Charge: From October 22, 1844, to approximately the same time in 1851, Mrs. White believed that the door of mercy was shut to all sinners and that only Adventists had hope of salvation. Mrs. White had revelation after revelation in her visions during this same period, confirming this theory.
This sweeping charge is based on the following:
1. Mrs. White's statement that for a time after 1844 she, with all other Adventists, believed that probation had closed for the world.
2. A passage in her first vision, December, 1844.
3. A passage in her vision of February, 1845.
4. A statement in her letter to Eli Curtis in 1847.
5. Her endorsement of O. R. L. Crosier's article on the sanctuary, which Crosier said supported the shut-door theory.
6. Her use of Hosea 5:6, 7.
7. A passage in her Topsham vision of March 24, 1849.
8. A passage in the so-called Camden vision, dated June 29, 1851.
9. Her declaration that church members, at the time of the rise of the Advent movement of the early 1840's could be described as children of their father, the devil.
10. Her blessing, with her prayers and tears, the paper Present Truth, which promoted the shut door.
11. The apparent agreement of her writings with what all her associates were saying in the early post-1844 years, and they allegedly were all saying that there was no more salvation for sinners.
12. The lack of proof that Mrs. White or any of her associates tried to convert any sinners in the early post-1844 years.
These, briefly, we believe, are all the principal grounds on which rests the charge against Mrs. White that she held and taught for approximately seven years onward from 1844 that there was no more salvation for sinners.
Mrs. White is declared to have received revelation after revelation in support of this belief. The conclusion we are supposed to reach is that there is an endless array of damaging evidence that might be presented if only space limits permitted. The reader is entitled to know that, strangely enough, attention is called only to a certain few visions. Let us now examine the exhibits presented.
As we examine in detail the alleged evidence we shall find that certain statements by Mrs. White definitely teach that people, both in the churches and in the world, sinned away their day of grace in 1844. But that evidence will also reveal clearly that Mrs. White most definitely did not have any visions that probation ended for all mankind on October 22, 1844. In 1874 there was in circulation against her the charge that she held various false beliefs, including a belief that there was no more salvation for sinners after 1844. She commented on this charge in a letter she wrote from Battle Creek, Michigan, August 24, 1874, to a Seventh-day Adventist minister, J. N. Loughborough. We quote the opening paragraphs:
Dear Bro. Loughborough:
I hereby testify in the fear of God that the charges of Miles Grant, of Mrs. Burdick, and others published in the Crisis is not true. The statements in reference to my course in [eighteen] forty-four is false.
With my brethren and sisters, after the time passed in forty-four I did believe no more sinners would be converted. But I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted. And am clear and free to state no one has ever heard me say or has read from my pen statements which will justify them in the charges they have made against me upon this point.
It was on my first journey east to relate my visions that the precious light in regard to the heavenly sanctuary was opened before me and I was shown the open and shut door. We believed that the Lord was soon to come in the clouds of heaven. I was shown that there was a great work to be done in the world for those who had not had the light and rejected it. Our brethren could not understand this with our faith in the immediate
appearing of Christ. Some accused me of saying my Lord delayeth His coming, especially the fanatical ones. I saw that in 44 God had opened a door and no man could shut it, and shut a door and no man could open it. Those who rejected the light which was brought to the world by the message of the second angel went into darkness, and how great was that darkness.
I never have stated or written that the world was doomed or damned. I never have under any circumstances used this language to any one, however sinful. I have ever had messages of reproof for those who used these harsh expressions.Printed in Review and Herald, Jan. 14, 1932, p. 6, accompanied by photographic facsimile of this part of her letter.
In 1883 Mrs. White wrote an extended answer to various criticisms of her work, including the charge that she had taught, in the early post-1844 years, that there was no more salvation for sinners, and that she later removed from her published works some of these statements to conceal the fact that she had formerly taught this un-Scriptural doctrine. She quotes a passage from her first vision, as a sample of the later deleted passages in debate, and offers a forthright statement as to what that passage was intended to teach at the time it was written, and what Mrs. White was now teaching, in 1883. Here is the passage from the first vision, as printed in the broadside, To the Little Remnant Scattered Abroad:*
It was just as impossible for them [those that gave up their faith in the 44 movement] to get on the path again and go to the city, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another.
Then follows her comment:
It is claimed that these expressions prove the shut door doctrine, and that this is the reason of their omission, in later editions. But in fact they teach only that which has been and is still held by us as a people, as I shall show.
For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold in common with the Advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision was given me. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position.
I am still a believer in the shut door theory, but not in the sense in
* See chapter 17 for a discussion of the suppression aspect of the charge.
which we at first employed the term or in which it is employed by my opponents.
There was a shut door in Noah's day. There was at that time a withdrawal of the Spirit of God from the sinful race that perished in the waters of the flood. God, Himself, gave the shut door message to Noah:
My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
There was a shut door in the days of Abraham. Mercy ceased to plead with the inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot with his wife and two daughters, were consumed by the fire sent down from heaven.
There was a shut door in Christ's day. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation, Your house is left unto you desolate.
Looking down the stream of time to the last days, the same infinite power proclaimed through John:
These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.
I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second angel's messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them.
Those who did not see the light, had not the guilt of its rejection. It was only the class who had despised the light from heaven that the Spirit of God could not reach. And this class included, as I have stated, both those who refused to accept the message when it was presented to them, and also those who, having received it, afterward renounced their faith. These might have a form of godliness, and profess to be followers of Christ, but having no living connection with God, they would be taken captive by the delusions of Satan. These two classes are brought to view in the vision,those who declared the light which they had followed, a delusion, and the wicked of the world who, having rejected the light, had been rejected of God. No reference is made to those who had not seen the light, and therefore were not guilty of its rejection.
In order to prove that I believed and taught the shut door doctrine, Mr. [a critic of the 1880's] gives a quotation from the Review of June 11, 1861, signed by nine of our prominent members. The quotation reads as follows:
Our views of the work before us were then mostly vague and indefinite, some still retaining the idea adopted by the body of Advent believers in
1844 with Wm. Miller at their head, that our work for the world was finished and that the message was confined to those of the original Advent faith. So firmly was this believed, that one of our number was nearly refused the message, the individual presenting it having doubts of the possibility of his salvation because he was not in the 44 move.
To this I need only to add, that in the same meeting in which it was urged that the message could not be given to this brother [J. H. Waggoner], a testimony was given me through vision to encourage him to hope in God and to give his heart fully to Jesus, which he did then and there.MS. 4, 1883; also quoted in Appendix F, p. 586.
