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


Chapter 1—(1891) The Call to Australia

To Ellen White the year 1891 gave promise of being a good year for writing and book production. The crisis at the General Conference session of 1888 at Minneapolis and the resistance on the part of some church leaders to the wholehearted acceptance of the message of righteousness by faith had, upon the confessions of certain key men, largely subsided. In her oral ministry and writing Ellen White had for much of two years helped to stem the tide of negative reaction, and the Bible-based doctrine of justification by faith was by 1891 quite generally accepted. 4BIO 11.1

During the preceding five or six years she had made good progress, with the aid of her literary assistants, in enlarging and preparing for colporteur sale volumes one and four of The Spirit of Prophecy. The Great Controversy bore the publication date of 1888, and Patriarchs and Prophets came from the press in 1890. Both were substantial, well-illustrated books, appropriate for sale both to the world and to the church. It was now Ellen White's ambition to take up the life of Christ, bringing out a book that would stand between the Patriarchs and Controversy, replacing The Spirit of Prophecy volumes two and three. She felt that if she could just have a good year without too many interruptions, she could get this done and have the book in the field fulfilling its mission. 4BIO 11.2

The manuscript for Steps to Christ was in the hands of a religious publisher in Chicago. The little volume had been prepared at the suggestion of evangelists that some of the choice materials from Ellen White on conversion and the Christian life could have a wide sale and most fruitful mission. It was suggested also that if the book were put out by a religious book publisher in Chicago or New York, its circulation and acceptance would be enhanced. Fleming H. Revell was pleased to receive the manuscript for publication. 4BIO 11.3

The work of the church was expanding overseas. A decade and a half earlier, in 1874, John N. Andrews had been sent to Europe to lead out in the work there. Indeed, it was on April 1 of that year that Ellen White, residing in California, had been given a vision that the time had come to break away from limited ideas of the work and take broader views. The “young man” she had “frequently seen” in her visions declared: 4BIO 12.1

Your light must not be put under a bushel or under a bed, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house. Your house is the world.... The message will go in power to all parts of the world, to Oregon, to Europe, to Australia, to the islands of the sea, to all nations, tongues, and peoples.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 209. 4BIO 12.2

Eight months later, at the dedication of Battle Creek College, Ellen White described a vision given the day before in which she saw printing presses in different countries, publishing the message. When James, her husband, pressed her to name the countries, she said she could not recall the names. “Oh, yes,” she said, “I remember one—the angel said ‘Australia.’”—DF 105j, WCW, “A Comprehensive Vision.” S. N. Haskell was present, and he made up his mind he would proclaim the message in Australia. But it was ten years before the church reached the point in growth that it felt it could support him in carrying the message to that faraway land in the South Pacific. 4BIO 12.3

At its 1884 session the General Conference took an action to send Haskell to lead out in opening up the work of Seventh-day Adventists in Australia. Being a practical man, he chose four families to help him start the work in the southern continent: J. O. Corliss, evangelist and editor; M. C. Israel, pastor and evangelist; William Arnold, a colporteur; and Henry Scott, a printer. The five families traveled to Australia in 1885, arriving in June, the winter season in Australia. They threw themselves wholeheartedly into the work; through two evangelistic efforts, supplemented by book distribution, there soon was a church of ninety members in Melbourne and a fledgling monthly magazine, The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times. 4BIO 12.4

Six years later, 1891, the combined membership in Australia and New Zealand had reached seven hundred; among these were a number of young people eager to enter the work of spreading the church's message in the South Pacific. As Haskell, who had returned to the States, revisited the field, he saw clearly the need for a training school, and voiced his convictions in a letter to O. A. Olsen, president of the General Conference. 4BIO 13.1