Not only do the passages cited in the preceding chapter fail to support the shut-door charge against Mrs. White, but a close study of her writings reveals certain statements quite inconsistent with the idea that the day of mercy had ended for all the world in 1844.
In Mrs. White's first vision she saw the Advent people traveling on a path toward the city of God: 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. In other words, she is describing the heavenward journey of the Advent people subsequent to the midnight cry, that is, in the days following October 22, 1844. She describes the spiritual tragedy of some who rejected the light and fell off the path: 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.
How large was the company of the Advent people on October 22, 1844? Miller's estimate, we have seen, was some fifty thousand believers. James White's estimate was the same. Now Mrs. White has a vision of this company of fifty thousand starting on that pathway, with apostates and backsliders falling off along the way, until some date, still future at the time of her vision, God announced the day and hour of Jesus' coming. But at that time, despite all the falling away, all the backsliding, there was a total of 144,000.
In an earlier chapter Joseph Bates was quoted as declaring, in 1849, which was more than four years after this vision of Mrs. White's, that he even then did not know where all the 144,000 were to come from. He thought that some would come from beyond the great river Euphrates. It is really a simple matter of arithmetic that this first vision of Mrs. White's reveals that salvation was still open for some outside the company of the Advent people after the ending of the midnight cry, or else there would never be 144,000 at the great last moment when God announces the day and hour of Christ's coming.
To offset these evident implications, it is claimed that Mrs. White in vision was not really looking into the future when she saw 144,000 believers, but that she was speaking of the present. Does she not speak of the living saints, 144,000 in number? Even if that interpretation of her words were true, the question would still remain: Does not her vision logically require us to conclude that in addition to Adventists many thousands are to be gathered into the company of the saved, seeing that Adventists, in 1844, totaled only about 50,000?
A reading of the vision reveals clearly that the word living is not used as a synonym for the phrase persons now living but in contrast to the word dead. In this vision she speaks of both living saints and saints resurrected. We read in the next paragraph: The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted, Hallelujah! as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.
How simple the explanation of Mrs. White's words when we see them in their context. She tells of the journey of the Advent people to the kingdom. Many fall by the wayside. Finally comes the great moment when God announces the day and hour of Jesus' coming. The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice. Mrs. White is not speaking of 144,000 living at the moment of her vision, but of 144,000 living upon the earth at the moment of Christ's coming, and that these living saints had
their ranks suddenly augmented by a great company of resurrected saints. The company of the finally saved that was shown her was much larger than the known total of Adventists in 1844, even by the most generous estimate.
Let us look now at a vision given to Mrs. White, January 5, 1849:
At the commencement of the Holy Sabbath, (Jan. 5,) we engaged in prayer with Bro. Belden's family at Rocky Hill, Ct., and the Holy Ghost fell upon us. I was taken off in Vision to the Most Holy Place, where I saw Jesus still interceding for Israel. On the bottom of his garment was a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate. Then I saw that Jesus would not leave the Most Holy Place, until every case was decided either for salvation or destruction: and that the wrath of God could not come until Jesus had finished his work in the Most Holy Placelaid off his priestly attire and clothed himself with the garments of vengeance. Then Jesus will step out from between the Father and man, and God will keep silent no longer; but pour out his wrath on those who have rejected his truth. I saw that the anger of the nations, the wrath of God, and the time to judge the dead, were separate events, one following the other. I saw that Michael had not stood up, and that the time of trouble, such as never was, had not yet commenced.Present Truth, August, 1849, p. 22.*
Here is a remarkable statement which we do not recall that Mrs. White's critics have quoted. Jesus is here described as being in the Most Holy Place, and as continuing there until every case is decided either for salvation or destruction. She explains that the wrath of God could not come until Jesus had finished his work in the Most Holy Place. When that work is finished then Jesus will step out from between the Father and man, and God will keep silent no longer; but pour out his wrath on those who have rejected his truth. What is it that has prevented God from pouring out His wrath on the world? The fact that Jesus is standing between the Father and man in the Most Holy Place. If that statement of hers does not teach that Jesus still has a desire for the salvation of the wicked and is still shielding them
* Experience and Views, p. 19; Early Writings, p. 36.
from the wrath of God, then we do not know how that glorious truth could be stated. She is doing what devout Christian writers have always done, picturing Christ as pleading that God's long-suffering and mercy be continued a little longer, that the wicked may have further opportunity to repent and be saved.
