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The Doctrine of the Everlasting Covenant in the
Writings of Ellet J. Waggoner

Waggoner's Understanding of the Doctrine of the Covenants

For Butler, Smith, Dan Jones, and later, R. A. Underwood, the main conflict with Waggoner and A.T. Jones over the covenant question was the statement, "that the old covenant consisted mainly in the promises of the people."79 They believed that God had purposed to give the old covenant as a hedge to separate Israel from the heathen nations and for doing this they would be rewarded with wealth, prosperity, and honor.80 These men believed that the people had made a mistake when they thought they could obey the law of God in their own power, not that the whole covenant was wrong as did Waggoner and Jones. The key to the differences between the two sides is how God determined to make the people special. For Butler and his supporters it was by an act of a contract where God promised blessings if the people would keep His statutes.80

Waggoner did believe that the old covenant was a covenant that the people arranged due to the response they gave to God, "Whatever God says we will do." He saw that the people had tried to establish their own righteousness not only in the sense that Butler's group understood it. The people were in error in more of a basic nature, namely, they truly did not comprehend the type and quality of covenant relationship God wished to have with them. Waggoner put it this way;

God said, 'If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, (my commandments) then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.' God did not say that he would make them such, but that they would be such a people if they obeyed his commandments. It could not be otherwise. The keeping of God's law would constitute them a holy people; and as such they would indeed be a peculiar treasure, even as are all who are zealous of good works. All that was set before them was simply what would result from obedience to the law, and that covenant contained no promise of help in doing that. Therefore the first covenant was a promise on the part of the people that they would make themselves holy. But this they could not do. The promise was a good one; with it alone there could be no fault; the fault lay with the people. The promise was faulty, through the weakness of the people who made it; just as we read in Rom. 8:3, that the law was weak through the flesh.81

The contrast between Waggoner and the other group is now quite clear. The brethren were convinced that God had deliberately decided to make Israel a special people for a given time with special blessings that would elevate them above all nations. God was offering a contract; God would bless if the people would obey. God needed to keep the lineage of the Seed (Christ) pure until He came and was able to bring in a more effectual system of salvation than the figurative system of the ceremonies and rituals in the Old Testament times. At that time God could bring full salvation to all. Waggoner understood the event at Mt. Sinai as being an opportunity for the people to become the children of God through adoption by the transformation of their hearts, yielding their allegiance to Him instead of another lord.

Ellen White supported Waggoner and his view

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Waggoner's View of the Covenants