Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 6

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Lt 34, 1889

Brethren and Sisters in Battle Creek

Battle Creek, Michigan

January 4, 1889

Portions of this letter are published in 1MCP 38; 5T 642-650.

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

I have heard of the good work that has been going on among you, and it rejoices my heart. Since coming to Battle Creek, my mind has been much exercised in regard to the church here. During the Week of Prayer the Lord wrought for us, and there has continued to be a steady, well-balanced interest in all of our institutions. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 1

Meetings have been held in the college with marked success. There have been several conversions from the world. These conversions were the more striking because the individuals had had no religious experience before coming to the college, and some of them were determined not to put themselves in the channel of light by attending the meetings. But they did attend, and the Spirit of the Lord took hold upon them, and they were soundly converted. They say they were never so happy in their lives as now. Several have gone home to spend the holidays. Their parents are not professors of religion, and their faith will be severely tested. But good letters come back, stating that they are lifting their new responsibilities and trying to show their friends that the new faith and doctrine they have received has not made them fanatics or extremists, but well balanced Christians, better in every way than before their conversion, that they possess the principles of pure faith and love to God and their fellow neighbors and manifest them by well-ordered lives and godly conversation. This good work in College has been a source of great rejoicing to all. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 2

We have had early morning meetings for the helpers at the [Battle Creek] Sanitarium for three weeks at half past five. I have spoken on these occasions with good results, and I have also spoken to the patients several times. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 3

We have had meetings with the workers in the Review office at noon. Here the Lord has been manifestly at work. Men who have professed the truth for years and yet have never seemed to have any warmth of soul have been visited by the Spirit of the Lord, and you should hear their heartfelt testimonies of the precious love of God in their souls. Some of them say they were never converted before. How grateful I am for these tokens of good. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 4

Meetings have been held at the [Battle Creek] Tabernacle twice each day for two weeks, and the message presented has taken hold of hearts. The testimonies borne have had the right ring. I am thankful to the Lord for this good work. We have also had some special meetings at the tabernacle. This church being large, after calling them forward for prayers Sabbath afternoon (the last Sabbath of the old year), we had those who felt that they must make confessions go into the vestry, and here a special opportunity was given them. I had spoken on the last chapter of Malachi, “Will a man rob God?” Malachi 3:8. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10. Confessions were made on this point. Many had been robbing God, and they confessed this. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 5

Some had not dealt honestly with their neighbors, and these sins were confessed, and the restitution has since been made. During the following week, some who had not been dealing justly with God and consequently had been separating themselves from Him began to make restitution. One brother had not paid tithe for two years. He gave his note to the secretary of the conference for the tithe he had withheld and the interest on it to the sum of $571.50. I thank the Lord that he had the courage to do this. A sister gave her note for $300.00. A brother who has backslidden from God so far that but little hope was cherished that he would ever turn his feet into the path of righteousness again gave his note for $1,000.00. It has been proposed that these long-withheld tithes and offerings be devoted to the Central European Mission. So with these and the Christmas donations, the sum of nearly $6,000.00 has come into the treasury from this church to be applied to the missionary cause. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 6

Every soul who lives by faith in Christ desires no other or greater good than to know and do the will of God. It is God’s will that faith in Christ shall be made perfect by works. He connects the salvation and eternal life of those who believe and through these works provides for the light of truth to go to all countries and lands and people. This is the fruit of the work of the Spirit of God. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 7

The truth has taken hold of hearts. It is not a fitful impulse but a true turning unto the Lord, and the perverse wills of men are being brought into subjection to the will of God. To rob God in tithes and offerings is a violation of the plain injunction of Jehovah and is working the deepest injury to those who do it, for it deprives them of the blessing of God which is promised to those who deal honestly and truly with Him. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 8

We have found in our experience that if Satan cannot keep souls bound in the ice of indifference, he will try to push them into the fire of fanaticism. When the Spirit of the Lord comes among His people, the enemy seizes his opportunity to work also upon different minds and lead them to mingle their own peculiar traits of character with the work of God. Thus there is always danger that they may allow their own spirit to mingle with the work and that unwise moves may be made. Many carry on a work of their own devising that is not prompted by God. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 9

But as far as the work has gone here in Battle Creek, there has been no fanaticism. We have felt the need of guarding it on every hand with greatest care, for if the enemy can push individuals to extremes, he is well pleased. He can do greater harm than if there had been no religious awakening. We know that there has never yet been a religious awakening effort made but that Satan has tried his best to intrude himself, and this will be done in these last days as never before. He sees that his time is short, and he will work “with all deceivableness of unrighteousness” [2 Thessalonians 2:10] to mingle errors and incorrect views with the work of God and push men to false positions. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 10

