Ellen G. White's Claim to Inspiration
Ellen G. White's Definition of Inspiration
Inspiration and Infallibility
How the Writings Came to Be
Purpose of the Testimonies
Attitudes Toward the Testimonies
Wrong Use of the Testimonies
Our scripture for this study is 2 Chronicles, the twentieth chapter and the twentieth verse: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
We must now come to a conclusion in our thinking as to the relationship of the writings of Ellen G. White to us as members of the remnant church. We must think in terms of what God would have us do, not only with the prophets of the Old and the New Testaments, but with His chosen servant, His messenger, in the remnant church.
I am convinced, dear friends, as we think through this topic that we shall have to do a great deal of praying, because the issues become very concrete, very pointed, very personal. And they compel us to do something about them.
All of this leads us to the point in our study where we must settle our own individual and personal attitude
toward the writings of Ellen G. White. To help us in arriving at this conclusion we shall first see how Mrs. White regarded her own work, and then search to find the attitude of the brethren toward her writings, and finally attempt to draw a statement of what our personal attitude should be today.
Mrs. White, in all the long years of her life, never had any doubt regarding her divine call to the prophetic work, nor any question about the source or nature of her messages. Hundreds of times, perhaps, in public meetings and in her writings, she claimed that her messages to the church came from God by divine inspiration. She told of her visions. She repeatedly used the expression I saw, and what she saw in vision she spoke about and wrote about.
In simple language she described her call:
It was not long after the passing of the time in 1844, that my first vision was given me. I was visiting a dear sister in Christ, whose heart was knit with mine. Five of us, all women, were kneeling quietly at the family altar. While we were praying, the power of God came upon me as I had never felt it before. I seemed to be surrounded with light, and to be rising higher and higher from the earth. At this time I was given a view of the experience of the advent believers, the coming of Christ, and the reward to be given to the faithful.
In a second vision, which soon followed the first, I was shown the trials through which I must pass, and that it was
my duty to go and relate to others what God had revealed to me.Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 654, 655.
In obedience to this call she spoke in public meetings and to private individuals, wrote letters to individuals and groups, wrote out what she called testimonies to both individuals and groups, and later wrote many periodical articles and books. In all this she was following out the instruction given her by God.
Of her testimony letters she wrote:
Weak and trembling, I arose at three o'clock in the morning to write to you. God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.Ibid., p. 67.
Then of the many articles she furnished to the papers of the denomination from week to week through the years, she says:
I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in visionthe precious rays of light shining from the throne.Ibid.
Of her books she penned these lines:
Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her lifework God has been giving her. They contain the precious comforting light that God has graciously given His servant to be given to the world.Colporteur Evangelist, p. 36.
Always she set forth the Testimonies as God's message to the church:
I have been looking over the Testimonies given for Sabbathkeepers and I am astonished at the mercy of God and His care for His people in giving them so many warnings, pointing out their dangers, and presenting before them the exalted position which He would have them occupy .
I have waited anxiously, hoping that God would put His Spirit upon some and use them as instruments of righteousness to awaken and set in order His church . I ask: Wherein have those who profess confidence in the Testimonies sought to live according to the light given in them? Wherein have they regarded the warnings given? Wherein have they heeded the instructions they have received?Ibid., pp. 483, 484.
In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the Testimonies of his Spirit. There was never a time when God instructed his people more earnestly than he instructs them now concerning his will, and the course he would have them pursue.Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 148.
In all this Ellen G. White was claiming for herself the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit that prompted the ancient prophets to write what we now call the Bible. The messages were from God. To her just as verily as to the ancient Bible writers the word of the Lord came.
The nature of that inspiration Mrs. White describes as follows:
The writers of the Bible had to express their ideas in human language. It was written by human men. These men were inspired of the Holy Spirit. Because of the imperfections of human understanding of language, or the perversity of the human mind, ingenious in evading truth, many read and understand the Bible to please themselves. It is not that the difficulty is in the Bible. Opposing politicians argue points of law in the statute book, and take opposite views in their application and in these laws.Manuscript 24, 1886, quoted in F. M. Wilcox, The Testimony of Jesus, p. 16.
