Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

The 1851 Time Setting

In 1850 Joseph Bates, entirely on his own initiative, published a pamphlet on the sanctuary, in which he sparked a time-setting rash. A statement on pages 10 and 11 read: 1BIO 207.6

The seven spots of blood on the golden altar and before the mercy seat I fully believe represent the duration of the judicial proceedings on the living saints in the Most Holy, all of which time they will be in their affliction, even seven years. God by His voice will deliver them, “for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). 1BIO 207.7

Then the number seven will finish the day of atonement (not redemption). Six last months of this time, I understand, Jesus will be gathering in the harvest with His sickle, on the white cloud.—“An Explanation of the Typical and Antitypical Sanctuary by the Scriptures With a Chart,” pp. 10, 11. 1BIO 208.1

This view was accepted by a few, mostly in New Hampshire and Vermont, but it was not taken up or advocated by the workers generally. Nevertheless, such teaching was a threat that could lead to confusion and disappointment. But at the conference at Camden, on Sabbath, June 21, Ellen White was given a vision on the point. The message of the vision was sent out in letters and then published a month later on the last page of a special number of the Review dated July 21 and hurried into the field: 1BIO 208.2

Dear Brethren,

The Lord has shown me that the message of the third angel must go, and be proclaimed to the scattered children of the Lord, and that it should not be hung on time; for time never will be a test again. I saw that some were getting a false excitement arising from preaching time; that the third angel's message was stronger than time can be. I saw that this message can stand on its own foundation, and that it needs not time to strengthen it, and that it will go in mighty power, and do its work, and will be cut short in righteousness. 1BIO 208.3

I saw that some were making everything bend to the time of this next fall—that is, making their calculations in reference to that time. I saw that this was wrong, for this reason: Instead of going to God daily to know their Present duty, they look ahead, and make their calculations as though they knew the work would end this fall, without inquiring their duty of God daily. 1BIO 208.4

In hope,

E. G. White.

In The Review and Herald, August 19, 1851, James White, with the message of the vision of June 21 ringing in his ears, published a well-reasoned article entitled “Our Present Work,” in which he dealt firmly with the time-setting issue: 1BIO 208.5

It is well known that some of the brethren have been teaching that the great work of salvation for the remnant, through the intercession of our great High Priest, would close in seven years from the termination of the 2300 days, in the autumn of 1844. Some who have thus taught we esteem very highly, and love “fervently” as brethren, and we feel that it becomes us to be slow to say anything to hurt their feelings; yet we cannot refrain from giving some reasons why we do not receive the time.—Ibid., August 19, 1851 1BIO 208.6

Six numbered reasons were given in detail. We present excerpts: 1BIO 209.1

1. The proof presented has not been sufficient.... The whole matter seems to us to rest on inference.... We confess that we have not been able to see it....

2. The message of the third angel does not hang on time. Time is not in the least connected with it.... 1BIO 209.2

3. We are now emphatically in the waiting time.... Give us time again, and we cease to be in a waiting position.... 1BIO 209.3

4. Our present position relative to the truths connected with the third message is based on positive testimony, and is stronger than time can be, or ever has been.... Connect time based on inference with the message, and our position is weakened. 1BIO 209.4

5. If it is the purpose of God that time should be embraced, we think the brethren generally would be called up to it.... It has not been received only where those who teach it have traveled, and presented it as a subject of importance.... 1BIO 209.5

6. To embrace and proclaim a time that will pass by would have a withering influence upon the faith of those who would embrace and teach it.—Ibid. 1BIO 209.6

Then White wrote in general terms: 1BIO 209.7

It has been our humble view for the past year that the proclamation of the time was no part of our present work. We do not see time in the present message; we see no necessity for it, and we do not see the hand of the Lord in it. And we have felt it to be our duty to let the brethren know that we have no part in the present movement on time, and that we believe that our present work and present duty is to strive to be united in presenting those important truths embraced in the third angel's cry.—Ibid.