The True Prophetic Gift Appears

The Influence of the Spirit of Prophecy From 1844 to 1855.

By ARTHUR L. WHITE, Secretary of the Ellen G. White Publications

The eight articles that comprise this series were first given in lecture form last summer in one of the class periods of the History of Prophetic Inter­pretation course now offered at the Theological Seminary. This course, after tracing the progressive development of prophetic interpretation throughout the Christian Era, reaches the climax of its study with the decade following the 1844 disappointment, which, of course, embraces the first decade of the operation of the Spirit of prophecy in the remnant church. The source documents of the General Conference Advent Source Collection that bear upon the question were combined with those of the Ellen G. White Publications, and the complete results were presented in regular syllabus form in the class by Elder White as guest lecturer. The results were so satisfying and helpful that arrangement was made for this syllabus material to be slightly recast into article form and made available, to our workers generally The series is here released by action of the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White Publica­tions. A true, sound. balanced concept of the prophetic gift and its operation is imperative for sound understanding, personal confidence, effective defense against critics, and forceful propagation of the faith. We are confident that this series will contribute materially to that end.—Editor.

The Spirit of prophecy, as manifest in the life and work of Ellen Harmon-White, profoundly influenced the early development of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. This was notably true of that decade from 1844 to 1855, during which the essentials of doctrine and practice had their establishment. Assuming and receiving its rightful place in guarding, correcting, and leading the developing movement, the opera­tion of this gift was never a substitute for Bible study. And though its appearance was foretold in Scripture, its presence was un­looked for, as the pioneers of the message were not at the outset prepared to evaluate fully their own position or to discern the vast work which was before them.

Aware of God's purpose to establish direct communication with the remnant church, the great adversary so timed the manifestation of spurious spiritual gifts as to slightly precede the appearance of the genuine, thus leading the advent believers and the Christian world generally to take positions opposing the ac­ceptance of the true manifestation, The fol­lowing examples are illustrative:

Strategy of False Prophetic Movements

1. Largely paralleling the early advent movement in time was the Mormon develop­ment, headed by their "prophet," Joseph Smith (1805-1844), who asserted that he received direct communication from God. Smith claimed to have received many "visions" between 1820 and 1844. Some of the "revela­tions" led to such abhorrent practices as bap­tism for the dead and plurality of wives. Jo­seph Smith's career ended in his murder by a mob in 1844 while he was awaiting trial.

2. Another less-known group, likewise claiming divine illumination, were the Shak­ers, who reached their high point of influence in America in 1830, but continued strongly during the next few decades. Following their self-styled prophet, Ann Lee, who claimed to be no less than Christ Himself incarnate in woman's flesh, the Shakers were characterized by a communal form of life, celibacy, spirit­ism, and belief in the dual personality of God. Naturally this group was not in good favor.

3. Even within the advent movement of the nineteenth century, although in general char­acterized by freedom from excitement and fanaticism, there were a few instances of manifestations of a spurious nature, both in the Old World and in the New. Edward Irving (1792-1834), prominent in the advent ministry in Great Britain, about the year 1830 permitted the supposed gift of tongues to be exercised in his church. As a result, Irving was deprived of his pulpit, but he continued with the fanatical group. The influence of his experience, however, led to distinct re­proach of the advent cause in Great Britain.

4. The outbreaks in America, involving Starkweather and Gorgas, were of little im­portance so far as influence on the movement was concerned, as they were both immediately repudiated. But they caused Adventists in general to brace themselves against any and all "spiritual" manifestations. Note the follow­ing action taken at the Boston Advent Confer­ence on May 29, 1843: "We have no confidence whatever in any visions, dreams, or private revelations."—Second Advent of Christ, June 21, 1843 (Cleveland; edited by Charles Fitch).

5. In September, 1844, there appeared in the Advent quarterly, The Advent Shield, an ar­ticle entitled "The Reformation of Luther—Its Similarity to the Present Times," written by Sylvester Bliss, one of the leaders in the cause. Stress was placed on the detrimental effects of the fanatical outbreaks, in Luther's day, of the "prophets" of Zwickau, who claimed direct revelations from Deity, but whose teachings led to lamentable disorders. In summarizing his comparison of the advent movement to the Reformation, Bliss, enumer­ating the dangers from without and within, spoke of some "internal enemies, endeavoring to eat out its very vitals, and to wreck the ship of Zion on the rocks and quicksands of fanaticism, by leading those who favor it into unseemly excesses, and the extravagancies of mysticism," and warned "against the reveries of enthusiastical hallucinations."—Page 162.

