Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9


Chapter 23—Proclaiming the Truth Where There is Race Antagonism

I am burdened, heavily burdened, for the work among the colored people. The gospel is to be presented to the downtrodden Negro race. But great caution will have to be shown in the efforts put forth for the uplifting of this people. Among the white people in many places there exists a strong prejudice against the Negro race. We may desire to ignore this prejudice, but we cannot do it. If we were to act as if this prejudice did not exist we could not get the light before the white people. We must meet the situation as it is and deal with it wisely and intelligently. 9T 204.1

For many years I have borne a heavy burden in behalf of the Negro race. My heart has ached as I have seen the feeling against this race growing stronger and still stronger, and as I have seen that many Seventh-day Adventists are apparently unable to understand the necessity for an earnest work being done quickly. Years are passing into eternity with apparently little done to help those who were recently a race of slaves. 9T 204.2

One of the difficulties attending the work is that many of the white people living where the colored people are numerous are not willing that special efforts should be put forth to uplift them. When they see schools established for them, when they see them being taught to be self-supporting, to follow trades, to provide themselves with comfortable homes instead of continuing to live in hovels, they see the possibility that selfish plans will be interfered with—that they will no longer be able to hire the Negro for a mere pittance; and their enmity is aroused. They feel that they are injured and abused. Some act as if slavery had never been abolished. This spirit is growing stronger as the Spirit of God is being withdrawn from the world, and in many places it is impossible now to do that work which could have been done for the colored people in past years. 9T 204.3

Much might have been accomplished by the people of America if adequate efforts in behalf of the freedmen had been put forth by the Government and by the Christian churches immediately after the emancipation of the slaves. Money should have been used freely to care for and educate them at the time they were so greatly in need of help. But the Government, after a little effort, left the Negro to struggle, unaided, with his burden of difficulties. Some of the strong Christian churches began a good work, but sadly failed to reach more than a comparatively few; and the Seventh-day Adventist Church has failed to act its part. Some persevering efforts have been put forth by individuals and by societies to uplift the colored people, and a noble work has been done. But how few have had a part in this work which should have had the sympathy and help of all! 9T 205.1

Noble efforts have been put forth by some Seventh-day Adventists to do the work that needed to be done for the colored people. Had those who were engaged in this work received the co-operation of all their ministering brethren, the result of their work would now be altogether different from what it is. But the great majority of our ministers did not co-operate, as they should have done, with the few who were struggling to carry forward a much-needed work in a difficult field. 9T 205.2

As time advances, and opposition strengthens, circumstances warn us that discretion is the better part of valor. If unwise moves have been made in the work done for the colored people, it is not because warnings have not been given. From Australia, across the broad waters of the Pacific, cautions were sent that every movement must be guarded, that the workers were to make no political speeches, and that the mingling of whites and blacks in social equality was by no means to be encouraged. 9T 205.3

In a council meeting held in 1895 at Armadale, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, I spoke of these matters, in answer to the inquiries of my brethren, and urged the necessity of caution. I said that perilous times were coming, and that the sentiments that could then be expressed in regard to what should be done along missionary lines for the colored people could not be expressed in the future without imperiling lives. I said plainly that the work done for the colored people would have to be carried on along lines different from those followed in some sections of the country in former years. 9T 206.1

Let as little as possible be said about the color line, and let the colored people work chiefly for those of their own race. 9T 206.2

In regard to white and colored people worshiping in the same building, this cannot be followed as a general custom with profit to either party—especially in the South. The best thing will be to provide the colored people who accept the truth, with places of worship of their own, in which they can carry on their services by themselves. This is particularly necessary in the South in order that the work for the white people may be carried on without serious hindrance. 9T 206.3

Let the colored believers be provided with neat, tasteful houses of worship. Let them be shown that this is done not to exclude them from worshiping with white people, because they are black, but in order that the progress of the truth may be advanced. Let them understand that this plan is to be followed until the Lord shows us a better way. 9T 206.4

