The Signs of the Times


May 17, 1883

Labor at the Camp-Meetings


As the importance of our camp-meetings is yearly increasing, it is constantly becoming of greater consequence to adopt such plans of working as shall secure the best possible results. We should remember that union is strength. A serious mistake has sometimes been made, in the attempt to attend as many meetings as possible during the camp-meeting season. The forces were divided, and, of course, weakened, and the efforts made were comparatively feeble. Here is given occasion for the triumph of our enemies, who regard these as our best efforts, and so represent them. If it is necessary to hold fewer general meetings, for want of laborers, let there be a sufficient force where meetings are held, so that the labor and responsibility shall be shared by several men, instead of falling chiefly upon one. God does not design that any of his servants shall labor to exhaustion. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 1

At our large gatherings more attention should be given to organizing our forces, and enlisting, not ministers only, but all who have an experience, making them feel that they have a responsibility to bear. Wise generalship is needed at the very outset of our meetings to engage all our working forces, that the interest of the meeting, outside of the preaching services, may be maintained. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 2

There has often been more preaching at our camp-meetings than was really necessary. Wisdom and economy should be exercised in this direction as well as in every other. Ministers should not feel that everything depends on their efforts in presenting doctrinal or even practical discourses. They must have a firmer reliance upon Jesus, our mighty helper; they must encourage in their own hearts a faith that will not falter under any circumstances. In short, they must depend more upon Christ's presence, and less upon their own personal efforts. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 3

There is a serious waste of vital energy in long sermons. If our ministers would preach short discourses, right to the point, and then educate the brethren and sisters to work, and lay the burden upon them, the ministers themselves would be saved from exhaustion, the people would gain spiritual strength by the effort put forth, and the result would be tenfold greater than now is seen. Too heavy burdens, both in preaching and in the transaction of business, have rested upon the few who labor in word and doctrine. These men should preserve their strength and vigor, and keep their minds stayed upon God, that human infirmities may not affect their judgment or mar the solemn, dignified, holy character which should mark all their deliberations. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 4

While our leading ministers do too much, our lay brethren and sisters do too little. The rich experience which the latter might gain in earnest, personal labor, is lost to them because they fail to bear the burdens which they can and should bear. They should seek to do all that it is in their power to do, not feeling that they are working for the minister or the Conference, and that they should receive remuneration, but as working for God, unselfishly laboring to make the meeting a success. In so doing they will bring a blessing to their own souls, and will also become a channel of light and blessing to others. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 5

Our ministers must become educators as well as preachers. They should teach the people not to depend upon them, but upon Christ. The minister who preaches two hours when he should not exceed one, would far better serve the cause of God by devoting that extra hour to earnest, careful thought in studying how to direct others, how to teach them to work. Attention should especially be given to teaching the people to labor in the meetings held among the tents’ companies. None who come to the meetings should be content to leave it without a deeper religious experience than when they came upon the ground. The people are perishing because they do not put to use the talents which God has given them. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 6

Our brethren and sisters come to camp-meeting hoping to receive the blessing of the Lord; yet it is often the case that they do not know just what to do to make the meeting a benefit to themselves or to others. Many do not realize but that the only object for which they came is merely to hear preaching. Therefore they do not strive for the blessing of God, they do not from the very commencement of the meeting feel the necessity of confessing their sins, and striving for the earnest of the Spirit. They do not know that the success of the meeting depends largely upon themselves, and therefore do not feel the burden of the work. The very first effort of ministers should be to set them in the way of working for themselves. Let the minds and hearts of the people be enlisted in the work. Let all be taught what they must do to open the door of the heart to Jesus, that they may receive him gladly. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 7

The necessity of a real heart-work for every member of the body must be pressed upon them. The labor should be directed right to the one end,—a more complete putting away of idols, a deeper consecration, a stronger faith, and more earnest personal effort for the salvation of others. Fear should be aroused in every heart because there is so little vital godliness among us; fear lest God will say, “He is joined to his idols; let him alone.” ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 8

