(The 1893 General Conference Session, Part II)
The rejection of the 1888 light opened the way for false ideas to enter under the guise of righteousness by faith. Indeed, if we turn from the genuine, nothing can prevent our grasping the counterfeit.
Before presenting the evidence of such misconceptions, Jones reminded the 1893 session congregation of the rejection of light at Minneapolis and thereafter for four years. Then he showed how the mind devoted to self becomes the mind of Satan. He traced its development through paganism to the subtleties of Romanism. There are two kinds of justification by faith—a true and a counterfeit:
We have found … that when Christianity came into the world this same carnal mind got up a counterfeit of that and covered itself—the same carnal mind—with a form of Christianity, and called it justification by faith when it was all justification by works,—the same carnal mind. That is the papacy, the mystery of iniquity (GCB, 1893, p. 342).
Next he traced the development of the mind of self in modern spiritualism, showing how this delusion would exalt the same love of self. He even seemed to have the embryo of a concept of spiritualism as a false Holy Spirit, an idea advanced for his day but obvious in our charismatic day:
The nearer we come to the second coming of the Saviour the more fully Spiritualism will be professing Christ. … Satan himself … comes as Christ; he is received as Christ. So then the people of God must be so well acquainted with the Saviour that no profession of the name of Christ will be received or accepted where it is not the actual, genuine thing (loc. cit.).
Only through letting the mind of self be crucified with Christ, making possible an indwelling of the mind of Christ, could the remnant church recognize such a deception:
Then although these folks quote the words of Christ, it is all counterfeit. You know that [Great Controversy] tells us that when Satan himself comes with the gracious words that the Saviour uttered, he will talk them with much the same tone, and will pass it off on those who have not the mind of Christ. Brethren, there is no salvation for us, there is no safety for us, there is no remedy for us at all, but to have the mind of Christ (ibid., p. 343).
The mind of self being crucified “with Christ” in no way lessens true self-respect, but enhances it through union with Christ. There was a misconception of righteousness by faith already apparent by 1893, after the “in-a-great-measure” rejection of the genuine (1 SM 234, 235). Indeed, it is a principle that “those who have been in any measure blinded by the enemy … will be inclined to accept a falsehood” (Special Testimonies, Series A, pp. 41, 42).
Jones unmasked the falsehood:
Some of these brethren, since the Minneapolis meeting, I have heard, myself, say “amen” to preaching, to statements that were utterly heathen, and did not know but that it was the righteousness of Christ. Some of those who stood so openly against that at that time, and voted with uplifted hand against it,1
… since that time I have heard say “amen” to statements that were as openly and decidedly papal as the papal church itself can state them. That I shall bring in here in one of these lessons, and call your attention to the Catholic church’s statement and her doctrine of justification by faith. … Says one, “I thought they believed in justification by works.” They do and they do not believe in anything else; but they pass it off under the head of justification by faith. And they are not the only people in the world that are doing it (GCB 1893, p. 244).
I have here a book entitled “Catholic Belief.”… That you may have the two things—the truth of justification by faith, and the falsity of it—side by side, I will read what this says, and then … Steps to Christ. … . I want you to see what the Roman Catholic idea of justification by faith is, because I have had to meet it among professed Seventh-day Adventists the past four years. … These …very expressions that are in this Catholic book, as to what justification by faith is and how to obtain it, are just such expressions as professed Seventh-day Adventists have made to me as to what justification by faith is. …
This is justification by faith. That other thing is justification by works. This is of Christ; that is of the devil. One is Christ’s doctrine of justification by faith; the other is the devil’s doctrine of justification by faith (ibid., pp. 261, 262).
