This letter reveals so much of what was going on. And as you will see, Lacey was a Trinitarian as his family came out of the Church of England. And this is representative of what didn't exist in the Adventist church once upon a time. But it would become the majority because that is who was coming into the church. When he attended school at Battle Creek, he felt something was wrong with the theology or belief that he was hearing. He had not taken any bible classes. Lacey was a delegate from Battle Creek to a "Sunday keeper convention" of sorts in Detroit. Here he would hear words that would warm his ears about the Holy Spirit, something he could hold onto from his days in the Church of England. Where they were teaching that the Holy Spirit was a literal person and was a divine person. Something not taught in our church or schools.
And when Lacey presented in Cooranbong, he went against the history of the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Instead of an "it", he moved into the territory of calling it a "He", a "Person", THE THIRD PERSON OF THE GODHEAD!" And Sister Marian Davis drank it all in and it would influence her translation and literary assistance of Sister Ellen White.
Today there is a growing outcry from members who study the Spirit of Prophecy and the writings of the founders of the church to compare the doctrines received from God while Ellen White was alive, and those that have evolved since her death. It has become quite clear that the fact that our religion and the prophecy of our religion has being changed, has been fulfilled. Refer to Selected Messages vol. 1, p. 204 (also found in the document, “Warnings by Sister White”.
And in follow up to the above letter by Lacey to Froom, Leroy Froom responds on September 26, 1945 with this:
“….I am glad for the effort that you have put forth to tell us about your personal interest in the personality of the Holy Spirit and also the discussion by Professor Prescott in Australia back in the year 1896 concerning the eternal Son…..If you know of any other sources from which I might get further information as to any discussion of the eternal pre-existence of Christ, I should be grateful for the same.”
Sister White had warned about (personality of the Holy Spirit) things like this and you can see Froom was fishing for information that he might use to advance changing the belief in the Son of God and turn it into co-eternal, co-equal to fit the "God in three persons" doctrine and belief. This is now the mid-1940’s and there is hardly the resistance within the church that there was in previous decades. It pretty much was down to J.S. Washburn and Charles Longacre. After all these years, what was the majority in our church would come down to this little resistance of two.
There was at one time, a presentation by “Professor” Prescott, and he brought up the word “beginning” when talking about Christ’s existence. As his response moved away from the begotten concept, Herbert Lacey asked:
“Can we go one step further and say that the word was without beginning?”
Prescott responded, “I was going to raise the question. Are we agreed in such a general statement as this, that the Son of God is co-eternal with the Father? Is that the view that is taught in our schools?”
Here Prescott is planting a seed and casting doubt. Prescott knew very well what our denominational belief was. And it wasn’t where he was treading or leading. It was that at some time in eternity, Jesus had a beginning and was brought forth by God. And Prescott wanted to erase that and make us equal with the rest of Christendom.
Prescott: “Not to teach that is Arianism. Ought we continue to circulate in a standard book a statement that the Son is not co-eternal, that the Son is not co-eval or co-eternal with the Father? That makes him a finite being. An being whose beginning we can fix is a finite being.”
To use the word Arianism was a boogie man word. The denominational belief was not Arianism. You couldn’t even call it Semi-Arian. But it was “non-Trinitarian”. To be Arian, you would claim that Christ was created and did not have divinity. That was NOT what the Pioneers believed and taught. Being created is not the same as being begotten, and our people fully subscribed to the begotten belief.
The Romans used the term “Arian” as name calling in casting out true followers of God, claiming them not to be real Christians. Non-trinitarians would be stigmatized by the name calling of Rome, calling them “Arian”. In history, three Germanic tribes from history would be overcome because of this (Heruli, Ostrogoths, Vandals).
During the 1919 Bible Conference and Teachers Meeting held at Takoma Park, Washington DC July 2nd, there was significant push to move the church towards a trinitarian position. It was sort of a test bed, to see if an agenda could be carried out by some. These leaders (W.W. Prescott and A. G. Daniells led the charge) were flirting with the language that would truly steer the church into a different direction than what she would have known for about 56 years prior (the SDA church officially formed in 1863).
