Ellen G. White was born at Gorham, Me., Nov. 26, 1827. Her maiden name was Harmon. When a child her parents moved to Portland, Me.
In her "Testimonies for the Church" (Vol. I., pp. 9-58), Mrs. White gives a lengthy account of her childhood, youth, conversion, and acceptance of Adventism under the preaching of William Miller. Her parents and all the family were Methodists of the most zealous kind until disfellowshipped for their strong adherence to the time-setting doctrines of Mr. Miller.
When only nine years of age, becoming angry "at some trifle," as Mrs. White expresses it, a schoolgirl, running after her, threw a stone at her and broke her nose. The blow was so severe that it nearly killed her. She was disfigured for life. She lay unconscious for three weeks, and was not expected to live (p. 10). When she began to recover and saw how disfigured she was, she wanted to die. She became melancholy, and avoided all company. She says: "My nervous system was prostrated" (p. 13).
After a time she tried to attend school again, but had to discontinue, as she could not study. So her school education never went beyond learning to read and write a little (p. 13).
In 1840, at the age of thirteen, she heard William Miller preach that the end of the world would come in 1843. She was terribly frightened, and thought she would be lost (p. 15). Returning home, she spent nearly all night in prayer and tears (p. 16).
She continued in this hopeless condition for months (p. 16). Then, at a Methodist camp meeting, she had a wonderful conversion (p. 18). Here she saw many fall unconscious with the "power," as was common then. Here parents were with her there, and in full sympathy with these exercises.
Again, in 1842, she heard Miller prove that Christ would come in one short year. She was terribly frightened again. She says: "Condemnation rang in my ears day and night" (p. 23). "I feared that I would lose my reason (p. 25). "Despair overwhelmed me." I frequently remained in prayer all night, groaning and trembling with inexpressible anguish" (p. 26).
This indicates her mental condition. In dreams she went to heaven and met Jesus, and was relieved (p. 28). Then she attended prayer meeting and fell unconscious, and remained in this state all night (p. 31). This was often repeated. She seeks to give the impression that her exercises were all the work of the Spirit of God. But where they? No; they were simply the result of her physical and mental condition, wrought upon by the religious excitements with which she was unfortunately surrounded. Miller's alarming predictions nearly unbalanced her hysterical mind in her feeble body.
Later she herself confesses this. She says: "Could the truth have been presented to me as I now understand it, much perplexity and sorrow would have been spared me" (p. 25). She simply had a wrong conception of God and the simplicity of the gospel. That misconception never wholly left her. The idea of a severe God and his service runs all through her writings. It shows how completely she was influenced by her associates and the spiritual atmosphere surrounding her. Instead of the Spirit of God controlling her mind all her life as she supposed, it was her own spirit influenced by leading minds around her. The following pages will demonstrate this.
Now notice the difference in the conversion of her husband, Elder James White. The entire account of this is given by himself in just fourteen words. In "Life Sketches" (p. 15) he says: "At the age of fifteen I was baptized and united with the Christian church." That is all he says about it. His father had been a Baptist deacon, then a member of the Christian church. Neither his parents, his church, nor his associates were accustomed to such extreme religious exercises as Ellen Harmon's had been. But was not his conversion as genuine as hers? She never questioned it.
From 1840 to 1844, from the age of thirteen to seventeen, this little girl, feeble, sickly, uneducated, impressible, and abnormally religious and excitable, fell under the influence of Mr. Miller's lectures predicting the end of the world in 1843, then in 1844. Toward the last she attended these exciting meetings constantly, and believed without a question all he predicted. She says: "I believed the solemn words spoken by the servant of God" (p. 22). The effect on her weak, imaginative and unbalanced young mind was terrible. She said: "It seemed to me that my doom was fixed" (p. 28). Her parents and all the family accepted Miller's theories, which caused their separation from the Methodist Church.
Miller's prediction that the end would come Oct. 22, 1844, was based on a long line of doubtful chronological figures extending back over twenty-three hundred years. They were disputed by able scholars. Now, what did that uneducated girl know about these ancient chronological dates? Absolutely nothing. She simply believed Miller's strong, positive statements without knowing whether they were reliable or not.
The same was true of the great mass of those who accepted Miller's preaching. Very few, indeed, were persons with either education or ability. They were persons who could easily be moved by mere assertions and excitement. Of this there was plenty.
Ellen was so carried away with these positive assertions that for days she sat propped up in bed, working to earn a few pennies to buy Advent tracts to give away (p. 38). When able to be up, she went out warning her young friends. She says that "several entire nights were spent by me" in this way.
Then she gives an account of how different ones in exciting meetings would fall powerless to the floor (p. 47). The children were affected the same way. The Advent preachers experienced the same thing (p. 49). For weeks before the day set, business was laid aside, and exciting meetings constantly held (p. 51).
All this, Ellen, with her parents, accepted without question as the power of God, the work of the Holy Ghost witnessing to the truth of what Miller taught. But what it? No. Candid people will see that it was simply their overwrought, excited feelings; that was all.
Their disappointment was great. Then followed confusion, divisions, and the wildest fanaticism - dreams, trances, visions, speaking with tongues, claims of prophetic gifts, and the like. Elder White, in Present Truth, May, 1850, says: "J.V. Himes, at the Albany Conference in the spring of 1845, said that the seventh-month movement produced mesmerism seven feet deep." Elder Himes, next to Miller, was the strongest man in that work. When it was over, that was his estimate of the spirit that moved the people. And he was right. It was inevitable that this would be the result with such a class of people expecting such an awful event on a definite day.
