Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 9 (1894)


Ms 100, 1894

Danger of Men Usurping the Place of God


December 17, 1894 [typed]

Previously unpublished.

The work to be done in this country must not be left at loose ends. Churches must be organized, and humble houses of worship must be built. After earnestly seeking counsel of God in regard to the selection of men, deacons and elders must be appointed. Paul writes, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” [1 Peter 5:1-4.] 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 1

There is an important work to be done in relation to the sheep and the lambs of God’s pasture. No vestige of selfishness, no dictatorial spirit, no lording it over God’s heritage, is to be manifested. Those who are placed as elders and deacons should always feel the responsibility that rests upon them and walk in humility and meekness. If they fail to do this, they will have a growing sense of their own importance, will be filled with assumption, and undertake the generalship of those placed under their charge. They will even prescribe the little particulars in the routine of their labors and dictate courses of action for them to follow that circumstances would not admit. Every worker in the moral vineyard should pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and believe that he will be thus guided. Let the worker for God present the promise of God. The Lord says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” [James 1:5.] 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 2

The Lord has not said that His workers shall make no move until they have sent to the president of the General Conference to ask his advice. The president may be traveling in foreign countries and far from the scene of operation, and the business to be done may be of such a character that it would be impossible to delay decisions, and the venture must be made at once. In a case of this kind what must be done? The Lord has told you what to do: As a laborer in His vineyard, you have Headquarters close at hand. “Let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” [Verse 5.] 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 3

When presidents of conferences, or laborers in places of responsibility, feel that it is their duty to make out with minute definiteness just what course the workers in the harvest field must pursue, they are taking on a false burden, taking into their finite hands that which God alone is competent to accomplish. The ark may seem to jostle, and like Uzzah, men think they must put forth their human hands to steady it; but in so doing they incur the displeasure of God, for they are thus limiting the power of the Holy One of Israel. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 4

Let men leave room for the working of the Lord. Let the Lord have an opportunity to take care of His sacred work, to fashion and to mold it according to His will. The ark was trusted to the kine, and the Lord directed these kine in such a way that they left their calves behind them, devoting themselves wholly to the work the Lord directed them to perform. They delivered the ark to the place where it belonged. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 5

Human agents whom God has chosen are to be under His jurisdiction, and men in responsible places are to watch for souls as those that must give an account. God has placed a value upon every man, and this value is to be recognized by all. Men in responsible places are to consider the fact that each man, wherever he may labor, is a laborer together with God, and they should cooperate with the workers in seeking the salvation of the souls of those who are perishing. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 6

God will humble that man who exalts himself above his fellow man. He says, “Them that honor me, I will honor.” [1 Samuel 2:30.] There must be no approach toward Phariseeism on the part of those who occupy responsible positions. There must be no practice of exclusiveness, no shutting away of men from their fellow men. The scribes and the rabbis made a practice of this exclusiveness, and they were jealous because Jesus included the Gentile world in the plan of salvation, and thus revealed the fact that they had no knowledge of the Scriptures or the power of God. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 7

It is not the work of men in responsible positions to manipulate the writings or the sermons of the men whom God has used to do His work. They will find enough to do in devising plans to reach foreign lands [so] that the truth may penetrate into the regions beyond. They will need the judgment of the very men whom they would fashion to meet their judgment and conform to their ideas. They themselves are as liable to make mistakes as are those whom they criticize, and they should feel the need of the counsel and advice of the workers who are in the field. These are laborers together with God as verily as are the men in positions of greater trust. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 8

Jesus says to all, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” [Matthew 11:29.] The Lord says, “I will hear your requests. I will grant your petitions.” “Ask, and ye shall receive.” [John 16:24.] Is this promise to be appropriated only by the presidents of conferences? No. Each one who asks will receive. Individually we are to wait upon the Lord, putting our petitions before Him. The religion of Jesus Christ rests upon the Word, on the definite, solid “Thus saith the Lord.” The Lord is more willing to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask it than parents are to give good gifts unto their children. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 9

The Lord works through human agencies. When it is possible, the workers should counsel with their brethren concerning the work. But those who are placed at the head of conferences are but men, and they are not to take the place of God. They are to show by their consecrated, devoted life that they realize their responsibility, and understand that it is not their place to lord it over God’s heritage, but to exert a consecrated, unselfish influence every day, making manifest that they are approved of God, humbly walking before Him, seeking divine wisdom, and showing by precept and example what the elders, deacons, and lay members of the church should be. They should train those under them to put their trust in God and seek wisdom from Him. They should plainly state to those who would depend upon man that God should be their reliance, and that all have the same privilege as they have themselves of seeking God for their efficiency and help. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 10

God is to be the help of those who call upon Him. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 11

The church should be ruled not by official authority, but by personal, Christlike influence. Let the presidents of conferences keep before the workers the fact that they are to do their work under the view and according to the directions of the great chief Shepherd; and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. “Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” [1 Peter 5:5, 6.] 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 12

