A wrong course has been followed by the denomination in ignoring, evading, or denying the fact of the mistaken teaching of the early years. Had all the facts been know to our people, they could not have continued to regard the testimonies as infallible. But the facts have not been known. They have been covered up. In saying this I am not bringing a railing accusation against anyone. I do not say that all who have helped to bring about this situation or to perpetuate it have done so willfully. A good deal has been due to a prevalent feeling that the Testimonies must be held to and believed in as inspired, notwithstanding the most serious difficulties and evidences to the contrary. It seems to be felt by many that it is duty to close the eyes to the clearest indications that Sister White held mistaken views, and taught doctrines out of harmony with the Bible; and that she eliminated passages from her writings, and changed them, for the very evident reason that she had taken mistaken positions, and had been compelled to relinquish them. These changes have been made even in what have been claimed to be inspired visions. I know that an effort is made to deny this; but it is an entirely unsuccessful effort.
The evidence of a change in Sister White’s teaching on the sanctuary question is overwhelming and undeniable. The evasion of the force of the facts in this case on the part of those who know them may in many cases be due to the weakness rather than the willfulness; but it is a culpable weakness nevertheless; for no Adventist minister can stand free from the responsibility to face the facts referred to, to weigh them, and protect the church from being misled.
Instead of the facts in the case being made available to our people, important information has been withheld, and unpleasant facts denied. This is not right. Many of our ministers have been kept in ignorance these things for a long period of years. The writer had been connected with the organized work for almost a quarter of a century before learning the truth about the eliminations from “Early Writings”, for instance. Such information should have been furnished us in a proper way from within the body. Is it right that our ministers here in the Antipodes, and in all the other ends of the earth should be encouraged, and even required to teach the inspiration and infallibility of the Testimonies, and at the same time be denied vital information bearing on the question of such infallibility? It certainly is not right. For we are expressly directed in connection with prophesyings to “prove all things”, and to hold fast only that which is good. And it is impossible to prove the nature of the gift when the vital information is withheld. When only that which is favorable to the claim is related and recorded, and all that is unfavorable is withheld or eliminated, neither the ministry nor the church is in a position to judge or to “prove” anything.
Sister White in the early years of the work taught the “shut door” view of the sanctuary service, and taught it on the authority of her visions, and in the name of inspiration. All the pioneers taught the “shut door” theory during those years. When sufficient time had elapsed to demonstrate that the views held were mistaken, they were modified and revised. Important passages teaching the “shut door” were either eliminated from Sister White’s “Early Writings” or else explained away by notes claiming that they did not teach that view. A publisher’s preface was introduced claiming that in that edition “no changes from the original work had been made, except the occasional employment of a new word, or a sentence, to better express the idea, and no portion of the work had been omitted”, which certainly was not true with reference to the original publication of the earlier visions, and was consequently very misleading.
A later publication, claiming to give a history of the rise and progress of the movement, denied point blank that Seventh-day Adventist had ever taught the “shut door”. This was a denial of the truth. The author, in making quotations from the publications of the early days, in some cases omitted expressions that would have revealed the fact at that at that time the brethren did teach the “shut door”. The book referred to is still stocked and circulated by our publishing agencies.1
This course of action has been continued right down to the present time, articles having been published of quite recent years in our leading church paper, denying that the “shut door” was taught in the early days.
Why all this evasion? Why this denial of indisputable facts testified to by the printed records of those days? Would it be a really fatal thing to acknowledge that our pioneer brethren for a time held mistaken views? Certainly not! We would not need to be ashamed of it. It would be sufficient for us to be able to show that not with standing early misconceptions, the brethren were eventually led into a wide field of truth. Why should there be a persistent effort to deny the “shut door” experience? The answer is, that it is because Sister White was involved in that experience, and set the seal of the approval of her testimonies upon that teaching. To acknowledge this would be to rob of their reputation for infallibility subsequent teachings of the same author.
“There is nothing covered”, however, ”that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.”
The facts are there in our early records, and cannot be denied. A comparatively recent publication, “The Shut Door and the Close of Probation”, written in defense of the Testimonies, acknowledges the fact that the pioneers did for a number of years hold to the “shut door” theory. This pamphlet even quotes statements made by the author of the Testimonies teaching that view, including some of the eliminated passages; but endeavors to show that Sister White did not really mean what she said in some of those instances. The appearance of this publication is gratifying in the respect that it frankly acknowledges that the “shut door” was taught in the early days of our work, and also in that it acknowledges the fact of certain eliminations from “Early Writings”, and even reproduces some of them. This is a refreshing departure from the policy of evasion or denial followed for so many preceding years.
Why should there be this very reluctant and restrained reproduction of the writings of the early days? We are practically limited to vague assurances from those who have access to the early volumes that everything is all right; that the pioneers did not teach the “shut door”; or that if they taught it, Sister White did not; or that if Sister White taught it, if she did not do so on the authority of the visions; or that if she taught it in relating the visions she did not really mean what she said! Meanwhile others are publishing the very words of the pioneers and of Sister White on those subjects, publishing them voluminously and in detail.2 Why does not the General Conference undertake that work? Why does not one of our publishing houses reproduce the whole of the publications of those early years? This would provide some original research work, and would provide valuable reference books for the denominational history classes in our school and colleges.
