The manner in which God has protected His Inspired Writings is incredible. In spite of repeated attacks by the enemy down through the centuries, and even to modern times,—we today have the Word of God!
In this study, we will not cover the broad sweep of the centuries of preservation of God’s Word; for that is available elsewhere. Instead, we will focus on the protection our kind Father has given to the Spirit of Prophecy writings.
Moses wrote the books of Job and Genesis while shepherding sheep in the wilderness, which was followed by the turbulence of forty years with the Israelites. Yet we have his books today.
Nearly all of the Old Testament was imperiled when the Babylonians overran Jerusalem in 606 B.C. and two subsequent invasions within the next 20 years, which destroyed the nation and reduced its structures to ruins. Yet we now have the entire Old Testament.
The New Testament books underwent “cruel mockings and scourgings,” as it were, in the centuries which followed. Yet we have the New Testament books. It is true that, in the intervening centuries, translators and copyists made a few changes (see my King James Bible and the Modern Versions). The essential points of salvation may be found in all of them—even in the Roman Catholic Rheims-Douai.
There exists today more ancient manuscripts of the Bible than of any other writing of antiquity. God has protected His Word, and He will continue to do so to the end. Why has He done this? Because it is His channel of communication with mankind. Contrary to popular belief, that channel is not through priests, rabbis, ministers, or church councils; it is through the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy!
It was a chilly day in December 1844. Approximately seven weeks had elapsed since the great disappointment of October 22, when a slightly older friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Haines, asked Ellen Harmon, a young girl of 17, to visit her. Frail Ellen had a damaged heart, was severely weakened by tuberculosis, could only speak in a whisper, and found it difficult to breathe while lying down. She was frequently awakened from sleep by coughing and bleeding in her lungs. Yet it was at this very time, when the feeble girl was nearing death, that she was called to be a prophet of God. The King of heaven truly uses the weakest of the weak to do His work!
Mrs. Haines lived across the causeway, in South Portland. While at her home, three other young women joined Ellen and Mrs. Haines for morning family worship on the second floor of the house. While they were kneeling in prayer, Ellen was taken off in vision.
“While I was praying, the power of God came upon me as I had never felt it before. I was wrapped in a vision of God’s glory, and seemed to be rising higher and higher from the earth, and was shown something of the travels of the Advent people to the holy City.”—Early Writings, 13.
About a year later, she recalled the event and the aftermath in these words:
“As God has shown me the travels of the Advent people to the holy City, and the rich reward to be given those who wait the return of their Lord from the wedding, it may be my duty to give you a short sketch of what God has revealed to me. The dear saints have many trials to pass through. Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory—while we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
“I have tried to bring back a good report and a few grapes from the heavenly Canaan, for which many would stone me, as the congregation bade stone Caleb and Joshua for their report (Num. 14:10). But I declare to you, my brethren and sisters in the Lord, it is a goodly land, and we are well able to go up and possess it.”—Early Writings, pp. 13-14 (letter to Enoch Jacobs, editor of the Day Star).
At the time of the vision, and for several months thereafter, Ellen could not hold her hand steady enough to write the vision she had been shown. Ellen was young, ill, retiring, and unused to associating with many people. She felt that she could not accept the commission, and she pleaded with God to remove the burden from her.
“I shrank from it. I was young, and I thought they would not receive it from me.”—5 Manuscript Releases, 96 (written to Joseph Bates, July 13, 1847).
But the call from God was insistent.
“About one week after this the Lord gave me another view, and showed me the trials I must pass through; that I must go and relate to others what He had revealed to me; that I should meet with great opposition, and suffer anguish of spirit. Said the angel, ‘The grace of God is sufficient for you; He will sustain you.’ ”—2 Spiritual Gifts, 35.
At this time, Ellen was in constant bodily suffering and tuberculosis ravaged her lungs; her family was without money, and it was midwinter in Maine.
For several days and far into the night, Ellen prayed that God would remove the burden from her and place it upon someone more capable. But the words of the angel sounded constantly in her ears:
“Make known to others what I have revealed to you.”—Early Writings, 20.
Recalling the experience, she wrote:
“It seemed impossible for me to perform this work that was presented before me; to attempt it seemed certain failure. The trials attending it seemed more than I could endure. How could I, a child in years, go forth from place to place unfolding to the people the holy truths of God? My heart shrank in terror from the thought.”—Life Sketches, 69-70.
Yet, with the help and protection of her heavenly Father, Ellen White was enabled to accomplish a great deal.
What is the most important work of a prophet of God? I will suggest that it is the written materials that the prophet produces. What has proven to be more important? the preaching of Matthew to his associates or his 28-chapter Gospel? Down through the centuries, what has helped mankind more? Daniel’s talks with Nebuchadnezzar or the book that he wrote?
