Sermons and Talks, vol. 2


Chapter 10—Make the Best Use of Your Talents

Manuscript 19b, 1890

[Mrs. E. G. White's talk before the General Conference Committee, July 14, 1890, at Lake Goguac.]

I have felt that there is too great indifference about discerning talent and making the best use of it. It is a painful thing to me, as the matter was presented, that we cannot arouse our ministers to see the necessity of encouraging men to come to the college to get an education. When they were spoken to in reference to this matter, the answer would always be, “Well, it will take a good deal of means.” But I entreated that something should be done. 2SAT 80.1

Brother Fargo's ideas were rather narrow and limited, and I wanted to see someone put in his place who would make a change. Someone who would encourage the ministers, who would not look altogether at the means it would require to fit these men for positions of trust, and who would not think that perhaps some of them might make a failure after all. Someone who would look to the future and begin to lay out their work for the prosperity and health of the cause. 2SAT 80.2

At the Jackson meeting Brother Butler said, “I will take the presidency of the Michigan Conference.” And then I sat down before him and laid it out as plainly and distinctly as I was capable of, what the Lord would have the men in responsible positions do. They should select helpers. He needed one right by his side, and if there were two or three who could work right in with him, and he not do the work but try to educate them, it would be better, and they would thus be trained for the work. 2SAT 80.3

Said I, “What are we going to do? We are going to be brought up here without any workers.” “Well,” he said, “That is the right thing to do.” But he never lifted a finger, nor followed the direction given, in one item as I know of. 2SAT 80.4

The importance of this has been opened before me again and again, and I would urge the necessity of considering how we are coming out in regard to ministers. But there have been failures. Young men often have some things unpromising, while there are some things promising, and the unpromising traits overbalance the promising. The pain I have felt of seeing that, notwithstanding the directions that have been given, there has been so little done in regard to the matter, is beyond anything I can tell you. 2SAT 80.5

When I went to California this season, I saw the great dearth of laborers that exists. Brother Gates and Brother Underwood know how hard we worked at the California camp meeting. But after all had been done that it was possible for us to do, there was not a man left after the camp meeting to bind off the work. And there was Brother [E. P.] Daniels, who needed someone to stand right by his side and tell him what to do and how to work himself out. But he was left, some considering him the worst man who ever lived, and others trying to plaster over his course as though it was not so bad after all. But nobody was left to bind off the work. 2SAT 80.6

Letters have been coming to me asking for help. I see the dearth, and the necessity for faithful, consecrated laborers. Elder Loughborough ought not to be left in that conference as president another year. The man is just about threadbare; his strength is about used up. Look at Brother Olsen; there he is, all worn down. 2SAT 81.1

What courage have we—what courage can we have—to put forth efforts in different places that use up our strength and vitality to the very last edge, and then go away and leave it to all ravel out, with nobody to look after it? 2SAT 81.2

Now I will just mention my experience. After I stepped on American soil, after coming from Europe, I did not go into a house but went into a hotel and took my dinner, and then went to New Bedford. There was the place of all others where plans should have been laid to keep somebody there to bind off the work. There were wealthy people, and deeply convicted. It was a wonderful interest we had there. The people would come out to the meeting and sit and listen with tears in their eyes; they were deeply impressed. But the matter was left with no one to follow up the interest; everything was allowed to go right back. These things are not pleasing to God. We are either spreading over too much ground and proposing to do too much work, or else matters are not arranged as they ought to be. 2SAT 81.3

We are failing in another direction, and that is that men who can work should be linked in their labors with those who are inexperienced, that they may get an experience in the right direction. The inexperienced ones should not be sent out alone. They should stand right by the side of older and experienced ministers, where they could educate them. They should say to them, “You must not copy my gestures, nor the tone of my voice, so that nobody will know whether you are speaking or whether I am speaking. You are to stand in your own armor, with your own phase of character, sanctified by God. You are not to take my phase of character, nor my gestures, nor my tone of voice, nor my expressions, nor my words.” 2SAT 81.4

