Business proceedings of the Conference at Battle Creek, Mich.
BRETHREN assembled in conference at Battle Creek, Nov. 16th, 1855, according to appointment in REVIEW of Oct. 16th. Eld. Joseph Bates was chosen Chairman… In the business transactions of this Conference, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
… 9. That Joseph Bates, J. H. Waggoner, and M. E. Cornell be appointed to address the saints in behalf of the Conference, on the gifts of the church.
Of the Conference Assembled at Battle Creek, Mich., Nov. 16th, 1855.
To THE DEAR SAINTS SCATTERED ABROAD, Greeting:—In view of the present low state of the precious cause of our blessed Master, we feel to humble ourselves before God, and confess our unfaithfulness and departure from the way of the Lord, whereby the spirit of holiness has been grieved, our own souls burdened, and an occasion given to the enemy of all righteousness to rejoice over the decline of faith and spiritually amongst the scattered flock.
We fully believe that the great and notable day of the Lord is at hand, and that he is now spreading the light of the last message of mercy, which is designed “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” that he may “present to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing—holy and without blemish.” Such we believe the church of God must be, to stand in the great battle, and pass through the time of trouble; and that he may “purify to himself a peculiar people,” he has adopted means ” for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” These means are declared in his word to be the gifts of the Holy Spirit which he has set in the church.” These are made objects of desire to-the church; for the divine injunction is, to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” We are well aware that all these gifts, together with the tongues of angels, and the laying down of our lives would profit us nothing without charity, or the fervent love of God; but we are at once exhorted to “follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts.
Dear Brethren and Sisters in Christ, while we have professed to stand upon the Word, and walk in ” the whole counsel of God,” we feel to confess that we as a people, have not obeyed the above divine injunction, nor have we appreciated the glorious privilege of claiming the gifts which our blessed Master has vouchsafed to his, people, and we greatly fear that we have grieved the Spirit by neglecting the blessings already conferred upon the church. While all who profess to believe the word of God acknowledge the necessity of faith and of teachers to make known the truth, we find that these are two of a class of gifts all wrought “by the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” Read 1 Cor. xii, 4-11, 28. The faith which we once professed in the promise of God through Christ to forgive our sins and heal our sicknesses, has not of late been exercised as it formerly was; and we have been bearing our own infirmities, instead of bringing them to Him “by whose stripes we are healed,” We think that this calls for humiliation before God, and a turning again to him, who has promised to give rest to the weary and heavy laden.
We have also, in our past experience, been made to rejoice in the goodness of our God who has manifested his care for his people by leading us in his way and correcting our errors through the operations of his Spirit; and the majority of Sabbath-keepers in the Third Angel’s Message, have firmly believed that the Lord was calling his church “out of the wilderness by the means appointed to bring us to the, unity of the faith. We refer to the visions which God has promised to the remnant “in the last days,” We are aware that many will regard it as infatuation to believe in such operations of God’s Spirit in these days; and we may by some be classed with the spiritualists so well known in this age. We have ever considered spiritualism the work of the enemy, and it is generally conceded that Satan is to shew his signs and wonders previous to the second coming of our Lord; yet it is as plainly written that the Lord will pour out his Spirit in the last days; and as we are shielded from a strong delusion by a proper application of the Scriptures concerning the work of these spirits, so we believe that we may receive of the choice blessings of God by acknowledging the force of the promises of his Spirit. Some again seem to suppose that we cannot with certainty distinguish between the operations of the Spirit of God and the works of the enemy; and therefore they reject every thing of this kind for fear of deception: but we consider this an impeachment of the wisdom and mercy of the divine plan. We esteem it equally dangerous to receive en error and to reject the truth.
The question does not so much seem to be whether the gifts are subjects of promise and expectation; but whether we are willing to bear the reproach of the position we have taken. We think the Scriptures are definite on this point; and while we would shrink from needlessly exciting the prejudices of the world against us, we dare not shrink from our duty when plainly made known through the Word. Nor do we, as some contend, exalt these gifts or their manifestations, above the Bible; on the contrary, we test them by the Bible, making it the great rule of judgment in all things; so that whatever is not in accordance with it, in its spirit and its teachings, we. unhesitatingly reject, But as we cannot believe that a fountain sends forth at the same place sweet water and bitter, or that an evil tree brings forth good fruit, so we cannot believe that that is of the enemy which tends to unite the hearts of the saints, to lead to meekness and humility and holy living, and incites to deep heart-searching before God, and a confession of our wrongs. As having such a tendency we recommend to your candid consideration the, contents of the book entitled,” Experience and Views,” believing them to be agreeable to the word of God, and the spirit of the Gospel.
Dear Brethren, while we hold these views as emanating from the divine Mind, we would confess the inconsistency (which we believe has been displeasing to God) of professedly regarding them as messages from God, and really putting them on a level with the inventions of men. We fear that this has resulted from an unwillingness to bear the reproach of Christ, (which is indeed greater riches than the treasures of earth,) and a desire to conciliate the feelings of our opponents; but the Word and our own experience have taught us that God is not honored, nor his cause advanced, by such a course. While we regard them as coming from God, and entirely harmonizing with his written word, we must acknowledge ourselves under obligation to abide by their teachings, and be corrected by their admonitions. To say that they are of God, and yet we will not be tested by them, is to say that God’s will is not a test or rule for Christians, which is inconsistent and absurd.
But if any ask how we regard those who do not acknowledge them as of God, we answer that we are very willing to exercise toward them that spirit of toleration which is taught in the Bible, believing that “to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin;” we are willing to make due allowance for the impressions received in youth, and the prejudices of the age; and even concerning the doctrines of the Word, we are told to receive “him that is weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputations.” By this we do not consider that the Apostle would lower down the truth, or make the cross of Christ of none effect, but rather have us follow the example of Christ in forbearance, and bearing the burdens of the weak. Rom, xv, 1-5; 1 Cor. ix, 22. 23.
We do not think that God designs to bestow one gift to the exclusion of the others; but while we “covet earnestly the best gifts,” we regard it as the prerogative of our heavenly Master alone to set them in the church, by his Spirit “dividing to every man severally as he will’ —not as we will. But we hope and pray, dearly beloved, that you will strive together with us for holiness of heart, for the unity of the faith and spirit, and the knowledge of the Son of God, that the power of Christ our Lord may rest upon us, that we may stand complete in him, and grow into him in all things; and having then, gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it liberally; (margin;) he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation; abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints: given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not. Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and we pray that your whole spirit, and soul and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In behalf of the Conference.
J. H. WAGGONER.
M. E. COKNELL.
Review and Herald, Volume 7, No. 10. December 4, 1855. pages 78-79.
Arthur White comments on this November 16 meeting:
“The events and experiences at this conference of November, 1855, may well be considered as marking a turning point in Seventh-day Adventist history. With the church accepting the responsibility for its publishing work, and the Spirit of Prophecy now given its rightful place, added blessing attended the labors of the ministers, the publishing enterprise prospered, and the work moved forward. (1BIO 330.4)”