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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899) - Contents
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    Ms 164, 1899

    Faithful or Unfaithful Stewards?


    December 26, 1899 [typed]

    Portions of this manuscript are published in 2SM 183-185. +NoteOne or more typed copies of this document contain additional Ellen White handwritten interlineations which may be viewed at the main office of the Ellen G. White Estate.

    In the twenty-first chapter of Matthew is recorded the parable of the unfaithful husbandmen. “There was a certain householder,” Christ said, “which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” [Verses 33-39.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 1

    Every temporal and spiritual advantage had been given to the Jewish nation, the Lord’s vineyard. God Himself had guided His people, taking them out of bondage and giving them an inheritance in the land of Canaan. He gave them His law, as a wall of protection around them, and told them that as His chosen people they were to show to the nations of the earth that the law of God’s kingdom is holy and just and good. Obedience to this law would be for their highest interests, for it would bring them under the control of their Creator and Redeemer, and make of them a pure, wise people, whose joy it would be to deal justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 2

    Faithful stewardship was to mark the lives of this people. Their advantages and possessions they were ever to regard as the Lord’s lent treasure, to be used to advance the glory of His name. No unrighteous act must be considered praiseworthy by them. No unfair advantage must be taken of a fellow worker. Such deeds must not be treated as worthy of commendation. No man must act a selfish, independent part, for each was a part of God’s great whole. His stewards must not selfishly look out for their own interests. Each must regard his neighbor’s rights in the light of the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” [Leviticus 19:18.] Thus the principles of God’s law were to be preserved. This merciful kindness would bind heart to heart. The principles of justice and equity and truth would be a reacting influence on the lives of men.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 3

    To the Jewish nation was committed the oracles of God, and they were commanded to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Never were they to depart from the instruction given them by Christ from the pillar of cloud. God declared that if this people would live by the pure unselfish principles given them, and thus fulfil His purpose for them, He would honor them before all the world.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 4

    “Observe and hear all these words that I command thee,” He said, “that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee forever, when thou doest that which is right in the sight of the Lord thy God. When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land, take heed to thyself that thou be not snared into following after them, after that they be destroyed from before thee, and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? ... for even their sons and their daughters have they burnt in the fire to their gods.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 5

    “Whatsoever things I command, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my judgments, and do them, that the land whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out. And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations, which I cast out before you; for they committed all these things, therefore I abhorred them. But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey; I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.” [Deuteronomy 12:28-32; Leviticus 20:22-24.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 6

    But the people who should have been a moral light amid the darkness of the world disregarded the Word of the Lord. They lived for themselves, and neglected to do the very work God had appointed them, and which would have constituted them laborers together with God. The prophet Zechariah writes, “Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying, Speak unto all the people of the land, and unto the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even in all these seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even unto me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Shall ye not hear the word of the Lord which the Lord hath cried by the mouth of his former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?” [Zechariah 7:4-7.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 7

    “And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion, every man to his brother. And oppress not the widow nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” [Verses 8-10.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 8

    This teaching was the opposite to the course of action which the people had been pursuing, and they were displeased with it. They wanted to follow their own wisdom. In the tenth verse of the seventh chapter, the prophet is represented as addressing the men whose course of action was as evil leaven among the people, his hand placed upon their shoulder in earnest entreaty. “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the word which the Lord of hosts had sent in his Spirit by the former prophets.” [Verses 11, 12.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 9

    And what was the result? “Therefore a great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it came to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear, so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts. But I scattered them as a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not.” [Verses 12-14.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 10

    The prophet Nehemiah presents the evildoings of the Jewish nation as the cause of their calamities. After detailing the Lord’s dealing with them, and their oft rebellion, the prophet says, “So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduest before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hand, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance; so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 11

    “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them; and in the time of their trouble, when thy cried unto thee: thou heardest them from heaven, and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee; therefore leftest thou them in the hands of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them.” [Nehemiah 9:24-28.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 12

    These husbandmen lived, not to please God and to do His will, but to please themselves. Had thy heeded the word of the Lord, had they respected His warnings, they would have been saved from the sorrows and disasters which came upon them.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 13

