Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 7 (1891-1892)


Lt 17, 1891

Irwin, G. A.

Harbor Springs, Michigan

July 20, 1891

Portions of this letter are published in 3SM 54-55; 4MR 63; 12MR 40-41. +Note

Dear Brother Irwin,

Your letter and your wife’s were received in due time, and this is my first opportunity to answer you. In regard to the introduction to you, as near as I can remember I should have said that the first knowledge I had of you was from Brother Underwood. I inquired, I think, who you were, and he told me your name. When I wrote to you, I thought I had had an introduction. These little particulars are not all clear in my mind. Meeting so many, and being introduced to so many, one would need to have an immortal mind to retain all such particulars. I accept your statement and acknowledge that instead of an introduction to you I was, through inquiry, told your name. I was also told the names of others whose appearance struck me as if I had seen them before. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 1

You seem to feel much aggrieved that I would listen to Elder Rice and then refuse to see you and hear your statements. I was much surprised at seeing Elder Rice. Had I known his errand, I would have refused to listen to him. He began to relate some things in regard to matters in Ohio. I had not strength to hear him and told him that I had come to Petoskey to escape these difficulties and trials, and find peace and rest. He continued talking, however, even while I was standing, my brain and nerves taxed to the extent of my power to endure. I knew it was not courteous in me, but I could not ask him to stay to eat with us. I did not ask him to come again. I told him it was not proper to bring these troublesome matters before me, and throw disagreeable burdens upon my soul, when I was trying to get away from just such things. I advised him to go to some of our responsible men instead of burdening me. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 2

The thought that I might have to present things which I knew existed, to reprove the familiarity which has been so often presented before our people as sinful, made me sick at heart. My soul was pressed as a cart beneath sheaves. It was not like me to show no gladness at seeing one who came so far to meet me and to let him go away without asking him to eat with us. It hurt me to do this. These things place me in very unhappy positions. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 3

I told Elder Rice my condition, worn in mind and suffering from pain in my head and heart; it was impossible for me to hear him through. For weeks I had been threatened with paralysis. I told him that the least information of anything like too much freedom and familiarity on the part of others in their association was so painful to me that I could scarcely endure it, for confessions were coming to me from different persons, telling of their imprudence, how they had ventured into temptation, fearing no evil, until they had fallen into sin, and begging me to tell them how to make things right. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 4

I said then that I would gather together all the articles of recent date that I had written on this subject and send them to every church in the land. By my direction, my secretary hunted up the articles which have not been published and sent them to Elder Rice. When she questioned as to whom she should send them, I said, I do not know; if you send them to Brother Irwin, they will go no farther, and I shall be responsible if the same things are repeated in the mission. I know not to whom the letters were finally directed, but think that they were sent to Elder Rice with a request that you should have them or read them. I designed that the church should be warned, or they needed these very cautions and warnings. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 5

My health did not improve after this experience. I could not write on The Life of Christ, and went to the camp meeting in northern Michigan. I suffered much from pain in my heart, and my secretary said, “If others come to see you, they will not have the chance till I interview them and learn what they have to say. No more burdens of this character are to come on you.” About that time your letter came, soliciting an interview. I had no hesitancy in answering you as I did, knowing that I was not able to see you or to hear anything more of this matter. I dare not imperil my life by a relation of matters which have been so painful to me. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 6

I have been urged by the Spirit of the Lord to fully warn our people in regard to the undue familiarity of married men with women, and women with men. This lovesick sentimentalism existed in the mission at Cleveland before you were connected with it. I was shown you with others, manifesting the same; whether this was in the past or the future I cannot say, for often things are presented to me long before the circumstances take place. I wrote out that which I had seen, but could not find the matter when I wished to send it and therefore had to re-write it. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 7

When Elder Rice came to me with his burden, I knew that the enemy had arranged matters so that what I might say in reference to the dangers threatening the mission would have but little force. When I am moved by the Spirit of God to give reproofs, many are ready to say, “Someone has told her all the circumstances to which she refers; that which she has written is from hearsay.” However great may be the error or sin of those who have been led astray in this matter of improper familiarity, it is too often the case that they do not sorrow because of their own weakness and defects, because of their lack of spirituality and devotion to God, but they complain that their case has not been dealt with in a manner to suit them, or to save them from embarrassment. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 8

The question with you, my brother, should be, “Have I, in my course of action, given occasion for my good to be evil spoken of? Have I abstained from the very appearance of evil? Have I grieved the Spirit of God? Have I, in my position of responsibility, made straight paths for my feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way? How stands my case as God views it?” If Elder Rice has manifested imprudence, a lack of judgment in his use of the message I have sent, he must answer to the Lord for this. I shall not be accountable for his sins or his want of wisdom. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 9

Every phase of this bewitching spirit of familiarity, this breaking down of the reserve and modesty that should exist between men and women, is Satanic in its origin and its workings. It is Satan’s snare, his delusion. The trouble is with the heart. Unless the soul that has been once tainted with this power is truly converted, he will pass over the same ground again, and will be less able to withstand the devices of the devil. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 10

