What Happened In Minneapolis

“It was by faith,” wrote Ellen White, “I ventured to cross the Rocky Mountains for the purpose of attending the General Conference held in Minneapolis” (Manuscript 24, 1888).WV 247.4

Overwhelmed with discouragement, she had been overtaken by sickness at her home in Healdsburg. “I felt no desire to recover,” she later wrote. “I had no power even to pray, and no desire to live. Rest, only rest, was my desire, quiet and rest. As I lay for two weeks in nervous prostration, I had hope that no one would beseech the throne of grace in my behalf. When the crisis came, it was the impression that I would die. This was my thought. But it was not the will of my heavenly Father. My work was not yet done” (Manuscript 2, 1888).WV 247.5

She remembered the solemn vows she had made at the bedside of her dying husband—vows “to disappoint the enemy, to bear a constant, earnest appeal to my brethren” (Manuscript 21, 1888). This she now determined to do.WV 247.6

As she placed herself in the path of duty, the Lord gave her strength and grace to bear her testimony before the people. Day by day she found herself growing stronger.WV 247.7

On October 2 she, with a number of friends and fellow workers, and accompanied by Sara McEnterfer and Willie, was on the train bound for the East. To her disappointment, she found that in her reduced strength it was necessary to rest in her berth for most of the journey to Minneapolis. She could neither knit nor visit, but she did look over some papers.WV 247.8

Arriving at Minneapolis Wednesday morning, October 10, Ellen, Willie, and Sara were treated royally.WV 247.9

The General Conference session was to be held in the newly constructed Minneapolis church, opening Wednesday evening, October 17. A ministerial institute was to precede the session by a full week. It was not till the date for the General Conference session was announced in the Review and Herald of August 7 that the plans for an institute had begun to develop. Butler wrote: “Leading brethren had suggested the holding of an institute to precede the General Conference the present year, and have presented many forcible reasons in its favor” (The Review and Herald, August 28, 1888). A week later the Review announced the institute plans as definite. Butler added:WV 247.10

We cannot pretend to say what will be the exact order of exercises, or what subjects will be especially considered.... A week’s time spent in instruction on important features of church and conference work, and in calmly considering and carefully studying perplexing questions relating to the Scriptures, as well as in seeking God earnestly for heavenly wisdom, will most likely be of vast benefit (Ibid., September 4, 1888).WV 248.1

It seems that W. C. White, one of the “leading brethren” who suggested the institute, had something more specific in mind.WV 248.2

There was the question of the law in Galatians, which had been introduced at the session in 1886, and also the identity of the 10 horns, or kingdoms, of the beast of Daniel 7. Views on these points held by Signs of the Times editors E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones were in conflict with the traditional views held quite generally, and particularly by Butler and Smith.WV 248.3

In a letter to Mary, who was very ill at the health retreat at St. Helena, Ellen White said:WV 248.4

Elders Smith and Butler are very loath to have anything said upon the law in Galatians, but I cannot see how it can be avoided. We must take the Bible as our standard and we must diligently search its pages for light and evidence of truth (Letter 81, 1888).WV 248.5

In his report of the opening of the institute, Smith said:WV 248.6

The subjects proposed to be considered in the hours for Biblical and historical study are, so far, a historical view of the ten kingdoms, the divinity of Christ, the healing of the deadly wound, justification by faith, how far we should go in trying to use the wisdom of the serpent, and predestination. Other subjects will doubtless be introduced (The Review and Herald, October 16, 1888).WV 248.7

Concerning the first hours of the institute, he wrote:WV 248.8

At seven-thirty last evening Elder Haskell made stirring remarks upon the work of the message in foreign lands. At 9:00 a.m. today [the eleventh] a Bible reading was held by A. T. Jones, on the advancement of the work of the third angel’s message. The point brought out was that personal consecration must lie at the foundation of all our success in this work (Ibid.).WV 248.9

In his editorial report written on the second day Smith informed Review readers that about 100 ministers were present when the institute opened at 2:30WV 249.1

p.m. Wednesday, October 10. As Butler was detained in Battle Creek because of illness, S. N. Haskell was selected to chair the meetings. F. E. Belden was chosen secretary.WV 249.2

The daily program was a full one, beginning with a morning devotional meeting at 7:45 and continuing through the day and evening.WV 249.3

The meetings at 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. were occupied by A. T. Jones in an examination of the subject of the 10 kingdoms. At 4:00 p.m. E. J. Waggoner (both an ordained minister and physician), by arrangement, took up, in the form of a Bible reading, the duties of church officers.WV 249.4

Smith reported:WV 249.5

Sister White is present, in the enjoyment of a good degree of health and strength. Much disappointment and regret is expressed by the brethren that Elder Butler is unable to be present on account of sickness. He is remembered fervently in their prayers. The prospect is good for a profitable meeting (Ibid.).WV 249.6

As Ellen White spoke at the Thursday morning devotional she was surprised at the large number of new faces in her audience. Many new workers had joined the forces in the three or four years since she had attended a General Conference session held east of the Rocky Mountains.WV 249.7

In writing of the institute to Mary, at the health retreat, she reported:WV 249.8

Today, Friday [October 12], at nine o’clock, I read some important matter to the conference and then bore a very plain testimony to our brethren. This had quite an effect upon them.WV 249.9

Elder Butler has sent me a long letter, a most curious production of accusations and charges against me, but these things do not move me. I believe it was my duty to come. I worry nothing about the future, but try to do my duty for today (Letter 81, 1888).WV 249.10

Butler had dictated a 39-page letter in which, among other things, he attributed his five-month-long illness largely to the manner in which Mrs. White had counseled in dealing with the question of the law in Galatians. She had not condemned Waggoner for his positions, although they were in direct conflict with those held by Butler and Smith.WV 249.11

