Life Sketches of Ellen Gould White
Chapter 57—Closing Labors
To the brethren assembled in General Conference in 1913, Mrs. White wrote freely of some of her experiences during the four years that had passed since she had had opportunity, at the 1909 Conference, of speaking to them personally.
“For a number of months after the close of that meeting,” she wrote, “I bore a heavy burden, and urged upon the attention of the brethren in responsibility those things which the Lord was instructing me to set before them plainly.... And while I still feel the deepest anxiety over the attitude that some are taking toward important measures connected with the development of the cause of God in the earth, yet I have strong faith in the workers throughout the field, and believe that as they meet together and humble themselves before the Lord and consecrate themselves anew to His service, they will be enabled to do His will. There are some who do not even now view matters in the right light, but these may learn to see eye to eye their coworkers, and may avoid making serious mistakes, by earnestly seeking the Lord at this time, and by submitting their will wholly to the will of God.
“I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement—a work of revival—going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line, responding to God's call. My brethren, the Lord is speaking to us. Shall we not heed His voice? Shall we not trim our lamps, and act like men who look for their Lord to come? The time is one that calls for light-bearing, for action.
“‘I therefore ... beseech you,’ brethren, ‘that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’” The General Conference Bulletin, 1913.
Concerning her activities in public labor and at home, Mrs. White wrote in 1913:
“I long to be personally engaged in earnest work in the field, and I should most assuredly be engaged in more public labor did I not believe that at my age it is not wise to presume on one's physical strength. I have a work to do in communicating to the church and to the world the light that has been entrusted to me from time to time all through the years during which the third angel's message has been proclaimed. My heart is filled with a most earnest desire to place the truth before all who can be reached. And I am still acting a part in preparing matter for publication. But I have to move very carefully, lest I place myself where I cannot write at all. I know not how long I may live, but I am not suffering as much healthwise as I might expect.
“Following the General Conference of 1909, I spent several weeks attending camp meetings and other general gatherings, and visiting various institutions, in New England, the Central States, and the Middle West.
“Upon returning to my home in California, I took up anew the work of preparing matter for the press. During the past four years I have written comparatively few letters. What strength I have had has been given mostly to the completion of important book work.
“Occasionally I have attended meetings, and have visited institutions in California, but the greater portion of the time ... has been spent in manuscript work at my country home, ‘Elmshaven,’ near St. Helena.
“I am thankful that the Lord is sparing my life to work a little longer on my books. O, that I had strength to do all that I see ought to be done! I pray that He may impart to me wisdom, that the truths our people so much need may be presented clearly and acceptably. I am encouraged to believe that God will enable us to do this.
“My interest in the general work is still as deep as ever, and I greatly desire that the cause of present truth shall steadily advance in all parts of the world. But I find it advisable not to attempt much public work while my book work demands my supervision....
“I am more thankful than I can express for the uplifting of the Spirit of the Lord, for the comfort and grace that He continues to give me, and that He grants me strength and opportunity to impart courage and help to His people. As long as the Lord spares my life, I will be faithful and true to Him, seeking to do His will and to glorify His name. May the Lord increase my faith, that I may follow on to know Him, and to do His will more perfectly. Good is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” The General Conference Bulletin, 1913.
The Pioneers of the Message
In one of her communications to the brethren assembled in General Conference in 1913, Mrs. White referred to the increasing value of the lessons of past experience with which the pioneers in the third angel's message are familiar, and concerning which they can bear positive testimony.
“I greatly desire,” she wrote, “that the old soldiers of the cross, those grown gray in the Master's service, shall continue to bear their testimony right to the point, in order that those younger in the faith may understand that the messages which the Lord gave us in the past, are very important at this stage of the earth's history. Our past experience has not lost one jot of its force.
“Let all be careful not to discourage the pioneers, or cause them to feel that there is little they can do. Their influence may still be mightily exerted in the work of the Lord. The testimony of the aged ministers will ever be a help and a blessing to the church. God will watch over His tried and faithful standard bearers, night and day, until the time comes for them to lay off the armor. Let them be assured that they are under the protecting care of Him who never slumbers or sleeps; that they are watched over by unwearied sentinels. Knowing this, and realizing that they are abiding in Christ, they may rest trustfully in the providences of God.” The General Conference Bulletin, 1913.
