"Righteousness by Faith" Sparked the Ministerial Association

"Righteousness by Faith" Sparked the Ministerial Association (Part 1)

Questions are often asked, such as, How did the Ministerial Association originate? What is the work of the association? What are its aims? The following story will give a background to the founding and objectives of the Ministerial Association and The Ministry magazine. The very nature of the case demands that the story be told on an intimate basis.—Editors.

LEROY EDWIN FROOM, Professor Emeritus, Historical Theology, Andrews University

It may not be generally known by our workers today, but it was chiefly A. G. Daniells who sparked the revival of the then rather dormant emphasis upon right­eousness by faith with its key role in the for­mation of the Minis­terial Association in the 1920's. As his junior as­sociate during the time of this moving epi­sode, with intimate personal knowledge of his burning convictions and fond hopes, his vision and his plans for its transform­ing revival in the ministry of the Advent Movement, the time has now come to share with our younger workers of today the inner story of this momentous awakening, the significance of which is not commonly understood. Here is the story, written by request of the editors of this journal:

But first, a thumbnail sketch of Elder Daniells as a prologue:

Arthur Grosvenor Daniells (1858-1935), one of Adventism's great leaders, attended Battle Creek College, taught school, had his ministerial apprenticeship under R. M. Kilgore, engaged in evangelistic work, and conducted a Bible instructors' training school. In 1886 he was appointed to mis­sion service in New Zealand and Australia, remaining there fourteen years, and finally serving as union president. Recognized as a coming leader, he was elected president at the General Conference in 1901.

A new day dawned. The headquarters was moved from Battle Creek to Washington, D.C. An effective reorganization was achieved, departments were organized, grave crises in our medical work and other lines were met. Marked missionary expan­sion characterized his administration. His leadership made a tremendous impact on the Advent Movement. After 1922 came the burden of leading our ministry to new spiritual heights. Truly a spiritual leader, he lighted the tapers of multiplied thou­sands from the sacred flame that burned in his own heart. Finally the twilight shad­ows fell across his path. The personal con­tribution of the last dozen years of his life is here told in intimate narrative.

Gripped by Message of Revival and Reformation

Elder Daniells was not present at the epochal Minneapolis Conference in 1888. He was in New Zealand at the time, and then in Australia. Consequently, he was not involved in the momentous discussion of righteousness by faith and the related questions of 1888. As noted during his long presidency of the General Conference, from 1901 to 1922, Daniells was largely instru­mental in developing our present organiza­tional structure, with its various depart­ments. He was involved in the epochal transfer of our headquarters to Washington, D.C., which marked a new order of things. And above all, he was engrossed in the great foreign missions expansion that took place under his administration. In this mul­tifold leadership he was signally blessed of God.

After being relieved of the presidency in 1922, in addition to being the titular secre­tary of the General Conference he was made secretary of the newly formed Minis­terial Commission, shortly thereafter changed to Ministerial Association. Con­fronted now with a new challenge, and keenly aware of his own personal defi­ciencies, Daniells began to search his heart to find the root cause of his own weaknesses and shortcomings, and to seek out the un­derlying reason for our weakness as a min­istry and our constrictions as a church. He began to review the past in order to learn basic lessons as a guide to the future. Such was the background as he told it to me.

This led him into an intensive study of the revered counsels of the Spirit of Proph­ecy writings to seek out the causes, and then to find the remedy for our great needs. He began his search of Mrs. White's writings with those of the mid-eighties, and thus prior to the memorable 1888 Minneapolis meeting—particularly in those vital Re­view and Herald messages to this people, which at that time were largely hidden be­cause they were not commonly available to our workers. He then traced her counsels through consecutively, so as to get the over­all picture. He was profoundly moved by what he discovered, and this led to decisive action.

Transformed His Own Life and Vision

Daniells was gripped by two searching messages with similar emphasis and phras­ing. One appeared in the Review of March 22, 1887, and therefore prior to Minneapo­lis; the other was issued afterward in the Review of February 25, 1902. Though sim­ilar, the second was not merely a repetition but was an expansion and intensification of the earlier message; it was more impera­tive in tone. They both called for a gen­uine revival and reformation among us as the greatest of all our needs. They consti­tuted a sobering summons, calling upon us to address ourselves to this as our very first work. The second article differentiated be­tween revival and reformation, and warned of the peril of neglect or rejection. It aug­mented the first one.

These great calls and challenges came as a new discovery to Daniells. So far as he was concerned, they had been largely bur­ied and forgotten in the files of the Review until he found them for himself. But the more he pondered their summons, the more they gripped his soul. They aroused his conscience and fired his resolve. First of all, they revealed his own weakness and the weakness of the church he loved. They be­came to him a summons to personal re­pentance and action. To this he responded without reservation. They burned, as it were, as a fire in his bones. They made him a flame of fire for God, in turn to kindle other lives and to set them aflame.

