The Timeliness of the Messages
The Practical Nature of the Messages
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thess. 5:14-24).
From these verses we gather that the purpose of all Scripture is to prepare a people who are blameless in body, soul, and spirit, and ready when the Lord Jesus returns. This is the work of the prophets, and it has to do with each of us personally and individually.
Therefore we must be clear as to the prophets themselves, and understand their messages.
We have now examined the four Bible tests of the true prophet. Thus we have done what this Scripture tells us to doto test, to try, and to proveand I trust that we shall keep in mind these four tests as we read the instruction and counsel given by the messenger of the Lord. A careful, intensive study of the life and work of Ellen G. White brings us to the conclusion that she met and fulfilled the four Bible tests.
In case more evidence is neededand I think it is good to seek all that we can findI should like to present six types of evidence in addition to the four tests that we have already discussed.
We need but to reach back into the busy life and prolific writings of Ellen G. White to find any number of experiences, or evidences, that fall under some one or all of these six types.
Time and again the counsel given by the Lord for some particular person arrived at the exact moment when it was needed most. Too early, it would not have
been appreciated; too late, it would not have served its purpose. This placed a great responsibility upon the messenger of the Lord, for procrastination would have meant the defeat of God's plans and purposes. This often necessitated her rising very early, writing diligently hour after hour, hurrying to the post office to make connections with a particular train or boat. But the Lord saw to all these details, and the Lord's servant responded to the call of her Master at any hour of the day or night.
In June, 1871, two of our ministers, J. N. Loughborough and a fellow evangelist, began a tent effort in the city of San Francisco. In due time the meetings were transferred from the tent to a hall, and by December 1, 1871, about fifty people had been baptized and brought into the church.
Much to the chagrin of the workers and believers and to the shame of the cause of God, Elder Loughborough's fellow evangelist had fallen into some questionable associations and actions. His conduct became such as to raise serious questions as to his relationship to the church and certainly gave rise to criticism by those opposing our work in that city. He took the attitude that he had a right to do as he pleased, and to walk the streets as he pleased and with whom he pleased.
When counseled and admonished by the brethren, his only response was, It is none of your business, which was of course not true, for it is the business of
the church how you and I conduct ourselves and live our lives. On Sabbath, January 27, 1872, it was decided that the church should investigate the situation on Sunday, January 28, at 9 A.M.
As Elder Loughborough started for that Sunday morning meeting, he met the brother on the sidewalk near the boardinghouse. He was weeping and gave evidence of a broken spirit. Looking up, he said, Brother Loughborough, I am not going to the meeting today. Not going to the meeting? said Elder Loughborough. The meeting relates to your case.
I know that, said he, but I am all wrong. You are right in the position you have taken in reference to me. Here is a letter of confession I have written to the church; you take it and read it to them.
What has occasioned this great change in you since yesterday? inquired the elder.
I went to the post office last night, after the Sabbath, and received a letter from Sister White, from Battle Creek, Michigan. It is a testimony she has written out for me, he replied. Read that, and you will see how the Lord sees my case.
Now what would you do with such a testimony if you were in a similar situation? I have held in my hand the handwritten original of that testimony. It was mailed January 18, 1872. Very early that morning Sister White was awakened in her room in Battle Creek. She was bidden to rise and send the testimony of what she had seen in vision on December 10, 1871, while
in Bordoville, Vermont. As long before as December 27 she had written out what she had seen about this worker in San Francisco, but she had not mailed it for the Lord had told her not to send it yet.
Without a moment's delay she rose, for she had been impressed to send out that testimony to California immediately; in fact, to get it into the very next mail, for it was needed. Just before breakfast she called her son William and charged him, Take this letter to the post office, but don't put it into the drop. Hand it to the postmaster, and have him be sure to put it into the mailbag that goes out this morning.
Thus this letter dated December 27 and mailed January 18 reached San Francisco on January 27, when the worker in trouble needed it most urgently. No, my brother, my sister, such things do not just happen. The very timeliness of the messages is an evidence of their divine origin (J. N. Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 386, 390).
As he read the message it brought him, of course, to a realization that there is a God in heaven who knew all about him and his doings. Yes, God could see what he was doing, knew exactly where he was going, and with whom he was associating, and the loving Father in heaven instructed His messenger to write a message particularly for that young man. It made a profound impression upon the young man's mind. It caused him to see his error and to repent of his ways. He sat down immediately and wrote his letter of confession,
admitting that there was no need for a church trial, for he recognized that all he was doing was known to God, and had been revealed to the servant of the Lord, though he was separated from her by more than two thousand miles.
I submit, dear brethren and sisters, that that kind of message could not come from the mind, or the imagination, of just anybody, near or far. And I also submit that for that message to arrive, not on January 29, or December 1, but on the very day, at the very moment, the message was needed, is but another evidence that God was working through His servant, Ellen G. White.
May I add still another experience of a similar nature, and this one, I am sure, may be known by some of our older workers, perhaps personally, even intimately. In 1891, Ellen G. White was sent over to Australia to help in the establishment of the institutions and our work in general. The increasing demands of the work held her there for a considerable length of time. While she was in Australia, the people in America were carrying on the movement and doing the best they could under the circumstances. Of course, everybody was interested in and concerned over the long absence of Mrs. White.
