Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 26, No.2 Straight and Narrow February 2017
What reform did these
support at the 1903 General Conference?
In this issue:
Does God Change?
Does God change? In Malachi 3:6, God says, “For I am the LORD, I change not.” Does God change? In Deuteronomy 32:4, we read of God:
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
How can a God of truth change? For God to change means he must change what truth is; yet, his truth is what changes the lives of his people by a “belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
How can God change, when his truth is the equivalent of the righteousness of Christ? Ellen White has noted:
. . . many . . . are not willing to be deprived of the garments of their own self-righteousness. They are not willing to exchange their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness, for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure, unadulterated truth. (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 65)
Yet, today many believe that God changes. They do not publish it outright, in so many words, but Satan has an insidious deception that is designed to destroy millions. Satan has millions believing that God changes, and the majority of these millions do not perceive that they think this way about God! But before we reveal that deception, we need to understand an important key for understanding the testimonies of the Spirit of Prophecy.
Time and place
A key principle in understanding biblical truth is context. It has been said that context is king. This is true in the Bible and also in the Spirit of Prophecy, and Ellen White certainly affirms this:
Regarding the testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but time and place must be considered. (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 57)
We are NOT at liberty to ignore or to cast out any of the writings, but she says that we must take into consideration the time and place of the writing. In other words, we must understand the context and sometimes even apply practical logic and common sense.
Among Seventh-day Adventists there are many doctrines, and some of them are controversial. Who is the king of the north in Daniel 11? What is the daily in Daniel 8, or is it time to give up milk and cheese? While we do not ignore or cast aside these questions, we realize that they are not fundamental principles, and concerning truly fundamental principles nothing is more important than the doctrine of God. The doctrine of God has become controversial in the last couple of decades within Adventism. Underneath this in importance, we could list the sanctuary and the incarnation as vital areas with a certain degree of controversy. Interestingly, a great deal of the controversy over these doctrines is due, not to a biblical text, but to statements from the writings of Ellen G. White.
A misunderstood teaching
Another subject needs to be understand that may be the most misunderstood of all. This doctrine also receives it greatest controversy over pronouncements from the pen of Ellen G. White, and that is the doctrine of the church! What is the church? Is it going through? Do we ever leave the church? Or must we, at all cost, stay with the ship?
Let us quickly look at the identity of the church. Who or what is the church? Is it a building or a denomination?
The word church is translated from the Greek word, ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) and means an assembly or congregation. The word ekklēsia comes from two Greek words that mean called out or people called out. Certainly Christians have been called out from the world. These called-out ones are grounded in truth. Writing to Timothy, Paul said:
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)
The great central truth that Jesus founded his church upon is the truth that he is the Son of God (Matthew 16:13–18). The rock that Jesus built his church upon was not Peter but, rather, the truth which Peter confessed: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Peter had expressed the truth which is the foundation of the church’s faith . . . (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 413)
Concerning Christ’s church, we also read:
From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. (Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 11)
God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. (Ellen G. White, Upward Look, p. 315)
Israel’s position with God
With this as a background, let us proceed to see what the church situation was like in the time of Jesus. Then we will bring it down to the time of the Advent Movement and then to today.
God had given to Israel what seemed like an uncompromising promise:
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:35–37)
Each day the Jews could see the sun shining, and they could see the moon and stars in their nightly paths. They could see and feel the ocean tides, knowing that they never failed to go in and out. In reading Jeremiah they became assured that no matter what might happen, the church could never become Babylon. It might be taken into a captivity, but it was never Babylon, and one was never to leave the ship under any circumstances.
In your mind’s eye see the tables being turned over, the coins falling to the ground, and the people fleeing, as Jesus cleansed the temple the second time. During the first cleansing Jesus had said, “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise” (John 2:16). At that time, he called the temple his Father’s house. But three years later he said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). Their house? Not the Father’s house? Desolate!? This could not be, and they took the scroll of Jeremiah and read the section we noted in Jeremiah 31:33–35, and they denounced Jesus as an imposter. They might have thought:
This cannot be! The word of God cannot be broken. Israel will be a nation before God forever.
