〉 Chapter 2—Ellen G. White and Her Writings
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Chapter 2—Ellen G. White and Her Writings
A Letter to Dr. Paulson
St. Helena, California,
June 14, 1906
(1SM 24)
Dear Brother (1SM 24)
Your letter came to me while in southern California. For some weeks the consideration of matters connected with the development of our sanitarium work there, and the writing out of the views given me regarding the earthquake and its lessons, have taken my time and strength. (1SM 24.1)
But now I must respond to the letters received from you and others. In your letter you speak of your early training to have implicit faith in the testimonies and say, “I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word that you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the Ten Commandments.” (1SM 24.2)
My brother, you have studied my writings diligently, and you have never found that I have made any such claims, neither will you find that the pioneers in our cause ever made such claims. (1SM 24.3)
In my introduction to The Great Controversy you have no doubt read my statement regarding the Ten Commandments and the Bible, which should have helped you to a correct understanding of the matter under consideration. Here is the statement: (1SM 24.4)
“The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers. The truths revealed are all ‘given by inspiration of God’ (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men. The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed, have themselves embodied the thought in human language.” (1SM 25.1)
“The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand. They are of divine, and not human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that ‘the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14).” (1SM 25.2)
“Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the nature of the subjects unfolded. Different forms of expression are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by one than by another. And as several writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.” (1SM 25.3)
“As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought out in its varied aspects. One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind—a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all. And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances and experiences of life.” (1SM 25.4)
“God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do His work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.” (1SM 26.1)
The Integrity of the Testimonies
In perfect harmony with this are my statements found in the article “The Testimonies Slighted,” written June 20, 1882, and published in Testimonies for the Church 5:31, 62-84. From this I quote for your consideration, several paragraphs: (1SM 26.2)
“Many are looking with self-complacency upon the long years during which they have advocated the truth. They now feel that they are entitled to a reward for their past trials and obedience. But this genuine experience in the things of God in the past, makes them more guilty before Him for not preserving their integrity and going forward to perfection. The faithfulness for the past year will never atone for the neglect of the present year. A man’s truthfulness yesterday will not atone for his falsehood today.” (1SM 26.3)
“Many excused their disregard of the testimonies by saying, ‘Sister White is influenced by her husband; the testimonies are molded by his spirit and judgment.’ Others were seeking to gain something from me which they could construe to justify their course or to give them influence. It was then I decided that nothing more should go from my pen until the converting power of God was seen in the church. But the Lord placed the burden upon my soul. I labored for you earnestly. How much this cost both my husband and myself, eternity will tell. Have I not a knowledge of the state of the church, when the Lord has presented their case before me again and again for years? Repeated warnings have been given, yet there has been no decided change (1SM 26.4)
“Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. You know how the Lord has manifested Himself through the Spirit of prophecy. Past, present, and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I had never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind and I have written, at midnight, letters that have gone across the continent, and arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this work of the last thirty-six years from above or from beneath?...” (1SM 27.1)
“When I went to Colorado I was so burdened for you that, in my weakness, I wrote many pages to be read at your camp meeting. Weak and trembling, I arose at three o’clock in the morning to write to you. God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper, expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne....” (1SM 27.2)
“What voice will you acknowledge as the voice of God? What power has the Lord in reserve to correct your errors and show you your course as it is? What power to work in the church? If you refuse to believe until every shadow of uncertainty and every possibility of doubt is removed, you will never believe. The doubt that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to faith. Faith rests upon evidence, not demonstration. The Lord requires us to obey the voice of duty, when there are other voices all around us urging us to pursue an opposite course. It requires earnest attention from us to distinguish the voice which speaks from God. We must resist and conquer inclination, and obey the voice of conscience without parleying or compromise, lest its promptings cease, and will and impulse control.” (1SM 27.3) 2 I