God’s messages to all mankind are contained in the holy Scriptures. Those messages are of urgent importance—for they constitute a primary channel of communication between God and man! It is quite obvious that equally important to the writings of a prophet—is the protection God must give to the writings that prophet produces.
But, let us take this a step further. There are two items of faith that we must exercise in regard to the Inspired Writings: (1) We must believe that they are God’s messages to us. (2) We must believe that He has protected them.
If we believe the first but reject the second, the writings will be unread or not obeyed. Either type of rejection is an insult to God. There are men among us today who want us to believe the first but reject the second.
Let us now examine how God has protected the Spirit of Prophecy writings:
We will now advance to the year, 1848, when a number of believers (including Ellen and her husband, James White) attended several Sabbath Conferences in the Northeast. In the sixth conference, held in November 1848, Ellen had a vision, instructing her that her husband must begin “to print a little paper.” Articles by Ellen began appearing in those papers.
In July 1851, James published her first pamphlet of 64 pages, titled A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White. Years later, it was included as Section One in Early Writings.
From 1852 to 1855, the Whites carried on their publishing work in a building in Rochester, New York, Then, in 1855, they moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. The move was not difficult to make; for all they had was a handpress and a small amount of other printing equipment, together with a small stock of books and pamphlets. Soon afterward, in obedience to a vision, the group printed the first Testimony for the Church. It was 16 pages in length (now in 1 Testimonies, 113-126).
With the passing of years, more and more publications by Ellen were printed. But they almost entirely consisted of printed editions of her testimonies or letters to individuals and groups. By 1864, ten of these small collections of Testimonies had been printed.
Spiritual Gifts, Vols. 1-4, were released in 1858, 1860, and the last two in 1864. That same year, another small book was printed: Appeal to the Youth (95 pages, 40 of which were written by Ellen).
Between 1865 and 1876, in addition to 27 thin Testimonies, two other small books were printed: How to Live (1865; about a third of which was written by Ellen) and Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1 (1870).
In 1877 and 1878, Spirit of Prophecy, Vols. 2 and 3 were issued; and, in 1880, Life Sketches. By 1882, Testimonies, Nos. 1-31, had been printed.
And that was about it. By 1878, Ellen had barely gotten started in her book-writing work. Indeed, aside from the collection of personal letters in 31 Testimonies, she had written almost no books. (The first four volumes of our present Testimonies for the Church, issued in 1885, contains Testimonies 1 to 30.)
How did God protect Ellen’s writings from 1848 to 1878? He primarily did it through her husband, James White. As head of the entire publishing work, he proofed her work and oversaw the printing of her writings. However, due to the difficulties under which they worked and the limitations of the times, some typographical errors had crept in; just as, down through the centuries, some crept into the Bible manuscripts.
The years 1878 to 1884 were extremely important in the history of Ellen White’s published writings. This is due to the fact that a transition, which Ellen was not at first aware, was about to take place. In 1881, James would die and she, at last, would begin writing and publishing at a much faster pace.
Ellen White’s literary output during her lifetime would eventually total approximately 25 million words or 10,000 printed pages. This would include letters, diaries, periodical articles, and books. Yet, significantly, the great majority of it was produced after 1881.
There are among us, today, those who tell us we should use hardly any of her writings produced after 1878; for they are “uninspired” or have been “corrupted.” If we would obey that dictum, it would be necessary for us to toss the great majority of her articles and books in the garbage can. Yet the individuals who make this charge seem only able to vaguely hint at evidence supporting their claim. What is the truth of the matter?
We are going to learn that the God of heaven carefully protected these sacred writings—not only in earlier years, but all through the years which followed! Here is how He did it:
“Both in the [Battle Creek] Tabernacle and in the college the subject of inspiration has been taught, and finite men have taken it upon themselves to say that some things in the Scriptures were inspired and some were not. I was shown that the Lord did not inspire the articles on inspiration published in the Review, neither did He approve their endorsement before our youth in the college.
“When men venture to criticize the Word of God, they venture on sacred, holy ground, and had better fear and tremble and hide their wisdom as foolishness. God sets no man to pronounce judgment on His Word, selecting some things as inspired and discrediting others as uninspired. The testimonies have been treated in the same way; but God is not in this.”—1 Selected Messages, 23; Letter 22, 1889. [The article, “Differences in Degrees,” was in the January 15, 1884, issue of the Review.]
On New Year’s Day, 1878, Miss Marian Davis joined the Whites to assist them in their work; at the time, the Whites were in Texas. Marian had an unusual ability for proofreading, plus a remarkable memory. Over a period of time, Marian gained the ability to locate everything Ellen had earlier written on a given subject. She also followed the progress of Ellen’s writings, from proofreading, all the way through to final publication. If any problems developed, she immediately reported back to Ellen.
