Sermons and Talks, vol. 2


Chapter 6—The Need of Earnest, Intelligent Workers

Manuscript 14, 1887

[Address given March 7, 1887, before the Institute at Basel, Switzerland.]

It is important that all who design to labor in the cause of God should learn the very best manner of prosecuting their work. There never was a more solemn and important period for us than the present. Our hearts are pained exceedingly when we see that there are so few laborers who can be depended upon to go into the field, and who are seeking wisdom of God that they may know how to work. 2SAT 39.1

I have been shown that many efforts which have been made at great expense to present the truth have been in a large measure unsuccessful, because the very kind of labor that is required has not been done. We have tried for years to present before our people the necessity of working more intelligently. There is need of our coming very close to God and not feeling at rest unless we have the burden of souls upon us. 2SAT 39.2

The powers of our intellects must be brought into active exercise in planning ways and means by which our labor shall accomplish the most good. We are not excusable for taking hold of the work in a listless, indolent, careless manner. It requires all the powers that God has given us, intellectually and physically, to do this important work. 2SAT 39.3

When the discourses are given in the desk, the work is just entered upon. Then the minister should by personal effort, if possible, become acquainted with every one of his hearers. If they have interest enough to come out and hear what you have to say, you should respond to it by a decided interest on your part to make their personal acquaintance. 2SAT 39.4

If our ministering brethren have not decided to put all there is of them into the work of God, it would be better for them not to be numbered among the laborers, as only failure and disappointment will attend their efforts. Satan and his agents are sharper than our workers. While he is planning and devising, and laying his nets to take souls unawares, our brethren are frequently taking things in a very easy manner, and Satan out-generals them almost every time. Now, if they would have the field preoccupied by God and by heavenly angels, and their own efforts, they must throw their whole being, soul, body, and spirit, into the work of God, and not make a pretense of doing the work, when it is not half done. 2SAT 39.5

While there should be an earnest interest for those in far off fields, there should be fully as great an interest for fields close at home. The great desire with some to go to far off fields, while there are fields right around you that need the truth, and that will not call for so large drafts from the treasury, is not prompted by the direct influence of the Spirit of God. I have been shown that there was much loss by neglecting missions close around us, where the fields are all ripe for the harvest. 2SAT 40.1

When you enter a place to present the truth, seek first to become acquainted with the ministers of the various denominations. Do not give the impression that you are like a fox, stealing in to get sheep, but lay right open before the minister the fact that you want to call his attention to precious truths in the word of God. Ministers have been treated by some of our laborers very much as though they were heathen, and they feel it. Some of them who have rejected the light may be dishonest, critical, and sharp, and may look upon you as the Jews looked upon the apostles, as disturbers of the churches, but there are others who have lived up to the best light they had upon the Scriptures. 2SAT 40.2

If our ministers go into a place and first come to the shepherds of the flock, and are friendly and sociable and kind with them, it may have an excellent effect upon them, and leave a favorable impression in regard to the truth, upon their minds. At any rate it is fair and right to give them an opportunity to be favorable and kind if they will. If by earnest, prayerful, Christlike efforts you can bring one minister into the truth, [you through his influence may be able] to convert a score of souls. We have not one point of truth that we need be ashamed of, and therefore we should be perfectly fair and open in laying these things before those who are intelligent and who are in responsible positions. Treat them as honest men. You can speak with them in regard to matters of general religious interest, perhaps seeking information on some points, without coming directly and pointedly to the subject of the truth itself. Leave that for another interview. To have the wisdom of a serpent and the harmlessness of a dove, is a very wonderful acquirement. 2SAT 40.3

We should not upon entering a place build up unnecessary barriers between us and other denominations, especially the Catholics, so that they shall think we are their avowed enemies. We should not create a prejudice in their minds unnecessarily, by making a raid upon them. There are many among the Catholics who live up to the light they have far better than many who claim to believe present truth, and God will just as surely test and prove them as He has tested and proved us. And just according to their willingness to stand the testing, of whatever character it may be, will be their accountability before God. From that which God has shown me, a great number will be saved from among the Catholics. There has been but little done for them except to make them appear in the worst light. 2SAT 40.4

