Books or Bible?

A Message for Ministers

By Ellen G. White


"And the angel that talked with me," writes Zechariah, "came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. . . . Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth."

These heavenly messengers empty the golden oil out of themselves, that the light may be given to the earnest searcher for truth. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." "And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed."

Many of those whom the Lord has called to do a work for him in the ministry are loaded down with an accumulation of books. Buying books becomes with some a passion. Often these books lie on the book shelves, scarcely touched. Some are read; but if the time that is occupied in studying these books were devoted to earnest prayer, if ministers would link their souls with the divine Teacher, and search the Scriptures, hungering and thirsting for the knowledge which comes direct from the inexhaustible Fountain, they would be greatly blessed.

Those who depend wholly upon God do not need expensive libraries in order to gain an insight into the Scriptures. Many expensive books are not essential; and those who study these books to the neglect of the Bible are in danger of becoming confused in their ideas. Is it not a fact that those who possess the most aids, in the way of theological works, are the least prepared to hold forth to others the Word of life? God has given us an aid, His holy Word, and this is entirely safe; it may be depended on. The shepherds of the flock of God, who read and study the one trustworthy Book, and pray for information from it, will find the heavenly messengers right at hand, ready to empty from them selves the golden oil.

A minister's discourse should be short. If a discourse is long, it loses half its force. He who teaches the Word of God should cultivate his powers of speech, that the sacred themes upon which he dwells may be presented in the very best manner, that the precious golden oil may cause his lamp to reflect clear and distinct rays. The truth should lose none of its power and attractive loveliness because of the channel through which it is communicated. We should seek to cultivate the purest, highest, noblest qualifications, that we may rightly represent the sacred holy character of the work and cause of God.

"Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be ^ glorified." The Lord gave all Israel necessary lesson. It would be well for all to read and ponder over the words contained in the tenth chapter of Leviticus. Is it not of sufficient consequence for us to take heed what we do when we are in God's service? But are not these things for gotten? Is not a careless view taken of the Word of God? Is not strange fire, which the Lord has commanded shall not be used, put upon the censers, and mingled with the incense which is offered before God?

Not to Be Overburdened

He who holds forth the Word of life is not to allow too many bur dens to crowd upon him. He must take time to study the Word of God and to search his own heart. If he closely examines his own heart, and gives himself to the Lord, he will better understand how to grasp the hidden things of God. The diligent, humble teacher, seeking by earnest prayer and study for the truth as it is in Jesus, will most assuredly be re warded. He seeks for help, not from the ideas of human writers, but from the very Fountain of wisdom and knowledge; and the Holy Spirit's office work is to empty the golden oil into the golden bowls, that the lamps may send forth clear, perfect rays, bringing to light the purposes of God in truths of a higher order. Under the guidance of the holy intelligences, the searcher of the Scriptures understands the truth of divine revelation. What a privilege is this!

The understanding of the Bible is the only means by which we can hope to sow the seeds of truth in the hearts of others. We do not realize sufficiently the need of the Word of God in the ministration of the gospel. It is not by the might of the power of the human agent that truth is impressed upon minds, "but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." The peculiar temperament and knowledge and wisdom of the one that preaches the Word cannot make his work successful. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but God gives the increase. He who works for God must exalt the Word of the living God. Christ must be exalted as the crucified Saviour.

By the ministration of the Word in private families and in the church, truth is to be made known. This is the Lord's appointed agency, by which His dealings are to be kept fresh from generation to generation. Much should be made of the ministration of the Word. When the services of the Lord's house are looked upon as the instrumentality through which the Holy Spirit operates by the Word, a power higher than human power works, and the services are made of extraordinary power, not because of the great efficiency of the speaker, but because of the might and power of God.

Make Practical Applications

The teacher of the truth should advance in knowledge, growing in grace and in Christian experience, cultivating habits and practices which will do honor to God and to His Word. He should show others how to make a practical application of the Word. Every advance we make in sanctified ability, in varied studies, will help us to understand the Word of God; and the study of the Scriptures helps us in the study of the other branches essential in education. After the first acquaintance with the Bible, the interest of  the earnest seeker grows rapidly, The discipline gained by a regular' study of the Word of God enables c him to see a freshness and beauty in  truth that he never before discerned.  Reference to texts, when speaking, becomes easy to a Bible student.

Above everything else, it is essential for the teacher of the Word of God to seek most earnestly to possess himself of the internal evidence of the Scriptures. He who would be blessed with this evidence must search the Scriptures for himself. As he learns the lessons given by Christ, and compares scripture with scripture, to see whether he himself bears its credentials, he will obtain a knowledge of God's Word, and the truth will write itself on his soul.

The Word Is a Two-edged Sword

The truth is the truth. It is not to be wrapped up in beautiful adornings, that the outside appearance may be admired. The teacher is to make the truth clear and forcible to the understanding and to the con science. The Word is a two-edged sword, that cuts both ways. It does not tread as with soft, slippered feet.

There are many cases where men who have defended Christianity against skeptics have afterward lost their own souls in the mazes of skepticism. They caught the malaria, and died spiritually. They had strong arguments for the truth, and much outside evidence, but they did not have an abiding faith in Christ. O, there are thousands upon thousands of professed Christians who never study the Bible Study the Sacred Word prayerfully, for your own soul's benefit. When you hear the word of the living preacher, if he has a living connection with God, you will find that the Spirit and the Word agree.

The Old and New Testaments are linked together by the golden clasp of God. We need to become familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. The unchangeableness of God should be clearly seen; the similarity of His dealings with His people of the past dispensation and of the present, should be studied. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, Solomon wrote, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." In mercy God repeats His past dealings. He has given us a record of His dealings in the past. This we need to study carefully; for history is repeating itself. We are more accountable than were those whose experience is recorded in the Old Testament; for their mistakes, and the results of those mistakes, have been chronicled for our benefit. The danger signal has been lifted to keep us off forbidden ground, and we should be warned not to do as they did, lest a worse punishment come upon us. The blessings given to those of past generations who obeyed God are recorded that we may be encouraged to walk circumspectly, in faith and obedience. The judgments brought against wrongdoers are delineated that we may fear and tremble before God. This Scripture biography is a great blessing. This precious instruction, the experience of ages, is bequeathed to us.

It is time well employed to search the Scriptures; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life." And Jesus declares, "They are they which testify of me." By the work of the Holy Spirit the truth is riveted in the mind and printed in the heart of the diligent, God-fearing student. And not only is he blessed by this kind of labor; the souls to whom he communicates truth, and for whom he must one day give an account, are also greatly blessed. Those who make God their counselor reap the most precious harvest as they gather the golden rains of truth from His Word; for^ the heavenly Instructor is close by their side. He who obtains his qualifications for the minis try in this way will be entitled to the blessing promised to him who turns many to righteousness.


Reprinted from The Review and Herald, April 20, 1897.

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By Ellen G. White

April 1977

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