In Battle Creek at that time, in the early 1890's, a young woman by the name of Anna Philips claimed that she had had a vision, a revelation from the Lord. At that time she was living in the home of one of our ministers. She began to write out her messages, and
naturally some of our people were very much concerned. Some thought it only reasonable that while Sister White was absent in Australia the Lord should choose someone else to carry on her work in the United States. So they read her messages with great interest, and some began to compare Sister White's messages with the messages of Anna Philips.
About the middle of April A. T. Jones felt very much impressed that he should preach a sermon about this in the Tabernacle on a Sabbath morning. He came to that meeting with the message that God had chosen another messenger. He made it clear that he did not think it necessarily true that the Lord would speak through only one agent. He thought it possible that the Lord would see fit to use many. Here was just another. He took a whole hour to compare the work of Ellen G. White and the work of Anna Philips.
He read the messages, placed them side by side, and declared that they were just the same, having the same ring, the same content, and that they were written in almost the same language. This he proposed as evidence that God had chosen another messenger. And so he urged the people of Battle Creek to accept her as another of God's servants.
When the church service closed that morning you may be sure that quite a few folks did not go home as readily as usual. They stood about in little clusters outside the Tabernacle and talked about it, and wondered if it were possible that God had sent them another
messenger. Some were very sure she was not called to speak for God. Others questioned whether all the messages would be in harmony, or if there might be some conflict between them. What would Sister White do about this? And what would she say about it when she heard of the development there in Battle Creek? These were some of the questions that disturbed them. They were all excited and stirred up by the sermon.
The next morning, Sunday, A. T. Jones went over to the branch post office in the Review and Herald. He stepped up to the window and asked if he had any mail. A long envelope, rather big, postmarked Australia, was handed to him. He opened it and read it right there in the post office. The date, of course, was some weeks before the day on which the letter was received.
It came from Ellen G. White. We can give you just the substance of the contents. She asked Elder Jones who appointed him to preach such a sermon as he had preached in the Tabernacle, who gave him the authority to be judge in such a matter as whether God had chosen another messenger, and why he had stood before the people and compared the message of this one with the messages that God had sent through her. She went on and outlined in detail exactly what had happened on that particular Sabbath morning in the Battle Creek Tabernacle. She made it plain that God had not called Anna Philips to the prophetic office. She pleaded with him not to do anything that would hinder
or thwart or confuse the people of God. It was a very powerful message, very direct, and very timely.
As the preacher sat there on the bench in the post office looking at this message and reading it, there was a young man standing nearby who had come to write a postcard home. When he saw Elder Jones sitting on the bench, he took a little extra time to write, but of course he was observing what was going on.
Just then Elder O. A. Tait came in and Elder Jones called him to come over and sit down.
Oscar, he said, you heard me preach that sermon yesterday?
When he got an affirmative reply, he said, Read this, and handed over Mrs. White's letter, dated March 15. After a few moments of silence, he asked, Who told Mrs. White a month ago that I was going to preach that sermon about Anna Philips as a prophetess?
Ah, you know, Alonzo, replied Elder Tait.
Yes, I do know. God knew what I would do.
Only the God in heaven knows our thoughts afar off, before they pass through our minds. Only the God of heaven knows where we are and what we are doing and all about us. He knows. Can you deny that the God in heaven sent that message to Ellen G. White in Australia so long before and so far away, and that He had anything to do with the fact that the message arrived there on that particular day?
The next Sabbath morning A. T. Jones was back
in the pulpit at the Battle Creek Tabernacle, and he gave his message. It was a powerful sermon. In it he acknowledged that only the God in heaven knows a man's thoughts a month or two before he thinks them, and only the God in heaven has the power to put those thoughts into the mind of another person thousands of miles away before the man himself thinks them.
Think now of the timeliness of that message. Here again we bring from the life and works of Ellen G. White an experience that certainly proves to us that such messages were not due to any stretch of her imagination. A mere religious reverie could not bring to pass such an experience as that. No, brethren and sisters, when we come to think of these marvelous things that have taken place in the life of Ellen G. White, we stand very humbly and say, God, if you know us as well and as intimately as you knew A. T. Jones and the young man who was working with Elder Loughborough in San Francisco, then we are convinced that we ought to be the kind of men you want us to be.
The practical nature of Ellen G. White's messages may well be illustrated by one of her experiences in Australia. She went there to help lay solid foundations for the building of our work in that part of the world. Being a great believer in youth as God's heritage in the church, and realizing that trained leadership for the church of tomorrow depends upon the training of boys
and girls of today, she at once proposed the founding of a college, a Seventh-day Adventist training centerand this was to be not just another college, but an institution such as God had shown her to be His kind of school.
