By the fall of 1882, Ellen was deeply involved in her work on Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, which is our 1884 Great Controversy. It is of highest significance that this, the great controversy story, was her first major book.
The complete story of the writing of Great Controversy spans several decades, and is told in great detail in my 504-page Editions of Great Controversy ($8.00 + $3.00), the most complete analysis of the book in all its editions ever published.
Here is a brief (very brief) overview of part of that story:
Ellen had received a small portion of the great controversy vision in 1848. Ten years later, at Lovett’s Grove, Michigan, she received the more complete vision. Immediately afterward, as she was headed home to Battle Creek, she was struck with paralysis on part of her body. It was later revealed to her that Satan wanted to kill her, so Great Controversy could not be written.
Why did the Lord permit Satan to attack her? Obviously, so we would all realize the importance of Great Controversy! However, Satan afterward resorted to other means in order to keep her from writing out the full story. Years passed and troubles piled on top of troubles for poor Ellen.
But, after James’ death and her departure from Battle Creek, she was finally able to complete the first edition of the book. It was Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4. We refer to it as the 1884 Great Controversy. This is the first real edition of that book, the fruition of her 1858 vision.
The 1858 book (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1) was little more than a brief story of the Old and New Testaments; it was not a Great Controversy. Yet Vern Bates claims that the 1858 book is the only genuine Great Controversy, and we should discard the later ones! May God have mercy on his soul, for the many folk he has misled into rejecting that book and a great majority of her other writings.
Bates claims that only certain Spirit of Prophecy books are inspired (primarily those written before 1878) while the rest are almost useless. What does the prophet of the Lord say about this?
“Those who think to make the supposed difficulties of Scripture plain, in measuring by their finite rule that which is inspired and that which is not inspired, had better cover their faces, as Elijah when the still small voice spoke to him; for they are in the presence of God and holy angels, who for ages have communicated to men light and knowledge, telling them what to do and what not to do, unfolding before them scenes of thrilling interest, waymark by waymark in symbols and signs and illustrations.
“And He [God] has not, while presenting the perils clustering about the last days, qualified any finite man to unravel hidden mysteries or inspired one man or any class of men to pronounce judgment as to that which is inspired or is not. When men, in their finite judgment, find it necessary to go into an examination of Scriptures to define that which is inspired and that which is not, they have stepped before Jesus to show Him a better way than He has led us.”—1 Selected Messages, 17.
“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).
As mentioned earlier, Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4 (our 1884 Great Controversy), was Ellen’s first major book. Aside from her many personal letters (collected in the Testimonies), prior to 1884, she had not written much else. Ellen planned to next work on the other books in, what would eventually be called, the Conflict Series. But, during the 1880s, the Lord instructed her that she must enlarge that initial book! The great controversy story was so important, it needed to be said again in an even larger book. With this in mind, from 1885 to 1887, Ellen toured through Europe, encouraging our believers there, counseling the brethren, and visiting key Waldensian and German and Swiss Reformation locations.
But something else also happened during the decade of the 1880s. Some of the leaders in Battle Creek had previously been very antagonist toward James White. They did not like his strong-minded attitude, and they suspicioned that Ellen’s vigorously written rebukes were really dictated by James. They thought he told her what to write and, as an obedient wife, she did so.
But, after James’ death in 1881, those leaders made the shocking discovery that Ellen’s letters were just as unflinching as before. The terrible truth began to dawn: that Ellen White was the author of her writings, not James!
Satan was at work, as usual, on Planet Earth. He could not stop Ellen and he could not corrupt her writings; for, if any of her helpers acted out of line, God immediately told her.
But Satan could try to stop publication of her books at the Review. And that is what he set out to do next. When the revised second edition of Great Controversy was completed and Ellen White sent it to the Review, they refused to print it. Their first excuse was that they had other books which needed attention; and they did not want to print Great Controversy until the canvassers in the field had an opportunity to first sell the newly released Bible Readings for a time. Ellen vigorously objected.
Then they complained that the many authors of Bible Readings had agreed to not receive any royalties, and Ellen should also relinquish them. To this, she strongly objected. Doing so would eliminate her ability to carry on her work separate from church financing and control.
After a year of their stalling, she mailed them Patriarchs and Prophets, which had just been completed. But now they whined because, in their opinion, it would sell better if they printed and sold Patriarchs and Prophets before printing the newly enlarged Great Controversy. This battle continued for two full years, from late 1987 through late 1990.
Amazingly, a similar stalling tactic was used at Pacific Press.
“When the Great Controversy should have been circulated everywhere, it was lying dead in the Review and Herald Office and the Pacific Press.”—Manuscript Releases, No. 21, 75 (Letter 35, 1899).
As if that were not enough, when Great Controversy was finally printed—the Review refused, for a couple years, to publicize the book and tell the public they had it in stock!
Satan was in an utter frenzy to keep Great Controversy from the people! Remember that fact. He was using half-converted men as his agents, to get rid of the most important book in modern history. (How must he appreciate such men as Vern Bates who, today, says the 1884, 1888, and 1911 editions of that book should be tossed out!)
It is common knowledge that the 1884 edition of Great Controversy was printed that year. But did you know that the “1888 edition” was not printed by the Review until 1890? We speak of it as the “1888 edition” because that is the common designation for it. But the men in charge of the Review did not print it until two full years later. Pacific Press did not print it until 1899.
Yet even that crisis tells us something very important: Those men who refused to do what was right—received prompt and repeated sharp replies by Ellen. She was not an ignorant and timid rabbit, as she is caricatured by her critics. Ellen did not compromise. She did not weaken or crawl in a hole. Ellen White vigorously defended her writings!
In the same manner, she took action each and every time one of her helpers started veering from the straight line.
You can trust the Spirit of Prophecy writings. God’s concern, to protect His Word, led Him to warn Ellen when things were not being done properly. Ellen’s concern to do what was right caused her to unflinchingly confront every crisis without hesitation.
For a rather complete report on the 1888 Great Controversy crisis, read the A. L. White exposé, The Circulation of Great Controversy [CE–30]. It is REPRINTED on page 211 of this book. For a much larger account, read my 504-page Editions of Great Controversy ($8.00 + $3.00). Both are filled with Spirit of Prophecy statements about the three editions.
