Healdsburg, California, March 28, 1882.
Dear Brother -----: Your letter was received in due time. While I was glad to hear from you, I was made sad as I read its contents. I had received similar letters from Sister ----- and from Brother -----. But I have had no communications from Brother ----- or anyone who sustains him. From your own letters I learn the course which you have pursued in the proceedings against Brother -----.
I am not surprised that such a state of things should exist in Battle Creek, but I am pained to find you, my much-esteemed brother, involved in this matter on the wrong side with those whom I know God is not leading. Some of these persons are honest, but they are deceived. They have received their impressions from another source than the Spirit of God.
I have been careful not to express my opinion to individuals concerning important matters, for unjust advantage is often taken of what I say even in the most confidential manner. Persons set themselves to work to draw out remarks from me on various points, and then they distort and misrepresent, and make my words express ideas and opinions altogether different from what I hold. But this they must meet at the bar of God.
On the occurrence of your present difficulties I determined to keep silent; I thought it might be best to let matters develop, that those who had been so ready to censure my husband might see that the spirit of murmuring existed in their own hearts and was still active, now that the man of whom they had complained was silently sleeping in the grave.
I knew that a crisis must come. God has given this people plain and pointed testimonies to prevent this state of things. Had they obeyed the voice of the Holy Spirit in warning, counsel, and entreaty they would now enjoy unity and peace. But these testimonies have not been heeded by those who professed to believe them, and as a result there has been a wide departure from God, and the withdrawal of His blessing.
To effect the salvation of men, God employs various agencies. He speaks to them by His word and by His ministers, and He sends by the Holy Spirit messages of warning, reproof, and instruction. These means are designed to enlighten the understanding of the people, to reveal to them their duty and their sins, and the blessings which they may receive, to awaken in them a sense of spiritual want, that they may go to Christ and find in Him the grace they need. But many choose to follow their own way instead of God's way. They are not reconciled to God, neither can be, until self is crucified and Christ lives in the heart by faith.
Every individual, by his own act, either puts Christ from him by refusing to cherish His spirit and follow His example, or he enters into a personal union with Christ by self-renunciation, faith, and obedience. We must, each for himself, choose Christ, because He has first chosen us. This union with Christ is to be formed by those who are naturally at enmity with Him. It is a relation of utter dependence, to be entered into by a proud heart. This is close work, and many who profess to be followers of Christ know nothing of it. They nominally accept the Saviour, but not as the sole ruler of their hearts.
Some feel their need of the atonement, and with the recognition of this need, and the desire for a change of heart, a struggle begins. To renounce their own will, perhaps their chosen objects of affection or pursuit, requires an effort, at which many hesitate and falter and turn back. Yet this battle must be fought by every heart that is truly converted. We must war against temptations without and within. We must gain the victory over self, crucify the affections and lusts; and then begins the union of the soul with Christ. As the dry and apparently lifeless branch is grafted into the living tree, so may we become living branches of the True Vine. And the fruit which was borne by Christ will be borne by all His followers. After this union is formed, it can be preserved only by continual, earnest, painstaking effort. Christ exercises His power to preserve and guard this sacred tie, and the dependent, helpless sinner must act his part with untiring energy, or Satan by his cruel, cunning power will separate him from Christ.
Every Christian must stand on guard continually, watching every avenue of the soul where Satan might find access. He must pray for divine help and at the same time resolutely resist every inclination to sin. By courage, by faith, by persevering toil, he can conquer. But let him remember that to gain the victory Christ must abide in him and he in Christ.
