As we continue on with the sad history of Elder A.T. Jones (–click here to read part 1–), we will begin by looking at Selected Messages, Book 2, page 85. This is a chapter on the visions of Anna Phillips. It is a most interesting and strange experience. You can read the chapter for yourself; I trust you will.
In the footnote on the bottom of the page you will find that in 1893 a young woman residing in Battle Creek by the name of Anna Phillips came to believe that her impressions and dreams were the intimations of the Spirit of God. A leading worker read these before the Battle Creek Church as divinely inspired communications. You will be interested to know that leading worker was Elder A.T. Jones.
–Words of God vs. Words of Men–
One Sabbath morning, A.T. Jones took the Bible and read from it, and impressed upon the congregation that this was the voice of Jesus the Shepherd. He said, “Do you hear the voice?” Then he took the Testimonies of Sister White, and he read from them and said, “Do you hear the voice?” Then he took the manuscripts of Anna Phillips and read from them and said, “Do you hear the voice?” The next morning, a young worker was in the lobby of the post office, and he noticed Elder A.T. Jones come in to get his mail. I say post office – it was probably the General Conference and Review and Herald post office. It was on Sunday morning.
There was a long envelope from Sister White. Elder Jones sat down on a seat nearby and began to read this testimony. As he read, the tears began to trickle down his face. Elder A.T. Jones was being reproved by the Spirit of God for what he had done the day before.
I know that we are living very near the close of this earth’s history; startling events are preparing for development. I am fully in harmony with you in your work when you present the Bible, and the Bible alone, as the foundation of our faith. Satan is an artful foe, and he will work where he is by many least expected. I have a message for you. Did you suppose that God had commissioned you to take the burden of presenting the visions of Anna Phillips, reading them in public, and uniting them with the testimonies the Lord has been pleased to give me? No, the Lord has not laid upon you this burden. He has not given you this work to do. – Selected Messages, Book 2, pg. 85
Do you see why the tears trickled down his cheeks? Thank the Lord, Elder Jones accepted this testimony. Thank the Lord Anna Phillips accepted it too, and gave up her visions and her dreams and impressions. And she became a successful Bible worker instead of a false prophet.
This chapter on the visions of Anna Phillips you will be quite interested in.
As the report has been quite widely circulated that Sister White has endorsed what has been written and circulated as revelations from God to Miss Anna Phillips, I feel that it is my duty to speak. I have not endorsed these productions. – Ibid, pg. 90
I thought, as I read that, even the prophet was misquoted as to what she endorsed and what she didn’t. There are certain movements afloat today that I have heard certain people quoted as endorsing them, and I know by personal letters that they are not endorsing them. We need to be careful what we hear and what we believe of what we do hear. Still in this chapter on the visions of Anna Phillips, notice a wonderful principle that Sister White deals with in how we should relate ourselves with things of this kind:
You seem to think I should be able to point out just where the particularly objectionable sentiments lie. There is nothing so very apparent in that which has been written; you have been able to discover nothing objectionable; but this is no reason for using these writings as you have done. Your course in this matter is decidedly objectionable. Is it necessary that you should discern at once something that would produce harm to the people of God, to make you cautious? If nothing of this kind appears, is this a sufficient reason for you to set your endorsement to these writings? … – Ibid, pg. 94
Do you see the inference? Instead of endorsing something merely because we can’t prove it wrong, we should wait to endorse it until the evidence is without question that it’s right and from heaven. Now the warning that should echo right down to our own time:
Fanaticism will appear in the very midst of us. Deceptions will come, and of such a character that if it were possible they would mislead the very elect. If marked inconsistencies and untruthful utterances were apparent in these manifestations, the words from the lips of the Great Teacher would not be needed. It is because of the many and varied dangers that would arise, that this warning is given. The reason why I hang out the danger signal is that through the enlightenment of the Spirit of God I can see that which my brethren do not discern… Be on your guard; and as faithful sentinels keep the flock of God from accepting indiscriminately all that professes to be communicated to them from the Lord. – Ibid, pg. 95
So you can see that we ought to be extremely cautious about endorsing anything. I ask you, when we circulate something, do we not thereby put our influence with it? Oh, how we should know that what we pass around by word of mouth or by letter, in printed form, or mimeographed, or any other way, is pure wheat winnowed from the chaff. Think of it. This dear man, Elder A.T. Jones, who had been so greatly blessed by the Spirit of God on righteousness by faith, was led astray by a deceptive movement.
