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Unseen Christ

By Paul Chung

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“We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, IS WALKING THROUGH THESE GROUNDS, UNSEEN BY HUMAN EYES; ... HE HEARS EVERY WORD WE UTTER and knows every thought of the mind.” — Ellen G. White, 1899, 2SAT 136.6 (Sermons and Talks, Vol. 2, pp. 136, 137); Also published on Ev 616.5, 7MR 299.2, Ms66-1899.11

The statement above has been used to establish the personhood of the Holy Spirit since Leroy Edwin Froom composed a compilation of Ellen White’s writings to support the Trinity doctrine in the book, Evangelism, in 1946. And as many of the SDA trinitarians will attest, the phrase, “the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person,” when viewed without any corroborating statements, appears to suggest that the Holy Spirit is an Individual no different than how the Father and Son are distinct, personal individuals. However, the reader should be made aware that the statement above comes from a stenographer's transcript of a sermon Ellen White preached at the Avondale Church, March 25, 1899.

The Sermons and Talks Vol 2 (published in 1994) foreword reads,

“Four years ago we published Volume 1 of Sermons and Talks. the response was so enthusiastic that we herewith offer volume 2. Like the messages in Volume 1, the sermons and talks in this volume are mostly from the latter half of Ellen White’s ministry. This may be attributed to the fact that her messages were more faithfully reported in that period than during the early years. These messages were stenographically reported, hence by reading this book a person receives the true “feel” of Mrs. White as a speaker.” {2SAT 1.4}

There is no scanned evidence of this manuscript to be found, thus it is impossible to know what interactions Ellen White had with it, if any nor to verify if the expressions contained in the statement are the very exact words spoken by Ellen White in her sermon. Therefore, the readers would do well to be cognizant of the probable variations of expressions that may have existed when transcribing via stenography. More on the stenography transcriptions of Ellen White, click HERE.

Also keep in mind that this particular statement was not published until 1994 and therefore Ellen White was not alive to oversee the publication to verify the accuracy of the wording nor the intent of the phrase.

While she was alive, Ellen White had the oversight of her published writings. She would always read her articles and books to see that they expressed what she wanted BEFORE they were published. She explains herself: 

"EVERY ARTICLE I prepare to be edited by my workers, I ALWAYS HAVE TO READ MYSELF BEFORE IT IS SENT FOR PUBLICATION... {Lt84-1898.18}

"I READ OVER ALL THAT IS COPIED, TO SEE THAT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE. I READ ALL THE BOOK MANUSCRIPT BEFORE IT IS SENT TO THE PRINTER. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied. Besides writing, I am called upon to speak to the different churches, and to attend important meetings. I could not do this work unless the Lord helped me. {Lt133-1902.4}

"I WISH TO WRITE WORDS THAT SHALL REMOVE FROM THE MINDS OF ANY OF MY BRETHREN THE IMPRESSION THAT I DID NOT, BEFORE THEIR PUBLICATION, READ THE PAGES IN TESTIMONY FOR THE CHURCH, VOL. 9, relating to Sunday labor. {Lt94-1910.1}

This is why she could say, with absolute confidence, that if anyone back then wanted to know her views then they should read her public works instead of heeding hearsay. She has intimated,

"And now to all who have a desire for truth I would say: Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written. If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works. Are there any points of interest concerning which she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said. {5T 696.1}

Thus, deducing from Ellen White's own written principles, we may conclude that her personally written words were to be preferred in clearing up any ambiguity that might exist rather than relying on any second-hand recorded audible sayings.

Moreover, we would do well to consider some of the warnings Ellen White gave as to how some would misinterpret her writings or use them “separated from their proper connection” and thus pervert its true meaning:

“There are many who interpret that which I write in the light of their own preconceived opinions. You know what this means. A division in understanding and diverse opinions is the sure result.” {E. G. White, Selected Messages Book 3, p. 79}

We were warned very plainly not to do this with the Spirit of Prophecy.

“There are some, who upon accepting erroneous theories, strive to establish them by collecting from my writings statements of truth, which they use, SEPARATED FROM THEIR PROPER CONNECTION AND PERVERTED BY ASSOCIATION WITH ERROR. Thus seeds of heresy, springing up and growing rapidly into strong plants, are surrounded by many precious plants of truth, and in this way a mighty effort is made to vindicate the genuineness of the spurious plants.” {E. G. White, This Day With God, p. 126}

“There will be those once united with us in the faith who will search for NEW, STRANGE DOCTRINES, for something odd and sensational to present to the people. They will bring in all conceivable fallacies, AND WILL PRESENT THEM AS COMING FROM MRS. WHITE, that they may beguile souls.” {E. G. White, Selected Messages Book 1, p. 41}

With all that said thus far notwithstanding, rather than just simply dismissing the statement as some non-trinitarians do, let us examine the statement itself. I would add here that not unlike how we interpret the Scriptures (Isaiah 28:10 “precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”), when we are trying to understand the writings of Inspiration, we would do well to apply the same principle in comparing Testimonies with other Testimonies and not merely insert our own biased opinions into an isolated statement. Let’s take a look again the quote under consideration, including the portion that is typically omitted and is often replaced by the ellipsis:

“THE LORD says this because HE knows it is for our good. HE would build a wall around us, to keep us from transgression, so that HIS blessing and love may be bestowed on us in rich measure. This is the reason we have established a school here. The Lord instructed us that this was the place in which we should locate, and we have had every reason to think that we are in the right place. We have been brought together as a school, AND WE NEED TO REALIZE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHO IS AS MUCH A PERSON AS GOD IS A PERSON, IS WALKING THROUGH THESE GROUNDS, UNSEEN BY HUMAN EYES; THAT THE LORD IS OUR KEEPER AND HELPER. HE HEARS EVER WORD WE UTTER and knows every thought of the mind.”{E. G. White, Sermons and Talks Volume Two, pp. 136, 137} {Also appearing in Manuscript Releases Vol. 7, p. 299}

Let us now examine the statement carefully in its full context. Mrs. White is not talking of more than one individual, for she is using the singular pronoun “he” all through out. Please note that the “The Lord is our keeper,” not someone else. The Lord is the one who hears every word. It is the Lord who is “unseen by human eyes”. And even though He is there by His Holy Spirit yet He is as much a real person as if He were here physically! This is the meaning of that statement. His personal presence is His person, which is as much a person as He is a person.

QUESTION 1: Who walks unseen through our homes and streets and is by our side and hears every word we utter? Again, we need to allow the Spirit of Prophecy to interpret the Spirit of Prophecy.

First of all, Ellen White has stated in her own words, in numerous statements, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; I will list just a few below: 

“We want the HOLY SPIRIT, which is JESUS CHRIST.” (E.G. White, Letter 66, April 10, 1894)

“But it is the leaven of the SPIRIT of JESUS CHRIST, which is sent down from heaven, called the HOLY GHOST, and that Spirit affects the heart and the character.”  (E.G. White, Manuscript 36-1891)

“The HOLY SPIRIT is the SPIRIT of CHRIST, which is sent to all men to give them sufficiency.” (E.G. White, Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, p. 84.3)

But, who is this "person” that is "WALKING THROUGH THESE GROUNDS, UNSEEN BY HUMAN EYES," and who "HEARS EVERY WORD WE UTTER?"

“CHRIST WALKS UNSEEN THROUGH OUR STREETS. With messages of mercy He comes to our homes.”  (E.G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 107)

“How few realize that JESUS, UNSEEN, IS WALKING BY THEIR SIDE! How ashamed many would be to hear His voice speaking to them, and to know that HE HEARD ALL THEIR FOOLISH, COMMON TALK!”  (E.G. White, Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, p. 125.3)

“I have been instructed that we should lead the sick in our institutions to expect large things because of the faith of the physician in the Great Healer who, in the years of His earthly ministry, went through the towns and villages of the land, and healed all who came to Him. None were turned empty away; He healed them all. Let the sick realize that, ALTHOUGH UNSEEN, CHRIST IS PRESENT to bring relief and healing.” — Letter 82, 1908. {MM 28.2}

“Jesus desires to make celestial harmony in your soul. Read His words, not with discouragement, but with confidence and hope. Listen to the blessed words which God speaks to you. Walking with Christ means to believe that, THOUGH UNSEEN, CHRIST IS WALKING WITH YOU.” — Letter 104, August 4, 1901, to E. K. Beaman. {TDG 225.7}

“Remember that JESUS IS BESIDE YOU WHEREVER YOU GO, noting your actions and LISTENING TO YOUR WORDS.”  (E.G. White, The Youth Instructor, Feb. 4, 1897)

“The LORD JESUS standing BY THE SIDE OF THE CANVASSER, WALKING WITH THEM, is the chief worker. If we recognize CHRIST as the ONE who is with us to prepare the way, THE HOLY SPIRIT BY OUR SIDE WILL MAKE IMPRESSIONS IN JUST THE LINES NEEDED.” {E. G. White, Colporteur Ministry, p. 107}

“By the Spirit the Father and the Son will come and make their abode with you.” {E. G. White, Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, January 15, 1893 par. 8}

Therefore, we rightly conclude that the Holy Spirit is the unseen personal presence of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the unseen person of Christ.

QUESTION 2: Who is the person of the Holy Spirit who is unseen by human eyes?