“The word of the Lord comes to us all who have not resisted His Spirit by determining not to hear and obey. This voice is heard in warnings, in counsels, in reproof. It is the Lord’s message of light to His people. If we wait for louder calls or better opportunities, the light may be withdrawn, and we left in darkness.” (1SM 28.1)
“It pains me to say, my brethren, that your sinful neglect to walk in the light has enshrouded you in darkness. You may now be honest in not recognizing and obeying the light; the doubts you have entertained, your neglect to heed the requirements of God, have blinded your perception so that darkness is now to you light, and light is darkness. God has bidden you to go forward to perfection. Christianity is a religion of progress. Light from God is full and ample, waiting our demand upon it. Whatever blessings the Lord may give, He has an infinite supply beyond, an inexhaustible store from which we may draw. Skepticism may treat the sacred claims of the gospel with jests, scoffing, and denial. The spirit of worldliness may contaminate the many and control the few; the cause of God may hold its ground only by great exertion and continual sacrifice, yet it will triumph finally.” (1SM 28.2)
“The word is: ‘Go forward; discharge your individual duty, and leave all consequences in the hands of God.’ If we move forward where Jesus leads the way we shall see His triumph, we shall share His joy. We must share the conflicts if we wear the crown of victory. Like Jesus, we must be made perfect through suffering. Had Christ’s life been one of ease, then might we safely yield to sloth. Since His life was marked with continual self-denial, suffering, and self-sacrifice, we shall make no complaint if we are partakers with Him. We can walk safely in the darkest path if we have the Light of the world for our guide.” (1SM 28.3)
“When the Lord last presented your case before me, and made known to me that you had not regarded the light which had been given you, I was bidden to speak to you plainly in His name, for His anger was kindled against you. These words were spoken to me: ‘Your work is appointed you of God. Many will not hear you, for they refused to hear the Great Teacher; many will not be corrected, for their ways are right in their own eyes. Yet bear to them the reproofs and warnings I shall give you, whether they will hear or forbear.’... (1SM 29.1)
In connection with these quotations, study again the article “The Nature and Influence of the Testimonies,” in Testimonies, volume 5, pages 654-691. (1SM 29.2)
The statement which you quote from Testimony No. 31 [volume 5, 67] is correct: “In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne.” It is true concerning the articles in our papers and in the many volumes of my books. I have been instructed in accordance with the Word in the precepts of the law of God. I have been instructed in selecting from the lessons of Christ. Are not the positions taken in my writings in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ? (1SM 29.3)
Peril of Deceptive Representations
To some of the questions you have asked, I am not to answer Yes or No. I must not make statements that can be misconstrued. I see and feel the peril of those who, I have been instructed, are endangering their souls at times by listening to deceptive representations regarding the messages that God has given me. Through many twistings and turnings and false reasonings on what I have written, they try to vindicate their personal unbelief. I am sorry for my brethren who have been walking in the mist of suspicion and skepticism and false reasoning. I know that some of them would be blessed by messages of counsel if the clouds obscuring their spiritual vision could be driven back, and they could see aright. But they do not see clearly. Therefore I dare not communicate with them. When the Spirit of God clears away the mysticism, there will be found just as complete comfort and faith and hope in the messages that I have been instructed to give, as were found in them in years past. (1SM 29.4)
Truth will surely bear away the victory. The One who gave His life to ransom man from the delusions of Satan, is not asleep, but watching. When His sheep turn away from following the voice of a stranger, whose sheep they are not, they will rejoice in the voice they have loved to follow. (1SM 30.1)
We can learn precious lessons from the study of the life of Christ. The envious Pharisees misinterpreted the acts and words of Christ, which, if properly received, would have been beneficial to their spiritual understanding. Instead of admiring His goodness, they charged Him, in the presence of His disciples, with impiety—“Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11). Instead of addressing our blessed Saviour Himself, whose answer would at once have convicted them of their malice, they talked with the disciples, and made their charges where, as a leaven of evil, they would do great harm. If Christ had been an impious man, He would have lost His hold upon the hearts of His believing followers. But because of their confidence in Christ, the disciples would not give ear to the insinuations of His wicked accusers. (1SM 30.2)