Those who have the devising of the work are in danger of binding about the work when there is not a manifest supply of facilities. There is a great variety of work to be done in different lines, and instead of discouraging those who want to work, seek to direct their enthusiasm into right channels, and let the younger workers ever be subject to the elder, to those of long experience. Let the workers seek them for counsel, for if they love God they will be prepared to advise in kindness and with interest. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 13

I am more pained than I can express to see how readily men who profess to [be] followers of Christ accept the great responsibility of becoming conscience for their brethren. I know that they do not know what they are doing in prescribing the course of the different workers. The mystery of godliness is very great. Every individual engaged in the service of God is of value with God to a greater extent than humanity discerns. Respect every soul who accepts Christ by faith as his personal Saviour. No one is to handle his brother with unfeeling hands. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 14

In your council and board meetings ever keep fresh in your minds that there is an unseen Witness present. Your careless decisions, made in harmony with the careless atmosphere that surrounds you, are registered in the books of heaven. Cases have been treated according to the impulse of men who were being moved from beneath. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 15

God has sent warnings, and they have been disregarded. The workers sometimes have been pronounced upon by selfish men who were working in the dark, and who knew not the result of their decisions. Should they themselves be treated as they have treated others, there would be no limit to their indignation. It would be highly proper for presidents of conferences, and for those who audit the accounts, to investigate carefully the circumstances of the various laborers with whom they have to deal, and [to] understand their situation. They should find out how they stand before going over the books and cutting down their wages. The cutting down of the wages means much more to them than to others, but in any case it is not right to deal with men as though they were inanimate objects, senseless instrumentalities who were in your power to do with as it may please you. It is not your place to deprive men of their responsibility and accountability. Decisions of this kind have been made, and when once decided you have held to your rules as though they were the laws of the Medes and Persians that could not be altered. But this is not after the divine order. No revision is men’s decision, who are finite and erring. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 16

God has exalted humanity in giving to men a divine commission. He has placed His workers on an elevated plane of action. They are to be treated as Christ should be treated. As workers together with God we are under the control of God in His service. But God has never placed His ministers under the control of the judgment of men who are in high positions, where they make it manifest that they are in need of the converting power of God that they may be transformed in character and have the mind of Christ. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 17

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:12, 13.] To entrust to men the responsibility of working out their will upon their fellow men is to entrust to them an influence that will work disaster. Unless the Lord daily works upon mind and character, another power comes in to control decisions, to carry out plans that work counter to the Holy Spirit. God and man are to be partners, but if some human influence comes in that destroys the unity that should exist between the workers and God, then the end is not attained. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 18

The apostle says, “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” [1 Corinthians 3:9.] The human agent is to be a house in which Christ is to abide, and his character is to be formed after the divine similitude. “Ye are God’s building.” Then, brethren, do not, I beg of you, take the responsibility of interposing your way for the purpose of giving your mold to the character. Divine power is to combine with human effort, and all the glory is to go back to God. The responsibility rests with the power of God in order that the Holy Spirit shall work the man, and not the man the Holy Spirit. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 19

Too often plans are laid that leave out the fact that the Holy Spirit will work with the human agent who is consecrated to God’s service. Room must be left for God to work, and the worker must be left free to rely upon God rather than upon His brethren in the matter of what he should do. He is not to take the voice of his brethren as the voice of God in this matter. Great confidence has been placed in the decisions of the board of council, but instead of relying upon God, there has been a reliance upon human systems, and divine elements have been left out of the plans of the board. When men who are not worked by the Holy Spirit hold positions in these councils, plans are made that to human judgment appear wise, but they are not in harmony with the Spirit of God. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 20

Men move among men doing a human work, but they do not discern and perform the divine work. Such men are unreliable. They calculate from human judgment but do not feel the necessity of having the cooperation of supernatural power to work with them. Therefore, they fail to do the supernatural work. They make manifest the fact that they have not a living connection with God, and know not when or how to exercise their powers in working the works of God to strengthen the things that remain [and] are ready to die. Not having the power from on high, they have not the Spirit of the True Shepherd. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 21

Men who have a reputation for being sharp business men are placed in positions of trust, but they make it evident that divine power is not combining with their efforts, for they are not seeking to save that which is ready to perish. In times when souls are in great peril, they know not how to speak a word in season to draw them into safe paths, for they do not watch for souls as those who must give an account. A word spoken in season under the influence of the Holy Spirit is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. But those who manifest the spirit of the wolf, and bite and devour, and ruin and destroy, have a most fearful account to meet in the judgment. 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 22

There is work to be done for the Master in every line. Those churches that expect the Lord to work for the individual members when the body of the churches do not feel any responsibility to be laborers together with God, will be churches whose work is never done. By their indifference, by their slothfulness, by their lack of consecration, they are not channels through which the divine Spirit can work. The human and the divine must be linked together in the work if the purpose of God is fulfilled. God gives physical power, mental strength, time and opportunities, but unless the human agent shall cooperate with the divine, and the divine with the human, no healthful influence will be exerted to extend the kingdom of Christ. The great Teacher says, “Without me ye can do nothing.” [John 15:5.] 9LtMs, Ms 100, 1894, par. 23