It is an intriguing fact that Herman Hoehn claimed that Ellen only wrote the 1884 edition and that Uriah Smith wrote the 1888 edition. Yet it was Ellen who fought to get the 1888 published—while Smith did not want it printed! As mentioned earlier, after claiming that Bible Readings must be printed and distributed first, Smith then tried to stall still longer and say that Patriarchs and Prophets must be printed prior to the enlarged edition of Great Controversy. You will find an extensive collection of statements, by Ellen, about that crisis on page 211 of this present study.
What is the truth about the three editions of Great Controversy? (Turn to pp. 211-214 of this book for more information.)
The 1884 edition is excellent and fully inspired. It is shorter than the others; many people like to read shorter books. The cost is also less.
The 1888 edition is a completely new rewriting of the book, and more complete (an important point). She wrote it; so it is also fully inspired. But most of the added material is in the first historical half of the book (more on Huss and Wycliffe; more on the German, Swiss, French, Scandinavian, and English Reformation. All very helpful material). Second, the last-days section is almost identical in both. Chapter 29 in the 1888 is better than the equivalent chapter in the 1884 because there is more emphasis on the fact that the great controversy between Christ and Satan is fought over the law of God; read the two chapters together and see for yourself. The 1884 edition was written for our own people; God instructed her to write the enlarged edition for the world. Therefore, she omitted Satan’s three-page monologue from it. (You will find it in the back of our 1888 edition.)
The 1911 edition is identical to the 1888, with the exception of the quotations from historians. In order to add source references, in some instances different quotations had to be used when the original statements could not be found. The largest number of quotations were from Merle D’ Aubigné’s History of the Reformation; and, in the interim between 1888 and 1911, D’ Aubigné had authorized a different English translation of his book than had been quoted in the 1888 edition. So every one of those quotations had to be changed. Other than that, the 1888 and 1911 editions are essentially identical. The 1911 revision was done by Ellen’s faithful helpers, with her full approval. She afterward gave it her endorsement. Indeed, the publishing houses made her pay all the expenses of having the new edition prepared!
“Recently it was necessary for this book to be reset because the electrotype plates were badly worn. It has cost me much to have this done, but I do not complain; for whatever the cost may be, I regard the edition with great satisfaction.”—3 Selected Messages, 123.
There are a number of Spirit of Prophecy quotations recommending each of those three editions of the book. All three editions are fully inspired of God. You will find some of those quotations later in this book, at the end of the chapter titled, The Story behind Great Controversy.
In 1891, Ellen moved to Australia and set up housekeeping there with her helpers. Soon after, she began work on Steps to Christ. But she was so incensed at the delaying tactics on Great Controversy, that in 1892 she printed Steps to Christ through Fleming H. Revell Co., a non-Adventist publishing house.
That decision produced something of an earthquake at the offices of the Review! It was a terrific embarrassment to them. Ellen White was willing to print her books outside the denomination, if that is what it took to get them printed on time. From that time forward, the publishing brethren never again gave her any more stalling tactics. She had won that battle. From then on, her books were printed, without delay, on denominational presses. The distribution of the Word of God was more important to Ellen than a denominational imprimatur on the books. And that is something worth thinking about too.
Desire of Ages was also written while she was in Australia. It is an interesting fact that Ellen was so crippled during part of that time that only her right hand functioned properly. Her helpers would set her in a chair in her small country home, which she called Sunnyside, and she would spend the day writing pages for Desire of Ages. —Yet her critics charge that Ellen was busily working before some kind of imaginary giant desk, stacked with other people’s books, as she busily turned pages here and there and copied it all into Desire of Ages! I am happy to tell you that a six-year study of Desire of Ages, done in the 1980s, established the fact that there is no essential copying anywhere in that book. (For much more on this, see my 84-page, 8½x11 book, Ellen White Did not Plagiarize, $5.00 + $3.00.)
The book that the critics charge was “plagiarized” from other authors more than any others is Great Controversy. Yet, upon examination, we find that the so-called “plagiarisms” consist of her quotations from historians! When do quotations count as plagiarisms? I have quoted 1 Selected Messages in this present study, yet no one would say that doing so is plagiarism.
In 1896 Mount of Blessing was printed. Four years later, in 1900, Ellen returned to the United States and made her home in Elmshaven. It was located in Pratt Valley, close to St. Helena, California. Her faithful assistants continued helping her. Christ’s Object Lessons was printed in 1900 and Education in 1903.
Unfortunately, while on a trip to Oakland to see one of her books (Ministry of Healing; printed in 1905) through Pacific Press, Marian Davis caught cold and died several weeks later. Fortunately, Ellen White had other helpers who continued to assist her. The years passed and Ellen grew older. Eventually, on July 16, 1915, she passed to her rest.
For several years before her death, Ellen was deeply concerned that the protection God had given her writings, during her lifetime, might continue after she was gone.
It is an intriguing fact that the plan God gave her for the later preservation of the books was essentially the same as that used during her lifetime. And what was that? an independent ministry conducted by Seventh-day Adventists! While she was alive, she carried on her work separately from the church, in the sense that no congregation, conference, union, or other church entity had control over her work. Only in that way could the production of her writings be safeguarded from undue influence by outside sources. In order to strengthen this safeguard, she arranged that her office expenses and the salaries of her workers would be paid from the royalties of her bookwork.
(At one point, the brethren tried to get her to cancel her reception of royalties, as the authors of Bible Readings had agreed to; but she resolutely refused to yield. Not once in her life did Ellen ever compromise on any point!)
So we see that Ellen operated a self-supporting institution. It was not in subservience to church authority. As an added factor in this independence, she held no church office from which she could be fired.
Yet this is quite understandable when we recall that this is exactly the way the Bible prophets carried on their work. Not one of them was submissive to any earthly organization. They wrote their inspired writings independent of church and civil leaders.
The Lord guided Ellen to devise a special plan for the safeguarding of her bookwork, after her death, which was parallel to that which had been so successful while she was alive.