Jones saw that the essence of Romanism is self-worship in whatever form it may assume. Any specious teaching of righteousness by faith, even ostensibly by a Seventh-day Adventist agent, which exalts the sinful mind of self, is in reality a branch growing out of the root of Romanism and spiritualism:
That is righteousness by faith; that is a faith that works, thank the Lord,-not a faith that believes something away off, that keeps the truth of God in the outer court, and then seeks by his own efforts to make up the lack. No, but faith that … itself is working; it has a divine power in it. … 2
This is enough to show that the papal doctrine of justification by faith is Satan’sdoctrine; it is simply the natural mind depending upon itself, working through itself, exalting itself; and then covering it all up with a profession of belief … but having no power of God (ibid., pp. 265, 266).
An even more subtle counterfeit was exposed. The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith was an immensely popular book with a copyright date of 1888. It presented a virtually cross-less and therefore powerless concept of righteousness by faith which knew nothing of repentance or contrition, nor any clear concept of the atonement on the cross, nor of a personal Saviour who is “nigh at hand” as He is presented in the 1888 message. Her righteousness by faith is a philosophy of “truths that underlie all theologies … [and] fit in with every creed. … It is of this absolute religion my book seeks to treat” (Preface to 1888 edition)..
This Quaker author says that she lit her lamp from the teachings of Fenelon, a Roman Catholic mystic at the court of Louis XIV of France, who spent his life energies seeking to convert Protestants back to Rome.3 The residue of author Smith’s devitalized faith was termed “trust in Christ.” Once the “surrender” is made, the soul must assume itself to be “saved,” and any conviction of the true Holy Spirit warning to the contrary must be instantly repulsed by a repeated psychological affirmation that all is well.
Some of our people had been reading Smith’s book and mistakenly assumed that it was the essence of the 1888 message. They were saying that Jones and Waggoner got their light from it. Jones sensed the fatal danger and set the record straight:
I have seen this same thing working another way. There is that book that a great many make a great deal of, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.” … I want everyone of you to understand that there is more of the Christian’s secret of a happy life in the Bible than in ten thousand volumes of that book. …
I did hear once … that I got my light out of that book. There is the Book where I got my Christian’s secret of a happy life [holding up the Bible] and that is the only place. And I had it before I ever saw the other book, or knew it was in existence (GCB 1893, pp. 358, 359).
Prescott gave a series of sermons on “The Promise of the Holy Spirit.” He recognized that a serious mistake had been made at Minneapolis four years earlier. He had attended that conference prejudiced in favor of Uriah Smith and Butler and against A. T. Jones and his message. After the Minneapolis conference he had even tried to bar Jones from speaking in the Battle Creek Tabernacle. He had later privately confessed taking a wrong position in company with most of the brethren.4 However, in his lengthy studies at the 1893 meeting he gave no indication that he had been on the wrong side, or that such a confession had been necessary.
Whereas Jones expressed the principle of corporate guilt, speaking of the message that “we there rejected” (pp. 165, 183) although he was one of the messengers, Prescott set himself up as one who had always been on the right side. An honest, humble confession on his part would have done wonders to open the way for the Spirit of God to work in the session, but such was never expressed.
Instead, he identified himself prominently with Jones as one who shared his special divine commission. Perhaps Jones naively invited him to help, for he no doubt felt lonely defending the 1888 message with Ellen White and Waggoner both in exile overseas.
Prescott’s sermons preceded Jones’ nightly. When Jones was speaking he was forward enough to interrupt him and to interject ideas or quotations or even exhortation to the audience. With a less mild and less appealing spirit, he vehemently demanded that the brethren get right.
It is painful to note a certain imperiousness of manner and impatience of appeal. The subtle difference of temperament would hardly be effective in binding up wounds and healing sores. His spirit was in stark contrast to that of Jones' whose sense of corporate repentance5 enabled him to share the guilt of the rejectors of the message. Prescott’s sermons give evidence of no such humility. Note how a hierarchical spirit, foreign to the 1888 message, crept in:
Now the solemn thought to my mind is that [God] is getting impatient, and will not wait very much longer for you and me. I want you to see that plainly. … I say again, I am extremely anxious over this situation. … I do not dictate to anyone, but something must be done, something different must come to us than has come in this Conference yet, that is sure. …
That is why we [!] are urging you to accept the righteousness, because the Spirit will be there. Do you not see? (GCB 1893, pp. 386, 387).