I have been shown that in many of our religious awakenings mistakes have been made in regard to confession. While confession is good for the soul, there is need to move wisely. I have been shown that there were many, many confessions which should never be spoken in the ears of mortals, for the result is that which the limited judgment of finite beings does not anticipate. Seeds of evil are scattered which will lodge in minds and hearts and under temptation will spring up and bear fruit, and the same thing will be repeated in the experience of others. These sins, thinks the tempted one, cannot be so very grievous, for did not this man or that woman, Christians of long standing, do these very things? Thus the open confession in the church of these secret sins will prove a savor of death rather than life. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 11

There should be no reckless, wholesale movements in this matter, for the cause of God may be made disreputable in the eyes of unbelievers. If they hear confession of base conduct made by those who profess to be followers of Christ, a reproach is brought on His cause. If Satan could by any means spread the impression that Seventh-day Adventists are the offscouring of all things, he would be glad to do it. God forbid that he should have the occasion. God will be better glorified if we confess the secret, inbred corruption of the heart to Jesus alone than if we open its recesses to finite man, erring man, who cannot judge righteously unless his heart is constantly imbued with the Spirit of God. God knows the heart and every secret of the soul; then do not pour into human ears the story which God alone should hear. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 12

There are confessions of a nature that should be brought before a select few and acknowledged by the sinner in the deepest humility. The matter must not be conducted in such a way that vice shall be construed into virtue and the sinner made proud of his evil doings. If there are things of a debasing nature that should come before the church, let them be brought before a few proper persons selected to hear them, and do not put the cause of Christ to open shame by publishing abroad the hypocrisy that has existed in the church. It would cast reflection upon those who had tried to be Christlike in character. These things should be considered. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 13

Then there are confessions that the Lord has bidden us to make to one another. If you have wronged your brother by word or deed, you are “first to be reconciled to thy brother” [Matthew 5:24] before your worship will be acceptable to heaven. Confess to those whom you have injured and make restitution, bringing forth fruit meet for repentance. If anyone has feelings of bitterness, wrath, or malice towards a brother, let him go to him personally, confess his sin, and seek forgiveness. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 14

From Christ’s manner of dealing with the erring, we may learn profitable lessons which are equally applicable to this work of confession. We are to go to the one who has fallen into temptation and labor with him alone. If it is not possible to help him because of the darkness of his mind and his separation from God, we are to try again with two or three others. If the wrong is not righted, then, and then only, are we to tell it to the church. It is far better if a wrong can be righted, the injury healed, without the whole church hearing of the matter. The church is not to be made the receptacle for the outpouring of every complaint or confession. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 15

I recognize, on the other hand, the danger of yielding to the temptation to conceal sin or to compromise with it and thus act the hypocrite. Be sure that the confession fully covers the influence of the wrong committed, that no duty to God, to your neighbor, or to the church is left undone, and then you may lay hold on Christ with confidence, expecting His blessing. But the question of how and to whom sins should be confessed is one that demands careful, prayerful study. We must consider it from all points, weighing it before God and seeking divine illumination. We should inquire whether by confessing publicly in the church the sins of which we have been guilty will do good or harm. Will it show forth the praises of Him who hath called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light”? [1 Peter 2:9.] Will it help to purify the minds of the people, or will the open revelation of the deceptions practiced in denying the truth have an after influence which will contaminate other minds and destroy confidence in all Christians? 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 16

We have not the wisdom of God and the constant enlightenment from the Source of all power that would make it safe for us to follow impulses or impressions. In our experience we have seen this done, not only to the destruction of those who acted upon this principle but [also] of many others who came under their influence. The wildest extravagance was the result of this impulsive work. A declension in faith followed, and unbelief and scepticism became strong in proportion to the extreme religious excitement. The work that is not wrought in God comes to naught as soon as the excitement is over. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 17

There is power and permanency in what the Lord does, whether He works by human instrumentality or otherwise. The progress and perfection of the work of grace in the heart is not dependent upon excitement or extravagant demonstrations. Hearts that are under the influence of the Spirit of God will be in sweet harmony with His will. I have been shown that when the Lord works by His Holy Spirit, there will be nothing in its operations which will degrade the Lord’s people before the world, but it will exalt them. The religion of Christ does not make those who profess it coarse and rough, and the subjects of grace are not unteachable, but ever willing to learn of Jesus and to counsel with one another. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 18

What we learn in humility and meekness of the Great Teacher of truth will not be flashy or savor of self-sufficiency but will be enduring, and the work that we do will be healthful and wholesome, pure and ennobling, because wrought in God. Those who thus work will show in their home life and in their associations with men that they have the mind of Christ. Grace and truth will reign in their hearts, inspiring and purifying their motives and controlling the outward actions. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 19

