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The Ellen G. White Writings

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    The Principles Are Clear

    It is well for us to study the Spirit of Prophecy counsels to find the principles involved in them, for each individual is constantly making choices, and these choices should be guided by principles. The application of these principles may change as circumstances change, but principle never changes. This fact is sometimes overlooked as certain counsels of earlier years are mentioned.EGWW 166.2

    As study is given to the counsels set before the church in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy it is well to search for the underlying principles that support the counsels. It is proper to ask, “Why?” and then to single out the fundamental elements. This having been done, the individual is prepared to make right decisions in other cases where these principles may come into play.EGWW 166.3

    Although the principles are often seen through the specific counsels, they are not always singled out by Ellen White. She may write, as she did in 1903 in Education, 216, 217: “If girls ... could learn to harness and drive a horse ... they would be better fitted to meet the emergencies of life.” Looking at it several decades after the words were penned, we do not cast the counsel aside as for another age, but we see clearly the point that girls should be so trained that they will be self-sufficient and well prepared for everyday responsibilities of life. It is not difficult to apply the principle to driver training, for example.EGWW 166.4

    Ellen White may write, as she did in 1894, of “a bicycle craze” in which money was spent “to gratify an enthusiasm.” This bewitching infatuation called for “time and money” to gratify “supposed wants.” Each was trying to “excel the other,” and this idea led to a “spirit of strife and contention” as to who “should be the greatest” Testimonies for the Church 8:51, 52.EGWW 166.5

    Written at a time when the bicycle was a rich man’s toy and every member of the family wanted “a wheel,” even at the cost of $100 or $120, they involved Adventist youth in mortgaging their incomes far into the future to buy bicycles. The counsel was timely. Within seven years the same bicycle could be purchased new for $10 to $18 and a used one for $2, and it became the most economical and one of the most useful means of transportation.EGWW 167.1

    The specific application within the connotations of the 1894 counsel concerning bicycles no longer applies in the same way today. One need not search far, however, in this article to find principles valuable to the Christian as they may touch the seeking of status, undue expenditure of means, wasting of time, and the cultivation of the spirit of rivalry, et cetera.EGWW 167.2

    In Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, Ellen White mentions ball games (see pp. 274, 456, 350). In the first mention, under the heading “Manual Labor Versus Games,” she declares:EGWW 167.3

    The public feeling is that manual labor is degrading, yet men may exert themselves as much as they choose at cricket, baseball, or in pugilistic contests, without being regarded as degraded.EGWW 167.4

    She speaks of Satan’s delight when “he sees human beings using their physical and mental powers in that which does not educate, which is not useful, which does not help them to be a blessing to those who need their help.” Ibid. The principles involved stand out more boldly in the light of the closing comment that games can be set in operation which “will so confuse the senses of the youth that God and heaven will be forgotten” Testimonies for the Church 8:275.EGWW 167.5

    Keeping in mind that good exegesis will take into consideration all materials available on a given point, we turn to other E. G. White statements to find the basic principles clearly enunciated. They appear in Selected Messages 2:321-324, and The Adventist Home, 499, 500.EGWW 168.1

    “I do not condemn the simple exercise of playing ball,” Ellen White wrote to a young man who had made inquiry of her (see The Adventist Home, 499). In other words, there is nothing inherently wrong with playing a game in which a ball is used. Then she continues in a statement that presents principle after principle underlying the cautions she has sounded. To these all should be alert:EGWW 168.2

    “But this,” she continued, “even in its simplicity, may be overdone.EGWW 168.3

    “I shrink always from the almost sure result which follows in the wake of these amusements. It leads to an outlay of means that should be expended in bringing the light of truth to souls that are perishing out of Christ. The amusements and expenditures of means for self-pleasing, which lead on step by step to self-glorifying, and the educating in these games for pleasure produce a love and passion for such things that is not favorable to the perfection of Christian character.” The Adventist Home, 499.EGWW 168.4

    As she continues she declares that “the way” these sports had been conducted at the [Battle Creek] college does not “strengthen the intellect” or “refine ... the character.” Those involved became so engrossed and infatuated that in heaven they were pronounced “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”EGWW 168.5

    “The Lord God of heaven,” she declared, “protests against the burning passion cultivated for supremacy in the games that are so engrossing.” The Adventist Home, 500.EGWW 168.6

    Ellen White was not unsympathetic to Christian youth engaging in games in which a ball may be used. However, the young man or woman is alerted to certain perils through the enumeration of the underlying principles. The young person seeking to avoid subtle pitfalls will keep the eye single to the glory of God. A frequent review of these principles will establish guidelines in his choice of what to play and what not to play and the extent of involvement in this type of recreation acceptable in itself.EGWW 169.1

    There is the statement that “study in agricultural lines should be the A, B, and C of the education given in our schools” Testimonies for the Church 6:179. Although presented in the setting of the value of the garden and farm to the boarding school, this statement that links agriculture with education upon thoughtful perusal reveals that it has more than economic intent.EGWW 169.2

    Even with mechanical farming, which reduces the raising of food crops to an ever-shrinking proportion of population, the reading of other counsels concerning the important place of gardening in the experience of the child and the adult, as well as the invalid, makes it clear that it is not the size of the venture nor its ultimate economic value but rather the basic lessons learned, the satisfaction gained, and the therapeutic value in agricultural pursuits that establish agriculture as “the A, B, and C of the education given in our schools.”EGWW 169.3

    The quest for the basic principles in each line of counsel will yield rich returns. It will call for the reading of statements in their setting plus going back and reading beyond the statement in question. It will lead to the reading of other statements touching on the same topic. To assist in this study the three-volume Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White is a valuable tool.EGWW 169.4

    This sort of study of the Spirit of Prophecy counsels as they touch on the many facets of life and experience will disclose principles invaluable to the Christian in making day-by-day decisions.EGWW 169.5

    In conclusion it may be said that when Ellen White spoke or wrote she meant what she said.EGWW 170.1

    In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the testimonies of His Spirit. There was never a time when God instructed His people more earnestly than He instructs them now concerning His will and the course that He would have them pursue.—Testimonies for the Church 5:661.EGWW 170.2

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