    Christ was not recognized in the world by the people whom He had led and taught in the wilderness for forty years. The mighty General of armies came to our world in the garb of humanity, teaching the same truths which He gave from the pillar of cloud, but they did not recognize the heaven-sent Teacher.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 14

    The teachings which Christ had given to Israel in the pillar of could He carried into His life of self-denial and self-sacrifice. His teachings and example are before us. They are for every teacher of the truth to practice. The truth can only be made effectual when those in responsible positions, as pastors and managers of the interests of the church and cause of God, cease to seek their own interests, and to secure to themselves the best advantages. The Lord sees this spirit of selfishness. He marks the neglect to help sustain those who are trying to do His work in hard fields. He hears His workers as they lay before Him in prayer their necessities, and He will work in their behalf. He cannot and will not encourage anything that savors of indifference and hardness of heart. Kindness, truth, and righteousness are to be carried into the life; for these graces are needed if we would represent Christ.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 15

    Our God is exalted above all human conceptions of glory, and He would have His people praise and magnify His holy name. He would have men worship Him in spirit and truth, and in the beauty of holiness. “For thus saith the High and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. ... For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.” [Isaiah 57:15, 17.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 16

    No outward advantages can secure to man the spiritual blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham. So also no outward appearance or disadvantage can prevent men from enjoying these blessings if he is obedient to the law of God. In all ages of the world it has been evidenced that God, who reads the hearts, knows the works of the children of men; and he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him. All the riches of the world will not raise the value of a soul in the sight of God. “I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works,” He declares, “for it shall not profit thee.” [Verse 12.] It is not the lofty structures, the great Babylons that are built, that bring to men the favor of God. It is faithful stewardship. The husbandman who returns to the Lord the fruits of the vineyard is the one whom God approves. Who in our world today of those who have been entrusted with the Lord’s goods, have been faithful in returning to the Lord His own?14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 17

    God requires fruit from His people. The husbandmen have received a trust from God, and this is to be used as God has specified. They are to return to the Lord His own in tithes and offerings, that those who know not God may be benefitted. In the goodness, the mercy, the justice and the love of God revealed in the church, the world is to have a representation of the character of their Creator. When men thus live the law of God, the world will have a living, high, exalted memorial of the superiority of those who love and fear and serve God above every other people on the face of the earth. The fruit of obedience God will make to appear in the union of Jews and Gentiles. Then the covenant made with Abraham will be fulfilled, “In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” [Genesis 18:18; Galatians 3:8.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 18

    The time in which we live calls for faithfulness. This grace is far more essential now than it has been at any other period of this earth’s history; for Satan has come down with great power, and he is working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. Every soul must now stand watching and waiting, listening for the word of warning that God shall send. Every soul has a work to do in self-denial and close watching, lest Satan come in and be received as an honored guest.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 19

    At this time the grace of humility will be a safeguard to our churches. This must be our shield as we use and improve our talents, lest we become exalted as did the king of Babylon. The best of men could not endure the wrath of God for one moment. How carefully and conscientiously then should we work to carry out the will of God.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 20

    Any advantage that is gained by fraud, prevarication, or deception is a transgression of God’s law and a dishonor to God. It is the worst kind of transgression to weave selfishness and sharp dealing into the management of the institutions that have been erected for the honor of God; for this misrepresents the name of Christ and strengthens the evil that is already prevalent in our world. In every transaction God’s name is to be glorified. The man who is unfaithful in small matters, will be unfaithful also in larger matters. When men in high positions of [trust] bring these principles into their practice, God is misrepresented and the glory of His name is diminished. Corruption is seen in His places. There is to be a subjection of our desires to the revealed will of God. Obedience to God’s commandments in the way He has specified will ever bring blessings to men. It will promote their lasting good by establishing in them principles of undeviating integrity. It will bring blessing to the whole house of Israel, and God’s name will be glorified.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 21

    Let there be more equality among us. There is too much eager grasping for recompense. Selfish estimates of the labor done are being made. Let no man receive so large a salary because he supposes he has adaptability to do a certain work, thus placing the work done for God and for the advancement of His cause on a mercenary basis. To whom much is given, of him much will be required. Let those who argue that they should receive large salaries because of their abilities and peculiar gifts inquire of themselves, “Whose are the talents I am trading upon? Have I used these talents in such a way as to bring the greatest glory to God? Have I doubled the talents lent me?” A consecrated use of these talents would bring a revenue to the cause of God. All our talents belong to God, and both principal and interest are one day to be handed back to Him. Those who demand large pay for the use of the talents entrusted to them are not returning to God that which He requires.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 22

