We pray that as we have been going through these Advent Movement Surveys, that you have been receiving a blessing; as well as sharing this blessing with those you know. Hopefully you are understanding the significance of reviewing our past history, as we seek to move forward in God’s work today.
In today’s study, we will be looking at the life and work of Elder A.T. Jones. We previously read this wonderful statement:
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 91
These two men were used of God especially in the great Minneapolis meeting in 1888, and for a number of years thereafter, to bring the message of righteousness by faith prominently before our people. They were joined in this work by Sister White herself. At Minneapolis, and for a few years thereafter, she attended the meetings where they preached, and she joined them in the preaching and presenting this wonderful message.
Through the Testimonies, she counseled them, encouraged them, supported them, and espoused the message, and sponsored it before this denomination. As we have seen, she repeatedly rebuked those who were opposing these men and the message. Because of this strong support of their work by the Spirit of Prophecy, Sister White was herself opposed and, in some cases, ridiculed by some ministers.
Last week, we studied how that the beginning of the loud cry was in this work, and that some who opposed it were spoken of as opposing the work of the Spirit of God, and limiting the work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, much of what God wanted to accomplish was not accomplished. We are told that some stumbled on the dark mountains, went into darkness, and would never return. It is a serious thing to reject the work of the Spirit of God. This is what some of the opposition persisted in, and finally lost their way.
Today, we have the sad story to tell of how Waggoner and Jones themselves finally lost their way. That is indeed a sad story. I pray that God will give us lessons from it. Because, if you and I go through, we must succeed where the opposition to Jones and Waggoner failed. We must succeed in accepting God’s message, His full message, through whoever He may use to deliver it, at the time He delivers it; we must succeed where the opposition failed in discerning that message and in recognizing it, accepting it, and acting on it. Equally, we must succeed where Jones and Waggoner failed.
When I think of the deep ditch on one side and the deep ditch on the other, I wonder how anyone will go through. But we have the glorious assurance that the weakest child who will trust himself fully to Jesus can go through. In fact, as you study the history, there is one thing that stands out simply: The basic problem on the part of the opposition to Jones and Waggoner was self; the basic problem in the final departure and apostasy of Jones and Waggoner was self. That’s the basic problem in each case.
In His providence, God saw fit to warn His people, early in the righteousness by faith controversy, that Jones and Waggoner might apostatize. As far back as 1892, in writing to one who had greatly opposed Jones and Waggoner, Sister White said:
It is quite possible that Elder Jones or Waggoner may be overthrown by the temptations of the enemy. But if they should be, this would not prove that they had no message from God, or that the work that they had done was all a mistake. But should this happen, how many would take this position and enter into a fatal delusion because they are not under the control of the Spirit of God? I know that this is the very position many would take if either of these men were to fall. I pray that these men upon whom God has laid the burden of a solemn work may be able to give the trumpet a certain sound and honor God at every step, and that their path at every step may grow brighter and brighter until the close of time. – Letter 24, 1892
What a significant statement. I wish we had time to dwell upon it at length. You can see that, as far back as 1892, just four years after the great conference of Minneapolis, Sister White, guided by inspiration, said it could be that Elder Jones or Waggoner may be overthrown. She didn’t say it would be; but by inspiration she left it on record to show two things: that God was not surprised, and that if they should fail it would not be evidence that their work or their message had been wrong. So we do well to dwell upon that and not to be deceived either way.
–Take Heed Lest We Fall–
Since we are tracing the experiences of these two men, and much of it concerns Jones, I want to go back before 1888. The earliest thing that I know on record in the published works you will find in Counsels to Writers and Editors, pages 75-82. This is quite a long testimony, and it was written from Switzerland. It is addressed, “Dear Brother Waggoner and A.T. Jones.” This was written nearly two years before the conference in Minneapolis. It was written nearly at the beginning of 1887 and the conference was nearly at the close of 1888.
