Ellen G. White® Estate
Sharing the Vision
Published in Selected Messages,
book 3, pp. 445-450.
It seems to me, Brother Eastman,
that we must hold fast our confidence in the great Adventist movement of 1844,
and we should not be easily moved from the positions held by the leaders in
that movement and by the pioneers of our own denomination.
At the same time, I believe we should
encourage our editors, our ministers, and the teachers in our schools, and the
rank and file of our people, as far as they have time and opportunity, to be
thorough Bible students and faithful students of history so that they may know
for themselves and so that they can prove to people who do not accept our denominational
books as authority, the points that we hold as a people. It is my conviction
that those who write for our denominational papers regarding prophecy and its
fulfillment ought to be encouraged to give deep and faithful study to the subjects
about which they write, and to use in their arguments references and quotations
from those historians which will be accepted by the readers as authority.
It may be all right for a preacher
in presenting Biblical expositions to his congregations to quote from Daniel
and Revelation and Great Controversy as well expressed statement
of his views; but it could hardly be wise for him to quote from them as authoritative
histories to prove his points. I think you will discern the reasonableness of
this proposition. A Presbyterian who was endeavoring to prove the soundness
of his theories to a congregation of Methodists would not be expected to depend
largely upon Presbyterian writers to prove his points, nor would a Methodist
who was endeavoring to convince a Baptist of the soundness of the Methodist
religion, make the greatest headway by using Methodist writers as his authority.
In all our work we must study to follow methods that are most effective.
When it comes to the matter of writing
out expositions of doctrine or of prophecy, still greater care must be taken
by the writer than by the preacher to select those authorities which will be
accepted as authorities by the critical and studious reader.
If I understand the matter correctly,
Brother _____ has been writing articles on prophecy and its fulfillment in which
he uses Daniel and Revelation and Great Controversy as authority
to prove his points. This I should consider to be a very poor policy. Some readers
will accept it as establishing the truth. Some readers will accept it as true,
while questioning the authority. With others the use of these denominational
books in such a way will constitute a challenge for them to endeavor to prove
that there are errors in the books thus used as authority. Will it not be better
for all classes if in our sermons and articles, we prove our points by references
to authorities that are generally accepted?
Ellen G. White Writings on History
Regarding Mother's writings and their use as authority on points of history
and chronology, Mother has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority
regarding the details of history or historical dates. The great truths revealed
to Mother regarding the controversy between good and evil, light and darkness,
have been given to her in various ways, but chiefly as flashlight views of great
events in the lives of individuals and in the experiences of churches, of bands
of reformers, and of nations. What has thus been revealed to her she has written
out first briefly in the early writings, then more fully as in Spiritual
Gifts and in Spirit of Prophecy, and finally in the Great Controversy
When writing out the experiences
of reformers in the time of the reformation and in the great Advent Movement
of 1844, Mother often gave at first a partial description of some scene presented
to her. Later on she would write it out more fully, and again still more fully.
I have known her to write upon one subject four or five times, and then mourn
because she could not command language to describe the matter more perfectly.
When writing out the chapters for
Great Controversy, she sometimes gave a partial description of an important
historical event, and when her copyist who was preparing the manuscripts for
the printer, made inquiry regarding time and place, Mother would say that those
things are recorded by conscientious historians. Let the dates used by those
historians be inserted. At other times in writing out what has been presented
to her, Mother found such perfect descriptions of events and presentations of
facts and of doctrines written out in our denominational books, that she copied
the words of these authorities.
When Controversy was written,
Mother never thought that the readers would take it as authority on historical
dates or use it to settle controversy regarding details of history, and she
does not now feel that it should be used in that way. Mother regards with great
respect the work of those faithful historians who devoted years of time to the
study of God's great plan as presented in the prophecy, and the outworking of
that plan as recorded in history.
In past years whenever definite proof
has been found that the writers of our Adventist literature had come short of
finding the exact proof regarding details, Mother has taken her position in
favor of correcting those things that were clearly found to be in error. When
she was consulted about the efforts that were being made to revise and correct
the good book Daniel and Revelation, she has always opposed making many
changes, and has always favored correcting those things that were plainly shown
to be incorrect.
It seems to me there is danger of
placing altogether too much stress upon chronology. If it had been essential
to the salvation of man that he should have a clear and harmonious understanding
of the chronology of the world, the Lord would not have permitted the disagreements
and discrepancies which we find in the writings of the Bible historians, and
it seems to me that in these last days there ought not to be so much controversy
For myself, I will say this: that the more I study the experience of the Adventist
people, the more I feel to honor and praise and magnify the wisdom of the God
of heaven who gave to a plain man like William Miller an understanding of the
great truths of the prophecies. It is evident to anyone who will study his explanation
of prophecy that while he had the truth regarding the principal features, that
he adopted at first many inaccurate and incorrect interpretations regarding
details. At first these were accepted by his associates; but God raised up scholarly
men who had enjoyed broader opportunities for study than Miller, and these men
by their study of the prophecies and history found the truth regarding many
points in which Miller's exposition was incorrect.
One who studies this experience from
the standpoint of faith in that great Advent movement, as presented in Daniel
and Revelation, and in Great Controversy, cannot fail to rejoice
in the goodness of God as they see how He brought in truth and light through
the study of many men and it seems to me that we who love the work that was
built upon that foundation ought to treat very kindly, very considerately, very
reverently the work which God helped Miller to do.
Make Only Modest Claims
But if we claim that Miller and his
associates had a perfect and complete knowledge of the truth regarding the correspondence
of history with prophecy, or if we claim for the pioneers in the third angel's
message that their knowledge was complete and infallible, if we say, "Never
in the history of this cause have we been obliged to confess ourselves in error,"
we shall unwisely and unnecessarily challenge criticism that will display to
the world in a manifold and exaggerated light the imperfection and inaccuracies
of some of our expositions which have been corrected by the results of faithful
study in later years.
It seems to me, Brother Eastman,
that there is great possibility of our weakening our influence by closing our
eyes to the fact that we are all as little children learning from day to day
from the great Teacher, and that it is our privilege to advance in knowledge
and understanding. It seems to me that it is much wiser for us to convince the
world that God has been leading us, and that He is leading us by presenting
from time to time, unanswerable evidences regarding the soundness of our position
by a clear presentation of the correspondence of prophecy and history through
the use of historical data which the world cannot question, than by any efforts
that we shall make to prove that the positions we held last year or ten years
ago or twenty years ago or thirty years ago were infallible and unchangeable.
Regarding Mother's writings, I have
overwhelming evidence and conviction that they are the description and delineation
of what God has revealed to her in vision, and where she has followed the description
of historians or the exposition of Adventist writers, I believe that God has
given her discernment to use that which is correct and in harmony with truth
regarding all matters essential to salvation. If it should be found by faithful
study that she has followed some expositions of prophecy which in some detail
regarding dates we cannot harmonize with our understanding of secular history,
it does not influence my confidence in her writings as a whole any more than
my confidence in the Bible is influenced by the fact that I cannot harmonize
many of the statements regarding chronology.
Thought for the Day
In this age of boasted enlightenment, the Christian church is confronted with a world lying in midnight darkness. - TM 457