Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)


The “Conference Address”

The disquieting situation sensed at the conference led to the action calling for a conference address “on the gifts of the church.” This address opened with penitent words: 1BIO 328.7

To the Dear Saints Scattered Abroad, Greeting: In view of the present low state of the precious cause of our blessed Master, we feel to humble ourselves before God, and confess our unfaithfulness and departure from the way of the Lord, whereby the spirit of holiness has been grieved, our own souls burdened, and an occasion given to the enemy of all righteousness to rejoice over the decline of faith and spirituality amongst the scattered flock.—Ibid. 1BIO 328.8

The address comes immediately to the subject of the gifts of the Spirit in the church and confesses: 1BIO 329.1

Nor have we appreciated the glorious privilege of claiming the gifts which our blessed Master has vouchsafed to His people; and we greatly fear that we have grieved the Spirit by neglecting the blessings already conferred upon the church.... 1BIO 329.2

We have also, in our past experience, been made to rejoice in the goodness of our God who has manifested His care for His people by leading us in His way and correcting our errors, through the operations of His Spirit; and the majority of Sabbathkeepers in the third angel's message have firmly believed that the Lord was calling His church out of the wilderness by the means appointed to bring us to the unity of the faith. We refer to the visions which God has promised to the remnant “in the last days.” 1BIO 329.3

The relation of the Spirit of Prophecy to the Bible was next dealt with: 1BIO 329.4

Nor do we, as some contend, exalt these gifts or their manifestations, above the Bible; on the contrary, we test them by the Bible, making it the great rule of judgment in all things; so that whatever is not in accordance with it, in its spirit and its teachings, we unhesitatingly reject. But as we cannot believe that a fountain sends forth at the same place sweet water and bitter, or that an evil tree brings forth good fruit, so we cannot believe that that is of the enemy which tends to unite the hearts of the saints, to lead to meekness and humility and holy living, and incites to deep heart-searching before God, and a confession of our wrongs.

Squaring up to the crux of the matter, the authors of the address recognized an attitude that was surely displeasing to God: 1BIO 329.5

While we hold these views as emanating from the divine mind, we would confess the inconsistency (which we believe has been displeasing to God) of professedly regarding them as messages from God, and really putting them on a level with the inventions of men. We fear that this has resulted from an unwillingness to bear the reproach of Christ (which is indeed greater riches than the treasures of earth), and a desire to conciliate the feelings of our opponents; but the Word and our own experience have taught us that God is not honored, nor His cause advanced, by such a course. 1BIO 329.6

While we regard them as coming from God, and entirely harmonizing with His written word, we must acknowledge ourselves under obligation to abide by their teaching, and be corrected by their admonitions. To say that they are of God, and yet we will not be tested by them, is to say that God's will is not a test or rule for Christians. 1BIO 330.1

There was more in the address, but the main points have here been brought forward. The fruitage of this humble confession and declaration of loyalty to God's leadings was soon evident. Wrote Ellen White of the painful experience and its hopeful outcome: 1BIO 330.2

At our late conference at Battle Creek, in November, God wrought for us. The minds of the servants of God were exercised as to the gifts of the church, and if God's frown had been brought upon His people because the gifts had been slighted and neglected, there was a pleasing prospect that His smiles would again be upon us, and He would graciously and mercifully revive the gifts again, and they would live in the church, to encourage the desponding and fainting soul, and to correct and reprove the erring.—Ibid., January 10, 1856 1BIO 330.3

The events and experiences at this conference of November, 1855, may well be considered as marking a turning point in Seventh-day Adventist history. With the church accepting the responsibility for its publishing work, and the Spirit of Prophecy now given its rightful place, added blessing attended the labors of the ministers, the publishing enterprise prospered, and the work moved forward. 1BIO 330.4