The fact that Prescott so outspokenly made himself Jones' special colleague would naturally confuse the minds of delegates and congregation to think that this was the spirit of the 1888 revival movement, when it was not:
There is nothing that my soul longs for more than that the baptism of the Spirit shall rest upon the services of God at this time. … We must have experiences like removing right eyes and cutting off right hands. Everyone who wants that experience wants to be ready to give everything, even life itself, to God. (Murmers of Amen). And we should remember that it is easier to say Amen than it is to do what God says. …
What then, is our duty at this time? It is to go out and give the LOUD cry of the message to the world. …
The Lord has long been waiting to give us His Spirit. He is even now impatiently waiting that He may bestow it upon us. …
Now a work that will be greater than Pentecost has begun, and there are those here who will see it. It is here, it is now that we are to be fitted for the work (ibid., pp. 38, 39; emphasis in original).
Prescott did not sense the sublime 1888 concept of motivation—that true New Testament faith itself “works by love.” The impact of his 1893 messages reverts to the egocentric motivation of works, “we must do this or that.” In an almost frenzied spirit he harangues the congregation to do something, to act, to work (we have heard this repeated now for nearly a century). In contrast, Jones appeal to the congregation to believe something—the gospel; and assures them that true faith will produce all the works and acts that will finish God’s work.
In reading Jones’ sermons, one finds no instance of severity or harshness. But Prescott gives a different impression:
I say that if ever there was a needy company, it is this company. …
Now I am perfectly aware that I am speaking with great plainness. … If we don’t make this a matter of earnest prayer, I say it simply means death to you and to me. …
It is no use to go this way any longer, and my advice is most solemnly to every one who cannot go out now imbued with power from on high and bear this light from heaven, and to do the work that God has to be done now, stay at home. …
Now I know that this is very severe. But I tell you, brethren, something must come to us, something must take hold of us. …
The question is, What are we to do about it? What are you and I going to do about it right here, now, at this Conference? … Again I say, What are we going to do about it? (ibid., p. 67).
The servants of God under this message will go out with faces lighted up with a holy joy and holy consecration. I want to see these brethren go out in that way; I want to see their faces lighted up as did that of Stephen when he was in the council (ibid., p. 389).
Now I say in all sincerity that we might as well make up our minds here and now, before we go a step further, to face death and down it. … Unless we stand right there at this moment, and say that we will give up friends, homes, and that nothing shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, we might as well stop now (ibid., p. 241).
This sad recital of extreme statements reveals how an imperious, fanatical spirit began to creep in which was foreign to the 1888 message. But his “we” gave the wrong impression.
Prescott later humbled his heart in repentance for the fanaticism that followed the close of this conference, and he gave good messages in Australia in 1895. But these 1893 presentations brought confusion and hindered any possibility of a contrite acceptance of the message. Opponents such as Smith and Butler would naturally be ready to cite this fanaticism as an “I-told-you-so” example. (Even to this day, fanatics and self-appointed reformers cause many sincere church members to be prejudiced against the 1888 message). Three days before this meeting began, Ellen White had warned through the Review and Herald:
Satan is now working with all his insinuating, deceiving power. … When the enemy sees that the Lord is blessing His people, and preparing them to discern his delusions, he will work with his masterly power to bring in fanaticism on the one hand and cold formalism on the other. … Watch unceasingly … for the first step of advance that Satan may make among us. …
There are dangers to be guarded on the right hand and on the left. … Some will not make a right use of the doctrine of justification … [to lead] into false paths (RH, January 24, 1893).
