The Lord has shown me that gospel order has been too much neglected and feared. That formality should be shunned; but in so doing, order should not be neglected. There is order in heaven. There was order in the church when Christ was upon earth; and after his departure, order was strictly observed among his apostles. And now in these last days, while God is bringing his children into the unity of the faith, there is more real need of order than ever before. For as God is uniting his children, Satan and his evil angels are very busy to prevent this unity, and to destroy it. Therefore men will be hurried into the field; men without wisdom, lacking judgment, perhaps not ruling well their own house, and not having order or government over the very few that God has given them charge of at home; yet they feel capable of having charge of the flock. They make many wrong moves, and all the messengers are thought, by those unacquainted with our faith, to be like these self-sent men; and the cause of God is reproached, and the truth shunned by many unbelievers, who would otherwise be candid, and anxious to inquire, Are these things so?
Men, I saw, whose lives are not holy, who are unqualified to teach the present truth, enter the field without being acknowledged by the church or brethren generally, and confusion and disunion is the result. Some have a theory of the truth and can dwell upon argument, but lack spirituality, judgment and experience, and they fail in many things which is very necessary for one to possess before they can teach the present truth to others. Others have not the argument; but because a few brethren hear them pray well, and give an exciting exhortation now and then, press them into the field, to engage in a work that God has not qualified them for, and when they have not sufficient experience and judgment for the work. Spiritual pride comes in, and they are lifted up, and act under the deception of thinking that they are laborers. They do not know themselves. They lack sound judgment and patient reasoning. Talk boastingly of themselves, and assert many things which they cannot prove from the Word. God knoweth this, therefore he does not call such to labor in these perilous times. And brethren should be careful and not push out those into the field whom God has not called.
These men, who are not called of God, are generally the very ones that are the most confident that they are so called, and that their labors are very important. They go into the field, and do not exert a good influence generally, yet in some places they have a measure of success, which leads individuals to think that they are surely called of God. I saw that it was not a positive evidence that men are called of God, because they have some success; for now the angels of God are moving upon the hearts of his honest children to enlighten their understanding as to the present truth, that they may lay hold upon it and live. And even if self-sent men put themselves where God does not put them, and profess to be teachers, and souls receive the truth by hearing them talk it, this is no evidence that they are called of God. The souls who receive the truth from them, receive it to be brought into trial and bondage, as they afterwards find that these men were not standing in the counsel of God. Even if wicked men talk the truth, some may receive it; but it does not bring those who talked it, into any more favor with God. Wicked men are wicked men still. And according to the deception they practised, and as they deceived those who were beloved of God, and brought confusion into the church, so will their punishment be greater, and their sins will not remain covered, but will be exposed in the day of God‘s fierce anger.
These self-sent messengers are a curse to the cause. Honest souls put confidence in them, think that they are moving in the counsel of God, that they are in union with the church, and suffer them to administer the ordinances, to lead them down into the water and baptize them, as duty is made plain that they must do their first works; and then when light comes as it surely will, and they are aware that these men are not what they understood them to be, God‘s called and chosen messengers, they are thrown into trial and doubt as to the truth they have received, and feel that they must learn it all over again, and are troubled, and perplexed by the enemy, about all their experience, whether God has led them or not, and are not satisfied until they are again baptized, and begin anew. And it is much more laborious, and wearing to the spirits of God‘s messengers, to go into such places where those have been, who have exerted this wrong influence. God‘s servants have to deal plainly, and not cover up wrongs, but act openly; for they are standing between the living and the dead, and must render an account of the faithfulness of their mission, and the influence they exert over the flock of which the Lord has made them overseers.
These jewels who received the truth and are brought into such trials, would have had the truth the same if these men (who lack the qualifications they must have to be the Lord‘s messengers) had stayed away, and filled the humble place God designed for them. God‘s eye was upon his jewels, and he would direct his called and chosen messengers to them; men that would move understandingly, and the light of truth would shine and discover to these souls their true position, and they would receive the truth understandingly, and be satisfied with its beauty and clearness. And as they feel the effects and power of the truth, will be strong and shed a holy influence.
Again: the danger of those traveling, whom God has not called, was shown me. If they do have some success, the qualifications that are lacking will be felt. Injudicious moves will be made, and some precious jewels may be driven off by a lack of wisdom, where they never can be reached. I saw that the church should feel their responsibility, and should look carefully and attentively at the lives, qualifications, and general course of those who profess to be teachers. And if unmistakable evidence is not given that God has called them, and that the “woe” is upon them if they heed not this call, it is the duty of the church to act, and let it be known that they are not acknowledged teachers by the church. This is the only course the church can take in order to be clear in this matter; for the burden lays upon them.