The report adopted by Australian union conference committee follows the usual practice of referring to favorable features of Sister White’s work, and ignoring those features which if properly weighed could not but prove that she was mistaken in her claim to be the channel of direct revelation from God.
I do not deny the favorable features. Sister White’s pointed testimonies of reproof for sin, and her uncompromising and convicting demands for vital godliness, holy living, and unswerving devotion to the cause and kingdom of Christ have always impressed me greatly. But I cannot because of these things close my eyes to the evidence that her claim to inspiration, in the highest sense of all, was a mistaken one. Just how much she herself was responsible for the mistake I do not presume to judge. It seems that she was sincerely mistaken. But even this view does not justify her course in all respects in connection with her writings. It seems however, that she was an earnest fervent-spirited Christian woman. God is very merciful, and graciously blesses and uses his children despite their mistaken views, and their oft-times mistaken actions.
So also with some of those who have participated in ignoring, covering up, or explaining away facts that if generally know would long ere this have compelled a great modification of the claims made in behalf of Sister White. Doubtless this has in many cases been due to a mistaken sense of duty, and a fear that to doubt the inspiration of the Testimonies because of these facts would be a manifestation of unbelief, and thus displeasing to God. But this is not unbelief in the Bible sense for the faith that God calls for is defined as “the belief of the truth”. There is no genuine piety in believing things that are not true. God has mercifully blessed many who in sincerity of heart have believed in the plenary inspiration of the Testimonies. He has just as mercifully blessed a multitude of earnest men and women in other religious bodies, notwithstanding mistaken views on some points of truth and doctrine tenaciously held by them. The undue authority attached to Sister White writings has nevertheless had a harmful influence. Any help the Lord may have been able to give to those who believed the claims made, or to the one who made them, is to be attributed to his mercy, and not to the truth of the claims. The Lord has been good to his God-fearing children despite this mistake and not because it.
As for the harmful influence referred to, there has been a tendency to subject Bible teaching to the teaching of the Testimonies. Bible truth has been regarded as being “clinched”, when it could be supported by a statement from the Testimonies. And a statement from the Testimonies on any point has been sufficient to deter from the investigation of scriptures apparently teaching to the contrary. Voices that would teach differently from Sister White on any point, even in the smallest details, are immediately silenced by an appeal to something she has written. This could not be harmful if everything Sister White has written were in very truth by direct revelation from God; but if Sister White were mistaken in any teaching, it most effectually binds that mistake upon the whole church forever. No amount of evidence from the Bible, differing from Sister White, is sufficient to convince believers in the inspiration of the Testimonies.
Even in regard to Christian experience, many of our people are more familiar with what Sister White has said regarding forgiveness, and acceptance and the gift of Holy Spirit, than they are with the declarations and promises of the Bible itself. They seem to feel that the statements of the Testimonies are plainer and more understandable, and therefore a safer basis of reliance than their own understanding of the teaching of the Bible. This is a serious weakness. For the full assurance of faith springs from reliance upon the very word of God itself. Faith requires God’s word to rest upon, and not something Sister White has said about that word, no matter how good the saying may be.
The following extract from the columns of our denominational organ, “The Ministry”, may be taken as an illustration of this tendency:
“In doing personal work, I make constant use of Steps to Christ, because I find it meets every need better than anything else. Of cource, I use the Scriptures, but many of our young people are familiar with the Scriptures, as far as the theory is concerned, but they have no insight into the practical application of them, and this in what Steps to Christ gives. I use the ‘Army and Navy’ edition which is most convenient for carrying in my pocket.”3
The writer then proceeds to give an outline of his method of teaching various phases of Christian experience by using Steps to Christ, giving page and paragraph from that book an all different points.
Why is it that “many of our young people have no insight into the practical application” of scriptures relating to Christian experience? Is it not the principal duty of the church to teach that very thing? And should not the ministers teach the flock how to exercise faith in the original promises of God recorded in the Bible, and not train them to depend on page and paragraph from Steps to Christ and other similar books? There has always been a tendency in the church to add some other authority to the word of God, some thing that explains things to the people so that they know what to do more clearly than they would if left to depend upon the Bible alone. The Pharisees of old added tradition to the word of God. The Roman Catholic Church has done the same. The statement quoted above, advocating “constant use of Steps to Christ, because… it meets the need better than anything else”, reminds one of Dr. di Bruno’s comparison of the Bible with the Roman tradition, in which he declared, while approving of the Bible, that “of the two, tradition is to us more clear and safe.”
The object of this section is to make available to the reader evidences that show that for a period of years in their early history, Seventh-day Adventists held and taught the “shut door” theory, a form of the sanctuary teaching which was afterwards relinquished as mistaken; that Mrs. E. G. White held and taught the mistaken view, on the authority of what were claimed to be visions of revelation of God; and that a wrong course has been followed in subsequent years in ignoring these facts, denying them, or attempting to explain them away, so that both laity and ministry have been to a large extent kept in ignorance of them, and thus prevented from realizing their full force and significance.
