Additional Helpful Points in the Interpretation and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part II
Additional Helpful Points in the Interpretation
and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part II
The Ellen G. White writings were penned through a period of seventy years. Certain communications were written for individuals, others for the church, and still others for both Adventist and non-Adventist readers. Accordingly, it is important to take into account certain points when interpreting and using these writings. Therefore, I share the following taken from Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, vol. 3:
6. The Spirit of Prophecy Writings are not to hammer or drive.
The Testimonies should not be used to drive or compel others. They provide guiding principles. It is our privilege and responsibility to endeavor to persuade others, but not drive them. Says Mrs. White, “We may be severe as we like in disciplining ourselves, but we must be very cautious not to push souls to desperation”(Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 507). This is illustrated in the adoption of the reformed dress in the 1860’s: “Some who adopted the reform were not content to show by example the advantages of the dress, giving, when asked, their reasons for adopting it, and letting the matter rest there. They sought to control others’ conscience by their own. If they wore it others must put it on. They forgot that none were to be compelled to wear the reformed dress”(Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 636).
7. Each person must decide questions of conscience on his own behalf.
It must be recognized that individuals with different backgrounds and experiences may relate themselves somewhat differently than others to certain counsels. Each person must settle some things with his conscience and with God. Ellen White’s attitude on this matter was made clear in that which was written in the early days concerning the health reform: “We must go no faster than we can take those with us whose consciences and intellects are convinced of the truths we advocate. We must meet the people where they are. Some of us have been many years in arriving at our present position in health reform. It is slow work to obtain a reform in diet. We have powerful appetites to meet: for the world is given to gluttony. If we should allow the people as much time as we have required to come up to the present advanced state in reform we should be very patient with them and allow them to advance step by step, as we have done, until their feet are firmly established upon the health reform platform. But we must be very cautious not to advance too fast, lest we be obliged to retrace our steps. In reforms we would better come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it. And if there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people” (Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 20, 21).
8. Maintain absolute honesty.
Each must be honest in his relationship to the Spirit of Prophesy. Each individual exerts an influence for or against acceptance of the Spirit of Prophesy. “It does not become anyone to drop a word of doubt here and there that shall work like poison in other minds, shaking their confidence in the messages which God has given, which have aided in laying the foundation of this work, and have attended it to the present day, in reproofs, warnings, corrections, and encouragements” (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 43).
9. The Testimonies present God’s ideal.
God sets before His people His ideal, to which we should ever strive. It may take time to reach this point. Some may fall short in some respects. But God does not reject or cast off His people while they are seeking to reach His ideal. But how much more abundantly he can bless, and how much pain we would save our selves, if we would seek God’s will for us and accept the messages wholeheartedly.
As an illustration, we may cite the founding of our first college. The call was for educational institutions in the country, with land, industry, and agriculture. The brethren responded to an appeal to a college but built in Battle Creek on a small piece of land across the street from the Sanitarium. Ellen White could see that the institution would face many problems, and could never fully meet God’s plan, located in Battle Creek; yet she stood behind it giving it her strong support. However, when an opportune time came she urged the moving of the plant to a location more in keeping with the instruction God had given.
10. Obedience is blessed by God.
We must recognize that “those who receive the Testimonies as the message of God will be helped and blessed thereby” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 42). God’s blessing is in proportion to our acceptance of His counsels and our willingness to apply them to our experience and work.