Minneapolis Conference and Its Aftermath
the great reformation carried on by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and
others in the sixteenth century actually had its beginning several
centuries earlier (The Great Controversy, p. 78), so the
prophesied Reform Movement among Seventh Day Adventists, in existence
today, had its embryonic beginning in 1888, when the Lord sent
a special message to His people.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 17 through November 4, 1888,
Seventh-day Adventists held a memorable and controversial General
Conference session. Ninety delegates (85 were present when the
session was opened and 5 more were seated on October 26) representing
a world membership of 26,968, gathered in one of the largest chapels
owned by Seventh-day Adventists at that timethe church building
located on the corner of Lake Street and Fourth Avenue South.
The important event which took place at that conference was the
presentation of a vital subjectthe message of Righteousness
by Faithby two young ministers, E. J. Waggoner, and A. T.
Jones, editors of The Signs of the Times.
plain terms, the Spirit of Prophecy placed its seal of approval
upon that message. Sister White wrote about it thus:
Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people
through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more
prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice
for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through
faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness
of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments
of God." Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.
message given us by A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner is the message
of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes
to believe the truth, and yet does not reflect to others the God-given
rays." Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 92.
Caused the Message to Come
the date for the General Conference session that was to meet in
Minneapolis (1888) was drawing nigh, God sent to the Adventist
leadership and people specific testimonies showing the spiritual
condition that had developed in the church and that made the coming
of the message an urgent necessity. Sister White wrote:
is our condition in this fearful and solemn time? Alas, what pride
is prevailing in the church, what hypocrisy, what deception, what
love of dress, frivolity, and amusement, what desire for the supremacy!
All these sins have clouded the mind, so that eternal things have
not been discerned." The Review and Herald,
March 22, 1887.
death has come upon the people that should be manifesting life
and zeal, purity and consecration, by the most earnest devotion
to the cause of truth. The facts concerning the real condition
of the professed people of God, speak more loudly than their profession,
and make it evident that some power has cut the cable that anchored
them to the Eternal Rock, and that they are drifting away to sea,
without chart or compass." Ibid., July 24, 1888.
Purpose of the Message
message of Christs righteousness (which includes Isa. 58:1
and Rev. 3:18, 19) was entrusted to the angel of Revelation 18
for the purpose of accomplishing a work of revival and reformation
under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. That this message was
to remedy the backslidden state of the church and prepare a people
for the coming of the Lord can be seen from several testimonies:
it has been Satans determined purpose to eclipse the view
of Jesus, and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be
educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been
looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to
Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore
God gave to His servants a testimony that presented the truth
as it is in Jesus, which is the third angels message, in
clear, distinct lines." Testimonies to Ministers,
third angels message must go over the land and awaken the
people, and call their attention to the commandments of God and
the faith of Jesus. Another angel unites his voice with the third
angel, and the earth is lighted with its glory. . . . What are
you doing to prepare for this work? . . . You must remember that
this angel represents the people that have this message to give
to the world. Are you among that people?" The Review
and Herald, August 18, 1885.
has raised up men to meet the necessity of this time who will
cry aloud and spare not, who will lift up their voice like a trumpet,
and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob
their sins. Their work is not only to proclaim the law, but to
preach the truth for this timethe Lord our righteousness."
Ibid., August 13, 1889.
have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification
by faith is the third angels message, and I have answered,
It is the third angels message in verity. The
prophet declares, And after these things I saw another angel
come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened
with his glory. Brightness, glory, and power are to be connected
with the third angels message, and conviction will follow
wherever it is preached in demonstration of the Spirit. How will
any of our brethren know when this light shall come to the people
of God? As yet, we certainly have not seen the light that answers
to this description. God has light for His people, and all who
will accept it will see the sinfulness of remaining in a lukewarm
condition; they will heed the counsel of the True Witness."
Ibid., April 1, 1890.
question of most vital importance for this time is, Who
is on the Lords side? Who will unite with the angel [of
Revelation 18:1] in giving the message of truth to the world?
