Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915 (vol. 6)


Chapter 18—America's Cities—The Great Unworked Field

Ellen White had a continuing burden for the great cities of America, cities that had no presence, or only a limited one, of the Adventist witness. She had laid the matter before church leaders assembled in Washington on June 11, 1909, just a few days after the close of the General Conference session. It was a most earnest appeal that she hoped would lead to unprecedented action in evangelizing the cities. A few months later she wrote of the experience, “Some of you did not understand the message that I bore, and may never understand it.”—Letter 32, 1910. In fact she sensed this at the time she spoke the most earnest words of entreaty. 6BIO 219.1

Then in September, 1909, Testimonies for the Church, volume 9, carried a section titled “The Work in the Cities,” with a strong appeal to ministers and laymen. “Behold the cities,” she urged, “and their need of the gospel.”—Page 97. She told of how the need of earnest laborers among the multitudes of the cities had been kept before her for more than twenty years (Ibid.). Portions of the section were taken from her sermons at the General Conference session; other parts were from “instructive, cheering, and inspiring testimonies.” Still others were “found in special testimonies, [and] in articles published in our periodicals.”—Page 89, footnote. 6BIO 219.2

But even the appeal to church leaders, and the urgency of the matter as stressed in volume 9, failed to bring relief to Ellen White, and she continued to urge outstanding efforts to reach the masses in the cities. In early December she sent three communications to Elder Daniells, calling for more earnest action. He received them during the Week of Prayer and called the workers in the Washington institutions together. They spent an afternoon studying how to implement the work called for. As the needs were surveyed, it was seen that more money for city evangelism had to be made available. The General Conference Committee voted to appropriate $11,000 more than they had the year before for the work in the metropolitan areas. Nearly half of this was to advance the work in New York City. Elder Daniells in his letter to Ellen White of January 2, 1910, wrote of the difficulty in securing qualified men for city evangelism and then declared, “I want to assure you, Sister White, that we will do all we know how to carry out the messages to work the cities.” 6BIO 219.3

But somehow she was uneasy. In an address given January 28 at the Pacific Union Conference session held at Mountain View, Ellen White referred to a conversation with Elder I. H. Evans, treasurer of the General Conference, a few days before, in which she placed before him “the great necessity of our people giving much careful consideration to the work that must be done in the great cities” (Manuscript 25, 1910). She bemoaned the fact that in spite of the “needs of these cities” that “have been brought to the attention of our people over and over again,” there were very few who seemed “willing to move forward along the lines indicated by our heavenly Instructor.” 6BIO 220.1

“Something has been done,” she acknowledged, but she urged, “God requires of His people a far greater work than anything that has been done in years past.”— Ibid. She stated: 6BIO 220.2

There is not seen in the East the reformation that should be taking place in our churches. Our brethren are not carrying the burden they should in behalf of the unworked cities. They have not been making decided movements to send men into these cities.— Ibid. 6BIO 220.3

Back in June, 1909, in her last meeting with the General Conference Committee, she had urged that Elder W. W. Prescott, editor of the Review, should go into the cities engaging in evangelism. 6BIO 220.4

“God has a work for Brother Prescott to do,” she declared. “It is not wisdom for him to remain continuously in Washington. He has special ability for ministering the Word of God to the people.... He would be the recipient of much greater spiritual strength if he were much of the time out in the field seeking to lead souls to the light of truth.”—Manuscript 41, 1909. 6BIO 220.5

Then addressing him directly, she said, “Brother Prescott, your ministerial ability is needed in the work that God requires shall be done in our cities.”— Ibid. 6BIO 221.1

Elder G. A. Irwin asked: 6BIO 221.2

In all that you have said concerning the work of Elder Prescott, do you mean that he is to continue as editor of the paper, and also to go out and preach in the cities occasionally?—Manuscript 53, 1909.

