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

This message revolutionized the doctrine of righteousness by faith as it was being preached within the Seventh-day Adventist church. Sister White saw it correcting errors that had side-tracked the church's mission and give it new life and power.

The ceremonial law, instead of being seen as an imperfect means of salvation as well as a "wall of separation" between the Jews and the Gentiles,90 served as superadditions to the everlasting covenant, giving a visible and public way of confessing faith and teaching how God dealt with sin. Only believers could expect forgiveness, for the ceremonies did nothing to clear sin and guilt. The second major area that the message transformed was that of making a man righteous, that is, obedient to the law of God. The statement, "to make righteous," has caused problems for some but it must be understood that Waggoner did not believe in the Catholic idea of infused righteousness.91 He simply believed that God could and would make man, through faith, a keeper of the law which would place him in harmony with heavenly principles. The method, by which man was to receive this transformation, was based upon the experience of Christ here on earth.

Waggoner had stated as early as 1887, that he believed that Christ had taken the fallen sinful nature of man after the fall.92 Thus he held that Christ was man's substitute and man's exemplar. As man's substitute, he satisfied the penalty of sin for all men. As man's exemplar, he took our nature and without yielding to sin in any way to give man evidence that true faith produces perfect obedience and overcomes the power of the devil in our personal lives. His faith is to be our faith, His confidence in the Father's power to deliver is the same we are to have. And by possessing this faith, this great appreciation of God's ability to do what He promises, sinful man can overcome sin.

From the idea of Christ's example of faith, Waggoner developed the concept of sinless living based upon the doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. Many have been confused with this concept, because it seems difficult to believe such a doctrine without falling into legalism. Again one must understand what faith is and how it is related to the everlasting covenant. A. T. Jones best stated what the two of them meant;

And in this word "faith" I mean not a mere theoretical notion, but "faith" in its only true meaning of the will submitted to Him, the heart yielded to Him, and the affections fixed upon Him …

And "Obey"?—Of course they (the angels) obey. But the obedience is not an outward compliance, or of law; but the free-flowing service of love, which is the only true obedience in heaven or earth. And in this obedience, of course, they live; for it is the very expression of the life and righteousness of God which is the faith of Jesus Christ through the grace of God.93

(quoting Ellen White from Mount of Blessing, p. 161) "But in Heaven service is not rendered in the spirit of legality. When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry, the angels are not as servants, but as sons. There is perfect unity between them and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God make their service a joy. …

Again note the sentence that "in heaven service is not rendered in the spirit of legality." A holy angel, of his own choice, rendering service by the law would be "legality." But for angels to be constrained by bargain and "compact," upon "condition," and proviso, to render service by the law and in order to get life or to have life—that would change it from "ity" to "ism" to and make it only legalism. And for sinful man to render service by the law is also only legalism.94

Waggoner and Jones were convinced that the new or everlasting covenant was based upon a heart relationship that resulted in obedience to all of God's commandments. This went for angels in heaven and it was the case for all men. When Christ became a man, He too served God according to the everlasting covenant and not out of a sense of legality. And the fact that He truly took our fallen sinful nature, without yielding to sin, gives every sinner the same method of overcoming sin, namely, true faith. Understanding these men's definition of faith clearly shows they were not espousing a perfectionism which would be a life of ever striving to reach a standard by one's self by performing perfectly. They sought to establish righteousness by faith upon the principle that one was converted from sinful ways by believing and appreciating God's power to keep His promises of salvation. There are several articles that have been compiled in a book, Lessons on Faith, in which both men explain this concept repeatedly.95

Waggoner's Later Presentations
of the Everlasting Covenant

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Waggoner's View of the Covenants