In the final parts to our survey on the educational work among us as Seventh-day Adventist, we will look at more factors that contributed to the crisis in Battle Creek. To understand the history of our Advent Movement, we encourage you to read through our past studies (-click here-). Maranatha!
Number 6 – Industries in Education
Notice how this (having industries) would have been a barrier against many of the problems experienced during the educational Crisis in Battle Creek (1881 – 1882).
It would be well if there could be connected with our college, land for cultivation and also workshops under the charge of men competent to instruct the students in the various departments of physical labor. Much is lost by a neglect to unite physical with mental taxation. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, pg. 23
Then she goes ahead and shows the results in worldly amusements, in sensual indulgence, the untimely excitement of courtship and marriage. Those worldly things come from neglecting the industries. I am thankful for the divine program of education which includes the practical along with the intellectual and spiritual. Aren’t you? … What a privilege it is to have a part with the muscles as well as the mind. I praise God for these practical instructions.
Number 7 – Association and Courtship in School
Page 23 shows that as a result of not uniting the physical with the mental, the leisure hours of the students tend to frivolous pleasures. Now on page 60:
The college was to build a barrier against the immorality of the present age, which makes the world as corrupt as in the days of Noah. The young are bewitched with the mania for courtship and marriage. Lovesick sentimentalism prevails. Great vigilance and tact are needed to guard the youth from these wrong influences. – Ibid., pg. 60
Then Sister White speaks about many parents being blind. Some of the parents in Battle Creek had told her that they knew their young people didn’t do anything like that, yet Sister White knew from vision that some of those very young people were secretly giving and receiving attentions.
Turn now to pages 109-110. I will show you what the standards were in Battle Creek before McLaren came along. Battle Creek even then had its weaknesses and faults because of its location on the edge of a town instead of out in the country, but there were some pretty strict principles. If you want the date of this, you will find it at the bottom of page 113, and you will see it’s September, 1879. This was under Brownsburger. It is a personal testimony written to a young man who was thinking of going to Battle Creek as a student.
I do not wish to have you disappointed in regard to Battle Creek. The rules are strict there. No courting is allowed. The school would be worth nothing to students were they to become entangled in love affairs as you have been. Our college would soon be demoralized. – Ibid., pg. 109
So when McLaren came, along with letting down the standard on many other things, there was evidently a letting down on this point.
Number 8 – The Bible in Education
God has declared His purpose to have one college in the land where the Bible shall have its proper place in the education of the youth. Will we do our part to carry out that purpose? – Ibid., pg. 26
One of the great weaknesses of McLaren was in emphasizing worldly classics and playing down the religious influence. Notice on page 24 that nearly the whole page is given to the Bible as a textbook in our schools.
Number 9 – The Length of Courses
According to the Spirit of Prophecy, how long were our young people to be tied up in getting a preparation? Let’s see what is written here. And I shall not attempt in this class to argue the point of how much or how little this applies today. We’re getting a historical setting for these Testimonies. But I think it would be well for you to pray about the matter and see what else you can find in the Lord’s instructions on this point.
Some who came at great expense, with the ministry in view, have been encouraged by the teachers to take a thorough course of study which would occupy a number of years, and, in order to obtain means to carry out these plans, have entered the canvassing field and given up all thought of preaching. This is entirely wrong. We have not many years to work. – Ibid., pg. 22
Interesting. Back there, they didn’t have very long to work. That was to have a bearing on the method of preparation.
There is an urgent demand for laborers in the gospel field. Young men who design to enter the ministry cannot spend a number of years in obtaining an education…. Special advantages should have been given them for a brief yet comprehensive study of the branches most needed to fit them for their work. – Ibid., pg. 27
I want to make clear that I am not attempting to apply these to the present situation. There are many arguments, pro and con, on this matter today. I am just giving the setting of the crisis there in Battle Creek.
The Lord has repeatedly shown that we should not pattern after the popular schools. Ministers of other denominations spend years in obtaining an education. Our young men must obtain theirs in a short time. – Ibid., pg. 61
Number 10 – Parental Discipline
You remember that the leading brother that’s addressed in these chapters Important Testimony and Testimony Slighted was weak in his home discipline. His children and wife influenced him. He was more like Aaron and Eli; he was not like Moses. And that lay at the foundation of the many problems in Battle Creek and in the college at that time. Parents were allowing their children to influence them instead of the other way around.