Studying on and on, now especially con­cerning the supreme question of righteous­ness by faith, he was brought face to face with the momentous issues of the epochal Minneapolis Conference. Daniells felt their force and humbled his heart before God. He then felt impelled to go out and share his findings and convictions with the ministry of this movement, in whose hands, he felt, lies the destiny of the church of the remnant. His appointed responsibility as secretary of the Ministerial Association gave Daniells his opportunity, and those great messages on revival and reformation provided his authorization and constituted the heart of his message.

Kindles Similar Flame in Other Lives

Daniells began to operate the one way in which he was most effective—through a succession of vital ministerial institutes. This was during 1923-1925. These institutes took him first to the southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the Northwest. These workers' gatherings had a distinct revival and renewal emphasis. Here various men such as Meade MacGuire, Taylor Bunch, E. K. Slade, Carlyle B. Haynes, and others were likewise greatly moved and their vi­sion lifted. They too became evangels of the same messages. A revival of true godliness was under way, with strong emphasis upon the underlying principles and provisions of righteousness by faith.

But simultaneously, it should be stated, God had been impressing other men to call attention to other facets of this great gem of truth—like W. W. Prescott, with his priceless textbook Doctrine of Christ (1920) and his Sabbath school lessons on the all-sufficiency of Christ, covering the year 1921. And Oliver Montgomery in South America was another, The Spirit of God was stir­ring different minds and moving various hearts. And in 1920 one of our poets, Worthy Harris Holden, set forth righteous­ness by faith in impressive phrasing. There was a definite awakening.

Christ was exalted in it all. The great throbbing heart of the third angel's mes­sage in verity was emphasized. And the re­lation of it all to the loud cry, the latter rain, and the finishing of the work in power became increasingly apparent to Daniells. It became the burden of his heart.

Both Opposition and Glad Acceptance

The fire spread and began to burn in­tensely in other lives, though with some, engrossed in functional and routine re­sponsibilities, there seemed to be little re­sponse. Now it is an inescapable fact that no one can stand as the administrative leader of our work for a period of years —with its unavoidable confrontations and disciplines—without arousing the antago­nism and opposition of some. And in those critical transition years Daniells was in­structed to meet the issues resolutely, and he did so with firmness and success.

As a consequence, some seemed to op­pose anything Elder Daniells later fostered —even Spirit of Prophecy counsel along spiritual lines. He sensed that this would be a factor in the varied reception to his messages, especially in some sections. And it was. But he rejoiced that there was al­ways a nucleus of earnest men of ability and consecration who responded, and re­sponded without reservation. This was particularly true of certain younger men. They picked up and pressed forward with the proffered torch of truth for the time then present. Therein lay his great hope.

Daniells' Message Touches My Life

It was at this point that Elder Daniells' message touched my own life and deeply moved me. And here I must be forgiven for intimacy of recital. Born an Adventist, as my father and grandmother were Advent­ists before me, I had first met Elder Dan­iells in my early teens—for we had lived next door to the Daniells' home in Takoma Park. My father, Dr. John Edwin Froom, had been called by Elder Daniells to serve as secretary of the newly formed Medical Department of the General Conference, after the move from Battle Creek. So Dan­iells knew me in my tender teens, and never lost interest in me.

He exerted a profound influence upon my young life. He urged me to change from other plans to prepare for the ministry. Then, after ordination, he counseled me to obtain editorial training at the Pacific Press, and finally to go to China in mission service. Later, forced to come home be­cause of Mrs. Froom's health, I was made editor of The Watchman in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Southern Publishing As­sociation. That was the next point of vital contact. He urged that I be present. He had something I needed.

Mental Assent to a System of Truth

May I make this confession: I had always been an ardent Adventist, unswerving in loyalty to our doctrines, fascinated with Bi­ble prophecy, always seeking, like an attor­ney, to present the best possible case for-Adventism before the world. I worked hard, and profoundly believed in the tri­umph of the Advent message and Move­ment. But to me Adventism was then, to a large degree, allegiance to a beautiful sys­tem of coordinated doctrinal truth, fidelity to a special message from God and the Word. My Christianity was primarily a de­voted mental assent to a beautiful, logical, Heaven-sent framework of abstract truth. To its proclamation I had given myself with­out reservation. I was presenting the case for Adventism. Incidentally, I came to learn that hundreds of other workers shared the same attitude and had a similar expe­rience. It was a common characteristic among the younger men.

But I was burdened at the time about reaching the neglected upper classes with our magazine, The Watchman. I was con­cerned over the repeated Spirit of Proph­ecy calls to reach lawyers, preachers, teach­ers, le,isla tors, magistrates, professional men. editors, and similar groups—an im­pressive listing of which T had assembled. We were seeking to build a magazine to that end. But I was oppressed by a certain sense of futility. Something seemed to be lacking- and hindering-. The standard over­tures of Adventism to the public at that time were not too successful. They were pre-eminently doctrinal and too negative.

Our approach did not seem to have the ap­peal that it should, and it was often gravely misunderstood.

Was it the approach and appeal or the substance of its message and emphasis that was at fault? That was my personal prob­lem and deep concern when A. G. Daniells came to Nashville in the fall of 1925 for one of his soul-searching institutes, held in the chapel of the Southern Publishing As­sociation. I was longing and ready for the very light and help that he brought, and so were many others.

