As We Near the End of Time, Part III

In this series we are studying about the fact that there is a ditch on both sides of the road of life on which we travel. One ditch is the ditch of Babylon. Ellen White wrote to then general conference president, G. I. Butler, stating that the ministers are “coveting their neighbors’ wives,” that there is fornication among us, and that if something is not done to cleanse the camp we are going to become a sister of Babylon. Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, 380. That is one ditch. The Babylonian churches will all tell you they are against fornication, adultery, divorce and remarriage without biblical grounds, but even though they are against it, they tolerate it. There are many people in these churches who have the highest moral standards, but the churches are in the same predicament as are Adventists. The devil has worked in our society so that the churches have become corrupted and defiled through the fall and seduction of their members.

The other ditch, on the opposite side, takes the same position that the Pharisees took. They say, Get those people out of the camp, so the camp can be cleansed, and then the Lord will be able to use the rest of us to finish the work. Jesus got in trouble, because He offered salvation to the people in the church who were fallen and outcasts. He said, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And you, seeing, did not repent later that you should believe in Him.” Matthew 21:32.

Remember the lady to whom Jesus offered salvation at the well? One of the reasons Jesus was crucified was because He went to the people in the church who had messed up—like this woman. Jesus told her, ” ‘You have said well that you do not have any husband, because you have had five husbands, and the one that you have now is not even your husband.’ ” (John 4:17, 18.) “You did not even go through the ceremony this time. You did not even sign the piece of paper; you just decided to give up.”

We are in a situation where there are unscriptural marriages throughout Adventism, even in the revival and reformation movement. This is something that we must study, even though it is delicate and sensitive.

A very sincere man once came to me and told me, “I divorced my wife, and I married the woman to whom I am married now. I know that I am unscripturally married. Now, here I am, and what do I do? I want to be saved! If you tell me that I have to leave my wife to be saved, I will do it.” That is not a desirable position for any pastor to be in, so you can understand that I have given this subject a great deal of study.

Understand Principles

How can the sinners in the church be saved without the church itself becoming part of Babylon? When can the church disfellowship sinners without the development of Phariseeism? Those are not the easiest questions to answer.

Seventh-day Adventists have an advantage over other churches in that we have the Spirit of Prophecy writings to help us come to wise decisions. What we want to understand is principles. If you have not read the book, Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce (The Ellen G. White Estate, 1989), you should. From the many private letters Ellen White wrote dealing with similar complicated situations that are now published in this book, principles are given for your understanding so you can make wise decisions.

Evil Results

Ellen White always warned people against unscriptural marriages. She taught, as does the Bible, that evil results would follow the people in unscriptural marriages for the rest of their lives. But after giving that warning, she said that when people go ahead and get involved in an unscriptural marriage, to leave them alone. That in no way condones what they have done, but there is not a single instance that I know of where she said to break up those people. (See Testimonies, vol. 4, 503–508.) I did not tell that man that he must divorce his second wife; I could not do that with a clear conscience. Mrs. White wrote concerning this exact thing.

People are married who have no right to be married—an unscriptural marriage. This is much more complicated than the person who has committed fornication or adultery. They can confess, say they are sorry, and stop. But in an unscriptural marriage, vows have been given for which there was no right to give. We should remember that a person in a situation like this has committed a grievous sin, and there is no salvation for any sinner if the sin is not confessed (to the individuals who have been wronged—in an unscriptural marriage there are always parties who have been wronged and hurt) with complete repentance. Mrs. White wrote, “You have asked my counsel in regard to this case. I would say that unless those who are burdened in reference to the matter have carefully studied a better arrangement, and can find places for these where they can be comfortable, they better not carry out their ideas of a separation. I hope to learn that this matter is not pressed, and that sympathy will not be withdrawn from the two whose interests have been united.

“I write this because I have seen so many cases of the kind, and persons would have great burden till everything was unsettled and uprooted, and then their interest and burden went no further. We should individually know that we have a zeal that is according to knowledge. We should not move hastily in such matters, but look on every side of the question. We should move very cautiously and with pitying tenderness, because we do not know all the circumstances which led to this course of action.

I advise that these unfortunate ones be left to God and their own consciences, and that the church shall not treat them as sinners until they have evidence that they are such in the sight of the holy God. He reads hearts as an open book. He will not judge as man judgeth.Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery and Divorce, 218, 219.

Those statements have helped me a great deal. In an unscriptural marriage, the parties have created for themselves a dilemma that no church or prophet can solve. Only the Lord can solve such a dilemma, and we must leave such with Him. I believe that we are on the border of the kingdom, and Satan has successfully attacked God’s people. These unscriptural marriages greatly weaken the church.


Everything that we do has consequences, and the unscriptural marriage will make it impossible for those involved to do what could otherwise have been done in God’s work.

Consider what is called “The Case of Brother G,” from which this principle is derived.