We are to stand in this world as though there were all around us the purchase of the blood of Christ, and as though it depends very much upon our words, deportment, and manner of labor, whether these souls shall be saved or not. There are many who engage in the work who need a different mold of character in order to make a success in any department of the work. Now, it depends very much on the way we take hold to labor whether we shall have souls as the result of our efforts. 2SAT 41.1

There has not been the effort made that there should have been made to reach the higher classes. While we are to preach the gospel to the poor, we are also to present it in its most attractive light to those who have ability and talent, and make far more wise, determined, God-fearing efforts than have hitherto been made, to win them to the truth. 2SAT 41.2

But in order to do this all the workers will have to keep themselves up to a high level of intelligence. They cannot do this work and sink down to a low, common level, feeling that it does not much matter how they labor or what they say, since they are working for the poor and ignorant classes. They will have to sharpen up, and be armed and equipped in order to present the truth intelligently and to reach the higher classes. Their minds must rise higher, and show greater strength and clearness. 2SAT 41.3

You should be determined to dig for truth as for hid treasure, and you will have a treasurehouse to draw from constantly. More than this, in your very diligence to search the Scriptures in order to meet the sharp and critical objections that are raised, you are obtaining a better understanding of the truth. None need to feel that the Catholics are beyond their reach, because it is a duty we owe to God to sow the seed beside all waters. It is God who gives the increase, not man. 2SAT 41.4

The discourse given from the desk should not be lengthy, for this not only wearies the people but so draws upon the time and strength of the minister that he is not able to engage in the personal labor which should follow. He should go from house to house and labor with families, calling their attention to eternal truths in the Word of God. If he does this labor in the meekness of Christ, he will surely have the angels of God to work with his efforts. But we are altogether too faithless and too narrow in our ideas and in our plans. What we want is to have the Spirit of Christ in us. We want living faith; and we want a faith that will hold us to direct our labors for the higher and more intelligent. This is God's plan. And if we make narrow plans and narrow efforts, we shall see very little accomplished. 2SAT 41.5

One reason why efforts have not heretofore been made for the higher classes as I have presented before you, is a lack of faith and real courage in God. It is not always best to labor for the most wealthy; these are sometimes the most ignorant, and they have made this world their God, so that it would be very difficult to introduce the wedge of truth and separate them from the world. Nevertheless, there are men of wealth who will embrace the truth here in Europe if the right kind of labor is put forth. The Lord has agents here whom He has trusted with means to carry forward His work in these countries. When those who are poor embrace the truth and do to the very best of their ability, our heavenly Father will see when they have gone to the extent of their ability, and He will bring in other talents in order to carry forward His work. There is a wonderful work to be done for the Master yet, and we want to act like living soldiers of the cross of Christ. 2SAT 42.1

Some things were presented to me in a very impressive dream, September 29, 1886, which I wish here to relate: 2SAT 42.2

I dreamed that I was walking with a large company of men and some women. We were looking to find fruit of some kind to gather. A large wagon containing provisions went before us to supply our necessary wants. There were many young men and women in the company to help in the work of gathering the fruit. We seemed to be in a city, for there was not much space which was not occupied with houses; but out of the city were open fields, beautiful groves, and cultivated lands. 2SAT 42.3

Soon the wagon halted, and the party began to scatter in every direction to find fruit. Just within their reach were bushes bearing large quantities of beautiful whortleberries; but they did not look close enough to see them. The ripe fruit was so mingled with the green that we could pick only one or two berries from a cluster. I commenced to gather the fruit very carefully for fear of picking the green berries, but my pail, which held two quarts, was quickly filled. Some of the nice large fruit had fallen from the bushes to the ground, and was half consumed by birds and insects. “Oh,” thought I, “if this field had only been entered before, all this precious fruit might have been gathered and saved. But it is too late now. I will, however, pick these from the ground, and see if there is any good in them. If the berry is spoiled and tasteless, I can at least show the brethren what they might have found had they not been too late.” 2SAT 42.4

Just then one or two of the party came sauntering around where I was. They were chatting, and seemed to be much occupied in visiting together. Seeing me, they said, “We have looked everywhere, and can find no fruit.” They looked with astonishment at the quantity I had gathered. I said, “There is plenty more to be gathered from these bushes.” They commenced picking, but soon stopped, saying, “It is not fair for us to pick here; you found this spot, and the fruit is yours.” Said I, “That makes no difference. Gather wherever you can find anything to gather. This is God's field, and these are God's berries; and it is your privilege to pick them.” 2SAT 43.1

