Section VII: Tax Exemption, Grants and Favors
(The Historical Background to the Question)
The Question As It Was Considered At The General Conference Of 1893
At the General Conference Session held February 17 to March 6, 1893, and at a time when Seventh-day Adventists had no mission work for the heathen, a report was received that free land was available for mission stations in Mashonaland, South Africa. We term this Question “A:”
At this same Conference resolutions were brought in to repudiate tax exemptions on ecclesiastical property. We term this Question “B.” The picture of the involvements, attitudes of men, and the interrelationships of the two problems is best reflected by quoting in full the records of the discussions and actions relating to the two matters, noting the time sequence:
February 15, 1893 (Question “A”) Peter Wessels Tells Of Offer Of Free Lard
“Brother Peter Wessels spoke of the work in South Africa. . . . He spoke. . . of Mashonaland, or the Kaffir country, and of the interest which they felt that something should be done there. Other missionaries were flocking in. . . . Every denomination that will enter this land can get a free farm of three thousand acres. . . It is a country toward which all eyes are being turned, and the openings that are being made seemed like a light that was going before them, which they must follow with the truth.”—General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 269.
February 28 (Question “B”) Resolution On Tax Exemption Introduced From Committee On Resolutions:
“Whereas, In view of the separation which we believe should exist between the Church and the State, it is inconsistent for the Church to receive from the State pecuniary gifts, favors, or exemptions, on religious grounds; therefore,
“36. Resolved, That we repudiate the doctrine that Church, or other ecclesiastical property should be exempt from taxation; and, therefore, further,
“37. Resolved, That henceforth we decline to accept such exemptions on our own behalf.”—GCB, p. 437.
March 1, Resolution Considered And Preamble Amended
“Resolution 35, the one in regard to the exemption of church or other ecclesiastical property from taxation, called out remarks from several.
“A. F. Ballenger called attention to the fact that the preamble stated that according to our belief in the separation of Church and State, it is inconsistent for the Church to receive from the State pecuniary gifts, favors, or exemptions ‘on religious grounds,’ whereas it is inconsistent for the Church to receive such gifts, favors, or exemptions on any ground. Upon motion these words were stricken from the preamble.
“While this resolution was still under discussion, the noon hour having passed, Conference adjourned to March 2, at 10:00, A.M.”—General Conference Bulletin 1893, p. 444.
March 2. Resolutions Discussed And Referred Back
“The meeting opened business on Resolutions 36 and 37 on which action was pending at adjournment.
“Further discussed by A. T. Jones and A. R. Henry.
W. W. Prescott moved to amend the 37th resolution by omitting the word ‘henceforth’ and adding the words ‘place ourselves on record as declining’ after the word ‘we’ in first line.
“Supported by D. H. Oberholtzer and discussed by delegates Lane, Underwood, Tait, and Breed.
“A. R. Henry moved the following as an amendment to the amendment:—
“Whereas, We hold it to be inconsistent with the true relation which should exist between the Church and State, for the State to bestow upon the Church pecuniary gifts, favors, or exemptions: and
“Whereas, There are in many States laws exempting church property from taxation; therefore
“Resolved, That we labor, so far as in our power, to secure the repeal of all such laws.
“Supported by R. A. Underwood.
“Discussed by delegates Bollman and Eldridge.
“Moved by W. B. White to refer back to committee. Carried.”—General Conference Bulletin 1893, p. 458.
March 3, The New Resolution Presented
“Whereas, A better understanding of the principles of religious liberty is necessary, both for adequate appreciation of their importance, and an intelligent promulgation of them, therefore,
“47. Resolved, That we recommend to the several Conferences the holding of workers institutes for the study of religious liberty subjects, and that we will aid in such institutes as far as possible by furnishing instructors when so requested.
“Whereas, In view of the separation which we believe should exist between the Church and the State, it is inconsistent for the Church to receive from the State pecuniary gifts, favors, or exemptions, on religious grounds, therefore,
“48. Resolved, That we repudiate the doctrine that Church or other ecclesiastical property should be exempt from taxation, and, further,
“49. Resolved, That we use our influence in securing the repeal of such legislation as grants this exemption.”—GCB 1893, p. 475.
March 5 (A.M.), The Resolution Adopted (Question “B”)
“G. A. Irwin then moved the adoption of the report of the Committee on Resolutions, page 475 of the Bulletin, by voting on each separately. . . (Resolution 48) “The words ‘on religious grounds’ occuring in the preamble to the 48th resolution, appeared by a mistake, and were stricken out by the Committee. (See Bulletin, page 444.)
“A. T. Jones moved the following as an amendment to the 49th resolution:—
“Resolved, That we decidedly protest against any such exemption. . . .
“The amendment as amended then carried, and resolution as amended was adopted.”—GCB 1893, page 484.
March 5 (A.M.), Conference Tax Exemption Action Creates Immediate Problem
“On motion of J. H. Durland, the Conference adjourned, but before it was dismissed, A. R. Henry, who was out of the room at the time of adjournment, having an official matter to present, the Chair called a meeting of the Conference at once and gave opportunity for the hearing of the special business.
“The point in Brother Henry’s remarks was this: that our State representative from Battle Creek at the State Capital, who at the instanceof trustees of several of our institutions, is working to obtain for them freedom from taxation for several of these institutions, is at a loss to know how to proceed or what to do, on account of the recent position by our people on this question. (See Bulletin page 475.) He and our attorney desire immediate instruction, and the attorney would like to meet a committee in regard to the matter, at the close of the meeting.
“Voted that the Chair appoint a committee of five, to formulate a response to the foregoing, to be reported back to the General Conference for acceptance, before submitting to our representative at Lansing.
“The Chair named as this committee, W. W. Prescott, A. R. Henry, U. Smith, A. T. Jones; G. C. Tenney.”—GCB 1893, page 484.