Giving the Trumpet a Certain Sound
Throughout her life work, Mrs. White's faith in the overruling providences connected with the unfolding truths of the three angels’ messages, remained unshaken. Often she bore testimony to her conviction that from the beginning God had been the teacher and the leader of His people. And this conviction as regards divine leadership in the past, all through the advent movement, gave her confidence for the future. Witness the following statement, written by her in 1890 in review of her own experience, and with full knowledge of the fact that controversies and doctrinal differences would arise in days to come:
“I have had precious opportunities to obtain an experience. I have had an experience in the first, second, and third angels’ messages. The angels are represented as flying in the midst of heaven, proclaiming to the world a message of warning, and having a direct bearing upon the people living in the last days of this earth's history. No one hears the voice of these angels, for they are a symbol to represent the people of God who are working in harmony with the universe of heaven. Men and women, enlightened by the Spirit of God, and sanctified through the truth, proclaim the three messages in their order.
“I have acted a part in this solemn work. Nearly all my Christian experience is interwoven with it. There are those now living who have an experience similar to my own. They have recognized the truth unfolding for this time; they have kept in step with the great Leader, the Captain of the Lord's host. In the proclamation of the messages, every specification of prophecy has been fulfilled. Those who were privileged to act a part in proclaiming these messages have gained an experience which is of the highest value to them; and now when we are amid the perils of these last days, when voices will be heard on every side saying, `Here is Christ,’ `Here is truth’; while the burden of many is to unsettle the foundation of our faith which has led us from the churches and from the world to stand as a peculiar people in the world, like John our testimony will be borne:
“`That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; ... that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us.’
“I testify the things which I have seen, the things which I have heard, the things which my hands have handled, of the Word of life. And this testimony I know to be of the Father and the Son. We have seen and do testify that the power of the Holy Ghost has accompanied the presentation of the truth, warning with pen and voice, and giving the messages in their order. To deny this work would be to deny the Holy Ghost, and would place us in that company who have departed from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits.
“The enemy will set everything in operation to uproot the confidence of the believers in the pillars of our faith in the messages of the past, which have placed us upon the elevated platform of eternal truth, and which have established and given character to the work. The Lord God of Israel has led out His people, unfolding to them truth of heavenly origin. His voice has been heard, and is still heard, saying, Go forward from strength to strength, from grace to grace, from glory to glory. The work is strengthening and broadening, for the Lord God of Israel is the defense of His people.
“Those who have a hold of the truth theoretically, with their finger tips as it were, who have not brought its principles into the inner sanctuary of the soul, but have kept the vital truth in the outer court, will see nothing sacred in the past history of this people, which has made them what they are, and has established them as earnest, determined missionary workers in the world. The truth for this time is precious; but those whose hearts have not been broken by falling on the rock Christ Jesus, will not see and understand what is truth. They will accept that which pleases their ideas, and will begin to manufacture another foundation than that which is laid. They will flatter their own vanity and esteem, thinking that they are capable of removing the pillars of our faith, and replacing them with pillars they have devised.
“This will continue to be as long as time shall last. Any one who has been a close student of the Bible will see and understand the solemn position of those who are living in the closing scenes of this earth's history. They will feel their own inefficiency and weakness, and will make it their first business to have not merely a form of godliness, but a vital connection with God. They will not dare to rest until Christ is formed within, the hope of glory. Self will die; pride will be expelled from the soul, and they will have the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” [From an unpublished manuscript.]
Book Manuscript Work
Mrs. White's personal correspondence is filled with many references to book manuscripts on which she was laboring lovingly and untiringly. While in Europe, she was amplifying “Great Controversy” and “The Life of Christ.” Following the issuance of the subscription edition of “Controversy” in 1888, she completed the companion volume, “Patriarchs and Prophets,” in 1890. “Steps to Christ” appeared in 1892, “Gospel Workers” in 1893, and “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” in 1896. Her largest literary work, “The Desire of Ages,” occupied much of her time during the sojourn in Australasia, and appeared in 1898.
When “Christ's Object Lessons” and “Testimonies for the Church,” Volume 6, appeared in 1900, some of her friends thought that her laborious efforts to prepare manuscripts for publication in book form, had about ended. But not so. The burden to write was still pressing heavily upon her heart. An impelling sense of the needs of a perishing world, and of many also who claimed to be subjects of King Emmanuel, led her to labor on and on, in an earnest endeavor to give to others that which was filling her own soul with joy and peace. Hear her declaring, when in 1902 she was writing to a friend on the high standard to which Christian believers should attain:
“O, what is there that will give them a consciousness of the responsibility resting on them to be Christ-like in word and act! I shall try to arouse their slumbering senses by writing, if not by speaking. The awful sense of my responsibility takes such possession of me that I am weighted as a cart beneath sheaves. I do not desire to feel less keenly my obligation to the Higher Power. That Presence is ever with me, asserting supreme authority and taking account of the service that I render or withhold.” Unpublished Letter, December 9, 1902.
