The Unwise Use of Money and the Spirit of Speculation


Chapter 7—Cautions and Advice

Report of an Interview

Early Monday morning, May 29, Mr. S. J. Harris called at the home of W. C. White, and expressed a desire to see Mrs. Ellen G. White, that he might lay before her his plans of work and receive her advice. When told that Mrs. White did not willingly enter into such matters as he had to present, he returned to San Francisco. Mrs. S. J. Harris and a friend remained, and late in the forenoon, secured an interview with Sister White, a portion of which is here given. SpTB17a 13.4

There were present Mrs. E. G. White, Elder W. C. White, Mrs. Ada I. Harris, Miss Gossard, Sara Mcenterfer, Mary Steward, and Helen Graham.
SpTB17a 14.1

The interview was introduced by the statement from Mrs. Harris: “My husband is very anxious to advance the cause of present truth, and is devoting sixty per cent of the proceeds of his business to this purpose. He wants the direction of the Lord in everything he does, and decides his business affairs and all matters pertaining to his daily life by casting lots. His method is to toss up a coin.... He has made successful land deals, and has been able to turn thousands of dollars into the work. In these deals he has sometimes been guided by the method above mentioned. His business affairs are assuming larger proportions, and greater sums of money are being involved. If he continues to depend upon this method of guidance, I feel that his affairs may end disastrously at any time. SpTB17a 14.2

“The advice of his friends has no influence with him, for he is sure that he is led by the Lord. I know that in the past when the course of individuals has been detrimental to the work of the Lord, He has given light. This morning my husband acknowledged that if he should receive a testimony condemning the course he is pursuing, he would stop his present method. So I lay the matter before you, earnestly praying that the Lord may send us some word of counsel.” SpTB17a 14.3

Mrs. E. G. White: Here is a course of action that if it appears at all successful, will call in the talents of our people. The enemy of souls is very anxious to hinder the completion of the special work for this time by bringing in some erroneous transaction. He will bring it in under the garb of great liberality; and if those pursuing this course have apparent success for a time, others will follow. And the very truths that are testing our people for this time, and which, if clearly understood, would cut off such a course of action, lose their force. SpTB17a 15.1

Some will strike out into flattering speculative money-making schemes, and others will quickly catch the spirit of speculation. It is just what they want, and they will engage in lines of speculation that take the mind off from the sacred preparation that is essential for their souls in order for them to be prepared to meet the trials which will come in these last days. SpTB17a 15.2

The enemy of souls has his plans carefully laid, and he will try in every possible way to carry them to success. Something after this order, a plan that promises to be as gracious and successful as this, has been started a good many times among our people. But when the time came that they expected great success, it proved to be an entire failure. That confused the minds of the people. They had gotten into speculation, and they liked that plan better than hard work and going right on as we have done usually, laboring perseveringly and trusting in the Lord.... SpTB17a 15.3

W. C. White: What is your mind regarding the matter of deciding business questions and questions about the daily movements and decisions of an individual by asking the Lord to answer “Yes” or “No” to his question, in this way? He writes the words on either side of a card, and then drops it, and accepts as an answer, the way in which the card falls, believing that in this way God indicates that he does or does not want him to do a certain thing. SpTB17a 16.1

[It is a haphazard method, which God does not approve. To men who have suggested such tests, I have said, “No, no.” The sacred things which concern the cause of God must not be dealt with by such methods. God does not instruct us that we are to learn His will in any such way. SpTB17a 16.2

Will it furnish us with experiences that will glorify God, for us to decide what is His will by the dropping of a card or a coin, and observing how it falls? No, no. Such tests as this will spoil the religious experience of the one who adopts them. Every one who depends upon such things for guidance, needs to be reconverted. [Inserted by Mrs. E. G. White when reading this report.] SpTB17a 16.3

After the great disappointment of the Adventist people in 1844, we had all these things to contend with over and over again. Then I was raised up from a bed of sickness, and sent to give a message of reproof for such fanaticism. SpTB17a 16.4

They used different methods. They would select a sign, and then follow the course indicated by the sign. In one case they would not bury a child that had died, because they understood from the sign that they had set, that the child was going to be raised from the dead. SpTB17a 17.1

