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    Chapter 8—The Relation of Ellen G. White to the Bible

    The relation of Ellen G. White to the Bible is one of the most important of the studies in this series. I have tried to indicate in the studies that have gone before that my concern is over three fundamental points of faith: (1) That I thoroughly understand and believe in God; (2) that I thoroughly understand and believe that the Bible is God’s word; and (3) that I thoroughly understand and have no question whatsoever in the fact that in giving us this Book God spoke through men, called prophets.DGRGC 107.1

    If I am satisfied and convinced on these three facts of faith, then I have no reason to doubt anything else that is attached to the Spirit of prophecy for today. These three facts are and must be absolutely fundamental, and I must have no question or uncertainty whatsoever regarding them. Having established those three facts in my own mind, and having come to a conclusion that they are indeed facts on which the Christian faith is established, then I cannot doubt that God has and did use men and women as His spokesmen, as His servants, as His messengers.DGRGC 107.2

    I must then come to the question as to what I shall do with one Ellen G. White, who claimed that she was one of God’s messengers. I believe the four tests and the six evidences that I have given are sufficient to convince all. I know they convince me that she was indeed one of God’s messengers. Now having convinced myself of that, the next thing I must do is to settle the relation of Ellen G. White to the Bible. And here is a question that calls for very careful study. It is one which frequently disturbs the minds of some people. Let me give you the reason for such concern.DGRGC 107.3

    A few of our people are inclined to give the impression that Mrs. White’s writings are on a par with the Ten Commandments. A very few are inclined to put the writings of the Spirit of prophecy above the Bible. Now, what shall be our attitude? Shall we put them above, on a par, or below? This question must be settled by every Seventh-day Adventist.DGRGC 107.4

    Having accepted Ellen G. White as one of God’s messengers, and believing that she manifested the gift of prophecy, then I must decide on the relationship of her writings to the Bible. And this I say again is a rather difficult question for some of our people. What position can I take and be safe? You will remember, I intimated in the very first study that some people tend to be away over on one extreme, while some tend to be away on the opposite extreme, and that some tend to follow far behind, while some try to run far ahead! The question for me is, Where shall I stand? I have already stated that I have taken my personal stand right beside Ellen G. White on all of these questions. I do not intend to be away over to the right, nor away over on the left, nor too far in the rear, nor too far in advance of her position. I am determined to stand right beside her. Then I know I shall be safe on every issue.DGRGC 108.1

    What did she say on this question of the relationship of her works to the Bible? Let me give it to you very briefly.DGRGC 108.2

    First I read from her very first book, published back in 1851, Experience and Views, now a part of Early Writings:DGRGC 108.3

    “I recommend to you dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the ‘last days’: not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth.” 15White, Ellen G., in “Early Writings, 78.DGRGC 108.4

    What then is the relation of Ellen G. White to the Bible? If I take my position by her side, I shall have to take this statement as being a declaration of my faith and confidence in the Bible as the Christian’s rule of faith and practice. That is a certainty. And, furthermore, she says that the visions are not given for a new rule of faith and practice. Therefore, I could not consistently say that I will put the Bible aside and take the writings of the Spirit of prophecy now as a new, more up-to-date, more modern, rule of faith and practice.DGRGC 108.5

    The second thought is this. If she at the very beginning of her ministry took that position concerning her own work in relationship to the Bible, what did she say at the conclusion of her work? This we take from words spoken at the close of her last sermon at the 1909 General Conference when she held the Bible on her extended hands and said, “I commend unto you THIS BOOK.” Men who have been the closest students of the writings of the Spirit of prophecy all agree that so far as Mrs. White herself is concerned, she never claimed that; her writings were to take the place of the Bible.DGRGC 109.1

    The Bible in her estimation was and always will be the only rule of faith and practice for Christians everywhere. After studying for a long while on this question, and having read a great deal on it, with her I came to ten conclusions, and may I state them very briefly:DGRGC 109.2