Sister White was in Europe at the time, and Jones and Waggoner were on the Pacific coast. One was editor of “The Signs of the Times”, and the other was Bible teacher at Healdsburg College. They were giving good messages on righteousness by faith, but already they were manifesting an attitude which was a defect – from time to time appearing all though those years later – and finally manifested itself in apostasy from this movement.
Looking back at it, we can see it all very clearly. Understand that, as I point these things out, I do it with grief in my heart, but with thankfulness to God that He has seen fit to put in these published books material that we can study, because these men are dead and gone now; we can do nothing to either help them or to harm them, but we can learn some lessons. One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that a defect, once seen, must be kept at by prayer and humbling of heart and seeking the Lord until it’s conquered. And we must never feel, “Well, there’s something we can forget, and we don’t have to worry about that any longer.”
I think of something we’re told in Acts of the Apostles about Peter, after his terrible fall. It says that Jesus freely forgave Peter, but Peter never forgave himself. That doesn’t mean he went around crestfallen all his life. But after that night in Gethsemane, Peter never got to the place where he felt that he was safe in the sense that he didn’t have to watch closely. He learned his lesson.
Oh, that Jones and Waggoner had learned it fully and eternally. I don’t doubt that both these men were wrought upon by the Spirit of God many times all through these years. Oh, that the work had gone deep and stayed deep. Now listen as we notice the testimony of the Spirit of God concerning a weakness in both of these young men:
Letters came to me from some attending the Healdsburg College in regard to Brother ───’s teachings in regard to the two laws. I wrote immediately protesting against their doing contrary to the light which God had given us in regard to all differences of opinion, and I heard nothing in response to the letter. It may never have reached you. – Counsels to Writers and Editors, pg. 75
Remember, this is addressed to Waggoner and Jones.
If you, my brethren, had the experience that my husband and myself have had in regard to these known differences being published in articles in our papers, you would never have pursued the course you have, either in your ideas advanced before our students at the college, neither would it have appeared in the Signs. – Ibid
Do you see what was happening? Certain things were being advocated in the Bible classes at Healdsburg and were being echoed in the columns of the “Signs of the Times” which were contrary to what was being taught in the church headquarters at Battle Creek; both in the college and in the Review. Sister White is writing from Europe to these young ministers, appealing to them not to do that.
“Especially at this time should everything like differences be repressed.” – Ibid
I want to appeal to every heart [reading these studies]. I trust that no one shall anoint himself with that kind of oil which makes water roll off a duck’s back. I know that there are things that can be said to make of none effect all that I am reading here. I plead that we shall not take the precious things that God has given us through the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and use them as a shield to keep from our hearts the straight work of the Holy Spirit in understanding the basic problem.
–The Basic Problem–
The basic problem is whether self will be put away and whether we will learn the lesson of unity – unity with God and unity with His people. If I didn’t think that what we are studying is present truth for 2018, I wouldn’t be spending so much time on it. Remember, that these are the very men whom the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through. Was the Lord using them? Yes. Did He use them year after year? Yes. But did they need correction? Did they need to learn to tone down? Did they need to learn to avoid some things that would cause division and controversy and conflict? That’s the thing I want you to see in testimony after testimony.
Even if you are fully convinced that your ideas of doctrine are sound, you do not show wisdom that that difference should be made apparent. I have no hesitancy in saying you have made a mistake here. You have departed from the positive directions God has given upon this matter, and only harm will be the result. This is not in God’s order. – Ibid
Now watch the next point. Oh, that this might sink down deep into our hearts.
You have now set the example for others to do as you have done, to feel at liberty to put in their various ideas and theories and bring them before the public, because you have done this. This will bring in a state of things that you have not dreamed of. – Ibid
Are there people today who think they have the right and liberty to speak anything they want, and mimeograph anything they want, and even print anything they want, no matter how much division and controversy it causes? Do they try to quote the Testimonies in support of that?
Here is a testimony they do not quote. And remember, it was addressed to men (and there are no men like them in the world today) who had the approval and support of a living prophet, guided by inspiration from the sky. And yet those men with a message from Heaven, and counseled by a prophet from Heaven, were still told, Brethren there are some things that you are talking about and printing and publishing that are causing division, and you shouldn’t do it.