March 3, (Question “A”) Plans For Mission In Mashonaland, Africa
“W. S. Hyatt then rendered a further report for the Committee on Distribution of Labor, as follows:—
“We recommend,. . . .
“36. That a mission be opened in Mashonaland, Africa, as soon as practicable; and that not less than five persons be selected by the Foreign Mission Board to go to that field.”—GCB 1893, page 476.
March 5 (P.M.), (Relation Of Questions “A” And “B”) Comment On March 3, Resolution
“The whole report [of Committee on Distribution of Labor] was thus adopted item by item. . . .
“By request, P. J. D. Wessels stated in connection with resolution 36 [from Committee on Distribution of Labor (Question “A”)] that though 6000 acres of land were offered to any denomination who would inaugurate a mission, and that we expected to accept land for our mission, it was not from the Government that we looked for the gratuity, but from a company.”—GCB 1893, page 486.
March 5 (P.M.), (Question “B”) Report Of Special Committee On Tax Exemption Problems
“The following report from the Special Committee appointed at the morning meeting was given by Prof. Prescott:—
“Whereas, This Conference has clearly stated its position on the taxation of Church and other ecclesiastical property, and
“Whereas, There are certain institutions incorporated under the laws of the State which occupy confessedly disputed grounds, therefore,
“Resolved, That matters in which the taxation of such institutions as do occupy this disputed territory is involved—orphanages, houses for aged persons, hospitals, etc.—we leave to the action of the Legislature, without any protest against their taxation, or any request for exemption.”—GCB 1893, page 486.
March 6, Special Committee Report Adopted, After Attempt To Table
“It was moved by F. M. Roberts to adopt the report of Special Committee [on taxation of church property] on page 486 of Bulletin.
“Discussed by delegates Shultz, Bollman, Prescott, Eldridge and McCoy.
“Moved by I. H. Evans to lay on the table.
“Supported by J. O. Corliss.
“Further discussed by A. T. Jones, Colcord and Bollman.
“Previous question was called and affirmed by vote.
“The resolution was then adopted with two dissenting votes.”—GCB 1893, page 491.
Correspondence Relating To The Question Of The South African Land Grant
October, 1893. Offer Of Free Land Withdrawn
In October of 1893, Elder O. A. Olsen, President of the General Conference, arrived in South Africa. In a letter written from there to the Foreign Mission Board in November, he reported that there was no longer any free land to be gotten, that the British South African Company were no longer giving free grants to any denomination.
12,000 Acres as a Special Gift. In the latter part of 1893, Elder A. T. Robinson secured an interview with Cecil Rhodes, premier of Cape Colony, and head of the British South African Land Company, operating in Mashonaland. Rhodes was especially pleased with the plan outlined for operating a mission among the natives of that country, and handed to Elder Robinson a sealed letter addressed to Dr. Jameson, Secretary of the Company, to be handed to him in Bulawayo. The brethren had expected to purchase land, and did not know till Jameson told them that Rhodes had ordered him to give them all the land they wanted. 12,000 acres were selected, and became the site of the Solusi Mission, the first one operated by the denomination among the heathen. The Foreign Mission Board set about to find personell to man this new mission enterprise.
August 17, 1894. African Land—F. M. Wilcox. Foreign Mission Board. Secretary Reports
“I am sorry that the work of our Board during the last few weeks has been somewhat retarded. It is pretty slow work with the President away in Europe and several of the other members of the Board away. . . .
“This was true with reference to Mashonaland. . . .
“So, so far as that field is concerned, we have not yet been able to find any one whom we have thought best to recommend to go. The last report I heard from the company who were on their way there was dated July 5, from Bulawayo, Matabeleland. The company were well and of good courage, and they had met with no accident or mishap. Dr. Jameson, the Governor, was called upon at that place, and talked very favorably of giving to our work twelve thousand acres of land, six thousand at Bulawayo, and six thousand near Fort Salisbury. However, he would want to give this land on conditions that we make the work self-supporting, employing native labor, and teaching then useful arts. He understands very fully the object of our work there, and that we propose to evangelize the natives to what we believe to be the truth for this time; but he does not seem to have any religious prejudices against our work.”—(F. M. Wilcox to W. C. White, Aug. 17, 1894)
November 1. American Sentinel Comments on British South African Company
“Some weeks ago, in calling attention to the grant of an alley in Washington, D.C., to a Roman Catholic institution, we said:—
“The Sentinel has protested, and, will continue to protest, against all such donations, whether of land or of money, and whether made by the Government of the United States or by the Governor of Mashonaland; for if the principle is worth anything, it is just as good in the wilds of Africa as on the plains of our own fair West or in the alleys of our Capital City.’
“At the time we had in mind certain grants of land made in Africa for mission purposes by the British South African Company. It was thought and urged by some that these grants were legitimate because made by a company.
But we now have in our possession the annual reports of said company from 1890 to 1893, inclusive, and are in a position to prove conclusively, that the British South African Company is nothing less than a British Colonial government, and that grants of land from it differ in no sense from similar grants from any other civil government.”—American Sentinel, Nov. l, 1894.
November 8 1894. South African Land Accepted For General Conference—
President O. A. Olsen Not Clear.
“I would like to have time to write at some length on the situation in Africa both at Capetown and also up in Zambesia, or what has been known as Mashonaland and Matabeleland. Brn. Haskell and Sisley are both in Africa at the present time. I have been expecting to hear from there for some time but have not done so. I expect that they are busy in their annual meeting. . . .
