The Fannie Bolton Story

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Letter 7, 1894, entire letter. (To Fannie Bolton, February 6, 1894.)

Sister Fannie, I declined seeing you this morning, for I am not well enough to bear anything more, either good or bad, that will have a tendency to affect my heart. I slept very little last night. I must be relieved from all responsibility in your case. The experience of the years past wherein you have handled the most sacred things, has not increased your love for or confidence in them. In your mind they are too often placed on a level with common things; but the ideas, words, and expressions, which seem to you rather inferior, and which you regard as non-essential, may be the very things that should appear as they are, in their simplicity. You replace these according to that which you suppose is your superior judgment, when the words were better, far better than the ones supplied by you. The writings given you, you have handled as an indifferent matter, and have often spoken of them in a manner to depreciate them in the estimation of others. In this you have been disloyal to me. FBS 20.4

In the same manner, if you had the task given you of handling Old and New Testament writings, you would see large improvements to be made, great additions and subtractions and changes of expression; you would put in words and ideas to suit your standard of how it should appear. We should then have Fannie Bolton’s life and expressions, which would be considered by you a wonderful improvement; but disapproved of God. Your discernment of sacred things is not clear, but confused. You approve that which is defective, the things bearing the divine stamp you would mold over, and not appreciate. In changing, you would not improve, but would weaken and dilute with your supposed sparkling ideas. FBS 21.1

Now, my sister, I do not want you to be any longer connected with me in my work. I mean now, for your good, that you should never have another opportunity of being tempted to do as you have done in the past. From the light given me of the Lord, you are not appreciating the opportunities which you have had abundantly, to be instructed and to bring the solid timbers into your character building. The work in which you have been engaged has been regarded as a sort of drudgery, and it is hard for you to take hold of it with the right spirit, and to weave your prayers into your work, feeling that it is a matter of importance to preserve a spirit wholly in harmony with the Spirit of God. Because of this lack you are not a safe and a capable worker. Your mind is subject to changes; first it is elated, then depressed. The impression made by this frequent change is startling. Self-control is not brought into your life. You choose a life of change, crowded with different interests and occupations, therefore you cannot possibly put your life, as you suppose you have done, into this work; you are most wonderfully deceived in thinking you do this. God sees the whole mold given to the work in every department. Self is not hid in God, and self is mingled with everything. All you engage in tastes so strongly of the dish that it is not acceptable to God. FBS 21.2

I had hoped that the lessons constantly brought before you in the writings you were handling would have a marked influence to mold and fashion your life and character after the divine image, the meekness and lowliness of Christ. But instead of being molded by the Holy Spirit, you seek to work the Holy Spirit to your mold, which is decidedly a defective pattern. Therefore I say, all that is good in your labor has a dead fly in it, like a bottle of excellent ointment, the fragrance of which is spoiled because of the dead fly. The spirit which you bring to the preparation of the articles placed in your hands prevents the Spirit of God from working to impress your mind as it should. FBS 21.3

If Marian had not exerted her influence very strongly to have you retained in my service after we left Preston, I should have had another to take your place. But the representation of the difficulty in educating a novice in the work has prevented me from doing that which I am now thoroughly convinced I should have done as far back as when in Battle Creek before coming to this country. You have worked hard enough; I make no complaint of your not doing enough, but that to which I object is the spirit with which you come to the work. In a large office, where you would have a variety of matters to handle, your ability would have a more appropriate field. You could dash off the matter in your own style, as a mechanical work, molding and fashioning it to suit yourself. Every time I can distinguish a word of yours, my pen crosses it out. FBS 21.4

I have so often told you that your words and ideas must not take the place of the words and ideas given me of God, that the repetition of that is utterly useless. You have chosen your own way, and mingled self with your work, and have become less and less sensible of the danger to your own self and to the work. You have come to think that you were the one to whom credit should be given for the value of the matter that comes from your hands. I have had warnings concerning this, but could not see how I could come to the very point to say, “Go, Fannie,” for then you plead, “Where shall I go?” and [I] try you again. FBS 22.1

One thing I know, that you have placed a much higher estimate upon your capabilities and attainments than would be truly realized by yourself or others, for your work is deficient in the very essentials that would make it complete. We are engaged in a work that is weighty with eternal results. To have oil in our vessels with our lamps is the great daily necessity for every soul, and this cannot safely be neglected. FBS 22.2

