In former articles, we have presented the story of Mrs. E. G. White's work in writing and publishing the important instruction found in the "Conflict of the Ages" series. In continuing the story of her writings, we shall speak of her endeavors to deliver to individuals and to the church, messages that were given to counsel, guide, or reprove, and to encourage the traveler on the Christian pathway.
Very early in her work, messages were given to Mrs. White, rebuking various phases of fanaticism and error that threatened the welfare of the disappointed, distracted believers who were seeking to find light amid the darkness. Views were also given to her which either confirmed conclusions reached by early believers through earnest searching of the Scriptures, or pointed out erroneous conclusions and false interpretations of Scripture. Directions were also given regarding the establishing and enlarging of the work, thus making possible the laying of strong foundations for the future.
As the cause broadened and progressed, and the field in which there were Sabbathkeepers was extended, it became increasingly difficult to reach the scattered members of the "little flock" with the messages given for the remnant church. Oral testimonies were borne by Mrs. White to the small companies of believers as she traveled from place to place. Many testimonies were written out and sent to the leaders or to individuals to whom they were originally addressed.
First "Testimony" in Tract Form
The moving of the, Review office and the printing press from Rochester, New York, to Battle Creek, Michigan, in the fall of 1855, marked the beginning of an important era in the work of Sabbathkeeping Adventists. In November, a number of leading brethren gathered in Battle Creek to consider the advancement of the work. They saw many encouraging features to cheer their hearts, but they were deeply burdened because of the manifest loss of spiritual zeal among the believers.
The report of the conference states that Monday, November 19, was spent—
"In prayer, and remarks, and confessions relative to the evident departure of the remnant from the spirit of the message, and the humble, straightforward course taken by those who first embraced it. Strong desires were expressed and fervent prayers were offered to Heaven for the return of the spirit of consecration, sacrifice, and holiness once enjoyed by the remnant."—Review and Herald, Dec. 4, 1855.
At this time, while the hearts of the leading brethren were burdened in behalf of the church body, and were seeking Heaven for a revival of power, the Lord chose to send them an answer in a very signal manner. At the close of the meeting a vision was given to Ellen White, regarding which she afterward 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. I saw that the Spirit of the Lord has been dying away from the church."—"Testimonies," Vol. I, p. 113.
This vision plainly pointed out some of the reasons for the sad conditions in. the church which had urged the brethren to this season of prayer. The vision was written out, and the question arose as to how it should be made available to the believers who were addressed. Six leading men who were present when the vision was given expressed their conviction in the following words:
"We, the undersigned, being eyewitnesses when the above vision was given, deem it highly necessary that it should be published, for the benefit of the church, on account of the important truths and warnings which it contains [italics ours].
M. E. Cornell
J. H. Waggoner P. Hart
G. W. Amadon Uriah Smith."
—"Testimony for the Church" [2Vo. 1, 1855], p. 8.
The following Sabbath evening, this important testimony was read to the members of the Battle Creek church, and it was unanimously voted by those present that it should be published and thus be made available to the entire body of believers. The matter was set in type, and together with some other testimony matter, was printed on the hand press and bound up as the first "Testimony," in the form of a sixteen-page tract. The following topics were covered: "Thy Brother's Keeper," "Time to Begin the Sabbath," "Opposers of the Truth," "Parental Responsibility," "Faith in God," "The Messenger Party," "Prepare to Meet the Lord."
Only a few hundred copies were printed, and these were distributed without charge. Many copies were sent out by mail, and Mrs. White inserted the following notice in the Review:
"I have sent out (postpaid) to brethren in different States about 150 copies of 'Testimony for the Church.' It can be had by addressing me at Battle Creek, Mich. I shall be happy to hear from those who may receive it. Those who would encourage the circulation of such matter can do so by assisting in its publication."—Review and Herald, Dec. 18, 1855.
Little did any one realize, at that time, that this small pamphlet was the first of a series of "Testimonies for the Church," which would, in the course of fifty-five years, amount to nearly five thousand pages.
Second "Testimony" in Tract Form
The next spring, in connection with the Annual Conference held in Battle Creek, matters of most solemn importance for the church were again revealed to Ellen White. A few months later, a second sixteen-page tract entitled "Testimony for the Church," containing the record of this memorable vision, was published and sent out. On the last page may be found this interesting explanatory note, signed by two of the leading men in the Battle Creek church:
"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.
"[ Signed] Cyrenius Smith
J. P. Kellogg."
--"Testimony for the Church" [No. 2, 1856 ed.].
The matter in this pamphlet first appeared in print as one article. It was later divided into three chapters bearing the titles: "The Two Ways," "Conformity to the World," "Wives of Ministers."
