Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 5 (1887-1888)


Lt 39a, 1887

Bourdeau, D. T.

Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland


Previously unpublished.

Dear Brother Bourdeau:

I have a letter partly written to you, but did not bring it to this place. In a card to Bro. Whitney you speak of being taxed with writing out a synopsis of your discourses for the benefit of Brn. Geymet and Badant. Now this is a burden that you should not take upon you, for the Lord does not lay upon you any such burden; and in the place of its being a benefit to these brethren, it is the worst thing that you can do for them. I have had special testimony upon this point for several of our ministering brethren who were doing the same thing. 5LtMs, Lt 39a, 1887, par. 1

It was shown that all such education and training is an injury. These men, if they are to be educated and trained for the exposition of the Scriptures, should not be taught to depend upon any man, and should be taught to look to God; to go to Him for help, for knowledge, and for His power and His Spirit. Bro. A. C. Bourdeau told me he had done the same thing in several places. I told him that in every instance he had done them harm. You have decided defects in your ministry. In your discourses you ramble. You take in too much matter; you have too many points, and bring in too great an array of what you think are convincing arguments, which cover up the truth and do not make it plain to the hearer. I have been shown that if you would bring into your discourses one half or even one third of the matter you do, your discourses would be far more clear and interesting, and your hearers would retain the points much better. 5LtMs, Lt 39a, 1887, par. 2

If I had thought that you had any intention of training these brethren to imitate your manner of presenting the truth, I would have spoken to you on these points; but I did not think they were with you for any such purpose. These men are not to have you do the searching of the Scriptures or to be brains for them. They must learn; and if God has called them to the work, He will impart to them His Holy Spirit, while they shall search and dig for the truth as for hidden treasure, praying, believing, pleading with God that He will constantly help them. If taught to look to you to manufacture their discourses for them, you step in between these men and the true Educator Jesus Christ. Let them go to the Fountain Head. This very first lesson given them is not in God’s order. Let them work in their own harness and not wear Saul’s armor, but work as best they can in their own way and with their own humble talent. Let them pray and search the Scriptures for themselves. When you present to them even a skeleton of a discourse, a synopsis or anything of the kind, you are doing a work which wearies you; and just as far as you go in this direction, you are doing them great injury. I speak decidedly on this point. You must give God a chance to work upon mind and upon heart. You must not take the work out of God’s hand to do yourself. This is the testimony I have borne to many. Your brother said that he had lost a book valuable to him because it contained many valuable discourses. I told him that every sermon he had ever preached that was put into writing or print was lost. I thought it was the greatest blessing that could come to him, for he did not see the necessity of preparing himself before entering the pulpit by diligently searching the Bible and opening his heart to the impressions of the Holy Spirit. He trusted to his old, oft-repeated discourses, and the people frequently had presented before them matter that was as dry as a chip. It had not the freshness of thought with the sweet spirit and power that God gives to His workers. 5LtMs, Lt 39a, 1887, par. 3

I need not say more in reference to this matter. The work that is expected for you to do is not to mold and train these men to your copy. You are to have an oversight of the work, give some cautions and some instructions how to labor; but when it comes to your giving them your discourses to preach to the people, you are doing a work which will not be blessed of God to them, and you will be in danger of thinking that you have done a very great work in fitting these men for the ministry, when you have done a very great work to unfit them for the ministry. These men, if God accepts them, will have to seek their knowledge from the Scriptures and will have to search and pray and think. They will often be discouraged and driven to God for enlightenment. Now these men must come up in this way. Your thoughts are not to be put into their heads. They may get a lesson like a school boy from your discourses and repeat your arguments; it may be as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. You are in danger of educating whoever is with you too much after your order. Let these men work their way, looking constantly to God for guidance, not to yourself. I noticed when any of us addressed the people, you would arise and think you could add something to what was said; and you sometimes talked from ten to thirty minutes to make more plain, in your mind, that which was spoken. I have been shown that you do err here. You do not strengthen the impression, but you weaken it. I have frequently spoken earnestly, and I know under the deep movings of the Spirit of God, and you have thought that the matter was not complete until you should talk from ten to thirty minutes to deepen the impression. This you ought not to have done, for it weakened the impression. I did not want to tell you to sit down, but I thought you ought to have had more wisdom, for you were only darkening counsel by words. 5LtMs, Lt 39a, 1887, par. 4

Now if Brn. Geymet or Badant speaks to the people, they will no doubt make imperfect efforts; but should you get up and supplement their efforts, you leave the matter in your mind in a better shape, but not so in reality. The men must learn as they practice. If they have real errors in doctrine, then out of the desk correct them. If they fail to give clear ideas, they are to be taught to study the subject more perfectly. But if you go about with them and do all the preaching because you think that you can do it better, it is far better for them to go alone and work by themselves, seeking to improve constantly, praying for wisdom and for grace to make improvement. They are to cast all their burden on the Lord. And if they feel no burden and will submit to take discourses from your pen and from your brains, they had far better tarry in Jerusalem until they be imbued with wisdom from on high, and not to look to any living man for the qualifications or endowment. God raised up men in the Reformation and put His Spirit upon them and sent them forth to bear light of truth to others. 5LtMs, Lt 39a, 1887, par. 5