The more our faith fastens and feeds on Christ, the more peace and confidence we shall have. The more we contemplate the unseen realities of the eternal world, and the more we by faith and hope enter into the city of God, walk through its streets, survey its glorious mansions, listen to the praises that ascend to God and the Lamb, the less will be our danger of being led astray, the less shall we desire human flattery or praise. The reason why we are so weak and have so little sense of true propriety of conduct is that our minds dwell so little upon heavenly realities. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 11

The only way to displace every earthly object that would absorb our thoughts and affections is to have the mind weighted and balanced with things that are superior, even the eternal realities. Let the mind contemplate the great design of God in giving the rich and abundant promises of His Word to charm, to captivate, the human heart, so that the common and earthly things that naturally arrest the attention might appear as dross in comparison with the excellence of those things that are eternal. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 12

You feel grieved because I refused to bid you come to Petoskey. One came without asking; if he had asked, I should have said decidedly, No; I am not able to see you. I plainly laid before this brother my state of health, and he should then have said no more upon the matters that he came to present. But after he had talked a while, I knew that I was unable both physically and mentally to endure any further strain and told him I could hear no more. You have charged me with partiality. Cannot you see that your coming would only burden me? 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 13

Neither you nor your brethren can discern the true state of ... [four pages missing] ... escape some of them. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 14

But my brother, if I have refused you an interview, it was because I was at the time engaged upon matters which could not be deferred, preparing articles for publication to meet a pressing necessity, or I have had burdens to bear in meeting, which were all I could possibly endure. During the conference I was suffering pain and distress. Every day I had to fight the fight of faith. I could not engage in conversation with anyone unless compelled to do this; there were important matters at stake which could not be neglected. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 15

All I can say is, I did all that was possible for me to do. I worked hours while others were sleeping: I visited all I could out of meeting, I bore the heaviest burden for souls. It is this hard labor that has enfeebled me, making it impossible for me to write upon the life of Christ. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 16

My mind is so weary, my powers all the time so overworked, that I have little physical or mental strength. How little my brethren, who are so ready to judge me, know of my trials and conflicts. To do that which I understand to be the will of God, to subdue unbelief, to walk by faith, when my condition of health is so precarious and my life seems to be hanging in the balance through heart weakness—inability to take one free breath—all this requires a struggle that few can appreciate. No one but the Lord knows the steps I take when every advance step seems an impossibility. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 17

One year ago I visited Petoskey for the sake of being where I could not see so many things to be done. I had designed to remain until cold weather compelled me to leave. But there came a pressing request for labor which I could not disregard. Knowing my interest in California and my repeated requests that help should be given to that state, the General Conference Committee had this proposition to lay before me: Elder Olsen and Elder Durland would attend the California meeting if W. C. White and his mother would attend the important meetings to be held in the eastern states, where these brethren had purposed to go. No time was given me to consider the matter. I must at once telegraph yes or no. I answered, Yes. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 18

For three months I labored as earnestly as ever before in my life and was blessed of the Lord. In Washington, D. C., I worked too hard, but felt such intense interest that I could not forbear. After attending the round of meetings that had been planned, another four weeks’ work was laid out before me. These included meetings at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and Syracuse, New York. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 19

The meeting at Mt. Vernon was appointed in response to requests from yourself and others. I do not always answer such requests at once, because about four ways equally important present themselves. I cannot say no, and I dare not say yes until I see the providence of God indicating the route I should take. I had written letters to the effect that I would attend meetings on this line. But suddenly heart failure came upon me. These attacks come very unexpectedly, and it appeared that I could not live. No human power could give me relief; the Lord alone could restore me. Our friends in Washington were alarmed, and by their counsel we started at once for Battle Creek. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 20

During that journey the threatening peril passed away, and upon reaching Battle Creek I learned why I had not been permitted to complete the round of meetings. Brethren in Battle Creek were praying that the Lord would send me there, for my testimony was needed at that time. The Lord laid upon me special burdens, which I carried until the conference, and all through the conference. I suffered great pain of the heart much of the time, but heeded it not; there was work to be done, and I must do it irrespective of suffering. I could sleep but a few hours at night. This constant burden has remained upon me ever since. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 21

After the visit of Elder Rice at Petoskey, I attended the Northern Michigan camp meeting and labored hard. In consequence of a death trap (an out-house) on the premises where I made my home during the meeting, I had an attack of malaria soon after my return and was unable to think or write. When your letter came soliciting an interview, I could not say, Come. I knew it would be at the risk of my life. I said, “Spare me.” I say again, Spare me these unnecessary burdens. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 22

If my brethren would be circumspect in their course of action, as they must be if they ever see the kingdom of heaven, if they would not enter into temptation, I should not be compelled to devote time, distressing thought, and labor which cuts to my very soul—disagreeable in the highest sense—to unfolding to them their danger, and as a faithful watchman giving them warning. The time devoted to these painful duties might be given to the salvation of souls that are ready to perish. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 23

