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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899) - Contents
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    Ms 97, 1899

    The Minister and Physical Work


    July 24, 1899

    Portions of this manuscript are published in TDG 214; 2SM 196-197. +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.

    Useful physical labor is a part of the gospel. The great Teacher, when enshrouded in the pillar of cloud, gave direction that every youth should learn a trade. Thus the people would be enabled to earn their own bread. And knowing how hard it was to obtain money, they would not spend their means foolishly.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 1

    Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, learned the trade of a tentmaker. There were higher and lower branches of tentmaking. Paul had learned the higher branches, and he could also work at the common branches when circumstances demanded. Tentmaking did not bring returns as quickly as some other lines of business, and at times it was only by the strictest economy that Paul could supply his necessities.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 2

    Why did Paul thus connect mechanical labor with the preaching of the Gospel? Was not the laborer worthy of his hire? Why did he not spend all his time in preaching? Why waste time and strength in making tents? But Paul did not regard the time spent in making tents lost by any means. As he worked with Aquila, he kept in touch with the great Teacher. He gave Aquila needed instruction in spiritual things, and he also educated the believers in unity. While working at this trade he gave an example in diligence and thoroughness. He was diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. He and Aquila and Priscilla had more than one praise and prayer meeting with those associated with them in tentmaking. This was a testimony to the value of the truth they were presenting.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 3

    Paul was an educator. He preached the gospel with his voice, and by intelligent labor he preached it with his hands. He educated others in the same way that he had been educated by one regarded as the wisest of human teachers. As Paul worked quickly and skillfully with his hands, he related to his fellow workers the specifications Christ had given Moses in regard to the building of the tabernacle, as found in the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth, and twenty-seventh chapters of Exodus. He repeated chapter after chapter to them, for his own and their benefit. He taught that supreme honor is to be given to God. He told them that the skill, genius, and wisdom brought into the work of building the tabernacle were given by God, to be used for His glory. He repeated the communications from God to Moses found in Exodus 35:20-35, and 36:1-7.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 4

    After leaving Philippi, Paul went to Thessalonica, on the sea coast. The history of his work there is recorded in the first and second chapters of first Thessalonians. He labored in the gospel and worked also with his hands. “We were gentle among you,” he writes, “even as a nurse cherisheth her children. So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail; for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” [1 Thessalonians 2:7-9.] He declares that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat, and by his own example he illustrates his teaching. He says, “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail day and night, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.” [2 Thessalonians 3:8.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 5

    “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus.” Here he remained three years and six months, “disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” [Acts 19:1, 8.] Here he toiled at his craft also.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 6

    He writes to the Corinthians, “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands, being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” [1 Corinthians 4:9-15.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 7

    Lifting up his toilworn hands, Paul makes his appeal, “Ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessity, and to them that were with me.” [Acts 20:34.] Those hands speak to us with remarkable impressiveness.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 8

    Why did Paul, an apostle of the highest rank, spend on mechanical labor time which to all appearances might have been put to better account? Why did he not devote his time and strength to preaching the Word? By laboring with his hands Paul was preaching the Word. Thus he set an example which spoke against the sentiment, then gaining influence, that the preaching of the gospel excused the minister from mechanical and physical labor. Paul knew that there were many who loved ease and indulgence much better than useful labor. He knew that if ministers neglected physical work, they would become enfeebled. He desired to teach young ministers that by working with their hands, they would become sturdy; their muscles and sinews would be strengthened.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 9

    The gospel of Christ is an educator. It teaches us not to pamper and indulge self and waste the means that should be employed to extend the triumphs of the cross of Christ. There are ministers now dead whose lives would have been prolonged had they not yielded to the temptation to indulge appetite. When they should have eaten abstemiously, they were tempted to eat largely of rich foods, though they knew that what they were eating could not be assimilated by the system, but would only be an extra burden to be gotten rid of in some way. The unnecessary food taken into the system poisoned the blood, and produced evils that resulted in disease.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 10

    The apostle states plainly that if a man does not work, if he does not use his physical powers, neither should he eat. The healthful and equal exercise of all the powers of the being is required to keep the living machinery in the best condition. He who would have a system unclogged by feebleness and disease must use every part of the system harmoniously. The muscles are not to be allowed to become weak through inaction, while the brain carries too large a share of the work. Each part of the human structure is to bear its burden.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 11

    Paul recognized physical work as composing a part of the education he was to give. He realized that his teaching would lack vitality if he did not keep all parts of the human machinery equally exercised. His labor to support himself and others should have been commended, rather than regarded as belittling to his position as a minister of the gospel.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 12

    The Greeks on the seacoast were sharp traders. They had educated themselves to sharp practice in deal, and had come to believe that gain was godliness, and that an ability to acquire gain, whether by fair means or foul, was a reason why they should be honored. Paul was acquainted with their practices, and he would not give them a chance to say that he and his fellow laborers preached in order to be supported by the gospel.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 13

    Although it was perfectly right for him to be supported in this way, (for the laborer is worthy of his hire), yet he saw that if he were, the influence upon his fellow laborers and those to whom he preached would not be the best.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 14

