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    Chapter 3—The Gift of Prophecy in the Advent Movement

    Prophets in the Old Testament are taken for granted and generally accepted by all Christians. The same is true of the prophets in the New Testament, for we have the positive declaration of the apostle Paul recorded in Ephesians 4:8, 11,DGRGC 38.1

    “Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men, ... and He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”DGRGC 38.2

    Here is presented the fact that God set some prophets to work in His church in the Christian era. Furthermore we are assured by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:5-8,DGRGC 38.3

    “That in everything ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”DGRGC 38.4

    From this text we must conclude that God plans to work through prophets down to the end of time, to the second coming of Christ; and that the work of such prophets shall be for the purpose of helping Christians become “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus.”DGRGC 38.5

    Then, too, in Ephesians 4:12-15, we have a list of the objectives set forth for those who are apostles and prophets and evangelists, pastors and teachers:DGRGC 38.6

    First, “for the perfecting of the saints”: second, “for the work of the ministry”: third, “for the edifying of the body of Christ”:—“till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”DGRGC 38.7

    It seems to me that this is a very important text, for it sets forth God’s plan for leading and guiding His people from the time they first accept Christ as “babes” in the doctrines to the time when they become mature intelligent Christians.DGRGC 39.1

    We must ever remember that prophets are placed in the church primarily for the church and not for unbelievers. As we go out to work for unbelievers we should bear this in mind, and not endeavour to introduce them to God through the present day manifestations of the gift of prophecy. It is our business to introduce unbelievers to Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and make of them “believers” or Christians.DGRGC 39.2

    This is taught also in 1 Corinthians 14. Verse 3 says, “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” Then in verse 4, it is stated “He that prophesieth edifieth the church,” and further, in verse 22, we find the thought: “Prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” So the messages of the prophets are primarily designed for those who are believers already, for those who are in the church. The reason for prophecy and prophesying within the church is to build up the church, to build up the saints, to build up the believers.DGRGC 39.3

    Now this corresponds very closely with the thought expressed by Mrs. Ellen G. White in the The Review and Herald, February 18, 1888, where she says that our business is first of all to go out and proclaim the gospel. This will make “sons of God” of those who believe. This article likewise makes it clear that any man who hears the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who becomes aware of the fact that he is a sinner in need of a Saviour, and who acknowledges Christ as his Saviour, immediately becomes a member of God’s family, a believer. Then, after he believes, and has become “a son of God” he begins a process of growth in grace by which he becomes “an intelligent Christian.”DGRGC 39.4

    All of this is in harmony with the passage which we read previously, in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, where it says that all Scriptures which are given by inspiration are for the purpose of making a man holy, perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. We, therefore, draw a conclusion that the gift of prophecy is for me and for you. The testimonies are primarily for those who already believe. It is the gospel that makes believers into “sons of God,” and it is the messages of the prophets that build the believers up into “intelligent Christians.”DGRGC 39.5

    We now turn to the question of how the people back in 1844,’45 and’46 accepted the one who came forth in the Remnant Church and claimed the gift of prophecy. I have often wondered just how I would have related myself to that individual back there. Maybe I can give you just a little feeling of the situation as it existed in 1844.DGRGC 40.1

    There was a large group of Advent people led by a number of ministers who preached that Christ would come in 1844. Finally, taking that text, Daniel 8:14, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” they set the date October 22 as the day on which Christ would return. About a year or so ago, Elder D. E. Robinson and my wife and I made a little tour in New England visiting all those old places of historical interest connected with the Advent movement. Elder Robinson is a grandson of the first Adventist to begin keeping the seventh-day Sabbath in 1844. In our travels we came to William Miller’s old farm. It was just about sundown when we went to the back of the farm to a big flat rock that stands out like a dome in the old field behind the barn. On that rock we stood that evening and watched the sun go down, but we thought in our minds of that group of Advent people who assembled there on October 22, 1844.DGRGC 40.2

    Elder D. E. Robinson told the story in great detail. I wish you could have been there. I wish you could have heard that thrilling story. I have never heard it before nor since in such detail and with such feeling as he told it that evening while we stood there on the rock. As we stood there the sky appeared most beautiful. We could see from one horizon to the other, and in all four directions without any obstructions. We stood there in the still of eventide, and as he recounted the story, I could almost feel I was among that group on October 22, looking at the sky, watching to see the appearance of Christ, first as a small cloud, and then coming closer and closer. But the sun went down that evening and He had not come. I could actually sense the disappointment of that early Advent group.DGRGC 40.3