Here Mrs. White's position is squarely stated. There is no ambiguity, no hesitancy. The Bible abounds with solemn declarations that different classes and groups of people at different times in the world's history have sinned away their day of grace. For example:
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. Gen. 6:6, 7.
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Gen. 15:16.
a. In the Wilderness.
So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Ps. 81:12.
b. During the Period of the Kingdom.
Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Jer. 7:16.
c. In Christ's Day.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a
lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Matt. 23:37, 38.
4. Gentiles, in General.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. Rom. 1:28.
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Eph. 4:19.
5. New Testament Statements Dealing With Christian Era.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Matt. 12:31, 32.
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 1 John 5:16.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Heb. 6:4-6.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. Heb. 10:26, 27.
To these passages may be added a symbolic declaration in the last book of the Bible. There the prophet John tells of an announcement that is to be made shortly before the end of the world, and while probation for the world at large still lingers. Says the prophet:
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Rev. 14:8.
That declaration is echoed a little later on in the Revelation, as follows:
After these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Rev. 18:1-5.
The context immediately suggests that Babylon represents a religious organization, for God's people are commanded to come out of her. The classic Protestant position is that Babylon represents a religious body, Rome. The Millerite movement in general took the position still held by Seventh-day Adventists and some Others, that Babylon finally comes to include, not only Rome, but all apostate Protestantism as it refuses to advance in the light that God has revealed. The one point we here wish to make is that the Bible teaches that in the days just preceding the Second Advent some class or group described as Babylon will fall and come under the fearful judgment that God reserves for those who have forfeited grace.
The climax to this series of texts just given is the declaration in the last chapter of the Bible that marks the close of probation for all mankind, without exception.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Rev. 22:11, 12.
It is the belief of Christians in general, and most certainly the belief of Seventh-day Adventists, that this declaration has not yet been uttered, and that when it is uttered the case of every human being will be settled for eternity. Furthermore, that until this edict does go forth, any sinner, unless he has sinned away his day of grace by some kind of willful rebellion such as is described in the foregoing texts, may secure forgiveness and salvation.
One cannot read the Scriptures, and particularly such passages as have been quoted, without exclaiming, as did Christ's apostles: Are there few that be saved? We know how our Saviour answered them. Various Bible writers have borne the same testimony. They present a picture vastly different from what is commonly painted by the Christian ministry in modern times. By the opening of the nineteenth century ministers had rather generally come to believe the pleasing doctrine that the whole world is to be converted, and that thus a golden millennial era will be set up on earth. This doctrine goes squarely against the most explicit scriptures.
This world-conversion idea was most militantly attacked by Adventists in the great Advent Awakening under William Miller, and has been an object of attack by Seventh-day Adventists ever since. We believe, with the Bible, that the world is not growing progressively better, and that we do not face a millennium of peace and holiness on this earth. We have believed from the very earliest of Adventist preaching, that the world lies in wickedness, that wickedness will be rampant until the end of time, that there
are few that will be saved, that indeed the righteous of God in the last days will be described as a remnant.
The Bible informs us that when the world was destroyed by a flood there were only eight persons saved. When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed there was found only one righteous man, who took with him his immediate family out of the city. Of the great host of Israelites who started from Egypt to the Promised Land, all who were twenty or older died in the wilderness save Caleb and Joshua, as the Lord declared they would, because of their murmuring. (Num. 14:29.)
Through all the history of the world, the words of the apostle John apply: The whole world lieth in wickedness. Either by rejecting light or by failing to walk in such light as it is possible for them to have, most of mankind, in all generations, have gone down to godless graves. World conversion does not belong in the Bible picture, though the ambassadors of God are to seek to make converts in all the world. How true of almost any clime and any generation are the words of Isaiah: Darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people. One cannot read the Scripture record without being impressed, perhaps even startled, by the fact that the Bible writers repeatedly declare that men may sin away their day of grace and close probation's doors against themselves.
It is in the setting of all these scriptures that we can rightly evaluate the statements made by Mrs. White that certain people sinned away their day of grace in 1844. She is setting forth no new doctrine. True, she is making an application of the doctrine to a particular time and situation. She does it on the strength of Scriptural analogy and of the application to that particular time of certain passages of Scripture. Why should it seem incredible that at a particular moment in the Christian Era some should sin away their day of grace, when the Bible record is clear that on numerous occasions in ancient times men did so?
The critics will probably agree to this statement of the matter, but will add immediately that Mrs. White taught that all men
had sinned away their day of grace, and that this cannot be true because probation does not close for all the world until the final fiat of Revelation 22:11, 12 goes forth. Thus the issue is clearly drawn. The charge is that she taught that probation closed for all the world in 1844. She says she did not. Of course if the critics were dealing with a Bible prophet, they would readily accept his interpretation of his visions, even though the apparent meaning of his visions might seem to be different. But in dealing with Mrs. White, they insist that they know better what she meant than she did herself. To them, this seems entirely consistent! At least it is the only way by which they can build a case against her.
Mrs. White had her first vision in December, 1844. We quote that part of it which is supposed to teach that there was no more salvation for sinners after October 22, 1844:
While praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell on me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the world, but could not find themwhen a voice said to me, Look again, and look a little higher. At this I raised my eyes and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the Advent people were travelling to the City, which was at the fa[r]ther end of the path. They had a bright light set up behind them at the first end of the path, which an angel told me was the Midnight Cry. This light shone all along the path and gave light for their feet so they might not stumble. And if they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the City, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and they said the City was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising his glorious right arm, and from his arm came a glorious light which waved over the Advent band, and they shouted Hallelujah! Others rashly denied the light Behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another, until we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming. The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought
it was thunder and an earthquake. When God slake the time, he poured on us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God as Moses did when he came down from Mount Sinai, (Ex. 34:30-34.)
By this time the 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious Star containing Jesus' new name.Broadside, To the Little Remnant Scattered Abroad. Reprinted in 1847 in A Word to the Little Flock, p. 14.*
Let us look closely at the key sentence in question: It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. Lay alongside this sentence another statement by Mrs. White found in the same 1847 pamphlet. She is writing to Eli Curtis, and says:
You think, that those who worship before the saint's feet, (Rev. 3:9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew[ed] me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. And in the hour of temptation, which is yet to come, to show out every one's true character, they will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint's feet.A Word to the Little Flock, p. 12.
It is evident that Mrs. White is here referring to the same class as in her first visionAdventists who fell away from the truth of the Advent, the truth that was most clearly symbolized by the light at the beginning of the road, called the midnight cry. In her letter to Eli Curtis she speaks of such persons as being forever lost. She rests her statement on the passage of Scripture that she quotes: crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Let us compare this passage of Scripture with the passage we quoted from her first vision. Paul writes:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again
* See also Experience and Views, pp. 10, 11; Early Writings, pp. 14, 15.
unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Heb. 6:4-6.