There was debate and resistance from C.P. Bollman, questioning why we would want to go farther in the description of Christ than what the bible gives us? Primarily what was in question was, saying Christ was “co-eternal”. Sister White never used this term. Bollman said, “I think we should hold to the Bible definitions.”
Here we pick up Herbert Lacey in conversation of the meeting. “If Jesus is divine, He must have that essential attribute, and so I have dared to say that Christ is absolutely co-eternal with the Father. You can not say that back in some point of duration the Son appeared, and prior to that He had not appeared.”
Later on Lacey commented, “To the first and only begotten Son was a specially tender feeling, and to indicate the wondrous love of the first person of the Deity to the second, this expression (the Son of God) is used. Never to indicate that the son came into existence after the Father.”
This is straight up standard Sunday-keeper language. Identifying first person or second person of the Deity, was never done by the Pioneers of the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Shockingly, we find Sister White writing about Brother Lacey and exposing his lack of bible knowledge, dated 1897. Yet he is one of a few that would lead this church down a dark path.
“Brother Herbert Lacey called and made a short visit. We engaged in profitable conversation. He stated that while in America at Healdsburg, he engaged in Bible studies. After going to Battle Creek, he went deeper into study but did not take Bible studies at all. Here he has lost much, for the most important of all education is to understand what saith the Scriptures – and yet he was ordained for the ministry when he had not fitted himself at all for such a position…..The very first work he needs is thorough conversion. He is ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God. This is the great mistake, that has been made in this young man’s education. Oh, that as a teacher in this school, he may be a learner.”
- EGW, Manuscript 174, 1897
Sister White's letter speaks volumes about what she thought of Lacey's qualifications. And you will see from Mr. Spalding's letter that he references Herbert Lacey was the first to teach the trinity while he was in Australia. Ask yourself? Is this an honest way for a church to change it's religion. To change it's doctrine?
Letter from A.W. Spalding to Lacey, June 2, 1947
“D.E. Robinson says that you are the first one he knows of to teach the straight doctrine of the trinity, in Australia…..There is to me a twilight zone in this history which I wish to have lighted. Did all the fathers sin? (talking about the Pioneers)
And if so, did they repent? How prove the unity of the faith in our succession if our pioneers were Arians and we are Athansians? Andreasen is very positive that, “Waggoner must be repudiated,” which I understand means, “condemned”. I am slow to censure any of the fathers, but I am ready to make situations as clear as they appear to me. In the beginning of my writing I did not realize that the question of the trinity among us was of so serious a nature…..Let me know, if you please, what your part in this movement was, where you got your view and inspiration, who else was instrumental in presenting it, what the actual views of the pioneers were, what relation to the question Sister White had through the years.”
Reply to Professor A.W. Spalding, June 5, 1947:
“….Most assuredly our people were anti-trinitarians, when we (the Lacey family) accepted the ‘Truth’ in 1888. At least, that is how it appeared to us at that time.
You see, we were pretty strong ‘Church of England’ members then, - my father, one of the main supporters of St. John’s (of course it was a state church), my mother, the organist, and practically the choir leader, and May (now Mrs. W.C. White) and I, singers in the choir.
Mother was something of a composer of church music too, often adapted selections from ‘Hymns and Tunes’ – our old Church Hymnal-for voluntaries (for we still remained members of the ‘Church’ even after we had become ‘Adventists) and these ‘Voluntaries’ were greatly liked by the congregation: Mother was often complimented upon them!
Now we couldn’t help noticing two things about the wording of the hymns in our book, as contrasted with the standard Church of Hymnal: 1st. the obliteration of all references to the Trinity: 2nd. the weakening of the truth of the Personality of the Holy Ghost! (Perhaps the latter, chiefly in the sermons, etc, and prayers of our ministers, who always spoke of the Holy Spirit as IT: never ‘HE’ except when they were reading the verses in John, and then immediately afterwards they would say IT, again! I particularly remember Mother commenting wonderingly on that!)