Miller, Himes, Litch, and all the leaders in that work, soon confessed it had been a mistake. But Elder White, Bates, Holt, Andrews and Ellen Harmon (Mrs. White) all still held on to that work as correct - as the mighty power of God. Their followers still defend it, and claim it was of God. Mrs. White, in all her visions and revelations, goes back to it over and over as the special providence of God, the power of the Holy Ghost. With her and with her people, it is like the coming out of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire by night, the cloud by day, the voice of God from Sinai, the foundation of the greatest message God ever sent to men, the last test of all ages!
But was this message from God? Most assuredly not. Abundant facts prove it. It was simply the work of fallible men misguided by zeal without knowledge. In fixing the exact time and setting a definite day for Christ to come, they contradicted the plainest warnings Jesus ever gave, over and over. He said: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matt. 24:36). "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). All this was brushed aside. They did know the time and the day. Everybody who did not agree with them would be rejected of God and lost. And that spirit has followed their work more or less ever since. They met what they richly deserved for so blindly disregarding the word of God. They were bitterly disappointed, and had to endure the mocking of those whom they had condemned to destruction for not agreeing with them.
Now read the Lord's condemnation of such work. "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:22).
This is exactly what the Adventists did in 1843, and then again in 1844. They spoke in the name of the Lord, and it did not come to pass. So, do not fear them.
Seventh-day Adventists now condemn those who are at present trying to figure out the exact time when the Lord will come. Thus the Advent Review, March 2, 1916, says: "Satan would have us believe that we can actually figure out the proximity of the Lord's return; that by casting up figures and computing statistics we can determine how far the last gospel message has extended, and how nearly Israel is made up."
Here the Review condemns exactly what Miller did in 1844. It says this is the work of Satan. Then, was it not his work back there?
In an article entitled "A False Prophet Exposed," published in their English paper, Present Truth, Feb. 4, 1915, they say:
"Now if there is one characteristic above another that marks out a false prophet, it is the unscriptural practice of setting a definite time for the return of our Lord."
This was said in condemnation of "Pastor" C.T. Russell setting the time for the "end of the times of the Gentiles" to occur in 1914. But if it was wrong to set time for 1914, why was it not wrong to set it for 1844, sixty years before? If it was "unscriptural" in one case, why was it not in the other?
Although originating with this error, Seventh-day Adventists now condemn time-setting, as already stated. Referring to Christ's words in Matt. 24-36; Mark 13:33, and Acts 1:7, they say:
"In spite of these words, some have from time to time set dates for Christ's coming. Such date-setting leads often to fanaticism, and when the date passes, discouragement and utter skepticism are liable to possess the souls of the date-setters" (Review and Herald, June 7, 1917).
Time and again this has been proven absolutely true. If one sentence had been added to this statement, it would have been complete, and that would have been this: "As an illustration of one of the worst instances of time-setting, see the time set by Adventists, Oct. 22, 1844, and the awful fanaticism and ruin that followed it."
If setting a definite time proves Mr. Russell and others false prophets, why does it not prove William Miller, Joseph Bates and Mrs. White false prophets also? Seventh-day Adventists can not consistently condemn this practice in others without condemning themselves, for they, too, have been guilty of it, as we show in the chapter on "The Shut Door."
In December 1844, only two months after that failure, Mrs. White began having "visions." In the first one she says: "God has shown me in holy vision," etc. She looked for the Advent people, but could not see them. She was told to look higher. There, way up above the world, she saw them on a high path going to the city. A glorious light was behind them. It was the Millerite warning of two months previous. Those who denied that work fell off the path down with "all the wicked world which God had rejected" ("Word to the Little Flock," p. 14). To deny that God was in that 1844 time-setting work, was to be lost. Thus she says: "As the churches refused to receive the first angel's message [Miller's work], they rejected the light from heaven and fell from the favor of God" ("Early Writings," p. 101).
Trying to excuse their failure in 1843, she says: "I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as the Lord wanted them; that his hand was over, and hid, a mistake in some of the figures" ("Early Writings," p. 64).
Here she has the presumption to throw upon almighty God the responsibility for the blunder and failure in 1843. Is not this charging God with folly? And this to excuse their own folly.
Again she says: "The Advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God." (The Great Controversy, Vol. IV., p. 429).
So God is made responsible for all their time-setting failures, both in 1843 and 1844.
Here the visions of this girl were added to the Advent movement of 1844. After this she had visions almost daily, every week or so at least. The Advent people generally regarded them as simply hallucinations of her own mind, caused by her feeble condition of body and the excitements around her. Some of her best friends so regarded them. Elder White himself, in "A Word to the Little Flock" (p. 22), published in 1847, quotes one of her friends who was familiar with her exercises. This brother says:
"I can not endorse sister Ellen's visions as of divine inspiration, as you and she think them to be; yet I do not suspect the least shade of dishonesty in either of you in this matter. I may, perhaps, express to you my belief in the matter without harm - it will, doubtless, result either in your good or mine. At the same time, I admit the possibility of my being mistaken. I think that what she and you regard as visions from the Lord, are only religious reveries, in which her imagination runs without control upon themes in which she is most deeply interested. While so absorbed in these reveries, she is lost to everything around her. Reveries are of two kinds, sinful and religious. Hers is the latter. . . Religion is her theme, and her reveries are religious. In either case, the sentiments, in the main, are obtained from previous teaching, or study. I do not by any means think that her visions are from the devil."