In her last will and testament, she provided for the appointment of five seasoned workers to form an independent committee: W.C. White, F.M. Wilcox, C.H. Jones, C.C. Crisler, and A.G. Daniells. They were to manage the work, with their expenses paid with royalties from her books. When one of their number retired or died, the remaining members would appoint a new member. You can see that this is the best possible way to manage an organization! At no time could denominational leaders fire any of the members, transfer them to other positions, or vote its own men into their group.
The result is known as the Ellen G. White Estate. It continues to this day as an independent body, theoretically within the church structure. Church leaders do not have a majority control of their board. It was for this reason that Ellen could die in peace, knowing that her books would be safeguarded in the future.
“I am to trace this testimony on paper, that should I fall asleep in Jesus, the witness to the truth might still be borne.”—3 Selected Messages, 76 (Letter 116, 1905).
“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, 55 (Letter 371, 1907).
“Physically, I have always been as a broken vessel; and yet, in my old age, the Lord continues to move upon me by His Holy Spirit to write the most important books that have ever come before the churches and the world. The Lord is evidencing what He can do through weak vessels. The life that He spares I will use to His glory. And, when He may see fit to let me rest, His messages shall be of even more vital force than when the frail instrumentality through whom they were delivered was living.”—3 Selected Messages, 76-77 (Manuscript 122, 1903).
As we overview all that we have learned in this study, it is with awe that we have beheld how God has protected His holy writings!
I would urge you to share copies of this book with friends who need their faith strengthened or who might be in danger of being misled by radicals claiming that Ellen White was little more than a dumb dog who feared to bark at the terrible things being done to her books.
Here are additional quotations on Ellen White’s use of helpers, the friends who made spelling and grammatical corrections and prepared her materials for publication. Please remember that Ellen White only had three grades of education. God uses us where we are and helps us in our work. Ellen needed helpers, and the Lord provided them. She, at first, had James as a helper. In later years, God sent her other helpers.
“This morning I take into candid consideration my writings. My husband is too feeble to help me prepare them for the printer, therefore I shall do no more with them at present. I am not a scholar. I cannot prepare my own writings for the press. Until I can do this I shall write no more. It is not my duty to tax others with my manuscript.”—3 Selected Messages, 90 (Diary January 10, 1873).
“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.”—1 Selected Messages, 50 (Letter 225, 1906).
“My copyists you have seen. They do not change my language. It stands as I write it . . My work has been in the field since 1845. Ever since then I have labored with pen and voice. Increased light has come to me as I have imparted the light given me. I have very much more light on the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which I shall present to our people.”—3 Selected Messages, 90 (Letter 61a, 1900).
“I am still as active as ever. I am not in the least decrepit. I am able to do much work, writing and speaking as I did years ago.
“I read over all that is copied, to see that everything is as it should be. I read all the book manuscript before it is sent to the printer. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied. Besides writing, I am called upon to speak to the different churches and to attend important meetings. I could not do this work unless the Lord helped me.”—3 Selected Messages, 90-91 (Letter 133, 1902).
Marian Davis, who untiringly helped Ellen from December 31, 1878, until her death in October 25, 1904, carried on a special work. She would locate everything Ellen had earlier written on a subject and prepare small notebooks with the material. Then Ellen would use that material in writing her later books. That is how PP, DA, MH, COL, AA, and PK were produced. Here are several statements about Marian’s work:
“Marian’s work is of a different order altogether. She is my bookmaker . . How are my books made? Marian does not put in her claim for recognition.
“She does her work in this way: She takes my articles which are published in the papers, and pastes them in blank books. She also has a copy of all the letters I write. In preparing a chapter for a book, Marian remembers that I have written something on that special point, which may make the matter more forcible. She begins to search for this, and if when she finds it, she sees that it will make the chapter more clear, she adds it.
“The books are not Marian’s productions, but my own, gathered from all my writings. Marian has a large field from which to draw, and her ability to arrange the matter is of great value to me. It saves my poring over a mass of matter, which I have no time to do.
“So you understand that Marian is a most valuable help to me in bringing out my books.”—3 Selected Messages, 91 (Letter 61a, 1900).
“I feel very thankful for the help of Sister Marian Davis in getting out my books. She gathers materials from my diaries, from my letters, and from the articles published in the papers. I greatly prize her faithful service. She has been with me for twenty-five years, and has constantly been gaining increasing ability for the work of classifying and grouping my writings.”—3 Selected Messages, 93 (Letter 9, 1903).
While on a trip from Elmshaven to Oakland in September 1904, Marian became chilled one evening while helping see through to production the printing of a new Spirit of Prophecy book at Pacific Press. She died on October 25. You will meet her in heaven. Instead of criticizing the Spirit of Prophecy writings, as some today are doing, Marian did her part to help circulate them. “She hath chosen the better part.” God will bless all who, like her, choose the better part.
“Marian, my helper, faithful and true as the compass to the pole in her work, is dying . .
“I am leaving tomorrow for Battle Creek. Yet my soul is drawn to the dying girl who has served me for the last twenty-five years. We have stood side by side in the work, and in perfect harmony in that work. And when she would be gathering up the precious jots and tittles that had come in papers and books and present it to me, ‘Now,’ she would say, ‘there is something wanted [needed]. I cannot supply it [from your earlier writings].’ I would look it over, and in one moment I could trace the line right out.
“We worked together, just worked together in perfect harmony all the time. She is dying. And it is devotion to the work. She takes the intensity of it as though it were a reality, and we both have entered into it with an intensity to have every paragraph that shall stand in its right place, and show its right work.”—3 Selected Messages, 93 (Manuscript 95, 1904, dated September 24, 1904).
“Marian had been with me about twenty-five years. She was my chief worker in arranging the matter for my books. She ever appreciated the writings as sacred matter placed in her hands, and would often relate to me what comfort and blessing she received in performing this work, that it was her health and her life to do this work. She ever handled the matters placed in her hands as sacred. I shall miss her so much.”—3 Selected Messages, 91 (Manuscript 146, 1904).
When I was in college, I heard about the liberals in the religion departments of Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, and Princeton Theological Seminary, who were destroying their students. Young men who wanted to dedicate their lives as ministers would enter the classes of those men. Although their parents had raised them to love God’s holy Word and trust everything they read in its pages, vultures picked their brains to pieces.
