The Burden of the Lord

"It is important that we all realize that there is a great work to be done quickly."

Historical Records Librarian, Vernier Radcliffe Memorial Library, Loma
Linda

* Margaret Rossiter White is the widow of Henry White, one of the twin grandsons of Ellen G. White. She is a granddaughter of the great temperance leader, Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, and author of her biography, Whirlwind of the Lord. —Editor.

"It is important that we all realize that there is a great work to be done quickly."'1

This thought has been the core of hundreds of messages sent out to believers in the Advent message through­out the long years of conse­crated service of Ellen G. White. The more one reads these messages, especially in their original letter form, the greater will be his realization of the earnestness and anxiety, the agonizing burden, that im­pelled the messenger of the Lord to "cry aloud" and "spare not," and to rise at all hours of the night to write. How often we find such expressions as the following in her writings:2 "I have risen at one o'clock to write to you." "Night after night for about four weeks I was unable to sleep after twelve o'clock." "The burden resting upon me has been so heavy that for weeks I have been unable to sleep past one or two o'clock." (See also Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 430.)

There were men of old who felt this bur­den, and the phrase "the burden of the Lord" runs like a refrain through the writ­ings of the Old Testament prophets. It was no ordinary burden that awakened Ellen White thus, night after night. It was not insomnia such as some persons are plagued with, derived from component parts of household and business worries, indiges­tion, or nervous fatigue. It was not compar­able to the just and conscientious concern that consecrated workers feel when pressed by the work in their own particular corner of the world. For with Ellen White it was not merely the weight of responsibility that might fall on a single individual. It was the over-all picture of a world in need, or workers to be guided, or souls to be saved, which had been placed upon her by the Lord. When she was in Australia, not only were the needs of the work there continu­ally before her eyes, but the problems at Battle Creek, in Africa, Europe, at Wash­ington, and in the many unentered fields. When she was at Elmshaven during the later years of her life, she was concerned with problems in Australia, Loma Linda, Glendale, and the South.

As the work grew, the problems grew and increased. What a tremendous, overwhelm­ing burden it must have been to face hourly the needs of the worldwide field, and at the same time to be made aware of factors be­hind the scenes that were holding up the work! How earnestly she tried to share this insight with the leaders that more rapid advancement could be made.

This burden, expressed in every letter, on every page, is one of the greatest evi­dences of inspiration. It was an all-ab­sorbing, impelling passion to convey to others the beauty, the magnitude, the priv­ilege of the task that should be unquestion-ingly accepted by every follower of Christ. And Ellen G. White was eminently quali­fied to speak of that which absorbed her whole thought. Having seen with her eyes, having heard with her ears, having been an eyewitness of His majesty, and having tasted of the heavenly gift and been par­taker of the Holy Ghost, how could she be disobedient to the heavenly vision, espe­cially when she knew that the favors she had received were not for her own selfish enjoyment, but were to be shared with as many as would receive them?

Part of the burden was the fact that the messages were not always received. We are sometimes inclined to think that it is only at the present time that there might be doubt in the minds of some, but actually this is no new thing. There were always those who opposed, criticized, and disbe­lieved. It was one thing for the believers to be given glimpses of the realms of the blest, and another to receive stern words of re­proof and counsel against carrying out what seemed to be the most solid plans. It was not easy for one of a naturally gentle dis­position to stand up against strong men of wisdom, experience, and influence—leaders in the work—and encounter disbelief and opposition. Frequently her courage failed her to present messages of reproof. At one time she was encouraged by the following dream:

A person brought to me a web of white cloth, and bade me cut it into garments for persons of all sizes and all descriptions of character and cir­cumstances in life. ... I felt discouraged at the amount of work before me and stated that I had been engaged in cutting garments for others for more than twenty years, and my labors had not been appreciated, neither did I see that my work had accomplished much good. . . .

The person replied: "Cut out the garments. That is your duty. The loss is not yours, but mine. God sees not as man sees. He lays out the work that He would have done, and you do not know which will prosper, this or that."3

It was only the unalterable conviction that her life was hid with Christ in God and that strength would be given her to fulfill God's purposes for her life that put iron into her soul and sustained her in days when the burden seemed greater than she could bear.

