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The Ellen G. White Writings

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    An Illustration

    One of the points called to Ellen White’s attention in response to her call for an examination of the book referred to in her letter just quoted involved her account of St. Bartholomew’s massacre. The Great Controversy, 1888 edition, states on page 272:EGWW 31.4

    The great bell of the palace, tolling at the dead of night, was a signal for the slaughter.EGWW 31.5

    She was now informed that historians differed on the point of which bell actually gave the signal, (1) the bell of the palace, (2) the bell of the Palace of Justice, or (3) the bell of the church of St. Germain. All three were within a radius of approximately a city block. The plan was that the bell of the palace would give the signal, and certain reliable historians state that it did. Others differed. Here is some of the documentation taken from our files having to do with the 1911 revision:EGWW 31.6

    Criticism:EGWW 31.7

    All the histories dealing with the French Revolution which I have been able to consult, state that it was the original plan to toll the bell of the palace as the signal, but owing to special circumstances, the signal was given by the ringing of the bell of the church of St. Germain.EGWW 31.8

    Wylie’s Account:EGWW 32.1

    It was now eleven o’clock of Saturday night, and the massacre was to begin at daybreak.... The signal for the massacre was to be the tolling of the great bell of the Palace of Justice.... The Queen-mother feeling the suspense unbearable, or else afraid, as Maimbourg suggests, that Charles, “greatly disturbed by the idea of the horrible butchery, would revoke the order he had given for it,” anticipated the signal by sending one at two o’clock of the morning to ring the bell of St. Germain l ’ Auxerois, which was nearer than that of the Palace of Justice.EGWW 32.2

    Scarcely had its first peal startled the silence of the night when a pistol-shot was heard. The king started to his feet, and summoning an attendant he bade him go and stop the massacre. It was too late; the bloody work had begun. The great bell of the Palace had now begun to toll; another moment and every steeple in Paris was sending forth its peal; a hundred tocsins sounded at once.—History of Protestantism, vol. 2, p. 600.EGWW 32.3

    “Eyewitness Account: As soon as they had caused the bell of the palace clock to ring, on every side arose the cry, ‘To arms! and the people ran,’ etc.” Account of the Massacre by “the statesman and fair-minded historian, De Thou (1553-1617), who as a young man witnessed the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.” Quoted in J. H. Robinson’s Readings of European History, chap. 28, sec. 6 (No. 286), pp. 180-182.EGWW 32.4

    “New International Encyclopedia: From the tower of the royal palace the signal was given for a carnival of blood.” Art. “Bartholomew.”EGWW 32.5

    Ellen White in vision saw and heard what took place. She heard the tolling of a bell, giving the signal, and she saw what followed. Did the angel give her minute information as to which bell tolled? Would not this point be what Henry Alford describes as “certain minor points of accuracy or inaccuracy, of which human research suffices to inform men”? She accepted the record of a reliable historian who indicated that it was the palace bell. When she learned that was uncertain, she reworded the statement to read: “A bell, tolling at the dead of night, was a signal for the slaughter.”—The Great Controversy, 1911 ed., 272.EGWW 32.6

    The point being of no real significance, she removed from The Great Controversy the temptation that might come to some to employ the book to settle this disputed but inconsequential point.EGWW 33.1

    And note the paragraph bearing the W. C. White statement:EGWW 33.2

    Mother has never claimed to be authority on history. The things which she has written out, are descriptions of flash-light pictures and other representations given her regarding the actions of men, and the influence of these actions upon the work of God for the salvation of men, with views of past, present, and future history in its relation to this work. In connection with the writing out of these views, she has made use of good and clear historical statements to help make plain to the reader the things which she is endeavoring to present. When I was a mere boy, I heard her read D’Aubigné’s History of the Reformation to my father. She read to him a large part, if not the whole, of the five volumes. She has read other histories of the Reformation. This has helped her to locate and describe many of the events and the movements presented to her in vision. This is somewhat similar to the way in which the study of the Bible helps her to locate and describe the many figurative representations given to her regarding the development of the great controversy in our day between truth and error.—W. C. White in The Great Controversy, 1911 Edition, 4. (See Appendix C.)EGWW 33.3

    Pursuing this matter a little further, and enlarging it to include chronology, we turn to a rather enlightening W. C. White statement written a few months later:EGWW 33.4

    Regarding Mother’s writings and their use as authority on points of history and chronology, Mother has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority regarding details of history or historical dates. The great truths revealed to Mother regarding the controversy between good and evil, light and darkness, have been given to her in various ways, but chiefly as flashlight views of great events in the lives of individuals and in the experiences of churches, of bands of reformers, and of nations. What has thus been revealed to her she has written out first briefly in the Early Writings, then more fully as in Spiritual Gifts and in Spirit of Prophecy, and finally in the Great Controversy series.EGWW 33.5

    When writing out the experiences of reformers in the time of the Reformation and in the great Advent Movement of 1844, Mother often gave at first a partial description of some scene presented to her. Later on she would write it out more fully, and again still more fully. I have known her to write upon one subject four or five times, and then mourn because she could not command language to describe the matter more perfectly.EGWW 34.1

    When writing out the chapters for Great Controversy, she sometimes gave a partial description of an important historical event, and when her copyist who was preparing the manuscripts for the printer, made inquiry regarding time and place, Mother would say that those things are recorded by conscientious historians. Let the dates used by those historians be inserted. At other times in writing out what had been presented to her, Mother found such perfect descriptions of events and presentations of facts and of doctrines written out in our denominational books, that she copied the words of these authorities.EGWW 34.2

    When Controversy was written, Mother never thought that the readers would take it as authority on historical dates or use it to settle controversy regarding details of history, and she does not now feel that it should be used in that way. Mother regards with great respect the work of those faithful historians who devoted years of time to the study of God’s great plan as presented in the prophecy, and the outworking of that plan as recorded in history.—W. C. White Letter to W. W. Eastman, Nov. 4, 1912.EGWW 34.3

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