to a knowledge of the truth. Through the instrumentality of the earnest worker, souls ready to die will be imbued with the Spirit of Christ. The work of coming close to individual souls is neglected. The churches are ready to die for want of the right kind of labor. Church members should receive an education in the things of God that will give them a deep and living experience, enabling them to bring their thoughts into subjection to the divine will. The minister should visit them in their homes, talking and praying with them in earnestness and humility. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 3

In every congregation which gathered about Jesus, there were souls who were hungering and thirsting for light and knowledge. As they listened to the truth which fell from the lips of the divine Teacher, so different from the traditions and dogmas taught by the rabbis, hope sprang up in their hearts. There was a life in Christ’s teaching which sent the truth home in power to the heart and captivated His hearers. God’s ministers are to learn Christ’s method of teaching that they may, as He did, bring fresh flowers full of fragrance from the garden of God’s Word. Only thus can the need of the soul be supplied. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 4

Seeking for wisdom from God in true faith is a matter of no uncertainty. “If any man lack wisdom,” the apostle declares, “let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” James 1:5-7. Our only safety is in heeding this inspired counsel. We have reached out altogether too much to human beings for help. Counsel has been asked from men who are not taught by God, in whose hearts Christ does not abide. These men depend largely on their own wisdom and experience. Into their counsel they weave their own spirit, their own likes and dislikes. Their advice bears the same features as their minds. They are guided by their feelings and impressions, and often they discourage plans which should be encouraged and encourage where they should discourage. They have not the mind of Christ; therefore, barriers are thrown in the way of the work that the Lord Himself impressed His co-laborers with the importance of doing. On the other hand, they sanction that which the Lord has not sanctioned. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 5

How many of the presidents of our conferences have armed themselves with the mind that is in Christ? How many, by unceasing watchfulness and prayer, have strengthened the things which remain? I have been shown that instead of going to God for wisdom, our ministers have gone to the president of the General Conference. But the Lord has not made him your mediator. He has not been invested with a supply of wisdom for the presidents of the state conferences. Jesus is the fountainhead of wisdom, and our supply must be received from Him. Those who look to the president of the General Conference are crippled and dwarfed; whereas, if they would look to God, they would find grace and strength to help in every time of need. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” [Verse 5.] 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 6

I am pained, brethren, as the weak, sickly condition of our churches is opened before me. “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” [Jeremiah 8:22.] Must we decide that the presidents of our conferences have done the best? I would be loath to do this. We know that the heavenly universe is disappointed in them, because they do not co-operate with God. There are many churches in our conferences which are ready to die, testifying to a lack of the grace of Christ in the hearts of the men appointed to act as ministers. God does not accept the work done in these churches. He cannot say to those ministers, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:23.] Brethren, I have been shown that the presidents of our conferences are not as efficient as God would have them. He has made every provision that they might have His grace and power to do the work the churches are suffering for. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 7

Brethren, I appeal to you to change this order of things. To whom have you looked for strength? Have you not been trusting altogether too much in your own efficiency? Have you not been looking to man and making flesh your arm? Have you not been light and trifling in your assemblies? Wherein have you shown that you carried the solemn burden of the work of God? Oh, what a difference there would be in the character of your work if you kept before you the abiding presence of a just and holy God, who requires you not merely to go through the form of preaching, but to give full proof of your ministry by revealing clusters of precious fruit. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 8

What precious experiences would have been gained if those who for years have been educating themselves to trust in man had educated themselves to trust fully in God, replying upon Him to do those things which they cannot do for themselves! They would have found that His Word is Yea and Amen. They would have been encouraged to ask and ask again. They would have gained a knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for they would have been brought into sweet companionship with Him. Love for Him would have been kindled on the altar of the heart as they proved Him and found Him to be a very present help in every time of need. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 9

“Come unto me,” Christ said, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30.] Lean not on the best man who lives. He is not wise enough or strong enough to hold you up. Take all your perplexities to Jesus. You may lean with your whole weight upon Him, and He will uphold you, for He is strong. He will not sink under the burdens you place on Him. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 10

Every church needs to hear the plain, earnest testimony from the Word of God. The parable of the ten virgins presents a picture which should cause us to tremble. Five of these virgins were wise, and five were foolish. The wise had oil in their vessels with their lamps, but the foolish had no oil in their vessels, and their lamps went out. The record says, “While they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterward also came the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not.” [Matthew 25:10-12.] This comes as a solemn warning to every church, showing the danger of those whose works do not correspond to their profession of faith. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 11