A union of believers with Christ will as a natural result lead to a union with one another, which bond of union is the most enduring upon earth. We are one in Christ, as Christ is one with the Father. Christians are branches, and only branches, in the living Vine. One branch is not to borrow its sustenance from another. Our life must come from the parent vine. It is only by personal union with Christ, by communion with Him daily, hourly, that we can bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
There has come into the church at Battle Creek a spirit that has no part in Christ. It is not a zeal for the truth, not a love for the will of God as revealed in His word. It is a self-righteous spirit. It leads you to exalt self above Jesus and to regard your own opinions and ideas as more important than union with Christ and union with one another. You are sadly lacking in brotherly love. You are a backslidden church. To know the truth, to claim union with Christ, and yet not to bring forth fruit, not to live in the exercise of constant faith--this hardens the heart in disobedience and self-confidence. Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness, all depend on our union with Christ and the degree of faith we exercise in Him. Here is the source of our power in the world.
Many of you are seeking honor of one another. But what is the honor or the approval of man to one who regards himself as a son of God, a joint heir with Christ? What are the pleasures of this world to him who is daily a sharer in the love of Christ which passes knowledge? What are the contempt and opposition of man to him whom God accepts through Jesus Christ? Selfishness can no more live in the heart that is exercising faith in Christ than light and darkness can exist together. Spiritual coldness, sloth, pride, and cowardice alike shrink from the presence of faith. Can those who are as closely united with Christ as the branch to the vine, talk of and to everyone but Jesus?
Are you in Christ? Not if you do not acknowledge yourselves erring, helpless, condemned sinners. Not if you are exalting and glorifying self. If there is any good in you, it is wholly attributable to the mercy of a compassionate Saviour. Your birth, your reputation, your wealth, your talents, your virtues, your piety, your philanthropy, or anything else in you or connected with you, will not form a bond of union between your soul and Christ. Your connection with the church, the manner in which your brethren regard you, will be of no avail unless you believe in Christ. It is not enough to believe about Him; you must believe in Him. You must rely wholly upon His saving grace.
Many of you at Battle Creek are living without prayer, without thoughts of Christ, and without exalting Him before those around you. You have no words to exalt Christ; you do no deeds that honor Him. Many of you are as truly strangers to Christ as though you had never heard His name. You have not the peace of Christ; for you have no true ground for peace. You have no communion with God because you are not united to Christ. Said our Saviour: "No man cometh to the Father, but by Me." You are not useful in the cause of Christ. Except ye abide in Me, says Jesus, ye can do nothing --nothing in God's sight, nothing that Christ will accept at your hands. Without Christ you can have nothing but a delusive hope, for He Himself declares: "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Advancement in Christian experience is characterized by increasing humility, as the result of increasing knowledge. Everyone who is united to Christ will depart from all iniquity. I tell you, in the fear of God, I have been shown that many of you will fail of everlasting life because you are building your hopes of heaven on a false foundation. God is leaving you to yourselves, "to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart." You have neglected the Scriptures. You despise and reject the testimonies because they reprove your darling sins and disturb your self-complacency. When Christ is cherished in the heart, His likeness will be revealed in the life. Humility will reign where pride was once predominant. Submission, meekness, patience, will soften down the rugged features of a naturally perverse, impetuous disposition. Love to Jesus will be manifested in love to His people. It is not fitful, not spasmodic, but calm and deep and strong. The life of the Christian will be divested of all pretense, free from all affectation, artifice, and falsehood. It is earnest, true, sublime. Christ speaks in every word. He is seen in every deed. The life is radiant with the light of an indwelling Saviour. In converse with God and in happy contemplation of heavenly things the soul is preparing for heaven and laboring to gather other souls into the fold of Christ. Our Saviour is able and willing to do for us more than we can ask or even think.
The church at Battle Creek need a self-abasing unpretending spirit. I have been shown that many are cherishing an unholy desire for the supremacy. Many love to be flattered and are jealously watching for slights or neglect. There is a hard, unforgiving spirit. There is envy, strife, emulation.
Nothing is more essential to communion with God than the most profound humility. "I dwell," says the High and Holy One, "with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." While you are so eagerly striving to be first, remember that you will be last in the favor of God if you fail to cherish a meek and lowly spirit. Pride of heart will cause many to fail where they might have made a success. "Before honor is humility," and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." "When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died." "Many are called, but few are chosen." Many hear the invitation of mercy, are tested and proved; but few are sealed with the seal of the living God. Few will humble themselves as a little child, that they may enter the kingdom of heaven.