Who will receive the light that is to fill the whole earth with
its glory? Those who cherish the light that they have will
receive more. Increasing light will shine about the souls who
yield to the softening, subduing grace of Christ; and those who
love the light, will be saved from the delusions of Satan."
Ibid., November 5, 1889.
we would receive the light of the glorious angel that shall lighten
the earth with his glory, let us see to it that our hearts are
cleansed, emptied of self, and turned toward heaven, that they
may be ready for the latter rain. Let us be obtaining a fitting
up to join in the proclamation of the angel who shall lighten
the earth with his glory." The Signs of the Times,
August 1, 1892.
Babylon has not been sparing in the blood of the saints and shall
we [not] be wide awake to catch the beams of light which have
been shining from the light of the angel who is to brighten the
earth with his glory." Selected Messages, bk.
3, p. 426.
the Message Was Received
cannot be said that the General Conference delegation and the
majority of the Adventist membership in 1888 accepted the message
of Righteousness by Faith. Among the leaders and the people there
were serious differences of opinion. Arthur G. Daniells, in his
book Christ Our Righteousness, p. 43, states that a complete
report of the presentation and discussion of the message was never
published. From subsequent writings of Sister White, however,
we know that the message had a very limited reception. Therefore,
the work of revival and reformation, that was called for to uproot
the growing weeds of apostasy and restore the church to the favor
of God, did not take place. And, as a consequence, a large proportion
of leaders and members were left to walk in the sparks of their
own kindling. Sister White, who supported the message and the
messengers, refers to that regrettable experience and its consequences
meant that the watchmen should arise and with united voices send
forth a decided message, giving the trumpet a certain sound, that
the people might all spring to their post of duty and act their
part in the great work. Then the strong, clear light of that other
angel who comes down from heaven having great power, would have
filled the earth with his glory." Manuscript Releases,
vol. 14, p. 111.
I purposed to leave Minneapolis, the angel of the Lord stood by
me and said: Not so; God has a work for you to do in this
place. The people are acting over the rebellion of Korah, Dathan,
and Abiram. I have placed you in your proper position, which those
who are not in the light will not acknowledge; they will not heed
your testimony; but I will be with you; My grace and power shall
sustain you. It is not you they are despising, but the messengers
and the message I sent to My people. They have shown contempt
for the word of the Lord. Satan has blinded their eyes and perverted
their judgment; and unless every soul shall repent of this their
sin, this unsanctified independence that is doing insult to the
Spirit of God, they will walk in darkness. I will remove the candlestick
out of his place except they repent and be converted, that I should
heal them." Ibid., vol. 3, p. 191.
for a religious awakening! The angels of God are going from church
to church, doing their duty; and Christ is knocking at the door
of your hearts for entrance. But the means that God has devised
to awaken the church to a sense of their spiritual destitution
have not been regarded. The voice of the True Witness has been
heard in reproof, but has not been obeyed. Men have chosen to
follow their own way instead of Gods way because self was
not crucified in them. Thus the light has had but little effect
upon minds and hearts."Testimonies, vol. 5,
pp. 719, 720.
nearly two years we have been urging the people to come up and
accept the light and the truth concerning the righteousness of
Christ, and they do not know whether to come and take hold of
this precious truth or not. They are bound about with their own
ideas. They do not let the Saviour in." The Review
and Herald, March 11, 1890.
the time of the Minneapolis meeting, I have seen the state of
the Laodicean church as never before. I have heard the rebuke
of God spoken to those who feel so well satisfied, who know not
their spiritual destitution. . . . I feel sad when I think how
for long years there has been a gradual lowering of the standard.
I have been shown that very few realize the constant presence
of the Divine Watcher who declares, I know thy works.
Through the indulgence of sin, many have forfeited the favor of
God, misrepresented Jesus, forgotten His presence, forgotten that
they are living in His sight, and so have added evil to evil.