Go and watch the sun arise. Watch the moon and the stars move across the sky, and check out the tides at the ocean.
Oh, this man Jesus might be sincere, but he is deluded. His word is not greater than the word of God! Case closed; no questions need to be asked!
Yet there was another perspective the leaders failed to understand. Daniel also had written, and his prophecy was different:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:24–26)
There was to be from the “going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince” seventy weeks. We know that the Jews of that time understood these seventy weeks of time in the prophecy to be seventy years of weeks because we are told that:
It was well known that the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, covering the Messiah’s advent, were nearly ended; and all were eager to share in that era of national glory which was then expected. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 133)
The only way that they could know that the seventy weeks of Daniel were nearly ended was if they understood the year-day principle. Now it should be clear that Jeremiah 31 is not equivalent to Daniel 9. These prophecies, as they stand, are antitheses one to the other. Jeremiah appears to be offering a free ticket for Israel into the heavenly borders, no matter what. But now we see Daniel indicating that there will be some kind of judgment that will happen after the seventy weeks of years, and the verdict was yet to be determined, depending upon whether or not they obeyed the conditions of Daniel 9:24.
A message for Israel
As the final week of the seventy weeks was beginning, a voice was heard in Israel:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:7–10)
John had come calling the leaders of his church vipers (poisonous snakes) and warning them to flee from the wrath to come! What wrath?, they surely must have asked. Of what were they to repent? John told them NOT to say “we have Abraham to our father” (Matthew 3:9). The word translated repentance is μετανοίας (metanoias), and it means to have a change of mind or to change one’s thinking. What were they thinking? That Abraham was their father and that this relationship secured for them their status as the favored of God.
The Jewish people cherished the idea that they were the favorites of heaven, and that they were always to be exalted as the church of God. They were the children of Abraham, they declared, and so firm did the foundation of their prosperity seem to them that they defied earth and heaven to dispossess them of their rights. But by lives of unfaithfulness they were preparing for the condemnation of heaven and for separation from God. (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 294; all emphasis in this article supplied unless otherwise stated)
The axe laid at the root of the tree
John said, “The axe is laid unto the root of the trees” (Matthew 3:10). What did he mean by this? Jesus taught two parables to help make this clear. The first is in Luke:
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6–9)
Ellen White gives us this insight, concerning this parable:
The generation to whom the Saviour had come were represented by the fig tree in the Lord’s vineyard—within the circle of His special care and blessing. (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 214)
This was the generation of the seventieth week! She later notes:
Jesus did not in the parable tell the result of the gardener’s work. At that point His story was cut short. Its conclusion rested with the generation that heard His words. To them the solemn warning was given. “If not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” Upon them it depended whether the irrevocable words should be spoken. The day of wrath was near. In the calamities that had already befallen Israel, the owner of the vineyard was mercifully forewarning them of the destruction of the unfruitful tree. (Ibid., p. 216)
The day of wrath was near, and the nation of Israel would depend upon the generation of the seventieth week.
The second parable was recorded by Matthew:
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Matthew 21:17–20)
Again, Ellen White gives us this insight, concerning this parable:
The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable. That barren tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation. The Saviour desired to make plain to His disciples the cause and the certainty of Israel’s doom. (The Desire of Ages, p. 582)
This parable, given near the end of the Saviour’s ministry, was “to make plain to His disciples the cause and the certainty of Israel’s doom.” The Jewish leadership had rejected Jesus and were planning his death. The decision in heaven had been made, and Israel’s doom was now certain.