    1. Ellen G. White believed that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. So do I.DGRGC 109.3

    2. She believed that men should “cling” to their Bibles. So do I.DGRGC 109.4

    3. She taught that men should believe and obey the Bible, and if so, not one of them would be lost. This teaching runs all the way through her writings. This I believe.DGRGC 109.5

    4. She believed that in the Bible is found “comfort, guidance, counsel, and the plan of salvation as clear as a sunbeam.” It is the Bible which she holds up before the people at all times and in all places. So do I.DGRGC 109.6

    5. She believed that the Bible is “fitted” for the needs of all, rich and poor, learned and illiterate, for “all ages and all classes.” So do I.DGRGC 109.7

    6. She believed that “the truth of God is found in His Word.” So do I.DGRGC 109.8

    7. She believed that the Bible contains all that a man needs for salvation. So do I.DGRGC 109.9

    8. She believed that no one need “seek elsewhere for present truth.” So do I. 9. She taught that the Bible sets forth “the Pattern for Christian Living.” So do I.DGRGC 109.10

    10. She stated that the Testimonies were given only because man had neglected His Bible and that the Testimonies will direct man back to His Bible. They are not given as “an addition to the Word of God” nor to take the place of that Word of God. This I accept.DGRGC 110.1

    These ten conclusions are all held by men of the past and men of the present who have been most diligent and serious students of the Spirit of prophecy. Now let me introduce one other thought. If all of that be true, did Ellen G. White ever claim to have given Seventh-day Adventists their doctrinal teaching? their system of theology? Did she give us our prophetic interpretations? Did she claim that her writings would supplant all other writings that had to do with the Scriptures and prophetic interpretations? The answer to all of those questions is “No.”DGRGC 110.2

    The reason you and I should know what she said, and how she related herself to our doctrines is that too many people today are accusing us as Adventists of having a second Bible, or of setting the Bible aside and using only the “red books,” as the Spirit of prophecy writings are sometimes called. I suppose that accusation comes from the fact that many of us, teachers and preachers, use these writings in our Sabbath school teaching, in our Sabbath sermons, in much of our writing because we love the way she put her thoughts and the beautiful language in which they are couched. Consequently some have assumed that we are setting the Bible aside and using the writings of Ellen G. White in place of the Scriptures. That is not true. The denomination has never done it. From the very beginning, the leaders of this people have maintained that our doctrinal teachings have come from the Scriptures.DGRGC 110.3

    Let us go back to 1848, to what we know as the “Bible Conferences.” These Conferences were held in such places as Rocky Hill, Connecticut, April 20 to 24, 1848; in Volney, New York, beginning August 18, in “Brother Arnold’s barn“: in Port Gibson, New York, August 27, 28, in “Hiram Edson’s barn“: again in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, September 8 and 9; and in Topsham, Maine, October 20 to 22, in “Brother Howland’s house.”DGRGC 110.4

    Where were those Bible Conferences held? Wherever the brethren could meet, and judging from the barns that I saw up in New England when I followed in the footsteps of the pioneers, they were certainly not in the most comfortable places. But they were not interested in comforts, conveniences, and all of that. They were primarily interested in finding the truth. Mrs. White describes those meetings, and I shall give you two paragraphs which I believe will help you to get the feel of that critical period when they were trying to find their way through in doctrinal teachings and in Biblical interpretation.DGRGC 111.1

    She says,DGRGC 111.2

    “I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the word.” 16White, Ellen G., “Special Testimonies,” Series B, No. 2, p. 57.DGRGC 111.3

    May we stop right here to say that we have very few Bible scholars, or Bible students, today who sit down and spend more than a few hours at a time searching for truth. But those zealous pioneers could spend all night. They were willing to work and pray and study until late in the night, because they were so desperately anxious to find God’s message for their time. As the brethren came together Mrs. White noted that at first hardly two of them agreed theologically. Aside from their ardent hope which they held in common, everybody had his own ideas, and vigorously advocated his views.DGRGC 111.4