How impossible it seemed for our few, poor church members in Australia to carry out such a plan! But there was the counsel given as instruction from the Lord. Not all the Australian brethren were convinced that the plan was a wise one, and some gave expression to their feelings. W. C. White wrote of this attitude:
One day an influential and talented member of the Melbourne church, after listening to our plans for the establishment of such a school as we had at Healdsburg, said to me, Brother White, this plan of building such a school is not an Australian plan at all, the demand for having such a school is not an Australian demand. The idea of establishing a school at this time, when our cause is so young and weak, is not an Australian idea.Quoted in Divine Predictions of Mrs. Ellen G. White Fulfilled, compiled by F. C. Gilbert, p. 340.
All of which was perfectly true and obvious. Neither was it Ellen G. White's plan or idea, but rather both plan and idea were God's. Australia had colleges and universitiesgood onesbut the kind of school that God wanted established in Australia was not just an ordinary one. He knew exactly the kind of school that He wanted established in that country, and for that reason He sent His messenger there to direct the minds of the people in the achievement of His purpose.
As Sister White went on to describe the school to be established, the Australian brethren shook their heads, and some of them came to a conclusion that she was all wrong.
It was not an Australian idea; it was God's. It was not an Australian demand; it was God's plan. It was, therefore, what God wanted as expressed through His servant, Ellen G. White.
I think, dear friends, there is something here that all of us should catch as significant. We are following not man's ideas, not man's plans; but God's ideas, and God's plans. The closer we follow the pattern, the nearer we shall come to carrying out the specifications for the building of God's kingdom, and the greater will be the blessing that rests upon us as we carry out God's plans. I hope all of us will ever bear in mind that this work is not our work. The success or failure of this work does not depend entirely upon us or upon our efforts. God will see His work through to a successful conclusion. You and I might stand in His way a bit and hinder His plans for a while but not for long. God will finish His work and He will see it done in His own time and way.
The brethren in Australia looked at one another and wondered, Where shall we find the kind of place that she wants us to use for such a school? Sister White was sure that God had a place somewhere there in Australia. She suggested that they should look for a farm away from the city. So they appointed a
committee to search for a suitable area, but each time they returned with the report that the price was far beyond their financial resources.
In due time the committee found a block of 1,500 acres near Cooranbong, some seventy-five miles north of Sydney. It had but one commendatory featureit was cheap at $3 an acre. That price would and could buy only poor, sandy, and hungry land. The committee members were disappointed, but it seemed to be the best they could find within their financial resources.
They decided to request a government agricultural expert to visit the land and give his frank and honest appraisal of it. His comment was that the land was so poor that if a bandicoot wanted to cross the 1,500 acres he would have to take with him his lunch in a basket, for there would be nothing for him to eat. This did not bring much courage to the brethren. It was felt that Sister White should join the group in their final visit to the property for the purpose of making the decision.
From several sources we put the story together. It seems that part of the committee went ahead, leaving Sister White to make the journey with Elder and Mrs. G. B. Starr. On the train she told the Starrs of her dream in which she and they were standing on the piece of property, looking it over, and came upon a neat-cut furrow about one quarter of a yard deep and two yards in length. She saw two of the brethren, who
had grown up with the Iowa type of rich, deep soil, standing by the furrow and saying, This is not good land; the soil is not favorable. As they spoke these words Sister White was told by One who had often given her counsel, False witness has been borne of this land, and He explained the value of the different strata in the soil and their use.
In due time she and her party arrived at Cooranbong, and they looked over the estate without reaching a decision that day. The next morning, May 25, 1894, the whole group met in a fisherman's hut for a season of prayer. Sister White felt a burden to pray for divine healing to come to Brother McCullogh's tuberculosis-weakened body. As she prayed for him, he felt a sensation like an electric wave pass through his whole body, and he rose from that season of prayer a completely restored man. He lived for more than thirty-five years after this experience.
This manifestation of the divine presence assured them all of divine guidance in the decision to be made that day. The group scattered out to examine further the various parts of the property. The Starrs and Sister White walked over the place and came upon a spot where a neat-cut furrow had been plowed one quarter of a yard deep and two yards in length. As they stood there looking at the turned-up soil, two brethren came upon them from different directions. On seeing Sister White they remarked, This is not good land; the soil is not favorable.
Sister White then told them of her dream and of the fulfillment. With this evidence and evidence of the presence and the power of God as seen in the healing of Brother McCullogh, they decided to take the place, and made a down payment.
In the spring of 1895 the place was bought on the advice of the Lord and in spite of the expert's adverse report. To show her own confidence in what God had revealed to her, Sister White selected sixty-six acres of the same land, moved into a few tents, and began work on her place, which she called Sunnyside. She demonstrated that with proper cultivation the land would produce abundantlyand so it has all these yearsa splendid harvest of fruit and vegetables and of fine Seventh-day Adventist youth to be workers in the great harvest fields.
I have never been there myself, but I have seen pictures of
it. It is a lovely place with beautiful green grass, wonderful flowers and
trees, the finest kinds of fruit trees. I tell you, dear friends, the messages
that came from the servant of the Lord were down-to-earth, practical messages.
Sometimes we have not been able to see the wisdom of the message or the
counsel, and yet when our people have followed the instruction given we have
made no mistakes. It is when we have failed to follow the instruction that we
have made mistakes. The very practical nature of all the messages given through
the servant of the Lord must appeal to us as another evidence that God is in