Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek

Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek


The School at Battle Creek

December 10, 1871, I was shown the case of Bro. Bell in connection with the cause and work of God in Battle Creek. Bro. Bell has qualifications to make a successful teacher. If he had with his adaptation to teaching a sound physical constitution, so that he could at all times preserve calm self-possession, so valuable to a teacher, his services would be of inestimable worth. He loves his work as a teacher, and he gives his whole mind to this work. He has the power to explain, in a variety of ways, by impressive illustrations, principles which would otherwise lose much of their force upon the mind of the pupil. PH123 1.1

Bro. Bell delights in his work. His thoughts, his hopes, and his prayers, are in it, that he may make his efforts highly successful, and accomplish permanent good. It is his ambition to inspire his pupils with a spirit of cheerful, voluntary industry in study. Such interest and devotion are rare, and should be appreciated by his pupils, and by all who have an interest in the welfare and progress of their children. Bro. Bell prizes more highly the improvement of his pupils than he does the wages he receives for his labor. Had Bro. Bell confined himself to this branch of his labor in Battle Creek, for which he was so well adapted, it would have been better for him, and better for the church. PH123 1.2

There was a fault with the church at Battle Creek in not appreciating the moral worth of Bro. Bell, and his superior method of teaching, which made it necessary for me to relate that which had been shown me in reference to his ability as a teacher. His thorough manner of instruction was not in accordance with the superficial method of educating children in the common schools. The thorough drilling to which his pupils were subjected was objectionable to many, and his strict discipline, and his complete system of instruction, were very disagreeable to a class of children who had been in the habit of confining themselves to the very letter of instruction as found in books, and of sliding through these books with rapidity, thinking they were far in advance of what they really were. These children, who had been petted and indulged at home and pushed forward at school, were highly dissatisfied that the same plan was not carried forward by Bro. Bell. They complained at home, and their parents sympathized with them when their sympathy should have been wholly with the faithful instructor of their children. They should have felt that it was a great blessing to have a teacher who would look after the physical, moral, and spiritual interest of their children, as well as to instruct them in the sciences. PH123 2.1

Teachers generally do not feel that they have great responsibilities resting upon them, and that their efforts should in some measure correspond with their responsibilities. They do not impress upon the minds of their pupils that the object in their education should be to qualify them to bring into practical use the powers with which God has endowed them; and to do this in such a manner as will accomplish the greatest amount of good, and thereby answer the object of their existence. PH123 3.1

In consequence of the neglect of many to appreciate the labors of Bro. Bell, it became necessary for me to relate some things which had been presented before me in regard to the value of his labors as an instructor of youth. My husband and myself spoke decidedly in favor of Bro. Bell, as we thought justice demanded that we should. His qualifications as a teacher, we valued highly. My husband has ever had a high appreciation of Bro. Bell's intelligent method of teaching, and he several times spoke before the church in his favor, because he felt grieved that they failed to value moral worth. Their neglect of the intellectual and devoted Hannah Moore, he looked upon as a grievous sin, as though done to the person of Christ. And when he saw Bro. Bell in poverty, humbly clad, yet struggling to exert all the influence in his power to benefit the youth, while many were so indifferent to come up to his help, he felt it was the same lack of appreciation, in a degree, which closed their hearts and homes to Hannah Moore. PH123 3.2

The words spoken in behalf of Bro. Bell's excellent qualifications had the influence, almost unconsciously to himself, to exalt him. I have been shown that great caution should be used, even when it is necessary to lift a burden of oppression from men and women, lest they lean to their own wisdom, and fail to make God their only dependence. But it is not safe to speak in praise of men and women, or to exalt the ability of a minister of Christ. Very many in the day of God will be weighed in the balance and found wanting because of exaltation. I would warn my brethren and sisters to never flatter persons because of their ability; for they cannot bear it. Self is easily exalted, and in consequence, persons lose their balance. I say again to my brethren and sisters, If you would have your souls clean from the blood of all men, never flatter, never praise the efforts of poor mortals; for it may prove their ruin. It is unsafe, by our words and actions, to exalt a brother or sister, however apparently humble may be their deportment. If they really possess the meek and lowly spirit which God so highly estimates, help them to retain it. This will not be done by censuring them, or by your neglect to properly appreciate their true worth. Very few can bear praise without being injured. PH123 4.1

