Did Mrs. White Contradict Herself Regarding Sabbathkeeping?

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Section Titles
Conclusions That Naturally Follow
Remaining Points Considered


Charge: “From the first Mrs. White taught that the Pope changed the Sabbath, that Sundaykeeping is ‘the mark of the beast,’ and that before the end Seventh-day Adventists were to suffer great persecution because they would not cease working on Sunday. A decree was finally to go forth to slay them and rid the earth of them (‘Early Writings,’ pp. 29, 47, 55 [first pagination], 143, 145 [third pagination], ed. 1882*).”

Adventists here and there were put in jail for violating Sunday laws. When she was asked what should be done, in a particular instance where Adventists were threatened with imprisonment in Australia, “here are her instructions in ‘Testimonies for the Church,’ Vol. IX, No. 37, published in 1909. It is a square backdown from all she had published before. It avoids all possibility of persecution for Sunday work. She says: ‘The light given me by the Lord at a time when we were expecting just such a crisis as you seem to be approaching was that when the people were moved by a power from beneath to enforce Sunday observance, Seventh-day Adventists were to show their wisdom by refraining from their ordinary work on that day, devoting it to missionary effort’ (p. 232). ‘Give them no occasion to call you lawbreakers.’ ‘It will be very easy to avoid that difficulty. Give Sunday to the Lord as the day for doing missionary work.’”

The first question to be answered is this: What did Mrs. White really teach in the passages cited from Early Writings? We shall list them in order:

1. On page 29 (first pagination) Mrs. White speaks of a decree that is to go forth finally to “slay the saints.” This will cause them to cry to God day and night. This is the time of Jacob's trouble, but they will be delivered out of it. Then she sees a company who are “weighed in the balance, and found wanting.”

* The edition current since 1907, when new plates were made, differs in page numbering. In this current edition, the pages approximately comparable to those cited in the charge are as follows: Pages 36, 56, 65, 282, 283, 285, 286. We shall refer to the Early Writings quotations in terms of the page numbers of the old edition, as given in the charge.


The angel explains: “These are they who have once kept the Sabbath and have given it up.” She describes them also as having “trodden the Sabbath under foot.” There is no reference to Sunday. (See current edition, pp. 36, 37.)

2. On page 47 there is no reference, either to the Sabbath or to Sunday, but only a general discussion under the title: “Duty in View of the Time of Trouble.” (See current edition, p. 56.)

3. On pages 55 and 56 she declares that the pope “changed the day of rest from the seventh to the first day.” She says nothing about any law to compel Sabbathkeepers to “cease working on Sunday.” But she does say: “When the plagues begin to fall, those who continue to break the holy Sabbath will not open their mouths to plead those excuses that they now make to get rid of keeping it.” (See current edition, p. 65.)

4. On page 143 (third pagination) she describes the threat of death against the “saints” in the last days “unless the saints should yield their peculiar faith, give up the Sabbath and observe the first day of the week.” (See current edition, pp. 282, 283.)

5. On pages 145 and 146 she speaks of those who had died in faith “keeping the Sabbath,” and of a blessing “pronounced on those who had honored God, in keeping his Sabbath holy.” There is no reference to Sunday. (See current edition, pp. 285, 286.)

We thus have before us all the references cited in support of the major premise that “Mrs. White taught … that before the end Seventh-day Adventists were to suffer great persecution because they would not cease working on Sunday.”

Before we comment on these five references let us quote a little further from Mrs. White:

“I saw that God will in a wonderful manner preserve his people through the time of trouble. As Jesus poured out his soul in agony in the garden, they will earnestly cry and agonize day and night for deliverance. The decree will go forth that they must disregard the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and honor the first day, or lose their lives; but they will not yield, and trample under their feet the Sabbath of the Lord, and honor an institution of papacy.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 353, 354.

“Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be denounced as enemies of law and order, as breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing anarchy


and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God upon the earth….

“As the Protestant churches reject the clear, scriptural arguments in defense of God's law, they will long to silence those whose faith they cannot overthrow by the Bible. Though they blind their own eyes to the fact, they are now adopting a course which will lead to the persecution of those who conscientiously refuse to do what the rest of the Christian world are doing, and acknowledge the claims of the papal sabbath.”—The Great Controversy, p. 592.

“The time is coming when God's people will feel the hand of persecution because they keep holy the seventh day. Satan has caused the change of the Sabbath in the hope of carrying out his purpose for the defeat of God's plans. He seeks to make the commands of God of less force in the world than human laws. The man of sin, who thought to change times and laws, and who has always oppressed the people of God, will cause laws to be made enforcing the observance of the first day of the week. But God's people are to stand firm for Him.”—Testimonies, Vol. 9, pp. 229, 230.