In addition, as she had for years, Ellen herself checked over everything that was done with her writings. After she wrote a manuscript in longhand, before it could be sent to the person for whom it was intended or to the publishing house, a copy had be made by hand (there were no typewriters or xerox machines back then). Ellen would check the copied manuscript. She would also personally check the galley proofs, sent her by the publishing house, prior to printing. But, from 1878 onward, Ellen had the help of Marian in her work. This had an effect of doubling the safeguard. And it came at a time when James was beginning to be rather feeble in health.
“Marian is just what we need. She is splendid help.”—A.L. White, The Lonely Years, 104 (Letter 4, 1879).
This close working relationship continued for the next 25 years, until Marian’s death in 1904. She had journeyed from Elmshaven, in the Napa Valley of northern California, down to Oakland in order to check on the final printing proofs of one of Ellen’s books (Ministry of Healing) which needed to be published by Pacific Press. (Pacific Press did not move to Mountain View, 38 miles south of San Francisco, until 1904.) She caught cold one evening, which went into pneumonia. To the very end, Marian was helping to guard the trustworthiness of the manuscripts.
When you stop to think about it, it is prior to publication that problems can occur. As soon as a book is printed, everybody can obtain a copy and the message is in many hands. The task of Ellen and Marian was to make sure the message was printed properly.
At this point, someone will say that perhaps Marian was not honest or that this or that was a problem. I can assure you that there is a God in heaven, and He still exists! And He cares for His written Word! From time to time, down through the years, a faulty helper did connect with Ellen. But each time God gave her clear warning, and she discharged the helper.
Do you imagine that Ellen White would, in vision, be given warnings about distant problems in the work, sometimes halfway around the world,—and yet God would not warn her when someone was tampering with her manuscripts?
Such a possibility would mean that God does not care about His Written Word. And we know that is not so. To doubt God’s Word is to doubt God Himself. To doubt God’s care for His Word is also to doubt Him. It is an insult to His care. He cares not only for people, but for His Inspired Writings.
By 1879, Ellen’s husband, James, knew he needed to retire. Yet he hesitated to do so; for he had accustomed himself to being a workhorse and hardly knew how to stop. By that year, James, worn out from overwork, was becoming increasingly irritable with fellow workers in the Review office and at the General Conference. Both Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, head of (what later become known as) the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and Uriah Smith, second to James in the Review editorial office, were upset with James. Deep mutual resentments had developed.
But Ellen was not involved in those arguments; and the church, as a whole, deeply valued her writings. We see clear evidence of the fact throughout these, and later, years. Hence, on November 20, 1879, the 18th Annual General Conference Session enacted a resolution calling on Ellen and James to visit every conference yearly (of course, this was not physically possible); and, a few days later on November 25, they appointed a committee to consider ways to more extensively circulate the writings of Ellen.
It is quite obvious that the majority of our leaders at the time were not opposed to the Spirit of Prophecy writings. Here is the resolution:
“Whereas, Our past experience has fully proved that our prosperity as a people is always in proportion to the degree of confidence we cherish in the work of the Spirit of Prophecy in our midst; and . .
“Whereas, We have found that the most effectual way to meet and disarm this opposition is either to secure the personal labors of the one through whom we believe that the Lord has spoken, or to freely circulate her writings, and
“Whereas, Great light has shone upon us through this channel, which not only our own people greatly need, but which would be a blessing to the world, remove prejudice, and break the force of the bitter attacks of the enemies of the truth, therefore
“Resolved, That we urge upon our ministers and tract societies the importance of making earnest efforts to extend the circulation of the volumes of the Spirit of Prophecy and the Testimonies for the Church among our own people, till these shall be in every family of believers.
“Resolved, That we recommend the [SDA] Publishing Association to issue in attractive form such of her writings as would be of general interest to the reading public who are not of our faith, to be placed in public libraries, reading rooms, on shipboard, et cetera, by canvassers and Tract and Missionary Society workers where they, as well as our other standard works, may be accessible to the people.”—General Conference Session, Resolution dated November 25, 1879.
Yet, as generous as this encouragement seemed, a change was going to occur at the Review office within a few years. Neither Ellen White nor her associates, nor the leaders in the General Conference and Review office recognized all that was about to happen. But God, who knows the future, would carefully guide in years ahead.
A ministerial institute was held at about the same time as the above-mentioned General Conference Session. Beginning in mid-November, it continued until December 3. While it was in progress, Ellen was taken off in vision and given warnings and guidance which provided the basis for more than 70 pages of counsel. Coming as it did during the meetings, it formed the basis for several talks she presented to the ministers and institutional workers.
Those messages led to a general work of reformation and revival among the workers, and they enacted the following resolution at the last meeting on December 11:
“Whereas, God has again most mercifully and graciously spoken to us as ministers, in words of admonition and reproof through the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy; and
“Whereas, These instructions are just and timely, and of the utmost importance in their relation to our future labors and usefulness; therefore
“Resolved, That we hereby express our sincere and devout thanksgiving to God that He has not left us in our blindness, as He might justly have done, but has given us another opportunity to overcome, by faithfully pointing out our sins and errors, and teaching us how we may please God and become useful in His cause.