There are some of our ministers of ability, who are preaching present truth, who love approbation. Applause stimulates them, as the glass of wine the inebriate. Place these ministers where they have a small congregation which promises no special excitement, and which provokes no decided opposition, and they will lose their interest and zeal, and appear as languid in the work as the inebriate when he is deprived of his dram. These men will fail to make real, practical laborers until they learn to labor without the excitement of applause. PH123 5.1

When our brethren in Battle Creek began to value the labors of Bro. Bell as a teacher, some gave free expression of their appreciation of his qualifications, because they knew he had not been properly respected. These things had a tendency to give Bro. Bell confidence in his own ability, until he cherished exalted views of himself. Finally, Bro. Bell could hardly endure to have his course questioned, or suggestions made of plans which he did not originate, or which differed from his ideas. The opinions of brethren and sisters of long experience were not respected by Bro. Bell, but set aside as unworthy of attention. Bro. Bell became exacting, and was extremely sensitive over little things; especially if any disrespect was shown of his authority on the part of his pupils. PH123 5.2

Some parents were not judicious. They injured the influence of Bro. Bell, and themselves more, in talking freely over the complaints made by their children. These parents did not have sufficient interest in the instruction of their children to visit the school, and thus manifest an interest in the progress of their children, and for the encouragement of their teacher. They preferred to hold themselves aloof, and look on coldly and indifferently, unless they could find something of which to complain. Their limber tongues worked easily, repeating incidents which had transpired in school contrary to their children's childish ideas of wise discipline. PH123 6.1

Parents should have had wisdom not to sympathize with inexperienced, indulged children, in regard to what they termed too strict discipline. The children in these things were not as much to blame as their parents. And Bro. Bell should not have been so very sensitive over the errors of his pupils, even if he knew their parents did credit all they repeated to them. He should have considered that all that parents or scholars might say of him did not affect his character in the sight of God. But that which they had said to his injury did affect seriously their characters in the sight of our Heavenly Father. It was more in accordance with the feelings of their unsanctified hearts to judge another's conscience, and to pick flaws at his supposed faults. This produced less pain, less self-humiliation, than to closely examine their own hearts, and with just, discerning eyes see their own faults, and pronounce judgment against themselves. PH123 6.2

While there is, so great a deficiency among parents in the education of their children, they are not prepared to see the necessity of the thorough manner of Bro. Bell's teaching. It is true his style of teaching is in marked contrast with the generality of teachers. But it is this kind of teaching that is needed, that will give stability to the character. The lack on the part of some of the parents to sustain Bro. Bell made his work doubly hard. Their neglect to govern their children at home had an influence upon them to lead them to decide that Bro. Bell was too particular, and unnecessarily exacting. In some instances the parents counteracted the earnest efforts of Bro. Bell by their sympathizing with their children. The children, who were having the very discipline they needed, understood that their parents questioned the course of Bro. Bell, and this led the children to take liberties that they otherwise would not. Had their parents united their efforts fully with the teacher of their children, great good would have been the result. These mistakes on the part of the parents depressed Bro. Bell's spirits, and his influence was not what it might have been if he had known that he had the co-operation of all the parents in his labors. PH123 7.1

Bro. Bell was successful generally as a teacher of the common schools and the Sabbath-schools. Because of his success in these, his abilities in every other respect were, by some, too highly estimated. Bro. Bell was encouraged to take still greater responsibilities, and to become leader of the church, and director of the Health Institute, and editor of the Instructor. More was expected of Bro. Bell than can reasonably be of any one man. He sought to carry out the system of management in the church and Health Institute that he had adopted in the schools. Here he made a decided failure. He could not discern the difference between controlling youthful minds in a school wherein he was master, and a church composed of men and women with their habits fixed and their characters formed. It is not an easy matter to bring men and women of different temperaments, and that have been differently educated, into precise, systematic working order, like well-regulated machinery. PH123 8.1

Bro. Bell has nice ideas of order and discipline. He thinks that minds should be disciplined, that they may unitedly, in common schools as well as Sabbath-schools, move like machinery. But this desirable attainment can alone be gained through principle, which should influence every act and feeling, regulating, exciting, or repressing, as the case demands, and controlling the soul. Without the balance which religion gives the minds of youth, they are varying. They are generally controlled by impulse. They follow inclination rather than duty. Parents and teachers have a very responsible work before them to so educate the youth that the valuable qualities of the mind may be strengthened while the evil tendencies should be repressed, restrained, and controlled. PH123 9.1

