A Prophet Among You


Prove All Things

There is little possibility of making even a casual study of the history and present situation of Seventh-day Adventists without taking into consideration the place and influence of Ellen White. It would be like trying to study the Exodus of Israel from Egypt without noting the work of Moses. A glance at any part of the record of the life of Ellen White after her childhood will indicate something of her relationship to the advent people. The two are bound together in such a fashion as to render them inseparable. APAY 380.3

Can there be any accurate evaluation of the contribution made by Ellen White to the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist movement? There are certain intangibles that make evaluation difficult. Who can estimate the ultimate effects of influence? Who can know the extent of the responses to instruction given? Who can test the holding power of confidence? Yet, an observing eye cannot fail to note the numerous contributions that lead to the conclusion that if it had not been for the life and work of this messenger of the Lord the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church would have been vastly different. APAY 380.4

“Prove all things,” Paul suggests; “hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. It seems that Paul’s attention was turned to the gift of prophecy when he gave this counsel, for the preceding verse reads, “Despise not prophesyings.” In spiritual things it is extremely important that we discard anything that is useless or erroneous, and that we discover and hold to all that is truth. Jesus tested the traditions of the Jews and found them worthless. Luther found that the system of salvation by works under which he had been living was an erroneous system. Suppose he had retained it. Joseph Bates heard that the seventh day was the Sabbath. He tested the claim by the Bible and found it true. Suppose he had rejected the Sabbath in favor of the day he had been keeping. It is not difficult to conjecture what some of the results might have been had these men not proved these teachings and held fast the good. APAY 381.1

Much has been said in previous chapters about some of the contributions of Ellen White to the growth of the church, but no general summary has been made. Has it been worth while to have this manifestation of the gift of prophecy in the church? What has it meant to the church as a whole and to the individual members? Some points that have been covered in earlier parts of the book will be reviewed briefly in this general summary. APAY 381.2

The presence of the manifestation of the gift of prophecy has meant: APAY 381.3

1. Assistance in developing doctrines. The relation of Ellen White to the early development of the system of teachings held by Seventh-day Adventists was presented in chapter 12. These doctrines were not given to the church through revelations to Mrs. White, but the influence of the visions provided guidance so that right conclusions might be reached and substantiated. All theological problems are not settled by the writings, but sufficient help has been given so that no mistake need be made in any vital matter. The variations that exist in the doctrines of other denominations have not crept into Seventh-day Adventist teachings because this special guidance has indicated the validity of the Bible positions. Without this unifying factor, there would, no doubt, be many different views regarding the second advent of Christ, the nature of man, and other topics. APAY 381.4

2. Saving from false teachings and fanaticism. In the early days of the advent movement, before clear doctrinal positions had been worked out, there was serious danger from the introduction of false teachings among the advent believers. Numerous ways in which erroneous teachings were corrected are noted in the early history of the movement. In some cases errors crept into the thinking of substantial Adventists, but they were willing to correct their views when their errors were indicated. In other instances the errors led to fanaticism and increased the difficulty of dealing with the problems. A striking example from the early days may be found in A. W. Spalding’s Captains of the Host, pages 128-130, where he tells the story of the encounter with the fanatics Sargent and Robbins. For details of the account Spalding combines the records of J. N. Loughborough and James White. APAY 382.1

Attempts to introduce false teachings did not cease with the passing of the years. A. G. Daniells, in The Abiding Gift of Prophecy, pages 330-341, records how God used the gift of prophecy to prevent the injection of subtle pantheistic teachings into Seventh-day Adventist doctrines. How the problem of the rise of a false prophetess was met is told in the experience of Anna Phillips, found in Appendix A at the close of this book. See pages 469-471. This persistent guarding of the truth has been as important as its original discovery. The teachings of the church must neither be warped by error nor marred by fanaticism. APAY 382.2