That the president of the General Conference, who had given Ellen White loyal support through the years, was writing “accusations and charges” against her was disheartening. It reflected the widening tide of negative attitudes toward the messages God was sending through His messenger to His people. Butler was deeply suspicious of the work of Jones and Waggoner, and from reports that had come to him he felt certain Ellen White was in their camp. Thus the omens were beginning to appear of what was before them in the more than three weeks of the institute and the conference.WV 249.12

The Friday evening service, October 12, cast a cloud over the worker group. Mrs. White wrote of it:WV 250.1

At the commencement of the Sabbath Elder [Eugene] Farnsworth preached a most gloomy discourse telling of the great wickedness and corruption in our midst and dwelling upon the apostasies among us. There was no light, no good cheer, no spiritual encouragement in this discourse. There was a general gloom diffused among the delegates to the conference (Ibid.).WV 250.2

She had the meeting Sabbath afternoon, and she used the opportunity to try to turn things around. She wrote:WV 250.3

Yesterday was a very important period in our meeting. Elder Smith preached in forenoon upon the signs of the times. It was, I think, a good discourse—timely. In the afternoon I spoke upon 1 John 3.WV 250.4

“Behold, what manner of love,” et cetera. The blessing of the Lord rested upon me and put words in my mouth and I had much freedom in trying to impress upon our brethren the importance of dwelling upon the love of God much more and letting gloomy pictures alone.WV 250.5

The effect on the people was most happy. Believers and unbelievers bore testimony that the Lord had blessed them in the word spoken and that from this time they would not look on the dark side and dwell upon the great power of Satan, but talk of the goodness and the love and compassion of Jesus, and praise God more....WV 250.6

The Lord gave me testimony calculated to encourage. My own soul was blessed, and light seemed to spring up amid the darkness (Ibid.).WV 250.7

On Monday, October 15, near the close of the institute, E. J. Waggoner introduced the subject of the law in Galatians. The discussion ran for almost a week at the Bible study periods in the General Conference session. Beginning with the second day, Waggoner placed the emphasis on justification by faith. He was scholarly, gentle, and earnest, his arguments persuasive. On Monday, October 22, just one week after beginning his studies, he wrote a report of the progress of the institute and the General Conference session for the readers of the Signs of the Times. After writing of the subjects presented in the Bible study hour during the first few days, he reported that taken up next were “the law and the gospel in their various relations, coming under the general head of justification by faith.”WV 250.8

These subjects have aroused a deep interest in the minds of all present; and thus far during the conference, one hour a day has been devoted to a continuance of their study (The Signs of the Times, November 2, 1888).WV 251.1

His audience generally was in sympathy with the much-loved and respected Uriah Smith. Many stood with Butler, who was absent. Because Ellen White was tolerant and wished to see a fair discussion of the vital question of Christ and His righteousness, it was assumed she was influenced by Waggoner. This she denied, testifying:WV 251.2

I have had no conversation in regard to it with my son W. C. White, with Dr. Waggoner, or with Elder A. T. Jones (Manuscript 15, 1888 [see also Olson, pp. 305, 306]).WV 251.3

All could see that she listened attentively to Waggoner’s expositions. In her retrospective statement, written soon after the conference, she declared:WV 251.4

When I stated before my brethren that I had heard for the first time the views of Elder E. J. Waggoner, some did not believe me. I stated that I had heard precious truths uttered that I could respond to with all my heart, for had not these great and glorious truths, the righteousness of Christ and the entire sacrifice made in behalf of man, been imprinted indelibly on my mind by the Spirit of God? Has not this subject been presented in the testimonies again and again? When the Lord had given to my brethren the burden to proclaim this message, I felt inexpressively grateful to God, for I knew it was the message for this time (Manuscript 24, 1888 [see also Selected Messages 3:172]).WV 251.5

It is interesting to note that several times Ellen White declared that she was not ready to accept some points made by Dr. Waggoner. Of this she wrote on November 1, while the conference was nearing its close:WV 251.6

Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct. But I believe him to be perfectly honest in his views, and I would respect his feelings and treat him as a Christian gentleman....WV 251.7

It would be dangerous to denounce Dr. Waggoner’s position as wholly erroneous. This would please the enemy. I see the beauty of truth in the presentation of the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law as the doctor has placed it before us (Manuscript 15, 1888 [see also Olson, p. 302]).WV 251.8

Quite naturally reports of the happenings at Minneapolis were sent from day to day to Butler, bedridden in Battle Creek. What he heard did not give him peace of mind. He telegraphed a message to the session, “Stand by the old landmarks.” This stiffened the resistance to the Waggoner presentation. Shortly after the session Ellen White was to address herself to the point:WV 251.9

In Minneapolis God gave precious gems of truth to His people in new settings. This light from heaven by some was rejected with all the stubbornness the Jews manifested in rejecting Christ, and there was much talk about standing by the old landmarks.WV 252.1

But there was evidence they knew not what the old landmarks were. There was evidence that there was reasoning from the Word that commended itself to the conscience; but the minds of men were fixed, sealed against the entrance of light, because they had decided it was a dangerous error removing the “old landmarks” when it was not moving a peg of the old landmarks, but they had perverted ideas of what constituted the old landmarks (Manuscript 13, 1889 [see also CWE, p. 30]).WV 252.2

Then she listed what she considered the “landmarks.” She was listing, of course, the distinguishing characteristics of the Advent movement. She did not include such pillars of faith as authority of the Holy Scriptures, baptism, and justification by faith, but those that had been agreed upon by the early believers in the Second Advent after the passing of the time in 1844. She listed the cleansing of the sanctuary, the three angels’ messages, the importance of the Sabbath, and the nonimmortality of the soul.WV 252.3