The parable of the fig tree, spoken before Christ’s visit to Jerusalem, had a direct connection with the lesson He taught in cursing the fruitless tree. For the barren tree of the parable the gardener pleaded, Let it alone this year, until I shall dig about it and dress it; and if it bear fruit, well; but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. Increased care was to be given the unfruitful tree. It was to have every advantage. But if it remained fruitless, nothing could save it from destruction. In the parable the result of the gardener’s work was not foretold. It depended upon that people to whom Christ’s words were spoken. They were represented by the fruitless tree, and it rested with them to decide their own destiny. Every advantage that Heaven could bestow was given them, but they did not profit by their increased blessings. By Christ’s act in cursing the barren fig tree, the result was shown. They had determined their own destruction. (Ibid., p. 584)
Do you think that the Jewish people acknowledged or accepted this? No. We saw earlier that they defied earth and heaven to take their status as God’s people away! “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
The warning is for all time. Christ’s act in cursing the tree which His own power had created stands as a warning to all churches and to all Christians. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 584)
Ellen White did not say Christ’s act in cursing the tree, which his own power had created, stands as a warning to all churches except the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She said to all churches.
So we must ask again, does God change? What did the Jews miss in Jeremiah’s prophecy? Like almost all prophecies, it was tied to conditions. It was to a people in whose heart God’s law was written that the promise was made!
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
The promise was upon the condition of having God’s law written in their hearts. Yet at the very time the Jewish leaders were claiming this promise, they were plotting the death of God’s dear son, showing that in no wise was the law in their hearts.
To a people in whose hearts His law is written, the favor of God is assured. They are one with Him. But the Jews had separated themselves from God. Because of their sins they were suffering under His judgments. This was the cause of their bondage to a heathen nation. Their minds were darkened by transgression, and because in times past the Lord had shown them so great favor, they excused their sins. They flattered themselves that they were better than other men, and entitled to His blessings.
These things “are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11. How often we misinterpret God’s blessings, and flatter ourselves that we are favored on account of some goodness in us! God cannot do for us that which He longs to do. His gifts are used to increase our self-satisfaction, and to harden our hearts in unbelief and sin. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 106)
What about the Seventh-day
“And now also,” said the prophet, “the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Not by its name, but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God’s law, they were not His people. (Ibid., p. 107)
What about the Seventh-day Adventist Church today? Does it feel that is has its own type of the ship-is-going-through promises? Yes, it is called Ellen White! Notice the following statements that seem just as promising as Jeremiah 31:35–37 did to the Jews:
God is leading out a people. He has a chosen people, a church on the earth, whom He has made the depositaries of His law. . . . The message to pronounce the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Babylon, and call the people of God out of her, does not come from any heavenly messenger, or any human agent inspired by the Spirit of God. (White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 66; Letter 16, June 11, 1893)
Again I say, The Lord hath not spoken by any messenger who calls the church that keeps the commandments of God, Babylon. True, there are tares with the wheat; but Christ said He would send His angels to first gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into the garner. I know that the Lord loves His church. It is not to be disorganized or broken up into independent atoms. There is not the least consistency in this; there is not the least evidence that such a thing will be. Those who shall heed this false message and try to leaven others will be deceived and prepared to receive advanced delusions, and they will come to nought. (Ibid., pp. 68, 69; Letter 16, June 11, 1893)
These strong statements seem to leave room for no negative outcomes. But then, how do we answer the following testimony?
Who can truthfully say: “Our gold is tried in the fire; our garments are unspotted by the world”? I saw our Instructor pointing to the garments of so-called righteousness. Stripping them off, He laid bare the defilement beneath. Then He said to me: “Can you not see how they have pretentiously covered up their defilement and rottenness of character? ‘How is the faithful city become an harlot!’ My Father’s house is made a house of merchandise, a place whence the divine presence and glory have departed! (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 250; April 21, 1903)
Do you see the contrast in this last statement with the two statements before, like you can see between Jeremiah’s and Daniel’s statements, which were ten years apart and with seemingly different messages? Why? What does time and place have to say about this, and what can we learn from history that will help us? Does God change? How does a faithful city, a city that was once faithful, become a harlot? We are told:
It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot; and Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the support of worldly powers, receives a like condemnation.