All such are foolish virgins. . . . The reasons why the churches
are weak and sickly and ready to die is that the enemy has brought
influences of a discouraging nature to bear upon trembling souls.
He has sought to shut Jesus from their view as the Comforter,
as one who reproves, who warns, who admonishes them, saying, This
is the way, walk ye in it." Ibid., August 26,
influence that grew out of the resistance of light and truth at
Minneapolis tended to make of no effect the light God has given
to His people through the Testimonies." Manuscript
Releases, vol. 15, p. 305.
of leading the world to render obedience to Gods law, the
church is uniting more and more closely with the world in transgression.
Daily the church is becoming converted to the world."Testimonies,
vol. 8, p. 119 (1903).
the church, that was "steadily retreating toward Egypt"
(Ibid., vol. 5, p. 217), had actually accepted the message "Christ
Our Righteousness," she would have made a U-turn in her itinerary,
and would now be moving in the opposite directionwith Christ
to the heavenly Canaan. And she would not have been accused, in
1903, of having become a harlot (Ibid., vol. 8, p. 250), nor would
she become "a cage of every unclean and hateful bird"
(Testimonies to Ministers, p. 265) as a result of her progressive
unity with the world. In 1903 the Spirit of Prophecy made this
startling declaration about the condition that had developed in
is there so dim a perception of the true spiritual condition of
the church? . . . Who can truthfully say, Our gold is tried
in the fire; our garments are unspotted by the world? I
saw our Instructor pointing to the garments of so-called righteousness.
Stripping them off, He laid bare the defilement beneath. Then
He said to me: Can you not see how they have pretentiously
covered up their defilement and rottenness of character? "How
is the faithful city become an harlot!" My Fathers
house is made a house of merchandise, a place whence the divine
presence and glory have departed! For this cause there is weakness,
and strength is lacking. " Testimonies,
vol. 8, pp. 248, 250.
and Waggoner Leave the Church
after 1903 A. T. Jones was taken in the delusions of Dr. J. H.
Kellogg and was finally separated from the church. In 1909 a special
effort was made to restore him. Several meetings were held with
him. He seemed to be moved and prepared for a reconciliation.
When Elder Daniells, the General Conference president, extended
his hand to him, pleading, "Come, Brother Jones, come,"
he stood up, slowly reached out his hand too, but suddenly pulled
it back and said, "No, never," and sat down again.
J. Waggoner also had a negative experience when domestic problems
led him to resort to divorce, and then he remarried. He nevertheless
advocated the fundamental SDA beliefs to the day of his death.
was not the first or the last time that those especially chosen
by the Lord apostatized after having faithfully given the message.
The Spirit of Prophecy, however, warns us that this unfortunate
backsliding should not be used as an argument against the light
of Heaven that came through them to the people of God. Messengers
may draw back, but this will not turn the truth that they have
preached into a lie. We have been warned:
is quite possible that Elder Jones or Elder Waggoner may be overthrown
by the temptations of the enemy; but if they should be, this would
not prove that they had had no message from God, or that the work
that they had done was all a mistake. But should this happen,
how many would take this position, and enter into a fatal delusion
because they are not under the control of the Spirit of God. .
. . I know that this is the very position many would take if either
of these men were to fall, and I pray that these men upon whom
God has laid the burden of a solemn work, may be able to give
the trumpet a certain sound, and honor God at every step, and
that their path at every step may grow brighter and brighter until
the close of time."Manuscript Releases, vol.
3, pp. 201, 202.
message brought by these two brethren set up an important landmark
in the history of the SDA Church. "It marked the beginning
of a great reform."Department of Education, General
Conference of SDAs, The Story of Our Church, p. 246.
Fatal Choice and Its Consequence
had placed two possibilities before the Adventist Churcheither
to accept the message of "Christs Righteousness,"
and be transformed, and finally become the triumphant church,
or to reject the message, and consequently become like one of
the popular churches.
