The Advent Movement | Survey 17, Part 2

Welcome back to the Advent Movement Survey class! Today, we will be continuing our review of the history of medical missionary evangelism. In case you missed part one of this study, click here to review; or, to gain a better understanding of our Advent Movement history from the beginning, please click here! Also, don’t forget to share these wonderful, historic truths with those that you know! Maranatha!


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At the General Conference in 1897, Sister White sent the message of reform in regard to the physical structure; and very open and plainly stated that many in the church and ministry were opposing and ridiculing and criticizing the health reform. Instead of doing that, she said they ought to work together to instruct the people in physiology and in obedience to health reform from a moral standpoint. All that is there in the testimony. Thank the Lord, some heeded that counsel; others, of course, did not.

There is this thing about light, dear friends. If it’s walked in, it brings blessings; but if it’s walked on, it brings a curse. When people hear a message, like we read in our last study, they can never be the same again. They either accept it, or they reject or ignore or postpone obedience to it.

The light which God has given upon health reform cannot be trifled with without injury to those who attempt it; and no man can hope to succeed in the work of God while, by precept and example, he acts in opposition to the light which God has sent…. He who disregards the light which God has given in regard to the preservation of health, revolts against his own good and refuses to obey the One who is working for his best good. – Counsels on Health, pg. 562

Two years later, another General Conference session was held at South Lancaster, Massachusetts. Again, from far off Australia, came some testimonies just in time to be read at the General Conference. This time, they were read by the president of the General Conference, Elder G.A. Irwin. On the morning of March 1, 1899, Elder Irwin stood before the delegates who were expecting a resumption of the business
proceedings – it was a regular business session.

He said, “Some communications for the conference came in the mail from Australia this morning. Shall they now be read?” The delegates said, “Certainly.” So the president began to read. It must have been a wonderful thing to sit in a session and think, ‘Here is a message that has come just in time.’ You remember what the message had been two years before. Now listen:

“We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Prophecies are fulfilling. The last great conflict will be short, but terrible. Old controversies will be revived. New controversies will arise.” – General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 2, 1899

Then came warnings against making a confederacy with the world:

No line of our faith that has made us what we are is to be weakened…. As new enterprises are entered upon, there is a tendency to make one line all-absorbing; that which should have the first place becomes a secondary consideration. – Ibid

Then Sister White spoke of the large number of workers who were being absorbed in the great interest of the work for the poor and the outcast classes, the uplifting of the fallen and degraded:

There is danger of loading down everyone with this class of work, because of the intensity with which it is carried on…. We are not to strain every spiritual sinew and nerve to work for the lowest classes, and make that work the all in all. There are others whom we must bring to the Master. – Ibid

She is pointing with cautions in 1899 over on the medical side. Two years before, she appealed to the ministry to come into line on the health reform and the medical missionary work. Now she was sending a message straight on the point of not allowing the work for the poor and the needy and the sick to displace evangelistic work. She stated that, as the right arm is to the body, so the medical missionary work is to the message. And she said:

The right arm is not to become the whole body…. The Lord’s people are to be one. There is to be no separation in His work.… Satan will invent every possible scheme to separate those whom God is seeking to make one. We must not be misled by his devices…. The education of students in medical missionary lines is not complete unless they are trained to work in connection with the church and the ministry…. The medical missionary work is not to take men from the ministry, but to place them in the field. Young men who have received an education in medical missionary lines … should be encouraged to speak, not only on these special lines, but also upon the points of present truth, giving the reasons why we are Seventh-day Adventists…. There must be no belittling of the gospel ministry. No enterprise should be so conducted as to cause the ministry of the Word to be looked upon as an inferior matter. It is not so. Those who ignore the ministry are ignoring Christ. – Ibid

Knowing human nature as we all know it, do you suppose there were those in 1897 who were very enthusiastic about the message because they were already interested in health reform and medical missionary work? And do you suppose that there were some in 1899 who, when this message came, took it as a vindication of their lack of interest in health reform and medical missionary work? It was the great sorrow of Sis. White’s heart that whenever she reproved one camp, the other took it to excuse their attitude. That went on, back and forth, over a period of years. Oh, I pray that God will keep us from falling into that snare.