Ellen White promptly answered: 6BIO 221.3

No; no; he must give himself up to the work of the ministry. His strength should not be divided. He is to give himself to the evangelistic work, for the very talent that he would otherwise use in helping to carry on the work at this Washington center is needed where there is no talent at the present time.— Ibid.

Then she commented: 6BIO 221.4

In studying this problem let us remember that the Lord sees not as man sees. He looks upon the terrible neglect of the cities....It is not at all in the order of God that these cities should be left unwarned, unworked. It is the result of man's devising. There is a world to be saved.— Ibid.

The brethren were stunned by her earnestness, and it was hard for them to grasp the gravity of the neglect of the big cities. A few days later, she reported: “Some did not take willingly to the idea of losing Brother Prescott, but I spoke plainly to them.”—Letter 98, 1909. 6BIO 221.5

She had witnessed Prescott's powerful evangelistic preaching at the camp meetings in Australia. Of his work at the Melbourne camp meeting in 1895 she wrote: 6BIO 221.6

The Word is presented in a most powerful manner. The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon Brother Prescott in great measure.... Brother Prescott has been bearing the burning words of truth such as I have heard from some in 1844. The inspiration of the Spirit of God has been upon him.—Letter 25, 1895. 6BIO 221.7

Now in mid-1909 she was calling for him to enter evangelistic work in the cities. Arrangements were made to release him from his position as editor of the Review and Herald, but he found it difficult to fill the new assignment. It was not easy to enter into city evangelism when he had never held an evangelistic effort per se. He much preferred a scholarly search for theological truth to active evangelism (Howard B. Weeks, Adventist Evangelism, p. 29). But in February, 1910, he began public meetings in New York City, and worked in a modest way. His experience typified that of many. Few of the ministers were prepared to undertake work in the cities, regardless of the dire need. 6BIO 222.1

On January 3, 1910, Elder Daniells reported: 6BIO 222.2

We are doing the very best we know how to carry out the instruction she [Ellen White] has sent us. Of course you know that we have limitations both as respects men and money. The question of working the cities in the East and South is a big one. We cannot do one half of what there is to be done, and what we would like to do along this line....

I have already written you that we have appropriated $11,000 above our regular appropriations to the work in these cities.... You must help us to get laborers, or we shall not be able to do but little more than we are now doing.—AGD to WCW, January 3, 1910. 6BIO 222.3

But all this seemed so paltry to Ellen White, seeing as she did the tremendous challenge. How could she stir the leaders of the church? How could she awaken them? 6BIO 222.4

In correspondence passing between her and the president of the General Conference, the needs of the cities and work in the cities were frequently mentioned. Regardless of reports of steps being taken, which always encouraged her, the Lord continued to keep before her the need of larger plans and more earnest work. Writing on February 11, 1910, W. C. White told Elder Daniells:

Mother's burden for the cities continues. It is pressed upon her mind night after night that we are not doing what we ought.... This morning Mother said to me that while our brethren have done a little here and there, they have not instituted that thoroughly organized work which must be carried forward if we shall give our cities a proper warning. 6BIO 222.5

At the round of union conference sessions, Daniells had intended to emphasize the needs of the work in the cities, and efforts were put forth in that direction, but some time and strength were diverted to a consideration of the “daily” of Daniel 8, which seemed important and was an intriguing topic for discussion. 6BIO 223.1

“What can we do?” Ellen White asked again and again. “What can we do to persuade our brethren to go into the cities and give the warning message now, right now!”—WCW to AGD, March 15, 1910. As she pondered the matter, she sometimes expressed the thought to her son that she should go east and personally engage in the work in Portland, hoping that this might arouse in some of the brethren a realization of the urgency of the hour (Ibid.). 6BIO 223.2

Elder Daniells, endeavoring to do what he thought was the best he could, arranged for a five-day meeting on city evangelism to be held in New York City, July 7-11. 6BIO 223.3