    It was no easy task to bring harmony out of that kind of situation. Ellen G. White, then just a young woman, and not too well educated in terms of schooling, would sit by their side and listen to those dear brethren reasoning and trying to find their way through the doctrines of the Scriptures. This is how she describes her experience:DGRGC 111.5

    “During this whole time, I could not understand the reasoning of the brethren. My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the Scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God. The brethren knew that when not in vision, I could not understand these matters, and they accepted as light direct from heaven the revelations given.” 17“Ibid.”DGRGC 111.6

    She has left us this word concerning their method of study. They would use the concordance and then read the passages, whole books at a time, trying to find the teachings on each of the doctrines. When they would come to a point in their reasoning and study, where it seemed they could go no further, it was then, in their perplexity, that God revealed the Scriptures to her. She could then take the Bible and bring to their attention the Scriptures which clarified to them some difficult point in this marvellous system of Seventh-day Adventist theology. And be it remembered that we have a most remarkable system of theology. Then through the visions the Lord often confirmed their discovery of truth. Our pioneers knew that they had the truth.DGRGC 112.1

    Be not mistaken, dear friends, no Christian group in the world has a more closely knit, more carefully integrated system of theology than do Seventh-day Adventists. In fact, it is so closely knit that, when we send our men out to present the message, and to convince, they are successful. We can do all of that and win the arguments; but in doing so, we have at times lost many friends. In fact, the old saying is, “Win the argument and lose friends.” I am inclined to believe that that is one unfortunate feature of our work. We have put the Scriptures together so well, and we have so closely knit together our arguments, that there is just no way of refuting them. However, in our confidence in our doctrines and in our teachings, we have not always manifested the humble spirit of Christ in our presentations, and Mrs. White has cautioned us not to become pugilistic in matters of theology.DGRGC 112.2

    The fact is this, our doctrines come from the Bible. They came by men who diligently searched the Scriptures, and they put those doctrinal studies together in such a way that there seems to be no way to refute them. Did you know that Mrs. White kept the Sabbath for seven months before she had a vision relating to the Sabbath? And so it was with all of our doctrines. In no case did the visions run ahead of Bible study. We found our way through the Scriptures theologically, then came the visions pointing out error or clarifying difficult points or broadening our concept of those vital truths. Seventh-day Adventists did not get their system of theology from the writings of Ellen G. White. Our system of theology comes from the Scriptures alone, and Seventh-day Adventists are known as being powerful in the Scriptures because we know what the Book teaches.DGRGC 112.3

    Now what is the relation between the Bible and the Testimonies, or the writings of the Spirit of prophecy? Our men have searched diligently for a full and complete answer to this question, and we are delighted with the two passages which, to our minds, give an adequate and satisfactory answer. They were not very far away, still I cannot understand how so many of us seem to have missed them for so long. Several paragraphs are found in Testimonies for the Church 5:664 and 665. Mrs. White herself says:DGRGC 113.1

    “I seemed to be attending an important meeting, at which a large company were assembled....DGRGC 113.2

    “I took the precious Bible and surrounded it with the several Testimonies for the Church, given for the people of God. Here, said I [in the Bible and in the writings], the cases of nearly all are met. The sins they are to shun are pointed out. The counsel that they desire can be found here, given for other cases situated similarly to themselves.... If you had made God’s Word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies.DGRGC 113.3

    Now listen:DGRGC 113.4

    “The Testimonies are not to belittle the Word of God, but to exalt it and attract minds to it, that the beautiful simplicity of truth may impress all.”DGRGC 113.5

    There is the relationship between the Testimonies, the writings of the servant of the Lord, and the Bible. The gem on this point is found in the The Review and Herald, January 20, 1903, and this is what she wrote:DGRGC 113.6

    “Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.DGRGC 114.1

    The relation of these Testimonies which she put around the Bible is stated very simply in these words,DGRGC 114.2

