Believe His Prophets


What Others Have Said of the Relation of the Testimonies to the Bible

Ellen G. White leaves us with no doubt as to her own attitude toward the Bible. Now it becomes necessary to discover the attitude of her brethren, and the relation they saw between those writings and the Bible. BHP 170.6

James White reproduced in the The Review and Herald, October 16, 1855, what he had first stated in a tract in 1847. He said: BHP 170.7

“The Bible is a perfect and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice. But this is no reason why God may not show the past, present, and future fulfillment of his word, in these last days, by dreams and visions, according to Peter’s testimony. True visions are given to lead us to God, and to his written word; but those that are given for a new rule of faith and practice, separate from the Bible, cannot be from God, and should be rejected.” Page 61. BHP 171.1

He then quotes from another of his articles on the gifts of the gospel church: BHP 171.2

“Every Christian is therefore in duty bound to take the Bible as a perfect rule of faith and duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth, and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. We say that the very moment he does, he places the gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely dangerous position.” Ibid. BHP 171.3

In the February 28, 1856, issue of the Review, James White was laboring to correct the attitude of our people on the same topic. He stated his position and viewpoint in these words: BHP 171.4

“The Word should be in front, and the eye of the church should be placed upon it, as the rule to walk by, and the fountain of wisdom, from which to learn duty in ‘all good works.’ But if a portion of the church err from the truths of the Bible, and become weak and sickly, and the flock become scattered, so that it seems necessary for God to employ the Gifts of the Spirit to correct, revive and heal the erring, we should let Him work. Yea more, we should pray for Him to work and plead earnestly that He would work by the Spirit’s power, and bring the scattered sheep to His fold. Praise the Lord, He will work. Amen.” Page 173. BHP 171.5

J. N. Andrews was highly respected by our people in the early years of our work. He must have represented a prevailing attitude in 1870 when he wrote: BHP 172.1

“1. We understand that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired, and that they contain the truth of God which is able to make us wise unto salvation. BHP 172.2

“2. But we do not understand that the gift of the Scriptures to mankind, supersedes the gift of the Holy Spirit to the people of God. BHP 172.3

“3. On the contrary, we do believe that the Scriptures plainly reveal the office and work of the Holy Spirit; which office and work can never cease while man remains upon probation. BHP 172.4

“4. This work is revealed to us in the Bible doctrine of spiritual gifts. BHP 172.5

“5. While therefore we do heartily accept the Scriptures as teaching man’s whole duty toward God, we do not deny the Holy Spirit that place in the church which the Scriptures assign to it…. BHP 172.6

“8. The work of the Holy Spirit may be divided into two parts: First, that which is designed simply to convert and to sanctify the person affected by it. Second, that which is for the purpose of opening the truth of God, and of correcting error, and of reproving and rebuking secret sins. This part of the work is wrought by what the Scriptures term spiritual gifts…. BHP 172.7

“13. Now the Bible expressly teaches that the existence of these gifts is as necessary to the church of Christ, as the different members are necessary to the well-being of the body. While, therefore, the Bible recognizes the gifts of the Spirit, these are not given to supersede the Bible, nor yet to fill the same place as the Bible…. BHP 172.8

“16. … We hold that all the tests presented in the Bible should be applied to the gifts, and that they should be found to sustain the test of such examination…. BHP 173.1

“19. One of the chief gifts of the Spirit of God that he has placed in the New-Testament church is the gift of prophecy.” The Review and Herald, February 15, 1870, pp. 64, 65. BHP 173.2

In 1874 G.I. Butler wrote: BHP 173.3

“They [the visions] everywhere direct us to the Scriptures as the great source of true instruction, and to the example of Jesus Christ as the true pattern. They never claim to be given to take the place of the Bible, but simply to be a manifestation of one of those spiritual gifts set in the church by its divine Lord; and as such should have their proper weight.” The Review and Herald, June 9, 1874, p. 202. BHP 173.4

