Larger font
Smaller font
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    Chapter 9—Ellen G. White’s Attitude Toward Her Own Writings

    Our scripture for this study is 2 Chronicles, the 20th chapter, and the 20th verse:DGRGC 119.1

    “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.”DGRGC 119.2

    These are wonderfully fine words to keep in our minds as we study the series of subjects which we have been pursuing.DGRGC 119.3

    We have now come to the place in our study where we must determine our own individual attitude regarding the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. We must come to a conclusion in our thinking as to the relationship of those writings to us as members of the Remnant Church. You must think in terms of what God would have you do, not only with the prophets of the Old and New Testament, but with His chosen servant, His messenger, in the Remnant Church.DGRGC 119.4

    I am convinced, dear friends, as we think through this topic and come to this point in our thinking, that we shall have to do a great deal of praying because the issues become very concrete, very pointed, very personal. And they compel us to do something about it. In our last study we talked about the relation of the writings to the Bible.DGRGC 119.5

    This study has to do with Mrs. White’s own atitude toward her own writings. As for me, I have already affirmed that I have decided to take my stand beside Ellen G. White in all of these things. Thus my purpose today is to find out what she thought and said concerning her own position with regard to all of the messages that came from God through her. This should enable me to be sure of my own attitude toward her messages. In taking this position I believe I am safe, for I am in good company. What she said on this subject, therefore, settles the question for me.DGRGC 119.6

    With that as a background I wish to turn to a very important aspect of this study. Some of our people are not too clear with regard to what we call the “inspiration” of her writings, and what some others call the “infallibility” of the writings. Sometimes those two expressions—“inspiration” and “infallibility” are used in a rather confused way. They do not mean the same thing.DGRGC 120.1

    “Ellen G. White never claimed ‘verbal inspiration’ for either her own writings or the Bible itself. Neither did she ever claim infallibility for herself nor for the men who gave us the Bible.DGRGC 120.2

    “Let us pause for a few minutes on this question, for some of our people must clarify their thinking and bring themselves into accord and agreement with Ellen G. White, whom they so ardently support.DGRGC 120.3

    “First, on infallibility she said: ‘In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His Word is true, and in Him is no variableness or shadow of turning.’ That is final and unequivocal. No one can possibly misunderstand or misinterpret such a definite declaration of a fact.DGRGC 120.4

    “Next, on inspiration she has much more to say, just as final and just as definite:DGRGC 120.5

    “‘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....DGRGC 120.6

    “‘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....DGRGC 120.7

    “‘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.DGRGC 120.8

    “‘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.’DGRGC 121.1

    “This is E. G. White’s concept of inspiration. We also find it expressed in the Introduction to The Great Controversy.19“Our Firm Foundation,” pp. 258, 259.DGRGC 121.2

    I believe it would be helpful if you understood how Mrs. White did her work. Then I am sure you will see the impossibility of infallibility, and wherein came the inspiration. Ellen G. White herself was not what you would call a highly educated person. Her formal schooling was only a few grades. A stone thrown by a school girl hit her on the face, broke her nose, and caused a physical deformity. Because of the shock which came to her she dropped out of school and never had the opportunity to go on and learn to spell correctly every word in the dictionary, nor to write perfectly every grammatical construction. She never enjoyed that privilege, but the remarkable thing is that God could take such a humble instrument, lacking in some of those things that we consider so essential in the educated person, and could work through that humble instrument to accomplish the marvellous things that we see in all of her grand books that are in our hands today. That indeed is a most remarkable accomplishment.DGRGC 121.3

    When she began to write, she herself says that her hand was so feeble that she could not hold her hand steady. But the angel said, “Write, and write the things that have been shown to you.” She says of herself, “the more I wrote, the easier it became to write,” and that before long she could write page after page with a flowing hand for hours at a time, and never tire. That is another remarkable thing with regard to the servant of God.DGRGC 121.4

    A vision of something was given to her, enlightening her mind, or some circumstance, some situation, some need, would be presented to her by the Lord, and then she would sit down to write what in vision she had seen or heard. The two-hour vision, about which I told you in which she saw the conflict of the ages from beginning to end, took her many, many weeks to write out.DGRGC 122.1

    How did she write? She took her pen and paper and wrote as the Spirit of God impressed her to write what she had seen in the vision. At times she wrote painstakingly. At other times she paid little attention to the dotting of the i’s or the crossing of the t’s or putting in the commas and the semicolons, the colons and the periods. She did not stop for even a misspelled word. She was writing rapidly to get the thought on paper.DGRGC 122.2

