As we come to the end of our examination of the charges brought against Mrs. White, we think we hear our readers exclaiming: Have the critics, after searching the seventy years of her public life and the thousands of pages of her writings, nothing more impressive than this to bring against her! And that exclamation will probably be followed with the inquiry: How did it come about that these charges ever seemed impressive and convincing to men? To provide an answer to that question is the purpose of this concluding chapter. From our study of the charges we have discovered that their strength and plausibility resided in the kind of procedure that the critics employed in presenting their case. Let us analyze it:
1. Mrs. White has been judged by an arbitrary, artificial standard of perfection and omniscience that they have set up, a standard that neither they nor we employ when studying the lives of the prophets. It is true that holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and that when they thus spake their messages possessed a unique authority, the direct authority of heaven (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17). But the Bible is also explicit that the prophets were subject to like passions as we are. James 5:17. Only thus can we understand certain facts concerning them, such as Moses' striking the rock, David's gross sin, Elijah's error in saying, I, even I only, am left, or Nathan's mistake in endorsing David's desire to build a temple for the Lord, which endorsement he had to withdraw on the morrow because of a vision during the night. No lover of the Bible would claim that everything a prophet of God ever said or did was inspired.
But when Mrs. White's critics discuss her their reasoning is built on the false premise that if she were a true prophet, she
would have been infallible and omniscient, able to foreknow and discern all things. But we make no such claim for her, nor does she make such a claim. Why claim more for her than we would for Bible prophets? We have sought to present a true portrait of her, as one through whom was manifested the gift of the Spirit of prophecy. But in doing so we have made no presumptuous attempt to discover just what inspiration is, nor to speculate on the question of where holy ground begins. As we draw near to the burning bush we feel we have come on to holy ground. We do not think it proper to pull up the bush to see what makes it burn. We are satisfied simply to know that the bush truly burns and that it dispels the darkness about us.
2. Mrs. White has been charged with inconsistency, of failing to follow her own counsel to the church, of even going contrary to principles, set down in Holy Writ. But we have discovered that there is a fallacy in the reasoning underlying this charge. The critics are really saying in effect that there are no exceptions to rules, that neither circumstances, time, nor place have a bearing on how counsel should be applied. But we all know there are exceptions, and our study, we believe, has revealed that fact, as we have reconstructed the historical context for her various statements and deeds under criticism.
3. Stray statements in her writings have been lifted out and made to carry a meaning never intended by the author. This is a favorite but reprehensible method employed by infidels in their attacks upon the Bible. They may point to James, for example, and declare that the Bible teaches salvation by works. Then they may point to another kind of Scriptural passage and contend that it contradicts James. The infidel's argument sounds impressive to many listeners because they do not know the Bible and so cannot place the particular passages in their true context. In this book we have sought to place in their right context the stray phrases or paragraphs from Mrs. White that critics have used against her. And how different they have then looked!
4. Where there is more than one conclusion that might be drawn from the available facts the critics have consistently been satisfied to draw the conclusion that will make Mrs. White appear in the worst light. We confess that their conclusions have sometimes seemed plausible. But we have sought to show that a conclusion may sound plausible without being true. And then we have gathered all the facts together to present what we believe is the true conclusion, the one best supported by those facts, the conclusion that best fits the picture of Mrs. White's whole manner of life and speech. And how different that conclusion has proved to be!
5. Finally, some of the primary charges have had to do with events at the very beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in fact before there was such a church in the true sense of the word. By inference, at least, the one who listens to the charges is led to conclude that it is altogether reasonable to take hold of any stray sentence by any man connected with the earliest days of Adventism and declare: This is the historic teaching of Seventhday Adventists. Ill-formed statements of belief, divergence of theological views by pioneersall these serve only to provide what the critics would have their readers consider as clear evidence of the irrational, un-Scriptural teachings of this church. And in the midst of all this they have placed Mrs. White, hoping thereby to provide the strongest kind of proof that she was an uninspired, deluded visionary, because she was a leader of this whole religious group. But we have found the facts far otherwise.
For these and other reasons that might possibly be listed, the charges have seemed impressive and convincing to many who have heard them through the years. We trust that sufficient evidence has been presented in this work to show how unimpressive and unconvincing the reasoning of the critics really is. We say this, not because we rejoice in controversy, but because we wish to exonerate the good name of one who, we sincerely believe, was entrusted by God with the gift of the Spirit of prophecy, and
because we wish to protect the reader against further charges that critics might someday bring.
Though we have come to the end of our examination of the charges against Mrs. White, we do not say that we have come to the end of the charges. But there are limits to the size of a volume. Nor do we think it necessary to refute every possible accusation that may have been framed in order to free Mrs. White from the dark suspicions with which critics have sought to surround her. However, we believe we can truthfully say that we have examined all the major charges that have come down through the years, plus a number of minor ones.*
Charges have much in common with weeds. They spring up in the most unexpected places, grow rank without cultivation, and are quickly scattered to far places by the winds that carry their seeds abroad. And so, though we may clear all the tall weeds, long standing, and most of the small ones, from the Elmshaven garden, in which Mrs. White once quietly walked, we cannot say that the seed of some new weed may not blow that way in the future or that there may not even yet lurk some small weeds by shrub or flower bed. But that a few such weeds have eluded us really matters not at all. Once the tall weeds have been cleared away sufficiently that Mrs. White can clearly be seen, those remaining stand revealed for what they truly are, obnoxious intruders in a beautiful garden.
We have found that these weeds, though luxuriant and tall, were not deeply rooted, but rather, surface feeders. They had often fed upon a strange kind of soil called rumor, hearsay, and gossipand what stimulating nutriment these provide for a certain type of vegetation! The weeds took no pains to send their roots deep down in search of the subsoil of hard facts or sound logic. Botanists, we understand, believe that some plants can sustain
* In this connection it should be remembered that the purpose of this present book has not been to provide an encyclopedic commentary on every conceivable charge that anyone at anytime, even anonymously, might have raised. Rather the purpose has been to examine those charges most typical and most frequently presented. Even comprehensive works in defense of the Bible do not attempt more than this.
themselves almost wholly from the breezes that blow upon them; they seem to possess a singular ability to draw from the air certain ingredients to maintain their life. At least this is true of some of the weeds that have confronted us. They have had no root whatever, but have been sustained only by the air breathed upon them by those who planted them, a breath now hot with animosity, now cold with derision. But they seem to have withered when exposed to the breath of investigation.
We have also found a kind of weed that thrives only in the shade, and in the shade it takes on strange and impressive colorings. Such have required for their destruction only that they be exposed to the light of day.
Some weeds have proved to be of a climbing nature, their tendrils reaching out everywhere. We have sought to eradicate these, not by attacking each small tendril, but by cutting the main stem at the base. If those who have sowed such weeds seek to show that we have not completed our task because some tendrils remain, we think we need only to point to the severed stem.
It has been beyond the range of this book to discuss, except in an incidental way, the person or the character of Mrs. White, the greatness or the extent of her labors, the beauty or the significance of her writings. That task has been ably performed by others, some of them men who walked and talked with her as they journeyed together on the heavenly pilgrimage. We commend those works to all who sincerely wish to learn more fully of this frail handmaiden of the Lord, who now stands forth clearly in her Elmshaven garden, amid the flowers, with the light of heaven shining upon her face.