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    Proper Methods of Work in the Southern Field

    [Note: Ellen G. White letter addressed to Elder A. O. Tait of Battle Creek, Michigan, recording secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association. The entire letter, except the sentence in parentheses just before the signature, was published by Elder O. A. Olsen, president of the General Conference, on November 22, 1896, as one of several items in Special Testimonies, Series A 6:47-56. It was subsequently reprinted by James Edson White in The Southern Work, 97-108.]

    White Trustees

    Armadale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia,

    November 20, 1895.

    Dear Brother -----,

    This morning I attended a meeting where a select few were called together to consider some questions that were presented to them by a letter soliciting consideration and advice on these subjects. Of some of these subjects I could speak, because at sundry times and in divers places many things have been presented to me in reference to some matters of labor that required great caution in speech as well as in the expression of thoughts with the pen. The advice given to our brethren in the Southern field has been diverse; it would bring in confusion.SWk 72.1

    As my brethren read the selections from letters, I knew what to say to them; for this matter has been presented to me again and again in regard to the Southern field. I have not felt at liberty to write out the matter until now. I will endeavor to make some brief statements at this time, hoping soon to have an opportunity to speak more clearly and at length.SWk 72.2

    The light that the Lord has given me at different times has been that the Southern field, where the greatest share of the population of the colored race is, cannot be worked after the same methods as other fields. They are excitable, and outward actions in bodily exercise more than inward piety, compose their religion. Should the colored people in the Southern States be educated, as they receive the truth, that they should work on Sunday, there would be excited a most unreasonable and unjust prejudice. Judges and jurors, lawyers and citizens, would, if they had a chance, bring decisions which would bind about them rites which would cause much suffering, not only to the ones whom they term guilty of breaking the laws of their State, but all the colored people everywhere would be placed in a position of surveillance, and under cruel treatment by the white people, that would be no less than slavery. They have been treated as chattels, regarded as not much above the dumb animals, to do just as their masters told them to do. This has degraded all their powers, and a different method of labor altogether must be pursued toward them than where the colored people have had greater advantages of schooling and have learned to read.SWk 72.3

    As the colored people have not been educated to read and have not been uplifted, their religion is more of bodily exercise than inward piety. There cannot be anything like the kind of labor pursued toward them that is bestowed upon the people whose religion is not outward workings. The Lord will look upon this poor, neglected, downtrodden race with great compassion. Everything of a character to set them in a position of opposition to authorities, as working on Sunday, would cause the colored people great suffering and cut off the possibility of the white laborers’ going among them; for the workers who intended to do them good would be charged with raising insurrections.SWk 73.1

    I do not want anything of this character to appear, for I know the result. Tell them they need not provoke their neighbors by doing work on Sunday; that this will not prevent them from observing the Sabbath. The Sabbath should not be introduced until they know the first principles of the religion of Jesus Christ. The truth as it is in Jesus is to be made known little by little, line upon line, and precept upon precept.SWk 73.2

    Punishment for any offense would be visited unsparingly and unmercifully upon the colored people. Here is a neglected field, rank with corruption, needing to be taught everything; here is a field where medical missionary work can be one of the greatest blessings. In this line the truth may be introduced, but the very first principles of Christianity are to be taught in the A B C. Schools are to be established, having not only children, but fathers and mothers, learning to read.SWk 73.3

    Teaching the truth is involving great liabilities. It is essential, then, that families should settle in the South, and as missionary workers they can by precept and example be a living power. There cannot be much preaching. The least notice possible should be given to the point of what is doing and what is to be done; for it will create suspicion and jealousy in the minds of men, who, with their fathers and grandfathers, have been slaveholders. There has been so little done for the colored people that they are in moral degradation, and are looked upon as slaves to the white population still, although they have been emancipated at terrible cost.SWk 73.4

    We are to study the situation with great care, for the Lord is our enlightener. The Lord has given men capabilities to exercise, but there is too little deep thinking and too little earnest praying that the Lord would give wisdom at all times how to work difficult fields. We are under obligation to God, and if we love God, we are in duty bound not only on the general ground of obligation and obedience to obey the orders of our spiritual Leader, but to save as many souls as we can, to present them as sheaves to Jesus Christ, who gave Himself a living sacrifice to ransom them and make them free servants of Jesus Christ. There is not to be one word uttered which would stir up the slumbering enmity and hatred of the slaves against discipline and order, or to present before them the injustice that has been done them.SWk 74.1

    Nothing can be done at first in making the Sabbath question prominent, and if the colored people are in any way educated to work on Sunday, there will be unsparing, merciless oppression brought upon them. Already there has been too much printed in regard to the persecution of the Sabbathkeepers in the Southern States, and those who are bitter against the law of God, trampling it under their feet, are all the more in earnest to make human laws a power. Their religious prejudice and bigotry would lead them to do any act of violence, verily thinking they were doing God's service, for they are in great error. A blind zeal under false religious theories is the most violent and merciless. There are many who are stirred up by the representations in our papers to do just as their neighboring States are doing. All these things give them the appearance of defying the law. In Christ's day, when persecuted in one city, they fled to another. It may be the duty of those persecuted to locate themselves in another city or another country. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matthew 10:22-24).SWk 74.2