“Brn. Druillard and Peter Wessels that went to look up the matter of location for a Mission in that country selected a farm for the. Gen. Conf. as a missionary farm. The Charter Co. made a donation of this farm to the General Conf. on the condition that we go on and cultivate it and help the natives. I have noticed that the American Sentinel has taken the position that this is all wrong. That is that it is not right for us or any one else to receive any such favor from this Company. I have not given this matter much thought. It may be that they are right. Sometimes I begin to think, that there may be a possibility that we will go too far in some things.” (O. A. Olsen to W. C. White, Nov. 8, 1894.)
November 22. Editor of American Sentinel Comments Further
“The gospel of National Reform, the gospel of force, is being carried into the newly opened portions of Africa by the missionaries that have followed closely upon the heels of the troops of the British South African Company, to which was committed the conquest of Matabeleland and Mashonaland. First, the so-called company, which is in fact the colonial government of that part of Africa, despoiled the natives of their territory by force and fraud, and then doled out grants of land to the missionaries as a speculative investment, the returns to be made in “influence” in civilizing the natives. How the missionaries who have thus sold themselves for a mess of African pottage will succeed in serving two masters, remains to be seen; though, in view of our Lord’s declaration that it cannot be done, the issue can scarcely be considered doubtful”—American Sentinel, Nov. 22, 1894.
December 4. Foreign Mission Board Finds South African Land Grant A Perplexinging Question
(F. M. Wilcox to W. C. White)
“There is one question about which I have been thinking considerably of late and that is this: what should be our relation to the various governments with which we will come in contact in our labor in foreign fields? We have contended very earnestly against anything looking toward a union of church and state, and even went so far at our last General Conference that we protested against exemption clauses and against exemption of church property from taxation.
“Now I do not suppose that there will ever come a time in this country when we could secure state favors if we desired, but may it not be possible that the Lord will test us right upon some of these principles in our work in other places, especially as we come in contact with some of these petty governments of Africa or the islands of the sea? They are just as much civil governments as the greater powers of earth. From them, in a great many cases, we will be offered a great many favors. What relation should we sustain on some of these points?
“You know the British South Africa Land Company has offered us 12,000 acres of land. The question naturally arises, will it be a compromise of principles to accept this? The matter has been talked over considerably outside of the regular meetings of the Board; and although the question has never come up for action, I think that the majority of the Board feel that it would be better to go through a form of purchase, at least, and thus obviate any difficulty which might arise in this respect.” (F. M. Wilcox to W. C. White, Dec. 4, 1894)
December 9, The President Of The General Conference Writes A. T, Robinson
“Now in regard to the land. The opinion prevails among the brethren here that it would be best to buy the land, . . . though we greatly appreciate the kindly attitude of the Chartered Company, and want to reciprocate their interest in every way possible,”—Letter of O. A. Olsen to A. T. Robinson, Dec. 9, 1894.
December 20. S. N. Haskell On The Ground In Africa, Explains The Deal
“I have supposed from your standpoint over in America we over here are in the wrong in taking the land. But I think one position we have taken is a sound one nevertheless. (1) The land is stolen from the natives. (2) It is on the consideration we let them remain on the land and educate them to work that we take the land. Therefore we pay them for land in doing what they wish us to do, and that happens to be just what we want to do. Is not that the same principle almost every bargain is made? (3) It is not public money we take or any land that has been purchased by public money, but it is land that was taken from them (the natives) in war of a company not a government, but those who wish to form a colony under the British Government. But financially, they refused the offer from the home government, so the financial interests might be theirs and they financially be enriched by the transaction and then after the company has enriched itself, establish a colony and it enrich the home government. (4) They, this Company, consider they have made a good trade when they engage any religious society to enter upon a scheme to educate the natives to work and live in the country rather than drive them off and simply turn all their efforts to enrich themselves the same as others do who have SELFISH ends alone in view. (5) We being anxious to educate this very class of people with the truth gladly accept the proposition and enter into the arrangement agreeing to let the original land owner to live on the land, and instruct him in civilization.”—S. N. Haskell to F. M. Wilcox (Secy. FMB), Dec. 20, 1894.
January 1, 1895. S. N. Haskell Protests Jibes in The American Sentinel
28 Roeland Street, Cape Town, South Africa
Jan. 1, 1895
Dear Brother Olsen:—
This morning I sent you a letter and since I mailed that the Sentinel of Nov. 22 has come to hand and on the last page I find some remark which appears to me rather unchristian in its nature. Now what I write is on the supposition it has reference to the Seventh-day Adventists of South Africa. It is true that no name is called but I judge so from the correspondence we have had, and from the position taken by us and by the Foreign Missionary Board in the U. S. A.
“Now laying aside ALL questions of whether the brethren have done the right thing or not in taking the land, I wish to inquire if that is of a Christian spirit or not? Brother Wilcox kindly sent me a letter of Brother Bowman and I took pains to make inquiry about the matter and then wrote a letter in reply giving what I supposed a Bible view of the matter, also tried to show how these circumstances varied from government grants, etc.
“There has been two other flings in the paper. But instead of writing a word back and showing, or trying to show wherein we made a mistake from the Bible or otherwise then comes out a fling, and a charge of our taking the land by force, etc. This is made on the ground of our taking the land as a gift to give back to the natives although it is stated to have an influence. And then to make it appear more ridiculous, give a misspelled word and holding it up to public view in our leading paper on Religious Liberty. Do the brethren think that will serve a unity of feeling and faith? Do our brethren think this is answering the Saviour’s prayer as He prayed for the oneness among the disciples as He and the Father is one?
“I do not wish in any way to throw back on our brethren any reflections but wish to say they had better come over into this country and view things from an English standpoint. And further, I think it would be a good plan to come into a conference and try to unite the element over here who already bring charges against our brethren in America. Some of them I fear they have some grounds for, and much they have no grounds for. . . .
