The nine volumes of testimonies for the church, aggregating 4,738 pages of text, consist of articles and letters written by ellen g. White, containing instruction to, and pertaining to the welfare of, the seventh-day adventist church. A sixteen-page pamphlet, issued in December of 1855, marked the beginning of the series of such counsels which from time to time appeared in consecutively numbered pamphlets and books. These messages naturally dealt with issues that were current, but in most cases we are today confronted by the same problems, perils, and opportunities which faced the church in earlier years.
The earliest numbered testimonies were published only about seven years after the memorable "sabbath conferences" of 1848, when adventist believers in the newly revived sabbath and sanctuary truths laid the foundations of the distinctive doctrines held by the seventh-day adventist denomination. During these few years the cause had advanced in a marked manner. At the beginning there were only three or four preachers, or "messengers" as they then styled themselves, all of them dependent upon what they earned by physical labor and the freewill offerings of the few believers, who also were poor in this world's goods. These beginnings were limited in area almost entirely to the new england states.
By 1855, the year of issuance of the first testimony pamphlet, there were about a score of preachers of the sabbath and advent message. The number of believers had grown from less than one hundred to well into the second thousand.
The publishing work, begun by elder white in the summer of 1849 at middletown, connecticut, had been conducted in various places under adverse circumstances. Now in 1855 it was established in its own building in battle creek, michigan.
The time covered by the first fourteen testimonies now found in volume 1 was thirteen years. We note a few of the experiences and developments covered by the messages given during this period of 1855 to 1868.
The first defection, the apostasy and opposition of some of the former brethren in the ministry, known as the messenger party because of their publication, the messenger of truth, brought sorrow and perplexity. Early counsels speak of this movement and predict its speedy ending in confusion.
Fanatical movements, tending to attract conscientious souls because of unfounded hopes of "sanctification," appeared in various places, notably in some of the eastern states and in wisconsin. In some instances these teachings were accompanied by manifestation of the supposed "gift of tongues." but clear instruction was given to the church which saved the cause from such deceptions of the enemy.
The lapse of time and the apparent delay of the second advent, with the accession to the church of many who had not been in the 1844 movement, with its deep spiritual consecration, had resulted in the loss of that first love. It was a time of speculation in lands and homesteads as the western states were opening up to settlers, among whom were a number of believers from the crowded eastern states. Most earnest warnings and appeals were given regarding the prevailing dangers of conformity to the world, calling the church to deeper consecration.
In the latter part of 1856 attention was called to the "laodicean" message of revelation 3. Formerly this counsel was understood to apply to the advent believers who had not followed in the advancing light of the third angel and who had organized themselves into another church, bitterly opposing the sabbath truth. Now they saw themselves as "lukewarm" and in need of heeding the counsel of the true witness. For two years or more the believers were mightily
Stirred by this message, expecting that it would lead them directly into the loud cry of the third angel. The earnest messages in the testimonies relating to this movement can better be understood with a knowledge of this background.
It was an age of discussion and debates. Many of our ministers were challenged to discuss the sabbath and other truths, and some were even taking the aggressive in such debates. This called for counsel from heaven. One of our prominent ministers, moses hull, engaged in debates with spiritualists, at first at their challenge, later at his. As a result of this daring move he was swept into the mazes of spiritualism. Then it was that mrs. White published her "communications to elder hull," making public letters that had been written to him during past years that if heeded would have saved him from making shipwreck of his faith.
Those were the years when steps were being taken in organization. Against this move were the fears of some who had passed through the experiences of the second angel's message, that church organization was a mark of "babylon." the issues of organization as they were met and discussed among the brethren are manifest in many of the communications given to the church through mrs. White. And when in 1860 the publishing work was organized, and when, after much discussion and some questionings, the name seventh-day adventist was adopted, the move and the name itself were shown to be in harmony with the divine will.
Immediately following the final steps in church order marked by the organization of the general conference in may, 1863, came the memorable vision in otsego in june, when mrs. White was given a view of the principles of what was termed "health reform," with a revelation of the relation between obedience to the laws of health and the attainment of character necessary to fit the members of the church for translation. Closely associated with this was a reform in dress.
Two years later, counsel was given that "we should have a health home of our own," which led to the establishment of the health reform institute, to which and regarding which much counsel was given. As the light was followed, this institution grew until it was one of the best of its kind in the world. During the period covered in this volume, the governing principles which led to its success were clearly laid down. The problems of the civil war were also met in this period as seventh-day adventists faced the necessity of defining their relationship to civil government in time of war.
The importance of the home in the building of christian character, and the responsibility of parents, were stressed, and many solemn messages, imparted especially for the youth, were also given emphasis in these pages.
Besides the specific issues that were closely tied into the movements of the time, there was much counsel and admonition of a general nature on church discipline and preparation for translation. This was an important period in the development of the remnant church, and the testimony counsels exerted a large molding influence.
The trustees of the Ellen G. White Publications.