Lt 51, 1886

1886

Lt 51, 1886

Butler, G. I.

Basel, Switzerland

September 6, 1886

This letter is published in entirety in 21MR 378-387.

Dear Brother Butler:

I am troubled in regard to Elder [J. H.] Waggoner. He writes me nothing, and I feel deeply pained on his account. It seems sometimes to me that the Lord is testing us to see whether we will deal faithfully in regard to sin in one of our honored men. The time is close at hand when the General Conference will have to decide the point whether or not to renew his credentials. If the Conference does this, they will be saying virtually we have confidence in you as a man whom God recognizes as His messenger, one to whom He has entrusted the sacred responsibilities of caring for the sheep of the Lord’s pasture, one who will be in all things a faithful shepherd, a representative of Christ. But can we do this? Have we not seen the workings of an unsanctified heart? Lt51-1886.1

The persistency in Eld. Waggoner to accept and claim Mrs. Chittenden as his—what shall I call it—his affinity? what is this? Who can name it? Is Eld. Waggoner one who has hated the light God has given him, showing that his preferences for Mrs. Chittenden’s society and his intimacy with her was sinful as in the light of the Word of God? Or did he accept the message and act upon it? Notwithstanding I went to Elder Waggoner with the testimony given me of God, yet he did not reform. His course has said: I will do as I please in the matter, there is no sin in it. He promised before God what he would do, but he broke his promises made to Bro. C. H. Jones, W. C. White, and myself, and his feelings did not decidedly change; but he seemed to act like a man bewitched, under the spell of the devil, and who had no power over his own inclinations. Notwithstanding all the light given, he has evidenced no real conviction or sense of sin. No repentance, no reformation. Hearts have ached sorely over this state of things, but they had no power to change his heart or his purposes. Lt51-1886.2

Now we should be very grateful for the help of Eld. Waggoner in England, and in Switzerland, but what can we decide upon? We must have evidence that he is clear before God. We do not want to make a light matter of sin and say to the sinner, It shall be well with thee. We do not want to connect Eld. Waggoner with the work here unless he has a connection with God. We do not want to have the drawback that would come by connecting a man with the work who has a foul blot on his garments. We cannot pass lightly over this matter. Lt51-1886.3

The plague of sin is upon Elder Waggoner, and pain and sorrow are upon the souls of all who are aware of this chapter in his experience. Christ is dishonored. A man blessed with superior light and knowledge, endowed with great capacity for good that he may by a life of obedience and fidelity to God become equal with angels, his life measure with the life of God, has perverted his God-given powers to administer to lust, coveting the wife of another. God finds Eld. Waggoner setting at naught the most costly lesson of experience, violating the most solemn admonitions of God, that he may continue in sin. I have hoped and prayed that he would restore reason to its right throne and break the fetters which for years Satan has been weaving about him soul and body, and that the clouds that have shadowed his pathway be removed and Christ come to his soul to revive and bless it. Christ will lift the heavy burden from weary shoulders and give rest and peace to those who will wear His yoke and lift His burdens. Lt51-1886.4

I will say Eld. Waggoner, what can be the character of your experience when in the face of many warnings and reproofs you continue to pursue a course condemned of God? Can you think well of yourself? Just think of Jesus crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross for our sins, and let it humble, yes, let it break your heart. Look at the meekness of Christ, His loveliness, and then bow in the dust with shame and humiliation. Will you please to think what you would do in the case should one of our leading men be found in the position you are in? Could you, without any greater evidence on his part of the sense of his sin than you have given, advise that he have credentials as one of pure and holy purposes before God? Cannot you see you are placing your fellow laborers in a very unpleasant and unenviable position? Will they venture to become responsible for your character and your influence in the future in the work and cause of God? Lt51-1886.5

Your case has been shown me to be worse than that of Eld. Cornell, because you had greater light, capacity, and influence, and his course is a beacon to warn you off from following in his steps. Eld. Cornell’s credentials were taken away from him; he is a deeply repenting man, humbled in the dust. Supposing David should, after being reproved by Nathan, have repeated the same offense. Would the Lord then have had compassion upon him? But he repented bitterly; he declared his transgression was ever before him. Hear his humiliating confession, and listen to his despairing cries. Lt51-1886.6

We must as a people arouse and cleanse the camp of Israel. Licentiousness, unlawful intimacy, and unholy practices are coming in among us in a large degree, and ministers who are handling sacred things are guilty of sin in this respect. They are coveting their neighbors’ wives, and the seventh commandment is broken. We are in danger of becoming a sister to fallen Babylon, of allowing our churches to become corrupted, and filled with every foul spirit, a cage for every unclean and hateful bird, and will we be clear unless we make decided movements to cure the existing evil? Will you have others follow your example? Will you wish them to pass over the ground you have traveled and feel that they have done no great wrong? Without repentance and genuine conversion you are a ruined man. Lt51-1886.7

