Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 9

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Lt 54, 1894

Olsen, O. A.

Per Ardua, Williams Street, Granville, New South Wales, Australia

June 10, 1894

Portions of this letter are published in 2BC 1004; 5MR 349-350; 6MR 57; 10MR 283-284.

Elder Olsen 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 1

Battle Creek, Michigan 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 2

Dear Brother,

Willie and I rode to Kellyville yesterday and attended the preaching service there. There were forty-one men, women, and children present. I spoke a short time upon the talents which the Lord had entrusted to us as His stewards to be faithfully improved in His service. By use and experience men learn how to do successfully their worldly, temporal business, and in the same way God expected everyone in His service to improve the talents He had entrusted [to them], and to become wise, faithful workmen in spiritual and eternal things. If men exercise the gifts of grace that God has bestowed, they will have grace for grace, and the promise will be fulfilled that they shall be endowed with the Holy Spirit. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 3

At infinite cost provision has been made that men shall reach the perfection of Christian character. Those who have been privileged to hear the truth, and have been impressed by the Holy Spirit to receive the Word of God as the voice of God, have no excuse for becoming dwarfed in religious life. By exercising the ability which God has given, they are to be daily learning, and daily receiving spiritual fervor and power which has been provided for every true believer. If we would be growing plants in the Lord’s garden we must have a constant supply of spiritual life and earnestness. Growth will then be seen in the faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no halfway house where we may throw off responsibility and rest by the way. We are to keep advancing heavenward, developing a solid and religious character. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 4

The measure of the Holy Spirit we receive will be proportionate to the measure of our desire, and the faith exercised for it, and the use we shall make of the light and knowledge that shall be given to us. We shall be entrusted with the Holy Spirit according to our capacity to receive and our ability to impart it to others. Christ says, “Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth.” He who truly seeks for the precious grace of Christ will be sure not to be disappointed. This promise has been given to us by Him who will not deceive us. It is not stated as a maxim or a theory, but as a fact, as a law of the divine government. We can be assured that we shall receive the Holy Spirit if we individually try the experiment of testing God’s Word. God is true, His order is perfect. “He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” [Matthew 7:8.] Light and truth will shine forth according to the desire of the soul. O that all would hunger and thirst after righteousness that they might be filled. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 5

Those men who calculate just how religious exercises should be conducted, and are very precise and methodical in diffusing the light and grace that they seem to have, simply do not have much of the Holy Spirit. If they had more of the Holy Spirit, they would meddle less with the experiences of men who have received this divine gift in large abundance. There is much need of the testimony that was given to Nicodemus. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 6

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [John 3:3.] Nicodemus was astonished as well as indignant at these words. He considered himself not only an intellectual but a pious and religious man. But Christ said again to him, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so (are a few who profess to believe the truth? no.) is everyone that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 7

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” [Verses 7-10.] Nicodemus was unbelieving. He could not harmonize this doctrine of conversion with his understanding of what constituted religion. He could not explain to his own satisfaction the science of conversion, but Jesus showed him by a figure that it could not be explained by any of his precise methods. He pointed out to him the fact that he could not see the wind, yet he could discern its action. He might never be able to explain the process of conversion, but he would be able to discern its effect. He heard the sound of the wind which bloweth where it listeth, and he could see the results of its action. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 8

The operating agency was not revealed to the view, man could not tell whence it came or whither it went. They could not define by what law it was governed but they could see what it produced by its action. No human reasoning of the most learned man could define the operations of the Holy Spirit upon human minds and characters, yet they could see the effects upon the life and actions. The Holy Spirit is a free, working, independent agency. The God of heaven uses His Spirit as it pleases Him, and human minds and human judgment and human methods can no more set boundaries to its workings, or prescribe [as] to [the] channel through which it shall operate, then they can say to the wind, I bid you to blow in a certain direction, and to conduct yourself in such and such a manner. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 9

Though we cannot see the Spirit of God, yet we know that men who have been dead in trespasses and sins, become convicted and converted under its operations. The thoughtless and wayward become serious. The hardened repent of their sins, and the faithless believe. The gambler, the drunkard, the licentious become steady, sober, and pure. The rebellious and obstinate become meek and Christlike. When we see these changes in the character, we may be assured that the converting power of God has transformed the entire man. We saw not the Holy Spirit, but we saw the evidence of its work on the changed character of those who were hardened and obdurate sinners. As the wind moves in its force upon the lofty trees and brings them down, so the Holy Spirit can work upon human hearts, and no finite man can circumscribe the work of God. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 10

