Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists


Labor for the Church

The Sabbath, as well as each evening during the week, was especially devoted to meetings with the Christiania church. When the mission fields in this new country were opened before me, I was shown that some things in every branch of the mission needed a different mold; there was need of exalting the standard in this church, before a correct and saving influence could go forth to other places. There was precious talent in the church at Christiania, but God could not use these brethren until they were converted. There were some who had capabilities to help the church, but who needed first to set their own hearts in order. Some had been bringing in false tests, and had made their own ideas and notions a criterion, magnifying matters of little importance into tests of Christian fellowship, and binding heavy burdens upon others. Thus a spirit of criticism, fault-finding, and dissension had come in, which had been a great injury to the church. And the impression was given to unbelievers that Sabbath-keeping Adventists were a set of fanatics and extremists, and that their peculiar faith rendered them unkind, uncourteous, and really unchristian in character. Thus the course of a few extremists prevented the influence of the truth from reaching the people. HS 211.4

Some were making the matter of dress of first importance, criticising articles of dress worn by others, and standing ready to condemn every one who did not exactly meet their ideas. A few condemned pictures, urging that they are prohibited by the second commandment, and that everything of this kind should be destroyed. HS 211.5

These one-idea men can see nothing except to press the one thing that presents itself to their minds. Years ago we had to meet this same spirit and work. Men arose claiming to have been sent with a message condemning pictures, and urging that every likeness of anything should be destroyed. They went to such lengths as even to condemn clocks which had figures, or “pictures,” upon them. Now we read in the Bible of a good conscience; and there are not only good but bad consciences. There is a conscientiousness that will carry everything to extremes, and make Christian duties as burdensome as the Jews made the observance of the Sabbath. The rebuke which Jesus gave to the scribes and Pharisees applies to this class as well: “Ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God.” One fanatic, with his strong spirit and radical ideas, who will oppress the conscience of those who want to be right, will do great harm. The church needs to be purified from all such influences. HS 212.1

The second commandment prohibits image worship; but God himself employed pictures and symbols to represent to his prophets lessons which he would have them give to the people, and which could thus be better understood than if given in any other way. He appealed to the understanding through the sense of sight. Prophetic history was presented to Daniel and John in symbols, and these were to be represented plainly upon tables, that he who read might understand. HS 212.2

It is true that altogether too much money is expended upon pictures; not a little means which should flow into the treasury of God is paid to the artist. But the evil that will result to the church from the course of these extremists is far greater than that which they are trying to correct. It is sometimes a difficult matter to tell just where the line is, where the picture-making becomes a sin. But those who love God and desire with all their hearts to keep his commandments will be directed by him. God would not have them depend on any man to be conscience for them. He who accepts all the ideas and impressions of unbalanced minds will become confused and bewildered. It is Satan's object to divert the attention from the third angel's message to side issues, that minds and hearts that should be growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth may be dwarfed and enfeebled, so that God may not be glorified by them. HS 212.3

A few in Christiania had gone so far as to burn all the pictures in their possession, destroying even the likenesses of their friends. While we had no sympathy with these fanatical movements, we advised that those who had burned their pictures should not incur the expense of replacing them. If they had acted conscientiously, they should be satisfied to let the matter rest where it was. But they ought not to require others to do as they had done. They should not endeavor to be conscience for their brethren and sisters. HS 212.4

There are some who imagine that it is their duty to be church tinkers. It is agreeable to their natural feelings to be seeking spot and stain in others; they watch diligently for something to reprove, and they become narrower and narrower in their ideas, until they are ready to make one an offender for a word. In the Sabbath meetings, when all should be individually engaged in the worship of God, an accusing spirit is allowed to come in, and one bears testimony against another. This spirit is wholly unlike Christ, and leads to dissension and wrangling. God no more accepts such worship than he accepted Cain's offering. There is no more effectual hindrance to growth in grace than this disposition to criticize and condemn others. We have in our experience seen this accusing spirit gradually enter the hearts of church-members until it had leavened nearly the entire church, and the result was that little of real godliness or of the spirit of Christ remained. HS 212.5

The disposition to gossip, which is so wide-spread, is displeasing to God. If those who indulge in unkind criticism or idle talk could realize that an angel of God is noting down their words, and that all are to appear against them in the Judgment, they would be far more careful as to what is entered on that book of records. How must the continual fault-finding appear to the heavenly messengers who are sent forth to minister to God's people. Would that the eyes of all might be opened, that they might see the holy angels walking among them. Surely they would be more guarded; instead of judging their brethren and sisters, and talking of their weaknesses, they would be seeking God with the whole heart. HS 213.1