Truth, eternal, testing, must be not only professed, but acted. The vials of wrath are to be poured upon the inhabitants of the world who would not be drawn to Christ, and would not be molded into His likeness. Self exaltation was so strongly impregnating the whole character that God would not use them, and His curse is to come upon all such, who have not been beholding Christ, being changed into His image. God has “loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” All are chosen who through obedience to all the commandments of God will become loyal subjects of His kingdom. FBS 22.3

What are we about? We are keepers of a light that must illumine all nations. It is the taper kindled at the divine altar that must illuminate the world, else men would perish in their sins. O, if those who have an intelligent knowledge of the truth would submit themselves to God, if His holy law regulated your life, if its principles were developed in your character, there would not be so many false moves, so much selfish surface work; but every one would catch the spirit of the Author of the saving message, the message that is to test all nations. If the law of God were brought into character, every soul would feel the burden and solemnity of the work of sending the message of mercy to all to whom we can gain access to make ready a people to stand in the day of the Lord. Now is the day of God’s preparation. FBS 22.4

I have a word to say upon another point. Our sisters who have come from America have an account to render before God of their example in dress; in this matter they have not been approved of God as His missionaries. We need to be converted, soul, body, and spirit. Shall we by our example lead to pride, to selfish indulgence and selfish expenditure of means in dress that testifies that we are not the doers of the word? The principles were presented before me, which are not as God would have them. I am not called upon to specify, but to warn you to take heed. FBS 22.5

The spirit that characterizes your work, Fannie, is not discerned by many, yourself or others. They cannot see the true inwardness of these matters, but it manifests itself on certain occasions. Although you are full of activity and zeal and stir and push, there is so much of one-sided, impulsive, ill-developed movements, that the results are of the same order as the working. God’s chosen vessels will work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You have worked largely under the sustaining influence of the self-satisfaction you have cherished, feeling that you were doing a large work. But winnow the wheat from the chaff and there will be very few kernels of pure grain. But the many judge from outward appearance, not from the spirit and real results. FBS 22.6

We are living in an age represented as being like that before the flood. All who now plead for souls should in their dress and deportment carry the modesty and marks of the Lord Jesus. They must wait, watch, and pray for the Holy Spirit to be abundantly bestowed. We must take in the idea of Christianity; in conversation and in dress we must represent the truth. A decided guard must be placed upon the human agents in regard to the impressions they are making upon others in deportment and in dress. The Bible is our guide; study its teachings with a purpose to obey, and you need make no mistakes. FBS 23.1

Our dress should be in strict accordance with the character of our holy faith. [1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-5 quoted.] There is need of putting more of the Bible precept into the dress, as well as the inward adorning into the character. FBS 23.2

Fannie, wherever you go, wherever you may be, you need to study that the colors and material and style of your dress should be adapted to, and correspond with, your age and to the faith you profess. You remember I made the remark to Elder Olsen that when at Preston you were destitute of suitable clothing and felt too poor to supply yourself with what you should have. The remarks you made showed that you did not understand me. I want to be understood now. You need comfortable underclothing, which you must have in order to have health. But I certainly do not, in all respects, approve of your style of dress. I felt rather sad and ashamed when you stood upon the platform before the large crowd under the tent, with that light, large-figured dress. It was not appropriate for the occasion. Your judgment in the matter of dress may be much improved, and I hope you will not consult your dress-maker but those who are of sensible minds and who will not flatter you or have any guile in their mouths as to suitable clothing that will make a proper impression upon the minds of both believers and unbelievers. We who claim to be in the light, and who take prominent positions to instruct others in children’s meetings, need to be severely plain, yet tidy and tasteful, in dress; we should not give a semblance of excuse to any for patterning after the worldly, changing fashions of this corrupt age. Those who dress after the order given in the Bible can, with appropriate words, help others to reach a proper standard. Do not come to me to ask how you shall dress. If our sisters have the Spirit of God, abiding as a living principle in the heart, they will not in a single instance give occasion for any to turn aside the counsels of God by quoting the ministers’ wives or those engaged in giving Bible-readings. Ever have your dress of good, durable material, and modest colors; let it be made plainly, without adornment. You certainly need to improve in your style of dress. FBS 23.3

Fannie, you have proposed the query, Was it right for credit to be given to Sister White for the books she published, when those who worked up the matter were not recognized? Your ideas were put into the books and papers, and yet sunk out of sight. FBS 23.4

