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


Chapter 31—(1888) Minneapolis and Its Diverse Fruits

As we focus on Ellen White at the General Conference session of 1888 we will draw heavily from a retrospective statement she wrote within a few weeks of the meeting. There had been time for observation and reflection, and it was less difficult to put events in their proper perspective. Her manuscript of twenty-six pages bears the title “Looking Back at Minneapolis.” 3BIO 398.1

“This was a season of refreshing to many souls,” she wrote near the opening of this review, “but it did not abide upon some.”—Selected Messages 3:164. She declared later in the statement: “My burden during the meeting was to present Jesus and His love before my brethren, for I saw marked evidences that many had not the Spirit of Christ.”—Manuscript 24, 1888 (see also Ibid., 3:171). She added: “My heart was pained to see the spirit that controlled some of our ministering brethren, and this spirit seemed to be contagious.”—Ibid. 3BIO 398.2

Forty years earlier Ellen White had been present when doctrinal matters were studied by those who were pioneering the work of the church. As she wrote of this in 1892, she recalled: 3BIO 398.3

We would come together burdened in soul, praying that we might be one in faith and doctrine; for we knew that Christ is not divided. One point at a time was made the subject of investigation. Solemnity characterized these counsels of investigation. The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe. Often we fasted, that we might be better fitted to understand the truth. 3BIO 398.4

After earnest prayer, if any point was not understood, it was discussed, and each one expressed his opinion freely; then we would again bow in prayer, and earnest supplications went up to heaven that God would help us to see eye to eye, that we might be one, as Christ and the Father are one.... 3BIO 398.5

We sought most earnestly that the Scriptures should not be wrested to suit any man's opinions. We tried to make our differences as slight as possible by not dwelling on points that were of minor importance, upon which there were varying opinions. But the burden of every soul was to bring about a condition among the brethren which would answer the prayer of Christ that His disciples might be one as He and the Father are one.—The Review and Herald, July 26, 1892. (Italics supplied. See also Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 24, 25.) 3BIO 399.1

But this was not the case at Minneapolis. Those there did not try to make their differences “as slight as possible.” For two years the issue of the law in Galatians had smoldered, and when it was taken up, bitterness and accusations were unleashed. 3BIO 399.2

The focal point was verse 24 of chapter 3, which reads: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” There was no argument among Seventh-day Adventists concerning the believer's being justified by faith, although this vital truth was sadly neglected at the time. In 1888 the sharp difference of opinion, as when J. H. Waggoner wrote on the subject in 1854, was whether the law brought to view as the schoolmaster was the moral or the ceremonial law. Thus two issues were bound up in a study of “the law and the gospel” in such a way that if one topic suffered in bitter debate, both were affected. The great adversary took advantage of this. 3BIO 399.3

To complicate matters, the discussion of the law in Galatians followed close on the heels of the bitter and extended debate over the Huns and the Alemanni, with key workers taking sides and reacting strongly. 3BIO 399.4