Few receive the grace of Christ with self-abasement, with a deep and permanent sense of their unworthiness. They cannot bear the manifestations of the power of God, for this would encourage in them self-esteem, pride, and envy. This is why the Lord can do so little for us now. God would have you individually seek for the perfection of love and humility in your own hearts. Bestow your chief care upon yourselves, cultivate those excellencies of character which will fit you for the society of the pure and the holy.
You all need the converting power of God. You need to seek Him for yourselves. For your soul's sake neglect this work no longer. All your trouble grows out of your separation from God. Your disunion and dissension are the fruit of an unchristian character.
I had thought to remain silent and let you go on until you should see and abhor the sinfulness of your course; but back sliding from God produces hardness of heart and blindness of mind, and there is less and less perception of the true condition, until the grace of God is finally withdrawn, as from the Jewish nation.
I wish my position to be clearly understood. I have no sympathy with the course that has been pursued toward Brother -----. The enemy has encouraged feelings of hatred in the hearts of many. The errors committed by him have been reported from one person to another, constantly growing in magnitude, as busy, gossiping tongues added fuel to the fire. Parents who have never felt the care which they should feel for the souls of their children, and who have never given them proper restraint and instruction, are the very ones who manifest the most bitter opposition when their children are restrained, reproved, or corrected at school. Some of these children are a disgrace to the church and a disgrace to the name of Adventists.
The parents despised reproof themselves, and despised the reproof given to their children, and were not careful to conceal this from them. The sin of the parents began with their mismanagement at home. The souls of some of these children will be lost because they did not receive instruction from God's word and did not become Christians at home. Instead of sympathizing with their children in a perverse course, the parents should have reproved them and sustained the faithful teacher. These parents were not united to Christ themselves, and this is the reason of their terrible neglect of duty. That which they have sown they will also reap. They are sure of a harvest.
In the school Brother ----- has not only been burdened by the wrong course of the children, but by the injudicious management of the parents, which produced and nurtured hatred of restraint. Overwork, unceasing care, with no help at home, but rather a constant irritation, have caused him at times to lose self-control and to act injudiciously. Some have taken advantage of this, and faults of minor consequence have been made to appear like grave sins.
The class of professed Sabbathkeepers who try to form a union between Christ and Belial, who take hold of the truth with one hand and of the world with the other, have surrounded their children and clouded the church with an atmosphere entirely foreign to religion and the Spirit of Christ. They dared not openly oppose the claims of truth. They dared not take a bold stand and say they did not believe the testimonies; but, while nominally believing both, they have obeyed neither. By their course of action they have denied both. They desire the Lord to fulfill to them His promises; but they refuse to comply with the conditions on which these promises are based. They will not relinquish every rival for Christ. Under the preaching of the word there is a partial suppression of worldliness, but no radical change of the affections. Worldly desires, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life ultimately gain the victory. This class are all professed Christians. Their names are on the church books. They live for a time a seemingly religious life and then yield their hearts, too often finally, to the predominating influence of the world.
Whatever may be Brother -----'s faults, your course is unjustifiable and unchristian. You have gone back over his history for years and have searched out everything that was unfavorable, every shadow of evil, and have made him an offender for a word. You have brought all the powers you could command to sustain yourselves in your course as accusers. Remember, God will deal in the same manner with every one of you. "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Those who have taken part in this disgraceful proceeding will meet their work again. What influence do you think your course will have upon the students, who have ever been impatient of restraint? How will these things affect their character and their life history?
What say the testimonies concerning these things? Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. The prevalence of a sinful desire shows the delusion of the soul. Every indulgence of that desire strengthens the soul's aversion to God. The pains of duty and the pleasures of sin are the cords with which Satan binds men in his snares. Those who would rather die than perform a wrong act are the only ones who will be found faithful.