    “The Lord has given the lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.” (Italics mine)DGRGC 114.3

    When I take my stand beside Ellen G. White with regard to the question of the relationship between the writings of the Testimonies and the Bible, I must take this position that “the lesser light” is designed to lead me to “the greater light.” I want to exalt the Bible before you because she exalted this Book every time she spoke and every time she wrote.DGRGC 114.4

    I believe, my friends, that therein is the answer to much of the opposition from our critics. Let me give you Volume 5 of the Testimonies for the Church 5:84, which seems to be a summarization of the thought:DGRGC 114.5

    “In the Bible the will of God is revealed to His children. Wherever it is read, in the family circle, the school, or the church, all should give quiet and devout attention as if God were really present and speaking to them.”DGRGC 114.6

    The thing I like most about the writings of Ellen G. White is this: In the simplicity of the language that I can understand she gives me exalted and elevating thoughts, which cause me each day to rise higher and higher in my plane of Christian living. This is the real test of the inspiration of her writings.DGRGC 114.7

    Let us now turn to see what our leaders in years gone by have had to say with regard to this question. Thus far I have read only Sister White’s own words. We turn first to James White. As I said before, he was well acquainted with the servant of the Lord, perhaps better than most people, for as her husband he saw more of her and was more intimately related to all of her works than any other one person. In 1855 in the The Review and Herald, October 16, 1855, Elder White wrote these words:DGRGC 114.8

    “The Bible is a perfect and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice. But this is no reason why God may not show the past, present, and future fulfilment of His word, in these last days, by dreams and visions, according to Peter’s testimony. True visions are given to lead us to God, and to His Written Word; but those that are given for a new rule of faith and practice, separate from the Bible, cannot be from God, and should be rejected.”DGRGC 114.9

    James White never claimed that she gave to us a new rule of faith and practice. He never claimed that any of her words would supplant or suppress this Book. He always maintained that the Bible is God’s only rule of faith.DGRGC 115.1

    Another paragraph from James White, states thatDGRGC 115.2

    “Every Christian is therefore in duty bound to take the Bible as a perfect rule of faith and duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth, and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. We say that the very moment he does, he places the gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely dangerous position.”DGRGC 115.3

    No, my friends, we may not be free to put the Spirit of prophecy writings above or in place of the Scriptures. Sister White never did. James White never did.DGRGC 115.4

    Let us turn now to another very familiar writer among us, Uriah Smith, who summarized our denominational position in an article which appeared in the The Review and Herald, October 18, 1887:DGRGC 115.5

    “Some one may say, Then you make the visions a second New Testament, a Mormon Bible in your system. We do not, as the following reason will show: We have ever held, as set forth in this work, that the Word of God, the Bible, is the standard by which to test all these manifestations. ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ All gifts of the Spirit in the church, must be thus tested. Now it is evident that that which tests occupies a higher position than that which is tested by it. This, in one word, expresses our view of the relative position which the Bible and the visions sustain to each other. But when a manifestation accords with the Word, and gives every evidence that it is a genuine manifestation of the Spirit of God, we submit it to the objector himself to say how far we may regard it lightly, or despise or transgress its teachings with impunity.”DGRGC 115.6

    I believe he found a sane and sensible basis which you and I would do well to reach in our thinking.DGRGC 115.7

    In 1888 Elder G. I. Butler went to the Battle Creek College for a series of studies similar to what I have been giving on the Spirit of prophecy, and at the conclusion of his studies he gave opportunity for the asking of questions. Question No. 14, which we find in his record, read like this:DGRGC 116.1

    “I have heard individuals say that if they were obliged to give up the Bible or the Testimonies, they would give up the Bible. Is it right to make such statements, especially before those who have no knowledge of the visions?”DGRGC 116.2