I think this has been shown me twenty times in my lifetime, and I have tried to tell it to the brethren; but the evil is not remedied. When one of these men who has not an experience in the work stands by your side, he is not to think in everything just as you think, and look at everything just as you look at it; that if you should give up the truth he would say, “I might as well give it up.” Let them stand to obtain a symmetry of character from the God of heaven, not that they should have your ideas, and you have a molding influence on them, but you should carry them right to the Bible as their pattern. The importance of these things has been shown me so many times that I feel a burden on this point. 2SAT 82.1

Our camp meetings are a power when they are held in a place where the community is stirred. They have a great deal more power there than they have among our own people. Advantage should be taken of the impression that is made by our camp meeting. If something is done that will keep up the interest, many souls might be secured. 2SAT 82.2

It is as much our duty to look at the after-interests of a camp meeting as it is to look after the present interests, because the next time you go, if they were impressed and convicted and did not yield to that conviction, it is harder to make an impression on their minds than it was before, and you cannot reach them again. 2SAT 82.3

There is another point I want to speak about. It is about the preaching at our camp meetings. There is twice the amount of preaching at our camp meetings that there ought to be. Many smaller matters that lead to things of greater importance are utterly neglected. The idea seems to be only to preach. And the ministers are so tired that when it comes to looking after the little points that need to be guarded—which points would close the door to larger evils—they have no vitality, no time to meditate and pray and keep themselves in the love of God during the meeting. 2SAT 82.4

The sermons should come, not from a mechanical heart, but from a heart that is filled with the love of God, and is subdued and softened by His grace; that when you speak the angels of God are enlisted on your side, and Christ is on your side, and it is Christ who makes the impression. 2SAT 82.5

Now, these things have been neglected at our camp meetings. We have lost two-thirds of all that the camp meetings were designed to accomplish. The idea seems to be woven into the minds of some that all they have to do is to sermonize, sermonize. While sermons are good in their place, there is sermon after sermon given to the people that they cannot retain in their minds—it is an impossibility for them to do it—and they are just wearied out with sermons. 2SAT 82.6

And there is another point I want you to see: It is wearing out the ministers, wearing out their vital organs. It is not an easy matter to go to a camp meeting and speak to the congregations in such a high pitch of voice as many do. There is a strain on the vital organs and you do not realize it because you feel enthused with the spirit of the subject and the congregation, but afterward you feel as though you were sapped of your strength. And then the very next thing is, “Well, there, I do not feel the Spirit of God; something is the matter with me.” 2SAT 83.1

The strain has been so terrible on the brain that there is a letting down. You cannot do otherwise. It is the natural course of things. The next thing is backsliding. You feel too tired to carry the matter out, to believe that God hears you when you do pray. You think something is the matter with you. You are separated from God and you do not know what the matter is. Therefore you will pass over season after season of prayer, and there is a terrible loss in this respect. 2SAT 83.2

From the light that God has given me, our brethren must get together and consider these things. The camp meetings lose two—thirds of their efficiency and success because the people, after so many discourses have been given, do not have anything clear in their minds; it is a commingling of ideas. 2SAT 83.3

There should be more time devoted to the spiritual seeking of God. And there should be personal effort with each one on the ground. After the meetings are through, there should be a personal investigation with each one on the ground. Each one should be asked how he is going to take these things, if he is going to make a personal application of them. And then you should watch and see if there is an interest in this one or that. 2SAT 83.4

Five words spoken to them privately will do more than the whole discourse has done. But you can do more than that. You can show love and kindness and courtesy, and in doing that you remove prejudice. Why, they say, we heard you were a people who did not believe in conversion, and here you are talking to me about conversion; you are appealing to me on conversion. And all that prejudice is swept away when you talk to individuals in that way. 2SAT 83.5

But there is strength exhausted at our camp meetings that need not be, because we can have constant help from God and be strengthening all the time. 2SAT 83.6