There has been, with many parents, a fearful neglect of duty. Like Eli, they fail to exercise proper restraint; and then they send their undisciplined children to college to receive the training which the parents should have given them at home. – Ibid., pg. 29
Study page 37. It shows how that, in some of the homes, the children criticized the teachers. Instead of silencing the first approach of that kind, the parents thought just what the children thought, and listened to their criticisms of the school and its teachers. As a result, the children were confirmed in their disobedient, rebellious attitude.
On page 51, it speaks of parents who manifest the most bitter opposition when their children are restrained, reproved, or corrected at school. Getting these things together, you begin to get a picture of the whole trend there in Battle Creek at that time. Keep in mind that all these people were Seventh-day Adventists in good and regular standing. A number of them were high in the church. They were all coming along to Sabbath School and church, you understand. But these were the problems.
Number 11 – Criticism of Those Who Uphold the Standards
This centered upon Professor Bell and others who stood with him. Who was behind this criticism?
This unfeeling criticism of one another is wholly satanic. – Ibid., pg. 35
Page 53 again gives warning against the sad course that had been pursued toward Brother Bell in criticizing him because he held up the standards. Keep in mind, he had his faults, his weaknesses. He was harsh sometimes when he should have been kind. Nevertheless, he was standing for what? For principle. God appreciated it.
Number 12 – Honor to Human Beings
We already read that extract about Longfellow. But right there, they were giving honor to McLaren and those associated with them. At the same time, they were hounding and hunting Bell in every critical way.
Many of you are seeking honor of one another. – Ibid., pg. 48
On page 75 is a very important statement. I wish you would notice it now because it’s a key reference. It’s one of the great symptoms of the disease that afflicted Battle Creek at that time. It’s a checkpoint to note as you examine your own heart today.
Our people are making very dangerous mistakes. We cannot praise and flatter any man without doing him a great wrong; those who do this will meet with serious disappointment…. The eager desire to urge men into public notice is an evidence of backsliding from God and of friendship with the world. – Ibid., pg. 75
Think of it friends. The eager desire to urge men into public notice – praise and love men. It’s a symptom of a disease.
There is among us as a people an idolatry of human instrumentalities and mere human talent, and these even of a superficial character…. I have been shown that the spirit of the world is fast leavening the church. – Ibid
Was God pleased with the exaltation of human talents? No. He was sad and grieved.
Number 13 – Unbelief of the Testimonies
This is the basic problem in all the other twelve. The professed Sabbath-keepers who were joining hands with the world:
They dared not take a bold stand and say they did not believe the testimonies; but, while nominally believing both, they have obeyed neither. – Ibid., pg. 52
So they pretended to believe the Testimonies, but did they really? The prophet said they didn’t:
“Many of our younger ministers, and some of more mature experience, are neglecting the word of God and also despising the testimonies of His Spirit.” – Ibid., pg. 61
This is talking about conditions in 1882.
They do not know what the testimonies contain and do not wish to know…. They show their contempt for the light which God has given, by going directly contrary to His instructions. Those at the heart of the work have set the example. – Ibid
Now remember, this is the testimony that was written to this leading brother in Battle Creek who was head of the Bible department in the college, leading officer in the church, and in the General Conference. He took it and laid it aside for a number of weeks.
I have been shown that unbelief in the testimonies has been steadily increasing as the people backslide from God. It is all through our ranks, all over the field. – Ibid., pg. 76
What two things go together? Unbelief in the Testimonies and backsliding.
Again, I want to note that this is talking about 1882. Only the Master knows how much or how little it applies today, but unbelief in the Testimonies was basic to all these other problems.
If they had listened to the Testimonies, would they have been uniting with the world? Would they have had the worldly amusements? No.
Would they have made the Bible the basis of education? Would they have had an industrial training program? Would they have gotten away from the worldly literature, the worldly program of education? And would there have been parental discipline, and holding up the hands of the teachers who were trying to hold up the standards? Yes.
All of it would have followed if they had believed the Testimonies and carried them out. But even among some leaders, there was a spirit to lay the Testimonies aside and proceed with their own human wisdom and that of the teachers, the leader of which they had called in from the world, Professor McLaren.
With these before us, let’s turn to page 62. We’ve noted the one called Important Testimony written in March and sent to the leading officer of the Battle Creek church with the instruction that it should be read to the church. It was not for some time. Sister White followed this up with a letter from Healdsburg in June of 1882.
