Messenger of the Lord


Section II—The Real Ellen White

Chapter 4—The Person and Her Times

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7, RSV). MOL 44.1

How can a person get to know the real Abraham Lincoln or Florence Nightingale or Booker T. Washington? In part, by reading their writings. But to get objectivity one should listen to what others say about them. One must turn to their contemporaries and note how they were affected or influenced by these exceptional people. MOL 44.2

When Lincoln died, note the mourning of a nation. As his funeral train slowly wound itself west to his resting place in Springfield, Illinois, thousands of mourners lined the track, tears flowing freely. Rich and poor, black and white, educated and unschooled—the grief throbbed across a union of States now nearly at peace. After his death, even his enemies applauded his greatness of spirit and transparent unselfishness. 1 For the millions who called him “Father Abraham,” his premature death was as if a parent had died. When the United States built its first transcontinental highway from Jersey City, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California, President Taft felt that naming the new road the “Lincoln Highway” would further national unity. 2 MOL 44.3

However, when President Lincoln was alive, he was the target of immense ridicule and scathing rejection by many national leaders, their followers, and by the public press. But after he died, a stunned nation began to appreciate what he stood for. A sad but grateful nation soon treasured his profound speeches and writings, such as the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. The enormous contribution of Abraham Lincoln could be seen in true perspective only with the passing of time and after calm reflection. MOL 44.4

Looking forward to Ellen White’s visit to Australia in 1891, G. C. Tenney, first president of the Australian Conference, wrote in the church paper: “I need hardly say that this event is anticipated by us all with great interest. I believe it is most opportune. The position that Sister White and her work occupy in connection with our cause renders it imperative that our people should become personally acquainted with her, so far as possible. MOL 44.5

“The evidences, from a Bible standpoint, of the authenticity of the work of the Spirit of Prophecy in connection with the last church are all-sufficient, but a closer acquaintance with the work of Sister White seems to be demanded, in order to satisfy the honest inquirer that it fills the requirements of God’s Word.” 3 MOL 44.6

Like Lincoln, Ellen White was often maligned. She faced lies of “sheer malice and enmity” and “pure fabrications of iniquity.” Writing from Greenville, Michigan, when she was 41, she contemplated: “I do not doubt for a moment but the Lord had sent me that the honest souls who had been deceived might have an opportunity to see and hear for themselves what manner of spirit the woman possessed who had been presented to the public in such a false light in order to make the truth of God of none effect....” 4 MOL 44.7

Later in that letter she wrote: “None are compelled to believe. God gives sufficient evidence that all may decide upon the weight of evidence, but He never has nor never will remove all chance [opportunity] for doubt, never will force faith.” MOL 45.1

Quoting an old woodsmen’s proverb, Carl Sandburg entitled the next-to-the-last chapter in his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, “A tree is best measured when it’s down.” 5 While alive, no man or woman can be fully measured. Never was this more true than with the life of Christ. Only with the passing of time can anyone’s life be properly evaluated. The gushing praise of flatterers and the derisive contempt of adversaries alike are best gauged and reappraised against the lasting results of a person’s words and deeds. MOL 45.2

To a large extent, we are all children of our time. On November 26, 1827, Ellen Harmon was born into a world of enormous ferment and rapid change. To help us understand the subjects she talked or wrote about, even the phrases she used, as well as the kind of daily life she lived, we shall briefly note geographical, political, economic, social, and religious factors that may have influenced her maturing ministry. MOL 45.3