The Mystery of 1888 — Chapter 2

MAJOR OPINIONS ON WHAT “WE SEE”

Over a period of years several books and documents have been written, dealing wholly or partly with the 1888 era. The books published have been under the direction of denominational publishing houses. The documents have been prepared by ordained ministers of the church, or by committees authorized by the church. During this span of about fifty years, there has also been no small amount of “official” correspondence. It is in the study of all this material that the mystery of 1888 becomes so very evident.

Aside from all these publications, documents, and letters, there stands the record given to the church by the Lord’s messenger, Ellen G. White. Her testimony covers the entire episode and presumably for a Seventh-Day Adventist should be the “peerless witness” as long as time shall last. Here is an inspired record. In this there is no need “to puzzle over conflicting human opinions, with their biases, ofttimes faulty reasonings, and slanted conclusions.” In her record there is no mystery.

A chronological listing of the books and documents dealing with the 1888 era would include the following as being major compilations.

1926

Christ Our Righteousness, by Arthur G. Daniells. This book of 128 pages, (1941 edition) includes a sixteen page Appendix, all from the Spirit of Prophecy. It was prepared specifically by committee action as the first denominational study on the 1888 era by an author well qualified to know the history and at a time nearest the event concerned. It presents many Spirit of Prophecy quotations of great importance. The author in the Foreword assures the reader, “Those who have full confidence in the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy to the remnant church, will place great value upon the compilation of statements herein furnished. … In no other document have all of these been brought together in systematic and chronological form, as here presented.” This work has great value, Hereinafter referred to as, Daniells.

1945

Justification and Righteousness by Faith in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Before 1900,” by Norval Frederick Pease. This is an unpublished thesis prepared in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts. This academic treatise is the first study of 1888 following Daniells’ work. It does not come to the same conclusions and seems to establish a pattern for some of the subsequent publications. Hereinafter referred to as, Pease 1.

1947

The Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts, by Lewis Harrison Christian. This book of 446 pages has one chapter entitled, “The Minneapolis Conference and the Great Revival.” The twenty-six pages in this chapter are but a small part of the total work but very significant in content. Published twenty-one years after Daniells’ book, and fifty-nine years after the Conference, the work has some conclusions in sharp contrast to his book. Hereinafter referred to as, Christian.

1949

Captains of the Host, by Arthur Whitefield Spalding. This is a history of the Seventh-Day Adventists covering the years 1845-1900. Of the 704 pages in this volume, nineteen comprise chapter 36 entitled, “The Lord Our Saviour,” and of these, nine pages deal with the 1888 Minneapolis Conference. The author affirms he is “indebted” to Pease for several authorities “as well as for general inspiration.” Hereinafter referred to as, Spalding.

1950

1888 Re-Examined, by Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short. This is an unpublished manuscript of 204 pages originally on legal size sheets in mimeographed form. Subsequently, it was reproduced in various ways by private individuals on their own initiative, and has since had fairly wide distribution around the world. The original document was prepared without title page or listing of authors, date or any other relative data. It was prepared for denominational leadership and in due course considered to be “critical,” although many laity and some ministers considered it a call to repentance.

1953

Our Firm Foundation, A Report of the Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Conference held September 1-13, 1952. Volume II comprises 767 pages. In this volume there is a forty-three page presentation by W. H. Branson, entitled, “The Lord Our Righteousness.” There is a further three pages of “Closing Remarks.” Both of these sections have special relevance to this compilation. Hereinafter referred to as, Branson.

1958

Further Appraisal of the Manuscript “1888 Re-Examined.” This is a mimeographed report “prepared by a committee appointed by the Officers of the General Conference.” It was made available in September of 1958. This manuscript of 49 pages presents an opinion that was considered necessary for the Church to have due to the interest 1888 Re-Examined had created in the eight years following its appearance. The conclusions of this report are in decided opposition to the work it appraises. The members of the committee making the report have not been listed. Hereinafter referred to as, Appraisal.

1958

An Answer to “Further Appraisal of the Manuscript ‘1888 Re-Examined’,” by Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short. This mimeographed document of 70 pages was issued in October, just one month after the report by the committee appointed by the Officers. An answer is given to the charges of “numerous inaccuracies,” and the “heedless way” E. G. White statements are used. The concern of the authors is very evident in the document. Hereinafter referred to as, Answer.

1962

By Faith Alone, by Norval F. Pease. This book of 248 pages which is basically the author’s Master of Arts thesis written in 1945, was published to overcome certain interests in the field surrounding the 1888 era. The Foreword to the book written by the General Conference president at the time, declares “this book sets the record straight.” Hereinafter referred to as, Pease II.

1966

Through Crisis to Victory 1888-1901, by A. V. Olson. This book of 320 pages is a “historical review of a changing and perilous period in the development of a church movement.” Due to the author’s death in 1963, the book came from the press under the sponsorship of the Ellen G. White Estate Board. This important work is intended to combat “misleading conclusions” regarding 1888. The seventy-eight page Appendix contains much previously unpublished E. G. White material. Hereinafter referred to as, Olson.

1969

The Faith that Saves, by Norval F. Pease. This paperback book has 65 pages. The thesis is the same as the author’s two previous works. Hereinafter referred to as, Pease III.