Desiring to bring censure upon the disciples, these wicked accusers went again and again to Christ with the question, “Why do Thy disciples that which is not lawful?” And when they judged our Lord to have transgressed, they spoke, not to Himself, but to His disciples, to plant the seeds of unbelief in the hearts of His followers. (1SM 30.3)
Thus they worked to bring in doubt and dissension. Every method was tried to bring doubt into the hearts of the little flock, that it might cause them to watch for something that would check the good and gracious work of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (1SM 31.1)
Work of this same character will be brought to bear upon true believers today. The Lord Jesus reads the heart; He discerns the interests and purposes of the thoughts of all men concerning Himself and His believing disciples. He answers their thoughts concerning the faultfinding ones, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The insolent Pharisees had an exalted idea of their own piety and holiness, while they were ready to pass censure on the lives of others.—Letter 206, 1906. (1SM 31.2)
The Lord’s Messenger
Last night, in vision, I was standing before an assembly of our people, bearing a decided testimony regarding present truth and present duty. After the discourse, many gathered about me, asking questions. They desired so many explanations about this point, and that point, and another point, that I said, “One at a time, if you please, lest you confuse me.” (1SM 31.3)
And then I appealed to them, saying: “For years you have had many evidences that the Lord has given me a work to do. These evidences could scarcely have been greater than they are. Will you brush away all these evidences as a cobweb, at the suggestion of a man’s unbelief? That which makes my heart ache is the fact that many who are now perplexed and tempted are those who have had abundance of evidence and opportunity to consider and pray and understand; and yet they do not discern the nature of the sophistries that are presented to influence them to reject the warnings God has given to save them from the delusions of these last days.” (1SM 31.4)
Some have stumbled over the fact that I said I did not claim to be a prophet; [Reference is here made to a discourse given at Battle Creek, October 2, 1904, in which she said, “I do not claim to be a prophetess.”—Compilers.] and they have asked, Why is this? (1SM 31.5)
I have had no claims to make, only that I am instructed that I am the Lord’s messenger; that He called me in my youth to be His messenger, to receive His word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus. (1SM 32.1)
Early in my youth I was asked several times, “Are you a prophet?” I have ever responded, I am the Lord’s messenger. I know that many have called me a prophet, but I have made no claim to this title. My Saviour declared me to be His messenger. “Your work,” He instructed me, “is to bear My word. Strange things will arise, and in your youth I set you apart to bear the message to the erring ones, to carry the word before unbelievers, and with pen and voice to reprove from the Word actions that are not right. Exhort from the Word. I will make My Word open to you. It shall not be as a strange language. In the true eloquence of simplicity, with voice and pen, the messages that I give shall be heard from one who has never learned in the schools. My Spirit and My power shall be with you.” (1SM 32.2)
“Be not afraid of man, for My shield shall protect you. It is not you that speaketh: it is the Lord that giveth the messages of warning and reproof. Never deviate from the truth under any circumstances. Give the light I shall give you. The messages for these last days shall be written in books, and shall stand immortalized, to testify against those who have once rejoiced in the light, but who have been led to give it up because of the seductive influences of evil.” (1SM 32.3)
Why have I not claimed to be a prophet?—Because in these days many who boldly claim that they are prophets are a reproach to the cause of Christ; and because my work includes much more than the word “prophet” signifies. (1SM 32.4)
When this work was first given me, I begged the Lord to lay the burden on someone else. The work was so large and broad and deep that I feared I could not do it. But by His Holy Spirit the Lord has enabled me to perform the work which He gave me to do. (1SM 32.5)
A Work of Many Features
God has made plain to me the various ways in which He would use me to carry forward a special work. Visions have been given me, with the promise, “If you deliver the messages faithfully and endure to the end, you shall eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and drink of the water of the river of life.” (1SM 33.1)
The Lord gave me great light on health reform. In connection with my husband, I was to be a medical missionary worker. I was to set an example to the church by taking the sick to my home and caring for them. This I have done, giving the women and children vigorous treatment. I was also to speak on the subject of Christian temperance, as the Lord’s appointed messenger. I engaged heartily in this work, and spoke to large assemblies on temperance in its broadest and truest sense. (1SM 33.2)
I was instructed that I must ever urge upon those who profess to believe the truth, the necessity of practicing the truth. This means sanctification, and sanctification means the culture and training of every capability for the Lord’s service. (1SM 33.3)
