Later Adventist Worship, Ellen White and the Holy Spirit:
By Arthur Patrick
An earlier paper, "Early Adventist Worship, Ellen
White and the Holy Spirit: Preliminary Historical Perspectives," sought to prepare
the ground for this second paper concerning the major re-emphasis within Adventism of the
perceived need to receive the Holy Spirit as recommended by A.F. Ballenger and others
during the 1890s, forming a context for the Holy Flesh movement in Indiana which climaxed
during 1901. A study of such historical events leads to a plethora of questions, only some
of which can be adequately treated in this paper. Did experiences like Ballenger's
apostasy and the doctrinal aberrations of the Indiana experiment help Seventh-day
Adventism to develop a pervasive reticence with reference to the reception of the Holy
Spirit? Did the doctrine of the Latter Rain offer the church a preferred alternative to
pentecostalism, locking the reception of the Holy Spirit into the safety of the future?
Does the way in which this doctrine is presented adequately reflect a huge body of Ellen
White counsels with reference to the Holy Spirit? What are the recommendations and
cautions which arise from the exploration of this subject? Most importantly, is it time
for Adventism to look with freshness and depth at what Scripture says of the Holy Spirit
and His ministry?
I. THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT: ADVENTISM IN THE 1890s
The overt, spectacular manifestations of the Holy Spirit in Seventh-day Adventism,
noted in the previous paper as part of the early experience of such Adventist founders as
Hiram Edson, James and Ellen White, largely ceased as North American society changed and
the young church developed an effective organisation and viable institutions through which
to express its values and pursue its mission. By the 1880s Adventism's frontline witnesses
were experiencing increasing success as they debated five distinctive "S"
doctrines (Second Advent, Sabbath, Sanctuary, State of the Dead, Spirit of Prophecy) with
their Bibles open and their certainties apparent. So for the "pioneers" (to use
Bert Haloviak's useful characterisation) it was a crushing blow to have the Adventist
prophet side with a startling new emphasis on Righteousness by Faith at the General
Conference of 1888.(1) The "progressives" (a
corresponding Haloviakism) were further encouraged by Ellen White's writings during her
"decade of Christ"--Steps to Christ, 1892; Thoughts from the Mount
of Blessing, 1896; The Desire of Ages, 1898; Christ's Object Lessons, 1900--to
focus on Christ as Saviour and to expect the Holy Spirit to complete the proclamation of
the gospel and usher in the Second Advent. Millennial impulses in the Church drew fresh
courage from the imprisonment of Sabbath keepers and the attempted passage of a Sunday law
in the United States, for such events were the anticipated harbingers of last things. A
sense of imminence was fanned by a number of Ellen White statements, not least that in the
Advent Review and Sabbath Herald dated 22 November 1892:
The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun
in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the
beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.
II. ENTER BALLENGER
Within that effervescent climate of change, a dedicated minister, Albion Fox Ballenger
(1861-1921), became a high-profile spokesman for a fresh emphasis on the Holy Spirit.
While we can sense something of this powerful impulse from microfiche copies of The
Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, an adequate interpretation of it awaits the
publication of historian Gary Land's biography of Ballenger. Land presented a chapter from
this forthcoming volume for the benefit of the church's historians at their triennial
conference in Portland, Oregon, during 1998. His lecture surprised me with the vigour and
extent of the emphasis across North America during the 1890s, focused by the phrase quoted
from the lips of Jesus, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," John 20:22, KJV. This
appeal pervaded campmeetings and enlivened churches. It no doubt echoed concerns from the
growing Holiness movement, as well as the interests of the pentecostalism which was
nascent in the United States at that time. Probably it created the effective framework
within which a specific implementation could be attempted--the Holy Flesh movement in
Ballenger's "cleansing" message included a strong potential for divisiveness
as well as a large element of promise. Note the way in which he`stated his case at the
1899 General Conference session:
Brother, I have gone from Massachusetts to California, and from Canada to Texas, and I
have told our people to either clean up or get out from the church of God. Brother, I dare
do that; I dare talk just that plain to my people, and thank the Lord, some are getting
clean, and some are getting out.... I must have a clean church to invite the people into,
before I can stand before the people to give the loud cry in all its glory.... Let us
commence to pray that God will clean the unclean birds out of the church, for it mars the
loud cry.... The Lord says we can not have the baptism of the Holy Ghost until we get the
victory over every besetting sin.
