The Role of the Spirit of Prophecy at the Sabbath Conferences

1848

How were the Sabbath Conferences conducted and what was accomplished? Looking back at them in later years, Ellen White described their activities:

We would come together burdened in soul, praying that we might be one in faith and doctrine; for we knew that Christ is not divided. One point at a time was made the subject of investigation. The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe. Often we fasted, that we might be better fitted to understand the truth. After earnest prayer, if any point was not understood it was discussed, and each one expressed his opinion freely; then we would again bow in prayer, and earnest supplications went up to heaven that God would help us to see eye to eye, that we might be one as Christ and the Father are one. Many tears were shed.

We spent many hours in this way. Sometimes the entire night was spent in solemn investigation of the Scriptures, that we might understand the truth for our time. On some occasions the Spirit of God would come upon me, and difficult portions were made clear through God's appointed way, and then there was perfect harmony. We were all of one mind and one spirit.

We sought most earnestly that the Scriptures should not be wrested to suit any man's opinions. We tried to make our differences as slight as possible by not dwelling on points that were of minor importance, upon which there were varying opinions. But the burden of every soul was to bring about a condition among the brethren which would answer the prayer of Christ that His disciples might be one as He and the Father are one (TM, pp. 24, 25).

The Lord manifested Himself in a manner that made it forever clear that what took place was beyond human manipulation. Ellen White explained:

During this whole time I could not understand the reasoning of the brethren. My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God. The brethren knew that when not in vision, I could not understand these matters, and they accepted as light direct from heaven the revelations given (MS 46, 1904 [see also 1SM, p. 207]).

For two or three years my mind continued to be locked to the Scriptures. . . . It was some time after my second son was born [July 1849]that we were in great perplexity regarding certain points of doctrine. I was asking the Lord to unlock my mind, that I might understand His Word. Suddenly I seemed to be enshrouded in clear, beautiful light, and ever since, the Scriptures have been an open book to me (MS 135, 1903).

She explained, "Many theories were advanced, bearing a semblance of truth, but so mingled with misinterpreted and misapplied scriptures, that they led to dangerous errors. Very well do we know how every point of truth was established" (MS 31, 1896 [see also 2SM, pp. 103, 104]).

In the experience of Seventh-day Adventists the visions were not given to take the place of Bible study. They were, however, a definite aid in Bible study, correcting erroneous interpretations and pointing to what was truth." He [God] wants us to go to the Bible," she wrote in 1888, "and get the Scripture evidence" (MS 9, 1888). In 1903 she wrote:

The leading points of our faith as we hold them today were firmly established. Point after point was clearly defined, and all the brethren came into harmony. The whole company of believers were united in the truth. There were those who came in with strange doctrines, but we were never afraid to meet them. Our experience was wonderfully established by the revelation of the Holy Spirit (MS 135, 1903).

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