The Review and Herald


June 29, 1886

Labors in the Piedmont Valleys


We have already mentioned our first meeting at Villar Pellice, Italy. Although it was rainy, the hall, the largest place of meeting in the town except the Catholic and Vaudois churches, was crowded. The next Sunday it was pleasant, and long before the hour appointed, the people began to gather. It was soon seen that the house would not accommodate those who would come. The seats were therefore removed, and placed in the yard just in front of the building. Here about four hundred people gathered. Although not more than two-thirds of these were accommodated by seats, the best of attention was given throughout the exercises. We expected that the novelty of having service in the open air, and of hearing a woman speak, would lead some to amuse themselves and disturb the meeting; but in this we were happily disappointed. I had spoken but a few moments when a solemn silence prevailed. Young men and women looked serious, and many were in tears. RH June 29, 1886, par. 1

I tried to present the truth in its simplicity, that old and young, the learned and the unlearned, might understand. I feel deeply for the people of Italy, especially for those who live in these valleys. They are far from being the conscientious, devoted people they once were. They seem to rest satisfied with their past experience. They have not been educated to sacrifice for the cause of religion, and they do little if anything toward the support of their pastors. But the Lord still has a people in these valleys, and my prayer is that he will break down the barriers that have been built up to prevent the truth from reaching them. There are many who yearn for greater purity and godliness. They need just such plain, simple teaching as the apostles gave. There is great vagueness in the doctrines which prevail in the reformed churches. The general belief is that their faith is founded upon the Scriptures; but the real lack of knowledge of what the Bible does teach is surprising. When the truth is presented, some, like candid men and women, are willing to sit down and investigate. They say, “If this is truth, we want it.” We are glad to say that at the present time many are thus investigating for themselves. Paul found such in his day. He commended the Bereans for being more noble than those of Thessalonica, for they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. RH June 29, 1886, par. 2

Eld. A. C. Bourdeau has been holding meetings in Villar for some time, and expects to continue them at least once a week during the summer. It would be difficult to hold them oftener, as most of the people of this place at this season of the year go high up in the mountains where they can pasture their flocks on government land, free of charge. But they say that if Bro. Bourdeau will continue the meetings, they will attend every Sunday afternoon. He has already presented the advent and Sabbath questions quite fully; and still the interest is unabated. It is a question how soon to press these people to a decision in regard to the Sabbath. A few may be prepared to decide understandingly now; but the majority are not. It was therefore decided that the best way would be to induce them to continue to study the Bible, and see that plenty of good reading matter is placed in their hands. It was thought that this, with one sermon a week, would keep up their interest until they returned to the valleys in the early fall, when another effort could be made, and they would be prepared to move intelligently. RH June 29, 1886, par. 3

Preparatory steps were taken while we were at Torre Pellice, to organize a missionary society, whose special object at present would be to send reading matter to, and correspond with, those who are interested, but who will be scattered upon the mountains during the summer. The brethren and sisters seemed willing and anxious to engage in this work, and we expect that much good will result if they labor perseveringly and in the fear of God. RH June 29, 1886, par. 4

At St. John, a village three miles down the valley from Torre Pellice, I spoke three times to intelligent and attentive congregations. No less than half a dozen of those who attended were good English scholars. One was a minister who had traveled quite extensively in England; another, a professor in the high school in that place; and another, a young man who had been educated in England. The latter heard me speak several times when we were in Italy last winter, and on one occasion acted as my interpreter. RH June 29, 1886, par. 5

While at Torre Pellice, we were glad to meet Bro. Biglia from Naples, and have a brief period of consultation with him. In connection with his work of translating for our Italian paper, he has labored some in Naples; but he now desires to give himself more fully to the work of presenting the truth in other places. We spent considerable time, we trust profitably, in conversation with him in regard to the publishing work, and the best means of reaching the people. Southern Italy is in almost every respect a hard field. The mass of the people are poor, unlearned, degraded, and the rankest Catholics. There are, however, honest souls scattered all through Italy, and these must have an opportunity to receive the light. The message is to go to all nations, tongues, and peoples, and he who labors in the difficult fields, where little fruit of his labors may appear, will, if he labors faithfully, receive as great a reward as those who labor in easier fields and apparently accomplish more. RH June 29, 1886, par. 6