Fanaticism, however, was not rife in the great advent movement, and, lest the reader reach misleading conclusions on this point from the foregoing allusions, we here present the testimony of one who not only passed through the disappointment, but who also wit­nessed, through vision, the outstanding reli­gious movements down through the span of time: "Of all the great religious movements since the days of the apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844."—E, G. White, "The Great Contro­versy," p. 405. Nevertheless, the manifesta­tions of spurious "gifts," with the resulting warnings sounded by the leaders, did prepare the large body of Adventists, and the Chris­tian world generally, to doubt and repudiate the genuine gift when it should appear. This was a master stroke on the part of the enemy.

Two months after the disappointment, at a time when the majority of Adventists had abandoned all confidence in the verity of the seventh-month movement, and were either postponing the close of the 2300 days to some future time or were repudiating their entire advent experience, and at a time when people generally were much prejudiced against any known as Adventists, God prophetically com­municated a message designed to sustain con­fidence in His leadership and in the integrity of the experience through which they had just passed. The one chosen as God's mouthpiece was an earnest Adventist maiden who resided with her parents in Portland, Maine. The first vision was given during the morning worship hour at the home of a Mrs. Haines in near-by South Portland.

Ellen Harrnon's First Vision-1844

The exact date of the vision is not given, but the month of December, 1844, is attested to by early documents. "The Lord showed me the travail of the advent band and midnight cry in December."—E. G. White Letter, July 13, 1847, Record Book I, p. 1. (See also Sec­ond Advent Review Extra, July 21, 1851, p. I, col. 2.) The signi.icance of this symbolic revelation cannot be overestimated. (For the initial printing of the vision, see Day-Star, Jan. 24, 1846. See also "Early Writings," PP. 13-17; "Testimonies," Vol. I, pp. 58-61.) Note the following points :

(1) Time of vision: Two months after disappoint­ment (December, 1844).

(2)  Subject presented: Experience of "advent peo­ple in the world."

(3)  Time covered: From October 22, 1844, to the New Jerusalem.

(4)  Depiction: Adventists "traveling to the city" by narrow path "high above the world."

(5)  Relation to seventh-month movement: "Mid­night cry," "a bright light set up behind them at the beginning of the path."

(6)  Enduring significance of advent experience: "Light shone all along the path" "so that they might not stumble."

(7)  Assurance given: Safe entry into city of God assured those who "kept their eyes fixed on Jesus," who was just before them, "leading them to the city."

(8)  Extension of time beyond expectation: "Some grew weary and said the city was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them."

(9)  Results of rejection of the seventh-month ex­perience: "Others rashly denied the light behind them [midnight cry] and said that it was not God that had led them." "The light" "went out ;" "they stumbled" and "fell off the path."

(10) Carried to time of second advent: "Soon" "heard voice of God . . which gave . . . the day and hour of Jesus' cooling."

(11) Events connected with second advent: The "144,000" "sealed ;" "wicked were enraged ;" "small black cloud" "appeared." Jesus appears with "ten thousand angels ;" resurrection of righteous dead; living saints clothed in immortality join ascending resurrected dead.

(12) Ascension: "Seven days ascending to sea of glass."

(13) Rewards given: "Jesus brought the crowns," "gave us harps of gold and palms of victory ;" saints given possession of New Jerusalem.

While this revelation did not answer the question as to why the Adventists had been disappointed on October 22, 18e4—f0r this had to be discovered through Bible study—this first revelation indicated beyond all question that the seventh-month movement was of divine origin, and that God's blessing would rest upon those who main­tained confidence in it, while those who abandoned their confidence would do so at the peril of their salvation. It brought assurance that Christ was leading them, and that after some de­lay they would meet their Lord for whom they waited. It established the order of future  events, and held out a reward to those who rested their confidence in the movement and con­tinued to follow Christ's leadings.

Within a few days this first vision was related to the advent be­lievers who resided in Portland, Maine. In the second vision, which occurred about a week after the first, instruction was given as to de­livering the messages. (Second Advent Re­view Extra, July 21, 1851, p. 5 ; "Early Writ­ings," p. 20.) As opportunity afforded, Miss Harmon traveled to other points, meeting with the believers, recounting these and subsequent visions.