The young men were taught that the Bible could not be trusted. Oh, the liberal professors did not say it was all garbage, just some of it. “You see,” they would say, “after the initial authors wrote it, it was later changed, edited, and added to. So you really cannot be sure which passages were originally there.”
Upon learning that the Bible was no longer trustworthy, the young men should have immediately fled from the place—and left the school. But, instead, they lingered to hear serpents speak.
Their willingness to keep listening to emissaries of the devil was their undoing. The liberals formed them in their own image; and soon the young men, conceited to imagine that they knew advanced light which their parents did not know, began teaching the same falsehoods.
Those so-called learned men in the universities of the world are using higher criticism to destroy souls. You surely do not want to attend the religion departments in those institutions! “Higher criticism” is the teaching initiated by German atheist “theologians” in the nineteenth century, that the Bible writers did not write their own books!
But, then, gradually our own colleges and universities were infiltrated by graduates of those universities. And now our own young men are being taught similar errors. They are told that our historic teachings are unreliable and that the Spirit of Prophecy writings are not divinely inspired. Well, you do not want to attend those schools either, even though they are owned and subsidized by the tithes and offerings of our church members.
But Satan was not satisfied to stop there. He had his eye on the little flock who, so far, had resisted his devices. The devil wanted to destroy the faithful who had stood true to our historic teachings, defended our virtuous standards, and deeply loved and obeyed both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
What was the best way to undermine their faith, confuse their minds, and gradually separate them from God? At last, he hit on the best technique of all: Satan decided to use the very same method which worked so well in the worldly colleges and universities under his control, the same teaching preached from week to week in the most sophisticated churches of the land. Satan would use higher criticism to destroy confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy—that part of God’s Word which Heaven had appointed as a guardian of the faith of the remnant in these last days. It would be claimed that Ellen White did not write her own books either!
And it is succeeding. In group after group, tapes are being circulated, itinerate preachers are holding meetings, newsletters are being circulated, books are offered for sale. The vicious falsehoods subtly attack Ellen White, her character, her writings, and God’s very power to protect His Written Word!
That is what makes the attacks so insidious. For when you buy the package of lies which says that men have changed the Spirit of Prophecy writings, you have bought with it a package which says that God is unreliable,—He does not safeguard His holy books.
The implication is that, if God has not protected the Spirit of Prophecy, which was written only within the past 150 years, then you can have no certainty that the Old and New Testaments are not as corrupt. The temptation is to not stop with rejecting part of it; throw it all out, and go on out and enjoy the world. You might as well; for you have willingly permitted Satan’s agents to whisper doubts in your mind about the very nature of divine Inspiration. The door to your mind has been opened to the tempter’s devices.
Rejecting part of what you have known to be Scripture, you have stripped yourself of the angelic wall of defense which was formerly about you. Subtle temptations to let down your standards and think and do things you formerly avoided will inevitably pull you down further.
Amid a raging ocean of worldliness, you once clung to the rock of God’s Word and were safe. But, having abandoned part of it, your hold on the remainder has been weakened. Erelong, you are fighting the waves in your own strength and are gradually drawn toward the final whirlpool.
What was it that destroyed the young men at the universities? They were taught that much of God’s Scriptures are unreliable and that they must learn to pick and choose those parts which are still safe. This reasoning, of course, placed their brains—instead of God’s Word—as the final authority. It may seem to be a subtle difference; yet it involved a bedrock decision: If the wisdom that leads to salvation rests with me, then I can sit in judgment on all Scripture.
Soon I start thinking I can sit in judgment on the very nature and existence of the Godhead! Nothing becomes sacred to me. Because I am my own authority, I am now a law unto myself. I have become my own god. Get it settled in your mind: You dare not question certain things. You dare not question the Bible. You dare not question the Spirit of Prophecy. You dare not question whether obedience to God’s law is necessary. For, I assure you, when you soon stand before the Judgment, you will not question that. It is coming. What will be your life record? Will you, in that day, have to admit that you spent your time voicing the words of demons—that the Spirit of Prophecy could not be trusted? It is a serious matter. You have only one life to live. You had better pass through it with your hand in God’s hand (which is done through implicit confidence in Christ and obedience through faith to His Word) rather than clinging to the hand of some vagabond inventor of lies.
One of the most remarkable things about the writings of Ellen White is that everything agrees and dovetails so well! A person has to read for years in order to find oddities that appear to disagree with other passages.
In comparison, it is not difficult to find anomalies in the Bible which do not agree with other passages. Quite a few could quickly be mentioned. Yet we accept the Bible as fully inspired of God, which is what it is. A comparison of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveals many of them. The critics of Ellen White search for the rare oddities, in her writings, and hold them up to us as examples supporting their contention that her writings are not inspired. It is difficult to find such unusual statements, but here are a few of them:
“Your views concerning swine’s flesh would prove no injury if you have them to yourselves; but in your judgment and opinion you have made this question a test, and your actions have plainly shown your faith in this matter. If God requires His people to abstain from swine’s flesh, He will convict them on the matter.”—1 Testimonies, 206-207.
God gradually gives more and more light to His prophets. An example of this is Isaiah, who gave additional truths not revealed earlier. So is Exodus and Leviticus. It was not until 1848 that Ellen White reproved the use of tobacco. Prior to that time, she said nothing about it.
The above statement was penned on October 21, 1858; but, in His wisdom, the Lord waited until 1863 before giving her the wide-ranging health reform vision. The above statement said that, in 1858, eating of pork was not a test of fellowship, which was true. She also said that God might give more light on this matter later, which was also true. The overarching lesson from this passage—is that it is printed in our Testimonies! It was never expunged. This demonstrates that we can trust those books!
Another apparent oddity is the statement that Christ is today standing before the altar of incense.
“Christ might commission the angels of heaven to pour out the vials of His wrath on our world, to destroy those who are filled with hatred of God. He might wipe this dark spot from His universe. But He does not do this. He is today standing at the altar of incense, presenting before God the prayers of those who desire His help.
“The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature. They stand beside the great Sin Bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God.”—Desire of Ages, 568.