In his sermons on the Holy Spirit, Prescott preached a strange doctrine without the principle of the cross, without clear ideas of what repentance is, and in a confused, even self-contradictory manner. His vehemence had the appearance of earnestness. He himself was supporting projects at the same time which were unequivocally opposed by the Spirit of Prophecy, though he was doubtless unconscious of such a marked disparity.6
He likewise would be unconscious of the disparity between his doctrine of receiving the Holy Spirit and the truth. A few examples of this confusion must suffice. Fortunately, the 1893 Bulletin has been republished so that interested readers can more easily see for themselves the evidence therein:
What is the thing for us to do? … It is to begin to confess our sinfulness to God with humility of soul, with deep contrition before God to be zealous and repent. Now that is the only message that I can bring tonight. It is just that. …
This sounds fine, right on target. But the problem becomes apparent when we continue:
Suppose we say we do not see anything to confess at all. That does not touch the matter in any way. When God sends us word that we are sinful, it is for us to say we are so, whether we can see it or not. That should be our experience (GCB 1893, p. 65).
Scripture nowhere tells us that God desires a lip confession of words that the heart does not feel. This is closer to Islam than to genuine Christianity. “The lips may express a poverty of soul that the heart does not acknowledge” (COL 159). Jones recognized that there was danger in such ideas. With the apparent purpose of answering Prescott, he later said:
If the Lord should take away our sins without our knowing it, what good would it do us? That would simply be making machines of us. He does not propose to do that; consequently, He wants you and me to know when our sins go, that we may know when his righteousness comes. …
We are always intelligent instruments… We will be used by the Lord at our own living choice (ibid., p. 405).
Prescott expressed no open opposition to Jones, and it is certain there was no conscious intention of such. But did he truly overcome his initial opposition to Jones' message? The evidence in his voluminous messages hardly indicates that he did.
For sure, the “offence of the cross” had not ceased. The Spirit of God was bringing conviction of sin to many hearts, and Prescott tried to find some way to receive the Holy Spirit that would be acceptable to disturbed hearts and yet avoid a painful conviction of sin.
The people knew very well that responsibility for rejecting the beginning of the latter rain hung over the conference like a cloud. The net result of Prescott’s studies was confusion, a jamming of the spiritual ether waves which unsettled even Jones.
Prescott was unmistakably against sin, but he seemed to have no clear sense of what was the root of the sin which troubled the congregation. The present truth of accepting the latter rain and proclaiming the loud cry was his heart burden; but how to deal with the present hindrance, a true comprehension of the guilt which hung over them for the past four years, seemed to elude his understanding.
Some of his perplexity may have been the result of understanding the real issue but being afraid to say so clearly because of the imposing presence of the leading prejudiced brethren. Even the prophet Jeremiah would have been “confounded” if he had allowed the leaders of Judah to intimidate him (1:17). When a speaker feels forced to beat around the bush, he inevitably communicates confusion.
Finally, about ten days before the close of the session, Prescott began to develop a novel method of receiving the Holy Spirit. It bears a close resemblance to the ideas expressed in The Christian’sSecret of a Happy Life. What was necessary was simply an “act of faith” in assuming that you have the gift of the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit, specific repentance for the sin of 1888 being bypassed. There seemed to be a feeling of desperation:
I am free to say that I begin to feel seriously anxious over our work now. … Now for nearly four weeks … we [have] considered what hindered our receiving an outpouring of the Spirit of God. … I have since felt there is almost a reaction from that, and that this work seems to move along rather easy with us now. I want to say for myself, I shall not at all be satisfied if this Conference passes without a greater outpouring of the Spirit of God than we have experienced yet. …
I am extremely anxious over this situation; because the time is passing, and the days go easily one after the other. …
Something different must come to us than has come in this Conference yet, that is sure. …
We have only about ten days left in the Conference (ibid., pp. 384, 386, 389).
Now began a devious, nebulous argument that led the audience to believe they could receive the latter rain gift of the Holy Spirit by simply assuming and claiming they had it. We must not feel we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we must know we have it. Such a conscious assumption will not include true self-knowledge nor an awareness of the depth of our sin, for that could be dangerous and discourage us:
I notice that many here have from time to time asked the Lord to show them themselves just as He saw them; and I suppose that is one petition that the Lord saw best not to grant us. And I don’t believe we ought to ask Him to do it. Now you can see what the effect is apt to be when He begins to show us ourselves; we begin to question right off whether the Lord loves us or not, and whether the Lord can save us or not. … I had no idea of my character.