Working, waiting, praying, and watching—this constitutes genuine Christianity. Our work is not to be all waiting in idle expectancy. Neither is it to be all bustle and excitement, to the neglect of personal piety. Waiting, working, praying, and watching are to be blended as a whole. The servant of God is exhorted to be “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” [Romans 12:11.] The oil of grace must supply the need of the soul. There must be no weakening of the spiritual force. To ministers God says, “Take heed to thyself and to the doctrine.” [1 Timothy 4:16.] Cultivate heart-piety, and then diffuse light. God will not accept the service of the smartest men, those most fluent in speech, unless by a pure and holy life they show their consecration to Him. Unless the root is holy, there can be no healthy branches to bear fruit to God’s glory. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 12

God has chosen men and women as instrumentalities through which to work. It is His purpose that divine power and human endeavor shall unite. God is willing to teach all who come to Him in simplicity and faith. Have your sins separated you from God? What saith the Scriptures? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:9.] Do you believe that God will do as He says? Then act your faith. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 13

There are those who stand upon their dignity, looking upon it as a disgrace to confess. They make mistakes which they should confess to their brethren, but instead of doing this, they cherish bitterness against them. They pronounce judgment against them and grieve the Holy Spirit. They make light of their transgression, refusing to acknowledge that they have sinned. They declare that they enjoy freedom in the love of God. But though they may apparently be earnest in the performance of religious duties, He who reads the heart as an open book writes against them this sentence, Weighed in the balances and found wanting. God bears long with their stubborn perversity, seeking to bring them to repentance. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 14

Thus Christ did in the case of Judas. He gave lessons calculated to arouse the conscience of the erring disciple, to lead him to see his selfishness, his ambition and love of money, as a great sin. But notwithstanding the efforts make by the Saviour, Judas cherished the accursed thing. Stubbornly justifying his course, he went on step by step in the path of sin, hiding his wrong from human sight, ready to pronounce judgment on the defects of others, but making no confession. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 15

Christ constantly sought to soften the heart of Judas. Thus He hoped to bring him to repentance that He might pardon him. But Judas’ pride and stubbornness held him back from making any surrender. He would not fall upon the Rock and be broken, and finally his hardness of heart led him to sell his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Thus he ruined himself. He had united himself with Christ voluntarily, as had the other disciples. With them he had the privilege of learning in the school of the divine Teacher. None of the disciples were free from defects, but all were dear to Christ’s great heart of love. He loved Judas, and had Judas been willing to learn, he would have been transformed in character. But a man cannot be forgiven unless he repents. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 16

During Christ’s ministry the disciples were closely associated with Him. It was the Saviour’s purpose that they should be imbued with His Spirit that they might form characters which would fit them to do work for the Master. They had every advantage for being trained for high and holy service. They may have been called ignorant and unlearned, but they had as an instructor the greatest Teacher the world has ever known, the Light of life. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” [John 1:4.] 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 17

He who taught the disciples is willing also to teach His servants today. Christ is the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. We must be laborers together with God if we would do more than beat the air. The grace of Christ must be an abiding principle in the life, forming the character after the divine model. God has made every provision for man to receive an increase of moral power and a deep religious experience. He delivered up His Son that He might be the propitiation for our sins, to make reconciliation possible between God and man. What more could God do for His vineyard that He has not done? 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 18

The soul temple must be cleansed from its defilement before the heavenly Guest can enter. The minister of the gospel who is a laborer together with God will learn daily in the school of Christ. He will give full proof of his ministry by the wisdom he manifests in dealing with human minds. He will become acquainted with the parents and children of his congregation and will speak kindly words to all. No light trifling words will fall from his lips, for is he not an ambassador bringing from the heavenly courts a message of mercy and salvation to perishing souls? All jesting and joking, lightness and trifling, will be painful to the cross-bearing disciple of Christ. He is weighed down by the burden he feels for souls. His heart is drawn out in silent prayer to God that he may receive the grace of Christ and thus be enabled to discern his work and do it as a faithful steward. He prays to be kept pure and holy and then refuses to rush heedlessly into temptation. When he sees in any member of the church a lessening of zeal, he makes it his business to find out why this is so. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 19

The cross-bearing disciple heeds the injunction, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:15, 16.] He will grow daily in grace, ever gaining a deeper knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Every heaven-sent messenger will be transformed in character. He will overcome selfishness, laying aside self-conceit as a worthless thing. The mind, the heart, the affections are elevated and ennobled in accordance with God’s purpose. Not only a Bible reader, but a Bible believer, he gives a portion of meat to every man in due season. By keeping close to the Master, he receives words from Him to give to the people. He lifts as Christ lifts, he loves as Christ loves, he works as Christ works. He is one with Christ as Christ is one with the Father. He gives himself constantly to self-improvement, that by precept and example he may lead others to a purer, higher, and more elevated life. 4LtMs, Ms 2, 1883, par. 20