Messenger of the Lord


Spiritual Awareness

In her early life, she was a victim of prevailing errors that permeated various churches within Protestantism. For example, misunderstanding the character of God—and thus the plan of salvation—was at the bottom of her teenage confusion “concerning justification and sanctification.” 1 MOL 68.3

Further, because she had been taught that God’s sovereignty and justice were Christianity’s central themes, she had little peace and almost a total unawareness of a friendly God. 2 MOL 68.4

The doctrine of eternal punishment, a central aspect of Calvinistic thinking that focused on God’s sovereignty at the expense of human responsibility, unloaded a profound anguish on young Ellen, as it does on anyone who wonders about a God who would punish sinners forever. 3 MOL 68.5

A clearly focused theology. When divine light helped her to read the Bible without being driven by the prevailing misconceptions that dominated contemporary churches, the truth about God became increasingly clear. Her writings soon focused on the main question in the great controversy between God and Satan—what is God really like? 4 Who can be trusted—God or Satan? MOL 68.6

A clear picture of God’s character. Along with a focused theology that captured the main theme of the Bible came a fresh, captivating picture of God that charmed her into a deep, dynamic relationship with her loving and gracious friendly Lord. 5 MOL 68.7

During the third European Missionary Council in Basel, Switzerland, September 22, 1885, she gave one of her typical talks to workers: “I feel so thankful this morning that we can commit the keeping of our souls to God as unto a faithful Creator. Sometimes the enemy presses me the hardest with his temptations and darkness when I am about to speak to the people. I have such a sense of weakness that it seems like an impossibility to stand before the congregation. But if I should give up to feelings, and say that I could not speak, the enemy would gain the victory. I dare not do this. I move right forward, take my place in the desk, and say, ‘Jesus, I hang my helpless soul on Thee; Thou wilt not suffer me to be brought to confusion,’ and the Lord gives me the victory.... Oh, that I could impress upon all the importance of exercising faith moment by moment, and hour by hour!... If we believe in God, we are armed with the righteousness of Christ; we have taken hold of His strength.... We want to talk with our Saviour as though He were right by our side.” 6 MOL 68.8

Grand subjects such as righteousness by faith, the importance of calm, unimpassioned reason in the Christian’s response to the gospel, and the responsibility of a “prepared people” in completing the gospel commission in the last days were clearly defined in print and realized in her own daily need for pardon and power. 7 MOL 69.1

Trust when the future was unclear. Ellen White was an example of one who trusted God even when outward circumstances seemed forbidding. Typical of hundreds of letters and of her many books is a passage in a letter to James, her husband, from Washington, Iowa, July 2, 1874: “We are justified to walk by sight as long as we can, but when we can no longer see the way clearly, then we need to put our hand in our heavenly Father’s and let Him lead. There are emergencies in the life of all in which we can neither follow sight nor trust in memory or experience. All we can do is simply to trust and wait. We shall honor God to trust Him because He is our heavenly Father.” 8 MOL 69.2

Love her motivating principle. Ellen White’s clear understanding of love set her apart from most other religious writers, before her time or since. Love (agape) as a principle, not a feeling burdened by hope of reward or favor, permeated her writings. For example: “Love is an active principle; it keeps the good of others continually before us, thus restraining us from inconsiderate actions lest we fail of our object in winning souls to Christ. Love seeks not her own. It will not prompt men to seek their own ease and indulgence of self. It is the respect we render to I that so often hinders the growth of love.” 9 MOL 69.3

Practical religion, (applied theology). Practical religion was another all-pervasive theme in Ellen White’s sermons and writings. For her, religion was more than a fountain of feeling. If religion does not motivate a person to reach out to help others without hope of gain, it is worthless. If religion does not change a person so that he or she bears the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22, RSV) and reflects the character of Jesus, one’s professed Christianity is meaningless. MOL 69.4

For Ellen White, practical Christianity was not optional; it had everything to do with one’s preparation for eternal life. Writing to a woman who had serious shortcomings, she declared: “Unless this is overcome now, it never will be, and Sister King will have no part with God’s people, no home in His heavenly kingdom. God cannot take you to heaven as you are. You would mar that peaceful, happy place. MOL 69.5

“What can be done for you? Do you design to wait until Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven? Will He make you all over new when He comes? Oh, no. This will not be done then. The fitting up must be done here; all the hewing and squaring must take place here upon earth, in the hours of probation. You must be fitted up here; the last blow must be given here.” 10 MOL 69.6

Relation between religion and health. Ellen White understood well the relationship between religion and the health of mind and body, that the well-being of one directly affects the health of the other. Her particular insights on this topic were much ahead of conventional thinking. For example: “Pure and undefiled religion is not a sentiment, but the doing of works of mercy and love. This religion is necessary to health and happiness. It enters the polluted soul temple and with a scourge drives out the sinful intruders.... With it comes serenity and composure. Physical, mental, and moral strength increase because the atmosphere of heaven as a living, active agency fills the soul.” 11 MOL 69.7