Well, the Lord probably has not begun to show us ourselves as He sees us; I do not suppose we have any idea, or any conception at all, of the way we look in God’s sight (ibid., p. 445).
Thus was ignored the true function of the law, and the congregation was led into confusion. Ellen White’s frequent appeals for honesty in facing inward reality were circumvented.
The speaker paraphrased or repeated some ideas that Jones had presented, but gave them a subtle twist to aid his argument that instead of bringing the healing conviction of sin, the Comforter removes it. The cloud over the Conference must be lifted somehow, by any means possible. We must now assume that without a need for repentance, God has forgiven the sin that has caused the trouble. Now we must just claim that our sins are gone. Here appears his indebtedness to Hannah Whitall Smith:
Keep saying over what He says. You cannot go wrong then. If you do not understand it, and cannot see light in it, you keep right on saying what He says (ibid., p. 447).
Perhaps the best way to review this argument is to quote from him the following:
Now [the Spirit] convinces us of the righteousness of God in Christ—the righteousness of Christ. And He convinces us that that is a wonderfully desirable thing to have, and then He goes on and says that we can have it, and from that He convinces us that we have it, if we follow Him. …
The purpose is not, I will convince you that you are a sinner, and then convince you that you are condemned. No, the work of the Spirit is to convince us that that condemnation has been taken away (ibid., pp. 448, 449; emphasis original).
The fundamental problem as he saw it was not personal deliverance from guilt, but the lifting of the cloud that hung over the corporate body in a General Conference session because of rejecting the latter rain. Here was a band-aid and an aspirin for our deep wound.
His theory could only confuse. The trumpet was not given a certain sound, and the sin of Minneapolis was never squarely faced and dealt with. It was assumed that the sense of guilt must be of Satanic origin and vigorously repulsed.
Thus was fulfilled the 1890 testimony that the 1888 tops were cut down and the roots left intact (TM 467). If any truthful conviction should intrude into the heart that the roots were still there, the conviction was to be considered a work of the devil.
Such would of course be the logical result of a doctrine which taught (1) that a blanket lip-confession of unconscious, unrealized sin was sufficient without the sins being brought to consciousness; (2) that it was wrong to pray for true self-knowledge; and (3) that the real work of the Holy Spirit is not to bring a conviction of sin but to take away all such conviction—directly contrary to Christ’s teaching in John 16:8, 9.
A fourth point would follow logically in any reasoning mind: any doubt that you now have the Holy Spirit in latter rain power would be a lack of faith in God. You must therefore assume that you have received it. This is the idea that was now developed:
I want to feel in my experience that the Saviour is with me just as He was with His disciples. … I do not want to think of Him as simply there, I want to think of Him as being here. … Not simply, I want Him, but I have Him (ibid., p. 385).
Jones later disparaged such assumptions:
So then, the man who claims to believe in Jesus, and claims the righteousness of God which comes to the believer in Jesus, is his claiming it enough … ? (Congregation:—“No.”) … Well, how do you know it? “Why, I feel it in my heart; I feel it in my heart, and have for several years.”Well, that is no evidence at all; for “the heart is deceitful above all things” (ibid., p. 414).
But Prescott insisted on the point he had developed:
What I want to get at is, What hinders it [the latter rain] now? What we are to get after is the righteousness of Christ… I have been thinking about it somewhat this way: If we were just to stop all questioning about one another, … and sit right down here in the simplicity of it just as a child, …we could take it. …
Brethren, what is to hinder us from accepting it now in that way? Nothing. Then let us praise the Lord and say, I have it now (ibid., pp. 388, 389; emphasis original).
Thus was the popular doctrine developed which has been preached in every generation of Adventists since 1893: we receive the outpouring of the latter rain by simply assuming and claiming that we have it, without knowledge of, or repentance for, having rejected it. But it has not been so received.
