Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)

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Ms 17, 1896

Individual Responsibility

NP

May 13, 1896

This manuscript is published in entirety in TM 319-330. +Note

In the night season I was listening to one who spoke with authority. Words of counsel in regard to the responsibilities that are to be borne in the sacred work of God were spoken. The Teacher said, There should be no haphazard work. Much of this has been done. Men have assumed authority, but the people should not depend upon poor, finite, erring men. They should put their entire trust in the wisdom that finds its strength in the wisdom of God. The inconsistency of centering so many responsibilities in Battle Creek has been presented many times, but the counsels have not been acted upon. The reproofs and warnings from the Lord have been evaded and interpreted and made void by the devices of men. There has been counter-working against God, and the judgment of men has been received. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 1

In Battle Creek, and in other places, building has been added to building, for the sake of making an imposing display. Men have supposed that this would give character to the work. Their own characters needed the transforming grace of Christ, which would enable them to represent Christ. This alone is sufficient to give character to the work. Nothing can be done without his grace. The Lord suffers impediments to arise, that his wisdom and power may humbly and earnestly and perseveringly sought, and be distinctly manifest. Nothing will so quickly and decidedly separate the soul from God and bring defeat, as for man to lift up his soul unto vanity, and speak proudly and boastingly, and in a masterly manner to his fellow men, who are the property of God. “Ye are not your own; ... ye are bought with a price,” even the precious blood of the Son of God. [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.] The Lord alone is to be exalted. Let every human agent keep in his place, and not seek to get into the place where God should be. There has been altogether too much trusting in men. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 2

In Battle Creek you have evidence that men who have had the most to say are not walking with God. There is abundant activity, but not many are working in partnership with Christ, and those who walk apart, and work from Him, have been the most active in planning and inaugurating their methods. If they had that wisdom that cometh from the Source of all wisdom they would move considerately, and would study more earnestly the relation of cause to effect. They would discern that a few minds in Battle Creek are not to be the power to manage every thing in connection with our work. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 3

The state conferences must have men at their head who love and fear God—capable men who will learn in the school of Christ to be laborers with Him, to wear His yoke and lift His burdens. They are to be partners with Christ in the sacred service of soulsaving. All the members of the church are to labor interestedly, zealously, not striving, as many have done, to see who shall be the greatest, and how to secure the highest wages, but striving to win souls for Christ, which means a part of the firm, in partnership with Christ. Let all try to do their best. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 4

The matter was laid before me, which I was trying to present before the brethren. There is altogether too much responsibility imparted to a few men in Battle Creek, and these men need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, else they will lead God’s heritage in false paths. The conferences are watching every move made at the center of the work. The different conferences have been led to look to the leading men at Battle Creek, feeling that no important move can be made without their approval. This tendency has been growing stronger, until it is a serious hindrance to the advancement of the work. This arrangement should never have been. The Lord would have His people under His jurisdiction. They [should] look to God, inquiring of Him in faith, and follow on to know the working of His providence. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 5

The arrangement that all monies must go through Battle Creek and under the [control] of the few men in Battle Creek is a wrong way of managing. There are altogether too many weighty responsibilities given to a few men, and some so not make God their Counsellor. What do these men know of the necessities of the work in foreign countries? How can they know how to decide questions which shall come to them asking for information? It would require three months for those in foreign countries to receive a response to their questions, even if there was no delay in writing. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 6

In each country a man should be appointed to work in the general interests of the cause. He need not be a preacher, and he must not be a policy man. He should be unselfish, a man who loves, who honors and fear his God. His whole time should be devoted to the work. He should plan unselfishly and in the fear of God. Let him be general agent for that country, and let him be connected with a council composed of the very best men, that they may counsel together, and attend to the work within their borders. There should be businessmen appointed to do the same in the different states in America. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 7

The men who act as presidents of state conferences should be carefully selected. Then let these men bear the responsibilities of the conference in a most thorough, earnest, God-fearing manner. If they are not qualified to do the work thoroughly and successfully, do not keep them in that position. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 8

A mass of matter is laid before the General Conference; every burden is carried to Battle Creek. This makes the presidents of the state conferences very irresponsible. Many are not growing in aptitude and in judgment. They make mismoves, when they should have advanced experience sufficient to enable them to make right moves, because they seek counsel of God. As presidents of their several conferences, they should realize that they must be faithful in positions of trust. These conferences are to be to them a school, in which they are to reveal managing ability. They are to learn, learn, and educate, educate. They are to do firm, Christlike work, binding it of, so that it shall not ravel out. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 9

He who is selected as the president of the General Conference should, in the fear of God, stand in his lot and place, without partiality, and with unselfish interests. He should be a faithful steward. He should be a priest and wise ruler over his own house. He should make manifest that he understands the work of governing his own family wisely and in the fear of God. If this is neglected, he will carry his defects with him into his work. If any man evidences that the love and fear of God is kept away from the center of his being lest the truth should control his life-practice, while worldly things are made all and in all, he is not the man, even for local elder. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 10