If the church accepted the message of 1888 which demanded a revival
and reformation . . .
the church will put on the robe of Christs righteousness,
withdrawing from all allegiance with the world, there is before
her the dawn of a bright and glorious day. Gods promise
to her will stand fast forever."The Acts of the
Apostles, p. 601.
If the church acted contrary to the light of heaven and allowed
the apostasy to grow and take over . . .
most earnest vigilance is not manifested at the great heart of
the work to protect the interests of the cause, the church will
become as corrupt as the churches of other denominations."
Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 513.
repeated denouncements which came through the ministry of Sister
White, accompanied by factual evidence marking the downward trend
of the church after 1888 (especially the great changes witnessed
since World War I), show which of the two alternative routes was
taken by the denomination. And the final consequences of this
fatal choice have been clearly pointed out in the prophetic picture
referring to the end of probation. All those who do not heed the
counsel of the True Witness and refuse to wear the white raiment
of Christs righteousness (Rev. 3:18) must be left without
the seal of God and without protection against the seven last
plagues. Unfortunately, since very few have accepted the remedy
offered in 1888, the great majority will suffer a denominational
disappointment. This can be read in Ezekiel 9, which is explained
by Sister White as follows:
who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power
of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen,
are those that sigh and that cry for all the abominations
that be done in the church. Their love for purity and the
honor and glory of God is such, and they have so clear a view
of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they are represented
as being in agony, even sighing and crying. Read the ninth chapter
the general slaughter of all those who do not thus see the wide
contrast between sin and righteousness, and do not feel as those
do who stand in the counsel of God and receive the mark, is described
in the order to the five men with slaughter weapons."Ibid.,
vol. 3, p. 267.
we see that the churchthe Lords sanctuarywas
the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God. The ancient
men, those to whom God had given great light and who had stood
as guardians of the spiritual interests of the people, had betrayed
their trust."Ibid., vol. 5, p. 211.
Were Some Revivals
the Minneapolis General Conference session of 1888, Sister White
traveled with A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner from place to place,
taking part in the presentation of the message, which was attended
by the power of God. She reported:
every meeting since the General Conference, souls have eagerly
accepted the precious message of the righteousness of Christ.
We thank God that there are souls who realize that they are in
need of something which they do not possessgold of faith
and love, white raiment of Christs righteousness, eyesalve
of spiritual discernment." The Review and Herald,
July 23, 1889.
have seen souls turned from sin to righteousness. We have seen
faith revived in the hearts of the contrite ones." Ibid.,
May 27, 1890.
informative is the description of the revival meeting held in
South Lancaster, Massachusetts, shortly after the Minneapolis
conference. That memorable gathering is an example showing how
the Lord wrought through the message for the conversion of souls.
Sister White reported:
have never seen a revival work go forward with such thoroughness,
and yet remain so free from all undue excitement. There was no
urging or inviting. The people were not called forward, but there
was a solemn realization that Christ came not to call the righteous,
but sinners, to repentance. The honest in heart were ready to
confess their sins, and to bring forth fruit to God by repentance
and restoration, as far as it lay in their power. . . . There
were many who testified that as the searching truths had been
presented, they had been convicted in the light of the law as
transgressors. They had been trusting in their own righteousness.
Now they saw it as filthy rags, in comparison with the righteousness
of Christ, which is alone acceptable to God. While they had not
been open transgressors, they saw themselves depraved and degraded
in heart. They had substituted other gods in the place of their
heavenly Father. They had struggled to refrain from sin, but had
trusted in their own strength. We should go to Jesus just as we
are, confess our sins, and cast our helpless souls upon our compassionate
Redeemer. This subdues the pride of the heart, and is a crucifixion
of self." Ibid., March 5, 1889.
individual or local revivals, however, did not benefit the Adventist
leadership and people in general. The church as a church continued
sliding deeper and deeper into apostasy. This is clearly revealed
in the writings of E. G. White, who testified at the turn of the
every hand we see those who have had much light and knowledge
deliberately choosing evil in the place of good. Making no attempt
to reform, they are growing worse and worse." Testimonies,
vol. 7, p. 62.