Elder Bates says that his first impressions of her visions were that they were only "what was produced by a protracted debilitated state of her body" (same work, p. 21).
These statements exactly express the author's deliberate opinion of Mrs. White's so-called visions. After a thorough acquaintance with her for many years, I became satisfied that this was the true explanation of her supposed revelations. I have personally known other Seventh-day Adventist sisters who had visions similar to those of Mrs. White. All were most devout Christians, sincere beyond a question, but misguided and fanatical. Not being encouraged in their alleged "gifts," after awhile their visions ceased.
Since Mrs. White's death a Seventh-day Adventist sister in Los Angeles. Cal., has been having visions similar to Mrs. White's visions. She has quite a following, who accept them of God. But the conference officials denounce them as spurious. Another sister in Washington, D.C., has visions, and claims to be the successor of Mrs. White.
For quite awhile Mrs. White herself doubted then genuineness of her own visions. She says: "I was sometimes tempted to doubt my own experience" (Early Writings," p. 18). Then, years later, after she had had a long experience with her own visions, she says: "In the night I have awakened my husband, saying, 'I am afraid I shall become an infidel'" ("Testimonies," Vol. I., p. 597). Did any prophet of the Bible, any true prophet of God, ever talk like that? If she was really sure her visions were of God, there could have been no occasion for her fears that she would become an infidel. This confession shows that she was not herself certain that her visions were from God. Notice here how she turns to her stronger-minded husband to help her out of her doubts. Had it not been for his consistent encouragement, she, like others, would, in all probability, have given up her visions. That she suffered for years with a severe form of epilepsy is not generally known; but such is the case. See this subject treated in the chapter on "Philosophy of Her Visions."
In 1846 she married Elder White. He strongly encouraged her in these visions. Also in that year Elder Joseph Bates endorsed them. Thus encouraged, her doubts as to their source seem to have been relieved. That she was more or less sincere in this misconception and deception seems evident from the general tenor of her life. A careful study of her writings shows that each year she became a little stronger in her claims of inspiration, till finally she made the assertion that all her utterances, even in a letter, were inspired. For a further explanation of her visions see the chapter just referred to.
The foundation of Adventism was laid in 1844. The visions of Mrs. White were added to this late in the same year. Then, in 1846, the Sabbath was added. Next came the sanctuary. Then the three messages. Later, the health reform, short dress and other matters. All these were, from time to time, simply added to, and built upon, the original time-setting foundation of 1844. Hence, all Seventh-day Adventists point back to this as the great event in their history.
After their marriage, Mrs. and Mrs. White visited believers in all the New England states. These companies were small, scattered and poor. Hence, both endured many privations for a time, and induced them to keep the Sabbath, though at first they saw no importance in it. He accepted Mrs. White's visions, and she accepted his Sabbath-keeping. She soon accepted all his theories about the Sabbath; that it was the seal of God, the great test of Christianity, and that it must be kept from 6 PM to 6 PM, instead of from sunset to sunset, as they now keep it. Right after this she went to heaven, and Jesus took her into the Most Holy, lifted the lid of the ark, and showed her the tables of stone with the Sabbath shining above all the rest of the Commandments ("Early Writings," p. 26). Query: Why did not Jesus tell her she was breaking the Sabbath every week by beginning it at the wrong time?
Her first child was born in August, 1847. They occupied a part of a brother's house, and rented furniture. Elder White worked hauling stone to the railroad; then cut wood for fifty cents a day ("Testimonies for the Church," Vol. I., p. 82). By this it will be seen that he was not a man of influence among the Adventists. His wife's visions were generally discredited. In 1848 they visited different places in New England. They also went to western New York, where they met a few Adventists.
In 1849, Elder White began publishing his first paper, Present Truth. Some numbers were printed in one place, and some in another, for two years.
In 1850, at Paris, Me., he issued the first number of the Review and Herald. In 1852 they moved to Rochester, N.Y. Here he started a small printing office. In 1853 they came as far west as Michigan, where they found scattered brethren; then visited Wisconsin. In 1855 they moved their office to Battle Creek, Mich. This remained the headquarters of the denomination for about fifty years. Gradually large interests were built up here, a great printing plant, the large Sanitarium, the College, the Tabernacle, etc. These were the days of greatest harmony and material prosperity. These were the days when I was most prominent with them, and helped in building all these institutions. Finally Dr. Kellogg and Mrs. White parted company, and he, with the Sanitarium, was separated from the denomination. Then the headquarters were moved to Washington, D.C., in 1903.
After locating in Battle Creek in 1855, for the next twenty-five years Mrs. White traveled and labored, either with her husband or with some efficient help, in many of the states from Maine to California. Her influence with her people had now become settled and supreme. No one dared question her authority or inspiration. About every year, men or more or less prominence withdrew on account of disbelief in her "testimonies," as they now call them. But the great majority remained loyal to her.
In August, 1881, her husband died. This was really a blessing to her. He had largely lost his influence with the church, and others were in the high offices. She began to be influenced more by them than by him. This worried him. He tried to get me to go with him and break their influence over her. He wrote me that we two would go on the General Conference Committee and so get them out of office, and break their growing influence over her. Here is his letter to me about two months before he died:
Battle Creek, May 24 .
