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The Advent Movement | Survey 10, Part 2

In this class, we will continue our study on the 1888 General Conference. As we shall see, Sister White was careful to show that she appreciated the message and the work of Jones and Waggoner (to read part one of this study, click here).

 

                                         –The Message Rejected–

In the book Testimonies to Ministers, page 91, we will find a message she wrote in 1895. This is seven years after the Minneapolis meeting:

“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.” – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 91 

You’d think that would settle a lot of things, wouldn’t you? You’d think it would have settled many things back there. But you remember in the last three lessons that we’ve had, that only a few years before this, in Battle Creek, there had been a crisis in our educational work. And you will remember that certain leaders had taken the position that when Sister White championed Bell in that college crisis, she was merely giving her own opinion. And they did not accept it as a testimony. I am sorry to tell you that some of the same people who were on the wrong side in 1881 and 1882, were on the wrong side in 1888 and thereafter.

And I think it’s more than a coincidence, my friends. I think the failure to accept fully the light that came in 1881 and 1882 prepared the way for the rejection of God’s message, by some, as it came in 1888. That is one of the reasons why I studied with you in the last three lessons, as much as we did, and why I want to urge you to keep studying those first 100 pages in Volume 5. If the first 100 pages in volume 5 had been different, I mean if the things they described had been different, I am of the opinion that we could have come up as a people to the 1888 message and received it wholeheartedly and unitedly, and probably been in the kingdom before now.

But now, coming back to this statement in Testimonies to Ministers:

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. – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 91

Thus did the Lord’s messenger take her stand in a strong way, by the side of these two men. And you notice that she takes this message that they were presenting, of righteousness by faith, and says that this is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message. The interesting thing is that those who opposed the message at Minneapolis and thereafter, very seldom said anything that sounded like they didn’t believe that a man is justified by faith. Rather, they took this position, and they were doubtless good men that did it, in the first place, they said these men are talking about this subject as though it were something new and wonderful. Seventh-day Adventists have always believed in righteousness by faith. That was part of the rebuttal. The other part was this. They feared that so much emphasis on righteousness by faith would lead away from interest in the specific doctrines of this message, such as the Sabbath and the binding claims of the law.

They felt (and I am sure some of them were sincere) that to make good Seventh-day Adventists, you had to preach the second coming, the non-immortality of the soul, the seventh-day Sabbath, the binding claims of the law. And you do, don’t you? Yes. And so there was controversy back and forth there at Minneapolis, public and private. And that went on day after day.

Sad to say, there were sometimes outbursts of a spirit on both sides that didn’t show the spirit of Jesus. Sister White, in vision, heard workers and ministers talking in their rooms and ridiculing Jones and Waggoner, and even talking against Sister White because she was trying to encourage the people to listen to their presentation. That went on right there at the conference, right in the rooms where people were staying, and the prophet of God heard it all in vision.

But on the other hand, Jones sometimes engaged in remarks that were not helpful. For example, Spaulding tells here of an experience that happened here at this General Conference, where Uriah Smith was speaking on the ten horns, and Jones answered him. Spaulding says:

“Jones was aggressive and at times obstreperous, and he gave just cause for resentment. Yet most of his hearers could forgive occasional crudities in view of his evident sincerity and his forceful presentation.

Not so with some of the older ministers. Uriah Smith was a modest man, unobtrusive, retiring. He always preferred an obscure seat to the limelight, yet his ability had kept him in the front ranks of the church’s theologians, and his lovable qualities made him friends from high to low.” – Arthur Spaulding, Captains of the Host

In the appendix, Spaulding tells of an experience, and this is a sad experience. But I want to bring it in to show you, friends, that the faults in this way of criticism and human attitudes were not all on one side. Page 690, Spaulding is quoting from a minister who was present at the convention, the conference:

“Elders Uriah Smith and A. T. Jones were discussing some features in connection with the ten kingdoms into which Western Rome was divided. One day Elder Smith, in his characteristic modesty stated that he did not claim originality for the view he held on the subject, that he had taken statements from such men as Clark, Barnes, Scott, and other men, and drawn his conclusions from such authorities.

