Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)


The Matter of “The Law in Galatians”

The apostle Paul, in Galatians 3, wrote of the “added law” in verse 19, and of the “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” that in verse 24. Among Seventh-day Adventists for two years there had been controversy over which law he meant. 3BIO 387.1

This was not a new subject of interest to Seventh-day Adventists. J. H. Waggoner, in his book The Law of God: An Examination of the Testimony of Both Testaments, published at the Review office in 1854, took the position that the “added law” of verse 19 and the “schoolmaster” of verse 24 was the moral and not the ceremonial law. He took the controversial stance that “not a single declaration” in Galatians “referred to the ceremonial or Levitical law” (page 24). 3BIO 387.2

According to Uriah Smith, “Sister White ...had a vision in which this law question was shown her, and she immediately wrote J. H. Waggoner that his position on the law was wrong,” and the book was taken off the market (Uriah Smith to W. A. McCutchen, August 6, 1901). This settled the matter for a number of years. Then the question was raised as to whether the counsel given to Waggoner referred to the doctrinal positions in the book or to the matter of publishing conflicting views. 3BIO 387.3

In the mid-1880s E. J. Waggoner (son of J. H.), associate editor of the Signs of the Times in Oakland and teacher of Bible at the Healdsburg College, was moved by an Ellen G. White address read at a camp meeting. He seemed to see Christ hanging on the cross as a sacrifice for his sins. He determined to delve into a study of this saving truth, a truth he felt he must make known to others (R. W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, p. 185). Records are meager, but the matter of the law in Galatians was discussed by a group of leading workers at the time of the General Conference session in Battle Creek in 1886 (Selected Messages 3:167). 3BIO 387.4

“That conference [1886],” wrote Ellen White to G. I. Butler, “was presented to me in the night season.”—Letter 21, 1888. 3BIO 387.5

My guide said, “Follow me, I have some things to show you.” He led me where I was a spectator of the scenes that transpired at that meeting. I was shown the attitude of some of the ministers, yourself in particular, at that meeting, and I can say with you, my brother, it was a terrible conference. My guide then had many things to say which left an indelible impression upon my mind. His words were solemn and earnest.... 3BIO 388.1

He stretched out his arms toward Dr. Waggoner and to you, Elder Butler, and said in substance as follows: “Neither have all the light upon the law; neither position is perfect.”—Ibid. 3BIO 388.2

In another account of this experience she told of how, while in Europe, she was shown what took place in Battle Creek at the 1886 General Conference session: 3BIO 388.3

Two years ago Jesus was grieved and bruised in the person of His saints. The rebuke of God is upon everything of the character of harshness, of disrespect, and the want of sympathetic love in brother toward brother. If this lack is seen in the men who are guardians of our conferences, guardians of our institutions, the sin is greater in them than in those who have not been entrusted with so large responsibilities.—Manuscript 21, 1888. 3BIO 388.4

As controversy smoldered, articles in the Signs of the Times kept the issues alive. Ellen White made a fruitless search for what she had written earlier to J. H. Waggoner. Then on February 18,1887, writing from Basel, Switzerland, she earnestly admonished E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones that the writers for the journals of the church should avoid coming before the public with divided or contradictory views: 3BIO 388.5

We must keep before the world a united front. Satan will triumph to see differences among Seventh-day Adventists. These questions [in regard to the law] are not vital points.... Twice I have been shown that everything of a character to cause our brethren to be diverted from the very points now essential for this time should be kept in the background.—Letter 37, 1887. [See the full presentation in the chapter “on publishing conflicting views” in Counsels to Writers and Editors, 75-82.] (Italics supplied.) 3BIO 388.6

The angel guide, who in vision took Ellen White to the Tabernacle in Battle Creek at the time of the 1886 General Conference session, declared: 3BIO 389.1

“The Spirit of God has not had a controlling influence in this meeting. The spirit that controlled the Pharisees is coming in among this people, who have been greatly favored of God.” 3BIO 389.2

Ellen White continued: 3BIO 389.3

I was told that there was need of great spiritual revival among the men who bear responsibilities in the cause of God. There was not perfection in all points on either side of the question under discussion. We must search the Scriptures for evidences of truth.

“There are but few, even of those who claim to believe it, that comprehend the third angel's message, and yet this is the message for this time. It is present truth.” ... 3BIO 389.4

Said my guide, “There is much light yet to shine forth from the law of God and the gospel of righteousness. This message, understood in its true character, and proclaimed in the Spirit, will lighten the earth with its glory. The great decisive question is to be brought before all nations, tongues, and peoples. The closing work of the third angel's message will be attended with a power that will send the rays of the Sun of Righteousness into all the highways and byways of life.”—Manuscript 15, 1888 (see also A. V. Olson, Thirteen Crisis Years, p. 305.) 3BIO 389.5

Thus, two years before the 1888 General Conference session, Ellen White was given a view of what was yet before the church in the matter of dealing with divisive issues. In the meantime, those who heard Waggoner on the subject of justification by faith found their hearts warmed. 3BIO 389.6