Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)


Lt 77, 1896

Olsen, O. A.

“Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

July 5, 1896

Portions of this letter are published in TM 374-386. +Note

Elder O. A. Olsen
Battle Creek, Michigan, U. S. A

My Dear Brother:

Yesterday I read a letter from Dr. Maxson, telling of the difficulties which have arisen at the Health Retreat in St. Helena. He presented the financial standing of the institution, stating that suddenly the patronage had fallen off. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 1

I am sincerely sorry that you should consent to the General Conference Association taking over this institution. I cannot see any wisdom in this step. Neither should Dr. Kellogg add this additional responsibility to the rest of his many enterprises. I am afraid and much concerned for him; and if the institution at Crystal Springs survive or perish, no more should be added to his burdens. O, how much we need wise, God-fearing, humble men, who in their work will keep the honor of God ever before them. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 2

In the face of all the light which God has been pleased to give me, I have no courage to hope for our institutions. Men who have given evidence that they have no inward piety have been looked to for advice, given influence, and upheld as wise counsellors. They have been taken from place to place; their judgment has been honored as being that of wise men; they have been looked upon as able to help in any emergency. O my brother, my brother, watchman upon the walls of Zion, how could you move in such uncertain paths? It seems more than I can explain. How could you consent to propositions which came to you through the same fallen angel that tempted our first parents? 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 3

As the matter has been opened before me, I have been surprised to see the want of foresight and the failure to reason from cause to effect. Even if the men who are transported from Battle Creek to distant places, often to the other side of the continent, to give counsel and advice have wisdom to impart, let those who seek their counsel take care lest they place man’s wisdom before the wisdom of God. Care should be given to teach every man his dependence upon God; for He is the source of all wisdom and power and efficiency. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 4

I have been shown that it is a mistake to suppose that the men in positions of special responsibility at Battle Creek have wisdom which is far superior to that of ordinary men. Those who think that they have, supposing them to have divine enlightenment, rely upon the human judgment of these men, taking their counsel as the voice of God. But this is not safe, for unless men are wholly consecrated to God, Satan will work through them to impart that knowledge, which will not be for the present and eternal good of those who hear. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 5

Many have educated themselves to write or ask for counsel and advice when brought into difficult places. But it is a mistake for those who are placed in responsible positions in our different institutions to depend upon the men who have all too many burdens and responsibilities to bear. A weak, sickly experience will be the lot of those who are educated to depend wholly upon others. Those upon whom they depend may have less of the fear of God than they themselves have, and not more mental power and talent than it is their privilege to possess, if they will but realize that they are not to be children, but firm, brave men, seeking to gain more ability by exercising that which they already have, by trading upon the talents God has lent them. We are individually responsible for the use of the talents God has given us. Our intellect must be cultivated. Close, hard thinking must be given to the solution of difficulties. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 6

The Lord has given to every man his appointed work, and if He places men in positions of responsibility, He will communicate His Holy Spirit to them, giving them efficiency for their work. But the men who are called upon to take long and expensive journeys, in order to help others to devise and plan, are not themselves in close connection with the God of all wisdom if they put confidence in their own strength and wisdom. If they have not been willing to bear the yoke of Christ, or to learn in His school to be meek and lowly in heart as He was; if they have not learned to lift the burdens God has given them, and to follow wherever He may lead them, what will their expensive trips amount to? What is their wisdom worth? Is it not accounted foolishness with God? 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 7

State conferences may depend upon the General Conference for light and knowledge and wisdom, but is it safe for them to do this? Battle Creek is not to be the center of God’s work. God alone can fill this place. When our people in the different places have their special convocations, teach them, for Christ’s sake and for their own soul’s sake, not to make flesh their arm. There is no power in men to read the hearts of their fellow men. The Lord is the only one upon whom we can with safety depend, and He is accessible in every place and to every church in the Union. To place men where God should be placed does not honor or glorify God. Is the President of the General Conference to be the god of the people? Are the men at Battle Creek to be regarded as infinite in wisdom? When the Lord shall work upon human hearts and human intellects, precepts and practices different from this will be set before the people. “Cease ye from man.” [Isaiah 2:22.] You know how far those upon whom you lean have, through a wrong course of action, separated themselves from God. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 8

The Lord has a controversy with His people over this matter. Why have they left the Lord their God, who so loved them “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life”? [John 3:16.] His love is not uncertain and fluctuating, but is as far above all other love as the heavens are above the earth. Ever He watches over His children with a love that is measureless and everlasting. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and love of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 9