These things that God had shown me were brought to my mind as I lay there, as it were, under the enemy Death. And I said to those around me, “I am learning my lesson, and I hope I will not have to learn it again.” 2SAT 83.7

The lesson was that in the education of young men we should not lead them to think that it is sermonizing that is to do the work. We say it, but let them see the results carried out. After the discourse is through, we should take time to seek God by ourselves. That used to be the way. The ministers would go away and pray together, and they would not let loose until the Spirit of God responded to their prayers. They would come away with their faces fairly lighted up, and when they spoke to the congregation their words meant something. They reached the hearts of the people because the Spirit that gave the blessing to them prepared the hearts to receive the message. 2SAT 84.1

There is far more being done by the universe of heaven than we have any idea of, in preparing the way so that souls shall be converted. We want to work in harmony with the messengers of heaven. We want more of God. We do not want to feel that it is our talking and our sermonizing that is to do the work. We want to feel that unless the people are reached through God, they never will be reached. 2SAT 84.2

And when we see a young man of promise we should use our influence to get him into the college. If they have not any money—young men seldom, if ever, lay by any money—do not say, Go and work a year and then go into the college. No, but try to help them; present them before the churches; bear a decided testimony and say, Brethren, we want you to help these individuals through the college. And all the time keep your eye on them just as though you were their guardian. 2SAT 84.3

There are men who lie in their graves today who ought to be alive, and there are those who are going there—and what is the reason that God does not raise them up to health? The Lord wants us to learn our lesson, that we cannot use up the vital energies unreasonably and exhaust them just as though we had to do the work and there was not any God in heaven, and we are determined to make a success even at the cost of our lives. But I tell you we must believe that God does the work, and we should enlist Him in our work. Say to Him, Your Word has said it, that you will be with us always. I do not feel that animation I would like to feel, but God has said it and it will be done. Then, in a straightforward manner, give the practical lessons of Christ for which the people are starving to death. 2SAT 84.4

[Elder Underwood:] “Do we preach too long?” 2SAT 84.5

[Sister White:] Yes, indeed; and I, too; I take that right to myself. I preach too long. 2SAT 84.6

[W C. White:] “Let me ask a question. Are we to take your example as an exponent of your views?” 2SAT 84.7

[Sister White:] Well, didn't I just make my confession? And haven't I given you an example? I consider myself an exception, but I think I have ventured too far even in the exception. But I will tell you why I consider myself an exception. I have been taken by my husband and carried on the cars and laid on the seat, and I have gone to a place of meeting and have stood under paralysis that had been upon me for weeks, so that I have not been able to command my language to speak a sentence correctly. And yet I would stand on my feet before the public and make my testimony as straight as a string. The Spirit of the Lord was upon me. Everyone is not an exception. Now, how can I tell when I am going too far? I have been brought up to that point again and again. 2SAT 85.1

Notwithstanding I said I had learned my lesson, after I had been three days, as it were, driven, in my mind, on the water of a shoreless ocean, it seemed as though I could not see land. I was there with that little boat like a ship on the water. I could see the cars, but could not reach them. And those who were giving me treatment said, “Sister White, why don't you touch the hem of Jesus’ garment?” Well, I tried to all I could. 2SAT 85.2

Then I saw a storm coming. I could see the clouds gathering all around me, and everything was so dark. And then in the night season the form of Christ appeared right before me, just as distinct as any one of your persons. Just the moment I saw that form I said, “It is Jesus, it is Jesus; I am saved, I am saved.” The moment I looked at Him, I knew it was Jesus. And all the trouble and perplexity which was there was swept away, and I felt as though I was resting. Everything I could commit to Jesus. 2SAT 85.3