The Spirit of God is manifested in different ways upon different men. One under the movings of this power will tremble before the Word of God. His convictions will be so deep that a hurricane and tumult of feeling seems to rage in his heart, and his whole being is prostrate under the convicting power of the truth. When the Lord speaks forgiveness to the repenting soul, he is full of ardor, full of love to God, full of earnestness and energy, and the life-giving spirit which he has received cannot be repressed. Christ is in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. His feelings of love are as deep and ardent as was his distress and agony. His soul is like the fountain of the great deep broken up, and he pours forth his thanksgiving and praise, his gratitude and joy, until the heavenly harps are tuned to notes of rejoicing. He has a story to tell, but not in any precise, common, methodical way. He is a soul ransomed through the merits of Jesus Christ, and his whole being is thrilled with the realization of the salvation of God. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 11

Others are brought to Christ in a more gentle way. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” You cannot see the operating agency, but you can see its effects. When Nicodemus said unto Jesus, “How can these things be?” Jesus said to him, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” [Verses 8-10.] A teacher in Israel, a man among wise men, a man who supposed that he was able to comprehend the science of religion, and yet stumbling at the doctrine of conversion! He was not willing to admit truth, because he could not understand all that was connected with the operation of the power of God, and yet he accepted the facts of nature although he could not explain or even comprehend them. Like others of all ages, he was looking to forms and precise ceremonies as more essential to religion than the deep movements of the Spirit of God. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 12

The very work that Christ declared necessary in the case of Nicodemus is the very work that needs to be done for those men who think that everything pertaining to religion must be done in a precise, methodical way. They need to be born again, and how the new birth is accomplished matters not, so long as the heart is renewed. When the prayer is sincerely offered, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” the voice of the Lord answers, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” [Psalm 51:10;] Ezekiel 36:26, 27. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 13

The renewed heart will have no plants of selfishness to cultivate. Pride will be seen in its sinfulness and will be expelled. It is not for the human clay to find fault with the molding process of the potter, but to submit to be molded in any way. Every soul must submit to the Lord before he can be made a vessel unto honor, to be filled with the renewing, sanctifying grace of Christ. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 14

There are many men in the ministry who need to take home to themselves the words that Christ spoke to Nicodemus. They may regard themselves as expositors of the Scriptures, and yet may make the most simple doctrines of the Bible—the most essential truth, the most practical experience in godliness—a mystery to their hearers. No man, no matter how high his calling or responsibility, can fully understand the Word of God unless he practices that Word in his daily life. If the truth is made practical, then he gives expression in his character to the comfort and peace of God that passeth understanding. A child in years may be able to comprehend the meaning of the practical lessons of Christ when the most learned masters and teachers are ignorant of their significance. “Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” [Matthew 11:25, 26.] 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 15

It is a dangerous thing for men to resist the Spirit of truth and grace and righteousness, because its manifestations are not according to their idea and have not come in the line of their methodical plans. The Lord works in His own way, and according to His own devising. Let men pray that they may be divested of self and may be in harmony with heaven. Let them pray, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” [Luke 22:42.] Let men bear in mind that God’s ways are not their ways, nor His thoughts their thoughts, for He says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 16

In the instruction that the Lord gave Gideon when he was about to fight with the Midianites—that he should go out against his foes with an army of three hundred, blowing trumpets, and carrying empty pitchers in their hands, and shouting, “the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” [Judges 7:16-18]—these precise, methodical, formal men would see nothing but inconsistency and confusion. They would have started back with determined protest and resistance. They would have held long controversies to show the inconsistencies and the dangers that would accompany the carrying on of the warfare in such an extreme way, and in their finite judgments they would have considered all such movements as utterly ridiculous and unreasonable. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 17

How unscientific, how inconsistent, would they have thought the movements of Joshua and his armies at the taking of Jericho! “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.” Joshua 6:1-5. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 18

Where were the scientific methods in this warfare? The Lord works in His own way in order that men shall not lift themselves up in pride of intellect and take the credit and the glory to themselves. The Lord would have every human being understand that his capabilities and endowments are from the Lord. God works by whom He will. He takes those whom He pleases to do His work, and He does not consult those to whom He will send His messenger as to what are their preferences concerning who and what manner of person they would like to bring the message of God to them. God will use men who are willing to be used. The Lord would use men of the highest intelligence if they would permit Him to mold and fashion them, and to shape their testimony after His own order. Men high or low, learned or ignorant, would better let the Lord manage and take care of the safety of His own ark. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 19

