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Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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    The Messenger Party

    The Messenger party was born in the weeks following the visit of James and Ellen White to the Jackson, Michigan, church in June, 1853. Case and Russell, having been reproved for their unreasonable course of action, began to sow seeds of distrust and criticism. They were soon joined by other critical believers. In time they started their paper, the Messenger of Truth, which they hoped would rival the Review and Herald. The first issue came out in the fall of 1854.1BIO 306.3

    The chief burden was criticism and condemnation of the Review and its publishers. Case accused James White of speculation; he declared that White, on his trip to Wisconsin, sold Bibles for a sum greater than he had paid for them in New York. When White pointed out that the sale price in Wisconsin was below cost, Case admitted there was no ground for censure, but shortly thereafter he was repeating the charge. Another pretext was found in the fact that money was sent to James White for the advance of the cause, at a time when he alone was responsible for the finances of the Review office. Further, he kept an eye on the needs of both poorly supported ministers and the widows and orphans. Handling money in these interests gave rise to the accusation that James and Ellen White were getting rich. These charges were followed by an ever-growing roster of falsehoods and accusations.1BIO 306.4

    The Messenger of Truth was sent to the readers of the Review, some of whom accepted its “disclosures” as gospel truth. The leaders of the emerging church were at a loss to know what course to take. As new accusations followed one on another, James White and loyal ministers endeavored to get the truth before the perplexed members. J. N. Loughborough, now one of the dedicated evangelists and closely associated with the Whites, wrote of the matter:1BIO 306.5

    The mission of this sheet and its conductors seemed to be to tear down and defame instead of to build up. Many falsehoods were inserted in its pages, which annoyed us in our work in the message; and as it was our first experience with such an open attack, we thought it our duty to refute their slanderous statements. Doing this occupied time that should have been spent in advancing the truth committed to our trust, and suited well the purposes of Satan, who was undoubtedly the instigator of this opposition.—GSAM, p. 325.1BIO 307.1

    In an editorial in the Review of September 5, 1854, which he titled “Our Position: Its Trials and Duties Considered,” White pointed out that those who honor God's Sabbath may expect severe trials and declared:1BIO 307.2

    It has ever been God's plan to try and prove His people; but the Scriptures warrant us to expect that the “remnant” who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” in the midst of the perils of the last days, will be called to pass through peculiarly trying scenes. The dragon, the devil, is wroth, and even now is making war with the remnant. Revelation 12:17.—The Review and Herald, September 5, 1854.1BIO 307.3

    There was little opposition and trial from the unbelieving, unchristian world. From the sectarian churches often there was bitterness and opposition. Even more bitter opposition, he wrote, came from former brethren in the Advent faith—“first-day Adventists.” He then pointed out the trials most difficult to bear:1BIO 307.4

    But those trials which arise among ourselves are the most severe. It is unfortunate for the cause that some men of little or no moral worth profess the truth, who appear to run well for a while, till those not the most discerning have them in great estimation, and they obtain some influence; then the dragon uses them as his chosen instruments to divide and distract the flock.—Ibid.1BIO 307.5

    White added:1BIO 308.1

    It is not our duty to leave the work of God to contend with unreasonable men. This Satan designs that we shall do, but God has something better for us to attend to. It is our duty to point out and warn the flock to beware of the influence of those who cause divisions, then leave the matter in the hands of God.—Ibid.

    Good in theory, but this was hard to do. The letters from the field and occasional notes in the Review yield glimpses of the matter.1BIO 308.2

    In the December 26, 1854, issue, White presented an editorial in which he spoke of the prosperity of the cause and the union that existed. He then made reference to the Messenger party:1BIO 308.3

    The late scourge to which some refer in this number will prove one of the greatest blessings to the cause. It will put the people of God on their guard in their future course, and free them of some who have been a burden to the cause, and whom they could not reform. In speaking of such, brethren should seek to “speak the truth in love.” ... The Review must be devoted to the truth and, breathe its sweet spirit.—Ibid., December 26, 18541BIO 308.4

