The Great Controversy
by Ellen White
WE are living [in] the closing scenes of the earth's history, and what is now done for
God is accomplished under the most disadvantageous circumstances. Satan has great skill
and wonderful ability. Before his fall God entrusted him with power and wisdom. But he
became filled with self-exaltation, and thought that he should be first in heaven. Sin
entered the world through this self-seeking, this striving for the supremacy.
Satan began his work by doing just as men who ought to know better are doing today. He
complained of the supposed defects in the management of heavenly things, and sought to
fill the minds of the angels unfallen with his disaffection. Because he was not supreme
ruler, he sowed seeds of doubt and unbelief against Christ. Because he was not as God, he
strove to instil into the minds of the angels his own envy and dissatisfaction.
Thus the seeds of alienation were planted, afterwards to be drawn out and presented
before the heavenly courts as proceeding, not from Satan, but as originating with the
angels. So he would show that they thought as he did. Satan whispered his disaffection to
the angels. There was at first no pronounced feeling against God. But the seed had been
sown, and the love and confidence of the angels was marred. The sweet communion between
them and God was broken. Every move was watched, every action was viewed in the light in
which Satan had made them see things.
That which Satan had instilled in the minds of the angels, a word here and a word
there, opened the way for a long list of suppositions. In his artful way he drew
expressions of doubt from them. When he was interviewed, he accused those whom he had
educated. He laid all the disaffection on the ones whom he had led. As one in holy office
he manifested an overbearing desire for justice, which was entirely contrary to God's love
and compassion and mercy. It was most difficult to make the deceiving power of Satan
apparent. His power of deceiving increased with practice. If he could not defend himself,
he must accuse in order to make himself appear just and righteous, and the Lord God
arbitrary and exacting.
Just such transactions are taking place today. Many place such confidence in their own
ideas that they present their theories as if they could make no mistake. Once their words
are spoken they never go back, never repent, never feel that they need forgiveness. They
feel that they are simply infallible. Thus it has been in past history; thus it will be
again. Religious confidence becomes infallibility. How can these deluded ones think that
they are the only ones led and taught of God? When this spirit is manifested, what can be
done? You cannot convince them, because they say, "God has led me." They will
not acknowledge that they have acted from wrong principles. They maintain that they have
moved rightly. The only course that can be pursued is to leave them to develop their
principles. They may never see their errors, but others may be convinced and saved. To
attempt to unmask them would be to call sympathy to their side.
Great efforts will be made by those who suppose their own wisdom to be supreme, in
exactly the same lines on which Satan worked, and which caused so much mischief in the
Paradise of God. The very same working is revealed in 1896. The very same principles are
upheld. When a man is elected to a position of trust, to preside over important interests,
large and broad, or interests of less consequence but still important, Satan stirs up the
minds of those who are selfish, who are not consecrated to God's service with an eye
single to His glory. He puts into their hearts the spirit of criticising and accusing. If
they are not specially advantaged, they will tell others of the mistakes and errors of the
one against whom they are working. This step taken, Satan, whose special business it is to
create alienation and strife, will place matters before these persons in a most deceiving
way, and they will bring against those in positions of trust the most unjust and false
charges, in order to discourage and destroy God's servants.
The principles of the character of God were the foundation of the education constantly
kept before the heavenly angels. These principles were goodness, mercy and love.
Self-evidencing light was to be recognised and freely accepted by all who occupied a
position of trust and power. They must accept God's principles and convince all who were
in the service of God, through the presentation of truth and justice and goodness, [that]
this was the only power to be used. Force must never come in. All who thought that their
position gave them power to command their fellow men and control conscience, must be
deprived of their position.
These principles are to be the great foundation of education in every administration on
the earth. In every church the rules given by God are to be observed and respected. God
has enjoined this. His government is to be moral. Nothing is to be done from compulsion.
Truth is to be the prevailing power. All service is to be done willingly and for love of
the service of God. All who are honoured with positions of influence are to represent God,
for when officiating they act in the place of God. In everything their actions must
correspond with the importance of their position. The higher the position, the more
distinctly will self-sacrifice be revealed, if they are fit for the office.