It is no small matter for you to come out in the Signs as you have done, and God has plainly revealed that such things should not be done. We must keep before the world a united front. Satan will triumph to see differences among Seventh-day Adventists. – Ibid, pg. 76
I want to ask you: Have there been things printed and circulated that have been taken up in the outside religious press and brought reproach upon the Seventh-day Adventist work? Yes. That’s a sad truth, all because this counsel has not been followed, and because men have felt free to publish whatever they thought should be published no matter what controversy and division it brought out for the world to notice.
Sister White calls attention to the fact that the great Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther and the other reformers was greatly retarded by making prominent the differences on some points of faith, and each party holding tenaciously to those things where they differed.
We shall see eye to eye erelong, but to become firm and consider it your duty to present your views in decided opposition to the faith or truth as it has been taught by us as a people, is a mistake, and will result in harm, and only harm, as in the days of Martin Luther. Begin to draw apart and feel at liberty to express your ideas without reference to the views of your brethren, and a state of things will be introduced that you do not dream of. – Ibid
Then she speaks of how James White, who had been the leader of this people, president of the General Conference time and again, had some ideas on some points differing from the view taken by his brethren. Sister White said:
“I was shown that however true his views were, God did not call for him to put them in front before his brethren and create differences of ideas.” – Ibid
What a statement. If even James White, the acknowledged leader of the denomination, had to keep some things on the side that he personally believed that would make division between he and his brethren, how ought people today to be careful about some things.
Sister White continues on page 77:
There are peculiar minds that love to get some point that others do not accept…. – ibid
Twice I have been shown that everything of a character to cause our brethren to be diverted from the very points now essential for this time, should be kept in the background. Christ did not reveal many things that were truth, because it would create a difference of opinion and get up disputations, but young men who have not passed through this experience we have had, would as soon have a brush as not. Nothing would suit them better than a sharp discussion…. Too late in the day, brethren, too late in the day…. The poor people become confused…. – Ibid
I think that’s all I shall read from that testimony, although that’s only a very small part of it. But that will give you an idea of the warnings that came to those men. We have already noted how, in the conference of 1888, Sister White took her stand strongly by the side of these men, endorsed the great effort to lift up Jesus and His righteousness, and rebuke the opposition. I should also point out that, right at that meeting, she had to rebuke Elder Jones because of his attitude toward Elder Smith. As we look back, it seems very unfortunate that some things were stressed and allowed to become issues to divide.
No one knows how much more might have been accomplished in 1888 and afterward if Jones and Waggoner had seen the simplicity of lifting up Christ and His righteousness, and about some of these other things that there was such division on, and had said, “We’re not going to press certain views. Let’s all come together and unite on the great thought of Jesus and His righteousness.” That would have done two things: It would have removed the stumbling block out of the way of some, and it would have made it possible for God to bless Jones and Waggoner in a still greater way, and to vindicate them in a still greater way.
In 1893, Sister White was in Australia, and she sent to A.T. Jones a testimony. Notice the danger that she points out of exaggeration – the danger of expressing things in such a strong way that his teaching would be misunderstood. This is four and a half years after the Minneapolis meeting:
Brother A.T. Jones: I was attending a meeting and a large congregation were present. In my dream you were presenting the subject of faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. You repeated several times that works amounted to nothing, that there were no conditions. The matter was presented in that light that I knew minds would be confused, and would not receive the correct impression in reference to faith and works, and I decided to write to you. You state this matter too strongly. – Selected Messages, Book 1, pg. 377
Here was a clear warning from the servant of God to Jones to “tone down” a bit. In his effort to magnify faith, he was belittling works. She said souls are going to get a wrong impression. This whole chapter will bear careful study, and you will note the balanced counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy on the matter of faith and works, and the warning to Jones not to lean so far on the side of faith that he minimized works…
Please share these warning truths with at least 5 persons you love, who may not be familiar with these solemn events of the past; while the hours of probation are still open…
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.