“The editor of the Sentinel [A. T. Jones] is held up by Sister White and others so his influence is sustained by our brethren all over the field. And now is it right to use that influence in that way? Personally of course it does not affect me. But it does affect our work here. Such language does not at all appear to me to bear the marks of Christ.
“Of course I do not believe a word of the paragraph, as it is applied to us in our work. . . . We shall have to vindicate our brethren here until we see some argument of a different nature than appears in that paper. We cannot say the article is Christian or gentlemanly.
“We have elements over here rather of a different character than the Americans. Should we deal in such language as is sometimes used in the Sentinel and as it is used in some of the speeches in America, our work would be brought into the greatest straits in a very short time. And to use such language and apply it to our brethren it creates a wound that is not easy to heal.
“I have no new argument to bring, and had I an argument I should not argue one word against such a spirit as is manifested in that article.
“We are in the midst of our conference and we are trying to get our position before the public in the papers outside. And I hope in the Lord that He will paralyze the influence of such an article on the minds of certain ones who profess our faith, and our enemies. So they will not find out we are in what would appear to be a quarrel among ourselves. I sometimes wish some of our American brethren could see the effect of some of their unguarded speeches in these foreign fields. If this was the only thing that had been said, perhaps it would not have had the effect. I never labored harder to retain the confidence of our African brethren in our American brethren and get them converted. This does not help much.”—S. N. Haskell.
January 1, 1895. S. N. Haskell Asks: Does Ellen White Have Light For Them?
“Claremont College, Claremont, South Africa.
Jan. 1, 1895
“Dear Brother White:—
“I enclose you in this a letter I have just sent to America. This morning I mailed one to you and one to him. In the one I sent to you I sent a copy of the one I sent to him. In this I send another copy which speaks for itself. I am now glad that I have sent you my correspondence on the land question which we have had. . . . But it is not very encouraging to find such words in our Sentinel, especially with the elements we find over here.
“I hope you will call your mother’s attention to the position we have taken and see if she has any light on the subject—if in taking that land have we violated any principle of the gospel? I write this to you without making any allusion to it to her. Now I write this so you can have how it is and how it will be looked upon at this end of the line. . . . Such articles do not help the cause any over here. But the main question is, are we right in it or are we not? If we know what the right is, we shall fight it out on that line and that line alone. . . .
“You have the matter before you and now if you do not object I wish that you would read to her copies of the letters which I have sent you or in some way get it before her mind so we can know her mind on the matter.
“I write this in great haste. . .
(Signed) “S. N. Haskell”
Land Grant Considered By 1895 General Conference—(February 15-March 15)
February 20, 1895, Resolution Introduced.
“The Chairman of the Committee on Resolutions submitted the following additional report:—
“Your Committee on Resolutions would respectfully submit the following:
“Whereas, Opportunities have arisen and doubtless will arise in the future to secure from various civil governments grants and donations, and,—
“Whereas, To seek or even to accept any such thing from any civil government in any country would be a violation of the fundamental principles of separation of Church and State, therefore,—
“11. Resolved, That we ought not as a denomination either to seek or accept from any civil government, chief, ruler, or royal chartered company, supreme, local, or otherwise, any gift or donation, concession or grant, either of land, money, credit, special privilege, or other thing of value, to which we are not in common with all others justly entitled as men without any reference to our religious profession or religious work. This does not preclude the receiving of aid from rulers, royal personages, or private individuals when such assistance is rendered by these parties in their individual capacities.
“12. Resolved, That in harmony with this resolution, the General Conference Association be instructed to pay an equivalent for all government land that may be secured in Africa or elsewhere.”—GCB 1895, p. 283.
February 24,—The Resolution Discussed
“The committees having no further reports to submit, the Chair announced the order of business to be the pending motion to adopt Resolution 11, page 283.
“Elder A. T. Jones took the floor. The speaker contended that our position on the entire separation of Church and State should be without a conditional ‘but’—it should be a clear and decided one. All these resolutions implied doubts and a disposition to compromise. The circumstances of Israel in Medo-Persia and Babylon had been referred to, but did not illustrate the case, since the people were then in captivity, and under the power of a hostile nation. We should look for primitive principles. Christ in His discussion of principles pointed them back to the beginning. Divorces and polygamy were allowed, but in the beginning ‘it was not so.’ Had Israel not forsaken God, the books of Esther and Nehemiah would not have been written. The speaker reviewed at some length the circumstances in which we are at present placed.
“D. H. Lamson remarked that though there was something peculiar in the circumstances of Israel as depicted in Nehemiah and Ezra, still there were features of their relation to the civil power which he could not explain on the ground of entire separation from the state.
“Wm. Healey said that the circumstances of Israel in captivity were not applicable to the question, because the favors that the king bestowed upon them were simply the restoration of the rights which had been forcibly taken from them. If a government were to bring a general persecution upon a religious community, and carry away the people in captivity, and after some years a new administration should come in, which would restore the people to their original condition, there would be nothing in accepting that restoration which would compromise the relation of that church to the State. However, the speaker thought that the resolution might be somewhat improved, and moved to strike out the words ‘chief, ruler, or royal chartered company.’
“J. M. Rees seconded this motion, and it was carried without discussion.
“The resolution as it then stood was discussed by A. T. Jones, R. C. Porter, D. T. Jones, C. P. Bollman, and W. W. Prescott. The question was called for. The latter speaker remarked that the passage or value of the present resolution was of comparatively small importance compared .with its benefit as an educator. He therefore trusted that the discussion would be allowed to proceed, and that questions would be freely asked and answered. The original commission of Christ to the disciples was given when there was but one government in the world, and that government was totally opposed to the gospel, and those who carried it must do so under the penalty of death or the confiscation of property. But they went forth asking no special privileges or immunities from the government.
