Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)


Chapter 14—God Reproves His Messenger

Soon after the month-long trip to southern California Ellen White passed through one of the most difficult and excruciating experiences of her life. It involved the developing work in the South, which as has been noted was very close to her heart. It involved her own son, James Edson White. In this experience the Lord in vision severely reproved His messenger. 5BIO 187.1

Prophets of God were far from automatons. Through many visions their minds were enlightened, sometimes in direct instruction, sometimes through symbols and figures. They were often carried ahead into the future, shown what will take place, and given a line of instruction that would give direction for that situation when the time came. Again, based upon the wealth of the visions given over a period of many years, prophets were often called upon to speak, basing their messages on principles, giving approval to certain proposals and procedures, and pointing out the perils and hazards of other proposals and procedures. This was true with the prophets in Bible times, and it was true in Ellen White's experience. 5BIO 187.2

She exercised great care in refraining from expressing her own viewpoints in matters relating to the development of the cause of God and in spiritual lines. Often she remained silent when matters were brought before her concerning which she had no foundation in the visions to provide an adequate answer. In a later year when a theological question was placed before her, she remarked, “‘I have no light on the subject.... Please tell my brethren that I have nothing presented before me regarding the circumstances concerning which they write, and I can set before them only that which has been presented to me.”’ Quoted in a letter from C. C. Crisler to E. E. Andross, December 18, 1914. 5BIO 187.3

On the other hand, many times she was called upon to deal with matters so similar in nature to others that had been clearly revealed to her that she was able to speak promptly and with confidence. Thus at one time she wrote: “This matter has been brought before my mind in other cases.”—Letter 16, 1893Selected Messages 2:63, 64). 5BIO 188.1

And so with careful consideration Ellen White gave words of counsel based firmly on principles set forth in many visions given to her through her lifetime. And it must be noted that the Lord did not intend to give special light for every particular case or situation. This was made clear to her in 1868: 5BIO 188.2

Since the warning and instruction given in testimony for individual cases applied with equal force to many others who had not been specially pointed out in this manner, it seemed to be my duty to publish the personal testimonies for the benefit of the church. In Testimony 15, speaking of the necessity for doing this, I said: “I know of no better way to present my views of general dangers and errors, and the duty of all who love God and keep His commandments, than by giving these testimonies. Perhaps there is no more direct and forcible way of presenting what the Lord has shown me.”—Testimonies for the Church 5:658, 659. 5BIO 188.3

Or, stated succinctly: “In rebuking the wrongs of one, He designs to correct many.”—Ibid., 5:659. 5BIO 188.4

It was in keeping with this principle that when the prophet Nathan came before David, and David proposed the building of a house for God, Nathan responded immediately, giving indication that for David to build the Lord a house would be in harmony with God's will. Should not the Lord have a house built for Him? Would not David be the logical man to lead out in this enterprise? But there were factors that at the moment Nathan did not take into account. God called Nathan's attention to this through a vision. It became Nathan's difficult duty to return to David and tell him that the counsel he had given was not right. A house should be built for God, but it should be built by another, one whose hands were not stained by blood. 5BIO 188.5

Rather than undermining confidence in the messages of God's prophets, a knowledge of such experiences gives us confidence that God has His hand on His work. Should the prophet for some reason err in his mission, the Lord steps in and makes the record straight. What made the experience of Ellen White, in October, 1902, particularly difficult was, first, it involved the work of her son Edson in the Southern States; second, she ever endeavored to keep her own personality and her own wishes and feelings out of her work. That month she was to express: 5BIO 188.6

My personality is not my own, and I have no right to use it for selfish purposes. I can stand before the throne of God and be perfectly clear at this point, for I have never used my personality selfishly. My husband used to tell me that I was more in danger of going to the other extreme.—Manuscript 123, 1902. 5BIO 189.1