Attempts are being made to represent A. T. Jones’ message of righteousness by faith as leading into the “holy flesh” heresy. It is said that he taught this false doctrine as early as a few months following the 1888 conference. One example, doubtless based on research at the General Conference, follows:
There appear to be some striking parallels between the experience of God’s people around 1888 and our own times. For example, Waggoner and Jones were used by the Lord in 1888; but even as early as 1889 Jones’s sermons began to show some drift in the direction of the “holy flesh” error (Adventist Review, August 6, 1981).
This charge must be examined carefully. If it is true, several consequences will immediately follow in many reasoning and logical minds:
(1) If true, it will discredit the 1888 message. If either Jones or Waggoner can be blacklisted as teaching heresy or fanaticism during the 1888 era, the church would be foolish to give serious attention to their message. David P. McMahon and Desmond Ford have made the attempt to discredit Waggoner for this purpose notwithstanding the repeated endorsements of Ellen White. In his Documents No. 32 Ford has said that by 1892 Waggoner was no longer a Seventh-day Adventist. McMahon, in his Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man (Verdict Publications, Fallbrook, CA, 1979), argues that Waggoner departed from the Protestant view of justification by faith a few weeks after the 1888 conference and thereafter taught the Roman Catholic view. The falseness of these charges has been exposed by Dr. Leroy Moore in Appendix B of his Theology in Crisis (1979). Anyone who reads the JonesWaggoner writings can readily see this for himself.
(2) If Jones was drifting “as early as 1889 … in the direction of the ‘holy flesh’ error,” Ellen White must also be discredited as naive and fanatical. During her long and distinguished career, she never at any time uttered endorsements of anyone as repeatedly and as enthusiastically as she did of Jones’ message and labors from 1888 through 1896.
While it is true that Jones was a human being as prone to weaknesses as any of us, she would never have endorsed him so highly if she had entertained the slightest suspicion that his teaching was “drifting” to a fanaticism as horrendous as that which afflicted the Indiana Conference at the turn of the century. It will not help to excuse Ellen White for endorsing him on the grounds that she was honestly deceived by him. She exercised the prophetic gift and claimed heavenly inspiration. There is no way that we can respect her if she was mistaken about Jones.
(3) The only message that Ellen White ever identified as a genuine beginning of the Holy Spirit’s gift of the latter rain and the loud cry is that of the 1888 messengers. If it almost immediately “drifted” toward the “holy flesh” fanaticism, how can we trust any similar message that the Holy Spirit may in future inspire? We can be sure that Satan would like to dissuade the church from ever again receiving any true spiritual blessing sent from heaven.
The supposed evidence for the charge is found in remarks attributed to A. T. Jones in sermons preached at the Ottawa, Kansas, tent meeting in the spring of 1889. News of the meeting and notes on the sermons were printed in the Topeka Daily Capital newspaper. Sermons were not reported verbatim. They were greatly condensed and typographical errors are found to be numerous. The incomplete reporting creates occasional gobbledygook. We turn to a non-Adventist newspaper that gives evidence of poor journalism in order to find something to discredit the man who Ellen White said had “heavenly credentials” in a unique sense and brought us “a most precious message.” And this we do a century later; yet even Jones’ determined opponents of that generation did not do it.
The supposedly heretical remarks in fact reveal no trace of “holy flesh” fanaticism, but simply assert the possibility of overcoming sin in character perfection attained through faith. His statements are reported as follows in the Topeka newspaper:
It is Christ’s obedience that avails and not ours that brings righteousness to us. Well then let us stop trying to do the will of God in our own strength. Stop it all. Put it away from you forever. Let Christ’s obedience do it all for you and gain the strength to pull the bow so that you can hit the mark. …
In the fact that the law demands perfection lies the hope of mankind, because if it could overlook a sin to a single degree, no one could ever be free from sin, as the law would never make that sin known, and it could never be forgiven, by which alone man can be saved. The day is coming when the law will have revealed the last sin and we will stand perfect before Him and be saved with an eternal salvation … It is a token of His love for us, therefore, whenever a sin is made known to you, it is a token of God’s love for you, because the Saviour stands ready to take it away (May 14,1889).
It is only by faith in Christ that we can say we are Christians. It is only through being one with him that we can be Christians, and only through Christ within us that we keep the commandments—it being all by faith in Christ that we do and say these things. When the day comes that we actually keep the commandments of God, we will never die, because keeping the commandments is righteousness, and righteousness and life are inseparable—so, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” and what is the result? These people are translated. Life, then, and keeping the commandments go together. If we die now, Christ’s righteousness will be imputed to us and we will be raised, but those who live to the end are made sinless before He comes, having so much of Christ’s being in them that they “hit the mark” every time, and stand blameless without an intercessor, because Christ leaves the sanctuary sometime before He comes to earth (May 18, 1889; the newspaper attributes this sermon to W. C. White).
We note the following:
(a) A careful study of all the Jones sermons reported in this newspaper fails to disclose any “holy flesh” motif. The statements that some interpret as showing such a “drift” are concerned only with character development by faith in preparation for the second coming of Christ.
(b) At no time in the years following 1889 is there any record that Jones uttered statements that can be construed as favoring this heresy. If he taught it in 1889, it would almost certainly appear again. To proclaim that Christ has “condemned sin in the flesh” as Paul says is not teaching “holy flesh.”
(c) The May 18 statement above is the one that has primarily been regarded as evidence of this fatal “drift.” But the newspaper report attributes the sermon to W. C. White. Nevertheless, whoever said it, the teaching is true, and is in harmony with the Adventist concept of the cleansing of the sanctuary.
(d) Both Jones and Waggoner strongly refuted the “holy flesh” fanaticism at the turn of the century. In the Review and Herald of April 18, 1899 Jones published an article which discloses the fallacy of that teaching. From December 11, 1900, through January 29, 1901, he published a series of articles which further opposed it. The leader of the Indiana fanaticism, R. S. Donnell, published an article in the Indiana Reporter opposing Jones, indicating that he understood the articles to be a refutation of his teaching. Waggoner also opposed the “holy flesh” doctrine in sermons delivered at the 1901 General Conference session (cf. GCB 1901, pp. 403-422; we acknowledge assistance from Jeff Reich in researching this material).
Thus we have another example of a century of continued opposition to the “most precious message” that Heaven intended should be welcomed as the “beginning” of the latter rain and the loud cry. It is a mysterious subterranean river of unbelief, perhaps the strangest and most persistent that has flowed through all the millenia of God’s attempts to help His people. Ellen White said plaintively, “I have deep sorrow of heart, because I have seen how readily a word or action of Elder Jones or Elder Waggoner is criticized” (Letter 019,1892). This time it wasn’t a “word or action.” It was only an imagined one.