Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Chapter 26—Did Mrs. White Contradict Herself Regarding Sabbathkeeping?

Charge: “From the first Mrs. White taught that the Pope changed the Sabbath, that Sundaykeeping is ‘the mark of the beast,’ and that before the end Seventh-day Adventists were to suffer great persecution because they would not cease working on Sunday. A decree was finally to go forth to slay them and rid the earth of them (Early Writings, 29, 47, 55 [first pagination], 143, 145 [third pagination], ed. 1882 *).” EGWC 356.1

Adventists here and there were put in jail for violating Sunday laws. When she was asked what should be done, in a particular instance where Adventists were threatened with imprisonment in Australia, “here are her instructions in ‘Testimonies for the Church,’ Vol. IX, No. 37, published in 1909. It is a square backdown from all she had published before. It avoids all possibility of persecution for Sunday work. She says: ‘The light given me by the Lord at a time when we were expecting just such a crisis as you seem to be approaching was that when the people were moved by a power from beneath to enforce Sunday observance, Seventh-day Adventists were to show their wisdom by refraining from their ordinary work on that day, devoting it to missionary effort’ (p. 232). ‘Give them no occasion to call you lawbreakers.’ ‘It will be very easy to avoid that difficulty. Give Sunday to the Lord as the day for doing missionary work.’” EGWC 356.2

The first question to be answered is this: What did Mrs. White really teach in the passages cited from Early Writings? We shall list them in order: EGWC 356.3

1. On page 29 (first pagination) Mrs. White speaks of a decree that is to go forth finally to “slay the saints.” This will cause them to cry to God day and night. This is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but they will be delivered out of it. Then she sees a company who are “weighed in the balance, and found wanting.” The angel explains: “These are they who have once kept the Sabbath and have given it up.” She describes them also as having “trodden the Sabbath under foot.” There is no reference to Sunday. (See current edition, pp. 36, 37.) EGWC 356.4

2. On page 47 there is no reference, either to the Sabbath or to Sunday, but only a general discussion under the title: “Duty in View of the Time of Trouble.” (See current edition, p. 56.) EGWC 357.1

3. On pages 55 and 56 she declares that the pope “changed the day of rest from the seventh to the first day.” She says nothing about any law to compel Sabbathkeepers to “cease working on Sunday.” But she does say: “When the plagues begin to fall, those who continue to break the holy Sabbath will not open their mouths to plead those excuses that they now make to get rid of keeping it.” (See current edition, p. 65.) EGWC 357.2

4. On page 143 (third pagination) she describes the threat of death against the “saints” in the last days “unless the saints should yield their peculiar faith, give up the Sabbath and observe the first day of the week.” (See current edition, pp. 282, 283.) EGWC 357.3

5. On pages 145 and 146 she speaks of those who had died in faith “keeping the Sabbath,” and of a blessing “pronounced on those who had honored God, in keeping his Sabbath holy.” There is no reference to Sunday. (See current edition, pp. 285, 286.) EGWC 357.4

We thus have before us all the references cited in support of the major premise that “Mrs. White taught ... that before the end Seventh-day Adventists were to suffer great persecution because they would not cease working on Sunday.” EGWC 357.5

Before we comment on these five references let us quote a little further from Mrs. White: EGWC 357.6

“I saw that God will in a wonderful manner preserve his people through the time of trouble. As Jesus poured out his soul in agony in the garden, they will earnestly cry and agonize day and night for deliverance. The decree will go forth that they must disregard the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and honor the first day, or lose their lives; but they will not yield, and trample under their feet the Sabbath of the Lord, and honor an institution of papacy.”—Testimonies for the Church 1:353, 354. EGWC 357.7

“Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be denounced as enemies of law and order, as breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing anarchy and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God upon the earth.... EGWC 357.8

“As the Protestant churches reject the clear, scriptural arguments in defense of God’s law, they will long to silence those whose faith they cannot overthrow by the Bible. Though they blind their own eyes to the fact, they are now adopting a course which will lead to the persecution of those who conscientiously refuse to do what the rest of the Christian world are doing, and acknowledge the claims of the papal sabbath.”—The Great Controversy, 592. EGWC 358.1

“The time is coming when God’s people will feel the hand of persecution because they keep holy the seventh day. Satan has caused the change of the Sabbath in the hope of carrying out his purpose for the defeat of God’s plans. He seeks to make the commands of God of less force in the world than human laws. The man of sin, who thought to change times and laws, and who has always oppressed the people of God, will cause laws to be made enforcing the observance of the first day of the week. But God’s people are to stand firm for Him.”—Testimonies for the Church 9:229, 230. EGWC 358.2