I saw that this door that the enemy comes in at, to perplex and trouble the flock, can be shut. I inquired of the angel how this door could be closed. Said he, “The church must flee to God‘s word, and become established upon gospel order which has been overlooked and neglected.” This is indispensably necessary to bring the church into the unity of the faith. I saw that they were in danger in the apostles’ days of being imposed upon and deceived by false teachers; and men were chosen by the brethren, or church, who had given good evidence that they were capable of ruling well their own house, and preserving order in their own families; men that could enlighten those who were in darkness. Inquiry was made of God concerning them, and then, according to the mind of the church, and the Holy Ghost, they were set apart by the laying on of hands. Having received their commission from God, and having the approbation of the church, they go forth baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and to administer the ordinances of the Lord‘s house, often waiting upon the saints by presenting them the emblems of the broken body and spilt blood of the crucified Saviour, to keep fresh in the memory of God‘s beloved children, his sufferings and death.
I saw that we are no more secure from false teachers now than they were in the apostles’ days; and if we do no more, we should take as special measures as they did to secure the peace, harmony and union of the flock. We have their example, and should follow it. Brethren of experience, and of a sound mind, should assemble, and follow the word of God, and with fervent prayer, and by the sanction of the Spirit of God, should lay hands upon those who have given full proof that they have received their commission of God, and set them apart to devote themselves entirely to the work. And by this act show the approving voice of the church, in their going forth as messengers to carry the most solemn message ever given to men.
God will not intrust the care of his precious flock to men whose minds and judgment have been weakened by former errors that they have been in, such as so-called perfectionism and spiritualism, and by their course, while in these errors, have brought reproach upon the cause of truth and disgraced themselves. And although they may now feel free from error, and competent to go forth to teach this last message, God will not accept them. He will not intrust precious souls to their care; for their judgment has been perverted while in error, and is now weakened.
The great and holy One is a jealous God, and he will have holy men to carry his truth. The holy law, spoken by God from Sinai, is a part of himself, and holy men, who are its strict observers, will alone honor him by teaching it to others.
I saw that the servants of God who teach the truth should be men of judgment. They should be men that can bear opposition, and not get excited; for those who oppose the truth will pick those who teach it, and every objection that can be produced, in its worst form, will be brought to bear against the truth. And the servants of God, who bear the message, must be prepared, with calmness and meekness, to remove these objections by the light of truth. I saw that the opposers would often talk to ministers of God in a provoking manner, to call out something from them of the same nature, that they can make as much of as possible, and declare to others that the teachers of the commandments have a bitter spirit, and are harsh, as has been reported. I saw that we must be prepared for objections, and with patience, judgment and meekness let them have the weight they deserve, and not throw them away, and dispose of them by positive assertions, and bear down upon the objector, and manifest a hard spirit towards him, but give the objections their weight, then bring forth the light and the power of the truth, and let it outweigh, and remove the errors; and then a good impression will be left, and they will acknowledge that they have been deceived, and that the commandment-keepers are not what they have been represented to be.
Those who profess to be servants of the living God, must be willing to be servants of all, instead of being exalted above the brethren, and they must possess a kind courteous spirit. If they err, they should be ready to confess thoroughly. Honesty of intention cannot stand as an excuse for not confessing errors. Confession would not lessen the confidence of the church in the messenger, and he would set a good example, a spirit of confession would be encouraged in the church, and sweet union would be the result. I have seen that those who profess to be teachers, should be patterns of piety, meekness, and of great humility, possessing a kind spirit, to win souls to Jesus, and the truth of the Bible. A minister of Christ should be pure in conversation and in actions. He should ever bear in mind that he is handling words of inspiration, words of a holy God. He must bear in mind that the flock is entrusted to his care, and he is to bear their cases to Jesus, and plead for them as Jesus pleads for us to the Father. I was pointed back to the children of Israel anciently, and saw how pure and holy the ministers of the Sanctuary had to be, because they were brought by their work into a close connection with God. They that should minister, must be holy, pure and without blemish, or God would destroy them. I saw that God had not changed. He was just as holy and pure, just as particular as ever he was. He changeth not! Those who profess to be the ministers of Jesus, should be men of experience and deep piety, and then at all times, and in all places they can shed a holy influence.
I have seen that it was now time for the messengers to move out wherever there was an opening, and God would go before them and would open the hearts of some to hear. New places must be entered, and when new places are visited it would be well to go two and two, so as to hold up each others hands, wherever they can consistently, and not neglect other places. It was shown me like this. It would be well for two brethren to start together, and travel in company together to the darkest places, where there is much opposition, and where they need the most labor, and with united efforts and strong faith set the truth before those in darkness. And then if they could accomplish more, by visiting many places, to go separately, but often meet while on the tour to encourage each other by their faith, and thereby strengthen and hold up each others hands. Also, consult upon the places opened for them, and decide which of their gifts will be the most needed, and in what way they can have the most success, and reach the heart. And then as they separate again their courage and energy will be renewed to meet the opposition and darkness, and to labor with feeling hearts to save perishing souls.
I saw that the servants of God should not go over and over the same field of labor, but should be searching out souls in new places. Those who are already established in the truth should not demand so much of their labor; for they ought to be able to stand alone, and strengthen others about them while the messengers of God are in the dark and lonely places setting the truth before those who are not now enlightened as to the present truth.
— E.G. White, Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, pp. 15-23