Why did Ellen White go to Australia?
Most Seventh-day Adventists would probably believe that God ordained Ellen White to go to Australia. This they would say was in order to build up the work in this country. As you will see as you read a letter that she wrote to the General Conference President, this was not the case. Instead she said it was God’s desire that she should have stayed at the heart of the work in America. This letter helps us to understand how God works. It is not always as we may think.
In 1896 when Ellen White wrote this letter, it was Ole Andres Olsen (1845-1915) who was the General Conference President. He served from the time of the Minneapolis Conference (1888) up until 1897. Ellen White was in Australia from 1891-1900. There is a background (context) to this letter which is very important to understand.
At the 1888 General Conference Session held at Minneapolis, we know today that our church rejected the message of the two main speakers. The latter are now famous names in Seventh-day Adventists history – namely Ellet Waggoner and Alonzo Jones. By some of the older of our ministers, both were regarded as two young ‘upstarts’.
Ellen White had only words of commendation for Wagoner and Jones. She said that the message they had delivered was the message that God wanted our church to hear. Not everyone agreed with this reasoning, particularly the older leaders. Ellen White wrote testimonies to these leaders saying that they were wrong in the way they had treated these two young messengers of God. Obviously this was not very much liked by the older ministers.
For the 3 years following the Minneapolis Conference, Ellen White toured America with Waggoner and Jones. This was to deliver at our bigger churches and camp meetings the very same message of righteousness by faith that they had previously delivered at Minneapolis. This continued up until 1891. This was when the church ‘split up’ White, Waggoner and Jones. Ellen White was sent to Australia whilst Ellet Waggoner was sent to England. Alonzo Jones stayed in America.
What you are about to read now is the letter that in 1896 Ellen White penned to O. A. Olsen.
Ellen White wrote (all emphasis supplied)
It is your privilege to draw high to God, and put your entire trust in him. He understands all about the mistakes of the past, and he will help you. But wherever you may be, never, never tread over the same ground. You have done a sad work, but do not repeat it. Be decided, be firm. When you have a clear perception of the work the Lord would have done, take no divided or neutral course, but do that work in the fullest sense, irrespective of imaginary consequences.
Christ says to you: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." These words mean a great deal more than many suppose. If you had placed your self under the yoke of Christ, you would not have been in the position you have been in for years. Your readiness to hear and to accept the propositions of unsanctified men, and yoke up with them, has revealed a great lack of moral perception. The very first step in the direction of withdrawing your neck from Christ's yoke was revealed in your divided position.
When the burden was pressing so heavily upon me in Battle Creek, I can truly say there was not one who understood the position in which I was placed. God's people must stand shoulder to shoulder, their hearts one, their purposes one, uniting to follow in the light God has given in clear lines. But there has been so much haggling over matters. I have had to bear the burdens which others ought to have shared with me, and it nearly cost me my life. A round of circumstances, which I have understood for years, has been the result. This has been at tremendous cost to me financially and in many other respects.
I have not, I think, revealed the entire workings that led me here to Australia. Perhaps you may never fully understand the matter. The Lord was not in our leaving America. He did not reveal that it was his will that I should leave Battle Creek. The Lord did not plan this, but he let you all move after your own imaginings. The Lord would have had W. C. White, his mother, and her workers remain in America. We were needed at the heart of the work, and had your spiritual perception discerned the true situation, you would never have consented to the movements made. But the Lord read the hearts of all. There was so great a willingness to have us leave, that the Lord permitted this thing to take place. Those who were weary of the testimonies borne were left without the persons who bore them. Our separation from Battle Creek was to let men have their own will and way, which they thought superior to the way of the Lord.
The result is before you. Had you stood in the right position the move would not have been made at that time. The Lord would have worked for Australia by other means and a strong influence would have been held at Battle Creek, the great heart of the work. There we should have stood shoulder to shoulder, creating a healthful atmosphere to be felt in all our conferences. It was not the Lord who devised this matter. I could not get one ray of light to leave America. But when the Lord presented this matter to me as it really was, I opened my lips to no one, because I knew that no one would discern the matter in all its bearings. When we left, relief was felt by many, but not so much by yourself, and the Lord was displeased; for he had set us to stand at the wheels of the moving machinery at Battle Creek.
This is the reason I have written you. Elder Olsen had not the perception, the courage, the force, to carry the responsibilities; nor was there any other man prepared to do the work the Lord had purposed we should do. I wrote to you, Elder Olsen, telling you that it was God's design that we should stand side by side with you, to counsel, you, to advise you, to move with you. If even then you had discerned the matter, and said, I must have you, or I dare not stand in this position, we would have answered the call. Had you said, I cannot bear these responsibilities alone, we would have responded, and returned. But the Lord saw the inward workings of matters, and he permitted you to discern that your own strength was not sufficient. You were not discerning; you were willing to have the strong experience and knowledge that comes from no human source removed from you, and thus you revealed that the Lord's ways were miscalculated and overlooked.