Bro. Canright: The Review will tell of our plans. We shall depend on you to help us. . . We hope you can join us in our labors. There will be efforts made to get you to Wisconsin, to have you go here and there. . . I hope we shall see our way out and be able to labor in union. . . Elders Butler and Haskell have had an influence over her that I hope to see broken. It has nearly ruined her. These men must not be supported by our people to do as they have done. . . It is time there was a change in the officers of the General Conference. I trust that if we are true and faithful, the Lord will be pleased that we should constitute two of that board.
(Signed) James White.
About this same time Elder White is said to have remarked to Elder Butler: "You and Haskell have warped my wife's mind, and I am going home to take the warp out of it."
When we were together he went over more full the plans referred to in his letter. But August 6 he suddenly died. His words bring out clearly the fact that he knew his wife was influenced, in her visions, by others. All his life he had done that himself. As these two men were opposed to him, he feared their influence over her, if with them, as they and she had planned. So he urged me to go with him and his wife to make a strong team, and so keep her with himself and away from them.
This is the way matters stood when he died. A few days later Elder Butler told me that Elder White's death was providential to save the church from a split. This left Butler strongly in the lead for several years more. Finally he and Mrs. White fell out, and he retired to a little farm in Florida, and was silent for many years. He told her she could go her way, and he could go his. It was generally reported that he had lost confidence in the "testimonies." The fact that he quit the work for so long a time indicated it. She had given him a severe "testimony," which he did not like.
Elder White was not a literary man, not a student of books, not scholarly, not a theologian. He understood neither Hebrew, Greek nor Latin, read only the common English version of the Bible, and seldom ever consulted translations. He was a business man, had a large business ability, and was a born leader of men. His study and work were largely devoted to building up large business institutions, such as publishing houses, the Sanitarium, the college, general and state conferences, and to finance. Here he made a success. But his literary attainments were meager indeed. Compared with the great reformers like Luther, Melancthon, Wesley and others, he was a complete failure. He attended high school only twenty-nine weeks, and learned enough simply to teach a country school. Though he published and edited papers for thirty years, he produced no commentary, no critical work, no book on any doctrinal subject. He published two bound books: "Life Sketches," a simple story of his and his wife's lives, and "Life of Miller," taken almost wholly from another author. He drew his knowledge from observation and from conversing with leading men who were students. All doctrinal subjects requiring study he turned over to these men for them to dig out, after which he used them himself. Neither he nor his wife ever originated a single doctrine held by the Seventh-day Adventists. The doctrine of the second advent they received from Miller; and all the prophetic dates they accepted from him exactly as arranged them. The Sabbath they took from Bates, together with his unscriptural 6 PM time to begin and end it. Then they followed J.N. Andrews in changing to sunset time. The theory of the sanctuary in heaven they accepted from Elder O.R.L. Crosier, who afterwards repudiated it. Later they accepted from Andrews the theory of the three messages and the two-horned beast, as applied to the United States. The sleep of the dead they got from the First-day Adventists, with whom they soon fell out and had many bitter controversies.
From the writer they accepted three items of vital importance to their financial success. Early in the work Elder White arranged what was called "Systematic Benevolence." Every person was asked to put down in a book a statement of all his property at its full value, and pay so much on each dollar, whether the property was producing anything or not. All were asked to pledge ahead each year what they would give each week. This is not tithing. No one can tell a year ahead what he may have, nor whether he may live that long.
This plan was strongly endorsed by Mrs. White in the first volume of her "Testimonies to the Church." She says: "The plan of Systematic Benevolence is pleasing to God. . . God is leading his people in the plan of Systematic Benevolence" (pp. 190, 191). "Systematic Benevolence looks to you as needless; you overlook the fact that it originated with God, whose wisdom is unerring. This plan he ordained" (p. 545).
So, God ordained this plan! It ought to have worked, then, but it failed. This is confessed in their Lake Union Herald of Feb. 24, 1915, thus: "The money was called Systematic Benevolence, but the method did not prove satisfactory, and it was discontinued with us after two years' trial [over fifteen years], and tithing according to the income of the individual was adopted in its stead."
Yes, and I was the one who made that change. In the winter of 1875-6, Elder White requested me to visit all the churches in Michigan and straighten up their finances, which were in bad shape. I found them discouraged, and behind on their pledges, and dissatisfied with the Systematic Benevolence plan. After studying the subject, I set that plan all aside, and had the churches adopt the plan of tithing as practiced by that church ever since. All were pleased, and the finances greatly improved. I went to Battle Creek and laid the new plan before Elder White. He readily accepted it, and the change was made general.
Now, was the other plan ordained by God? Was he pleased with it? And did he direct Mrs. White to say so? No; her husband got it up, and she endorsed it. That was all. After this she just as strongly endorsed the tithing as I arranged it. Was my plan better than the Lord's? This is a fair sample of how Mrs. White endorsed what others studied out, but had no special light on, herself, as she professed to have.
At the same time I found the churches neglecting the Lord's Supper, in many cases for years at a time, nor was there any regular time for business meetings. So I induced all the churches where I went, to adopt the plan of holding regular quarterly meetings, four times yearly, for all business matters. This, also, was adopted, and has been practiced by the denomination ever since.
Up till 1877, no money for any purpose, not even for Sabbath schools, was collected in their churches on the Sabbath. It was regarded as sacrilegious to take money on the Sabbath. But at Danvers, Mass., I disregarded this custom, and took the first collection on the Sabbath, Aug. 18, 1877. It worked well. I went to Battle Creek, and laid the matter before Elder White and his wife, who readily approved of it. It has been universally adopted by the denomination ever since, and has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars into their treasury. This again illustrates how Mrs. White simply followed after and endorsed what others studied out.
