22. The Peril of Extreme Views
I expected ere this to see you and talk with you, or write to you; but I have not been able to do either, neither am I now able; but I feel a deep interest in you and am desirous that you shall not be separated from the work. I have not strength to do justice in conversation with you; your mind is so quick and your tongue so fluent, that I fear I should become very much wearied, and that which I might say would not remain distinct in your mind.
I see your danger; you can readily put your thoughts into words. You put things in a strong light; and your language is not guarded. Your views on some points are so expressed that you make your brethren afraid of you. This need not be. You should not try to get as far from your brethren as you can, making it appear that you do not see alike.
I have been shown that your influence for good is greatly lessened because you feel it your duty to express your ideas on certain points which you do not fully comprehend yourself, and which, with all your efforts, you cannot make others comprehend. I have been shown that it was not necessary for you to feel that you must dwell upon these points. Some of your ideas are correct, others incorrect and erroneous.
If you would dwell on such subjects as Christ's willingness to forgive sins, to receive the sinner, to save that which is lost, subjects that inspire hope and courage, you would be a blessing. But while you strive to be original and take such extreme views, and use such strong language in presenting them, there is danger of doing much harm. Some may grasp your thought and seem to be benefited, but when tempted and overcome, they lose courage to fight the good fight of faith.
If you will dwell less on these ideas, which seem to you so important, and will restrain your extravagant expressions, you yourself will have more faith. I saw that your mind was at times unbalanced from trying very hard to study into and explain the mystery of godliness, which is just as great a mystery after your study and explanations as it was before.
Lead the people to look to Jesus as their only hope and helper; leave the Lord room to work upon the mind, to speak to the soul, and to impress the understanding. It is not essential for you to know and tell others all the whys and wherefores as to what constitutes the new heart, or as to the position they can and must reach so as never to sin. You have no such work to do.
All are not constituted alike. Conversions are not all alike. Jesus impresses the heart, and the sinner is born again to new life. Often souls have been drawn to Christ when there was no violent conviction, no soul rending, no remorseful terrors. They looked upon an uplifted Saviour, they lived. They saw the soul's need, they saw the Saviour's sufficiency, and His claims, they heard His voice saying, "Follow Me," and they rose up and followed Him. This conversion was genuine, and the religious life was just as decided as was that of others who suffered all the agony of a violent process.
Our ministers must cease to dwell upon their peculiar ideas with the feeling, "You must see this point as I do, or you cannot be saved." Away with this egotism. The great work to be done in every case is to win souls to Christ. Men must see Jesus on the cross, they must look and live. It is not your ideas they must feed upon, but it is the flesh and blood of the Son of God. He says, "My flesh is meat indeed" (John 6:55). "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
The soul that accepts Jesus places himself under the care of the Great Physician, and let men be careful how they come between the patient and the Physician who discerns all the needs of the soul. Christ, the physician of the soul, understands its defects and its maladies, and knows how to heal with the purchase of His own blood. What the soul lacks, He can best supply. But men are so officious, they want to do so much, that they overdo the matter, leaving Christ no room to work.
Whatever molding and fashioning needs to be wrought in the soul, Christ can best do. The conviction may not be deep, but if the sinner comes to Christ, viewing Him upon the cross, the just dying from the unjust, the sight will break every barrier down. Christ has undertaken the work of saving all who trust in Him for salvation. He sees the wrongs that need to be righted, the evils that need to be repressed. He came to seek and save that which was lost. "Him that cometh to me," He says, "I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
Through the goodness and mercy of Christ the sinner is to be restored to the divine favor. God in Christ is daily beseeching men to be reconciled to God. With outstretched arms He is ready to receive and welcome not only the sinner but the prodigal. His dying love, manifested on Calvary, is the sinner's assurance of acceptance, peace, and love. Teach these things in the simplest form, that the sin-darkened soul may see the light shining from the cross of Calvary.
Satan is working in many ways, that the very men who ought to preach the message may be occupied with fine-drawn theories which he will cause to appear of such magnitude and importance as to fill the whole mind; and while they think they are making wonderful strides in experience, they are idolizing a few ideas, and their influence is injured, and tells but little on the Lord's side.
