From time to time it is interesting to me to post primary source documents and materials that are germane to the development of Adventist theology. In this particular instance, the article under consideration is by Joseph Clarke (1829-1914) who was a wealthy merchant and educator from Ohio. He was one of the most ubiquitous regular contributors to the Review and Herald during his lifetime, and deserves to be ranked with Uriah Smith and James White in terms of literary output, but his contributions have been largely overlooked. As a layperson, his perspective on Ellen G. White gives a “lay” perspective or that of an ordinary church member who supported the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White. In a previous blog post I have highlighted some of his contributions.
The Gift in the Church.
In studying the history of the third [angel’s] message, we find that from the first the gift of prophecy has been intimately connected with the work. All along the pathway of this people light has been received which has led the way to investigation, and progress has thus been made. While without this gift discord and contradictory views would have been obtained, to a greater or lesser extent, and long ago we, as a people, would probably have been scattered wide asunder.
It seems to me that one of the greatest sins of this people is ingratitude to God for this precious gift; and often I am filled with surprise that men can receive this truth and yet oppose and despise the very means God ordained to bring it to their ears. It seems like a man who is starving for food, and gladly receives bread from a friendly hand, yet denies credit to the agent who is sent to dispense the previous substance.
I often, when a youth, used to wonder in my own mind why God did not deal with his people now as anciently. But to my joy I find it the sin of unbelief that has hindered this work. I do not rejoice that unbelief exists, but that God exists as of old, and the change in the condition of God’s people is not in him but in them, so that now we have only to change our position and all will be well.
Skeptics gravely tell us that the Bible is sufficient. So it is; and this is the very book which guarantees to the church not only these gifts which the church anciently possessed, but an increase in their power. Do you ask me to prove it? I answer, It has been many times proved from Scripture in the columns of the REVIEW, and may be found in different publications of the S.D.A. Publishing Association.
The object of this article is not to prove the divine nature of the gifts existing among us, but to show that it is greatly undervalued by many, and I fear most of us are very unfeeling and hardened in respect to this gift. Volume after volume has appeared, and some sixteen numbers of the Testimonies have been issued [as of 1868], yet they make but a feeble impression. In fact, but a part of the readers of the REVIEW read them at all, and of these how many with hesitation and doubt? And when an appeal was made to spread them among all, how feeble was the response.
I cannot find language to express my gratitude to God for this help we have had in our dangerous journey thus far in this path; and there are some others who value these testimonies. But, alas! how many neglect and despise them, and of those who are thankful to God for these reproofs and instructions, how many can say, “We have heeded them?”
For one, I confess my fault here; but now I find much help in reviewing these works. Brethren, let us read these testimonies daily; they are to us what the manna was to Israel. A day’s neglect may make work for repentance. Let us read them as from God, not from an erring mortal. We do not worship Paul, but we worship the God who inspired him, and we highly esteem his accredited and approved agent.
I would not be too positive, but it is my deliberately formed opinion that the low appreciation in which these testimonies are held by many is the great cause of the present lukewarmness in the church.
The importance of this gift, probably, is overlooked by some who preach the third angel’s message. And let me reverentially ask, How we came by an understanding of this truth? How have we progressed thus far? Will we put the argument or theory before the spirit which dictates it? Will we exhibit the skeleton and withhold the beautiful outlines of the truth which only the Spirit of God can dictate? And only by an intimate knowledge and diligent study of these testimonies can any one fully estimate and appreciate the third message, or proclaim it to others.
Here is the great cause, no doubt, of the lethargy now upon us. We have not fully appreciated nor valued these works, nor could we, while so underrating them, have heeded them. First, let us consider the value of the gift, then heed its instructions.