This week on “The Advent Movement”, we will continue our seventh survey on the development of the educational work among us as Seventh-day Adventist. (if you missed part one of the survey, we encourage you to -click here-)
–God’s Plan, The Best–
Some urged that if religious teaching is to be made prominent, our school would become unpopular. Sis. White said, “very well then, let the ones that want something else go to some other college where they will find a system of education that suits their taste.” Then she makes another sweeping statement:
“If a worldly influence is to bear sway in our school, then sell it out to worldlings and let them take the entire control; and those who have invested their means in that institution will establish another school, to be conducted, not upon the plan of popular schools, nor according to the desires of principal and teachers, but upon the plan which God has specified.” – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 25
That was pretty strong, wasn’t it? What would you have thought if you had been the principal of the school, or one of the teachers, one of the board? This was strong meat.
When the Lord requires us to be distinct and peculiar, how can we crave popularity or seek to imitate the customs and practices of the world?” 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? – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 26
Then on page 27 she comes out plainly, and without any reservation and says:
Our college stands today in a position that God does not approve. … If its responsible men seek to reach the world’s standard, if they copy the plans and methods of other colleges, the frown of God will be upon our school.
The time has come for me to speak decidedly. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 27
And again, she points out the danger of young men being diverted into years of study when they needed to get a brief, yet comprehensive preparation, as she speaks of it here, and get out into the field. On page 31, she puts a pinprick in the balloon of satisfaction that apparently was floating around there in Battle Creek, because the school was popular and had a good attendance. She says:
If you lower the standard in order to secure popularity and an increase of numbers, and then make this increase a cause of rejoicing, you show great blindness. If numbers were evidence of success, Satan might claim the pre-eminence. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 31
Then on page 33, again she speaks of a specific detail. This deals with the matter of amusements:
The object of God in bringing the college into existence has been lost sight of. Ministers of the gospel have so far shown their want of wisdom from above as to unite a worldly element with the college; they have joined with the enemies of God and the truth in providing entertainments for the students. –Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 33
What was being brought into the school? Worldly entertainment. Could that danger be present today? Would it be any better today than it was then? On page 35, she begins to deal with the unfeeling criticism against Brother Bell. The blank, (Brother —) in the middle of page 35 is Brother Bell. I* might say, I have one of the original testimonies for the Battle Creek church in which the names of all these blanks are printed right out.
This was printed in Oakland in 1882. So you will find that’s Brother Bell.
“Many have strong feelings against Brother Bell. They accuse him of unkindness, harshness, and severity. But some of the very ones who would condemn him are no less guilty themselves. … This unfeeling criticism of one another is wholly satanic. I was shown Brother Bell deserves respect for the good which he has done. Let him be dealt with tenderly. He has performed the labor which three men should have shared.” – Testimony for the Battle Creek Church, pgs. 18, 19
You know they went so far that they actually had inquisition meetings and some of those who were opposed to Bell brought in students and got them to testify against Bell. And I might say that Bell finally recognizing that he was being backed into a corner, and that he didn’t have the support of the administration and of many of the parents, resigned, which, of course, made some of them very happy and they were pleased. We will see more reference to that a little further on.
Now in the next chapter, Sister White deals with parental training. The one we have just looked at is on the school, but Sister White is dealing here with parental training, and I’ll explain why… This wasn’t just a college problem. It was a family problem in a number of families in Battle Creek. One man, a very leading man, a man that had done a great work among Seventh-day Adventists was really a sort of Eli. He allowed his wife and children to influence him. He was one of the principal supporters of McLearn, and one of the principal opposers of Bell.
His children were some of the problems in the college at this time. He, as well as other fathers and mothers in Battle Creek, greatly needed this chapter on parental training. She speaks of the importance of the parents silencing criticism of their teachers. Instead of the parents listening and gathering up information against the teachers, they ought to cooperate with the teachers in discipline.