I was charged not to neglect or pass by those who were being wronged. I was specially charged to protest against any arbitrary or overbearing action toward the ministers of the gospel by those having official authority. Disagreeable though the duty may be, I am to reprove the oppressor, and plead for justice. I am to present the necessity of maintaining justice and equity in all our institutions. (1SM 33.4)
If I see those in positions of trust neglecting aged ministers, I am to present the matter to those whose duty it is to care for them. Ministers who have faithfully done their work are not to be forgotten or neglected when they have become feeble in health. Our conferences are not to disregard the needs of those who have borne the burdens of the work. It was after John had grown old in the service of the Lord that he was exiled to Patmos. And on that lonely isle he received more communications from heaven than he had received during the rest of his lifetime. (1SM 33.5)
After my marriage I was instructed that I must show a special interest in motherless and fatherless children, taking some under my own charge for a time, and then finding homes for them. Thus I would be giving others an example of what they could do. (1SM 34.1)
Although called to travel often, and having much writing to do, I have taken children of three and five years of age, and have cared for them, educated them, and trained them for responsible positions. I have taken into my home from time to time boys from ten to sixteen years of age, giving them motherly care, and a training for service. I have felt it my duty to bring before our people that work for which those in every church should feel a responsibility. (1SM 34.2)
While in Australia I carried on this same line of work, taking into my home orphan children, who were in danger of being exposed to temptations that might cause the loss of their souls. (1SM 34.3)
In Australia we [Reference here is to her associate workers. James White died in 1881.] also worked as Christian medical missionaries. At times I made my home in Cooranbong an asylum for the sick and afflicted. My secretary, who had received a training in the Battle Creek Sanitarium, stood by my side, and did the work of a missionary nurse. No charge was made for her services, and we won the confidence of the people by the interest that we manifested in the sick and suffering. After a time “the Health Retreat” at Cooranbong was built, and then we were relieved of this burden. (1SM 34.4)
No Boastful Claims
To claim to be a prophetess is something that I have never done. If others call me by that name, I have no controversy with them. But my work has covered so many lines that I cannot call myself other than a messenger, sent to bear “a message from the Lord” to His people, and to take up work in any line that He points out. (1SM 34.5)
When I was last in Battle Creek, I said before a large congregation that I did not claim to be a prophetess. Twice I referred to this matter, intending each time to make the statement, “I do not claim to be a prophetess.” If I spoke otherwise than this, let all now understand that what I had in mind to say was that I do not claim the title of prophet or prophetess. (1SM 35.1)
I understood that some were anxious to know if Mrs. White still held the same views that she did years ago when they had heard her speak in the sanitarium grove, in the Tabernacle, and at the camp meetings held in the suburbs of Battle Creek. I assured them that the message she bears today is the same that she has borne during the sixty years of her public ministry. She has the same service to do for the Master that was laid upon her in her girlhood. She receives lessons from the same Instructor. The directions given her are, “Make known to others what I have revealed to you. Write out the messages that I give you, that the people may have them.” This is what she has endeavored to do. (1SM 35.2)
I have written many books, and they have been given a wide circulation. Of myself I could not have brought out the truth in these books, but the Lord has given me the help of His Holy Spirit. These books, giving the instruction that the Lord has given me during the past sixty years, contain light from heaven, and will bear the test of investigation. (1SM 35.3)
At the age of seventy-eight I am still toiling. We are all in the hands of the Lord. I trust in Him; for I know that he will never leave nor forsake those who put their trust in Him. I have committed myself to His keeping. (1SM 35.4)
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).—The Review and Herald, July 26, 1906. (1SM 35.5)
The Work of a Prophet and More
During the discourse, I said that I did not claim to be a prophetess. Some were surprised at this statement, and as much is being said in regard to it, I will make an explanation. Others have called me a prophetess, but I have never assumed that title. I have not felt that it was my duty thus to designate myself. Those who boldly assume that they are prophets in this our day are often a reproach to the cause of Christ. (1SM 35.6)
My work includes much more than this name signifies. I regard myself as a messenger, entrusted by the Lord with messages for His people.—Letter 55, 1905. (1SM 36.1)