Although Ellen Harmon many times told in­terested audiences of her first vision and de­scribed the scenes presented to her, it was not put into print for many months. Here in tabulated form is the record of its publication :

(1) On December 20, 1845, approximately a year after the vision, it was related in a personal letter addressed to Enoch Jacobs of Cincinnati, Ohio, editor of an early adventist journal, The Day-Star. Al­though Ellen Harmon stated that the letter was not written for publication, Jacobs printed it in the issue of January 24, 1846.

(2) This, and a second communication (Day-Star. March 54, 1846), were republished on April 6, 1846, in broadside form for general distribution, the expense of 250 copies being met by James White and H. S. Gurney.

(3) The next published appearance of the first vision was in "A Word to the Little Flock," pub­lished May 30, 1847, by James White.

(4) It was then republished by Eli Curtis in Girdle of Truth Extra, January 20, 1848.

(5) Next it appeared in Second Advent Review Extra, July 21, 1851.

(6) Finally, in the late summer of .1851, it was placed in permanent form in Mrs. White's first book, "A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White." ("Early Writings," pp.
11, 12.)

No complete record was preserved of all the visions given Ellen Harmon in the weeks and months succeeding the first revelation. The more important ones were brought to­gether in "Experience and Views," and are now to be found in "Early Writings," pages it-78. Contemporary documents indicate that tile revelations of those early days were fre­quent, and were given to encourage, instruct, guide, and protect the loyal remnant in this critical formative period of the first decade.

The record of this period would be incom­plete should we not mention the visions of William Foy and Hazen Foss.

True Prophetic Gift Appears

William E. Foy, a member of the "Freewill Baptist Church," who was preparing for the ministry, was given two visions in Boston in 1842—one on January 18 and the other on February 4. In the first of these revelations, Foy viewed the glorious reward of the faith­ful and the punishment of sinners. Not being instructed to relate to others what was shown him, he told no one of his visions; but he had no peace of mind. In the second revelation he witnessed the multitudes of earth arraigned before heaven's bar of judgment; a "mighty angel" with silver trumpet in hand about to descend to earth by "three steps ;" the books of record in heaven; the coming of Christ and the reward of the faithful. He was bidden, "Thou must reveal those things which thou hast seen, and also warn thy fellow creatures to flee from the wrath to come."—"The Chris­tian Experience of Wm. E. Foy, Together With the Two Visions He Received" (1845).

Two days after this revelation he was re­quested by the pastor of the Bloomfield Street church in Boston to relate the visions. Al­though he was a fluent speaker, he reluctantly complied, fearing that the general prejudice against visions, and the fact that he was a mulatto, would make his work difficult. The "lame congregation assembled" was spell-hound, and with this initial encouragement, Foy traveled three months, delivering his mes­sage to "crowded houses." Then, to secure means to support his family, he left public work for a time, but. finding 'no rest day nor night," he took it up again. Ellen Harmon, when but a girl, heard him speak at Beethoven Hall in Portland, Maine. (Interview of D. E. Robinson with Mrs. E. G. White, 1912. White Publications, D. F. 231.)

Near the time of the expectation in 1844, according to J. N. Loughborough, Foy was given a third vision in which were presented three platforms, which he could not understand in the light of his belief in the imminent com­ing of Christ, and he ceased public work. ("Great Second Advent Movement," pp. 146, 147.)

It so happened that a short time after this, Foy was present at a meeting in which Ellen Harmon related her first visions. She did not know that he was present until he interrupted with a shout, and exclaimed that it was just what he had seen, (D. F. 231.) Foy did not live long after this.

Near the time of the expected advent in the fall of 1844, there was also given to Hazen Foss a young Adventist of talent, a revelation of ale experience of the advent people. Shortly after the passing of the time, he was bidden to relate the vision to others, but this he was disinclined to do. He was warned of God as to the consequences of failing to relate to others what had been revealed to him, and was told that if he refused, the light would be given to someone else. But he felt very keenly the disappointment of 1844, and "said that he had been deceived." After a severe mental conflict, he "decided he would not relate the visions." Then, "very strange feelings came to him, and a voice said, 'You have grieved away the Spirit of the Lord.' "­F. G. White Letter 37. 1890.


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By ARTHUR L. WHITE, Secretary of the Ellen G. White Publications

February 1941

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