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The 1888 Message: Ellet J. Waggoner

The 1888 Message: Ellet J. Waggoner

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Published by Ovidiu Radulescu
The 1888 message: Ellet J. Waggoner
What did he actually teach in 1888?
The 1888 message: Ellet J. Waggoner
What did he actually teach in 1888?

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Published by: Ovidiu Radulescu on Nov 16, 2008
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The 1888 message: Ellet J. Waggoner What did he actually teach in 1888?Lee F Greer IIILoma Linda, California © 2001(Last updated December 2002)The Jesus Institute Forum: http://www.jesusinstituteforum.org/1888message.htmlIntroduction. The General Conference session of the 1888 in Minneapolis, MN,continues to be very significant for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At thatmeeting there was a struggled attempt to restore the truth of justification byfaith to the center of the young church's message which was only about 40 yearsbeyond the Great Disappointment of the Advent (Millerite) Movement (1844). Themessage was spearheaded by young minister Ellet J. Waggoner supported by hisfriend Alonzo T. Jones (with an enthusiastic reception by Ellen G. White). Part ofthe great significance of this 19th century conference was that here was a small,young Sabbatarian church (without a lot of creedal inertia), which taught apersonal, premillenial Second Advent of Jesus and a pre-Advent judgment (like theNT), poised to recapture justification by faith, the mighty truth of the NewTestament and the Protestant Reformation! What was the glorious potential of thatmoment? By the Spirit of grace, the young Advent movement might then and therehave recaptured the Gospel of justification by faith alone in its original NT-eschatological, Day of Atonement, judgment context! The earth might have been'lightened with his glory' (Rev. 18:1) in preparation for the long-delayed SecondAdvent! What might have been... quickly degenerated into a narrow spirit ofdenominational bickering and closed-minded resistance by far too many of thosedelegates of yesteryear. The session ended without breakthrough.However, the General Conference of 1888 remains a beacon of Advent hope for manySeventh-day Adventists because what might have been represents what many see asthe real raison d'etre and hope of the Advent faith. The history of that era haslong been clouded by the sad fact that Ellet J. Waggoner and Alonzo T. Jonesabandoned the NT-Reformation truth of justification by faith and drifted duringthe 1890s into subjectivism (justification by the indwelling Christ, rather thansanctification by the indwelling Christ, as Scripture teaches) and pan[en]theism(Christ as really 'present' in every human being and in all nature). Thepantheistic trend reached full crisis with Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's book TheLiving Temple about the turn of the century, who therein acknowledged his specialindebtedness to both Waggoner and Jones. Those subjective, pantheistic teachingsnow supported by the charismatic medical director of Battle Creek Sanitarium inMichigan (and brother of the founder of Kelloggs, the cereal company) nearlydestroyed the Seventh-day Adventist Church by obscuring the Gospel: Christ'sobjective substitutionary atonement (His perfect doing and dying) and intercessionat God's right hand in heaven. Providentially, the crisis finally came to an endabout 1906 – largely through the writings of Ellen White leading up to and duringthis era (Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, Thoughts from the Mount ofBlessing, Christ's Object Lessons, and a spate of articles on justification byfaith especially from 1888-1892), the young church was slowly being nudged towardfaith in Christ's eternal divinity, and toward acceptance of the objectivesubstitutionary atonement and intercession of Christ, and a faith that believingsinners are "justified alone through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness"(RH, 11-11-1890).What started out as the young SDA church's greatest opportunity, when missed andresisted, led almost inexorably to the pantheism crisis which nearly spelled itsdestruction. The theological turmoil of the 1890s has led many over the yearssince then to misunderstand what was proclaimed in 1888. Ellen White's long-continued endorsement of righteousness by faith, of openness to light, and of the
work of Waggoner and Jones was certainly not an endorsement of those subjective,pantheistic views which she never taught and which were directly contrary to thetenor of her own work, and far more importantly, contrary to Scripture. Sadly, weas Seventh-day Adventists more than 120 years later have yet to graspjustification by faith in its NT-Reformation splendor.In the compendium below, we cite primary historical evidence for what Ellet J.Waggoner actually taught in 1888. How wonderfully close E. J. Waggoner was in 1888to recapturing the NT-Reformation truth of justification by faith alone, let thereader note from the historical evidence cited below! God will yet have a peoplewho will preach the everlasting Gospel in proper relation to His eternal,objective Law in full eschatological, New Testament glory (Rev. 14:6-12; 18:1-4)!