The context is speaking about Christ’s great love and care for His erring earthly children. Ellen is so filled with feeling that she waxes eloquent with powerful symbolic language to illustrate her meaning: “pour out the vials of His wrath,” “wipe this dark spot,” “standing at the altar of incense,” “turn to Him for refuge,” “strife of tongues,” “impeach these souls.” Notice the final sentence: They stand beside their Mediator, “in the light proceeding from the throne of God.” That light is not now in the first apartment, which is blocked by a veil from God’s glory in the second. So, by faith, they are standing by Him in the second, not the first, apartment.
Metaphorical statements can be doctrinally inaccurate—if taken literally. A few lines down from “standing at the altar” is “They stand by their Mediator.” Both are symbols; neither one is literally true. We are not now standing by our Mediator in heaven. These are metaphors. Both are symbolically stated; neither one is literally true. Here is another metaphor:
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.
“And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord.
“And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”—Isaiah 66:22-24.
Verse 24 is obviously metaphorical, and not a reality. After the wicked have been eliminated, the righteous will not go forth from the Holy City and look at dead corpses all over the ground. The wicked will have been totally burned up in the fire which purifies the earth. The metaphor means that the wicked are no longer able to trouble anyone. A fire which no creature can quench will have done its work thoroughly. The wicked are gone.
“While the earth was wrapped in the fire of destruction, the righteous abode safely in the Holy City. Upon those that had part in the first resurrection, the second death has no power. While God is to the wicked a consuming fire, He is to His people both a sun and a shield. Revelation 20:6; Psalm 84:11.
“ ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.’ Revelation 21:1. The fire that consumes the wicked purifies the earth. Every trace of the curse is swept away. No eternally burning hell will keep before the ransomed the fearful consequences of sin.
“One reminder alone remains: Our Redeemer will ever bear the marks of His crucifixion. Upon His wounded head, upon His side, His hands and feet, are the only traces of the cruel work that sin has wrought.”—Great Controversy, 673-674. (A similar figure of speech is found in Malachi 4:3; cf. 4:1-3, which also describes the total destruction of the wicked.)
It is clear that this one phrase, “standing by the altar,” in DA 568, is also a metaphor and not a reality. Christ is pleading for us today; that is what it means. Ellen has dozens of statements about Christ’s work for us in the second apartment after 1844. So we have total clarity, as to her meaning; and the fact is that this one passage must be interpreted as a most beautiful metaphor.
However, if you wish to take the sentence literally, (“He is today standing at the altar of incense, presenting before God the prayers of those who desire His help”) that would also be true. The sending up of incense to make our prayers acceptable to God—cannot stop or we would all be lost! Christ is still standing by the altar, but on the other side of the curtain.
Desire of Ages is one of the most glorious books Ellen wrote. Why people would want to pick flaws in it is almost beyond comprehension. Another apparent (apparent) oddity, that they point to, is found near the end of the book.
“Its steeps had echoed the triumphant shouts of the multitude that proclaimed Him king. On its sloping descent He had found a home with Lazarus at Bethany. In the garden of Gethsemane at its foot He had prayed and agonized alone. From this mountain He was to ascend to heaven. Upon its summit His feet will rest when He shall come again. Not as a man of sorrows, but as a glorious and triumphant king He will stand upon Olivet, while Hebrew hallelujahs mingle with Gentile hosannas, and the voices of the redeemed as a mighty host shall swell the acclamation, ‘Crown Him Lord of all!’ ”—Desire of Ages, 829-830.
Frequently, in Bible prophecy, the prophet describes an incident and then skips entire centuries and mentions another. In other prophecies, missing portions are filled in. The Spirit of Prophecy does the same thing. Frequently an inspired source does not give the full picture all at once. Think about it. You do not have a complete chronological picture of the events in Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, or 10-12. You do not find it anywhere in Revelation. You have to carefully fit them together.
In the above passage, Ellen is very briefly mentioning a future event. Be aware that, in doing so, she may skip over intermediate predicted events, just as the Bible writers do.
The purpose of the above passage is quite obvious: solely to list the times that the Mount of Olives is important in history, from Christ’ time to the end of sin. The Second Advent was not listed in this paragraph, since Christ does not touch the earth at that time.
(1) His stay at Lazarus’ home. (2) His agony in Gethsemane. (3) His ascension. (4) His return to the top of the mount. When does the fourth incident occur: at Christ’s Second Coming or at His Third? Obviously, His third, for these reasons:
1 - Scripture explains Scripture; and she elsewhere says Christ will not touch down on Olivet till His Third Coming.
2 - As “its steeps . . echoed the triumphant shouts of the multitude that proclaimed Him king” during His triumphal entry, so, the passage says, when He next touches the top of the mount, everyone—everyone—will praise Him, as He once again returns, and proclaim Him King. When does that occur? Not at Christ’s Second Advent; for then the righteous are pale with fear and the wicked are crying out in horror (Great Controversy, 641-642). It occurs at His Third Advent. He descends from heaven with His people and the Holy City; and He is praised by His redeemed, some of whom are Jews and some are Gentiles. Then the dead are raised to life; and Jesus and the redeemed enter the Holy City.
3 - At the above-described coming, the trump of God does not sound nor do the dead in Christ arise from the dead. That is because it is Christ’s Third, not His Second, Advent.
4 - But now, for an even more powerful evidence: Two pages after Desire of Ages, 830, there is a parallel passage (page 832). But this one is speaking not about Christ’s Third Coming,—but about His Second. He will descend from heaven in a cloud, the trump of God will sound, the dead in Christ will rise, and He receives His faithful ones to Himself that where He is, there they may be also.
Vern Bates, located in the Pacific Northwest, declares that nearly all the Spirit of Prophecy writings are “corrupt” and cannot be relied on. At the close of his booklet, Revival of the True Spirit of Prophecy Writings (RTSPW), Bates confidently declares of those who have read his attacks on Ellen White’s books:
“The following reaction is typical of those who are honestly searching for the truth, who have been confronted with . . this booklet, for the first time: ‘What can I now really believe in? I feel like throwing my books away!’ ”—RTSPW, p. 26.
