The Shadow of the Stanton Controversy, part 1

Two brethren, one whose name was Stanton, after attending the General Conference in the first months of 1893, published a pamphlet called the Loud Cry. In this tract the Seventh-day Adventist Church was denounced as Babylon (the great Spiritual Babylon of Revelation 18), and it called upon the people to come out of her. This tract was widely circulated.

In Wellington, New Zealand, these pamphlets came to the post office with instruction to the postmaster to distribute them to Seventh-day Adventists. Ellen White who was there during this time began writing pointed rebuttals against this pamphlet, and the two men publishing and circulating it.

The Stanton manuscripts, if they may be called that, have been used far and near by people in the General Conference, in local conferences, and by some self-supporting ministries. It is concluded from these articles that special ministries do not have a right to exist, or at least do not have a right to promote and organize home churches, and that such people are condemned by God through the Spirit of Prophecy.

Some of these manuscripts, written in 1893, were published in The Review and Herald during August through October, 1893 and in November of 1956. Some of them were later published in Testimonies to Ministers (see the first 62 pages), and in various devotional compilations, in volumes two and three of Selected Messages and in Notebook Leaflets. As you can see, someone can quote to you, apparently from all over the Spirit of Prophecy writings on this topic, but when you look it up they are really quoting from these “Stanton manuscripts.”


A Weapon Against Historic Adventism


These articles have been used to try to persuade people of the following: it is wrong to start home churches, it is contrary to the Spirit of Prophecy not to be in a conference church, and you are listening to and following the devil if you are not subject to the conference, etc. Any series of articles, used this extensively in an attempt to prove the revival and reformation movement within Adventism to be a false movement, is certainly deserving of serious study. If we are deceived about the most fundamental issues of our faith, it is certainly time that we knew about it.

A number of attacks against historic Adventists, meeting in home churches, have been launched using statements from these articles. The authors and speakers apparently believed that these statements conclusively proved historic Adventists to be in error.

One of the main attacks against the revival and reformation movement within Adventism has been over the issue of who and what is the church. When observing arguments, which were intended to prove that Ellen White taught that the church was the “organization,” it is curious that some of the main statements quoted are from the Stanton manuscripts. Since these manuscripts are thought to be able to destroy our understanding of who and what the church is, and force us, for conscience sake, to submit to control by conferences, we need to find out exactly what Ellen White was teaching in these manuscripts.




All Ellen White statements and Bible statements have a context. In her writings, Ellen White repeatedly urged that time and place be considered: “Regarding the testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but time and place must be considered. Nothing must be done untimely.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 57. Part of the context is the time and the place, and part is the way that words are used in the paragraph (the linguistic context).

If the Stanton manuscripts teach that the organization is the church, or if they teach that historic Adventists are in error, we should find in them a “plain thus saith the Lord” to show us how to change our beliefs. (See Great Controversy, 595.)


Consistant or Conflifting?


If these manuscripts teach a different definition of the church than the explicit statements historic Adventists have already found in the inspired writings, then we are in dire difficulty. Truth does not contradict itself. Ellen White said: “All truth, whether in nature or in revelation, is consistent with itself in all its manifestations.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 114. The Bible also says, that “no lie is of the truth.” 1 John 2:21. If these manuscripts teach a different definition of the church than all other inspired writings, then we have a severe problem.

One of the reasons for the theological problems in Adventism today is that so many have tried to give Ellen White a rubber nose—force her writings to teach opposite and contradictory things. As a result, anyone who believes these distorted views eventually loses confidence in the testimonies of God’s Spirit. They are then ripe for the last delusion among God’s professed people, namely: “The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Proverbs 29:18. Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 48.