Babylon is said to be “the mother of harlots.” By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world. (White, The Great Controversy, pp. 382, 383)
New-modeling the cause
So what has corporate Adventism done? Have they changed their doctrines? Have they formed an unlawful alliance with the world and with the worldly churches? What excuses can be given for accepting the doctrine of the Trinity? What excuses can be given for changing our teachings on the sanctuary, the incarnation, and officially dropping our position on the papacy? What excuse can be given for using the courts to enforce the trademark on the name Seventh-day Adventist? In making these changes we are following in the same path as those who helped form the papacy.
By conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the heathen. The apostle Paul declared, even in his day, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:7. During the lives of the apostles the church remained comparatively pure. But “toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form; the first simplicity disappeared, and insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their children, along with new converts, ... came forward and new-modeled the cause.”—Robert Robinson, Ecclesiastical Researches, ch. 6, par. 17, p. 51. (Ibid., p. 384)
We are not pioneer Adventists today, but we can be historical Adventists, believing and teaching the same doctrines as the early Adventists. We have a long line of excellent spiritual heritage in our history. We have been told:
We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history. (Ellen White, Life Sketches, p. 196)
Not only are we to remember the leading of God, but also his teachings in our past history! What has happened since the death of Ellen White and of the pioneers?
Changes were quickly made after Ellen White died that prepared the way for the SDA–Evangelical conferences of 1955 and 1956, where our top leaders met with leading evangelicals to discuss what could be done to bring Adventism into line with mainstream Christianity. The main Adventist participants were LeRoy Froom, Roy A. Anderson, W. E. Reed, and T. E. Unruh. Unruh later wrote of the experience:
We Adventists also faced problems. The Evangelical conferees were satisfied that we were presenting contemporary Adventist doctrines, because we were supported by the 1931 statement of fundamental beliefs, which appeared regularly in official yearbooks and manuals of the church, and by the amplified statement in the baptismal covenant. But, they asked, if the Adventist church had reached a firm consensus why did they find contrary or misleading statements in Adventist publications, for sale in Adventist book and Bible houses? We explained that this was the result of efforts by the church to avoid an officially adopted creedal statement, and the denomination’s preference for an open-end theology which permitted new light to penetrate in depth. This explanation did not impress them. They asked if we did not think that we ourselves were to some extent to blame if these erroneous statements were used against us. We could only reply that correction had begun. (T. E. Unruh, Adventist Heritage, vol. 4, no. 2, 1977, p. 38)
Questions on Doctrine was published late in 1957. It was designed to begin with the “Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” first published in 1931, later given General Conference approval, and regularly included in church manuals and yearbooks of the denomination. This was to make clear to Adventists and non-Adventists alike, that in presenting an amplified statement on doctrine the General Conference was not setting forth a new theology, but was clarifying and amplifying the doctrines most generally believed by contemporary Seventh-day Adventists. (Ibid., p. 44)
Unruh mentioned the trinity, the completed atonement, the divine-human nature of Jesus in the incarnation, and then he wrote:
These were the areas which had been found to be most frequently misunderstood and misquoted. (T. E. Unruh, Adventist Heritage, vol. 4, no. 2, 1977, p. 44)
Remember, the early Christians formed an unlawful alliance as they new-modeled the cause. What is the difference between new-modeling the cause and presenting contemporary doctrines?
Remember, Ellen White said that we must consider time and place (Selected Messages, volume 1, page 57), as we study her writings. This is true today, and it was true in the time of Jeremiah. We must look at all the sources available to us. Specifically, Jeremiah had warned the people against thinking that they had a favored position because of something other than the character of their lives.
Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. (Jeremiah 7:4, 8)
The people were not to trust in lying words that could not profit, and some of the dying words were an implicit trust in the temple and their association with it. As Adventists, we have for years decried the Catholic teachings that allow their people to feel spiritually safe because they belong to the Catholic Church. The Jews did this, and we, as a people, have fallen into the same trap.
Rites and ceremonies could not atone for sin. Notwithstanding their [Jewish people in the time of Jeremiah] claim to be the chosen people of God, reformation of heart and of the life practice alone could save them from the inevitable result of continued transgression. (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 414)
God does not change, beloved. If trusting in churches for salvation did not work in the time of Jeremiah or in the time of John the Baptist, it will not work today.
An historical perspective necessary
to understand the impact
Let us now look at some of the history that sets the background to the statements of 1893, when Ellen White said to not call the church Babylon and then look at the background to what she said ten years later.
First, concerning the 1893 statements, we need to go back to July of 1888 when Ellen White wrote:
The facts concerning the real condition of the professed people of God, speak more loudly than their profession, and make it evident that some power has cut the cable that anchored them to the Eternal Rock, and that they are drifting away to sea, without chart or compass. (The Review and Herald, July 24, 1888)
Just a few months later, in October and November 1888, the church had its famous Bible Conference and General Conference Session in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was at these meetings that Elders Jones and Waggoner presented what Ellen White called a “most precious message.”
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure. (White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92)
Now, it has been Satan’s determined purpose to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore God gave to His servants a testimony that presented the truth as it is in Jesus, which is the third angel’s message, in clear, distinct lines. (Ibid., p. 93)
The message of 1888 was to give back to the people of God a chart and a compass. The church’s problem was that they were looking to man, and God wanted their eyes upon Jesus. The message of Jones and Waggoner was to be the beginning of the loud cry. In fact, Ellen White could write just four years later:
The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth. (The Review and Herald, November 22, 1892)
It was at a time when God was beginning to pour out the latter rain and when the loud cry was beginning to sound that Ellen White wrote to not call the church Babylon. It would not be consistent to call the people receiving the Holy Spirit Babylon. But why did Ellen White have to make such a pronouncement? At this time in Australia there was a brother who had begun preaching a message, using the testimonies, that the church had become Babylon. Ellen White refuted that message at that time with the plainest words possible and had them printed in the Review for all to see:
While the deep movings of the Spirit of God were made manifest among the people, and souls were being converted, and hard hearts broken, there were those who were listening to the suggestions of Satan, and they were inspired with zeal from beneath to go forth and proclaim that the very people receiving of the Holy Spirit, who are to receive the latter rain and the glory that is to lighten the whole earth, were Babylon. Did the Lord give these messengers their message?–No; for it was not a message of truth. (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, September 5, 1893; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 49)
My brother, if you are teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is Babylon, you are wrong. God has not given you any such message to bear. (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, September 12, 1893; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 59)
But things did not stay this way for long. Just two years later Ellen White began to write in a different vein:
The goodness, mercy, and love of God were proclaimed by Christ to Moses. This was God’s character. When men who profess to serve God ignore His parental character and depart from honor and righteousness in dealing with their fellowmen, Satan exults, for he has inspired them with his attributes. They are following in the track of Romanism. (White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 362; 1895)
The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some; for it is contrary to their spirit and their whole life experience. Rule, rule, has been their course of action. (Ibid., p. 363; 1895)
Ellen White is, at the least, implying that the 1888 message was being rejected and ignored because of the Romanist spirit to rule.
The 1888 message taught by Jones and Waggoner was about more than justification. It was also about administration and how we deal with brethren! To say, as some proclaim, that the 1888 message was accepted in a glorious victory would be to disregard the history of the last one hundred twenty years. The fact that the loud cry was cut off and that the world has continued until now is compelling evidence that the message, which at first received limited acceptance, was finally rejected. If we do not think so, we have this letter of Ellen White to P. T. Magan to consider:
We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel, but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action. (Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 202; December 7, 1901)
We also have to consider why are we still here, if the message was accepted. Remember, Ellen White wrote:
We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history. (Life Sketches, p. 196)
Something was forgotten and discarded about God’s leading and/or his past teachings and this caused men to want to rule over other men. Something was wrong and needed correction.