And so it is with people who read the Bible. Their interpretation depends upon the attitude and background they bring to the reading.
On this point I digress just a moment. Some years ago I hastened down to the riverbank in the city of Nanking, China, planning to take one of the steamers down the Yangtze River to Shanghai. It was an overnight trip, a very pleasant trip, restful, quiet, and free from the dust and dirt of the train. For these reasons I would occasionally go down the river by boat instead of going on the train. It had been a very busy week and I was tired, mentally and physically, and I thought to myself, I shall get at least one full night's sleep.
When I went aboard that boat the steward said to me, Come, Mr. Rebok, I will give you this room. I had hoped that I would have a room to myself, but that evidently was not to be my lot or privilege. Instead, as I entered the room a gentleman was sitting there. He looked up at me and smiled, and, of course, I
can return a smile with no great difficulty, He asked, Are you going to Shanghai? I replied, Yes, sir, I am going to Shanghai. Are you? He nodded affirmatively.
That man looked me over carefully and said, You look like a missionary.
I said, True, and added, You do, too. To his inquiry, What are you? I replied, I am a Seventh-day Adventist.
Ah he chuckled, I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long, long time. Shall we begin now or shall we wait until after we have eaten supper?
Well, I said, if you don't mind, sir, I should just as soon eat my supper first, and then we shall talk.
He gave me his name, of course. I recognized him as being the secretary of a national organization of churches in China, a very fine man, a man with a great and good reputation. After supper we went back to the cabin and sat down.
He began by saying, I have some questions. I have been waiting a long time for an opportunity to ask these questions of a Seventh-day Adventist.
My reply was, Make them easy, brother, because I am not a theologian.
He assured me, You will not find them difficult. I want you to give me the scriptural basis for your belief in the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.
Well, I sighed, that is an easy one.
I took my Bible and began to read passage after passage with very little comment. I connected them up,
of course, in the sequence that I had learned in my Bible doctrines class in college.
Now, he observed, I see your scriptural connections. Give me now your interpretation of those scriptures. Then I proceeded to do that for about two hours, which led to a discussion that lasted another two hours or more. Around one o'clock he said very seriously, If I could believe that Bible as you do, and accept it literally as you do, then I would be forced to come to the same conclusion to which you have arrived. But, he said, brother, you know that Book was never intended to be taken literally. That Book is designed as a spiritual guide to spiritual-minded men. I take you to be a very simple-minded person. If you thought in terms of the spiritual teachings of the Book you would never come to those conclusions.
Mrs. White says, Many read and understand the Bible to please themselves. There we had talked for five or six hours and did not get anywhere. Was the trouble with the Bible? No. The trouble was that he brought one kind of mind to the Bible, and I brought quite another. Thus, reading the very same passages, we came to two very different conclusions. Was it a lack of inspiration of the Scripture? No. He had formed his pattern of thinking; I had formed my pattern of thinking. And I thought I was right and he was wrong, and he thought he was right and I was wrong. That made it rather hard to get together. The trouble is not with the Scriptures, or with the words, but with
our interpretation of words. You and I get into difficulties over the writings of the Spirit of prophecy on the very same basis and for the very same reason.
That brings us to a point that must be made clear. We must understand the meaning of the words as the inspired writer intended them to be understood, that God's message may be impressed on our minds. How can I develop the right attitude of mind? It comes only from a complete surrender of my will and of my own personal desire, so that God may have His way. It is when I completely surrender to God that He gives me the mind of Jesus, and with the mind of Jesus I can think His thoughts. This is absolutely essential if we would come to a clear understanding of the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. A surrender of our own ideas, of our own rules and motives and objectives, is essential in order that we might know and follow the will of God.