“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.] Mercy and love and wisdom are to be found in God, but many who profess to know Him, have turned from the One in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, and have educated themselves to depend upon their erring and fallible fellow men. They are crippled spiritually when they do this, for no man is infallible, and his influence may be misleading. He who trusts in man not only leans upon a broken reed and gives Satan an opportunity to introduce himself, but he hurts the one in whom the trust is placed; he becomes lifted up in his estimation of himself, and loses the sense of his dependence upon God. Just as soon as man is placed where God should be, he loses his purity, his vigor, his confidence in God’s power. Moral confusion results, because his powers become unsanctified and perverted. He feels competent to judge his fellow men, and strives unlawfully to be a god over them. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 10

But there must be no self-exaltation in the work of God. However much we may know, however great our mental endowments, none of us can boast, for what we possess is but an entrusted gift, lent us on trial. The faithful improvement of these endowments decides our destiny for eternity; but we have nothing whereby to exalt self or lift us up, for that which we have is not our own. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 11

We are to be courteous toward all men, tender-hearted and sympathetic, for this was the character Christ manifested when on the earth. The more closely we are united with Jesus Christ, the more tender and affectionate will be our conduct toward one another. The redemption of the human race was planned that man, fallen though he was, might be a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. If by His grace we become partakers of the divine nature, our influence upon those around us is not dangerous but beneficial. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, we can be a blessing to all with whom we associate, for the Holy Spirit’s power upon the human heart can make and keep it pure. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 12

Those who do not receive Christ as their personal Saviour, who do not feel the need of His grace upon heart and character, cannot influence those around them for good. Whatever their station in life, they will carry with them an influence that Satan will use in his service. Such lose all hope of eternal life themselves, and by their wrong example lead others astray. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 13

The cross of Calvary means everything to perishing souls. Through the suffering and death of the Son of man, the salvation of men was made possible. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit God designs that His image shall be restored in humanity, that a new and living principle of life shall be introduced into the minds that have become defiled by sin. The love of God is fully able to restore, upbuild, encourage, and strengthen every believing soul who will accept the truth as it is in Jesus. But in order that this may be accomplished, men must yoke up with Christ. The cross of Christ must be studied. It must rivet the attention and hold the affections. The blood which there was shed for sins will purify and cleanse mind and heart from every species of selfishness. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 14

God is the Author of all truth, and truth practiced prepares the way for more advanced truth. When God’s delegated servants proclaim fresh truth, the Holy Spirit moves upon a mind which has been prepared by walking in the light, quickening the perceptive faculties to discern the beauty and majesty of truth. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 15

But the truth is no truth to the one who does not reveal, by his elevated spiritual character, a power beyond that which the world can give, an influence corresponding in its sacred, peculiar character to the truth itself. He who is sanctified by the truth will exert a saving, vital influence upon all with whom he comes in contact. This is Bible religion. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 16

Men, saved only by the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus, have no right to seek to exalt themselves above their fellow men. Let them sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him, striving not to make themselves shine. If the love of Jesus Christ abides in them, they will shine unconsciously, diffusing the light of the glory of Christ through the world. “I, if I be lifted up,” Christ said, “will draw all men unto me.” [John 12:32.] If a minister makes Christ his hope, his trust, his dependence, he is one with Christ, a laborer together with God; and by his ministry, souls are converted to Christ. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 17

There are those who are not learned, and who have not a large endowment of gifts, but they need not become discouraged because of this. Let them use what they have, faithfully guarding every weak point in their characters, seeking by divine grace to make it strong. There is no man living that has any power or ability which he has not received from God, and the source from whence [it] came is open to the weakest human being. If he will draw near to God, the unfailing Source of strength, he will realize that God fulfills His promise. But in this work, we need not call men thousands of miles to give us aid, for Christ has promised, “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find.” [Luke 11:9.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 18

God has not given talents to men capriciously, but according to their God-given ability to use them. The greater the talents lent to man, the greater the returns required. God requires every human agent to consult the living oracle and become thoroughly acquainted with His expressed will in all matters, that by diligently using the talents lent Him, he may gain others. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 19

God would have us learn the solemn lesson that we are working out our own destiny. The character we form in this life decides whether or not we are fitted to live through the eternal ages. No man can with safety remain idle. He may not have many talents, but let him trade on those which he has; and in proportion as he exhibits integrity toward God and his fellow men, so God will bless him. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 20

The Holy Spirit waits to give aid to every believing soul, and Jesus declares, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” [Matthew 28:20.] Let those who believe in Jesus, be strong, prayerful, and full of trust in Christ’s power to save. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” [Psalm 50:15.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 21

