Brother D was presented before me as doing a work which in the judgment he will wish undone. He is not correct in all points of doctrine, and he obstinately maintains his erroneous positions. He is an accuser of the brethren. He has not only thought evil of those whom God has chosen as laborers in His cause, but he has spoken this evil to others. He has not conformed to the Bible rule and conferred with the leading brethren, and yet he finds fault with them all.
The excuse made for him is: "Oh, Brother D is such a good man. He is a pattern of amiability and kindheartedness, and is a ready helper anywhere." Brother D has many excellent traits of character. He has no great ability as a preacher, but may become an earnest, faithful worker. The enemy has come in through his estimation of himself. Had he not esteemed himself more highly than he should, he would never have dared to use the reputation of his brethren as he has done. By his freedom in gathering up and repeating false reports, he has come in between the people and the message which God has given His ministers to bear to them to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord. His good traits have made him all the more dangerous; for they have given him influence. People have thought that what he said must be so. Had he been an immoral or quarrelsome person, he could not have succeeded in winning the confidence of so many.
Brother D's manner of working also makes his course more deserving of censure and a greater offense to God. Had he shown his feelings undisguised, had he said in public the things he talked in private, no one would have thought for a moment of sending him out to labor in the conference. While he is laboring under its sanction, his brethren have a right to suppose that his views are correct. And with this sanction his influence has been a power for evil. There are some who would never have entertained suspicion of their brethren or thought evil of them had it not been for his words. He has started minds on a track which, if pursued, will end in rebellion and the loss of the soul. Stripped of its disguise, this is the work which our good brother has been doing.
God has presented this matter before me in its true light. Brother D's heart is not right. It is defiled with bitterness, wrath, envy, jealousy, and evil surmising, and it needs to be purified. Unless he changes his course entirely, he will soon be a fallen man. Charity, or love, "suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
Suppose that Brother D leads the people to question and reject the testimonies that God has been giving to His people during the past thirty-eight years; suppose he makes them believe that the leaders in this work are designing, dishonest men, engaged in deceiving the people; what great and good work has he done? It is a work exactly similar to that of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and with all whom he has influenced the result will be disastrous. He has thought that he could not be in error; but does this work bear the signet of heaven? No; Brother D has indulged a self-righteous spirit, which has almost ruined him. Let him come upon an equality with his brethren; if he has difficulties with them in regard to their course of action, let him show wherein their sin lies.
When Satan became disaffected in heaven, he did not lay his complaint before God and Christ; but he went among the angels who thought him perfect and represented that God had done him injustice in preferring Christ to himself. The result of this misrepresentation was that through their sympathy with him one third of the angels lost their innocence, their high estate, and their happy home. Satan is instigating men to continue on earth the same work of jealousy and evil surmising that he commenced in heaven.
When Jesus was upon earth, the Jews were ever acting as spies on His track. They gathered up every false report and charged Him with one crime after another. They were constantly endeavoring to turn the people away from Him. Was their course right? If it was, then Brother D has not sinned, for he is doing a similar work. He may now break the snare of the enemy; he may conquer this spirit which leads him to exalt himself above his brethren. Let him seek meekness, and learn to esteem others better than himself. If he will work in fidelity and in harmony with God's plan he will hear the sweet words, "Well done," from the lips of the Master. But if he rejects the labors of God's servants, if he chooses his own way and leans to his own understanding, he will surely make shipwreck of faith. God has not passed His people by and chosen one solitary man here and another there as the only ones worthy to be entrusted with His truth. He does not give one man new light contrary to the established faith of the body. In every reform men have arisen making this claim. Paul warned the church in his day: "Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." The greatest harm to God's people comes through those who go out from among them speaking perverse things. Through them the way of truth is evil spoken of.
Let none be self-confident, as though God had given them special light above their brethren. Christ is represented as dwelling in His people. Believers are represented as "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord," says Paul, "beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
That which Brother D calls light is apparently harmless; it does not look as though anyone could be injured by it. But, brethren, it is Satan's device, his entering wedge. This has been tried again and again. One accepts some new and original idea which does not seem to conflict with the truth. He talks of it and dwells upon it until it seems to him to be clothed with beauty and importance, for Satan has power to give this false appearance. At last it becomes the all-absorbing theme, the one great point around which everything centers; and the truth is uprooted from the heart.
