Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5


Number Thirty-Two—Testimony for the Church

Chapter 26—The Work of the Gospel Minister

There are many things that need to be corrected in the Upper Columbia and North Pacific Conferences. [These were local conferences in what is now the North Pacific Union Conference.—Trustees of Ellen G. White.] The Creator expected the brethren there to bear fruit according to the light and privileges bestowed upon them, but in this He has been disappointed. He has given them every advantage; but they have not improved in meekness, godliness, benevolence. They have not pursued that course of life, have not revealed that character nor exercised that influence, which would tend most to honor their Creator, ennoble themselves, and make them a blessing to their fellow men. Selfishness exists in their hearts. They love to have their own way and seek their own ease, honor, and wealth, and their own pleasure in its grosser or more refined forms. If we pursue the course of the world and follow the bent of our own minds, will that work for our best good? Does not God, who formed man, look for something better from us? 5T 249.1

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” Christians must be like Christ. They should have the same spirit, exert the same influence, and have the same moral excellence that He possessed. The idolatrous and corrupt in heart must repent and turn to God. Those who are proud and self-righteous must abase self and become penitent and meek and lowly in heart. The worldly-minded must have the tendrils of the heart removed from the rubbish of the world, around which they are clinging, and entwined about God; they must become spiritually minded. The dishonest and untruthful must become just and true. The ambitious and covetous must be hid in Jesus and seek His glory, not their own. They must despise their own holiness and lay up their treasure above. The prayerless must feel the need of both secret and family prayer, and must make their supplications to God with great earnestness. 5T 249.2

As the worshipers of the true and living God we should bear fruit corresponding to the light and privileges we enjoy. Many are worshiping idols instead of the Lord of heaven and earth. Anything that men love and trust in instead of loving the Lord and trusting wholly in Him becomes an idol and is thus registered in the books of heaven. Even blessings are often turned into a curse. The sympathies of the human heart, strengthened by exercise, are sometimes perverted until they become a snare. If one is reproved, there are always some who will sympathize with him. They entirely overlook the harm that has been done to God's cause by the wrong influence of one whose life and character do not in any way resemble those of the Pattern. God sends His servants with a message to the people professing to be followers of Christ; but some are children of God only in name, and they reject the warning. 5T 250.1

God has in a wonderful manner endowed man with reasoning powers. He who fitted the tree to bear its burden of goodly fruit has made man capable of bearing the precious fruits of righteousness. He has planted man in His garden and tenderly cared for him, and He expects him to bear fruit. In the parable of the fig tree Christ says: “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit.” For more than two years has the Owner looked for the fruit that He has a right to expect from these conferences, but how has His search been rewarded? How anxiously we watch a favorite tree or plant, expecting it to reward our care by producing buds, blossoms, and fruit; and how disappointed we are to find upon it nothing but leaves. With how much more anxiety and tender interest does the heavenly Father watch the spiritual growth of those whom He has made in His own image and for whom He condescended to give His Son that they may be elevated, ennobled, and glorified. 5T 250.2

The Lord has His appointed agencies to meet men in their errors and backslidings. His messengers are sent to bear a plain testimony to arouse them from their sleepy condition and to open the precious words of life, the Holy Scriptures, to their understanding. These men are not to be preachers merely, but ministers, light bearers, faithful watchmen, who will see the threatened danger and warn the people. They must resemble Christ in their earnest zeal, in their thoughtful tact, in their personal efforts—in short, in all their ministry. They are to have a vital connection with God, and are to become so familiar with the prophecies and the practical lessons of the Old and the New Testament that they may bring from the treasure house of God's word things new and old. 5T 251.1

Some of these ministers make a mistake in the preparation of their discourses. They arrange every minutia with such exactness that they give the Lord no room to lead and impress their minds. Every point is fixed, stereotyped as it were, and they cannot depart from the plan marked out. This course, if continued, will cause them to become narrow-minded, circumscribed in their views, and will soon leave them as destitute of life and energy as are the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. They must throw the soul open and let the Holy Spirit take possession to impress the mind. When everything is laid out beforehand, and they feel that they cannot vary from these set discourses, the effect is little better than that produced by reading a sermon. 5T 251.2

God would have His ministers wholly dependent upon Him, but at the same time they should be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. No subject can be treated before all congregations in the same manner. The Spirit of God, if allowed to do its work, will impress the mind with ideas calculated to meet the cases of those who need help. But the tame, formal discourses of many who enter the desk have very little of the vitalizing power of the Holy Spirit in them. The habit of preaching such discourses will effectually destroy a minister's usefulness and ability. This is one reason why the efforts of the workers in ----- and ----- have not been more successful. God has had too little to do with impressing the mind in the desk. 5T 251.3