But there was something more for me. He spoke and said: “Satan is the destroyer, I am your Restorer. I will restore you.” Then I was so happy, and so full of joy that He would restore me. I cannot remember the words that were spoken, but this is the import: Your trial is not yet ended. You will be tempted; you will have affliction; you will have suffering; but you are not to judge by this suffering that God is not your Helper. I am your Restorer. You are to look to Jesus. I did not know what the words meant. 2SAT 85.4

The next day I was so happy, and I gave my appointment; I would go out by faith. The patients were asking me to speak. They were wealthy people there. The next day when the heart was struck it was as though someone had struck me right across here with a bar of iron, and it seemed to me I was going to die right off. And the next strike was across the kidneys, and I was so nervous it seemed to me as though I would die. If this had come to me before this revelation, I think I would have given up the struggle. And the first thought was, I shall certainly be paralyzed. I had the rheumatism in every nerve and muscle of my body. This was Sabbath. 2SAT 85.5

Now, said I, shall I give up to this? I told them, No. Brother Biter came and took me by one arm and Sister Lockwood by the other, and I moved just a little at a time. One carried a chair for me, and they led me into the house and I took my seat in the church on the platform; and then I spoke to the patients. I was never clearer in my life. The blessing of God rested on me, and I was in pain at every breath. 2SAT 86.1

There those patients sat with tears rolling down their faces. I said, Lord, I am just as a vessel all broken to pieces. You can affect the people, Lord. And they were affected. Every one of those patients wanted to be introduced to me. And they said to me, Won't you have some little talks with us women in the parlor and tell us what we can do? And then, Won't you pray with us? And they would come from the rooms of those who could not get out and wanted me to come and pray for them. 2SAT 86.2

We had a very solemn and impressive meeting. The Lord was my Supporter. The impression that was made came from the Lord, and the things that were talked about—faith in Christ and the righteousness of Christ—were things for which they were just starving. I never saw people grasp anything so. One woman by the name of Farmer said, “The Lord has spoken through you today. I have never before heard such things.” And that was the impression that went around. And when I spoke to the helpers they were just as disappointed as they could be to be turned aside. 2SAT 86.3

But I spoke to them the next Sabbath, standing then. We had an excellent meeting. I saw the words of Christ, “I am your Restorer,” and I have hung right [on] to them since. And when I heard of Mary's sickness and started on the way, I thought the first two days perhaps I would have to be left on the way, but the third day I began to get strength. 2SAT 86.4

You see the position I am brought into. I have had to move wholly by faith. I never yet have been healed out and out; and that is why I do not call anybody to pray for me, because they expect that I will be healed, and I know from the past I will not be healed. That is, that I shall not have the work done right then and there. I have to go by faith. I have to march out without any sight or feeling. If I should say I had a change of feeling, I would tell a falsehood; I have never had it yet. Now, you see, I have had to go in that way, and the Lord has sustained me every time. 2SAT 86.5

Now, how far shall I go? I have taken the position that if the Lord gives me a burden for the Battle Creek church, I will tell it to them. But unless I have a burden, I have nothing more to say. I spoke 21 times in as many days there at Battle Creek. I did not speak every day, but some days spoke twice. 2SAT 86.6

This was before I left; and I never got rested until it resulted in this terrible sickness. I knew, and told them at Fresno, that I was fighting my last round. And then in those private meetings the labor was worse than speaking in public, and having to tell them such straight things as I had to tell them. 2SAT 87.1

Now I do not know whether your question is answered or not. Perhaps it is like a long sermon—it is so long that you have lost the main point. 2SAT 87.2

[Elder White:] “Now I have questioned somewhat whether one person had the right to shape his action on another's experience. I have questioned if it was not our duty to shape our action on our own experience.” 2SAT 87.3

[Sister White:] Well, now, it has been like this. I have been sick and in pain. And I want to tell you that there is never a time when I make an appointment but that before that appointment comes, I have wrestled with the most terrible difficulty of the heart, or some infirmity, that makes it seem like an impossibility for me to go before the public. And yet, just as soon as I stand on my feet before the people, I feel just as sure that the angels of God are right by my side, as if I opened my eyes and looked upon them as I did at Christ at the time He restored me. I am taken right out of and above myself. I feel just as though, as it were, the judgment is right before me; just as though the universe of heaven is looking upon me, and as though I have these things to do, and I must say them [even] if I drop dead in the desk. 2SAT 87.4

