As we continue on with part 2 of this study, I would like us to notice what took place in Battle Creek in 1893 which will help to see why some of these strong messages were written. In 1893, the General Conference was held in Battle Creek. There were some wonderful manifestations of the Lord’s Spirit there. There were some real revival experiences at the Battle Creek College; a great revival took place. Here is a compiler’s note in Selected Messages, Book 1:
[“In 1893 there was a marked revival in our institutions at our Battle Creek headquarters, with large evidence of the work of the Spirit of God. Much of the blessing was lost in events which followed in quick succession….”] – Selected Messages, Book 1, pg. 129
There, in a short sentence, is wrapped up a great deal of experience. The Spirit of God was poured out in rich measure as the message of righteousness by faith was given. But what happened to much of the blessing? It was lost in events which followed in quick succession. Now let me tell you briefly what happened, and then give you supporting references.
The Spirit of God came in a wonderful way as the message of righteousness by faith was presented. But there were some who, because of their prejudices, criticized the message and the messengers as they had five years before. They called the work of the Holy Spirit “fanaticism.” As a result, many of the students and other people who had gotten a great blessing retreated from the experience which they had received in the revival, and plunged into baseball games, bicycle races, parties, a lot of premature courtship and marriage, and other things of that kind. As a result, the Spirit of God was quenched, and much of the revival blessing was lost.
I want you to get the connection between three things: the prejudice against the messengers who were giving this revival call, dating back from Minneapolis; as a result of that, the criticism and working against it, and calling it fanaticism; as a result of that, some of the people felt maybe they had gotten too religious – thinking that maybe they had gone too far with this thing, thinking maybe what they need is some fun. So they began to get the fun. And the more fun they got with the competition, the sentimentalism, the eating and drinking and hilarity, the more the Spirit of God was driven away. Those are terrible charges, but we are going to support them now with clear statements.
After the outpouring of the Spirit of God in Battle Creek it was proved in the college that a time of great spiritual light is also a time of corresponding spiritual darkness. – Ibid., pg. 129
Who was on the ground as God was working? Satan.
In every age seasons of spiritual revival and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit have been followed by spiritual darkness and prevailing corruptions. – Ibid
Now watch: What does the devil try to do as a result of that? He tries to make the people who got an experience and then lost it think that what they got wasn’t the real thing. Can I have real money and still lose it? Yes I can. Can men have a real experience in the things of God and then lose it? Yes. That’s what happened back there.
There have been things written to me in regard to the movings of the Spirit of God at the last conference , and at the college, which clearly indicate that because these blessings were not lived up to, minds have been confused, and that which was light from heaven has been called excitement. I have been made sad to have this matter viewed in this light. We must be very careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in pronouncing the ministration of His Holy Spirit a species of fanaticism. – Ibid., pg. 130
–Fanaticism or Enthusiasm?–
What was being called fanaticism? The Spirit of God. Now there is one thing that will never be called fanaticism: cold and dead Laodiceanism. There can be an excitement which the Spirit of God has nothing to do with. But there are two kinds of enthusiasm: one is inspired by heaven; the other is engendered by hell. When it comes from heaven, it’s not fanaticism; it’s a holy enthusiasm. When the disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, what was the result? A holy enthusiasm. How many were converted that day? Three thousand souls. But what did some say who did not receive the Spirit? They mocked and said these men were full of wine – in other words, drunk. They called by a wrong name the operations of the Spirit of God.
So, in Battle Creek in 1893, as the Spirit of God was poured out, those who received it had wonderful changes in their lives. Those who rejected it called it fanaticism, and some who received the blessing lost it because of being influenced by those who called it fanaticism.
That God did abundantly bless the students in the school and the church, I have not one doubt; but a period of great light and the outpouring of the Spirit is quite generally followed by a time of great darkness. – Ibid
If you and I get a real blessing, may we be called upon to go into a period of darkness and keep our experience through the dark part? This is another reason I’m studying this with you. As we enter into the outpouring of the Spirit in connection with the loud cry, do not think that it’s going to start with a blaze of glory and then be nothing but glory day after day, and that we will ride on eagle’s wings and feel happy and glorious every minute. Read the chapter in Great Controversy, “The Final Warning”, and see how that, right in the time of the proclamation of this wonderful message, we’re going to have experiences of depression that will drive us to our knees. We’ve got to have an experience that’s anchored in faith.
Now the amusement question. Notice how these practical standards bear on the revival experience (and the revival experience bears on them):
When the students at the school went into their match games and football playing, when they became absorbed in the amusement question, Satan saw it a good time to step in and make of none effect the Holy Spirit of God in molding and using the human subject. – Selected Messages, Book 1, pg. 131
Can students then get a blessing in a revival service and lose it on a football field? Is there an enthusiasm in match games? Is there an enthusiasm in the outpouring of the Spirit of God? Do the two mix? No. The more we have of one the less we value the other.
It is an easy matter to idle away, talk and play away, the Holy Spirit’s influence…. The results after the working of the Spirit of God in Battle Creek are not because of fanaticism, but because those who were blessed did not show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light; and when the earth is lightened with the glory of God, some will not know what it is, and from whence it came, because they misapplied and misinterpreted the Spirit shed upon them. – Ibid
Have not the playing of games, and rewards, and the using of the boxing glove been educating and training after Satan’s direction to lead to the possession of his attributes? – Ibid., pg. 132
The time is altogether too full of tokens of the coming conflict to be educating the youth in fun and games. – Ibid., pg. 133
I ask you soberly: Is there a type of young people’s work that seeks to win and hold young people by educating them in fun and games? Is that the kind of thing that will bring the latter rain and the loud cry? Don’t misunderstand me. There is room in the Christian’s program for true recreation. There is a world of it that’s offered. God wants us to be social. He’s asked none of us to be hermits or monks. There is a place for Christian sociability, for various kinds of Christian recreation. But this is talking about worldly amusements. The world is full of it, and when it seeps into the church as it did at this time, what does it do to the Spirit of God? It grieves it away.