If, in 1897, those who had been reproved for their attitude against health reform and their failure to encourage medical missionary work had accepted that reproof, how beautifully it could have been fitted together. In 1899, if those who were carrying the burden of the medical missionary work had been willing to accept the cautions and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy and quit their criticism of the ministry, and quit their unbalanced emphasis on some phases of the work for the down and out, if they had been willing to link up with the ministry and not criticize them, what wonderful things could have been accomplished. But in each case, we have to say: It could have been; it might have been.

In each case, I wouldn’t leave the impression that nothing was done. We know that there were those in 1897 who accepted the message. We know that these counsels that Sister White was giving in the 1890s and the early 1900s made some impression upon some in the medical missionary lines. But in both cases, what was done was too little and too late to stop the schism that was developing.

With that background before us, I would like you to open Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6. Do you know when Volume 6 was first published? In 1900, just one year after this General Conference message that we’ve just read. Keep in mind that at the time this was written and published, Dr. Kellogg was the leader of the medical missionary work of this denomination. He was high in the counsels of this denomination. I don’t suppose that he or anybody else had any idea at this time that there would be the separation which came six or seven years later. But God knew it; and God was seeking to prevent that; and if it couldn’t be prevented, to prepare our people for it. Just as with ancient Israel, He gave warning after warning, vision after vision, and counsel after counsel to try to avert the disaster; and if it couldn’t be averted, to salvage as much as possible.

One other thing I should say. In the 1890s, our work was not organized as it is today with the different departments of the general union and local conference. There were no union conferences. The General Conference had the supervision of all the conferences. The different departments were organized, each one separately. There was a Sabbath School Association that had all the Sabbath School work, but it was an association of itself. The publishing work was organized in and of itself. There was an educational association. There was a foreign mission board. There was a religious liberty association. There was a medical missionary association.

Each one of these had its own, more or less, independent existence. They were bound together by the fact that the membership was, more or less, interchangeable. But as far as their actual organization is concerned, each one was, more or less, separate. Of course, such an organization made it possible for Dr. Kellogg to think in terms of a very independent work. The more the ministers and the church in general criticized his work, and ridiculed health reform, and didn’t go along with the medical missionary work for the poor, the more it strengthened in his mind the idea to make the medical missionary work strong in an organized way, whether the church went along with it or not.

You know enough about medical work to know that it has resources for making itself independent. It has ways of getting money. It has ways of getting favor with the world. It has much that’s appealing, both in the church and in the world. Remember that, in 1900, Dr. Kellogg was the recognized leader of the medical missionary work of the denomination, but organized as I have said.

Let’s notice a few expressions in these earlier chapters, beginning on page 219. The name of the chapter is “God’s Design in our Sanitariums.” What does design mean? His purpose, His plan. Every institution established by Seventh-day Adventists is to be to the world what Joseph was in Egypt and what Daniel and his fellows were in Babylon. Sister White traces the history of those representatives of His. Through this chapter, she traces the story of the development of the health reform and medical missionary work among us.

Then on page 227, she likens this medical missionary work to Ezekiel’s river, bringing healing to all. Coming over to page 233, I want you to notice a very important statement near the bottom of the page. This chapter is on the physician’s work for souls. Who would especially be expected to read this chapter? The physicians. And who of all the physicians? Dr. Kellogg, as the leader of it. Of course, it was written for everyone, but this chapter was especially on physicians.

Now notice the warning. After speaking of the opportunities of the physician, Sister White says:

“As he thus instructs the people in the principles of true temperance, and as a guardian of souls gives advice to those who are mentally and physically diseased, the physician is acting his part in the great work of making ready a people prepared for the Lord. This is what medical missionary work is to accomplish in its relation to the third angel’s message.” – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pg. 233

As you read that, you will want to think of the fact that, under Dr. Kellogg’s leadership, a medical missionary college had been started to train doctors in medical missionary service in our Battle Creek Sanitarium and our other sanitariums, and to start new institutions in the home and foreign field. But by this time, Dr. Kellogg had come more and more to think of that work as nonsectarian. He was perfectly willing to take in students who were not Adventists, and who had no intention of being Adventists, providing they would put their lives into humanitarian service. He was glad to cooperate with the city mission work of other denominations, and people of no denomination, as long as they were interested in helping the helpless, and all unite in the gospel idea of the Good Samaritan service. But here is this warning – this counsel – that the physician is to act his part in making ready a people prepared for the Lord.


As we know, and will continue to find out – there is a major difference between a “good” work,

and God’s finishing work! May the Lord help us to understand this difference, and its significance.

-Continue on to the next study-

* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.

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