    When Mrs. White had finished the manuscript, whether written very carefully or more swiftly, she turned it over to her secretary. May I add here that the handwriting is an interesting study. In the very early days it was small and neat, and the letters were well formed and careful, but like some of the rest of us, as we get up in years, the sixties and seventies, and so forth, we become less painstaking and it is with difficulty that I read her writing which she did near the end of her days. Yet Elder D. E. Robinson, who worked with her for years, can read it off almost like printed material.DGRGC 122.3

    Each page written by hand was turned over to a secretary. The secretary copied that page on the typewriter correcting any errors in spelling, punctuation, and so forth. Sister White once wrote that there was no salvation in misspelled words or faulty grammar. The Holy Spirit does not teach one how to spell. Boys and girls in the church school, do not get the wrong idea. It takes hard work to learn how to spell, and God will not perform a miracle and make up for your mistakes in spelling.DGRGC 122.4

    Now to go back to her procedure. When the page was typed it was handed back to Mrs. White. Then she studied that page very carefully to make sure that every word was just in the right place to convey the correct thought. After she had gone over the corrections, perhaps adding a word or two here or there, it went back to the secretary to be typed in a clear, finished copy. Again it went back to Mrs. White, so that once more she could make sure that it was just right. She read it again to make sure that it conveyed the correct thought, and signed her name on the finished copy.DGRGC 122.5

    In the year 1907 Mrs. White explained the work of those who assisted her in this way:DGRGC 123.1

    “While my husband lived, he acted as a helper and counsellor in the sending out of the messages that were given to me. We travelled 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 person addressed or for the printer.DGRGC 123.2

    “As the work grew, others assisted me in the preparation of matter for publication. After my husband’s death, faithful helpers joined me, who laboured 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.” 20“The Writing and Sending out of the Testimonies to the Church,” p. 4. Quoted in “Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant,” 60, 61.DGRGC 123.3

    Mrs. White never claimed verbal inspiration, and now you can understand the reason why. The very method of doing her work would make it impossible to have verbal inspiration. This is what Elder F. M. Wilcox called “thought inspiration” in contrast to “verbal inspiration.”DGRGC 123.4

    In Jeremiah 36, the first three verses, God said,DGRGC 123.5

    “Jeremiah, take the roll of a book, write in that book the messages that I have given to you.”DGRGC 123.6

    So Jeremiah called his secretary, Baruch, and told him, “Baruch, bring a scroll, get your pen and your ink, and have everything all ready. I am now going to dictate to you the messages God has given me.” Thus it was that he dictated, and Baruch wrote it down.DGRGC 123.7

    I assure you, dear friends, when we think of the work of the prophet as being done in that way, there is no difficulty in our minds if one or two little inaccuracies might appear in all of the printed books and in the thousands of periodical articles that came from the pen of Ellen G. White. Very few people in the history of the world have produced more in volume, in quantity, than did Ellen G. White in the seventy years of her activity as a messenger of God.DGRGC 124.1

    The remarkable thing is that for so long a period of service there should be such a unity and a harmony of thought throughout all of the writings from the very first page to the very last page. To me this is one of the greatest evidences of the inspiration of the writer.DGRGC 124.2

    Even in 1906, Dr. David Paulson, a very interesting man, one of the most enthusiastic men I have ever seen, wrote a letter to Mrs. White stating his opinion, his convictions, regarding her and her work.DGRGC 124.3

    We have that letter in the file, but I am not particularly interested in his letter. I am, however, very much interested in Mrs. White’s response to it. Let me read three paragraphs from the letter which she wrote in reply to David Paulson. I quote:DGRGC 124.4

    “In your letter, you speak of your early training to have implicit faith in the testimonies and say, ‘I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word that you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the ten commandments.’DGRGC 124.5

    “My brother, you have studied my writings diligently, and you have never found that I have made any such claims, neither will you find that the pioneers in our cause ever made such claims.DGRGC 124.6

    “In my preface to Great Controversy, ... you have no doubt read my statement regarding the ten commandments and the Bible, which should have helped you to a correct understanding of the matter under consideration.” [Italics mine.]DGRGC 124.7

    This appears in our file as letter No. 206, written in the year 1906. It also appeared in the The Review and Herald, August 30, 1906, p. 8.DGRGC 125.1

    Now what does it say? and what does it mean? Here was a zealous man, a fine Christian gentleman, a man who wanted above everything else to do right for God and be right with his brethren. He wrote to Ellen G. White and gave her his impression or conviction that every word she had ever said in public and in private, every letter that she had ever written, of whatever nature it might have been, was just like and on a par with, the ten commandments. Mrs. White corrected his impression in these words, “My brother, ... you have never found that I have made any such claims.” If Ellen G. White never made such a claim, then neither should you nor I. And I shall tell you why I make no such claim.DGRGC 125.2

