Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

March 23, 1886

The Spirit of Law-Breakers: How Ministers Should Meet Them

By Mrs. E. G. White

Men who will not admit the claims of God's law, which are so very plain, will generally take a lawless course; for they have so long taken sides with the great rebel in warring against the law of God, which is the foundation of his government in heaven and on earth, that they are trained in this labor. In their warfare, they will not open their eyes or consciences to light. They close their eyes lest they shall become enlightened. Their case is as hopeless as was that of the Jews, who would not see the light which Christ brought to them. The wonderful evidences of his Messiahship, by the miracles he performed in healing the sick and raising the dead, and doing the works which no other man had done or could do, instead of melting or subduing their hearts and overcoming their wicked prejudices, inspired them with Satanic hatred and fury, such as Satan possessed when he was thrust out of heaven. The greater light and evidence they had, the greater was their hatred. They were determined to extinguish the light by putting Christ to death.

The haters of God's law, which is the foundation of his government in heaven and earth, are on the same ground as were the unbelieving Jews. Their defiant power will follow those who keep the commandments of God, and great light will be rejected by them. Their consciences have been violated so long, and their hearts have grown so hard by their choosing darkness rather than light, that they feel that it is a virtue in them to bear false witness or stoop to almost any course of equivocation or deception, as did the Jews in their rejection of Christ, to gain their object. They reason that the end justifies the means. They virtually crucify the law of the Father as the Jews crucified the Son.

Our work should be to embrace every opportunity to present the truth in its purity and simplicity where there is any desire or interest to hear the reasons of our faith. Those who have dwelt mostly upon the prophecies and the theoretical points of our faith, should without delay become Bible students upon practical subjects. They should take a deeper draught at the fountain of divine truth. They should carefully study the life of Christ and his lessons of practical godliness, given for the benefit of all, and the rule of right living for all who should believe on his name. They should be imbued with the spirit of their great Example, and have a high sense of the sacred life of a follower of Christ.

Christ met the case of every class in his subjects and manner of teaching. He ate and lodged with the rich and poor, and made himself familiar with the interests and occupations of men, that he might gain access to their hearts. The learned and most intellectual were gratified and charmed with his discourses, which were yet so plain and simple as to be comprehended by the humblest minds. Christ availed himself of every opportunity to give instructions to the people upon the heavenly doctrines and precepts which should be incorporated into their lives, and which would distinguish them from all other religionists, because of their holy, elevated character. These lessons of divine instruction are not brought to bear upon men's consciences as they should be. Ministers believing present truth are furnished with discourses by these sermons of Christ which will be appropriate on almost any occasion. Here is a field of study for the Bible student, which he cannot be interested in without having the spirit of the heavenly Teacher in his own heart. Here are subjects which Christ presented to all classes. Thousands of people of every stamp of character, of every grade of society, were attracted and charmed with the matter brought before them.

Some ministers who have been long in the work of preaching present truth, have made great failures in their labors. They have educated themselves as combatants. They have studied out argumentative subjects for the object of discussion, and these subjects which they have prepared they love to use. The truth of God is plain and conclusive. It is harmonious, and in contrast with error shines with clearness and beauty. Its consistency commends it to the judgment of every heart that is not filled with prejudice. Our ministers present the arguments upon the truth, which have been made ready for them, and if there are no hindrances the truth bears away the victory. But in many cases, the poor instrument takes the credit of the victory; and the people, who are more earthly than spiritual, praise and honor the instrument, while the truth of God is not exalted.

The eternal welfare of sinners regulated the conduct of Jesus Christ. He went about doing good. Benevolence was the life of his soul. He not only did good to all who came to him soliciting his mercy, but he perseveringly sought them out. He was never elated with applause, nor dejected by censure or disappointment. When he met with the greatest opposition and the most cruel treatment, he was of good courage. Christ preached the most important discourse inspiration has given us, to only one listener. As he sat by the well to rest, for he was weary, a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and he saw an opportunity to reach her mind, and through her to reach the minds of the Samaritans, who were enveloped in great darkness and error. Although weary, he presented the truths of his spiritual kingdom, which charmed the heathen woman, and filled her with admiration for Christ. She went forth publishing the news, “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?” This woman's testimony converted many to a belief in Christ. Through her report many came to hear for themselves, and believed because of his own word.

However small may be the number of interested listeners, if their hearts are reached and their understanding convinced, they can carry the report, as did the Samaritan woman, which will raise the interest of hundreds to investigate for themselves. While laboring in places to create an interest, there will be many discouragements; but if at first there seems to be but little interest, it is no evidence that you have mistaken your duty and place of labor. If the interest steadily increases, and the people move understandingly, not from impulse but from principle, the interest is much more healthy and durable than where a great excitement is created suddenly, and the feelings are all stirred up by listening to a debate and sharp contest on both sides of the question, for and against the truth. Fierce opposition is thus aroused, and rapid decisions are made and positions taken. There is a feverish state of things. Calm consideration and judgment are wanting. Let this excitement subside, or let it be managed indiscreetly, and reaction takes place and the interest can never be raised again. Feeling and sympathy were stirred, but the conscience was not convicted, the heart was not broken and humbled before God.

In the presentation of unpopular truth, which involves a heavy cross, laborers should be careful that every word is as God would have it. Their words should never be cutting. They should present the truth in humility, with the deepest love for souls and an earnest desire for their salvation, and let the truth cut. They should not seek to provoke debate, not defy ministers of other denominations. They should not stand in a position like that of Goliah [Goliath] when he defied the armies of Israel. Israel did not defy Goliah [Goliath], but he made his proud boasts against God and his people. The defying and boasting and railing must come from the opposers of truth, who act the Goliah [Goliath]; but none of this spirit should be seen in those whom God has sent forth to proclaim the last message of warning to a doomed world.

Goliah [Goliath] trusted in his armor. He terrified the armies of Israel by his defiant, savage boastings, while he made a most imposing display of his armor, which was his strength. David, in his humility and zeal for God and his people, proposed to meet this boaster. Saul consented, and had his own kingly armor placed upon David; but he would not wear it. The king's armor was laid aside; for he had not proved it. He had proved God, and, trusting in him, had gained special victories. To put on Saul's armor would give the impression that he was a warrior, when he was only little David, who tended the sheep. He did not mean that any credit should be given to the armor of Saul; for his trust was in the Lord God of Israel. He selected a few pebbles from the brook, and with his sling and staff,—his only weapons,—he went forth in the name of the God of Israel to meet the armed warrior.

Goliah [Goliath] disdained David; for his appearance was that of a mere youth untaught in the tactics of warfare. Goliah [Goliath] railed upon David, and cursed him by his gods. He thought it an insult to his dignity to have a mere stripling without so much as an armor come to meet him. He made his boast of what he would do to him. David did not become irritated because he was looked upon as so inferior; neither did he tremble at his terrible threats. David replied, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” David tells Goliah [Goliath] that in the name of the Lord he will do to him the very things Goliah [Goliath] had threatened to do to David. “And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.”

If you, like David, are brought into a position where God's cause really calls you to meet a defier of Israel, go forth in the strength of God, relying wholly upon him, and he will carry you through, and cause his truth to triumph gloriously. Christ has given us an example. “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”

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