Your position has been represented to me by the history of Aaron and Miriam as given in the Scriptures. Aaron and Miriam became displeased with Moses because of his marriage. They cherished these feelings, which had their origin wholly in self. They thought Moses regarded himself as superior to them, and they must ever stand as second. This state of feeling was just what Satan desired to bring about. It was in his lines to carry forward the work he began in heaven. He framed his temptations, adapting them to the circumstances; for in his methods of working he can transform himself into an angel of light. Satan could not touch the head, the reasoning faculties, the eyes of the mind; but he could make things which the outward eye looked upon appear in accordance with his subtle working. FBS 23.5

The very same effect would be produced upon the mind as if the eyes were blinded. Satan insinuates himself, professing to have a very great interest in the prosperity of the children of Israel. Aaron and Miriam became one in mind. They communicated with one another, and they said, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us?” Mark that which follows: “And the Lord heard it.” FBS 24.1

The Lord hears many things which human beings say, and He understands the current of evil started into intense activity by words spoken in secret, and by the principles cherished, which have a controlling power upon the character. If persons could always consider that there is a Witness present to hear every word they speak, even in the secret chamber, there would be fewer private communications from human lips to leaven the minds of others by their exalted ideas and evil suggestions, which are voicing the temptations of the great deceiver. So great is his power of dissimulation, his skill in acting, that the Lord alone could fathom his work in corrupting human minds. Let every human being in their secret conferences with others to obtain sympathy remember these words: “And the Lord heard it. FBS 24.2

There was One who could vindicate Moses. Hear His testimony; the words come sounding down along the lines to our time, evidencing that the mind of God is not in agreement with the thoughts of men: [Numbers 12:3-10 quoted.] These things are written “for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” The Lord had chosen Moses to do a certain work, and had bidden him go with the message to Pharaoh, but Moses begged to be excused. [Exodus 4:10-13.] Unbelief in his own ability led to distrust of God. Moses had been absent from Egypt for forty years. For this long period the discipline of the humble shepherd’s life was necessary to prepare him for his great work. He was naturally of an impetuous spirit, full of ambition and zeal to carry out his ideas and plans, working after his own imaginings to bring about the deliverance of Israel. He must be pruned and cut back, like the branches of the spreading, trailing vine. In the solitude of the mountains he passed his time for forty years, being disciplined in the school of Christ for the manifestation of God. FBS 24.3

In his youthful experience in Egypt, Moses had been praised and petted, and he had attracted the people to himself. His praises had been sung as the chief captain of armies, and he was pleased and elated with flattery. But the Lord saw beneath the surface of outward appearance; He saw that Moses must have an altogether different kind of experience. Among the mountain solitudes he learned from nature far more in regard to the character of God than he had learned in all his previous life as the king’s grandson, the protective ruler of the kingdom of Egypt. He was a mighty general of armies, he was a man quick to devise and execute, ready in speech, and eloquent in language; but during his long absence from Egypt he had to a great extent lost his command of the language, and thought himself unable to speak. But God promised to be with him, and asked, “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and will teach thee what thou shalt say. And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou shouldst send.” (margin). FBS 24.4

The confidence of Moses in his own abilities had greatly lessened while he was in the employment of a shepherd. He came into that meek, humble position where he did not trust in his education, though it was of the highest order that could be gained in Egypt. In his experience he had learned that he could make none but God his trust. This lesson is what each human being must know if he gains the future, immortal life. The lessons that Moses learned in the solitudes of the mountains, while he pastured the flock, gave him the right kind of experience, so that he could be taken by the God of Israel, the great I AM, and be placed in the cleft of the rock and covered with the hand of God, that his life should not be extinguished by a view of the face of God, and the Lord revealed to him His glory, and he was enabled to endure “as seeing Him who is invisible.” FBS 25.1

This revelation of the character of God is plainly delineated that man may learn the lesson as to what God is, and learning this, may ever see his own human weakness and inefficiency, and may realize that his strength is gone, for there is nothing given it to feed upon. The case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram is written for the admonition of those who live in these last days. These histories are to be studied. Aaron was made mouth-piece for Moses, and because Aaron and Miriam were honored with a part in the work, they thought they were equal to Moses, and were indeed a very essential part of the great whole. They felt that credit should be given to them, and that Moses should not have all the honor. FBS 25.2