Jones sensed the lethargy that was benumbing hearts, and did not know what to do. He stood practically alone except for his self-appointed colleague, whose efforts only created confusion and possibly ill will. He expresses his apprehension:
Brethren, we are in a fearful position here at this Conference. It is just awful. I said that once before, but I realize it tonight more than I did then. I can’t help it, brethren. … Not a soul of us ever dreams what fearful destinies hang on the days that pass by here (ibid., p. 346).
During his last two or three studies, we find him becoming unsettled, quoting from Prescott. Weary and perplexed, he seemed to turn to him and to echo his confused thoughts.
Both failed to realize a fundamental reality: the latter rain must be withdrawn and modern Israel must turn back to wander in the wilderness. They both assumed that nothing could hinder the finishing of God’s work in their generation. Therefore they assumed it must go forth in spite of opposition and rejection. Prescott’s idea was essentially that of our popular Calvinism—God’s time-clock had struck the hour for the latter rain, and it is impossible for His sovereign will to be thwarted by the unbelief of His people. Now we find Jones repeating Prescott’s extreme demands:
I say again that the message there given to us is the message for you and me to carry from this meeting. And anyone who cannot carry that message with him from this meeting had better not go. … That minister had better not leave this place as a minister (ibid., pp. 494, 495).
Soon he was making unwise propositions and asking questions that had been better left alone:
Has He given you the light of the knowledge of His glory? (Congregation: “Yes.”) Has He? (Congregation: “Yes.”) …
Then that Spirit has come to those who can look into the face of Jesus Christ.
A few minutes later, “by permission of the speaker, Prof. Prescott read the following: ‘Look up by faith, and the light of the glory of God will shine upon you.’”
Now, with the accumulated force of four years' exercise, God puts it forth to His people. The proposition is again: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Who will? Who will? (Numerous voices: “I will.”) Good! How long will you? (Voices: “Always.”) How constantly will you? How often will you? (Voices: “Always.”). …
Then, “Arise, and shine, because the light has come, and the glory of the Lord hath risen upon thee” (ibid., pp. 496, 497).
If the loud cry was indeed to go forth with power, it would follow that great changes must take place in the church. Now we find Jones, supported by Prescott, making unfortunate prophecies that have never yet been fulfilled. Someday his words must be fulfilled, but they were not fulfilled in that generation:
Here is the most blessed promise it seems to me, that ever came to the Seventh-day Adventist church. “For henceforth there shall no more come into thee, the uncircumcised and the unclean.” Thank the Lord, He has delivered us henceforth from unconverted people; from people brought into the church to work out their own unrighteousness, and to create division in the church. Church trials are all gone, thank the Lord; all mischievous talebearers and tattlers are gone. …
“No more shall come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.” …
There is no place in the Seventh-day Adventist church for hypocrites. If the heart is not sincere, it is the most dangerous place that that man ever was in . …
Brethren, that is the message now … and he who cannot carry it should not go. Oh, do not go. … Let no one go without the consciousness of that abiding presence—the power of the Spirit of God (ibid., pp. 498, 499).
Prescott enthusiastically predicted the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, obviously extending the gift of prophecy to others besides the authentic agent who was in Australia:
But now in the closing work of God, … the gifts will reappear in the church. And God does not intend, as it seems to me, that these gifts are to be confined to just one here, or perhaps one there, and that it shall be a rare thing that any special gift shall be manifested in any church. … Gifts of healing; working of miracles; prophesyings; interpretation of tongues;—all these things will be manifested again in the church (ibid., p. 461).
Did these wonderful gifts come? There were prophesyings of a sort after this session, and both Jones and Prescott were deceived by the unfortunate claims of one Anna Rice Phillips. Fanaticism was inevitable, for the loud cry of the third angel’s message did not go forth after the 1893 session.
