The Position of “The Bible, and the Bible Only” and the Relationship of This to the Writings of Ellen White
An Examination of the Primary E.G. White Statements in Their Setting
With this background we may well come to a careful study of the primary E. G. White statements known to the writer in which the phrase “the Bible and the Bible alone” or some variation of this is used. We will present the statements in their chronological order. In each case the context should be observed. PBORWEW 12.1
1. (1851) In the Setting: of the Presentation of the Visions: PBORWEW 12.2
“I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the ‘last days’; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth. Thus God dealt with Peter when He was about to send him to preach to the Gentiles.”—Early Writings, 78.
2. (1885) In the Setting of Man’s Views and Ideas: PBORWEW 12.3
“When God’s Word is studied, comprehended, and obeyed, a bright light will be reflected to the world; new truths, received and acted upon, will bind us in strong bonds to Jesus.
“The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be our creed, the sole bond of union; all who bow to this Holy Word will be in harmony.
“Our own views and ideas must not control our efforts. Man is fallible, but God’s Word in infallible. Instead of wrangling with one another, let men exalt the Lord. Let us meet all opposition as did our Master, saying, ‘It is written.’ Let us lift up the banner on which is inscribed, The Bible our rule of faith and discipline.” The Review and Herald, December 15, 1885 (Selected Messages 1:416.)
3. (1888) In the Setting of Tradition: PBORWEW 13.1
“The Roman Church has not relinquished her claim to supremacy; and when the world and the Protestant churches accept a sabbath of her creating, while they reject the Bible Sabbath, they virtually admit this assumption.
“They may claim the authority of tradition and of the Fathers for the change; but in so doing they ignore the very principle which separates them from Rome—that ‘the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants.’”—The Great Controversy, 448.
4. (1888) In the Setting; of Contrasting: Creeds or Opinions of Learned Men: PBORWEW 13.2
“The multitudes do not want Bible truth, because it interferes with the desire of the sinful, world-loving heart; and Satan supplies the deceptions which they love.
“But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain Thus saith the Lord in its support.”—The Great Controversy, 595.
5. (1888) In the Setting of Sabbath-breaking Theology PBORWEW 14.1
“The test of a genuine Christian is given in the word of God. Says Jesus, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’... Here are the conditions upon which every soul will be elected to eternal life. Your obedience to God’s commandments will prove your right to an inheritance with the saints in light...
“Search the Scriptures, and you will see that not a son or a daughter of Adam is elected to be saved in disobedience to God’s law. The world makes void the law of God; but Christians are chosen to sanctification through obedience to the truth...
“The Bible is the only rule of faith and doctrine. And there is nothing more calculated to energize the mind, and strengthen the intellect, than the study of the word of God... Thousands of men who minister in the pulpit are lacking in essential qualities of mind and character, because they do not apply themselves to a study of the Scriptures.”—The Review and Herald, July 17, 1888, (Fundamentals of Christian Education, 126) (Note: This clearly refers to the churches generally for our total laboring force in 1888 was 232.)
6. (1889) In the Setting of the Saying and Doings of Men: PBORWEW 14.2
“Our Sabbath-schools are nothing less than Bible societies, and in the sacred work of teaching the truths of God’s word they can accomplish far more than they have hitherto accomplished...
“Do not make the Sabbath-school lessons dry and spiritless. Leave the impression upon the mind that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is our rule of faith, and that the sayings and doings of men are not to be a criterion for our doctrines or actions.”—Sabbath School Worker, January 1889, pp. 1, 2. (In Counsels on Sabbath School Work, 84)
7. (1891) In the Setting of Human Wisdom: PBORWEW 15.1
“The Word of God must be studied as never before; for it is the precious offering that we must present to men, in order that they may learn the way of peace, and obtain that life which measures with the life of God.
“Human wisdom so highly exalted among men sinks into insignificance before that wisdom which points out the way cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. The Bible alone affords the means of distinguishing the path of life from the broad road that leads to perdition and death.”—The Review and Herald, December 15, 1891. (Fundamentals of Christian Education, 200).
8. (1894) In Setting of the Experience of Anna Phillips: PBORWEW 15.2
“I know that we are living very near the close of this earth’s history; startling events are preparing for development.
“I am fully in harmony with you [A.T. Jones] in your work when you present the Bible, and the Bible alone, as the foundation of our faith.
“Satan is an artful foe, and he will work where he is by many least expected. I have a message for you. Did you suppose that God had commissioned you to take the burden of presenting the visions of Anna Phillips, reading them in public, and uniting them with the testimonies the Lord has been pleased to give me? No, the Lord has not laid upon you this burden. He has not given you this work to do.”—Letter 103, 1894. (Selected Messages 2:85)
9. (1903) In the Setting of Separation from the Churches: PBORWEW 15.3
“We must study to find out the best way in which to take up the review of our experiences from the beginning of our work, when we separated from the churches, and went forward step by step in the light that God gave us.