But soon I seemed to be alone again. At a little distance I heard voices talking and laughing. I looked up, and saw that great preparations were being made at the wagon. I called out to the brethren, “What are you doing there?” They answered, “We could find no berries, and as we were tired and hungry, we thought we would come to the wagon and take a lunch. After we have rested a while we will go out again.” 2SAT 43.2

“But,” said I, “I cannot eat now. There is too much fruit to be picked. You did not find it because you did not look close enough. It does not hang on the outside of the bushes. You must search for it. True, you cannot pick it by handfuls, but by picking one by one from among the green ones, you will find very choice fruit.” 2SAT 43.3

I then took my berries and went to the wagon. Said I, “This is the nicest fruit that I ever picked, and I gathered it close by, while you have wearied yourselves by searching at a distance without success.” Then all came to look at my fruit. Said they, “These are high-bush berries, firm and good. We did not think we could find anything on the high bushes, so hunted only for low-bush berries, and we have found only a few of these.” I then said, “Will you take care of these berries, and then go with me to look for more fruit on the high bushes?” 2SAT 43.4

But they had made no preparation for caring for any fruit. There were dishes and sacks in abundance, but these had to be used to hold food, and they had to be emptied. There was spoiled meal, rancid butter, and tainted meat; and I became tired of waiting. Said I, “Did you not come to gather fruit? Then why are you not prepared to take care of it?” 2SAT 43.5

They responded, “Sister White, we did not really expect to find any fruit where there were so many houses and so much going on. But we thought as you seemed so anxious to gather fruit, we would come with you. We would have enough along to eat, and would enjoy it as a recreation if we did not gather any fruit.” 2SAT 43.6

Said I, “I cannot understand this kind of work. I shall go to the bushes again at once. The day is already far spent; soon the night will be here, in which we can gather no fruit.” Some went with me; others remained by the wagon to eat. In one place a little company had collected. They were busy talking about something in which they seemed much interested. I drew near, and found it was a little child that a woman held in her arms that had attracted their attention. I said to them, “You have but little time; you had better work while you can.” 2SAT 44.1

The attention of many was also attracted by a young man and a young woman who were running a race to see which would reach the wagon first. When they had finished running, they were so tired that they had to sit down and rest. Others also had wearily thrown themselves on the grass to rest. All through the day the wagon was frequently visited for supplies. 2SAT 44.2

Said I, “Brethren, you say that this is an unsuccessful expedition. If this is the way you work, I do not wonder. Your success or failure depends upon the way in which you take hold of the work. There are berries here, for I have found them; and there are more to be found. While some of you have been vainly searching for berries on the low bushes, others have found a few. But the high bushes have been passed by, simply because you did not expect to find fruit upon them. 2SAT 44.3

“You see that the fruit which I have gathered is large, and nice, and ripe, and after we have gone over the bushes once, other berries will soon ripen, and we can go over them again. This is the way that I was taught to gather fruit. If you had commenced to pick close by the wagon, where the berries are, you might have found fruit as well as I. But now you have little time in which to work. The lesson that you have this day given to those of our company who are just learning how to do this kind of work will be copied by them. 2SAT 44.4

“You came into the field without an earnest determination to consecrate your efforts to gathering fruit. The Lord has placed these fruit-bearing bushes right in the midst of these thickly settled places, and He expects you to find them. But you have been altogether too much engaged in eating and amusing yourselves. You must work with more zeal and earnestness, and with altogether a different object in view. By thus working, you will teach the younger members that the smaller matters, such as eating and recreating, are of minor importance. 2SAT 44.5

“It has been hard work to bring the wagon of supplies on the ground, but you have thought more of the supplies than of the fruit you were to bring as the result of your labors. You should be diligent to first pick the berries nearest you, and then search for those farther away. After that you can come back and work nearby again, and thus you will be successful.” 2SAT 45.1

I do not know as I need to put an interpretation upon this. I think any- one of intelligence could trace out its true meaning. We want in the first place to consecrate ourselves to God without reserve. We want to be in season and out of season. We want to sow the seed of truth wherever we can do so, and wherever the laborers go they are to go in the strength of God. 2SAT 45.2