Bro. Bell did not realize that he was depending more upon system to bring up the church of God to the right position, and in working order, than to the influence of the Spirit of God upon the heart. He trusted too much to his own ability. He became exalted, and did not realize that he needed the advice and counsel of men of long experience. PH123 9.2

He did not move with all that consideration and wisdom he should in accepting the responsibilities at the Health Institute and the church, which men of greater experience would not venture to take. In seeking to bring things at the Health Institute to the precise and perfect system he desired, he was unsuccessful. His efforts to bring about the object stirred up wrath with unbelieving patients. In attempting to carry out his plans, instead of bringing about peace and order, he brought dissension and confusion. Instead of lightening the burdens of the physicians and helpers, his rules and system would impose a great tax. The physicians and helpers could not carry out set rules, even if the whole time of Bro. Bell was devoted to this object. The patients were continually coming and going, helpers would be changing, physicians would be called away, making it impossible to carry out definite and precise rules. The helpers at the Health Institute, who profess to believe the truth, should work from principle, from a high religious standpoint, doing their duty as though they were working for God, and not merely for wages. PH123 10.1

The church in Battle Creek could not flourish in carrying out this precise system. Brn. Waggoner and Andrews failed in some respects in their management in church matters at Battle Creek. They moved too much in their own spirit, and did not make God their whole dependence. They did not, as they should, lead the church to God, the fountain of living waters, at which they could supply their want, and satisfy their soul-hunger. The renewing, sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, to give peace and hope to the troubled conscience, and restore health and happiness to the soul, was not made of the highest importance. The good object they had in view was not attained. These brethren had too much of a spirit of cold criticism in the examination of individuals who presented themselves to be received into the church. The spirit of weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice, was not in the hearts of these ministering brethren as it should have been. PH123 11.1

Christ identified himself with the necessities of his people. Their needs and their sufferings were his. He says, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was sick, and ye visited me; a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” God's servants should have hearts of tender affection and sincere love for the followers of Christ. They should manifest that deep interest that Christ brings to view in the care of the shepherd for the lost sheep; all tenderness, and compassion, and gentleness, and love, as Christ has in his life given us an example, that we should exercise the same tender, pitying love he has exercised toward us. PH123 11.2

The great moral powers of the soul are faith, hope, and love. If these are inactive, the labor of ministers, be they ever so earnest and zealous, will not be accepted of God, and cannot be productive of good to the church. Ministers of Christ who bear the solemn message from God to the people should ever deal justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. The spirit of Christ in the heart will incline every power of the soul to nourish and protect the sheep of his pasture, like a faithful, true shepherd. Love is the golden chain which binds believing hearts to one another in willing bonds of friendship, tenderness, and faithful constancy; and binds the soul to God. There is a decided lack of love, compassion, and pitying tenderness among brethren. The ministers of Christ are too cold and heartless. They have not their hearts all aglow with tender compassion and earnest love. The purest and most elevated devotion to God is that which is manifested in the most earnest desire and efforts to win souls to Christ. The reason ministers who preach present truth are not more successful is, they are deficient, greatly deficient, in faith, hope, and love. There are toils and conflicts, self-denials and secret heart-trials, for us all to meet and bear. There will be tears and sorrow for our sins. There will be constant struggles and watchings, mingled with remorse and shame, because of our deficiencies. PH123 12.1

Let not the ministers of the cross of our dear Saviour forget their experience in these things, but ever bear in mind they are but men liable to err, of like passions with their brethren; and if they help their brethren, they must be persevering in their efforts to do them good, having their hearts filled with pity and love. They must come to the hearts of their brethren, and help them where they are weak and need help the most. Those who labor in word and doctrine should break their own hard, proud, unbelieving hearts, if they would witness the same in their brethren. Christ has done all for us because we were helpless, bound in chains of darkness, sin, and despair, and because we could do nothing for ourselves. It is through the exercise of faith, hope, and love, that we come nearer and nearer to the standard of perfect holiness. Our brethren feel the same pitying need of help that we have felt. We should not burden them with unnecessary censure, but let the love of Christ constrain us to be very compassionate and tender, that we can weep over the erring and those who have backslidden from God. The soul is of infinite value. The worth of the soul can be estimated only by the price paid to ransom it. Calvary! Calvary! Calvary! will explain the true value of the soul. PH123 13.1