I think this will become clearer as we proceed in this study. I continue to quote Mrs. White:
The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect. Different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea. The Bible was given for practical purposes .
The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often
say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers.
It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions, but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God.Ibid., pp. 17, 18.
In the Introduction to The Great Controversy also Mrs. White set forth her understanding of divine inspiration:
Before the entrance of sin, Adam enjoyed open communion with his Maker; but since man separated himself from God by transgression, the human race has been cut off from this high privilege. By the plan of redemption, however, a way has been opened whereby the inhabitants of the earth may still have connection with heaven. God has communicated with men by His Spirit, and divine light has been imparted to the world by revelations to His chosen servants. Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21.
During the first twenty-five hundred years of human history, there was no written revelation. Those who had been taught of God, communicated their knowledge to others, and it was handed down from father to son, through successive generations. The preparation of the written word began in the time of Moses. Inspired revelations were then embodied in an inspired book. This work continued
during the long period of sixteen hundred years,from Moses, the historian of creation and the law, to John, the recorder of the most sublime truths of the gospel.
The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers. The truths revealed are all given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men. The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed, have themselves embodied the thought in human language.
The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand. They are of divine, and not of human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. John 1:14.
Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the nature of the subjects unfolded. Different forms of expression are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by one than by another. And as several writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.
As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought out in its varied aspects. One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own minda different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all. And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances and experiences of life.
God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was intrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.
In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, Revised Version.The Great Controversy, Introduction, pp. 7-9.
This is Ellen G. White's conception of inspiration.
To my mind it is the clearest statement you can find from her pen on the inspiration of the Scriptures and her own writings.
Perhaps you noticed two or three sentences in the quotations just cited which raise some question in your mind. You probably checked the sentence which states, It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. And also, The writers of the Bible were God's penman, not His pen. Or, Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions, but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts.The Testimony of Jesus, p. 18.
All these sentences, taken together say just one thing: The Bible is not verbally inspired; and neither are the writings of Ellen G. White.
In regard to her own writings Ellen G. White expressed this truth in the following words:
Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.The Review and Herald, Oct. 8, 1867, quoted in F. M. Wilcox, The Testimony of Jesus, p. 87. (Italics supplied.)
An interesting story out of the past will illustrate this.
In 1906, Dr. David Paulson, one of the most enthusiastic and interesting men I have ever known,
wrote a letter to Mrs. White, stating his opinion, his convictions, regarding her and her work.
We have that letter in the file, but I am not particularly interested in his letter. I am, however, very much interested in Mrs. White's response to it. Let me read three paragraphs from the letter she wrote in reply to Dr. Paulson. I quote:
In your letter, you speak of your early training to have implicit faith in the Testimonies, and say, I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the ten commandments.
My brother, you have studied my writings diligently, and you have never found that I have made any such claims, neither will you find that the pioneers in our cause have made such claims.
In my preface to Great Controversy, you have no doubt read my statement regarding the ten commandments and the Bible, which should have helped you to a correct understanding of the matter under consideration.
This appears in the file as letter No. 206, written in the year 1906. It also appeared in the Review and Herald of August 30, 1906, page 8.
Now what does it say? and what does it mean? Here was a zealous man, a fine Christian gentleman, a man who wanted above everything else to do right for God and be right with his brethren. He wrote to Ellen G. White and gave her his impression or conviction that every word she had ever said in public and in private,
every letter that she had ever written, of whatever nature it might have been, was just like, and on a par with, the Ten Commandments. Mrs. White corrected his impression in these words, My brother, you have never found that I have made any such claims. If Ellen G. White never made such a claim, then neither should you or I.
A very natural question may arise at this juncture: If the Bible and Mrs. White's writings are inspired, should we not expect them to be free from all error or mistakes? Are they not infallible?
We must answer, Inspiration and infallibility are not identical. Ellen G. White never claimed verbal inspiration for either her own writings or the Bible itself. Neither did she claim infallibility for herself or the Bible writers.