And again, in 1883, he said: BHP 173.5

“The majority of our people believe these visions to be a genuine manifestation of spiritual gifts, and as such to be entitled to respect. We do not hold them to be superior to the Bible, or in one sense equal to it. The Scriptures are our rule to test everything by, the visions as well as all other things. That rule, therefore, is of the highest authority; the standard is higher than the thing tested by it. If the Bible should show the visions were not in harmony with it, the Bible would stand, and the visions would be given up. This shows plainly that we hold the Bible the highest, our enemies to the contrary, notwithstanding.” The Review and Herald Supplement, Aug. 14, 1883, p. 12. BHP 173.6

By 1887, Uriah Smith spoke out with great positiveness on this subject. We do well to ponder his words and follow his reasoning: BHP 173.7

“As to the relation of the visions to the word of God, our position is, and ever has been, the same as set forth in the work ‘Objections to the Visions Answered,’ published in 1868. In that work (p. 127) we said: BHP 174.1

“Some one may say, Then you make the visions a second New Testament, a Mormon Bible in your system. We do not, as the following reason will show: We have ever held, as set forth in this work, that the word of God, the Bible, is the standard by which to test all these manifestations. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” All gifts of the Spirit in the church, must be thus tested. Now it is evident that that which tests occupies a higher position than that which is tested by it. This, in one word, expresses our view of the relative position which the Bible and the visions sustain to each other. But when a manifestation accords with the Word, and gives every evidence that it is a genuine manifestation of the Spirit of God, we submit it to the objector himself to say how far we may regard it lightly, or despise or transgress its teachings with impunity.” The Review and Herald, October 1887, p. 649. BHP 174.2

In March, 1888, G. I. Butler, still president of the General Conference, gave a series of talks to the students in Battle Creek College. As is our custom today in presenting the nature and work of the Spirit of prophecy in the remnant church, he gave an opportunity for questions. One of them had to do with the topic under consideration and expressed a denominational viewpoint in that year: BHP 174.3

“Question 14. I have heard individuals say that if they were obliged to give up the Bible or the testimonies, they would give up the Bible. Is it right to make such statements, especially before those who have no knowledge of the visions? BHP 175.1

“Answer. I should say it is very unwise and very wrong to make such a statement as that. I believe that the testimonies are from God, because they agree with the Bible—with the rule it gives by which to test such things. I believe them, perhaps, as strongly as any one; but I have never said and never expect to say that the testimonies are to be placed superior to the Bible, or even equal to the Bible…. But the thing which tests is superior to the thing tested. The Bible is the standard. And that which comes up to the standard we ought to accept. But to go so far as to say, ‘I would give up the Bible before the testimonies,’ is a very wrong statement to make. And if any one says the testimonies contradict the Bible, I should advise him to cling to the Bible; for the Bible should be the test by which everything is tried. BHP 175.2

“Our enemies make great cavil of this, just because of some such unguarded, foolish statements. Do not do it. Such persons are but little short of being fanatical.” Talks to the Students of the “Special Course” at Battle Creek College, White Publications Document File, 105ff. BHP 175.3

Seeing the Scriptures Through the Eye of the Spirit of Prophecy BHP 175.4

While Ellen G. White made it very clear that her writings were not in any way to supersede, surpass, or supplant the Holy Scriptures, yet she declared that they would help the diligent student of the Word to see more clearly and distinctly the great truths taught in that Word. They become a sort of magnifying glass, or microscope, to enable the searcher for truth to behold the wondrous beauties contained in the passage under observation. BHP 175.5

They become a kind of inspired commentary on the Scriptures. The Bible teachers in our day schools, the teachers in our Sabbath schools, and the ministers who use the writings of God’s messenger in connection with their sermons and lessons are soon identified as men who have something to say and who say it with power. Men who live with the Bible and who place the Testimonies alongside that Book as they search for truth are richly repaid with gems of thought, treasures out of the infinite mind of God brought to man by means of the prophets, ancient and modern. I commend this method of study and this use of the writings to my brethren everywhere. You will be richly rewarded for every hour thus spent in study with your God. BHP 176.1

