Posted Jan 24, 2016 by Gary Hullquist in Everlasting Gospel

This date still commands the attention of Adventists today. Seems like each generation takes a crack at it. Church historians spin their own version of what “really” happened in Minneapolis 127 years ago. It was in a Minnesota school house where the 90 delegates of a 27 year old church with 27,000 members met, already divided over “The Law in Galatians.”

1888. How can anything that old be of any value (let alone interest) to us today? Aren’t there more important issues that deserve our time and attention? Like Sunday laws, Prophecy, Terrorism, Illuminati, the Papacy, Isis, the economy...

The issues today are really no different than those 127 years ago, only the names and terms are different. The Blair Sunday law was being debated in Congress. The Eastern Question of Turkey and the King of the North was on everyone’s mind. The Vatican was publishing alarming Encyclicals. And today, sides are still divided over “The Law in Galatians”.

But there was one thing that all the delegates of that 1888 General Conference session were in total agreement: There is one God, the Father, and one Lord, His only-begotten divine Son, whose goings forth was from the days of eternity. In this they were united. Five years before Minneapolis, W. H. Littlejohn, a co-editor of the Review and Herald, answered a reader’s question about the creation of Christ.

“You are mistaken in supposing that S. D. Adventists teach that Christ was ever created. They believe, on the contrary, that he was ‘begotten’ of the Father, and that he can properly be called God and worshiped as such... They believe, however, that somewhere in the eternal ages of the past there was a point at which Christ came into existence.” RH April 17, 1883

That same year, C.W. Stone, secretary of the General Conference, wrote in his book,

“The Word then is Christ. The text speaks of His origin. He is the only begotten of the Father. Just how he came into existence the Bible does not inform us any more definitely; but by this expression and several of a similar kind in the Scriptures we may believe that Christ came into existence in a manner different from that in which other beings first appeared; That He sprang from the Father’s being in a way not necessary for us to understand.” C. W. Stone, The Captain of our Salvation, p. 17, 1883

But side issues that were, in the opinion of Ellen White “not vital”, were distracting the fledgling church from its central foundations. Sensing the division that was brewing within a growing series of Review and Signs articles, Ellen White counseled the west coast editors, Jones and Waggoner.

“It is no small matter for you to come out in the Signs as you have done, and God has plainly revealed that such things should not be done. We must keep before the world a united front. Satan will triumph to see differences among Seventh-day Adventists.” “But how do you think I feel to see our two leading papers in contention?” “...we must have more of Jesus and less of self.” “We are one in faith in the fundamental truths of God’s word.“ 1888 Materials p. 22.2, 25.2, 26.1,2.

Then, suddenly, it was October 1888. As the young physician and Signs of the Times editor, Ellot J. Waggoner, presented the morning devotionals, there was indeed more of Jesus and a rich feeding in the one faith of God’s word. As he spoke, W.W. Prescott, Steven Haskell, Uriah Smith, R.A. Underwood, Ellen White, A.T. Jones, and even George Butler, the General Conference president back home in his sick bed, all took notes on the great theme of Christ and His Righteousness.

How do we know? Because each one echoed Waggoner’s theme in sermons and articles of their own in the following months and years.

When Waggoner said,

“The Word was “in the beginning.” The mind of man cannot grasp the ages that are spanned in this phrase. ...We know that Christ “proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42), but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man.”

R.A. Underwood wrote the following year,

“We are in ignorance of when this was done. We only know that it was in the eternity of the past; before the worlds and all that in them is, were created.” RH Aug 6, Sept 17, 1889

Ellen White wrote,

“The existence of Christ before His incarnation is not measured by figures.” Ellen White, Signs of the Times. May 3, 1899
“Christ is declared in the Scriptures to be the Son of God. From all eternity He has sustained this relation to Jehovah. Before the foundations of the world were laid, He, the only begotten Son of God, pledged Himself to become the Redeemer of the human race should men sin.” {Ms22-1905 (March 7, 1904) par. 4}

Uriah Smith later wrote,

“At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be, --a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity,-- appeared the Word.” “His beginning was not like that of any other being in the universe. It is set forth in the mysterious expressions, ‘his [God’s] only begotten Son’ (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), ‘the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14), and ‘I proceeded forth and came from God.’ John 8:42.” Looking Unto Jesus 1898

And Steven Haskell penned,

“Back in the ages, which finite mind cannot fathom, the Father and Son were alone in the universe. Christ was the first begotten of the Father, and to Him Jehovah made known the divine plan of Creation.” The Seer of Patmos 1905

When Waggoner said,

“A son always rightfully takes the name of the father; and Christ, as “the only begotten Son of God,” has rightfully the same name. A son, also, is, to a greater or less degree, a reproduction of the father; he has, to some extent, the features and personal characteristics of his father;... and so Christ is the “express image” of the Father’s person. Heb. 1:3. As the Son of the self-existent God, He has by nature all the attributes of Deity.”

Ellen White later wrote,

“Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father,--one in nature, in character, in purpose” Patriarchs and Prophets p. 34 1890
“...he and the Father were of one substance, possessing the same attributes.” Signs of the Times, Nov. 27, 1893

When Waggoner said,

“He is begotten, not created. He is of the substance of the Father, so that in his very nature he is God;” “The angels are sons of God, as was Adam (Job 38:7; Luke 3:38), by creation; Christians are the sons of God by adoption (Rom. 8:14, 15); but Christ is the Son of God by birth.”

