Ellen G. White in Europe 1885-1887

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Critical Days for the Conference President

Behind the scenes at this Swedish conference in Orebro, some feelings were being stirred, and important issues were looming that would be felt throughout Scandinavia. J. G. Matteson, who had pioneered the work in the Northland, quite naturally controlled it up to this time. He was a man of tremendous talent, ability, and dedication. The Scandinavian Adventists held him in the highest esteem. But no man is in a safe position when he stands on giddy heights. EGWE 196.2

Ellen White saw clearly that if the cause of truth was to continue to prosper, different minds and different talents would need to be introduced to give balance. Matteson knew of her feelings. So when O. A. Olsen came from America, Matteson was suspicious, and fearful that he was being pushed aside. But such was not to be the case. Before the conference was finished on Monday, June 2, Elder Matteson was re-elected as president of the conference. To bring breadth and strength to the growing work, a tract and missionary society was organized. O. A. Olsen was chosen to lead in this. EGWE 196.3

Mrs. White had been shown that one of the great temptations of administrators in the work of God would be the pre-empting of leadership, taking it wholly into their own hands. This danger existed with Matteson, but not alone with him. It seemed to be a temptation that beset men called to pioneer important phases of the work. In 1883, in letters to J. N. Andrews, she had cautioned him about trying to dominate the work, and had mentioned that J. N. Loughborough suffered from the same temptation. It was a common weakness that the Lord's servant was frequently called upon to combat. At the same time, she recognized the good that dedicated men accomplished and strongly defended them wherever she could. EGWE 196.4

When Willie White left for the General Conference session of 1885 Ellen White charged him to take a good report about Matteson. EGWE 197.1

“Willie, I want Matteson to stand in a proper light before the [General] Conference. We see mistakes and failures in his work and mission, but how much better would others have done under the circumstances? I am thinking he has done, in many respects, a good work. He has suffered privation and taken the work from nothing. All these things deserve our appreciation and we will encourage him all we can, and not say one word to discourage.”—Letter 36, 1885. EGWE 197.2

Even though she was called to the unpleasant work of pointing out a man's shortcomings and mistakes, it never undercut her confidence in or friendly regard for him. Just after her return to Basel from her first visit to Italy, she had written Matteson and his wife a long, newsy letter about the trip for no apparent reason other than simply to show her friendship. EGWE 197.3

At the conference session at Orebro, Matteson seemed to her to be somewhat withdrawn. She had a long talk with his wife, and “told her that Brother Olsen was not to take Matteson's place, but to help him in the work and both were not able to do one-half of that which should be done in these kingdoms” (Letter 117, 1886). EGWE 197.4

And in a letter to G. I. Butler, the General Conference president, she confided: EGWE 198.1

“I have been writing close letters to Elder Matteson in regard to many points of his manner of labor where they should change. I wanted to heal the wound by all kindness and sympathy and courtesy on my part; and now there seems to be all openness on his part and he seems to feel we do not want to hurt him but to help him.”—Ibid. EGWE 198.2

At the close of the session the people dispersed to their homes, and Matteson and Olsen went together in good spirits to the Danish Conference meeting, which began two days later in Jerslev in Northern Jutland. EGWE 198.3

Ellen White lingered in Orebro until Thursday, when she took the train for Christiania, stopping overnight in Charlottenberg. She reached Christiania on Friday morning and found new faces in the headquarters buildings. Niels Clausen had just arrived to edit the Danish-Norwegian papers, and a John Lorentz had also come to assist in the new publishing house. EGWE 198.4

The new presses were now ready for operation, and the old portion of the building had been remodeled and designed for family apartments. Two rooms had been reserved for the White party, and the Norwegian church members had all contributed to furnish them temporarily. “We will be comfortable here,” Ellen White noted with pleasure in her diary. EGWE 198.5

Sabbath morning W. C. White spoke to the church in their meeting hall in the new publishing house. He found it a good place in which to speak, with no ring or echo, and observed that the two-part gallery was convenient for Bible study during Sabbath school. EGWE 198.6

That afternoon Ellen White spoke on 2 Peter 3:11-14 about the “necessity of being diligent to be ready for the appearing of Jesus Christ.” It was the beginning of a week and a half of most earnest labor for the Christiania church. The problems that the members had faced during her last visit had not disappeared. But before she got involved again with the church in the capital city, she had an appointment to fill at Larvik, a town about seventy miles distant where E. G. Olsen had been working since the previous December. EGWE 198.7

It was an all-night trip by steamer. All the staterooms were occupied, so Ellen White, Sara, and eleven other ladies had to do the best they could on the seats in the ladies’ cabin. When they arrived at Larvik they were worn out and went directly to a hotel. EGWE 198.8

After dinner with the Olsens they took a walk in the park. As she walked among the beautiful beech trees she was surprised and pleased to notice that no beer or liquor was sold there. “Mild, simple drinks as soda water, are dealt out,” she observed. EGWE 199.1

At four o'clock she went to the hall to speak. There were about twenty who had accepted the Sabbath in Larvik, and they, with their friends, had gathered to hear the diminutive lady preacher. She had intended to address them in a way that could not offend anyone, but Providence planned a special message for her. “The Lord gave me a message to the people in regard to the false theory of sanctification,” she said, and Ellen White spoke with power about God's holy law and a godly life (Manuscript 57, 1886). Larvik was afflicted at this time with a number of people who claimed perfect holiness, but were transgressors of the law. One even said he was Christ Himself! EGWE 199.2

The talk almost frightened Edward Olsen, but he stated, “The believers were very much pleased and benefited and that it was just what they needed” (Ibid).. EGWE 199.3

The next morning they were back on the steamer headed for Christiania. Meanwhile, Elder Matteson had returned from the Danish conference. He brought a good report. “The [Danish] brethren seem willing to work and make advancement. They have done remarkably well, poor as they are, in keeping up their finances.”—Manuscript 66, 1886. EGWE 199.4

Matteson and Olsen along with Niels Clausen, Willie White, and John Lorentz immediately began laying plans for the new publishing house, evangelistic efforts, and colporteur training. The Spirit of Prophecy counsels and the European Council actions calling for the preparation of workers were taken seriously. EGWE 199.5