In her first vision Mrs. White speaks of a bright light that gave light for their feet. Some rashly denied the light and denied that God had led them out so far. They fell off the path and it was impossible for them to get on again. The Bible speaks of those who were once enlightened who crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, who fall away. It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.
It is quite evident that Mrs. White, by her quotations from Paul in the Eli Curtis letter, has given us the key to the understanding of the debated passage in her first vision: It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. We are not here required to provide an interpretation to the passage of Paul. We believe it sufficient if we show that Mrs. White is employing Scriptural language and conclusions in what she writes. Though commentators have been frankly perplexed as to exactly how Paul should here be understood, none of them have ever concluded that Paul taught that the day of probation for all sinners had ended.*
We come now to the last part of the sentence: All the wicked world which God had rejected. We have already quoted Mrs. White as declaring that that clause should be understood as follows: The wicked of the world who, having rejected the light, had been rejected of God. That interpretation obviously would relieve all of the tension. It is a very reasonable interpretation of the disputed clause. The author herself says that that is what the clause means. And there we leave the matter. The reader can decide whether the critic's interpretation or Mrs. White's interpretation of the disputed clause is the correct one.
* One Bible commentary makes this interesting comment on Paul's words: While men continue in wilful and willing sin they preclude all possibility of the action of grace. So long as they cling deliberately to their sins, they shut against themselves the open door of grace.F. W. Farrar, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges), p. 107.
But in leaving the matter at this point, we ask only that the reader be consistent in his decision. God said to Jeremiah, Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Jer. 7:16. The Lord's words, this people, apparently suggest no exception. Here is the same kind of sweeping statement as all the wicked world. It seems to make no exception for anyone in Israel.
But would anyone contend that the Lord is here telling Jeremiah that there were none in Israel who loved God and whose prayers God heard? We think not. God has always had a remnant. When Elijah thought he was the only one in Israel who served God, the Lord reminded him that despite the national apostasy that had brought a judgment of God upon the whole nation, the Lord still had seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. (1 Kings 19:18.)
Even after the Lord allowed His people to go into Babylonian captivity, He still had among them a faithful elect, and when the seventy years' captivity was ended, there were thousands who turned their faces again toward Jerusalem to rebuild the Holy City and God's temple. But there stand the words of God to Jeremiah, Therefore pray not thou for this people. This is only one of numerous passages in the Bible, as all Bible students know, where an apparently all-inclusive sweeping declaration is to be understood with definite limitations.
Again, look at the words of Christ in denunciation of Chorazin and Bethsaida: It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell. Mrs. White's statement about the wicked world no more requires us to insist that she means everyone in the world, than Christ's words about Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum require us to believe that He meant that every person in those three cities was rejected of God. But we have never heard the idea even suggested by a commentator,
that Christ meant that all in those three cities were doomed.
Or, take our Lord's statement concerning Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee. It is evident that Christ is here using the word Jerusalem to describe the whole Jewish people. No more fateful declaration was ever uttered against a people or against its capital city than the words of our Lord: Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Commentators all understand that passage to mean that the Jewish people were rejected of God. But does anyone believe that our Lord meant that all Jews were rejected of God, and that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were placed outside the pale of mercy? No. Our Lord said to His disciples that they were to begin their preaching in Jerusalem and go out over all Judea. And when the great preaching began there were thousands in Jerusalem who accepted the faith. Yet Mrs. White's words about the wicked world are not one whit more devastating or inclusive than Christ's words regarding Jerusalem.
In the light of these passages of Scripture, and many like them that might be quoted, we think it entirely consistent and reasonable to believe Mrs. White's own interpretation of the debated clause; namely, the wicked of the world who, having rejected the light, had been rejected of God. And when we accept her interpretation, all the difficulty disappears, including the arguments of her critics.
Mrs. White's critics quote from her vision in February, 1845. This vision describes Christ as going into the most holy place. Said Mrs. White: Before the throne I saw the Advent people, the church, and the world. I saw a company, bowed down before the throne, deeply interested, while the most of them stood up disinterested and careless. The passage quoted by the critics is this: I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after he arose. (See broadside, To the Little Remnant Scattered Abroad, signed Ellen G. Harmon, Portland, April 6, 1846.*)
* See also Experience and Views, p. 43; Early Writings, pp. 54, 55.
A few sentences earlier Mrs. White wrote: Then I saw an exceeding bright light come from the Father to the Son, and from the Son it waved over the people before the throne. But few would receive this great light; many came out from under it and immediately resisted it; others were careless and did not cherish the light, and it moved off from them. Is it not the orthodox Christian teaching that light comes to those who pray for it, and that the light of heaven is withdrawn from those who resist it? It is the path of the just that is as the shining light, and not the path of the careless, who reject the light of heaven.
In Mrs. White's letter to Eli Curtis, to which we have already referred, is found this further statement: The Lord has shown me in vision, that Jesus rose up, and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies, at the 7th month 1844.A Word to the Little Flock, p. 12. The argument against Mrs. White here rests, of course, on the mere use of the phrase, shut the door. The reasoning is as follows: The words the shut door, consistently meant one thing only to Seventh-day Adventists in the years immediately following 1844, namely, the shutting of the door of mercy, therefore when Mrs. White uses the phrase, that is what she means, therefore she is teaching that there was no more mercy for sinners after 1844.
Two comments on such reasoning are all that are needed. First, in the light of the historical record in the preceding chapter, it is evident that the earliest Seventh-day Adventists explicitly refused to make the shut door synonymous with the door of mercy, and that though their view was befogged by their original Millerite interpretation of the phrase, the shut door, they could not bring themselves to believe that there were no exceptions.
Second, not the pioneers in general, but Mrs. White, is here speaking. In her vision of March 24, 1849, quoted later, she says that the shutting of the door means the closing of Christ's work in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary and His entering into the second apartment. True, that vision was two years after
the Curtis letter. But the shut door phrase in this letter is used strictly in harmony with that 1849 vision.
Mrs. White does not say that there is no more salvation for sinners because Christ closed the door of the first apartment and went into the most holy place to do His final work of ministry.
Mrs. White endorsed the O. R. L. Crosier article mentioned in the preceding chapter. In her letter to Eli Curtis she wrote:
I believe the Sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is a minister. The Lord shew[ed] me in vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light, on the cleansing of the Sanctuary, &c; and that it was his will, that Brother C. should write out the view which he gave us in the Day-Star, Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord, to recommend that Extra, to every saint.Ibid.
