(Written June 26, 1902, from Elmshaven, St. Helena, California, to an Adventist businessman.)
I am much distressed in your behalf. I desire so much to see you in the spiritual condition that Christ told Nicodemus he must be in. The words that Christ addressed to him I address to you, "Ye must be born again." When you are born again, everything you do will be done with an eye single to the glory of God. You will work with all humility of mind, and in thorough distrust of self. You have valuable traits of character which, when your heart is sanctified, will make you a useful Christian.
In many respects your course in years past has not been straight, and will not bear the test of investigation. When associated with worldly businessmen, you spent your money freely, conferring favors that did them no good and proved of no benefit to yourself. Men whose minds were full of dishonest schemes flattered you and laid their temptations before you. You were puffed up by their flattery, and in your connection with them you gained an experience of which, when you see it as it is, you will feel greatly ashamed. In conversation and practice you were one with these men. You did not enter fully into their schemes, but you tampered with that which, if carried into practice, would have made you as guilty as they were.
You were leavened by the evil of these men. It would have been impossible for you to be in their society without being harmed. You have done things that are unprincipled, yes, fraudulent, to call them by their right name. God has been dishonored, and the influence that you have exerted has left on the minds of your brethren the impression that you are a dishonest speculator.
Brother_____, your work in the past will not bear the test of trial. You have an incorrect understanding of yourself and your dangers. But the Lord has looked pityingly upon you. The Saviour has a boundless love for every human being; and, notwithstanding that you were spotted and stained by self-indulgence, which has nearly ruined your physical, mental, and spiritual strength, He reached down His arm to save you. In every human being He sees a boundless capacity for improvement. With divine energy and hope He greets those for whom He has given His life. He places within their reach the riches of eternal life. In His strength they can live a life rich in good works, filled with the power of the Spirit. But they must separate from all scheming, all dishonesty. The true Christian will not keep up an appearance that is not real.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" [Psalm 19:7]. The grace of God alone can give you the experience that comes from a perfected character. God alone can enable you to walk before Him with a perfect heart. The Holy One has given erring finite beings rules for their guidance. These rules form a standard from which there can be no sinless swerving. He who does not make God's will paramount has yet to learn the first principles of holiness.
My brother, you must make the Scriptures your guide. Study the Word of God, and practice its instruction, humbly imploring the Holy Spirit's guidance and teaching. When your heart is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, you will accept the reproof of God, and will show a repentance that needs not to be repented of.
Keep looking to Jesus. He desires to reflect His image through you. The whole heart's purpose must be constantly refined, elevated, ennobled, sanctified, else you will mar the work of God, and ruin your own soul. The truth, my brother, must be more clearly stamped upon your heart. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:10]. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" [Mark 12:30]. This takes all there is of the man.
Study the Sermon on the Mount, and from it learn what are the qualities that Christ blesses. Is not the blessing of the Son of God worth time and effort? Only by carrying out in the daily life the principles of godliness can we gain the qualities that bring His blessing. Place yourself under His love and care, that in His strength you may bring to the foundation works represented by gold, silver, and precious stones. Christ's promises are full of wealth and power. The sanctification received through a belief of the truth brings comfort and joy. It imparts to the life a quickening power.
Well-doing is possible only through the grace imparted by God. Your own wisdom is foolishness with God. Your only safety lies in a daily repentance unto life eternal and a daily refusal to deviate from clean, pure principles.
Do not advance one step in your own wisdom, thinking that in your own strength you can gain success. Follow where Christ leads the way. Entire surrender to Him is your only safety.
My brother, improve the opportunity offered you to gain an understanding of the words. "We are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building" [1 Cor. 3:9]. You will then have confidence in the forgiving and pardoning mercy of God's love, and you will reveal a Christlike zeal for the advancement of His work. True repentance will bring newness of life. An entire change in mind and character will be brought about by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. The pride and confidence that tempts human beings to rise up in mistaken independence will be expelled from the soul.
God loves and pities you. Let your heart break before Him. In deep humiliation of soul confess your sin, receive pardon, and stand justified before God. Cast your helpless soul upon Christ, and rest not until there is a most thorough renovation of your methods in all business lines. You have fallen into loose, careless habits of business management. These habits you must change.
In taking up business enterprises, you are in great danger of weaving strange threads into the pattern. I write this to caution you. It is because of this that I am afraid to have you take up the food business. My brother, be afraid to take the first step in business enterprises without earnest prayer. I have been instructed that your course in the past, in entering into worldly, money-making schemes, bears the rebuke of God.
Nothing of this kind is to be mingled with your present work. You have in the past made many mistakes, but the Lord has shown Himself gracious, pardoning all your transgressions.
God has given me a special understanding of your past life, for the purpose of placing upon me the burden of having a care for you, that I might help you to be faithful. I was told that I must not let you go. I was instructed that other men who have committed errors would sit in judgment on you case; that those who have done wrong themselves and whose course God condemns, would judge you as severely as possible, and discourage you--as if this condemnation revealed that they were perfect, and zealous for truth and righteousness. The Lord instructed me to act the part of a faithful, judicious mother toward you, because others do not understand you. Even as I write, my eyes are filled with tears. I have tried to give you the words spoken by the One through whom I have often received instruction. I have nothing to add or to take away from this message. If you will act upon these words, they will be to your soul a savor of life unto life.--Letter 163, 1902. Ellen G. White Estate Washington, D. C. February 7, 1985 Entire Letter