Transferred Allegiance to Christ of Message

I was one of those deeply stirred and pro­foundly moved by Elder Daniells' meetings. I caught a fresh glimpse of my own futility and powerlessness. Then I began to see the reason for the primary difficulty, and best of all, to discover the remedy. It was the turning point in my life and ministry, as it was to others. Christianity, I came to see, was basically a personal relationship to a Person—Jesus Christ, my Lord. The procla­mation of this message was to be the setting forth of Christ as the center of every doc­trine, the heart of every presentation. He was to be the attractive power, the essence, the living heart of the message. It became interesting, real, and personal to me.

I had been believing and trusting in a message of truth rather than in a Person. I had been propagating a message rather than truly proclaiming a gospel. I had un­wittingly placed my affection and my alle­giance in a movement ordained of God rather than in the radiant Christ of that movement. The message was only a pres­ent-day application of the everlasting gos­pel. To me that was a revolutionary con­cept, a startling but blessed awakening. I embraced it with all my soul, and never has that truer concept waned or wavered. And that became the testimony of many others.

Elder Daniells saw how deeply I was moved and how my vision was changed, along with my motives, methods, and ob­jectives. This led him to have a long talk with me. Then he startled me by asking me to join him at the General Conference as his junior associate in his high Ministerial Association endeavors.

He was keenly conscious of the need of producing literature that would make prominent and widespread this great spir­itual revival and reformation movement, undergirded by righteousness by faith, cen­tered in Christ, and surcharged with the power of the Holy Spirit and the latter rain. We had no literature of this kind, except the gem statements in the Spirit of Proph­ecy writings. And he felt, he said, that a new type of literature must be produced, and a journal for preachers launched. He envi­sioned the Ministerial Association as a fo­rum for this great advance, and THE MIN­ISTRY as a pulpit.

I was awed by the invitation but dared not refuse, nor did I wish to. His burden had now become the great burden of my own life. And to assist Elder Daniells and help him in this Heaven-appointed work was the greatest privilege that could come to any young man. So we came to world headquarters in February, 1926. But let us go back a bit.

Rescued Gems Greatly Move Daniells

At a Ministerial Association advisory council in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1924, it was—

"Voted, that Elder Daniells be asked to arrange for a compilation of the writ­ings of Mrs. E. G. White on the subject of Righteousness by Faith."

This action crystallized the requests from various workers' meetings and entire un­ions, and provided the necessary authoriza­tion. With the help of office assistants an "exhaustive research" was begun through all of our denominational papers for key Ellen G. White messages appearing be­tween 1887 and 1915, the year of her death.

The early discovery of certain statements of far-reaching import "amazed and awed" Elder Daniells. A deep conviction came upon him that he must "rescue these gems from their obscurity" and bring them be­fore all of our workers so their "brilliancy and beauty" could be seen and their sober­ing challenge received. (We did not then have available the priceless six-volume as­semblage of the Ellen G. White Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles. And few workers had access to complete files.)

The unfolding theme was righteousness by faith, centered in and radiating from Christ. Sample sections of the manuscript were sent to discerning readers. The re­sponse was enthusiastic, urging that it be brought out in book form at the earliest possible moment. In his "Foreword" Elder Daniells frankly stated:

"In our blindness and dullness of heart, we have wandered far out of the way, and for many years have been failing to appro­priate this sublime truth. But all the while our great Leader has been calling His peo­ple to come into line on this great funda­mental of the gospel,—receiving by faith the imputed righteousness of Christ for sins that are past, and the imparted righteous­ness of Christ for revealing the divine na­ture in human fiesh."—Christ Our Right­eousness, Foreword, p. 6.

Dual Convictions Grip His Heart

The first gripping conviction that came to Daniells from this study was the now familiar fact that "by faith in the Son of God, sinners may receive the righteousness of God."—Ibid., pp. 6, 7. (Italics his.) While he had long believed this as an ab­stract doctrine, it now became a living, mo­tivating reality to Daniells personally. He felt impelled to share this new experience with others as his vital testimony. A new purpose gripped his life. A new task was opening before him.The second great con­viction concerned the "purpose and provi­dence of God in sending the specific mes­sage of receiving the righteousness of God by faith to His people assembled in Gen­eral Conference in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the year 1888."—Ibid., p. 7.

Great vistas of truth began to unfold. The serious summons of it all deeply moved him. He must again go before our work­ers. He both entreated and warned against disregarding the fundamental intent of that message and "missing a most important les­son that the Lord designed to teach us. . . It is this conviction that has made it . . . necessary to include . . . the experiences and developments connected with and fol­lowing the Minneapolis Conference."­Ibid. He felt a special concern for those younger workers who had come into the faith, or into service, in the nineteenth cen­tury, and who were "unacquainted" with the circumstances and significance of that message and the impelling need presented. These he must enlighten and win.

(To be continued)

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LEROY EDWIN FROOM, Professor Emeritus, Historical Theology, Andrews University

May 1965

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