She said:WV 252.4

All this cry about changing the old landmarks is all imaginary.WV 252.5

Now at the present time God designs a new and fresh impetus shall be given to His work. Satan sees this, and he is determined it shall be hindered. He knows that if he can deceive the people who claim to believe present truth, [and make them believe that] the work the Lord designs to do for His people is a removing of the old landmarks, something which they should, with most determined zeal, resist, then he exults over the deception he has led them to believe (Ibid. [see also CWE, pp. 30, 31]).WV 252.6

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:WV 252.7

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 councils of investigation. The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe. Often we fasted that we might be better fitted to understand the truth.WV 252.8

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....WV 253.1

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 major 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 16, 1892; italics supplied [see alsoTestimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 24, 25]).WV 253.2

But this was not the case at Minneapolis. The leaders 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.WV 253.3

The focal point was verse 24, 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.WV 253.4

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 (cf. Daniel 7:20), with key workers taking sides and reacting strongly.WV 253.5

As the meeting advanced and the positions of the participants became clear, Mrs. White developed a deep concern, amounting to anguish, for the sharp, hard feelings. She had little to say about righteousness by faith per se, but she emphasized the importance of tolerance and of unity among brethren, and the manifestation of a Christian attitude. She commented:WV 253.6

There are some differences of views on some subjects, but is this a reason for sharp, hard feelings? Shall envy and evil surmisings and imaginings, evil suspicion, hatred, and jealousies become enthroned in the heart? All these things are evil and only evil. Our help is in God alone.WV 253.7

Let us spend much time in prayer and in searching the Scriptures with a right spirit, anxious to learn and willing to be corrected or undeceived on any point where we may be in error. If Jesus is in our midst and our hearts are melted into tenderness by His love we shall have one of the best conferences we have ever attended (Manuscript 24, 1888 [see also Selected Messages 3:166]).WV 254.1

Ellen White felt she had done all that she could do in presenting the light the Lord had given her, and she thought to quietly withdraw from the conference (Ibid.). But she discovered that this was not God’s plan. She was not to be released from her responsibility to be there as His messenger.WV 254.2

Not released, she remained.WV 254.3

Before the close of the session, she had spoken nearly 20 times in many heart-searching appeals. Never before had she spoken so boldly to this group of responsible workers.WV 254.4

In a letter to Mary she commented:WV 254.5

We know not the future, but we feel that Jesus stands at the helm and we shall not be shipwrecked. My courage and faith has been good and has not failed me, notwithstanding we have had the hardest and most incomprehensible tug of war we have ever had among our people. The matter cannot be explained by pen unless I should write many, many pages; so I had better not undertake the job (Letter 82, 1888; italics supplied).WV 254.6

This she did shortly after the session closed, in the 26-page statement “Looking Back at Minneapolis” (Manuscript 24, 1888), a major portion of which appears in Selected Messages 3:163-177.WV 254.7

By several expressions in this letter to Mary it seems clear that when the meeting at Minneapolis broke up, what the future held was not then seen but would be determined by what was in the hearts of individual ministers. This would not be known until there was a firming up and personal decisions were made.

Looking Back At Minneapolis

1. As to establishing positions, no official action was taken in regard to the theological questions discussed. The uniform witness concerning the attitude toward the matter of righteousness by faith was that there were mixed reactions. These were described succinctly by Jones in 1893: “I know that some there accepted it; others rejected it entirely.... Others tried to stand halfway between, and get it that way” (The General Conference Bulletin, 1893, 185). Ellen White and others corroborate this. It is not possible to establish, from the records available, the relative number in each of the three groups.WV 254.9

2. The concept that the General Conference, and thus the denomination, rejected the message of righteousness by faith in 1888 is without foundation and was not projected until 40 years after the Minneapolis meeting, and 13 years after Mrs. White’s death. Contemporary records of the time do not suggest denominational rejection. No E. G. White statement anywhere supports the concept of rejection.WV 254.10

3. The concept of denominational rejection, when projected, is set forth in the atmosphere of Ellen G. White statements made concerning the negative position of certain individuals—the “some” of Jones’s report, above. The historical record of the reception in the field following the session supports the concept that favorable attitudes were quite general.WV 255.1

4. It has been suggested that the Minneapolis session marked a noticeable change in Ellen White’s teaching on the law and the gospel. While Minneapolis brought a new emphasis in bringing to the front “neglected truth,” the fact that there was no change in teaching is evidenced in the 19 articles from her pen comprising the 122-page book Faith and Works, with six written before 1888 and 13 written subsequent to the Minneapolis session.WV 255.2

5. Righteousness by faith is a vital truth, but it would seem that disproportionate emphasis has come to be given to the experience of the Minneapolis General Conference session. J. N. Loughborough, who authored the first two works on denominational history, Rise and Progress of the Seventh-day Adventists (1892), and a revision and enlargement in 1905, The Great Second Advent Movement, makes no mention of the session or the issues. True, he was not there, but if the matter was prominent at the time he wrote, he could not have overlooked it. Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, published in 1915, makes no reference to the General Conference session of 1888.WV 255.3

Perhaps the true attitude of the church and its leaders toward Jones and Waggoner after the 1888 conference session is best reflected by the invitations extended to these two men to conduct Bible studies in the General Conference sessions held during the next 10 years. It must be remembered that the General Conference Committee was responsible for planning General Conference sessions and choosing the speakers. The church organization had many able preachers. Here is the historical picture:WV 255.4