    At present, persecution is not general, but let the Southern element have words come to them of a nature to arouse their excitable disposition, and the whole cause of truth would suffer and the great missionary field be closed. Let all be warned. Let the instruction be given to this much-oppressed people that the keeping of the Sabbath does not necessitate their working on Sunday; for if they should do this, they would have instigated against them all the powers of the white population who are transgressors of the law of God. Church members and priests and rulers will combine to organize secret societies to work in their land to whip, imprison, and destroy the lives of the colored race. History will be repeated. Let efforts be made in as silent a manner as possible, but this people need not be told that the observance of Sunday is the mark of the beast until this time shall come. If the Southern people get some of the ideas in their minds of the mark of the beast, they would misconstrue and give, honestly, the most false impression on these subjects and do strange things.SWk 75.1

    As many of the people cannot read for themselves, there are plenty of professed leaders who will read the Bible falsely, and make it testify to a lie. Many are working in this line now among those who are poor scholars, and have not a knowledge of the Scriptures. Our publications also will be misread. Things will be read out of the books that were never there, advocating the most objectionable things. An excitement could be easily worked up against Seventh-day Adventists. The most successful methods are to encourage families who have a missionary spirit to settle in the Southern States and work with the people without making any noise.SWk 75.2

    In such places as the Southern field there should be established sanitariums. There should be those who believe the truth—colored servants of God—under training to do work as medical missionaries under the supervision of white managers; for this combination will be much more successful. The medical missionary workers, cooperating with families who shall make their home in the South, need not think that God will condemn them if they do not work on Sunday; for the Lord understands that every effort must be made not to create prejudice, if the truth finds standing place in the South. The words of truth cannot go forth with great publicity, but schools should be started by families coming into the South and working in schools, not with a large number congregated in one school, but as far as possible in connection with those who have been working in the South. Dwell particularly upon the love of God, the righteousness of Christ, and the open treasure house of God, presenting the truth in clear lines upon personal piety. There will be the bad influence of the white people upon the blacks as there has been in the past. Evil angels will work with their own spirit upon evil men. Those cooperating with those who work in any place to uplift Jesus and to exalt the law of God, will find to all intents and purposes that they wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.SWk 75.3

    “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”SWk 76.1

    Here is our sufficiency. Our defense is in the preparation of the gospel. The Lord will give wisdom to all who ask Him, but let those who are to work difficult and peculiar fields study Christ's methods. Let not their own peculiar traits of character be brought into the work; for Satan knows upon just what traits of character to work, that objectionable features may be revealed. These traits of character, received by inheritance or cultivated, are to be cut away from the soul, and the Spirit of Christ is to take possession of the organs of speech, of the mental power, of the physical and moral powers, else when in the midst of important interests Satan shall work with his masterly power to create a condition of things that will call into active exercise these special traits of character, and will bring defeat just when there should be a victory, and so the cause of God will sustain a loss.SWk 76.2

    “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” We know that the apostle did not sacrifice one jot of principle. He did not allow himself to be led away by the sophistry and maxims of men. He was not to coincide with the suppositions and assurances of men who were teaching for doctrine the commandments of men; because iniquity and transgression were in the ascendancy and advancing, he did not allow his love to wax cold. All zeal and earnestness are to be retained; but at the same time some features of our faith, if expressed, would, by the elements with which you have to deal, arouse prejudice at once.SWk 76.3

    Paul could be as zealous as any of the most zealous in his allegiance to the law of God, and show that he was perfectly familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. He could dwell upon the types and shadows that typified Christ; he could exalt Christ, and tell all about Christ, and His special work in behalf of humanity, and what a field he had to explore. He could advance most precious light upon the prophecies, that they had not seen; and yet he would not offend them. Thus the foundation was laid nicely, that when the time came that their spirits softened, he could say in the language of John, Behold in Jesus Christ, who was made flesh, and dwelt among us, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.SWk 77.1

    To the Gentiles, he preached Christ as their only hope of salvation but did not at first have anything definite to say upon the law. But after their hearts were warmed with the presentation of Christ as the gift of God to our world, and what was comprehended in the work of the Redeemer in the costly sacrifice to manifest the love of God to man, in the most eloquent simplicity he showed that love for all mankind—Jew and Gentile—that they might be saved by surrendering their hearts to Him. Thus when, melted and subdued, they gave themselves to the Lord, he presented the law of God as the test of their obedience. This was the manner of working—adapting his methods to win souls. Had he been abrupt and unskillful in handling the Word, he would not have reached either Jew or Gentile.SWk 77.2

    He led the Gentiles along to view the stupendous truths of the love of God, who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us; and how shall He not, with Him also freely give us all things? The question was asked why such an immense sacrifice was required, and then he went back to the types, and down through the Old Testament Scripture, revealing Christ in the law, and they were converted to Christ and to the law.SWk 77.3

    “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” All this may be, and yet not one principle of truth be sacrificed.SWk 77.4

    (I would not advise that this be published in our papers, but let the workers have it in leaflets, and let them keep their own counsels.)—Letter 73, 1895.SWk 78.1

    Ellen G. White

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