    That is a very good question, and here is G. I. Butler’s answer:DGRGC 116.3

    “I should say it is very unwise and very wrong to make such a statement as that. I believe that the Testimonies are from God, because they agree with the Bible—with the rule it gives by which to test such things. I believe them, perhaps as strongly as anyone; but I have never said and never expect to say that the Testimonies are to be placed superior to the Bible, or even equal to the Bible.... But the thing which tests is superior to the thing tested. The Bible is the standard. And that which comes up to the standard we ought to accept.” 18Butler, G. I., “Talks to the Students of the Special Course at Battle Creek College,” White Publications Document File 105 F.DGRGC 116.4

    This has been the argument from the very beginning. James White was the first one to use it. Uriah Smith used it. John Andrews used it. George Butler used it. Mrs. White herself used it. Practically all of our leaders of the past have used this one argument, that the thing which is the standard by which the Testimonies are tested must be greater and higher than the thing tested. This is our denominational position with regard to the relationship of the Spirit of prophecy to the Bible.DGRGC 116.5

    Now that does not excuse or release us for a minute, because the test is to show the genuineness of the writings, and if we find the writings agree with the standard, what difference is there? Do you see my point? So, my dear friends, what you and I have got to do by testing, trying, comparing, proving, is to convince ourselves that the writings are true, that they agree with the standard, that they give evidence of God’s divine inspiration and revelation. Then we will live in harmony with those writings as we live in harmony with the standard by which they are tested.DGRGC 116.6

    But, you say, now what is the real relationship? Let me put it this way. Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, a very prominent worker in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, accepted the Seventh-day Adventist message. She accepted the Sabbath, the second coming of Christ, and all of these teachings, but she hesitated on the Spirit of prophecy. The reason she hesitated was that she found a variety of opinions among Seventh-day Adventists regarding the Spirit of prophecy. She asked a number of our people, “What is the relationship between the writings of the Spirit of prophecy and the Bible?” To her amazement and consternation she would get one answer from one person and another answer from another, and finally she admitted that she was confused and somewhat bewildered by the apparent uncertainty in so vital a matter.DGRGC 117.1

    So she determined that she would study it for herself. Finally she wrote a letter to Sister White in which she stated her conclusion, namely, that her writings were like a lens, a microscope, or a telescope. First there must be the Scriptures, and then you focus the microscope on the passage of Scripture to be studied. The microscope, therefore, is but a means for enlarging or clarifying that which is under the microscope. Thus the writings of the Spirit of prophecy in the same manner will help me to understand in greater detail the words of the Scripture. That is a good explanation. Therefore, the writings of Ellen G. White become more important as we think of them in terms of enlarging and magnifying the teachings of the Bible.DGRGC 117.2

    Sister White herself said that Mrs. S. M. I. Henry had caught the relationship between the writings of the Spirit of prophecy and the Bible, as clearly and as accurately as anyone could ever put it into words. I love those writings because they help me to understand the Book. I, as a Bible teacher, have never thought of going into a classroom to teach any portion of the Scriptures without first finding out what the Spirit of prophecy had to say about those passages.DGRGC 117.3

    Many an assignment that I gave to my students was something like this, “For tomorrow let us find what the Scripture means through the eye of the Spirit of prophecy.” And when you approach the book of Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah, the book of Daniel, the book of Revelation, the gospels, through the eye of the Spirit of prophecy, I want to tell you, dear friends, you will find a wealth of material in those writings that you cannot find in any other commentary, any other book, written by man.DGRGC 117.4

    Such is my confidence in these writings. We call them the lesser light that helps us to understand the greater light. We call them the microscope that will help to magnify and make clear the details of the truths of the Word. We may express it in almost any way that will give us the true relationship which exists between the Scriptures and the writings. As the writings are in harmony with the Scriptures, there can be no question as to the truthfulness of the writings. There is in them a power for the one who takes them to heart, to live by their counsel, by their instruction, by their reproof. They will correct our ways of living, they will point us to the Saviour, and make ready a people for God’s kingdom. Such is the relationship between the writings of the Spirit of prophecy and the Scriptures.DGRGC 118.1

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