The Advent movement was ripe for action in such things. Dr John Harvey Kellogg
(1852-1943) was busy implementing health reform principles. At the same time as Kellogg
was de-emphasising the personality of God, some people were getting the idea that if the
principles of health were fully followed, the faithful would not be brought under the
power of death. Waggoner and Jones each had their own brand of perfectionism, and both
were stirring the Adventist pot of theology vigorously. With the addition of liberal
amounts of victorious living, health reform, pantheism, perfectionism, millenniallism,
apocalyptic insights into the imminent collapse of Turkey, flavoured throughout with a
great emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the stew seemed wonderfully able to suit every taste.
Some true believers came to believe that it was time for all physical defects, including
grey hair, to be erased.
III. INDIANA: DAVIS AND DONNELL
S.S. Davis, a newly-ordained minister in the Indiana Conference, was moving up the
ranks from colporteur to local minister and then Conference revivalist/evangelist.(2) Ballenger's message impressed Davis, as did the experience
of Pentecostal Christians in Evansville, at the southern tip of Indiana. Davis came to
believe Pentecostals had the Spirit and Adventists had the truth, and that the marriage of
Spirit and truth would have wonderful results.
Davis was not without support from R.S. Donnell, his Conference president. Back in 1896
Donnell had written to the General Conference president about the church's need for the
Latter Rain. In Donnell's view there were two probations; the first for the church, the
second for the world. God's people needed to pass their probation successfully and receive
the Latter Rain; that would empower them to preach the message more fully. Donnell
believed he had good support from such well-known Adventists as Sutherland and Jones who
(he declared) agreed that these themes should be presented at the church's camp
Three years later, with the Indiana camp meeting in focus, Donnell wrote to the General
Conference secretary: "Am sorry, however, that Elder Ballenger can not come but would
be glad if it could be arranged even yet that he might be with us. This not being so, who
else could come to take the same kind of work that Elder Ballenger generally does? Could
A.T. Jones be with us?" Donnell's enthusiasm for the ministry of Ballenger and Jones
The next year Donnell wrote a number of articles on the Latter Rain, focused on getting
God's people ready for translation. Clearly he believed that when Christ comes again, the
waiting people will be exactly like Him. God will be incarnate in them, but only when
every sin is eradicated, so that they have a pre-fall state of perfection.
Meanwhile, Davis had put pen to paper and written a book, The Two Adams and the Two
Covenants, calling his readers to the sort of holiness which Adam experienced before
the fall, cleansed from sin and its tendencies. Such an experience called for translation
faith, being born children of God with holy flesh. It was affirmed with vigour that the
true-born children of God would not have to take the underground railway (death) to get to
heaven; theirs would be the better option, translation.
Davis became leader of a group that crisscrossed Indiana with the cleansing message.
Donnell focused his ministerial team (13 ordained ministers, 15 licentiates) on study and
prayer that the Spirit might be given as at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was assumed to be
well able to use a range of instruments in readying the hearts of the people for the
cleansing message: included were "the organ, violins, tambourines, flutes, horns and
even a bass drum." Donnell's step-daughter had a needed connection: she was married
to a Salvation Army captain. Looking on and hearing the sound of Indiana's music, Stephen
Haskell said it was a complete copy of the Salvation Army method. But the movement prized
more than bright music, according to one eyewitness:
The followers of this doctrine would gather in the cleared basement of the church, and
a large number of them would dance in a large circle, shouting and lifting up their hands.
The children would be placed upon boxes or barrels, and they too would shout and lift up
their hands. In their church services, they would preach and shout and pray until someone
from the congregation would fall unconscious from his seat. One or two men would be
walking up and down the aisles watching for just this demonstration, and would lay hold of
the person who had fallen literally dragging him up the aisle and placing him on the
rostrum. Then a number, perhaps a dozen, would gather about the prostrate form; some
shouting, some singing, and some praying, all at the same time. Finally the individual
would revive, and he was then counted among the faithful who had passed through the
IV. ELLEN WHITE CONFRONTS THE HOLY FLESH EMPHASIS
The "Garden" experience was the sought-for way to achieve the Holy Flesh
which accompanied translation faith. Ellen White (1827-1915) was sufficiently stirred by
her view of events in Indiana to leave her much-loved "Sunnyside" home in
Australia and return to the United States. When she addressed the 1901 General Conference
on the situation in Indiana, it was very clear what she meant. Note the opening paragraphs
of her early-morning message.
Instruction has been given me in regard to the late experience of brethren in
Indiana and the teachings they have given to the churches. Through this
experience and teaching the enemy has been working to lead souls astray.