“Resolved, That while it is right and proper that we express our thankfulness to God and His servants in this manner, yet the best manner of expressing our gratitude is to faithfully heed the testimony that has been borne to us; and we hereby pledge ourselves to make a most earnest effort to reform on those points wherein we have been shown to be deficient, and to be obedient to the will of God thus graciously made known to us.”—Ministerial Institute Resolution, December 11, 1879.
The Annual Session of the Tract and Missionary Society also met on November 11; and, upon hearing the thrilling vision of the Judgment presented to Ellen on October 23 (see 4 Testimonies, 384), they wanted our people everywhere to have a copy of it. On December 18, the following notice appeared on the back page of the Review:
“Testimony for the Church No. 29 will contain about two hundred pages of the most important matter for our people at this time, including the recent wonderful description of the Judgment.”
That special edition was printed during the first week in January 1880.
That same month, the 200-page Testimony No. 29 came from the Review presses. You will find it in 4 Testimonies, 384-522. Many important principles and reproofs were presented, yet the Review faithfully printed it. Ellen then headed west on a trip to Oakland, California, while James pushed ahead on the publication of the book, Life Sketches, and the republication of some of Ellen’s earliest pamphlets and books. The recently ended General Conference Session had been anxious that these Spirit of Prophecy writings be published.
As the time for the 1880 General Conference Session neared, James White felt exhausted and decided to quit all his offices except headship of the Review. Ellen, still in California, wrote to their children:
“Father has already sent in his resignation of every office except his connection with the publishing work.”—Letter 42, 1880.
Ellen returned to Battle Creek and the Session opened on October 6. As president of the General Conference, James chaired it. On the 11th, the nominating committee presented the following names: George I. Butler as president, Uriah Smith as secretary, Mrs. M. J. Chapman as treasurer. And on the General Conference Committee was G. I. Butler, Steven N. Haskell, and H. W. Kellogg. The vote was unanimous. James only retained the position of head of the Publishing Association.
James and Ellen decided to spend the winter and following summer in the preparation of books. As usual, her articles were regularly printed in the Review. That same year, Life Sketches was printed.
Ellen urged James to totally retire from the work at Battle Creek, so they could move west and spend their time writing in quietude. So much needed to be written. James came close to agreeing to this; but he felt that, if he left the publishing house, those who would take it over were not properly qualified for the task. He stated in this decision:
“Where are the men to do this work? Where are those who will have an unselfish interest in our institutions, and who will stand for the right, unaffected by any influence with which they may come in contact?
“My life has been given to the upbuilding of these institutions. It seems like death to leave them. They are as my children, and I cannot separate my interest from them. These institutions are the Lord’s instrumentalities to do a specific work. Satan seeks to hinder and defeat every means by which the Lord is working for the salvation of men. If the great adversary can mold these institutions according to the world’s standard, his object is gained.
“It is my greatest anxiety to have the right men in the right place. If those who stand in responsible positions are weak in moral power, and vacillating in principle, inclined to lead toward the world, there are enough who will be led. Evil influences must not prevail. I would rather die than live to see these institutions mismanaged, or turned aside from the purpose for which they were brought into existence.”—In Memoriam, p. 45.
James knew what was going to happen within a few years after he left the publishing work. Yet, because of the burdens and responsibilities that she bore while there, Ellen could not really tackle the bookwork as long as James remained in Michigan.
So James decided to remain in Battle Creek as head of the publishing work—even though, amid the ongoing confusion of activities there and the various personality conflicts, it would be impossible for Ellen to begin the bookwork. Remember that the year was now 1881; and, so far, Ellen had not produced one major book! God knew that a change must be made.
On Sabbath, July 30, James and Ellen walked in the grove together and a strange foreboding came over James. Three times, he asked that they might stop and pray together. Each time he prayed fervently that he might be right with every man. On Monday, he had a severe chill and became ill. The following Sabbath, August 6, James White died. On August 22, Ellen left for Colorado where she expected to rest for a few weeks. She questioned whether she should return to Battle Creek or go to California. The Lord impressed her that it was time to permanently move to California, so she could begin the bookwork. This was to lead to the turning point in her writing career. Prior to this time, she had written very little, other than personal letters to people. Only a few small books had been printed.
In Boulder, Colorado, on the weekend of September 24 and 25, Ellen wrote a 13-page testimony to be read at the Michigan camp meeting, which would be attended by all the church leaders. In this letter, she gave warning that Battle Creek College would fail if it did not fulfill God’s plan for it.
“Much that has no part in Christ is allowed a place among us. Unconsecrated ministers, professors, and teachers assist Satan to plant his banner in our very strongholds.
