Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Appendix P: To Those in Doubting Castle

By Eld. D. M. Canright

[See preceding Appendix for comments on this article by Canright.] EGWC 665.2

Among the most dangerous of the places which pilgrims had to pass in the days of Bunyan was Doubting Castle. Many a poor pilgrim was caught on these grounds, shut up in this terrible old castle, and finally destroyed by the keeper, Giant Despair. But some were finally lucky enough to make their escape. That same old castle still stands by the way, as grim, and dark, and dreadful as ever. Every now and then some poor pilgrim, venturing too near, is caught. Some are rescued, but many are not. Hoping to help some of these, and to warn others, I write these lines. EGWC 665.3

Twenty-five years ago I embraced this message. The complete system of truth which it presented seemed to me something wonderful and very glorious. The study of the Bible was a continual feast to me. To preach it to others, and see them embrace it, filled my heart with gladness and peace. But at length things came up which threw me into doubt on some points, and finally were the occasion of my ceasing to preach the message. As the same things have affected others more or less, and will be liable to affect still others in the future, I wish to give a few of the reasons why I still think that the work is all right, that the Lord is in it, and that these doubts are not well founded. EGWC 665.4

It is well for us to remember that it is always easier to doubt than to believe. Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the gospel. Those who should believe would be saved, but those who should not believe would be damned. He knew full well that only a few would believe, and such has been the case. The great mass of men from that day to this have rejected the gospel. They claim that the evidence is not sufficient to prove that the message is from God. Could not God have given more evidence, and clearer, to sustain the gospel had he thought best? He gave enough so that every one who really hungers and thirsts after light, who is willing to seek for it as for hid treasures, who is willing to humble his soul before God, and cry earnestly to him for direction, can find it to the complete satisfaction of his soul. EGWC 665.5

But even the gospel is not so plain that objections cannot be raised against it if men try hard to find them. Well informed infidels even raise many objections against the Bible itself,—objections which are difficult to answer, and which they claim never have been satisfactorily answered. And so they go on scoffing and disbelieving. But Christians don’t give up their faith for all that. The evidence on the other hand is too clear and too abundant to be overbalanced by a few seeming objections. We must remember that there are always two sides to every question. Whatever position may be taken on any question, some one can be found to dispute it and to raise arguments against it. So generally has this been the case that the main tenet of one sect of the old philosophers was that we could not know anything certainly, not even our own existence. And yet for all that, common men go right on believing that they know some things. It is the accepted rule in all the affairs of this life to decide the questions, even where life or death is at stake, by the balance, or preponderance, of evidence. The existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the truth of Christianity, etc., are accepted and firmly believed upon these grounds. I firmly believe that the truth of our message can be just as clearly proved in the same manner. It is by ignoring this rule of evidence that men become skeptical concerning God, the Holy Scriptures, and all religious faith. In just the same way some of our people come to be doubters concerning our message, the testimonies, etc. They let a few light objections on one side outweigh a mountain of truth on the other. EGWC 666.1

All the doubters and those troubled with unbelief have not been outside the church. Even some of the real children of God all along the ages have been troubled with unbelief. Jesus had to meet it in his disciples, till it saddened his heart. Thus he said, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Luke 24:25. They had seen sufficient proof that Jesus was the Messiah; but when some things transpired which they had not expected, and could not understand, they let these outweigh the evidence which had been clear and satisfactory to them before. EGWC 666.2

Thomas belonged to this class of doubters; but it did not seem to profit himself, benefit the cause, or please his Master. All we ever hear of him is about his asking questions. When all his brethren positively assured him that they had actually seen Jesus, and had talked with him, Thomas refused to believe it. He must see for himself, and put his finger into the wounds in Jesus’ hands, before he would be convinced. The Lord granted him the proof he demanded, and then said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:29. Thomas thought he could not help his unbelief; for there were the stubborn facts, and what could he do with them? But the Lord thought differently; and evidently his reproof of the doubting apostle was designed also for all others of a like disposition in every age. EGWC 666.3

