Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

April 6, 1911

Cornelius, a Seeker for Truth

Mrs. E. G. White

In pursuance of his work, Peter visited the believers at Lydda. Here he healed Eneas, who for eight years had been confined to his bed with the palsy.

“Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,” the apostle said; “arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.”

At Joppa, which was near Lydda, there lived a woman named Dorcas, whose good deeds had made her greatly beloved. A worthy disciple of Jesus, her life was filled with acts of kindness. Her skilful fingers were more active than her tongue. She knew who needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely ministered to the poor and the sorrowful.

“And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died.” The church in Joppa realized their loss. And in view of the life of service that Dorcas had lived, it is little wonder that they mourned, or that warm tear-drops fell upon the inanimate clay.

Hearing that Peter was at Lydda, the believers in Joppa sent messengers to him, “desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.”

“Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber, and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.”

Peter directed that the weeping friends be sent from the room, and then kneeling down, he prayed fervently to God to restore Dorcas to life and health. Turning to the body, he said: “Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” Dorcas was of great service to the church, and God saw fit to bring her back from the land of the enemy, that her skill and energy might still be a blessing to others, and that by this manifestation of his power, the cause of Christ might be strengthened.

It was while Peter was still in Joppa, that he was called by God to go to Caesarea to take the gospel to Cornelius.

Cornelius was a man of wealth and noble birth. His position was one of trust and honor. A heathen by birth, training, and education, through contact with the Jews he had gained a knowledge of God, and he worshiped him with a true heart, showing the sincerity of his faith by compassion to the poor. He was known far and near for his beneficence, and his righteous life made him of good repute among both Jews and Gentiles. His influence was a blessing to all with whom he came in contact. The inspired record describes him as “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”

Believing in God as the Creator of heaven and earth, Cornelius revered him, acknowledged his authority, and sought his counsel in all the affairs of life. He was faithful to Jehovah in his home life as well as in his official duties, and had erected the altar of God in his home. He dared not attempt to carry out his plans or to bear his responsibilities without the help of God, and for that help he prayed earnestly.

Though Cornelius believed the prophecies and was looking for the Messiah to come, he had not a knowledge of the gospel as revealed in the life and death of Christ. He was not a member of the Jewish church, and would have been looked upon by the rabbis as a heathen and unclean. But God read the sincerity of his heart, and sent a message direct from heaven to him, and by another message directed the apostle Peter to visit him.

While Cornelius was praying, there came to him a heavenly messenger, who addressed him by name. The centurion was afraid, yet he knew that the angel had been sent by God, and he said, “What is it, Lord?” “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God,” the angel answered. “Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.”

The explicitness of these directions, in which was named even the occupation of the man with whom Peter was staying, shows that heaven is acquainted with the history and business of men in every station in life. God is familiar with the experience and work of the humble laborer as well as with that of the king upon his throne.

“Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon.” Thus God showed his regard for the gospel ministry, and for his organized church. The angel was not commissioned to tell Cornelius the story of the cross. A man subject even as the centurion himself to human frailties and temptations was to tell him of the crucified and risen Saviour. In his wisdom the Lord brings those who are seeking for truth into touch with fellow beings who know the truth. It is the plan of heaven that those who have received light shall impart it to those in darkness.

As his representative among men, God does not choose angels who have never fallen, but human beings, men of like passions with those they seek to save. Christ took humanity that he might reach humanity. A divine-human Saviour was needed to bring salvation to the world. And to men and women has been committed the sacred trust of making known “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” They are to be the channels of communication between God and man.

Cornelius was gladly obedient to the vision. When the angel had gone, he called “two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”

The experience of Cornelius will be the experience of many who, though they have not a full knowledge of truth, are walking in all the light they have. Cornelius was living in obedience to all the truth he had received, and God so ordered events that he was given more truth. A messenger from the courts above was sent to bring this officer of Rome into touch with one who could lead him into greater light.

Today God is seeking for souls among the high as well as the lowly. There are many like Cornelius, men whom he desires to connect with his work. Their sympathies are with the Lord's people, but the ties that bind them to the world hold them firmly. It requires moral courage for them to take their position for Christ. Special efforts should be made for these souls, who are in so great danger, because of their responsibilities and associations.

Much is said concerning our duty to the neglected poor. Should not some attention be given to the neglected rich? Many look upon this class as hopeless, and they do little to open the eyes of those who, blinded and dazed by the glitter of earthly glory, have lost eternity out of their reckoning. Thousands of wealthy men have gone to the grave unwarned. But indifferent as they may appear, many among the rich are soul-burdened. “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase.” He that saith to fine gold, “Thou art my confidence,” has “denied the God that is above.” “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever.”