Let every minister make earnest efforts to ascertain what is the mind of Christ. Unless your mind becomes better balanced in regard to some things, your course will separate you from the work, and you will not know at what you stumble. You will advance ideas which you might better never have originated.
There are those who pick out from the Word of God, and also from the Testimonies, detached paragraphs or sentences that may be interpreted to suit their ideas, and they dwell upon these, and build themselves up in their own positions, when God is not leading them. Here is your danger.
You will take passages in the Testimonies that speak of the close of probation, of the shaking among God's people, and you will talk of a coming out from this people of a purer, holier people that will arise. Now all this pleases the enemy. We should not needlessly take a course that will make differences or create dissension. We should not give the impression that if our particular ideas are not followed, it is because the ministers are lacking in comprehension and in faith, and are walking in darkness.
Your mind has been on an unnatural strain for a long time. You have much truth, precious truth, but mingled with suppositions. Your extreme ideas and strong language often destroy the effect of your best efforts. Should many accept the views you advance, and talk and act upon them, we would see one of the greatest fanatical excitements that has ever been witnessed among Seventh-day Adventists. This is what Satan wants.
Leave Mysteries Alone
Now there are in the lessons of Christ, subjects in abundance that you can speak upon. And mysteries which neither you nor your hearers can understand or explain might better be left alone. Give the Lord Jesus Christ room Himself to teach; let Him by the influence of His Spirit open to the understanding the wonderful plan of salvation.
There is a time of trouble coming to the people of God, but we are not to keep that constantly before the people, and rein them up to have a time of trouble beforehand. There is to be a shaking among God's people, but this is not the present truth to carry to the churches....
The ministers should not feel that they have some wonderful advanced ideas, and unless all receive these, they will be shaken out and a people will arise to go forward and upward to the victory. Some of those who are resisting the very principles of the message God has sent for this time, present just such cases as yourself. They point to your extreme views and teachings as an excuse for their neglect of receiving the Lord's messages.
Satan's object is accomplished just as surely when men run ahead of Christ and do the work He has never entrusted to their hand, as when they remain in the Laodicean state, lukewarm, feeling rich and increased with goods, and in need of nothing. The two classes are equally stumbling blocks.
Some zealous ones who are aiming and straining every energy for originality have made a grave mistake in trying to get something startling, wonderful, entrancing before the people, something that they think others do not comprehend; but they do not themselves know what they are talking about. They speculate upon God's Word, advancing ideas that are not a whit of help to themselves or to the churches. For the time being they may excite the imagination, but there is a reaction, and these very ideas become a hindrance. Faith is confounded with fancy, and their views may bias the mind in a wrong direction.
Let the plain, simple statements of the Word of God be food for the mind; this speculating upon ideas that are not clearly presented there is dangerous business.
You are naturally combative. You do not care much whether you harmonize with your brethren or not. You would like to enter into controversy, would like to fight for your particular ideas; but you should lay this aside, for this is not developing the Christian graces. Work with all your power to answer the prayer of Christ, that His disciples may be one, as He is one with the Father.
Not a soul of us is safe unless we learn of Jesus daily, His meekness, His lowliness of heart. When you go to any place to labor, do not be dictatorial, do not be severe, do not be antagonistic. Preach the love of Christ, and this will melt and subdue hearts. Seek to be of one mind and of one judgment, coming close in harmony with your brethren, and to speak the same things.
Talk Not of Divisions
This talking about divisions because all do not have the same ideas as present themselves to your mind, is not the work of God, but of the enemy. Talk the simple truths wherein you can agree. Talk of unity; do not become narrow and conceited; let your mind broaden.
Christ does not weigh character in scales of human judgment. He says, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). Every soul who responds to this drawing will turn from iniquity. Christ is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto Him. He who comes to Jesus is setting his feet upon a ladder that reaches from earth to heaven. Teach it by pen, by voice, that God is above the ladder; the bright rays of His glory are shining upon every round of the ladder. He is looking graciously upon all who are climbing painfully upward, that He may send them help, divine help, when the hand seems to be relaxing and the foot trembling. Yes, tell it, tell it in words that will melt the heart, that not one who shall perseveringly climb the ladder will fail of an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; those who believe in Christ shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of His hand.