Another cause of failure in these conferences is that the people to whom God's messenger is sent wish to mold his ideas to theirs and to put into his mouth the words that he should speak. God's watchmen must not study how they shall please the people, nor listen to their words and utter them; but they must listen to hear what saith the Lord, what is His word for the people. If they rely upon discourses prepared years before they may fail to meet the necessities of the occasion. Their hearts should be laid open so that the Lord may impress their minds, and then they will be able to give the people the precious truth warm from heaven. God is not pleased with those narrow-minded ministers who devote their God-given powers to matters of little moment and fail to grow in divine knowledge to the full stature of men in Christ Jesus. He would have His ministers possess breadth of mind and true moral courage. Such men will be prepared to meet opposition and surmount difficulties, and will lead the flock of God instead of being led by them. 5T 252.1

There is altogether too little of the Spirit and power of God in the labor of the watchmen. The Spirit which characterized that wonderful meeting on the Day of Pentecost is waiting to manifest its power upon the men who are now standing between the living and the dead as ambassadors for God. The power which stirred the people so mightily in the 1844 movement will again be revealed. The third angel's message will go forth, not in whispered tones, but with a loud voice. 5T 252.2

Many who profess to have great light are walking in sparks of their own kindling. They need to have their lips touched with a live coal from off the altar, that they may pour forth the truth like men who are inspired. Too many go into the desk with mechanical discourses that have no light from heaven in them. 5T 252.3

There is too much of self and too little of Jesus in the ministry of all denominations. The Lord uses humble men to proclaim His messages. Had Christ come in the majesty of a king, with the pomp which attends the great men of earth, many would have accepted Him. But Jesus of Nazareth did not dazzle the senses with a display of outward glory and make this the foundation of their reverence. He came as a humble man to be the Teacher and Exemplar as well as the Redeemer of the race. Had He encouraged pomp, had He come followed by a retinue of the great men of earth, how could He have taught humility? how could He have presented such burning truths as in His Sermon upon the Mount? His example was such as He wished all His followers to imitate. Where would have been the hope of the lowly in life had He come in exaltation and dwelt as a king upon the earth? Jesus knew the needs of the world better than they themselves knew. He did not come as an angel, clothed with the panoply of heaven, but as a man. Yet combined with His humility was an inherent power and grandeur that awed men while they loved Him. Although possessing such loveliness, such an unassuming appearance, He moved among them with the dignity and power of a heaven-born king. The people were amazed, confounded. They tried to reason the matter out; but, unwilling to renounce their own ideas, they yielded to doubts, clinging to the old expectation of a Saviour to come in earthly grandeur. 5T 253.1

When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, His disciples were gathered close about Him, and the multitude, filled with intense curiosity, also pressed as near as possible. Something more than usual was expected. Eager faces and listening attitudes gave evidence of the deep interest. The attention of all seemed riveted upon the speaker. His eyes were lighted up with unutterable love, and the heavenly expression upon His countenance gave meaning to every word uttered. Angels of heaven were in that listening throng. There, too, was the adversary of souls with his evil angels, prepared to counteract, as far as possible, the influence of the heavenly Teacher. The truths there uttered have come down through the ages and have been a light amid the general darkness of error. Many have found in them that which the soul most needed—a sure foundation of faith and practice. But in these words spoken by the greatest Teacher the world has ever known there is no parade of human eloquence. The language is plain, and the thoughts and sentiments are marked with the greatest simplicity. The poor, the unlearned, the most simple-minded, can understand them. The Lord of heaven was in mercy and kindness addressing the souls He came to save. He taught them as one having authority, speaking the words of eternal life. 5T 253.2

All should copy the Pattern as closely as possible. While they cannot possess the consciousness of power which Jesus had, they can so connect with the Source of strength that Jesus can abide in them and they in Him, and so His spirit and His power will be revealed in them. 5T 254.1

“Walk in the light, as He is in the light.” It is earthliness and selfishness that separate from God. The messages from heaven are of a character to arouse opposition. The faithful witnesses for Christ and the truth will reprove sin. Their words will be like a hammer to break the flinty heart, like a fire to consume the dross. There is constant need of earnest, decided messages of warning. God will have men who are true to duty. At the right time He sends His faithful messengers to do a work similar to that of Elijah. 5T 254.2