His solution is for you to discard all the later Spirit of Prophecy books and only read a few earlier, small booklets—which he will sell you at a high price.
Vern Bates wants to decide for you which Scriptures you can study and which you are forbidden to read. The only other person who dares do that is the pope of Rome.
People who have phoned Bates, with questions, find that he tends to evade them by changing the subject to one of his pet claims. So you would do well to read this, so you can learn the truth. If you reject nine-tenths of the Spirit of Prophecy, as Bates wants you to do, then you will be stripped of much of your latter-day protection against further deceptions by the devil.
How would you like to spend your life turning people away from the abundance of treasure, the precious words of God, which have been given us in the Spirit of Prophecy? I would not want to be in Vern Bates’ shoes in the day when the Judgment meets and the books are opened. I have spoken with a number of people who, having accepted his ideas, no longer read the Spirit of Prophecy. They tell me they have been told there is something wrong with them; but, upon questioning, they are not really sure what it is.
What people do not realize is that Bates’ peculiar theories have implications which he does not dare mention. His imaginings, if true, would place the Word of God in a strait jacket. As an English-speaking person, you would not even be able to find an inspired Bible worth reading!
Bates has at least eight primary errors, on which he constructs his entire fabric of conjecture:
His first error is the theory that all inspired writings, both in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy, are produced by verbal dictation. It is not visions but voices that is important. A voice dictates one word after the next; and, like a robot, the prophet writes each word down. Bates bases his theories on a strict form of the error of verbal inspiration. (See her clarifying quotations on pp. 185-191 of this book.) According to this theory, God does not impart knowledge to the prophet by what he sees in visions. It is only dictated words, as the prophet holds a pen in hand, that are inspired. Most of his correspondence, the letters he writes, are not worth reading.
But there is more. The second error of Bates is his idea that only the original wording is inspired—only those first dictated sentences. Therefore, no translation of the Spirit of Prophecy into other languages can be inspired! If you cannot read English, the Spirit of Prophecy contains no message to you from Heaven. Indeed, unless you can read Greek and Hebrew, the Bible is also useless; since, according to Bates, only the original wording is inspired. —Yet Bates, himself, sells a Spanish translation of one Spirit of Prophecy book!
Such theories are foolishness!
The truth is that God inspires the writer, who then writes the concept down in his own words. These concepts are then translated into other languages. The King James Version, for example, is inspired of God! You believe it, don’t you? Yet it was translated, by men, into other languages. It does not contain the original words the prophets wrote down.
Sometimes in vision the prophet is shown pictures of past history or future events which have not yet occurred. Bates’ theory requires that such views are uninspired; only the dictated words are inspired.
Bates’ third error is the theory that once a prophet writes something, it is set in concrete. That point can never be mentioned again in a later inspired statement by the prophet. It cannot be enlarged upon or added to in a later writing. The first mention of a topic is alone inspired of God. Bates makes this claim so you will throw away Ellen White’s later books—and buy his reprints of her earliest books—he makes money on the sale of those early reprints. For example, he charges $94.00 for the first four books of the Testimonies (containing testimonies 1-30); whereas you can buy them in the ABC for $14.99 each.
According to his theory, the prophet can never later enlarge on something earlier written; therefore Desire of Ages is not inspired. Since it is an immense enlargement of a few very brief chapters written in earlier years about Christ’s life on earth! All her later books are in the same category.
If you will pause and think a minute, you will recall many examples in both the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy in which a point or concept was later adapted, changed, or enlarged. Deuteronomy includes an enlargement of events and details in Leviticus. Kings and Chronicles enlarge on Samuel and duplicate one another. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John continually retell what the others have said. In Acts, Paul repeatedly tells the story of his conversion.
In Jeremiah 36, a sizeable amount of the book of Jeremiah is written down,—but Jeremiah dictates it to Baruch; God does not do the dictating to Jeremiah. Then, after King Jehoiakim burns it, Jeremiah adds to it still more words—thus enlarging the book! “There were added besides unto them many like words” (Jeremiah 36:32). Yet, according to Bates’ theory, the second writing of it could not be inspired.
In the Gospels, one inspired writer describes an event one way and another does it another way. According to the implications of Bates’ theory, only one is inspired. Bates says his theory is correct because we should not add to the Bible (Revelation 22:18-19). It is true that we should not write into Scripture what we think to be inspired comments. But God can add to it all He wants! He can enlarge it. Bates tries to limit what God can do; and he dares to say which parts of the Inspired Word we are permitted to read.
If Bates’ theory was correct, then Ellen White could not write anything about any Bible topic, event, or prophecy—since Bible writers already earlier wrote about those concepts and events. Actually, John the Revelator could not write part of his book which provides additional information to the data given in Daniel. Indeed, Daniel seven is an enlargement of future information given in Daniel two; and Daniel eight and Daniel eleven are further enlargements. So only Daniel two can be inspired!
Bates’ fourth error is that if one book provides variant information of another book, the second one written is worthless and should be discarded. For example, he quotes one Spirit of Prophecy passage which says that an event occurred at night and another which says it occurred in the day. Therefore the entire second book is not inspired.
But we would then need to toss out Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; for they all provide different details about the same incidents.
Bates’ fifth error is that if a sentence or paragraph is moved from its original location, its inspiration ceases. He uses error to help defend his position, that later restructuring or rewriting of earlier material by Ellen White is not inspired. As you may know, she followed Jesus’ command, to “gather up the fragments that nothing be lost” (John 6:12). She would take paragraphs, here and there from her earlier writings, and use them in later writings.
Bates also uses the above error, to defend his sixth error, that Spirit of Prophecy compilations are worthless. Because paragraphs on similar topics have been placed together from earlier writings, they no longer contain valid information.
As you can see, strange errors lead to strange conclusions. All the Testimonies are compiled from letters! Part of the material in even her earliest books was drawn from articles and letters she had written. Bates does not want his followers to recognize all the implications of his teachings. But if a person is going to buy the package, he should be consistent and accept all that it involves.
