Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 11 (1896)


Ms 4, 1896

Rightly Dividing the Word


February 4, 1896

This manuscript is published in entirety in 3BC 1149; 4MR 55-56. +Note

“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: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” [2 Peter 1:19-21.] 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 1

Be careful how you interpret Scripture. Read it with a heart opened to the entrance of God’s Word, and it will express heaven’s light, giving understanding unto the simple. This does not mean the weakminded, but those who do not stretch themselves beyond their measure and ability in trying to be original and independent in reaching after knowledge above that which constitutes true knowledge. 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 2

All who handle the Word of God are engaged in a most solemn and sacred work, for in their research they are to receive light and a correct knowledge, that they may give to those who are ignorant. Education is the inculcation of ideas which are light and truth. Everyone who diligently and patiently searches the Scriptures that he may educate others, entering upon the work correctly and with an honest heart, laying his preconceived ideas, whatever they may have been, and his hereditary prejudices at the door of investigation, will gain true knowledge. But it is very easy to put a false interpretation on Scripture, placing stress on passages, and assigning to them a meaning, which, at the first investigation, may appear true, but which by further search, will be seen to be false. If the seeker after truth will compare Scripture with Scripture, he will find the key that unlocks the treasure house and gives him a true understanding of the Word of God. Then he will see that his first impressions would not bear investigation, and that continuing to believe them would be mixing falsehood with truth. 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 3

The Psalmist David in his experience had many changes of mind. At times, as he obtained views of God’s will and ways, he was highly exalted. Then as he caught sight of the reverse of God’s mercy and changeless love, everything seemed to be shrouded in a cloud of darkness. But through the darkness he obtained a view of the attributes of God, which gave him confidence and strengthened his faith. But when he meditated upon the difficulties and danger of life, they looked so forbidding that he thought himself abandoned by God because of his sins. He viewed his sin in such a strong light that he exclaimed, “Will the Lord cast off for ever? will he be favorable no more?” [Psalm 77:7.] 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 4

But as he wept and prayed, he obtained a clearer view of the character and attributes of God, being educated by heavenly agencies, and he decided that his ideas of God’s justice and severity were exaggerated. He rejected his impressions as being the result of his weakness, ignorance, and physical infirmities, and as dishonoring to God, and with renewed faith he exclaimed, “This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” [Verse 10.] Most earnestly he studied the ways of God, expressed by Christ when enshrouded in the pillar of cloud, and given to Moses to be faithfully repeated to all Israel. He called to mind what God had wrought to secure for Himself a people to whom He could entrust sacred and vital truth for future ages. 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 5

God wrought most wondrously to free more than a million people; and as David considered His pledges and promises to them, knowing they were for all who need them as much as for Israel, he appropriated them to himself, saying, “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” [Verses 11, 12.] His faith laid hold of God, and he was strengthened and encouraged; although he recognized God’s ways as mysterious, yet he knew they were merciful and good, for this was His character as revealed to Moses: “The Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” [Exodus 34:5, 6.] 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 6

As David appropriated these promises and privileges to himself, he decided that he would no longer be hasty in judgment, becoming discouraged, and casting himself down in helpless despair. His soul took courage as he contemplated the general character of God as displayed in His teaching, His forbearance, His surpassing greatness and mercy, and he saw that the works and wonders of God are to have no confined application. 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 7

But again David’s experience changed. As he saw that transgressors and sinners were allowed to receive blessings and favors, while those who really loved God were compassed with difficulties and perplexities that the open sinner did not have, he thought that God’s ways were not equal. “As for me,” he said, “my feet were almost gone: my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble like other men.” “Behold these are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” [Psalm 73:2-5, 12.] 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 8

David could not understand this till he went into the sanctuary of God, and then, he says, “understood I their end.” “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castest them down to destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless, I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by thy right hand.” “It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” [Verses 17-23, 28.] 11LtMs, Ms 4, 1896, par. 9