In 1889 Jones took the 8:00 daily Bible study, and spoke on righteousness by faith. Waggoner also addressed the conference.WV 255.5

In 1891 seventeen Bible studies were recorded in the General Conference Bulletin. All but one of these were given by Waggoner.WV 255.6

In 1893 Jones gave 24 consecutive Bible studies, which were published in the General Conference Bulletin. In 1895 twenty-six consecutive studies by Jones were recorded. In 1897 nineteen Bible studies were given by Waggoner, and 11 by Jones. One man spoke on consecutive mornings, the other on consecutive afternoons. A large part of the Bulletin is made up of the reports of their 30 studies. In 1899 Waggoner gave three studies, and Jones seven.WV 255.7

It is clear that the rank and file of workers and laity alike respected and appreciated the men through whom light came at Minneapolis, and benefited from their earnest ministry of the Word. It is clear also that unprecedented opportunity was given for the presentation of whatever messages burdened their hearts.WV 256.1

In 1897 Jones was elected editor of the Review and Herald, a position he held for four years. During this time Smith took a secondary place on the editorial staff. WV 256.2

God’s Greatest Gift—Christ And His Righteousness

How could anyone in a group that had for 40 years, more or less, prayed together for hours at a time, studied the Scriptures earnestly to know the will of God, looked forward anxiously for the soon-coming Saviour, dedicated their lives to the cause of God, sacrificed their means to hasten the work, believed themselves to be the “remnant church,” published thousands of pages proclaiming their faith—how could any of them not accept an inspiring message of “righteousness by faith”?WV 256.3

But some could, and some did.WV 256.4

Some even suggested that because Ellen White was tolerant and wished to see a fair discussion of the subject of Christ and His righteousness, she had been influenced by Elder Waggoner.WV 256.5

This she denied. She declared:WV 256.6

Had not these great and glorious truths, the righteousness of Christ and the entire sacrifice made in behalf of man, been imprinted indelibly on my mind by the Spirit of God? Has not this subject been presented in the testimonies again and again? When the Lord had given to my brethren the burden to proclaim the message, I felt inexpressibly grateful to God, for I knew it was the message for this time (Manuscript 24, 1888).WV 256.7

“Righteousness by faith”—had not this been part and parcel of the Protestant faith? Had it not been the fundamental cause of the split with the Roman Catholic Church? promoted by Luther, Calvin, and Wesley? a sort of “goes-without-saying” basic truth held by most Protestant congregations? It was not “present truth” in the same sense as the third angel’s message. Hence, perhaps it was not in the forefront of subjects being proclaimed to catch attention by those attempting to warn of the end of the world.WV 256.8

When the early Adventists, in defense of the seventh-day Sabbath, enforced their position by emphasizing the perpetuity of the law and the authority of the Ten Commandments, they were accused of teaching salvation by works or obedience to the law. To get around this argument they tried to show that the law that was “nailed to the cross” was the ceremonial law, leaving the moral law still in effect. But Paul was teaching that salvation was gained not by lawkeeping, either moral or ceremonial, but by faith. The beauty of this concept as presented by Jones and Waggoner and sustained by Ellen White at Minneapolis thrilled most of the hearers, and they went forth to spread it to the churches.WV 256.9

With mixed emotions Ellen White traveled from Minneapolis to Battle Creek following the General Conference session. Her heart rejoiced with the precious revived truth of Christ our righteousness. Somewhat fearfully, however, she pondered what to expect in the attitude of the leaders residing in Battle Creek to whom the people looked. She did not have to wait long for the answer.WV 257.1

When she was invited to speak in the tabernacle on her first Sabbath, she urged the local elders to invite A. T. Jones to speak also. They answered that they would have to check with Uriah Smith.WV 257.2

“Then do this at once,” she replied, “for time is precious and there is a message to come to this people and the Lord requires you to open the way” (Manuscript 30, 1889).WV 257.3

It was now clear that those whose hearts were fired with the light revived at Minneapolis would have to work around the prejudice of some of the leaders who had long resided in Battle Creek, and take the message to the churches. Even the church paper, the Review and Herald, would be of little help under the circumstances.WV 257.4

And take it to the churches Ellen White and A. T. Jones did. Both began in the pulpit of the Battle Creek Tabernacle. In the normal order of things meetings of one kind or another were held in the local conferences through the coming months. Further, by special arrangement of the General Conference Committee, three institutes were held during the spring and summer.WV 257.5

As meetings were held through the spring and summer across the land, Mrs. White and Jones labored as a team. Truly, the presenting of righteousness by faith yielded good fruit.WV 257.6

The Remarkable Revival In Battle Creek

Late in the year, in Battle Creek, the real breakthrough came. J. O. Corliss, Jones, and Ellen White led out in the meetings of the Week of Prayer. It was scheduled from December 15 to 22—but it lasted a month. As the week opened, Mrs. White, because of infirmities of the moment, dared not leave the sanitarium. So she began her work there, with physicians, nurses, and the rest of the sanitarium staff. Jones and Corliss held meetings at the tabernacle, the publishing house, and the college. Reported Ellen White in the Review:WV 257.7

The revival services held during the Week of Prayer and since that time have accomplished a good work in the Battle Creek church. Elders A. T. Jones, J. O. Corliss, and others took an active part in conducting the meetings. The principal topic dwelt upon was justification by faith, and this truth came as meat in due season to the people of God. The living oracles of God were presented in new and precious light (The Review and Herald, February 12, 1889).WV 258.1

Meetings were held daily at the college, at the publishing house, at the sanitarium, and in the evenings in the tabernacle. Ellen White also found time to call on some families in personal visits.WV 258.2