    The evening wore on and it went far into the night before they fully realized that they had fixed their hopes upon something that had not been fulfilled; it was indeed a terrible disappointment. Out of that disappointment on October 22 came confusion, and a scattering of the Advent people. On October 23 everybody, it seems, soon had a different idea, or reason, for the apparent failure of their hope, and out of that failure came much discontent. Many took the position that God had not led them.DGRGC 41.1

    It was shortly after that time, that a little group of women up in Portland, Maine, gathered in the home of a Sister Haines for prayer. These five ladies were kneeling, seeking light from God, when one of them, a seventeen-year-old girl, had a very strange experience. In her own words she says, “The power of God came upon me as I had never felt it before.” And during that prayer she saw, as it were, the Advent people journeying from the disappointment in 1844 clear through to the city of God.DGRGC 41.2

    Coming from that little season of prayer, she looked at those ladies and commented that she had had a very strange experience. She could not understand it. She could not explain it. It seemed as though she was travelling on a very narrow path, and she recounted the vision as you will read it in Early Writings, 14 to 20. Now the Advent believers had been taught to be very sceptical of anybody who claimed to have dreams and visions. Let me give you the reason for such an attitude.DGRGC 41.3

    The Advent people in 1843, on May 29, met in Boston in conference, and in connection with that conference, gave study to the question of dreams and visions and revelations, for several people claimed to have them at that time. On this subject they took an action and recorded it thus in their minutes: “We have no confidence whatever in any visions, dreams, or private revelations.”DGRGC 41.4

    You can imagine that little group of women with a seventeen-year-old girl coming from their season of prayer telling of a very strange experience in which she says: “The power of God came upon me as I have never felt it before.” Then she told them of what she had seen. I wonder, friends, how many of you ladies, if you had been there in that little group, would have said, “Now, Ellen, we are sure that what you say is right and we accept you and believe you to be a prophet. Surely you are one of God’s great prophets.” Would you have said that? I doubt it. I rather imagine that some of those ladies questioned a bit even what Sister Ellen herself had said.DGRGC 42.1

    At that time she herself did not want to accept the responsibility. She tried to throw it off. She tried to repress all of those feelings, and of her experience she says, “After I came out of this vision I was exceedingly troubled.... I went to the Lord in prayer and begged Him to lay the burden on someone else. It seemed to me that I could not bear it. I lay upon my face a long time, and all the light I could get was ‘Make known to others what I have revealed to you.’” 1White, Ellen G., Early Writings, 20. Thus she described her own experience. At first she did not want to go out and tell the people what she had seen. She knew they would ridicule, she knew they would censure, she knew that many would reject, and she hesitated to tell them what she had experienced.DGRGC 42.2

    That was back in 1844. There was no evidence of any kind other than her own words as to what she had seen. Whether or not to believe it was a great question. In fact, some of those people back there seriously questioned the experience. We have the words of one worker in 1847 who put it this way: “I cannot endorse Sister Ellen’s vision as being of divine inspiration, as you and she think them to be; yet I do not suspect the least shade of dishonesty in either of you in this matter.... I think that what she and you regard as visions from the Lord, are only religious reveries, in which her imagination runs without control upon themes in which she is most deeply interested.... I do not by any means think her visions are like some from the devil.”DGRGC 42.3

    You see, he was very kind in saying, “I do not think they are from the devil, but I just cannot accept them as you do.” So it was in the years following 1844 and 1845 that many people turned their backs upon her, and she had a rather difficult time.DGRGC 43.1

    We can almost sense her feelings during those years as we try to re-live that experience. But not all of the people were quite so outspoken as this brother, for we have in the words of James White himself his own testimony, and we believe that he spoke for many like him. These are his words:DGRGC 43.2

    “Dreams and visions are among the signs that precede the great notable days of the Lord. And as the signs of that day have been, and still are fulfilling, it must be clear to every unprejudiced mind, that the time has fully come, when the children of God may expect dreams and visions from the Lord.DGRGC 43.3