On infallibility she said:
In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and in Him is no variableness or shadow of turning.Ellen G. White letter 10, 1895.
At another time she wrote:
God and heaven alone are infallible.The Review and Herald, July 26, 1892.
Infallibility does not belong to Ellen G. White. She never claimed it. Infallibility does not belong to any manonly to God. Therefore even the authors of the
Scriptures are subject to possible human error and inaccuracy. The remarkable thing is that there are so very few inaccuracies in all the twenty-five million words written by Mrs. White.
If you ever find anything in Mrs. White's writings that to you seems without doubt to be a mistakea historical inaccuracy, a mistake in geography, arithmetic, or chronologyjust remember that Mrs. White never claimed infallibility, and that her inspiration is in no wise affected by such a slip of the pen. It might even turn out that Mrs. White herself was not responsible for the mistake at all.
I believe that right here it would be helpful if we all understood how Mrs. White did her work; then we could see the impossibility of her being infallible, and wherein came the inspiration. Ellen G. White herself was not a highly educated person. Her formal schooling consisted of only a few grades. A stone thrown by a schoolgirl hit her on the face, broke her nose, and caused a physical deformity. Because of the shock that came to her, she dropped out of school and never had the opportunity to go on and learn to spell correctly every word in the dictionary or to write perfectly every grammatical construction. She never enjoyed that privilege, but the remarkable thing is that God could take such a humble instrument, lacking in some of those things we consider so essential in the educated person, and could work through her to accomplish the marvelous things we see in all of her grand books that are in
our hands today. That indeed is a most remarkable accomplishment.
She herself says that when she began to write her hand was so feeble she could not write very long without pain. But the angel said, Write, and write the things that have been shown to you. She says of herself, The more I wrote, the easier it became to write, and that before long she could write page after page with a flowing hand for hours at a time, and never tire. That was another remarkable thing with regard to the servant of God.
A vision of something would be given to her, or some circumstance, some situation, some need, would be presented to her, and then she would sit down to write what she had seen or heard. The longest vision, about four hours, in which she saw the conflict of the ages from the beginning to the end, took her many, many weeks to write out.
How did she write? She took her pen and paper and wrote as the Spirit of God impressed her to write, setting forth that which she had seen in the vision. She paid little attention to the commas and the semicolons, the colons and the periods. She did not stop even for a misspelled word. She was writing to get the thought on paper.
Now I do not claim to be an inspired or inspiring writer, but when I write I do it in about the same way as Sister White did. And so do many other writers.
When Mrs. White had finished the manuscript,
which was written very swiftly, she turned it over to a secretary. May I add here that the handwriting is an interesting study. In the very early days it was small and neat, and the letters were well formed and careful, but as with some of the rest of us, as she grew older her writing became less legible, and the writing she did near the end of her days is not so easily read. Yet her secretaries, who worked with her for years, could read it off just like printed material.
Her handwritten manuscript was turned over to a secretary, who copied it on the typewriter, correcting the inaccuracies in spelling, punctuation, and so forth. Did I say inaccuracies? Yes. The Holy Spirit does not teach one how to spell. It takes hard work to learn how to spell, and God will not perform a miracle and make up for our mistakes in spelling.
We read that when the redeemed appear in heaven they will stand in the form of a hollow square, and to each one will be given a crown and a harp. I have often wondered how God is going to fulfill the statement He makes that when the angels sound the note the whole assembly with their harps will play in perfect harmony and accord. I do not know one note from another. I have never learned to play any instrument. I cannot sing. I have no musical ability whatsoever. When we get over there, and I assure you that I am planning to be there, I do not know just how I shall be able to play that harp and be in harmony with all the rest. I think God will then have to work a
miracle, and I believe He will, but He has not promised to work a miracle in my spelling, neither did He in Mrs. White's spelling. Yes, there are some misspelled words in the original manuscripts. Does that destroy my confidence in the writings? Not in the least.