There appeared in the Review a note similar to that which appeared after the distribution of the first "Testimony for the Church," nine months before, stating that it was sent out without charge, and was "free to all."
Ten Appear in Pamphlet Form
Following this modest beginning there appeared at varying intervals additional numbers of "Testimonies for the Church." Ten were sent forth between the years 1855 and 1864. These were all published in pamphlet form with paper covers, and at first, were sent out free. Later on, as larger pamphlets were issued, they were sold at ten or fifteen cents a copy. The pamphlets were numbered consecutively as they appeared, and these numbers have been carried through into our present nine-volume series of "Testimonies for the Church."
The readers of the Review saw the notice of each number as it came from the press, and many sent in their orders for the pamphlets. Of course, not all accepted the "Testimonies." Some rejected and opposed them. But as the messages were generally accepted, important reforms were brought into the church and great advancement was made.
In these early numbers of "Testimonies for the Church" there appeared only articles of a general character. The subjects dealt with pertained to the welfare of all the believers. But in addition to these general messages, Mrs. White was entrusted with many personal testimonies for individuals. These she must deliver either orally or in writing.
Many of the personal testimonies which were written out and sent to the individuals addressed dealt with dangers and problems which confronted others in similar circumstances. It soon became evident that the instruction found in many of these would also be of great benefit to the church members generally, and it was decided to include them in the published "Testimonies." Of this, Mrs. White wrote:
"Since the warning and instruction given in testimony for individual cases applied with equal force to many others who had not been specially pointed out in this manner, it seemed to be my duty to publish the personal testimonies for the benefit of the church.. .
"I know of no better way to present my views of general dangers and errors, and the duty of all who love God and keep His commandments, than by giving these testimonies. Perhaps there is no more direct and forcible way of presenting what the Lord has shown me."—"Testimonies," Vol. 1, pp. 658, 659.
As to the Lord's approval of this, she says:
"In a vision given me June 12, 1866, I was shown that which fully justified my course in publishing personal testimonies : 'When the Lord singles out individual eases, and specifies their wrongs, others, who have not been shown in vision, frequently take it for granted that they are right, or nearly so. If one is reproved for a special wrong, brethren and sisters should carefully examine themselves to see wherein they have failed, and wherein they have been guilty of the same sin.' "—Id., p. 659.
The work of correcting wrongs and reproving sins was not pleasing to the great enemy of souls, and it is not strange that he should endeavor to prevent the message from reaching the individuals whom he had led into sin. An allusion to this is found in these words:
"You should have had this long ago, but our labors have been so hard that I could not possibly get the time to write. Every place that we visited brought before my mind much that I had been shown of individual cases, and I have written in meeting, even while my husband was preaching. The vision was given me about two years ago. The enemy has hindered me in every way he could to keep souls from having the light which God had given me for them."—Id., Vol. I, p. 711 (italics ours).
One gets a glimpse, in a brief statement written a few months later, of the circumstances under which much writing was done:
"Tuesday we journeyed thirty-two miles to St. Charles [Mich.], and stopped for the night with Brother Griggs. Here I wrote fifteen pages of Testimony, and attended meeting in the evening. Wednesday morning we decided to return to Tuscola if Brother Andrews would fill the appointment at Alma. To this he agreed. That morning I wrote fifteen pages more, attended a meeting, and spoke one hour, and we rode thirty-three miles with Brother and Sister Griggs to Brother Spooner's in Tuscola. Thursday morning we went to Watrousville, a distance of sixteen miles. I wrote sixteen pages and attended an evening meeting, in which I gave a very pointed testimony to one present. The next morning I wrote twelve pages before breakfast, and returned to Tuscola, and wrote eight pages more."—Id., Vol. II, p. 11.
Thus, many times under unfavorable circumstances, and when heavily pressed with other lines of labor, Mrs. White faithfully delivered the messages orally, by personal correspondence, and by the printed page.
* The reading in rotation of a selected Spirit of prophecy volume each year is now an established feature of the required books in the annual Ministerial Reading Course. Volume IV of the four-volume set of the "Testimonies" (Volumes VII, VIII, and IX as numbered serially) constitutes the book chosen for the current year. To make this rereading of greater value, arrangements were made with the "Elmshaven" staff for a painstaking presentation of the historic background and setting of the nine volumes, thus culminating with the book chosen for this year. With satisfaction these are now presented to the Reading Course registrants. In conformity with our editorial policy pertaining to such articles, they come to us with printing approval, based upon the preliminary reading, of the board of the Ellen G. White estate and the officers of the General Conference. We believe this series will prove of definite aid to a clearer and surer understanding of these blessed messages. —Editor.