“G. E. Fifield, Wm. Healey, W. W. Prescott, S. H. Lane, A. T. Jones, O. A. Johnson, D. T. Jones, R. A. Underwood, and C. P. Bollman participated in the discussion that followed. The latter moved to strike out the words ‘private individual,’ and the motion was seconded by W. D. Curtis.
This motion was spoken to by L. H. Crisler, D. T. Jones, and others. Carried.
“D. T. Jones then moved, and S. H. Lane seconded, to strike out the words ‘credits’ and ‘special privilege.’ This motion was spoken to by L. D. Santee, A. T. Jones, D. H. Lamson, W. W. Prescott, D. T. Jones.
“The period of the meeting having expired, the motion to adjourn was carried. . . .
“The discussion of the resolution was animated and instructive. There was no clashing of sentiment, nor of personal feelings, and much that was helpful was brought out, and all felt that the meeting had been a profitable one, and were able to see the issue before us much clearer than before.”—GCB 1895, pp. 340-4l.
No Action Recorded
(Note: The General Conference Bulletin fails to record any action adopting the resolution.—A. L. White.)
February 26. O. A. Olsen Reports On The Discussion Of South African Land
Question at Two Meetings at 1895 Session. (O. A. Olsen to W. C. White)
“I enclose with this letter some extracts from a letter I have lately received from Eld. Haskell, and also a copy of a letter which Eld. Jones has sent him in reply. You will see that they relate to the mission farm in Matabeleland. Bro. Jones has himself received a letter from Bro. Haskell, and also one from Sr. Druillard, in which the subject is quite fully discussed. It is very likely that you already have copies of these letters, but I do not know. If I had access to the letter of Sr. Druillard, I would send you a copy of that; for I want you to understand the whole situation.
“It has been the mind of the Foreign Mission Board from the first to pay for the land; but when our brethren went up there, and it was offered to them so freely, they thought it right to accept of it, and then on their return to Cape Town, Elder Haskell took the same view of the matter as they did. I wrote Bro. Haskell quite freely the mind of the F.M.B. with reference to paying for the land, and now I send you a copy of his reply. You will notice that he treats the idea of paying for the land with considerable lightness.
“Now the question has also been before the General Conference as you will see by the Bulletin, though the whole discussion does not appear, of course. Nearly two meetings of the Conference were taken up in talking the matter over, and bringing out important thoughts in connection with the subject of the union of church and state, etc. I am glad to say that the discussion was carried on in a dignified manner, and while it occupied a much longer time than I had expected, I am not sorry, because it was very instructive, and I believe that the principles brought out will be helpful to all who were present. I hope that our brethren in S. Africa will properly relate themselves to the situation, so that unfavorable complications may be avoided.”—(O. A. Olsen to W. C. White, Feb. 26, 1895.)
March 17, Mission Board Acts To Purchase Land In South Africa “WORK IN ZAMBESIA"
“3. That the following propositions be adopted for the guidance of our work in Zarmbesia:—
“1. That the work shall be under the direction and control of the Foreign Mission Board of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
“2. That the land secured from the government shall be purchased and not received as a grant.
“3. That we express it as our judgment that no more land should be purchased than is necessary for practical purposes in connection with mission work.
“4. That a letter be written to Messrs. Rhodes and Jamison, representing the British South Africa Land Company, expressing our appreciation as a Board for the favors offered us, and also our desire to so conduct ourselves and our work that we may always have their perfect cooperation; but that we do not feel free to accept of the land as a gift, but will pay them a price that they and our agent may agree upon, feeling that this will be more satisfactory to them and also to ourselves, leaving us more free to go forward and carry out the plans of missionary work that we have arranged for.”—(Minutes Foreign Mission Board, March 17, 1895. Present:O. A. Olsen, J. N. Loughborough, U. Smith, J. H. Morrison, A. O. Tait, W. W. Prescott, G. C. Tenney, A. R. Henry, J. H. Durland, L. McCoy, and F. M. Wilcox.
March 28. The Ellen G. White Testimony Reaches Battle Creek. (O. A. Olsen to W. C. White)
“Now with reference to the business connected with the General Conference: as you have the Bulletin, and will look that over, you will follow the business transactions from day to day; also the devotional meetings and the Bible studies. I think: that the business proceedings were given more fully in the last Bulletin than at any time before. The business passed off quite nicely, and quite satisfactorily in a general way. We had many evidences of the Lord’s blessing and presence. . . .
“Since receiving the last mail from Australia, and reading the many communications sent by your mother, I see some things in a clearer light than I have viewed them before. Only yesterday I finished reading those communications; and I am more thankful than I can express, with reference to the instruction she has given, and the light she has thrown, on certain matters connected with the religious liberty movement. I have been greatly burdened all the year over the way some things have taken shape in that line. I have spoken to, and warned some of our brethren at different times; but from the fact that, with a multitude of matters that necessarily come to me to look after, I have not been able to follow along and give all these matters the careful study that others have done, therefore I am not so well posted on every question as I ought to be.”. . .
“I have felt bad over what has seemed to me to be extreme positions taken on various questions. During the Conference I felt very sorry for the resolution that was brought in concerning the Matabeleland question, etc. I had not seen the resolution until it was read on the floor. It went through me at first with a shock. I did what I could to assist in modifying the terms of the expression, but that was all that it amounted to. If we had had the instruction that came to us in the last mail from Australia, many things that were said would not have been said, and the resolution, if offered, would have been of an entirely different nature. Well, it shows me more and more that I can not place any dependence upon any man or set of men; it makes no difference who they are or where they are.
“But while this is so, it greatly increases the responsibilities of the one who stands in the position that I do, and in view of these things, I feel, many times, as though I would sink in the earth. My only comfort is in the thought that the work is the Lord’s; and I am glad that that is so. He has had it in charge all these years until now, and He will still have it in charge. In the past He has many times overruled our mistakes because we did it ignorantly. I hope He will still do so; for otherwise we should be in a most trying position.”—(O.A. Olsen to W.C. White, Mar. 28, 1895. )
March 29,—Further Mission Board Action.
