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

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Chapter 8—(1893) The New Zealand Camp Meeting

As the passengers of the Wairarapa woke up Sunday morning, they discovered that they were at anchor off Napier. Ellen White describes the little city as “a beautiful place, the resident portion of the town being built on a series of high hills overlooking the sea” (Ibid., June 6, 1893). She, W. C. White, and Emily were taken to the comfortable home of the Doctors Caro, [The husband, a physician, was cordial but not an adventist. The wife, a dentist, corresponded often with Ellen White.] not far from where preparations were already under way for the camp meeting. They were to be entertained there for the full time. A two-wheeled horse-drawn rig was made available for Ellen White's use in getting to the meetings. 4BIO 77.1

Arrangements had been made for her to speak Sunday evening in the Theater Royal, and she presented her favorite theme, “The Love of God,” to an attentive audience. The next three days were devoted to getting ready for the meeting. Two large tents were pitched. Notice had been sent to the churches weeks before, but the response was poor, so plans for a dining tent and a reception tent were dropped. Only a few family tents were pitched. It was expected that the restaurant in town could serve whatever food was needed. 4BIO 77.2

However, by midweek boats and trains brought delegations from the churches, fully doubling the number expected. The camp meeting planners faced a minor crisis. 4BIO 77.3

From the time plans were under way, Ellen White had urged that this first camp meeting must be a sample of what future camp meetings should be. Over and over again she declared: “‘See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.’ As a people,” she said, “we have lost much by neglecting order and method.” She commented, “Although it takes time and careful thought and labor, and often seems to make our work cost more, in the end we can see that it was a paying business to do everything in the most perfect manner.”—Ibid. For the people to go uptown for their meals would, she pointed out, break into our program, waste precious time, and bring in a haphazard state of things that should be avoided” (Ibid.). 4BIO 77.4

The camp was enlarged; more tents were procured, a reception tent was fitted up, and also a dining tent. 4BIO 78.1

The food provided was plain, substantial, and plentiful. Instead of the dozen people expected, about thirty took their meals in the dining tent. 4BIO 78.2

The first meeting held in the big tent was on Tuesday evening, in advance of the opening, and Stephen McCullagh spoke. On the first Sabbath afternoon Ellen White was the speaker. At the close of her address she extended invitations for a response, first from those who had never taken their stand for Christ and then from those “who professed to be the followers of Christ, who had not the evidence of His acceptance.” The responses were encouraging. A hard rain had come up, and the big tent leaked in many places, but this did not worry the audience, for the interest in “eternal matters” was too deep to be affected by the surroundings. As the rain continued, George Starr gave precious instruction and exhorted the people. The meeting continued until sundown (Ibid.). 4BIO 78.3

Sunday evening, six were baptized. Monday was devoted to business meetings. 4BIO 78.4

In the evening McCullagh spoke on phrenology. The next morning in the six-o'clock testimony meeting, phrenology and spiritualism were seen to be topics in which there was great interest, so that morning, in place of the meetings that had been planned, Ellen White spoke on phrenology and its perils. 4BIO 78.5

A day or two later one of the literature evangelists brought to Starr a pamphlet containing the sermon of an influential Wesleyan minister in New Zealand in which he defended “higher criticism” of the Bible and scoffed at the idea that all portions of the Bible were inspired. When it was announced that there would be an address on the subject, the people of Napier flocked out to hear. Many Adventists residing in the city where they were employed attended the early-morning and evening meetings. Ellen White was at most of the early meetings, but much of her time was spent writing in the Caro home. 4BIO 78.6

The messages presented at the camp were very practical, she joining the ministers in their work. One morning she spoke on Sabbath observance, at another time on John 14 and the Christian's heavenly home, then on sanctification and transformation of character. The subject of “dress” was presented, and one evening the subject of the school in Australia was introduced and a call made for means. Ellen White spent thirty minutes recounting the establishment of Battle Creek College. It was a most profitable meeting. At a number of the meetings, only about half of the audience were Adventists. 4BIO 79.1

One morning Ellen White, wanting to attend the early-morning meeting, found there was no transportation readily available. She tells the story in her diary: 4BIO 79.2

The horse is in the pasture, and I decide to make an experiment of walking. I start on my way, but I see W. C. White behind me with a two-wheeled cart. He is between the fills, trotting along on the descending grade to overtake me. He insisted upon my taking my seat as usual and he drew the conveyance himself. 4BIO 79.3

As he approached the encampment, Elder Starr saw him and came out to help him, and they drew up the vehicle to the very tent entrance. After the meeting opened, I spoke to the people.—Manuscript 78, 1893. 4BIO 79.4

The camp meeting was scheduled to close on Wednesday, April 5, but boat transportation was delayed, and so meetings continued another day. A meeting for literature evangelists followed over the weekend. Ellen White remained for still another week in Napier; she and associate workers visited families and churches nearby. But much of her time was devoted to writing. She devoted one entire day during the camp meeting to getting materials off to Fanny Bolton and Marian Davis in Melbourne. 4BIO 79.5

Two or three weeks after the camp meeting was over she wrote of its success to Harmon Lindsay in Battle Creek: 4BIO 80.1

Our camp meeting in Napier was excellent from the commencement to the close. Several decided to observe the Sabbath for the first time, and some who had left the church came back. 4BIO 80.2

One man named Anderson said, “The testimonies of Sister White drove me out of the church. I have been disconnected from the church three years. I bless God I came to this meeting, for I have heard the testimonies and believe them to be of God. It is the testimonies that have brought me back to the church.” 4BIO 80.3

He requested baptism and was as happy a man as there was upon the ground all through the meetings.—Letter 79, 1893. 4BIO 80.4