Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ellen White's Writings in the Pulpit

Are the writings of a contemporary prophet intended for our own personal reading only, or do they have a public role in the church?

"And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Colossians 4:16.

Here's a lesson from the year 1855:

     "Recognizing the prejudice many of his peers had against visions and dreams, James White decided in 1851 not to publish any of his wife's visions in the Review. . . . Yet the failure of the Review over the next few years to publish more than a handful of Ellen White articles, and these of a general inspirational nature, did not free the emerging church from the criticism that it followed a prophet, not the Bible. In 1855 Elder White exploded. 'There is a class of persons who are determined to have it that the Review and its conductors make the views of Mrs. White a test of doctrine and Christian fellowship. . . . What has the Review to do with Mrs. White's views? The sentiments published in its columns are all drawn from the Holy Scriptures. No writer of the Review has ever referred to them as authority on any point.'
     "If failure to publish Ellen White's visions did not spare sabbatarian Adventists from criticism, it did seem to decrease their own interest in this supernatural method of God's leading. At the same time the visions became 'less and less frequent.' Ellen decided that her work was almost done. Not so. At a conference in Battle Creek in November 1855 the participants became convinced that the languishing condition prevailing in the infant church was due to a failure to properly appreciate divine leading through Mrs. White's visions." Richard Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, p. 180.

     "During the four-year period, 1851-55, there had appeared in the Review only four articles of general exhortation from Mrs. White's pen. No reference had been made to the visions. This was one of the items to be considered at the Battle Creek conference, for it was obvious to some that the progress of the work had suffered since little attention was being given to revelations from God. As a result of the conference a decided change was made in attitudes toward the visions and their publication in the paper." T. H. Jemison, A Prophet Among You, p. 317.

     "At our late Conference at Battle Creek, in Nov. God wrought for us. The minds of the servants of God were exercised as to the gifts of the Church, and if God's frown had been brought upon His people because the gifts had been slighted and neglected, there was a pleasing prospect that His smiles would again be upon us, and He would graciously and mercifully revive the gifts again, and they would live in the Church, to encourage the desponding and fainting soul, and to correct and reprove the erring." Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Jan. 10, 1856.

     "Of her experience at a meeting on the day following the close of the conference, Mrs. White wrote:  'November 20, 1855, while in prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came suddenly and powerfully upon me, and I was taken off in vision.' Testimonies, vol. I, p. 113. The matters seen in the vision were written out and read to the church at Battle Creek. . . .
     "While it was not known at the time that this was to be the first of many testimonies to be sent to the church and to individuals, and later published, in due time it came to be designated as Testimony Number One. With the eight pages of this testimony were bound eight additional pages of testimony matter, making a sixteen-page pamphlet." Jemison, p. 318.

     "No one among the men and women receiving those little pamphlets could have envisioned the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church that would eventually achieve such a wide circulation in the church as they enjoy today. . . .
     "In the spring of 1856 another annual conference was held at Battle Creek, and again important matters were revealed to Mrs. White in vision. Again she wrote out what had been shown her, and read it to the group. Once more those to whom it was read felt that it should be printed and distributed for the benefit of others. At the close of this second testimony for the church is this note of explanation by two local church leaders:
     " 'To the Saints Scattered Abroad
     " 'The foregoing testimony was given in the presence of about one hundred brethren and sisters assembled in the House of Prayer, on whose minds it apparently made a deep impression. It has since been read before the church at Battle Creek, who gave their unanimous vote in favor of its publication for the benefit of the Saints scattered abroad.' " Jemison, p. 319.

On March 1, 1898, Marian Davis, Ellen White's assistant, wrote:

     "I have been gathering out the precious things from those new manuscripts on the early life of Jesus. Sent a number of new pages to California by the Vancouver mail, and shall send more for later chapters by the next mail. Two of these articles on Christ's missionary work I let Brother James have to read in church. Last Sabbath he read the one which speaks of the Saviour's denying Himself of food to give to the poor. These things are unspeakably precious." Jemison, p. 348.

From these brief accounts we must conclude that it is acceptable for the testimonies of God's last-day prophet to be read in the church.

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