William was an engineer, farmer, and businessman. Born in Ireland, he immigrated to the United States around 1870. He and his wife, Isabella, lived in Philadelphia, where he worked as an engineer building locomotives. After some years they headed west to the redwoods of northern California to do logging; eventually settling near Healdsburg, where William became a fruit grower, cattle rancher, and owned a country store.
The couple had four sons: William, Jr., Ray, Nathaniel, and Walter. At some point, Isabella became a Seventh-day Adventist, but her husband, a good moral man, was not as interested in religion.
In 1905 tents were erected near Healdsburg for a Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting. Isabella and the boys attended, and she invited her husband to join them for the Sabbath service. To her delight, he did.
As William sat under the tent, the speaker began to unfold the wonderful truth about Jesus, sharing the need of all sinners to have a Saviour and to allow Him to change their lives. The speaker made an earnest appeal and, much to the surprise and joy of Isabella, William stood up and went to the front, giving his heart to the Lord. He studied this precious Advent message for a year. He closed his store on Sabbath and trusted God for the future. He was baptized and later became the first elder of the Healdsburg Seventh-day Adventist Church. Christ changed his life.
William and Isabella Wilson were my great-grandparents, and the speaker who preached so earnestly about Jesus was Ellen G. White. After James White died, Ellen moved to Healdsburg and lived near Healdsburg College—the forerunner to Pacific Union College.
My grandfather, Nathaniel, remembered Ellen White coming to their home when he was a boy, and how she lovingly told stories to him and his brothers as they sat at her feet.
The Wilson family owes so much of its knowledge of this precious Advent message to the direct, practical, evangelistic activity of Ellen White. For us as a family, the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy take on an even more personal value because of it.
Today I wholeheartedly believe in the prophetic ministry of Ellen White for many reasons, but especially because it uplifts Jesus.
“Our faith increases by beholding Jesus, who is the center of all that is attractive and lovely,” she wrote. “The more we contemplate the heavenly, the less we see desirable and attractive in the earthly. The more continually we fix the eye of faith on Christ, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered, the more our faith grows.”1
THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY
Some may wonder why the writings of Ellen White are referred to as the “Spirit of Prophecy.” According to Revelation 19:10, the “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” The “testimony of Jesus” is His prophetic messages to His people given through His prophets across time. In Ephesians 4:11-13 we see that the gift of prophecy would remain in the church until the end of time.2
The fact that the testimony of Jesus or “Spirit of prophecy” is mentioned in connection with God’s end-time remnant church (see Rev. 12:17) indicates that Jesus would speak in a special way to His people for these last days. This is the same Spirit who inspired God’s earlier prophets with messages for His people.
INSTRUCTION FROM HEAVEN
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church we accept Ellen G. White as a modern servant of the Lord and prophet. This church would not be where it is without the special guidance given it by God through Ellen White. We do not, however, portray the Spirit of Prophecy as part of, or equal to, the Bible. As Ellen White indicated, the Spirit of Prophecy is to lead to the Bible. It is, however, inspired by the same heavenly inspiration as that of the Bible, since it is the testimony of Jesus.
“Through His Holy Spirit the voice of God has come to us continually in warning and instruction, to confirm the faith of the believers in the Spirit of prophecy,” wrote Ellen White. “The instruction that was given in the early days of the message is to be held as safe instruction to follow in these its closing days.”3
The Spirit of Prophecy was given to nurture and assist God’s last-day movement with instruction from heaven. This counsel has been instrumental in establishing publishing, health, education, humanitarian, and media institutions. It guides the pastoral, evangelistic, missionary, and administrative work of the church.
The Spirit of Prophecy provides instruction in almost every aspect of life, including theology, lifestyle, personal health, the family, the home, young people, interpersonal relationships, personal stewardship, and more.
As a result of Spirit of Prophecy guidance, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not just another denomination, but a heaven-born movement with a special destiny—a mission and message to proclaim, found in Revelation 14:6-12. The Spirit of Prophecy is one of the greatest gifts given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Christ Himself. This is precisely why the devil is so intent on destroying the influence of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
“There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies which is satanic,” wrote Ellen White. “The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded.”4
ONE OF THE GREATEST THREATS
One of the greatest threats against the Spirit of Prophecy, however, is not necessarily animosity, but the threat of indifference. Many members are unacquainted with it, don’t read it, or just ignore it.
The devil knows that if he can get God’s people to look to themselves and their own opinions instead of looking to Christ, he will be able to bring in dissension, disunity, and tension. This is one of his greatest tools against the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
We have been called to share the Word of God in all its power through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In this heavenly calling we will be confronted with people who will disagree with our message and mission. We may be tempted to become discouraged with the apathy of others within the church. Whatever we may face, however, we should not work independently, apart from the church. Stay unified with your local church and with the worldwide church family, regardless of its imperfections. Keep the Lord and His mission always before you.
Lift up Christ and His Holy Word. Believe in the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy. As we do this under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we will experience revival and reformation. God will do His work to fully prepare His people for the unbelievable events just ahead.
The Spirit of Prophecy is as relevant today as it was when it was written. It is accurate, uplifting, instructive, and powerful as it points to Christ and to the Holy Bible. It is truly the testimony of Jesus.
1 Ellen G. White, In Heavenly Places(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1967), p. 127.
2 See Gerhard Pfandl, “The Gift of Prophecy: Another Facet of God’s Care for His Church,” http://bit.ly/giftofprophecy.
3 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, p. 41.
4 Ibid., p. 48.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @PastorTedWilson and on Facebook: @Pastor Ted Wilson.