Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1



As an aid to an understanding of the circumstances which led to the giving of certain testimonies, the following notes have been prepared by the Trustees of the Ellen G. White Publications. 1T 713.1

Page 116, “Time to Begin the Sabbath”—For a period of about ten years Sabbathkeeping Adventists observed the Sabbath from 6 P. M. Friday to 6 P. M. Saturday. Elder Joseph Bates in his first pamphlet on the perpetuity of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, published in 1846, had given reasons for the supposed scriptural support for the observance of the Sabbath in this way. He cited the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, the last group of which had been called at “the eleventh hour” of the day and had wrought but one hour. The reckoning was made with them “when even was come.” Matthew 20:6, 8, 12. Comparing this with Christ's question, “are there not twelve hours in the day?” He argued that the “even” began with the twelfth hour, or six o'clock, reckoning with equatorial time or the beginning of the sacred year. Respect for his years and experience and his godly life may have been the main reasons for accepting his conclusions without further investigation. 1T 713.2

As time passed and the message spread, an increasing number of Sabbathkeepers questioned the practice and advocated the sunset time for reckoning the beginning of the Sabbath. A thorough Bible investigation of the question was made by Elder J. N. Andrews, who wrote a paper setting forth the Biblical reasons in favor of the sunset time. This paper was introduced and discussed on Sabbath, November 17, 1855, at the Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan, with the result that nearly, but not quite, all present were convinced that Elder Andrew's conclusion was correct. The presentation of the subject to Mrs. White in this vision, given two days later, answered the questions lingering in some minds and effected unity among the believers. Commenting on this experience, as illustrating the office of the visions to confirm conclusions based on Biblical study rather than to introduce new teachings, Elder James White wrote later: 1T 713.3

“The question naturally arises, if the visions are given to correct the erring, why did she not sooner see the error of the six o'clock time? I have ever been thankful that God corrected the error in His own good time, and did not suffer an unhappy division to exist among us upon this point. But, dear reader, the work of the Lord upon this point is in perfect harmony with his manifestations to us on others, and in harmony with the correct position upon spiritual gifts. It does not appear to be the desire of the Lord to teach His people by the gifts of the Spirit on the Bible questions until His servants have diligently searched His word. When this was done upon the subject of the time to commence the Sabbath, and most were established, and some were in danger of being out of harmony with the body on this subject, then, yes, then, was the very time for God to magnify His goodness in the manifestation of the gift of His Spirit in the accomplishment of its proper work.”—The Review and Herald, February 25, 1868. 1T 713.4

Pages 116, 117, 122, 123, “The Messenger Party”—In the summer of 1854 there appeared among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists the first disaffection, or apostasy. Two men who had been preaching the message were reproved through the spirit of prophecy for a harsh, censorious spirit, for avarice, and for extravagance in the use of means placed in their hands. Becoming embittered instead of repentant, they joined with a few others in unjust recrimination against Elder and Mrs. White and other leaders, making false charges against them. Although continuing to advocate the Sabbath truth, they began the publication of a slanderous sheet which they called the Messenger of Truth. 1T 714.1

They were joined by elders Stephenson and Hall of Wisconsin. These men had been first-day Adventist preachers, who professed to accept the truths of the third angel's message, but who continued to hold doctrines regarding the Age-to-Come. According to this theory there was to be, during the millennium, a “second chance” for salvation. They agreed, however, to preach the message, without advocating this question, if the Review would not publish articles against it. However, as indicated in the text, they did not keep their promise and were soon opposing the Review and its supporters. 1T 714.2

The course of these “opposers of the truth” was soon run. Both Stephenson and Hall lost their reason. The Messenger of Truth ceased publication in 1857, and early in 1858 Elder White reported regarding the party: “Not one of the eighteen messengers of which they once boasted as being with them is now bearing a public testimony, and not one place of regular meeting of our knowledge among them.”—The Review and Herald, January 14, 1858. 1T 714.3

Page 190, Systematic Benevolence—In the early days of the message, men impelled by the urge of conviction went forth to preach the new-found truths. They were dependent for their support upon their own labors or the freewill offerings of the believers. Such an uncertain method was more or less spasmodic and fluctuating. Early in 1859 the need for a more certain plan was felt, and earnest study was given to the matter. There grew out of this study the plan called Systematic Benevolence. In harmony with 1 Corinthians 16:2 giving regularly on the first day of the week was recommended, and, as suggested by 2 Corinthians 8:12-14, an equitable distribution of financial responsibility. The plan called for brethren to lay by in store weekly from five to twenty-five cents; the sisters, from two to ten cents; and for property owners to give weekly from one to five cents on each hundred dollars worth of assets. 1T 714.4