Conclusions That Naturally Follow

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To say, as does the critic, that Mrs. White taught that Seventh-day Adventists were to “suffer great persecution because they would not cease working on Sunday,” is grossly to distort her words. The persecution is to come because they will not give up the Sabbath. The keeping of Sunday is simply an act that follows the giving up of the Sabbath. The former is placed in contrast to the latter. Hence we conclude that the Adventist who is loyally keeping the Sabbath is certainly not a keeper of the first day of the week simply because he may be using Sunday for “missionary work.” There is an attitude of the mind and a purposeful act of the will involved in this matter she is discussing. As we face the crisis of which she speaks we are to remember that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, and thus to keep that day, holy, despite all threats of persecution. At the same time we are to resist all endeavors of men to make us observe “the first day of the week.” In other words, we are not to transfer our affections from God's holy day to the papal day. We are not to give up keeping the former holy and begin to keep the latter holy.

This is Mrs. White's consistent teaching through all her writings, including Testimonies, volume 9, which is cited in the charge as the book that contains a “square backdown from all she had


published before.” The charge declares that her statement in volume 9 as to engaging in missionary work on Sunday “avoids all possibility of persecution for Sunday work.” But we have just discovered from the quotations given that “God's people will feel the hand of persecution because they keep holy the seventh day.” And that statement is found only three pages before, and in the same context with, the passage quoted by the critic to prove his case against her!

Remaining Points Considered

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In the setting of these passages that give Mrs. White's true teaching on the matter of Sabbathkeeping, the points in the charge become a little pointless. Let us consider briefly those not already answered:

1. Mrs. White “now directs her people to keep Sunday exactly as all conscientious Sunday observers do; that is, in holding religious meetings and doing religious work!”

We hardly believe that any minister of a Sundaykeeping church would agree with that statement. We are certain that no minister in the area where her instruction was put into effect would consider we were keeping Sunday “exactly as all conscientious Sunday observers do.” Mrs. White included in her instruction regarding these Sunday “religious meetings” the following: “We are to proclaim the truth in regard to the Sabbath of the Lord.”—Ibid., p. 233. Proclaiming the Sabbath truth means to an Adventist not simply presenting the evidence for the seventh-day Sabbath of the Lord but presenting the warnings of heaven against keeping the papal Sabbath, the first day of the week. Will someone explain how an Adventist could at one and the same time be keeping Sunday and denouncing Sunday worship?

2. “Now, if it [“holding religious meetings”] is acceptable to the Lord from Adventists, it must be acceptable to the Lord from Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and others.”

We agree that it would be acceptable to the Lord if the members of these Protestant churches followed her counsel for Adventists, which means keeping God's holy Sabbath day, and then, if


the situation requires, using Sunday in missionary work, holding religious meetings that extol the true Sabbath and warn against the false.

3.“Lastly,if Methodists, Baptists and other Christians have the mark of the beast because they ‘give Sunday to the Lord’ in religious service, why will not Adventists also have it if they give the day to the Lord in the same way?”

But how would Adventists receive the mark of the beast for holding religious services on Sunday if those services had as one of their purposes a warning against the mark of the beast? We might add that Adventists do not teach that anyone has the mark of the beast simply because he keeps Sunday. That mark will be placed only upon those who, having received a knowledge of the Scriptural claims of the Sabbath, willfully continue to keep the papal Sunday. In proof of this we quote these words from Mrs. White:

“When Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. He is paying homage to Rome, and to the power which enforces the institution ordained by Rome. He is worshiping the beast and his image. As men then reject the institution which God has declared to be the sign of His authority and honor in its stead that which Rome has chosen as the token of her supremacy, they will thereby accept the sign of allegiance to Rome—‘the mark of the beast.’ And it is not until the issue is thus plainly set before the people, and they are brought to choose between the commandments of God and the commandments of men, that those who continue in transgression will receive ‘the mark of the beast.’”—The Great Controversy, p. 449.

4. “In giving the instruction she did, Mrs. White herself removed the ground for the persecution under Sunday laws which she had previously predicted.”

This has already been answered, with particular emphasis on the fact that what “she had previously predicted” in Early Writings she consistently continued to predict through the years, including her words in Testimonies, volume 9.

A reading of the full text of Mrs. White's counsel regarding


our attitude and actions in relation to threatened Sunday law prosecution reveals that she is here writing a commentary on the inspired command: “As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Rom. 12: 18. The only time that that command cannot apply is when living peaceably would sacrifice principle, and would cause us to bear a false testimony to the truths of God. There is no danger that any Adventist will bear a false testimony concerning God's holy Sabbath day by engaging in missionary work on Sunday, provided he follows the inspired instruction to “proclaim the truth in regard to the Sabbath of the Lord” as he goes forth in such missionary work.

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