The work of men is to obey the voice of God. Whoever has a connection with the work and cause of God is to be continually under the discipline of God. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord that exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23, 24. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 20

There is a great need of taking self in hand when we find ourselves watching to make capital out of the missteps of a brother, a sister, or a friend. Although we do not acknowledge that the object of defaming another is to exalt self, yet self-exaltation is behind the practice of noting the shortcomings of others. Let every soul remember it is best to be on guard and to make straight paths for their feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. None of us are in danger of being too devotional, or of possessing too much Christlikeness of character. The remedy for unlikeness to Christ, for giving occasion for your good to be evil spoken of, is to live humbly, to keep looking unto Jesus in prayerful watchfulness until changed into the likeness of His beautiful character. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 21

Truly convicted souls cannot be satisfied with forms, maxims, and traditions. The cry of the soul must be, “Give me the bread of life, lift up a full cup to my parched, spiritual nature, that I may be revived and refreshed. But do not intrude and interpose yourself between me and my Redeemer. Let me see Him as my helper, as the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Thou, O Lord, must be my helper. Thou wast wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities, the chastisement of my peace was upon thee, and with thy stripes I am healed.” 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 22

Christ was crucified for our sins, and was raised from the rent sepulchre for our justification, and He proclaims in triumph, “I am the resurrection and the life.” [John 11:25.] Jesus lives as our intercessor to plead before the Father. He has carried the sins of the whole world and has not made one mortal man a sin-bearer for others. No man can bear the weight of his own sins. The crucified One bore them all, and every soul who believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 23

The disciple of Christ will be fitted by His grace for every trial and test as he strives for perfection of character. By looking away from Jesus to some other one or to something else, he may sometimes make mistakes, but as soon as he is warned of his danger, he again fastens his eyes upon Jesus in whom his hope of eternal life is centered, and he plants his feet in the footprints of his Lord and travels on securely. He rejoices, saying, “He is my living intercessor before God. He prays in my behalf. He is my advocate, and clothes me with the perfection of His own righteousness. He is all I need to enable me to bear the cross, to endure shame and reproach for His dear name’s sake. If He permits me to endure persecution, He will give me more grace and the comfort of His presence, so that His name shall thereby be glorified.” 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 24

There are souls famishing for the bread of life, thirsting for the waters of salvation, and woe unto that man who by pen or voice shall turn them aside into false paths. The Spirit of God is appealing to men, presenting to them their moral obligation to love and serve Him with heart, might, mind, and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. The Holy Spirit moves upon the inner self until it becomes conscious of the divine power of God, and every spiritual faculty is quickened to decided action. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” [John 14:16.] A deep, thorough work is to be wrought in the soul, which the world cannot see. Those who know not what it is to have an experience in the things of God, who know not what it is to be justified by faith, who have not the witness of the Spirit that they are accepted of Jesus Christ, are in need of being born again. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8.] 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 25

What can the world know of Christian experience? Verily nothing. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” The great Teacher explained this instruction, saying, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” [John 6:53, 63.] 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 26

In this age the Word of God is not considered reliable. The Word of Christ that cuts directly across human desires and indulgences and condemned popular habits and practices, that Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us, is ignored and despised. The teachings and example of Christ are not made the criterion for the life of the professed follower of Christ. Many who name the name of Christ are walking in the light of the sparks of their own kindling rather than following in the footsteps of Him whom they profess to acknowledge as their professed Master. They do not represent the same character that Christ represented in His pure, sincere love to God and His love for fallen man. They do not take God at His word and identify their interests with those of Jesus Christ. They do not form the habit of communing with Jesus, of taking Him as a guide and counselor, and thus learn the trade of living a well-defined, Christian life. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 27

Those who not only hear but do the words of Christ make manifest in character the operation of the Holy Spirit. The result of His internal action is demonstrated in the outward conduct. The life of the Christian is hid with Christ in God, and God acknowledges those who are His, declaring, “Ye are my witnesses.” [Isaiah 43:10.] They testify that divine power is influencing their hearts and shaping their conduct. Their works give evidence that the spirit is moving upon the inward man. Those who are associated with them are convinced that they are making Jesus Christ their pattern. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 28

