Selected Messages Book 1


Chapter 5—An Explanation of Early Statements

An Answer to a Challenge

[Soon after the republication in 1882 of the three earliest E. G. White books, A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, A Supplement to Experience and Views, and Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, all three of which today comprise Early Writings, certain questions were raised concerning the completeness of some of the articles and the significance of certain statements appearing here or in still earlier published articles. Mrs. White answered these questions in 1883 in the following statement. Reference is made to the teachings on the “shut door.” For another reference to the significance of the “shut door” see The Great Controversy, 429-432.]


My attention has recently been called to a sixteen-page pamphlet published by C, of Marion, Iowa, entitled Comparison of the Early Writings of Mrs. White With Later Publications. The writer states that portions of my earlier visions, as first printed, have been suppressed in the work recently published under the title Early Writings of Mrs. E. G. White, and he conjectures as a reason for such suppression that these passages teach doctrines now repudiated by us as a people. 1SM 59.1

He also charges us with willful deception in representing Early Writings as a complete republication of my earliest views, with only verbal changes from the original work. 1SM 59.2

Before I notice separately the passages which are said to have been omitted, it is proper that several facts be stated. When my earliest views were first published in pamphlet form, [Reference is here made to the 24-page pamphlet “A Word to the Little Flock,” published by James White in 1847, containing three Ellen G. White communications.—Compilers.] the edition was small, and was soon sold. This was in a few years followed by a larger book, The Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E. G. White, printed in 1851, and containing much additional matter. 1SM 59.3

In our frequent change of location in the earlier history of the publishing work, and then in almost incessant travel as I have labored from Maine to Texas, from Michigan to California—and I have crossed the plains no less than seventeen times—I lost all trace of the first published works. When it was decided to publish Early Writings at Oakland last fall, we were obliged to send to Michigan to borrow a copy of Experience and Views. And in doing this we supposed that we had obtained an exact copy of the earliest visions as first published. This we reprinted, as stated in the preface to Early Writings, with only verbal changes from the original work. 1SM 60.1

And here I will pause to state that any of our people having in their possession a copy of any or all of my first views, as published prior to 1851, will do me a great favor if they will send them to me without delay. I promise to return the same as soon as a copy can be produced. 1SM 60.2

So far from desiring to withhold anything that I have ever published, I would feel great satisfaction in giving to the public every line of my writings that has ever been printed. 1SM 60.3

Testimonies Garbled by Eli Curtis

There is another fact that should be stated here. I am not responsible for all that has been printed as coming from me. About the time that my earliest visions were first published, several articles did appear purporting to have been written by me, and to relate what the Lord had shown me, but sanctioning doctrines which I did not believe. These were published in a paper edited by a Mr. Curtis. Of the name of the paper I am not certain. In the years of care and labor that have passed since then, some of these less important particulars have been forgotten, but the main points are still distinct in my mind. 1SM 60.4

This man took articles that came from my pen, and wholly transformed and distorted them, picking out a sentence here and there, without giving the connection, and then, after inserting his own ideas, he attached my name to them as if they came direct from me. 1SM 61.1

On seeing these articles, we wrote to him, expressing our surprise and disapprobation, and forbidding him thus to misconstrue my testimonies. He answered that he should publish what he pleased, that he knew the visions ought to say what he had published, and that if I had written them as the Lord gave them to me, they would have said these things. He asserted that if the visions have been given for the benefit of the church, he had a right to use them as he pleased. 1SM 61.2

Some of these sheets may still be in existence, and may be brought forward as coming from me, but I am not responsible for them. The articles given in Early Writings did pass under my eye; and as the edition of Experience and Views published in 1851 was the earliest which we possessed, and as we had no knowledge of anything additional in papers or pamphlets of earlier date, I am not responsible for the omissions which are said to exist. 1SM 61.3

The First Omission

The first quotation mentioned by C is from a pamphlet of twenty-four pages published in 1847, entitled A Word to the Little Flock. Here are the lines omitted in Experience and Views: 1SM 61.4

