Ellen G. White and Her Critics


The Historical Setting

In December, 1844, Mrs. White began to have visions. In 1845 Joseph Bates accepted the seventh-day Sabbath, though he did not become fully established on it until 1846. In the autumn of that year he brought this truth to Elder and Mrs. James White, who accepted it. Bates, who had been a sea captain, concluded that the day begins at 6 P.M. James White, who wrote an extended account of the matter in 1868, states: EGWC 351.2

“The six o’clock time was called in question by a portion of believers as early as 1847, some maintaining that the Sabbath commenced at sun-rise, while others claimed Bible evidence in favor of sunset.”—The Review and Herald, February 25, 1868, p. 168. EGWC 351.3

James White explains that Bates “was very decided upon the six o’clock time. His decided stand upon the question, and respect for his years, and his godly life, might have been among the reasons why this point was not sooner investigated as thoroughly as some other points.”—Ibid. EGWC 351.4

James White also explains Mrs. White’s connection with the matter in its earliest stages: EGWC 351.5

“Mrs. W. has in two visions been shown something in regard to the time of the commencement of the Sabbath. The first was as early as 1847, at Topsham, Me. In that vision she was shown that to commence the Sabbath at sunrise was wrong. She then heard an angel repeat these words, ‘From even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbaths.’ Bro. Bates was present, and succeeded in satisfying all present that ‘even’ was six o’clock. Mark this: The vision at Topsham did not teach the six o’clock time. It only corrected sunrise time.”—Ibid. EGWC 351.6

In 1855 James White wrote a short editorial for the Review and Herald, entitled, “Time of the Sabbath,” from which we quote: EGWC 351.7

“Equatorial time, or from six o’clock to six o’clock, has been observed by the body of Sabbath-keepers. The truth is, the subject has not been fully investigated till within a few months. We have never been fully satisfied with the testimony presented in favor of six o’clock. While the various communications received for a few years past, advocating both sun-rise and sunset time, have been almost destitute of argument, and the spirit of humility and candor. The subject has troubled us, yet we have never found time to thoroughly investigate it.... EGWC 351.8

“When in Maine last Summer we stated our feelings on the subject to Bro. [J. N.] Andrews, and our fears of division unless the question could be settled by good testimony. He decided to devote his time to the subject till he ascertained what the Bible taught in regard to it, and his article in this No. [of the Review and Herald] is the result of his investigations. Some have the impression that six o’clock time has been taught among us by the direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This is a mistake. ‘From even to even,’ was the teaching, from which six o’clock time has been inferred. We now rejoice that Bro. Andrews has presented the Bible testimony on this question, in his accustomed forcible, candid manner, which settles the question beyond all doubt that the Sabbath commences not only at even, but at the setting of the sun.”—December 4, p. 78. EGWC 352.1

On pages 76 to 78 of that issue is found Andrews’ article, entitled “Time for Commencing the Sabbath,” to which James White refers, and which cogently and Scripturally presents the case in behalf of sunset as the time for beginning the Sabbath. Andrews follows his article with a note “To The Brethren,” in which he says in part: EGWC 352.2

“The result of the investigation is the firm conviction that the commencement and close of each day is marked by the setting of the sun. It will be asked why this conclusion was not earlier arrived at? The answer is this: the subject has not been hitherto thoroughly investigated.” EGWC 352.3

The note is dated: “Battle Creek, Mich., Nov. 12th, 1855.” EGWC 352.4