________________________________________The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1575"To U. Smith""The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, thatwe might be justified by faith." In this scripture, the Holy Spiritthrough the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. Thelaw reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ, andto flee unto him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance towardGod and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and toaccept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of theopposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message throughBrethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satansucceeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, thespecial power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them.The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which mighthave been their's in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostlesproclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lightenthe whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action ofour own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world."Seventh-day Adventists in General Conference Assembled,Minneapolis, MN: 17 October – 02 November 1888The General Conference Daily BulletinWednesday, October 17, 1888:"At 10:30 a.m., Elder Uriah Smith discussed the question of the ten horns of thefourth beast of Daniel vii., the speaker taking the position of that the Huns wereone of the ten kingdoms into which Rome was divided. Some held the view thatAllemanni should be counted as one of the ten kingdoms instead of the Huns [i.e.,A. T. Jones]. A spirited discussion was held at the conclusion of the remarks, inwhich a number of the delegates participated. At the close of the discussion itwas voted that, taking all the light we have received, and all the referencegiven, we will faithfully and carefully study this question, praying that thespirit my guide us into the truth."It was also voted that the chair appoint a committee of seven to devise a plan bywhich those who think they have received light on any point, may present it to thedenomination."At 2:30 p.m. Elder E. J. Waggoner discussed the question of the law of God andits relation to the Gospel of Christ. The discussion was based principally on theEpistle to the Romans" [Uriah Smith, "First Day's Proceedings," General ConferenceDaily Bulletin 2, no. 1 (19 Oct. 1888): 2.]Thursday, October 18, 1888:"At 9 a.m. Elder E. J. Waggoner gave another lesson on the law and gospel. In thislesson the first and second chapters of Galatians, in connection with Acts 15,were partially presented by him to show that the same harmony existed there aselsewhere; that the key to the book was ‘justification by faith in Christ,’ withthe emphasis on the latter word; that liberty in Christ was always freedom from
sin, and that separation from Christ to some other means of justification alwaysbrought bondage. He stated incidentally that ‘the law of Moses’ and ‘the law ofGod’ were not distinctive terms as applied to the ceremonial and moral laws, andcited Num. xv., 22-24, and Luke ii., 23-24, as proof. He closed at 10:15 by askingthose present to compare Acts xv., 7-11, with Rom. ii., 20-25. Appeals were madeby Brother Waggoner and Sister White to the brethren, old and young, to seek God,put away all spirit of prejudice and opposition, and strive to come into the unityof faith in the bonds of brotherly love." [Uriah Smith, "Second Day'sProceedings," General Conference Daily Bulletin 2, no. 1 (19 Oct. 1888): 2.]Friday, October 19, 1888:"At 9 a.m. Elder Waggoner continued his lessons on the law and gospel. TheScriptures considered were the fifteenth chapter of Acts and the second and thirdof Galatians, compared with Romans iv. and other passages in Romans. His purposewas to show that the real point of controversy was justification by faith inChrist, which faith is reckoned to us as to Abraham, for righteousness. Thecovenant and promises to Abraham are the covenant and promises to us." [UriahSmith, "Third Day's Proceedings," General Conference Daily Bulletin 2, no. 2 (21Oct. 1888): 1.]Waggoner's series continued until Thursday, October 25, 1888. Uriah Smith thenwrote this summarizing comment:"A series of instructive lectures has been given on 'Justification by faith' byEld. E. J. Waggoner. The closing one was given this morning. With the foundationprinciples all are agreed, but there are some differences in regard to theinterpretation of several passages. The lectures have tended to a more thoroughinvestigation of the truth, and it is hoped that the unity of the faith will bereached on this important question." [Uriah Smith, "Eighth Day's Proceedings,"General Conference Daily Bulletin 2, no. 7 (26 Oct. 1888): 3.]Of considerable interest is Waggoner's synopsis of both A. T. Jones’ and his ownlectures in the November 2, 1888, issue of the Signs of the Times:"The principal subjects of Bible study were the ten kingdoms into which, accordingto the prophecy, the Roman Empire was divided, the establishment of the Papacy,and of its counterpart, the proposed National Reform Government; and the law andthe gospel in their various relations, coming under the general head ofjustification by faith. These subjects have aroused a deep interest in the mindsof all present; and thus far during the Conference one hour a day has been devotedto a continuance of their study." [E. J. Waggoner, "Editorial Correspondence,"Signs of the Times, 02 Nov. 1888, p. 662]."However, the lack of a complete record of Waggoner’s presentation has made iteasy for some to read their own particular views on righteousness by faith intothe 1888 conference" (McMahon, 1979). Sadly, proper weight has not been give tothe General Conference Bulletin of 1888 and Waggoner’s actual published work from1888.Explicit historical evidence long neglectedAlthough neglected, it is very significant that in The Gospel in the book ofGalatians: A Review (Oakland, December 1888) we have exactly what E. J. Waggonertaught in 1887-1888:On the meaning and centrality of justification by faith,On the nature of sin,On faith and pardon,On the covenants,On the moral & ceremonial laws,On the human nature of Christ,On Acts 15, Romans 4, and Galatians 2-3 (the very texts at issue inMinneapolis, 1888),On the Reformation ideal of continual reform and growth in Bible doctrine inthe church,As well as what were the key arguments of the opposition.The Gospel in the book of Galatians: A Review was written and privately circulated

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