Great Controversy Errors Investigated: 3.5 Years of French Revolution and Other Errors
By Harold Snide, The Development of My Ideas Concerning the Divine Inspiration of Mrs. E. G. White: A Personal History, (1950).
French Revolution Lasted 3.5 Years?
This subject appealed to me particularly because of my interest in the prophecy of Revelation 11 about the war on the "two witnesses," especially the time prophecy of "three days and an half" (verse 11) of which the statement is made in Great Controversy:
It was in 1793 that the decrees which abolished the Christian religion and set aside the Bible, passed the French Assembly. Three years and a half later a resolution rescinding these decrees, thus granting toleration to the Scriptures, was adopted by the same body. (GC 287)
I found that the facts were not as stated in Great Controversy.
Allowing these three days and a half to have their symbolic significance of three years and a half, they are sometimes begun with the events of November 1793. And truly the French government did make war on Christianity and on the Bible. The problem from a historical standpoint is to find three and one half years during which God's Word remained dead as a result of this government action, and after which period of three years and a half, the Bible was unusually exalted. Eschewing any detailed exegesis of the prophecy, and limiting our study to the strictly historical, we shall find no such period of three and a half years in the events of Revolutionary France. We shall find that the event usually suggested as terminating the period, either did not occur at the time indicated, or else was an affair of minor significance. Furthermore, we shall discover that the intense antagonism to God and His Holy Book did not last nearly so long as three and a half years but ended after a few months. A simple narration of the principal events of the Revolution, involving religion and the church, will make this all very clear.
The worship of Reason ... began early in November 1793. It was November 26 when the Council of the Commune outlawed all other religions. Previous acts of the revolutionary government had assured nominal liberty to worship to all; and just nine days after the Council of the Commune outlawed Christianity, the Convention, a superior governmental body, forbade violence contrary to liberty of worship. And on May 9, 1794, the Convention under the influence of Robespierre, decreed the worship of the Supreme Being. The government support of any worship was abolished September 20, 1794, without much discussion. This automatically brought a considerable degree of religious liberty. It is true that the non-juring priests still suffered some persecution, but this was far more from political than from religious animosity.
On February 21, 1795, Biossy d'Anglas made a speech and a motion for complete separation of Church and State. This was passed, allowing any kind of religious worship throughout France, but with some restrictions as to place, advertising, endowments, etc. The refractory clergy were still considered criminal, but this was a political matter, and could hardly be considered the death of God's Two Witnesses. In the provinces there was much delay and opposition by local officials in permitting the liberty granted by the Convention.
A further attempt was made in late 1794 and early 1795 to revive interest in the tenth-day festivals in the hope of competing with Christianity and its weekly Lord's Day; but this effort was a ludicrous and dismal failure.
A new constitution was demanded to replace that of 1793. Its formation was in the hands of comparatively moderate men. Separation of Church and State and freedom of worship were incorporated in this new constitution. It was adopted August 17, 1795. Thus we see that in less than six months the atheistic enactment of November 26, 1793, was abrogated; and in less than two years there was actually greater religious freedom guaranteed on a fundamental legal basis, than existed prior to the outbreak of atheism. The "Two Witnesses" just simply did not stay "dead" three and a half years.
Moreover, we can discover no adequately significant event coming even approximately three and a half years after the atheistic supremacy, to mark the close of the period. Three and a half years from November 1793, would bring us to the spring of 1797. It has been asserted that the Convention then repudiated its atheistic pronouncement. History shows no such action. In the first place, the Directory was in power, not the Convention, in 1797. Furthermore, the atheistic intolerance had spent its force and had been repudiated by decree and by the new constitution of 1795, so this work did not remain to be done in 1797.
Others take an earnest speech by Camille Jordan, June 17, 1797, as the event closing the three and a half days. On the contrary, this speech, instead of raising the "Two Witnesses," came at a time when they had been much alive for over a year; it dealt with minor phases of religious liberty such as the privilege of ringing church bells, and it failed in its object.
Aulard (Vol. 17, p. 12) summarizes the incident thus:
Jordan, in a fulsomely sentimental and pseudo-pathetical speech, depicts all France as desolated by the loss of her church bells. He earns the nickname of Bell-Jordan (Jordan Carillon), and his campaign fails.
Mistaken about Miller's Views
In Great Controversy, edition of 1911, at the bottom of page 324, begins this sentence:
Miller accepted the generally received view, that in the Christian age the earth is the sanctuary.
This is stated in explanation of how Miller arrived at his views of prophecy, preparatory to preaching them. William Miller's published lectures show he did not believe that the sanctuary was the earth, but rather he believed that it was the church. He says:
"Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed or justified," means the true sanctuary which God has built of lively stones to his own acceptance, through Christ, of which the temple of Jerusalem was but a type, the shadows having long since fled away. Miller's Lectures, edition 1842, p. 41.
Again on this and the following page he says:
Similar references are to be found also on pages 156 and 281. Some weeks after the spring equinox, 1844, one of the times set for the Advent, Miller seems once to have referred to the sanctuary as "the whole earth" (Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller, pp. 256-260); but this is not consistent with his general teaching, and is too late to sustain Mrs. White's statement of his early views.
Waldenses First to Obtain Scriptures?
In Great Controversy, edition of 1887, page 70, we read:
The Waldenses were the first of all the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Scriptures.
This occurred about the year 1180. According to I. M. Price, The Ancestry of Our English Bible, there were at least two earlier European versions: the Gothic in the fourth century, and the Slavonic. "Some of the manuscripts of this version date from the tenth or eleventh century" (p. 104).