“We then took the position that the Bible, and the Bible only, was to be our guide; and we are never to depart from this position. We were given wonderful manifestations of the power of God. Miracles were wrought. Again and again, when we were brought into strait places, the power of God was displayed in our behalf.”—Letter 105, 1903 (In Counsels to Writers and Editors, 145.)
10. (1903) In the Setting: of an Understanding of Coming Events: PBORWEW 16.1
“Angels are now restraining the winds of strife, that they may not blow until the world shall be warned of its coming doom; but a storm is gathering, ready to burst upon the earth; and when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture.
“The Bible, and the Bible only, gives a correct view of these things. Here are revealed the great final scenes in the history of our world, events that already are casting their shadows before.”—Education, 179-80. (Note: How about Great Controversy with its forecasts. She saw it as complementary to the Bible.)
11. (Cir. 1914) In the Setting of the Inquiry of All People as to the Significance of World Developments: PBORWEW 16.2
“The present is a time of overwhelming interest to all living. Rulers and statesmen, men who occupy positions of trust and authority, thinking men and women of all classes, have their attention fixed upon events taking place about us. They are watching the relations that exist among the nations. They observe the intensity that is taking possession of every earthly element, and they recognize that something great and decisive is about to take place—that the world is on the verge of a stupendous crisis.
“The Bible, and the Bible only, gives a correct view of these things. Here are revealed the great final scenes in the history of our world, events that already are casting their shadows before.”—Prophets and Kings, 537.
12. (Cir. 1914) In the Setting of a Religion of Words Forms Traditions Maxims PBORWEW 17.1
“The widespread iniquity prevalent today may in a great degree be attributed to a failure to study and obey the Scriptures, for when the word of God is set aside, its power to restrain the evil passions of the natural heart is rejected... With the setting aside of the Bible has come a turning away from God’s law. The doctrine that men are released from obedience to the divine precepts, has weakened the force of moral obligation and opened the floodgates of iniquity upon the world...
“Man has set his will against the will of God, but he cannot silence the word of command. The human mind cannot evade its obligation to a higher power. Theories and speculations may abound; men may try to set science in opposition to revelation, and thus do away with God’s law; but stronger and still stronger comes the command; “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve...”
“Between the laws of men and the precepts of Jehovah will come the last great conflict of the controversy between truth and error. Upon this battle we are now entering—a battle not between rival churches contending for the supremacy, but between the religion of the Bible and the religions of fable and tradition... God’s holy word, which has been handed down to us at so great a cost of suffering and bloodshed, is little valued. There are few who really accept it as a rule of life...
“The tremendous issues of eternity demand of us something besides an imaginary religion, a religion of words and forms, where truth is kept in the outer court. God calls for a revival and a reformation. The words of the Bible, and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit...
“Let the word of God speak to the heart. Let those who have heard only of tradition and human theories and maxims, hear the voice of Him who can renew the soul unto eternal life.”—Prophets and Kings, 624-6.
13. “The Bible Only” Position Did not Rule Out Ellen White in Shedding Light on Early World History PBORWEW 18.1
It may be of interest to put two statements together which have to do with early history of the world. In Testimonies for the Church 5:25, is found a statement written in 1882: PBORWEW 18.2
“The Bible is the most comprehensive and the most instructive history which men possess... Its bright rays shine into the far distant past, where human research seeks vainly to penetrate.
“In God’s word alone we find an authentic account of creation... Here only can we find a history of our race, unsullied by human prejudice or human pride.”
Yet earlier she had in 1864 published Spiritual Gifts, Volume 3, presenting in considerable detail the story of creation and early world history. In this she presents many details not found in the Bible. She claimed that God had through her shed light on the history of holy men of old. Here are her words as found in the introduction of the 1864 book: PBORWEW 18.3
“In presenting this, my third little volume, to the public, I am comforted with the conviction that the Lord has made me his humble instrument in shedding some rays of precious light upon the past. Sacred History relating to holy men of old is brief...
“Since the great facts of faith, connected with the history of holy men of old, have been opened to me in vision; also, the important fact that God has nowhere lightly regarded the sin of the apostate, I have been more than ever convinced that ignorance as to these facts, and the wily advantage taken of this ignorance by some who know better, are the grand bulwarks of infidelity. If what I have written upon these points shall help any mind, let God be praised.” Spiritual Gifts 3:5, 6.
In Appendix C we present a few statements, less significant, but of interest. PBORWEW 19.1