This is now in the past, but I wrote you in explanation of the letter written to you while we were in Granville, 1894. Such great responsibilities call for the continual counsel of God, that they may be carried forward in a right way. But this counsel was not considered a necessity. That the people of Battle Creek should feel that they could have us leave at the time we did, was the result of man's devising, and not the Lord's. The sum of the matter is proved, and its figures are before you. We are here. The Battle Creek matters have been laid before me at this great distance, and the load I have carried has been very heavy to bear.
I do not suppose I shall ever revisit America. I shall be seventy years old next November. The Lord designed that we should be near the publishing houses, that we should have easy access to these institutions that we might counsel together. Because of the moves that have been made, many publications that should have been issued before this have been retarded; the great amount of writing that has been necessary in order to communicate with America has hindered this work. I never expect to visit Africa I desire quietude. And yet I am here in Australia with funds low, and straining every nerve and muscle to establish the work here.
What will be our future destiny no man can know. There is power that is moving from beneath taking hold of minds. Our assailants are not few they are legion. It is not an easy thing now to be steadfast and immoveable, and those who heretofore have had a cheap and uncertain experience have very little prospect of holding fast the faith and enduring unto the end. Those only who abide in Christ will prove true and faithful. There is only One whose power can render us steadfast and immovable unto the end.
Formality and hypocrisy and selfishness are weaving themselves in with sacred and holy interests, with the duties connected with the various branches of the work. There are such frequent manifestations of the carnal, worldly, selfish, unbelieving spirit, so much difficulty in obtaining a perfect mastery over the sin which so easily besets us, that my spirit groans within me, being burdened. False repentance produces only an external reformation. True repentance will bring a change of heart, a universal turning away from every besetting sin to God. Not one step can we take in spiritual progress without fresh supplies from the fountain of all grace, all strength and sufficiency, and yet how little are our opportunities and privileges appreciated! How often is the Lord dishonored by selfish methods and plans. Many, very many provoke him to withdraw his influence.
False repentance for a wrong course is a base yielding to persuasion or fear. True repentance toward God reveals a humble mind that is full of sanctified boldness and courage to sustain the right. Those will listen to hear the voice of God. They will obey the calls and warnings they receive. There are many who seemingly make a beginning to repent and vindicate truth and holiness, but they fail. Why? Because they love the praise of men more than the approval of God. They turn away from light, and do exactly contrary, supposing their human devising to be wisdom. A godly jealousy is essential for us all. If the word of God were eaten as the food for the soul; if it were treated with deference and respect, there would be no necessity for the many and repeated testimonies that are borne. The simple declarations of Scripture would be received and acted upon.
O how terrible it is to treat the Lord with dissimulation and neglect, to scorn his counsel with pride because man's wisdom seems so much superior. Just as the blood must be in the veins of the body, and circulate there with its vitalizing power, so Christ must dwell in the heart. Then souls will be rooted and grounded in the truth. The truth with all its sanctifying power must dwell in the heart by faith. Then it becomes our own property, and Christ our personal Saviour. The pardon of all our transgression will be a living experience to us.
We must have a better and deeper teaching than man can give us. There must be a deep conviction in our own souls that forms and ceremonies are as nothing without Christ. He is the Alpha and Omega. Truth is the only panoply for the covering of any soul. Our convictions need daily to be reinforced by humble, sincere prayer and reading of the word. While we each have an individuality, while we each should hold our convictions firmly, we must hold them as God's truth and in the strength which God imparts. If we do not, they will be wrung from our grasp. We need to be self-reliant; it is the duty of all to respect self; but we are to remember that we are God's property, that we are bought with a price, body, soul, and spirit. We must guard the living machinery, and keep it in the very best condition, that we may glorify God. It is to be daily oiled by his grace, to run at his touch, without friction. To trust in ourselves, to become boastful as if we had created and redeemed ourselves, is to dishonor God. Human wisdom, aside from God, will prove itself to be foolishness, and will bring confusion and perplexity. We need to have on the whole armor of God. The holy influence of a Saviour's loving protection is our sure defense. There is but One who can prove a safeguard against the schemes of Satan.
The truth as it is in Jesus, planted in the heart is nourished by the holy oil represented in Zech. 4:12-14.
All are to work harmoniously to advance the spread of the truth. If those engaged in the same lines of work shall begin to build up barriers to restrict those engaged in the same work, in the same portion of the Lord's moral vineyard, they reveal that the enemy has his hand in the management. For years the tract and missionary branch of the work has been presented before as being conducted, in some respects, in a way rather to retard than to advance the work. Circuitous forms have been instituted which has been a hindrance to the work. These forms and methods have consumed time and money and kept back the work that should have been advanced through the tract and missionary work.” (Ellen G. White toSunnyside’, Cooranbong,, December 1st 1896, as in), Letter 127, from ‘
She also explained in 1892
“At times before leaving America, I thought that the Lord did not require me to go to a country so far away, at my age and when I was prostrated by overwork. But I followed the voice of the Conference, as I have ever tried to do at times when I had no clear light myself.” (Ellen G. White, July 10th 1892, Manuscript Release 21)