Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 5 (1887-1888)


Ms 40, 1887

Peril of Doubt and Unbelief



Portions of this manuscript are published in HP 105; ST 06/23/1887.

“Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” John 9:39-41. Had those wicked Pharisees been really blind or ignorant by misfortune, or through want of capacity or opportunity of instruction, they would have been comparatively free from guilt in their determined opposition to Christ. But they had the most favorable opportunity to obtain an understanding of the Scriptures, and prided themselves upon their knowledge and discernment, while they were wilfully closing their eyes to the light. Christ declared of them, “Ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God.” Mark 12:24. They had stubbornly refused to be instructed; therefore all the opportunities which they enjoyed, all the wisdom, ability, and knowledge of which they proudly boasted, would only increase their condemnation in the day of final judgment. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 1

God gives us sufficient evidence of the truth to enable us to accept it understandingly; but He does not propose to remove all occasion for doubt and unbelief. Should He do this, there would no longer be a necessity for the exercise of faith. We would be able to walk by sight. All who with a teachable spirit study the Word of God may learn therefrom the way of salvation; yet they may not be able to understand every portion of the Sacred Record. The apostle Peter declares that in the epistles of Paul, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there are “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16. Whatever is clearly established by the Word of God we should accept, without attempting to meet every doubt which Satan may suggest, or with our finite understanding to fathom the counsels of the Infinite One, or to criticize the manifestation of His grace or the exercise of His power. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 2

I have been pained at heart as I have seen among our Seventh-day Adventist brethren a disposition to doubt, to criticize, to find fault. It is the work of Satan to encourage doubt and unbelief. All who indulge these traits are placing themselves in the ranks of the enemy. Those who are continually looking for something to find fault with, something to strengthen unbelief, either in the testimony of God’s Spirit or of His Word, will soon find themselves so completely under the power of doubt and unbelief that nothing will seem sure to them; they will find no solid foundation anywhere. It is a duty to encourage faith and devotion. If we seek in humility to learn the will of God as revealed by His Word and by His Spirit, and then obey that will as it is made plain to our understanding, we shall become rooted and grounded in the truth. Said Christ, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” John 7:17. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 3

Our Saviour admonishes His disciples, “Watch and pray, least ye enter into temptation.” Mark 14:38. A cunning and vigilant foe attends our steps and employs his strength and skill in trying to turn us out of the right way. He does not come in his visible form; but by his representatives he is ever upon our track, and through them he brings his power to bear upon those who least suspect his presence. He works in darkness and controls all who will be deceived by his devices. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 4

If the light which God bestows upon men is not appreciated, it becomes darkness to them. And the greater the light bestowed, the greater the darkness which follows its rejection. There is a solemn warning to us in the words of Christ to the men of Nazareth. Upon visiting the little town where He had been brought up, the Saviour, according to His custom, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed Him, and He read the words, “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 recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18, 19. And then, as the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on Him, He said unto them, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” “And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.” Verses 21, 22. The Scripture which He had read was understood by all to refer to the Messiah. And when Jesus explained the prophet’s words, and pointed out the sacred office of the Messiah, as a reliever of the oppressed, a liberator of the captive, a healer of the sick, and a revealer of truth to the world, the people were filled with joy and responded to His words by hearty amens and praises to God. His impressive manner, the mighty import of His words, the divine light that shone from His countenance thrilled that listening company, as Jesus stood before them, a living exposition of the prophet’s words. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 5

Not one who looked upon that scene could doubt that this was indeed the promised Deliverer, the hope of Israel. Now was the golden opportunity for the men of Nazareth to accept Christ and receive the blessings which He came to bring. Angels of God were in that assembly, watching with intense interest the decision of the hour. Angels of Satan also were on the ground to suggest doubts and arouse prejudice. The people had long indulged pride and unbelief, and the current of their thoughts soon returned to the natural channel. They forgot the power of divine love, which had stirred their souls, and turned to consider the lowly birth and humble life of Him who claimed to be their Messiah. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 6

In their pride they had expected a king who should appear in earthly pomp and power; and as they recalled these hopes, they asked themselves, Is not this the son of Joseph and Mary, whose home has been so long among the poor inhabitants of the town? Can this be the promised Deliverer of Israel? If this man be the Christ, why does He not give some mighty evidence of His power? And blind, unreasoning prejudice followed close in the steps of unbelief. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 7