I am now instructed that I am not to be hindered in my work by those who engage in suppositions regarding its nature, whose minds are struggling with so many intricate problems connected with the supposed work of a prophet. My commission embraces the work of a prophet, but it does not end there. It embraces much more than the minds of those who have been sowing the seeds of unbelief can comprehend.—Letter 244, 1906. (Addressed to elders of Battle Creek church.) (1SM 36.2)
Receiving and Imparting the Light
As inquiries are frequently made as to my state in vision, and after I come out, I would say that when the Lord sees fit to give a vision, I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things. I can see no farther than the angel directs me. My attention is often directed to scenes transpiring upon earth. (1SM 36.3)
At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them.—Spiritual Gifts 2:292, 293 (1860). (1SM 36.4)
Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.—The Review and Herald, October 8, 1867. (1SM 37.1)
The question is asked, “How does Sister White know in regard to the matters of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things?” I speak thus because they flash upon my mind when in perplexity like lightning out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind distinctly that particular instruction. At such times I cannot refrain from saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision, but because that which was presented to me perhaps years in the past has been recalled to my mind forcibly.—The Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies, 24. (1SM 37.2)
No Claim to Infallibility
We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.—The Review and Herald, July 26, 1892. (1SM 37.3)
In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and “in Him is no variableness, or shadow of turning”(James 1:17).—Letter 10, 1895. (1SM 37.4)
The Sacred and the Common
Sanitarium, California
March 5, 1909
(1SM 38)
I am troubled in regard to Brother A, who for some years has been a worker in southern California. He has made some strange statements, and I am pained to see him denying the testimonies as a whole because of what seems to him an inconsistency—a statement made by me in regard to the number of rooms in the Paradise Valley Sanitarium. Brother A says that in a letter written to one of the brethren in southern California, the statement was made by me that the sanitarium contained forty rooms, when there were really only thirty-eight. This, Brother A gives to me as the reason why he has lost confidence in the testimonies.... (1SM 38.1)
The information given concerning the number of rooms in the Paradise Valley Sanitarium was given, not as a revelation from the Lord, but simply as a human opinion. There has never been revealed to me the exact number of rooms in any of our sanitariums; and the knowledge I have obtained of such things I have gained by inquiring of those who were supposed to know. In my words, when speaking upon these common subjects, there is nothing to lead minds to believe that I receive my knowledge in a vision from the Lord and am stating it as such.... (1SM 38.2)
When the Holy Spirit reveals anything regarding the institutions connected with the Lord’s work, or concerning the work of God upon human hearts and minds, as He has revealed these things through me in the past, the message given is to be regarded as light given of God for those who need it. But for one to mix the sacred with the common is a great mistake. In a tendency to do this we may see the working of the enemy to destroy souls. (1SM 38.3)
To every soul whom God has created He has given capabilities to serve Him, but Satan seeks to make this work of service hard by his constant temptation to mislead souls. He works to dim the spiritual perceptions that men may not distinguish between that which is common and that which is holy. I have been made to know this distinction through a life’s service for my Lord and Master (1SM 38.4)
The message came to me, Dedicate yourself to the highest work ever committed to mortals. I will give you high aspirations and powers and a true sense of the work of Christ. You are not your own, for you are bought with a price, by the life and death of the Son of God. God calls for your child’s heart and service under the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. (1SM 39.1)
I gave myself, my whole being, to God, to obey His call in everything, and since that time my life has been spent in giving the message, with my pen and in speaking before large congregations. It is not I who controls my words and actions at such times. (1SM 39.2)
But there are times when common things must be stated, common thoughts must occupy the mind, common letters must be written and information given that has passed from one to another of the workers. Such words, such information, are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God. Questions are asked at times that are not upon religious subjects at all, and these questions must be answered. We converse about houses and lands, trades to be made, and locations for our institutions, their advantages and disadvantages. (1SM 39.3)
I receive letters asking for advice on many strange subjects, and I advise according to the light that has been given me. Men have again and again opposed the counsel that I have been instructed to give because they did not want to receive the light given, and such experiences have led me to seek the Lord most earnestly.—Manuscript 107, 1909. (1SM 39.4)