There is a lesson to be learned from Gideon's army. It was not because of their great numbers that they prevailed, but because they were willing to follow the special directions of God by living faith. Those that were soon to press on to the battle, and who would scoop up the water and drink as they went, were the ones whom God accepted to engage in this enterprise; but those who prepared to have a good time, and bowed down leisurely and drank, were sent back to their homes. 2SAT 45.3

The Lord God of Israel looks upon us individually, and He sees whether we are in earnest in this matter. He sees whether we carry the burden of souls upon our hearts. He sees whether or not we touch these living interests with the tip ends of our fingers. If we have the interest that Knox had when he pleaded before God for Scotland, we shall have success. He cried, “Give me Scotland, Lord, or I die.” And when we take hold of the work and wrestle with God, saying, “I must have souls; I will never give up the struggle,” we will find that God will look upon our efforts with favor. He sees that if He gives you souls as the result of your ministry, it will not make you proud or lifted up. You will not be in a position where you will feel for an instant that someone else will get the credit for these souls; but you will feel so grateful to God that they are saved, that His praise will be in your hearts and on your lips day and night. It is such men that God will make mighty instruments to do His work. I feel in earnest upon these points. 2SAT 45.4

Those who have associated with them, those who are trying to learn how to do the work of God, should feel a constant burden on their souls as to what education they are giving these workers. Eternity will tell what kind of mold they are giving those who are connected with them in this work. If they have the Spirit and Power which Paul had, the Spirit of God working in them mightily to present every man perfect in Jesus Christ, they will ever seek, both by precept and example, to build them up in the most holy faith. The mold which these workers receive, they will in turn give to others. The influence is far-reaching, even to eternity. 2SAT 45.5

I am about to leave this field, and I feel intensely for all the workers who shall enter the Master's vineyard. Will you bear in mind the points which I have tried to present before you today, and work in those fields and among that company where your labors will tell if souls come into the truth? 2SAT 46.1

Do not labor for those whose characters are cast in an inferior mold, for their influence will not build up; it will not be cast upon the Lord's side, and your work will be almost lost. Men and women who are so weak in mind and principle that it is necessary for someone to be right with them to keep them in the faith, will not reflect light upon others. You want to keep constantly in view that you are to build up the interests of the cause and the work of God, and make the work in that place self-sustaining if possible. 2SAT 46.2

The work of the third angel is very extensive. An interest is to be established in every part of the world. If you do your work, laying the foundation all right, then the structure of truth can be built upon that foundation, and it will stand the tempest and storm. 2SAT 46.3

When Christ was upon earth, the foundation of the Christian work was laid by only two or three. These were minds that could be molded by the precious influences of Christ. After He had planted the foundation principles of truth in their minds, they could gather more, and in connection with Christ could be educating and molding others as they should increase in numbers. The number first swelled to twelve, and then to seventy; and thus the work was carried forward. 2SAT 46.4

Now God wants us to work as Christ worked, because there is but little money among us. Our brethren in America have been drawn upon for thousands and thousands of dollars. It is now the duty of the workers to make use of the very best of their ability and talent to build up the cause in these various fields so that it shall be self-sustaining. If you enter a new field and work at a very great expense to get out a few of the poorer classes who cannot possibly stand alone themselves, your labor will amount to very little. Those who need props on every side to hold them up are an additional care rather than a blessing. 2SAT 46.5

God wants us to agonize with Him that His power may unite with our efforts, that we may bring those into the truth who shall be an honor to His cause. However poor they may be, if they have root in themselves, they can have an influence upon others. There are fields where there are souls who will respond to the truth, who will be shining lights. I have felt that it was best for us to pray and have living faith that God would direct us as to the manner of our labors. “It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” It is a living connection with heaven which brings the light and power by which we can bring souls to Christ. 2SAT 47.1

Brethren, we want to act like living men and women. We want to put on the armor of righteousness, and to know that as an army of workers we have God as our Captain. We are then prepared to meet principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. Let us not sleep on the field of battle. 2SAT 47.2

May God help us to be wide-awake, earnest, and energetic in the precious cause of truth.—Ms 14, 1887 (MR 900.58). 2SAT 47.3