Ellen G. White — Messenger to the Remnant


Chapter 6—The Counselor

“I shall go forward as Providence and my brethren may open the way before me. In the name and strength of my Redeemer, I shall do what I can. I shall warn, and counsel, and reprove, and encourage, as the Spirit of God dictates, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.”—Testimonies for the Church 4:232. EGWMR 116.1

Thus wrote Ellen White in the year 1876. Although a large part of her work was public in its character, there was much which must be done in personal interviews, working with individuals who were seeking guidance, or were in trouble or in danger of pursuing a wrong course. This personal work was very taxing and called for much wisdom, tact, and divine aid. From almost beginning days Mrs. White’s counsel was eagerly sought. EGWMR 116.2

Of the three communications from her pen which appeared in 1847 in James White’s initial publication, A Word to the “Little Flock,” the first is a letter of counsel. In this communication Mrs. White acknowledges Mr. Curtis’ invitation to write to him, and then takes up certain doctrinal views which he has set forth “I have been much interested,” she states, “in your writings in the Dawn and Extra; and fully agree with you on some points, but on others we widely differ.”—A Word to the “Little Flock,” 11. EGWMR 116.3

With her visions as the basis for her comments, she then proceeds to take up one point after another and to specify which of his positions are correct and which are incorrect. On the two resurrections, she agrees. She agrees also on the new heavens and the new earth. But she differs on salvation for those who worship at the saints’ feet after the one thousand years. She was shown that they would be lost. She differs with him on the time “when Michael shall stand up.” She believes the sanctuary cleansed is the New Jerusalem temple. She recommends the “Day-Star” Extra containing the Crosier article on the cleansing of the sanctuary as presenting the true light on that subject. EGWMR 116.4

From the time of this letter, written before she was twenty years of age, through her long, busy life, because of her unique position men and women came to her for counsel. Now let us turn to a certain committee meeting held on the campground in Australia in 1895. The workers were called together to study problems which had arisen in a new field of labor. Mrs. White was present and gave counsel. Note from her words the basis of this counsel: EGWMR 116.5

“This morning I attended a meeting where a select few were called together to consider some questions that were presented to them by a letter soliciting consideration and advice on these subjects. Of some of these subjects I could speak because at sundry times and in divers places many things have been presented to me.... EGWMR 116.6

“As my brethren read the selections from letters I knew what to say to them; for this matter has been presented to me again and again. ... I have not felt at liberty to write out the matter until now.... The light that the Lord has given me at different times.”—The Southern Work, 97. (Italics mine.) EGWMR 116.7

At such times Mrs. White’s words were positive. When she spoke it was with conviction. Of this she wrote in 1911: EGWMR 116.8

“The question is asked, How does Sister White know in regard to the matters of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things? EGWMR 116.9

“I speak thus because they flash upon my mind, when in perplexity, like lightning out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind distinctly that particular instruction. At such times I cannot refrain from saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision, but because that which was presented to me perhaps years in the past, has been recalled to my mind forcibly.”—Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies to the Church, 24. EGWMR 116.10

But frequently advice was sought of Mrs. White on matters regarding which she had no light. At such times she purposely refrained from giving counsel. Thus to one man who wrote to her regarding his future work, she penned this message: EGWMR 116.11

“I am not at liberty to write to our brethren concerning your future work, for the Lord has not given me this to do. I have received no instruction regarding the place where you should locate, or what should be your future course.... EGWMR 116.12

“At the present time my mind is greatly burdened in regard to several letters that I must write. Messages have been given me for certain of our brethren, and these messages must be home whether those to whom they are sent will hear or will not hear. But concerning your future labors, the Lord has given me no instruction. EGWMR 116.13

“I dare not even take the responsibility of advising you in this matter. But I would say to you, my brother, You have a counsellor in the Lord Jesus. Counsel also with your brethren; they can advise you. EGWMR 116.14

“If the Lord gives me definite instruction concerning you, I will give it to you; but I cannot take upon myself responsibilities that the Lord does not give me to bear.”—Letter 96, 1909. EGWMR 116.15

From time to time Mrs. White was pressed by individuals who came personally to see her and seek her counsel. Although at times she had no definite message for the one seeking light, she could, nevertheless, lay down certain general principles. Thus it was when a certain man called to see her in 1891. Here is her reference to this interview: EGWMR 116.16