“The human agent, the seen instrument, is to preach the Word, and the LORD JESUS, THE UNSEEN AGENCY, BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT is to make the Word efficacious and powerful.—Letter 105, 1900.”  (E.G. White, Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 18.3)

“When trials overshadow the soul, remember the words of Christ, remember that HE IS AN UNSEEN PRESENCE IN THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, and He will be the peace and comfort given you, manifesting to you that He is with you, the Sun of Righteousness, chasing away your darkness. 'If a man love me,' Christ said, 'he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.' Be of good cheer; light will come, and your soul will rejoice greatly in the Lord.—Letter 124, 1897." (E.G. White, Daughters of God, p. 185.2)

"That Christ should manifest Himself to them, and yet be invisible to the world, was a mystery to the disciples. They could not understand the words of Christ in their spiritual sense. THEY WERE THINKING OF THE 'OUTWARD VISIBLE MANIFESTATION'. They could not take in the fact that they could have the presence of Christ with them, and YET HE BE UNSEEN BY THE WORLD. They did not understand the meaning of a 'SPIRITUAL MANIFESTATION.' " (E.G. White, The Southern Work, Sept. 13, 1898)

“THE DISCIPLES STILL FAILED TO UNDERSTAND CHRIST’S WORDS IN THEIR SPIRITUAL SENSE, AND AGAIN HE EXPLAINED HIS MEANING. BY THE SPIRIT, HE [JESUS] SAID, HE WOULD MANIFEST HIMSELF TO THEM. 'The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things.' No more will you say, I cannot comprehend. No longer will you see through a glass, darkly. You shall 'be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.' Ephesians 3:18, 19.” (Desire of Ages, p. 669.4-670 p.1)

Note: The concept of Christ appearing as the Holy Spirit, unseen by the world, was difficult for Christ’s disciples to grasp.

"Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore it was altogether for their advantage that he should leave them, go to his Father, and send the Holy Spirit to be his successor on earth. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS HIMSELF divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. HE WOULD REPRESENT HIMSELF AS PRESENT IN ALL PLACES BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT, AS THE OMNIPRESENT. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall (ALTHOUGH UNSEEN BY YOU), [THIS PHRASE WAS ADDED BY ELLEN WHITE.] teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” [John 14:26]... 'Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will come not unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you' [John 16:7]." (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, p. 23.3)

Note: The above statement is self-evident. She says, 

1. "THE HOLY SPIRIT IS HIMSELF" 
2. "CHRIST WOULD REPRESENT HIMSELF AS PRESENT IN ALL PLACES BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT, AS THE OMNIPRESENT."
3. "(ALTHOUGH UNSEEN BY YOU)"-- THIS PHRASE WAS ADDED BY ELLEN WHITE, as noted by the publisher.

Thus, it is Christ Himself by His Holy Spirit, who is "WALKING THROUGH THESE GROUNDS, UNSEEN BY HUMAN EYES..."

So why does Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy often speaks of the Holy Spirit like it is “ANOTHER” person? Because Christ's Spirit CAN and DOES function like “a free, working, independent agency,” but always lead by the direction of God (Lt54-1894.9). Christ’s own Spirit represents Himself, glorifies Himself, and hence personifies Himself. This is what most fail to understand. And so His Spirit is therefore spoken of as “ANOTHER” quite often; it is His incorporeal personality that is distinctly different than His corporeal, local presence. This is the nature of the Holy Spirit that Ellen White said we cannot understand; it is a mystery. 

Think about it. Is Christ no longer a Person, if He manifests Himself in His Spirit, unseen by human eyes? Of course not! This is how the Holy Spirit is as much a person as God [or Christ] is a person…” though, I am not entirely certain that the noted phrase convey the exact words which Ellen White had said in her sermon. Again, I would refer to the article HERE for further examination on Ellen White’s Testimonies based on the stenographer’s recordings.

So the Holy Spirit is indeed like a third person, though not a literal person. Ellen White understood that “representative” does not make another third being, but that Christ represents Himself in a different form. God and His Son have a Spirit and that is how “They” represent “Themselves” while they are not visibly nor physically present.

Additional statements about the unseen Christ:

“Once it was my privilege to speak in a smaller tent, which was crowded full of young men and young women. Soon after I began speaking, older ones tried to crowd in. I had great freedom, and the tender Spirit of God was with me. The Saviour seemed to be close beside me. I dwelt upon the Christian experience to be gained from the ministration of the Holy Spirit promised in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew. All hearts were touched. I was much refreshed and strengthened. It is the earnest of the spirit of life through Christ that every soul needs now, just now. There is not the least excuse now for any one’s departing from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Those who follow their own sophistries do this from their own choice, in the face of light and evidence. THE LORD JESUS RECOGNIZES THE REAL VALUE OF SINCERE BELIEF IN HIS PERSONALITY, WHICH THO UNSEEN, IS VIEWED BY THE EYE OF FAITH.” (Letter 248-1906.4)

“Of the thousands converted in a day [at Pentecost], one subject was deeply impressed on their minds. One interest prevailed: Who should walk in [the] humble footsteps of Jesus Christ in doing the work He had given them to do? Christ Jesus had promised to be with them; the influence of His Spirit would follow them in their interested work to convince the world of sin. CHRIST WAS THE UNSEEN AGENCY and His field composed the world. God called on every believer in Him to be His agency. Their lips were to speak forth His words and their voice [was to be] the talent to convince the world of sin. Therefore the law of God was to be their interested subject and their voice sanctified [and] subdued by the Holy Spirit. Truth from His own [lips], subjects on which He dwelt, were the weapons they were to use, learning every day.” (Manuscript 151-1906.19)