There was a serious error in holding so many meetings with the view to perfect the different branches of interest in the Sabbath-school and in the church. Nature could not stand the constant draft upon her resources. The work at our Office of publication was made secondary to the plans of Bro. Bell. The interest of several was required to be absorbed in the plans of Bro. Bell, in order to extend his arrangements that he flattered himself would be successful. The work of God in the Office had to be neglected by some, in order for them to sustain the many meetings called. The physical strength was so severely taxed that sickness was the result of this over-taxation. The work of God does not require us to violate the laws of health, and bring on disease and premature decay. God's requirements are not unreasonable. His ways and works are in harmony with the laws he has implanted in our being. His requirements and his established laws, governing our health and life, are in perfect harmony. PH123 14.1

Sister Mina Fairfield labored beyond her power of endurance, which, in connection with the selfish course of some in the Office, and the trials brought upon her by the wayward course of her sister, brought upon her such keen trials of mind, and so great a burden of anxiety, that she could not rise above these things, and death was the result. Many felt that the burden of these meetings was too wearing to the physical strength, and expressed their fears; but Bro. Bell's mind was so concentrated upon the object of bringing up the church into working order that he did not regard the laws of health and life. With a martyr-like spirit, he considered it a virtue, irrespective of weariness and failing health, to press the matter to the desired end. The strain in one direction, calling into exercise certain powers of the mind, was severely wearing to mental and physical strength; and some minds were becoming unbalanced. PH123 15.1

It is necessary for the healthful development of mind that each quality be properly employed. If one faculty is suffered to remain idle while others are over-worked, the design of God is not accomplished, because the balance of the mind is not preserved. The over-taxed organs become irritated, when, if all the faculties, especially those that are the weakest, should be cultivated, the pressure would not be extreme upon any one. All would bear their part of the labor, and minds would then be properly balanced. PH123 16.1

Vital godliness is a principle to be cultivated. The power of God can accomplish for us that which all the systems in the world cannot effect. The perfection of Christian character depends wholly upon the grace and strength found alone in God. Without the power of grace upon the heart, assisting our efforts, and sanctifying our labors, we shall fail of saving our own souls, and in saving the souls of others. System and order are highly essential, but none should receive the impression that these will do the work without the grace and power of God operating upon the mind and heart. Heart and flesh would fail in the round of ceremonies, and in the carrying out of our plans, without the power of God to inspire and give courage to perform. PH123 16.2

The Sabbath-school at Battle Creek was made the one great theme of interest with Bro. Bell. It absorbed the minds of youth, while other religious duties were neglected. Frequently, after the Sabbath-school was closed, the superintendent, a number of the teachers, and quite a number of scholars, would return home to rest. They felt that their burden for the day was ended, and they had no further duty. When the bell sounded forth the hour for public service, as the people left their homes for the house of worship, they would meet a large portion of the school passing to their homes. And however important the meeting, the interest of a large share of the Sabbath-school could not be awakened to take any pleasure in the instruction given by the minister upon important Bible subjects. While many of the children did not attend public service, some that remained were not advantaged by the word spoken; for they felt that it was a wearisome tax. PH123 17.1

There should be discipline and order in our Sabbath-schools. Children who attend these schools should prize the privileges they enjoy. They should be required to observe the regulations of the Sabbath-school. And even greater care should be taken by the parents, that their children should have their Scripture lessons learned more perfectly than their lessons in the common schools. If parents and children see no necessity for this interest, then the children might better remain at home; for the Sabbath-school will fail to prove a blessing to them. Parents and children should work in harmony with teachers and superintendent, thus giving evidence that they appreciate the labor put forth for them. Parents should have an especial interest in the religious education of their children, that they may have a more thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. PH123 17.2

There are many children who plead a lack of time as a reason why their Sabbath-school lessons are not learned. There are but few who cannot find time to learn their lessons if they have an interest in them. Some devote time to amusement and sight-seeing, while others devote time to the needless trimming of their dress for display, thus cultivating pride, and vanity. The precious hours thus prodigally spent is God's time, for which they must render an account to him. The hours spent in needless ornamentation, or in amusements and idle conversation, will with every work be brought into judgment. PH123 18.1