But Jesus gave them a proof of His divine character by reading, as from an open book, the secrets of their hearts: “And He said unto them, Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, Physician, heal yourself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:23-27. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 8

In the days of Elijah, Israel had departed from the living God. In vain the Lord by His prophets spoke to that backsliding and rebellious people. In vain He reproved their sins and threatened them with His judgments. The message which might have been a savor of life unto life proved to them a savor of death unto death. They would not heed the warning which called them to a life of humility and faith. Instead of leading them to repent of their sins, and thus remove the cause that had provoked against them the anger of the Lord, the words of warning offended their pride and aroused their hatred against the messenger of God. Thus they multiplied their sins and aggravated the guilt which had already brought the judgments of God upon the land. Now they sought to find and destroy Elijah, as though by silencing him they would prevent the fulfilment of his words. But God found among the heathen a hiding place for His servant, and by terrible judgments upon the land of Israel He attested the divine authority of the prophet’s message. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 9

By this relation of events in the life of a prophet of God, the Saviour met the secret doubts and questionings of those whom He was addressing. In the apostasy of Israel in Elijah’s day, He presented before His hearers a vivid picture of their own true condition. The unbelief and self-exaltation of the ancient Jewish nation made it a necessity for the Lord to pass by the many widows in Israel, and to find an asylum for His servant among a heathen people, and to entrust him to the kindness and liberality of a heathen widow; but she who was thus favored had lived in strict accordance with all the light she possessed. God also passed over the many lepers in Israel, because their unbelief closed the door of good to them. Instead of making a right use of God’s blessings, they would pervert the precious tokens of His grace to exalt themselves. Thus they had placed themselves in a position where the Lord could not manifest His power in their behalf. A heathen nobleman who had been true to his convictions of right, and who felt his great need of help, was in the sight of God more worthy of His blessing than were the afflicted in Israel, who had slighted and despised their God-given privileges. God would work for those who would appreciate His favors and respond to the light given them from Heaven. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 10

Even the heathen who live according to the best light they have, doing right as far as they are able to distinguish right from wrong, are regarded with greater favor by God than are those who have had great light, but who are thereby only rendered more proud, boastful, and self-sufficient. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 11

Jesus stood before the men of Nazareth calmly revealing their secret thoughts and pressing home upon them the unpalatable truth of their unrighteousness. His words cut to their hearts as their ingratitude, their selfishness, their strife for the supremacy, their pride and unbelief, their secret crimes were all laid before them. They knew that the eye of Christ could search the hidden recesses of their souls. Did they then turn for help to Him who alone could help them? For one brief moment they had been inclined to believe on Christ; but by opening their hearts to unbelief they had given place to Satan, and now his power controlled them. They decided then and there that this Jesus should not reign over them. They now scorned in their hearts the spirit of tenderness, faith, and reverence which had first inspired them. From unbelief sprung malice. They had rejected Christ because He told them the truth, and now they were inspired by Satan with wrath and hatred against Him. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 12

That a man who had sprung from poverty and lowliness should dare to reprove them filled the Jews with madness. The assembly broke up in confusion. The people laid hands on Jesus, thrusting Him from the synagogue and out of their city. They hurried Him to the brow of a hill, intending to cast Him down headlong; shouts and maledictions filled the air; some were hurling stones at Him. Suddenly He disappeared from the midst of them. Angels of God surrounded the world’s Redeemer and conducted Him to a place of safety. The infuriated throng found themselves seizing one another, but the man they sought to destroy was gone. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 13

The history of Christ’s rejection by the men of Nazareth contains an important and solemn lesson for the people of God living in the last days. The spirit of enmity which has in every age been manifested against the reprover of wrong is seen in greater degree as we near the close of time. There are many who, like the Jews, seem to consider themselves especially entitled to the favor of God. Though they will not seek it in His appointed way, yet when it is withdrawn from them, and they see others enjoying the privileges which they have forfeited, they are greatly offended. Those who, when reproved, refuse to humble themselves and correct their errors become the most bitter enemies of the reprover. They set themselves to oppose the work of God, with all the ingenuity, perseverance, and determination of the master they serve, and they work with his indomitable courage to deceive and destroy. This is Satan’s work upon the earth, and he has many helpers. The prophet is looking down to the last church when he declares that the dragon makes war with the remnant who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. The same hatred that was manifested against the work of Christ has been manifested against the work of reproof the servants of God have been called to bear by those whose sins have been reproved. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 14