1971

Movement of Destiny, by LeRoy Edwin Froom. This book of 700 pages came into being, according to the author, because A. G. Daniells in the year 1930 urged that it be written “with special emphasis upon the developments of ‘1888,’ and its sequel.” It was to be a “comprehensive portrayal — one that would honor God and exalt truth, that would enlighten and uplift the Church.” It was to be “complete and forthright, and documented,” a work that “would round out in historical sequence what he had begun in 1926 in the comparatively brief recital of his epochal Christ Our Righteousness.”

The author was “admonished … to be fair and faithful to fact, comprehensive and impartial in treatment, and to present the full picture in balance. … A true and trustworthy picture was imperative.” The author was subsequently urged by others to “above all … be faithful to fact and unswerving in fidelity to the full truth.”

He was charged “to get to the bottom of the facts, to reveal the resultant findings, and to be candid and undeviating … correcting misconceptions and false impressions.”

This work portrays beyond doubt that 1888 was a crisis point in the history of SDA’s. The implications of this treatise are such that it could well be carefully read and analyzed by all leaders, theologians, and historians of the Church. Hereinafter referred to as, Froom.

1972

An Explicit Confession … Due the Church,” by Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short. This document of 64 pages was prepared as a direct outgrowth of Froom’s work and as a result of his demand. (P. 358.) This work is an attempt to make clear that SDA history should be accepted exactly as portrayed in the writings of Ellen G. White, and that there is no need to perpetuate the condition that prevents “the finishing of His work in our own hearts.” Hereinafter referred to as, Confession.

These thirteen works present the two main SDA interpretations of the 1888 era. All of these have been prepared by ministers employed by the denomination. Each presentation professes to be true to the facts of history. Each quotes the Spirit of prophecy in one way or another, some much more than others. The end product of these thirteen works produces the “mystery” of 1888. How can ministers of a church, men supposedly of sound mind and normal understanding, produce two completely different concepts regarding the history of that church and the spiritual implications surrounding and growing out of that history? This is the kind of mystery that perhaps only has a significant parallel in the history of the Jews — why did they reject Christ their Messiah?

Although the compilations that have been made over a period of nearly 50 years comprise thirteen main works, the actual number of authors is ten, allowing for one author of Appraisal. Of these ten, only seven have actually prepared very much material, and when it is remembered that of these seven, two authors collaborated, the total number of contributions is reduced to six. To this must be added the Spirit of prophecy as an inspired source covering the entire record. This would tend to indicate that, although the compilations cover numerous facets, the basic issues are rather limited and the opposing concepts rather clear-cut.

A CIRCUITOUS RECORD

A broad study of these compilations brings a very interesting pattern to notice. Once a statement has been projected by one author, another author picks it up and soon a complete circle of authority is established. An example may be seen in the following chain of references.

Spalding states (P. 602) that he is indebted to Pease I “for reference to several authorities, as well as for general inspiration,” the thesis of Pease having been written in 1945, four years before Spalding’s work.

Subsequently, Pease II, published in 1962 (Pp. 208, 209), quotes Spalding when giving a personality sketch of Jones and Waggoner.

In due course Olson’s work appears (1966) and he quotes (P. 44) Spalding in a footnote giving further impressions of the personalities of Jones and Waggoner.

In Appendix B of Olson’s work (P. 303), another author, Arthur L. White, in portraying Jones and Waggoner, picks up the same passage used by Pease and Olson as found originally in Spalding.

At a still later date, 1969, Pease III (Pp. 34 - 41) refers back to Olson regarding the 1888 session in general and in particular to the outcome of the session (P. 41) as interpreted by Olson.

There is a further cross reference among these authors. Pease III in 1962 (P. 207) goes back to Christian who in 1947 wrote his comments following Pease I in 1945 and Daniells in 1926, and accepts the results of the conference as declared by Christian: “Though the Minneapolis conference was a stormy meeting, the fruitage was most encouraging. As already stated, it marked the beginning of a new era of spiritual awakening and growth.” (Christian, P. 237.)

There is yet another interrelated complex of references. The latest publication on this era by Froom quotes Pease, (Pp. 608 - 610) and refers to his thesis. Reference also is made to this study later published as a book (P. 760). In a similar way Froom cites and quotes Spalding (Pp. 239, 260, 605), and refers to Captains of the Host and Origin and History of Seventh-Day Adventists although these two books are the same works in different format. Likewise Froom refers to Olson (Pp. 76, 610 - 612), and vouches for his “accurate and dependable portrayal of that special period.” Froom also refers to Branson (P. 607) and his topic “The Lord Our Righteousness” as mentioned above in Our Firm Foundation, as well as Christian (Pp. 239, 684) and his testimony.

In a nutshell — Spalding refers to Pease, and Pease quotes Spalding; Olson quotes Spalding and Arthur L. White quotes Spalding; Pease quotes Olson and Froom quotes and/or refers to the whole group, Pease, Spalding, Olson as well as Christian and Branson.

This kind of circuitous research leaves something to be desired. Because one author makes a statement and others pick it up and repeat it — can it be assumed that it becomes accurate and authoritative? Can this sort of cross pollination really change the original stock or in the context of this study add any support to what the Lord actually has said about this era through His messenger? Does a majority, as such, really establish right and substantiate truth? Sacred history denies such a premise.


Table of Contents of The Mystery of 1888  |  Chapter 1  |  Chapter 3
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