So enthusiastic was Prescott that he predicted that some would go forth now to raise the dead literally:
I want to tell you that there are persons right in this house that will go through these very experiences; they will be taken out of prison by the angel of the Lord to go and proclaim the message; they will heal the sick, and raise the dead, too. Now that will happen right in this message. … We must believe these things as simply as a little child believes them (ibid., p. 386).
Time and history have shown these predictions to be false, certainly so far as the church body was concerned. Was the assumption that they had now appropriated the latter rain of the Holy Spirit any more true?
Prescott was not too sure of his doctrine at that meeting, and made a series of strange but significant references to the possibility of becoming deceived by a false Christ:
Now, I say to those who have been in the ministry, and who have been teaching Christ to the people and tonight can’t tell the difference between the voice of Christ and the voice of the devil, it is time for us to stop and learn the voice of God. … But you still ask: “How will they know his voice?” I can’t tell you. …
We will just as surely, you and I, in spite of all the light we have had under this work, be led astray. The fact is, we will change leaders and not know it, unless we have the Spirit of God with us. … We will array ourselves against this work, against the power of God (ibid., p. 108).
He seemed to know no clear way of telling truth from error except by what he termed “the Spirit.” What he did not make plain was how to distinguish “the Spirit of truth” from “the spirit of error:”
The promise was that the spirit of truth would come,—the Spirit of truth,—THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. …
There will be every wind of doctrine blowing, every effort made to bring in-not in an open way, but in an underhanded way, in a way that we shall not recognize of our own wisdom—principles … to deceive if possible. … The effort will be made to bring it in as the truth, and to cloak it under the garment of truth … and bring us to compromise with error without our knowing it (ibid., pp. 459, 460, emphasis original).
Speaking once of those with “blind eyes among us,” he said: “Who knows whether that means me or not?” (p. 237). Finally he told the conference that the issue before them was either to be translated or to be deceived by the devices of Satan:
I cannot get away from the idea that now is a most critical time with us personally. … It seems to me that right now we are making choices that will determine whether we shall go on with this work through the loud cry and be translated, or whether we shall be deceived by the devices of Satan and be left out in darkness (ibid., p. 386).
They were not translated; we are sure of that. Were they then “deceived by the devices of Satan”?
The decade that followed this conference was a dark one. Fire destroyed the church headquarters in Battle Creek as a divine judgment. Pantheism ravaged prominent leaders. And nearly ten further decades have rolled by without our receiving the gracious blessing Heaven tried to give us in 1888.
The 1893 General Conference session marked the near end of the 1888 era. The Lord withdrew any more of the latter rain as well as the loud cry. The brethren of the time so recognized it, and history has proved it true. A false enthusiasm infatuated the close of the 1893 Conference. And Jones was misled.
One month after the close of the session (April 9) Ellen White wrote him from Australia, cautioning him against extreme statements regarding faith and works. They were not made during the session nor recorded in the Bulletin. She had not read them, but heard them “in my dream.” By exiling Ellen White and Waggoner, the opposition virtually assured the conclusive failure of the 1888 message, because the dragon’smethods proved too clever and determined for the isolated Jones to handle alone.7
He had done the best he could. Earnestly and in humility he had urged the brethren to accept the light, assured that God would grant the loud cry experience for His glory. But it was not to be, or rather it could not be, unless they found a genuine repentance for 1888, which they did not find.
We read that Caleb and Joshua were also over-enthusiastic about conquering the Canaanites, telling Israel, “The Lord is with us: fear them not,” after Israel’s rebellion made it impossible for the Lord to be with them in that program (Numbers 14:9).
Just before the 1893 session convened, Ellen White had cautioned the General Conference president concerning the Minneapolis issue:
If Satan can impress the mind and stir up the passions of those who claim to believe the truth, … to commit themselves to the wrong side, he has laid his plans to lead them on a long journey (Letter O19, 1892; emphasis added).
She later recognized that the “long journey” had begun because the purposes of God had to be altered:
We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel. … But if all now would only see and confess and repent of their own course of action in departing from the truth of God, and following human devisings, then the Lord would pardon (Ms. 184, 1901; Ev 696).