“The Lord commands me to speak, and this I shall do,” Mrs. White declared further when feeling thus burdened over her responsibility as a chosen messenger. ‘I have been instructed to bear my testimony with the decision of authority.” Unpublished Letter, December 7, 1902. And in another communication, penned the same month, she wrote:
“I have every reason to praise my heavenly Father for the clearness of thought that He has given me in regard to Bible subjects. I long to bring out these precious things, so that the minds of ministers and people may, if possible, be drawn away from contention and strife to something that is nourishing to the soul,—food that will give health, hopefulness, and courage....
“In the night season many things are passing before me. The Scriptures, full of grace and richness, are presented before me. The word of the Lord to me is: ‘Look on these things, and meditate on them. You may claim the rich grace of truth, which nourishes the soul. Have naught to do with controversy and dissension and strife, which bring darkness and discouragement to your soul. Truth is clear, pure, savory.... Speak the truth in faith and love, leaving the result with God. The work is not yours, but the Lord's. In all your communications, speak as one to whom the Lord has spoken. He is your authority, and He will give you His sustaining grace.’” Unpublished Letter, December 2, 1902.
These words were written about the time “Testimonies for the Church,” Volume 7, was in the hands of the printers. Shortly after its appearance, she wrote regarding volumes six and seven:
“I have been impressed to call upon the members of our churches to study the last two volumes of ‘Testimonies for the Church.’ When I was writing these books, I felt the deep moving of the Spirit of God.... They are full of precious matter. In the visions of the night the Lord told me that the truth contained in these books must be brought before the members of our churches, because there are many who are indifferent in regard to the salvation of their souls.” Unpublished Letter, April 15, 1903.
But these volumes were not to be the last. There was much yet to be accomplished. “I must prepare books,” she wrote in May, 1903, “and thus give to others the light that the Lord gives me. I do not want to leave an unfinished work.” And during the same month she wrote further: “I am trying to prepare for publication matter that will guard the work on every side, so that it may not become disproportionate. We have many things in preparation for publication.... The truth must appear just as it is.”
In August, 1903, Mrs. White wrote to an old-time friend: “My health is good, and I am able to do much writing. I thank the Lord for this. I have decided not to attend so many camp meetings, but to give my time to my writing.... I greatly desire to write on the life of Solomon and on the history following his reign, and I desire, too, to write on the life of Paul and his work in connection with the other apostles. At times the thought of this neglected work keeps me awake at night.”
Mrs. White lived to see her desires fulfilled with regard to much that she had planned on doing. Her work on “Education” was completed in 1903; “Testimonies for the Church,” Volume 8, in 1904; and “Ministry of Healing” in 1905. Many “Special Testimonies” were prepared for circulation in pamphlet and leaflet form; and in 1909 “Testimonies for the Church,” Volume 9, the last of the series, was published. By the close of 1910 Mrs. White had given full consideration to all the problems connected with the reset edition of “Great Controversy.” That task having been completed, she found time to supervise the revision of “Sketches from the Life of Paul,” and to add several chapters on the life work and the writings of the apostles of the early Christian church. This matter was published in 1911, under the title, “The Acts of the Apostles.” The next volume to appear was “Counsels to Teachers, Parents, and Students Regarding Christian Education,” in 1913; and immediately afterward Mrs. White began the reading of manuscripts that were forwarded to the printers in 1914 for the new edition of “Gospel Workers.”
When publishing “Facts of Faith,” in 1864, Mrs. White included in that little volume matter that carried the story of Israel beyond the days of David. In the seventies she wrote quite fully on the restoration of the Israelites from Babylon, dwelling in detail on the experiences of Nehemiah. In articles, and in the bound volumes of “Testimonies for the Church,” she often told and retold the story of Solomon, of Elijah and Elisha, of Isaiah and Jeremiah, of Daniel and the Hebrew worthies, and of the return of the exiles under Zerubbabel and Joshua and Ezra.
“Facts of Faith” has long been out of print, the matter contained therein having been largely incorporated, with many additions, in the later volume, “Spirit of Prophecy,” Volume 1 (1870), and finally in “Patriarchs and Prophets” (1890). When “Patriarchs” was completed, Mrs. White hoped soon to go on with the story from the close of David's reign, and publish in connected form that which she had been enabled to write through the years concerning the experiences of Solomon and divided Israel, and their final restoration to divine favor as one united people,—a type of spiritual Israel, the church of God on earth today, to whom will finally be fulfilled all the covenant promises.