Just before the 1901 General Conference session in Battle Creek, Ellen White had a meeting in the college library on April 1, and she said this, in part:
Now the Lord wants his Spirit to come in. He wants the Holy Ghost king. (Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 166)
Then on April 2, after the preliminaries were finished, the chair of the session brought the session to order and Ellen White rose to speak:
I feel a special interest in the movements and decisions that shall be made at this Conference regarding the things that should have been done years ago, and especially ten years ago, when we were assembled in Conference, and the Spirit and power of God came into our meeting, testifying that God was ready to work for this people if they would come into working order. The brethren assented to the light God had given, but there were those connected with our institutions, especially with the Review and Herald Office and the Conference, who brought in elements of unbelief, so that the light that was given was not acted upon. It was assented to, but no special change was made to bring about such a condition of things that the power of God could be revealed among his people. (Ellen G. White, General Conference Bulletin, April 3, 1901, p. 23)
All who are educated in the office of publication should see there exemplified the principles of heaven. I would rather lay a child of mine in his grave that have him go there to see these principles mangled and perverted. . . . You have no right to manage, unless you manage in God’s order. (Ibid., p. 25)
O, my very soul is drawn out in these things! Men who have not learned to submit themselves to the control and discipline of God, are not competent to train the youth, to deal with human minds. It is just as much an impossibility for them to do this work as it would be for them to make a world. That these men should stand in a sacred place, to be as the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be,—that is past. What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build upon a different principle. (Ibid.)
To heed the call of Ellen White, the General Conference discussed a new constitution which removed the office of president of the General Conference. Willie White noted that the idea was to have a chairmanship that rotated at least once a year:
W. C. White: It seems to be the mind of this Conference that responsibility shall not be centralized and fixed upon a few individuals for a long period. . . . It seems to be for the advantage of the work to allow this committee, which will be a thoroughly representative one, to choose its chairman, [and] . . . that no one should be chairman of this committee for a period of more than twelve months at a time. (Ibid., April 12, 1901, p. 205)
The General Conference brought out a new constitution, which made provision for an executive committee of twenty-five, but, instead of a rotating chairman, A. G. Daniells was chosen as the permanent chairman:
ARTICLE 4. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE. (April 22, 1901 N/A, GCB 379.1)
SECTION 1. The Executive Committee of this Conference shall be twenty-five in number, and shall have power to organize itself by choosing a chairman, secretary, treasurer, and auditor, whose duties shall be such as usually pertain to their respective offices. It shall also have the power to appoint all necessary agents and committees for the conduct of its work.
SEC. 2. The Executive Committee shall be elected at the regular sessions of the Conference, and shall hold office for the term of two years, or until their successors are elected, and appear to enter upon their duties. (General Conference Bulletin, April 23, 1901, p. 379)
Permanent Chairman, A. G. Daniells. (Ibid., April 22, 1901, p. 377)
Although A. G. Daniells was only the chairman of the committee, shortly after the conference he was signing documents as president of the General Conference. Ellen White would later say that a thorough work had not been done. (See Testimonies for the Church, volume 8, pages 105, 106.)
Now let us fast forward to April 9, 1903, and the General Conference Session in Oakland, California.
The desire for a kingly power had not been killed. A new constitution was brought out, restoring the office of General Conference President:
SECTION 1. The officers of this Conference shall be a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary, a treasurer, and an auditor, who shall be elected by the Conference. (General Conference Bulletin, April 10, 1903, p. 145)
But something very unusual happened. For the only time in General Conference history, a minority report on the constitution was presented. Their report was short and to the point:
Report of the Minority of the Committee on Plans and Constitution
H. W. Cottrell
The minority of your Committee on Plans and Constitution beg leave to submit that the Constitution proposed by the majority of the Committee appears to us to be so subversive of the principles of organization given to us at the General Conferences of 1897 and 1901 that we can not possibly subscribe to it.