Those who confidently assume that the 1893 session marked the “greatest victory” of the message of Christ’srighteousness cannot account for the devious trail of those “many more years” which have now stretched out into a near century. It is a strange way for the loud cry to be proceeding, when it should have gone as fire in the stubble.
The leader of the 1893 confusion later followed a mysterious course. G. B. Starr wrote thus to A. G. Daniells:
You certainly know that Professor Prescott for some unaccountable reason has never been a safe leader. In England he was astray with Waggoner on many points, in the Annie Phillips false prophesying he showed lack of judgment … He wrote and taught pantheism before and quite as decidedly as Doctor Kellogg. These are not the footprints of a safe leader. He does not err so often and constantly (Letter, August 29, 1919).
In the 1950 General Conference session, the newly elected president employed the same doctrine that Prescott taught in 1893. He convinced the vast congregation at San Francisco that they could receive the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain by simply assuming and claiming that they had it. No repentance for rejecting the “beginning” of the latter rain was needed, no lessons from our history were to be learned, no understanding of that “most precious message” the Lord sent us was needed (cf. GCB 1950, RH July 17, 1950, pp. 113-117, sermon of Sabbath, July 15).
With very few exceptions, the entire congregation were as sheep blindly following a shepherd who reiterated the same doctrine that prevailed in 1893. Again, there was no reception of the latter rain. That was 37 years ago, as of this writing.
Most of the 1950 leaders have now gone to their rest, as was the case with our 1893 leaders. We are forced to inquire if 1950 marked significant progress over 1893. It would be charitable to note that very likely few if any of our 1950 leaders knew about what happened at the 1893 session. We have everything to fear for the future if we forget the way the Lord has led us in the past!
After the 1893 session, Ellen White was aroused as never before, saying, “We will change leaders and not know it.” Her burden seemed to be that the enemy would now work within the church. The new Canrights would henceforth do an “inside” job:
Fanaticism will appear in the very midst of us. Deceptions will come, and of such a character that if it were possible they would mislead the very elect. If marked inconsistencies and untruthful utterances were apparent in these manifestations, the words from the lips of the Great Teacher would not be needed. … The Holy Spirit of God alone can create a healthy enthusiasm (2 SM 16, 17; 1894).
The course of the 1893 session reveals the possibility of preaching about the Holy Spirit without understanding Him or recognizing Him, and even while resisting Him.
It would be well for us all to pray, “Lord, is it I?”
2 This is evidence that his theology regarding the relationship of faith and works was correct. He never uttered any idea denigrating works, so far as the printed record of his sermons is concerned. [return to text]
3 See Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, Vol. 9, pp. 169, 170; The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, copyright 1888 by Fleming H. Revell, pp. 80, 81, 87. Much of our current popular presentations of righteousness by faith derive from Smith’s concept and her book has been frequently recommended to our youth as helpful and sound. Widely published to this day, it is in effect a counterfeit of Steps to Christ., and of the 1888 message. [return to text]
4 See William Warren Prescott: Seventh-day Adventist Educator, doctoral dissertation by Gilbert Murray Valentine, Andrews University, 1982, pp. 81, 82, 143: “It seems his natural reaction to the theological discussions  was to try to maintain a neutral stance although he felt a strong pull to the side of Uriah Smith and G. I. Butler, to both of whom he felt a sense of loyalty and obligation. He was also rather disturbed by and prejudiced against Jones' provocative and somewhat uncouth style. . . .[and had been] a party to actions designed to prevent A. T. Jones from preaching at the Tabernacle altogether and to restrict his teaching at the college to that which had previously been taught by the denomination.” [return to text]
5 Note that Waggoner also from the beginning of his interest in righteousness by faith clearly understood the concept of corporate guilt and repentance. Cf. his letter to M. C. Wilcox, May 16, 1916, where he refers to his 1882 experience of insight. [return to text]