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

Waggoner's Later Presentations of the Everlasting Covenant

Waggoner continued to teach and publish his core views of the covenants up until the turn of the century. He was, however, to become involved with certain ideas that tainted the thrust of his earlier presentations. He began to teach what he called, "spiritual infinities," which proposed that one's spouse here on earth might not be one's partner in heaven; thus it was proper to form a "spiritual" union with someone now in preparation for heaven.96 By 1897 he was also teaching what would be called a subtle form of pantheism. This latter teaching was included in his final two books, Glad Tidings, a study of the whole book of Galatians, and The Everlasting Covenant, both published in 1900.

Glad Tidings97 reiterated the basic themes Waggoner had championed in his reply to Butler in 1887. Most everything remained the same, such as the identity of the "schoolmaster", the proper place of the ceremonial law, the covenants, and the identification of "the elements of bondage." A quick perusal of chapters three and four would convince the reader that Waggoner had not changed his views. There are places, however, where he interjects pantheistic sentiments in the form of applications to one's personal spiritual life. This is best illustrated by McMahon's comparison between the 1900 edition and the 1972 edited reprint.98

The same evaluation of Glad Tidings can also be applied to The Everlasting Covenant. The views to which Waggoner first presented in the Sabbath School lessons of 1890 are still prominent in this final book. He still taught that the problem at Sinai was primarily with the promises of the people.99 The Abrahamic covenant was identical to the everlasting covenant.100 The purpose of God for Israel was for them to be His people by accepting Him as their God and allow Him to make them obedient to His law which would make them a special nation on earth.101 These are just a few examples of the continuity of Waggoner's message up until 1900.

There is also a large section in The Everlasting Covenant which distorts the original message, due to pantheistic leanings. This section, chapters twenty to twenty-three, speaks of Christ becoming a part of man through the intake of physical food. This idea was to affect Waggoner's view of the incarnation, for he would apply it to John 1:14, "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." He reached this view by removing the distinction between figurative speech and literal speech. Here is one example. Waggoner answers the question, "But how can we eat His flesh and drink His blood?" Then he states the truth that Christ's words are spirit and life. Then he follows with this explanation,

The life that we get from bread is the life of Christ, the Word of God, since everything that grows comes from the Word By ordaining that men shall live by eating, and making them absolutely dependent on their daily bread for life, God has preached the Gospel to every creature, and put before them and into their hands, yes, into their bodies, the way of salvation and life.102

Waggoner goes even farther by applying this to the Lord's Supper, almost implying a form of transubstantiation.

So the bread of the Lord's Supper, although it was the ordinary bread that was being eaten in every Jewish family at that time, was nothing else than the body of Christ. The words of Jesus are absolute and unequivocal, and admit to no interpretation. They state a simple fact: "This is My body."103

The thrust is clear that Waggoner has used some fanciful logic. By minimizing the distinction between figurative speech and literal speech, he confuses the understanding of God's person with nature. This confusion tainted Waggoner's earlier understanding of faith. Instead of it being a heart appreciation of a God transcendent and above man, it becomes an acceptance that God is in man by means of physical things like food, water, and air.

There is much to be said for the simile of eating food and accepting Christ personally as one's Saviour,104 But Waggoner's application is by far incorrect. One wishes that he could have heeded his own words in 1890;

How the power of God can work in a man, accomplishing that which he could not possibly do for himself, no one can tell. It would be as easy to tell how God can give life to the dead. (John 3:8 quoted). How the Spirit works in a man to subdue his passions, and to make him victorious over pride, envy, and selfishness, is known only to the Spirit; it is sufficient for us to know that it is done, and will be done in everyone who wants that work wrought in him, above all and who trusts God for the performance of it.105

Waggoner's basic presentation of the covenants, from 1887 to 1900, was consistent in respect to most of his views. The major departure from that message is found in the interjection of pantheism which, in essence, nullified his strong emphasis of his earlier days of the nature of faith. Ellen White did support Waggoner's earlier message both in her writings and in her actions by rebuking the opposition. She by no means endorsed his pantheism and was moved to write him accordingly.106 Thus, when one reads Waggoner's latter works, he should be careful to distinguish between the underlying consistent presentation and the added foreign interpretations.

An Evaluation of Waggoner's Covenant Concept

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Waggoner's View of the Covenants