In concluding her report of the victorious experience, in the Review and Herald of February 12 she exclaimed: “May the good work begun in the Battle Creek church be carried onward and upward till every soul shall be consecrated, purified, refined, and fitted for the society of heavenly angels!” But this wish was not to see fulfillment, for some who had been at Minneapolis and had resisted the light given there still held back. The decision in response to light is a personal one and some took the wrong course.WV 258.3

Back and forth across the land Ellen White went carrying the message of hope and faith. New York, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, Des Moines, Chicago, South Lancaster, Healdsburg, Oakland.WV 258.4

Typical of her dauntless courage and determination is the story of her trip to the camp meeting at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a few days after “the day the dam broke,” causing the famous Johnstown Flood.WV 258.5

The Williamsport Camp Meeting

Thursday night, May 30, Ellen White, accompanied by Sara McEnterfer, boarded the train in Battle Creek bound for Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where the camp meeting was to open Tuesday, June 4. Because of heavy rains, the train moved slowly. They had expected to reach Williamsport the next afternoon at 5:00, but soon they could see that this objective could not be met. Bridges had been swept away and roads washed out by the Johnstown Flood. When they reached Elmira, New York, they were advised to give up their journey.WV 258.6

But neither Ellen nor Sara was easily dissuaded. They were determined to go as far as possible, hoping that the reports concerning the conditions of travel were exaggerated. At Canton, some 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Williamsport, their car was switched onto a side track because of a washout; they spent the Sabbath there in a hotel. Determined to get through, Ellen and Sara put their heads together and left no stone unturned in their attempts to find a way. Traveling by carriage part of the way and walking part of the way, they compassed the 40 miles (64 kilometers) in four days, in a hair-raising venture described in her report in the Ibid., July 30, 1889. One interesting feature was the manner in which she was sustained physically. She reported:WV 258.7

We were obliged to walk miles on this journey, and it seemed marvelous that I could endure to travel as I did. Both of my ankles were broken years ago, and ever since they have been weak. Before leaving Battle Creek for Kansas, I sprained one of my ankles and was confined to crutches for some time; but in this emergency I felt no weakness or inconvenience, and traveled safely over the rough, sliding rocks.WV 259.1

At one point they waited for three hours as, at their direction, a raft was constructed upon which to ferry the carriage in which they traveled across a swiftly flowing stream. A small boat pulled it across, the horses swam the stream, and the two women travelers were rowed across. Then they continued their journey by horse and carriage. The destruction reminded Ellen White of what is to come in the last days and encouraged her to be even more diligent in preparation for that day. Her report in the Review closes with these words:WV 259.2

We arrived at Williamsport at three o’clock Wednesday afternoon. The experience and anxiety through which I passed on this journey greatly exhausted me in mind and body; but we were grateful that we had suffered no serious trouble, and that the Lord had preserved us from the perils of the land, and prospered us on our way.WV 259.3

When they reached the town they were told that the campground had been flooded out and that the tents had been taken down. Actually, they found the tents had been moved to higher ground and the meeting was in progress.WV 259.4

While it was a difficult meeting to get to, it was an easy meeting to work in. Wrote Ellen White:WV 259.5

The Lord had a work for me to do at Williamsport. I had much freedom in speaking to the brethren and sisters there assembled. They did not seem to possess a spirit of unbelief and of resistance to the message the Lord had sent them. I felt that it was a great privilege to speak to those whose hearts were not barricaded with prejudice and evil surmising. My soul went out in grateful praise that, weary and exhausted as I was, I did not have to carry upon my heart the extra burden of seeing brethren and sisters whom I loved unimpressed and in resistance of the light that God had graciously permitted to shine upon them.WV 259.6

I did not have to set my face as a flint, and press and urge upon them that which I knew to be truth. The message was eagerly welcomed; and although I had to speak words of reproof and warning, as well as words of encouragement, all were heartily received by my hearers (Ibid., August 13, 1889).WV 259.7

Ellen White spoke 13 times at the Williamsport camp meeting, including the early-morning meetings.WV 260.1

She worked her way west in the late summer to Colorado and then to California. After the camp meeting in Oakland she hastened back to Battle Creek for the General Conference session, which opened Friday morning, October 18.WV 260.2

The 1889 General Conference Session

Carefully she watched developments at the 1889 General Conference session. When the meeting was well along she reported:WV 260.3

The spirit that was in the meeting at Minneapolis is not here. All moves off in harmony. There is a large attendance of delegates. Our five o’clock morning meeting is well attended, and the meetings good. All the testimonies to which I have listened have been of an elevating character. They say that the past year has been the best of their life; the light shining forth from the Word of God has been clear and distinct—justification by faith, Christ our righteousness (Manuscript 10, 1889 [see also Selected Messages 1:361, 362]).WV 260.4

The General Conference session late in October climaxed activities for the year. In a unique three-page statement near the close of 1889 she summarized in sweeping terms a review of her activities between the two General Conference sessions, 1888 and 1889:WV 260.5

After the General Conference [of 1888] I journeyed to Battle Creek and commenced labor in Battle Creek. Visited Potterville [Michigan], by invitation, to attend the State ministers’ meeting [November 22-27]. Returned to Battle Creek, and the same week felt urged by the Spirit of God to go to Des Moines, Iowa. Attended the Iowa ministers’ meeting [November 29 to December 5]; spoke six times.WV 260.6

Returned to Battle Creek and labored in speaking to the institutions in this place, the Sanitarium, especially during the Week of Prayer [December 15-22] in the early morning. I also spoke on other occasions to patients and helpers. Spoke to the workers in the office of publication. Spoke in the Tabernacle.WV 260.7