I was sent to bear my testimony regarding the fallacy of these things that they were using as signs. According to the light that God has given me, there is no safety for us except to take a “Thus saith the Lord.” Nothing that we can control is to be accepted as an evidence of God's guidance. No, no; we have had all that over in the past, and I have had to rebuke it repeatedly. SpTB17a 17.2

W. C. White: Suppose it comes to a business transaction. I see a property that looks good to me, I ask the Lord to tell me whether to buy it or not. Then I adopt the manner of tossing up a piece of money, and if it comes one side up, I buy it; and if the other side comes up, I will not buy it. SpTB17a 17.3

E. G. White: God has given me the message that no such thing is to come into the work of His cause. It would lower it into the dust. This is how it was presented to me. It would divert the mind from God and His power and His grace, to commonplace things, and the enemy would use these commonplace things so as to show something wonderful as the result of following these man-made tests. One would say, I can roll like a hoop; another, I can put my hand on a hot stove, and it will not be burned. God wants no haphazard work brought in to decide questions whether you shall do this or whether you shall do that. This is the testimony that I have ever had to bear.... SpTB17a 17.4

W. C. White: Sister Harris says that Brother Harris always prays before he tosses up his coin. Would not that make some difference? SpTB17a 18.1

E. G. White: Not a whit of difference. Did not the fanatics of whom I have spoken always pray when they were going through those awful experiences in the state of Maine? This plan leads to trusting in what the human can do. What we want is not less of the power of God, but more. We want a solemnity that will come alone from the God of heaven. Then we shall work in accordance with His divine teachings. SpTB17a 18.2

W. C. White: There is a mine that Brother Harris thinks of buying. It is to cost about $300,000. He thinks that the Lord has shown him that he is going to make several millions of dollars out of it. He wants to use the greater part of the earnings in carrying the message and hastening the close of the work. Sister Harris and some others have advised him that he ought to have expert men go and examine it, but he has depended upon these tests, and he feels that the Lord would have him buy it. He has several thousand dollars of the price to raise today. Do you have any word of caution to send him?
SpTB17a 18.3

E. G. White: I would certainly discourage such action. I would say to Brother Harris, Let your movements be guarded. God does not place His approval on any such movement as this. I could talk from morning till night, and give incident after incident of how our people have entered unwisely into mining speculations. We met a case of this kind at Fresno. There our brethren thought they were going to secure a very rich mine. And they kept at it and at it, investing money, and more money. I told them that it would not amount to anything, because they were not working after the Lord's plan; ... that they were drawing the minds of the people away from the truths that the Lord would have them dwell upon. I said, Here you have the money from this one, and that one, and the other one, that they intended to use to help the cause of God in this section, and they have been persuaded to place it in your hands to invest in the mining business; but the Lord will not bless you with success. Well, they worked and worked, and the mine never amounted to anything. SpTB17a 18.4

Every movement of this order, which comes in to excite the desire to get riches quickly by speculation, takes the minds of the people away from the most solemn truths that ever were given to mortals. There may be encouraging prospects for a time, but the end of the matter is failure. The Lord endorses no such movements. If this work is sanctioned, many would be attracted by these speculative schemes that could not in any other way be led away from the work of presenting the solemn truths that must be given to the people at this time. SpTB17a 19.1

I told our brethren in Fresno that in coming in and getting money from our people for the purchase of mines, they were drawing minds away from truths of the highest value, and that they were pleasing the enemy who tries in every way to bring in some fanciful picture of financial gain, to divert us from the work of God. Our work in the Fresno district was hindered for several years on account of this matter being handled as it was; and I had to work and work to undo the evil that had been done. SpTB17a 19.2

I shall never consent to anything of this kind coming in among our people. It must not be permitted. We have been working with all our powers to encourage our people to come to God in faith, and to believe that His Holy Spirit will be freely given them as a teacher and guide, and that by its ministration they may know the will of God. But if you bring in the spirit of speculation among our people, if you encourage them to invest in mining stock, there will follow confusion and discouragement.... SpTB17a 20.1

My message to Brother Harris is, Stop right where you are. Do not proceed further. God does not want His people to depend upon haphazard speculations for the advancement of His cause. When our people come to depend on such things, their minds will be drawn away from the truths that they should heed, and they will neglect the most solemn truths of His word. But let the Spirit of God rest upon the hearts of God's children, and they will sacrifice for His work, and He will open the way for it to go forward in verity and godly dignity. SpTB17a 20.2