Those who are in connection with God are channels for the power of the Holy Spirit. If one who daily communes with God errs from the path, if he turns a moment from looking steadfastly unto Jesus, it is not because he sins willfully, for when he sees his mistake, he turns again and fastens his eyes upon Jesus, and the fact that he has erred does not make him less dear to the heart of God. He knows that he has communion with the Saviour, and when reproved for his mistake in some matter of judgment, he does not walk sullenly and complain of God, but turns the mistake into a victory. He learns a lesson from the words of the Master and takes heed that he be not again deceived. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 29

Those who truly love God have internal evidence that they are beloved of God, that they have communion with Christ, that their hearts are warmed with fervent love toward Him. The truth for this time is believed with sound confidence. They can say with all assurance, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of His Majesty ... We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:16-19. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 30

The inner life of the soul will reveal itself in the outward conduct, Let the Word of God bear its testimony in behalf of the messenger whom God hath sent with a message in these last days to prepare a people to stand in the day of the Lord. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” Isaiah 52:7. The wisdom of so-called intellectual men cannot be relied upon unless they have learned, and are daily learning, lessons in the school of Christ. Men in their supposed wisdom may plan and devise theories and systems of philosophy, but the Lord calls them vain and foolish. The Lord says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” [1 Corinthians 1:25.] “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” [Galatians 6:14.] 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 31

No one has been created in Christ Jesus for mere self-enjoyment. He who lives to himself is not a Christian; for self-denial and cross-bearing are the portion of every true follower of Christ. We have been bought with a price in order that we may render willing service to our Master. Every hour that we have failed to acknowledge Christ as our personal Saviour, we have robbed God: for Christ purchased us by the ransom of His own blood. The Christian cannot serve the world, or yield to the claims of any power, relation or society that will make him deny Christ, dishonor God, and prove disloyal to His holy law. The Christian is to surrender himself unreservedly to God as His purchased possession. God claims him for Himself and will impart to the believer special favors, enabling him to be complete in Christ, more than conqueror through Him that hath loved him. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 32

After I had finished speaking, Willie spoke to the point with much feeling. An opportunity was then given for a social meeting. The people have not been educated to bear their testimonies as they should have been, although the Lord has been pleased to give much light upon this matter. There has been altogether too much preaching, and not enough pains taken to educate those who have newly come to the faith to speak and to pray and to learn how to do service for the Master. This kind of work is of far greater importance than is frequent preaching. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 33

It is a mistake for the preacher to do all the speaking. He should do faithful labor to teach the people who have not had an experience to learn how to speak, to learn how to pray in such a way that they may improve week by week. We have found in Parramatta and in Kellyville that work along this line has not been thoroughly done. We have had to bear very straight testimony and do much earnest labor in order that the people should realize that they must individually act their part. The minister who does all the talking is not doing his duty as a faithful minister of Christ. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 34

Last Sabbath Brother Starr tried to teach them how to be witnesses for the Lord, but only a few spoke. The elder of the church had never borne testimony. Brother Starr called upon several, asking them to say a few words. The Brethren Firth who have lately been persecuted for Sunday labor, could not be moved upon to rise up and speak. This Sabbath I had a message for them all, and these brothers did speak. Fifteen testimonies were borne besides Willie’s and mine. We had a most precious meeting. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 35

Since we came to Granville, Brother Armstrong has taken his position with his wife, who accepted the truth months before, and there is another, whose wife has been a Sabbathkeeper ever since the tent was pitched in Castle Hill, who is now keeping the Sabbath, but is not firmly established. Brother and Sister Starr and Brother McCullagh and myself visited and prayed with Brother Whiteman’s family, and the family of Brother Radly. All were at the meeting in Kellyville, and I was so glad we went. These two families had to go ten miles to come to the meeting. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 36

Some of the people of Castle Hill are calling for us to come and hold meetings in a large chamber above a store, and I think we shall soon go there. The interest here has been of such a character that we could not leave Parramatta before. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 37

After meeting, Willie and I started on our journey back to Granville. We let the horse move on slowly while we ate the lunch we brought with us. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the country scenery very much. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 38

This afternoon I spoke in the Masonic Hall. We had a good congregation. I spoke upon the subject of temperance, and all listened with deep interest. Several outsiders expressed their satisfaction in the sentiments that had been expressed, and a fine looking lady inquired if I would speak Monday afternoon upon the same subject in the Women’s Christian Temperance Meeting. I told her I would if they invited me to. She said, “I am a stranger here. I live in Victoria.” 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 39

Elder Corliss will speak in the same hall tonight on the subject of religious liberty. 9LtMs, Lt 54, 1894, par. 40