The original teaching concerning the sanctuary as held by the denomination from 1844 to 1851, was that Christ’s intercession in behalf of the world of sinners ceased when He finished his ministration in the first apartment in heaven in 1844; that probation closed at that time; and that Christ’s intercession in the second apartment from 1844 onward , was in behalf of “the whole house of Israel” only.
Speaking of the Adventist in 1844 and immediately thereafter, Mrs. E.G. White thus explains the origin of the doctrine of the shut door:
“After the passing of the time when the Saviour was expected they still believed his coming to be near; they held that they had reached an important crisis, and that the work of Christ as man’s intercessor before God had ceased. It appeared to them to be taught in the Bible, that man’s probation would close a short time before the actual coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven. This seemed evident from those scriptures which point to a time when men will seek and knock, and cry at the door of mercy, and it will not be opened. And it was a question with them whether the date to which they had looked for the coming of Christ might not rather mark the beginning of this period which was to immediately precede his coming. Having given the warning of the Judgment near, they felt that their work for the world was done, and they lost their burden of soul for the salvation of sinners, while the bold and blasphemous scoffing of the ungodly seemed to them another evidence that the Spirit of God had been withdrawn from the rejectors [sic] of his mercy. All this confirmed them in the belief that probation had ended, or, as they expressed it, ‘the door of mercy was shut.’”4
The “shut door” is also thus explained by another of the early pioneers:
“What may we understand the shutting of the door to denote? .... By this act is undoubtedly denoted the exclusion from all further access to saving mercy, of those who have rejected its offers during their time of probation. … But can any impenitent sinners be converted if the door is shut? Of course they cannot, though changes that men would call conversions may take place.”5
James White states plainly that the brethren regarded their “work for the world” as “finished forever”. He also expounds the reasons for holding the shut door view.
“That there is to be a shut door prior to the second advent many will admit; yet but few seem willing to have it where it actually took place. Let us take a brief view of our past history, as marked out by the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-11), and I think we shall clearly see that there can be no other place for the shut door but at the Autumn of 1844.” …
“When we came up to that point of time, all our sympathy, burden and prayers for sinners ceased, and the unanimous feeling and testimony was, that our work for the world was finished forever.”
“‘Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened (compared) unto ten virgins.’ When? At this very time, when the faithful servant is giving meat to the “HOUSE HOLD” (not to the unbelieving world) and is opposed by the evil servant, and when the advent history, marked out by the parable, is fulfilled, and the shut door is in the past. Now we may see that the only place for the shut door was in 1844. Amen.
“But says the objector—-The door of mercy will not be closed until Jesus comes. We do not read of such a door as ‘the door of mercy’ in the Bible; neither do we teach that such a door was shut in 1844. God’s ‘mercy endureth forever.’ (Ps. 136). He is still merciful to his saints, and ever will be; and Jesus is still their advocate and priest. But the sinner, to whom Jesus has stretched out his arms all the day long, and who had rejected the offers of salvation, was left without an advocate, when Jesus passed into the Holy Place, and shut that door in 1844. The professed church, who rejected the truth, was also rejected, and smitten with blindness.”6
“From the ascension to the shutting of the door, October 1844, Jesus stood with wide-spread arms of love, and mercy; ready to receive, and plead the cause of every sinner who would come to God by him. On the 10th day of the 7th month, 1844, he passed into the Holy of Hollies, where he has since been a merciful ‘high priest over the house of God.’”7
Form these brief statements by Brother White it is evident:
Mrs. White states that “Adventists were for a time united in the belief that the door of mercy was shut.”8 This period of unity was brief, however. The Adventists who had accepted the Sabbath, at a conference held at Albany, N.Y., in April 1845, formally abandoned the shut door theory, and resumed their efforts for the salvation of the unconverted. For this they were sternly denounced by the Seventh-day Adventists. The latter continued the teaching of the shut door. In the December 1849, issue of the Present Truth, the editor, James White, wrote as follows:
“We still believe what the whole host once believed; and with holy confidence and energy published and preached to the world. And strange to tell, many of those who have abandoned the fulfillment of the prophecy in our past experience, are ready to brand us with fanaticism, and rank us with Shakers &c; for believing what they one believed, and for carrying out and showing a consistent fulfillment of the parable, in all its parts, which shows that the door is shut. These men should be the last to oppose our views, and complain of a lack of charity on our part, when they in such an unsparing manner, rank us with apostates for holding fast and carrying out what they once believed and boldly proclaimed. When we in 1843 sang ‘My Bible leads to glory’, we sang a true sentiment. It did not stop in 1844, and ‘lead’ us back around another way, no, no; but it led onward by the shut door, through the WAITING TIME, and keeping of ‘the commandments of God,’ into the kingdom. Glory to God ‘My Bible leads to glory.’ Amen.”9
The Seventh-day Adventists continued the teaching of the shut door until 1851. It was expected by them that Christ’s ministry in the second apartment would extend over a very limited period. It was inferred by some, from the fact that in the type the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sin-offering upon the mercy-seat seven times, that Christ’s ministry in the most holy place would continue for only seven years. After the seven year period had passed, and nothing had happened to marks its termination, the shut door form of the teaching was relinquished, and the doctrine of the sanctuary as it is now held by the denomination was gradually formed.