“The design of our college has been stated again and again, yet many are so blinded by the god of this world that its real object is not understood . . Some of the teachers have been scattering from Christ instead of gathering with Him. By their own example they lead those under their charge to adopt the customs and habits of worldlings. They link the hands of the students with fashionable, amusement-loving unbelievers, and carry them an advance step toward the world and away from Christ.”—5 Testimonies, 12.
She also said that her testimonies would be just as pointed in the future as in the past.
“Let none entertain the thought that I regret or take back any plain testimony I have borne to individuals or to the people. If I have erred anywhere, it is in not rebuking sin more decidedly and firmly. Some of the brethren have taken the responsibility of criticizing my work and proposing an easier way to correct wrongs. To these persons I would say: I take God’s way and not yours. What I have said or written in testimony or reproof has not been too plainly expressed. God has given me my work, and I must meet it at the Judgment . .
“Within a few weeks past, standing face to face with death, I have had a near look into eternity. If the Lord is pleased to raise me from my present state of feebleness, I hope, in the grace and strength that comes from above, to speak with fidelity the words which He gives me to speak. All through my life it has been terribly hard for me to hurt the feelings of any, or disturb their self-deception, as I deliver the testimonies given me of God. It is contrary to my nature. It costs me great pain and many sleepless nights . . I will walk in humility before God, doing my work for time and for eternity.”—5 Testimonies, 19-20.
You can read the entire testimony for yourself (5 Testimonies, 9-21). Ellen White had not changed! Some of the leading brethren made a discovery. All this time, they had imagined that her pointed testimonies were prompted by James. But now that he was gone,—the pointed testimonies were even stronger than before! The terrible truth was before them: Ellen was writing her own testimonies!
A year later George I. Butler, chairman of the board of Battle Creek College, announced in the Review that the school was being closed.
“When the matter of opening the college the present year came before the board for consideration, we were thrown into great perplexity. We could see little ground of hope for such a school as the Lord had shown we ought to have, while the present state of things existed.”—Review, September 12, 1882.
Once again, Ellen’s statements were found to be correct. The college had collapsed under its own weight of frivolity and worldliness.
After staying temporarily in Oakland, in February 1882 Ellen moved to a home on the outskirts of the small town of Healdsburg, California. If you have ever been there (as the present author has), you know it to be a very quiet place.
In late August, Ellen became chilled and entered a period of extended sickness from which it appeared she would never recover. Although at death’s door, she said she wanted to be taken to the early October camp meeting in Healdsburg. A sofa was arranged on the broad speaker’s platform and she was carried into the big tent and placed upon it. The tent was jammed with people.
After J.H. Waggoner, editor of the Signs, finished his talk, Ellen whispered hoarsely to her son, William C. White, and to Mrs. Ings, who were seated near her, to help her to the speaker’s stand.
For five minutes she stood there, ghastly white and trembling slightly, clinging to the pulpit, unable to say a word. The immense audience said not a word. It was expected that she would crumple to the floor at any moment.
“For five minutes I stood there, trying to speak, and thinking that it was the last speech I should ever make—my farewell message.
“All at once I felt a power come upon me, like a shock of electricity. It passed through my body and up to my head. The people said that they plainly saw the blood mounting to my lips, my ears, my cheeks, my forehead.”—Letter 82, 1906.
God permitted this miracle to happen, to confirm to everyone that this was His messenger!
Everyone was stunned speechless as they watched the astounding change that came over her. Mr. Montrose, a businessman from the town, stood to his feet and exclaimed, “We are seeing a miracle performed before our eyes; Mrs. White is healed!” Her voice strengthened, her sentences came clear and full, and she bore a testimony such as the audience had never before heard.
“Her voice and appearance changed, and she spoke for some time with clearness and energy. She then invited those who wished to make a start in the service of God, and those who were far backslidden, to come forward, and a goodly number answered to the call.”—E.J. Waggoner, Signs, October 26, 1882.
In the providence of God, Uriah Smith was present; and he was convicted anew that Ellen was a protected prophet of God.
“She was able to attend meetings . . as usual, and spoke six times with her ordinary strength of voice and clearness of thought.”—Uriah Smith, Review, October 31, 1882.
This was a turning point in Ellen’s health; and, for a number of years thereafter, she worked intensely at speaking appointments and a busy writing program. In the early summer of 1882, Ellen began the bookwork in earnest.
Ellen had an added incentive to begin the bookwork. Immediately after that remarkable healing occurred, God gave her special counsel—that she was to henceforth devote herself vigorously to the bookwork; and that God Himself would provide her with faithful helpers who would correct spelling and grammar mistakes, faithfully prepare duplicate copies, and prepare manuscripts for publication.
