Our key text in this week’s class is found in Deuteronomy:
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee…. – Deuteronomy 8:2
Through Moses, Israel was reminded again and again of how God had led them in the exodus movement. God wants us to review the history of this denomination. For over a hundred and seventy-three years now, God has been leading His people. And remember this statement:
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, pg. 196
If that is true, then the converse is true – that if we do forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history, we have something to fear. So the purpose of this course in the survey of the Advent history is not just to acquaint us with some historical facts, some dates of when this or that happened. But it is to study God’s teaching in our past history, especially as it bears upon the future, the very near future, the immediate future.
–Our Past, Educational History–
Of all the things that we have studied and will study in the history of this denomination, none is more full of meaning than the crisis that came in our educational work at Battle Creek in 1881-1882. Battle Creek College was established in 1874, 1875. It was established at the edge of Battle Creek rather than out in the country as the divine blueprint called for. Nevertheless, the Lord’s messenger did all she could to make it a success. It continued with varying problems until 1881 when James White died. Sister White went to Colorado, and later to California. Certain things developed at Battle Creek that brought a crisis. Brownsburger, who had been the principal, gave up his work because of health. McLaren, who had only recently come into the message, was brought in because he was a university graduate. Brother Bell, who had no college degree, but who believed in the principles of education as outlined by the Spirit of Prophecy, found himself relegated to the background.
Issues arose within the college over the question of standards, over the matter of what emphasis should be given to this course and that course, this subject and that subject, and other things having to do with Christian standards of deportment, of education, and of the relationships of students and teachers, students and parents, etc.
There were those in the church and those on the college faculty who chose to side with the worldly, popular element headed by McLaren. Among these was a man who was very prominent in our church, a minister of long experience, head of the Bible department, and one of the leaders in the Battle Creek Church. To him, Sister White wrote this message we have been studying. Sister White asked that this be read to the church. But, since it definitely condemned that man and others who were opposing Brother Bell and supporting McLaren, for some time he withheld it from the church. He took the position that, while Sister White was a prophet, not everything she wrote was divinely inspired. It was on this issue that the crisis developed. He and others said that this letter of Sister White’s was not an inspired testimony. Those who sided with him said that they believed Sister White’s testimony, but….
So the crisis developed more and more. Brother Bell was finally forced to resign. McLaren and his group were apparently the victors. I was very much interested in what Sister White said:
Peace has come because the students have had their own way. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, pg. 54
That’s a very interesting statement. Is peace always a helpful and reassuring sign? No.
In another crisis they will be as determined and persevering as they have been on this occasion; and, if they find as able an advocate as they have found in Brother ───, they may again accomplish their purpose. God has been speaking to teachers and students and church members, but you have cast His words behind you. You have thought best to take your own course, irrespective of consequences. – Ibid
We are getting a preview of our study for today where we see these issues focused upon the crisis of the future during the loud cry and persecution over the mark of the beast. Although Brother Bell had made some mistakes in being rather stern and even harsh at times, he was nevertheless sincerely standing for high standards in study, in deportment, and in following out the Lord’s counsels.
They had been persecuting Brother Bell. They had encouraged the students in their backbiting and bringing reports, tale bearing against this teacher. Notice this statement:
Have you no compunctions of conscience? I fear not. The time has not yet come for this satanic spell to lose its power. – Ibid., pg. 58
If you have a new edition you may find that the word “not” has been omitted. It’s just a printer’s mistake. “Have you no compunctions of conscience? I fear not. The time has not yet come for this satanic spell to lose its power.” The sentence that’s in the new version is correct in the sense that it should have lost its power. Time is always here in the sense that people ought to wake up from the satanic spell. But she was making a statement of fact.
What clutches they were in, in the deceptions of the enemy, that they actually thought they were doing God’s service when they were persecuting the man who was standing for the standards of God. They had driven him away. They had peace, but this peace was interrupted by the prophet. She was troubling Israel, like one of old troubled Israel.
After studying this important testimony, we came to “The Testimonies Slighted”, beginning on page 62. This is the one the Lord’s messenger wrote from Healdsburg some time after the one that had been delayed, in which she followed up the former testimony with a clear denunciation of the position of this elder and others who were taking the position that Sister White’s testimonies were to be accepted only when they came through direct vision – that anything else was just her opinion. They felt their opinion in this case was better than hers. She says that had insulted the Spirit of God.
She tells on page 65 that some of them were acquainted with the fact that on certain occasions she had written at midnight letters that had gone across the continent and, arriving at a crisis, saved great disaster to the cause of God. Only a short time before this an occasion of this kind had happened. As a young man, I was the associate pastor of our church in San Francisco where this experience had happened long before. In the early days of starting our work in California, it had started up around Petaluma and Santa Rosa. Not long after, a church was started in San Francisco. The church was organized and a building erected on Laguna Street. It was in that church that I began my ministry.