One of Mrs. White's critics secured from Crosier, in 1887, a letter in which he affirmed, concerning that Day-Star article: The object of that article was to support the theory that the door of mercy was shut. Therefore, of course, Mrs. White, by endorsing Crosier's article, was endorsing the doctrine that the door of mercy was shut.
As the preceding chapter showed, the great point of controversy between Millerites in general and the little group of which Mrs. White was a member was over the question of what the sanctuary is and what constitutes its cleansing. Crosier's lengthy article is devoted very largely to answering these questions. Mrs. White agreed with those answers and hence endorsed the article. Seventh- day Adventists still agree with his answers. We can accept his discussion of the sanctuary and its cleansing without feeling it necessary to conclude that the door of mercy was shut.*
Mrs. White used Hosea 5:6, 7 in describing various believers and particularly teachers and leaders who had been in the Second Advent movement. Her critics declare: Her associates used this text
* See Appendix H, p. 613, which quotes james White's discussion of this point in 1853.
to prove that the day of salvation had ended for all sinners. Mrs. White uses it in the same way. Therefore she believed as they did regarding probation's close. Hosea 5:6, 7 reads as follows:
They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them. They have dealt treacherously against the Lord: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.
Mrs. White's associates used this passage to describe Adventist leaders with their flocks, that is, their churches. Christ has withdrawn himself from them into the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. The strange children that they have begotten are their converts. They have dealt treacherously against the Lord because they have failed to preach to these converts the fullness of present truth, into which they as leaders should have walked as advancing light came to the Advent movement.
But not all of Mrs. White's associates used this passage in Hosea to prove that these leaders and all their converts are outside the pale of mercy. Arnold, for example, calls them misguided souls. The knocking at the shut door which these misguided souls are doing he describes as a knocking at the door of the first apartment, and not a knocking at a Shut door of mercy. (See Present Truth, December, 1849.)
Commenting on this passage, James White wrote:
The reason why they do not find the Lord is simply this, they seek him where he is not; he hath withdrawn himself to the Most Holy Place. The prophet of God calls their man-made converts, STRANGE CHILDREN; now shall a month devour them, and their portions.Present Truth, May, 1850, p. 79. (Emphasis his.)
These are typical illustrations of how Mrs. White's associates used this passage in Hosea. It is plain that they are discussing those who had received the light but had rejected the offers of salvation. Whether they definitely believed that such misguided souls might find the Lord, if they were willing to look for Him where He is now ministering, is not altogether clear from their statements. But we think that Mrs, White's statements are sufficiently
explicit to permit us to reach a clear conclusion as to her teaching on this matter.
We quote the whole of a brief message from her in the Present Truth of March, 1850:
This is a very important hour with us. Satan has come down with great power, and we must strive hard, and press our way to the kingdom. We have a mighty foe to contend with; but an Almighty Friend to protect and strengthen us in the conflict. If we are firmly fixed upon the present truth, and have our hope, like an anchor of the soul, cast within the second vail, the various winds of false doctrine and error cannot move us. The excitements and false reformations of this day do not move us, for we know that the Master of the house rose up in 1844, and shut the door of the first apartment of the heavenly tabernacle; and now we certainly expect that they will go with their flocks, to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself (within the second vail) from them. The Lord has shown me that the power which is with them is a mere human influence, and not the power of God.
Those who have published the Watchman have removed the landmarks. I saw, two months ago, that their time would pass by; and then some honest souls, who have been deceived by this time, will have a chance to receive the truth. I saw that most of those who preach this new time do not believe it themselves. I saw that our message was not to the shepherds who have led the flock astray, but to the poor hungry, scattered sheep.Page 64. (Parentheses hers.)
Mrs. White is here speaking very particularly of those who published an Adventist paper called The Watchman, and who had been setting new times for the Lord to come. She said that in thus setting time they had removed the land-marks. But she had seen that their time would pass by. She goes even further, and brings the heavy charge of hypocrisy against some of them, when she declares: I saw that most of those who preach this new time do not believe it themselves. The record of the post-1844 days reveals that there were certain individuals of easy conscience who did fasten upon a possible time, in order to create a fervor of excitement and to win converts of a certain brand to their banner.
In view of this we can understand her next sentence: I saw that our message was not to the shepherds who have led the flock
astray. That statement would go right along with some of the declarations that Christ made to the scribes and Pharisees. But what about the flocks and herds of these shepherds. She says that these honest souls will have a chance to receive the truth. She is emphatic that our message is to the poor hungry, scattered sheep.
Note again that qualifying word honest. That is the key to the whole passage, and indeed to all of Mrs. White's statements in the series of debated passages in her writings in the years immediately following 1844. She has a message of hope for honest souls, that is, for those who have not willfully rejected light, for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for those who seek the Lord in humility. And have the prophets of the Bible, from first to last, had any other message than this? True, the apostles went out to preach to the heathen, who had no hunger and thirst after righteousness, and no love for the truth, but their attitude of mind could be excused on the grounds of ignorance. However, when this ignorance was removed and some still proved rebellious, the disciples went elsewhere to preach.
It is charged that Mrs. White's vision on March 24, 1849, contains statements that prove the case against her. In order that the context may clearly be seen, we give the full text of the vision as it originally appeared in the Present Truth, August, 1849:
Sabbath, March 24th, 1849, we had a sweet, and very interesting meeting with the Brethren at Topsham, Me. The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us, and I was taken off in the Spirit to the City of the living God. There I was shown, that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated, and that the time for the commandments of God to shine out, with all their importance, and for God's people to be tried on the Sabbath truth, was when the door was opened in the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, where the Ark is, containing the ten commandments. This door was not opened, until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary in 1844. Then, Jesus rose up, and shut the door in the Holy Place, and opened the door in the Most Holy, and passed within the second vail, where he now stands by the Ark; and where the faith of Israel now reaches.
I saw that Jesus had shut the door in the Holy Place, and no man can open it; and that he had opened the door in the Most Holy, and no man can shut it: (See Rev. iii:7, 8:) and that since Jesus has opened the door in the Most Holy Place, which contains the Ark, the commandments have been shining out to God's people, and they are being tested on the Sabbath question.
I saw that the present test on the Sabbath could not come, until the mediation of Jesus in the Holy Place was finished; and he had passed within the second vail; therefore, Christians, who fell asleep before the door was opened in the Most Holy, when the midnight cry was finished, at the seventh month 1844; and had not kept the true Sabbath, now rest in hope; for they had not the light, and the test on the Sabbath, which we now have, since that door was opened. I saw that Satan was tempting some of God's people on this point. Because so many good Christians have fallen asleep in the triumphs of faith, and have not kept the true Sabbath, they were doubting about it being a test for us now.