Thank God, on that point he got back on the track. But do you see the weakness that led him on? Oh, that he had fully learned the lesson of not being led astray. Doubtless he got help from that 1893 message that we read – from the one before 1888, and from this one. I’m sure he got help from all of them. In 1897, Elder A.T. Jones was made a member of the General Conference Committee. He was elected again for a second two- year term at the 1899 General Conference.
At the 1901 Conference, a wonderful conference, our work was completely reorganized. Where, before, there had been a small General Conference Committee, a large committee was made. Union conferences were provided for. A great work of decentralization went on. Independent organizations, such as the Sabbath School Association, Religious Liberty Association, the publishing work, and others were made departments of the General Conference. A great work of reorganization was done under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit manifested in the work of Ellen White. That is a study all by itself – the General Conference of 1901.
At that conference, A.G. Daniels was called to the leadership of the work. He had been laboring in Australia for many years. He was over there at the time Sister White was there. Also at this time, controversies between Dr. Kellogg and the ministering brethren began to come to the surface more and more. A.T. Jones had been one of the editors of the Review in the latter part of the 1890s. At the 1901 General Conference, he preached a number of times. He was one of the men who reported that session.
At the 1901 General Conference, provision was not made for the office of the president of the General Conference as it had been before, and as it came to be later. But the General Conference Committee was elected by the conference and authorized to elect from among its members a chairman. Elder Daniels was elected as that chairman.
Elder Jones was greatly impressed by a teaching on church organization that he felt was the opposite of the papacy. He felt that the papacy had a head, a Pope, and that it was contrary to Christ’s principle; that in Christ’s church we are all brethren, and so there did not need to be a president as there had been. And he opposed it later. He preached that at camp meetings after the conference. But an interesting thing happened.
When he came to the California camp meeting in 1901, after having preached that there should not be a president, when he was met at the train by the brethren, he was told that he had been invited to become the president of the California Conference, and he accepted. So for one year, he was the president of the California Conference.
At that time, they were electing local conference presidents every year. The next meeting of the California Conference was at Fresno in 1902. Elder Jones’ name was coming up for consideration. Would he be elected president of the conference again? There had been quite a bit of dissatisfaction with Brother Jones’ leadership of the conference. A number of the workers felt that he had been domineering, that he had been critical, that he had been harsh and difficult to work with. So, as they came to that meeting, a number of them felt there should be a change. They had two or three different men in mind – apparently good men, loving men. But when they came to the meeting,
Sister White bore her testimony and said that it was the will of God that Elder Jones should serve that conference again as president. I will quote from a letter Sister White wrote in 1906 to Elder Jones. Listen and see the pleading work of the Spirit of God. She is looking back to 1901:
When in 1901 you came to the Pacific coast I hoped that the weight of responsibilities as president of the California Conference would lead you to distrust your ability, and to take counsel with your brethren regarding the work to be done…. – Letter 242, 1906
One of the reasons God gives people a job isn’t because they are fitted, but hoping they will get fitted. That should come as a lesson to all of us, however little or large our responsibility is. Shouldn’t it, friends?
But there was a growth of self-confidence, a rashness of spirit, and an abruptness of speech, which increased the existing lack of confidence in your judgment….
… you manifested a domineering spirit that drove away the Spirit of God.