Shortly after laying these plans, he was on the Pacific Coast and went to Elmshaven to report this, which he felt sure would cheer Ellen White's heart. She refused to see him! The messenger of the Lord refused to see the president of the General Conference, sending word to the effect that when the president of the General Conference was ready to carry out the work that needed to be done, then she would talk with him. Elder Daniells came to see that even the aggressive plans he had confidently laid fell far short of what was needed. 6BIO 223.4

After boarding the train that would carry him back to Washington, Elder Daniells wrote a short letter to Ellen White. It was humble and contrite in tone: 6BIO 223.5

I was sorry that I could not have talked with you while at St. Helena, concerning the work for our cities. I wanted to tell you that I shall take hold of this work with all my heart.... I have felt greatly concerned about this for several months, and now I feel that I must take hold of this work personally. Whatever money and laborers may be required in these places I will do my best to secure. And I am willing to spend months in personal efforts with the workers, if necessary.... Will you pray the Lord to give us wisdom to know what to do to answer the call for the cities at this time?—AGD to EGW, May 26, 1910. 6BIO 223.6

On June 15, not long after receiving this message from Elder Daniells, Ellen White addressed a most solemn testimony to him and to Prescott. It opened: 6BIO 224.1

Dear Brethren: I have a message for you. Those who serve the cause of God need to be men of prayer, men who will heed the instruction that the Lord is giving regarding the prosecution of His work. 6BIO 224.2

I am deeply impressed as I realize that time is rapidly passing. Every worker should now be daily converted, and every power be employed in doing a work in our large cities that has been strangely neglected. 6BIO 224.3

I entreat of you to delay not to open the fields that so greatly need attention, and that have scarcely been touched. This is your work. There is need of a reformation in the work that God has pointed out for you to do in opening new fields. There is much to be done in bringing before the world the light of Bible truth in its sacred simplicity, and you both need to be revived by the influence of the Holy Spirit of God.—Letter 58, 1910. 6BIO 224.4

We would perhaps hesitate to open up these matters between the Lord and these two much-respected church leaders had not Elder Daniells himself on several occasions related this experience. In Australia in 1928, he said, “Sister White gave me counsel and reproof concerning many matters.” 6BIO 224.5

She sent messages to me regarding the work in the cities in the Eastern States. I seemed unable to understand them fully. Consequently I did not do all that these messages indicated should be done. 6BIO 224.6

Finally I received a message in which she said, “When the president of the General Conference is converted, he will know what to do with the messages God has sent him.” 6BIO 224.7

I did not then have as much light on the matter of conversion as I now have. I thought I had been converted fifty years before, and so I had; but I have since learned that we need to be reconverted now and then.... That message, telling me that I needed to be converted, cut me severely at the time, but I did not reject it. I began to pray for the conversion I needed to give me the understanding I seemed to lack.—DF 312, AGD, in (Australasian) Union Conference Record, August 13, 1928. 6BIO 224.8

The June 15, 1910, testimony was a cutting message. Early in it Ellen White declared: 6BIO 225.1

I am charged with a message to you both that you need to humble your hearts before God. Neither Elder Prescott nor Elder Daniells is prepared to direct the work of the General Conference, for in some things they have dishonored the Lord God of Israel. High, pure devotion to God is required of men placed in your position. Such a man was Daniel, who in his statesmanship maintained a clean and holy purpose. Such characters are needed now. 6BIO 225.2

I am to tell you that neither of you is prepared to discern with clear eyesight that which is needed now. 6BIO 225.3

And then she went back to the point where leading men failed to grasp what needed to be done: 6BIO 225.4

Some things were clearly opened before me during the last meeting I attended in Washington, D.C. But those who ought to have been the first to recognize the movings of the Holy Spirit were not sufficiently impressed to receive the light and to act in harmony with it. The work in the cities has not yet been carried forward as it should be. 6BIO 225.5

She added reluctantly: 6BIO 225.6

Had the president of the General Conference been thoroughly aroused, he might have seen the situation. But he has not understood the message that God has given. 6BIO 225.7

And she exclaimed: 6BIO 225.8

I can no longer hold my peace.—Letter 58, 1910.