Let the human agent consider that in any position where God has placed him, he must put entire confidence in God. The righteousness of the unfallen beings of the eternal world, and of the inhabitants of this world fallen because of sin, is conditional upon their faithful obedience to the law of God, which is holy, just, and good. All created beings must derive their life from God. Not one can be, or do good, only as he lives in daily dependence upon God. And not a soul is righteous any longer than he is in vital relation to God, the source of all virtue, of life, of love, of power. A plant can retain its vital properties only as it is in vital relation with the soil, the air, the light, the dew, the showers. Even so must we be in relation with Christ. But too many give undue prominence and glory to mere human and earthly elements, and lose sight of the divine power; as the result they are held fast in the slavery of wrong habits and practices. The moral attributes are weak because they are not strengthened by constant exercise to meet every emergency that shall appear in the life experience. FBS 25.3

The judgment of God has, with you, been questioned because it did not act in harmony with the perverse and degenerate will of yours. God is misinterpreted by human agents who feel sure they understand and know themselves better than God knows them. They ask, as you have done, “Why does God do this?” And, “Why does God not do that?” Their own finite ideas would prescribe for God, and mark out His way, seeking to bring Him to their own human standard. FBS 25.4

An illustration was given me of a tree full of beautiful fruit. I was shown Fannie gathering the fruit, some ripe, the best, some unripe. She put it in her apron, and said, “This is mine. It is mine.” I said, “Fannie, you are certainly claiming that which is not yours. That fruit belongs to that tree. Any one may pluck and enjoy it, but it belongs to that tree.” FBS 26.1

The power of discerning good and evil is an attribute from God, and unless the human agents are in vital connection with God, they cannot discern spiritual things. They will call good evil, they will call evil good. The prayer of Solomon was, “Give thy servant an understanding heart, that I may judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad.” The attempt to gain supremacy is a terrible snare to the soul. There is an influence of self exaltation and glorification that is as poisonous malaria, even among those who think they are engaged in missionary work. Self is interwoven in all they do; they feast upon sympathy, and hunger to receive praise; they gather their power from human beings, who are erring, wanting in discernment, panting for approbation. When those of a like character associate together, it is not to partake of angels’ food, but to eat of the fruit which is as the apples of Sodom. All who link themselves with those who will praise and flatter them, are binding their souls in unholy bonds; and unless they break these bonds, and fasten their affections upon God, they will too late find themselves naked, destitute of the robe of Christ’s righteousness. FBS 26.2

I am now in great trial. I see that Fannie has not understood spiritual things. She knew not that she was entertaining Satan’s flatteries in vain thoughts, flattering thoughts of herself, her capabilities, and her efficiency. The precious ore has become so thoroughly mixed with the dross that on every favorable occasion the dross appears. There is exaggeration with her of her own supposed superior ideas and sentiments, there is a surface work, a wonderful activity, but O, so little soundness of the genuine meekness and lowliness of Christ. FBS 26.3

When I take the position which I am sorry, very sorry, to take, that I cannot consistently continue the connection with Fannie by entrusting her with my writings as I have done, some will misjudge me because they think she has sincerely repented; but the fact that she has not had respect for the writings, will endanger the work I am called of the Lord to do. The fact that her mind could be tampered with so often again and again by the enemy, that she could be led to regard the writings as she has regarded them, will be a temptation to place them at a disadvantage. This past experience has given a mold to the thoughts, and has fashioned the mind and judgment. I can see no safety in trusting the matter the Lord shall give me in the hands of one of such unstable, unreliable developments of character that a balance wheel is needed constantly, else she will be running off on a side track where Satan may choose to lead the way. Fannie is so wrapped up in her own exalted estimation of herself that any contrary influence that has been brought to bear upon her mind meets with a resistance that is according to the attributes of the enemy. The surroundings, the impulses, give tone and character to the whole life. There are too large and important interests at stake in this matter to be lightly imperiled. Should I consent that Fannie remain in connection with the work, there would be a constant burden of foreboding upon me, for these elements of character are not easily changed. The work which she has handled, she does not always appreciate as necessary or essential, and if she dared, would mold them all over. FBS 26.4

The Lord God is a discerner of the thoughts, as well as a hearer of every word that falls from human lips. He can make crooked things straight by disconnecting certain elements from His work. But should I attempt to vindicate my course to those who do not appreciate the spiritual character of the work which is laid upon me; it would only expose myself and the work to misconception and misrepresentation. To present the matter before other minds would be useless, for there are but few who are really so connected with God [who] see beneath the surface appearance as to understand it. This work is one that I cannot explain. FBS 27.1