I saw that the enemies of the present truth have been trying to open the door of the Holy Place, that Jesus has shut; and to close the door of the Most Holy Place, which he opened in 1844, where the Ark is containing the two tables of stone, on which are written the ten commandments, by the finger of Jehovah.
Satan is now using every device in this sealing time, to keep the minds of God's people from the present, sealing truth; and to cause them to waver. I saw a covering that God was drawing over his people, to protect them in the time of trouble; and every soul that was decided on the truth, and was pure in heart, was to be covered with the covering of Almighty God.
Satan knew this, and was at work in mighty power, to keep the minds of as many as he possibly could unsettled, and wavering on the truth. I saw that the mysterious knocking in N. Y. and other places, was the power of Satan; and that such things would be more and more common, clothed in a religious garb, to lull the deceived to more security; and to draw the minds of God's people, if possible, to those things and cause them to doubt the teachings, and power of the Holy Ghost.
I saw that Satan was working through agents, in a number of ways. He was at work through ministers, who have rejected the truth, and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned. While they were preaching, or praying some would fall prostrate and helpless; not by the power of the Holy Ghost, no, no; but by the power of Satan breathed upon these agents and through them to the people. Some professed Adventists who had rejected the present truth, while preaching praying or in conversation used Mesmerism to gain adherents, and the people would rejoice in this influence, for they thought it was the Holy Ghost. And even
some that used it, were so far in the darkness and deception of the Devil, that they thought it was the power of God, given them to exercise. They had made God altogether such an one as themselves; and had valued his power as a thing of naught.
Some of these agents of Satan were affecting the bodies of some of the saints; those that they could not deceive and draw away from the truth by a satanic influence. Oh! that all could get a view of it as God revealed it to me, that they might know more of the wiles of Satan, and be on their guard. I saw that Satan was at work in these ways to distract, deceive, and draw away God's people, just now in this sealing time. I saw some who were not standing stiffly for present truth. Their knees were trembling, and their feet were sliding; because they were not firmly planted on the truth, and the covering of Almighty God could not be drawn over them while they were thus trembling.
Satan was trying his every art to hold them where they were, until the sealing was past, and the covering drawn over God's people, and they left out, without a shelter from the burning wrath of God, in the seven last plagues.
God has begun to draw this covering over his people, and it will very soon be drawn over all who are to have a shelter in the day of slaughter. God will work in power for his people; and Satan will be permitted to work also.
I saw that the mysterious signs and wonders, and false reformations would increase, and spread. The reformations that were shown me, were not reformations from error to truth; but from bad to worse; for those who professed a change of heart, had only wrapt about them a religious garb, which covered up the iniquity of a wicked heart. Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God's people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever.
My accompanying angel bade me look for the travel of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past.Pages 21, 22.*
The argument against her is as follows: The only reason Mrs. White would say: Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God's people, is that Mrs. White believed that the salvation of all sinners was past, and that for anyone to be converted would prove that the shut-door theory was wrong. Mrs. White is
* See also Experience and Views, pp. 24-27; Early Writings, pp. 42-45.
here making a blanket indictment of all reformations. Yet at the very time she was writing, the mighty evangelist Finney, for example, was doing a great work for God; hence how blindly did Mrs. White follow a false interpretation of the shut door.
This argument sounds plausible, but let us look at the full record. The vision is notable, first, because it is the initial presentation of the shut door in relation to Revelation 3:7, 8, which declares that there is an open door as well as a shut door.
After explaining the significance of the open door she goes on to deal very specifically with the activity of Satan. She says she saw that Satan was at work in mighty power, to keep the minds of as many as he possibly could unsettled, and wavering on the truth. Nor is she dealing in general terms regarding Satan's activity, for she follows immediately with these words: I saw that the mysterious knocking in N. Y. and other places, was the power of Satan; and that such things would be more and more common, clothed in a religious garb, to lull the deceived to more security.
She is referring here to the beginnings of modern Spiritualism, the mysterious rappings in connection with the activities of the Fox sisters at Hydesville, New York. From those small but sinister beginnings has grown the whole modern cult of Spiritualism, or as we more lately say, Spiritism. No one in 1849 dreamed that a far-flung cult would develop from the mysterious knocking in N. Y. There were scarcely any who saw in those rappings an evil relationship to Satan. Mrs. White saw it and spoke out boldly. She did not say that the knockings were, or would be, the only manifestation of Satan. She saw the knockings simply as one concrete exhibit.
At the same time there was a worldwide interest in hypnotism, or mesmerism, as it was generally called, from the name of its chief promoter, Mesmer. The newspapers of those days had much to say on the subject. Mrs. White saw a certain relationship between the activities of Satan and the endeavors of mesmerists to gain control of the minds of men.*
* Mesmerism was so widely discussed in the 1840's that it came to be used, often, as a loose synonym for deception. A person might say of someone that he was mesmerized; that is, he was befuddled, deceived, bemused.
Now, it is the activities of Satan and the evil results of mesmerism that Mrs. White is discussing at length in this vision. Note the relationship she builds between Satan's activity and that of certain ministers: I saw that Satan was working through agents, in a number of ways. He was at work through ministers, who have rejected the truth, and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned. These colorful words are not really her own, but are paraphrases of Scripture.
Paul speaks of some in the last days who will be under the delusive powers of Satan, with this result: For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:11, 12. It is evident, therefore, from Paul's prophecy, that these willingly deluded people are specifically described as rejecters of light. God sends them strong delusion because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Verse 10.
Mrs. White's critics give no evidence that they are troubled by Paul's amazing prophecy, but they are sure that Mrs. White is a false prophet because she here makes an application of Paul's words. The important point to remember is that Paul has made such a prophecy, and that we are living in the last days, when this prophecy is due to be fulfilled. Therefore, the burden of proof rests on Mrs. White's critics to show that her application of his prophecy is wrongly made. The mere fact that she made such an application is not proof in itself that she is a false prophet. Indeed, if she was a false prophet, how did she so clearly foresee, in 1849, that the mysterious knockings were the beginnings of the far-flung modern spiritistic movement?
She goes on to show the kind of revivals and reformations that were being carried on by such ministers who were given over to strong delusions. She declares that their converts, who saw and felt
such strange stirrings in their revival meetings, thought it was the Holy Ghost. Repeatedly in this vision Mrs. White uses the word deceive or deception. Those who had come under the control of Satan, very specifically as an outgrowth of the mysterious rapping, and those who were using mesmerism to gain adherents, are described not only as deceiving these adherents but as seeking to deceive the saints.