In opening his reply, Elder Jones in his characteristic style began by saying, ‘Elder Smith has told you that he does not know anything about this matter. I do, and I don’t want you to blame me for what he does not know.’

This rash statement called forth an open rebuke from Sister White who was present in the meeting.” – Arthur Spaulding, Captains of the Host, pg. 690

I bring that in to show two very important things. One is that although Sister White endorsed the great message that Jones and Waggoner were giving on righteousness by faith, she was free to rebuke Jones for not showing the spirit of the Master on this particular occasion. And thus, you will see from that, that just because (and this is so important) just because Sister White encouraged Jones and Waggoner, and rebuked those who criticized them and fought them, that doesn’t mean that every word they ever said, and everything they ever wrote, should be cherished as pearls of truth. It doesn’t mean anything of the kind, my friends. In fact, right at the Minneapolis meeting, Sister White publicly told the delegates that she was not convinced on everything that Waggoner taught at that conference. She said that. We have her writing on it. But she did endorse and sponsor the strong emphasis on righteousness by faith. However, Jones’ presentation on this, sometimes called for earnest remonstrance from her.

In the book, Selected Messages, Book 1, page 377, I want you to give earnest study to this chapter. As you will note it’s written from New Zealand in 1893, five years after the Minneapolis meeting. This is running ahead of our story a little just now, but I want you to get this, because it bears upon the Minneapolis meeting itself. The point we are making is that while Sister White encouraged these men and endorsed their great message on righteousness by faith, she didn’t endorse everything they said or the way they said it. This, you will notice, is addressed to 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

Then, if it were possible for us to gather up everything that Jones said and wrote on this subject, would we have an infallible presentation of it? Why, no. If we had the sermon he preached that day we would have something where the messenger of the Lord said he stated something what? Too strongly on this matter of faith and works. Now, another point that I want to raise is this; and this should give us all courage. God uses men that are willing to be used, even though sometimes they may state some things too strongly, and may be crude and even rude, as Jones was, on occasion. That should encourage us all to do the best we can to speak for Jesus and help others to know Him. Is that right?

But, oh, friends, it should also help us to realize that God wants us to improve. And if He blesses us as He blessed those men, if He should pour out His Spirit in such a wonderful way as He did there, ah, if we should take it in any measure, as endorsing our crudeness and rudeness and our stating things too strongly, we would only be getting ready to make shipwreck of things.

Another point that I want to give, and here again I am running ahead of my story, but you need it for the setting. Do you know that both Jones and Waggoner died outside the Seventh-day Adventist church? Isn’t that a sad thing? As early as 1892, when they were in the height of their work, Sister White said that these men might fall somewhere along the line, and that if they did, that opponents would try to make capital of it, but that it would in no wise prove that their message was wrong. But nevertheless, they both made shipwreck of faith.

Friends, as I have studied the lives of these two men, Jones and Waggoner, I have thought of this lesson that should come to all of us. We must not only go as far as they went, but we must go farther. We must succeed where they failed. We must learn the lessons that they failed to learn. God help us to do it, what do you say?

That’s one of the great reasons I am studying this subject with you in this class, that we may discern something of the road over which they traveled. Because remember:

“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 of Ellen G. White, pg. 196

 

–God’s Purposes–

Very well, now, going back to this in Testimonies to Ministers. I called your attention to this wonderful statement which is a fine summing up of the message of righteousness by faith as it was presented in 1888 there on pages 91 and 92. Who was it that gave that message through Jones and Waggoner? God was giving it. That doesn’t mean they were infallible. I have gone over the points that prove they weren’t infallible. They were poor, weak men.

They lacked, particularly Jones, in being always courteous. Waggoner was more educated, cultured, and nicer in his manner, but Jones gave offense at time. Yet God was using him. God rebuked the men who opposed and criticized Jones and Waggoner, and yet He took pains to try to correct Jones and Waggoner, too.