Attended the South Lancaster meeting [beginning January 10]. Spoke there eleven times. Stopped on our way to Washington, D.C., and spoke in the evening to a goodly number assembled in the Brooklyn Mission. Spoke six times in Washington. Spoke on our returning route one evening in Williamsport. Spent Sabbath and first day in [Syracuse] New York. Spoke three times and was several hours in important council.WV 260.8

Returned to Battle Creek [February 4] and labored earnestly. Attended two weeks’ meeting in Chicago [March 28-April 8] [The Review and Herald, May 7, 1889]. Spoke there many times. Returned to Battle Creek, attended special meeting for ministers in Battle Creek, and spoke several times. Continued to labor in Battle Creek until the Kansas camp meeting; was three weeks in that workers’ meeting [May 7 to 21] and camp meeting [May 21-28]. Labored to my utmost strength to help the people assembled. Attended meeting at Williamsport [June 5-11]. Spoke ten times, including morning meetings.WV 261.1

Attended camp meeting in [Rome] New York [June 11-18] and labored as God gave me strength. Returned worn and exhausted to Battle Creek and was obliged to refrain from speaking for a time. Attended camp meeting at Wexford, Michigan [June 25-July 2], and the Lord strengthened me to speak to the people. After the meeting I was again prostrated through overlabor.WV 261.2

Attended the camp meeting in Kalamazoo [Michigan, August 25 to September 2], and the Lord strengthened me to speak and labor for the people. Returning home to Battle Creek, I was again prostrated, but the Lord helped me. I attended the meeting in Saginaw [Michigan, August 27 to September 3], and to praise of God He raised me above my feebleness, and I was made strong when before the people.WV 261.3

After the meeting I was again greatly prostrated but started on my journey to attend camp meeting in Colorado [September 10-17]. The Lord greatly blessed me in these meetings as I bore my testimony. I then continued my journey to California.WV 261.4

I spoke twice to the people in Healdsburg. Attended Oakland meeting and was very sick, but the Lord raised me up and strengthened me with His Spirit and power, and I spoke to the people eight times and several times before committees and ministers and in morning meetings. Then I came across the Rocky Mountains to attend the [1889] General Conference (Manuscript 25, 1889).WV 261.5

E. G. White Review Articles Tell The Story

Fifteen of the 31 E. G. White articles appearing in the Review and Herald for the first nine months of 1889 are stenographic reports of her addresses given throughout this period of special labor. These, together with her five reports of the convocations, carried the benefits of her arduous work to the church generally.WV 261.6

Some today ask why this movement in the church, emphasizing the subject of righteousness by faith, did not usher in the “loud cry.” In answer, it might be suggested that the polarization of attitudes militated against such an advance. Further, that which proved to be so great a blessing to many individuals could easily be allowed to slip away if the recipient failed to renew daily the precious experience. With many the righteousness by faith message brought a turning point in their experience, lifting them to an enduring, victorious life. The numerous articles Ellen White published in the journals of the church and the E. G. White books published from 1888 onward, especiallySteps to Christ (1892), The Desire of Ages (1898), and Christ’s Object Lessons (1900), kept the theme of “Christ our righteousness” before Seventh-day Adventists and the world.

Chapter 17—Advances In Book Publication

In 1889 it had been more than 40 years since Ellen White had seen in vision the streams of light bearing the third angel’s message to all the world. The production of the first copy of Present Truth had been one person’s job—the writing, editing, carrying in a carpet bag to the post office.WV 263.1

Since that time great advances in publishing had been made. There were now in 1889 a number of well-equipped publishing houses, well staffed, well organized, with goals to go into all the world.WV 263.2

From the publication of the first Testimony pamphlet in 1855, important instruction, admonition, encouragement, and reproof had reached the church through 31Testimony pamphlets, each from 16 pages to 240 pages. In 1878 the General Conference session voted that these materials be kept in print and made available to the church in a more permanent form.WV 263.3

S. N. Haskell declared Testimony No. 31 to be “the most solemn one that has been published” (Ibid., October 24, 1882). Early in the Ohio camp meeting a copy arrived, and frequently the entire camp was called together to hear portions read; the hearers were deeply affected (The Signs of the Times, September 7, 1882). G. I. Butler, president of the General Conference, wrote of it, “Never before has so important a testimony been given to us.... It is filled with the choicest matter and the most stirring truths. Never were our dangers set before us as a people more clearly” (The Review and Herald, August 22, 1882). Reported Sanborn, a minister, “How thankful I feel that the Lord has not left us in our darkness and backslidings, but in mercy calls us to hear His special counsel” (Ibid., September 19, 1882).WV 263.4

Many of the earlier writings, published in small printings, had been out of print for years, or partially incorporated in other publications.WV 263.5

Just before the opening of 1883 a little volume bearing the title of Early Writings of Ellen G. White came from the press. It was a book eagerly sought by Adventist families, for it provided Ellen’s three earliest books, long out of print:WV 263.6

1. Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E. G. White, a 64-page pamphlet published in 1851 that presented many of her early visions. This included her first vision, at this time found in no other work.WV 263.7

2. Supplement to Experience and Views, a 48-page pamphlet published in 1854. It explained some points in the preceding work that were not clear to all readers, and added some testimony-type articles on church order, et cetera.WV 263.8

3. Spiritual Gifts,, Volume I, the 219-page presentation of the great controversyWV 264.1

story, published in 1858. Of these writings Butler wrote:WV 264.2

These were the very first of the published writings of Sister White. Since they went out of print, many thousands have become interested in her writings. Many of these have greatly desired to have in their possession all she has written for publication.... It meets a want long felt—(Ibid., December 26, 1882).WV 264.3

In 1885 (the year Ellen White went to Europe) if a new Adventist had wanted to purchase all the E. G. White books available, he or she would have been able to secure the following:WV 264.4

