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Early Writings

by Ellen G. White

Table of Contents    Chapters:  

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Gospel Order

Does it matter to God how His church is organized? If so, why?
Does it matter to God how His church is organized? If so, why?

Illustration © Review and Herald Publ. Assoc.

The Lord has shown that gospel order has been too much feared and neglected.1 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 the 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 unites His children, Satan and his evil angels are very busy to prevent this unity and to destroy it. Therefore men are hurried into the field who lack wisdom and judgment, perhaps not ruling well their own house, and not having order or government over the 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 those unacquainted with our faith judge all the messengers to be like these self-sent men. Thus the cause of God is reproached, and the truth shunned by many unbelievers who would otherwise be candid and anxiously inquire, Are these things so? {EW 97.1}

1The Adventists were of all churches, and at first they had no idea of forming another church. After 1844 there was great confusion, and the majority were strongly opposed to any organization, holding that it was inconsistent with the perfect liberty of the gospel. The testimony and labors of Mrs. White have always been opposed to fanaticism, and in the instruction given through her, organization in some form was early insisted upon, as necessary to prevent confusion.

Men whose lives are not holy and who are unqualified to teach the present truth enter the field without being acknowledged by the church or the brethren generally, and confusion and disunion are the result. [98] Some have a theory of the truth, and can present the argument, but lack spirituality, judgment, and experience; they fail in many things which it is very necessary for them to understand before they can teach the truth. Others have not the argument, but because a few brethren hear them pray well and give an exciting exhortation now and then, they are pressed into the field, to engage in a work for which God has not qualified them and for which they have not sufficient experience and judgment. Spiritual pride comes in, 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 knows this; therefore He does not call such to labor in these perilous times, and brethren should be careful not to push those out into the field whom He has not called. {EW 97.2}

Those 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 generally exert a good influence; yet in some places they have a measure of success, and this leads them and others to think that they are surely called of God. It is not a positive evidence that men are called of God because they have some success; for angels of God are now 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 afterward find that these men were not standing in the [99] 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 practiced upon those who were beloved of God, and according to the confusion brought into the church, so will be their punishment; their sins will not remain covered, but will be exposed in the day of God's fierce anger. {EW 98.1}

These self-sent messengers are a curse to the cause. Honest souls put confidence in them, thinking that they are moving in the counsel of God and that they are in union with the church, and therefore suffer them to administer the ordinances, and, as duty is made plain that they must do their first works, allow themselves to be baptized by them. But 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; they 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. It is much more wearing to the spirits of God's messengers to go into places where those have been who have exerted this wrong influence than to enter new fields. God's servants have to deal plainly, act openly, and not cover up wrongs; for they are standing between the living and the dead and must render an account of their faithfulness, their mission, and the influence they exert over the flock of which the Lord has made them overseers. {EW 99.1}

Those who receive the truth and are brought into such trials would have had the truth the same if these men had stayed away and filled the humble place the [100] Lord designed for them. God's eye was upon His jewels, and He would have directed to them His called and chosen messengers—men who would have moved understandingly. The light of truth would have shown and discovered to these souls their true position, and they would have received the truth understandingly and been satisfied with its beauty and clearness. And as they felt its powerful effects, they would have been strong and shed a holy influence. {EW 99.2}

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 by a lack of wisdom some precious souls may be driven where they can never 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. 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 these persons are not acknowledged as teachers by the church. This is the only course the church can take in order to be clear in this matter, for the burden lies upon them. {EW 100.1}

I saw that this door at which the enemy comes in to perplex and trouble the flock can be shut. I inquired of the angel how it could be closed. He said, "The church must flee to God's Word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected." This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith. I saw that in the apostles' day the church was in danger of being deceived and imposed upon by false teachers. Therefore the brethren chose men who had given good evidence that they were capable of ruling well [101] their own house and preserving order in their own families, and who could enlighten those who were in darkness. Inquiry was made of God concerning these, 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 went forth baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and administering 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. {EW 100.2}

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 sound minds should assemble, and following the Word of God and the sanction of the Holy Spirit, should, with fervent prayer, 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 His work. This act would show the sanction of the church to their going forth as messengers to carry the most solemn message ever given to men. {EW 101.1}

God will not entrust the care of His precious flock to men whose mind and judgment have been weakened by former errors that they have cherished, such as so-called perfectionism [see Appendix.] and Spiritualism, and who, by their course while in these errors, have disgraced themselves and brought reproach upon the cause of truth. Although they may now feel free from error and competent to go forth and to teach this last message, God [102] will not accept them. He will not entrust precious souls to their care; for their judgment was 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. {EW 101.2}

The servants of God who teach the truth should be men of judgment. They should be men who can bear opposition and not get excited; for those who oppose the truth will pick at those who teach it, and every objection that can be produced, will be brought in its worst form to bear against the truth. The servants of God who bear the message must be prepared to remove these objections, with calmness and meekness, by the light of truth. Frequently opposers 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 it 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, not throw them away or dispose of them by positive assertions, and then bear down upon the objector, and manifest a hard spirit toward 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. Thus a good impression will be made, and honest opposers will acknowledge that they have been deceived and that the commandment keepers are not what they have been represented to be. {EW 102.1}

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 [103] 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. Those who profess to be teachers should be patterns of piety, meekness, and 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 also bear in mind that the flock is entrusted to his care, and that he is to bear their cases to Jesus, and plead for them as Jesus pleads for us with 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 minister must be holy, pure, and without blemish, or God will destroy them. God has not changed. He is just as holy and pure, just as particular, as He ever was. 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. {EW 102.2}

I have seen that it is now time for the messengers to move out wherever there is an opening, and that God will go before them and open the hearts of some to hear. New places must be entered, and, wherever this is done, it would be well, if consistent, to go two and two, so as to hold up each other's hands. A plan like this was presented: It would be well for two brethren to start together and travel in company to the darkest places, where there is much opposition and where the most labor is needed, and with united efforts and strong [104] 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 other's hands. Also, let them 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 in reaching the heart. 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. {EW 103.1}

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 visit the dark and lonely places, setting the truth before those who are not now enlightened as to the present truth. {EW 104.1}

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