Autobiographical Sketch of Ellen G. White
As I returned to Portland, there were evidences of the desolating effects of fanaticism. Some seemed to think that religion consisted in great excitement and noise. They would talk in a manner that would irritate unbelievers, and have an influence to arouse hatred against themselves and the doctrines they taught. Then they would rejoice that they suffered persecution. Unbelievers could see no consistency in such a course. The brethren in some places were prevented from assembling for meetings. The innocent suffered with the guilty.
I carried a sad and heavy heart much of the time. It seemed so cruel that the cause of Christ should be injured by the course of these injudicious men. They were not only ruining their own souls, but placing upon the cause a stigma not easily removed. And Satan loved to have it so. It suited him well to see the truth handled by unsanctified men; to have it mixed with error, and then all together trampled in the dust. He looked with triumph upon the confused, scattered state of God's children.
We trembled for the churches that were to be subjected to this spirit of fanaticism. My heart ached for God's people. Must they be deceived and led away by this false enthusiasm? I faithfully pronounced the warnings given me of the Lord; but they seemed to have little effect, except to make these persons of extreme views jealous of me.
A False Humility
There were some who professed great humility, and advocated creeping on the floor like children, as an evidence of their humility. They claimed that the words of Christ in Matthew 18:1-6 must have a literal fulfillment at this period, when they were looking for their Saviour to return. They would creep around their houses, on the street, over bridges, and in the church itself.
I told them plainly that this was not required; that the humility which God looked for in His people was to be shown by a Christlike life, not by creeping on the floor. All spiritual things are to be treated with sacred dignity. Humility and meekness are in accordance with the life of Christ, but they are to be shown in a dignified way.
A Christian reveals true humility by showing the gentleness of Christ, by being always ready to help others, by speaking kind words and performing unselfish acts, which elevate and ennoble the most sacred message that has come to our world.
The "No Work" Doctrine
There were some in Paris, Maine, who believed that it was sin to work. The Lord gave me a reproof for the leader in this error, declaring that he was going contrary to the word of God in abstaining from labor, in urging his errors upon others, and in denouncing all who did not receive them. He rejected every evidence which the Lord gave to convince him of his error, and was determined to make no change in his course. He took weary journeys, walking great distances to places where he would receive only abuse, and thought that in so doing he was suffering for Christ's sake. Impressions were followed, and reason and judgment were laid aside.
I saw that God would work for the salvation of His people: that this misguided man would soon manifest himself, so that all the honest in heart would see that he was not actuated by a right spirit, and that his career would soon close. Soon afterward the snare was broken, and he had but little more influence over the brethren. He denounced the visions as being of the devil, and continued to follow his impressions, until his mind was deranged and his friends were obliged to confine him. At last he made a rope of some of his bed clothing, with which he hanged himself, and his followers were brought to realize the fallacy of his teachings.
The Dignity of Labor
God ordained that the beings He created should work. Upon this their happiness depends. No one in the Lord's great domain of creation was made to be a drone. Our happiness increases and our powers develop as we engage in useful employment.
Action gives power. Entire harmony pervades the universe of God. All the heavenly beings are in constant activity; and the Lord Jesus, in His life work, has given an example for everyone. He went about "doing good." God has established the law of obedient action. Silent but ceaseless, the objects of His creation do their appointed work. The ocean is in constant motion. The springing grass, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, does its errand, clothing the fields with beauty. The leaves are stirred to motion, and yet no hand is seen to touch them. The sun, moon, and stars are useful and glorious in fulfilling their mission.
At all times the machinery of the body continues its work. Day by day the heart throbs, doing its regular, appointed task, unceasingly forcing its crimson current to all parts of the body. Action, action, is seen pervading the whole living machinery. And man, his mind and body created in God's similitude, must be active in order to fill his appointed place. He is not to be idle. Idleness is sin.
A Severe Trial
In the midst of my experiences in meeting fanaticism, I was subjected to a severe trial. If the Spirit of God rested upon anyone in meeting, and he glorified God by praising Him, some raised the cry of mesmerism; and if it pleased the Lord to give me a vision in meeting, some would say that it was the effect of excitement and mesmerism.
Grieved and desponding, I often went alone to some retired place to pour out my soul before Him who invites the weary and heavy-laden to come and find rest. As my faith claimed the promises, Jesus would seem very near. The sweet light of heaven would shine around me, and I would seem to be encircled by the arms of my Saviour, and would there be taken off in vision. But when I would relate what God had revealed to me alone, where no earthly influence could affect me, I was grieved and astonished to hear some intimate that those who lived nearest to God were most liable to be deceived by Satan.
Some would have had me believe that there was no Holy Spirit, and that all the exercises that holy men of God experienced, were only the effect of mesmerism or the deception of Satan.
Those who had taken extreme views of certain texts of Scripture, refraining wholly from labor, and rejecting all who would not receive their ideas on this and other points pertaining to religious duty, charged me with conforming to the world. On the other hand, the nominal Adventists charged me with fanaticism, and I was falsely represented as the leader of the fanaticism which I was laboring constantly to arrest.
Different times were set for the Lord to come, and were urged upon the brethren. But the Lord showed me that they would pass by, for the time of trouble must take place before the coming of Christ; and that every time a date was set, and passed, it would weaken the faith of God's people. For this I was charged with being the evil servant that said, "My Lord delayeth His coming." Matthew 24:48.
All these things weighed heavily upon my spirits, and in the confusion I was sometimes tempted to doubt my own experience.
While at family prayers one morning, the power of God began to rest upon me, and the thought rushed into my mind that it was mesmerism, and I resisted it. Immediately I was struck dumb, and for a few moments was lost to everything around me. I then saw my sin in doubting the power of God, and that for so doing I was struck dumb, but that my tongue should be loosed in less than twenty-four hours. A card was held up before me, on which were written in letters of gold the chapter and verse of fifty texts of Scripture.*
After I came out of vision, I beckoned for the slate, and wrote upon it that I was dumb, also what I had seen, and that I wished the large Bible. I took the Bible, and readily turned to all the texts that I had seen upon the card.
I was unable to speak all day. Early the next morning my soul was filled with joy, and my tongue was loosed to shout the high praises of God. After that I dared not doubt, or for a moment resist the power of God, however others might think of me.
Up to this time I could not write; my trembling hand was unable to hold a pen steadily. While in vision, I was commanded by an angel to write the vision. I obeyed, and wrote readily. My nerves were strengthened, and from that day to this my hand has been steady.
(Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, pp. 73-78)