However, until a sinner, by turning to Christ, avails himself of Christ's ministry, we do not speak, strictly, of Christ's carrying on an intercessory work for him. It is in the setting of this fact that we understand her words: I saw Jesus still interceding for Israel. He could perform His true priestly function only for those who invoked His services. Mrs. White is here simply using the language that the Bible writers consistently employ. They speak of God's relationship to Israel, oftentimes in such a way as to lead the casual reader to believe that God had no concern whatever for anyone else. The new covenant is made only with the house of Israel. Heb. 8:8. Paul reminds the church at Ephesus that in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Eph. 2:2. He adds that they were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Verse 3. A little farther on in his letter he observes, regarding the evil practices of the Gentiles, that because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Eph. 5:6. Here is a description of a sinful world waiting for the wrath of God to come upon it. This parallels Mrs. White's picture.
Now, how do these Gentiles cease to be children of wrath and become children of God, and thus the objects, definitely, of Christ's intercession? Paul explains, by reminding these Ephesians of their former sinful Gentile state, and adding:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Eph. 2:12, 13. Now therefore ye are no
more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Verses 19, 20.
Add to this Paul's words to the Galatians: And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. 3:29.
Thus we can harmonize the scriptures that speak of Christ's confining the saving new covenant to the house of Israel, with the scriptures that speak of His yearning desire to save all men from the just wrath that should come upon them. In the plan of God, men become heirs to the promises of God through Abraham, and all of us may become Abraham's children through faith in Christ. Thus, though John describes the 144,000 gathered to God at the last day as being from the twelve tribes of Israel, and as passing into the New Jerusalem through gates bearing the names of those tribes, we all believe that men of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people will belong to that company.
We repeat, in the light of all these scriptures, Mrs. White is simply using standard Scriptural language when she speaks of Jesus interceding for Israel. There is nothing in such a statement to warrant the conclusion that His mercy is not available to anyone else. On the contrary, as we have just seen, her vision clearly implies that His mercy is available to sinners, that indeed He is standing between God and man, warding off, as it were, the wrath of God, that otherwise would fall upon the children of disobedience.
We need not attempt to prove that, at the time this vision was given, Mrs. White, in her capacity as a finite individual, clearly understood that Christ was offering His mercy to all mankind. We need only to show that Mrs. White, in her capacity as a prophet for God, was presenting views consistent with all the Scriptures. Prophets themselves sometimes had to search the revelations that God had given to them and to other prophets, in order to understand His plan. (See 1 Peter 1:10, 11.)
Strikingly similar to the vision we have been considering is the following from an article by Mrs. White that appeared in the Present Truth for September, 1849. we quote in part:
We must work while the day lasts, for when the dark night of trouble and anguish comes, it will be too late to work for God. Jesus is still in his Holy Temple, and will now accept our sacrifices, our prayers, and our confessions of faults and sins, and will now pardon all the transgressions of Israel, that they may be blotted out before he leaves the Sanctuary. When Jesus leaves the Sanctuary, then he that is holy and righteous, will be holy and righteous still; for all their sins will then be blotted out, and they will be sealed with the seal of the living God. But those that are unjust and filthy, will be unjust and filthy still; for then there will be no Priest in the Sanctuary to offer their sacrifices, their confessions, and their prayers before the Father's throne. Therefore, what is done to rescue souls from the coming storm of wrath, must be done before Jesus leaves the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary.
The Lord has shown me that precious souls are starving, and dying for want of the present, sealing truth, the meat in due season; and that the swift messengers should speed on their way, and feed the flock with the present truth. I heard an Angel say, speed the swift messengers, speed the swift messengers; for the case of every soul will soon be decided, either for Life, or for Death.Page 32.
Mrs. White's reference to the unjust and the filthy is from the text in Revelation that proclaims the close of probation. She speaks of that proclamation as still future. What if she had said that this text was fulfilled in 1844!
The fact that Mrs. White says that Christ will now pardon all the transgressions of Israel, does not require us to believe that He does not offer salvation to all. This we have shown in our discussion of the preceding quotation from her vision of January 5, 1849.
In the final edict that closes probation all evil men are listed under the general heads unjust and filthy, and all sanctified men under the terms righteous and holy. Now, even if we think of Mrs. White's statements in the setting of her associates'
beliefs, as her critics insist we must always do, we are still unable to find in her reference to the edict regarding the unjust and filthy a reference particularly to wayward Adventists. Perhaps an individual Adventist who had turned away from all righteousness was described as unjust and filthy. But certainly the Sabbathkeeping Adventist group did not think of other Adventists in general as filthy and unjust.
