〉 Chapter 3—Attitudes Toward the Testimonies
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Chapter 3—Attitudes Toward the Testimonies
An Early Statement
I saw the state of some who stood on present truth, but disregarded the visions—the way God had chosen to teach in some cases, those who erred from Bible truth. I saw that in striking against the visions they did not strike against the worm—the feeble instrument that God spake through—but against the Holy Ghost. I saw it was a small thing to speak against the instrument, but it was dangerous to slight the words of God. I saw if they were in error and God chose to show them their errors through visions, and they disregarded the teachings of God through visions, they would be left to take their own way, and run in the way of error, and think they were right, until they would find it out too late. Then in the time of trouble I heard them cry to God in agony, “Why didst Thou not show us our wrong, that we might have got right and been ready for this time?” Then an angel pointed to them and said, “My Father taught, but you would not be taught. He spoke through visions, but you disregarded His voice, and He gave you up to your own ways, to be filled with your own doings.”—Broadside, To Those Who Are Receiving the Seal of the Living God, January 31, 1849. (1SM 40.1)
Safe Instruction for Closing Days
A wealth of moral influence has been brought to us in the last half century. Through His Holy Spirit the voice of God has come to us continually in warning and instruction, to confirm the faith of the believers in the Spirit of prophecy. Repeatedly the word has come, “Write the things that I have given you to confirm the faith of My people in the position they have taken.” Time and trial have not made void the instruction given, but through years of suffering and self-sacrifice have established the truth of the testimony given. The instruction that was given in the early days of the message is to be held as safe instruction to follow in these its closing days. Those who are indifferent to this light and instruction must not expect to escape the snares which we have been plainly told will cause the rejecters of light to stumble, and fall, and be snared, and be taken. If we study carefully the second chapter of Hebrews, we shall learn how important it is that we hold steadfastly to every principle of truth that has been given.—The Review and Herald, July 18, 1907. (1SM 41.1)
Varying Attitudes Enumerated
Soon every possible effort will be made to discount and pervert the truth of the testimonies of God’s Spirit. We must have in readiness the clear, straight messages that since 1846 have been coming to God’s people. (1SM 41.2)
There will be those once united with us in the faith who will search for new, strange doctrines, for something odd and sensational to present to the people. They will bring in all conceivable fallacies, and will present them as coming from Mrs. White, that they may beguile souls (1SM 41.3) 1 I
Those who have treated the light that the Lord has given as a common thing will not be benefited by the instruction presented. (1SM 41.4)
There are those who will misinterpret the messages that God has given, in accordance with their spiritual blindness. (1SM 41.5)
Some will yield their faith, and will deny the truth of the messages, pointing to them as falsehoods. (1SM 41.6)
Some will hold them up to ridicule, working against the light that God has been giving for years, and some who are weak in the faith will thus be led astray. (1SM 42.1)
But others will be greatly helped by the messages. Though not personally addressed, they will be corrected, and will be led to shun the evils specified The Spirit of the Lord will be in the instruction, and doubts existing in many minds will be swept away. The testimonies themselves will be the key that will explain the messages given, as scripture is explained by scripture. Many will read with eagerness the messages reproving wrong, that they may learn what they may do to be saved.... Light will dawn upon the understanding, and the Spirit will make an impression on minds, as Bible truth is clearly and simply presented in the messages that since 1846 God has been sending His people. These messages are to find their place in hearts, and transformations will take place.—Letter 73, 1903. (1SM 42.2)
Perils of Dissecting Inspired Messages
Some sit in judgment on the Scriptures, declaring that this or that passage is not inspired, because it does not strike their minds favorably. They cannot harmonize it with their ideas of philosophy and science, “falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). Others for different reasons question portions of the Word of God. Thus many walk blindly where the enemy prepares the way. Now, it is not the province of any man to pronounce sentence upon the Scriptures, to judge or condemn any portion of God’s Word. When one presumes to do this, Satan will create an atmosphere for him to breathe which will dwarf spiritual growth. When a man feels so very wise that he dares to dissect God’s Word, his wisdom is, with God, counted foolishness. When he knows more, he will feel that he has everything to learn. And his very first lesson is to become teachable. “Learn of me,” says the Great Teacher; “for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29). (1SM 42.3)
You who have been educating yourselves and others in a spirit of criticism and accusing, remember that you are imitating the example of Satan. When it suits your purpose, you treat the Testimonies as if you believed them, quoting from them to strengthen any statement you wish to have prevail. But how is it when light is given to correct your errors? Do you then accept the light? When the Testimonies speak contrary to your ideas, you treat them very lightly. (1SM 42.4)
