I attended a meeting of the conference after you spoke yesterday, and I could not roll off the burden which came upon me. The way in which you spoke did not leave the best impression upon the people. That night I was greatly burdened, and One of authority said to me, “Say to my servant, Alonzo Jones, that he is to stand as a representative man.He is to put on Christ Jesus, and is to be guarded in his attitude and words, so that he shall not give others an excuse for being dictatorial and overbearing. The spirit of harshness, of a desire to rule, must be put away from our ministers, our teachers, and the managers of our institutions. The meekness of Christ must be revealed.
You have naturally a dictatorial spirit, and it has increased in your efforts to eradicate the evils which have come in since the Minneapolis meeting. Your great strength and power lies in linking up with Jesus Christ. John Corliss and yourself are men through whom God can work if you will let the knowledge of the truth be a burning and a shining light. However wrong the course of others, let no thrusts be made, no yokeslaid upon the neck of any one. You are to break every yoke. God calls upon you to be tender-hearted, pitiful, and courteous in presenting the blessed invitations of the gospel.Let every word be that which, under similar circumstances, would be spoken by the Saviour.
It is essential for you to soften and subdue your manner of address, else you will do harm. Do not exhibit your natural traits of character, but be clothed with humility. You have most powerful truth to present, and it will exert its influence if your life testifies to your close relation to Christ.
There is no use of putting harshness into the voice. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
“I feel myself so condemned before God that I repented, and in contrition of spirit asked him to forgive me for every word I had spoken which, though truth, it would have been better not to speak.”
Why would Ellen G. White send such a letter to A. T. Jones? You must have noticed that the letter does not address Alonzo T. Jones theology. His theology was to a great extent sound. As a matter of fact, Ellen White commends his theology by stating in this letter: “You have most powerful truth to present, and it will exert its influence if your life testifies to your close relation to Christ.” His theology was not only right, but it was the present truth! A message from heaven itself!
Something else was the problem with A. T. Jones. First, he came from a military background, having worked as a private in the US army (Sergeant A. T. Jones, of the 21st Infantry, Fort Walla Walla). He later (in 1876) accepted the truth. Being to a great extent self-taught, A. T. Jones with Ellet J. Waggoner rose up to greater popularity after the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session in which the presented the message of “Righteousness by Faith”. This message was rejected and to a great extent unheeded. He had seen so many uncorrected evils among his brethren and he was zealous to effect a change in them. In the above letter, Ellen White gives this message about him: “You have naturally a dictatorial spirit, and it has increased in your efforts to eradicate the evils which have come in since the Minneapolis meeting.” Thus, I believe his military background must have made his disposition to be naturally dictatorial and the subsequent rejection of the 1888 message led to the growth of these tendencies. It is important to note here that even the truth cannot be forced on people.
Thus, the warning to Alonzo can be summarized in two sentences in the letter sent to him: “It is essential for you to soften and subdue your manner of address, else you will do harm… There is no use of putting harshness into the voice.”
The same maybe the case with us. We, like A. T. Jones, may see many evils and be moved with a strong desire to eradicate them. However, there are boundaries which should not be crossed. A dictatorial spirit, whether you are right or not, is not acceptable by GOD. The grace of CHRIST should pervade even our most solemn warnings to men.
Below is just a brief summary of how A. T. Jones behaved himself. Emphasis is during the 1888 conference.
“Jones was a towering, angular man, with a loping gait and uncouth posturings and gestures… Jones was largely self-taught, a convert found as a private in the United States Army, who had studied day and night to amass a great store of historical and Biblical knowledge. Not only was he naturally abrupt, but he cultivated singularity of speech and manner, early discovering that it was an asset with his audiences.” Captains of the Host (Arthur Whitefield Spalding) p. 591
“Appeals were made for ministerial help, and Elder I. D. Van Horn and his wife came up from California early in 1876, pitching their gospel tent in the city of Walla Walla, Washington. A number accepted the message, among them being Sergeant A. T. Jones, of the 21st Infantry, Fort Walla Walla, who was to prove a great power in Adventist circles. His term of service soon expiring, he joined the evangelistic group.“, Captains of the Host (Arthur Whitefield Spalding) p. 480
“Jones was aggressive, and at times obstreperous, and he gave just cause for resentment…” Captains of the Host (Arthur Whitefield Spalding) p. 592
Jones was regarded “as a barbarian;” Captains of the Host (Arthur Whitefield Spalding) p. 599
“An example is related by one in attendance [in reference to the 1888 Minneapolis G.C. Session]. “Elders Uriah Smith and A. T. Jones were discussing some features in connection with the Ten Kingdoms into which western Rome was divided. One day Elder Smith, in his characteristic modesty, stated that he did not claim originality for the views he held on the subject, that he had taken statements of such men as Clarke, Barnes, Scott, and other men, and drawn his conclusions from such authorities. In opening his reply, Elder Jones, in his characteristic style, began by saying, ‘Elder Smith has told you that he does not know anything about this matter. I do; and I don’t want you to blame me for what he does not know.’ This rash statement called forth an open rebuke from Sister White, who was present in the meeting.“—A. T. Robinson, MS., Jan. 30, 1931.”, Captains of the Host (Arthur Whitefield Spalding), Appendix p. 690,691