Lacey continues on in the letter pointing out difference between the Adventist hymns and the words in the hymns from the Church of England. Chiefly, the difference in lack of support for the Trinity vs full on Trinitarian language found in the songs.
Lacey comments further in his letter an admonition of:
“It was your humble servant who taught the Personality of the Holy Spirit (not Corporeality – a very different thing, as I know you understand!) but that the Holy Ghost was not a mere influence, but a distinct Person, even the Third Person in the Godhead…….We had a good time in those studies, and among the most interested ones were Sr. Marian Davies (who had charge of the production of the ‘Desire of Ages,’) and Elder A.G. Daniells, and Sr. A.T. Robinson, who was a sister of Elder E.W. Farnsworth.
A self admission statement of pride doesn't get any clearer than what we have shown here. If you have read carefully the testimony and evidence here, it is rather eye opening and revealing. "Your humble servant who taught the Personality of the Holy Spirit...a distinct Person, Third Person IN the Godhead."
Brothers and Sisters, Herbert Camden Lacey has changed history. And he had a part in what Sister White saw and warned that "our religion would be changed."
Lacey replied (long letter response):
"Dear Brother Froom: …Well, that was not quite the angle in which I was involved in the studies conducted at Cooranbong way back in 1896. At that time, Professor Prescott was tremendously interested in presenting Christ as the great ‘I AM’ of Exodus 3:14, which of course was Christ the Second Person of the Godhead, with the statement of Jesus in John 8:58, which we all agreed to; but then linked it up also with other ‘I ams’ in that Gospel—7 of them, such as ‘I am the Bread of Life’ ‘I am the Light of the World’ ‘I am the Door of the Sheep’ etc. all very rich in their spiritual teaching—but which those latter cases is merely the copula in the Greek, as well as in the English. But he insisted on his interpretation. Sr. Marian Davis seemed to fall for it, and lo and behold, when the ‘Desire of Ages’ came out, there appeared that identical teaching on pages 24 and 25, which, I think, can be looked for in vain in any of Sr. White’s published works prior to that time!
"In this connection, of course you know that Sr. Marian Davis was entrusted with the preparation of ‘Desire of Ages’ and that she gathered her material from every available source—from Sr. White’s books already in print, from unpublished manuscripts, from private letters, stenographical reports of her talks, etc.—but perhaps you may not know that she (Sr. Davis) was greatly worried about finding material suitable for the first chapter. She appealed to me personally many times as she was arranging that chapter (and other chapters too for that matter) and I did what I could to help her; and I have good reason to believe that she also appealed to Professor Prescott frequently for similar aid, and got it too in far richer and more abundant measure than I could render....
"Professor Prescott’s interest in the ‘Eternity of the Son,’ and the great ‘I AMS coupled with the constant help he gave Sr. Davis in her preparation of the ‘Desire of Ages,’ may serve to explain the inclusions of the above-named teachings in that wonderful book.
As to any special controversy, or agitation, over the matter of the Trinity, I cannot recall anything serious at all. Of course I have always known that Elder Uriah Smith was an Arian in belief, (‘Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation’ reveal that!) and that our people undoubtedly generally followed that view. But we, as a family, had been brought up in the Church of England, and were naturally, may I say, Trinitarians. We just believed it, subconsciously, and I do not remember our ever discussing the question with the brethren who brought us into the Truth, Elder M. C. Israel, and young brother W. L. H. Baker. One thing I do recall is my mother’s remarking on the strange language used by our ministers in speaking of the Holy Ghost as ‘it’ and ‘its’ as though they thought of the Holy Spirit as an influence, instead of as a Person. That seemed very strange to her, and in a measure to me also (I was about 17 then).
"Now this bring[s] me to the second point in my letter; The angle in which I was involved in that convention at Cooranbong was not the Eternity of the Son, but the Personality of the Holy Ghost.