At the meeting in Fresno in 1902, a scene was presented before me in the night season. I was in a meeting where many spoke words of dissatisfaction with the record you had made as president of the California Conference. I saw there must be in your ministry a change, and received instruction for you and for the laborers in the Conference. This I presented at the early morning meeting. Here is a part of what I said at that meeting: … – Ibid
She is putting down what she said at the 1902 Fresno meeting. In a way, it sounds strange after what she has just said about his harsh, domineering, dictatorial attitude. And remember, these are not the words of some critic of A.T. Jones. These are the inspired words of a testimony:
It is the pleasure of God that Brother A.T. Jones should serve this Conference another year as president. It is His pleasure that A.T. Jones should put away all appearance of a magisterial, domineering, authoritative manner. – Ibid
That is quite a statement, friends. Sister White pointed out that some of the men that others had in mind to be president, while they were amiable and kind and gentle, didn’t have the push to carry on the work that was needed. You know, sometimes it’s easier to “plane off” a board that’s too big than it is to “stretch” one that’s too little. We need to avoid the deception of thinking that because a person never makes any problems that he’s thereby qualified for strong responsibilities. Sometimes, people who never make any problems never make anything else.
So God, in His mercy, appointed A.T. Jones to be president again in California from 1902 to 1903. Then Sister White gave a picture of what had been shown her in a dream:
In the past, the work of Brother Jones has been represented to me in figures. He was holding out to the people a vessel filled with most beautiful fruit, but while offering the fruit to them, his attitude and manner were such that no one wanted any. Thus it has too often been with the spiritual truths that he offers to the people. In his presentation of these truths, a spirit sometimes crops out that is not heaven-born. Words are sometimes spoken, reproofs given, without due consideration, with a drive, a vim, that causes the people to turn away from the beautiful truths he has for them. – Ibid
Oh, brethren, shouldn’t that be a warning to all of us? Whether dealing with the world or with the church, when we have beautiful truth to present, how we should seek God for grace to present it in a beautiful way, in a winsome way, in a way that makes others want to share the precious light which we have, shouldn’t we all pray for that most earnestly?
Now this that I’ve been reading to you is from an unpublished testimony. But now I want to give you a published reference for the same principle that we’re dealing with here – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pgs. 122-123. You will be interested to know that these paragraphs that I’m calling your attention to were written first in a personal testimony to Elder A.T. Jones. These paragraphs will mean more to you than ever before as you study them, remembering that they were written originally to this dear man.
The original source is Letter 91, 1899. This is three years before the Fresno meeting when Sister White was giving him counsel on this. She was calling his attention to these vital needs.
The influence of your teaching would be tenfold greater if you were careful of your words. Words that should be a savor of life unto life may by the spirit which accompanies them be made a savor of death unto death. And remember that if by your spirit of your words you close the door to even one soul, that soul will confront you in the judgment.
Do not, when referring to the Testimonies, feel it your duty to drive them home. In reading the Testimonies be sure not to mix in your filling of words, for this makes it impossible for the hearers to distinguish between the word of the Lord to them and your words. Be sure that you do not make the word of the Lord offensive. We long to see reforms, and because we do not see that which we desire, an evil spirit is too often allowed to cast drops of gall into our cup, and thus others are embittered. By our ill-advised words their spirit is chafed, and they are stirred to rebellion.
Every sermon you preach, every article you write, may be all true; but one drop of gall in it will be poison to the hearer or the reader. Because of that drop of poison, one will discard all your good and acceptable words. Another will feed on the poison; for he loves such harsh words; he follows your example, and talks just as you talk. Thus the evil is multiplied.