The chapter, “Mind-Cure,” in The Ministry of Healing is recognized by many as breaking new ground. It opens with this paragraph: “The relation that exists between the mind and the body is very intimate. When one is affected, the other sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many realize. Many of the diseases from which men [people] suffer are the result of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces, and to invite decay and death.” 12 MOL 69.8

Her understanding of the cause of suffering and death. Ellen White’s counsels regarding the cause of suffering and death were not only profound, they have stood the test of a century as a faithful reflection of the mind of God. She maintained that “sickness, suffering, and death are [the] work of an antagonistic power. Satan is the destroyer; God is the restorer.” 13 MOL 70.1

What then is the cause of sickness? One answer was: God’s laws have been violated, either by one’s ancestors or by oneself. She was unequivocal: “When Christ healed disease, He warned many of the afflicted ones, ‘Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee’ (John 5:14). Thus He taught that they had brought disease upon themselves by transgressing the laws of God, and that health could be preserved only by obedience.” 14 MOL 70.2

Suffering, other than sickness due to neglect of physical laws, is also caused by Satan and not the deliberate intervention of God. On many occasions she reinforced the teaching of Jesus on this point. In 1883 she wrote concerning a small group of new believers in Ukiah, California: “Our hearts are made glad as we see this little center of converts to the truth advancing step by step, growing stronger amid opposition. They are becoming better acquainted with the suffering part of religion. Our Saviour instructed His disciples that they should be despised for His name’s sake. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.’” 15 MOL 70.3

Her teachings regarding the cause of death, as well as suffering, flowed from the big picture of the great controversy between God and Satan: “It is true that all suffering results from the transgression of God’s law, but this truth had become perverted. Satan, the author of sin and all its results, had led men to look upon disease and death as proceeding from God—as punishment arbitrarily inflicted on account of sin.” 16 MOL 70.4

Quick to see her own mistakes. Ellen White was quick to confess her mistakes and seek forgiveness. She knew well the peace of forgiveness and was quick to release others from the weight of remorse and guilt. Out of her own experience and reflecting divine instruction, she offered this counsel: “It is not praiseworthy to talk of our weakness and discouragement. Let each one say, ‘I am grieved that I yield to temptation, that my prayers are so feeble, my faith so weak. I have no excuse to plead for being dwarfed in my religious life. But I am seeking to obtain completeness of character in Christ. I have sinned, and yet I love Jesus. I have fallen many times, and yet He has reached out His hand to save me. I have told Him all about my mistakes. I have confessed with shame and sorrow that I have dishonored Him. I have looked to the cross and have said, All this He suffered for me. The Holy Spirit has shown me my ingratitude, my sin in putting Christ to open shame. He who knows no sin has forgiven my sin. He calls me to a higher, nobler life, and I press on to the things that are before.’” 17 MOL 70.5

Tireless soul winner. Her contemporaries knew Ellen White to be a tireless soul winner. They observed her daily life; they received her earnest letters. Her neighbors and companions in travel were blessed by her helpful initiatives. In fact, her constant, cheerful concern for the spiritual welfare of others became a defining characteristic of her life. She never saw herself as the “ivory-tower author” far removed from the world of spiritual warfare that she wrote about. MOL 70.6

Throughout her life, young and old found Jesus through her personal ministry. One of her contemporaries wrote late in life: “My recollection of Sister White is that never in my life have I known a woman who seemed so completely devoted to the Lord Jesus. He seemed to be to her a personal friend whom she knew and loved and trusted. She found great joy in talking about Jesus; and all of the younger people agreed that there, at least, was a young lady who lived very near to the Lord and who in her sincere, practical way tried with all her heart to follow Jesus.” 18 MOL 71.1

A trip to Vergennes, Michigan, in June 1853, is remembered for more than becoming “lost” on a road very familiar to the driver of their wagon. Toward evening after a long day of wandering, without food and water, James and Ellen White were delighted to find a lonely log cabin and the housewife at home. While being refreshed, Mrs. White talked to her hospitable hostess about Jesus and gave her a copy of her first book, Experience and Views. For years the events of that day seemed not only exhausting but meaningless. But in 1876, at a camp meeting in Lansing, Michigan, the housewife in that log cabin more than twenty years before, grasped Ellen White’s hand and recalled their first meeting. Further, she introduced Mrs. White to a group of Seventh-day Adventists, all of whom began their new fellowship with the Lord after reading Experience and Views. The housewife had told her scattered neighbors of this traveling lady who “talked to her of Jesus and the beauties of heaven, and that the words were spoken with such fervor that she was charmed, and had never forgotten them.” 19 MOL 71.2