On page 40 and 41, she speaks again of the danger of worldly amusements in Battle Creek at that time, and what mingling with the world in worldly amusements was doing to the young people in the homes and in the schools. It was taking away their spirituality and leading them out into the world. In fact, at the bottom of page 41, she speaks of it as the great adversary planting his hellish banners close by their sides, and that they are so blinded they think it is the banner of Christ. That is a tremendous statement. And when you think of the inroads of worldly amusements brought into the church under the guise of trying to save and help our young people, you can’t help but think of this page:
Parents do not discern that the great adversary is planting his hellish banners close by their sides. They are so blinded, they think it is the banner of Christ. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 41
Then on page 42, she speaks in contrast of the example of Jesus as a youth, His patient burden bearing in the home and in the shop at Nazareth, and presents Him and (on the next page) Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as examples for young people to follow… Then on page 44, she speaks of Elisha calling for those bears to do some disciplining of those idle, dissolute, disrespectful youth at the gate at Bethel. She says:
“The idea that we must submit to ways of perverse children is a mistake“. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 44
And it’s in that setting that she makes this statement which has been quoted many times, and deserves to be quoted many more times, at the top of 45:
Even kindness must have its limits. Authority must be sustained by a firm severity, or it will be received by many with mockery and contempt. The so-called tenderness, the coaxing and the indulgence, used toward youth by parents and guardians is the worst evil which can come upon them. Firmness, decision, positive requirements, are essential in every family.– Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 45
Now, if these Testimonies had been heeded, and others similar that had gone before this, there would have been no occasion for the next testimony. But they were not heeded. Definitely they were not heeded and things went on as I have described, until finally poor Brother Bell was pressed out, pressured out. He gave up his work, and there was a seeming lull in the conflict because the worldly element had the upper hand. And I suppose some thought that now they had peace. But as Elijah shattered the peace of apostate Israel, so from across the continent came the shattering thunderbolt of the testimony of Jesus. And here you have from Healdsburg, California, an important testimony dated March 28, 1882. This is way over in the spring, you see, of the following year, after Bell had been so pressured that he gave up, and the worldly element was more or less in control of the school.
Now, before we look at this testimony, I want you to see a very interesting statement over on page 62. This is dated June 20, 1882, three months later. It, too, is addressed to Dear Brethren and Sisters in Battle Creek. Notice her opening sentence:
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. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 62
The first testimony had been forgotten and read about three months later, but this one wasn’t just forgotten. It was definitely withheld and the man that withheld it was a leading officer in the great Battle Creek church, a man of long experience and high position in denominational circles, the head of the college Bible department. He was one whose children were involved in some of these disciplinary problems. So you can, perhaps, see why, when he got this testimony that we are about to look at beginning on page 45, instead of reading it to the church as he was requested by the prophet to do, he simply laid it aside for some weeks.
Now, as we shall see, he took the position, and this is the point I want you to see. He took the position, that while Sister White was a prophet all right, in fact, he had written a great deal on spiritual gifts (this man had definitely defended the Spirit of Prophecy), he took the position that in this particular case, Sister White was influenced by certain ones. She wasn’t on the grounds, and the people in Battle Creek knew better what was going on than she did. In other words, he took the position that while the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy, that this particular letter was not a testimony. And as we shall see in the following chapter, Sister White said to him, “You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God.”
And let me tell you, friends, that for some time in Battle Creek, there was a real crisis over this. In fact, the entire college was closed the next year. There was no college there for the year 1882-1883. McLearn went out and left the truth entirely, joined the Seventh-day Baptists, spoke against our message on a number of points. In the meantime, thank the Lord, Bell had gone East and started South Lancaster Academy, which eventually became Atlantic Union College. Out in California, the brethren had started Healdsburg College, and called Brownsburger, who had now recovered his health. So, while Battle Creek was tied up in this crisis, why, two others were starting. Both of them started with the avowed intention of having industries as part of their curriculum, and of following the Testimonies. God was leading as He has led this movement all down through the ages. But you can see something of the setting of this testimony, coming March 28, 1882:
Dear Brother —: – Testimonies to the Church, Volume 5, pg. 45
And remember, this is the head of the college Bible department, a man of long experience in our denomination as a preacher, as a writer, and as a member of the General Conference committee.
Dear Brother —: Your letter was received in due time. While I was glad to hear from you, I was made sad as I read its contents. I had received similar letters from Sister — and from Brother —. But I have had no communications from Brother [Bell] or anyone who sustains him. – Testimonies to the Church, Volume 5, pg. 45
Brother Bell, bless his heart, was suffering in silence. And neither Brother Bell, nor anybody who sustained him wrote to Sister White. But these people that were opposing him, and that were afraid that Sister White would take the wrong position and support him, they were writing her.
I want to read you something interesting written about this Sister —, here on page 45. Here it is in this Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, page 47 as published in Oakland in 1882. This is the same, much of it word for word, as here in Volume 5, but it has the names in it, and also has some little details that aren’t in, but I want you to get the picture here:
I was most astonished to read a letter from Sr. Amadon. – Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, pg. 47
(This is the blank here on page 45.)
