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How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis:
Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy
by W. A. Spicer


A Lesson For the Future

It is evident that the controversies of the "Living Temple" era were not something that were to stand alone. The Spirit of prophecy represented it as a beginning of an onslaught by the evil one that we would have to reckon with to the end. Of these things of 1902 and 1903, it was said (at the 1903 General Conference):

"Spurious scientific theories are coming in as a thief in the night, stealing away the landmarks....You know that Satan will come in to deceive if possible the very elect. He claims to be Christ, and He is coming in, pretending to be the great medical missionary."—"Bulletin," 1903 p. 87.

Satan's appearing at the finish as an angel of light is described in the book, "Great Controversy," Evidently the special message of preparation for his coming is after this order of speculative teaching that flooded in upon us in the first decade of this century. In one document, "Teach the Word," dated July 24, 1904, at Washington, it was said:

"Living Temple' contains the alpha of these theories. I knew that the omega would follow in a little while; and I trembled for our people. I knew that I must warn our brethren not to enter into controversy over the presence and personality of God." —p. 53.

Having the fact nailed down forever in Scripture, and set forth in the Spirit of prophecy (especially in "Early Writings") we know that the Person of the Deity rules from heaven above. In the vision given in "Early Writings" His form upon the throne was veiled from sight by the cloud of glorious light. We are 


not called to try to pierce that veil by speculative reasonings or definitions about Deity. We know that the Father is there. The "man Christ Jesus," the "express image" of His Father's person, ministers there before Him as our High Priest. All Holy Scripture records the universal ministry of the Spirit and to the angels in behalf of men. And we see God's power—"upholding all things by the word of His power"—manifested in all creation. We know that by faith we can pray to our heavenly Father, before a throne of grace, and that His ear is ever open to hear.

It is so plain and concrete that a child can understand it. 

But the moment the touch of mysticism is given to it the concrete and substantial vanish into mist. And mysticism is what the speculative teaching was declared to be: "We need not the mysticism that is in this book."—Series B, p. 52.

It was this mysticism that the Spirit of prophecy met in the early days, when Mrs. White was but a young woman. She then wrote:

"I have often seen that the spiritual view took away all the glory of Heaven, and that in many minds the throne of David and the lovely person of Jesus have been burned up in the fire of spiritualism." —"Early Writings," p. 67.

It was mysticism that flavored the theory that set aside the truth of the heavenly sanctuary with its services of the holy and most holy places, when A. F. Ballenger brought the spiritualizing method from his study of the popular commentators in England. At the General Conference of 1905, Mrs. White bore testimony to him and to all the workers:

"Take heed how you mystify the gospel.... Those who are striving for originality will overlook the precious jewels in God's cabinet in an effort to get something new.

"Let this simple doctrines of the word shine forth in their true bearings, and let them be urged home according to their relative importance."

The most pitiful exhibitions of weakness in the truth have come in all our history from those who felt the urge to turn our something that would be recognized as deep and profound. This was apparently the urge that led the 


late Brother Ballenger in England to take on what appeared to his brethren there as an air of spiritual exaltation. His brethren there were distressed over it, long before he brought forth the old theories that to him were new. Out of it came the teaching about the sanctuary that the Spirit of prophecy classed with the mysticism of the "Living Temple" school:

"He draws out certain passages so fine that they lose their force...Brother Ballenger does not discern what he is doing, any more than Dr.________ discerned that the book 'Living Temple' contained some of the most dangerous errors. Those who try to bring in theories that would remove the pillars of our faith concerning the sanctuary or concerning the personality of God and of Christ, are working as blind men. They are seeking to bring in uncertainties, and to set the people of God adrift, without an anchor."

In warning against the perils of the last days the Spirit of prophecy at the time of this crisis continually spoke of the danger of speculative philosophy that obscured and cast a mist over the plain and concrete and substantial things of truth. In Volume 8 of the "Testimonies," brought out in those days, there is much said after this order:

"I have been instructed that it is not new and fanciful doctrines which the people need.... God has not laid upon anyone the burden of encouraging an appetite for speculative doctrines and theories. My brethren, keep these things out of your teaching. Do not allow them to enter into your experience." —p.295.

All these speculative, mystifying methods were abroad in apostolic days. It was the heart of Gnosticism, that ancient system, that spiritualized everything of Christian teaching. The apostles fought it day and night. And the Spirit of prophecy called us to study the apostolic warnings against these same things:

"Please read Paul's exhortation to the Colossians."—Series B. No. 2, p. 13.

Especially the second chapter of Colossians was commended to our attention. In other parts Paul referred to this so-called knowledge ("Moses") which the Gnostics felt so sure of. It was a mingling of Christian phrase with spiritualistic pantheistic teaching that was like germs of a contagion in those early times. The apostles fought it by the plain things of the word of God. So, as these ideas of mysticism came flooding in upon us, the Spirit of prophecy led 


Mrs. White to appeal to us the preach the fundamental things of the advent movement. She wrote:

"About the time that 'Living Temple' was published, there passed before me in the night season representations indicating that some danger was approaching, and that I must prepare for it by writing out the things God had revealed to me regarding the foundation principles of our faith."—Series B. No. 2, p. 52.

Those foundation principles, the plain truths of the advent message, are our defense. They are God's answer to all the winds of error that can ever blow. But we must handle the truth with humility of heart, and teach it in simplicity and plainness. The more one know of it the less deep and complicated and philosophical one needs to be in holding it and teaching it. Above all, it must be held in the surrendered heart. In a time of controversy and mysterious working of evil Paul wrote: "Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." The clean heart sees more clearly than the clever mind. We do not know what forms the final attacks may assume, but the same message that has built up this work will finish it.

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