We must remember that we may demand too much evidence—more than God sees best to give. Take one case as an illustration; John the Baptist came with a solemn warning from God. Jesus says that the Pharisees, in rejecting him, rejected the counsel of God against themselves; but that the publicans and common people “justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.” Luke 7:29, 30. How did these justify God? Let us pass over to the Judgment. These Pharisees will be surprised to find themselves rejected. They will plead that they were honest, that they would have believed if John had only worked a miracle or had given sufficient evidence of his mission. But the simple people who did believe John will rise up, and say, “We lived at the same time you did, and in the same town; we heard the same things that you heard, and we believed. The evidence was sufficient for us.” Thus they will justify God, and condemn the unbelievers. So will it be in every age. Those who have believed will rise up and testify that the evidence was sufficient if the heart had only been humble enough to submit to God’s ways. Why is it that the word of God so often and so earnestly insists upon humility of heart and contrition of soul as necessary to a right understanding of his work? Let the boastful doubter think of this, and beware. EGWC 667.1

From the very beginning God’s work has been doubted by some who have had a full knowledge of it and a close connection with it. Thus Abel by faith offered unto God an acceptable gift; but Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted of God. For this Cain was angry,—angry with God and with his brother. He thought that Abel was a fool, and God was unjust. From that day to this there have been the same two classes,—the believing Abels and the doubting Gains. By faith Noah condemned the world. Hebrews 11:7. He had the same evidence which the world had. He believed, they disbelieved. He was right, they were wrong. EGWC 667.2

No man ever came from God with better evidences of his divine mission than Moses; and yet right among his own people and followers and coworkers doubters were constantly springing up. It now seems to us that one or two clearly wrought miracles would forever settle our doubts as to the divine mission of the person working them. But look at this case. Consider the wonderful miracles which the people saw Moses perform,—the river turned to blood, all the plagues in Egypt, the pillar of cloud constantly attending them day and night, the sea opened, etc. How strong their faith was then! how confident their song after their triumph at the Red Sea! But they start on, and for several days in a hot climate there is not a drop of water for man or beast. Soon they begin to murmur, then to question, and finally to doubt whether the Lord was leading them. Doubtless they reasoned, “Didn’t God know we must have water? If he were leading, would he have made such a terrible blunder?” “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7) was the all-absorbing question of debate in tents, by the camp-fires, and in little groups of earnest talkers. What about all the miracles they had witnessed, the faith they had expressed but a few days before? These were not quite as weighty and conclusive now as they had thought them to be. EGWC 667.3

The same spirit of fault-finding and of doubt was continually cropping out during the whole forty years. Yet at the same time there was the pillar of cloud always with them, the manna falling day after day for forty years, besides many other miracles. In the face of all this, a few objections which they could not, or would not, understand outweighed everything else. EGWC 668.1

Look at the remarkable occurrences related in Numbers 16. Over two hundred and fifty leading men headed a rebellion against Moses. They said, “Moses, you promised to lead us right into a land flowing with milk and honey, and to give us possession; but you have done no such thing. Here you have led us round and round for twenty years. We are no nearer the promised land than when we started. Our brethren have died of hunger and thirst, and we are nearly worn out. You cannot deceive us any longer. We are going back to Egypt. Our mission is a failure.” (See verses 12-14.) They thought they had a clear case. But Moses proposed to appeal to God to decide who was right. They readily accepted his proposition, and boldly went out with their censers, and stood before God for him to answer. This showed that they were in earnest, and thoroughly believed that they were right. But when God did answer, they all went down into the earth in a moment, and perished. Just so now: fault-finders and doubters become so confident in their positions that they are willing to go up to God and to the Judgment with it. Take care! Korah and his sympathizers did that, and did it to their eternal ruin. EGWC 668.2