The plan was generally received with favor, and here received the endorsement of the spirit of prophecy. The greatest sin in the church was pointed out to be covetousness. (Page 194.) Systematic Benevolence was not presented as a perfected plan, for it was also stated that “God is leading his people” in the matter, and “is bringing” them up. (Page 191.) As plans for support of the work and the ministry broadened, the spirit of liberality was encouraged more and more until at length light from the Scriptures revealed the system of tithes and offerings as they are known in the church today. 1T 714.5

Page 210, Organization—Up to the year 1860 there had been no legal or church organization among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists. They had not even adopted a name. They spoke of themselves as the “Scattered Flock,” The “Little Remnant,” or some variation of such expressions. Now Elder White had announced through the Review that he must refuse to continue to assume personal responsibility for money lent to the Review and Herald office. He further expressed the hope that the time might soon come when “this people will be in that position necessary to be able to get church property insured, hold their meeting houses in a proper manner, that those persons making their wills, and wishing to do so, can appropriate a portion to the publishing department.” He called upon his brethren to make suggestions as to how this desire might be effected so that “we as a people” might act to secure the above advantages. 1T 715.1

Among the first responses to this request was one from the Brother B referred to in this connection, in which he expressed his conviction that it would be wrong to incorporate as a religious body according to law. This he held would be “making us a name,” as was the purpose of the builders of the tower of Babel, and would “lie at the foundation of Babylon.” As for insuring the meeting houses, were they not the Lord's property, and could he not take care of his own without the aid of insurance companies? Further, said he, those who lend money to the office should not insist on having a note signed by a legal corporation, for “they lend it to the Lord, and they must trust the Lord for it.”—The Review and Herald, February 23, March 22, 1860. 1T 715.2

After much discussion the misgivings regarding the propriety of legally organizing the publishing office were largely overcome, and at a conference held in September, 1860, the Advent Review Publishing Association was formed. A few months later the name was changed to the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association. Even after this step there still remained with some a reluctance to enter into church organization, and the subject continued to be discussed. However, with the large majority favoring organization, the movement proceeded, first by the organization of churches, then of state conferences, and, finally in 1863, of the General Conference. 1T 715.3

The testimony on “Organization” (pages 270-272) speaks of the opposition that was encountered in New York State to this move and of the vision given regarding it. 1T 715.4

Page 292—The magicians did not really cause their rods to become serpents; but by magic, aided by the great deceiver, they were able to produce this appearance. It was beyond the power of Satan to change the rods to living serpents. The prince of evil, though possessing all the wisdom and might of an angel fallen, has not power to create or to give life; this is the prerogative of God alone. But all that was in Satan's power to do he did; he produced a counterfeit. To human sight the rods were changed to serpents. Such they were believed to be by Pharaoh and his court. There was nothing in their appearance to distinguish them from the serpent produced by Moses and Aaron. Thus the testimony speaks of it in the language of the Scriptures; while the same Spirit explains that the Scriptures speak of it as the case appeared. See Testimony No. 33, vol. 5, 696-698. 1T 716.1

Page 355, “The Rebellion”—At the time that this testimony was written, early in 1863, Seventh-day Adventists were faced with a serious problem. The nation was at war. Although at heart noncombatants, the sympathies of the church members were, almost without exception, entirely with the government in its opposition to slavery. As the conflict progressed, more and more men were called to the army. At each call every district was under obligation to furnish a certain number of recruits, and when the voluntary enlistments fell below that number, names were drawn to make up the lack. For a time it was possible by the payment of money to buy a substitute and thus release one whose name had been drawn. As there was no provision made for assigning Seventh-day Adventists to noncombatant service, and no allowance for Sabbath observance, Sabbathkeepers, when drafted, usually in this way purchased their exemption. If the individual was unable to raise the money himself, he was helped by a fund raised for that purpose. 1T 716.2

Now, as more men were needed, and a national conscription law without such exemption privileges was impending, our brethren were in perplexity regarding their response to such a draft, where they might be compelled to take up arms or to work on the Sabbath. 1T 716.3