    “I know that this is a very unpopular position to hold on this subject, even among Adventists; but I choose to believe the Word of the Lord on this point, rather than the teachings of men. I am well aware of the prejudice in many minds on this subject; but as it has been caused principally by the preaching of popular Adventists and the lack of a correct view of this subject; I have humbly hoped to cut it away, with the ‘sword of the Spirit,’ from some minds, at least.” 2White, James, in “A Word to the ‘Little Flock,’” p. 13.DGRGC 43.4

    That is James White’s written testimony concerning the attitude of the people back there. They were not clear as to these manifestations and revelations. They needed some kind of evidence that would convince them that what she said was true and accurate, reliable and something to be depended upon.DGRGC 43.5

    We now turn to another very interesting character in Seventh-day Adventist history. Joseph Bates was a man of integrity, of position and authority, among the early Advent people. He had become a captain and owner of a sea-going vessel of his own. As the captain he had become a sort of astronomer. He loved to read about astronomy. He delighted to talk about it. Everywhere he went he discussed astronomy. In the month of November, 1846, he went up to Topsham, Maine, to visit with the Whites and to meet with the other people in a conference. He made it definitely known that he did not believe in visions and dreams and revelations. He would have nothing to do with that. So far as he was concerned that was impossible.DGRGC 43.6

    One day he took opportunity to ask Mrs. White (she had married James White) what she knew about astronomy. He found her as ignorant as most of us are on the subject, and was disappointed that she had never read a book or an article on it. In fact, she had no inclination even to hear or talk of it. Of course, very few people are interested in astronomy, and so it was not strange that Mrs. Ellen G. White knew nothing about the subject. But one evening during that conference, Joseph Bates not only saw her in vision, which he had hitherto denied, and which he had thus far rejected; but in that vision, she began to talk about the heavenly bodies, and to describe some of them.DGRGC 44.1

    She told about the stars and the rosy-tinted belts around one of them. She told about four moons here and seven moons there and so forth. Joseph Bates listened. “My,” he thought, “there is something very strange.” She knew nothing at all about astronomy, she had so declared. But when she began to describe the opening in the heavens and tell about that open space with all its beauty, Joseph Bates exclaimed, “Oh, if only Lord John Rosse were here now to hear that description,” for it was in 1845 that Lord John Rosse, an English astronomer, had described the open space in Orion. It was called “the gap in the sky” and Joseph Bates had read the description of that open space in the Illustrated London News of April 19, 1845. That was one of his favourite themes. He had not even mentioned that to Mrs. White because he thought, “She knows nothing about astronomy. What does she know about the opening in the heavens?”DGRGC 44.2

    In that vision she began to describe it, and did it in such an interesting way, that Joseph Bates said, “O, how I wish Lord John Rosse were here tonight.” He concluded that such knowledge does not come from any imagination. That such a description could not come from a religious reverie. There must be some power beyond her control. It was then that he declared, “I believe the work is of God, and is given to comfort and strengthen His ‘scattered,’ ‘torn,’ and ‘pealed people.’” We do not use that expression these days, but it is very significant.DGRGC 44.3

    So it was back in those early days. The question in the mind of everyone was, “Is she indeed a servant of the Lord? Does God give her visions and revelations?” Some accepted, some rejected.DGRGC 45.1

    The story of Robbins and Sargent, two leaders of a fanatical group of that time in Boston, is a very interesting one to show those who did not accept it. This man Robbins, and his friend Sargent, had started a movement among the Advent believers back there teaching that it was a sin to work. In fact, they advocated that nobody should work, for they thought that they were in the “Jubilee,” and therefore every one should rest. They believed that to do any work was a terrible sin.DGRGC 45.2

    Sometimes I wonder if today we might not even have a lot of people who belong to that same organization. As we might expect in connection with such a fanatical movement, Mrs. White, then Ellen Harmon, had a vision, a revelation concerning it; and she spoke very positively against such foolishness. She was very straightforward in condemning such a movement as that. Naturally Robbins and Sargent had nothing to do with Ellen Gould Harmon and rejected her counsel.DGRGC 45.3

    At that time Ellen and her sister Sarah were invited from their home in Maine to a place near Boston, to visit in the home of Brother and Sister Otis Nichols. One day while they were there this man Robbins and his friend Sargent drove up in a carriage and called out to Brother Nichols, “We have come to stay overnight with you. We have a little matter we want to talk about, and we’ll tarry overnight!”DGRGC 45.4

    Brother Nichols hurried out of the house in his enthusiasm to welcome the two. He shouted that he was glad they had come, for Sisters Ellen and Sarah were in the house and he wished them to become better acquainted. He of course knew of their claims that she could never have a vision in their presence.DGRGC 45.5

