Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 5 (1887-1888)


Ms 14, 1887

Sermon/The Need of Earnest, Intelligent Workers

Basel, Switzerland

March 7, 1887

This manuscript is published in entirety in 2SAT 39-47.

(Address of Mrs. E. G. White, given at Basel, Switzerland, March 7, 1887, before the Institute.) 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 1

It is important that all who design to labor in the cause of God should learn the very best manner of prosecuting their work. There never was a more solemn and important period for us than the present. Our hearts are pained exceedingly when we see that there are so few laborers who can be depended upon to go into the field, and who are seeking wisdom of God that they may know how to work. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 2

I have been shown that many efforts which have been made at great expense to present the truth have been in a large measure unsuccessful, because the very kind of labor that is required has not been done. We have tried for years to present before our people the necessity of working more intelligently. There is need of our coming very close to God and not feeling at rest unless we have the burden of souls upon us. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 3

The powers of our intellects must be brought into active exercise in planning ways and means by which our labor shall accomplish the most good. We are not excusable for taking hold of the work in a listless, careless manner. It requires all the powers that God has given us, intellectually and physically, to do this important work. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 4

When the discourses are given in the desk, the work is just entered upon. Then the minister should, by personal effort if possible, become acquainted with every one of his hearers. If they have interest enough to come out and hear what you have to say, you should respond to it by a decided interest on your part to make their personal acquaintance. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 5

If our ministering brethren have not decided to put all there is of them into the work of God, it would be better for them not to be numbered among the laborers, as only failure and disappointment will attend their efforts. Satan and his agents are sharper than our workers. While he is planning and devising, and laying his nets to take souls unawares, our brethren are frequently taking things in a very easy manner, and Satan outgenerals them almost every time. Now if they would have the field preoccupied by God, and by heavenly angels, they must throw their whole being, soul, body, and spirit, into the work of God and not make a pretense of doing the work when it is not half done. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 6

While there should be an earnest interest for those in far-off fields, there should be fully as great an interest for fields close at home. The great desire with some to go to far-off fields, while there are fields right around you that need the truth, and that will not call for so large drafts from the treasury, is not prompted by the direct influence of the Spirit of God. I have been shown that there is much loss by neglecting missions close around us, where the fields are all ripe for the harvest. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 7

When you enter a place to present the truth, seek first to become acquainted with the ministers of the various denominations. Do not give the impression that you are like a fox, stealing in to get sheep, but lay open before the minister the fact that you want to call his attention to precious truths in the Word of God. Ministers have been treated by some of our laborers very much as though they were heathen, and they feel it. Some of them who have rejected the light may be dishonest, critical, and sharp, and may look upon you as the Jews looked upon the apostles, as disturbers of the churches; but there are others who have lived up to the best light they had upon the Scriptures. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 8

If our ministers go into a place and first come to the shepherds of the flock, and are friendly, and sociable, it may have an excellent effect upon them and leave a favorable impression in regard to the truth upon their minds. At any rate it is fair and right to give them an opportunity to be favorable and kind if they will. If by earnest, prayerful, Christlike efforts you can bring one minister into the truth, you, through his influence, may be able to convert a score of souls. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 9

We have not one point of truth that we need be ashamed of, and therefore we should be perfectly fair and open in laying these things before those who are intelligent and who are in responsible positions. Treat them as honest men. You can speak with them in regard to matters of general religious interest; perhaps seeking information on some points, without coming directly and pointedly to the subject of the truth itself. Leave that for another interview. To have the wisdom of a serpent, and the harmlessness of a dove, is a very wonderful acquirement. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 10

We should not upon entering a place build up unnecessary barriers between us and other denominations, especially the Catholics, so that they shall think we are their avowed enemies. We should not create a prejudice in their minds unnecessarily by making a raid upon them. There are many among the Catholics who live up to the light they have far better than many who claim to believe present truth, and God will just as surely test and prove them as He has tested and proved us. And just according to their willingness to stand the testing, of whatever character it may be, will be their accountability before God. From that which God has shown me, a great number will be saved from among the Catholics. There has been but little done for them except to make them appear in the worst light. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 11