I hear you are taking treatment at the sanitarium, acting as chaplain, speaking in the tabernacle. Now this does not look right for you to take such positions until you have done all in your power to correct past evils. I have felt for your sake restrained from opening the matter of Mrs. Chittenden’s infidelity to her husband, but I fear I have neglected my duty. If we had dealt with this matter as if it had been the case of a lay member of the church, I believe God would have then sent you repentance that needeth not to be repented of. Our pity, our love to save you from reproach has hurt you. My heart is so sad and agonized at times for you, I can only weep. I say, must he be lost? Must he after suffering for the truth’s sake, after standing in its defense until he is old and gray headed, become an idolater as did Solomon? Will he for the love of a woman trample down the law of God and look about him as much as to say, I do no sin, I am all right? Lt51-1886.8

Will we be clear to let such things be concealed and sins hidden with no real evidence of repentance or reform? Your leaving California does not give you a new heart. You are out of sight of the infatuating influence of your “adorable charmer,” but this does not change the affections or impulses of the heart. Elder Himes might have finished his course with joy had it not been for sensual practices, but he was led away of his own lusts and enticed. The days and years which might have been his very best were his worst. We see in the character of Solomon intellectual greatness combined with moral degradation. He might have gone forward from strength to strength, but instead of this he went backward from weakness to weakness. After a life of promise, his history was one of deterioration. Lt51-1886.9

My brother, my heart yearns toward you for Christ’s sake. You have been attempting what other ministers have attempted, to harmonize light with darkness, Christ with Belial, purity with impurity, good with evil. The result will be moral ruin unless you can be aroused to see that you are standing upon the very brink of the precipice. There are many such cases that I have to write about. It alarms me to see how the sin of licentiousness is coming in upon us. I felt this when I wrote to Elder Butler upon this point at the last General Conference, begging him to do all that he could to fence against what was coming in upon us. We must elevate the standard and build up barriers about the soul so that nothing shall mar its simplicity and purity and thus defile the religious character. God has given men intellect, and let every soul beware how this great gift is prostituted to the soul’s eternal ruin. There is no more hope of you than of any common sinner, nor as much unless you greatly humble your soul before God, repent, and are converted. Take the first steps in the way to life, repentance, faith, and baptism. You have tampered with the divine safeguards of your peace. If you refuse to listen to the voice of reproof, if you choose your own course, if you will not allow the grace of Christ to transform you, your guilt will be as much greater than that of the common sinner as your advantages and light have been greater. Lt51-1886.10

Great care should be exercised in companionship and friendship lest the soul be imperiled, lest there be even an appearance of evil which in the eyes of others would lower the standard of religious principle and sap the foundation of religious belief. How many even in the ranks of Sabbathkeepers are forming unsanctified connections. Men who have wives and women who have husbands are showing affection and giving undue attention to each other. How many men of promise there are in our ranks who no longer have pure faith and holy trust in God because they have betrayed sacred trusts. Noble aspirations are quenched. Their steps are retrograding because they covet another man’s wife or are unduly familiar with unmarried women. Their frivolous conduct leads them to break the seventh commandment. Lt51-1886.11

Of Solomon the inspired record says, “His wives turned away his heart after other gods and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God.” [1 Kings 11:4.] Lt51-1886.12

This is no theme to be treated with a smile. The heart that loves Jesus will not desire the unlawful affections of another. Every want is supplied in Christ. This superficial affection is of the same character as that exalted enjoyment which Satan promised Eve. It is coveting that which God has forbidden. When it is too late, hundreds can warn others not to venture upon the precipice. Intellect, position, wealth can never, never take the place of moral qualities. Clean hands, a pure heart, and noble, earnest devotion to God and the truth the Lord esteems above the golden wedge of Ophir. An evil influence has a perpetuating power. I wish I could set this matter before God’s commandment-keeping people just as it has been shown me. Let the sad memory of Solomon’s apostasy warn every soul to shun the same precipice. His weakness and sin is handed down from generation to generation. The greatest king that ever wielded a scepter, of whom it had been said that he was the beloved of God, through misplaced affection became contaminated and was miserably forsaken of his God. The mightiest ruler of the earth had failed to rule his own passions. Solomon may have been saved “as by fire” [1 Corinthians 3:15], yet his repentance could not efface those high places, nor demolish those stones, which remained as evidences of his crimes. He dishonored God, choosing rather to be controlled by lust than to be a partaker of the divine nature. What a legacy Solomon’s life has committed to those who would use his example to cover their own base actions. We must either transmit a heritage of good or evil. Shall our lives and our example be a blessing or a curse? Shall people look at our graves and say: He ruined me, or, He saved me? Lt51-1886.13

