(An Editorial by J. N. Andrews)
It is quite generally understood that the Seventh-day
Adventists are believers in the perpetuity of spiritual gifts. It is also
understood that we regard the visions of Sr. White as given by the Spirit of
God. But the use which we make of the doctrine of spiritual gifts, and
particularly of the visions of Sr. White, is very generally misunderstood.
1. We understand that the Holy Scriptures are divinely
inspired, and that they contain the truth of God which is able to make us wise
2. But we do not understand that the gift of the Scriptures
to mankind, supersedes the gift of the Holy Spirit to the people of God.
3. On the contrary, we do believe that the Scriptures plainly
reveal the office and work of the Holy Spirit; which office and work can never
cease while man remains upon probation.
4. This work of the Holy Spirit is revealed to us in the
Bible doctrine of spiritual gifts.
5. While therefore we do heartily accept the Scriptures as
teaching man's whole duty toward God, we do not deny the Holy Spirit that place
in the church which the Scriptures assign to it.
6. The office of the Holy Spirit is to reprove men of sin
(John 16:8); to take away the carnal mind, and to change our evil nature by
removing guilt from the conscience; to make us new creatures (Rom. 8: 1-9); and
to shed abroad in our hearts the love of God (Rom. 5:5); and to bear witness
with our spirits that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16); and to lead into
all truth (John 16: 13); and finally to change the saints to immortality at the
last day. Rom. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:4, 5.
7. The Scriptures contain the truth of God, as the precious
metals are contained in a mine. The work of the Spirit of God in leading man
into all truth is to search out, lay open, bring to light and vindicate the
truth of God. And in reproving sin, it has not only the work of impressing
the conscience of the sinner by powerful convictions of guilt,
but also in showing to chosen servants of God the guilt of others; and revealing
wrongs which otherwise would remain hidden to the great detriment of the church,
and to the ruin of the sinner.
8. The work of the Holy Spirit may be divided into two parts:
First, that which is designed simply to convert and to sanctify the person
affected by it. Second, that which is for the purpose of opening the truth of
God, and of correcting error, and of reproving and rebuking secret sins. This
part of the work is wrought by what the Scriptures term spiritual gifts. These
exist, not for the especial good of the person to whose trust they are
committed, but for the benefit of the whole body of the church.
9. Now it is plain that those who reject the work of the
Spirit of God under the plea that the Scriptures are sufficient, do deny and
reject all that part of the Bible which reveals the office and work of the Holy
10. Thus 1 Cor. 12, and Eph. 4, which define the gifts of the
Spirit of God, cannot really form a part of the rule of life of those who affirm
that the Scriptures are so sufficient in themselves that the gifts of the Spirit
11. The Spirit of God gave the Scriptures. But it is plain
that it did not give them for the purpose of shutting itself out from all
participation in the work of God among men. And what the Bible says of the gifts
of the Spirit shows just what relation the Spirit of God sustains to the work of
12. Thus Paul states the matter in two of his epistles:
1 Cor. 12:4-11: Now there are diversities of gifts, but the
same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh
all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit
withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another, the
word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same spirit; to
another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another, the working of
miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another,
divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues: but all
these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally
as he will.
Eph. 4:11-13: And he gave some, apostles; and some,
prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the
perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the
body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ.
13. Now the Bible expressly teaches that the existence of
is as necessary to the church of Christ, as the different members
are necessary to the well-being of the body. While, therefore, the Bible
recognizes the gifts of the Spirit, these are not given to supersede the Bible,
nor yet to fill the same place as the Bible.
14. The object of spiritual gifts is to maintain the living
work of God in the church. They enable the Spirit of God to speak in the
correction of wrongs, and in the exposure of iniquity. They are the means
whereby God teaches His people when they are in danger of taking wrong steps.
They are the means by which the Spirit of God sheds light upon church
difficulties, when otherwise their adjustment would be impossible. They also
constitute the means whereby God preserves His people from confusion by pointing
out errors, by correcting false interpretations of the Scriptures, and causing
light to shine out upon that which is in danger of being wrongly understood, and
therefore of being the cause of evil and division to the people of God. In
short, their work is to unite the people of God in the same mind and in the same
judgment upon the meaning of the Scriptures. Mere human judgment, with no direct
instruction from Heaven, can never search out hidden iniquity, nor adjust dark
and complicated church difficulties, nor prevent different and conflicting
interpretations of the Scriptures. It would be sad indeed if God could not still
converse with his people.
15. But here it is proper to say that these uses of the gifts
of the Spirit pertain almost wholly to the household of faith. Men who have no
acquaintance with them cannot be affected by them. And also, when men have had
little opportunity to be acquainted with the manifestations of the Spirit of
God, they cannot be asked to accept such work as specially wrought by God. It is
but just that they should have clear and convincing evidence for themselves that
the Spirit of God is in the work.
16. For this purpose we hold that all the tests presented in
the Bible should be applied to the gifts, and that they should be found to
sustain the test of such examination.
17. We therefore do not test the world in any manner by these
gifts. Nor do we in our intercourse with other religious bodies who are striving
to walk in the fear of God, in any way make these a test of Christian character.
Upon none of these persons do we urge these manifestations of the Spirit of God,
nor test them by their teaching.
18. There is such a thing, however, as men having in the
providence of God an opportunity to become acquainted with the special work of
the Spirit of God, so that they shall acknowledge that their light is clear,
convincing, and satisfactory. To such persons, we consider the gifts of the
Spirit are clearly a test. Not only has God spoken, but they have had
opportunity to ascertain that fact, and to know it for themselves. In all such
cases, spiritual gifts are manifestly a test that cannot be disregarded except
at the peril of eternal ruin.
19. One of the chief gifts of the Spirit of God that he has
placed in the New Testament church is the gift of prophecy. Joel 2:28; Acts
2:1-4, 17, 18; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; 14:1-5; Eph. 4:11-13. This gift the Bible
connects with the closing work of this dispensation. Rev. 12:17; 14:12; 19:10.
Spiritual gifts do not, therefore, cease to be of importance in the sight of
God, nor in that of his true people. And that message which is to accomplish the
perfecting of the saints and to fit them for translation, has the Spirit of God
connected with it, and speaking out in the management of its work.
20. Finally, in the reception of members into our churches,
we desire on this subject to know two things: 1. That they believe the Bible
doctrine of Spiritual gifts; 2. That they will candidly acquaint themselves with
the visions of Sr. White, which have ever held so prominent place in this work.
We believe that every person standing thus and carrying out this purpose will be
guided in the way of truth and righteousness. And those who occupy this ground,
are never denied all the time they desire to decide in this matter.
Review and Herald, Feb. 15, 1870.