I was most astonished to read a letter from Sr. Amadon–a collection of partial disclosures, and dark hints of terrible things that could not be revealed. Then she remarks: ‘Sr. White, be careful how you slay.’ As though God’s messenger was doing a work independent of the Spirit of God! Thus Ahab thought when he met Elijah, and said, ‘Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’ Elijah throws back the imputation firmly and decidedly: ‘I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of God, and thou hast followed Baalim.’ Those who bear the warnings of God, are often regarded as the offending party, whereas, the whole blame rests with those who have alienated themselves from the Lord by transgression. Elijah does not offer one excuse for his work. – Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, pg. 47
But you can see some of those dear people, they thought that they needed to write Sister White and tell her, “Now, Sister White, be careful how you slay, be careful.” But did Sister White accept her counsel? No, she had revelation from the skies. So she said, “I haven’t heard anything from Brother Bell or those who stand by him. But from your letter and from the Sister’s letter and from another brother, those who were opposing Bell:
From your own letters I learn of the course which you have pursued in the proceedings against Brother Bell. … I am not surprised that such a state of things should exist in Battle Creek, but I am pained to find you, my much-esteemed brother, involved in this matter on the wrong side with those whom I know God is not leading. – Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, pg. 20
This was a man that had been linked with James and Ellen White since early in the work. He had shared many of their problems and difficulties. In fact, Sister White in a number of these testimonies, comments on this fact, that this man was a very kind, affable, and gentle character. In fact, he was so much that way that they hadn’t been able to get him to take hold of things in the publishing house as he should have, and James White had to come in and do the disciplining work through the years.
But now she says: “When it comes to a crisis like this it is found that those firm traits of character that you lacked in standing for the right you seemed to have developed in standing for the wrong. You didn’t have what it took to stand up and demand that things be done right in the publishing house, but now you’ve had the courage and the strength and the backbone to stand up in this college crisis against the man that God has been trying to use.”
Isn’t that an interesting thing, friends? That’s an interesting trait in human nature. It crops out again and again and again. Aaron, you remember, was so soft and easy that he couldn’t withstand the pressure of the people on the golden calf, but once he got into that he became an enthusiastic and aggressive leader. You remember that? Yes. Let’s not be misled, friends. Let’s not be misled. Page 46:
I knew that a crisis must come. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 46
Then she points out that they had had testimonies which, if they had followed them, would have avoided the crisis. Page 48:
Many of you are seeking honor of one another. But what is the honor or the approval of man? – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 48
I wish my position to be clearly understood. I have no sympathy with the course that has been pursued toward Brother [Bell]. The enemy has encouraged feelings of hatred in the hearts of many. The errors committed by him have been reported from one person to another, constantly growing in magnitude, as busy, gossiping tongues added fuel to the fire. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 51
Did he, Brother Bell, make some mistakes? Yes, but they were multiplied, magnified, added to.
“Parents who have never felt the care which they should feel for the souls of their children, and who have never given them proper restraint and instruction, are the very ones who manifest the most bitter opposition when their children are restrained, reproved, or corrected at school. Some of these children are a disgrace to the church and a disgrace to the name Adventists.” – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 51
I ask again as I did earlier, do you think any of these problems exist today? Page 52:
In the school Brother [Bell] has not only been burdened by the wrong course of the children, but by the injudicious management of the parents, which produced and nurtured hatred of restraint. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 52
Imagine the poor man in the schoolroom, with children that would carry tales home, and then when they got home the parents would egg them on, to be even more defiant and rebellious, joining in the criticism of the teachers. May I say to every parent, even if you care nothing for the teacher, care enough about your children never to do that. Don’t forget this man had some mistakes, but it wasn’t the place for the parents to criticize him before the children, or to allow their children to criticize him at the home.
Now she goes on on Page 52, and shows that some of these professed Sabbath-keepers, while they didn’t really believe the Testimonies, they didn’t come out in the open and say they didn’t. This is a very important point. They were leaning toward the world on the side of no discipline, and yet they didn’t come out boldly and say “We don’t believe the Testimonies.” They claimed to believe the Bible and the Testimonies.
We are just part way through this study, so we will continue it next week. I want you to make a very earnest study of these early pages of Volume 5. If you have time you may read on ahead, for we will be studying the first 94 pages of this book, the first 94 pages of Volume 5. But at least be sure to make a very careful study of the first 52 pages which we have gone over today.
If you have access to Spaulding’s wonderful book, Captains of the Host, read the history of this time in the chapter “Building the Educational System.” It starts on page 439. If you will read that entire chapter it will give you a very good background on this subject.
And I appeal to you, dear class, study some of these things on your knees. Think of their lesson for you personally as a student, as a young person, or as a parent. Think of what these things mean in the present hour.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.