Tell the people in clear, hopeful language how they may escape the heritage of shame which is our deserved portion. But for Christ's sake do not present before them ideas that will discourage them, that will make the way to heaven seem very difficult. Keep all these overstrained ideas to yourself.
While we must often impress the mind with the fact that the Christian life is a life of warfare, that we must watch and pray and toil, that there is peril to the soul in relaxing the spiritual vigilance for one moment, the completeness of the salvation proffered us from Jesus who loves us and gave Himself that we should not perish but have everlasting life, is to be the theme.
Day by day we may walk with God, day by day following on to know the Lord, entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, laying hold on the hope set before us. If we reach heaven it must be by binding the soul to the Mediator, becoming partakers of the divine nature. Leaning on Christ, your life being hid with Christ in God and led by His Spirit, you have the genuine faith.
Believing fully in the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice, we shall be laborers together with God. Trusting in His merits, we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Always keeping hold of Christ, we are coming nearer and nearer to God. Jesus desires us to keep this always prominent. Do not arouse your combative spirit; the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits. . . .
Do not think that you must make prominent every idea your imagination receives. Jesus said to His disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). How much more should we, who are constantly liable to err, beware of urging upon others that which they are not prepared to receive. Constantly looking unto Jesus, restrain your strong, extravagant expressions. But while you should be cautious as to your words and ideas, it is not necessary that your labors should entirely cease. Seek to be in harmony with your brethren, and there will be plenty for you to do in the vineyard of the Lord. But exalt Christ, not your ideas and views. Put on the armor, and keep step with God's workers, shoulder to shoulder; press the battle against the enemy. Hide in Jesus. Dwell on the simple lessons of Christ, feed the flock of God, and you will become settled, strengthened, established; you will work to build up others in the most holy faith.
If you differ with your brethren as to your understanding of the grace of Christ and the operations of His Spirit, you should not make these differences prominent. You view the matter from one point; another, just as devoted to God, views the same question from another point, and speaks of the things that make the deepest impression on his mind; another viewing it from a still different point, presents another phase; and how foolish it is to get into contention over these things, when there is really nothing to contend about. Let God work on the mind and impress the heart.
The Lord is constantly at work to open the understanding, to quicken the perceptions, that man may have a right sense of sin and of the far-reaching claims of God's law. The unconverted man thinks of God as unloving, as severe, and even revengeful; His presence is thought to be a constant restraint, His character an expression of "Thou shalt not." His service is regarded as full of gloom and hard requirements. But when Jesus is seen upon the cross, as the gift of God because He loved man, the eyes are opened to see things in a new light. God as revealed in Christ is not a severe judge, an avenging tyrant, but a merciful and loving Father.
As we see Jesus dying upon the cross to save lost man, the heart echoes the words of John, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (1 John 3:1). There is nothing that more decidedly distinguishes the Christian from the worldly man than the estimate he has of God.
Some workers in the cause of God have been too ready to hurl denunciations against the sinner; the grace and love of the Father in giving His Son to die for the sinful race have been put in the background. The teacher needs the grace of Christ upon his own soul, in order to make known to the sinner what God really is--a Father waiting with yearning love to receive the returning prodigal, not hurling at him accusations in wrath, but preparing a festival of joy to welcome his return (Zeph. 3:14-17).
O that we might all learn the way of the Lord in winning souls to Christ! We should learn and teach the precious lessons in the light that shineth from the sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary. There is but one way that leads from ruin, and continuously ascends, faith all the time reaching beyond the darkness into the light, until it rests upon the throne of God. All who have learned this lesson have accepted the light which has come to their understanding. To them this upward way is not a dark, uncertain passage; it is not the way of finite minds, not a path cut out by human device, a path in which toll is exacted from every traveler.
You cannot gain an entrance by penance nor by any works that you can do. No, God Himself has the honor of providing a way, and it is so complete, so perfect, that man cannot, by any works he may do, add to its perfection. It is broad enough to receive the greatest sinner if he repents, and it is so narrow, so holy, lifted up so high, that sin cannot be admitted there.
When God is seen as He is, the blessed truth shines with a new and clearer light. That which kept the mind in perplexity is cleared away by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. And yet there are many things we shall not comprehend; but we have the blessed assurance that what we know not now, we shall know hereafter.-- Letter 15a, 1890.
Selected Messages Book 1 : pp. 176-184.