Our Saviour asks the question, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8), implying that true faith would be almost extinct. It is too true that the spirit of doubt, criticism, and fault-finding is destroying confidence in God’s Word and in His work. It is impossible for the carnal mind to understand or appreciate the work of God. All who desire to doubt or cavil will find occasion. The Lord has frequently moved upon His servants to utter things that at the time they themselves could not comprehend, but afterward they would understand whereof they spake. Those who, in humility of heart, follow the light as it shines upon them, will receive clearer light, while those who refuse to obey till they can see all occasion of doubt removed will be left in darkness. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 15

The Lord has given me plain and pointed testimonies reproving the faults and errors of families and individuals. And it is often the case that those who are unwilling to receive reproof will turn against the reprover and seek to hinder my work and destroy my influence. I will mention some of these cases to illustrate the nature of my work, the course of those who have refused to receive correction, and the motive which actuates a large class in their opposition to my testimonies. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 16

The Lord gave me a testimony for the family of C. They possessed good traits of character, but they had also defects that were the cause of great unhappiness. They were impatient, critical, and fault-finding. At home, in their daily intercourse, they were encouraging a combative spirit, and with every indulgence this was becoming more difficult to overcome. The Lord sent a message of reproof to this family, because He loved them and desired them to correct their errors. But their self-will and pride of heart would not yield, and they rose up in opposition to that which they knew to be the truth. Instead of giving heed to the testimony and seeking to overcome their evil traits, they began to find fault with the manner in which the testimony was given. The evil one, who never wants men to improve, led them on step by step until C. has now become one of the most jealous and persevering opposers of the testimonies. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 17

A reproof was given me for Brother S. He was self-sufficient, overbearing, and dictatorial in his family, and he carried the same spirit into the church. I was shown his duty to reform in these respects; in order to be like Christ he must become meek and humble, kind, forbearing, and courteous. But he refused to accept reproof and united with C. in warring against the testimonies by pen and voice. Where now is this violent opposer? He has given up the Sabbath and gone back to the nominal church. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 18

[Hewitt], who was among the first in California to accept the present truth, was indulging traits of character which were ruinous to his family and a great hindrance to the church. By his overbearing, tyrannical course at home, he made the lot of his wife exceedingly hard. She dared not dissent from his opinions or ideas, knowing that should she venture to do so she would have no peace. The same desire for the supremacy was manifested in the church, and his course was such that their meetings for worship were not profitable. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 19

The Lord gave me a testimony to correct the course of this man. It was a most disagreeable task to deliver the message, yet I dared not shrink from it. I visited him and read to him and his wife that which the Lord had shown me concerning him. The testimony stated that he considered it praiseworthy to suggest doubts and express unbelief concerning our position as God’s commandment-keeping people. The truth condemned his course of life, but instead of seeking to bring his soul into harmony with truth, he was trying to bring the truth to meet his imperfect standard. This case represents a large number who have been reproved in like manner, and refusing to receive correction, have followed a course of their own choosing until the Spirit of God has ceased to strive with them. For this reason I quote at length from the testimony given: see Testimony 24, from middle of p. 157 to middle of p. 171 [now found in Testimonies for the Church 3:449-452]. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 20

After hearing the testimony, Brother [Hewitt] said that many things stated were clear to his mind; some things he did not see. We joined in a season of prayer. The Lord came very near, and I was led out in earnest supplication for this poor soul on the brink of ruin. At the close, Brother H. thanked me for my plainness. Said he, “Sister White, if I am not saved at last, you will be guiltless. You have kindly and faithfully told me my errors. You have entreated the Lord for me, and you will be clear. But in one thing you will find that you have been mistaken. I shall never give up the Sabbath. I have had such an experience here that, while I have my senses, I can never yield the truth on this point.” 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 21

Where is this man now? It was not long after this that he went back to the nominal church. He did not act upon the light given; he did not reform his character; he did give up the Sabbath. 5LtMs, Ms 40, 1887, par. 22