No sooner are erratic ideas started in his mind than Brother D begins to lose faith and to question the work of the Spirit which has been manifested among us for so many years. He is not a man who will entertain what he believes to be special light without imparting it to others; therefore it is not safe to give him influence that will enable him to unsettle other minds. It is opening a door through which Satan will rush in many errors to divert the mind from the importance of the truth for this time. Brethren, as an ambassador of Christ I warn you to beware of these side issues, whose tendency is to divert the mind from the truth. Error is never harmless. It never sanctifies, but always brings confusion and dissension. It is always dangerous. The enemy has great power over minds that are not thoroughly fortified by prayer and established in Bible truth.
There are a thousand temptations in disguise prepared for those who have the light of truth; and the only safety for any of us is in receiving no new doctrine, no new interpretation of the Scriptures, without first submitting it to brethren of experience. Lay it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer; and if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment; for "in the multitude of counselors there is safety."
Satan saw in Brother D traits that would enable him to gain an advantage. "The prince of this world cometh," said Christ, "and hath nothing in Me." But while appearing to possess great humility, Brother D has placed too high an estimate upon himself. For years he has entertained the feeling that his brethren did not appreciate him, and he has expressed this feeling to others, and Satan found in him a self-conceit to which he could successfully appeal.
This is a time of extreme peril to Brother D, and to many others. Angels of God are watching these souls with intense interest, and Satan and his angels are very anxious to see how their plans will succeed. This is a crisis in Brother D's life. He will here make decisions for time and for eternity. God loves him, and this experience may be one of great value to him. If he fully yields his heart to God and accepts all the truth he will be a tireless laborer; God will work through him, and he may do much good. But he must work in harmony with his brethren. He must overcome sensitiveness and learn to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross of Christ.
Satan is constantly at work, but few have any idea of his activity and subtlety. The people of God must be prepared to withstand the wily foe. It is this resistance that Satan dreads. He knows better than we do the limit of his power and how easily he can be overcome if we resist and face him. Through divine strength the weakest saint is more than a match for him and all his angels, and if brought to the test he would be able to prove his superior power. Therefore Satan's step is noiseless, his movements stealthy, and his batteries masked. He does not venture to show himself openly, lest he arouse the Christian's dormant energies and send him to God in prayer.
The enemy is preparing for his last campaign against the church. He has so concealed himself from view that many can hardly believe that he exists, much less can they be convinced of his amazing activity and power. They have to a great extent forgotten his past record; and when he makes another advance move, they will not recognize him as their enemy, that old serpent, but they will consider him a friend, one who is doing a good work. Boasting of their independence they will, under his specious, bewitching influence, obey the worst impulses of the human heart and yet believe that God is leading them. Could their eyes be opened to distinguish their captain, they would see that they are not serving God, but the enemy of all righteousness. They would see that their boasted independence is one of the heaviest fetters Satan can rivet on unbalanced minds.
Man is Satan's captive and is naturally inclined to follow his suggestions and do his bidding. He has in himself no power to oppose effectual resistance to evil. It is only as Christ abides in him by living faith, influencing his desires and strengthening him with strength from above, that man may venture to face so terrible a foe. Every other means of defense is utterly vain. It is only through Christ that Satan's power is limited. This is a momentous truth that all should understand. Satan is busy every moment, going to and fro, walking up and down in the earth, seeking whom he may devour. But the earnest prayer of faith will baffle his strongest efforts. Then take "the shield of faith," brethren, "wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
The worst enemies we have are those who are trying to destroy the influence of the watchmen upon the walls of Zion. Satan works through agents. He is making an earnest effort here. He works according to a definite plan, and his agents act in concert. A line of unbelief stretches across the continent and is in communication with the church of God. Its influence has been exerted to undermine confidence in the work of the Spirit of God. This element is here and is silently working. Be careful lest you be found aiding the enemy of God and man by spreading false reports and by criticisms and decided opposition.