Satan's representations against the government of God, and his defence of those who
sided with him, were a constant accusation against God. These murmurings and complaints
were groundless. Yet God allowed Satan to work out his theories. He could have handled
Satan and all his sympathisers as easily as one can pick up a pebble and cast it to the
earth. But by this He would have given a precedent for the violence of man which is so
abundantly shown in our world in the compelling principles. The Lord's principles are not
of this order. All the compelling power is found under Satan's government. God would not
work on this line. He would not give the slightest encouragement for any human being to
set himself up as God over another human being, and cause him mental or physical
suffering. This principle is wholly of Satan's creation.
In the councils of heaven it was decided that principles must be acted upon which would
not at once destroy Satan's power, for it was His purpose to place things upon an eternal
basis of security. Time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the
foundation of his government. The heavenly universe must see the principles which Satan
declared were superior to God's principles, worked out. God's order must be contrasted
with the new order after Satan's devising. The corrupting principles of Satan's rule must
be revealed. The principles of righteousness expressed in God's law must be demonstrated
as unchangeable, eternal, perfect.
Every heart that is controlled by these principles in 1896 will be loyal. When those
who are in God's service resort to accusation, they are adopting Satan's principles to
cast out Satan. It never will work. Satan will work. He is working upon human minds by his
crooked principles. These will be adopted and acted upon by those who claim to be loyal
and true to God's government. How shall we know that they are untrue, disloyal? "By
their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:20.
The Lord saw the use that Satan was making of his power, and he set before him truth in
contrast with falsehood. Time and time again during the controversy Satan was ready to be
convinced, ready to admit that he was wrong. But those he had deceived were ready also to
accuse him of leaving them. What could he do--submit to God, or continue in a course of
deception? He chose to deny truth, to take refuge in misstatements and fraud.
The Lord allowed Satan to go on and demonstrate his principles. God did establish
Himself, and He carried the worlds unfallen and the heavenly universe with Him, but at a
terrible cost. His only begotten Son was given up as Satan's victim. The Lord Jesus Christ
revealed a character entirely opposite to that of Satan. As the high priest laid [off] his
gorgeous pontifical robes, and officiated in the white linen dress of a common priest, so
Christ emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, and offered sacrifice, Himself the
Priest, Himself the Victim.
By causing the death of the Sovereign of heaven, Satan defeated his own purposes. The
death of the Son of God made the death of Satan unavoidable. Satan was allowed to go on
until his administration was laid open before the worlds unfallen and before the heavenly
universe. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he uprooted himself [from sympathy],
and was seen by all to be a liar, a thief, and a murderer.
God sees that the same course of action is being pursued the world over. Men and women
come to the place where the road diverges: it is either right or wrong. Thousands upon
thousands clothe themselves in what they suppose to be an impenetrable disguise, and
choose the wrong. To make their course plain to others by abrupt disclosures would only
cause a larger number to choose the side of wrong. Thus the wrongdoers would be sustained
and many souls would be ruined. God does not force anyone. He leaves all free to choose.
But He says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." The Lord will not write as
wise those who cannot distinguish between a tree that bears thorn berries and a tree that
I beseech of all who engage in the work of murmuring and pitying themselves because
something has been said or done that does not suit them, and that does not, as they think,
give them due consideration, to remember that they are carrying on the very work Satan
began in heaven. They are following in his track, sowing unbelief, discord, and
disloyalty, for no one can entertain feelings of disaffection, and keep it to himself. He
must tell others that he is not treated as he should be. Thus others are led to murmur and
complain. This is the root of bitterness springing up, whereby many are defiled.
Thus Satan works today through his evil angels. He confederates with men who claim to
be in the faith; and those who are trying to carry forward the work of God with fidelity,
having no man's person in admiration, working without partiality and hypocrisy, will have
just as severe trials brought against them as Satan can bring through those who claim to
know the truth. Proportionate to the light and knowledge these opposers have, is Satan's
success. The root of bitterness strikes down deep, and is communicated to others. Thus
many are defiled. Their statements are confused and untruthful, their principles are
unscrupulous, and Satan finds in them the very helpers he wants.
Through dissension and alienation Satan reaps his harvest of souls. He leads those who
are ambitious for money, ambitious to be first, too proud to be anything but the highest,
to murmur and complain. These poor souls have not overcome their natural and hereditary
tendencies, and he leads them into sin.
As the end draws near, Satan will stir up minds, in proportion to their capabilities
and knowledge, to sow seeds which will produce a harvest they will not care to garner. He
works in so deceiving a way that he himself is not detected, and then he reaps the benefit
of the disaffection of those he had tempted. He is all prepared to hurl charges through
them against those whom God would have stand stiffly for the truth.