Thus, the Review and Herald, Sept. 7, 1916, says: "These extracts will clearly show this agency [Mrs. White] to be very helpful in confirming the believers in the conclusions they had reached from the study of the Scriptures."
Exactly. Mrs. White simply followed after and "confirmed" what others had studied out, and that was all she ever did do. In the Lake Union Herald, Nov. 1, 1916, is given another good proof of this. It tells how one brother (Wayne), ten years previous, and on for several years, worked up the plan to get missionary funds by selling what they now call "Harvest Ingathering" papers. It has proved a great success. It is now one of their established plans of raising money. After Mr. Wayne had worked this up to a success, Mrs. White came forward and endorsed it. The paper says: "Shortly after the plan was started, Sister White wrote Brother Wayne of the light God had given her concerning this plan, fully endorsing it as being in harmony with the mind of the Lord."
Here it is again, the same old story. Some one studies out a successful plan, then Mrs. White has a revelation concerning it. With her the Lord was always behind in his instructions!
By far the most important part of their work is the circulation of their publications. In "Testimonies," Vol. IX., p. 65, Mrs. White says, "In the night of March 2, 1907, many things were revealed to me regarding the value of our publications," and the small effort being made to circulate them. What occasioned this revelation? On the same page she says: "The afternoon of March 2 I spent in counsel with Brother and Sister S.N. Haskell." The followed two pages telling of the burden Haskell had on this subject, and his plans to push the work. Haskell had filled her mind with his ideas and plans, and then the night following she is restless in her sleep, and has a "revelation" strongly endorsing Haskell's plans. So it always was from first to last.
This is where her revelations have been of great service to the church. Indeed, they claim that it could not have succeeded without her "testimonies." Leading men went ahead and studied out doctrines and plans, then she followed with a "divine revelation," endorsing each of these in turn. That gave each a divine sanction. They can not name a single move that has not come that way.
Take their Tract and Missionary Society. Elder Haskell first started this. Then Mrs. White took it up and endorsed it. Doctor Kellogg strongly advocated the medical missionary work. Mrs. White then followed with a strong endorsement of that. So it has been with every move made. These illustrations demonstrate the fact that she has been led by men, not by God, in her testimonies. Now the leaders turn this squarely around, and say that she has led in all the moves made, which is absolutely false. They do this to exalt her testimonies so they can use them to carry out their plans.
Never in the history, from Adam till now, had God ever chosen an uneducated man or woman as a leader in any crisis or reformation of the church. "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deed" (Acts 7:22). Ezra "was a ready scribe in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6). He was a trusted friend of the king. Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king, and in high authority (Neh. 2:1). To Paul, Agrippa said, "Much learning doth make thee mad" (Acts 26:24). The Christian church owes more to Paul than to all the other apostles combined. He was the great, educated leader of the infant church. In the great Reformation at the birth of Protestantism, all the reformers were among the great scholars of that age, men who had mighty influence with the rulers and the masses. Such were Luther, Melancthon, Erasmus, Zwingle, Knox and many others.
John Wesley, the great English reformer, the father of Methodism, was of a royal family, a graduate of Oxford, London, the highest seat of learning in the English world. He was a man of immense influence, and was a ripe scholar. His prose works comprise seven volumes, besides numerous hymns, "Notes on the New Testament," etc.
Mrs. White had none of the earmarks of a great reformer. Her books of any general interest are easily shown to have been copied largely from other authors, and polished up by her assistants. See the chapter dealing with her plagiarisms. She never had the slightest influence with out rulers or with the public generally, as all other reformers from Moses to Wesley had. She has instilled into her people a spirit so intensely sectarian, and hostile to all other churches, that, both in the homeland and mission fields, they are regarded as hindrances to Christian work. After over seventy years' trial, Mrs. White is regarded by all the Christian world as a false teacher, and this by the most intelligent, devout and earnest Christian workers of this generation. Mr. Moody, an earnest advocate of the doctrine of Christ's second coming, condemned their whole movement. There must be some good reasons for all this.
The year 1846 marked the turning point in her life. August 30 of that year she married Elder James White, and 1844 Adventist. He was six years older than she, well and strong, and better educated. She was a sickly girl of only nineteen, absolutely penniless. Later years proved that Elder White was a shrewd, far-seeing business man, with a strong, dominating will, a born leader. In a work entitled "The Vision of Mrs. White" (pp. 25, 26), E.P. Woodward, or Portland, Me., gives the following estimate of the relative mental strength of Mr. and Mrs. White:
"Behold this impressible girl, religious to an extreme, her nerves weakened and shattered by the circumstances of her childhood, just passing through her first great physiological and psychological change in her life, thrown into close contact with this dominant mind - and that at a time when the very air was surcharged with religious excitement, aggravated by bitter and hopeless disappointment."What influence this strong, masterful mind would naturally have over that frail girl, is easy to see. In later years one needed to be in the family but a short time to see that his will was supreme, and that she constantly had to bow to it. I have often heard him speak to her sharply, while she made no defense.
Elder J.N. Andrews told me that he once sat by while Mrs. White read a mild testimony of reproof to her husband. He said, "Ellen, hand me that." She obeyed, and he took it and threw it into the fire!
Elder White, however, could readily see that it would be greatly to his advantage to have the divine endorsement for all his plans; hence, from the very first, he strongly sustained her visions; would never tolerate in others the slightest question as to their genuineness, although he himself had little respect for them when they reproved him. In the first publication he issued, "A Word to the Little Flock" (1847, p. 13), he argued for visions in the last days. Hence, from the first, Mrs. White had the influence and encouragement of her husband to believe her visions were of God. This helped her own wavering faith.