3. Developing organization. The major steps in the growth of denominational organization were traced in chapter 12. The general plan in operation today is that which came about as the result of the 1903 General Conference and the suggestions made by Ellen White. It is an organization ideally suited to maintaining close contact with all parts of the world field and fostering united action in all areas. APAY 383.1

4. Guidance in current problems. In November, 1890, Ellen White was given a vision while she was stopping for a few days at Salamanca, New York. Several times she tried to tell what she had seen, but she was unable to do so. Why? Because some of the things she had seen had not yet taken place; she was unaware of this, and she must wait until the problem arose before she presented what had been revealed to her. When the need was present and the problem had to be faced, God prompted her to recall the vision and recount it. The story is told in detail in Appendix A. See pages 471-480. APAY 383.2

5. Guidance in plans for the future. Working from day to day with no long-range plan is unfavorable to the prosperity of any enterprise. Knowing the end from the beginning, God is able to give direction through His prophets that will result in well-laid plans for His church. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7. APAY 383.3

Wise plans were laid for the growth of the educational work at the Australian college at Avondale. Professor C. W. Irwin, who took charge of the school soon after Ellen White returned to the United States from Australia, wrote this after he had been the head of the school for eight years: APAY 383.4

“As time has gone on, and we have had an opportunity to watch the work develop, we can say most assuredly from our experience, that God led in the selection of this place. Everything that has been said about the location of the school in this place has been fulfilled. APAY 383.5

“The brethren in counsel with Sister White had made such broad and liberal plans for the school that through my eight years’ connection with it I have never yet needed to change a single plan they had laid down. God guided in the establishment of the work there; and all we have endeavored to do during these eight years, has simply been to develop more fully the plans already made. I believe the working out of this has proved that God’s instruction was true.” (Australasian) Union Conference Record, August 27, 1928. APAY 384.1

6. Revelation of future events. The major prophecies of the Bible carry us down to the end of the controversy between Christ and Satan. As the result of revelation, Ellen White was able to supply a number of details not mentioned in the Bible concerning these final events. Some of these details are set forth in the closing chapters of The Great Controversy. APAY 384.2

This more complete picture of the days ahead has given the church an added safeguard against the deceptions of Satan. The deceptions will increase in number and subtlety as we approach the end, and they will reach a climax in the appearance of Satan in person, as he proclaims himself to be the Christ. For all who are not thoroughly prepared for these delusions, they will be overpowering. The more we know of the ways the deceiver will work, the better we will be prepared to avoid his traps. APAY 384.3

7. Encouragement and aid to Bible study. As the Christian knows of a certainty what lies ahead, he better realizes his need for Bible study and a closer walk with God. “In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God as revealed in His word.... None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.”The Great Controversy, 593. “Whatever may be man’s intellectual advancement, let him not for a moment think that there is no need of thorough and continuous searching of the Scriptures for greater light. As a people we are called individually to be students of prophecy. We must watch with earnestness that we may discern any ray of light which God shall present to us. We are to catch the first gleamings of truth; and through prayerful study clearer light may be obtained, which can be brought before others.” Testimonies for the Church 5:708. APAY 384.4

Not only do the Ellen White books constantly remind one of the need for Bible study, but they serve as a guide to the clear understanding of the word of God. APAY 385.1

8. Guidance in Christian living. It is God’s plan to reveal to the world His character, His love, and His grace through the lives of His followers. In this way He will give a full and final display of the effectiveness of the plan of salvation. Practical applications of the principles of Christian living, as presented in the Bible, form a large share of the Ellen White writings. Not only are the principles emphasized, but, in most instances, detailed instruction is given as to ways in which they may be carried out in everyday living. Even the titles of many of the books reveal the aim of careful guidance: Steps to Christ, Messages to Young People, The Adventist Home, Child Guidance, Fundamentals of Christian Education, Counsels on Diet and Foods, Counsels on Stewardship. These are not theoretical messages, but words to real men and women who need help in meeting personal problems and in building Christian character. Appendix A contains the account of one man’s reaction to the practical Christian counsel in these books. See pages 480-482. APAY 385.2