We are to stand in this world as though there were all around us the purchase of the blood of Christ, and as though it depended very much upon our words, deportment, and manner of labor whether these souls shall be saved or not. There are many who engage in the work who need a different mold of character in order to make a success in any department of the work. It depends very much on the way we take hold to labor whether we shall have souls as the result of our efforts. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 12

There has not been the effort made that should have been made to reach the higher classes. While we are to preach the gospel to the poor, we are also to present it in its most attractive light to those who have ability and talent and make far more wise, determined, God-fearing efforts than have hitherto been made to win them to the truth. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 13

But in order to do this, all the workers will have to keep themselves up to a high level of intelligence. They cannot do this work and sink down to a low, common level, feeling that it does not much matter how they labor or what they say, since they are working for the poorer and ignorant classes. They will have to sharpen up and be armed and equipped in order to present the truth intelligently and to reach the higher classes. Their minds must rise higher and show greater strength and clearness. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 14

You should be determined to dig for truth as for hid treasure, and you will have a treasure house to draw from constantly. More than this, in your very diligence to search the Scriptures in order to meet the sharp and critical objections that are raised, you are obtaining a better understanding of the truth. None need to feel that the Catholics are beyond their reach, because it is a duty we owe to God to sow the seed beside all waters. It is God who gives the increase, not man. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 15

The discourse given from the desk should not be lengthy, for this not only wearies the people, but so draws upon the time and strength of the minister that he is not able to engage in the personal labor which should follow. He should go from house to house and labor with families, calling their attention to eternal truths in the Word of God. If he does this labor in the meekness of Christ, he will surely have the angels of God to work with his efforts. But we are altogether too faithless and too narrow in our ideas and in our plans. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 16

What we want is to have the Spirit of Christ in us. We want living faith; and we want a faith that will lead us to direct our labors for the higher and more intelligent [classes]. This is God’s plan. And if we make narrow plans and narrow efforts, we shall see very little accomplished. One reason why efforts have not heretofore been made for the higher classes, as I have presented before you, is a lack of faith and real courage in God. It is not always best to labor for the most wealthy; these are sometimes the most ignorant, and they have made this world their god, so that it would be very difficult to introduce the wedge of truth and separate them from the world. Nevertheless, there are men of wealth who will embrace the truth here in Europe if the right kind of labor is put forth. The Lord has agents here whom He has entrusted with means to carry forward His work in these countries. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 17

When those who are poor embrace the truth and do to the very best of their ability, our heavenly Father will see when they have gone to the extent of their ability, and He will bring in other talents in order to carry forward His work. There is a wonderful work to be done for the Master yet, and we want to act like living soldiers of the cross of Christ. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 18

Some things were presented to me in a dream, September 29, 1886, which I wish here to read: 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 19

In a dream given me Sept. 29, 1886, I was walking with a large company who were looking for berries. There were many young men and women in the company who were to help in gathering the fruit. We seemed to be in a city, for there was very little vacant ground; but around the city there were open fields, beautiful groves, and cultivated gardens. A large wagon laden with provisions for our company went before us. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 20

Soon the wagon halted, and the party scattered in every direction to look for fruit. All around the wagon were both high and low bushes, bearing large, beautiful whortleberries; but the company were all looking too far away to see them. I began to gather the fruit near by, but very carefully, for fear of picking the green berries, which were so mingled with the ripe fruit that I could pick only one or two berries from a cluster. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 21

Some of the nice large berries had fallen to the ground and were half consumed by worms and insects. “Oh,” thought I, “if this field had only been entered before, all this precious fruit might have been saved! But it is too late now. I will, however, pick these from the ground and see if there is any good in them. Even if the whole berry is spoiled, I can at least show the brethren what they might have found if they had not been too late.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 22