To the youth we need to give definite, oft repeated warnings to bring their gifts early to God as consecrated offerings. Had Solomon retained the heavenly gift of wisdom, God’s special endowment, had he with his ardent temperament been guided aright, his life would have been illustrious to its very close. But after a life of greatness and power, he fell because of uncontrolled passion. Had he continued to add virtue to his faith and his rich endowments, he would (have) stood forth a grand, noble cedar of Lebanon. But he surrendered to passion; and lust when it hath conceived bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death. Lt51-1886.14

The lesson to be learned from the life of Solomon has a special moral bearing upon the life of the aged, of those who are no longer climbing the mountain, but are descending and facing the western sun. We expect to see defects in the character of youth who are not controlled by love and faith in Jesus Christ. We see youth wavering between right and wrong, vacillating between fixed principle and the almost overpowering current of evil that is bearing them off their feet to ruin. But of those of mature age we expect better things. We look for the character to be established, for principles to be rooted, and they to be beyond the danger of pollution. But the case of Solomon is before us as a beacon of warning. When thou, aged pilgrim who has fought the battles of life, thinkest that thou standest, take heed lest thou fall. How, in Solomon’s case, was weak, vacillating character—naturally bold, firm, and determined—shaken like a reed in the wind under the tempter’s power. How was an old, gnarled cedar of Lebanon, a sturdy oak of Bashan, bent before the blast of temptation. What a lesson for all who desire to save their souls to watch unto prayer continually. What a warning to keep the grace of Christ ever in their heart, to battle with inward corruptions and outward temptations. Lt51-1886.15

Brethren, we must have genuine faith which is the gold tried in the fire. We must cherish that faith which works by love and purifies the soul. Unless our faith has a purifying influence it is worthless. Such a faith leads the soul to God and expands the intellect while it purifies, ennobles, and sanctifies. Let those in youth, those in mature age, and the aged consider that their cases are soon to pass in review before God. What will be the record that they shall meet? At one time in Battle Creek the scenes of the judgment were presented before me. The books were opened, and all, both old and young, who claimed to be keeping the commandments of God were gathered about the throne. In the books were written the thoughts, the words, the actions of those who had received much light and enjoyed many opportunities; and yet their names were not clear, their life record was blotted and blurred. Great numbers were weighed in the balances and found wanting who knew for just what sins they were condemned. It was because of the lack of a virtuous character. Base animal passions had controlled them. Licentiousness and lust had been carefully cloaked from human eyes; but the Lord saw it, and their names were blotted out of the Book of Life. Lt51-1886.16

Many of these men claimed to be teachers of the truth; but their labor was not marked with holy endeavor. They had not confidence and boldness toward God. They could not lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting. And the words were pronounced to these sin-polluted souls, “Depart from Me ye workers of iniquity.” [Luke 13:27.] Now is the time to obtain the white robe of character. Now is the time to confess and forsake sin, and come to God with contrition of soul, that your sins may be blotted out and your names retained in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Lt51-1886.17

We must do something to stop this terrible tide of moral impurity. Self-abuse stands as the most degrading sin, polluting the whole character of the man. Unless those who are practicing this vice break off their sin and repent before God, they will find no place in the city of God. There entereth into that city nothing that defileth or maketh a lie. Such characters are living a lie continually. We are living in an age when iniquity abounds, and the special work of God’s delegated servant must be to suppress this iniquity and to bring in righteousness. But those who claim to be the Lord’s delegated ministers and yet corrupt their own ways before Him are guilty of great crime. Lt51-1886.18

“And He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” [Zechariah 3:1-3.] Joshua here represents the people of God; and Satan pointing to their filthy garments claims them as his property over which he has a right to exercise his cruel power. But these very ones have improved the hours of probation to confess their sins with contrition of soul and put them away, and Jesus has written pardon against their names. Lt51-1886.19

Those who have not ceased to sin and who have not repented and sought pardon for their transgressions are not represented in this company; for this company vex their souls over the corruptions and iniquity abounding around them, and God will recognize those who are sighing and crying because of the abominations done in the land. They were not mixed up in these abominations. They had not corrupted their ways before God, but had washed their robes of character and had made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Satan pointed to their sins which had not yet been blotted out, and which he had tempted them to commit, and then reviled them as being sinners clad with filthy garments. But Jesus changes their appearance. He says, “Take away his filthy garments from him.” “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment, and I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by. And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee places among these that stand by.” [Verses 4-7.] Lt51-1886.20