So this secretary would do the mechanical work and hand the manuscript back to Mrs. White. Then she studied it very carefully to make sure that every word was in the right place to convey the correct thought. She often added a phrase here or a sentence there. After she had gone over it carefully, it went back to the secretary to be typed again in a clear, correct copy. Again it went back to Mrs. White, so that once more she could make sure that the wording was just what it should be. She read it again to make sure it conveyed the correct thought, and signed her name E. G. White on the finished copy. This is what we call thought inspiration in contrast to verbal inspiration. Mrs. White never claimed verbal inspiration, and now you can understand the reason why. The very method of doing her work would make it impossible to have verbal inspiration.
In Jeremiah 36, verse 2, God said, Jeremiah, take the roll of a book, write in that book the messages that I have given to you.
So Jeremiah called his secretary, Baruch, and told him, Baruch, bring a scroll, get your pen and your ink, and have everything all ready. I am now going to dictate to you the messages God has given me. Thus
it was that he dictated, and Baruch wrote down the messages.
I assure you, dear friends, when we think of the work of the prophet as being done in that way, there will be no difficulty in our minds if one or two little inaccuracies should appear in the many printed books and the thousands of periodical articles that came from the pen of Ellen G. White. Very few people in the history of the world have produced more in volume, in quantity, than did Ellen G. White in the seventy years of her activity as a messenger for God.
The remarkable thing is that for so long a period of service there should be such a unity and a harmony of thought throughout all the writings, from the very first page to the very last page. To me this is one of the greatest evidences of the inspiration of the writer.
Not everybody has been given the privilege of spending some sixteen months sitting near the vault at the Ellen G. White Publications office and reading those most interesting and wonderful manuscripts. That, however, was my privilege. I consider it to be the most important period in my life. It gave me an opportunity for which I had longed, but which I never thought possible of fulfillment. I want to tell you frankly that to spend days and weeks and months doing little else but live with those writings was a wonderful experience. I thank God for it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and may I say that my confidence in the gift of prophecy, and in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy, is
stronger today than ever before. I have no question regarding the gift or the instrument used by God.
Mrs. White was a very reasonable person. If she was anything, she was a very human person. As I read those letters and manuscripts I found letters addressed to Willie, or Edson, or some other member of the family, and they were characteristic letters of a good mother, a fine Christian. In those letters she often spoke of the common affairs of life, her journeys, the places she visited, and the people she saw. I would say that such things are not inspired. Therefore, we should not say that every letter she ever wrote, under any and all circumstances, was an inspired testimony. We must not claim for her what she did not claim for herself.
Mrs. White herself drew a distinction between the common and the sacred. Here is how she put it:
There are times when common things must be stated, common thoughts must occupy the mind, common letters must be written and information must be given that has passed from one to another of the workers. Such words, such information, are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God. Questions are asked at times that are not upon religious subjects at all, and these questions must be answered. We converse about houses and lands, trades to be made, and locations for our institutions, their advantages and disadvantages.Manuscript 107, 1909, quoted in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, p. 117.
It thus becomes apparent that Ellen G. White
1. Never claimed infallibility either for herself or
for the writers of the Scriptures. God alone is infallible.
2. Never claimed verbal inspiration either for her own writings or for the Scriptures.
3. Did claim thought inspiration both for her own writings and for the Scriptures.
4. Did not look upon her writings as being comparable to the commandments of God, but saw them as reproofs, counsels, warnings, encouragements, messages, testimonies, cautions.
Early in my public labors I was bidden by the Lord, Write, write the things that are revealed to you. At the time this message came to me, I could not hold my hand steady. My physical condition made it impossible for me to write. But again came the word, Write the things that are revealed to you. I obeyed; and as the result it was not long before I could write page after page with comparative ease. Who told me what to write? Who steadied my right hand, and made it possible for me to use a pen?It was the Lord.The Review and Herald, June 14, 1906, p. 8.
