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


Chapter 21—(1856) Working in a Changed Atmosphere

When the church leaders assembled for the conference in Battle Creek in late November, 1855, it was with a pervading sense that things were not right. The conference address drawn up at the time seemed to hold the key to the distressing situation—the Spirit of Prophecy had not been given its proper place, either in the published word or in the hearts of the believers. During the past five years the Review and Herald had not published even one vision given by God to Ellen White, and but very, very little had been said about God communicating with His people to encourage, guard, and counsel them through the visions. 1BIO 331.1

True, in 1851, Ellen White's first little sixty-four-page book, which presented many of the visions of the past seven years, had been published and circulated. But with the intent of not offending the general public, the Review had become silent on the visions, and its editor had done no more than maintain the propriety of visions in the last days. Now, with the confessions of neglect and the determination to place the gift in its proper place in the church, the whole atmosphere changed. The minutes of the conference and the conference address were published December 4 in the first issue of the Review printed in Battle Creek. This issue carried Uriah Smith's name on the masthead as resident editor, and James White as one of the corresponding editors. 1BIO 331.2

Immediately a change in policy became evident. In the issue of December 18, in a two-page editorial titled “The Testimony of Jesus,” James White defended the Spirit of Prophecy in the remnant church. Beginning with Revelation 12:17,he carried through the scriptural support for the continuing ministry of the gift of prophecy till earth's last days, and closed with the Biblical tests of the true prophet. 1BIO 331.3

This is followed by a communication from Roswell F. Cottrell, of Mill Grove, New York, another corresponding editor, dealing with the visions in the setting of the criticisms of J. M. Stephenson, who was now rejecting the message he once advocated. Addressing Stephenson, Cottrell declared: 1BIO 332.1

We cannot engage in a faction against those whom God made choice of to introduce the last message to the world.... If the visions are not of God, they will surely come to nought; and we pray God to hasten the day. But we have not been able to discover anything in them which conflicts with the commandments of God—the law and the testimony—which are the test given us by inspiration, by which to try the spirits. Therefore we see no danger from them.—The Review and Herald, December 18, 1855. 1BIO 332.2

Ellen White commented on Cottrell's article: What a nice piece Brother Roswell wrote! It hit the nail on the head; it will do much good.—Letter 9, 1856. 1BIO 332.3

The publication of the main features of the vision of November 20 came about like this: Ellen White wrote it out immediately and on Sabbath evening read it to the Battle Creek church. The church in turn voted unanimously that it should be published and made available to the entire body of believers. It was set in type and printed as one article in a two-page sheet, some of the topics being—as given headings in an 1885 reprinting—“Thy Brother's Keeper,” “Time to Begin the Sabbath,” “Opposers of the Truth,” and “Prepare to Meet the Lord.” 1BIO 332.4

The manner in which this little document was looked upon by leading men in the developing church is revealed in a small-type note at its close: 1BIO 332.5

We, the undersigned, being eyewitnesses when the above vision was given, deem it highly necessary that it should be published, for the benefit of the church, on account of the important truths and warnings which it contains. 1BIO 332.6


M. E. Cornell Jos. Bates

J. H. Waggoner J. Hart

G. W. Amadon Uriah Smith

Shortly afterward, the material, along with a vision given May 5, 1855, was published in a sixteen-page pamphlet. Although not numbered, it turned out to be Testimony No. 1. 1BIO 333.1