It does not become anyone to drop a word of doubt here and there that shall work like poison in other minds, shaking their confidence in the messages which God has given, which have aided in laying the foundation of this work, and have attended it to the present day, in reproofs, warnings, corrections, and encouragements. To all who have stood in the way of the Testimonies, I would say, God has given a message to His people, and His voice will be heard, whether you hear or forbear. Your opposition has not injured me; but you must give an account to the God of heaven, who has sent these warnings and instructions to keep His people in the right way. You will have to answer to Him for your blindness, for being a stumbling block in the way of sinners. (1SM 43.1)
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Even the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart is to be tested by the Word of God. The Spirit which inspired the Scriptures, always leads to the Scriptures.—General Conference Daily Bulletin, April 13, 1891. (1SM 43.2) 2 I
Inspired Messages Wrongly Applied
One man, B by name, came all the way from Michigan with a special message for Sister White. He said that Sister White had been appointed by God to occupy the position occupied by Moses, and that he, B, was to occupy the position of Joshua. Thus the work was to be carried forward. Sister White’s work was to be united with his work, and we were to proclaim the truth with power. (1SM 43.3)
This man took the liberty, as many others have done, to mingle a great deal of Scripture with his message, quoting passages which he applied to Seventh-day Adventists. During my connection with the work many such men have arisen. They have selected and arranged scriptures which they made applicable to the people of God. Mr. B read with a loud, strong voice the passages he had selected, declaring them to be applicable to us as a people. He said that I must see that he was right; for was it not the Bible he was reading. (1SM 43.4)
“Yes,” I said, “you have selected and put these scriptures together, but like many who have arisen as you have, you are wresting the Scriptures, interpreting them to mean thus and so, when I know they do not apply as you have applied them.” (1SM 44.1)
“You, or any other deluded person, could arrange and have arranged certain scriptures of great force, and applied them according to your own ideas. Any man could misinterpret and misapply God’s Word, denouncing people and things, and then take the position that those who refused to receive his message had rejected the message of God, and decided their destiny for eternity.”... (1SM 44.2)
From the various letters which have come to me, I see that when such men as B, claiming to be sent by God, go to those who are more or less isolated from our people, these souls are ready to grasp anything that purports to be of heavenly origin. Letters come to me entreating an answer; I know that many men take the testimonies the Lord has given, and apply them as they suppose they should be applied, picking out a sentence here and there, taking it from its proper connection, and applying it according to their idea. Thus poor souls become bewildered, when could they read in order all that has been given, they would see the true application, and would not become confused. Much that purports to be a message from Sister White, serves the purpose of misrepresenting Sister White, making her testify in favor of things that are not in accordance with her mind or judgment. This makes her work very trying. Reports fly from one to another regarding what Sister White has said. Each time the report is repeated, it grows larger. If Sister White has anything to say, leave her to say it. No one is called upon to be a mouthpiece for Sister White.... Please let Sister White bear her own message. It will come with a better grace from her than from the one who reports her.—Manuscript 21, 1901. (1SM 44.3)
Doubting the Testimonies
[Extract from a sermon at the General Conference of 1883, appearing in Notebook Leaflets, The Church, No. 6.] (1SM 45)
When you find men questioning the testimonies, finding fault with them, and seeking to draw away the people from their influence, be assured that God is not at work through them. It is another spirit. Doubt and unbelief are cherished by those who do not walk circumspectly. They have a painful consciousness that their life will not abide the test of the Spirit of God, whether speaking through His Word or through the testimonies of His Spirit that would bring them to His Word. Instead of beginning with their own hearts, and coming into harmony with the pure principles of the gospel, they find fault, and condemn the very means that God has chosen to fit up a people to stand in the day of the Lord. (1SM 45.1)
Let some skeptical one come along, who is not willing to square his life by the Bible rule, who is seeking to gain the favor of all, and how soon the class that are not in harmony with the work of God are called out. Those who are converted, and grounded in the truth, will find nothing pleasing or profitable in the influence or teaching of such a one. But those who are defective in character, whose hands are not pure, whose hearts are not holy, whose habits of life are loose, who are unkind at home, or untrustworthy in deal—all these will be sure to enjoy the new sentiments presented. All may see, if they will, the true measure of the man, the nature of his teaching, from the character of his followers. (1SM 45.2)