In these earlier days when the work was starting there, there were two ministers there. (You will be interested in this experience which is doubtless what Sister White is referring to.) The two ministers were working together, but one of them began to make himself a problem. It was a matter involving indiscretion on his part with a woman. Nobody claimed he was doing anything wicked, but he was making himself an object of talk. As certain ones labored with him, he claimed he had the right to walk around with whom he pleased. Certain ones in the church took his part. Others in the church felt greatly burdened over it.
Elder Loughborough, who was leading out in the work there, was burdened. The time finally came when it was to be brought to a meeting. On a Sunday morning his case was to come up. It looked like it was going to split the church. There didn’t seem to be anything else to do.
Sunday morning Elder Loughborough met this man on the way to the church. The man was weeping. The man said to Elder Loughborough, “I won’t be at the meeting this morning.” Elder Loughborough said, “You know the meeting concerns your case.” He answered, “I know it, but I won’t be there. Take this and read it, and then you will understand.” The night before, when he got his mail, there was a letter from Sister White that had come all the way from Battle Creek. Mail was not very fast in those days, in the 1870s. That letter condemned him for the course he was taking. Some of the things in that letter concerned matters that had transpired after the letter was postmarked in Battle Creek. He recognized it, and it brought him around; it brought him to his senses.
When that was read to the church and the man’s confession and statement was presented, instead of the church being split, the whole church rallied, and the thing was saved. Now on the other end of the line, the case was very interesting. Sister White had been awakened at an early hour. The angel had instructed her to write immediately that vision on San Francisco which she had seen before. She got up and wrote quickly to this man. She gave the letter to her son Willy and said, “Willy, don’t put this in the post office, but carry it down to the railroad station so it will get on the train that goes West.” Willy did it, and thus it arrived at the very hour necessary to save disaster.
Now look at the situation. Suppose it had come some weeks before. Some of the things she wrote about hadn’t yet happened. The man could say, Sister White is disturbed over things that I don’t know anything about. She doesn’t need to be bothered. I find it true that only God knows when it’s time to speak. Many times, if anything is done to correct a situation like that, someone says, “Oh, there’s nothing to it.” Then pretty soon, it’s too late to say anything. But the Lord knew right to the minute when to bring the pressure. Suppose it had been 24 hours later. The crisis would have come, and the church would have been split. But the Lord had it timed right to the minute. So it’s experiences like this that she’s speaking of when she says:
I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind, and I have written at midnight letters that have gone across the continent, and arriving at a crisis have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. Is this work of the last thirty-six years from above or from beneath? – Ibid., pg. 65
She makes it very clear that it was either from God or from the devil. And remember, in every study of religious phenomena, whenever there are miracles you either have God working through His mighty angels or you’ve got the devil working through his powerful angels. So Sister White is appealing to this leading minister who she is writing to at this time in Battle Creek. She says, You know my work. You know what I have been doing all these years. You have witnessed some of these things. Is that from above or from beneath? And will you acknowledge it as being from God when it comes close and puts its finger on your sins and mistakes? That was the crisis.
I would like to call your attention to a beautiful and wonderful assurance:
The spirit of worldliness may contaminate the many and control the few; the cause of God may hold its ground only by great exertion and continual sacrifice, yet it will triumph finally. – Ibid., pg. 71
Isn’t that wonderful? The church is going to finally triumph. That must be kept in mind clearly through this study, or else we miss the whole point. And to strengthen that, speaking of the coming time of crisis when the loud cry is being given and the mark of the beast is being urged upon us:
“The deeper the night for God’s people, the more brilliant the stars. Satan will sorely harass the faithful; but, in the name of Jesus, they will come off more than conquerors. Then will the church of Christ appear ‘fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” – Ibid., pg. 81
The church of Christ does not go down; she doesn’t fall. She may appear as about to fall, but she doesn’t. The church remains while the sinners in Zion are sifted out. This wonderful chapter we are studying here reveals, as perhaps no other writing in the Spirit of Prophecy, the causes underlying the coming sifting, and shows the relationship between the problems of that crisis in Battle Creek in 1882 and a far greater crisis coming to the church as a whole during the closing up of this work when persecution is upon us and the loud cry is being given.
There will then be the full results of the sowing of the good seed of true, Christian education on the one side, and sowing the tares of worldly education on the other. Did that stop back there in 1882? Was McLaren the last one who ever tried to lead us to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? And was Bell the last one who ever led us to the fountain of living waters? No, thank God. From that day to this, the issue has been ever with us.