Now, says Mrs. White, in further warning:
I saw that the mysterious signs and wonders, and false reformations would increase, and spread. The reformations that were shown me, were not reformations from error to truth; but from bad to worse; for those who professed a change of heart, had only wrapt about them a religious garb, which covered up the iniquity of a wicked heart. Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God's people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever.
Surely the context makes clear the true meaning of this key phrase of Mrs. White's critics: Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God's people. This vision is not discussing reformations or revivals in the abstract. She is not talking about Finney or any other man whom God has used in greater or less degree. She speaks of certain reformations that were shown me. These words convey a vastly different thought than Mrs. White's critics imply. They would have her say that she saw that all reformations, all revivals, anywhere in the land, no matter who conducted them, were not reformations from error to truth; but from bad to worse.
But Mrs. White did not say this. What she did say was in a certain context. We have given the whole of that context. The conclusion is clear that she was talking about certain kinds of reformations that were definitely of Satan. Obviously, if God's people concluded that the converts of such reformations were true converts, they would most surely be deceived into thinking that the power of Satan was the great power of God, and would be led into the snare of Spiritism.
This vision is clearly a warning against Spiritism, a warning, furthermore, that the mysterious signs and wonders, and false
reformations would increase, and spread. In other words, there was great need for God's people to be on their guard increasingly in the days that lay ahead.
Mrs. White had much to say about the satanic source of Spiritism. We quote the opening lines of a vision of August 24, 1850:
I saw that the mysterious rapping was the power of Satan; some of it was directly from him, and some indirectly, through his agents; but it all proceeded from Satan. It was his work that he accomplished in different ways; yet many in the churches and the world were so enveloped in gross darkness that they thought, and held forth that it was the power of God.Experience and Views, p. 47.
The Topsham vision of March 24, 1849, which we have been discussing at length, was republished in the first little book of Mrs. White's writings, Experience and Views. It is found on pages 24-27. That was in 1851. In 1854 there was published a pamphlet entitled Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White. In the first pages of that supplement she offers certain explanatory comments on statements published in the 1851 booklet. We quote in part:
The false reformations referred to on page 27, are yet to be more fully seen. This view relates more particularly to those who have heard and rejected the light of the Advent doctrine. They are given over to strong delusions. Such will not have the travail of soul for sinners as formerly. Having rejected the Advent, and being given over to the delusions of Satan, the time for their salvation is past. This does not, however, relate to those who have not heard and have not rejected the doctrine of the Second Advent.Page 4.
In this 1854 Supplement she goes on to quote a portion of the 1849 vision, as follows:
I saw that the mysterious knocking in N. Y., and other places, was the power of Satan, and that such things would be more and more common, clothed in a religious garb, to lull the deceived to more security, and to draw the minds of God's people, if possible, to those things and cause them to doubt the teachings, and power of the Holy Ghost.
Then she adds immediately this most enlightening comment:
This view was given in 1849, nearly five years since. Then spirit manifestations were mostly confined to the city of Rochester, known as the Rochester knockings. Since that time the heresy has spread beyond the expectations of any one .
saw the rapping delusionwhat progress it was making, and if it were possible it would deceive the very elect. Satan will have power to bring the appearance of a form before us purporting to be our relatives and friends that now sleep in Jesus. It will be made to appear as though they were present, the words they uttered while here, which we were familiar with, will be spoken, and the same tone of voice, which they had while living, will fall upon the ear. All this is to deceive the saints, and ensnare them into the belief of this delusion.Pages 4-6.
These comments and further ones that we might give, all support the interpretation of the March 24, 1849, vision here presented. The point at issue is the nature and source of the reformations that were shown me. Mrs. White says that the reformations are of Satan, that is, a display of Spiritism, and intended to deceive. The product, or fruit, of the reformations, is the alleged converts. Therefore the power of the deception is in terms of the apparent genuineness of the conversion. How understandable, then, is Mrs. White's statement: Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God's people. Yes, and how unwarranted the critics' interpretation of her words proves to be!
Let us look, finally, at the closing paragraph of this vision:
My accompanying angel bade me look for the travel* of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past. Mrs. White's critics declare that here is clear proof that she taught that there was no more salvation for sinners after 1844. We believe that the evidence thus far presented shows how uncalled for is this conclusion. The phrase, the time for their salvation is past, may properly be understood in the setting of her statements several paragraphs earlier about those who have rejected the truth, and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned. It is clear that Mrs.
* This is corrected to read travail in later printings of the vision.
White in this vision has her eye on the statement of Paul, who describes a company that have rejected truth. Obviously, such persons have sinned away their day of grace.
Thus the closing words of this vision, for the time for their salvation is past, does not demand that we believe that Mrs. White taught that salvation for all sinners ended in 1844, even though we understand the word their to refer back to the word sinners in the preceding sentence.
However, we think that the whole context requires that the word their refer to the false ministers or shepherds who were carrying on the alleged reformations. Who is it that is expected to have travel of soul for sinners? And for which Mrs. White in vision looked, but could not see? The answer is, of course, the ministers or shepherds. Certainly we hardly look for sinners to have travel of soul for themselves. But when we apply the statement to the false shepherds, that is, false ministers, and declare that the time for their salvation is past, we find that it harmonizes perfectly with the statement earlier in the vision: He [Satan] was at work through ministers, who have rejected the truth, and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned.
Now, compare this with her statement in Present Truth, March, 1850, page 64: The excitements and false reformations of this day do not move us. She speaks of some false ministers who really do not believe what they themselves preach, and adds, I saw that our message was not to the shepherds who have led the flock astray, but to the poor hungry, scattered sheep. It is true that Mrs. White is here speaking of deception in terms of false time-setting rather than Spiritism, but her two statements have this basic point in common: they deal with deceptions on the part of certain false ministers or shepherds. For these false shepherds who are given over to deception and delusion, she says that we have no message. For honest souls, who have been deceived, she expresses hope.
Incidentally, who are these honest souls, who have been deceived, and who are to have a chance to receive the truth? In this instance they are persons whom various Adventist preachers had converted to the belief that Christ would come at a certain time according to a revised interpretation of the 2300-day prophecy. Now, were these various Adventist preachers confining their preaching to those who had been in the Millerite movement? No, declare Mrs. White's critics, these other Adventist leaders had broad vision, and early in 1845 were out preaching on every side to all who would listen, and bringing in converts. Therefore, we may reasonably conclude that their flock included men and women won from the world after 1844.
Then these honest souls, who have been deceived consist, at least in part, of people drawn directly from the world. Such people, according to the charge before us, were considered by Mrs. White and her associates as outside the pale of mercy. Yet Mrs. White describes these people as honest souls for whom she and her associates had a message.