In all, she wrote eight pages of reproof, counsel, and appeals. She called for the choosing of seven men who, united with the president, should “set in operation a work in the great cities for those who are perishing without the truth.” 6BIO 225.9

About the time this testimony was sent, W. C. White, to whom Ellen White had opened up her heart, wrote to his close associate and dear friend Arthur Daniells. He told of conversations he had had with his mother in which she had made it clear that unless there came a change in Elder Daniells’ experience that would lead him to see the great needs of the work, perhaps he should step aside and let another carry the burdens. This was followed rather quickly by a report of an interview held at the Elmshaven office and attended by Ellen White. On this occasion she spoke freely of her disappointment over the failure of some of the brethren to discern the needs of the unwarned in large centers of population. She reiterated her surprise that men of discernment, men whom the Lord had greatly blessed in years past in evangelical work, had not seemed to understand fully her counsel to do an immediate and a strong work in the cities. 6BIO 226.1

Elder Crisler referred Ellen White to the fact that Elder Daniells and his associates in the general work had spent much time in a study of problems connected with city work, and of how they had a longing desire to do that which was called for in the messages. He referred to Elder Daniells’ expressed desire to stand before unwarned audiences and preach the message as he did before becoming so burdened with administrative responsibilities. He brought before her the baffling problems that seemed almost impossible to solve, and the desire on Daniells’ part and the part of his brethren to do everything within their power to follow the leadings of Providence. 6BIO 226.2

Responding to Elder Crisler, Sister White referred to the policies followed by her husband, James White, during the years that he stood as a leader in the general work. Crisler reported: 6BIO 226.3

She asked, “What is the president of a General Conference for, if he is not to lead?” ... As her husband used to lead personally, and go forward in faith, he experienced new spiritual life and power. His own soul was watered, and the confidence of his brethren in him as a leader, under God, was greatly strengthened.—Report of an interview June 19, 1910 (WCW to AGD file). 6BIO 226.4

Then, according to Crisler's report: 6BIO 227.1

Sister White touched on the blessing that would come to the general work if Elder Daniells and some of his associates who are bearing large responsibilities could personally enter the cities and act as leaders in a mighty effort to get well under way the very work that God has been calling upon His people to do. She referred three or four times to the light that would come in, as regards methods of labor. With the advancement of the work would come a discovery of ways and means. That which is not plain at present would be revealed as the actual work progressed under the active, personal leadership of Elder Daniells and his associates. Confidence in the leaders would naturally follow, and a mighty work would be done.

As the General Conference brethren labored for souls in the great cities, their sympathies would be enlarged, and their minds would be so fully occupied with the work of thwarting the efforts of Satan to win the allegiance of the world, that they would lose sight of petty differences of opinion on doctrinal points.— Ibid. 6BIO 227.2

Crisler in his report then noted that Sister White spoke of the “spiritual life and power, the increasing enthusiasm, and the quickened spiritual perceptions that would come as a result of personal evangelical work in the cities by those who have been chosen to act as leaders in the Lord's work. Several times she emphasized the fact that great and constantly increasing light on methods of doing city work would come to the brethren in responsible positions, and to the people generally, as the result of personal, active leadership in a mighty effort to get this line of work under full headway.”— Ibid. 6BIO 227.3

Elder Daniells held these communications until July 1, when most of the General Conference Committee members were in from the camp meetings, and then he laid it all before his brethren. “What does she mean,” he asked his associates, “when Sister White speaks of the time when the president of the General Conference is converted?” The entire group studied the messages together, and it was decided that the city work must have first attention. A committee of seventeen was appointed to oversee this work. Actions were taken to release Elder Daniells from all appointments for a full year, canceling camp meeting appointments and a trip to Australia. The administrative responsibilities were delegated to two or three of the officers in Washington, allowing him to go to New York City to conduct an evangelistic effort personally. 6BIO 227.4

