Life Sketches of Ellen G. White

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Chapter 50—The First Australian Camp Meeting

“We are glad to announce to our people,” wrote Elder A. G. Daniells late in September, 1893, to the brethren and sisters throughout Australia, “that the time has come when the executive committee of the Conference see their way clear to carry out the wishes of so many to hold a camp meeting.” Some had been waiting eagerly for such an announcement, and it came as welcome news to the rank and file of the believers scattered far and wide through the Australian colonies. LS 344.1

Among the general laborers advertised to attend were Elder O. A. Olsen, president of the General Conference; Mrs. Ellen G. White; and some brethren whom the Mission Board were sending over from America to supplement the small force of workers in the Australian field. The promise of ample help led Elder Daniells to add to his appeal the words, “This will be a rare occasion,—one which we may not have again for years,—and we truly hope that but few of our people will be denied the privilege of being present.” The Bible Echo, October 1, 1893, 320. LS 344.2

Much faith was required to plan for a general camp meeting to which the brethren and sisters from all the colonies should be invited to come. The traveling expenses alone seemed almost prohibitive because of the great distances to be traversed. But the need of getting together was imperative, and therefore the believers were urged strongly to attend. “This meeting,” Mrs. White declared, “will mark a new era in the history of the work of God in this field. It is important that every member of our churches should be present, and I urge you all to come.” LS 344.3

“I am afraid that some will say,” she continued, “‘It is expensive to travel, and it would be better for me to save the money, and give it for the advancement of the work, where it is so much needed.’ Do not reason in this way; for God calls upon you to take your place among the rank and file of His people. You are to be there in person, and to strengthen the meeting all you possibly can.... We know that the believers in the truth are scattered widely; but make no excuse that will keep you from gaining every spiritual advantage possible. Come to the meeting, and bring your families.... LS 345.1

“We should use every power at our command to make this meeting a success, and suit it to the needs of those who shall attend. The work of the Lord is above every temporal interest, and we must not misrepresent His cause. Watching, waiting, working, must be our motto.... LS 345.2

“God has committed to our hands a most sacred work, and we need to meet together to receive instruction as to what is personal religion and family piety; we need to understand what part we shall individually be called upon to act in the grand and important work of building up the cause and work of God in the earth, in vindicating God's holy law, and in lifting up the Saviour as ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29. We need to receive the divine touch, that we may understand our work in the home. Parents need to understand how they may send forth from the sanctuary of the home, Christian children, trained and educated so that they shall be fitted to shine in the world. We need the Holy Spirit, in order that we may not misrepresent our faith.... It is now fully time that an advance move was made in Australia.... Let us move forward with well concentrated effort, and overcome every difficulty.” The Bible Echo, December 8, 1893. LS 345.3

Thirty-five family tents were manufactured by some of the brethren, in advance, for the Conference. It was thought that these would meet all requirements. But as the orders came rolling in, more tents were purchased, and others were hired for the meeting. When completed, the camp had over one hundred tents, and five hundred and eleven people. The grounds were well laid out and faithfully cared for. Many of the tents were furnished with bedsteads, tables, chairs, and bureaus; and the whole camp was a model of cleanliness and good order. LS 346.1

“We felt that the eye of God was upon all our arrangements,” Mrs. White wrote when referring afterward to these painstaking efforts to make the grounds appear attractive and inviting; “and in the order of our camp we sought to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9. The results attained were much greater than the toilers had dared expect. “The encampment made the impression upon those who visited it,” Mrs. White wrote further, “that the truth we advocated was of great importance, that the missionary spirit is the true spirit of the gospel. LS 346.2

“This was the first camp meeting that Melbourne had seen, and it was a marvel of wonders to the people. Far and near the sound went out concerning this city of tents, and a most wonderful interest was awakened. Every afternoon and evening the tent was filled to its utmost capacity, not with a cheap order of society, but with people of intelligence, physicians of note, ministers, and business men. We saw that with the blessing of God this camp meeting would do more to bring our work before the people than years of labor could possibly do. LS 346.3

“Thousands visited the encampment, and expressed their delight and astonishment at the order of the grounds, and the nicety of arrangements in the clean, white tents. No stubborn opposition seemed to be awakened as men and women listened to the truth for the first time. The power of God was among us. Brighton was stirred from one end to the other. An interest was awakened in Melbourne also, and the surrounding suburbs, greater than anything we had witnessed since the movement of 1844. The truth was new and strange; yet it took hold upon the people; for we preached the word of God, and the Lord sent it home to the hearts of the hearers. LS 347.1

“Many visitors came from long distances, and, as it was in the 1843 and 1844 movement, they would bring their lunch and remain through the day. A number of the citizens of the place declared that if they were not living close by, they would hire tents and camp with us on the ground. They valued the privilege of hearing the word of God so clearly explained. They said the Bible seemed to be full of new and precious things, and was like a new book to them. We heard from many such expressions as these: ‘This is more than we hoped for.’ ‘Our faith is confirmed; our hope brightened; our belief in the testimony of the Scriptures made strong.’” LS 347.2

“I have attended many camp meetings,” testified Elder O. A. Olsen concerning the Brighton meeting, “but I have never before witnessed such an outside interest. This is more like what in my imagination I have thought would be the loud voice of the third angel's message, than anything I have seen heretofore. A most profound impression is made on the city of Melbourne. Wherever one goes, the leading topic of conversation is the camp meeting and what is seen and heard there. From all around come most earnest appeals for meetings.... LS 347.3

“To our brethren this meeting has been of the greatest value possible. It has given them much broader ideas of the work for this time, and a much deeper Christian experience. After they had been here one week, they voted almost unanimously to continue yet another week.” The Review and Herald, March 6, 1894. LS 348.1

“As an outgrowth of the Brighton camp meeting,” Mrs. White afterward testified, “several churches were raised up. I visited the church in Williamstown, and rejoiced to see that many had moral courage to manifest their loyalty to the commandments of God in spite of the continual opposition and contempt that have been heaped upon them and upon God's holy law. LS 348.2

“A church was raised up in Hawthorne, and another in Brighton. About sixty belonged to these two churches. A large number of new members have been added to the Prahan church, and to the church in North Fitzroy. Persons are continually coming in who heard the truth at the Brighton camp meeting. LS 348.3

“Some will say that these camp meetings are very expensive, and that the Conference cannot afford to support another such meeting; but when we look at the three churches that have been organized, and are prospering in the faith, can we hesitate in answering the question, ‘Will it pay?’ Shall we not raise our voices in decided affirmation, ‘It will pay’?” LS 348.4