The Lord designs to warn you, to reprove, to counsel, through the testimonies given, and to impress your minds with the importance of the truth of His word. The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed. Man's duty to God and to his fellow man has been distinctly specified in God's word, yet but few of you are
obedient to the light given. Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given and in His own chosen way brought them before the people to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse.Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 665. (Italics supplied.)
The Testimonies are not to belittle the word of God, but to exalt it and attract minds to it, that the beautiful simplicity of truth may impress all.Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 606.
The word of God is sufficient to enlighten the most beclouded mind and may be understood by those who have any desire to understand it. But notwithstanding all this, some who profess to make the word of God their study are found living in direct opposition to its plainest teachings. Then, to leave men and women without excuse, God gives plain and pointed testimonies, bringing them back to the word that they have neglected to follow.Ibid., pp. 454, 455.
The word of God abounds in general principles for the formation of correct habits of living, and the testimonies, general and personal, have been calculated to call their attention more especially to these principles.Ibid., vol. 4, p. 323.
As the end draws near and the work of giving the last warning to the world extends, it becomes more important for those who accept present truth to have a clear understanding of the nature and influence of the Testimonies, which God in His providence has linked with the work of the third angel's message from its very rise.Ibid., vol. 5, p. 654.
The Lord reproves and corrects the people who profess to keep His law. He points out their sins and lays
open their iniquity because He wishes to separate all sin and wickedness from them, that they may perfect holiness in His fear . God rebukes, reproves, and corrects them, that they may be refined, sanctified, elevated, and finally exalted to His own throne.Ibid., vol. 2, p. 453.
Perhaps I could best illustrate Ellen G. White's messages in this way: To me Christ is the Great Architect, building a kingdom with many mansions in the capital city of that kingdom. He is also the designer of the character of the people He wants in that kingdom. So as the Great Architect He has a blueprint of His kingdom and of the kind of people He wants with Him throughout eternity. Then, like all great architects, He has a book of specifications, detailed specifications, which deal with the blueprint, giving in greater detail everything that has to do with the development of His kingdom. Christ is the Architect. The Bible is the blueprint. The writings of the Spirit of prophecy are the detailed specifications.
I think if you will analyze that thought a little you will see in it tremendous possibilities. And now when you sit down with these booksthe Conflict of the Ages Series, for exampleand read from the beginning of Patriarchs and Prophets to the end of The Great Controversy, you will see what I mean. There are the detailed specifications that greatly magnify the blueprint found in the Scriptures, all of which comes from the mind of the Great Architect. Personally I like the detailed specifications. They do not take the place of
the blueprint, but they go along with the blueprint in a remarkably interesting and vital way. The great truths that are found in the Bible are presented by Sister White in such a simple way, in such beautiful thoughts, that anyone who reads them will be greatly impressed by the message, by the thought in the message, by the inspiration that comes through reading and studying the message.
I believe, dear friends, it is only as we put these messages into our hearts and minds that they can hew us, fashion us, mold us, and make us into the kind of people God wants in His everlasting kingdom. From what we have found thus far I think we can all come to the conclusion that Ellen G. White was a very sensible, very humble, very good person. She was well aware of the dangers that might come to the cause through those who do not fully understand the work given her to do. Therefore she set forth in her writings much instruction as to how we should relate ourselves to her works and use them in our daily lives. In her own relationship to her work she has given us an example of what we should be and do.
During a crisis in 1903 Ellen G. White clearly depicted the various attitudes that would reflect the reaction of the people toward the Testimonies:
Soon every possible effort will be made to discount and pervert the truth of the testimonies of God's Spirit. We
must have in readiness the clear, straight messages that since 1846 have been coming to God's people.
 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 .
 Those who have treated the light that the Lord has given as a common thing will not be benefited by the instruction presented.
 There are those who will misinterpret the messages that God has given, in accordance with their spiritual blindness.
 Some will yield their faith, and will deny the truth of the messages, pointing to them as falsehoods.