I hope none will obtain the idea that they are earning the favor of God by confession of sins or that there is a special virtue in confessing to human beings. There must be in the experience that faith that works by love and purifies the soul. The love of Christ will subdue the carnal propensities. The truth that is able to save souls not only bears upon itself the evidence of the divine origin but also proves that the grace of God’s Spirit is the vivifying power which renders it effectual in the purification of the soul. The Lord would have us come to Him daily with all our confessions of sin and troubles, and He can give us rest in wearing His yoke and bearing His burdens. His Holy Spirit with its gracious influence will fill the soul, and every thought will be brought into subjection to obedience to Christ. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 20

Now I am fearful that by some error on your part the blessing of God which has come to you will be turned into a curse. The failure that many make is that after they have been blessed of God, they do not, in the humility of Christ, seek to be a blessing to others. I entreat you to walk humbly with God, do the works of Christ, and bring forth much fruit unto righteousness. I do hope and pray that you will act like sons and daughters of the Most High and not become extremists or do anything that shall grieve the Spirit of God. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 21

I greatly fear that some false ideas will be obtained so that you will be in a worse condition in a few months than before this work of revival. If you do not keep your souls guarded, you will appear in the worst possible light to unbelievers. God would not be glorified with this fitful kind of service. Be careful not to carry matters to extremes and thus bring lasting reproach upon the precious cause of God. Think candidly and intelligently in regard to the after results of your publicly confessed sins, both small and great, to poor, finite man, who is in no way able to bear this burden and manage it discreetly. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 22

Do not look to men or hang your hopes upon them, feeling that they are infallible, but look to Jesus constantly. Say nothing that would cast a reproach upon our faith. Confess your secret sins alone before your God. Acknowledge your heart wanderings to Him who knows perfectly how to treat your case. If you have wronged your neighbor, acknowledge to him your sin and show fruit of the same by making restitution. Then claim the blessing. Come to God just as you are, and let Him heal all your infirmities. Press your case to the throne of grace. Let the work be thorough. Be sincere in dealing with God and your own soul. If you come to Him with a heart truly contrite, He will give you the victory. Then you may bear a sweet testimony of freedom, showing “forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” [Verse 9.] He will not misapprehend or misjudge you. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 23

Your fellow men cannot absolve you from sin or cleanse you from iniquity. Jesus is the only One who can give you rest and peace. He loved you, and gave Himself for you. His great heart of love is “touched with the feelings of your infirmities.” [Hebrews 4:15.] What sins are too great for Him to pardon, what soul too dark and sin oppressed for Him to save? He is gracious, not looking for merit in us, but of His own boundless goodness healing our backslidings and loving us freely while we are yet sinners. He is slow to anger and of great kindness, long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 24

Do not seek to get wound up to a high pitch of excitement, but go to work for others and patiently instruct them. You will be inclined now to conjecture that everyone has a load of evil things to confess, and you will be in danger of making this the point of attack. You will want to bring everyone over the same ground you have been over, and you will feel that nothing can be done until all have gone through the same work of confession. You will not be disposed to take up helping others with the Spirit of God resting upon you, and your own hearts subdued and softened by the deep work of cleansing. You will be in great danger of marring the work of God by exercising your own spirits. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 25

If you work for souls with humble, trustful dependence upon God; if the radiance of His Spirit is reflected from you in a Christlike character; if sympathy, kindness, forbearance, and love are abiding principles in your life, you will be a blessing to all around you. There will be no reining up of others to meet your ideas. You will not criticize or manifest a harsh, denunciatory spirit, but the love of Jesus and the peaceable fruits of righteousness will be revealed in you. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 26

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. ... And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, let us not be desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” [Galatians 5:22-26.] 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 27

The enemy will seek to intrude himself right amid your religious exercises. Every avenue will need to be faithfully guarded, lest selfishness and pride shall become interwoven in your work. If self has really been crucified with the affections and lusts, the fruit will appear in good works to the glory of God. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 28

I beg you, in the fear of God, not to let the work degenerate. Be consistent, symmetrical Christians. Certainly, when the heart has given its affections to Christ, all old things have passed away, and all things become new. Our religion must be intelligent. The wisdom from above must strengthen, stablish, and settle us. We must go on and on, forward and upward, from light to still greater light, and God will reveal His glory to us as He doth not to the world. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 29

Yesterday, Sabbath, January 5, the Lord gave us the best meeting that we have had in the tabernacle at Battle Creek. The Lord blessed me with a large measure of His Holy Spirit. The congregation was greatly moved. In the afternoon we had a social meeting. There were 185 testimonies borne, short and right to the point. Many souls have a new conversion, and such uplifting testimonies I have seldom heard in my life. There is deep moving of the Spirit of God. There sat men with their faces shining with the brightness of the Sun of Righteousness. Oh, the Lord is good, and I am thankful to see His work advancing. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 30

May the Lord help you to accept this letter of caution and warning and give you the wisdom of a serpent, and the harmlessness of a dove. Let not Satan exult over the people of God through their own want of discretion and of the wisdom of Christ. Let your hearts be filled with Christ’s meekness and His love, and all will be well. 6LtMs, Lt 34, 1889, par. 31