But what is more astonishing still, is that “on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord.” Ver. 41. Was not that astonishing after all they had witnessed the day before? But such is the power of unbelief when once fortified in the heart. This should teach us great caution in rejecting manifest light and because of some seeming difficulties and objections connected with it. EGWC 668.3

The faith of even the best men has sometimes wavered when hard pressed. Elijah had a special work to do in reforming Israel in the days of Ahab. God wrought through him mightily. The priests of Baal were slain, and a great victory gained. Elijah was exultant. He thought that the king and queen and all the people were coming over to the Lord. But when it did not turn out so, and the queen threatened to kill him, he ran for his life, and went into the wilderness, and lay down requesting to die. 1 Kings 19:1-4. He thought his mission was a failure. And even when the Lord said to him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (ver. 9) he was ready to argue his case, and defend his course, till the Lord convinced him that he was wrong. EGWC 669.1

So also even John the Baptist, after being left in prison for a long time, and being threatened with death, became shaken in his faith in Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why did he leave him there to perish? He sends two of his disciples to inquire if after all he is really the Messiah? Luke 7:19. What a sad exhibition of human weakness this was after his strong faith in Jesus when he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”! John 1:29. When such men as these falter and doubt for a moment, no wonder that weaker ones yield to temptations, and apostatize entirely when trials and discouragements come upon the cause. So it always has been, and so it always will be. EGWC 669.2

Even Christ’s disciples went through the same process of doubting and sifting and apostatizing; and that, too, after they had seen many and wonderful miracles wrought by him. When Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes, they were so moved that they proposed to take him by force and make him a king. John 6:9-15. The next day when Jesus rebuked them for seeking the things of this world, their faith suddenly cooled off, and they demanded of him another miracle that they might believe. Ver. 30. And when he rebuked them still more sharply, they said, “This is an hard saying: who can hear it?” Ver. 60. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Ver. 66. We see them turning away with a sneer. They have been deceived and misled; but now their eyes are open, and they will be fooled no longer. Such is unbelief, such it always has been, and such it always will be. Luther’s work developed hundreds of these doubters,—men who were at first warm believers. Wesley found the same class. If God’s work now does not develop them, it will be a new thing under the sun. EGWC 669.3

The fact is that God has never at any time given so much light and evidence that man had to believe whether he wanted to or not. Nor has he been careful to remove all objections out of the way of those who have believed and embraced his truth.... EGWC 669.4

Notice what God says of Christ: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense.” Romans 9:23. Didn’t God know that man would stumble over him? Yes; and so he knows that they will also stumble over other truths just as they always have done, and always will do. But those who seek God humbly and with tears will not be left to fall. God would send every angel from heaven before one such should miss the way. All these facts apply with equal force to the cause of God in our day, to the third angel’s message, and to all connected with it. EGWC 670.1

But I wish more especially to apply this to the testimonies. What evidence do we have that they are of God? Every argument in favor of the third angel’s message is an argument in favor of the testimonies. Why? If it be a fact that the time has come for a special warning to the world on the advent near, the law of God, and other truths which we hold, then we may be sure that God would prepare the way for that message by raising up proper persons to give it. God by his providence raised up Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. Before Jeremiah was born, God had set him apart to do the work before him. Jeremiah 1:5. So of John the Baptist. Before his birth the angel announced his mission. Luke 1. Who does not believe that Luther was a man of God’s providence, raised up to do that special work? So of Wesley. Shall, then, the last closing message to the world fall due and God provide no fit instruments to proclaim it, and push it through to the end? That is absurd, and contrary to all God’s doings in the past, as we have already seen. EGWC 670.2