C. White wrote a letter explaining the situation: ” ‘Regarding Brother G, I can speak quite freely. About 1875 he married a very brilliant school teacher. . . . She was very talented, but after a number of years she became quarrelsome and made his life miserable. [That was probably according to his report.] At that time he was associated with a very brilliant young woman who was an accountant at X College, and formed a fondness for her. Sister White wrote him a very plain warning, which he promised to heed. Shortly after Sister White had gone to Europe, Brother G resigned his position at X College, went to Michigan to visit his sister, and offered no obstruction to his wife in getting a divorce.

” ‘Thus far, those who knew the case approved, but shortly after this he married the bookkeeper before mentioned; then all his friends were greatly grieved. He taught a while at _______, then settled near ________, and for many years worked very hard, his wife helping him to make a living on a little fruit and vegetable farm. They came to see the wickedness of the course they had taken. They repented of it very bitterly, and their brethren and sisters were satisfied that their repentance was genuine. They had three beautiful children growing up, and no one, as far as I know, encouraged them to separate. When the matter was put before Sister White, she did not encourage a separation, nor could she encourage any movement to exclude him from participation in the work of the third angel’s message. In his later life he labored in a humble way in self-supporting work in the South.

” ‘If persons living in the light of the third angel’s message purpose to leave one companion for the sake of uniting with someone else, it is our duty to warn and reprove and discipline.

” ‘If persons before embracing the message have entangled themselves, and afterward have repented, confessed their sins, received forgiveness of God, and won the confidence of their brethren, it is better for both ministers and laymen to leave them alone, enjoying the forgiveness and justification which have been wrought through Christ, without undertaking to tear up existing relations.’—February 21, 1927.” Ibid., 219–221.

Now we return to what Ellen White said about this man. Remember, he had married a schoolteacher, but he had developed a fondness for someone else. His wife got a divorce, and he immediately married the other person. “We had conversation after the meeting with Elder Starr. The question was in reference to a teacher of grammar for the advanced classes. There is no perplexity in regard to the first classes of grammar, but we need well-qualified teachers in all branches, and we hope Elder Olsen will find either a man or woman that can come to Australia as a thorough teacher. If only G had kept himself straight, he would be just the one to come. But the question is whether his record will not follow him. We scarcely dare venture the matter and run the risk. That the man has sincerely repented I have not a doubt, and I believe the Lord has forgiven him. But if obliged to make explanations it would not be an easy matter to do; so what shall we do with G? Leave him where he is, a prey to remorse, and to be useless the remainder of his life? I cannot see what can be done. [This is a prophet speaking.] Oh, for wisdom from on high! Oh, for the counsel of One who reads the heart as an open book! How Satan watches for souls to bind them with his hellish cords that they become lost to the work and almost helpless in his hands. ‘Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.’ [Mark 14:38.] —Letter 13, 1892. (Written five years after Brother G’s unscriptural marriage.)” Ibid., 221, 222.


Unfortunately, people try to excuse what they have done by referring to David or to Solomon, or someone like them. In Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce (pages 92–97), Ellen White goes into a long discussion about David. As a result of David’s sin, even though he later confessed it, was forgiven, and will be in the kingdom of heaven, there were consequences. In the remainder of his life, he was embittered; he found out that what he had done resulted in a wretched evil. It caused unhappiness in his family, in discord, rivalry and jealousy. Not only that, he received reproof and heavy denunciation, and God visited him with judgments. He lost four of his sons, and each one of those was harder for him than if he had to die himself. If you are a father, it is harder to watch your son die than to die yourself, and David had to go through that four times. Ellen White said he was “made to feel the full weight of the injustice done.” Ibid, 97.

Example of Principle

Here is an example of this principle. In the Spirit of Prophecy this man is simply called William E. He was born in Quebec, Canada, in 1856. He attended Battle Creek College, and he labored as a minister or colporteur in several different states. He was married, but his first marriage ended in divorce. After that, he fathered a child by a second woman, without marrying her, and then in 1892 he married a third woman. He stayed married to her until he died in 1934. In 1901 this man’s father and brother insisted, since he was in an unscriptural marriage, that he should leave his wife. In other words, he should make things right.

About this, Ellen White said:
“I would gladly do something to help poor Will E to make things right, but this cannot be done as matters are now situated [notice, a prophet cannot make it right, the church cannot make it right; you just have to leave it with the Lord], without someone’s being wronged.” Ibid., 227. If you do this you are wrong, if you do that, you are wrong—you are in a dilemma that only God can solve and heal.