Mrs. White makes clear in her message published September, 1849, that the day that decides forever the fate of those who continue to be unjust and filthy, is still future. She declares that we must rescue souls from the coming storm. That is the language of evangelistic endeavor.
Let us look, now, at the vision given to Mrs. White in Dorchester, Massachusetts, November, 1848.
At a meeting held in Dorchester, Mass., November, 1848, I had been given a view of the proclamation of the sealing message, and of the duty of the brethren to publish the light that was shining upon our pathway.
After coming out of vision, I said to my husband: I have a message for you. You must begin to print a little paper and send it out to the people. Let it be small at first; but as the people read, they will send you means with which to print, and it will be a success from the first. From this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world.Life Sketches, p. 125.
It was this counsel given to James White that prompted him to begin publishing the Present Truth in 1849, and to go on from that to ever larger publishing activities, which ultimately have gone clear round the world.
Surely the reasonable interpretation of Mrs. White's words is that she is picturing a world work. Then what becomes of the charge that Mrs. White in vision taught that there was no more salvation for sinners, in other words, that God had no interest for anyone in the world except a little handful of Adventists? The answer to this question is so evident that the critics have sought to avoid it by certain arguments. Let us consider these under four heads:
1. The last sentence of what Mrs. White is alleged to have said: namely, From this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world, is no part of the Dorchester vision. That is evident from an examination of the text of the entire vision. That part of the vision relating to seeing lights appearing all over the world, was not given to Mrs. White until she was in Europe about 1886. It was first published in the R[eview and] H[erald] of July 26, 1887. It also appears in Gospel Workers page 378 which bears date of 1892. Instead of her seeing this in her early childhood, as she says, she did not see it until she was past 60.
What are the facts about the text of this vision? Did Mrs. White sit down shortly and write out what she had seen and the counsel she had been given? She did this in many instances, and thus we are in no doubt as to the text of such revelations. But sometimes she simply gave verbal instruction or counsel to individuals or churches as a result of what she had seen. In later years, particularly when recounting the past, she occasionally referred to some unrecorded vision and, at times, wrote a few lines as to what she had seen or heard. That was the case in regard to this Dorchester vision.
While Mrs. White was in vision she sometimes uttered exclamatory sentences as different scenes were unfolded to her. In a few instances someone present when the vision was given, copied down these exclamatory sentences, thinking thus to secure firsthand the very words of the prophet in vision. This was the case in regard to the Dorchester vision. Bates, who was present, tells of their having made the publishing of the message a subject of prayer , and the way to publish appeared not sufficiently clear, we therefore resolved unitedly to refer it all to God. After some time spent in earnest prayer for light and instruction, God gave sister White the following vision.A Seal of the Living God, p. 24. Then Bates gives a series of phrases and sentences that he copied down while she was in vision. But he immediately adds this qualifying statement: The above was copied word for word as she spake in vision, therefore it's unadulterated; some sentences escaped us, and some which we have not copied here.Page 26.
It is hard to see how Bates could have more clearly stated that
he copied down only a part of what Mrs. White said. Nor did the exclamations uttered give a full account of the vision. Yet critics soberly declare that they have the entire vision, and quote Bates as proof. We have no way of knowing what the sentences were that he left out. And in the absence of those sentences, which would provide context, we cannot be certain as to the full meaning of the sentences quoted. We wonder how the visions of Daniel and John would sound if we were dependent for our knowledge of them on the exclamatory statements these prophets might have made during their visions!
We could dismiss the whole argument at this point on the valid ground that there is no text of the entire vision.
Mrs. White says that in her Dorchester vision in 1848 she saw streams of light that went clear round the world. Her critics say, That part of the vision relating to seeing lights appearing all over the world, was not given to Mrs. White until 1886 on a trip through Europe and that she did not publish it until 1887. The critic is referring to a talk Mrs. White gave in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 22, 1886, which was printed in the Review and Herald, July 26, 1887. We quote the portion that bears on the question before us:
When in my very girlhood the Lord saw fit to open before me the glories of heaven. I was in vision taken to heaven, and the angel said to me, Look! I looked to the world as it was in dense darkness. Again the word came, Look! ye. And again I looked intensely over the world, and I began to see jets of light like stars dotted all through this darkness; and then I saw another and another added light, and so all through this moral darkness the star-like lights were increasing. And the angel said, These are they that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are obeying the words of Christ. I saw that the rays of light came directly from Jesus, to form these precious jets of light in the world.Page 466.*
Note these points in comment: 1. Mrs. White did not say, in 1886, that she then had a vision, but that she was recounting a vision of her very girlhoodwhich particular vision she does not state. But the critic boldly declares that she did not see this in
* The part here quoted, and a little more, is reprinted in Gospel Workers (ed. 1892), page 378.
her girlhood, but actually in 1886. The reader must decide between him and Mrs. White on this point.