“6. That as much land as is necessary for practical mission purposes be secured by the superintendent of the Mission of the British South Africa Land Company on such conditions as may be agreed upon, providing such conditions comport with sound business principles, and do not in any way compromise our work as a denomination.
“7. That this land thus secured shall be worked and used wholly for the interests of the general mission and not for personal advantage.
“8. That the natives living on the same shall not be dispossessed or driven off, but allowed to live peaceably in the enjoyment of their legitimate pursuits. . . .
“The question was raised as to the amount of means to be invested in the enterprise for the first year. After some consideration, it was
“VOTED, That five thousand dollars be the limit of the expenses for the first year; this to include the wages paid to laborers, but not the expense connected with the purchase of the land, in case it should be deemed necessary to secure it in this way.”—(Minutes Foreign Mission Board, Mar. 29, 1895.)
The Messenger Of The Lord Speaks Out On Tax Exemption and Grants and Favors
(Note: The letter from S. N. Haskell to W. C. White written January 1 from Clarement (Capetown) South Africa enquiring if Ellen G. White had light on the question of the acceptance of the land in Mashonaland, was received in Australia on January 30, 1895. It, with other letters relating to this matter, was read to Mrs. White that day. Before the day closed she began a 14-page communication which after several interruptions she completed the next day. This was addressed to Elder Haskell, but like so many of her communications giving counsel on important phases of the work, she intended it for the eyes of others as well.
The first half of the letter deals with the question of unkind and sharp thrusts in our papers. (See pp. 148-9 and 150.) The last seven pages are devoted to the question of the land grant and sweep back to the 1893 discussion and actions on tax exemption.
A copy of this testimony was sent to Elder O. A. Olsen, president of the General Conference and reached him in Battle Creek in late March, some two or three weeks after the close of the General Conference session. He makes mention of this in his letter to W. C. White bearing date of March 28. The actions taken by the Foreign Mission Board on March 29 reflect the tempering influence of this testimony. (See p. 163.)
Elder Olsen on July 2, 1895, published a number of communications from Ellen G. White in a 62-page pamphlet entitled Special Instruction to Ministers and Workers Number 3. The entire January 30-31 letter to Elder Haskell, except for two or three paragraphs of a local or personal character, was published in pages 24-35 of this pamphlet. Elder Olsen divided the material into three parts, giving these the titles (1) “Christian Courtesy,” (2) “Receiving Gifts,” and (3) “Solemn Times.” The last two of these were included in Testimonies to Ministers, published in 1923: “Receiving Gifts” on pages 197-200; and “Solemn Times” on pages 200-203.
At some time subsequent to sending this testimony to Battle Creek Mrs. White, it would appear, reread it, and at that time inscribed with her pen on the file copy certain interlineations. These seem to add a touch of color and emphasis significant to the statement as a whole. The White Trustees consider that these should come to the attention of the committee for which this compilation is prepared.
The testimony dealing with tax exemption and grants and favors is presented now from published sources with the interlianeations added in parenthesis. Some paragraphs in the first published record not relevant to tax exemption and grants and favors are not included.—A. L. White)
The Message From Mrs. White
Granville, N.S.W., Australia.
Jan. 30, 1895
“Dear Brother [Haskell]—
“We have just received letters from you, and Willie has just read them to Brother Sisley and myself. I regard your reasoning and statements as correct. I am very much pained as I see how readily those who write for our papers make unkind thrusts and allusions that will certainly do harm, and that will hedge up the way, and hinder us from doing the work that we should to reach all classes, the Catholics included. It is our work to speak the truth in love, and not to mix in with the truth the unsanctified elements of the natural heart, and speak things that savor of the same spirit possessed by our enemies.
“All sharp thrusts will come back upon us in double measure when the power is in the hands of those who can exercise it for our injury. Over and over the message has been given to me that we are not to say one word, not to publish one sentence, unless positively essential in vindicating the truth, that will stir up our enemies against us, and arouse their passions to a white heat. Our work will soon be closed up, and soon the time of trouble such as there never was will come upon us, of which we have but little idea.
“Writers and speakers among us will have to learn that the highest obligations of the Christian life involve the giving of careful attention in heeding the messages that God has sent to us. It is essential that we have a knowledge of our own motives and actions in order to have constant self-improvement. I long to see men in responsible positions feeling the burden in regard to themselves, so that they will exercise Christian politeness, and speak and write in a courteous manner. The Lord wants His workers to represent Him, the great missionary worker. The manifestation of zeal and rashness always does harm. The proprieties essential for Christian life must be learned daily in the school of Christ. He who is careless and heedless in uttering words or in writing words for publications to be sent broadcast into the world, is disqualifying himself to be entrusted with the sacred work which devolves upon Christ’s followers at this time. Those who practice giving hard thrusts are forming habits that will have to be repented of. To discharge every duty that devolves upon those who are intrusted with sacred responsibility in the right manner, calls for humble prayer, and a close study of the life of Christ.
“A surgeon, a physician, a teacher, a guide, needs to study carefully and attentively the way in which to do the work which is entrusted to his hands, and how much more should those who are entrusted with the sacred responsibility to watch for souls as they that must give an account, study to work in harmony with the truth, and in accordance with the wisdom which is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, and ‘the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of then that make peace.’
“I am pained when I see the sharp thrusts which appear in the Sentinel. I speak to my brethren who are communicating with the people through that paper: It is best for you to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. We should carefully and severally examine our ways and our spirits, and see in what manner we are doing the work given us of God, which involves the destiny of souls. The very highest obligation is resting upon us. . . .