A child may receive sound religious instruction; but if parents, teachers, or guardians permit his character to be biased by a wrong habit, that habit, if not overcome, will become a predominant power, and the child is lost.
The testimony borne to you by the Spirit of God is: Parley not with the enemy. Kill the thorns, or they will kill you. Break up the fallow ground of the heart. Let the work go deep and thorough. Let the plowshare of truth tear out the weeds and briers.
Said Christ to the angry, accusing Pharisees: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone." Were those sinless who were so ready to accuse and condemn Brother -----? Were their characters and lives to be searched as closely and publicly as they have searched Brother -----'s, some of them would appear far worse than they have tried to represent him.
I dare not longer remain silent. I speak to you and to the church at Battle Creek. You have made a great mistake. You have treated with injustice one to whom you and your children owe a debt of gratitude which you do not realize. You are responsible for the influence you have exerted upon the college. Peace has come because the students have had their own way. In another crisis they will be as determined and persevering as they have been on this occasion; and, if they find as able an advocate as they have found in Brother -----, they may again accomplish their purpose. God has been speaking to teachers and students and church members, but you have cast His words behind you. You have thought best to take your own course, irrespective of consequences.
God has given us, as a people, warnings, reproofs, and cautions, on the right hand and on the left, to lead us away from worldly customs and worldly policy. He requires us to be peculiar in faith and in character, to meet a standard far in advance of worldlings. Brother ----- came among you, unacquainted with the Lord's dealings with us. Having newly come to the faith, he had almost everything to learn. Yet you have unhesitatingly coincided with his judgment. You have sanctioned in him a spirit and course of action that have nought of Christ.
You have encouraged in the students a spirit of criticism, which God's Spirit has sought to repress. You have led them to betray confidence. There are not a few young persons among us who are indebted for most valuable traits of character to the knowledge and principles received from Brother -----. To his training many owe much of their usefulness, not only in the Sabbath school, but in various other branches of our work. Yet your influence encouraged ingratitude, and has led students to despise the things that they should cherish.
Those who have not the peculiar trials to which another is subjected may flatter themselves that they are better than he. But place them in the furnace of trial, and they might not endure it nearly as well as the one they censure and misjudge. How little we can know of the heart anguish of another. How few understand another's circumstances. Hence the difficulty of giving wise counsel. What may appear to us to be appropriate, may, in reality, be quite the reverse.
Brother ----- has been an earnest seeker after knowledge. He has sought to impress upon the students that they are responsible for their time, their talents, their opportunities. It is impossible for a man to have so much care, and carry so heavy responsibilities, without becoming hurried, weary, and nervous. Those who refuse to accept burdens which will tax their strength to the utmost know nothing of the pressure brought to bear upon those who must bear these burdens.
There are some in the college who have looked only for what has been unfortunate and disagreeable in their acquaintance with Brother -----. These persons have not that noble, Christlike spirit that thinketh no evil. They have made the most of every inconsiderate word or act, and have recalled these at a time when envy, prejudice, and jealousy were active in unchristian hearts.
A writer has said that "envy's memory is nothing but a row of hooks to hang up grudges on." There are many in the world who consider it an evidence of superiority to recount the things and persons that they "cannot bear," rather than the things and persons that they are attracted to. Not so did the great apostle. He exhorts his brethren: "Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Envy is not merely a perverseness of temper, but a distemper, which disorders all the faculties. It began with Satan. He desired to be first in heaven, and because he could not have all the power and glory he sought, he rebelled against the government of God. He envied our first parents and tempted them to sin and thus ruined them and all the human race.
The envious man shuts his eyes to the good qualities and noble deeds of others. He is always ready to disparage and misrepresent that which is excellent. Men often confess and forsake other faults, but there is little to be hoped for from the envious man. Since to envy a person is to admit that he is a superior, pride will not permit any concession. If an attempt be made to convince the envious person of his sin, he becomes even more bitter against the object of his passion, and too often he remains incurable.