    Late in January or during February, James White got out an Extra of the Review devoted to the offshoot group. Little is said of it in the regular issues, but on March 20, 1855, he made reference to and quoted a few sentences of commendation for it written by J. M. Stephenson—note carefully the name—writing from Aztalan, Wisconsin, on March 1. Stephenson was a first-day Adventist minister who had recently accepted the third angel's message under the ministry of J. H. Waggoner. His testimony was very positive:1BIO 308.5

    Yesterday afternoon I saw for the first time the Review and Herald Extra, also Nos. 22 and 23 of the Review. With the Extra I am well pleased. It cannot fail of doing much good in Wisconsin.... My sympathies are all with the Review. It is that paper or none for me. I cannot affiliate the spirit or doctrines of the Messenger of Error. They are rushing headlong, and I fear heedlessly, into the most egregious errors in doctrine, exposition of prophecy, et cetera. I believe the Review has the truth in the main.—Ibid., March 20, 18551BIO 308.6

    Just at this time White was planning to publish another issue of the Extra (Ibid.).1BIO 309.1

    On Sabbath and Sunday, June 16 and 17, a tent meeting was held at Oswego. James and Ellen White were present and remained in the vicinity during the week following. On Wednesday, June 20, they attended a prayer meeting at the home of John Place. Loughborough, who was present, writes of it:1BIO 309.2

    Mrs. White was given a vision in which she was shown that if we would keep at our work, preaching the truth, regardless of any such as the “Messenger party,” they would go to war among themselves and their paper would go down, and when that should happen we would find that our ranks had doubled. Believing this testimony to be from the Lord, we began at once to act in harmony with it.—GSAM, pp. 325, 326.1BIO 309.3

    Soon after the vision Ellen White wrote of it:1BIO 309.4

    When at Oswego, New York, June, 1855, I was shown that God's people have been weighed down with clogs; that there have been Achans in the camp. The work of God has progressed but little, and many of His servants have been discouraged.... The Messenger party has arisen, and we shall suffer some from their lying tongues and misrepresentations, yet we should bear it all patiently; for they will not injure the cause of God, now they have left us, as much as they would have injured it by their influence had they remained with us.

    God's frown has been brought upon the church on account of individuals with corrupt hearts being in it. They have wanted to be foremost, when neither God nor their brethren placed them there. Selfishness and exaltation have marked their course. A place is now open for all such where they can go and find pasture with those of their kind. And we should praise God that in mercy He has rid the church of them.... An excitement and sympathy now leads them, which will deceive some; but every honest one will be enlightened as to the true state of this company, and will remain with God's peculiar people, hold fast the truth, and follow in the humble path, unaffected by the influence of those who have been given up of God to their own ways, to be filled with their own doings.—Testimonies for the Church, 1:122.1BIO 309.5

    She outlined the course of action the church should take:1BIO 310.1

    I saw that the people of God must arouse and put on the armor. Christ is coming, and the great work of the last message of mercy is of too much importance for us to leave it and come down to answer such falsehoods, misrepresentations, and slanders as the Messenger party have fed upon and have scattered abroad.

    Truth, present truth, we must dwell upon it. We are doing a great work, and cannot come down. Satan is in all this, to divert our minds from the present truth and the coming of Christ. Said the angel: “Jesus knows it all.” In a little from this their day is coming. All will be judged according to the deeds done in the body. The lying tongue will be stopped. The sinners in Zion will be afraid, and fearfulness will surprise the hypocrites.—Ibid., 1:123.1BIO 310.2

    After the vision the workers thanked God for guidance; from then on they virtually ignored the Messenger party.1BIO 310.3

    Five months later, at a general conference in Battle Creek, they went on record as revealed in the minutes:1BIO 310.4

    Whereas, Inquiries have been made as to what course we designed to pursue in the future, in reference to the misstatements of the enemies of present truth, therefore, for the information and satisfaction of the brethren abroad.1BIO 310.5

    Resolved, That we henceforth devote ourselves exclusively to the advocacy and defense of the present truth, committing ourselves in all things to Him who judgeth righteously, after the example of our Pattern, in affliction and in patience.—The Review and Herald, December 4, 1855.1BIO 310.6

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