Riches and worldly honor can not satisfy the soul. Many among the rich are longing for some divine assurance, some spiritual hope. Many long for something that will bring to an end the monotony of their aimless life. Many in official life feel their need of something which they have not. Few among them go to church, for they feel that they receive little benefit. The teaching they hear does not touch the heart. Shall we make no special appeal to them?

God calls for earnest, humble workers, who will carry the gospel to the higher classes. It is by no casual, accidental touch that the wealthy, world-loving souls can be drawn to Christ. Decided personal effort must be put forth by men and women imbued with the missionary spirit, those who will not fail nor be discouraged.

In order to reach the higher classes, believers themselves must be living epistles, known and read of all men. We do not represent as fully as we might the elevating, ennobling character of the truth. We are in danger of becoming narrow and selfish. With fear and trembling lest we fail, we should ever remember this. Let those who work for the higher classes bear themselves with true dignity, remembering that angels are their companions. Let them keep the treasure-house of the mind and heart filled with “It is written.” Let them hang in memory's hall the precious words of Christ, which are to be valued far above gold or silver.

There are miracles to be wrought in genuine conversion, miracles that are not now discerned. The greatest men of this earth are not beyond the power of a wonder-working God. If those who are workers together with him will be men of opportunity, doing their duty bravely and faithfully, God will convert men who occupy responsible positions, men of intellect and influence. Through the power of the Holy Spirit many will accept the divine principles. Converted to the truth, they will become agencies in the hand of God to communicate the light. They will have a special burden for other souls of this neglected class. They will feel that a dispensation of the gospel is committed to them for those who have made this world their all. Time and money will be consecrated to the truth, and new efficiency and power will be added to the church.

There are in our world many who are nearer the kingdom of God than we suppose. In this dark world of sin the Lord has many precious jewels, to whom he will guide his messengers. Everywhere there are those who will take their stand for Christ. Many will prize the wisdom of God above any earthly advantage, and will become faithful light-bearers. Constrained by the love of Christ, they will constrain others to come to him.

April 6, 1911

A Study of Principles—No. 5

Methods of Labor Where Prejudice Is Strong

D. E. ROBINSON

In the summer of 1895, there was renewed activity in some of the southern states in arresting Seventh-day Adventists for Sunday labor; and there were differences of opinion among some of our brethren as to how far the brethren in that field should go in the matter of refraining from their ordinary secular work on Sunday.

Some felt that, where a Sunday law was being enforced, to refrain from such labor under any conditions would be a denial of faith, and would involve receiving the mark of the beast. The only logical conclusion to such a premise would be that our brethren should teach all, even the Sabbath-keepers among the colored people, that, be the consequences what they might, it was their duty to labor openly, as usual, on the first day of the week, in defiance of the Sunday laws. Others who were laboring in the South, with their knowledge of the conditions and the field, and of the strong prejudices of some of the people, felt that our work would be greatly hindered were we to maintain such an attitude.

On the morning of November 20, 1895, on the Armadale camp-ground in Victoria, Australia, a special meeting was called to consider the matter. There were present W. W. Prescott, A. G. Daniells, W. C. White, M. C. Israel, L. J. Rosseau, W. A. Colcord, M. G. Kellogg, W. D. Salisbury, James Smith, and Sisters E. G. White and E. J. Burnham.

Several letters were read with reference to the question at issue, and the brethren were invited to discuss the points treated in the letters; but all seemed desirous of hearing from Sister White, and in the course of her remarks, she said:

*****

“There is a terrible crisis just before us, through which all must pass, and especially will it come and be felt in -----. My mind has been much troubled over the positions which some of our brethren are liable to take in regard to the work to be done among the colored people in the Southern States....

“When the truth is proclaimed in the South, a marked difference will be shown by those who oppose the truth in their greater regard for Sunday, and great care must be exercised not to arouse their prejudice. Otherwise we may just as well leave the field entirely....

“Our laborers must move in a quiet way, striving to do everything possible to present the truth to the people, remembering that the love of Christ will melt down opposition.

“From the light that I have received, I see that if we would get the truth before the Southern people, we must not encourage the colored people to work on Sunday. There must be a clear understanding regarding this....

“We are not to make efforts to teach the Southern people to work on Sunday. That which some of our brethren have written upon this point is not based upon right principles. When the practises of the people do not come in conflict with the law of God, you may conform to them. If the workers fail to do this, they will not only hinder their own work, but they will place stumbling-blocks in the way of those for whom they labor, and hinder them from accepting the truth. On Sunday there is the very best opportunity for those who are missionaries to hold Sunday-schools, and come to the people in the simplest manner possible, telling them of the love of Jesus for sinners, and educating them in the Scriptures.”

