Ellen G. White and Her Critics



Appendix A

Brief History of Elder Canright’s Connection With This People

[Under the above title George I. Butler discusses at some length Canright’s life among Seventh-day Adventists. The article appears in an Extra of the The Review and Herald, December, 1887, which carries the streamer head: “Reply to Eld. Canright’s Attacks on S. D. Adventists.” We quote a portion of Butler’s article which appears on pages 2 and 3.] EGWC 537.1

Some twenty-eight years ago, D. M. Canright embraced the views of S. D. Adventists. For several years he labored to acquire some necessary education, and soon after commenced to preach their doctrines. He was blessed with a good degree of earnestness, with fair ability, and with ambition to succeed, and he had excellent success in his labors, and was considered for many years a growing man in the denomination. He had a strong taste for debates and controversy, and applied himself especially to them, and had good success in them. These qualities always attract attention, and they gave him quite a prominence. For a dozen years his labors were valuable to this cause, and he traveled extensively in different States and Conferences. He then had quite fully the confidence of our people. But from that point their confidence began to lessen, and it has continued to decrease ever since. We will briefly relate the causes. Eld. Canright’s good opinion of his own abilities had, during the meantime, become quite pronounced. He was never noted for patience, forbearance, or special regard of the opinions of others. He was a person who formed his conclusions remarkably quick, and was inclined to be rash; and though in the main a genial, pleasant, frank companion, yet his desire to have his own way sometimes got him into trouble. He never could bear reproof with patience, or feel composed when his way was crossed. When he came to mingle in important matters with brethren in prominent positions, these and other traits naturally got him into trouble. S. D. Adventists believe in order, and that positions of responsibility should be respected. Eld. C. had little respect for any one’s opinion unless it coincided with his own. The reader can readily see that very naturally there would be friction. He always hated reproof, hence bore it like a fractious child. So he had some unpleasant experiences, as we well remember. EGWC 537.2

On such occasions the Elder was immediately greatly troubled with doubts. When everything went pleasantly, he could usually see things with clearness. When he was “abused,“ as he always thought he was when things did not go to suit him, the evidences of our faith began immediately to grow dim. Dark clouds of unbelief floated over his mental sky, and he felt that everything was going by the board. Here was the Elder’s special weakness. He is a strong man in certain directions when all goes smoothly, but very weak in adversity. He failed to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” He was good in a fight, and appeared at best advantage when in a hot debate. This was his forte. But when things apparently were against him, he seemed to have no staying, recuperative qualities. EGWC 538.1

These weaknesses began to manifest themselves as far back as 1870. In the last of December of that year he held a debate with Eld. Johnson, Presbyterian, in Monroe, Iowa. The writer was present. Eld. C. was not feeling in good spirits through the debate, though he presented his arguments quite clearly and met with success. The night following the debate I occupied a room with him. I was greatly astonished to find him under powerful temptations to give up religion and the Bible, and become an absolute infidel. I labored with him all night long; neither of us slept a wink. In the morning he seemed more calm, and a few weeks later he came to the General Conference at Battle Creek, Mich., made some confessions of his feelings, and went away in a much happier state of mind. He went on quite zealously for two or three years. In the summer of 1873, he went to Colorado with Eld. and Mrs. White, for his health. Some unpleasant circumstances arose. He received some reproof, felt very much aggrieved, and for several months ceased to preach. He went to California, and for a season he worked with his hands on a farm. He came very near giving up everything. But his brethren tried to help his mind and cheer him up all they could, till finally he commenced to preach again. He labored on for several years, held several important positions of trust in the work, and we all hoped he would show his weakness no more. EGWC 538.2

But in October of 1880, he had another backset. He became discouraged—we never knew from what special cause—and ceased to preach. He had been studying elocution, and when he gave up preaching he began to lecture on elocution, and traveled considerably in Wisconsin and Michigan, holding classes. He told me himself that for a time he then ceased to observe the Sabbath, though he still believed it to be obligatory as the Bible Sabbath. He thought then quite seriously of preaching for the Methodists, and it is currently reported on what seems to be good authority, that he visited a Methodist presiding elder to make such arrangements; but this we do not personally know. But the Elder’s conscience troubled him greatly at times. He wrote me, desiring to see me and have a long talk. We met in Battle Creek the following January, and had some fifteen hours’ conversation. The poor man was in great distress of mind, and our sympathies were deeply enlisted for him. Suffice it to say that he took his stand once more and commenced to preach again. EGWC 538.3

The fourth instance of his lapsing into doubt and darkness occurred in the fall of 1882, when he gave up preaching and went to farming at Otsego, Mich. He returned to us again the last of September, 1884. During this time he had little or no faith in the peculiar doctrines of S. D. Adventists; and in a letter before me, written to a friend in December, 1883, he says: “If I was situated differently, would just as soon join some other church.” And speaking of the work of our people, he says: “Hence, as you can see, my faith in the whole thing has been shaken.” So notorious was his apostasy at the time, that without doubt the church stood where a little encouragement would have led them to withdraw the hand of fellowship from him. But some of us who felt a pity for him, knowing his weakness, counseled delay, and commenced to labor earnestly to help him. After special efforts had been made by the writer and other friends, he came to our camp-meeting in September, 1884, at Jackson, Mich. After some further talk with him, and explaining some things which he viewed in an exaggerated light, he came out and publicly took his stand with us once more, making a very affecting confession before a thousand people, which moved the whole congregation to tears. He confessed his great darkness of mind which he had felt for a long time, and said that now all was clear to him. Soon after this, in the issue of the REVIEW of Oct. 7, 1884, he made quite a full confession, which is given in another column. This was wholly voluntary on his part. EGWC 539.1

Eld. Canright for some time after this seemed indeed like a changed man. He seemed more as he used to a dozen years ago, and we had great hopes of him that he had now become a staunch, reliable man. He labored with us till last January, when he became somewhat cast down again, and has finally given up his experience for a quarter of a century, and has gone out from our ranks, and commenced a bitter raid upon us. EGWC 539.2