The experience of Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, for many years a prominent WCTU worker, with the writings of Ellen G. White, illustrates the point under discussion. She accepted the Sabbath truth and other tenets of our faith before she became acquainted with and believed in the Testimonies. As she associated with our people in those critical days of readjustment in thinking and of coming to conclusions and decisions, she was somewhat perturbed by what she saw and what she heard. They did not always agree, and therefore caused her some concern until she saw the Testimonies as simply a lens or a telescope through which to look at the truth. BHP 176.2

The following are paragraphs from Mrs. S. M. I. Henry’s letter stating the relation she saw between the Bible and the Testimonies: BHP 177.1

“I supposed these Testimonies were considered as an appendix to the Bible, and of equal authority with it, that there were those among our people who even judged the Bible by these writings. When I came into the church, I stated to the brethren with whom I conversed that I knew nothing at all about this matter but that I was confident that God was leading me hither, and that he would not lead me into any organization where I would find an insuperable barrier to faith, and that if they were willing to accept me upon this condition, I was glad to come in…. BHP 177.2

“I had so much confidence in the intelligent understanding of my brethren who fully accepted the Testimonies, that I could not repudiate the claim that this is God’s way of teaching his people in these days. I had read a few paragraphs only from these writings, but to everything which I had read or heard I had found a chord in my heart ready to respond; nothing seemed strange or new; it was always like a stave or bar from some old song; a repetition or resetting of some truth which I had known and loved long before; hence I had found nothing which could lead to any controversy. But one question troubled me. Suppose I should find some point in these writings with which I could not agree, which would be of vital significance if it were competent to become the end of controversy, what would I do with it? I knew that so far as any light which I now had would serve me, it would be impossible to surrender my own judgment to this authority. The Bible had my unquestioning obedience; but while the Testimonies might be good, sound, helpful, they were not, I had been compelled to notice, of sufficient authority to command obedience and silence controversy in those who had professed to have been always led by them. BHP 177.3

“This fact caused a heavy and sad burden in my soul. I had supposed because of the solemnity of the truth as we believe it and the times in which we live, that the people who are known as Seventh-day Adventists must of necessity most earnestly believe and endeavor to practice all that they did accept as truth. But as I went out from the quiet seclusion of the Sanitarium, and mingled more with people abroad, I found this practical disbelief in the authority of the Testimonies among our own people, especially in the matter of health principles. It was natural that I should take especial note of this, because I had as a W.C.T.U. woman adopted and followed all the health principles which we had discovered; and as new light had come I promptly walked in it. But now I found in some Adventist homes a total disregard of these principles; and learned that there was controversy even among the brethren who were quoting and teaching from these writings. BHP 178.1

“In letters and conversation I was assured that these writings were no longer considered of authority by the church; that they were accepted theoretically, but only as obsolete doctrines were by other denominations; for instance, that they stood on the same relative footing with the teaching of eternal torment in other churches, acknowledged at best with a very pronounced mental reservation even by those who preach it. And so at last I came to even question the necessity of considering this matter any further for myself. I reasoned that I was in all essentials a Seventh-day Adventist. I did not like to seem to be standing for something which I did not believe, but, at present, saw no help for it. I realized the importance of care in anything which I should write or say to others, and was careful, for I could not but see how helpful, inspiring, and full of truth these writings are even if they should carry no special weight over and above those of any good man or woman who had light and experience in Christian doctrine…. BHP 178.2

“From my standpoint to see anything in the Bible was to believe it, to receive it,—it was the end of all controversy; and if Adventists believed the Testimonies to be invested with authority from the Spirit of God, how could there be all this controversy upon points concerning which they had so clearly spoken? BHP 179.1

“My attitude I see now must have been like that of an unbeliever in the Bible before a congregation of Christians, if he should see the same inconsistencies and declare it as he might have done in the same words; and the effect upon my brethren must have been to arouse them to the same earnest self-examination and consecration which any honest Christian would have made in such a crisis. I knew at once that the sympathies of my brethren were aroused for me, but felt that I was beyond any human help. If the Testimonies were the word of God for this time in which we live, if this was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, I wanted to know it, but only God could make me know it. The brethren did their best to help me, but all that was said seemed to only add to my perplexity, until at last, feeling that I could go no further in any direction until this question was disposed of, I determined to give myself to it at the sacrifice of any and all things. Brother Ballenger was arising again to give me something further in the hope that it might be light to me, but I asked him to wait while they should join with me in prayer that the Spirit of the Lord might come to my relief. BHP 179.2