Satan must deceive in order to lead away. "In vain the net is spread in the sight
of any bird." Proverbs 1:17. Underhand work must be done; a deceiving influence must
be exerted; false pretences must be set forth as truth; suspicion must be lulled to sleep.
Satan will clothe temptation and sin with the garments of righteousness, and by this
deception he will win many to his side. Christ pronounced Satan a liar and a murderer. Oh,
that unwary souls would learn wisdom from God!
Cain and Abel are given us in Bible history to represent the two orders in humanity.
Abel was faithful and loyal to God, and he was preferred by the Lord. Cain was disloyal;
he wished his own ideas to prevail. Abel protested against these principles as disloyal.
As the eldest, Cain thought that his methods and plans should have the supremacy. It made
him very angry that Abel would not concede to his views, and his anger burned so hot that
he killed his brother Abel. Here the two principles of right and wrong are developed.
Test and trial will come to every soul that loves God. The Lord does not work a miracle
to prevent this ordeal of trial, to shield His people from the temptations of Satan. If
they are tempted severely, it is because circumstances have been so shaped by the apostasy
of Satan that temptations are permitted in order that characters may be developed that
will decide the fitness of the human family for the home in heaven, characters that will
stand through all the pressure of unfavourable circumstances in private and public life,
and though tried by every species of Satan's temptations, through the grace of God grow
brave and true, and firm as a rock to principles, and come forth from the fiery ordeal of
more value than the golden wedge of Ophir. Those who have such characters, God will
endorse with His own superscription as His chosen elect.
The firmness manifested by Daniel must be shown by God's children. All temptations to
depart from pure and holy principles must be unhesitatingly rejected. There must be a firm
adherence to right principles. As a people we are to stand unmoved by all Satan's
delusions, even when he comes as an angel of light. Thus may we constantly contend for the
faith once delivered to the saints.
All who love God and are loyal to His government will be tempted to change leaders. But
God has said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3. "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." Luke 10:27. The Lord
accepts no half heart. He demands the whole man. Religion is to be brought into every
phase of life, carried into labour of every kind. The whole man is to come under God's
control. He must not suppose that he can take supervision of his own thoughts. They must
be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. Self cannot manage self; it is not sufficient
for the work. Whoever tries to do this will be worsted. God alone can make and keep us
Satan contrives through evil angels to form an alliance with professedly pious men, and
thus to leaven the church of God. Fallen men and fallen angels are, through apostasy, in
the same confederacy, leagued to work against good. They unite in a desperate
companionship. Satan knows that if he can induce men, as he induced the angels, to join in
rebellion under the guise of servants of God, he will have in them his most successful
allies in his enterprise against Heaven. Under the name of godliness, he can inspire them
with his own accusing spirit, and charge them with evil. They are his trained detectives.
Their work is to create feuds, to make charges which create discord and bitterness among
brethren, to set tongues in active service for Satan, to sow seeds of dissension by
watching for evil and speaking of that which will create discord.
Christ prayed for His disciples, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is
truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the
truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through
their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they
also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory
which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in
them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know
that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." John 17:17-23.
God has expressed His will in this prayer of Christ for the unity of His believing people.
But there is an unwearied conflict kept up upon this earth, polluted and marred with the
curse. Satan works to make the prayer of Christ of none effect. He makes continual efforts
to create bitterness and discord; for where there is unity there is strength, a oneness
which all the powers of hell cannot break. And all who shall aid the enemies of God by
bringing weakness and sorrow and discouragement upon any of God's people, through their
own perverse ways and tempers, are working directly against the prayer of Christ.
All the friends of the powers of darkness, notwithstanding their jarrings and their
bitter recriminations, which are continual, are linked together as with bands of steel in
the great object of disloyalty to Jehovah.
The only remedy for our institutions, our churches, our families, and for individuals
is entire conformity to the will and character of God. Unless God shall work through the
two olive trees, His witnesses, causing them to empty from themselves the golden oil
through the golden tubes into the golden bowls, His churches, and hence to the burning
lamps, representing His churches, no one is safe for one moment from the machinations of
Satan. He will, if possible, deprave human nature, and assimilate it to his own corrupt
principles. But this golden oil will revive the Spirit of God in the heart of man. A
Christlike principle will be introduced like leaven. Through the inspiration of the Spirit
of God satanic agencies will be overcome.
Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 358-367