During the years 1844 to 1851 Seventh-day Adventists taught the shut door emphatically and uncompromisingly. It was an outstanding feature of their message. One of the early brethren, E.P. Butler (father of G.I. Butler who later became president of the general conference) wrote to Brother and Sister White as follows:
“Since I have been converted to the SHUT DOOR, and seventh day Sabbath, I have been out of this town…to try to get off some of the prejudice from other minds, which I so deeply felt in my own. Some have been converted to the present truth, and some prejudice (I trust) removed. I have learned from conversation with others, as well as by past experience, that the Adventists have run their ship, and foundered. They have been running their small boats this way and that way, to see if they could get around it; but have not been able. So they undertake to cover up the ‘land marks’ behind them” …10
In another letter published in the next issue of the “Review”, the same brother says:
“I have been greatly blessed in meeting with the Seventh day Sabbath and Shut Door brethren. They hold to the past, and define our present position. I believe they have the truth, and God is leading them by his Spirit.”11
Another of the brethren wrote as follows:
“I have from the presentation of this truth, embraced the seventh day Sabbath, and the shut door, as being my last refuge in this dark and gloomy day. … Hence I embrace the ‘Midnight Cry’, the ‘Shut Door’, and the ‘Third Angel’s Message’ as being my last refuge. …”12
These extracts show the impression made upon the minds of those who listened to the preaching of the pioneers. The leaders themselves called this the “present truth”. Speaking of one who had at first opposed the doctrine, Sister White wrote, “I saw that in Bro. Rhodes’ mouth there had been no guile, in speaking against the present truth relating to the Sabbath and Shut Door.”13
Joseph Bates in a tract on the Sanctuary, published in 1850, says, “The present truth, then, of this third angel’s message, is, THE SABBATH AND THE SHUT DOOR.”14
In 1850, Hiram Edson, David Arnold, Geo. W. Holt, S.W. Rhodes, and James White, associated themselves together as a committee to print the Advent Review. After four issues of this “Review” had been published, there was a special issue of forty-eight pages, containing much of the matter published in the preceding numbers. The object of this special number seems to have been largely to show that the Adventists as a body had originally taught the shut door; that those who had given it up had departed from the faith; and that Seventh-day Adventists in retaining the doctrine were loyal to the truth. This special issue of the Advent Review quotes George Needham as saying:
“I am, and have been convinced, since the 10th of the 7th month, that our work with the world and the foolish virgins is done. I must deny that glorious movement as the work of God, or I can come to no other conclusion. That I can never do. How can we do them any good? The foolish virgins have gone to their old establishments, where they sell oil, and are crying to us to come after them; and the world are there with them, to buy a little oil, and shall we go to them with the hope of doing them any good? Not least we die!”15
“God never intended that the whole and apparently happy ‘ten’ should enter the kingdom—no more than he intended to take all of Babylon into heaven. He who said ‘Come out of her my people’ has revealed the fact that ‘five of that virgin band had not oil in their vessels.’ Such would want ‘the door’ open after it was TOO LATE.”
“The advent cross was large—the tarrying cross was larger, because of the reproach which attached to faith after the time passed. The Midnight Cry was the largest and tallest of the whole. It bore us quite out of the world; we supposed it would have been the last. … The cross has become very sweet, it is worth more to me than words—still the shut-door cross transcends all that have gone before it. The world, the flesh and the devil will not consent to the door’s being shut. It brings JUDMENT TOO NEAR, makes it too CERTAIN.”
“The shut door and the knocking must of necessity precede this answer of our Lord—must be before the actual revelation of the Son of Man. … Those who will not ‘confess Christ’ in the shut door, dare not in the ‘New Commandment’. They are on the popular side, avoiding the cross in these points; and justifying so far the disobedience and unbelief of the church and world.”
“To them the cross of Christ has become irksome. They have believed and obeyed and borne the cross far enough !!! Instead of confessing the Spirit and providence of God in the past and present state of the once virgin band, they confess to the world—-‘draw back’ from ‘present truth’ and yet will have it believed that ‘the door is open still!’”
“Thus it is written, and thus it must be, that one part would wish the door open after it was ‘SHUT’”
“There is a finally, a necessity for the experience connected with the shut door. There is need for the shut-door to separate us finally and forever from the world, preparatory to ascension” … 16
In reading the following extracts from articles by Joseph Bates, it should be borne in mind that our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers spoke of the Advent church as it existed in 1844, and continued in those who held the shut door teaching, as the Philadelphia church. The Adventists who gave up the shut door doctrine were referred to as Laodiceans. The Protestant churches in general were described as Sardis, and regarded as having been rejected. Seventh-day Adventists took strong positions against the other Adventist brethren, who in 1845 gave up the shut door view.