The colored members of ability and experience should be encouraged to lead the services of their own people; and their voices are to be heard in the representative assemblies. 9T 207.1

Among the colored believers there are many who can labor to advantage for their own people—workers to whom the Lord has given light and knowledge and who possess capabilities of no mean order. These are to labor perseveringly and in every effective way. They are to use our literature and hold tent meetings and meetings in halls. And sometimes (where it is permissible) white ministers should help them. Special efforts should be made to increase the force of colored workers. Colored men are to be thoroughly educated and trained to give Bible readings and hold tent meetings among their own people. There are many having capability, who should be prepared for this work. 9T 207.2

We should be deeply interested in the establishment of schools for the colored people. And we must not overlook the importance of placing the present truth before the teachers and students in the large colleges for colored people that have been established by men of the world. 9T 207.3

Schools and sanitariums for colored people should be established, and in these the colored youth should be taught and trained for service by the very best teachers that can be employed. 9T 207.4

The colored ministers should make every effort possible to help their own people to understand the truth for this time. As time advances, and race prejudices increase, it will become almost impossible, in many places, for white workers to labor for the colored people. Sometimes the white people who are not in sympathy with our work will unite with colored people to oppose it, claiming that our teaching is an effort to break up churches and bring in trouble over the Sabbath question. White ministers and colored ministers will make false statements, arousing in the minds of the people such a feeling of antagonism that they will be ready to destroy and to kill. 9T 207.5

The powers of hell are working with all their ingenuity to prevent the proclamation of the last message of mercy among the colored people. Satan is working to make it most difficult for the gospel minister and teacher to ignore the prejudice that exists between the white and the colored people. 9T 208.1

Let us follow the course of wisdom. Let us do nothing that will unnecessarily arouse opposition—nothing that will hinder the proclamation of the gospel message. Where demanded by custom or where greater efficiency is to be gained, let the white believers and the colored believers assemble in separate places of worship. Let us cultivate the meekness of Christ. He was the Majesty of heaven, the only-begotten Son of God. Yet “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. 9T 208.2

If, to save a perishing world, God condescended to give up His Son to a painful, ignominious death, should not the Lord's missionaries be willing to make every effort in their power to win and help those who are in the depths of sin, and to flash the light upon those who are in darkness as to what is truth? Christ clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might reach down and uplift fallen human beings. Shall not His followers, for His sake, be willing to submit to many things unjust and grievous to be borne, in order to help the very ones who need help? Let the work be done in a way that will not arouse prejudice which would close doors now open for the entrance of the truth. 9T 208.3

The men of talent among the colored believers are to be laborers together with God for their own people. And yet there will sometimes be opportunities for them to bear a testimony in tent meetings and in large assemblies, which will reach many, many souls. These opportunities will appear as the Southern field is worked and the loud cry is given. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, there will be a triumph of humanity over prejudice in seeking the salvation of the souls of human beings. God will control minds. Human hearts will love as Christ loved. And the color line will be regarded by many very differently from the way in which it is now regarded. To love as Christ loves, lifts the mind into a pure, heavenly, unselfish atmosphere. 9T 209.1

He who is closely connected with Christ is lifted above the prejudice of color or caste. His faith takes hold of eternal realities. The divine Author of truth is to be uplifted. Our hearts are to be filled with the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. The work of the good Samaritan is the example that we are to follow. 9T 209.2

We are not to agitate the color line question, and thus arouse prejudice and bring about a crisis. The light of the third angel's message is to be given to those who need light. We are to labor calmly, quietly, faithfully, trusting in our Elder Brother. We are not to be in haste to define the exact course to be pursued in the future regarding the relation to be maintained between white and colored people. The truth for this time is to be proclaimed before the thousands of people in the Southern States. The way is to be cleared, as far as possible, of all obstruction. Let the gospel message be given to the people. Let white and colored people be labored for in separate, distinct lines, and let the Lord take care of the rest. The truth must come before the white men and women of the Southern States. Then there will be a work done in their families that will lead to the salvation of many souls. 9T 209.3