In the days that followed, as he was busily engaged in this evangelistic thrust in New York City, Daniells pondered the full significance of the suggestion made by Sister White that if he failed to walk in the way God would have him go, it would be well if he laid aside his responsibilities as president of the General Conference. 6BIO 228.1

On August 5, he wrote to W. C. White, with the understanding that his confidential communication, typed out by Mrs. Daniells, would be placed before Sister White. In this letter he pointed out that he was not certain just what course of action he should follow, but under the counsel and advice of his brethren, he had reached the conclusion that he should go forward in leading out in the work in the cities, and should not make an immediate decision as to the future of his administrative work. He then declared: 6BIO 228.2

Now, Brother White, I am doing the very best I know how to follow the instruction in the testimonies and to be true to this cause. That is all I can say.... There is a world of work to be done in other lands which is very inviting to me, and all I ask is that I may be allowed to quietly arrange the changes that will be necessary when it is time for me to go. 6BIO 228.3

On August 11, W. C. White, after reading this letter with his mother, wrote to Daniells: 6BIO 228.4

This morning Mother read your letter of August 5.... It took her a long time to read it because she stopped every two or three paragraphs to make comments.... 6BIO 228.5

She thought you were taking just the right course, and that she believed the Lord would greatly bless you in giving yourself personally to the evangelistic work. 6BIO 228.6

She said that in the night in her dreams she was talking to you and telling you that it was not best for you now to resign your place as president of the Conference, but that you were to use all your tact and experience and all the influence that your position gives you in helping, strengthening, and building up the evangelistic work. 6BIO 228.7

In a letter Ellen White wrote to Daniells on the same day, she said: 6BIO 229.1

The position you have taken is in the order of the Lord, and now I would encourage you with the words, Go forward as you have begun, using your position of influence as president of the General Conference for the advancement of the work we are called upon to do. 6BIO 229.2

Further, she wrote: 6BIO 229.3

The light that I have from the Lord is that this same experience will be needed by others. You will now be able, not only to take up the work yourself, but also to exercise your influence as president of the General Conference to lead out in the very work that the Lord has appointed to be done.

After assuring Elder Daniells that “angels of God will be with you,” she admonished in closing, “Redeem the lost time of the past nine years by going ahead now with the work in our cities, and the Lord will bless and sustain you.”—Letter 68, 1910. 6BIO 229.4

On August 17, Daniells wrote to W. C. White: 6BIO 229.5

I think I may say to you that I have set my hand as firmly and determinedly to this city evangelistic work as I have ever taken hold of anything in my life. I have become very greatly interested in it. It appeals to every fiber of my body....

With the help of others, I ought to be able to set on foot a movement that will mean a great deal for the hastening of this work. 6BIO 229.6

Six weeks later he wrote again, “You will see that I am taking hold of this line of work to win.”—AGD to WCW, September 27, 1910. 6BIO 229.7

And Ellen White, with relief of soul, wrote: 6BIO 229.8

I am much encouraged by the letters I have recently received, which show that there is a waking up amongst our brethren. Letters from Elder Daniells and others speak in regard to the work that must be done. They are surprised as they see the interest shown in the truth by people of different nationalities. These people are calling for light. As they see the unworked cities, our brethren realize the greatness of the work to be done. Many who in the past ought to have been wide awake, giving heed to the messages sent, have been asleep. Our people are now to awake. If all will do their duty, we shall see the work of the Lord carried forward in earnest. May God help us is my prayer.—Letter 102, 1910.

With a clearer vision of what the Lord required, Daniells was able to launch a new day in Adventist city evangelism, which in the years to come yielded fruitful harvests. His final efforts in this line are found in the establishment of the Ministerial Association as a part of the General Conference structure. 6BIO 230.1

When on February 9, 1912, Ellen White drew up her last will and testament, in which she provided for the management of her writings, she named Arthur G. Daniells as one of the five men of her choice who were to take care of these writings after her death. There could be no greater evidence of her confidence in his integrity, dedication, and ability. 6BIO 230.2