The proposed new Constitution reverses the reformatory steps that were taken, and the principles which were given and adopted as the principles of reorganization, in the General Conferences of 1897 and 1901, and embodied in the present Constitution; and this before that Constitution or the organization according to it, has ever had adequate trial.
We therefore recommend that the Constitution of 1901 be given a fair trial before it be annihilated.
E. J. Waggoner,
Percy T. Magan.
(Ibid., p. 147)
These were no common personages in Adventism. All know of Waggoner. David Paulson was a physician who started the Hinsdale Sanitarium, and P. T. Magan, with Dr. Sutherland, started the school at Madison, first known as “The Nashville Agricultural and Normal School.”
Waggoner spoke to the matter first, noting:
The Bible organization recognizes leaders; most certainly it does. Whomsoever God appoints as leaders ought to be recognized, and will be recognized, by the body, if they are leaders indeed; for authority rests in the individual and his relation to God, and not in the position to which he is elected. And truth is truth, though it be spoken by one who has no standing or official position. And error can not be made to be truth, or mistakes can not be made to be right, because promulgated by some one in official position, or even by the whole body; and we should recognize, and we must educate ourselves and the people to recognize, the truth of the Bible, and to be recognized by the Bible and the Spirit of God, so that whenever any case comes up for decision we have that one thing to guide us. (Ibid., p. 148)
He closed by saying:
Now, the master workman is God, and the Spirit of God is given to lead us into all truth, not simply into what is unfortunately known as theological truth, or, better, spiritual truth, to guide in personal conduct and morality, but given to guide us into all truth, as to administration. However many administrations there may be, there is only the one Spirit, and therefore when we have that master Workman given to guide us, why shall we not voluntarily, gladly, and rejoicingly, yield to the Spirit of God, for Him to work in us all, and trust that that one Spirit can bring us back into perfect harmony and keep us there? (Ibid., p. 149)
The session adjourned until after lunch, and then, hardly before P. T. Magan could speak, there was a motion to limit discussion to five minutes. It was quickly seconded, but A. T. Jones and A. G. Daniells both spoke against limiting the discussion, and when question was called on the motion, the motion failed. Magan then spoke:
. . . I want to say to you that any man who has ever read “Neander’s History of the Christian Church,” Mosheim’s, or any of the other of the great church historians, — any man who has ever read those histories can come to no other conclusion but that the principles which are to be brought in through this proposed constitution, and in the way in which they are brought in, are the same principles, and introduced in precisely the same way, as they were hundreds of years ago when the Papacy was made.
Further: This whole house must recognize this, before we are through with this discussion, that the proposed new constitution, whatever improvements may be claimed for it, whatever advantages it may be stated that it contains, that, in principle, as far as the head of the work is concerned, it goes back precisely where we were before the reformatory steps of two years ago. (Ibid., p. 150)
The appeal failed. Jones spoke lengthily and strongly against the new system, but these appeals failed, and the constitution was accepted. What would happen next? When the ruling principles of Rome are accepted, it is only a matter of time before the teachings of Rome are accepted.
After the conference Ellen White went back to Elms-haven and on April 21, 1903, (remember time and place) she wrote a testimony entitled, “Shall We Be Found Wanting,” in which she said:
In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: “Found wanting.” By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged. (White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 247)
Now we see how important time and place are in our study! Ellen White said that the church would come to a crisis through which it might not pass, and that crisis was beginning at that very time!
In 1904 Ellen White spoke about the “alpha of deadly heresies.” This was a result of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s book, The Living Temple, and the theology that it taught. Ellen White gave a long list of events that would happen if this heresy was accepted. She called it the alpha, indicating that it was the first of other heresies (plural) to follow.