The teaching given in regard to what is termed "holy flesh" is an error. All
may now obtain holy hearts, but it is not correct to claim in this life to have holy
flesh. The apostle Paul declares, "I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth
no good thing." Rom. 7:17. To those who have tried so hard to obtain by faith
so-called holy flesh, I would say, You can not obtain it. Not a soul of you has holy flesh
now. No human being on the earth has holy flesh. It is an impossibility.
If those who speak so freely of perfection in the flesh, could see things in their true
light, they would recoil with horror from their presumptuous ideas. In showing the fallacy
of their assumptions in regard to holy flesh, the Lord is seeking to prevent men and women
from putting on his words a construction which leads to pollution of body, soul, and
spirit. Let this phase of doctrine be carried a little further, and it will lead to the
claim that its advocates can not sin; that since they have holy flesh, their actions are
all holy. What a door of temptation would thus be opened.
Ellen White's long statement proceeds with some of her most specific correctives to
perfectionism; expressions which have often sounded in Adventist ears since they were
first spoken in 1901.
V. SHORT-TERM OUTCOMES AND LONG-TERM FRUITS
One immediate result of this very decided confrontation was R.S. Donnell's confession
to another morning meeting of the General Conference session. Further outcomes were the
removal of the Donnell team from office, and a dispersion of the Indiana "Holy
Flesh" advocates--evidently all the ministerial staff of the conference were involved
with the exception of two ordained ministers and three licentiates. Davis lost his
connection with Adventism, Donnell faded gradually into obscurity, Kellogg became the
Church's most famous medical heretic, Ballenger rivalled Kellogg's significance as a
theological heretic, and Ellett Joseph Waggoner (1855-1916) was so sanctified he was able
to win the affection of a woman other than his wife. A.T. Jones (1850-1923), a key
spokesman for "the most precious message" at Minneapolis during 1888 and in the
years thereafter, published The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection in 1905.
This powerful book offered Adventists an immediate and direct way to overcome sin
completely in order to receive the Latter Rain and complete the gospel commission. Jones
moved on to become a bitter opponent of his former brethren at the same time as he
continued to nurture most Adventist fundamentals plus his own brand of perfectionism.
The long-term fruit of this too-characteristic diversionary emphasis on the Holy Spirit
and perfectionism is still being reaped. From their context in the Seventh-day Adventist
Reform movement the Brinsmead family later grasped the doctrine of perfection in relation
to the work of the Holy Sprit as being fundamental for the church's need in post-World War
II Australia. Thus the church in this Division came to experience the profound promise and
severe divisiveness of Robert Brinsmead's Awakening Movement in its first phase from about
1959 to approximately 1969. While the distinctive Brinsmeadian emphasis on "a
miraculous, punctilear moral cleansing" was attacked with might and main by the
church's leaders, a very similar perfectionism (minus the removal of the "scars"
of sin on the human soul) was fostered by the "Great Dane" of Adventism, Milian
Lauritz Andreasen (1876-1962), then picked up and given a new spin by the winsome Herbert
Douglass as central for his "Harvest Principle." Seventh-day Adventism has been
fed a steady diet from this pot of theology since the 1970s; the death of C. Mervyn
Maxwell on 21 July 1999 removed from the action one of its most-loved advocates.
The Indiana offer of a short cut to translation was so well countered by the Church's
prophet at the 1901 General Conference session that Adventist perfectionism in its Holy
Flesh mode had to become more subtle. But the memory of this vibrant movement in Indiana
is still deeply embedded in the Adventist psyche, providing bad news for both the Holy
Spirit and drums.(3) Like the name Ballenger,
Indiana was destined to become a dragon-word within Adventism.
Perhaps it is time to stand back from the historical events charted in these two papers
and to offer some conclusions.
VI. SOME OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS
1. Millennialism cannot be sustained at peak intensity over a long
period of time; it will be slain by fanaticism or neglect if it is not transformed. A
simplistic repetition of early Adventists' worship experiences is as inappropriate as a
neglect of its important implications for the ongoing experience of the Church.
2. There is a measure of ambivalence within Christianity over some aspects of the
reception and work of the Holy Spirit. Tongues are not definitively
described once-and-for-all in Acts 2; there is important data in Corinthians, as well. But
in the process of exegeting Corinthians we are led to observe carefully the lowly place
which Paul accords speaking in tongues, and to note that contemporary pentecostalism seems
to have rearranged Paul's priorities. Perhaps we should consider whether the early
Adventist attitude to tongues offers us a useful pattern for keeping such phenomena in
perspective now. There are some four known instances of speaking in tongues in early
Adventism. These are no more condemned by our Church's prophet that are the tongues of
Corinthians by Paul. In early Christianity and in early Adventism tongues are not given a
position of prominence, let alone presented as essential components of worship or
2. Adventist music has been constrained because of the Indiana
excesses and Ellen White's warning, predicting similar fanaticism near the end of time.