"Perhaps a few words of historic background may be helpful here:
"As I already stated, I was really a Trinitarian at heart. And I went through Healdsburg College, and Battle Creek College, with a dim sort of a feeling that there was something wrong about our teaching on the Ministry and Personality of the Holy Ghost. (Of course, that term was never used, except in reading from the Bible,—it was always ‘Holy Spirit’ and referred to as ‘it.’) And then in the Testimonies I noticed that, practically everywhere, the same language was used,— ‘Holy Spirit’ ‘it’ ‘its’ etc., as though the ‘Spirit of God’ were an influence, instead of a Person, the Third Person of the Godhead.
During my college course at Battle Creek, in March 1894, I attended as a delegate from the College, the second international convention for the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, held at Detroit, Michigan. There I heard such men as Mr. J.R. Mott, Mr. Robert Speer, and such Spirit-filled servants of the Lord as J. Hunson Taylor, A. T. Pierson, A. J. Corden, with Miss Geraldine Guiness and others. I remember too how Sr. Georgia Burruss (now Mrs. L.J. Burgess of National City, California, who was also a delegate at that convention, and who became afterwards our first woman missionary to Indian, I believe) was impressed by the spiritual teachings and appeals of these men. I recall her saying something like this:
Brother Lacey, these men are not Sabbath-keepers, as we understand it….the emphasis placed by all these teachers upon the ministry of the ‘Holy Ghost’ in our lives as God’s servants and missionaries, a ministry as of a real, definite, divine person, always with us, and in us, the Comforter as taught by Jesus Christ in His last pascal discourse, and as revealed in the book of Acts, and presented everywhere throughout the Epistles and the Revelation.
On the voyage back to Australia during September 1895, I made that theme, the Personality and Work of the Holy Ghost, a special subject of Bible Study. And I became convinced for myself! So when I was asked to conduct a series of Bible Studies at the 9:00 o’clock hour in a convention in Cooranbong in 1896, I presented that theme very much to the interest (I well remember!) of Sr. Marian Davis, who took copious notes, and also to that of Elder A. G. Daniells, who was frequently present and expressed conservative appreciation.
When the ‘Desire of Ages’ came out in 1898, Brother Daniells himself called my attention to the expression found on page 671, where the Spirit is spoken of as ‘the third person of the Godhead’ (I had not at that time seen a printed copy) and made some kindly comments. Later, in Testimonies for the Church, Series B, No 7 on page 63 (Nov 1905) I found this paragraph-
"The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. THERE ARE THREE LIVING PERSONS IN THE HEAVENLY TRIO; in the name of these three great powers – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized; and those powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ."
exactly as I had endeavoured to teach 9 years previously.
"In this same connection I was interested to note the language used in the article ‘The Holy Spirit in our Schools’ found in 8T p.61, 62, and bearing date ‘May 10, 1896’ Cooranbong N. S. W., where every time the Holy Spirit is referred to, the pronouns ‘He,’ ‘Him,’ ‘His’ are employed. And He is called a ‘heavenly messenger’ ‘The heavenly guest’ repeatedly, and apparently ‘the great Teacher Himself.’ " - Letter by Herbert Camden Lacey to LeRoy Froom, August 30, 1945
Herbert Camden Lacey 1871 - 1950
Lacey was born in England and raised in India and Tasmania, an Australian island state located off the southern coast of the mainland, where his family settled in 1882. They were members of the Church of England with a staunch Trinitarian background. Some five years or so later, the entire family joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Lacey, was a student in an Episcopal college in Hobart at that time. This is important to note the background of Herbert Camden Lacey, because it would influence his beliefs while in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and it would influence his actions and role.
Below, we will read and consider these letters as Elder Lacey had a small, yet substantial part in the change of Adventism.
"Dear Brother Lacey:… Elder D. E. Robinson of the White Estate, is under the impression, I believe from something told him by you, that over at Cooranbong around 1898 or 1899 you were giving a series of studies on the Trinity and were challenged by some of the brethren. I think Marian Davis was present at that time,…" - Letter written by LeRoy Froom to Herbert Camden Lacey on August 8, 1945