Ellen G. White: The Australian Years: 1891-1900 (vol. 4)


McCullagh Returns to the Faith—Briefly

Two years went by, and little was heard of McCullagh. Then on January 7, 1899, having apparently made a complete turnaround, he wrote a rather extended confession to Ellen White at Cooranbong. On January 24 he carried it with him to the Ballarat camp meeting to show to A. G. Daniells and confer with him concerning the possibility of his return to the Adventist ministry. As Daniells took the sheets, he read the opening sentence: 4BIO 283.7

Dear Sister White,

Ever since my mysterious and unjustifiable fall about two years ago, we have been in a state of spiritual unrest.—S. McCullagh to EGW, January 7, 1899. 4BIO 284.1

Daniells read the extended confession thoughtfully, and after his visit with McCullagh he wrote Ellen White, mentioning the experience: 4BIO 284.2

Now I must tell you about Brother McCullagh. He is here with us; arrived this morning by the Adelaide express. I have had a long talk with him, and have read a letter that he wrote to you nearly three weeks ago. He says that he has had two years of solitude, captivity, and anguish, during which time he has reflected a great deal upon his situation. 4BIO 284.3

He has studied over the different features of the message, and he and his wife have become thoroughly satisfied that this work is of God, and that their only hope of eternal life rests upon their connection with it and faithful obedience to its requirements. He says that he wants to come back to the house of his Father. He wants to again unite with us as a people and devote his life to the proclamation of this truth. He blames himself altogether for his mysterious course. He says that he has not one single thing to justify that course. He tells me that the Lord has taken out of his heart every bit of hard feeling that he has held toward any of our people and every feature of our work. 4BIO 284.4

Daniells told Ellen White of the rejoicing of heart this experience brought to him, and added: 4BIO 284.5

So far as I can see, he seems to have got hold of the Saviour, and feels greatly humbled. I feel to receive him with open arms and a warm heart. I stood strictly against the course he took when he left us, but now I wish to take hold of his hand and help him all that I possibly can. He says he cannot see how you can have any confidence in him or love for him. He feels that he has wounded you, and the cause that is dearer to you than life, to such an extent he can never be worthy of your confidence. I tell him there is no one who will forgive him more quickly and heartily and will do more to help him find the solid Rock and stand there forever than you will do.—A. G. Daniells to EGW, January 24, 1899. 4BIO 284.6

Ellen White, as was fully expected, rejoiced in the return of the McCullagh family, but with her experience and insights she approached the matter with some caution, which is seen in her letter of response written February 12, 1899. She made it clear that she fully forgave him and his wife for the strange and malignant attitudes they had taken against her, but pointed out that under the circumstances, most earnest work must be performed by them not only in confession but in attempting to counter the evil work that had been done so publicly in bringing injury to the cause of God. It was not vindictiveness on her part, but only what must be done to be right with God and his erstwhile fellow workers. She wrote: 4BIO 285.1

As far as I am concerned, I can forgive everything where I have been held personally before the people as a fraud. When by confession you make things right with God, He will abundantly pardon. Be sure that in this work with God you realize that you have greatly dishonored the Lord. Every principle, every action, heart, life, and character, are put into the golden scale and weighed. Infinite Justice watches the beam, and weighs accurately every imagination of the heart, determining the value of the whole man—his thoughts, his words, his works. 4BIO 285.2

The letter was a long one, and she employed some interesting illustrations as she wrote: 4BIO 285.3

Were you only a common soldier, instead of a captain in the army of the Lord, it would not be necessary to make these statements. But as your future may be spent in opening the Scriptures to others, it is of the greatest importance that you understand your position. It is not possible that we can come to you, but you can come to us. 4BIO 285.4

There is need of the deep moving of the Spirit of God, that if the word shall come to you, “Put on the armor, and fill your appointed place,” you will not serve with eye service, but as the servant of Christ.—Letter 33, 1899. 4BIO 285.5

As McCullagh moved back into the work of the church, he wrote a deep-feeling confession that was published in the May 20 issue of the Union Conference Record. In this he emphasized his renewed confidence in the message and his relationship to Ellen G. White and her work. 4BIO 286.1

He was one of the delegates sent to the union conference session held at Cooranbong in July, 1899, and continued with his ministry for another year or two. Then it happened again. Independent in spirit and restless in his work, while in the midst of an evangelistic tent meeting, probably in early 1902, he withdrew from the work. He declared, in an undated statement addressed to the conference committee of the Victorian Conference, that he considered a salaried ministry to be a curse to the ministry and to the church, a machine of the devil for the manufacture of hypocrites (S. McCullagh, in “Received Correspondence File,” 1900-1901). 4BIO 286.2

He expressed the desire to close his labors as an employee at the end of the month. On the sheet bearing his resignation, the conference president, G. B. Starr, added this note: 4BIO 286.3

McCullagh had done no work in the tent meetings for about a fortnight before writing this. He said he was sick. Sick in his mind. He was paid in full to the end of the month. The committee acted upon his resignation at once, accepting it and dismissing him from conference employ.—G. B. Starr, in “Received Letter File,” S. McCullagh. 4BIO 286.4

McCullagh's later years were spent quite apart from any religious interests. Ellen White had declared in one of her letters dealing with the McCullagh apostasy (Letter 1, 1897, and found in her comments in The SDA Bible Commentary, on Numbers 16:1-50, page 1114): 4BIO 286.5

I question whether genuine rebellion is ever curable.... Rebellion and apostasy are in the very air we breathe. 4BIO 286.6