Bates says you should not read Spirit of Prophecy compilations; yet he prints and sells Spirit of Prophecy compilations he has put together! One example is his book, Revival of the True Spirit of Prophecy Writings (analyzed later in this study), which contains Bible and Spirit of Prophecy passages he has brought together. He has also published other books which consist of compiled materials from various sources.
If compilations are useless, then all Bible studies are worthless also! They consist of compilations! In fact, if you adopt his theory, you should not quote the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy in your conversations or sermons; for, in doing so, you have lifted each passage out of context!
Liberal Adventists have a similar teaching. Because Bible verses disprove their errors, they claim that it is wrong to quote several different Bible verses in support of anything; only one Bible passage is to be used. That claim was part of their defense of women’s ordination at the 1995 Utrecht Session.
Bates’ seventh error, on which he builds his house of cards, is the theory that God does not protect His inspired writings.
In the case of Ellen White’s writings, Bates claims that they were only safe as long as James White was alive. Bates is very adamant about that. He maintains that, as soon as James died, enemies had a free hand to ruin them. According to Bates, the idea that God protects His Word is fiction. Of course, if you believe Bates, then you cannot trust the Bible either. Bates’ idea is that only people protect God’s Word; God never does.
Which person in Israel was protecting Moses’ writings while he was alive? Who was protecting them after he died and “everyone did what is right in his own eyes”? The same would hold true for the other 45 Bible writers.
This present study totally disproves this terrible charge by Bates. God protects His Word, just as He protects His people. It is the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy that connects us to God. He has to protect His writings or they would be totally obliterated by men. It is only through the Word that we can learn the truth and the way to heaven.
• Bates’ eighth error is the claim that God permitted wicked men to later change Ellen White’s writings, and He—God—did nothing to stop it; He did not warn Ellen, so she would stop it. This present study disproves that error also. His view is that Ellen could not stop the corruption of her writings, nor can we rely on God to protect them. He imagines that God is helpless to defend His Inspired Writings.
You ask, How could Ellen White have stopped it? First, she always had friends in top leadership on all levels; loyal supporters would tell her things she could work with. Second, she could have taken her case to the laity, as she did about righteousness by faith in 1889 and 1890. Third, she could have printed her books outside the church (as she did with Steps to Christ, because Smith stalled the printing of the 1888 Great Controversy for two years). Ellen White had courage and tenacity; she was not the lazy wimp that Bates makes her out to be.
How does Bates try to prove his theories? He supports his errors with a collection of insinuations based on hypothetical assumptions, irrelevant quotations, and supposed errors in the Spirit of Prophecy. For example, in one place Ellen White writes that there are those in the church who are not converted. Bates says that general statement proves that she knew church leaders were changing her writings. A Bible verse mentioning that men were evil at the time the Bible writer wrote is the basis for a Bates’ conjecture that, therefore, Bible writings have also been changed by wicked men! Bates quotes a Spirit of Prophecy statement, that Uriah Smith was an “Eli” and not faithfully reproving sin. Therefore, Bates conjectures, based on that statement, that Smith must have been changing her writings. Bates’ charges are a collection of false assumptions based on hypothetical leaps of logic.
What is Bates’ solution to the problem? Bates claims that he knows of a tiny number of early, small Spirit of Prophecy books which are “uncontaminated.” Yet, examining them, you find that none of her major books are among them—not one! Great Controversy is gone, Desire of Ages is gone, and nine-tenths of all the rest.
Yet, even if you were to read in his little collection, you would find that concepts are repeated in them (something Bates says would make them uninspired). You will find a variety of statements by people. You will find comments on Bible verses and prophecies. Yet because they duplicate and enlarge on what the Bible says, according to Bates’ theory, they must be uninspired also! Bates’ ideas are a house of cards that falls to pieces as soon as you closely examine it!
What would these changes be, which Bates claims were made to the Spirit of Prophecy books?
What would be removed or added? Only wicked men would attempt to change the Spirit of Prophecy writings, but what objectives would they have in mind?
First, what would they remove? Unconverted church leaders, just as other unconverted people would do, would remove everything that pointed out sin. Reproof of sin would inevitably weaken their position and control over the people. Yet you can hardly read a paragraph or page in a Spirit of Prophecy book which does not condemn wrongdoing. And this includes the later compilations of her writings, such as Ministry of Healing: against drug medication and for natural remedies; Great Controversy: against the sins of church leaders and warnings against letting them gain too much control in the church (read GC 595-597; yet the critics say corrupt church leaders wrote Great Controversy!); Desire of Ages: against the overarching sins of church leaders; Councils on Diet and Foods: against coffee, tea, and meat eating. On and on the list goes. All nine volumes of the Testimonies are also full of warnings against sinful conduct.
In stunning contrast, open a copy of the Review or a union paper, or look at the books advertised in the ABC catalog. You will find little or nothing that reproves sin. Why? Because men, not God, inspired those publications. It is the way of man to praise men and not mention wrongdoing. The Spirit of Prophecy writings are totally different: They condemn sin!
Why then, we ask, does Bates want to get rid of those books? Perhaps the Spirit of Prophecy writings condemn his sins. It is a strange fact that Bates’ objective is the same as that of the liberals in our church, who are so immersed in sin that they find it necessary to destroy confidence in the holy books. The Spirit of Prophecy writings are an amplification of the Ten Commandments. Why does Bates want to get rid of them?
Early leaders in our church would also have wanted to remove how they mistreated Ellen and James. (Read “Sketch of Experience” in 1 Testimonies, 570-585. It was not taken out, when the Testimonies were reprinted after James’ death.)
Church leaders would want everything discarded, which weakened their control over church members. Then why is “The Scriptures a Safeguard” in all three editions of Great Controversy? It is a most violent attack on the primacy of church authority. The first (historical) half of the book is also powerful. Why was Testimonies to Ministers, an equally strong book, published as a compilation nearly a decade after her death?
Second, what would they add? If the leaders wrote or heavily changed her books after 1881, as Bates charges, this is what they would have added: flattering comments about leaders, how good they are, how they never make mistakes, and how we need to trust and obey them. We would be told of the wise committee decisions they make. We would find recommendations concerning big buildings, big salaries, going into debt, consolidation, and centralized control by a few men. Because so many condemnations of sin would have been removed, lots of useless details of no consequence would be added to fill the missing pages.