My brethren, there should be a different kind of labor from what we have yet seen in our camp-meetings. There should be more prayer and weeping, and more confession of sin to God and to one another. Let the indifference be broken up, let the complaining and fault-finding cease, and the time heretofore worse than wasted in this manner be spent in prayers of living faith for the refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Let us arouse as one man, and unitedly call upon God to send down his grace upon the souls of his people, and to revive his work in the midst of the years. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 9

Every tent's company should be set to work for themselves; and they should also be united in larger divisions, with suitable men appointed in each to help to the utmost of their ability, the ones placed under their charge. Men should not be chosen for this work who have so much sermonizing to do, to exhibit themselves, that they are no help to the people. The leaders appointed should be carefully taught how to labor to secure the best results. The wisest generalship is in seeing, not how much we can do ourselves, but how much we can lead the people to do. This is the education which they need in order to grow in grace and the knowledge of the truth. They must be taught, not so much by long sermons as by personal effort, how to secure the blessing of God, the true conversion. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 10

Our camp-meeting should be as a training-school to our younger ministers. Here is the very place for them to be educated as to the best manner of labor. They should learn that all their duty is not comprised in preaching. They need to know how to conduct wisely the social meetings, how to teach the people to work, that there be no idlers in the vineyard of the Lord. While preaching is one of God's instrumentalities, there are other agencies that must be set in operation to prepare the way of the Lord. The church must be made to feel her accountability before the Lord will revive his work. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 11

The preacher himself, must be alive; he must have the earnestness of the Spirit; he must labor through Christ; he must make direct appeals; he must sound the alarm to careless and world-loving professors, though they should be displeased because their ears tingle with the close application of the truth,—“Thou art the man.” It is too late to daub with untempered mortar. There must be plain and faithful dealing. The people must be aroused to do the work which God enjoins upon them, to take up the stumbling-blocks and clear out the rubbish, that the Spirit of God may come in. The guilt as well as the danger of backsliding must be faithfully pointed out. Follow up the word with personal effort. General appeals are often made with little effect. Come close to hearts, stirring up all to act a part. Let not one day be lost. Engage every influence that can be commanded. Give the people something to do. See that none are idling about, seeing, hearing, and telling some new thing. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 12

The Lord calls upon his people to repent and to do their first works. He admonishes them to examine themselves, whether they are in the faith, whether their hopes are well founded, whether they are not petting and excusing defects of character, when they should be going on to perfection. The worldliness in the church, which is the great cause of spiritual death, is attributable to the influence of selfish, ease-loving members. The progress of this deadly malady must be checked. The surgeon's knife cuts deep when it is necessary to remove festering, pestilent matter; so the word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, must be made to cut to the heart, or the evil will never be removed. When the plain testimony is given, some will say, My hope is gone; I have no religion; I give it all up. Those who really want to be Christ's will receive reproof, put away their sins, and take their stand on the side of Jesus. If any have no real desire for the truth, because it must purify the soul, their withdrawal is not to be regretted. The fewer we have of such the better. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 13

What we need, what we cannot do without, is the Spirit of God to work with our efforts. All pampering of self must be at an end. There must be an earnest longing, a soul-hunger, for the presence of the Lord. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 14

It is a case of life or death with us. We have been stricken with spiritual paralysis, and every one needs the help of the great Physician. He alone can reach our case. He is only waiting to be invited by us with earnest heart, with sincere desire, If any at the close of the convocation meeting still feel that they are not blessed, the fault is with themselves. God is no respecter of persons or of places. It cannot be because of any reluctance on the part of the great Physician that they are passed by. They did not prepare the way for him. Perhaps they neglected to make humble confessions to those whom they had injured. They have not put away the idols from the soul-temple. They have a work to do to repent of their self-indulgence, of the favorite sins which they are not ready to surrender. Nothing is wanting but a preparation of heart, and earnest, believing prayer, to bring Jesus to our side as a mighty helper. He longs to come. He is only waiting for us to prepare the way, and he will come. When he walked in his humiliation, a man among the children of men, he delighted in doing good to the bodies and souls of all who sought him and trusted him. So he will now verify his promises to his people, if they will do what he has enjoined in his word to prepare the way for his blessing. ST May 17, 1883, Art. A, par. 15