But the evidence points up a need for a more careful interpretation of the issue than the
recently-reiterated ban on drums in some Adventist revivals--which is no more logical than
was the banning of organs in earlier Christian times or the banning of all musical
instruments in some Scottish worship. Musical instruments are amoral things; however the
use to which human beings put them can have moral influences. Adventists need to read
Psalm 150 as well as the worthy cautions about music style which are important even though
they are so few in Ellen White's writings.
3. Is it time for Adventists to better balance a whole range of insights, including the
implications of variety in human personality (well begun by Alden
Thompson and others), "multiple intelligences" and what they
imply for perception and learning (cf. Melvin Campbell), and cultural conditioning
(see the work of Gottfried Oosterwal).
4. There is a subtle fear remaining in Adventism with reference to the
Holy Spirit. Often, objective and subjective religion are presented as being in conflict
with each other It is, therefore, essential to ask how we can put together an accurate
understanding of "the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past
history." This will not be achieved by ignoring the huge emphasis in Ellen White's
writings on the Holy Spirit. Clearly it is time for us to go back to Scripture and recast
our faith in a more balanced way, better including the role of the One given to lead us
into all truth.
5. Is there a qualitative difference between the "holy prostrations" witnessed
within early Adventism and those which are usually seen in pentecostal meetings today?
VII. ELLEN WHITE AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: THE POSITIVE PICTURE
It takes over thirty pages to index Ellen White'c comments on the Holy Spirit, so it
would be presumptuous for this short paper to claim any semblance of an analysis of such a
vast array of material. Robert Leo Odom and his team had a real problem in the early 1960s
trying to classify the comments on this subject. They chose 36 categories which could not
be ignored; these they indexed in fifteen pages. But it took them seventeen more pages to
list the "miscellaneous" references. Any attempt to synthesise this body of data
is likely to drive us to Scripture in a way that will reawaken spiritual life. One-liners
leap out at us from the text: "The whole heavenly treasure awaits our demand and
reception; and as we receive the blessing, we in our turn are to impart it."
"Whenever minor matters occupy the attention, the divine power which is necessary for
the growth and prosperity of the church, and which would bring all other blessings in its
train, is lacking, though offered in infinite plenitude." "Pray that the mighty
energies of the Holy Spirit, with all their quickening, recuperative, and transforming
power, may fall like an electric shock on the palsy-stricken soul, causing every nerve to
thrill with new life, restoring the whole man from his dead, earthly, sensual state to
VIII. ELLEN WHITE AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: SOME CAUTIONS
We would be remiss if we did not observe carefully the cautions we have been given by
Ellen White relating to the reception and ministry of the Holy Spirit. A key concept to
understand is conveyed by the word "fanaticism." Ellen White believed there was
fanaticism in early Christianity, in the Reformation period, during early Adventist times,
and in various later Adventist experiences such as the Indiana debacle. She also foresaw
fanaticim would reoccur during the climax of the gospel's proclamation just before
Christ's return. We do well to observe the range of insights available in references which
take three pages to index, and to explore cognate words: delusion, excitement,
extreme/extremist, offshoot, time setting, tongue, and so on. Perhaps it may be useful to
list ten considerations which arise in substance or in principle from meditation upon this
body of counsel.
1. Scripture is the Christian's authority in doctrine and guide in
experience. It stands over against the subjectivities of human experience and
2. Miracles are present yet there is an economy of miracle evident in
God's relationships with His people. For instance, the early role of miraculous healings
was considerably replaced by the provisions of health reform which had a distinct role in
fostering human cooperation with the Divine plan and consequent character development.
This approach seems to minimise the trivialisation of miracle and its tendency to be
related to superstitious religion. It also make better room for a rounded use of all God's
loving provisions for the well-being of His people and His universe.
3. The spiritual gifts of the individual are to be exercised for the
well-being of the community. The gift of prophecy, for instance, wrongly understood, and
thus distorted, has proved very destructive within communities of faith.
4. Phenomena which are at best peripheral have often assumed a central
role or have been elevated as tests of Christian faith and experience. Such are diversions
from the important emphases which should be pivotal for the individual Christian and the
community of believers.
5. God and Christ must not be eclipsed by the Holy
Spirit, or vice versa. The needed relationships between the Persons of the
Godhead are detailed by our Lord in John 14-16.