2. The only place in Mrs. White's writings where reference is made to any words spoken by her in connection with the 1848 Dorchester vision, is Life Sketches, published in 1915. And the only statement she there makes concerning light, is this: Streams of light that went clear round the world. Hence, this statement is the only one that can here be in dispute. But note how the critic turns her words: That part of the [Dorchester] vision relating to seeing lights appearing all over the world. But it is necessary thus to alter her words in order to make them parallel her words spoken in 1886. And, as we have seen, it is then necessary for the critic to assert that her 1886 words were not a reminiscence of the 1840's but the expression of an 1886 viewpoint!
Now let us see just what Bates copied down while Mrs. White was having her 1848 Dorchester vision. Deficient though his copying was, we believe that he set down some phrases from Mrs. White's lips that bear a striking similarity to the disputed passage: Streams of light that went clear round the world. Following is the whole text of what Bates wrote, with certain phrases placed in italic to indicate their similarity to this passage:*
Where did the light break out? Let thine angels teach us where the light broke out! It commenced from a little, then thou didst give one light after another. The testimony and commandments are linked together, they cannot be separated; that comes first the ten commandments, by God.
The commandments never would be struck against if it were not to get rid of the Sabbath commandment. That one that has relaxed it is very foolish. It was very small, and when it rose, though it rose in strength, it was weak back there, when it came up it increase, (or increased.) If they won't hear it they are as accountable as though they did hear it.
He was well pleased when his law began to come up in strength, and the waste places began to be built up.
* If Mrs. White spoke even at a conversational rate of speed, only a good stenographer could hope to take down her words accurately. This fact, coupled with Bates's admission that he missed certain statements by her, prohibits any careful Bible student from using her words, as quoted by Bates, as the basis for any doctrinal view.
Out of weakness it has become strong from searching his word. The test upon it has been but a short time. All who are saved will be tried upon it in some way. That truth arises and is on the increase, stronger, and stronger. It's the seal! It's coming up! It arises, commencing from the rising of the sun. Like the sun, first cold, grows warmer and sends its rays.
When that truth arose there was but little light in it, but it has been increasing. O the power of these rays.
It grows in strength, the greatest weight and light is on that truth, for it lasts forever when the bible is not needed. It arose there in the east, it began with a small light, but its beams are healing. O how mighty is that truth; it's the highest after they enter the goodly land, but it will increase till they are made immortal. It commenced from the rising of the sun, keeps on its course like the sun, but it never sets.
The angels are holding the four winds.
It is God that restrains the powers.
the angels have not let go, for the saints are not all sealed.
The time of trouble has commenced, it is begun. The reason why the four winds have not let go, is because the saints are not all sealed. It's on the increase, and will increase more and more; the trouble will never end until the earth is rid of the wicked.
At that time neighbor will be against neighbor. That time has not yet come, when brother against brother and sister against sister; but will come when Michael stands up.
When Michael stands up this trouble will be all over the earth.
Why they are just ready to blow. There's a check put on because the saints are not sealed.
Yea, publish the things thou hast seen and heard, and the blessing of God will attend. Look ye! that rising is in strength, and grows brighter and brighter. That truth is the seal, that's why it comes last. The shut door we have had. God has taught and taught, but that experience is not the seal, and that commandment that has been trodden under foot will be exalted. And when ye get that you will go through the time of trouble.
Yea, all that thou art looking at, thou shalt not see just now. Be careful, let no light be set aside which comes from another way from which thou art looking for.A Seal of the Living God, pp. 24-26.
There are a number of phrases copied down by Bates that provide striking parallels, but for brevity's sake we focus simply on these: It arose there in the east, it began with a small light, but its beams are healing . It commenced from the rising of the sun, keeps on its course like the sun, but it never sets.
When Mrs. White came out of vision she restated to her
husband a little of what she had seen. In her vision she had exclaimed that the light of the message was like the light of the sun. The sun, as it keeps on its course, sends its light clear round the world. And so she told her husband afterwards: It was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world. What more need be said on this point!*
2. In her Dorchester vision Mrs. White was not envisioning a worldwide work, because she was declaring at that very time that the coming of Christ was very near. How then could she be speaking of a work that was to spread over the whole earth?