When Christ appointed to Peter his work, the apostle, turning to a brother disciple, asked, “Lord, what shall this man do?” Jesus gently reproved him, saying, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” Here is our work,—to look to Jesus, and pattern after his character; and we should be very jealous of ourselves, lest we shall fail to meet the divine standard. I remember when we were looking for the Saviour to come in 1844, how great was the anxiety of each to know that his own heart was right before God. When we met together, the question would be asked by one and another, “Brethren, have you seen anything in me that is not right? I know that we are often blind to our own faults, and if you have seen anything wrong in me, I want you to tell me.” Sometimes errors would be pointed out, and we would all bow before God and seek forgiveness. If any variance or alienation existed, we felt that we could not separate until all were in harmony. Sometimes brethren who had difficulty would be seen going away together to some secret place to plead with God, and they would return with their hearts knit together in love. The sweet spirit of peace was in our assemblies, and the glory of God was around us. The faces of the believers shone with the light of heaven. HS 213.2

In this great day of atonement our work is that of heart-searching, of self-abasement, and confession of sin, each humbling his own soul before God, and seeking pardon for himself individually. Anciently every one that did not on the day of atonement afflict his soul, was cut off from the people. God would have us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. If each will search and see what sins are lurking in his own heart to shut out Jesus, he will find such a work to do that he will be ready to esteem others better than himself. He will no longer seek to pluck the mote out of his brother's eye while a beam is in his own eye. HS 213.3

Let no Christian be found an accuser of the brethren. Satan is the one who bears this title; he accuses them before God day and night, he stirs up the enemies of our faith to accuse us, and he prompts those of like precious faith to criticise and condemn one another. We are not to take part in his work. These are days of trial and of great peril, the adversary of souls is upon the track of every one; and while we stand out separate from the world, we should press together in faith and love. United, we are strong; divided, we are weak. HS 213.4

We are exhorted to love as brethren, to be kind, courteous, forbearing, in honor preferring one another. Love for God and for one another constitutes the divine credentials which the children of God bear to the world. “By this,” said Jesus, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Those who cherish this love will sacredly guard the interests of one another. No evil reports will be carried; tattling and gossip will cease; Christ and the truth will be magnified. HS 214.1

None who continue to cherish a querulous, fault-finding disposition can enter heaven; for they would mar its peace and harmony. They will be left outside the city of God, with all who stir up strife. Nor should they be permitted to remain in the church to prevent unity and destroy its usefulness. Let them be reproved, and if they do not change their course, let them be separated from the church. But all may, if they will, conquer these evil traits. The members of the church should pledge themselves to walk together in harmony. Each should set a guard over his own heart, not permitting himself to think evil of his brethren, but giving them credit for all the good qualities they possess. We should store the mind with the precious promises and instructions of God's word. When Satan seeks to divert the attention to things of no profit, then we should think and talk of these heavenly promises, and the tempter will be vanquished. By thus battling day by day, with earnest prayer and determined faith, all may gain the victory. Those who have most to overcome will be like the sinner to whom Christ forgave much, and who loved much; and they will at last stand nearest to the throne. HS 214.2

Christ is willing to help all who feel their need of help; but if any are satisfied with themselves, the Saviour will pass them by. Flavel has said: “When the Lord intends to fill a soul, he first makes it empty; when he intends to enrich a soul, he first makes it poor; when he intends to exalt a soul, he first makes it sensible of its own miseries, want, and nothingness.” I desired our brethren to have a sense of their wasted or unimproved opportunities, to realize that they were dwarfs in the religious life, when they might be giants. HS 214.3

The statement which is sometimes made, that we must all come down upon a level, is not Bible teaching. While the Christian should cherish humility and meekness, he is, in learning these lessons, coming in connection with Christ, coming up to a higher plane of action. The Lord would have the subjects of his kingdom represent the character of their sovereign. The religion of Christ never degrades the receiver; never makes him careless in his dress, neglectful of his manners and habits, or rough and uncourteous in speech. It elevates the receiver, refines his taste, sanctifies his judgment, purifies the thoughts, and makes the actions holy; it prepares him to become a member of the great family above. HS 214.4

The church at Christiania have not a twentieth part of the influence they might have possessed, if they had rightly improved their opportunities and privileges. Their ideas are altogether too narrow. Each should turn his attention to himself, to make the most of every advantage, that he may become a help and strength to the church. God has committed to them sacred truths, through which they are to be sanctified and to reflect light to the world. They are to show what the truth can do for even coarse, rough stones out of the quarry of the world. What these brethren need is elevation of thought, and refinement of character. They need to make the Bible their guide; the study of God's holy word will strengthen and expand the mind. But they must learn the truth as it is in Jesus, or they might better never have received it. It is not the mere reading of the word that gives light, but the word opened to the understanding and applied to the heart by the Spirit of God. HS 215.1