“We believe that this [Laodicean] state of the church exists, and that it is composed of second advent ministers and people who have backslidden and become ‘lukewarm’.”
“When and where did this state of the church commence? We believe that it commenced in 1845, at the conference in the city of Albany, N.Y… see the VOICE OF TRUTH… ‘Conference Address’, [J.B. here quotes, disapprovingly] ‘Our brethren, east, west, north and south, are harmoniously (with few exceptions) united in the faith and hope of the gospel, and well engaged in extending their benign influence and blessings to others. They are making preparations for going to work the PREASENT SEASON understandingly, and effectually, for THE SALVATION OF PERISHING THOUSANDS around them.’ [On this J.B. comment thus] …This shows the decided change and departure from the Philadelphia state of the church, were they all professed to be, at the tenth day of the seventh month, 1844. … Undoubtedly they were then in the right state of the church, and holding fast that to which they had attained, viz.: the change from Babylon, or the Sardis state of the church, to the Philadelphia state. When they changed from the Philadelphia to the Laodicean state, we believe they influenced hundreds of honest souls to go with them. These are the ones we are trying to seek out, by this article, and every other possible way. … In their proclamation of an open door for Babylon, and all the world…they prove clearly that they have gained nothing, made no progress… It looks clear that they have acknowledged their Laodicean state of neither cold nor hot… The shut door believers are in the Philadelphia church. The nominal church are back of 1844, in the Sardis state, spiritually dead.” …17
“For when the Midnight Cry is made as it was, in the fall of 1844, at the end of 2300 days, then at that time the door is shut… The door must be shut, for our High Priest to open the other door, Rev iii.7, 8; xi.19, and enter into the most Holy Place to cleanse the Sanctuary… This work of cleansing the Sanctuary is this: Jesus our great High Priest, crowned and robed in his royal court dress (just like the high priest in the shadow), rises up, and shuts the door (Luke xii. 25) where he had been the mediator for all the world, and opens the door for the Most Holy Place (or as John calls it, the temple of God), and there appears before God, as Daniel saw him with the whole Israel of God represented on his breast-plate of judgment (like a priest), to plead with God, to blot out the sins of Israel” …
“With all this array of argument before them, many of them would say, at times, why I believe it in a part, because it looked too glaring to deny it. We say that God never had this work done in part. It was all accomplished then, and we have just shown how it was affirmed to by the church of God. When they say they believe it, they prove themselves liars; for after the formation of the Laodicean state of the church at Albany, N.Y. April 29, 1845, the greater portion of the lecturers went out through the land, advocating an open door, in direct and immediate opposition to the Midnight Cry. For that work shut the door without the shadow of a doubt” …
“We say then, that here is positive proof that they have been SINNING AGAINST GOD EVER SINCE, in writing, preaching, and various other ways, by opposing and setting at naught the very and identical point in their Advent experience, which was the ‘MAINSPRING’ to the whole vision. Yes, after the Albany conference in 1845, where they organized the Laodicean church, they went out openly and boldly declaring to their hearers, that the door was wide open. They say it was not shut, neither would it be until Jesus came” …
“If by any means whatever, they could prove from all their past six years’ united labor, throughout this land, England, or the West Indies, that they have gained one single convert to God, then would they appear in a hundred fold more heinous light than they now do. For by their own published, standing confessions (as before stated), their Lord Jesus as Master of the house (before described), had shut the door, and no man could open it… This was the last day’s work of the Midnight Cry, where the fullness of the Gentiles came in. (Rom. xi. 25) Now if they have opened the door, then they have gained the victory over the Son of God, and proved him to have uttered a falsehood. In no other way could they get one true Gentile convert.”
“Talk about searching out sinners, that the work of the Midnight Cry left in outer darkness six years ago! He will not save you if you do not quickly flee from the dreadful snare you are in.”18
“’Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for sings and wonders in Israel.’ Etc. Who are these? The same people. The first wonderful sign by which they were distinctly known from Second Advents, was shut door believers, but the greatest wonder and sign by which they are now known is 7th day Sabbath believers… The shut door and Sabbath, then, are two prominent marks by which they are known… It is a people who are in their trial or patient waiting time for the Lord, having the law and the testimony. The present truth of which is the shut door and the 7th day Sabbath.”19
It will be noted from one of the statements of Brother Bates above-quoted, that the pioneers regarded Christ’s entry into the second apartment of the sanctuary as having been made on behalf of “the whole house of Israel”, who were said to be “represented on his breast-plate of judgment.” During his ministration in the first apartment, until a certain day in October, 1844, “he had been the mediator of all world.”
Considerable discussion went on as to just whose names might be regarded as having been “borne in on the breast-plate of judgment.”
“Then on the tenth day of the seventh month, 1844, our Great High Priest, attired in all his priestly garments, having over his heart the breast-plate of judgment, on which is represented the names of all the true Israel of God, rises up and shuts the door … Mark this; here was a literal transaction in heaven, at that time, and all true, shut door believers, so teach.”
