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


Chapter 33—(1899) The American Mails and Agonizing Situations

Following the account of the preparation and publication of The Desire of Ages, we return now to the activities at Sunnyside as the year 1899 dawns. The Sabbaths and Sundays she spent at Maitland took Ellen White away for a few days each week, but the literary activities at her Sunnyside office continued. Marian Davis pressed on with the parables book, and Ellen White turned her attention to the American mails. Several matters of vital importance pressed hard upon her. Foremost among these was the distressing course being pursued in the medical missionary work in America. 4BIO 394.1

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was taking steps to divest this work of its denominational ties, in the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the medical school, and in the work for the outcasts and socially deprived classes in Chicago. This last mentioned was a fast-burgeoning work that divided his interests and overburdened his body and mind. 4BIO 394.2

Calling for earnest attention were the inroads of pantheistic philosophy insidiously creeping into the teachings of Seventh-day Adventists, threatening the basic theology of the church. A three-week-long General Conference session would open at South Lancaster, Massachusetts, on February 15, and she applied herself to the preparation of messages to sound solemn warnings and to guard the cause. 4BIO 394.3

The pressure of the Newcastle camp meeting, which lasted into January, 1899, deterred her writing. It was not until near the close of the General Conference session that her messages arrived and were read to the delegates by G. A. Irwin, president of the General Conference. Some were read on Wednesday morning, March 1, and others on Sabbath afternoon, March 4. The messages that dealt with the various phases of the medical missionary work were presented first. In the main these were but an amplification of what she had been writing in letters to Dr. Kellogg over a period of a year or two. Some of the letters contained words of commendation for certain phases of his work; some just newsy reports of developments in Australia, particularly in medical missionary lines; some sounded an alarm, some solemn warnings. All were written kindly, carefully, and with understanding. On February 13, 1898, she introduced her message to the doctor, whom she had known since he was a lad and whom she loved as her own son: 4BIO 394.4

It would give me great satisfaction to have a long visit with you. I have much to say to you, and you have much to say to me. Sometimes I have a strong impression that I shall again bear my testimony upon the old field of battle, Battle Creek.—Letter 21, 1898. 4BIO 395.1

Another communication written around the same time opens with the words: 4BIO 395.2

Special light has been given me that you are in danger of losing sight of the work that is to be done for this time. You are erecting barriers between your work and those you are educating, and the church. This must not be.... 4BIO 395.3

Do not, I beg of you, instill into the students ideas that will cause them to lose confidence in God's appointed ministers. But this you are certainly doing, whether you are aware of it or not.... Temptations will come to you that to carry forward the medical missionary work you must stand aloof from the church organization or church discipline.—Letter 123, 1898. 4BIO 395.4

You are to remember, my brother, that the Lord has a people on the earth, whom He respects. But your words and the way in which you express them create unbelief in the positions we occupy as a people at the present time. You do not believe the present truth. 4BIO 395.5

You will remember that I wrote you that the banner you should hold firmly was being taken from your hand, and a banner with a different inscription put into it. You remember the warning given you that you were in danger, as was Nebuchadnezzar, of exalting yourself. Other symbols have been given me which lead me to write you now. You are in danger of not holding fast the faith once delivered to the saints, of making shipwreck of your faith. The words were spoken, “A very small leak will sink a ship.”—Ibid. 4BIO 395.6

Enamored with the work of a Dr. George D. Dowkontt, who had developed an undenominational Medical Missionary Society in New York City, through the middle 1890s, Dr. Kellogg cherished something of this kind as the ideal for the work he was leading out in, in Battle Creek and Chicago. In progressive steps he worked toward ushering the medical work of Seventh-day Adventists toward a nondenominational status. As Kellogg led out in the establishment of the American Medical Missionary College in 1895 (as explained in chapters 23 and 24 of The Story of Our Health Message), he rather stealthily imposed on this important phase of educational work an undenominational identity. The students who enrolled in this medical college were told by Kellogg: 4BIO 396.1

This is not a sectarian school. Sectarian doctrines are not to be taught in this medical school. It is a school for the purpose of teaching medical science, theoretically and practically, and gospel missionary work. It is not to be either a Seventh-day Adventist or a Methodist or a Baptist, or any other sectarian school, but a Christian medical college—a missionary medical college, to which all Christian men and Christian women who are ready to devote their lives to Christian work will be admitted.—Medical Missionary, October, 1895 (quoted in The Story of Our Health Message, 294, 295). 4BIO 396.2

Kellogg's veering away from the church and what it stood for, accompanied by an attitude of increasing criticism of the ministry, placing the ministerial work as secondary to the medical missionary work, brought agony to Ellen White. “The medical missionary work,” she wrote Kellogg, “is not to supersede the ministry of the Word.” She continued: 4BIO 396.3

I have listened to your words in jots and tittles to demerit the ministers and their work; it was not to your credit to do this. It was against the Lord's organized plans, and if all had been done to please your ideas, we should have strange things developed; but God has held in check some things, that they should not become a specialty.... You have become exalted; you have come to think that the message God has given for this time is not essential.—Letter 249, 1899. 4BIO 396.4