Those who have most to say against the testimonies are generally those who have not read them, just as those who boast of their disbelief of the Bible are those who have little knowledge of its teachings. They know that it condemns them, and their rejection of it gives them a feeling of security in their sinful course. (1SM 45.3) 1 I
Error’s Bewitching Power
There is in error and unbelief that which bewilders and bewitches the mind. To question and doubt and cherish unbelief in order to excuse ourselves in stepping aside from the straight path is a far easier matter than to purify the soul through a belief of the truth, and obedience thereto. But when better influences lead one to desire to return, he finds himself entangled in such a network of Satan, like a fly in a spider’s web, that it seems a hopeless task to him, and he seldom recovers himself from the snare laid for him by the wily foe. (1SM 46.1)
When once men have admitted doubt and unbelief of the testimonies of the Spirit of God, they are strongly tempted to adhere to the opinions which they have avowed before others. Their theories and notions fix themselves like a gloomy cloud over the mind, shutting out every ray of evidence in favor of the truth. The doubts indulged through ignorance, pride, or love of sinful practices, rivet upon the soul fetters that are seldom broken. Christ, and He alone, can give the needed power to break them. (1SM 46.2)
The testimonies of the Spirit of God are given to direct men to His Word, which has been neglected. Now if their messages are not heeded, the Holy Spirit is shut away from the soul. What further means has God in reserve to reach the erring ones, and show them their true condition? (1SM 46.3) 2 I
The churches that have cherished influences which lessen faith in the testimonies, are weak and tottering. Some ministers are working to attract the people to themselves. When an effort is made to correct any wrong in these ministers, they stand back in independence and say, “My church accepts my labors.” (1SM 46.4)
Jesus said, “Every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:20. There are many today pursuing a similar course. In the testimonies are specified the very sins of which they are guilty; hence they have no desire to read them. There are those who from their youth up have received warning and reproofs through the testimonies; but have they walked in the light and reformed?—Not at all. They still indulge the same sins; they have the same defects of character. These evils mar the work of God, and make their impress upon the churches. The work the Lord would do to set the churches in order is not done, because the individual members-and especially the leaders of the flock—would not be corrected. (1SM 46.5)
Many a man professes to accept the testimonies, while they have no influence upon his life or character. His faults become stronger by indulgence until, having been often reproved and not heeding the reproof, he loses the power of self-control, and becomes hardened in a course of wrongdoing. If he is overworked, if weakness comes upon him, he has not moral power to rise above the infirmities of character which he did not overcome; they become his strongest points, and he is overborne by them. Then bring him to the test and ask, “Did not God reprove this phase in your character by the testimonies years ago?” He will answer, “Yes, I received a written testimony saying that I was wrong in these things.” “Why, then, did you not correct these wrong habits?” “I thought the reprover must have made a mistake; that which I could see, I accepted; that which I could not see, I said was the mind of the one who gave the message. I did not accept the reproof.” (1SM 47.1)
In some cases the very faults of character which God would have His servants see and correct, but which they refuse to see, have cost these men their life. They might have lived to be channels of light. God wanted them to live, and sent them instruction in righteousness, that they might preserve their physical and mental powers to do acceptable service for Him; and had they received the counsel of God, and become altogether such as He would have them, they would have been able workmen for the advancement of the truth, men who would have stood high in the affections and confidence of our people. But they are sleeping in the grave, because they did not see that God knew them better than they knew themselves. His thoughts were not their thoughts, nor His ways, their ways. These one-sided men have molded the work wherever they have labored. The churches under their management have been greatly weakened. (1SM 47.2)
God reproves men because He loves them. He wants them to be strong in His strength, to have well-balanced minds and symmetrical characters; then they will be examples to the flock of God, leading them by precept and example nearer to heaven. Then they will build up a holy temple for God.—Manuscript 1, 1883. (1SM 48.1)
Searching the Testimonies for an Excuse
Some who are not willing to receive the light, but who prefer to walk in ways of their own choosing, will search the testimonies to find something in them to encourage the spirit of unbelief and disobedience. Thus a spirit of disunion will be brought in; for the spirit which leads them to criticize the testimonies will also lead them to watch their brethren to find in them something to condemn.—Manuscript 73, 1908. (1SM 48.2)
The Last Deception of Satan
Satan is ... constantly pressing in the spurious—to lead away from the truth. The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.—Letter 12, 1890. (1SM 48.3)
There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies which is satanic. The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded.—Letter 40, 1890. (1SM 48.4)