    You see, not everybody has been given the privilege of spending some sixteen months sitting in the vault at the Ellen G. White Publications office and reading those most interesting and wonderful manuscripts—no, not everyone has had that privilege. That, however, was my privilege. I consider it to be the most important period in my life. It gave me an opportunity for which I had longed and never thought possible of fulfilment. To spend days and weeks and months doing little else but living with those writings, I want to tell you frankly, was a wonderful experience. I thank God every day for it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and may I say today that my confidence in the Spirit of prophecy, and in the gift of prophecy, and in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy, is stronger today than ever before. I have no question regarding the gift, nor the instrument used by God.DGRGC 125.3

    Mrs. White was a very reasonable person. If she was anything she was a very human person. As I read those letters and manuscripts I found there among them letters addressed to Willie, or Edson, or some other member of the family, or friend, and they were characteristic letters of a good mother, a good neighbour, a fine Christian.DGRGC 125.4

    In those letters she wrote some very good personal instruction for the boys and she gave the news of everyday happenings which she knew would interest those to whom she was writing. She was not prevented from writing in these letters of common everyday matters. These letters might also contain some definite counsel. In speaking of such communications she drew the line of distinction between the sacred and the common. She painstakingly refrained from setting forth her own ideas as counsel or instruction and none need be confused or perplexed. Her letters certainly would never be put on an equality with the ten commandments.DGRGC 125.5

    As we are speaking of Mrs. White’s attitude toward her own writings we should consider a few more statements from her pen which make the matter clear. Of her testimony letters she wrote:DGRGC 126.1

    “Weak and trembling I arose at three o’clock in the morning, to write to you. God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.” 21“Testimonies,” Vol. 5, p. 67.DGRGC 126.2

    Then of the many articles which she furnished through the years to the papers of the denomination from week to week she says:DGRGC 126.3

    “I do not write one article for the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne.” 22“Ibid.”DGRGC 126.4

    Of her books she penned these lines:DGRGC 126.5

    “Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her life-work God has been giving her. They contain the precious comforting light that God has graciously given His servant to be given to the world.” 23The Colporteur Evangelist, 36.DGRGC 126.6

    That which Mrs. White set forth in her writings might be an account of a vision given to her shortly before she wrote, or her testimony might have been based on many visions given to her over a long period of time. Her mind had been enlightened by the visions and at the appropriate time she presented the message from the enlightened mind. But remember, Mrs. White never claimed infallibility nor verbal inspiration.DGRGC 126.7

    Listen to what she wrote about this in 1867:DGRGC 127.1

    “Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.” 24The Review and Herald, October 8, 1867, in “Testimony of Jesus,” p. 87.DGRGC 127.2

    We must not claim for Mrs. White that which she did not claim for herself.DGRGC 127.3

    Perhaps I could best illustrate it in this way. To me Christ is the Great Architect, building a kingdom with many mansions in the capital city of that kingdom. He is also the designer of the character of the people He wants in that kingdom. So as the Great architect He has a “blueprint” of His kingdom and of the people, the kind of people He wants with Him throughout eternity. Then, like all great architects, He has a book of specifications, detailed specifications, which deal with the blueprint, which give in greater detail everything that has to do with the development of His kingdom. Christ is the Architect. The Bible is the blueprint. The writings of the Spirit of prophecy are the detailed specifications.DGRGC 127.4

    I think if you will analyze that thought a little more carefully you will see in it tremendous possibilities. And now when we sit down with these books—the Conflict of the Ages series, for example—and read from the beginning of Patriarchs and Prophets to the end of Great Controversy, I think you will see what I mean. There are the detailed specifications which greatly magnify the blueprint in the Scriptures, all of which comes from the mind of the Great Architect. Personally I like the detailed specifications. They do not take the place of the blueprint, but they go along with the blueprint in a remarkably interesting and vital way.DGRGC 127.5

    Maybe I should stop here to give you in her own words the purpose of the Testimonies. This is taken from Volume 5 of the Testimonies for the Church 5:665:DGRGC 127.6

    “The Lord designs to warn you, to reprove, to counsel, through the testimonies given, and to impress your minds with the importance of the truth of His Word. The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed. Man’s duty to God and to his fellow man has been distinctly specified in God’s Word, yet but few of you are obedient to the light given. Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given and in His own chosen way brought them before the people to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse.”DGRGC 128.1

    This is what Elder Ashlock told me last night about his father. He said that his father loved the simplicity of the message given in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. Those great truths found in the Bible, are presented in such a simple way, in such beautiful thoughts, that anyone who reads them will be greatly impressed by the message, by the thought in the message, by the inspiration that comes through the reading and the studying of the message.DGRGC 128.2

    I believe, dear friends, it is only as we put those messages in our hearts and in our minds that they can hew us, and fashion us, and mould us, and make us into the kind of people God wants in His everlasting kingdom.DGRGC 128.3

    Larger font
    Smaller font