Brother E: While in Rochester, New York, December 25, 1865, before visiting the State of Maine, I saw some things in relation to the perplexing and discouraging conditions of the cause in that state. I was shown that quite a number who were thinking it their duty to teach the word of God publicly had mistaken their work. They had no call to devote themselves to this solemn, responsible work. They were not qualified for the work of the ministry, for they could not instruct others properly.
The experience of some had been obtained among a class of religious fanatics who had no true sense of the exalted character of the work. The religious experience of this class of professed Seventh-day Adventists was not reliable. They had not firm principles underlying all their actions. They were self-confident, and boastful. Their religion did not consist in righteous acts, true humility of soul, and sincere devotion to God, but in impulse, in noise and confusion, spiced with eccentricities and oddities. They had not felt, neither could they feel, the necessity of being clothed with Christ's righteousness. They had a righteousness of their own, which was as filthy rags, and which God can in no case accept. These persons had no love for union and harmony of action. They delighted in disorder. Confusion, distraction, and diversity of opinion were their choice. They were ungovernable, unsubdued, unregenerated, and unconsecrated, and this element of confusion suited their undisciplined minds. They were a
curse to the cause of God and brought the name of Seventh-day Adventists into disrepute.
These persons had not experienced the work of reformation, or sanctification through the truth. They were coarse and uncultivated. They had never tasted of the sweet, pure refinement of the world to come. They had never experienced, neither had their hearts been awed by, the mystery of godliness. They placed divine and eternal things upon a level with common things, and would talk of heaven and the coming of Jesus as they would of a horse. They had a superficial knowledge or theory of the truth, but further than this they were ignorant. Its principles had not taken hold of their lives and led them to an abhorrence of self. They had never viewed themselves in the light in which Paul viewed himself, which led him to see the moral defects in his character. They had never been slain by the law of God, and had not separated themselves from their impurities and defilement. It is the favorite occupation of some of this class to engage in trifling conversation and levity. This habit they contracted, and indulged upon occasions which should have been characterized by solemn meditation and devotion. In doing this, they manifested a lack of true dignity and refinement, and forfeited the esteem of sensible persons who had no knowledge of the truth. This class threw themselves into a current of temptation and kept where the enemy led them successfully, and he has so easily controlled their minds and corrupted their entire experience that in all probability they will be unable to recover themselves out of his snare and obtain a healthful experience.
The fires of the day of God will consume the stubble and chaff, and there will be nothing left of any who continue in the ungodly course which they have so long loved. This class have a disrelish for the society of those whom God is truly with. Their religious experience is of so low an order that they
have no part nor lot in a rational, intelligent religious experience; therefore they have despised the society of those whom God leads and is teaching. Sarcasm and irony is the stronghold of some peculiar minds of this class. They are bold and insolent, and do not regard good manners. They have no care to discriminate and render honor to whom honor is due. They manifest a proud, rebellious, defiant spirit against those who differ from their opinions. Their boisterous manners and wrong course lead the true servant of God to feel that they have resisted the efforts made for them, and he becomes disheartened in reference to laboring any further in their behalf. They engage in a contemptible triumph of exactly the same nature as that which Satan and evil angels engage in over the souls whom they secure. They have Satan and evil angels on their side to exult with them. The cases of the persons in whom this cast of character is peculiarly and strikingly developed are hopeless. They are incased in self-righteousness, and everything like refinement and elevation of character with which they are brought in contact is termed by them pride and lack of humility. Coarseness and ignorance are regarded as humility.
With this class you have obtained a large share of your religious experience; therefore you are not qualified for the work of teaching the most solemn, refined, elevating, and withal the most testing message to mortals. You may reach a class of minds, but the more intelligent portion of the community will be driven further off by your labors. You have not a sufficient knowledge of even the common branches of education to be an instructor of men and women who have a wily devil on the other hand to suggest and devise ways and means to lead them from the truth.
The teachers of the common schools are required to be masters of their business. They are closely examined to ascertain if children can properly be trusted to their care. By
investigation the thoroughness of their qualifications is tested according to the importance of the position which they are required to occupy. I saw that God's work is of as much more exalted character, and of as much higher interest, as the eternal is above the temporal. A mistake made here cannot be repaired. It is of infinite importance that all who go forth to teach the truth should be qualified for their work. No less strict investigation should be instituted in reference to their ability to teach the truth than in the case of those who teach our schools. God's work has been belittled by the slack, loose course pursued by professed ministers of Christ.
I was shown that ministers must be sanctified and holy, and must have a knowledge of the word of God. They should be familiar with Bible arguments and prepared to give a reason of their hope, or they should cease their labors and engage in a calling where deficiency will not involve such tremendous consequences. Ministers of the popular denominations of the day are acceptable preachers if they can speak upon a few simple points of the Bible; but the ministers who are spreading unpopular truth for these last days, who have to meet men of learning, men of strong minds, and opposers of every type, should know what they are about. They should not take upon themselves the responsibility of teaching the truth unless they are qualified for the work. Before engaging in, or devoting themselves to, the work they should become Bible students. If they have not an education so that they can speak in public with acceptance, and do justice to the truth, and honor the Lord whom they profess to serve, they should wait till they are fitted for the position.
Brother E, you cannot fill the position of a minister of Christ. I saw that you lacked a correct religious experience. You have not a knowledge of yourself. You cannot even read correctly, or use language which would commend the truth
to the understanding of an intelligent community. You lack discrimination. You would not know when it was proper to speak or wise to keep silent. You have so long thought, with the peculiar class I have mentioned, that you knew it all, that you will not see your deficiencies when they are presented before you. You possess a large share of self-esteem, and your experience has been characterized by self-confidence and boastfulness.
You are not teachable, therefore the cause of God would not prosper in your hands. You would fail to recognize a defeat when you met with one. The cause of God would be brought into disrepute and dishonor by your labors, and you would fail to discover the fact. A certain class may be convinced by you of the truth; but more would be turned away and placed where they could not be reached by proper, judicious labor. Interwoven with your experience are things that will prove detrimental to the truth. God cannot accept you as a representative of the truth.
Your manners have not been refined and elevated. Your deportment has not been pleasing to God. Your words have been careless. You lack piety and devotion. You have not obtained an experience in the spiritual life. You fail to understand how to rightly divide the word of life, giving to each his portion of meat in due season. You have preferred to contend and contest points when you were entirely out of your place and could but meet with defeat. This is the spirit of the class in Maine whom I have mentioned. It is their delight to engage in contest and brave it through. You would not manifest meekness in instructing those who oppose themselves. You will ever be crippled, in a degree, by your unfortunate experience. You lack self-culture and meekness. You have important lessons to learn before you can become an unassuming, acceptable follower of Christ, even in a private capacity.