“About a year after the death of my husband, I was very feeble, and it was feared that I might live but a short time. At the Healdsburg camp meeting, I was taken into the tent where there was a large gathering of our people. I asked to be raised up from the lounge on which I was lying, and assisted to the speaker’s platform, that I might say a few words of farewell to the people. As I tried to speak, the power of God came upon me, and thrilled me through and through. Many in the congregation observed that I was weak, and that my face and hands seemed bloodless; but as I began speaking they saw the color coming into my lips and face, and knew that a miracle was being wrought in my behalf. I stood before the people healed, and spoke with freedom.
“After this experience, light was given me that the Lord had raised me up to bear testimony for Him in many countries, and that He would give me grace and strength for the work. It was also shown me that my son, W.C. White, should be my helper and counselor, and that the Lord would place on him the spirit of wisdom and of a sound mind. I was shown that the Lord would guide him, and that he would not be led away, because he would recognize the leadings and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“The assurance was given me: ‘You are not alone in the work the Lord has chosen you to do. You will be taught of God how to bring the truth in its simplicity before the people. The God of truth will sustain you, and convincing proof will be given that He is leading you. God will give you of His Holy Spirit, and His grace and wisdom and keeping power will be with you . .
“ ‘The Lord will be your instructor. You will meet with deceptive influences; they will come in many forms, in pantheism and other forms of infidelity; but follow where I shall guide you, and you will be safe. I will put My Spirit upon your son, and will strengthen him to do his work. He has the grace of humility. The Lord has selected him to act an important part in His work. For this purpose was he born.’
“This word was given me in 1882, and since that time I have been assured that the grace of wisdom was given to him. More recently, in a time of perplexity, the Lord said: ‘I have given you My servant, W.C. White, and I will give him judgment to be your helper. I will give him skill and understanding to manage wisely.’
“The Lord has given me other faithful helpers in my work. Many of my discourses have been reported, and have been put before the people in printed form. Through nearly the whole of my long experience I have endeavored, day by day, to write out that which was revealed to me in visions of the night. Many messages of counsel and reproof and encouragement have been sent out to individuals, and much of the instruction that I have received for the church has been published in periodicals and books, and circulated in many lands . .
“The work is constantly moving forward. We are making earnest efforts to place my writings before the people. We hope that several new books will go to press shortly. If I am incapacitated for labor, my faithful workers are prepared to carry forward the work.
“Abundant light has been given to our people in these last days. Whether or not my life is spared, my writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last. My writings are kept on file in the office, and even though I should not live, these words that have been given to me by the Lord will still have life and will speak to the people.”—1 Selected Messages, 54-55.
As the above quotation clearly shows, the Lord does not leave His work to halfway measures. He not only cares for His faithful children, He cares for His Written Word also. He provided Ellen with faithful helpers. Very likely, God gave similar counsel to Jeremiah, instructing him to use Baruch as his literary assistant. Jeremiah had been speaking publicly in Jerusalem for years. But it was at the time of the event recorded in Jeremiah 36:1-4, during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign, that Jeremiah called Baruch, a scribe, to begin writing out those messages. Baruch is also mentioned in Jeremiah 45:1-5, during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Baruch later helped Jeremiah during the reign of Zedekiah (recorded in chapter 32:12-13). He remained with Jeremiah as a helper thereafter, remaining close to him even after the captivity. He went with him to Egypt, where Jeremiah wrote yet more material (chapter 43:3-7). Baruch is called “Jeremiah’s secretary” (Prophets and Kings, 469).
“It was about this time that the Lord commanded Jeremiah to commit to writing the messages He desired to bear to those for whose salvation His heart of pity was continually yearning. ‘Take thee a roll of a book,’ the Lord bade His servant, ‘and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.’ Jeremiah 36:2-3.
“In obedience to this command, Jeremiah called to his aid a faithful friend, Baruch the scribe, and dictated ‘all the words of the Lord, which He had spoken unto him.’ Verse 4. These were carefully written out on a roll of parchment and constituted a solemn reproof for sin, a warning of the sure result of continual apostasy, and an earnest appeal for the renunciation of all evil.”—Prophets and Kings, 432-433.
Some of Ellen’s most dynamic and hard-hitting testimonies were sent to the Review for publication as a small Testimony book. Severe rebukes were in the letters it contained. Yet the brethren printed it. This was Testimony 31. Read it for yourself; it is powerful (now in 5 Testimonies 9-248).
It is charged that a name was omitted from one of the testimonies, and that the title of one testimony was later changed from “Testimonies Rejected” to “Testimonies Slighted.” But two facts should be kept in mind:
First, Ellen generally did not write the titles for the testimonies she sent out. That was generally done at the press. So the press changed the title it had earlier assigned to that printed letter.
Second, “slighted” and “rejected” mean essentially the same thing. If I give you a message and you slight it, you have ignored and rejected it. That is what the word, “slight,” means. “Slight, verb, 1. To treat with disrespect or indifference or with a marked lack of consideration. 2. To treat as unimportant.”—Macmillan Dictionary.