In the same year (1846), Elder Bates endorsed her visions. He was a man of far more influence than Elder White or his wife. He himself was a dreamer, a visionary, trusting in dreams and visions. He says: "I asked for a dream, visions, or any way that was consistent with His will to instruct me. The next thing, as near as I can now recollect, was the following dream" ("Past and Present Experience," p. 75; 1848). Being a visionary himself, he readily endorsed the visions of Mrs. White. He was the first man of any influence to do so. The greatly encouraged Mrs. White, and increased her influence.
At the same time Elder Bates pressed on Mrs. White and her husband the necessity of keeping the Sabbath. Though they at first attached no importance to it, yet they accepted it.
Mrs. White herself has given an illustration of how her testimonies were given to order as requested by officials needing them. In 1867 the first building for the Health Reform Institute (Sanitarium) was being planned and built at Battle Creek, Mich. Elder White was sick and away from home. So Elder Loughborough and others went ahead with the work. Money was needed. As usual, they went to Mrs. White and asked for a testimony to the brethren to donate the means. This was delivered as ordered. Here are a few lines from it:
"Here, I was shown, was a worthy enterprise for God's people to engage in." "Our people should have an institution of their own." "Especially should those who have means invest in this enterprise" (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. I., pp. 492, 494).
She goes on through several pages urging the brethren to send in their means to erect that building. Over and over she says, "I was shown" this - a clear, inspired revelation from God. So means came in. I myself gave twenty-five dollars, and have the certificate now. The building was begun, and the first story up, when Elder White returned. He was angry because he had not planned and bossed it. It had all to come down - every stone. Then he put it all up again another way at a loss of $11,000 of the Lord's money!
This put Mrs. White in a bad fix. He demanded another testimony repudiating the first one. She had to humbly obey, and did. Here is her confession:
"What appeared in Testimony No. 11 concerning the Health Institute should not have been given until I was able to write out all I had seen in regard to it. . . They [the officials at Battle Creek] therefore wrote to me that the influence of my testimony in regard to the institute was needed immediately to move the brethren upon the subject. Under these circumstances I yielded my judgment to that of others, and wrote what appeared in No. 11 in regard to the Health Institute. . . In this I did wrong" (Id., p. 563).
This proves that Mrs. White was influenced by the officials to write a testimony, just as they wanted it, to use to get money. Then, at Elder White's demand, she writes another testimony, confessing that the first one was wrong! Did the Lord give her that testimony? Did he do wrong? How was she "shown" what she says she "saw"? Here see the controlling influence her husband had over her. She reversed herself to suit his desire to rule in all things.
Referring to this transaction, Dr. J.H. Kellogg, in his reply to an examining committee, said: "It was an infamous thing, a crime, tearing that thing down, for no other reason than because James White was not consulted." But through her testimonies Mrs. White gave divine sanction to it all.
After the death of her husband in 1881, Mrs. White labored extensively in Europe in company with several leading men. Here she visited England, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands, while their work there was yet young. Her influence in giving divine endorsements to the work helped to impart zeal to the workers. She remained there two years.
Returning to America, she labored here as usual till 1891, when she went to Australia. She remained there for nine years, visiting the different colonies, and encouraging and imparting zeal to the workers there. She also did much writing while there. Here, also, her "divine authority" was of great value in endorsing the plans and operations of the workers.
In 1900, at the age of seventy-three, she returned to the United States, still full of vigor. During 1901, she made a trip through the Southern states, visiting the places where the work had been started. She attended the General Conference also that year.
About this time there was a great rebellion and rupture in the work at headquarters in Battle Creek, Much., where their largest and most important institutions were located. Dr. J.H. Kellogg, head of their Sanitarium there, was a man of influence, having many friends. Mrs. White tried to rule him as she had ruled so many others. But he was too strong for her. So she denounced him in unsparing terms. The result was that the Sanitarium, with a large number of influential men, went out of the denomination. Then Mrs. White demanded that the headquarters of the denomination should be removed from that rebellious city.
In 1902 the Sanitarium and their large publishing house at Battle Creek were burned down, whether accidentally, providentially, or, well, some other way, was an open question.
At first Mrs. White styled these fires mysterious, and forbade any one attempting to explain them. In a testimony dated Feb. 20, 1902, soon after the burning of the Sanitarium, she said: "Let no one attempt to say why this calamity was permitted to come. . . Let no one try to explain this mysterious providence." But later, in 1903, she called these fires "judgments," and reproved the brethren for not having tried to find out their meaning. She said: "In the calamities that have befallen our institutions in Battle Creek, we have had an admonition form God. Let us not pass this admonition carelessly by without trying to understand its meaning." "God would not have let the fire go through our institutions in Battle Creek without a reason. Are you going to pass by the providence of God without finding out what it means? God wants us to study into this matter" ("Special Testimonies," Series B, No. 6, pp. 6, 11, 33).
In 1905, their next largest publishing house, located at Mountain View, Cal., fifty-five miles south of San Francisco, was destroyed by the earthquake of that year. A new building was erected. But the next year this was also destroyed by fire. In this fire Mrs. White herself was the heaviest personal loser. Illustrations, for which she paid a New York artist thousands of dollars, to reillustrate some of her larger books, had carelessly been left out of the vault, and were completely destroyed. After this Mrs. White had little to say about these fires being "judgments" from God. The lightning had struck too close to her this time.