It was the hope of preparing, in some form suitable for publication, this story of the prophets and kings of Old Testament history, that led to the grouping of such material into several series of articles, which have been published in the columns of the Review, the Signs, and the Watchman.
Not long after Mrs. White's return from Australia, work was undertaken anew on the Old Testament story, and continued intermittently for more than ten years. Thus consideration was given to the many manuscripts dealing with this period of Bible history not included in the other volumes of the “Controversy” series.
To the completion of this work, Mrs. White gave much thought during 1913 and 1914. At the time of her accident, in February, 1915, all but the last two chapters had been completed for a volume bearing the title, “The Captivity and Restoration of Israel,” covering the broken periods; and these final chapters had been sufficiently blocked out to admit of completion by the inclusion of additional matter from her manuscript file.
During the last year spent by Mrs. White in quiet rest and in closing up her manuscript work, one of her copyists wrote to her son, W. C. White, under date of Dec 23, 1914:
“Even when exceedingly brain-weary, your mother seems to find great comfort in the promises of the Word, and often catches up a quotation and completes it when we begin quoting some familiar scripture.... I do not find her discouraged ... over the general outlook throughout the harvest field when her brethren are laboring. She seems to have strong faith in God's power to overrule, and to bring to pass His eternal purpose through the efforts of those whom He has called to act a part in His great work. She rises above petty criticism, above even the past failures of those who have been reproved, and expresses the conviction, born, apparently, of an innate faith in the church of the living God, that her brethren will remain faithful to the cause they have espoused, and that the Lord will continue with them to the end, and grant them complete victory over every device of the enemy.
“Faith in God's power to sustain her through the many weaknesses attendant on old age; faith in the precious promises of God's word; faith in her brethren who bear the burden of the work; faith in the final triumph of the third angel's message,—this is the full faith your mother seems to enjoy every day and every hour. This is the faith that fills her heart with joy and peace, even when suffering great physical weakness, and unable to make progress in literary lines. A faith such as this would inspire any one who could witness it.”
A Solemn Charge
The spirit that characterized Mrs. White's life and labors during the closing years of her ministry, is reflected in the communication, “Courage in the Lord,” addressed to her brethren assembled at the 1913 General Conference. Her words of exhortation were in reality a prayer and a benediction:
“I pray earnestly that the work we do at this time shall impress itself deeply on heart and mind and soul. Perplexities will increase; but let us, as believers in God, encourage one another. Let us not lower the standard, but keep it lifted high, looking to Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. When in the night season I am unable to sleep, I lift my heart in prayer to God, and He strengthens me, and gives me the assurance that He is with His ministering servants in the home field and in distant lands. I am encouraged and blessed as I realize that the God of Israel is still guiding His people, and that He will continue to be with them, even to the end.
“I am instructed to say to our ministering brethren, Let the messages that come from your lips be charged with the power of the Spirit of God. If ever there was a time when we needed the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is now. We need a thorough consecration. It is fully time that we gave to the world a demonstration of the power of God in our own lives and in our ministry.
“The Lord desires to see the work of proclaiming the third Angel's message carried forward with increasing efficiency. As He has worked in all ages to give victories to His people, so in this age He longs to carry to a triumphant fulfillment His purposes for His church. He bids His believing saints to advance unitedly, going from strength to greater strength, from faith to increased assurance and confidence in the truth and righteousness of His cause.
“We are to stand firm as a rock to the principles of the word of God, remembering that God is with us to give us strength to meet each new experience. Let us ever maintain in our lives the principles of righteousness, that we may go forward from strength to strength in the name of the Lord. We are to hold as very sacred the faith that has been substantiated by the instruction and approval of the Spirit of God from our earliest experience until the present time. We are to cherish as very precious the work that the Lord has been carrying forward through His commandment-keeping people, and which, through the power of His grace, will grow stronger and more efficient as time advances. The enemy is seeking to becloud the discernment of God's people, and to weaken their efficiency; but if they will labor as the Spirit of God shall direct, He will open doors of opportunity before them for the work of building up the old waste places. Their experience will be one of constant growth, until the Lord shall descend from heaven with power and great glory to set His seal of final triumph upon His faithful ones.
“The work that lies before us is one that will put to the stretch every power of the human being. It will call for the exercise of strong faith and constant vigilance. At times the difficulties that we shall meet will be most disheartening. The very greatness of the task will appall us. And yet, with God's help, His servants will finally triumph. ‘Wherefore,’ my brethren, ‘I desire that ye faint not’ because of the trying experiences that are before you. Jesus will be with you; He will go before you by His Holy Spirit, preparing the way; and He will be your helper in every emergency.
“‘For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
“‘Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.’” The General Conference Bulletin, 1913.