Sabbath I spoke to the little company assembled in Torre Pellice, from 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Several of those present were engaged directly in colportage work. I sought to impress upon all the importance of exercising meekness and gentleness in presenting the truth to unbelievers. The work of saving souls requires tact and wisdom; it must not be carried forward impulsively, but intelligently and in the spirit of Christ. Many are turned from the truth by the spirit and manner of the one who presents it to them. Although his words may be misinterpreted and falsified, although cutting and unjust things may be said to him, unkindness or resentment on his part are unlooked-for and inexcusable. Many enjoy the fighting part of presenting the truth much better than they do enduring reproach with patience and meekness. They can contend for the truth much more easily than they can teach it by their godly lives. RH June 29, 1886, par. 7

There are many honest souls in these valleys; but they do not understand the truth for this time, and it is not merely by argument that they are to learn it. There is a work to be done of feeding these hungry, starving sheep with spiritual food. Many of the professed teachers of the people are perfectly content to set their stakes and make no advancement themselves, and they are much disturbed when others are induced to seek for truth. When new light is presented, they feel as the Pharisees felt when Christ came with new light for the Jewish nation. They want to stop the increase of light. They not only refuse to search the Scriptures for themselves, but they do all in their power to prevent others from searching. RH June 29, 1886, par. 8

The Scriptures are constantly opening to the people of God. There always has been and always will be a truth specially applicable to each generation. The message given to Noah was present truth for that time; and if the people had accepted that message, they would have been saved from drinking the waters of the flood. Now suppose a certain people should say, “We have all the truth that our fathers had; we don't want any more,” and the God of heaven should send them a message as he did to Nineveh. What would be the result?—The same as would have resulted to the Ninevites if they had not repented. Sentence was pronounced upon them, but their repentance saved them. How thankful we should be that we have a God who will repent of the threatened evil, when the erring return to him with true contrition of soul. RH June 29, 1886, par. 9

To all who are scattered amid the darkness of the world, and especially to those who live in these valleys, I would say, There is no other way to break down the barriers and reach the people than by the power of love and by living faith, by having a firm hold of the God of Israel. There is a way to reach the people of these valleys, but it is not in our own spirit and way. It is by having a close connection with Christ. You must feel your utter helplessness without him, and be much with God in prayer. The more ignorant the people are of Bible truth, and the lower they have sunk in ignorance and superstition, the more they need the arm of infinite power to lift them up. Pity rather than censure them. Recall your own sins, and how long the Lord bore with your neglect of his great salvation, and walk with fear and trembling before him. Christ has said, “Without me, ye can do nothing.” You want to be imbued with his spirit. The human heart, uncontrolled by the Spirit of God, is void of the meekness of Christ, and loves to battle for the truth. But it will not answer for those who profess unpopular truth to engage in this work, or to be critical and over-bearing. They should not be too free to criticise and condemn others. They should be careful not to let their words wound, but should let pure Bible truth cut its way to the heart. When tempted to speak impatiently, remember, brethren, that when Jesus was reviled, he reviled not again. Give the reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. With fear lest you have not the truth?—No; but with fear lest by some unwise, impatient word you will close the door of hearts against the truth. If you cannot answer the accusations of enemies with calmness, it is better to keep silent. It will not answer to come with the battle-ax against the people, especially of these valleys. They are of a quick, impatient temperament; and when their combativeness is aroused, the door of their hearts is closed to the truth. RH June 29, 1886, par. 10

God wants you to testify to the world that you have a special message for them, by presenting it in the spirit of Christ. They will then see the difference between those who teach it and those who oppose. But if you have exalted views of your own ability, self will rise in self-justification at the least provocation. What all the workers need is to make an entire surrender to God, and, putting self out of sight, lift up the Man of Calvary. When you have placed yourselves in the right relation to God, then, if you are compelled to go among the warring elements, Christ will give you his spirit, and will work with your efforts. When brought in contact with the powers of darkness, angels of God will be right by your side, and will preserve you from the wrath of men. RH June 29, 1886, par. 11

God has thoughts of mercy toward the people of these valleys. He is not unmindful of those who are traveling on foot long distances over the rugged mountains to present the truth to them. You may feel that it is your privilege to look to him for help and strength. It is only by living faith that you can carry forward this work. While you are to preserve the strength that God has given you, it will frequently seem that you have to venture much for the truth's sake. If a good degree of success attends your efforts, do not for a moment take the credit to yourselves. It is not because of your capability, but because Jesus died for precious souls, and he is working to save them. From your past success or failure, God would have you learn to present the truth more acceptably. RH June 29, 1886, par. 12

Those who do not go from place to place to labor, can take hold of the arm of God by living faith. They can pray that the God of heaven will help those who are carrying the truth to others. Whatever their position in life, all can do something to help spread the light by giving the reasons of their faith to those who are around them. RH June 29, 1886, par. 13

Basel, Switzerland,

May 10, 1886.