Dear Brethren and Sisters in Battle Creek: I understand that the testimony which I sent to Brother ───, with the request that it be read to the church, was withheld from you for several weeks after it was received by him. – Ibid., pg. 62
As you study this chapter (and I want you to read every paragraph of it), note the process of reasoning by which this man and other men arrived at the point where they could set that previous letter from Sister White aside. They did it on the basis that, while they believed Sister White was a prophet, they believed that in this particular letter she was merely giving her own opinion. That’s a very interesting philosophy. The strange thing is, that idea has not altogether died out.
Sister White puts her finger on the reason why they came to those conclusions. A testimony had come contrary to their human judgment, and it would have meant an admission of failure on their part when they didn’t think they had failed at all. It meant, in other words, to take what the testimony said instead of their own opinion. That’s quite a thing to ask a man to do. If you think a blackboard is black and somebody tells you it’s white, it’s going to be pretty hard for you to accept what they say. My point is, to them it was just as simple as that. The blackboard is black and we can see it. We are here on the ground, and dear Sister White is way off there in Colorado or California, and probably some people have written to her, and she doesn’t know all that’s going on. We know some things she doesn’t know. Do you see the picture?
Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. – Ibid., pg. 64
Did Sister White meet the issue head on? Absolutely. Just as 20 years later she met it in the Kellogg apostasy. She had a dream of meeting an iceberg, so she met it. So also she met this issue. On page after page, she tells this dear man and others associated with him in Battle Creek that she is either being led of the Lord or she isn’t. If her work is of God, then they’re insulting the Spirit of God in their attitude.
I was interested in the Oakland printing of this. On page 46, it says:
In rejecting this testimony, Elder ───, you have virtually rejected all the testimonies. This testimony bears the same evidence of its character that all others have borne for the last thirty-six years. But it condemns certain wrongs which you have committed and which God condemns. The reason you cannot see it is because you have been cherishing feelings wholly opposed to the Spirit of God. Elder ───, I was more grieved than I can express to find you again working on the side of the enemy. You will find quite a number who will strengthen you in your position. The leaven is working. You pronounce my work human, not actuated by the Spirit of God. On this point you have had great light; for this you are responsible. If God has ever wrought by me, He has wrought by me and through me for the last few months.
In rejecting the preceding testimony, he had virtually rejected all the Testimonies. That brings me to an important principle. Sooner or later, almost every one of us comes to some point in reading the Spirit of Prophecy that’s contrary to our human reason and judgment. Right then is when we find out whether we believe it or not. As long as what we read is something we can see, we say, “Yes, that’s good; I can see that.” But when we come to something and we say, “My, can that be so? It doesn’t look so to me,” then we are tested.
When we can get down on our knees and say, “Blessed Lord, I believe You’re speaking to me in these books, and I’m going to accept it whether I can see it or not,” that’s faith. That’s what that dear man needed. That’s what many in Battle Creek needed. I wonder if we need it today.
On page 66, Sister White calls this attitude drifting away from the old landmarks. On page 67, note carefully that she says that she doesn’t write one article in the paper expressing merely her own ideas.
They are what God has opened before me in vision – the precious rays of light shining from the throne.
In the preceding line, she applies it to the letters she writes and to the testimonies she bears. So it isn’t just the published books that are called Testimonies, but they include the personal testimonies she wrote, the articles she wrote to the Review.
She raises an important question on page 68:
What voice will you acknowledge as the voice of God? What power has the Lord in reserve to correct your errors and show you your course as it is?
The implication here is that if they rejected the Spirit of God in the Spirit of Prophecy, there was no further avenue through which God could reach them. In other words, those who continued in that course would eventually commit the unpardonable sin. That’s what’s going to happen among this people. Our people, individually, will either accept the Spirit of Prophecy and become fully fitted for heaven, or they will gradually neglect it and reject it until they finally commit the unpardonable sin.
I urge you to give this whole chapter on the “Testimonies Slighted” very careful study, and read ahead these next few pages so you will be prepared to see what is yet to happen based upon the experience back there in Battle Creek 80 years ago.
Our dear Father in Heaven, we are so thankful for the Spirit of Prophecy, the testimony of Jesus. We are so thankful that it has led this people, this movement, this church through crisis after crisis, and that eventually the noble ship bearing the people of God will sail safely into port. Oh, we pray that we shall be among those that are on board, not those who are swept overboard. We pray that thou wilt help us build a faith in the Spirit of Prophecy which is childlike in its simplicity. And may our lives show that we not only listen, but obey. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.