“It was just as impossible for them [those that gave up their faith in the ‘44 movement] to get on the path again and go to the city, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another.” 1SM 61.5

I will give the context, that the full force of the expressions may be clearly seen: 1SM 61.6

“While praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell on me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the advent people in the world, but could not find them—when a voice said to me, ‘Look again, and look a little higher.’ At this I raised my eyes and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the advent people were traveling to the city, which was at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light set up behind them at the first end of the path, which an angel told me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the path, and gave light for their feet so they might not stumble. And if they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the city, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and they said the city was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising His glorious right arm, and from His arm came a glorious light which waved over the advent band, and they shouted, Hallelujah! Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down into the dark and wicked world below.” 1SM 62.1

Now follows the passage said to be in the original work, but not found in Experience and Views nor in Early Writings: 1SM 62.2

“It was just as impossible for them [those that gave up their faith in the ‘44 movement] to get on the path again and go to the city, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another.” 1SM 62.3

The “Shut Door” Defined

It is claimed that these expressions prove the shut-door doctrine, and that this is the reason of their omission in later editions. But in fact they teach only that which has been and is still held by us as a people, as I shall show. 1SM 62.4

For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision was given me. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position. 1SM 63.1

I am still a believer in the shut-door theory, but not in the sense in which we at first employed the term or in which it is employed by my opponents. 1SM 63.2

There was a shut door in Noah's day. There was at that time a withdrawal of the Spirit of God from the sinful race that perished in the waters of the Flood. God Himself gave the shut-door message to Noah: 1SM 63.3

“My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3). 1SM 63.4

There was a shut door in the days of Abraham. Mercy ceased to plead with the inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot, with his wife and two daughters, were consumed by the fire sent down from heaven. 1SM 63.5

There was a shut door in Christ's day. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation, “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). 1SM 63.6

Looking down the stream of time to the last days, the same infinite power proclaimed through John: 1SM 63.7

“These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7). 1SM 63.8

I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second angels’ messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them. 1SM 63.9

Those who did not see the light, had not the guilt of its rejection. It was only the class who had despised the light from heaven that the Spirit of God could not reach. And this class included, as I have stated, both those who refused to accept the message when it was presented to them, and also those who, having received it, afterward renounced their faith. These might have a form of godliness, and profess to be followers of Christ; but having no living connection with God, they would be taken captive by the delusions of Satan. These two classes are brought to view in the vision—those who declared the light which they had followed a delusion, and the wicked of the world who, having rejected the light, had been rejected of God. No reference is made to those who had not seen the light, and therefore were not guilty of its rejection. 1SM 63.10

In order to prove that I believed and taught the shut-door doctrine, Mr. C gives a quotation from the Review of June 11, 1861, signed by nine of our prominent members. The quotation reads as follows: 1SM 64.1

“Our views of the work before us were then mostly vague and indefinite, some still retaining the idea adopted by the body of advent believers in 1844, with William Miller at their head, that our work for ‘the world’ was finished, and that the message was confined to those of the original advent faith. So firmly was this believed that one of our number was nearly refused the message, the individual presenting it having doubts of the possibility of his salvation because he was not in ‘the ‘44 move.’” 1SM 64.2

To this I need only to add, that in the same meeting in which it was urged that the message could not be given to this brother, a testimony was given me through vision to encourage him to hope in God and to give his heart fully to Jesus, which he did then and there. 1SM 64.3

An Unreasonable Conjecture

In another passage from the book A Word to the Little Flock, I speak of scenes upon the new earth, and state that I there saw holy men of old, “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel and many like them.” Because I speak of having seen these men, our opponents conjecture that I then believed in the immortality of the soul and that having since changed my views upon this point, I found it necessary to suppress that passage. They are as near the truth here as in other conjectures. 1SM 64.4

In the year 1844 I accepted the doctrine we now hold, concerning the nonimmortality of the soul, as may be seen by reference to Life Sketches, pages 170, 171 [1880 edition. See also 1915 edition, 49; Testimonies 1:39, 40], and I have never, by voice or pen, advocated any other. Had we suppressed this passage on account of its teaching the immortality of the soul, we would have found it necessary to suppress other passages. 1SM 65.1

