Those who compose our councils need to sit daily at the feet of Christ and learn in His school to be meek and lowly of heart. As they are only weak and erring men themselves, they should cherish feelings of kindness and pity for others who may have erred. They are not prepared to deal justly, to love mercy, and to exercise the true courtesy which characterized the life of Christ, unless they see the necessity of being in union with Him. The trustees should ever realize that they are under the divine eye, and act with a continual sense that, as finite men, they are liable to make mistakes in laying plans unless they are closely connected with God and are seeking to have every deficiency removed from their characters. The divine standard must be met.
Everyone who serves in board meetings needs to seek most earnestly the wisdom from above. The transforming grace of Christ should be felt in every meeting. Then the influence of the Spirit of Christ upon the hearts of those present will place a right mold upon their work. It will quell tumultuous actions and charm away the unhallowed effects of that worldliness which makes men sharp, critical, overbearing, and ready to accuse.
When these councils meet, a few words of formal prayer are offered; but the hearts of those present are not brought into harmony with God by earnest, importunate prayer, offered in living faith, in a humble and contrite spirit. If the trustees divorce themselves from the God of wisdom and power, they cannot preserve that high-souled integrity in dealing with their fellow men which God requires. Without divine wisdom, their own spirit will be woven into the decisions they make. If these men are not in communication with God, Satan will surely be one in their councils and will take advantage of their unconsecrated state. Acts of injustice will be done, because God is not presiding. The Spirit of Christ must be an abiding, controlling power over the heart and mind.
You should take the Lord with you into every one of your councils. If you realize His presence in your assemblies, every transaction will be conscientiously and prayerfully considered. Every unprincipled motive will be repressed, and uprightness will characterize all your transactions, in small as well as in great matters. Seek counsel of God first, for this is necessary in order that you may counsel together properly.
You need to watch, lest the busy activities of life lead you to neglect prayer when you most need the strength prayer would give. Godliness is in danger of being crowded out of the soul through overdevotion to business. It is a great evil to defraud the soul of the strength and heavenly wisdom which are waiting your demand. You need that illumination which God alone can give. No one is fitted to transact his business unless he has this wisdom.
Ever since the Publishing Association was formed, light has been given from time to time when perplexities have arisen, and the Lord has ofttimes laid down principles which should be carried out by all the workers. In the early experience of the work the grave responsibilities resting upon those in positions of trust were kept continually before us, and we sought the Lord from three to five times a day to give us heavenly wisdom, that we might sacredly guard the interests of the cause of God and of His chosen people.
It is the worst kind of folly to leave the Lord out of your councils and to put confidence in the wisdom of men. In your positions of trust you are, in a special sense, to be the light of the world. You should feel an intense desire to place yourselves in connection with the God of wisdom, light, and knowledge, that you may be channels of light. Important interests are to be considered, which relate to the advancement and prosperity of the cause of present truth. How, then, can you be competent to come to right decisions, to make wise plans, and to give wise counsel unless you are thus connected with the Source of all wisdom and righteousness? The business to be transacted in your councils has been considered altogether too lightly. Common talk, common remarks, comments made on the doings of others, have had a place in these important meetings. You should remember that the eternal God is a witness in all these gatherings. The all-seeing eye of Jehovah measures every one of your decisions, and they are compared with His holy law, His great standard of righteousness. Those in the position of counselors should be men of prayer, men of faith, men free from selfishness, men who will not dare to rely on their own human wisdom, but who will pray earnestly for light as to the best manner of conducting the business entrusted to them.
The policy which worldly businessmen adopt is not the policy to be chosen and carried out by the men who are connected with our institutions. Selfish policy is not heaven-born, it is earthly. In this world the leading maxim is, "The end justifies the means;" and this may be traced in every department of business. It has a controlling influence in every class of society, in the grand councils of nations, and wherever the Spirit of Christ is not the ruling principle. Prudence and caution, tact and skill, should be cultivated by everyone who is connected with the office of publication and by those who serve in our college and sanitarium. But the laws of justice and righteousness must not be set aside, and the principle must not prevail that each one is to make his particular branch of the work a success, regardless of other branches. The interests of all should be closely guarded to see that no one's rights are invaded. In the world the god of traffic is too often the god of fraud, but it must not be thus with those who are dealing with the Lord's work. The worldly standard is not to be the standard of those who are connected with sacred things.