Now, admitting that ours is a special message from God designed to warn this generation, look at its history. Sr. White and her work have not only been connected with the message from the very first, but she has had a leading influence in that work, has stood front and foremost, and with voice and pen has done more to guide and mold the message than any other half dozen laborers now in the cause. From the beginning her teachings have been accepted by all the leading ministers and believers as light from God. Now would it not be the very height of absurdity to accept the message and the work as the truth and God’s work, and yet reject the very one who had done the work? A deceiver, an imposter, a false teacher stand at the head of God’s special work for forty years! No, that will never do. We must either reject the message or receive the testimonies. They stand or fall together. So I repeat that every argument in favor of the main doctine of our faith is an argument in favor of the testimonies. EGWC 670.3

Another argument in favor of the testimonies is the fact that all those parties who have drawn off from our people in opposition to the testimonies have come to naught, or at best have had only a feeble existence. Time and again this has been tried by different persons proposing to preach all the message except the testimonies. Now if that position is right, why don’t God prosper them? Why don’t they succeed better than those who hold and teach them? EGWC 671.1

Another evidence in favor of the testimonies is the fact that those who have accepted them have always stood together, and have perfectly agreed in faith and practice; while those who have opposed them have disagreed in doctrine and discipline, and have split up into little factions. EGWC 671.2

And still another evidence is found in the fact that those who remain among us, and still oppose the testimonies, soon lose their love for the message, their spirituality, their devotion, their zeal for God and for the salvation of souls. I have seen many such cases, and have never yet known an exception to this rule. Why is this so? If they are right, why does it always have this effect? On the other hand, the most devoted and zealous members in all our churches are those who have the strongest faith in the testimonies. EGWC 671.3

Again, the tendency and influence of the testimonies is not, like the teachings of Spiritualist mediums, to lead away from the Bible, away from God, and away from faith in Christ; nor, like Mormonism, to lead to sensuality, dishonesty, and crime; but they lead to faith in the Holy Scriptures, devotion to God, and a life of humility and holiness. Can a corrupt tree bear good fruit? Jesus said not. What is a tree known by?—Its fruit. Here is a tree which has been standing among us for forty years, and bearing fruit. What has been the nature of that fruit? What have been its effects upon those who have partaken most of it? EGWC 671.4

It seems to me now that no one who has ever felt the power of the Spirit of God upon his own heart can candidly read through the four volumes of “Spirit of Prophecy” without being deeply convicted that the writer must live very near to God, and be thoroughly imbued with the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, and animated the apostles and prophets. Such lofty thoughts of God, of heaven, and of spiritual things cannot come from a carnal heart, nor from a mind deceived and led by Satan. EGWC 671.5

But are there not difficulties in these writings hard to explain? passages which seem to conflict one with another, or with some passage in the Bible, or with facts? I freely grant for myself that there are some passages which bother me, and which I do not know how to explain. But I believe them for all that just as I do the Bible. There are many passages in the Bible which I should have to admit I could not explain nor harmonize. If any man says that he can explain and reconcile all the statements of the Scriptures, he simply shows his self-conceit and ignorance. Yet I profoundly believe the Bible for all that. EGWC 671.6

I have not a shadow of a doubt about the sleep of the dead, the annihilation of the wicked, the Sonship of Christ, baptism by immersion, etc.; and yet there are scriptures, such for instance, as the rich man and Lazarus, which are as difficult for me to harmonize with these plain Bible doctrines as it is for me to explain the hardest passage in Sr. White’s writings. Peter admitted that there were some things in the Scriptures hard to be understood. 2 Peter 3:16. He says that some wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. And that is just what some are doing with the testimonies. When we consider how extensive these writings are, extending over a period of nearly forty years, embracing ten bound volumes besides many smaller works, it would be a wonder indeed if in all these there should not be anything in the wording, the sentiment, or the doctrine, hard to understand and explain, or on which a sharp opponent could not make a plausible argument. We know that God’s revelations in the past have not been given free from all obscurity and difficulties. Neither will they be now. EGWC 672.1