This argument, in various forms, is answered in the pages of this book. We need only remind the reader that none were more insistent in their appeal to their hearers to make ready for the day of Christ's coming than were the early apostles. Yet they were actively laboring to preach the gospel to all the world.
3. In the Dorchester vision, as can be seen from Bates's text of the entire vision, Mrs. White declared that the time of trouble has commenced, in other words, that probation has ended. Hence, how could she be seeing, in that vision, the expansion of a message to the whole world?
We might dismiss this argument simply by declaring that the uncertainty of contextwhat she might have said just before or just after the passage under discussionprevents any possibility of knowing just what she referred to. Fortunately, we have Mrs. White's own words in another connection that enable us to see conclusively that when she uses the phrase, the time of trouble, she does not necessarily mean the close of probation. Here is what she wrote after a vision in 1847:
I saw that God had children, who do not see and keep the Sabbath. They had not rejected the light on it. And at the commencement of the time of trouble, we were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth, and proclaimed
* Incidentally, the phrase copied by Bates, it commenced from a little, then thou didst give one light after another, provides an interesting parallel to the words used by Mrs. White in her 1886 statement! Which is another way of saying that here is supporting proof for her declaration that it was in her girlhood she saw what she described in that 1886 talk.
the Sabbath more fully. This enraged the church, and nominal Adventists, as they could not refute the Sabbath truth. And at this time, God's chosen all saw clearly that we had the truth, and they came out and endured the persecution with us. Broadside, A Vision, April 7, 1847.*
It is evident that Mrs. White is here speaking of a time of trouble preceding the close of probation, for honest souls are making decisions for eternity.
However, she herself, a little later, removed all possible uncertainty on this point by a comment on this time of trouble phrase in 1851. After quoting the passage that contains the phrase, she declares:
The commencement of the time of trouble, here mentioned does not refer to the time when the plagues shall begin to be poured out; but to a short period just before they are poured out, while Christ is in the Sanctuary. At that time, while the work of salvation is closing, trouble will be coming on the earth, the nations will be angry, yet held in check, so as not to prevent the work of the third angel.Supplement to Experience and Views (1854), pp. 3, 4.
This harmonizes with the words of her vision of January 5, 1849, from which we earlier quoted: I saw that Michael had not stood up, and that the time of trouble, such as never was, had not yet commenced.
4. According to Mrs. White and all her associates, the present truth was the shut door and the Sabbath. Therefore how inconsistent for S. D. A.'s to teach that Mrs. White saw the gospel going to all the world when they were all teaching that probation had closed, and were condemning the people who were going out and trying to save souls.
This argument has been examined in the preceding pages. We are concerned not with what Mrs. White's associates believed and taught, or even with what she herself may have believedshe frankly states that for a little time after 1844 she did believe that no more sinners would be converted. We are concerned only with what she declared God revealed to her in vision. We believe
* See also A Word to the Little Flock, p. 19; Experience and Views, p. 17; Early Writings, p. 33.
that the evidence submitted in this and the preceding chapter reveals that none of Mrs. White's visions teach that probation closed for all mankind, exclusive of Adventists, in 1844. On the contrary, we believe that certain of her visions, for example, this Dorchester vision, clearly reveal that God was giving to her a view of many souls yet to be saved, of a mighty message yet to be carried clear round the world.
We do not contend that Mrs. White's associates immediately understood the meaning of those visions of evangelism and expansion. We hardly think they did. We need not even contend that Mrs. White herself clearly understood at the outset the full meaning of certain visions given to her. The Bible prophets did not always understand. We repeat, and it needs repeating to clear up the fog of irrelevant arguments that have been raised, that our only contention is this: Mrs. White, when exercising the prophetic gift, did not teach the false doctrine of probation's close for all men in 1844, but rather the contrary.
Thus we come to the end of our consideration of the charge that Mrs. White believed in no more mercy for sinners for a seven-year period following October 22, 1844. Probably the reader will be curious, now, to know why a specific seven-year period is mentioned. That draws us into a consideration of the charge that Mrs. White believed and taught that Christ would actually come in the autumn of 1851. We shall also find, when we are studying that charge, that it is interwoven with still another; namely, that certain of the sentences dealing with the shut door in Mrs. White's earliest visions were deleted from later printings to conceal the fact that she thus once believed. It is alleged that she changed her views because she decided at the last moment that Christ would not come in 1851, and that therefore this fact of suppression of early statements provides an added and most weighty argument in support of the charge that Mrs. White originally taught there was no more mercy for sinners. In the following chapters these charges will be considered.