When the scenes of the judgment were brought before me, the books in which are registered the deeds of men revealed the fact that the dealings of some of those professing godliness in our institutions were after the worldling's standard, not in strict accordance with God's great standard of righteousness. The relation of men in their deal with one another, especially those connected with the work of God, was opened to me quite fully. I saw that there should be no close, sharp deal between brethren who represent important institutions, different, perhaps, in character, but branches of the same work. A noble, generous, Christlike spirit should ever be maintained by them. The spirit of avarice should have no place in their transactions. God's cause could not be advanced by any action on their part contrary to the spirit and character of Christ. A selfish manner of dealing in one will provoke the same disposition in others, but the manifestation of liberality and true courtesy will awaken the same spirit in return and would please our heavenly Father.
Worldly policy is not to be classed with sound discretion, although it is too often mistaken for it. It is a species of selfishness, in whatever cause it is exercised. Discretion and sound judgment are never narrow in their workings. The mind that is guided by them has comprehensive ideas and does not become narrowed down to one object. It looks at things from every point of view. But worldly policy has a short range of vision. It can see the object nearest at hand, but fails to discover those at a distance. It is ever watching for opportunities to gain advantage. Those who follow a course of worldly policy are building themselves up by pulling out the foundation from another man's building. Every structure must be built upon a right foundation, in order to stand.
Royalties on Books
Brainworkers have a God-given capital. The result of their study belongs to God, not to man. If the worker faithfully gives to his employer the time for which he receives his pay, then his employer has no further claim upon him. And if by diligent and close economy of moments he prepare other matter valuable for publication, it is his to use as he thinks will best serve the cause of God. If he gives up all but a small royalty he has done a good work for those who handle the book, and he should not be asked to do more. God has not placed upon the publishing board the responsibility of being conscience for others. They should not persistently seek to force men to their terms.
The authors are responsible to God for the use which they make of their means. There will be many calls for money. Mission fields will have to be entered, and this requires much outlay. Those to whom God has entrusted talents are to trade upon these talents according to their ability, for they are to act their part in carrying forward these interests. When the members of the board take it upon themselves to urge that all the profits from our denominational books shall go to the Publishing Association and the agents, and that the authors, after being paid for the time and expense of writing a book, should relinquish their claim to a share in the profits, they are undertaking a work which they cannot carry out. These book writers have as much interest in the cause of God as do those who compose the board of trustees. Some of them have had a connection with the work almost from its infancy.
It was presented before me that there were poor men whose only means of obtaining a livelihood was their brain work; also that there are businessmen connected with our institutions who have not grown up with them and have not had the benefit of all the instruction that God has given from time to time relative to their management. They have not incorporated true religion, the spirit of Christ, into their business. The Publishing Association should not, therefore, be made an all-controlling power. Individual talent and individual rights must be respected. Should arrangements be made to invest all the results of personal talent in the Publishing Association, other important interests would be crippled.
To every man God has given his work. To some He has given talents of means and influence; and those who have the interests of God's cause at heart will understand His voice telling them what to do. They will have a burden to push the work where it needs pushing.
Several times it has been pointed out to me that there has been a close, ungenerous spirit exercised toward Brother H from the very first of his labors in Battle Creek. It makes me sad to state the reason. It was because he went there a stranger and in poverty. Because he was a poor man he has been placed in unpleasant positions and made to feel his poverty. Men connected with our institutions have thought that they could bring him to their terms, and he has had a very unpleasant time. There are sad chapters in his experience, which would not have passed into history if his brethren had been kind and had dealt with him in a Christlike manner. The Lord's cause should always be free from the slightest injustice, and no act connected with it should savor in the smallest degree of penuriousness or oppression.
