May 19, 2010

Trust Them!

In 1902 Ellen G. White lent her support to the work of the two young educators, Percy T. Magan (1867-1947) and E. A. Sutherland (1865-1955), who together planned the relocation of Battle Creek College to a more rural location in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in harmony with her counsels.
This excerpt, from the Spalding-Magan Collection (pp. 235-237), was originally titled “Consideration to Be Shown to Those Who in Their Work Have Wrestled With Difficulties” (Ms 98, 1902, dated July 10, 1902).—Editors
2010 1514 page26 caphere are those who with the Bible as their standard have been working in the fear of God to carry out the principles of true education. They are not old men, but they are, nevertheless, men whom the Lord desires to place on vantage ground. They have sought to bring into their teachings the principles that would lead the students to become Bible workers. They have walked humbly with God. They have wrestled with difficulties in different places. In their work there have been hard places to pass through, and many obstacles to surmount. There have been stern conflicts and fierce battles. These men are to have opportunity to prove themselves thoroughly trustworthy men.
But as they have tried, to carry forward the work, their efforts have been criticized, and the question has been raised, Should not older teachers be brought in to take the burden of this work? It is thought by some that older teachers would do a more complete work. But would they? Is it not those who have been connected with a work from the beginning who know how to help beginners? Does not their experience in carrying the work forward from its first stages adapt them to meet the needs of learners?
2009 1514 page27The Lord encouraged these brethren, giving them victories that taught them valuable lessons and strengthened their confidence. It is not according to His plan for some other worker to come in and take the burden of this work upon his shoulders, supposing that he can do a much better and larger work. This is not right. Let no one lay his hand upon another, forbidding him to go forward in his work, or asking him to step into a position of less responsibility, while another more learned and more experienced takes his place. . . .
The great Teacher wants these men, who have been gaining an experience in their work, to continue to carry it forward under his guidance. They possess traits of character that will enable them, if they trust in God, to go forward with success.
The Lord sent them the message that propositions would be made to divide their working force, sending one to one place and one to another; but that unless providence indicated that some of their number were needed to take charge of schools in other important places, they were to keep their company united, and carry forward their work in complete harmony. Their force must not be weakened; their strength must be added to rather than diminished. They must stand together in unity, showing that nothing is so successful as success.
The words of criticism that have been spoken have at times had a very discouraging effect. But again and again in their necessity, the Lord sent them the word to go straight ahead, to follow their leader. I have been instructed to lift up the hands that hang down and to strengthen the feeble knees, to encourage the faithful laborers with words from the Lord.
In the most trying times they took their stand firmly determined to breast every difficulty, and to free Battle Creek College from debt; also, if it were possible, to move the school from Battle Creek. I had been instructed by the Lord that the College should not remain in Battle Creek, because in that place there are many influences that are a temptation both to teachers and students. Just before the General Conference, there seemed to be a favorable opportunity to sell the school buildings. But the word of the Lord came to me for the brethren. “You are in too great a hurry. Follow on as God shall open the way. He will guide you. Work up the sale of Christ’s Object Lessons. Interest the people in the work that you are trying to do. You will find that believers and unbelievers will help you.”
During the General Conference, the way opened for the school to be moved from Battle Creek with the full approval of our people.
Cautions were given to Brother Magan and Brother Sutherland against carrying their teaching so far above the spiritual line of education to which the students had been accustomed. They were told that the people were not prepared at once to understand and act intelligently upon the advanced light in regard to the Bible in education. I was instructed that they must advance steadily and solidly, and that they must guard against going to extremes in any line and against expressing their ideas in language that would confuse minds. Plain, simple language, must be used. Instruction must be given line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, leading the mind up slowly and intelligently. Every idea that they expressed must be clearly defined.
They were told that unless they heeded this instruction, their teaching would result in a harvest of fanciful believers, who would not make straight paths for their feet, and who would look upon themselves as far ahead of all other Christians. In their teaching of truth, they were not to go so far in advance that it would be impossible for their students to follow them. Christ said to his disciples, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye can not bear them now.”
I thank the Lord that the brethren heeded the instruction given them, and that they carried forward his work in simplicity and meekness, and yet intelligently. The Lord is qualifying them to teach the lessons he has given in his word, by object lessons from nature. This is the grandest, the most helpful, all-round education that the youth can have. . . .
Those who have charge of the school at Berrien Springs have been learners in the school of Christ, and he has been working with them, preparing them to be acceptable teachers. It is right that they carry on the work they have begun. If they will watch unto prayer, and plead earnestly with God to supply them with his grace, they will increase in wisdom and knowledge.
It has been a tremendous struggle for them to advance in the face of great financial embarrassment. They planned and contrived and devised in every way, with self-denial and self-sacrifice, to bring the school through, and to free it from its burden of debt. Now they begin to see that the way pointed out was the way of the Lord’s leading. This is the lesson that the Lord desires many more to learn.
It is not the Lord’s will that at this time, other men, whatever their age or experience, shall take the place of these brethren. It would not be pleasing to him for us to set them aside by calling others to fill their places. He will continue to work out his will through them if they will walk humbly before him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. As they labor in humility, they will have the assurance that growth in grace is sown by increased ability to grasp the great truths of the gospel, and to teach these truths. When men place themselves in a position where they can work out God’s purposes, he stands at their right hand, to open ways of advance for them. 
Seventh-day Adventists Believe that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry. This article was published May 20, 2010.