Early Writings, an 1882 republication of the first three E. G. White books issued in the 1850s.WV 264.5

The Spirit of Prophecy, volumes 1-4, which told the great controversy story. The first three were 400-page books, and the fourth, 500 pages.WV 264.6

Testimonies for the Church, volumes 1-4, a reprint of 30 testimony pamphlets issued between the years 1855 and 1881 in four volumes of about 700 pages each.WV 264.7

Two Testimony pamphlets, Numbers 31 and 32.WV 264.8

Sketches From the Life of Paul, a 334-page volume.WV 264.9

Older Adventists might have had Spiritual Gifts,, Volumes I-IV, the forerunners of The Spirit of Prophecy series. The second volume is a biographical work issued in 1860. They might also have had How to Live, comprising six pamphlets on health, each with one feature article from Ellen White, and the balance, related material selected and compiled by her; and a 64-page pamphlet, Appeal to Mothers.

The Great Controversy Theme—Developed And Enlarged

The vision at Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, on a Sunday afternoon in mid-March 1858 was one of great importance. In this the theme of the great controversy between Christ and His angels on the one side and Satan and his angels on the other was seen as one continuous and closely linked chain of events spanning 6,000 years. This vision has put Seventh-day Adventists into a unique position with clear-cut views of the working of Providence in the history of our world—a viewpoint quite different from that held by secular historians, who see events of history only as the interplay between the actions of human beings, often seemingly the result of chance or natural developments. In other words, this vision and others of the great conflict of the ages yield a philosophy of history that answers many questions and in prophetic forecast gives the assurance of final victory of good over evil.WV 264.11

The vision lasted for two hours, the congregation in the crowded schoolhouse watching with intense interest all that took place (WCW, in The Review and Herald, February 20, 1936).WV 265.1

In one brief paragraph Ellen White introduced what is thought of today as the principal topic of the March 14 vision:WV 265.2

In this vision at Lovett’s Grove most of the matter of the great controversy which I had seen ten years before was repeated, and I was shown that I must write it out (Spiritual Gifts, 2:270).

Stricken By Satan

Ellen White was shown, in connection with the instruction to write out the vision of the controversy, that “I should have to contend with the powers of darkness, for Satan would make strong efforts to hinder me, but angels of God would not leave me in the conflict, that in God must I put my trust” (Ibid.).WV 265.4

What did this mean? She was to learn before ever she reached home.WV 265.5

Monday the Tillotsons drove them in their comfortable carriage to the railroad station at Freemont, where the next day they took the train for Jackson, Michigan. At this point Ellen picks up the account:WV 265.6

While riding in the cars we arranged our plans for writing and publishing the book called The Great Controversy immediately on our return home. I was then as well as usual.WV 265.7

On the arrival of the train at Jackson we went to Brother Palmer’s. We had been in the house but a short time, when, as I was conversing with Sister Palmer, my tongue refused to utter what I wished to say, and seemed large and numb. A strange, cold sensation struck my heart, passed over my head, and down my right side. For a while I was insensible; but was aroused by the voice of earnest prayer.WV 265.8

I tried to use my left arm and limb, but they were perfectly useless. For a short time I did not expect to live. It was the third shock I had received of paralysis, and although within fifty miles (eighty kilometers) of home, I did not expect to see my children again. I called to mind the triumphant season I had enjoyed at Lovett’s Grove, and thought it was my last testimony, and felt reconciled to die (Spiritual Gifts, 2:271).WV 265.9

As earnest prayer was continued in her behalf, she soon felt a prickling sensation in her arm and leg, and she praised God that the power of Satan was broken.WV 265.10

Three months later a vision given to her in Battle Creek opened to her what was really behind the distressing experience suffered in the Palmer home.WV 266.1

I was taken off in vision. In that vision I was shown that in the sudden attack at Jackson, Satan designed to take my life to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue, to raise me above the effects of Satan’s attack. I saw, among other things, that I should be blessed with better health than before the attack at Jackson (Ibid., 2:272).WV 266.2

The night after the stroke was one of great suffering, but the next day she seemed sufficiently strengthened to continue the journey by train to Battle Creek. On arrival home she was carried up the steep stairs to the front bedroom in their Wood Street home. She reported:WV 266.3

For several weeks I could not feel the pressure of the hand, nor the coldest water poured upon my head. In rising to walk, I often staggered, and sometimes fell to the floor. In this condition I commenced to write The Great Controversy.WV 266.4

I could write at first but one page a day, then rest three; but as I progressed, my strength increased. The numbness in my head did not seem to becloud my mind, and before I closed that work, the effect of the shock had entirely left me (Ibid.).WV 266.5

While engaged in writing the great controversy story Ellen White had an opportunity to relate what had been shown to her in vision before some 400 believers assembled in Battle Creek for the General Conference called for May 21-24, 1858. In the morning she began her story with the fall of Satan, the plan of salvation, and the great controversy between Christ and His angels and Satan and his. In the evening she continued her narrative until nearly 10:00.WV 266.6

A month later it was reported that the forthcoming book was “in the press,” meaning that the publishers had received some of the copy and were setting type. By mid-August Mrs. White had completed her writing, and the book was printed—The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels. It was introduced by a 12-page statement from the pen of Roswell F. Cottrell that had appeared in the The Review and Herald, February 25, 1858, under the title “Spiritual Gifts.” For this wider use Cottrell amplified it somewhat.WV 266.7

The E. G. White text opens with the words:WV 266.8

The Lord has shown me that Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Jesus Christ. His countenance was mild, expressive of happiness like the other angels. His forehead was high and broad, and showed great intelligence. His form was perfect. He had a noble, majestic bearing (Spiritual Gifts, 1:17).WV 266.9