A further piece of evidence against Mrs. White is a vision she is said to have had at Camden, N. Y., June 29, 1851. She is alleged to have declared in that vision:
Then I saw that Jesus prayed for his enemies, but that should not cause us to pray for the wicked world, whom God had rejected. When he prayed for his enemies, there was hope for them, and they could be benefited and saved by his prayers, and also after he was a mediator in the outer apartment for the whole world; but now his spirit and sympathy were withdrawn from the world; and our sympathy must be with Jesus, and must be withdrawn from the ungodly . I saw that the wicked could not be benefited by our prayers now.
We are not quoting from a work published by Seventh-day Adventists, but from the writings of the critics, and why? Because they are the only ones to whom we can go for the text of this alleged vision at Camden, N. Y., June 29, 1851.
The vision consists of about 400 words. We have quoted that part of it which the critics quote.
Even if these words were spoken by Mrs. White they could hardly be said to teach differently from John, who says: If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 1 John 5:16. In order to make this alleged vision conform both to Scripture and to the position taken by Mrs. White, that some had sinned away their day of grace, we need only to understand by the phrase, I saw that the wicked could not be benefited by our prayers now, to mean the willfully wicked who had rejected light. But to keep the whole record straight, we challenge the authenticity of this alleged Camden vision. (See Appendix I, p. 615, for a discussion on this point.)
The following passage from Mrs. White is also submitted in evidence in an attempt to prove that she taught that there was no more salvation for sinners after October 22, 1844:
I saw that if the false covering could be torn off from the members of the churches, there would be revealed such iniquity, vileness and corruption, that the most diffident child of God would have no hesitancy in calling them by their right name, children of their father, the Devil; for his work they do.Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 128.
This was published in 1858 and is part of the closing paragraph of the chapter entitled The Church and the World United. This chapter is a link in a series of chapters in which Mrs. White is tracing the history of the apostasy in the Christian Era, down through the time of the Reformation, and on beyond that to the time of the Advent Awakening under William Miller. The lines quoted describe the state of the church in the days just preceding the Advent movement of the 1840's. Let us add, now, two sentences that follow immediately the sentence quoted by the critics:
Jesus and all the heavenly host looked with disgust upon the scene; yet God had a message for the church that was sacred and important. If received, it would make a thorough reformation in the church, revive the living testimony that would purge out hypocrites and sinners, and bring the church again into favor with God,
Thus ends the chapter, The Church and the World United. It is followed immediately by the chapter entitled William Miller, which describes the message for the church that would bring it again into favor with God. Now, even though Mrs. White describes the church of the early nineteenth century in the language Christ used to describe the Jewschildren of their father, the Devilshe explicitly states that it was possible for the church again to be brought into favor with God.
This passage proves more than those who quote it wish it to prove. That is probably why it is quoted so briefly. In none of Mrs. White's statements in the seven-year period, from 1844 to 1851, when she is allegedly teaching no more salvation for sinners, does she use any more devastating language than in the passage just quoted from Spiritual Gifts. But this passage describes the church in the years preceding 1844. Furthermore, though her language might appear to indicate that the church was beyond the pale of God's mercy, she explicitly stated that there was hope for the repentant.
Note the results that she said would follow if the church received God's message. It would purge out hypocrites and sinners, and bring the church again into favor with God. Obviously, the word sinners is here intended to mean obstinate, willful sinners who refused to accept the message that was intended of God to make a thorough reformation in the church, and not all the church, even though they all could properly be described as sinners. No reasonable person would say that the word sinners is here intended to describe all the members of the churches, even though she describes them, with apparently no exceptions, as children of their father, the Devil. There would be no church to bring again into favor with God if all the members are comprehended in that word sinners, and are purged out by the preaching of the message.
This passage provides the clearest, most undebatable proof that the apparently unqualified words of Mrs, White, like those of any
other writers, must be understood, oftentimes, as having not an unlimited but a qualified meaning. We found that in her defense of her first vision she declares that the wicked world is to be understood as describing the willfully wicked rejecters of light in the world. Now in the passage just considered, the word sinners, which is a term as expansive as the world, must be qualified to mean the obstinate, willful sinner, unless we are to make nonsense out of the whole passage. Consistency calls for us to agree, also, that the word world may similarly be qualified.
When the copies of Present Truth came from the press, Mrs. White, along with others, knelt beside those papers in prayer and called down the blessing of heaven upon the message the papers contained, and then sent out those papers for all to read. Now, it is charged, these papers set forth the doctrine that there was no more salvation for sinners, and yet the alleged prophet of God gives them the blessing of her prayers.
We are supposed to conclude from this that if Mrs. White had been a true prophet, she would, from the very outset, have discerned and repudiated every error that her associates might hold, and would have refused to pray for any piece of literature that was not wholly free from all error. When the matter is thus stated, the fallacy of the argument under examination begins to be evident. The Bible does not describe prophets as omniscient; that is, that they know all things, and that they can immediately expose all errors, and that, indeed, they will proceed without fail to do just this whenever error is present.
There is nothing more clearly revealed in the Bible than that prophets have limitations. Furthermore, Bible prophets have written some things hard to be understood, which have been cited by infidels in an attempt to prove, not simply that the prophets were limited in understanding, but that they reflected nothing but the current thought around them. On more than one occasion prophets of old gave prayers of blessing in behalf of men whose lives revealed far more troublesome views than the shut-door ideas
of our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. In fact, some of those who were thus blessed in ancient times were polygamists. But prayers are not to be confused with revelations or prophesyings. A prayer arises from a human being, even though he be a prophet, but a prophecy comes down from God. When David talked to the prophet Nathan about building a house for the Lord, Nathan gave him his blessing, told him to go forward, and do all that was in his heart. But that night God gave to Nathan a vision that led him to speak differently on the morrow to David. (2 Sam. 7:1-17.)
Mrs. White repeatedly declares that she conversed with heavenly beings. To the critics it seems irrational and a proof of her fraudulence that she should have claimed such converse repeatedly through the years, and yet was so slow at times to make a clear pronouncement on some particular truth or to expose some particular error of teaching or facts. But what of the prophets of the Bible?
Infidels have sneeringly asked why the mighty Bible prophets did not speak out against slavery, and denounce it for what we today clearly see it to bean outrageous violation of the God-given right of our fellow man. But all of us who believe the Bible to be the Word of God, see in an instance like this of slavery simply an illustration of the inscrutable wisdom of God in unfolding only slowly to men the full implications of holy living. Christ told His disciples that He had many things to tell them, but they could not bear them then. God deals with men in terms of the times in which they live and the patterns of thought that control them. What would it avail to give men suddenly a great burst of light if the effect would be to blind them? Their eyes must become slowly adapted to greater light if it is to benefit them.