Just then two or three of the party came sauntering around where I was. They were chatting and seemed to be much occupied with each other’s company. Seeing me, they said, “We have looked everywhere and can find no fruit.” They looked with astonishment at the quantity I had. I said, “There are more to be gathered from these bushes.” They began picking, but soon stopped, saying, “It is not fair for us to pick here; you found this spot, and the fruit is yours.” But I replied, “That makes no difference. Gather wherever you can find anything. This is God’s field, and these are His berries; it is your privilege to pick them.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 23

But soon I seemed to be alone again. Every little while I heard talking and laughing at the wagon. I called out to those who were there, “What are you doing?” They answered, “We could not find any berries, and as we were tired and hungry, we thought we would come to the wagon and take a lunch. After we have rested a while, we will go out again.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 24

“But,” I said, “you have brought in nothing as yet. You are eating up all our supplies, without giving us any more. I cannot eat now; there is too much fruit to be picked. You did not find it because you did not look close enough. It does not hang on the outside of the bushes; you must search for it. True, you can not pick it by handfuls; but by looking carefully among the green berries, you will find very choice fruit.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 25

My small pail was soon full of berries, and I took them to the wagon. Said I, “This is the nicest fruit that I ever picked, and I gathered it nearby, while you have wearied yourselves by searching at a distance without success.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 26

Then all came to see my fruit. They said, “These are high-bush berries, firm and good. We did not think we could find anything on the high bushes, so we hunted for low-bush berries only and found but few of these.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 27

Then I said, “Will you take care of these berries, and then go with me to look for more fruit on the high bushes?” But they had made no preparation to care for the fruit. There were dishes and sacks in abundance, but they had been used to hold food. I became tired of waiting and finally asked, “Did you not come to gather fruit? Then why are you not prepared to take care of it?” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 28

One responded, “Sister White, we did not really expect to find any fruit where there were so many houses, and so much going on; but as you seemed so anxious to gather fruit, we decided to come with you. We thought we would bring enough to eat and would enjoy the recreation if we did not gather any fruit.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 29

I answered, “I cannot understand this kind of work. I shall go to the bushes again at once. The day is already far spent; soon the night will be here in which we can gather no fruit.” Some went with me, but others remained by the wagon to eat. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 30

In one place a little company had collected and were busily talking about something in which they seemed much interested. I drew near and found that a little child in a woman’s arms had attracted their attention. I said, “You have but a little time and might better work while you can.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 31

The attention of many was attracted by a young man and a young woman who were running a race to the wagon. On reaching it, they were so tired that they had to sit down and rest. Others also had thrown themselves down on the grass to rest. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 32

Thus the day wore on, and very little was accomplished. At last I said: “Brethren, you call this an unsuccessful expedition. If this is the way you work, I do not wonder at your lack of success. Your success or failure depends upon the way you take hold of the work. There are berries here; for I have found them. Some of you have been searching the low bushes in vain; others have found a few berries; but the high bushes have been passed by simply because you did not expect to find fruit on them. You see that the fruit which I have gathered is large and ripe. In a little while other berries will ripen, and we can go over the bushes again. This is the way in which I was taught to gather fruit. If you had searched near the wagon, you might have found fruit as well as I. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 33

“The lesson that you have this day given to those who are just learning how to do this kind of work will be copied by them. The Lord has placed these fruit-bearing bushes right in the midst of these thickly settled places, and He expects you to find them. But you have been altogether too much engaged in eating and amusing yourselves. You did not come to the field with an earnest determination to find fruit. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 34

“You must hereafter work with more zeal and earnestness, and with an altogether different object in view, or your labors will never be successful. By working in the right way, you will teach the younger workers that such matters as eating and recreation are of minor importance. It has been hard work to bring the wagon of supplies to the ground, but you have thought more of the supplies than of the fruit you ought to carry home as the result of your labors. You should be diligent, first to first pick the berries nearest you, and then to search for those farther away; after that you can return and work nearby again, and thus you will be successful.” 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 35

I do not know that I need to put an interpretation upon this. I think any one of intelligence could trace out its true meaning. We want in the first place to consecrate ourselves to God without reserve. We want to be in season and out of season. We want to sow the seed of truth wherever we can do so; and wherever the laborers go, they are to go in the strength of God. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 36