“Here a question arises, who are meant by the whole house of Israel? We believe they comprise all honest, obedient believers, that had up to that time overcome (Rev. iii. 5) and also children that had not come to the years of accountability.”…20
“Therefore we are brought, by the force of circumstances, and the fulfillment of events, to the irresistible conclusion that, on the 10th day of the seventh month (Jewish time), in the autumn of 1844, Christ, did close his daily or continual ministration or mediation in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, and SHUT THE DOOR, which no man can open; and opened the door, in the second apartment or Holiest of all, which no man can shut (see Rev. iii. 7,8), and passed within the second veil, bearing before the Father, on the breast-plate of judgment, all for whom he is now acting as an intercessor. If this is the position that Christ now occupies, then there is no intercessor in the first apartment; and in vain do misguided souls knock at the door, saying ‘Lord, Lord, open to us’.” …
“But says the objector, does not this leave the present generation, who have passed the line of accountability since that time without an intercessor or mediator, and leave them destitute of the means of salvation? In reply to this objection I would remark, that as they were there in a state of INNOCENCY, they were entitled to a record upon the breast-plate of judgment as much as those who had sinned and received pardon; and are therefore subjects of the present intercession of our Great High Priest.”21
In the same number of the Present Truth is the statement:
“On this day of atonement, he is a high priest for those only whose names are inscribed on the breast-plate of judgment.”22
Hiram Edson writes as follows in “An Appeal to the Laodicean Church”, published in an Advent Review extra in 1850:
“Among those that were borne in, I believe, were some that had not had the light on the second advent doctrine, and had not rejected it, but were living according to the best light they had. And I believe also that there were others who had a sacred reverence for God and his word, and had his fear before their eyes, yet they made no profession of religion, or of conversion, but in the sight of God who sees not as a man sees, they were much nearer a state of justification before God, than very many who made a great profession of religion. Again, children who had not arrived to years of accountability were borne in on the breast-plate of judgment. These three classes are standing heads of wheat to be gleaned…”
“Some suppose that if the door is shut, there can be no more repentance unto life, or forgiveness of sins. This is certainly a mistake. All who were born in on the breast-plate of judgment, and have not sinned willfully, may repent and find forgiveness . Jesus says to the Laodiceans, ‘as many as I love I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent.’”23
James White speaks of the same three classes, who might be subjects of conversion.
“Conversion, in the strictest sense, signifies a change from sin to holiness. In that sense we readily answer, that it [the shut door] does not exclude ALL conversion, but we believe that those who heard the ‘everlasting gospel’ message and rejected it, or refused to hear it, are excluded by it. We have no message to such. They have no ears to hear us unless we lower the standard of truth so low that there would be no salvation in it. But there are those who may be converted.
- “Erring brethren. We believe there are many in the Laodicean church who will yet be converted as the Apostle directs in his epistle to the waiting brethren.”
- “Children, who were not old enough to understandingly receive or reject the truth, when our Great High Priest closed his mediation in the Holy Place… Their names were borne upon the breast-plate of judgment, and they are subjects of the mediation of Jesus.”…
- 3.“When Elijah thought that he was alone, God said to him, ‘I have reserved to myself seventh thousand men, who have not bowed to the image of Baal.’ We believe that God has reserved to himself f a multitude of precious souls, some even in the churches. These he will manifest IN HIS OWN TIME. They were living up to the light they had when Jesus closed his mediation for the world, and when they hear the voice of the Shepherd in the message of the third angel they will gladly receive the whole truth. Such will be converted to the truth, and from their errors. But we think we have no message to such now, still ‘he that hath an ear let him hear.’ Our message is to the Laodiceans, yet some of these hidden souls are being manifested.”24
With all this differentiation, the brethren made it clear that no names might be added to the breast-plate of judgment after 1844, although the names of those who refused to accept further light might be erased.
“When the master of the house (the Lord Jesus) rose up and shut the door, all honest believers, that had submitted to his will, and children that had not arrived to the years of accountability, were undoubtedly borne in on this breast-plate of judgment which is over his heart. The names of all that fully keep the commandments are retained. Those who not, will have their names erased before Jesus leaves the Holiest.” …
“It is true some persons that are ignorant of this message may, and undoubtedly will be saved if they die before Jesus leaves the Holiest. I mean those that were believers before 1844. Sinners and backsliders cannot get their names on the breast-plate of judgment now.”25
The questions must now be considered, Did Mrs. E.G. White teach the shut door? And if so, Did she teach that doctrine on the authority of visions claimed to be if divine origin? James White answers both these questions in the affirmative. In “A Word to the Little Flock”, published in 1847, he says:
“When she received her first vision, December 1844, she and all the band in Portland, Maine (where her parents then resided) had given up the midnight cry, and shut the door, as being in the past. It was then that the Lord shew her in vision, the error into which she and the band in Portland had fallen. She then related her vision, to the band, and about sixty confessed their error, and acknowledge, their 7th month experience to be the work of God.”26
“The midnight cry and the shut door as being in the past”, means that both became accomplished facts in 1844, and that from that time the shutting of the door was a past and not a future event. It is clear from this statement by James White, that his wife had at first given up the shut door idea (presumably in common with other Adventist who early changed their minds on that point, as for instance “the band in Portland”, of which Brother White here speaks); but that the Lord shewed her in vision the error into which she and the band of Portland had fallen”, with the result that “about sixty confessed their error.” Brother White says that they then “acknowledged their 7th month experience to be of God.” By this he means that they acknowledged their experience in giving “the midnight cry” and subsequently regarding the door as “shut” in the 7th month (Jewish time) of 1844, to be of God. Joseph Bates (as already quoted) says that it was the work of the midnight cry that “shut the door without the shadow of a doubt.”