It is only by this approach to the matter that we can answer the Bible critics on many questions concerning holy prophets of old. Why may we not, with equal propriety, use the same approach to explain why Mrs. White poured forth a prayer of blessing upon papers that were not wholly free from error of statement?
Mrs. White is said to describe sinners and the sinful world, in the years just following 1844, in language so strangely like that used by men who were teaching that probation had closed that her words should be understood in the same sense.
We should remember that even prophets are confined to the language of the times in which they live and the people among whom they move. It is because of this fact that religious modernists have made some remarkable interpretations of the statements of Bible prophets. They are sure, for example, that those prophets thought that the world was flat. Did not the prophets speak of the four corners of the earth? Now those who lived in their day believed that the world was flat, and presumably had four corners. Therefore, the prophets simply reflected the ideas of their day. Orthodox Christians protest this kind of reasoning, and rightly so. We believe we may as properly protest this kind of reasoning when it is employed against Mrs. White. The true meaning of specific statements by Mrs. White may much more safely be determined by comparing those statements with her other writings rather than with the writings of others.
The final argument, and the one supposed to prove beyond all debate, that Mrs. White, along with her associates, believed that there was no more salvation for sinners, is this: There is no evidence that can be produced to show that either she or any of her associates tried to convert anyone in the seven-year period following 1844. They spent all their time laboring for their former associates who had been in the great Advent movement.
But what if she did not carry on any labor for worldlings during those early post-1844 years? Does that prove that she did not believe there was salvation for any of them? Do we have many instances of Old Testament prophets preaching any message from God to the peoples round about Israel? With rare exceptions, such as the case of Jonah, there is nothing even to suggest that they did so. Take, for example, Isaiah, the great prophet of salvation. Did he
go out and preach to the Gentiles? There is certainly nothing in the record to suggest it.
But, someone will say, the Old Testament times were different. In some ways, yes. But the plan of salvation has been the same through all the ages. There has been only one gospel, and would anyone say that God was interested in saving only the Jews? No. Then what is the explanation? We think we hear Bible lovers declaring that the Old Testament prophets probably had their hands more than full trying to revive and guide the people of which they were a part. The answer is a good one.
Let us look at the disciples during the years of Christ's ministry. They were with Him for about three and a half years. Did he distribute them over the various countries round about Jewry? No. He told them to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This seemed natural and reasonable to the disciples. They were astonished beyond words when Christ even conversed with the Samaritan woman by the well. Nor did the disciples see anything strange in our Lord's words to the Syrophoenician woman who pleaded with Him to heal her daughter. Christ inquired of her as to whether it was right to take the children's food and give it to the dogs.
We hear someone quickly coming to the defense of our Lord and the disciplesthough no defense is neededand explaining that Christ wisely sought to have the disciples focus first on their own people, who had much in common with them in their belief as to what all the prophets did say should come. Further, that the disciples needed to have their own eyes opened to a larger understanding of Scripture with regard to Christ before it would be wise to send them out to the world. Did not our Lord explain to them, on the resurrection day, the true meaning of many texts? The record says, Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45. Certainly they needed a larger conception of the range of God's plan of salvation before they could be prepared to go to the four corners of the earth,
We agree fully that this is an entirely satisfactory explanation of why our Lord, during His ministry on earth, sent His disciples only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
But the fact remains that the nations round about Israel received little or no preaching of the gospel during all the years of all the Old Testament prophets and during the years that Christ was on earth. Yet no indictment do we bring against the Old Testament prophets or Christ or His disciples. We view all of them as men of God, spokesmen for God.
We think it is not unreasonable to see in all this a parallel to the experience of Mrs. White and her associates. We believe that a wise providence overruled in the matter of their preaching. There was literally only a small handful of them. They were poor and scattered and recovering from a bewildering disappointment. If God had suddenly and immediately opened before their eyes the full blazing light of a world task, it might not only have blinded them but discouraged them completely. They had more than they could do traveling to their own lost sheep of the house of Israel, their fellow Adventists with whom they had much in common in prophetic beliefs.
Furthermore, they needed to have their eyes more fully opened, and their minds established on the distinctive doctrines that they at first saw dimly in outline, before they could carry on a strong evangelistic program in the world. God had to open their eyes even as he opened the eyes of the disciples. Then, too, who would have listened either to Mrs. White or her associates immediately after 1844? You cannot make much headway with people who ridicule you. The evidence is too clear for debate that both Sabbathkeeping and first-day Adventists rather uniformly met with bitter ridicule.
We are aware that Himes and Miller and others said, early in 1845, that there were openings on every side, and that they should press in and preach to all. The record of the years can speak for itself. Those openings must not have been very productive, for
the membership of the main body of Adventist people did not grow; it dwindled sadly with the years. What else could it do but dwindle, when those who were preaching kept setting new dates all the while, with resultant disillusionment and doubt in the minds of most hearers? How much better it would have been if they had waited until they had had a sure message.
In the Review and Herald of August 19, 1851, James White writes a long editorial, entitled Our Present Work. He speaks of the need of preaching the truth, of scattering publications everywhere. The reason he offers is this: Now the door is open almost everywhere to present the truth, and many are prepared to read the publications who have formerly had no interest to investigate.Page 13.
A little later he declares that from 1844 to 1846 a number of the advent brethren in different States embraced the Sabbath.Review and Herald, May 6, 1852, page 5. But in the same connection we find him saying: But this work is not confined to those only who have had an experience in the past advent movement. A large portion of those who are sharing the blessings attending the present truth were not connected with the advent cause in 1844.Ibid.
That statement was made in the spring of 1852. Unless we are to assumethough there is nothing in the record to support itthat all this influx had taken place since James White wrote, in August, 1851, that now the door is open almost everywhere, we must conclude that from 1846 onward, a large portion of those added to their ranks were not connected with the advent cause in 1844. Our Sabbathkeeping forebears may have been surprised that some of these people came in, but that is beside the point. The record is that they came in during that seven-year period mentioned in the charge. And need we add that people rarely become converts to a new and unpopular faith unless some real endeavor is made by the believers of that faith to convert them! True, we cannot point to the historical record of such endeavor.
But the facts are that we know very little about the earliest activities of our forebears. The record is woefully incomplete.
So much for the twelve principal lines of argument and evidence submitted to prove that Mrs. White believed and taught for seven years following 1844 that there was no salvation for sinners. A study of the sources and the context of her writings has revealed that she believed no such thing.