Ellen G. White and Her Critics


The Crux of the Matter

Now comes the question, which is the crux of the matter, so far as the charge against Mrs. White is concerned: Why did not she reveal this truth about sunset time for Sabbath when she first began to have visions on the importance of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath? The question was anticipated and answered long before the critic framed it. Listen, as James White concludes his narrative in the Review and Herald in 1868: EGWC 353.5

“But the question naturally arises, If the visions are given to correct the erring, why did she not sooner see the error of the six o’clock time? For one I have ever been thankful that God corrected the error in his own good time, and did not suffer an unhappy division to exist among us upon the point. But, dear reader, the work of the Lord upon this point is in perfect harmony with his manifestations to us on others, and in harmony with the correct position upon spiritual gifts. It does not appear to be the desire of the Lord to teach his people by the gifts of the Spirit on the Bible questions until his servants have diligently searched his word. When this was done upon the subject of time to commence the Sabbath, and most were established, and some were in danger of being out of harmony with the body on this subject, then, yes, then, was the very time for God to magnify his goodness in the manifestation of the gift of his Spirit in the accomplishment of its proper work. The sacred Scriptures are given us as the rule of faith and duty, and we are commanded to search them. If we fail to understand and fully obey the truths in consequence of not searching the Scriptures as we should, or a want of consecration and spiritual discernment, and God in mercy in his own time corrects us by some manifestation of the gifts of his Holy Spirit, instead of murmuring that he did not do it before, let us humbly acknowledge his mercy, and praise him for his infinite goodness in condescending to correct us at all. Let the gifts have their proper place in the church. God has never set them in the very front, and commanded us to look to them to lead us in the path of truth, and the way to Heaven. His word he has magnified. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are man’s lamp to light up his path to the kingdom. Follow that. But if you err from Bible truth, and are in danger of being lost, it may be that God will in the time of his choice correct you, and bring you back to the Bible, and save you. And would it become you in such a case to murmur and say, ‘Lord, why didst thou not do this before?’ Take care! ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Our necessity is his opportunity to teach us by the gifts of his Holy Spirit.”—February 25, p. 168. EGWC 354.1

In the light of this historical record and James White’s answer to the question of why Mrs. White did not have her vision earlier, we believe the charge quite largely disappears. EGWC 354.2

The contention that Mrs. White was beholden to Joseph Bates is an unfounded assumption that we have already dealt with in the chapter entitled “Time Setting—The Seven-Year Theory.” EGWC 354.3

That Mrs. White should have a vision that went counter to Bates’s view on the six o’clock beginning of Sabbath, the critic explains thus: “When Andrews had the lead, then she changed her views and saw just what he and the conference taught.” What the critic fails to state is that Andrews was not present and that Bates was chairman of the conference that heard and accepted Andrews’ view! If we would speak of anyone as in the lead at the conference, it would be the chairman. There is no historical support for the statement that Andrews was “in the lead” in 1855. Incidentally, he was then twenty-six years old. The best evidence supports the view that Bates was unquestionably “in the lead” in those days. EGWC 354.4

The chairman was not convinced by the paper read. He was convinced a few days later by Mrs. White’s vision. Not Bates’s guiding Mrs. White’s thinking on the matter, but Mrs. White’s guiding his, that is the only conclusion warranted by the evidence. EGWC 355.1

The critic notes the angel’s words, as quoted by Mrs. White: “Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet.” He asserts that the promised explanation has never been given. Hence he volunteers to do so. And he justifies his bold volunteering on the ground that “sixty years” had passed by and no explanation had yet been given. EGWC 355.2

In doing this, he overlooked two points: (1) The angel did not say that he would explain the matter later, but simply that they, the Sabbathkeeping Adventist group, would understand later. (2) James White, in his statement which discusses the question of why the sunset time had not been revealed to Mrs. White at the outset, shows clearly that he and those who accepted his view of the matter had acquired a clear understanding of it at least as early as 1868. EGWC 355.3

A true understanding of the function of the gift of prophecy in the Advent movement came slowly. It certainly had not fully come in 1847, when she had her first vision on the matter of the time for beginning the Sabbath, nor in 1855, when she had her vision in Battle Creek confirming the sunset time. But certainly a sufficient understanding had come by 1868 to provide a fulfillment of the angel’s words to Mrs. White. The critic’s explanation is very belated. EGWC 355.4