Sister White herself, in the same publication, thus relates her first vision:
“While praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell on me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the world, but could not find them when a voice said to me, ‘Look again, and look a little higher.’ At this I raised my eyes and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the Advent people were traveling to the City, which was at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light set up behind them at the first end of the path, which an angel told me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the path, and gave light for their feet so they might not stumble. And if they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the City, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and they said the City was a great way off, and they expected to have entered before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising his glorious right arm, and from his arm came a glorious light which waved over the Advent band, and they shouted Hallelujah! Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another, until we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus’ coming”.27
The passage printed above in bold type has been omitted from Early Writings; but should appear in that book between the words, “below”, and “Soon we heard the voice of God like many waters”, on page 11 of the old edition, and page 15 of the new edition. The words in bold type were contained in the vision as originally published. This first vision therefore teaches:
This utter hopelessness of backsliders and of “the wicked world” is all in agreement with Joseph Bates’ statement (already quoted) that “sinners and backsliders cannot get their names on the breast-plate of judgment now.”
The hopelessness of backsliders is strongly emphasized in another passage eliminated from Early Writings:
“And if one believed, and kept the Sabbath, and received the blessing attending it, and then gave it up, and broke the holy commandment, they would shut the gates of the Holy City against themselves, as sure as there is God that rules in heaven above.”28
This sentence should appear in Early Writings in the chapter headed “Subsequent Visions” on page 27 of the old edition and page 33 of the new, between the words, “waiting saints”, and “I saw God had children”. The vision seems to have been first written in a letter to Joseph Bates, and was published in that form in A word to the Little Flock, p. 19, in 1847. As then published it contained the sentence quoted above, which since been omitted.
On the 21st of April, 1847, Sister White wrote to the Brother Eli Curtis as follows:
“Your Extra is now on the stand before me; and I beg leave to state to you, and the scattered flock of God, what I have seen in vision relative to those things on which you have written... You think, that those who worship before the saints feet, (Rev. 3:9) will at the last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists… They will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint’s feet.”
“The Lord has shown me in vision, that Jesus rose up and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies at the 7th month 1844.”
“I believe the sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is a minister. The Lord shew me in a vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crozier had the true light, on the cleansing, of the Sanctuary, &c.; and that it was his will, that Brother C. should write out the view which he gave us in the Day Star Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord, to recommend that extra, to every saint.29
Brother O.R.L. Crozier was among the Adventists who early gave up the shut door view. The Harbinger of March 2, 1853, published his answers to inquiries regarding his position on the sanctuary. Brother Crozier says:
“My Views have been somewhat changed on the subject of the ‘Sanctuary’ since 1845, when I wrote the article on the law of Moses, from which the Sabbatarian Adventists quote so often… The above named persons appear to me insincere in quoting from this article, (1) because they know that it was written for the express purpose of explaining and proving the doctrine of the ‘shut-door’, which they now, I understand, disclaim.”30
Sister White then claimed in 1847, that the Lord had shown her in vision, more than a year previously, that “Brother Crozier had the true light on the cleansing of the Sanctuary”, in a certain article he had published. Brother Crozier himself states that that article was written “for the express purpose of explaining and proving the doctrine of the ‘shut-door’”, and claims that the “Sabbatarian Adventists” were well aware of that fact! James White maintains that the article referred to “no more goes to prove a shut door than it does an open door”;31 but apart from that question, the outstanding facts remain:
Sister White relates the following, concerning a vision given at Topsham Maine, on Sabbath March 24, 1849:
“Then I was shown that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus, relating to the shut door, could not be separated.”32
In the Present Truth for December of the same year, 1849, Sister White wrote that:
“The ‘Commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ’ are to us the present truth—the meat in due season. The little flock here in this region are established on the Sabbath, and our past Advent experience.” …
“I saw that in Brother Rhodes’ mouth there had been no guile in speaking against the present truth, relating to the Sabbath and the Shut Door.”33
These statements are in agreement, first with themselves and second with the views held by the brethren at that time. The testimony of Jesus “related to the shut door”, and became, with the Sabbath, the “present truth”, the “meat in due season”. When the little flock were “established on the Sabbath, and [their] past Advent experience”, they were established on “the Sabbath and the shut door”, for the “past Advent experience” had reference to the midnight cry and the shut door proclamation of 1844. Brother White has already told us that Sister White was shown in her first vision that it was an error to give up the view of “the midnight cry and shut door as being in the past”. So Brother Rhodes has spoken “against the present truth”, when he had spoken against “the Sabbath and the Shut Door”; but there had nevertheless been no guile in his mouth in speaking thus.