Now, notice as stated on page 92, one of the great reasons that God permitted this light to come in 1888 at Minneapolis, and what God intended to bring it into, in this movement. In the next paragraph there in the middle of 92, it pictures beautifully the uplifted Saviour as the
Lamb slain, sitting upon His throne to dispense the priceless covenant blessings. It presents Christ pleading for His church in the heavenly courts above. And then the closing sentence
says:

The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ. – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 92

What is implied in this statement? Apparently in that time before 1888, at least the time immediately preceding, the world had been saying that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, and the law, and do not teach or believe Christ, hadn’t they? Must have been. And would you gather from this, that the prophet of God thought that there had been some cause for them to talk that way? Yes. But was something being sent from God to change that situation?

That was the message of righteousness by faith brought by Jones and Waggoner. And yet, against those men and their message was rallied strong opposition because they were afraid that the law was going to be knocked out of place by this new teaching or this new emphasis. But this says:

The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ. – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 92

Another phase of this, that we may appreciate the conference of 1888, you will find in this book, Selected Messages, book 1, beginning on page 350. I bring this in to establish this point that the great thing which brought our people to give new emphasis to this subject was the messages that came through the Spirit of Prophecy preceding 1888. This is a good sample of it. This, you see, is the subject presented in what year? 1883 and this is five years before that. This is the message that Sister White, herself, gave to all the ministers at the General Conference in 1883. And I want you to study this little chapter. It’s not long. It’s a morning talk she gave at an early morning meeting and it is one of the most beautiful messages on righteousness by faith that I have ever read anywhere. And remember, it’s five years before the Minneapolis meeting.

We need to be thoroughly disabused of the idea, some of our critics push it pretty hard, that Seventh-day Adventists went along for over forty years without knowing anything about righteousness by faith. Don’t let anybody tell you that. At least don’t believe it. And this chapter will help you see that God left His people precious messages on this point all along.

The sad thing is that few received them and appreciated them as they should, but the message was there all the while. Now, another thing that I want to present in this opening study, you will find over here in Book 2 of Selected Messages, page 225. It is a sad thing to record that such leaders as Elder George I. Butler, who had been president of the General Conference, Elder Uriah Smith, who was the editor of the Review and one of our leading workers, and others, opposed Jones and Waggoner, and for a time stood on the wrong side of this. Spaulding has brought it right out in the open in this book, Captains of the Host, so it is no secret. But I want you to notice this
beautiful statement of Sister White’s, written in 1902:

Online Bible School“I feel very tender toward Elder Smith. My life interest in the publishing work is bound up with his. … How I rejoice as I read his articles in the Review – so excellent, so full of spiritual truth. I thank God for them. I feel a strong sympathy for Elder Smith, and I believe that his name should always appear in the Review as the name of the leading editor. Thus God would have it.

When, some years ago, his name was placed second, I felt hurt.” – Selected Messages, Book 2, pg. 225

In 1897, A. T. Jones was put in as the leading editor of the Review. Sister White was over in Australia at the time.

When it was again placed first, I wept, and said, ‘Thank God’. Selected Messages, Book 2, pg. 225

So, you can see that Sister White, you might say, as a dear mother, was trying to put her hands on all the different people in the different elements, and draw them together into unity, rather than encouraging taking sides and fighting and opposing. I thank the Lord that Uriah
Smith, during the 1890s got a different attitude on the matter, and a number of the men who opposed the message in 1888, made earnest and heartfelt confessions, but of that we shall learn more in future lessons.

I want you to read carefully the chapters from which we have read excerpts t – in Selected Messages, Book 1 and this one in Testimonies to Ministers. If you have the book Christ our Righteousness by Elder A. T. Daniels, it would be well for you, especially any of you that have extra time and that can read a little faster, to begin right at the beginning of that little book and read right though it. It will be well worth your time in connection with the study of this subject. If you have Spaulding’s book, read the chapter on “The Lord Our Saviour”.

Our Father, as we look back on that meeting in Minneapolis, oh we pray that Thou wilt help us to discern the issues of the present as a few discerned the issues back there. Keep us, Lord, from becoming debaters, argumentative. Keep us from judging the Spirit of God. Make us willing to accept truth through whatever channels Thou mayest choose to send it. Help us not to become bigoted, if God blesses us a little. In all these experiences give us the great yearning, longing of Jesus for a united church, a perfected people, a triumphant movement. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

-Continue on to the next study-

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