    Brother Robbins and Brother Sargent immediately remembered they had some other urgent business in Boston, and suggested that they would be very happy to have Ellen come to Boston on the following Sabbath morning. There they could discuss the matter before the church, and all the people could enter into and enjoy such a discussion. They moved on, and promptly forgot the announcement of their original intention to stay overnight.DGRGC 46.1

    The appointment was made that they should all meet in Boston on Sabbath, but the evening before, when the Nichols family was having its worship, Ellen Harmon had a very short vision. In that vision the angel said, “Tomorrow, you go to Randolph.” Ellen did not know where Randolph was, but the prayer season over, she said to Brother Nichols, “Tomorrow we will go to Randolph.”DGRGC 46.2

    You can imagine Brother Nichols’ surprise, and he thought, We cannot do that; we have already agreed to meet those people in Boston, and Boston is in the opposite direction from Randolph. It was his opinion that they should go to Boston, but Ellen Harmon was instructed to go to Randolph. The next morning, instead of going to Boston, they went to Randolph.DGRGC 46.3

    As they approached the home in which the Advent people were meeting in Randolph, they heard singing. Opening the door and stepping into the house, who should they see there in that room conducting the meeting but Robbins and Sargent! Then it was that Ellen Harmon knew why she had been instructed to go to Randolph and not to Boston. When those two men saw that lady come into that room on that Sabbath morning they looked at each other and groaned! Was that, my friends, just a religious reverie that caused her to go to Randolph when she could have gone to a score of other places around Boston?DGRGC 46.4

    Oh, no! those men recognized it as something beyond the ken of men. They soon dismissed the meeting, appointing another for the afternoon.DGRGC 46.5

    During that afternoon meeting Ellen. Harmon was given one of the longest visions she had in all her seventy years of service for God; it lasted for several hours. Those men did their best to bring her out of that vision, to disturb her, and to destroy her influence through that vision. They began to shout at the top of their voices, and when they got tired of shouting they called upon the people to sing at the top of their voices, and when they had sung all the hymns they knew, they began to read the Bible as loudly as they could read. They did not want to give an opportunity for the people to hear the words spoken by Ellen Harmon, who was in vision. But the brethren and sisters in Randolph that day learned a lesson. When God spoke to His servant, she obeyed His voice. That is just a little interesting side-light in connection with those very early days.DGRGC 47.1

    We now come down to about 1861. Out in Parkville, Michigan, there was a man whose name was Doctor Brown. He was a physician but a spiritualist, and when he heard about these visions of Mrs. White, he, too, made a claim that she would never have a vision while he was around. In fact, he claimed that if he ever saw her in vision he could bring her out of it immediately. He declared her experiences to be due to spiritualism. So he made very boastful claims as to the power that he could have over her.DGRGC 47.2

    Rather unexpectedly and within a very short time, in fact, only a matter of a few weeks, Elder and Mrs. White came to Parkville, Michigan, for a meeting on Sabbath, January 12, 1861. During that service in that little meeting house, she had a vision, and immediately the people of that little town remembered Doctor Brown’s boast. Somebody said, “Let’s get Doctor Brown and see what he can do.”DGRGC 47.3

    In their enthusiasm, they sent somebody for him and he came running, thinking that he had a wonderful opportunity to make good his boastful claim. As he entered the little church, he came forward to examine her. He looked at her, and said, “She does not breathe!” The whole story is told by one of the eye witnesses: “Before he had half completed his examination, he turned deathly pale, and shook like an aspen leaf. Elder White said, ‘Will the doctor record her condition?’ He replied, ‘She does not breathe,’ and rapidly made his way to the door. Those at the door who knew his boasting said, ‘Go back, and do as you said you would; bring that woman out of the vision.’ In great agitation he grasped the knob of the door, but was not permitted to open it until inquiry was made by those near the door, ‘Doctor, what is it?’ He replied, ‘God only knows; let me out of this house’; and out he went.” 3Loughborough, “The Great Second Advent Movement,” p. 211. So he who came to mock, fled in consternation.DGRGC 47.4

    In the early years of the work of Ellen G. White there are many instances of that nature which we could use to give evidence that there was something beyond the power of an ordinary man or woman to say and to do the things that she did.DGRGC 48.1

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