You will notice in the paragraph that begins on page 132 and continues on page 133 that Sister White indicated that those who entered into the revival experience should have been studying how, in doing good useful work, to get a change from their studies other than the excitement and emotions caused by their games. Thus they would receive a preparation for the scenes of trial that they must soon enter. The superficial piety that passes for religion will be consumed when tried in the furnace.
Here is some earnest instruction from the Lord’s servant. Remember, this is 1893, in Battle Creek. Sister White was in Australia at the time, but she saw it all in vision halfway around the world.
Among the students the spirit of fun and frolic was indulged. They became so interested in playing games that the Lord was crowded out of their minds; and Jesus stood among you in the playground, saying, O that thou hadst known, ‘even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!’ – Ibid., pg. 136
What a picture – Jesus on the playground, the football field.
Now I want you to study this chapter. I’ve only mentioned a few sentences from it. But this chapter in Selected Messages, Book 1, beginning on page 129, is a most wonderful chapter to give you a picture of conditions in Battle Creek in 1893 and 1894, and to show the great importance of safeguarding the revival experience. Not everyone who entered into the righteousness by faith experience acted wisely, but that didn’t prove that it was a wrong experience. Here is an interesting sentence:
It would be surprising if there were not some, who, not being well-balanced in mind, have spoken and acted indiscreetly; for whenever and wherever the Lord works in giving a genuine blessing, a counterfeit is also revealed, in order to make of none effect the true work of God. Therefore we need to be exceedingly careful. – Ibid., pg. 142
You remember reading in Great Controversy the history of the reformation that, after Luther had gotten that wonderful work of justification by faith going in Germany, fanatics came in and for a time threatened to spoil the whole work. What did Luther say? He said fanaticism was something he always feared. He feared it worse than he did the opposition of the papists. So, merely because some human beings take some points and run too far with them, it doesn’t prove the message is wrong. Because there are some extremists doesn’t prove that the message is extreme.
“If this attitude is preserved, then when the Lord shall again let His light shine upon the people, they will turn from the heavenly illumination, saying, ‘I felt the same in 1893, and some in whom I have had confidence, said that the work was fanaticism.’ Will not those who have received the rich grace of God, and who take the position that the work of the Holy Spirit was fanaticism, be ready to denounce the operations of the Spirit of God in the future, and the heart thus be proof against the solicitations of the still, small voice?” – Ibid., pg. 143
That brings me to a very important point. When the loud cry comes, some who over the years have rejected again and again certain work of the Spirit of God will not even recognize the Holy Spirit. You will find a statement on that point in Testimonies to Ministers. Speaking of some, it says:
They will not recognize the work of God when the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard. – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 300
I don’t want to be among that number. Do you? The only way I can be sure not to be among that number is to accept everything God tries to do for me now. This same ground which we have covered in Selected Messages, Book 1, is covered also in the book Testimonies to Ministers, beginning on page 80. I want you to study pages 80 to 103. This is all concerning the Minneapolis meeting and the meetings in Battle Creek in the mid 1890s. I want you to note carefully in these pages how that the message was called fanaticism and its preachers were called fanatics. I want you to see in these pages how that those who rejected the message turned to worldly amusements, covering similar ground to what we have looked at in the other book. But here you will find additional statements. On page 86, you will notice that Sister White uses the expression concerning worldly amusements what has been the cause of this fanaticism and enthusiasm.
I think of what dear Elder Benton who was president of the Southwestern Union used to say: “Instead of feeling embarrassed when you’re doing what the Lord says, let the other person be embarrassed.” They’re the ones who ought to be embarrassed. If you are standing for what God tells you to – kindly, humbly, but firmly – and someone calls you a fanatic, don’t let that disturb you. It may be that God, who is looking down from heaven, recognizes that the real fanaticism is on the other side.
What has been the cause of this fanaticism and enthusiasm? … How much more favorable it would be if the school buildings that are now in Battle Creek were far off from the city, and separated from so large a colony of professed Sabbathkeepers! – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 86
As a result of the work of the Spirit of God, the college was eventually moved out of Battle Creek away from that great colony and away from the city influence, and started in the country. That brought a great educational reform to this denomination…
In closing, may I urge you to please keep away, in your thinking and the writings of others, from broad generalizations that miss the real point. Never let your mind be impressed with the sweeping charges of opponents and critics that God’s church rejected the message of righteousness by faith, or that the General Conference rejected this message. That’s not true. On the other hand, do not be lulled to sleep with the idea that somehow this is just a little history, and that everyone back there finally came around and everything was all right.
Let me give you a statement from the man who was president of the General Conference more years than any man who has ever held that office, Elder A.G. Daniels:
“How sad, how deeply regrettable, it is that this message of righteousness in Christ should, at the time of its coming, have met with opposition on the part of earnest, well-meaning men in the cause of God! The message has never been received, nor proclaimed, nor given free course as it should have been in order to convey to the church the measureless blessings that were wrapped within it.” – Christ our Righteousness, pg. 47
While we avoid the extreme statements and charges of critics, we do well, on our knees, to meditate on the solemn statements of the Spirit of Prophecy and of leaders such as Elder Daniels, as we seek to plumb to the depths the experience that God sought to lead His people into at that time and that He’s still seeking to lead us into.
Our heavenly Father, we thank Thee so much for the precious truth that Jesus took our sins and died our death that we might take His righteousness and live His life. Oh, give us each this experience. Teach us the lessons from the past that we may meet the experiences of the future. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.