–The Final Crisis, & The Final Victory–
I am going to bring in very clearly, by evidence, that those issues back there in Battle Creek before any of us here were born has been with us in one way or another all the way through, and are still with us. That is proved by the chapter itself. Because, as the prophet saw that crisis and urged upon them certain principles, her mind was led in vision to the outworking of those principles and led on to the coming loud cry and crisis over the mark of the beast. That was future then; it is future still. And if there was no connection between the crisis back there and the coming crisis in the church, then she was in error in linking them together. But if there was a connection, then it is vital that the connection be seen. And that is the reason we are spending time studying this chapter. It isn’t just a matter of the history of what happened back there. Those people are all dead. You and I are alive, and God’s church is alive. It is on the move to the final crisis and the final victory.
In the crisis, some will be swept overboard as McLaren was. He apostatized after seemingly leading a victorious movement that pushed Bell out. He himself left the church and became militantly opposed to Seventh-day Adventists. He went off working for some other denomination, all within a few months.
Looking forward to a similar sifting on a far greater scale today:
The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. The contest is between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. – Ibid
Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness. – Ibid
McLaren was neither the first nor the last to do things of this kind. I remember a number of years ago, when I was a young minister, a man who was filling one of the highest positions in this denomination was discovered by our brethren in a place where a Christian has no business being, doing things that a Christian has no business doing. This was on the eve of his sailing overseas to assume the leadership of a large division. He was, of course, relieved of his responsibilities.
I remember another experience that, with shocking force, brought this page to the minds of some of us. Our conference president told us about the experience. A man was leading out as head of the Bible department in one of our largest colleges. It was found that he was teaching certain things in his classes that had a tendency to undermine faith in the Spirit of Prophecy. He, with two of his associates in the department, was asked by the board to give up their work. Within two weeks from the time that man laid down his responsibilities as head of the Bible department in this college, he was installed as the rector of an Episcopalian church less than 50 miles away. He came and moved out his things from the college campus on the Sabbath.
Those things don’t happen every day or every year, but when they do happen they are a merciful warning – a preview of what this is talking about. The foundation of God standeth sure, the movement goes right on. The church of God doesn’t fall because men fall. Judas may deny his Lord and sell Him for 30 pieces of silver. Poor Peter may deny Him with cursing and swearing. But God’s church is built upon the eternal Rock, Christ Jesus, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Did the church that Jesus established survive that awful sifting back there? Yes. And out of it came the glorious triumph of Pentecost. And when the church is sifted again during the days of persecution just ahead, while multitudes will be going out, there will be multitudes coming in. From all these other denominations, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd’s voice within the fold. While Zion will be purged of those who trouble her, the children of God that are scattered all through the fallen churches will rally to the standard, and every one of God’s true sheep will be in the true fold when Jesus comes. That’s the picture. It’s a glorious picture when you think of the triumph; it is a sad picture when you think that many a star once admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness. But the thing that I want you to notice in this chapter is that inspiration lays its finger on the root cause of the problem – worldly education and the attempt to introduce it into our own schools and churches. That’s what this chapter clearly teaches.
Let’s go back and notice a statement or two that will help us to clearly see this.
The patience of God has an object, but you are defeating it. He is allowing a state of things to come that you would fain see counteracted by and by, but it will be too late. – Ibid., pg. 77
The very men who were acting a part in that crisis at Battle Creek did not see the full results of what they were doing. Many a man has sowed a crop, and when harvest time comes says, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t sowed that.” But can you change a crop at harvest time? No. When we sow worldly education, we sow a crop that nobody is going to be happy to harvest.
God commanded Elijah to anoint the cruel and deceitful Hazael king over Syria, that he might be a scourge to idolatrous Israel. Who knows whether God will not give you up to the deceptions you love? Who knows but that the preachers who are faithful, firm, and true may be the last who shall offer the gospel of peace to our unthankful churches? It may be that the destroyers are already training under the hand of Satan and only wait the departure of a few more standard-bearers to take their places, and with the voice of the false prophet cry, ‘Peace, peace,’ when the Lord hath not spoken peace. I seldom weep, but now I find my eyes blinded with tears; they are falling upon my paper as I write. It may be that erelong all prophesyings among us will be at an end, and the voice which has stirred the people may no longer disturb their carnal slumbers. – Ibid
Has that last point been fulfilled? Has there come a time in the history of this movement when the living prophet’s voice has been stilled? I hesitate to comment on that. There are some things here that are deep, soul searching. I recommend that you study this paragraph on your knees; talk to God about it, or more important, let Him talk to you about it. Some things there I would hate to render a human opinion on.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.