Advice is asked of those in Battle Creek regarding matters which could just as well be settled by men on the ground, if they would seek the Lord, and which ought to have been done within their own borders. The Lord declares he is nigh all that call upon Him with a sincere heart. Said Christ, “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” [Matthew 7:7.] This promise is made doubly and trebly sure. There is no failure with God. Today men who are presidents of conferences are less efficient and strong and able than they should be, because they place man where God should be, and they receive only that which man can give them. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 11

Presidents of conferences, you will be wise if you will decide to come to God. Believe in Him. He will hear your prayers, and come to your assistance, in much less time than the public conveyances could bring one, two, three, or four men, from a long distance at a great expense, to decide questions which the God of wisdom can decide far better for you. He has promised, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” [James 1:5.] If you will sincerely humble your hearts before Him, empty your soul of self-esteem, put away the natural defects of your character, overcome your love of supremacy, and come to God as a little child, He will bestow on you His Holy Spirit. When two or three shall agree as touching anything, and shall ask the Lord, in the name of Jesus, it shall be done for them. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 12

When it is deemed expedient to invest means in school buildings, in sanitariums, or in homes for the poor in any country, in order to establish the work there, the Lord would have those who are living in that locality walk humbly before him, and show that they realize their personal dependence upon Him, and that they believe in His willingness to help them to plan, to devise, to arrange intelligently for His work. He is as willing to give wisdom to those who feel the value of divine grace as to give wisdom to some other mind, who will then, at great expense, communicate the same to you. Where is your faith? Will men turn from the God of wisdom to seek wisdom from finite men, sending for men from a long distance to come and help you out of perplexity. How does the Lord look upon this? 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 13

Each one may entertain the idea that he believes in God. You are working in one part of His great moral vineyard, and He has told you that if any man lack wisdom, He is to ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. This world is but a little atom in the vast domain over which God presides, and yet this little fallen world is more precious in His sight than the ninety and nine which went not astray from the fold. If we will make Him our trust, He will not leave us to become the sport of Satan’s temptations. God would have every soul for whom Christ has died become a part of the vine, connected with the parent stock, drawing nourishment from it. Our dependence on God is absolute, and should keep us very humble; and because of our dependence on Him, our knowledge of Him should be greatly increased. God would have us put away every species of selfishness, and come to Him, not as the owner of ourselves, but as the Lord’s purchased possession. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 14

Daniel sought the Lord three times a day, in earnest prayer for wisdom and strength and courage to carry forward the enterprise of representing the only true God in wicked Babylon. You will often be perplexed to know what to do next; but do not get pen and paper and write your perplexities to Battle Creek. There may be disagreement upon some points, but your Counsellor is nigh. Bow before Him, and tell Him of everything you need. Can the men in Battle Creek give you light? They cannot understand your necessity. Because they are not on the ground, they may say No to some things, when, had you asked of God, He would have answered, “Go forward, and I will be with you, and give you grace.” 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 15

For many years an education has been given to the people which places God second, and man first. The people have been taught that everything must be brought before the council of a few men in Battle Creek. God has given you an opportunity to see the weakness of finite men. Are there not men in the different states of America who walk right in the sight of God. Are there not registered in the books of heaven the names of those who love and serve God. Cannot they plan. Have those in Battle Creek been given superior reason and wisdom that God will not give those in the churches and state conferences? “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” [Verse 5.] The churches would realize one hundredfold more of the workings of the Holy Spirit if ministers would educate all to bear in mind that they have a God nigh at hand, and not afar off, and that they can honor God by seeking Him for help and wisdom just where they are. Then will they have ability which will strengthen the General Conference. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 16

There is talent in every place, but it is not always recognized. This talent should be discerned and set [to] work. Under the operations of the Spirit of God, talent will grow by being used. But God is greatly dishonored when men are placed in the position where God should be. He alone can give unerring counsel. The men in Battle Creek are only men, finite, erring men. Because they have acted as though they were gods of other men’s consciences, they are not to be looked up to as gods. If they had less confidence in themselves, and more confidence in the great I AM, thereby showing that they were emptied of self and had only [an] eye single to the glory of God, they could represent the grace of Christ as counselors. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 17

Men have been in counsel in Battle Creek who cannot appreciate the situation of matters in the different localities as those can who are right in the ground; and it is not wise for men to seek to men, and place such dependence in a few men at Battle Creek, some of whom have walked apart from God for years. To accept the judgment of these men, and to send for them from a long distance to sit in council, has done great dishonor to God. By this you show that you place men, who are unsanctified in heart, where God should be. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 18

Supposing that some mistakes are made by those in different places. They may be of far less consequence than the errors made by those at the heart of the work. Cannot you go to the great Leader, who is mighty in counsel, and cannot He restore? Cannot He work in your behalf? Will He not do it if you go to Him as little children go to their parents? There is altogether too much lofty self-sufficiency in the human agent. God cannot work with such an element of pride. If it is not laid down, if self is not humbled, God cannot work. Those who send all their perplexities from the different parts of the world to Battle Creek show the wisdom of men, and not the wisdom of God. A few finite men in Battle Creek, who are not always under the molding of the Holy Spirit, are ready to devise and plan, but God does not plan with them. They have not sought God in humility of mind. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 19

