Ellen G. White Writings

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The Atlantic Canvasser

December 11, 1890

The Best Manner of Working

By Mrs. E. G. White

If more tact and discretion were used in the presentation of the truth, by ministers in their discourses and by the canvassers in their work, much more would be accomplished than we now see. Because of a neglect in this direction, many have a misconception of our faith and doctrine which they would never have formed if their first impressions had been more favorable. It is our duty to get as close to the people in high places as we can by personal efforts. Such labor will not exclude the poorer and lower classes, but both high and low will have an opportunity to be benefited by the truths of the Bible. If our own words and lives show the refining influence of the truth of God upon the heart, those who become acquainted with us will see that the religion of the Bible never degrades the receiver, and as they accept the truth they will perceive the duties and responsibilities resting upon them in their turn to be representatives of Jesus Christ upon the earth. The truth of God, obeyed from the heart, is constantly elevating, refining, and ennobling the receiver. It is not worldly wisdom, but God-given wisdom that teaches us to present the truth in such a manner that it will reach the higher classes, who will when converted to the truth exert an influence in its favor, and who will help to sustain it with their intrusted talents of influence and means. The duty we owe to our fellowmen places us under obligations to put out our talents, in the light of truth which we have received, as well as the talents of means to the exchangers. By winning souls to Jesus Christ,—souls who are in responsible positions, and whose influence can be a power to reach men and women of the higher classes whom God has seen fit to intrust with large capacity for doing good,—talents will be doubled. The influence of our work, even though it be through but one soul gained, is far-reaching; our talent is out to the exchanger, and is constantly increasing.

The workers in the cause should not feel that the only way they can work is to make known all points of doctrine as held by Seventh-day Adventists, at once, and in every place. Such a course would close the ears of the people at the outset, and frustrate the end sought. God would have his workers be as lambs among wolves, wise as serpents, but harmless as doves. Their own ideas must be laid aside, and they must follow the direction of the Spirit of God. They should not feel that all the truth of God is to be spoken to unbelievers on any and every occasion, but should plan carefully what to say and what to leave unsaid. This is not practicing deception; it is working as Paul worked. He says, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without the law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” He did not approach the Jews in a way to stir up their prejudice. He did not run the risk of making them his enemies by telling them the first thing that they must believe on Jesus of Nazareth; but he dwelt on the promises of the Old Testament scriptures, which testified of Christ, of his mission, and of his work. Thus he led them along step by step, showing them the importance of honoring the law of God. He also gave due honor to the ceremonial law, showing that Christ was the one that instituted the whole Jewish economy of sacrificial service. After dwelling upon these things, evincing that he had a clear understanding of them himself, he brought them down to the first advent of Christ, and proved that in the crucified Jesus every specification had been fulfilled. This was the wisdom that Paul exercised. He approached the Gentiles, not by exalting the law at first, but by exalting Christ, and then showing the binding claims of the law. He showed them plainly how the light that was reflected from the cross of Calvary gave significance and glory to the whole Jewish system. Thus he varied his manner of labor, always shaping his message to the circumstances under which he was placed; and, yet, though after patient labor he was successful to a large degree, many would not be convinced. There are some who will not be convinced by any method of presenting the truth. The laborer for God should, nevertheless, study carefully the best method, in order that he may not arouse prejudice or stir up combativeness unnecessarily. Let him give the people evidence that he is a true Christian, conscientious, desiring peace and not strife, and that he has a love for their souls. Thus the confidence of the people will be gained.

Christ said to his disciples, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” There were many things he did not say to them because their education and ideas were of such a character that his instruction would have confused their minds, and raised questioning and unbelief that it would have been difficult to remove.

God's workmen must be many-sided men; that is, they must have breadth of character. They must not be one-sided men, stereotyped in their manner of working, getting into a groove where they are unable to see that their words and manner of labor must vary to suit the class of people they are with, and the circumstances they have to meet. All should be constantly seeking to subdue their own prominent characteristics and educate their weaker powers, so that the mind may be evenly balanced. This is necessary, if they make useful, successful laborers. God would have his servants, old and young, continually improving, learning better how to reach the people. They should not settle down contented, thinking that their ways are perfect, and that others must work just as they work. All our methods and plans should bear the divine mold.

(To be continued.)

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