If they had wanted to change the meaning, they would have titled it, “Another Testimony,” “An Interesting Testimony,” or something similar. Our current edition of Early Writings was also printed in 1882. Church leaders, in attendance at the 1879 General Conference Session, had requested that the book be printed.
This new Early Writings was a reprint of James White’s earlier printing of three publications: Experience and Views; Supplement; and Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1. Several copies of those earlier booklets had been made; and copies were scarce. When James had earlier reprinted Experience and Views, several sentences had been inadvertently omitted. The Review, in 1882, did not realize this and reprinted James’ earlier edition.
The Lord communicated continually with Ellen; and, in making the changeover in her writing work after James’ death, He told her two things:
(1) She could trust her son, William C. White (W. C. White). She would be able to give him assignments which he could capably handle. He would be entirely trustworthy, and would be a good counselor and helper.
“While my husband lived, he acted as a helper and counselor in the sending out of the messages that were given to me. We traveled extensively. Sometimes light would be given to me in the night season, sometimes in the daytime before large congregations. The instruction I received in vision was faithfully written out by me, as I had time and strength for the work. Afterward we examined the matter together, my husband correcting grammatical errors and eliminating needless repetition. Then it was carefully copied for the persons addressed, or for the printer.
“As the work grew, others assisted me in the preparation of matter for publication. After my husband’s death, faithful helpers joined me, who labored untiringly in the work of copying the testimonies and preparing articles for publication.
“But the reports that are circulated, that any of my helpers are permitted to add matter or change the meaning of the messages I write out, are not true.
“While we were in Australia the Lord instructed me that W. C. White should be relieved from the many burdens his brethren would lay upon him, that he might be more free to assist me in the work the Lord has laid upon me. The promise had been given, ‘I will put My Spirit upon him, and give him wisdom.’ Since my return to America I have several times received instruction that the Lord has given me W. C. White to be my helper, and that in this work the Lord will give him of His Spirit.”—1 Selected Messages, 50.
(2) The Lord also revealed to Ellen that she should get all her earlier testimonies reprinted in larger volumes; and, before publication, they should be carefully checked for typographical errors. This work should be entrusted to Marian Davis, William, and his wife Mary.
By this date, 31 Testimony pamphlets had been published, each totaling 16 to 240 pages. In the latter part of 1881, the three helpers set to work reading through that material and correcting it. The critics charge that it was terrible that they did this. Yet if they had done anything wrong, God would immediately have told Ellen.
This whole business of doubting the veracity of the Spirit of Prophecy books is based on an underlying contempt for God’s protecting care of His Word. The false assumption is that God would surely tell Ellen about something being done wrong across the ocean, but He would not tell her about something others were doing wrong to her writings! That charge is an insult to God! Indeed, not only did He warn her when needed, but she had the gumption to demand that certain church leaders be removed—and it was done!
When corrections were made on part of the Testimonies, one of the three helpers would go down to the Pacific Press, in Oakland, and oversee the setting of it in type, checking of the galley proofs, and the preparation of printing plates. (It is for this reason that Pacific Press now prints most of her books; Ellen was living in California, at that time, and had her helpers see each book through to printing.)
“In late 1881 Marian Davis and Willie and Mary White began giving attention to what might be needed in the way of revising the wording, correcting imperfect grammar, or making clear the meaning intended by Ellen White. As the work was done, type was set and printing plates were made.”—A.L. White, 3 E.G. White Biography, 217.
Ellen’s helpers were extremely careful not to make a mistake. By May 1883, Mary was carefully preparing an index to Volume 1 of Testimonies for the Church.
The critics will tell you not to use the indexes at the back of Ellen’s books, because they are not inspired!
Earlier, at James’ request, the 1878 General Conference Session had voted that the Testimonies should be reprinted in larger volumes. Likewise, now in November 1883, while he and Ellen were attending that year’s session, William White asked the leaders to issue a resolution which would clearly explain to the believers what Ellen and her helpers had been doing for two years (since the fall of 1881).
“When W. C. White and his mother went to the General Conference session in Battle Creek in November 1883, he took with him a report of the work in preparing the Testimonies for publication in convenient permanent form. He called for a resolution of explanation and General Conference support.”—A. L. White, 3 E.G. White Biography, 218.
The action taken was done in approval of what Ellen and her three helpers were already doing, and would continue to do until completion. It has been charged that the men appointed to a special committee changed the Testimonies. That is not true. Ellen’s own helpers (Marian Davis and William and Mary White) made all the corrections under her direction, in California, and checked the galley proofs prior to printing. Most of the men on that committee were at Battle Creek, busy with other activities. It was just a figurehead committee. The five members of that committee were: W. C. White, S. N. Haskell, J. H. Waggoner, Uriah Smith, and G. I. Butler. Three of the five committee members (W. C. White, Haskell, and Waggoner) were solid defenders of the Spirit of Prophecy. Smith and Butler, in later years (especially as a result of the Minneapolis crisis), become more tepid. Here is the official resolution, made by the 1883 Session, at W.C. White’s request:
“Whereas, Some of the bound volumes of the Testimonies for the Church are out of print, so that full sets cannot be obtained at the office; and,
“Whereas, There is a constant and urgent call for the reprinting of these volumes; therefore,
“Resolved, That we recommend their republication in such a form as to make four volumes of seven or eight hundred pages each.