 Some will hold them up to ridicule, working against the light that God has been giving for years, and some who are weak in the faith will thus be led astray.
 But others will be greatly helped by the messages. Though not personally addressed, they will be corrected, and will be led to shun the evils specified . The Spirit of the Lord will be in the instruction, and doubts existing in many minds will be swept away. The testimonies themselves will be the key that will explain the messages given, as scripture is explained by scripture. Many will read with eagerness the messages reproving wrong, that they may learn what they may do to be saved . Light will dawn upon the understanding, and the Spirit will make an impression on minds, as Bible truth is clearly and simply presented in the messages that since 1846 God has been sending His people. These messages are to find their place in hearts, and transformations will take place.Ellen G. White letter 73, 1903.
While the larger part of our Seventh-day Adventist church members are found in the last class namedthose who are helped by the messages as light comes to them correcting evils and pointing the way to lifeyet there are some who may be found in one of the other classes.
Mrs. E.G. White was fully aware of the situation regarding her and her work, and did her best to make clear what she was appointed by God to do, and why. She gave a number of cautions and suggestions to her contemporaries, and indirectly to us, so that we might not make unjustifiable claims for her and her writings, nor an unwise use of her words and her position in relation to God and the Holy Spirit.
The reproduction of some of them here may help us find and maintain a sensible, balanced, middle-of-the-road attitude toward her and her work:
1. Do not use the Testimonies as proof for unbelievers (Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 119, 120; vol. 5, p. 669).
2. Do not use them as a test of fellowship (Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 327-329).
3. Do not use the visions as a rule to measure all (Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 382, 383).
4. Do not use the Testimonies as an iron rule or club (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 369).
5. Do not take the extreme meaning of what has
been shown in the visions (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 166).
6. Do not use the Testimonies to give force to certain subjects to impress them upon others (Manuscript 23, 1911).
Each one of us should keep in mind that, first of all, the Spirit of prophecy counsels are messages to us personally. There is a growing tendency on the part of some among us to apply the counsels to someone else, and to use certain portions of the Ellen G. White writings as a sort of club over the heads of others. This is not a right or a proper use of the Testimonies. On the part of some, her words are used to give expression to harsh criticism of others. All of this brings to mind the following paragraph:
There are many whose religion consists in criticising habits of dress and manners. They want to bring every one to their own measure. They desire to lengthen out those who seem too short for their standard, and to cut down others who seem too long. They have lost the love of God out of their hearts; but they think they have a spirit of discernment. They think it is their prerogative to criticise, and pronounce judgment; but they should repent of their error, and turn away from their sins . Let us love one another. Let us have harmony and union throughout our ranks. Let us have our hearts sanctified to God. Let us look upon the light that abides for us in Jesus. Let us remember how forbearing and patient He was with the erring children of men. We should be in a wretched state if the God of heaven were like one of us, and treated us as we are inclined to treat one another.The Review and Herald, Aug. 27, 1889, p. 530.
Then, again, there are some who isolate a phrase or sentence and place the most extreme interpretation upon it, and then endeavor to persuade or drive everyone else to the same conclusion. Such have usually failed to study the full counsel, placing statement with statement in an endeavor to find the great underlying principles that should guide to right conclusions.
Mrs. White maintained a very sensible, well-balanced, middle-of-the-road attitude in everything she taught and in everything she did. That may seem strange when we think of some people who have developed an attitude toward the writings of the Spirit of prophecy that is anything but sensible. The fault is not with Ellen G. White or with her writings. The fault must be somewhere else.
I say again, the Testimonies were written for us individually, and not for us to use on someone else. Most certainly we misrepresent and frequently misinterpret the writings of the Spirit of prophecy when we take a sentence here and a sentence there, a little paragraph here and a little paragraph there, and then put them together out of their context. Thus they are made to teach what the Spirit of prophecy did not have in mind at all, but what somebody wants to use on his brethren. It is not the correct way to use the writings of Ellen G. White.