For example, an historic Adventist quotes Ellen White’s statement that, “from the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” Acts of the Apostles, 11. This is an unrestricted definition statement. Its time context is universal, and it has no time limit. It states that it is that way now (perfect tense) and has been this way all the way “from the beginning” and refers to it “in every age.” Not only this but the context of the statement is unrestricted in regard to place. The church described is not local, but the church in the “world,” the “earth” and the church in “earth” and “heaven.” But a theological opponent tries to refute this universal statement by quoting a statement from the Stanton manuscripts, attempting to show that the church is something completely different than how it is defined in the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles. Two things that are both true cannot be in opposition to each other. This problem has been recognized for a long time and many ministers and teachers have attempted to add qualifications to the definition statements of the church in the The Acts of the Apostles in order to force Ellen White’s definitions to agree with their definition statements. The most common way of doing this is to create models in which there is more than one true church.




It would be advisable for anyone who decides to tell historic Adventists that they are wrong about their definition of the church, and then attempts to prove it from the Stanton manuscripts, to first know how Ellen White defines the church in the Stanton manuscripts. Surely this would be the only fair course if we are searching for the truth. A prophet must be allowed to define the terms he or she is using, and certainly it would be utterly presumptuous for us to place our own preconceived definitions on terms that the prophet had explicitly defined.

Surprising as it may seem, in the Stanton manuscripts, Ellen White defines who and what the church is approximately a dozen times! Let us look at how she herself defines the church in these articles. The following quotations are all from the Stanton manuscripts. The actual definition statement is in italics.

Definition 1: This first definition is a definition by antithesis—Ellen White defines what the true church is NOT:

“The world was stirred by the enmity of Satan, and when asked to choose between the Son of God and the criminal Barabbas, they chose a robber and murderer rather than Jesus. The ignorant multitudes were led, by the deceptive reasonings of those in high position, to reject the Son of God, and choose a robber and murderer in his stead. Let us all remember that we are still in a world where Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected and crucified, where the guilt of despising Christ, and preferring a robber rather than the spotless Lamb of God, still rests. Unless we individually repent toward God because of transgression of his law, and exercise faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the world has rejected, we shall lie under the full condemnation that the action of choosing Barabbas instead of Christ, merited. The whole world stands charged to-day with the deliberate rejection and murder of the Son of God. The word bears record that Jews and Gentiles, kings, governors, ministers, priests, and people, —all classes and sects who reveal the same spirit of envy, hatred, prejudice, and unbelief manifested by those who put to death the Son of God,—would act the same part were the opportunity granted, as did the Jews and people of the time of Christ. They would be partakers of the same spirit that demanded the death of the Son of God.” The Review and Herald, August 22, 1893. [All emphasis supplied] (A religious denomination can be defined as a sect.)

Conclusion: The church is not any group or denomination who reveals a spirit of envy, hatred, prejudice and unbelief; such as the Jews did at the time of Christ’s crucifixion.

Definition 2: “In the scene representing the work of Christ for us [the church], and the determined accusation of Satan against us, Joshua stands as the high priest, and makes request in behalf of God’s commandment-keeping people. At the time, Satan represents the people of God as great sinners, and presents before God the list of sins he has tempted them to commit through their lifetime, and urges that because of their transgressions, they be given into his hands to destroy. He urges that they should not be protected by ministering angels against the confederacy of evil. He is full of anger because he cannot bind the people of God into bundles with the world, to render to him complete allegiance. Kings, and rulers, and governors have placed upon themselves the brand of antichrist, and are represented as the dragon who goes to make war with the saints,—with those who keep the commandments of God, and who have the faith of Jesus. In their enmity against the people of God, they show themselves guilty also of the choice of Barabbas instead of Christ.” The Review and Herald, August 29,1893.

Conclusion: The church is the people of God who keep His commandments and have the faith of Jesus. (The faith of Jesus is a faith that is sufficient to give victory over sin.)

Definition 3: “However weak and compassed with infirmity the people of God may be, those who turn from disloyalty to God in this wicked and perverse generation, and come back to their allegiance, standing to vindicate the holy law of God, making up the breach made by the man of sin under the direction of Satan, will be accounted the children of God, and through the righteousness of Christ will stand perfect before God. Truth will not always lie in the dust to be trampled under foot of men. It will be magnified and made honorable; it will yet arise and shine forth in all its natural luster, and will stand fast forever and ever.” The Review and Herald,August 29, 1893.