A Hard One

Even though we follow the given principles, great and perplexing problems occur for the church when the person who is in an unscriptural marriage decides that he is called to be a minister. This is not uncommon. You would probably be shocked, if you knew the personal history of ministers with whom you are acquainted. Brother E moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to the largest church in that conference. He was quite personable, a very good speaker, and he became quite popular in this church. He was active in the church work; became an elder, and started giving Bible studies and holding evangelistic meetings. The time came when he was working so hard in evangelism that the church talked to the conference and said, “This man needs to have some support. He’s working almost full time in evangelism, and he is successful.” So the conference started paying him $8 a week. Of course, he could not live on $8 a week, even in 1900! He was really interested in the restoration of his credentials and recognition as a minister again. The conference president wrote to Ellen White. After talking about the things just mentioned, he states, ” ‘His wife is a nervous wreck and her confidence has been so shaken that while she wants him to preach, there is constant danger that as he becomes popular and mingles with the people that she will become jealous, whether [there] is any cause or not [that is easy to understand in this situation], and herself bring on a scandal by talking and telling of the past which she is prone to do when she becomes suspicious of him. All would be greatly relieved if there is any definite counsel from the Lord.’ ” Ibid., 229. The people often went to Ellen White for counsel, and although we cannot go to her personally anymore, we can seek counsel through her inspired writings. People still get into these complicated situations.

Brother E was being successful in evangelism, but the people said, look at his past. What are we going to do? They received a letter from W. C. White in which he said that he had talked the situation over with his mother. Notice all of the “ifs” in this letter. He wrote: ” ‘Mother says that those who have dealt with the perplexities arising from his many transgressions in the past should take the responsibility of advising regarding our present duty toward him. Mother does not wish to take large responsibility in this matter, but she says regarding Elder E as she has said regarding other men in a somewhat similar position, if they have thoroughly repented, if they are living such lives as convince their brethren that they are thoroughly in earnest, do not cut them off from fellowship, do not forbid their working for Christ in a humble capacity, but do not elevate them to positions of responsibility.’ ” Ibid., 230. So the conference decided not to issue Brother E ministerial credentials, but he was allowed to work in evangelism. At the close of this letter by W. C. White, his mother penned in the following words; ” ‘This is correct advice in such cases. Let him walk humbly before God. I see no light in giving him responsibilities.’ ” Ibid., 231.

Things went on, and a few years later, because of his success in the church in Birmingham, Alabama, and his success in evangelism, some people in the church said, “This man should be made a minister of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.” He still thought that he should be made a minister again, too. The conference president decided to write Ellen White again. This time he said, “The church is disagreed upon the point in question [this was causing problems in the church], and it is having a bad influence upon the work in the city and a more or less deleterious effect throughout the conference. [The whole conference was being affected by this situation.] The majority think, because of his capabilities and his late work in the city . . . that he should be made elder of the church and act as its pastor, or leader, while others do not favor it because of his life record . . . .” The conference men met together and told him that he could do evangelism, but that they did not feel right about ordaining him and giving him ministerial credentials. Brother William E had been so successful in evangelism, he thought that the Adventist ministers were just too hard-hearted. He said, I have repented, I have reformed, and I am not like that anymore. So he decided he would leave Birmingham, Alabama, and go to St. Helena, California, to talk with Ellen White himself. He thought that when he talked to Ellen White she would see the situation and help him get everything cleared up. However, when he got to St. Helena, California, Ellen White refused to see him. So the decision stayed the same.

Learn to Get Along

You see from this story just how complicated these situations can get. You may say that the mistake was made many years ago. That may be, but the unscriptural marriage has consequences. If there are young people reading this, and you are thinking that you cannot get along with your spouse, you had better do some fasting and praying before you decide to separate. Ask the Lord for direction.

Ellen White, in writing to a couple who was having terrible trouble because their dispositions just did not blend at all, advised that they had made some promises to each other, so they needed to pray and ask the Lord to help them change their dispositions. (See The Adventist Home, 345.) You see, that is God’s plan. If we are going to go to heaven someday, and we are all going to get along there, we have to learn to get along here. The first place we learn to get along with other people is in our homes. The second place where we learn to get along with others is in the church. Think this through in your mind, friends. If we cannot get along, what does that mean about our prospects of going to heaven? Whether it is in the home or in the church—it is something very serious.

Friends, we need to understand the principles. We need to be sure that we do not become like the Pharisees and decide that we are going to tear everything up that is not right. If we tear it up, then how are we going to put it back together? On the other hand, we must not be like Babylon and just let anything happen, saying, We are against it, but you can be a member of this church no matter what you do. We cannot do that.

We are living in a time when the ministers, the teachers, the elders among God’s people have some very delicate and difficult questions with which to deal. These problems exist because the devil has been successful, just like he was with Israel before they entered the Promised Land, in getting God’s people involved in sensuous practices which have led to divorces and remarriages that are not scriptural. Friend, decide, before you get involved in an unscriptural marriage, that you are not going to get involved! Make a decision!

We are not saying that such people are lost. We want to see them saved. But they have gotten themselves in situations where they cannot do, in God’s work, what they could have done otherwise. We have young people, today, who have decided, just as did Daniel, Joseph, and Isaac, that they are going to follow God, no matter what the cost. We need more young people like this to finish God’s work. We need young people who will make the same decision, as did Timothy. Paul told him, “Do not be a partaker in other men’s sins, keep yourself pure.” 1 Timothy 5:22.

[All emphasis supplied. Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]

To be concluded . . .