    If those who have been connected with the work of God for many years would study carefully how much injury they have done the Lord’s vineyard by unwise moves, by departing from right principles, by diverting means from the cause of God, by using their position of influence to lead others into crooked paths, instead of grasping for higher wages, they would humble themselves before God with a repentance that needeth not to be repented of. They need to ask themselves the question, “How much owest thou unto my Lord?” [Luke 16:5.] What account shall I render for the talent misused, for following my own unsanctified imagination? What can I do to blot out the evil results of my unwise moves which have so limited the resources of the cause? Had every man occupied his position of trust with faithfulness, there would be no dearth of means today in the Lord’s treasury.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 23

    Our relation to the work of God is not to be placed on a mercenary foundation—according to the estimate of man, so much work, so much pay. It is a great mistake for men to suppose their services are invaluable. Let God be true to His Word, and there will be a great change in the estimate of work done for the Master.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 24

    O there are many things to be corrected in the men who are ready to grasp so much! How inappropriate are the selfish graspings for reward. This craving for high wages has expelled the love of God from many hearts. Pride of position is a deep-seated evil which has ruined thousands. Yes, tens of thousands, full of ambition for distinction and display have been ruined because they have lost sight of principle. They have measured themselves among themselves, and compared themselves with themselves. Their eager grasping for credit and reward has resulted in diminished spirituality. This is a lesson all should study carefully, that they may be warned against selfishness and avarice, against pride which destroys love for God and corrodes the soul.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 25

    When any man connected with the work of God refuses to work for the wages he is receiving when he is receiving a reasonable sum for his services, he may obtain what he asks for, but it will often be at the loss of the grace of God from his heart, which is of more value than gold and silver and precious stones. The apostle Peter writes, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy, in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” [1 Peter 1:15-19.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 26

    Our God weighs the actions of men. Paul says, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name.” [Hebrews 6:10.] The Lord rewards fruitfulness and spiritual growth. “He that hath, to him shall be given.” [Mark 4:25.] He will not fail to reward the act of faith and love. The grace of Christ cherished in the heart is always progressive, leading to an increase of knowledge, an ability to acquire a larger, deeper conception of divine things, until the words are traced in the books of heaven, Ye are complete in Him. Then in the place of the curse pronounced upon the barren fig tree, there is commendation and blessing. “And we desire of you that every one of you show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end, that ye be not slothful, but followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” [Hebrews 6:11, 12.]14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 27

    Those who labor earnestly and wholeheartedly as husbandmen in the Lord’s vineyard, after having done to the utmost of their ability, often feel that they have done comparatively nothing. Instead of swelling with pride and importance, and measuring every hour of work with exactitude, they tremble and fear lest they will lose their reward. They compare their labors with the labors of Christ for poor sinners, and account themselves unprofitable servants. Christ gave no stinted service. Through weary days He toiled, and through long nights He bent in prayer for grace and endurance that He might do a larger work. With strong crying and tears He sent His petition to heaven, that His human nature might be strengthened to embrace the world. O if His people would know the things that make for their peace! But this is an experience which they do not have. They are ignorant of what fellowship with Christ means. They know comparatively nothing of consecrated human service.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 28

    I wish I could impress these words upon the minds of those who read them. We should never forget them, for they mean all that they imply. Christ calls us to become one with Him in genuine service. In every line of work it is our privilege to serve God with willingness, faithfulness, and gladness of heart. Shall we not do this? In the field, walking beside the plough, in the home life, in the missionary fields, we can serve Him. And when we lay off our rough garments, and engage in other lines of duty, we can still work with His glory in view. We need lose no opportunity of accomplishing good. And as we improve every opportunity of laboring for God, we shall have a sweet sense of peace and joy. And in the day when we shall sit down at the table of the Lord, Christ Himself will serve us as His loyal, royal children. Then those who now estimate themselves as first shall be last, and the last shall be first.14LtMs, Ms 164, 1899, par. 29

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