This apostasy was quickly becoming entrenched into the church, for, on December 4, 1905, Ellen White not only affirmed the apostasy was occurring, but gave a clear description as to its duration:
One thing it is certain is soon to be realized,—the great apostasy, which is developing and increasing and waxing stronger, and will continue to do so until the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout. We are to hold fast the first principles of our denominated faith, and go forward from strength to increased faith.…
The past fifty years have not dimmed one jot or principle of our faith as we received the great and wonderful evidences that were made certain to us in 1844, after the passing of the time. The languishing souls are to be confirmed and quickened according to His word. And many of the ministers of the gospel and the Lord’s physicians will have their languishing souls quickened according to the word. Not a word is changed or denied. That which the Holy Spirit testified to as truth after the passing of the time, in our great disappointment, is the solid foundation of truth. Pillars of truth were revealed, and we accepted the foundation principles that have made us what we are—Seventh-day Adventists, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus. (Ellen White, Special Testimonies, Series B, no. 7, pp. 57, 58)
Ellen White said this apostasy would continue until Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven. In 1893 there was no doubt that the church was not Babylon. By 1895 men were ruling men, and God called for reform. They heard and adjusted in 1901, but a thorough work was not done. In 1903 the prior reforms were rejected. By 1904 the alpha was present, and in 1905 the prophet said that the apostasy would continue until Jesus returned.
The only safety was to maintain the faith that had been given in the early part of the movement. This included a non-trinitarian position on God, an atonement in the heavenly sanctuary, a Jesus who, in his incarnation, stepped down to where man was so man could be saved from the bottom up, and strong denunciations against the man of sin and against Sunday exaltation.
Do we know the difference between the movement which began in 1844 and the organization that formed in 1863 but apostatized? The movement will go through. It will be composed of those who accept “the foundation principles that have made us what we are—Seventh-day Adventists, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus” (Ibid.). Those who continue in the apostasy will forsake those great truths and will new-model the cause, teaching contemporary Adventism.
Are we truly historical Adventists, or are we contemporary and holding to a new-modeled cause?
God’s design for his people was given to Ellen White in 1908:
I am instructed to say to Seventh-day Adventists the world over, God has called us as a people to be a peculiar treasure unto Himself. He has appointed that His church on earth shall stand perfectly united in the Spirit and counsel of the Lord of hosts to the end of time.—Letter 54, 1908 (White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 397)
Like in the parable of the vineyard, Jesus did not give a full conclusion at that time. It would be up to those who would follow as to whether this ideal would be accepted or not.
1931 and beyond
As we saw in Unruh’s account, the 1931 statement was contemporary for Martin and Barnhouse, the evangelical conferees. A worse statement of fundamentals, however, was approved at the General Conference Session of 1980. This statement of beliefs denied the final atonement, gave full acceptance of the trinity, and neglected any teaching on the papacy. The 1980 fundamental beliefs were cosmetically updated in 2015 and is the position of the modified church today. Now you do not have to take my word for anything that has been presented in this study. You can find each of these statements readily in this age of information and if you will use time and place as the Testimonies counsel, you can see that the corporate church has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. What else can a God who does not change do, beloved?
It could be said, There are some great men in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination; we can trust them. Let’s stay with the ship. There are Ted Wilson and Doug Batchlor. On the edges, but working within the church, there are Stephen Bohr and Walter Veith. They may be accounted as good men. I will let heaven determine that, but they all have a common message. You are to believe in the trinity and are to stay within the church, no matter what happens. But these are lying words.
The 1844 movement was of God and continues! But apostasy has moved to apostate. The message of Revelation 3:16 has taken place, and it is time to hear the message of Revelation 18:4 today.
God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffetings of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness.
I saw that we have no time to throw away in listening to fables. (Early Writings, p. 125) ?
. See Selected Messages, book 1, pages 201–208.