The The Review and Herald, September 9, 1858, carried on its back page, under the title “Spiritual Gifts,” the notice that the book was ready. It read:WV 267.1

This is a work of 224 pages written by Mrs. White, with an introductory article on the perpetuity of spiritual gifts by Brother R. F. Cottrell. Price 50 cents.WV 267.2

This was the very first printing in book form of the great controversy theme. It was later bound with Volume II of a four-part series titled Spiritual Gifts,. It traces the theme of the constant struggle between Christ and Satan that Mrs. White would continue to develop throughout her life.WV 267.3

Volume I 1858 The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels Volume II 1860 My Christian Experience, Views and Labors in Connection With the Rise and Progress of the Third Angel’s Message Volume III 1864 Important Facts of Faith in Connection With the History of Holy Men of Old Volume IV 1864Important Facts of Faith: Laws of Health, and Testimonies Nos. 1-10WV 267.4

The next book carrying the great controversy theme was Volume IV in the series titled Spirit of Prophecy. Volume 1 1870 The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels Volume 2 1877 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. Life, Teachings, and Miracles of Our Lord Jesus ChristWV 267.5

Volume 3 1878 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. The Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ Volume 4 1884 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. From the Destruction of Jerusalem to the End of the ControversyWV 267.6

It may be observed from the above that for a period of 30 years, between 1858 and 1888, much of Ellen White’s time and thought was given to producing The Great Controversy. During the same period, of course, she produced a great volume of writing for publication in journals, testimonies to individuals, and books.WV 267.7

“The Spirit Of Prophecy”—Volume 4

The first three volumes in the series had been published before James White’s death in 1881. It was some time after his death before Ellen recovered sufficiently to settle down to a consistent program of book publication.WV 267.8

Weighing heavily on her mind was Volume 4 of The Spirit of Prophecy series—The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels—dealing with the post-Christian Era from the destruction of Jerusalem to the new earth.WV 268.1

James and Ellen had hoped that the closing book in the series would be in the field without too much delay, but during the last two years of his life she could do little with it.WV 268.2

In an endeavor to keep the volumes close to the 400-page mark, volume 3 was held to 392 pages. This cut the story off in the midst of Paul’s ministry, leaving him in Thessalonica. It was her plan to begin volume 4 at this point, and she continued writing five more chapters on this basis. But God had other plans; she was instructed through vision to adopt the format now seen in The Great Controversy. The fourth volume was to begin with the account of the destruction of Jerusalem. She followed this instruction. The five unused chapters on New Testament history were included in the second printing of volume 3, even though it made a book of 442 pages.WV 268.3

Instructed To Trace The History Of The Controversy

It was revealed to Ellen White that she should present an outline of the controversy between Christ and Satan, as it developed in the first centuries of the Christian Era and the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, in such a way as to prepare the mind of the reader to understand clearly the controversy going on in the present day. Writing of this in 1888 as she had occasion (just four years after its issuance) to enlarge and revise volume 4, she explained:WV 268.4

As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His Word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to present it as to shed a light on the fast approaching struggle of the future.WV 268.5

In pursuance of this purpose, I have endeavored to select and group together events in the history of the church in such a manner as to trace the unfolding of the great testing truths that at different periods have been given to the world, that have excited the wrath of Satan, and the enmity of a world-loving church....WV 268.6

In these records we may see the foreshadowing of the conflict before us. Regarding them in the light of God’s Word, and by the illumination of His Spirit, we may see unveiled the devices of the wicked one.... The great events which have marked the progress of reform in past ages, are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged by the Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay (The Great Controversy, 14).

Volume 4—The Great Controversy—Finally Ready

A back-page note in the The Signs of the Times, October 2, 1884, reported that volume 4, “so long looked for, is now out.” It was published simultaneously by both the Pacific Press and the Review and Herald in editions of 5,000 copies each. Before the end of the year the first printing on the West Coast was sold out. Another milestone in Ellen White’s writing was now passed. The book was sold to both Seventh-day Adventists and the general public, and 50,000 copies were distributed within several years’ time.WV 269.1

By 1888 a far-reaching concept was emerging, with the use of The Great Controversy, volume 4 of The Spirit of Prophecy series, being successfully introduced by colporteurs to the general public. It was a popular book; 10 printings of 5,000 each had come from the presses of the Review and Herald and the Pacific Press in a short time. In 1886 its popularity was enhanced by the introduction of 22 illustrations, and it was printed in a larger page size. This, the sixth printing of the book, met with gratifying sale to the general public. Such a response broadened the vistas as to what could be done with the E. G. White books dealing with the controversy story.WV 269.2

It was the 1888 edition that Ellen White worked on so assiduously during her European tour, dividing her time between writing, public appearances, and traveling. Since the publication of her first vision she had responded to the compulsion to write with a wholehearted dedication of time and energy. Whether on a train or on a ship or in a caravan; whether in California or Basel, her one thought was, I hope I can find time to write. Writing, writing, writing—at all times and in all places. Always prepared with materials. Whenever it was at all possible, she was accompanied by members of her staff (paid from her personal exchequer).WV 269.3

In Europe she was inspired by visiting many of the places associated with the work of the Reformers; e.g., the Waldensian valleys and Switzerland. On a visit to Zurich, where Zwingli had labored and preached, she remarked, “We gathered many items of interest which we will use” (Manuscript 29, 1887).WV 269.4

The manuscript was still unfinished when she arrived back in the United States. She made a number of stops—New England, Battle Creek, and other places—before reaching her home in Healdsburg, where the manuscript was finally finished.WV 269.5