The Gospel Herald -- Promoting the fundamentals of the 1888 message.


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

As for Waggoner's presentation itself, the evidence shows that he incorporated concepts of both the Reformed and old Anabaptist views of the covenants and justification by faith. He accepted the Reformed ideas of the sovereignty of God without the predestinarian slant, the covenant concept as a "basic motif", and that all of a person's life is to be consecrated to God in willing service. He accepted the voluntary membership from the Anabaptists as well as the emphasis upon the practical, but he also interjected ideas that make his presentation unique. First and foremost, he saw that the nature of faith was active, and such a heart response from man was different from the legal justification that Christ gives to all men. The change of affections of the heart constituted conversion which opened the way to grasp the promises of God to deliver man from sin and self. The second element that makes his presentation unique is found in his application of the distinct Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This revealed God's covenantal promises, His methods, His goals, everything that pertained to the covenant relationship. The law of God was reinstated as the rule of life, not just morality. The perfecting of a character countered effectively the popular push to make others or one's self righteous because the goal was not just to change actions, it was also to change the heart. Waggoner seems to have steered clear of the weaknesses in those views that were prevalent at his time and yet restored the good to an even better position.

There is difficulty in determining why Waggoner fell into pantheism. McMahon's theory that it was latent in his teachings from the start does not satisfy the problem because he depends so much upon the Reformed position of justification by faith which has been seriously questioned as being incomplete. Ellen White's descriptions of the effects of Waggoner's message strengthen the conviction that what he taught in and after 1888 was the genuine gospel.118 The subject of Waggoner's pantheism is surely too complex and broad for this study. Yet it might very well be that the answer lies in the counsel Waggoner himself had given when discussing the Galatian problem. this author is inclined to believe that Waggoner lost his faith, something that Ellen White mentioned could happen and its possible reasons.119 As a result, he put his trust in something other than Christ for his salvation.

Given the time in which Ellet J. Waggoner lived, one must admit that his views of the covenants were novel in many respects and deserve more study and evaluation in regards to the subjects of justification by faith and the relationship of law to the gospel. Such a study could explain and possibly vindicate, to some extent, the Seventh-day Adventist church in its distinctive beliefs of the seventh-day Sabbath and the cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary. With the present emphasis of many American churches upon prophecy and events that foretell Christ's soon return and the growing interest to restore religion on a national basis, Waggoner's presentation takes on greater significance and power. His message might offer the only viable means of preparing a people who can properly represent Christ to the world.


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Waggoner's View of the Covenants