A few months prior to the appearance of this testimony, Elder White had published an editorial in the Review and Herald entitled “The Nation,” to which reference is made on page 356. He believed the government to be the best on earth and fighting for a righteous cause. His best counsel at that time was that in the event of drafting “it would be madness to resist,” and added: 1T 716.4

“He who would resist until, in the administration of military law, he was shot down, goes too far, we think, in taking the responsibility of suicide.”—The Review and Herald, August 12, 1862. 1T 716.5

The nature of some of the correspondence that followed this article, as pointed out by Mrs. White, had been such as to lead Elder White to protest against a virtual charge of “Sabbathbreaking and murder” which had been brought against him. Such extremists were reproved by Mrs. White on the one hand, and on the other hand a note of warning was sounded to those who were inclined to enlist. 1T 716.6

In July, 1864, the national conscription law was so amended as to revoke the $300 exemption clause. Steps were immediately taken to secure for the Seventh-day Adventist young men the privileges granted to members of religious denominations who were conscientiously opposed to bearing arms—of being assigned to noncombatant service in hospital duty or in caring for freed men. Before a serious crisis was reached, these efforts were successful. In a few cases Seventh-day Adventist young men were drafted into the army and were assigned to hospital work or other noncombatant service. Whatever their assignment, they tried to let their light shine. Regularly for several months there ran through the columns of the Review and Herald a listing of receipts for a soldier's tract fund to furnish literature for distribution among the men. 1T 717.1

The experiences of Seventh-day Adventists in connection with the Civil War led them to take steps that secured for them a recognized status as noncombatants, which at the same time enabled them to follow the Scriptural injunctions regarding their relationships to “the powers that be,” which “are ordained of God.” 1T 717.2

Pages 421, 456, Dress Reform—The dresses generally worn by women in America at the time this was written (1863, 1867), were very deleterious to health. They were especially objectionable because of their extreme length, the constriction of the waist by the corset, and the weight of the heavy skirts which were suspended from the hips. About a decade earlier a few women of national prominence initiated a movement to adopt a new style of dress that would be free from these serious objections. The new mode of dress was somewhat like the Turkish costume worn by men and women alike. The movement became so popular that for a time “dress reform” conventions were held annually. 1T 717.3

“The American costume,” here referred to by Mrs. White, was a modification of the earlier style and was sponsored by Dr. Harriet Austin of Dansville, New York. It combined the short skirt, “reaching about halfway from the hip to the knee,” with mannish-looking trousers, coat, and vest. See description on page 465. This “so-called reform dress” was in 1864 shown to Mrs. White to be unsuitable for adoption by God's people. 1T 717.4

In 1865 Mrs. White, through How to Live, No. 6, appealed to our sisters to adopt a style of dress which was both modest and healthful. The next year the newly opened Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek took steps to design a pattern of dress that would correct the extremes of the short American costume or the ultra-long heavy dresses as commonly worn. 1T 717.5

In 1867 Testimony No. 11 appeared with its first article, “Reform in Dress.” See pages 456-466. In this the dress question was fully reviewed and further counsel given. A general pattern was recommended as embodying the principles revealed to Mrs. White, and was referred to as “worthy of the name of the reform short dress.” No particular pattern was revealed to her in vision, and, when discussing the matter at a later date, Mrs. White stated: 1T 717.6

“Some have supposed that the very pattern given was the pattern that all were to adopt. This is not so. But something as simple as this would be the best we could adopt under the circumstances. No one precise style has been given me as the exact rule to guide all in their dress.”—E. G. White Letter 19, 1897. Quoted in The Story of Our Health Message, 442. 1T 718.1

As the years passed, the prevailing styles of women's dress changed for the better, becoming more sensible and healthful. The old health reform dress in its exact pattern was no longer urged, but there was ever a uniform testimony borne by Mrs. White regarding the fundamental principles that should guide the Christian in this matter. Thus in 1897 she wrote: 1T 718.2

“Let our sisters dress plainly, as many do, having the dress of good material, durable, modest, appropriate for this age, and let not the dress question fill the mind.”—The Story of Our Health Message, 442. 1T 718.3

Page 525—For further explanation of the subject of dress the reader is referred to Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, No. 30, article, “Simplicity in Dress.” 1T 718.4

Page 689—Since the organization of tract societies in many states, the furnishing of books and tracts to the worthy poor has been assumed by them. Some of the works here mentioned are now out of print. 1T 718.5

The Trustees of the Ellen G. White Publications