Christ said to the Pharisees who were constantly complaining of Him, “The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.” [Matthew 18:11.] Will those who have had the truth, who know the requirements of God, keep the way of the Lord so that my work may be of a different character? Will they make reproof and warnings necessary for their souls’ salvation because they do not heed the light the Lord has been giving us in His Word and in the testimonies? These instructions they will read and appropriate to themselves if they have a settled purpose, as had Daniel, not to defile themselves. Will brethren make it a painful necessity for me to write to them things grievous to my own soul and then feel ill-treated and abused because they do not discern in their case the danger and depths of the working of Satan? They find fault with the message and the messenger, they pity and sympathize with themselves. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 24

God is working to save them, the Lord Jesus is knocking at the door of their hearts, the True Witness is saying to them, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm—and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear: and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent.” [Revelation 3:15-19.] 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 25

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” [Verses 20-22.] Will the church hear? Will its members understand the message Christ has given? Will they cease to walk in the counsel of their own hearts, and heed what the Lord shall speak unto them? 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 26

Your course has not been right before God. If Brother and Sister Rice have done wrong, go and talk with them and see if matters cannot be adjusted. I cannot say that it is his duty to remain at the mission. I cannot say that God would have you remain there after showing such manifest weakness in the face of reproofs and warnings. “I know thy work: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” [Verse 8.] 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 27

Do not appeal to your own sympathies; do not dwell upon what Brother Rice has done or has neglected to do. Humble your own heart before God. You are not to sit in judgment upon the case of others until you show greater wisdom in making straight paths for your own feet. You may say, “Does Sister White think me all bad?” No, I do not; but one blot upon the character, one sin unconfessed and unrepented of, will close for you the gates of the city of God. You had light, you had knowledge, but did not choose to appropriate it. It meant someone else, not you. I love your soul, and I beseech you not to be deceived, but to see that you must follow the Lord with undivided heart. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 28

The Saviour chose Judas, not because he was perfect in character, but notwithstanding his defects; He would give him the advantage of His own lessons of godliness, His own perfect and righteous example, that he might choose the beauty of holiness. Judas was always thinking that he would reform, but then he thought that his good qualities would counterbalance his hereditary and cultivated traits that were evil. I write these particulars to you because you have had so many temptations, so many jealous thoughts, and so great misunderstanding of me and my work. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 29

All the time I am forced to give to perplexing matters requiring reproof is so much [time] taken from the very work the Lord would have me do. I am perplexed, distressed, and fearfully afraid for the souls of some who have had light and evidence but do not appropriate the same. They are erecting barriers that prevent me from doing the work I should attend to. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 30

Now the General Conference has requested that I go to Australia this fall. I came to Petoskey to be free to write, but letters have followed me here, and I have had to answer them. The long letters that are called out from me are a heavy tax, though not so severe as conversation. I have as yet spent less than three weeks this summer in writing on the life of Christ. I feel that this book should be completed before I go to Australia, yet the people there have been for years pleading and entreating for me to bear my testimony to them. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 31

And my brethren and sisters in America who have long had the light will, if the testimonies do not agree with their ideas, sit in judgment upon the message and the messenger as you have done. In their own eyes their judgment is sufficient. God pity His people, for the time will come when they will desire a vision from the Lord and will not have it. They have shaped their course according to their own understanding; but not according to the teaching and character of Christ, which is the only standard of righteousness. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 32

I now leave this matter with you, and I beseech you not to excuse yourself in your too great familiarity with Sister Swift or any other woman. Not only do you blind your own eyes, but you become a blind leader of the blind. I am sorry for Sister Swift; it is evident that she has not that high standard of womanly dignity and circumspect deportment that would make her safe under trial and temptation. I know the danger, having had it presented before me so often. There is not one semblance of excuse for you or for her, and your wife has not done her duty to either of you. If Brother Rice and his wife have not conducted themselves as Christians, they must answer to God for this; but whatever their conduct, it cannot lessen your sin in the least particular. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 33

Those who claim to believe the Bible should live in accordance with its teaching, and thus be doers of the Word of God. The Scriptures enforce the highest morality. They present moral and social duties; they teach self-denial, and all true believers in the Bible will practice self-denial. There is a positive necessity that in every phase of human life those who claim to believe sacred truths should practice what they believe and teach to others. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 34

The disciples of Jesus practiced His teachings. Jesus said of some that they did not believe in Him; He knew all such, they became offended at His sayings and left Him. These are mentioned as exceptional cases. They became the bitterest persecutors of Jesus. But as a rule the disciples of Christ conformed to the teachings that they gave to others. They practiced the lessons that were enjoined, and taught others to do the same. With all true believers there must be an utter disregard of selfish considerations. Their works, their behavior, must give no occasion for any to speak evil of them. Propriety of deportment, honesty, industry, deep piety, must be revealed in life and character. The truth we seek to advance must be substantiated by both precept and example. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 35

I would warn you, my brother, to make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. I love your soul, but I hate every semblance of conduct in you that would make you and those associated with you spiritually weak. Beware of anything that will lower your ideas as to what constitutes correct deportment, so that a departure from purity will be regarded as of no special consequence. 7LtMs, Lt 17, 1891, par. 36