Ellen White later wrote,

“‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,’--not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person...” Signs of the Times May 30, 1895
“In His incarnation He gained in a new sense the title of the Son of God... While the son of a human being, He became the Son of God in a new sense.” Signs of the Times Aug 2, 1905
And what was the old sense? His original existence as the divine and Eternal Son of God.

A.T. Jones wrote,

“He who was born in the form of God took the form of man.” General Conference Bulletin March 4, 1895
“In other words, Jesus Christ was born again. He came from heaven, God’s first-born, to the earth, and was born again.” “He whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity, the first-born of God, was born again, in order that we might be born again.” A.T. Jones RH Aug 1, 1899

W.W. Prescott wrote,

“As Christ was twice born--once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father, and again here in the flesh, thus uniting the divine with the human in that second birth--so we who have been born once already in the flesh, are to have the second birth, being born again of the Spirit” RH April 14, 1896

Uriah Smith wrote,

Christ is the agent through whom God has created all things, but that the Son came into existence in a different manner, as he is called ‘the only begotten’ of the Father.” Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation 1897 edition, p. 400.

When Waggoner said,

“And since He is the only-begotten Son of God, He is of the very substance and nature of God, and possesses by birth all the attributes of God.” “So He has ‘life in Himself;’ He possesses immortality in His own right, and can confer immortality upon others.”

R.A. Underwood wrote,

“we will consider Christ and his work by viewing him as the only being delegated to represent the eternal Father in name, in creating the worlds, and in giving the law;” “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” John 5:26. Whatever construction may be placed upon the first two texts quoted the last one shows clearly that the Son of God received his life, and all his mighty creative power as a gift from the Father.” RH Aug 6, Sept 17, 1889

When Waggoner said,

While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in the point of time. He (the Father) is also greater in that he had no beginning, while Christ’s personality had a beginning” Signs of the Times Apr. 8, 1889

Ellen White wrote,

Though sin had produced a gulf between man and his God, divine benevolence provided a plan to bridge that gulf and what material did he use? A part of himself, the brightness of the Father’s glory came to a world all seared and marred with the curse, and in his own divine character, in his own divine body, bridged the gulf, and opened a channel of communication between God and man.” Letter 36a, 1890 to J. S. Washburn

When Waggoner said,

“Christ ‘is in the bosom of the Father;’ being by nature of the very substance of God, and having life in Himself, He is properly called Jehovah, the self-existent One.”

Ellen White wote,

“He came forth from the bosom of the All-wise” {Lt47-1895 (March 21, 1895) par. 14}
“When in the fulness of time the eternal Son of the infinite God came forth from the bosom of His Father to this world” {Lt232-1903 (October 6, 1903) par. 19} “The Son of God shared the Father’s throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both.” Patriarchs and Prophets p. 38 1890
“Jehovah, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the source and sustainer of all, is alone entitled to supreme reverence and worship.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 305
“God gave His only begotten Son to the world to reveal the Father as supreme in heaven and in earth” {Lt132-1910 (December 1, 1910) par. 6}

When Waggoner said,

“We are mindful of Paul’s words, that ‘to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him” 1 Cor. 8:6.

Uriah Smith wrote in his 25 Fundamental Principals first printed in a SDA Year Book in 1889,

“There is one God, a personal, spiriual being...everywhere present by His personal representative, the Holy Spirit.” and “There is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things.”

H. J. Farman wrote,

“The Father bestowed upon the Son the power and honor of a creator, and made him the active agent in the creation of the worlds. Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:15-17; John 1:10. ...God spoke, and the Son performed the work. Compare Heb. 11: 3 with Heb. 1:2Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1891

When Waggoner said,

“All things proceed ultimately from God, the Father; even Christ Himself proceeded and came forth from the Father”

Ellen White wrote,

“The statement is made that the devil believed and trembled. He believed that Christ was the Son of God while he was in heaven” {Ms5-1886 (June 19, 1886) par. 10}
“He was not the Father but in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Letter 8a, July 7, 1890, To M. J. Church, 20MR, MR1444
“God had promised to give the First-born of heaven to save the sinner.” Desire of Ages, p. 51 1898
“The Son of God became the Son of man.” {Ms45-1892, par. 2}

George Butler wrote,

“Sustaining the relation they do as the Father and the only begotten Son, precedence in a certain sense must necessarily be conceded to the Father. This implies superiority in duration and rank.” 1888 Materials p. 1199.1 July 20, 1893

A.T. Jones wrote,

“Let us now consider further how the word was given. It is the word of God proceeding forth and coming from God, just as Jesus Christ, the living Word, proceeded forth and came from God.” General Conference Bulletin, February 24, 1895, ‘The Third Angel’s Message’ p. 318

After traveling the country with Jones and Waggoner, spreading the 1888 message, Ellen White was exiled to Australia where she wrote,

“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the upliftted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world... Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family.” Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91, 92 1895

So, what is the lesson of 1888? Let us not be distracted by divisive side-issues that, while they may be interesting and instructive, are “not vital” unless they direct us to Father and His Son.

Grace and peace be unto you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of the Father in truth and love. 2 John 3