“Whereas, Many of these testimonies were written under the most unfavorable circumstances, the writer being too heavily pressed with anxiety and labor to devote critical thought to the grammatical perfection of the writings, and they were printed in such haste as to allow these imperfections to pass uncorrected; and,
“Whereas, We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed; therefore,
“Resolved, That in the republication of these volumes such verbal changes be made as to remove the above-named imperfections, as far as possible, without in any measure changing the thought; and further,
“Resolved, That this body appoint a committee of five to take charge of the republication of these volumes according to the above preambles and resolutions.”—3 Selected Messages, 96.
It is charged that the above resolution entitled men to change all Ellen White’s future books. That is not true; the resolution only lists the first four volumes of the Testimonies.
It is charged that the resolution entitled men in Battle Creek to make those changes. That is not true either. We have seen that the changes were all made in California, at Ellen White’s home (at that time in Healdsburg). One of the workers would then take them to the press and oversee the proper typesetting of the new larger-volume editions of the Testimonies.
It is charged that none of those changes should have been made because God dictates the words and they cannot afterward be changed. That is not true either.
Two errors are inherent here:
(1) The error of word inspiration:
Ellen White has carefully explained the truth of this matter. The holy Scriptures—both the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy—were given by thought inspiration, not word inspiration. God guides the thoughts and concepts of the prophet, who then selects the actual words to be written down. None of God’s creatures are puppets. Look about you at all of God’s creatures. We are all given free will. A classic example of this is to be found in comparing the four Gospels. Each writer saw the situation a little differently.
“The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect. Different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea. The Bible was given for practical purposes.”—1 Selected Messages, 20.
“The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers.
“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God.”—1 Selected Messages, 21 (Manuscript 24, 1886).
“There is variety in a tree, there are scarcely two leaves just alike. Yet this variety adds to the perfection of the tree as a whole.
“In our Bible, we might ask, Why need Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Gospels, why need the Acts of the Apostles, and the variety of writers in the Epistles, go over the same thing?
“The Lord gave His Word in just the way He wanted it to come. He gave it through different writers, each having his own individuality, though going over the same history. Their testimonies are brought together in one Book, and are like the testimonies in a social meeting. They do not represent things in just the same style. Each has an experience of his own, and this diversity broadens and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to meet the necessities of varied minds. The thoughts expressed have not a set uniformity, as if cast in an iron mold, making the very hearing monotonous. In such uniformity there would be a loss of grace and distinctive beauty . .
“The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction. The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us. It is seldom that two persons will view and express truth in the very same way. Each dwells on particular points which his constitution and education have fitted him to appreciate. The sunlight falling upon the different objects gives those objects a different hue.
“Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold.”—1 Selected Messages, 21-22.
There is poor grammar in portions of her earliest writings. If they were dictated by God, would He have dictated them in poor grammar?
See Great Controversy, pp. vi-viii, for more on thought inspiration. If Scripture is only word inspired, then no translation of an inspired book is of any value! That would render all our copies of the Bible useless!
It is an intriguing fact that word inspiration is the basis of the Muslim Koran. The story, devised by Satan, goes that God dictated each word to Mohammed, who wrote each word as spoken, even though he could not read or write. We would expect coercion and force from the devil. God does not operate that way.
(2) The error that God only writes once on a given subject:
Vern Bates, a leading Ellen White skeptic at this time, claims that once a prophet writes on a topic, anything he may later write on that topic will not be inspired. Therefore, Ellen’s later writings on a given subject are worthless. This theory involves two errors: first, the error mentioned above, that of word inspiration—the idea that God directly dictates each word and it cannot later be altered. (The truth is thought inspiration; God guides the thoughts and the prophet provides the phrasing.) Bates’ second error is that God only writes once on a given event or topic.
But we are told, in Desire of Ages, that Christ later repeated His earlier lessons to His disciples. We know that Paul told his conversion story several times, and Luke wrote it several times in the book of Acts. Yet, according to Bates’ theory, only the first narration was inspired.
According to Bates, Ellen wrote a smidgen about the great controversy story in 1858; therefore the 1884, 1888, and 1911 editions are uninspired and not worth reading. I would not wish to be Vern Bates in the Judgment. He has turned so many believers against her later books.
Not only is there an immense amount of duplication in the four Gospels, there is a massive amount in 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles! According to Bates’ theory, a lot of that must be discarded.