Jan. 30, 1895
“Your letter only came today, and at a time when a number were about to leave our house to take passage on a steamer from Sydney to New Zealand.
“You enquire with respect to the propriety of receiving gifts from Gentiles or the heathen. The question is not strange; but I would ask you who is it that owns our world? Who are the real owners of houses and lands? Is it not God? He has an abundance in our world which He has placed in the hands of men by which the hungry might be supplied with food, the naked with clothing, the homeless with homes. The Lord would move upon worldly men, even idolaters, to give of their abundance for the support of the work, if we would approach them wisely, and give them an opportunity of doing those things which it is their privilege to do. What they would give we should be privileged to receive.
“We should become acquainted with men in high places, and by exercising the wisdom of the serpent, and the harmlessness of the dove, we might obtain advantage from them, for God would move upon their minds to do many things in behalf of His people. If proper persons would set before those who have means and influence, the needs of the work of God in a proper light, these men might do much to advance the cause of God in our world. We have put away from us privileges and advantages that we might have had the benefit of, because we chose to stand independent of the world. But we need not sacrifice one principle of truth while taking advantage of every opportunity to advance the cause of God.
“The Lord would have His people in the world, but not of the world. They should seek to bring the truth before the men in high places, and give them a fair chance to receive and weigh evidence. There are many who are unenlightened and uninformed, and as individuals we have a serious, solemn, wise work to do. We are to have travail of soul for those who are in high places, and go to them with the gracious invitation to come to the marriage feast. Very much more might have been done than has been done for those in high places. The last message that Christ gave to His disciples before He was parted from them, and taken up into heaven, was a message to carry the gospel to all the world, and was accompanied by the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Lord said, ‘Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth.’
“‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.’ ‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.’ ‘Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fouls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.’ . . .
“The Lord would have us in possession of the Spirit of heavenly wisdom. Are we all being impressed to pray to the Lord humbly and earnestly as our necessities require, importuning Him for the spirit of wisdom? Do we pray, saying, ‘Show me the secrets of wisdom, that which I know not teach thou me’? O for humble, earnest prayer to go forth from unfeigned lips praying for the counsel that is of God. He says, ‘Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom.’
Jan. 31, 1895
“Solemn, serious times are upon us, and perplexities will increase, to the very close of time. There may be a little respite in these matters, but it will not be for long. I have letters to write that must go in the next mail to Battle Creek. Our brethren there are not looking at everything in the right light. The movements they have made to pay taxes on the property of the Sanitarium and Tabernacle have manifested a zeal and conscientiousness that in all respects is not wise nor correct. Their ideas of religious liberty are being woven with suggestions that do not come from the Holy Spirit, and the religious liberty cause is sickening, and its sickness can only be healed by the grace and gentleness of Christ.
“The hearts of those who advocate this cause must be filled by the Spirit of Jesus. The Great Physician alone can apply the balm of Gilead. Let these men read the book of Nehemiah with humble hearts, touched by the Holy Spirit, and their false ideas will be modified, and correct principles will be seen, and the present order of things will be changed. Nehemiah prayed to God for help, and God heard his prayer. The Lord moved upon heathen kings to come to his help. When his enemies zealously worked against him, the Lord worked through kings to carry out His purpose, and to answer the many prayers that were ascending to Him for the help which they so much needed.
“I am often greatly distressed when I see our leading men taking extreme positions, and burdening themselves over matters that should not be taken up or worried over, but left in the hands of God for Him to adjust. We are yet in the world, and God keeps for us a place in connection with the world, and works by His own right hand to prepare the way before us, in order that His work may progress along its various lines. The truth is to have a standing-place, and the standard of truth is to be uplifted in many places in regions beyond.
“Be sure that God has not laid upon those who remain away from these foreign fields of labor, the burden of criticising the ones on the ground where the work is being done. (You need not be so zealous to get in the hands of worldly men God’s own money of which they have been robbing Him all their lives.) Those who are not put on the ground know nothing about the necessities of the situation, and if they cannot say anything to help those who are on the ground, let them not hinder, but show their wisdom by the eloquence of silence, and attend to the work that is close at hand. I protest against the zeal that they manifest that is not according to knowledge, when they ventilate their ideas about foreign fields of labor.
“Let the Lord work with the men who are on the ground, and let those who are not on the ground walk humbly with God, lest they get out of their place, and lose their bearings. The Lord has not placed the burden of criticising the work upon those who have taken this burden, and He does not give them the sanction of His Holy Spirit. Many move according to their own human judgment, and zealously seek to adjust things that God has not placed in their hands. Just as long as we are in the world, we shall have to do a special work for the world, the message of warning is to go to all countries, tongues, and peoples.
“The Lord does not move upon His workers to make them take a course which will bring on the time of trouble before the time. Let them not build up a wall of separation between themselves and the world, by advancing their own ideas and notions. There is now altogether too much of this throughout our borders. The message of warning has not reached large numbers of the world, in the very cities that are right at hand, and to number Israel is not to work after God’s order.
Favors To Be Received As Well As Imparted
“Just as long as we are in this world, and the Spirit of God is striving with the world, we are to receive as well as to impart favors. We are to give to the world the light of truth as presented in the sacred Scriptures, and we are to receive from the world that which God moves upon them to do in behalf of His cause. The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of His people, and it becomes those who are so deeply interested in the religious liberty question not to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves from the help that God has moved men to give, for the advancement of His cause.
“We find examples in the word of God concerning this very matter. Cyrus, king of Persia, made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it into writing saying, ‘Thus sayeth Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel.’ A second commandment was issued by Darius for the building of the house of the Lord, and is recorded in the sixth chapter of Ezra.