There is a lesson to be learned from Gideon’s army. It was not because of their great numbers that they prevailed, but because they were willing to follow the special directions of God by living faith. Those that were seen to press on to the battle, and who would scoop up the water and drink as they went, were the ones whom God accepted to engage in this enterprise; but those who prepared to have a good time, and bowed down leisurely and drank, were sent back to their homes. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 37

The Lord God of Israel looks upon us individually, and He sees whether we are in earnest in this matter. He sees whether we carry the burden of souls upon our hearts. He sees whether or not we touch these living interests with the tip ends of our fingers. If we have the interest that John Knox had when we pleaded before God for Scotland, we shall have success. He cried, “Give me Scotland, Lord, or I die.” And when we take hold of the work and wrestle with God, saying, “I must have souls; I will never give up the struggle,” we shall find that God will look upon our efforts with favor. He sees that if He gives you souls as the result of your ministry, it will not make you proud or lifted up. You will not be in a position where you will feel for an instant that some one else will get the credit of these souls; but you will feel so grateful to God that they are saved, that His praise will be in your hearts and on your lips day and night. It is such men that God will make mighty instruments to do His work. I feel in earnest upon these points. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 38

Those who have associated with them, those who are trying to learn how to do the work of God, should feel a constant burden on their souls as to what education they are giving these workers. Eternity will tell what kind of a mold they are giving those who are connected with them in this work. If they have the spirit and power which Paul had, the Spirit of God working in them mightily to present every man perfect in Jesus Christ, they will ever seek, both by precept and example, to build them up in the most holy faith. The mold which these workers receive, they will in turn give to others. The influence is far reaching, even to eternity. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 39

I am about to leave this field, and I feel intensely for all the workers who shall enter the Master’s vineyard. Will you bear in mind the points which I have tried to present before you today, and work in those fields and among that company where your labors will tell if souls come into the truth? Do not confine your labor to those whose characters are cast in an inferior mold, for their influence will not build up; it will not be cast upon the Lord’s side, and your work will be almost lost. If you enter a new field and work at a very great expense, bring out a few of the poorer classes who cannot possibly stand along themselves, your labor will amount to very little. Those who need props on every side to hold them up are an additional care rather than a blessing. Men and women who are so weak in mind and principle that it is necessary for some one to be right with them, to keep them in the faith, will not reflect light upon others. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 40

You want to keep constantly in view that you are to build up the interests of the cause and the work of God, and make the work in that place self-sustaining if possible. The work of the third angel is very extensive. An interest is to be established in every part of the world. If you do your work, laying the foundation all right, then the structure of truth can be built upon that foundation, and it will stand the tempest and storm. When Christ was upon earth, the foundation of the Christian work was laid only by two or three. These were minds that could be molded by the precious influences of Christ. After He had planted the foundation principles of truth in their minds, they could gather more and, in connection with Christ, could be educating and molding others as they should increase in numbers. The number first swelled to twelve, and then to seventy; and thus the work was carried forward. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 41

Now God wants us to work as Christ worked because there is but little money among us. Our brethren in America have been drawn upon for thousands and thousands of dollars. It is now the duty of the workers to make use of the very best of their ability and talent to build up the cause in these various fields so that it shall be self-sustaining. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 42

God wants us to agonize with Him, that His power may unite with our efforts, that we may bring those into the truth who shall be an honor to His cause; however poor they may be, if they have root in themselves, they can have an influence upon others. There are fields where there are souls who will respond to the truth, who will be shining lights. I have felt that it was best for us to pray and have living faith that God would direct us as to the manner of our labors. “It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” [Zechariah 4:6.] It is a living connection with heaven which brings the light and power by which we can bring souls to Christ. Brethren, we want to act like living men and women. We want to put on the armor of righteousness, and to know that as an army of workers we have God as our Captain. We are then prepared to meet principalities, and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. Let us not sleep on the field of battle. May God help us to be wide awake, earnest, and energetic in the precious cause of truth. 5LtMs, Ms 14, 1887, par. 43