“Brother —— was introduced. He is an intelligent man, and, I should judge, one who could do a good work if sanctified by the Spirit of God. I spent an hour in conversation with this brother who was very anxious to know whether it was his duty to preach. I could not tell him this. I laid down general principles, and pointed him to Jesus.”—Manuscript 20, 1891. EGWMR 116.17

Another interesting picture is found just a few years later, while Mrs. White was still in Australia. The president of the General Conference, G. A. Irwin, was visiting that field and had several interviews with her. She writes of this: EGWMR 116.18

“He has with him a little note-book in which he has noted down perplexing questions which he brings before me, and if I have any light upon these points, I write it out for the benefit of our people, not only in America, but in this country.”—Letter 96, 1899. EGWMR 117.1

But Mrs. White did not encourage the people to come to her for counsel. She pointed them to Jesus: EGWMR 117.2

“Frequently I receive letters from individuals, telling me of their troubles and perplexities, and asking me to inquire of God as to what is their duty. To those for whom the Lord has given me no light, I have often replied: I have not been appointed by God to do such a work as you ask me to do. The Lord Jesus has invited you to bring your troubles to One who understands every circumstance of your life.... EGWMR 117.3

“I shall not dishonor my Lord by encouraging people to come to me for counsel, when they have a standing invitation to go to the One who is able to carry them and all their burdens.”—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 487. EGWMR 117.4

Of course, there were many times when it was necessary for her to take the initiative in giving counsel. Then she was impelled to speak. She often refers to this. Here are two such allusions: EGWMR 117.5

“The Spirit of God rests upon me with power, and I cannot but speak the words given me. I dare not withhold one word of the testimony.”—Manuscript 22, 1890. EGWMR 117.6

“God has given me a testimony to bear to His people that He has given to no other one and I must bear this testimony which is like fire shut up in my bones.”—Uncopied Letter 36, 1878. EGWMR 117.7

It was no light task to stand as one to give counsel which often cut across the fond plans or determined efforts of individuals or committees, and at times for those who were esteemed associates in the work. She expressed this in 1894 in these words: EGWMR 117.8

“The work is not always easy to perform. I have to take positions not in harmony with men whom I believe to be God’s workmen, and I see that I must do this in the future as in the past. It hurts me more than I can tell. The dearest hope that I can have may not be realized, yet if God will show me the right way, I will walk in it.”—Letter 64, 1894. EGWMR 117.9

These messages of counsel were not to be accepted or rejected at will. They were not just a personal opinion, but the counsel was based upon, or called into being by, light from heaven. Thus she wrote to one who had failed to heed the message given, but whose usefulness would have been tenfold greater had he heeded the light: EGWMR 117.10

“Do you suppose I would have given you such advice if I had had no light upon the matter? Be assured no such counsel would have been given you without good reason.”—Letter 1, 1883. EGWMR 117.11

We may ask then: Did Mrs. White have no opinions of her own? Were all her utterances inspired? Mrs. White, as an individual, held personal opinions and used her reasoning powers. She conversed freely with those about her upon any topic of interest. While undoubtedly the revelations and her long experience often had a bearing upon her train of thought and even her ordinary conversations, yet neither those with her nor she herself took the position that everything she said or thought had its origin in divine sources. If you were in her home, you would no doubt converse with her about general world conditions, or regarding the orchard and garden, the members of her family, the progress of the work of God; and no one would consider such conversation as of particular significance. Discussing this in 1909 she said: EGWMR 117.12

“There are times when common things must be stated, common thoughts must occupy the mind, common letters must be written and information given that has passed from one to another of the workers. Such words, such information, are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God. Questions are asked at times that are not upon religious subjects at all, and these questions must be answered. We converse about houses and lands, trades to be made, and locations for our institutions, their advantages and disadvantages.”—Manuscript 107, 1909. EGWMR 117.13

It is not strange then that at times Mrs. White would be pressed for an opinion in ordinary matters or even in the plans for the carrying forward of the work of God, even though she had no direct light from God on the question. Nor is it strange that at times, in the absence of direct light, she might, upon urging, express her opinion in such matters, basing such an opinion upon good sense and experience. It is of interest to note that in one such case when her advice was not what it should have been, God sent a message to check the unwise action that would have resulted upon her assent to plans laid by the brethren. It was so also in the case of Nathan and David. (See 1 Chronicles 17:1-15.) EGWMR 117.14