Through deceptive means and unseen channels, Satan is working to strengthen his authority and to place obstacles in the way of God's people, that souls may not be freed from his power and gathered under the banner of Christ. By his deceptions he is seeking to allure souls from Christ, and those who are not established upon the truth will surely be taken in his snare. And those whom he cannot lead into sin he will persecute, as the Jews did Christ.
Satan's object is to dishonor God, and he works with every element that is unsanctified to accomplish this design. The men whom he makes his instruments in doing this work are blinded and do not see what they are doing until they are so deeply involved in guilt that they think it would be useless to try to recover themselves, and they risk all and continue in their course of transgression to the bitter end.
Satan hopes to involve the remnant people of God in the general ruin that is coming upon the earth. As the coming of Christ draws nigh, he will be more determined and decisive in his efforts to overthrow them. Men and women will arise professing to have some new light or some new revelation whose tendency is to unsettle faith in the old landmarks. Their doctrines will not bear the test of God's word, yet souls will be deceived. False reports will be circulated, and some will be taken in this snare. They will believe these rumors and in their turn will repeat them, and thus a link will be formed connecting them with the archdeceiver. This spirit will not always be manifested in an open defiance of the messages that God sends, but a settled unbelief is expressed in many ways. Every false statement that is made feeds and strengthens this unbelief, and through this means many souls will be balanced in the wrong direction.
We cannot be too watchful against every form of error, for Satan is constantly seeking to draw men from the truth. He fills them with notions of their own sufficiency, and persuades them, as he has Brother D, that originality is a gift much to be coveted. Brother D needs to learn the truth more perfectly. Satan has taken advantage of his ignorance in this direction, and here comes the danger. One man has been drawn aside who is hard to be persuaded when once he has set his feet in a wrong track, and many who thought they were only following the man as he followed Christ are betrayed into following him when he has turned his back upon his Saviour.
Pride dwells in the heart of Brother D, and it will be exceedingly difficult for him to yield; but unless he makes a full surrender to Christ, the enemy will continue to work through him. And if he does not at once take a decided stand, I fear he never will.
The ----- and ----- churches have taken a heavy responsibility. The full result of the work they have done will not be known until the judgment. You need heavenly wisdom, brethren, for sin has many disguises. The want of spiritual vision makes you stumble like blind men. Had you had singleness of purpose, it would have been in your conference an element of tremendous power. But the very things I feared have come. There was work to be done that has been left undone. The companies that I saw would have been raised up as the result of well-directed effort, and the meetinghouses that would have been built,--where are they? Your unbelief has held the work. You have done comparatively nothing yourselves, and when one would work, you hedged the way so that he could not labor to any advantage.
Some are slow, very slow, and they pride themselves in it. But this indolent sluggishness is a defect of character of which no man should boast. Make a firm resolve to be prompt, and with divine help you will succeed. Let your consecration be complete; bind property and friends on the altar of God, and when the heart is prepared to receive the heavenly influence, bright beams from the throne of God will flash into your soul, quickening all its dormant energies.
Some men have no firmness of character. They are like a ball of putty and can be pressed into any conceivable shape. They are of no definite form and consistency, and are of no practical use in the world. This weakness, indecision, and inefficiency must be overcome. There is an indomitableness about true Christian character which cannot be molded or subdued by adverse circumstances. Men must have moral backbone, an integrity which cannot be flattered, bribed, or terrified.
I greatly fear for the church. As Paul expressed it: "I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." Paul then explains that it is by means of corrupt teachers that the enemy will assail the faith of the church. "For such are false apostles," he says, "deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness."
The more we learn in reference to the early days of the Christian church, and see with what subtlety Satan worked to weaken and destroy, the better we shall be prepared to resist his devices and meet coming perils. We are in the time when tribulations such as the world has never yet seen will prevail. "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." But God has set bounds that Satan cannot pass. Our most holy faith is this barrier; and if we build ourselves up in the faith, we shall be safe in the keeping of the Mighty One. "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."