I have faithfully written out the warnings that God has given me. They have been printed in books, yet I cannot forbear. I must write these things over and over. I ask not to be relieved. As long as the Lord spares my life, I must continue to bear these earnest messages.4

When in my youth I accepted the work given me by God, I received it with a promise that I should have special aid from the mighty Helper. There was given me also the solemn charge to deliver faithfully the Lord's message making no difference for friends or foes. ... I do not expect that all will accept the reproof and reform their lives; but I must discharge my duty all the same.5

Unfiltered Truth

There are only a few persons of whom it can be said so truly that their "life is hid with Christ in God." In her complete sub­mission to the will of God, Ellen White stepped out of the picture and allowed Christ to be supremely exalted. This qual­ity of selflessness has given a distinguishing pattern to her style of writing. There is no effort to write brilliantly, to call attention to herself by originality of phrasing. There are no witticisms, wisecracks, or sophistries. The thought is poured forth from a full heart, from a clean mind—directly, simply, naturally, without relying on superficial tricks of writing. The result is a consistently beautiful flow of language. She speaks with confidence and authority; there is no apology, no explanation, no hesitation. If just once there appeared a bit of sarcasm, or a tinge of levity, it would be so apparent as to mar the beauty and uniformity of the message. But there is a beauty and uni­formity which is a most effective means of lending confidence to the reader. In no other writings outside the Scriptures may be found truth "tasting so little of the dish," to use her own expression.

What great wisdom is apparent in God's choice of a messenger! In choosing Ellen G. White to be the channel for His message, the Lord made it possible for the full focus of light to shine upon the face of Christ, His love and mercy. Almost invariably this pattern is seen in every personal letter that was written, in every talk that was given, and every chapter of every book. Mrs. White would frequently begin a letter in her customary way, refer briefly to the problem the individual had brought to her, add a few words of counsel or commenda­tion, and then, as naturally as the flower turns to the sunlight, fill the greater portion of the letter with comment on the love of Christ, His life of humility, suffering, and self-denial, the transforming power of His personal presence. Instead of trying to rea­son with the individual who had written to her for advice, or to analyze his problem, she would lift up Christ in all His beauty and say, "Look at Christ. If you love Him and submit your all to Him, He will solve your problems and guide you in this deci­sion. You will not need to come to me for advice, but may seek wisdom directly from God."

Individual grievance, contention among brethren, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles would melt away if the brethren could partake of such a spirit of unreserved love and obedience!

At other times the particular message or counsel that Mrs. White was given took the form of direct quotations from the Scrip­tures—page upon page of truth, direct from the Bible. In the study of these selections there is to be gained a special inspiration. New meanings and new applications to sit­uations emerge as the familiar words ap­pear in each specific setting. It seems that the entire Word of God was instantly on tap for her use. Surely her mind was di­rected to these appropriate references.

The glories of the eternal world were realities to Ellen G. White; the companion­ship of Christ was an abiding presence; the holy angels were by her side at all times.

A Great Work to Be Done

I have all faith in God. . . . He works at my right hand and at my left. While I am writing out important matters, He is beside me, helping me. He lays out my work before me, and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind. I feel that every time I ask, even while I am still speaking. He responds, "Here am I."6

The awful sense of my responsibility takes such possession of me that I am weighted as a cart be­neath sheaves. I do not desire to feel less keenly my obligation to the Higher Power. That Presence is ever with me, asserting supreme authority and tak­ing account of the service that I render or with­hold.7

Her whole life was devoted to sharing this security, this comfort with others. She knew that others could have this experience if they were willing to put themselves in the right relationship to God.

No wonder it was hard for her to under­stand the indifference of people professing to receive Christ, and their absorption in such trifling things as dress, furniture for their homes, amusements to pass the time away, and for the vanities of life. "There is a great work to be done," she reminded them over and over.

When I see my brethren walking and working as men in a dream, I feel as if I must do something to arouse them. May the Lord help me to do all my duty; for there must be no delay. We are Bear­ing the last great conflict.8

I am afraid for our people—afraid that the love o£ the world is robbing them of godliness and piety.9

Oh, that I might impress upon this church the fact that Christ has claims upon their service! My brethren and sisters, have you become servants of Christ? Then if you devote the most of your time to serving yourselves, what answer will you give the Master when he shall bid you render an ac­count of your stewardship?10

And today, as we stand fifty years closer to the last great conflict, how much more should we awake to the responsibilities of the task before us! Let us examine ourselves in the light of the Holy Spirit to see what part self plays in our lives, and realize the possibilities of unlimited service if we place ourselves in the right relationship to God. Let us not be as men walking in a dream, but arouse and arise to the urgency of the times.

1 Ellen G. White, manuscript 1, 1910.

2 Ellen G. White, letter 146, 1902; letter 78, 1903; letter 239, 1903.

3 Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 657, 658.

4 Manuscript 21, 1910.

5 Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 677. « Letter 127, 1902.

7 Life Sketches, p. 432.

8 Letter 201, 1902.

9 Letter 146, 1902.

10 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 619.

 

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Historical Records Librarian, Vernier Radcliffe Memorial Library, Loma
Linda

May 1960

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