Those who present the eternal principles of truth need the holy oil emptied from the two olive branches into the heart. This will flow forth in words that will reform, but not exasperate. The truth is to be spoken in love. Then the Lord Jesus by His Spirit will supply the force and the power. That is His work. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pgs. 122, 123
Doubtless when A.T. Jones received that message in 1899 he accepted it as he accepted the message in 1902 on the same points three years later. In this letter, Sister White refers to his public confession, as with tears he acknowledged that what she said was true. He prayed there before his brethren, confessing his sins and asking them to pray with him that God would help him to be melted. Sister White said that she had seen Elder Jones when his heart was melted by the Spirit of God, and she knew that God was working for him and through him. So, with that blessing, he took up the work again as president of the conference.
But when he came up to the General Conference of 1903, he began to take quite a definite stand with those who were opposing Elder Daniels and the new group who had come into leadership. By 1904 and 1905, he was standing with Dr. Kellogg, who, at that time, was having serious difficulties in his relations with the leading brethren. By 1906, both Elder Jones and Dr. Kellogg were out of gear with the movement. Writing in Letter 242, 1906, which I quoted from a little while ago, Sister White says:
Brother Jones, since you have united soul, body, and spirit with those in Battle Creek you have been as one hypnotized.
The last letter that we have from Sister White to Elder Jones was written in 1911. By this time, he was fully out of gear with the movement, publishing tracts and papers defending himself and the way he had reacted to the organization. By this time, he had come to differentiate between the Testimonies. He did not deny that Sister White was a prophet, but he said some things she wrote were inspired and some were not. He had been hypnotized by Dr. Kellogg and the influence at Battle Creek.
In this closing letter, I want you to catch the pathos of this last, long, loving appeal from the Spirit of God to this dear man through His chosen messenger:
Elder A.T. Jones, I have given you instruction in straight, clear lines in regard to the perverting influence under which you have placed yourself. Your lips have uttered perverse things. You have denied the clear light of truth and have linked up with strange elements. I gave you a correct statement in regard to your position, but you went on doing the very things the Lord had warned you not to do. It has been a strange course for one who has been enlightened by the Lord as you have been, but you have acted very much like a man who has lost his bearings. The question is, Do you think you can still hold your membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and go on hurting the influence of this people by the tracts that you publish? You have done a cruel work. – Letter 104, 1911
There are some people today who think they can publish tracts and papers and mimeograph material that accuse the leaders, and still hold their membership. This is very clear instruction on it, friends. It’s a serious thing to take up the sword of criticism against the Lord’s anointed.
I have warned you in regard to these things. The experience that you and others had at the union conference held at Berrien Springs was an experience that need not have been. The Lord gave you a convincing testimony that He was at work. But your spirit and experience changed until you were ranked by heavenly angels as a man departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits. Your voice was changed and your countenance. Oh, how changed it was. As scenes passed before me, you appeared as one in harmony with evil angels. Scenes have been presented to me in which I have heard you use harsh, rough language, course and denunciatory. Close beside you stood the father of lies, inspiring you with satanic energy, and you uttered words of which you should ever be ashamed. If you wish to renew your covenant with God by confession and repentance and re-baptism, we will rejoice with you. When you are converted, your self-sufficiency will disappear, and you will become meek and lowly in heart. The destroyer now takes advantage of your self-righteousness to weave into your experience his own ideas and theories. – Ibid
So, this man who perhaps had on his lips more than any other one among us through the years the words “the righteousness of God, the righteousness of Christ, righteousness by faith” is, in this closing testimony, identified with self-righteousness. Listen to these closing words:
When you are really desirous of uniting with those from whom you have withdrawn yourself, the testimony will be born that you looked up, after you had stepped off the platform on which you had previously stood, and that hands were put beneath your arms, and you and Elder Waggoner were lifted once more on to the platform, standing there with shining countenances and uplifted hands. Has this time come? I have written this to you on the Sabbath day, and the Lord has helped me. If there is a work of reformation going on in your heart, if you are convinced of your error, we shall say the way is open. Come. Signed, Ellen G. White – Ibid
The solemn hours of probation are still open for you, dear Reader. Chose you this day whom ye will serve…
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.