In relating my first vision, page 13 of Early Writings [1882 edition, present edition, page 17], I speak of having seen brethren who had but a short time previous fallen asleep in Jesus, and on page 14 [present edition, pages 18, 19] I state that I was shown a great company who had suffered martyrdom for their faith. 1SM 65.2

The immortality of the soul is no more taught in the “suppressed” passage than in the two last cited. 1SM 65.3

The fact in the case is, that in these visions I was carried forward to the time when the resurrected saints shall be gathered into the kingdom of God. In the same manner the judgment, the second coming of Christ, the establishment of the saints upon the new earth have been presented before me. Does anyone suppose that these scenes have yet transpired? My adversaries show the spirit by which they are actuated in thus accusing me of deception on the strength of a mere “conjecture.” 1SM 65.4

A Misquotation

In this quotation are also found the words, “I saw two long golden rods on which hung silver wires, and on the wires were glorious grapes.” 1SM 65.5

My opponents ridicule “that weak and childish expression of glorious grapes growing on silver wires, and these wires attached to golden rods.” 1SM 65.6

What motive impelled the writer of the above to misstate my words? I do not state that grapes were growing on silver wires. That which I beheld is described as it appeared to me. It is not to be supposed that grapes were attached to silver wires or golden rods, but that such was the appearance presented. Similar expressions are daily employed by every person in ordinary conversation. When we speak of golden fruit, we are not understood as declaring that the fruit is composed of that precious metal, but simply that it has the appearance of gold. The same rule applied to my words removes all excuse for misapprehension. 1SM 65.7

The Seal of God

Another “suppression” reads as follows: “Well, bless the Lord, brethren and sisters, it is an extra meeting for those that have the seal of the living God.” 1SM 66.1

There is nothing in this that we do not still hold. Reference to our published works will show our belief that the living righteous will receive the seal of God prior to the close of probation; also that these will enjoy special honors in the kingdom of God. 1SM 66.2

Renouncing the Sabbath

The following passage is said to be omitted from the vision related on pages 25-28 [pages 32-35, present edition] of Early Writings: 1SM 66.3

“And if one believed, and kept the Sabbath, and received the blessing attending it, and then gave it up, and broke the holy commandment, they would shut the gates of the Holy City against themselves, as sure as there was a God that rules in heaven above.” 1SM 66.4

Those who have clearly seen and fully accepted the truth upon the fourth commandment, and have received the blessing attending obedience, but have since renounced their faith, and dared to violate the law of God, will find, if they persist in this path of disobedience, the gates of the city of God closed against them. 1SM 66.5

“Time Nearly Finished”

A statement published in 1851 in Experience and Views, and found on page 49 [page 58, present edition] of Early Writings is quoted as proving my testimonies false: “I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was nearly finished, and that time can last but a very little longer.” 1SM 66.6

As the subject was presented before me, the period of Christ's ministration seemed almost accomplished. Am I accused of falsehood because time has continued longer than my testimony seemed to indicate? How is it with the testimonies of Christ and His disciples? Were they deceived? 1SM 67.1

Paul writes to the Corinthians: 1SM 67.2

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 30). 1SM 67.3

Again, in his epistle to the Romans, he says: 1SM 67.4

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12). 1SM 67.5

And from Patmos, Christ speaks to us by the beloved John: 1SM 67.6

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3). “The Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:6, 7). 1SM 67.7

The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional. 1SM 67.8

God had committed to His people a work to be accomplished on earth. The third angel's message was to be given, the minds of believers were to be directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ had entered to make atonement for His people. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward. The breach in the law of God must be made up. The message must be proclaimed with a loud voice, that all the inhabitants of earth might receive the warning. The people of God must purify their souls through obedience to the truth, and be prepared to stand without fault before Him at His coming. 1SM 67.9

Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. 1SM 68.1

But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. Dissensions and divisions came in. The majority opposed with voice and pen the few who, following in the providence of God, received the Sabbath reform and began to proclaim the third angel's message. Many who should have devoted their time and talents to the one purpose of sounding warning to the world, were absorbed in opposing the Sabbath truth, and in turn, the labor of its advocates was necessarily spent in answering these opponents and defending the truth. Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history! 1SM 68.2

It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in “because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them. 1SM 68.3

For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years. 1SM 69.1

There are two other passages said to be found in my first book, but not given in my later writings. Concerning these I shall only say, when I can obtain a book containing them, so that I can be assured of the correctness of the quotations and can see for myself their connection, I shall be prepared to speak understandingly in regard to them. 1SM 69.2

Last-Day Scoffers

From the beginning of my work, I have been pursued by hatred, reproach, and falsehood. Base imputations and slanderous reports have been greedily gathered up and widely circulated by the rebellious, the formalist, and the fanatic. There are ministers of the so-called orthodox churches traveling from place to place to war against Seventh-day Adventists, and they make Mrs. White their textbook. The scoffers of the last days are led on by these ministers professing to be God's watchmen. 1SM 69.3

The unbelieving world, the ministers of the fallen churches, and the first-day Adventists are united in the work of assailing Mrs. White. This warfare has been kept up for nearly forty years, but I have not felt at liberty even to notice their vile speeches, reproaches, and insinuations. And I would not now depart from this custom, were it not that some honest souls may be misled by the enemies of the truth who are so exultantly declaring me a deceiver. In the hope of helping the minds of the honest, I make the statements that I do. 1SM 69.4

I do not expect to reach those who, having seen the light of truth, refuse to heed it, those who have given themselves up to prejudice, and entrenched their souls in unbelief. 1SM 69.5

Jesus, the Majesty of heaven, He who was equal with God, was in the world thirty-three years, and yet there were but few who acknowledged His divine character. And can I, who am so weak, so unworthy, a frail creature of humanity, expect greater success than was enjoyed by the Saviour of the world? 1SM 69.6

When I first gave myself to this work, to go when God should bid me, to speak the words which He should give me for the people, I knew that I should receive opposition, reproach, persecution. I have not been disappointed. Had I depended on human applause, I would long ago have become discouraged. But I looked to Jesus, and saw that He who was without a fault was assailed by slanderous tongues. Those who made high pretensions to godliness followed as spies upon the Saviour's course, and made every exertion in their power to hedge up His way. But although He was all-powerful, He did not visit His adversaries as their sins deserved. He might have launched forth against them the bolts of His vengeance, but He did not. He administered scathing rebukes for their hypocrisy and corruption, and when His message was rejected and His life threatened, He quietly passed to another place to speak the words of life. I have tried, in my weakness, to follow the example of my Saviour. 1SM 70.1

Enmity Against Advocates of Truth

How eagerly the Pharisees sought to prove Christ a deceiver! How they watched His every word, seeking to misrepresent and misinterpret all His sayings! Pride and prejudice and passion closed every avenue of the soul against the testimony of the Son of God. When He plainly rebuked their iniquity and declared that their works proved them to be the children of Satan, they angrily flung back the accusation, saying, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” 1SM 70.2

All the arguments urged against Christ were founded in falsehood. So was it in the case of Stephen, and of Paul. But the weakest and most unreliable statements made on the wrong side had an influence, because there were so many whose hearts were unsanctified, who desired those statements to be true. Such are ever eager to fasten upon any supposed error or mistake in those who speak to them the unpalatable truth. 1SM 70.3

It should not surprise us when evil conjectures are greedily seized upon as undoubted facts by those who have an appetite for falsehood. The opposers of Christ were again and again confounded and put to silence by the wisdom of His words; yet they still eagerly listened to every rumor, and found some pretext to ply Him again with opposing questions. They were determined not to abandon their purpose. They well knew that if Jesus should continue His work, many would believe on Him, and the scribes and Pharisees would lose their power with the people. Hence they were ready to stoop to any base or contemptible measure to accomplish their malicious intentions against Him. They hated the Herodians, yet they joined these inveterate enemies in order to invent some plan to rid the earth of Christ. 1SM 71.1

