Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)



The Weight of Evidence

By Uriah Smith

Considerable handle, I understand, is being made in some directions—of the fact that the editor of the Review has been troubled over the question of the visions, has been unsound on that question, and at one time came very near giving them up. It strikes me that this is quite a small amount of capital to work up much of a trade on—“came very near giving them up”—but didn't! I also, at one time, came very near getting run over by the cars, and rolled into jelly; but I didn't, and so continue to this day. Some have met just such a catastrophe. The difference between them and myself is that they did, and I didn't. Some have given up the visions. The difference between them and myself is the same—they did, and I didn't. 3BIO 493.1

Just how near I ever did come to giving them up, I am willing anyone should know who wishes to know, if it can be determined. Perhaps I have not come so near as some suppose; perhaps not so near as I have supposed myself. That I have had, in my experience, occasional periods of trial, I do not deny. There have been times when circumstances seemed very perplexing; when the way to harmonize apparently conflicting views did not at once appear. And under what have seemed, for the time, strong provocations to withdraw from the work, I have canvassed the question how far this could reasonably be done, or how much of this work could consistently be surrendered. I have pondered the questions whether this point was not inconsistent, or that absurd, or the other out of harmony with reason and revelation; and whether this feature ought not to be readjusted, or the other set aside entirely. All this ground I have gone over as thoroughly as anyone of no more ability than myself could go, and as candidly as anyone in as much darkness as I was in would be likely to maintain. But the weight of evidence has never in my mind balanced on the side of surrender. 3BIO 493.2

This I can say, that never, since I became fully acquainted with that system which we denominate “the present truth,” so as to comprehend it in its sublime proportions, its divine harmony, and its inseparable connections, have I had the least shadow of misgiving as to its truthfulness in its fundamental principles, and its stability and final triumph, as the work of God. It is evident, also, that this work before its close must present the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, and some prophecies of the book of revelation. And to whatever degree I may have persuaded myself that this cause might have been so far developed without this feature which we call the gift of prophecy, it was only to look for something of the kind to appear in the future; for without this, it would lack one of the tests of being the work of the last generation. 3BIO 494.1

This was not the phase of the question, however, with which we had to deal. For here was a manifestation which had been interwoven with this cause from its very commencement; and the idea of separating this feature from it now, in the present stage of the work, is very different from the question of how things might have been if no such feature had yet been connected with it. A little reflection is sufficient to show that the message, and this which purports to be one of the gifts of the spirit which has accompanied it, cannot be separated. 3BIO 494.2

Well, then, says one, the absurdity of this part of the work is sufficient to overthrow the other. To which I reply, no; for the strength of the other part is sufficient to hold a person from giving up this. And this has been the position I have occupied. And so whatever doubts and perplexities I have had, I have in reality come just as near giving up the visions as I have of surrendering other parts of the message from which this could not be separated, and respecting which I have never had a misgiving. 3BIO 494.3

It has never seemed to me the part of wisdom to fix the mind upon any one point to the exclusion of all the rest, and let a difficulty there distract the view from everything else, and override every other consideration, and then because everything was not clear right at that point, to make an impulsive and rash plunge which would lead to the surrender of other points which one did not anticipate, and which he did not desire to surrender. It has seemed to me the better way to consider the question in all its bearings, note the effects which would be produced, take in the consequences, and not make a move till one was prepared to accept the results which it was foreseen would probably or inevitably follow. Upon this principle I have tried to act. And I have never seen the time when I was willing to accept the results of a denial of the position and calling of sister White in connection with this cause, and hence have never seen the time when I have said by word of mouth, or come to a decision in my own heart, that her visions were not the operation of the spirit of God. 3BIO 494.4

Of admonitions and reproofs I have needed my full share; and whenever anything of this nature has come which I could not understand, or circumstances have arisen which seemed inexplicable, I have been content to wait, knowing that the foundation of God standeth sure, to see what solution of the difficulties a little time would accomplish. The beautiful sentiment of the hymn has often come to my mind both as a caution and a prophecy: 3BIO 495.1

“Soon shall our doubts and fears
All yield to thy control;
Thy tender mercies shall illume
The midnight of the soul.”
3BIO 495.2

A general in battle does not despair of his army while the center stands firm. The wings may waver; there may be some confusion on the outskirts; but while the center holds, the battle is not lost. So with the present truth; so long as the main pillars remain unshaken, it is folly to leave the building as if it was about to fall. 3BIO 495.3

Some of our brethren, I understand, who do not endorse the visions, knowing that I have questioned the arguments based on some scriptures in their behalf (only one or two, however), have thought me hypocritical because I did not come out and controvert in the Review what I considered the wrong application. The answer, in general, will be found in the principles stated above. I wish to see how a question is to be settled as a whole, before entering upon an aimless agitation of any of its parts, or an effort to sow doubt or distrust thereon. If the time should ever come when I could not sincerely and joyfully entertain and seek to maintain the views of this people, and I should chance then to have a position upon the paper, their proper representatives would be notified at once to seek someone to manage their organ who could do so in harmony with their views. And if anyone supposes that I would, under these circumstances, take advantage of my position to publish views contrary to the established faith of the body, or calculated to throw doubt or confusion upon any of their cherished points of faith, they greatly mistake my estimate of what would be honest or honorable. Whatever I should have to say in that direction would be said only by the permission of those authorized to grant it, or through some channel provided for the purpose. 3BIO 495.4

Relative to my present position, I can say that everything seems clear and satisfactory to my own mind. I do not know that I could make it appear so to others, though I should be willing to try under proper circumstances; but my convictions, so far as my own case is concerned, are of course sufficient. I do not anticipate any severer tests in time to come than have already been met and surmounted. Hence I consider myself now more firmly established than ever before in reference to every feature of this work. I do not, of course, presume to say what further experiences and discipline may be necessary to test the sincerity of my profession and the strength of my devotion to what I believe to be the cause of God. But my steps are onward with a firm trust for grace sufficient for my day, and for a way of escape on the right side of the slough of despond, out of every supposable period of temptation and trial. 3BIO 496.1

The reader will pardon this lengthy, and to me distasteful, allusion to my own personal matters. I have made it for reasons stated at the beginning.—“Personal,” Ibid., December, 1887. 3BIO 496.2