Conclusion: The church keeps God’s commandments and is especially singled out in these manuscripts as keeping the Sabbath—it is those who keep the Sabbath commandment who are making up the breach. (See Isaiah 58:12–14.)

Definition 4: The church is “the people whom God is leading.” The Review and Herald, August 29, 1893.

Definition 5: “At the great heart of the work, men opened their treasures of light, and while the Lord was pouring out His Spirit upon the people, did these men receive of the heavenly anointing? While the deep movings of the Spirit of God were made manifest among the people, and souls were being converted, and hard hearts broken, there were those who were listening to the suggestions of Satan, and they were inspired with zeal from beneath to go forth and proclaim that the very people receiving of the Holy Spirit, who are to receive the latter rain and the glory that is to lighten the whole earth, were Babylon. Did the Lord give these messengers their message?—No; for it was not a message of truth.” The Review and Herald, September 5, 1893.

Conclusion: The church is the people who are receiving the Holy Spirit, and who are to receive the latter rain and give the loud cry of Revelation 18.

Definition 6: “God has a church on earth who are lifting up the down-trodden law, and presenting to the world the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. The church is the depositary of the wealth of the riches of the grace of Christ, and through the church eventually will be made manifest the final and full display of the love of God to the world that is to be lightened with its glory. The prayer of Christ that His church may be one as He was one with his Father, will finally be answered. The rich dowry of the Holy Spirit will be given, and through its constant supply to the people of God, they will become witnesses in the world of the power of God unto salvation.” The Review and Herald, September 5, 1893.

Conclusion: The church are those exalting the law, presenting to the world the gospel and who will make a final and full display of the love of God to the world (the loud cry).

Definition 7: (Repeats the third definition) “There is but one church in the world who are at the present time standing in the breach, and making up the hedge, building up the old waste places.” The Review and Herald, September 5, 1893. This statement again points out God’s true church in the last days as being a Sabbath-keeping church.

Definition 8: (Repeats second definition) “Those who keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus” The Review and Herald, September 5, 1893.

Definition 9: “The whole world is filled with hatred of those who proclaim the binding claims of the law of God, and the church who are loyal to Jehovah must engage in no ordinary conflict.” The Review and Herald, September 5, 1893.

Definition 10: “God has a church, a chosen people, and could all see as I have seen, how closely Christ identifies Himself with His people, no such message would be heard as the one that denounces the church as Babylon. God has a people who are laborers together with Him, and they have gone straightforward, having His glory in view.” The Review and Herald, October 17, 1893.

Conclusion: The church is a people who are laborers together with God.

Definition 11: “Beware of those who arise with a great burden to denounce the church. The chosen ones who are standing and breasting the storm of opposition from the world, and are uplifting the downtrodden commandments of God to exalt them as honorable and holy, are indeed the light of the world.” The Review and Herald, November 8, 1956.

Definition 12: “The church, His chosen people, who are keeping His commandments,” The Review and Herald, November 8, 1956.


The Spirit of Prophecy Vindicated


We hope to later look at a number of charges made against historic Adventists using the Stanton manuscripts. Always remember that Ellen White emphatically and explicitly defined what she meant by the word “church” in these articles, and our conclusions must never be based on a different definition of the church than the prophet was using.

We are also much relieved to find out that her definitions in these articles are precisely and exactly consistent with all her other definitions of the true church in her writings, and her claim to the gift of prophecy is not in jeopardy on this issue. She does not have a rubber nose, saying that the true church is one thing in one place, and is something completely different or opposite in another place. All sincere students of the Spirit of Prophecy may rest assured that Ellen White is consistent on this topic in all her writings. She says that “from the beginning faithful souls have constituted the church on earth,” and nobody need listen to false conclusions of those who try to give her a rubber nose saying, that the church includes both the faithful and the unfaithful, in direct contradiction to the Spirit of Prophecy. The Spirit of Prophecy is internally consistent and does not give conflicting and contradictory messages, like we erring men are apt to do.