April 24, 1911, their publishing house at their new headquarters in Washington, D.C., had a $28,000 fire. Wherever they have gone, fires seem to have followed them.
After the rebuilding of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the leading officials, backed by Mrs. White, tried to loosen Dr. Kellogg's hold on it and bring it under ecclesiastical control. She said: "Our leading brethren, the men in official positions, are to examine the standing of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, to see whether the God of heaven can take control of it" ("Testimonies," Series B, No. 6, p. 33). But the leading brethren decided that God couldn't take control of it, and so threw it overboard. Then Mrs. White predicted more judgments on the doomed city, none of which have come.
Backed by her testimonies, the officials then undertook a determined campaign to crush Dr. Kellogg. In a council meeting, Elder A.G. Daniells, president of their General Conference, said: "Dr. Kellogg has an imperious will which needs to be broken." This reveals the spirit which actuated both her and them. If they could not rule, they were ready to crush men, break their wills and call judgments down on them. But in this case their efforts failed. They simply lost Dr. Kellogg, their most capable and noted physician, and their largest and best equipped sanitarium, which Dr. Kellogg's genius and untiring efforts had built up.
For several years Mrs. White remained largely in California, visiting the work in different places, but spent much time in writing. In 1905 she attended the General Conference in Washington, D.C. After this she returned to California. Here she wrote as follows: "While at Loma Linda, Cal., Apr. 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation" ("Life Sketches of Mrs. E.G. White," p. 407, edition 1915). She stood on an eminence with an angel by her side. She saw great buildings fall, saw awful destruction, and heard the cry of the dying. "The destroying angels of God were at work," she said. Two days later (April 18), San Francisco was visited with a great earthquake, just as she had seen! But when did she relate this great warning? Not until days after the city had fallen! On page 409, same book, she says: "It has taken me many days to write out a portion of what was revealed those two nights." Notice: she did not tell what the angel showed her till after the event had occurred. Why did not the angel tell her what city and when? Why did she not tell it the next day? Evidently that "vision of the night" was an afterthought, when it was safe to tell it. But it "went" with her followers. After the failures of the first few years, she was cautious about naming dates or places till after the events had occurred.
This earthquake, so near, frightened her. So she immediately wrote: "Out of the cities, out of the cities, this is the message the Lord has been giving me" (same page).
In 1909, Mrs. White again visited Washington, where she attended the General Conference, and took an active part, though eighty-one years old. On her return to California she attended meetings in various places, speaking as usual.
During the remaining six years of her life she was too feeble to travel; so she spent the time in writing books, with the aid of her helpers. It is known that for many years the greater portion of the material for her larger and most important books was gathered, arranged and written out, not by Mrs. White herself, but by her assistants. She simply supervised it. Her biographer confesses this. He says: "She found time to supervise the revision of 'Sketches from the Life of Paul'" (p. 434, same book quoted above). Largely, therefore, these books were the production of others, "supervised" by her. Were these helpers inspired also? These books are now accepted by her followers as infallibly correct, all inspired of God!
We are informed by her near relatives that during these closing years of her life, when these important books were being prepared, she often did not know her nearest friends, nor even some of her attendants whom she saw almost daily. When she attempted to speak in her home church, she repeated herself over and over again, and had to be told when to stop. None of these weaknesses appear in the composition of her works prepared at that time, because, like most of her earlier work, they were prepared by others. Surely her "supervision" could not have amounted to much in her mental condition at this time.
Finally she met with a fatal accident, a fall in her own home, Feb. 13, 1915, which resulted in her death July 16, 1915, at the age of nearly eighty-eight.
Since her death the leaders have been exalting her and her "testimonies" more highly than before. They have been urging all their members to purchase a complete set of her works. On the last page of one of their Sabbath school quarterlies for 1915 they say: "The complete writings of Mrs. E. G. White can now be obtained for a sum that brings them within the reach of practically every household." And the modest sum asked for a set of them is, in cloth, $18.60; in leather, $26.00 - many times the price of a good morocco Bible.
And what has been the general effect of her "testimonies"? They have had a tendency to create in her followers a spirit of spying, faultfinding, criticizing and judging one another. They have begotten in practically all the members, also, a narrow, bigoted, hostile spirit towards all other churches, which will not allow them to cooperate with other Christians in any evangelical work. Indeed, they use every possible means to proselyte from all. With them all other churches are "Babylon," fallen because they refused to endorse Millerism. In "Early Writings" (Supplement, p. 37), Mrs. White says: "I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings." Little wonder her followers are narrow, bigoted and exclusive.
In the obituary number of the Review and Herald, Aug. 5, 1915, published soon after her death, Elder M.C. Wilcox said: "Her heart had large charity for those of the great Protestant denominations who could not see all that she saw." The quotation just given disproves this, and her views on the "shut door," which she held for years, ruled "the great Protestant denominations" out from God's mercy entirely. To the last she applied the term "the fall of Babylon" to them.
All her life energies were devoted to building up a sect, and promulgating narrow, sectarian views. She built high the middle wall or partition separating her followers from all other believers in Christ.
She was self-centered, and, on occasion, boastful. Her writings to her people abound in references to herself, to her ill health, and how she was often raised from beds of sickness to attend meetings. The evident object in this was to arouse sympathy, and to cause her followers to regard her as a special subject of God's providence.
As to boastful claims, the following is a sample: "I could prove greater devotion than any one living, engaged in the work" ("Testimonies," Vol. I., p. 581). Se Prov. 27:2).