The envious man diffuses poison wherever he goes, alienating friends and stirring up hatred and rebellion against God and man. He seeks to be thought best and greatest, not by putting forth heroic, self-denying efforts to reach the goal of excellence himself, but by standing where he is and diminishing the merit due to the efforts of others.
Envy has been cherished in the hearts of some in the church as well as in the college. God is displeased at your course. I entreat you, for Christ's sake, never treat another as you have treated Brother -----. A noble nature does not exult in causing others pain, or delight in discovering their deficiencies. A disciple of Christ will turn away with loathing from the feast of scandal. Some who have been active on this occasion are repeating the course pursued toward one of the Lord's servants in affliction, one who had sacrificed health and strength in their service. The Lord vindicated the cause of the oppressed and turned the light of His countenance upon His suffering servant. I then saw that God would prove these persons again, as He has now done, to reveal what was in their hearts.
When David had sinned, God granted him his choice, to receive his punishment from God or at the hand of man. The repentant king chose to fall into the hand of God. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Erring, sinful man, who can himself be kept in the right path only by the power of God, is yet hardhearted, unforgiving toward his erring brother. My brethren at Battle Creek, what account will you render at the bar of God? Great light has come to you, in reproofs, warnings, and entreaties. How have you spurned its heaven-sent rays!
The tongue that delights in mischief, the babbling tongue that says, Report, and I will report it, is declared by the apostle James to be set on fire of hell. It scatters firebrands on every side. What cares the vendor of gossip that he defames the innocent? He will not stay his evil work, though he destroy hope and courage in those who are already sinking under their burdens. He cares only to indulge his scandal-loving propensity. Even professed Christians close their eyes to all that is pure, honest, noble, and lovely, and treasure up what ever is objectionable and disagreeable, and publish it to the world.
You have yourselves thrown open the doors for Satan to come in. You have given him an honored place at your investigation, or inquisition meetings. But you have shown no respect for the excellencies of a character established by years of faithfulness. Jealous, revengeful tongues have colored acts and motives to suit their own ideas. They have made black appear white, and white black. When remonstrated with for their statements, some have said: "It is true." Admitting that the fact stated is true, does that justify your course? No, no. If God should take all the accusations that might in truth be brought against you, and should braid them into a scourge to punish you, your wounds would be more and deeper than those which you have inflicted on Brother -----. Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression. You have no right to gather up every report against him and use them to ruin his reputation and destroy his usefulness. Should the Lord manifest toward you the same spirit which you have manifested toward your brother, you would be destroyed without mercy. Have you no compunctions of conscience? I fear not. The time has come for this satanic spell to lose its power. If Brother ----- were all that you represent him to be,-- which I know he is not, your course would still be unjustifiable.
When we listen to a reproach against our brother, we take up that reproach. To the question, "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?" the psalmist answered, "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor."
What a world of gossip would be prevented if every man would remember that those who tell him the faults of others will as freely publish his faults at a favorable opportunity. We should endeavor to think well of all men, especially our brethren, until compelled to think otherwise. We should not hastily credit evil reports. These are often the result of envy or misunderstanding, or they may proceed from exaggeration or a partial disclosure of facts. Jealousy and suspicion, once allowed a place, will sow themselves broadcast, like thistledown. Should a brother go astray, then is the time to show your real interest in him. Go to him kindly, pray with and for him, remembering the infinite price which Christ has paid for his redemption. In this way you may save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.
A glance, a word, even an intonation of the voice, may be vital with falsehood, sinking like a barbed arrow into some heart, inflicting an incurable wound. Thus a doubt, a reproach, may be cast upon one by whom God would accomplish a good work, and his influence is blighted, his usefulness destroyed. Among some species of animals, if one of their number is wounded and falls, he is at once set upon and torn in pieces by his fellows. The same cruel spirit is indulged by men and women who bear the name of Christians. They manifest a pharisaical zeal to stone others less guilty than themselves. There are some who point to others' faults and failures to divert attention from their own, or to gain credit for great zeal for God and the church.