To take the step which I am now convicted must be taken causes me much suffering of mind. When I state that Fannie never has loved the character of the work, I state the truth. She has never yet discerned its nature, and her nature and temperament are such that I am convinced that unless there is an entire transformation of character, she will never know more of it than she does at present. It is as a rock of offense for her and others to stumble over because they do not know and, unless they are converted, they can never know the inwardness of its sacred bearings; it is all outside of them, having never experienced the nature of it for themselves. The mortification of failure and the anguish of mind that Fannie is now passing through, I cannot mistake for repentance, or conversion, or transformation of character. FBS 27.2

Just before coming to this country, in order to help Fannie I consented to make another trial after she had given me the assurance which she now repeats, that her feelings in regard to the work had wholly changed. I followed my best judgment, against all my friends who knew Fannie’s course of action, hoping she had gained wisdom from God, and would really love the work. I knew that she was naturally unbalanced in mind, but thought that through the light given of God, the appeals constantly made presenting definite reproofs to some and general reproofs to others, she would learn the lessons that it was her privilege to learn, and become strengthened in character. Thus she would obtain wisdom to prepare the precious matter placed in her hands, so that it might work for the saving of her soul as well as the souls of others. But she has been so occupied with other things which opened for her different avenues to engross the mind, that she does not give proper time and due consideration to the work. FBS 27.3

She dashes through the matter with scarcely an idea that it is anything important coming from God, and that it must be duly cared for. She supplies her words, that in her human judgment she supposes are better than the words in the manuscript, which I have to critically guard. She accomplishes a large amount of work in a way that is not the best. Sacred things are made common, and are treated in a very careless and indifferent, irreverent manner. FBS 27.4

Now those who have but little experimental knowledge of my work do not see why Fannie cannot do this work better than any one else. Certainly she is capable, they say. But she has accustomed herself to work with a rush; she has not felt that she was handling anything sacred, and she has put her spirit and her feelings into the work. My prayer is that God will convert the poor child, that she may understand the leadings of His Holy Spirit. FBS 27.5

The character of Saul is a marked one. There was strength and weakness combined. Gifts of talent were bestowed upon him, and had he consecrated these gifts wholly to God, he would not have dishonored himself by his own transgression. Contradictory elements were bound up in his character, and he worked at cross purposes with God. At times he revealed marked simplicity, and then was guilty of manifesting a jealous and overbearing spirit. He would be very tender and full of sympathy toward some who pleased him, as the notion came upon him, and then would be unjust and cruel toward his best friends. When brought under the influence of sacred and vocal music, he would catch the spirit of devotion, and pour forth the most impassioned expressions of lofty eloquence, in ecstasies of praise and prayer. While under this excitement, he would give himself no rest day nor night until the reaction came. Then his strength failed, and he was exhausted. When the paroxysm of wild excitement and inordinate zeal had spent itself, he would reveal his old disposition. When his will was crossed, he was in a fury, and his words and deeds were of a character entirely dishonoring to himself, and more dishonoring to God. Good and evil were ever in collision, evil ever striving for the supremacy. FBS 28.1

Fannie, unless you are born again, and take yourself in hand, unless you seek the grace of God every day and every hour, making God your shield, you will meet with the loss of your soul. The great strife of your soul has been for recognition. You have deceived yourself and deceived others in regard to your true standing religiously. Human beings, deceived by your apparent zeal, give you credit for advanced spirituality, and mind acts and reacts upon mind. You enjoy human praise, and think that persons give you due appreciation, when they are not perfect in wisdom; links are formed with human agents that bind the soul away from God. Are these delusions to last until it is too late to seek that help which cometh alone from God? Will precious souls, in their supposed trials, perplexities and disappointments, seek counsel alone from God, not from erring, finite human beings? FBS 28.2

The path of obedience to God is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. We are to climb the rounds of the ladder. God is above it. His light is shining on every round of this ladder. It is by the difficult steps of faith and self-denial that the top of the ladder is reached. To all who choose to be guided by their own judgment and impulses, life will be a failure; for they discard God’s ways, and follow the human, perverse, passionate will. They are bent upon having their own way. God has a special work for every one to do, and those who do this work trustingly, in the meekness and lowliness of Christ, will do it well. FBS 28.3

Take heed lest these warnings be lightly regarded, and you go far into the paths of worldliness in dress, worldliness of practices, and at last find that the door is shut, and you are outside, a foolish virgin. FBS 28.4