August 2, 1896

My attention has been called to the instruction the Lord has been pleased to give in Gospel Workers. I have arisen at three o’clock, a.m., and have read the matter in this little book: p. 232, “Conference Presidents” [p. 413 in 1915 edition]. The same things have been presented to me again and again. Will our brethren take heed to these things? Or will they turn aside from the light? The president of the General Conference should act upon the light given, not walk contrary to this light. If you in Battle Creek close your eyes to the testimonies God has been pleased to give you, and think it wisdom to walk in the fire of the sparks of your own kindling, it will spoil the church. Such men are not qualified to become either ministers or presidents of conferences, for they have not taken counsel from the Source of all wisdom. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 20

He who is placed as a president of [a] conference must learn that the human heart is wayward, and that it needs to be strictly sentineled by watchfulness and prayer. As he seeks the Lord conscientiously and constantly, he is taught of God to grow into a representative man, and can be trusted as God trusted Abraham. He needs the whole armor of God, for he has to fight the good fight of faith, and having done all that the Spirit of God has taught him to do, to stand. His enemies may be those of his own household, his wife and children, or they may be his own hereditary and cultivated tendencies, which continually seek for the mastery. Man is human and defective in character, and must battle for the victory. Everyone who begins aright must begin at his own heart. Let the fervent prayer go forth from unfeigned lips, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” and it will bring the response, “A new heart will I give thee.” [Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26.] 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 21

Lessons need to be learned by all who shall step into places where they are to be proved and tested by God, to see whether they shall be registered day by day as faithful and true stewards of God’s entrusted talents. Have they shown that they have the fear of God before them, whether they are superiors, inferiors, or equals? They need to cherish the truth as an abiding principle, that it may sanctify the soul. The creating, transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit will make them co-partners with Jesus Christ. Yoked up with Christ, they can be more than conquerors through Him. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 22

The man who is fully sensible that he is in the service of Jesus Christ will aspire for the friendship of God. He will lie low before God, that he may be nothing, and God everything. Such a man is a co-partner with Christ, fitted to preside over a state conference. If he proves himself circumspect, he is prepared for any position, according to his experience and qualifications. Let the churches understand that such a man is to be trusted and sustained. They may go to Him, and talk with Him. Such a man will never feel sufficient to carry the work even of a state conference without the constant grace which God will give. He will not choose to do the work and bear the responsibility alone. Through wise management, he will have the tact to recognize talent in others. He will use those who have this talent, and help them, while they help to share his burdens. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 23

It is a selfish thing for men who feel that they have some service to do for the Master, to wish to be alone in their work, and to refuse to connect with those who would be a help to them, because they fear that they will not obtain all the credit for doing the good work which they flatter themselves they will do. This has greatly hindered the work of God. Let brother lay hold of brother. Link up a Peter and a John. Let each encourage his brother to stand by his side, doing zealous, interested service as partners in the great work. Two or three can pray together, sing the praises of God together, and grow up into the full stature of workers together with God. Perfect harmony must be cherished. All must serve the Lord as little children, feeling that they are branches in the same parent stock. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 24

Let the presidents of state conferences walk humbly with God, and they will not have occasion to write to the president of the General Conference to leave his work to settle little matters for them. Even many large matters may be carried to God, and God will give counsel in every state conference. The Lord can be approached by all. He is much more accessible than the president of the General Conference. Let the president of the General Conference educate the presidents of state conferences to take care of their portion of the moral vineyard where they are situated wisely, without laying their burdens up on him. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 25

Lead these men who have ability and talent to look to God that they may be taught by Him. Teach them to go to the Fountainhead for instruction in righteousness. Search the Scriptures. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” [2 Timothy 3:16, 17.] What then is your excuse for turning for counsel from one who is infinite in wisdom to finite men who are as weak as yourselves? One has suffered for you, the Just for the unjust. 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 26

How many petty grievances the men traces upon paper, and pours into the soul of his fellow men. How unwise it is to perpetuate and communicate to others those things you had better have kept to yourself. Never trace a line of discouragement. If you do just as Jesus has told you to do, you will find help. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” [Matthew 11:28, 29.] 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 27

The Lord God has given abundant evidence of His willingness to carry our burdens. As we lift His burdens, He lifts you and the burdens also. He invites all, who labor and are heavy laden, “Come unto me.” You are not told that you just go ’round the world to Battle Creek to tell your troubles and unload your burdens to your fellow men. “Lo, I am with you alway,” Christ says, “even till the end of the world.” [Matthew 28:20.] “I am a God at hand, and not afar off.” [See Jeremiah 23:23.] 11LtMs, Ms 17, 1896, par. 28