A few weeks since I was in a dream brought into one of your meetings for investigation. I heard the testimonies borne by students against Brother -----. Those very students had received great benefit from his thorough, faithful instruction. Once they could hardly say enough in his praise. Then it was popular to esteem him. But now the current was setting the other way. These persons have developed their true character. I saw an angel with a ponderous book open in which he wrote every testimony given. Opposite each testimony were traced the sins, defects, and errors of the one who bore it. Then there was recorded the great benefit which these individuals had received from Brother -----'s labors.
We, as a people, are reaping the fruit of Brother -----'s hard labor. There is not a man among us who has devoted more time and thought to his work than has Brother -----. He has felt that he had no one to sustain him, and has felt grateful for any encouragement.
One of the great objects to be secured in the establishment of the college was the separation of our youth from the spirit and influence of the world, from its customs, its follies, and its idolatry. The college was to build a barrier against the immorality of the present age, which makes the world as corrupt as in the days of Noah. The young are bewitched with the mania for courtship and marriage. Lovesick sentimentalism prevails. Great vigilance and tact are needed to guard the youth from these wrong influences. Many parents are blind to the tendencies of their children. Some parents have stated to me, with great satisfaction, that their sons or daughters had no desire for the attentions of the opposite sex, when in fact these children were at the same time secretly giving or receiving such attentions, and the parents were so much absorbed in worldliness and gossip that they knew nothing about the matter.
The primary object of our college was to afford young men an opportunity to study for the ministry and to prepare young persons of both sexes to become workers in the various branches of the cause. These students needed a knowledge of the common branches of education and, above all else, of the word of God. Here our school has been deficient. There has not been a man devoted to God to give himself to this branch of the work. Young men moved upon by the Spirit of God to give themselves to the ministry have come to the college for this purpose and have been disappointed. Adequate preparation for this class has not been made, and some of the teachers, knowing this, have advised the youth to take other studies and fit themselves for other pursuits. If these youth were not firm in their purpose, they were induced to give up all idea of studying for the ministry.
Such is the result of the influence exerted by unsanctified teachers, who labor merely for wages, who are not imbued with the Spirit of God and have no union with Christ. No one has been more active in this work than Brother ----- The Bible should be one of the principal subjects of study.
This book, which tells us how to spend the present life, that we may secure the future, immortal life, is of more value to students than any other. We have but a brief period in which to become acquainted with its truths. But the one who had made God's word a study, and who could more than any other teacher have helped the young to gain a knowledge of the Scriptures, has been separated from the school.
Professors and teachers have not understood the design of the college. We have put in means and thought and labor to make it what God would have it. The will and judgment of those who are almost wholly ignorant of the way in which God has led us as a people, should not have a controlling influence in that college. The Lord has repeatedly shown that we should not pattern after the popular schools. Ministers of other denominations spend years in obtaining an education. Our young men must obtain theirs in a short time. Where there is now one minister, there should be twenty whom our college had prepared with God's help to enter the gospel field.
Many of our younger ministers, and some of more mature experience, are neglecting the word of God and also despising the testimonies of His Spirit. They do not know what the testimonies contain and do not wish to know. They do not wish to discover and correct their defects of character. Many parents do not themselves seek instruction from the testimonies, and of course they cannot impart it to their children. They show their contempt for the light which God has given, by going directly contrary to His instructions. Those at the heart of the work have set the example.
You have published your contentions to the world. Do you think you stand, as a people, in a more favorable light in Battle Creek? Christ prayed that His disciples might be one, as He was one with the Father, that the world might know that God had sent Him. What testimony have you borne during the past few months? The Lord is looking into every heart. He weighs our motives. He will try every soul. Who will bear the test?