Question: “Should not those in the Southern field work on Sunday?” [The questioner evidently had in mind to inquire regarding the duty of our brethren under conditions then existing in the South, rather than their duty in that particular locality, regardless of conditions.]

“If they do this, there is danger that as soon as the opposing element can get the slightest opportunity, they will stir up one another to persecute those whom they hate. At present Sunday-keeping is not the test. The time will come when men will not only forbid Sunday work, but they will try to force men to labor on the Sabbath, and to subscribe to Sunday observance or forfeit their freedom and their lives. But the time for this has not yet come, for the truth must be presented more fully before the people as a witness. What I have said about this should not be understood as referring to the action of old Sabbath-keepers who understand the truth. They must move as the Lord shall direct them, but let them consider that they can do the best missionary work on Sunday.

“When the colored people feel that they have the Word of God in regard to the Sabbath question, and the sanction of those who brought them the truth, some who are impulsive will take the opportunity to defy the Sunday laws, and by a presumptuous defiance of their oppressors, they will bring to themselves much sorrow. Very faithfully the colored people must be instructed to be like Christ, to patiently suffer wrongs, that they may help their fellow men to see the light of truth....

“The people will soon find out what you believe about Sunday and the Sabbath, for they will ask questions. Then you can tell them, but not in such a manner as to attract attention to your work. You need not cut short your work by yourself laboring on Sunday. It would be better to take that day to instruct others in regard to the love of Jesus and true conversion.”

Question: “Should the same principles govern our work and our attitude toward the Sunday question in foreign fields where the prejudices of the people are so strong?”

“Yes; just the same. The light that I have is that God's servants should go quietly to work, preaching the grand, precious truths of the Bible,—Christ and him crucified, his love and infinite sacrifice,—showing that the reason why Christ died is because the law of God is immutable, unchangeable, eternal. The Spirit of God will awaken the conscience and the understanding of those with whom you work, bringing the commandments of God to their remembrance.... The Sabbath must be taught in a decided manner, but be cautious how you deal with the idol Sunday. A word to the wise is sufficient.

“I have given you the light which has been presented to me. If followed, it will change the course of many, and will make them wise, cautious teachers. Refraining from work on Sunday is not receiving the mark of the beast; and where this will advance the interests of the work, it should be done. We should not go out of our way to work on Sunday.

“After the Sabbath has been sacredly observed, in places where the opposition is so strong as to arouse persecution if work is done on Sunday, let our brethren make that day an occasion to do genuine missionary work. Let them visit the sick and the poor, ministering to their wants, and they will find favorable opportunities to open the Scriptures to individuals and to families. Thus most profitable work can be done for the Master. When those who hear and see the light on the Sabbath take their stand upon the truth to keep God's holy day, difficulties will arise; for efforts will be brought to bear against them to compel men and women to transgress the law of God. Here they must stand firm, that they will not violate the law of God; and if the opposition and persecution are determinedly kept up, let them heed the words of Christ: ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.’

“The time has not yet come for us to work as if there were no prejudice. Christ said, ‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’ If you see that by doing certain things which you have a perfect right to do, you hinder the work of truth, refrain from doing these things. Do nothing that will close the minds of others against the truth. There is a world to save, and we gain nothing by cutting loose from those we are trying to help. All things may be lawful, but all things are not expedient.

“We have no right to do anything that would obstruct the light which is shining from heaven; yet by a wrong course of action we may imperil the work, and close the door which God has opened for the entrance of the truth. The final issue of the Sabbath question has not yet come, and by imprudent actions we may bring on a crisis before the time.”

In a letter to Elder A. O. Tait, written the same day this special meeting was held Mrs. White wrote further in harmony with these principles. She said:

“This morning I attended a meeting where a select few were called together to consider some questions that were presented to them by a letter soliciting consideration and advice on these subjects. On some of these subjects I could speak, because at sundry times and in divers places, many things have been presented to me in reference to some matters of labor that required great caution in speech as well as in the expression of thought with the pen. The advice given to our brethren in the Southern field has been diverse; it would bring in confusion....

“Should the colored people in the Southern States be educated, as they receive the truth, that they should work on Sunday, there would be excited a most unreasonable and unjust prejudice....

“Tell them they need not provoke their neighbors by doing work on Sunday; that this will not prevent them from observing the Sabbath.... Let the instruction be given to this much oppressed people that the keeping of the Sabbath does not necessitate their working on Sunday.... This people need not be told that the observance of Sunday is the mark of the beast until this time shall come....

“‘The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.’ All this may be, and yet not one principle of truth be sacrificed.”

Mountain View, Cal.

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