Such was the spirit with which the Son of God was met by those whom He came to save. Can any who are seeking to obey God, and to bear to the world the message of His truth, expect a more favorable reception than was granted Christ? 1SM 71.2

I have no ill will toward those who are seeking to make of none effect the message which God has given to reprove, warn, and encourage His people. But as the ambassador of Christ, I must stand in defense of the truth. Who are those that so zealously array themselves against me? Are they the pure and holy children of faith? Have they been born again? Are they partakers of the divine nature? Do they love Jesus, and manifest His spirit of meekness and humility? “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). Do they resemble the early disciples, or those cunning scribes and Pharisees who were constantly watching to entrap Christ in His words? Notice the sharp practice of those ancient opposers of the faith—how lawyers, priests, scribes, and rulers combined to find something against Him who was the light of the world. 1SM 71.3

And why were they so intent upon condemning Christ? They did not love His doctrines and precepts, and they were displeased as they saw the attention of the people turned to Him and away from their former leaders. 1SM 71.4

Human nature is human nature still. Let not those who seek to hedge up my way and destroy the influence of my words, deceive themselves with the belief that they are doing God service. They are serving another master, and they will be rewarded according to their work. 1SM 72.1

Rebellion will exist as long as Satan exists. Those who are actuated by his spirit will not discern the spirit of God or listen to its voice until the mandate shall go forth, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11). I expect to encounter the malice of those who despise the light which God has been pleased to give me. 1SM 72.2

Sufficient Evidence for the Honest in Heart

It is God's plan to give sufficient evidence of the divine character of His work to convince all who honestly desire to know the truth. But He never removes all opportunity for doubt. All who desire to question and cavil will find occasion. 1SM 72.3

I pity those who have set their feet in the path of doubt and unbelief. I would gladly help them if I could, but the experience of the past gives me little hope that they will ever come to the light. No amount of evidence will convince men of the truth so long as they are unwilling to yield their pride, subdue their carnal nature, and become learners in the school of Christ. 1SM 72.4

Self-will and pride of opinion lead many to reject the light from heaven They cling to pet ideas, fanciful interpretations of Scripture, and dangerous heresies; and if a testimony is borne to correct these errors, they will, like many in Christ's day, go away displeased. 1SM 72.5

It matters not how blameless the character and life of those who speak to the people the words of God; this procures for them no credit. And why? Because they tell the people the truth. This, brethren, is my offense. But if a false report is circulated, if by some inference or conjecture an imputation is cast upon the character of Christ's ambassador, with what absurd credulity is it received! How many are ready to magnify and spread the slander! Such are revealing their real character. “He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47). 1SM 72.6

Calumny and reproach will be the recompense of those who stand for the truth as it is in Jesus. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Those who bear a plain testimony against sin will as surely be hated as was the Master who gave them this work to do in His name. Like Christ, they will be called the enemies of the church and of religion, and the more earnest and true their efforts to honor God, the more bitter will be the enmity of the ungodly and hypocritical. But we should not be discouraged when thus treated. 1SM 73.1

I Shall Go Forward With My Work

We may be called “weak and foolish,” enthusiastic, even insane. It may be said of us as it was of Christ, “He hath a devil” (John 10:20). But the work which the Master has given us to do is our work still. We must direct minds to Jesus, not seeking praise or honor of men, but committing ourselves to Him who judgeth righteously. He knows how to help those who while following in His steps suffer in a limited degree the reproach He bore. He was tempted in all points like as we are, that He might know how to succor those who should be tempted. 1SM 73.2

Whatever wrong construction may be placed upon my testimony by those who profess righteousness, yet know not God, I shall in humility go forward with my work. I will speak the words which God gives me to speak in encouragement, reproof, and warning. There remains but a little remnant of my life on earth. The work that my Father hath given me, I will, by His grace, perform with fidelity, knowing that all my deeds must pass the scrutiny of Jehovah.—Manuscript 4, 1883. 1SM 73.3