6. There can be an over-emphasis on the Christian's doing (or not doing) which focuses
the person and the community on works (human performance) rather than
7. There is ever the danger of shallowness in Christianity, well
demonstarted during early Christian and Reformation times as well as in Adventist history.
8. Stability is essential in a Christian community. Rapid entrances
followed by rapid exits indicate a fruit that does not bear the test of time.
9. The witness of any group of Christians to other Christians and
non-believers is crucial. Any practice that militates against effective witness is
destructive of God's purpose.
10. There is a need to balance an understanding of the Spirit's gifts
and the Spirit's fruits. A focus on the gifts may obsure the significance
of the fruits in the life of the individual and the Christian community.
CONCLUSION: HISTORICAL PERSPECTVIES ON ADVENTISM, ELLEN WHITE AND THE HOLY
It is hoped that the all-too-brief explorations of these two papers may underline the
importance of the Holy Spirit and His ministry for the contemporary experience and witness
of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Involved are historical understandings which call for
biblical exegesis as well as the insights of systematic and historical theology. These
disciplines should then lead us to construct an effective pastoral theology, and to offer
viable pastoral leadership in the experience of worship as well as responsible pastoral
care when problems occcur. It should be noted that the role of Ellen White and of
Adventist history implicit within these presentations seeks to be consistent with my
recommendations elsewhere,(5) rather than following the
constrained approaches which are too often adopted within Adventism. The possibilities in
view of the current ethos in the Church appear to be enormous at the present moment, even
though the perils are real. A focus on Scripture with an openness to the ministry of the
Holy Spirit was never more needed in Adventism than now, as the Church faces kaleidoscopic
change and the cultural challenges of a new millennium.
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1. My attempt to understand the development of Adventism from the
primary sources has been greatly helped by the analyses of such authors as Richard
Schwarz, Gary Land and George Knight. This paper cannot reference all the relevant
literature and remain succinct, so only minimal references are included. Bert Haloviak, a
General Conference archivist, has published little, but his unpublished papers which are
available in the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College
richly reward perusal.
2. Sources that should be consulted with reference to the Indiana
event include the writings of Arthur White (especially in his biography, Ellen G.
White, vol. 5: 100-108, and William H. Grotheer, "The Holy Flesh Movement
1899-1901" (Florence, Mississippi: Adventist Laymen's Foundation of Mississippi,
April 1973): 65 pp. Even though Grotheer is regarded as a divisive critic of the Church,
the 1973 revision of his major paper is essential on this subject. See also Jack J.
Blanco, "Pentecostal 'Cleansing Message' in the History of Adventism" Adventist
Perspectives VI, no. 1:14-19; despite the fact Blanco's article appeared in Adventist
Perspectives it is useful. Richard Schwarz should also be consulted, as the author of
the first history of Seventh-day Adventism written by an historian. Of special importance
are Ellen White's comments, particularly Letter 132, 1900 available as Manuscript Release
1525, and her General Conference address of April 1901, plus the other materials compiled
in Selected Messages, 2: 31-39.
3. As recently as this year, three urgent appeals during an
Adventist revival series were to dispense with wedding rings and drums, and to adopt a
vegan diet. Each of these issues can be fruitfully explored within Adventist history. It
is useful to note the sixteen references in Ellen White's writings which appear when the
word "drum" is requested from the 1994 CD: Drummond, the physician who declared
of Ellen White "she does not breathe"; the drum or cylinder of a printing press;
the homemade drum which the White sons made in Battle Creek; the references to the bass
drum used in Indiana and the prediction that such music would reoccur just before Christ
returns. Thus, given the richness and variety of Ellen White's writings, drums receive
minimal attention. The problem is not the instrument but the style in which it is played
and the false doctrine and emotionalism which accompanied its use. The use of a drum
as an instrument is seen by Ellen White as having the same problems as music. Most
would agree that the point at issue is not music but inappropriate music.
4. Testimonies to Ministers, 510, cf 175; Acts of the
Apostles, 50; Testimonies, vol. 5, 267.
5. Note the implications of the following: "Does Our Past
Embarrass Us?" Ministry: International Journal for Clergy 64, no. 4 (April
1991): 7-10; "Ellen White: Mother of the Church in the South Pacific," Adventist
Heritage 16, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 30-40; "Re-Visioning the Role of Ellen White
for Seventh-day Adventists Beyond 2000," an address delivered to the Adventist
Society for Religious Studies in San Francisco on 21 November 1997 and now available
(along with other relevant papers) on SDAnet
in the At Issue section.
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