In advocating reforms, being naturally fanatical, she was inclined to take extreme views, which, although represented at the time as founded on divine revelations, she was later obliged to abandon or greatly modify.
With her friends she was sociable and an agreeable companion. But she would never tolerate any question of her authority, or any expressed doubt of her inspiration. Either would instantly stir her utmost wrath.
She admits tampering with the messages she says God gave her for others, and never seems certain that she wrote them just right. At first she says: "When obliged to declare the message, I would often soften them down, and make them appear as favorable for the individual as I could. . . It was hard to relate the plain, cutting testimonies given me of God" ("Testimonies," Vol. I., p. 73). In "Testimonies," Vol. V., p. 19, she denies having done this. She says: "I take back nothing. I soften nothing to suit their ideas, or to excuse their defects of character."
Later on, when she became more bold and severe in her work, she says that God would have "approved" had she "taken stronger ground and been much more severe" (Vol. I., p. 318).
But finally, in 1901, she says: "I have written some very straight things. . . It may be that I have written too strong" ("A Response," by Dr. Charles E. Stewart, p. 54). When, then, did she ever write right? And what shall be said of a prophet that would dare to tamper with God's messages? Upon her own showing, also, she was inclined to be cutting and severe.
In his comments on her life, Elder Wilcox further said: "Mrs. White sought to teach men to look to God for guidance in perplexity, and not to her or any other human being." This is far from true. She taught her own people to look to her constantly for guidance and instruction in every move and every detail of life. This could hardly be otherwise, when she claimed divine inspiration for all her writings, and that she was God's special "messenger" for this age.
Again, Elder Wilcox said: "Mrs. White never claimed or assumed leadership among this people." The very opposite is true. She did both. The highest officials in the denomination were subject to her. Like the Pope of Rome in medieval times, her power and influence in the church grew until she became supreme. She made and unmade conference presidents with a word of mouth or a stroke of the pen. She said who was and who was not to fill office. She said where to buy and build, and where not to. If she said, "Go ahead," no one in the whole denomination dared say otherwise, even though it meant the loss of thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.
The same writer further said that her testimonies were not "clubs to mangle, nor daggers to destroy souls." This is likewise false, for many of them were called for, written, and used in this very way.
As the reader peruses the succeeding chapters of this book he will many times be impressed with these dominant characteristics of her life, mingled, as they were, with unbounded zeal and an intense religious nature.
Finally, in 1911, only four years before her death, as already stated, the claim of infallibility was set up for Mrs. White and her writings. This was but the logical climax to the claims which had already been made for her, and which she herself had made.
Very appropriately the publication making this claim was written to silence heretics and apostates from the faith. No greater claim was ever made for the Pope of Rome. As the claim of Papal infallibility was made late in the history of the Catholic Church, so the similar claim for Mrs. White came late in her life; and one is no more presumptuous than the other. So far as known, she never repudiated the claim, to the day of her death. Her son, Elder W.C. White, endorsed it.
But intelligent, thinking persons found that Mrs. White made mistakes; that she was often, very often, influenced by one person against another; and that she got her information from men, not God. The cases were so plain and so numerous that there could be no doubt about it. Then these persons must either acquiesce in what they doubted or disbelieved, or rebel and leave the denomination. Hence, all along the years many left, while others swallowed their doubts and remained.
We could fill pages of this book with simply the names of ministers, editors, teachers, physicians and missionaries who have left the church on account of disbelief in the inspiration of Mrs. White's writings. As to lay members, their number is legion, and rapidly increasing. Whole churches, and many of them, have left. The worst feature of it is that many who once had implicit faith in Mrs. White, and then lost it, with that lost faith in religion altogether. This is one of the sad but inevitable results of cults founded on such fanaticisms. This is why so many infidels are found in countries once so strongly Catholic. Having lost faith in the Pope, and the church which claimed to have the only means of salvation, not knowing where else to turn and place their faith and trust, they gave up all. The same tendency to infidelity is seen in Utah among doubting Mormons.
So, in this case, ex-Adventist infidels are found in large numbers wherever Seventh-day Adventists have worked. Battle Creek, so long the home of Mrs. White, is a terrible example of this.
There is now coming to be a strong influence to attract and hold thousands to the faith, by the official and financial opportunities offered, and this to persons of very ordinary ability and little training. These desirable positions blind the eyes and smother the conscience so that the obvious failures and mistakes of Mrs. White are passed over by dwelling on other things of which they feel sure.
The following pages of this book point out in detail, and by proofs indisputable, some of the most glaring of these mistakes and failures which the denominational leaders have done their utmost to hide from the public and to keep from their own people.
Notwithstanding all these mistakes and failures, Seventh-day Adventists claim that Mrs. White was equal to the greatest prophet God ever sent to men. But if she was inferior to none of the prophets of past ages, why did not God give her some credentials as he did them? She never wrought a single miracle; never claimed to, dared not claim it. The prophets of old wrought many miracles. If the power of God was with her, why was there not some tangible proof of it?
According to her own testimony, she had to be healed over and over often; but she had no power to heal others. Her oldest son, Henry, a strong, healthy boy of sixteen, was suddenly taken sick. She and her husband prayed over him earnestly but he died. Her last child was taken sick, and in a short time died. Her husband caught cold, became sick, was prayed for by herself, but suddenly died at the early age of sixty-one. She prayed over others who died. She never had any more power to heal the sick than any common Christian.