Now I do not believe it is the duty of others to do that. And every day I feel that way. It is because the terrible realities of eternity are opened before me, and as soon as I get upon my feet the terrible realities seem to enshroud me like a garment. 2SAT 87.5

Now, the time Brother Farnsworth and another brother, whose name I cannot call, came to our house last winter for me to go to a meeting of the young people at the Tabernacle, I was so encompassed with infirmities that I did not dare spend that night without sending for the doctor. I rarely send for a doctor, but I sent for a doctor before those brethren came. And those brethren came in before the doctor came, and I went to the meeting. When the doctor came down, his patient was not there. We had a most precious season at that meeting. Now that is the way my course has been. 2SAT 87.6

[Elder Farnsworth:] “Don't you think, Sister White, a great many of our ministers have received great injury from their manner of speaking?” 2SAT 87.7

[Sister White:] Oh, yes, indeed; I have seen it over and over. My husband got in the way of sometimes raising his voice very loud, and it seems as though he could not get out of that way. And there is a brother in Texas, Brother McCutcheon, who is dying just as surely as if he put a knife to his throat. Since I have come here, I have thought of that and I must write to him. 2SAT 88.1

[Elder Kilgore:] “He has been told about that.” 2SAT 88.2

[Elder Farnsworth:] “They are all around in every conference.” 2SAT 88.3

[Sister White:] In my younger days I used to talk too loud. The Lord has shown me that I could not make the proper impression upon the people by getting the voice to an unnatural pitch. Then Christ was presented before me and His manner of talking. There was a sweet melody in His voice. His voice, in a slow, calm manner, reached those who listened. His words penetrated their hearts, and they were able to catch on to what He said before the next sentence was spoken. Some seem to think they must race right straight along or else they will lose the inspiration and the people will lose the inspiration. If that is inspiration, let them lose it, and the sooner the better. 2SAT 88.4

Well, I wrote an article on that point when I was at St. Helena, because I felt as though our ministers were going down, and there was some cause for it. They are violating the laws of their being, and their vital organs are suffering. 2SAT 88.5

[Elder Farnsworth:] “Going back to something you said here in the first part of your remarks about our having too much preaching at our camp meetings, have you anything to suggest? For instance, that we cut off a part of the preaching services. Anything to suggest in reference to the way we should fill in this vacancy?” 2SAT 88.6

[Sister White:] When the congregation is not so large, mostly of our people, the way would be to take less time in speaking and let the people have a chance to testify to what they have heard. When the crowd is there, that could not interest them. 2SAT 88.7

[Elder White]: “I have heard you say, Mother, that we should have more teaching and less preaching; less preaching and more teaching. Speaking of the matter of getting the people together and having Bible readings.” 2SAT 88.8

[Sister White:] That was the way in Christ's day. He would speak to the people and they would call out a question as to what that meant. He was a teacher of the people. 2SAT 88.9

[Elder White:] “Then at one time I remember very distinctly about your saying that, ‘As we approach nearer the end I have seen our camp meetings with less preaching and more Bible study; little groups all over the ground with their Bibles in their hands, and different ones leading out in a free conversational study of the Scriptures.’” 2SAT 88.10

[Sister White:] That is the work that has been shown me, that our camp meetings would increase in success and interest. There are those who want more definite light. There are some who take a longer time to get hold of things and get what you really mean. If they could have the privilege of having it made a little plainer, they would see that and would catch hold of that. It would be like a nail fastened in a sure place, and it would be written on the tablets of their hearts. 2SAT 89.1