The Lord guards every man's interest. He was always the poor man's friend. There is a most wonderful dearth of Christlike love in the hearts of nearly all who are handling sacred things. I would say to my brethren everywhere: Cultivate the love of Christ! It should well up from the soul of the Christian like streams in the desert, refreshing and beautifying, bringing gladness, peace, and joy into his own life and into the lives of others. "None of us liveth to himself." If there is shown the least oppression of the poor, or unjust dealing with them in either small or great things, God will hold the oppressor accountable.
Do not seek to make terms which are not just and fair with either Elder J or Professor H, or with any other brainworker. Do not urge or force them to accept the terms of those who do not know what it is to make books. These men have a conscience and are accountable to God for their entrusted capital and the use they make of it; you are not to be conscience for them. They want the privilege of investing the means which they may acquire by hard labor, when and where the Spirit of God shall indicate.
My brethren must remember that the cause of God covers more than the publishing house at Battle Creek and the other institutions there established. No one knows better than Brother J how that office came into existence. He has been connected with the publishing work from its very commencement --when it was oppressed by poverty; when the food upon our tables was hardly sufficient to meet the wants of nature, because self-denial had to be practiced in eating and in dressing and in our wages, in order that the paper might live. This was positively necessary then, and those who passed through that experience would be ready, under similar circumstances, to do the same again.
It is not becoming for those who have had no experience in these trials, but have become connected with the work in its present prosperity, to urge the early workers to submit to terms in which they can see no justice. Brother J loves the cause of God and will invest his means to advance it wherever he sees it is necessary. Then leave this burden of receiving and dispensing this means where it belongs-on the men to whom God has entrusted talents of influence and of ability. They are responsible to God for these. Neither the Publishing Association nor its chief workers should assume that stewardship of these authors.
If the board should be able to bring Brethren H and J to their terms, would not these writers feel that they had been dealt with unjustly? Would not a door of temptation be opened before them, which would interfere with sympathy and harmony of action? Should the managers grasp all the profits, it would not be well for the cause, but would produce a train of evils, disastrous to the Publishing Association. It would encourage the spirit of intolerance which is already manifest to some degree in their councils. Satan longs to have a narrow, conceited spirit, which God cannot approve, take possession of the men who are connected with the sacred message of truth.
The same principles which apply to the work in our institutions at Battle Creek apply as well to that in the field at large. The following extracts are from a letter written to Brother K, November 8, 1880:
"There is a broad field for the laborers, but many are getting above the simplicity of the work. Now is the time to labor and to do it in the wise counsel of God. If you connect unconsecrated persons with the missions and Sabbath schools, the work will become a mere form. The workers in every part of the field must study how to work economically and in the simplicity of Christ and how to plan most successfully to reach hearts."
"We are in danger of spreading over more territory and starting more enterprises than we can attend to properly. There is danger of neglecting some important parts of the work through overattention to others. To undertake so large an amount of work that nothing can be done perfectly is a bad plan. We are to move forward, but not to get so far above the simplicity of the work that it will be impossible to look after all the enterprises without sacrificing our best helpers to keep things in running order. Life and health must be regarded.
"While we should be ever ready to follow the opening providence of God, we should lay no larger plans than we have the help and means to carry out successfully. We must keep up and increase the interest in the enterprises already started."
"While larger plans and broader fields are constantly opening, there must be broader views in regard to the selection and training of workers who are to labor to bring souls into the truth. Our young ministers must be encouraged to take hold of the work with energy and be educated to carry it forward with simplicity and thoroughness. I am astonished to see how little some of our young ministers are appreciated and how little encouragement they receive. Yet some of them cling to the work and do anything and everything with unselfish interest."
"Narrowness and dishonest dealing must not come into the settlement with the workers, high or low. . . . There must be more of Christ's way, and less of self. Sharp criticisms should be repressed. Sympathy, compassion, and love should be cultivated by every worker. Unless Jesus comes in and takes possession of the heart, unless self is subdued and Christ is exalted, we shall not prosper as a people. I beseech of you, my brother, to labor wholly in God, not laying too many plans, but striving to have the work carried on circumspectly, and with such thoroughness that it will endure."