“The Lord God of Israel has placed His goods in the hands of unbelievers, but they are to be used in favor of doing the works that must be done for a fallen world. The agents through whom these gifts come, may open up avenues through which the truth may go, they may have no sympathy with the work, and no faith in Christ, and no practice in His words; but their gifts are not to be refused on that account.
The Holy Spirit strives with hearts of the so-called great men of earth. He is drawing them until they have light and when convicted turn from fables to the light of truth.)*
“It is very strange that some of our brethren should feel that it is their duty to bring about a condition of things that would bind up the means that God would have set free. God has not laid upon them the responsibility of coming in conflict with the authorities and powers of the world in this matter. (Their business is not to close up the avenues. Let the Lord work in that line.)* The withstraining hand of God has not yet been withdrawn from the earth. (The four angels are holding the four winds.) Let the leaders in the work bide their time, hide in Christ, and move and work with great wisdom. Let them be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. I have repeatedly been shown that we might receive far more favors than we do in many ways if we would approach men in wisdom, acquaint them with our work, (as though we had a right to expect them to help in the best and greatest enterprises in our world)* and give them an opportunity of doing those things which it is our privilege to induce them to do for the advancement of the work of God.”—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 197-203.
*Interlineation by E. G. White in file copy.
The Lord Still Moves On The Hearts Of Kings And Rulers Prudence And Forethought
While Nehemiah implored the help of God, he did not fold his own hands, feeling that he had no more care or responsibility in the bringing about of his purpose to restore Jerusalem. With admirable prudence and forethought he proceeded to make all the arrangements necessary to insure the success of the enterprise. Every movement was marked with great caution. He did not reveal his purpose even to his own countrymen; for while they would rejoice in his success, he feared that, by some indiscretion, they might hinder his work. Some would be liable to manifest exultation that would arouse the jealousy of their enemies, and perhaps cause the defeat of the undertaking.
As his request to the king had been so favorably received, he was encouraged to ask for such assistance as was needed for the carrying out of his plans. To give dignity and authority to his mission, as well as to provide for protection on the journey, he secured a military escort. He obtained royal letters to the governors of the provinces beyond the Euphrates, the territory through which he must pass on his way to Judea; and he obtained, also, a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest in the mountains of Lebanon, directing him to furnish such timber as would be needed for the wall of Jerusalem and the buildings that Nehemiah proposed to erect. In order that there might be no occasion for complaint that he had exceeded his commission, Nehemiah was careful to have the authority and privileges accorded him, clearly defined.
Nehemiah’s Example A Lesson To Us
The example of this holy man should be a lesson to all the people of God, that they are not only to pray in faith, but to work with diligence and fidelity. How many difficulties we encounter, how often we hinder the working of Providence in our behalf, because prudence, forethought, and painstaking are regarded as having little to do with religion! This is a grave mistake.
It is our duty to cultivate and to exercise every power that will render us more efficient workers for God. Careful consideration and well matured plans are as essential to the success of sacred enterprises today as in the time of Nehemiah. If all who are engaged in the Lord’s work would realize how much depends upon their fidelity and wise forethought, far greater prosperity would attend their efforts. Through diffidence and backwardness we often fail of securing that which is attainable as a right, from the powers that be. God will work for us, when we are ready to do what we can and should do on our part.
To Avail Ourselves Of The Help God Prompts Men To Give
Men of prayer should be men of action. Those who are ready and willing, will find ways and means of working. Nehemiah did not depend upon uncertainties. The means which he lacked he solicited from those who were able to bestow.
The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of his people. Those who are laboring for him are to avail themselves of the help that he prompts men to give for the advancement of his cause. The agents through whom these gifts come, may open ways by which the light of truth shall be given to many benighted lands. These men may have no sympathy with God’s work, no faith in Christ, no acquaintance with his word; but their gifts are not on this account to be refused.
The Lord has placed his goods in the hands of unbelievers as well as believers; all may return to him his own for the doing of the work that must be done for a fallen world. As long as we are in this world, as long as the Spirit of God strives with the children of men, so long are we to receive favors as well as to impart them. We are to give to the world the light of truth, as revealed in the Scriptures; and we are to receive from the world that which God moves upon them to give in behalf of his cause.
The Lord’s work might receive far greater favors than it is now receiving, if we would approach men in wisdom, acquainting them with the work, and giving them an opportunity of doing that which it is our privilege to induce them to do for its advancement. If we, as God’s servants, would take a wise and prudent course, his good hand would prosper us in our efforts.
Some may question the propriety of receiving gifts from unbelievers. Let such ask themselves: “Who is the real owner of our world? To whom belong its houses and lands, and its treasures of gold and silver?” God has an abundance in our world, and he has placed his goods in the hands of all, both the obedient and the disobedient. He is ready to move upon the hearts of worldly men, even idolaters, to give of their abundance for the support of his work; and he will do this as soon as his people learn to approach these men wisely and to call their attention to that which it is their privilege to do. If the needs of the Lord’s work were set forth in a proper light before those who have means and influence, these men might do much to advance the cause of present truth. God’s people have lost many privileges of which they could have taken advantage, had they not chosen to stand independent of the world.
In the providence of God, we are daily brought into connection with the unconverted. By his own right hand God is preparing the way before us, in order that his work may progress rapidly. As colaborers with him, we have a sacred, solemn work to do. We are to have travail of soul for those who are in high places; we are to extend to them the gracious invitation to come to the marriage feast.
The Riches Of The World Belong To God
Although now almost wholly in the possession of wicked men, all the world, with its riches and treasures, belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.” “Every beast of the forest is mine,and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” O that Christians might realize more and still more fully that it is their privilege and their duty, while cherishing right principles, to take advantage of every heaven-sent opportunity for advancing God’s kingdom in this world!—Mrs. E. G. White, Southern Watchman, March 15, 1904. [Quoted largely in Christian Service, pp. 167-172, 202, 239]