When the great throngs would gather about Christ, He gave His lessons of instruction. Then the disciples, in different places and different positions, after the discourse would repeat what Christ had said. The people had misapplied Christ's words, and the disciples would tell the people what the Scriptures said, and what Christ said the Scriptures said. They were learning to be educators. They were next to Christ, getting lessons from Him and giving them to the people. 2SAT 89.2

[Elder Olsen:] “In our camp meetings this season, except on Sabbath and Sunday, there has not been more than one, or at the most, two sermons a day; many times not more than one.” 2SAT 89.3

[Sister White:] There are so many things that come in at our camp meetings. But the ministers should get together every day and find out what their true feelings are, and what their spiritual impressions are. You should know that everything is drawing in even lines; that you are standing, as the words were spoken to me, shoulder to shoulder, marching right ahead, and not drawing off. There is unity of heart when the work is carried on in this way, and there will be harmony among all. This will be a wonderful means of the blessing of God resting upon the people. There should be hours when the ministers could get together and pray to God. 2SAT 89.4

I have held back from saying it, because I thought there were some who would not receive it, but I want to tell you, from the light God has given me, the time that is taken in our camp meetings in the drilling of canvassers should be done at another time. It should be done in the several churches and in meetings especially appointed. It should not be done at our camp meetings. 2SAT 89.5

There are some other points that should not be brought in. There is the tract and missionary work, the drilling in the details of how to do the work. The camp meetings are for the spiritual enlightenment of the people, and the spiritual part of our experience is to be attended to at the camp meetings. And when that is done, the power of God will be seen as never before. That is the light I have had. I have been pained to see so much time used up in the canvassing work. 2SAT 89.6

[Question]: “Does not the same principle hold good with reference to cooking schools?” 2SAT 90.1

[Sister White:] The whole of it. 2SAT 90.2

[Elder Underwood:] “Would you think, Sister White, that taking up the detail work of drilling Sabbath school workers would come under the same head?” 2SAT 90.3

[Sister White:] Exactly; it is not the place for it. That is to be done, but it has its time and its place. 2SAT 90.4

[Elder Underwood:] “Suppose they should call a Sabbath school convention and meet for that purpose?” 2SAT 90.5

[Sister White:] Yes; that is all right; and have those engaged to carry out the burden of that work and not hold the people there to hear these particular things. They have no special work to do in that branch. The time is too precious to be spent in that way. This has been repeated to me so many times, “It is the day of God's preparation to prepare a people to stand in the day of the Lord.” That has meant a great deal to me. It is all this mechanical work in our camp meetings that has just about destroyed their efficiency and power. But we should not make an abrupt change and rule out all these things, but we should work to this end and keep this point in view, and the change be brought about gradually. 2SAT 90.6

[Elder Underwood:] “I would like to ask a question on the point of having familiar meetings and allowing our brethren and sisters to ask questions in meetings appointed for that purpose. What would you think of that, Sister White?” 2SAT 90.7

[Sister White:] That is just the way it was in Christ's teaching. There should not be anything like controversy. And after you have answered their question, be sure that they acknowledge it is answered. Don't let it drop. Don't tell them to ask that again. But feel your way, how much you have gained. When any come in with a spirit of controversy, tell them that the meeting is not appointed for that purpose, but it is to educate those who have been listening and could not understand some things in the discourse. It is not to get in their doctrinal and controverted points. 2SAT 90.8

What are our camp meetings put in different places for? It is that the people may be educated, and special efforts should be made for the unbelievers. They should be sought out, and you should tell them, Now we would like to have you, the unbelievers, come into our special meetings. We are to do missionary work. “Ye are the light of the world.” 2SAT 90.9

Why was it that Christ went out by the seaside and into the mountains? He was to give the word of life to the people. They did not see it just that minute. A good many do not see it now to take their position. But these things are influencing their lives, and when the message goes with a loud voice they will be ready for it. They will not hesitate long. They will come out and take their position. There is a work that we have not done at our camp meetings that ought to be done.—Ms. 19b, 1890. 2SAT 91.1