Let me entreat our state conferences and our churches to cease putting their dependence upon man and making flesh their arm. Look not to other men to see how they conduct themselves under the conviction of the truth, or to ask them for aid. Look not to men in high positions of responsibility for strength, for they are the very men who are in danger of considering a position of responsibility as evidence of God’s special power. Our churches are weak because the members are educated to look to and depend upon human resources, and thousands of dollars are needlessly expended in transporting finite men from one place to another in order that they may settle little difficulties, when Jesus is ever near to help those who are needy and distressed. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 22

The warnings given in the Word of God to the children of Israel were meant, not merely for them, but for all who should live upon the earth. He says to them, “Woe to the rebellious children, ... that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; that walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt.” [Isaiah 30:1, 2.] If the Lord reproved His people anciently because they neglected to seek counsel of Him when in difficulty, will He not be displeased today if His people, instead of depending on the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to lighten their way, turn from Him in their test and trial for aid to human beings who are as erring and inefficient as themselves? Where is our strength? Is it in men who are as helpless, as dependent, as ourselves; who need guidance from God as we do? 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 23

Christ says, “Without me ye can do nothing” [John 15:5], and He has provided the Holy Spirit as a present help in every time of need. But many have a feeble religious experience because, instead of seeking the Lord for the efficiency of the Holy Spirit, they make flesh their arm. Let the people of God be educated to turn to God when in trouble, and gain strength from the promises that are yea and amen to every trusting soul. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 24

The Word of the Lord to us is, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” [Luke 11:9-13.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 25

The promises of God are full and abundant, and there is no need for any one to depend upon humanity for strength. To all that call upon Him, God is near to help and succor. And He is greatly dishonored when, after inviting our confidence, we turn from Him—the only One who will not misunderstand us, the only One who can give unerring counsel—to men who in their human weakness are liable to lead us astray. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 26

“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men, therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe to them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us, and who knoweth us?” [Isaiah 29:13-15.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 27

The Lord has shown us His way; shall we walk in it? or shall we, finite and erring as we are, walk in our own counsel, and practice the principles which He has warned us against? 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 28

“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord, which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophecy deceits; get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon; therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.” [Isaiah 30:8-13.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 29

“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and who shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little. For with stammering lips and another tongue will I speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing; yet they would not hear. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 30

“Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” [Isaiah 28:9-17.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 31

“Thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength; and ye would not.” [Isaiah 30:15.] “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the terrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off; that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, to turn aside the just for a thing of naught. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” [Isaiah 29:18-24.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 32

Will these warnings be passed by as of no account? The Lord calls upon every teacher, every minister, every one who has received the light of His truth, to mark well their spiritual standing. They have had great light, and if they would secure eternal life, they must no longer make finite man their dependence, but build upon the sure foundation. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 33

No counsel of men can with safety remove God’s principles and set up their own, for the word of God declares, “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” “For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perizim; he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Now therefore, be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong; for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.” [Isaiah 28:17, 21, 22.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 34

We are living in times full of importance to each one. Light is shining in clear, steady rays around us. If this light is received and appreciated, it will be a blessing to us and to others; but if we trust in our own wisdom and strength, or in the wisdom and strength of our fellow men, it will be turned into a poison. In the struggle for eternal life, we cannot lean upon one another. The bread of life must be eaten by each one. Individually we must partake of it, that soul, body, and mind, may be revived and strengthened by its transforming power, thus becoming assimilated to the mind and character of Jesus Christ. God must be made first and last and best in everything. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 35

Each one must hunger and thirst after righteousness for himself. Leaning upon men, and trusting in their wisdom, is dangerous to the spiritual life of any Christian. Those in whom confidence is placed may be honest and true, serving the Lord with all diligence. But if, individually, we are endeavoring to walk in the footsteps of Christ, we can follow Him as well as those whom [we] admire for their consistent, humble lives. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 36

It is too often the case that those who are looked up to are not what they are supposed to be. Often sin lurks in the heart, and wrong habits and deceptive practices are woven into the character. How does our heavenly Father regard this? His counsel is always reliable, and He has evidenced His great love for the human race. He looks on with sadness when His children are encouraged to turn away from Him and place their dependence upon finite men whom they know not, and whose judgment and experience may not be reliable. But this has been done, and God has been made secondary. 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 37

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I beseech the people of God to depend upon the Lord for strength. Beware how you place men where God should be. We are not safe in taking men as our authority or our guide, for they will surely disappoint us. Individually, we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, “for it is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:13.] We have a high calling in Christ Jesus; we are carrying forward a vast and holy work, and God calls upon each one to uplift His standard in the sight of this world and of the universe of heaven, by the power of the Lord Jehovah, in whom is “everlasting strength.” [Isaiah 26:4.] 11LtMs, Lt 77, 1896, par. 38