What was actually changed when Testimonies, books 1-4, were reprinted in the mid-1880s? Everything is primarily just as it originally was, with three main exceptions: First, a number of unimportant phrases were slightly rewritten or omitted (exactly what wicked leaders would want left in). Second, a few “I saw” and “I was shown” phrases were left out. This was done in accordance with her later conviction that the Testimonies should be shared with non-Adventists. Third, some names of people were changed to letters of the alphabet. Fourth, there are a few instances in which she omitted, from the final printing, some specific paragraphs about individuals at Battle Creek. (See my tract, Searching for Changes in the Testimonies [WM–1075].)
What about compilations prepared after her death?
Read Testimonies to Ministers, Counsels on Diet and Foods, and her books on evangelism, teaching, schools, temperance, etc. All the compilations condemn sin and none encourage slavish submission to leadership—any more than the books written while she was alive. The compilations contain precious gems of truth gathered together on given topics. They are both inspirational and deeply instructive. Here is one example: Read “The Reason for the Delay” in Evangelism, 694-697. It is a most powerful collection of statements—which urges us to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus! It is a valuable compilation!
God delights in watching how the individuality of all His creatures is expressed. Each living creature has its own individuality. Each one is uniquely different. The Lord guides His children, but He does not micromanage them like robots.
Every Bible author wrote with a distinct individuality, expressing his own personality and experience,—yet everything was inspired. That is the great truth witnessed in God’s Word, the great truth verified by Ellen White. (See pp. 176-178, of this book, for more on thought vs. verbal inspiration.)
“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, 21-22; Manuscript 24, 1886 (written in Europe in 1886).
“Those who think to make the supposed difficulties of Scripture plain, in measuring by their finite rule that which is inspired and that which is not inspired, had better cover their faces . .
“And He has not, while presenting the perils clustering about the last days, qualified any finite man to unravel hidden mysteries, or inspired one man or any class of men to pronounce judgment as to that which is inspired or is not. When men, in their finite judgment, find it necessary to go into an examination of Scriptures to define that which is inspired and that which is not, they have stepped before Jesus to show Him a better way than He has led us.”—7 Bible Commentary, 944.
“Men arise who think they find something to criticize in God’s Word. They lay it bare before others as evidence of superior wisdom. These men are, many of them, smart men, learned men, they have eloquence and talent, the whole lifework [of whom] is to unsettle minds in regard to the inspiration of the Scriptures. They influence many to see as they do. And the same work is passed on from one to another, just as Satan designed it should be, until we may see the full meaning of the words of Christ, ‘When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).”—1 Selected Messages, 17.
“Those who take only a surface view of the Scriptures will, with their superficial knowledge, which they think is very deep, talk of the contradictions of the Bible and question the authority of the Scriptures. But those whose hearts are in harmony with truth and duty will search the Scriptures with a heart prepared to receive divine impressions.”—1 Selected Messages, 20 (7 Bible Commentary, 945).
“Skepticism has been aroused in many minds by the theories presented as to the nature of inspiration. Finite beings, with their narrow, short-sighted views, feel themselves competent to criticize the Scriptures, saying: ‘This passage is needful, and that passage is not needful, and is not inspired.’
“Christ gave no such instruction in regard to the Old Testament Scriptures, the only part of the Bible which the people of His time possessed. His teachings were designed to direct their minds to the Old Testament and to bring into clearer light the great themes there presented.”—5 Testimonies, 709.
“Men should let God take care of His own Book, His living oracles, as He has done for ages. They begin to question some parts of revelation, and pick flaws in the apparent inconsistencies of this statement and that statement.
“Beginning at Genesis, they give up that which they deem questionable, and their minds lead on, for Satan will lead to any length they may follow in their criticism, and they see something to doubt in the whole Scriptures. Their faculties of criticism become sharpened by exercise, and they can rest on nothing with a certainty. You try to reason with these men, but your time is lost.”—1 Selected Messages, 17-18.
“The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand. They are of divine, and not of human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that ‘the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’ John 1:14.
“Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the nature of the subjects unfolded. Different forms of expression are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by one than by another. And as several writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.
“As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought out in its varied aspects. One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind—a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all. And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances and experiences of life.
“God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work.”—Great Controversy, Introduction, v-vi.
“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 (Letter 53, 1900).
“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).
“He will misconstrue his words, play upon his imagination, wrest them from their true meaning, and then entrench himself in unbelief, claiming that the sentiments are all wrong.
“This is the way my writings are treated by those who wish to misunderstand and pervert them. They turn the truth of God into a lie. In the very same way that they treat the writings in my published articles and in my books, so do skeptics and infidels treat the Bible. They read it according to their desire to pervert, to misapply, to willfully wrest the utterances from their true meaning. They declare that the Bible can prove anything and everything, that every sect proves their doctrines right, and that the most diverse doctrines are proved from the Bible.
“The writers of the Bible had to express their ideas in human language. It was written by human men. These men were inspired of the Holy Spirit. Because of the imperfections of human understanding of language, or the perversity of the human mind, ingenious in evading truth, many read and understand the Bible to please themselves. It is not that the difficulty is in the Bible. Opposing politicians argue points of law in the statute book, and take opposite views in their application and in these laws . .
“There is not always perfect order or apparent unity in the Scriptures. The miracles of Christ are not given in exact order, but are given just as the circumstances occurred, which called for this divine revealing of the power of Christ. The truths of the Bible are as pearls hidden. They must be searched, dug out by painstaking effort. Those who take only a surface view of the Scriptures will, with their superficial knowledge, which they think is very deep, talk of the contradictions of the Bible and question the authority of the Scriptures. But those whose hearts are in harmony with truth and duty will search the Scriptures with a heart prepared to receive divine impressions. The illuminated soul sees a spiritual unity, one grand golden thread running through the whole; but it requires patience, thought, and prayer to trace out the precious golden thread. Sharp contentions over the Bible have led to investigation and revealed the precious jewels of truth. Many tears have been shed, many prayers offered, that the Lord would open the understanding to His Word.
“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, 19-20 (Manuscript 24, 1886).