If a man reads the Bible on purpose to find objections, as Tom Paine did, and as Ingersoll does, he will find plenty of them to satisfy his unbelief, and confirm him in his infidelity. But if, like thousands of others equally learned and intelligent, he goes to the Scriptures to find light and God and salvation, he will find them full and clear, to the joy of his soul. I am profoundly convinced in the depths of my soul, after an experience of twenty-five years, that the same thing is true of the testimonies. EGWC 672.2

And now I want to reason awhile with those among us who are holding off and living in doubt about the testimonies. I believe that your course is not only wrong, but that it is unsatisfactory to you here, and will be unsatisfactory at the Judgment. You take very little interest in the progress of the cause, you carry a very light burden in the work of the church, you take but little part, if any, in the Sabbath-school, you do next to nothing in the missionary work, you pay no tithes, you give nothing anywhere, you have no burden for the salvation of souls, or if you have you never show it; if you say anything at all it is mostly in raising queries and objections. My brethren, my sisters, are you willing to let your short life slip by year after year, and finally come up to the searching test of the Judgment in this way? Beware! Many will land in perdition who do not intend to. Shut your eyes to it as you may, such a course must inevitably end in disaster. EGWC 672.3

But you say, “I would like to believe and have full confidence in the whole work if I only could; but I am afraid I shall believe an error.” Well, let us see if there is really any danger in going this way. You certainly know that our people hold all the cardinal doctrines of salvation,—faith in God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, repentance, a holy life, etc. Isn’t this safe? You know that Sr. White and all our ministers not only so teach, but exert all their influence to have our people live lives of devotion, of honesty, of purity, of love, of plainness, of sacrifice, and of every Christian virtue. You know that every sin is condemned among our people, and the most solemn warnings are constantly given against even the appearance of evil. You know that in almost every church of our people there are at least some who are living blameless Christian lives. You know that there is not one immoral doctrine taught or practiced by our people. Bad men and poor examples there are, to be sure; but they are such in spite of all our efforts to make them better. You know that if any man will strictly live up to the teachings of the testimonies and our people, he will certainly be saved. EGWC 673.1

Now will it not be better for you,—better in this life and safer in the next,—to believe and labor heartily with this people than it is to believe with nobody, be in harmony with no church, and have no settled system of doctrine? Of all the miserable, unsatisfactory places to be in, that is the worst. There is no comfort in it, there is no strength in it, there is no usefulness in it. Better to believe something, better to run in somewhere, rather than to stand out there in the storm all alone. A hut, a hovel, is better than that. What a pitiable condition a man must be in at this day when there are so many churches and kinds of doctrine, who can neither believe nor work with any of them! Such a person must be badly befogged some way. EGWC 673.2

My friend, is this your condition? How long have you been there? One year? five years? ten years? Haven’t you settled it yet? Then give it up, and come in with those who have settled it, where there is faith and hope and zeal and active work for God and man. Look at the grand truths which our people hold,—the new earth, the beautiful city, the resurrection, the real life hereafter, the literal coming of Christ, the sleep of the dead, the destruction of sin and sinners, the law of God, all those grand lines of prophecy unmistakably pointing to the end near. Can you give these all up, forget them, and shut them from your heart? Can you once more have confidence in intangible spirits, eternal hell, sprinkling for baptism, Sunday-Sabbath, or the millennium? Pshaw! strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel! EGWC 673.3

I find that there is peace and joy, hope and confidence, love for souls, and the blessing of God in giving full confidence to the whole message; and these I have never found in doubting it, nor have I ever seen any one who did find them that way. All admit that we have truth enough, if lived out, to save us. We know that all other churches have many errors. How shall we gain anything, then, by going there? Start a new church of our own? Well, the success of those who have left us and tried that has not been very encouraging. EGWC 674.1

No, the real trouble lies close at home, in a proud, unconverted heart, a lack of real humility, an unwillingness to submit to God’s way of finding the truth.—The Review and Herald, February 10, 1885, pp. 84-86. EGWC 674.2