“Accordingly, we all bowed in prayer, and I stated the case to God, with as deep a sense of need as I had ever known in my life. All the great and marvelous blessings of my life were for the time forgotten in this present need, and as must always be true, I was heard. The manifestation of the power of the Spirit of God was as clear as sunlight; and in that light I saw the Testimony as simply a lens through which to look at the Truth. It at once grew from a lens to a telescope, a perfect, beautiful telescope, directed toward the field of the heavens:—(that field the Bible); subject to all telescopic conditions and limitations. BHP 179.3

“Clouds may intervene between it and a heaven full of stars,—clouds of unbelief, of contention; Satan may blow tempests all about it; it may be blurred by the breath of our own selfishness; the dust of superstition may gather upon it; we may meddle with, and turn it aside from the field; it may be pointed away toward empty space; it may be turned end for end, so that everything is so diminished that we can recognize nothing. We may change the focus so that everything is distorted out of all harmonious proportions, and made hideous. It may be so shortened that nothing but a great piece of opaque glass shall appear to our gaze. If the lens is mistaken for the field we can receive but a very narrow conception of the most magnificent spectacle with which the heavens ever invited our gaze, but in its proper office as a medium of enlarged and clearer vision, as a telescope, the Testimony has a wonderfully beautiful and holy office. BHP 180.1

“Everything depends upon our relation to it and the use which we make of it. In itself it is only a glass through which to look, but in the hand of the Divine Director, properly mounted, set at the right angle and adjusted to the eye of the observer, with a field, clear of clouds, it will reveal truth such as will quicken the blood, gladden the heart, and open a wide door of expectation. It will reduce nebulae to constellations; faraway points of light to planets of the first magnitude; and to suns burning with glory. BHP 180.2

“The failure has been in understanding what the Testimonies are and how to use them. They are not the heavens, palpitating with countless orbs of truth, but they do lead the eye and give it power to penetrate into the glories of the mysterious living word of God. BHP 181.1

“This has been the most beautiful experience which has ever been granted me; it grows on me from day to day. I think I feel very much as Galileo must have felt when with his first telescope before him, he was bringing himself into position to look:—just to look, at last, beyond the stars which he had seen, into the vast, unexplored fields where worlds on worlds were keeping rhythmic step to the throbbing heart of the Infinite One whose steady strokes of power set the pace for every moving thing. The simple possession of it must have given a sense of might, even before one glimpse had been taken through it. He knew that revelations such as eye had never seen nor ear heard were waiting him as soon as he should humble himself to the instrument, acknowledge its right to control his vision, and fix his eye upon the point of observation. I have often tried to imagine how Galileo’s heart must have throbbed and his whole soul been filled, even before he obtained one glimpse;—and now I think I know.” The Gospel of Health, January 1898, pp. 25-28. BHP 181.2

Sister White herself said that Mrs. S. M. I. Henry had caught the relationship between the writings of the Spirit of prophecy and the Bible as clearly and as accurately as anyone could ever put it into words. I love those writings because they help me to understand the Book. As a Bible teacher I have never thought of going into a classroom to teach any portion of the Scriptures without first finding out what the Spirit of prophecy has to say about those passages. BHP 181.3

Many an assignment that I gave to my students was something like this: “For tomorrow let us find what the Scripture means through the eye of the Spirit of prophecy.” And when you approach the book of Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah, the book of Daniel, the book of Revelation, the Gospels, through the eye of the Spirit of prophecy, I want to tell you, dear friends, you will find a wealth of material in those writings that you cannot find in any other commentary, any other book, written by man. BHP 182.1

Such is my confidence in these writings. We call them the lesser light that helps us to understand the greater light. We call them the microscope that will help to magnify and make clear the details of the truths of the Word. There is in them a power for all who take them to heart, to live by their counsel, by their instruction, by their reproof. They will correct our ways of living, and make ready a people for God’s kingdom. Such is the relationship between the writings of the Spirit of prophecy and the Scriptures. BHP 182.2