Charge: Seventh-day Adventists make of Mrs. White's writings another Bible, and she herself encouraged that attitude.
The evidence presented in support of this charge consists of certain statements by church leaders that speak highly of her writings and strongly encourage the reading of them; and statements by Mrs. White in which she declares that God has given to her messages of counsel and guidance for the believers in the Advent movement and that those messages should not be taken lightly.
But it is incorrect to conclude from these that Mrs. White placed her writings on a par with the Bible or above it. She made no claim to have given another Bible. She ever pointed to the Scriptures as the one source of truth and light, the Book that should be the Christian's first and chiefest source of spiritual instruction. She spoke of her writings as an inspired commentaryalbeit a commentary and not another Biblewhich is intended of God to throw light upon the Scriptures and to lead us continually to a more diligent study of them.
One of the earliest subjects on which James White wrote was that of her visions. But in the same connection he made emphatically clear that the Bible is supreme. Here are his words in 1847:
The Bible is a perfect, and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice. But this is no reason, why God may not show the past, present, and future fulfilment of his word, in these last days, by dreams and visions; according to Peter's testimony. True visions are given to lead us to God, and his written word; but those that are given for a new rule of
faith and practice, separate from the Bible, cannot be from God, and should be rejected.James White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 13.
This statement made by James White in 1847 is quoted by him in an 1855 editorial in which he discusses at length the primacy of the Bible. (See Review and Herald, Oct. 16, 1855, p. 61.)
Take another pronouncement made many years later by a president of the General Conference, George I. Butler:
The majority of our people believe these visions to be a genuine manifestation of spiritual gifts, and as such to be entitled to respect. We do not hold them to be superior to the Bible, or in one sense equal to it. The Scriptures are our rule to test everything by, the visions as well as all other things. That rule, therefore, is of the highest authority; the standard is higher than the thing tested by it. If the Bible should show the visions were not in harmony with it, the Bible would stand and the visions would be given up. This shows plainly that we hold the Bible the highest, our enemies to the contrary, notwithstanding.Review and Herald Supplement, Aug. 14, 1883, p. 12.
These are typical of the statements made by spokesmen for the Seventh-day Adventist Church through all the years as to the relationship of her writings to the Bible.
Mrs. White is also clearly on record as to the primacy of the Bible and the relation of her writings to it. In her first published work, printed in 1851, she declares, almost in the closing sentences:
I recommend to you, dear reader, the word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the LAST DAYS; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of his people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth.Experience and Views, p. 64. (See also Early Writings, p. 78.)
A half century later we hear her expressing the same thought regarding the relation of her writings to the Bible:
Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903, p. 15.
No, we do not minimize the Bible because we believe in Mrs. White's visions and in her writings. Seventh-day Adventists are not
willing to take second place to anyone in their devotion to and their study and promotion of the Bible. Sabbath morning finds us coming to church with the Holy Book under our arms. Printers of the finest grade of Bible testify that Adventists are among their best customers. Strange, indeed, if we had found a substitute Bible in Mrs. White's writings!
The Scriptures repeatedly speak of the manifestation of the gift of prophecy by those who were never called of God to write a portion of the Bible. Yet what they said under the direction of the Holy Spirit was inspired counsel from Heaven, and thus counsel that should be heeded. But giving heed to it did not cause men to turn from the Holy Bible, but rather the opposite. This thought was well stated by Uriah Smith in 1887. We quote in part:
We stand on the great Protestant platform that the Bible and the Bible alone is our rule of faith and practice. We believe that God by his grace and his providence has given existence to the book we call the Bible as a revelation of his will to man; that holy men wrote it, as God spoke to them face to face, or moved upon them by the Holy Spirit, or revealed truths to them in visions or dreams, or by the influence of his Spirit called up to unerring remembrance experiences through which they had passed; that thereby we have a volume composed of the Old and New Testaments, which God calls his two witnesses (Rev. 11:3); that this volume is complete in itself, and is to have nothing taken from it nor added to it; and that this is set forth as the standard and test of all moral teaching, all spiritual exercises, and all revelation purporting to be either human or divine. The skeptic would call this a very fanatical view of the Scriptures; but so we hold, nevertheless.
But these Scriptures make provision for the operation of the Holy Spirit, not only in ordinary, but in extraordinary methods in the church to the end of time. These latter are explicitly enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. They have been expressly set in the church. 1 Cor. 12:28. Prophecies of their especial revival in the last days, are numerous. See Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 1:7; Rev. 12:17; etc. Among these is expressly mentioned the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:4, 10; 13:2); and in Joel's prophecy of the operation of the Spirit in the last days, prophesying, seeing visions, and dreaming dreams are particularly mentioned, showing that the gift of prophecy is to be manifested through vision. But what was given in this way
would not constitute another Bible nor an addition to the Bible. The gifts were in general operation in the days of the apostles. But when Paul said that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, there is no evidence that he referred to the work of the four daughters of Philip, the evangelist, which did prophesy (Acts 21:9), nor of Philip when an angel of the Lord spoke to him, and instructed him to go toward the south, where he met the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26), nor of Cornelius when he was instructed in vision by an angel to send for Peter (Acts 10:3), nor of those who came down from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 11:27), nor of Agabus who bound himself with Paul's girdle, and declared, through the Holy Ghost, that thus the owner of the girdle should be bound at Jerusalem. Acts 21:11. Nor has the abundance of the revelations with which Paul was favored (2 Cor. 12:7), been incorporated into the book known as the volume of inspiration. They probably related more to the local duties and necessities of those times. But in all these instances, as well as those mentioned above, God was imparting instruction to his people by his Holy Spirit; though it was not designed to enter into that volume which he was preparing for the world as a general revelation of his will.
In saying this, we detract in no jot or tittle from the sacredness or importance of the gift of prophecy in the church, nor of our obligation to be instructed thereby. When a manifestation is given, and, being tested by the Scriptures, is found in the circumstances of its giving, its nature, and its tendency, to be a genuine operation of the Spirit, we would submit to any candid person to say how it should be regarded. It comes to us as a divine message; it is a ray of light from the throne; it is instruction by the Holy Spirit; and to resist it, knowingly, is to resist the Spirit, as did the Jews to whom Stephen said: Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Acts 7:51.Review and Herald Extra, Dec., 1887, p. 11.
We thank God for the Bible, blessed Book that guides our feet along the path of life. We thank Him also for the manifestation of the Spirit of prophecy in these last days, to enlighten our minds the better to understand that Book.