After the filthy garments have been removed, the subject changes, showing that this has its application in the future. If the people of God will walk in the ways of the Lord and keep His charge which is the ten commandments, then the promise is that they shall judge His house and have places to walk among the angels. Lt51-1886.21

Now the question is, Will those who profess the truth comply with the conditions? Will the characters of those who profess to believe the truth correspond with its sacredness? Satan’s special efforts are now directed toward the people who have great light. He would lead them to become earthly and sensual. There are men who minister in sacred things whose hearts are defiled with impure thoughts and unholy desires. Married men who have children are not satisfied. They place themselves where they invite temptation. They take liberties which should only be taken with their lawful wives. Thus they fall under the rebuke of God, and in the books of heaven adultery is written opposite their names. There should be no approach to danger. If the thoughts were where they should be, if they were stayed upon God, and the meditations of the soul were upon the truth and the precious promises of God, and the heavenly reward that awaits the faithful, they would be guarded against Satan’s temptations. But by many, vile thoughts are entertained almost constantly. They are carried into the house of God and even into the sacred desk. Lt51-1886.22

I tell you the truth, Eld. Butler, that unless there is a cleansing of the soul temple on the part of many who claim to believe and to preach the truth, God’s judgments, long deferred, will come. These debasing sins have not been handled with firmness and decision. There is roughness in the soul; and unless it is cleansed by the blood of Christ, there will be apostasies among us that will startle you. I ask myself the question, How is it possible for men who are opening the Scriptures to others; men who have abundance of light; men who have good ability; men who are living as in the face of the judgment upon the very borders of the eternal world, to give their thoughts and bodies to unholy practices? Well may the words of the apostle be repeated with emphasis: “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourself in the sight of God, and He will lift you up.” [James 4:8-10.] “Blessed is the man who endureth temptations; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: (some have argued thus and thought, that for certain reasons they have of their own, God would have them take the course they did) for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” [James 1:12-15.] Lt51-1886.23

The work of overcoming must be done here in this life. By sincere repentance and forsaking of every sin, pardon will be written against your names. The thoughts will be pure if the heart is pure. If the fountain is corrupt, the stream will be corrupt. Shall men who are conversant with the Scriptures, and who are standing in vindication of the fourth commandment, be charged in the books of heaven with transgressing the seventh? Shall Satan be given occasion to taunt the angels of God with the filthy characters of those who claim to be Christians? Will they make Jesus ashamed to call them brethren? I address you who shall have this epistle brought before you, who are leaders, who may be termed princes, among the people, “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” [Isaiah 52:11.] Humble your souls before God. Jesus is in the sanctuary. We are in the great day of atonement; and if the investigative judgment has not already commenced for the living, it will soon begin; and to how many are the words of the True Witness applicable: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I shall come upon thee.” [Revelation 3:1-3.] Lt51-1886.24

The cases of all will be brought up in the judgment; and if their sins are not confessed, their names will then be blotted from the book of life, and their lot will be with the adulterers and the fornicators, and deceivers, and those who love and make a lie. “Thou hast a few names yet in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” [Verses 4, 5.] Lt51-1886.25

I am alarmed for our ministers who are hardening their consciences by continuing a course of sin. I fear that they will continue to fall under temptation until the word shall go forth: “He that is holy let him be holy still, and he that is filthy let him be filthy still.” [Revelation 22:11.] I tell you that there must be a thorough revival among us. There must be a converted ministry. There must be confessions, repentance, and conversions. Many who are preaching the Word need the transforming grace of Christ in their hearts. They should let nothing stand in the way of their making thorough work before it shall be forever too late. Christ is coming. His judgments are abroad in the earth. And that God who is ever present, who was a silent witness to the godless, sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar, whose hand traced the characters upon the wall, is present where you think no eye seeth. Had you, Eld. Waggoner, an elder of the church, looked up, you would have seen yourself a spectacle to God and to the pure angels who veil their faces and turn away from your pollution of soul and body. My words seem tame as I pen them when I think of the wonderful truths we profess and the great light that shines upon us from the Word of God. The Judge of all the earth is standing before the door, and every case must pass in solemn review before Him. I inquire how can anyone with this light shining upon him dare in thought or word to deny the Lord God who hath bought him. Make haste, my brother, to cleanse your hands. Jesus is still pleading as your Intercessor. Commence the work of forsaking your sins without delay. Do not rest till you find pardon, for no soul can enter the paradise of God who has a single spot or stain in his character. Make thorough work for eternity. Lt51-1886.26