    Paul feared that if he lived by preaching the gospel, he might be suspected of selfish motives in doing the work. He must show that he was willing to engage in any useful labor. He would not give any an excuse to demerit the work of the gospel by imputing motives of selfishness to those who preached the Word. He would not give the sharp Grecians any occasion to hurt the influence of God’s servants.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 15

    Paul reasoned, How could he teach the commandments, which required him to love God with heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and his neighbor as himself, if he gave any one reason to think that he loved himself more than his neighbor or his God, that he followed the practices of the Grecians, trading sharply upon his office for the sake of gain, instead of following the principles of the gospel.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 16

    How could he lead the people to Christ if he took all he possibly could from them? Paul decided that he would not give these keen, critical, unscrupulous money traders occasion to suppose that God’s servants were working as sharply and following as dishonest methods as they were.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 17

    The apostles talked and prayed over the matter, and decided that they would preach the gospel as it should be preached, in disinterested love for the souls perishing for want of knowledge. Paul said that he would work at tentmaking, and that he would teach his fellow laborers to work with their hands, so that in an emergency they could support themselves. But some of his ministering brethren presented the inconsistency of such a course, saying that by so doing they would cheapen their influence as teachers of the gospel. The tenth chapter of Second Corinthians records the difficulties Paul had to contend with and his vindication of his course. “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you”—because he humbled himself to do mechanical work—“but being absent am bold toward you.” [Verse 1.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 18

    He was about to speak decidedly. “Do ye look on things after the outward appearances? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again that as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s. But thou I should boast somewhat more of our authority which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.” [Verses 7, 8.] God had placed special honor upon Paul, and had called him to do a special work. He had given him visions. He had given him his credentials, and had laid upon him the most weighty responsibilities.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 19

    “That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, so will we be also in deed when we are present. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” [Verses 9-12.] Paul could see evils coming into the church, and he declared, “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” [2 Corinthians 11:2, 3.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 20

    This is the evil which today threatens our schools, our institutions, our churches. Unless corrected, it will imperil the souls of many. One man will think that he should be greatly favored, because he is doing a line of work which among unbelievers would command large wages. Becoming dissatisfied, he will sell himself to the highest bidder. For the safety of the principles which should control all who labor in our institutions, the Lord bids me say to all who carry responsibilities, Disconnect from all such without any delay; for this is the evil leaven of selfishness and covetousness. They are measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves. The worst thing you can do for them is to seek to retain them, even though they be editors or managers.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 21

    God is not with such a man, and you cannot with any safety hold on to him. An atmosphere of unbelief surrounds his soul. The comparisons he has made have led him to double-dealing. He says to himself, If such a one receives such a sum, I should receive just as much. He becomes wise above what is written in the law, and appropriates means for his own use. Thus he robs the treasury. God looks upon this as He looked upon the sin of Achan. He sees that such men cannot give the right mold to the work. They cannot supply the necessities of those who are laboring in hard fields, who have to give part of their wages to the needs of these fields. God sees every such case, and He will pass judgment on those who thus measure themselves, selfishly taking care that they receive all they think they should have.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 22

    Paul declares, “But we will not boast ourselves of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even to you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you; for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labors; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” [2 Corinthians 10:13-18.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 23

    God desires that meekness and gentleness, the distinguishing characteristics of Christ, shall be brought into the lives of His followers. The Saviour gives to all the invitation, “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30.] He will give rest to all who yoke up with Him. Those who learn His meekness and lowliness will find His rest.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 24

    Those who think highly of themselves do not deny self. They boast of their capabilities. But whose are the capabilities they are using? God’s, lent to them in trust. Do not boast, lest God take away your reason, as He did Nebuchadnezzar’s. Let your excellence be demonstrated by your Christlikeness, by your meekness and lowliness, usefulness and love.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 25

    Those who in business transactions depart from the principles of God’s law, and make a law for themselves, will find that their house is not riveted to the eternal Rock, but is built upon the sand of human ideas regarding Christian character. Could they see the record of their lives in the books of heaven, they would see a record of self-commendation and pride, weakness and folly. They do not know what it means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 26

    Who are the true ministers of God? Those who represent Christ. “He that will come after me,” He says, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” [Mark 8:34.] Men are to stand and fall, not by their own judgment, or by the opinions of their fellow men, but by the unchangeable law of God. We are to keep self in subordination, and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy,” Paul said, “for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” [2 Corinthians 11:2.] Paul did not seek to attach the church to himself, but to lead it to Christ.14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 27

    Separation from the world, obedience to the word of God, is the sure evidence that we love God. Christ declared, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. ... He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him.” [John 14:15, 21.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 28

    Sin has divorced man from God. Christ alone can bring him back. He has bridged the gulf that sin made, and He declares, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” [Verse 6.] Paul sought to lead all to understand that the gospel is the knowledge of a personal Saviour. The answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is, Believe in Christ as your personal Saviour. [Acts 16:30, 31.]14LtMs, Ms 97, 1899, par. 29

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