In the vision, “End of the 2300 Days” two groups of people are described:
“Before the throne I saw the Advent people—the church and the world. I saw two companies, one bowed before the throne, deeply interested while the other stood uninterested and careless.34
The company of Adventist believers is then represented as praying, and receiving light from the Father and the Son.
“Then I saw an exceeding light come from the Father to the Son, and from the Son it waved over the people before the throne. But few would receive this great light. Many came out from under it and immediately resisted it; others were careless and did not cherish the light, and it moved from them. Some cherished it, and went and bowed down with the little praying company. This company all received the light and rejoiced in it, and their countenances shone with its glory.”35
This “exceeding bright light” was doubtless the “midnight cry”, for the first vision speaks of “a bright light set up behind them… which an angel told me was the midnight cry”, page 14. “But few [of the Adventists] would receive this great light. Many came from under it and immediately resisted it; others were careless and did not cherish the light, and it moved off from them [these would be the Adventists]. Some cherished it; and went and bowed down with the little praying company [the Seventh-day Adventists]. This company all received the light, and rejoiced in it, and their countenances shone with its glory.”
The further experience of the Adventists and other Christians who did not receive the advanced light is thus described:
“I turned to the look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, ‘Father give us thy Spirit’. Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but not sweet love, joy, and peace.”36
Thus much for the professed Christians. But what became of “the world”, those who from the first had “stood disinterested and careless”?
“ I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after He arose, and they were left in perfect darkness.”37
This is what one might describe (using one of the expressions of the pioneers) as “a shut door of the closest kind”.38 The door was shut so tightly and so effectively that there was neither chink, crack, nor crevice through which so much as “one ray of light” might pass “to the careless multitude”! Their darkness was complete!
In relating the Topsham vision (already referred to), Sister White said that she “was shown that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ relating to the shut door, could not be separated.” The last part of that vision should read as follows:
“I saw that the mysterious signs, and wonders, and false reformations would increase, and spread. The reformations that were shown me, were not reformations from error to truth; but from bad to worse; for those who professed a change of heart, had only wrapped about them a religious garb, which covered up the iniquity of a wicked heart. Some appeared to have been really converted so as to deceive God’s people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever. My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked but could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past.”39
The passage printed in red was contained in the vision as originally published; but has been omitted from Early Writings. See page 45 of the new edition, and page 37 of the old edition.
This paragraph plainly teaches that the time for the salvation of sinners was past. The antecedent of the pronoun “their” in the last sentence, is the noun “sinners” in the preceding sentence. This is made doubly clear when the eliminated sentence is restored. For many years, in the old edition of Early Writings, a note by the publishers sought to make out that the last sentence applied to false shepherds. “It is the false shepherds therefore, and not sinners in general, to whom this sentence applies”. (See page 37). This questionable explanation does not appear in the present edition of that book. Such an interpretation fails entirely to harmonize with the text. The “false shepherds”, or “ministers who have rejected the truth” are not referred to in the immediate context. It is the “sinners” of the last paragraph whose “salvation is past”. This passage does not speak of some sinners, who have passed the boundary line, and cannot be saved. The statement is a sweeping one, referring to sinners in general.
The publishers, in a footnote endeavoring to show that this passage does not really mean what it plainly says, claim that “at the very time when these things were written she herself was laboring for the salvation of sinners, as she has been doing ever since.”40 This is an unwarranted claim. The documentary evidence of the period shows unquestionably that Sister White was following no such course, “when these things were written.”
What would Joseph Bates have thought if at that time Sister White had gone out to work for the salvation of sinners? He was scandalized when the “Laodicean” Adventists did it. “Talk about searching out sinners”, he exclaimed in 1850, “that the work of the Midnight Cry left in outer darkness six years ago!”
What would James White have thought, if his wife had in 1849 [had] gone out “laboring for sinners”? He was willing to admit, in 1851, that “God had reserved to himself a multitude of precious souls, some even in the churches”, those who were “living up to what light they had when Jesus closed his mediation for the world”; “But,” he added, “we think we have no message for such now.” Did his wife, two years earlier, have a message for “the world”, for whom Christ’s mediation had “closed”, and fail to tell her husband of it, or convince him of it?
Speaking of “the autumn of 1844” James White says that at “that point all our sympathy, burden and prayers for sinners ceased”.41 Sister White says that they “lost their burden of soul for the salvation of sinners”.42 In March 1849, she wrote that her accompanying angel bade her “look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be”. She “looked, but could not see it; for the time for their salvation” was “past”. Who had lost the “travail of soul for sinners” that they used to have? Mrs. White and her husband, and their associates according to their own testimony. For whose salvation, was “The time…past”? Was it past for those who had lost their burden, or for sinners for whom the burden was lost? It is obvious that when Sister White wrote that “the time for their salvation is past”, she had reference to sinners.
The assertion of the publishers that “at the very time when these things were written she [Sister White] herself was laboring for the salvation of sinners”, is one that is frequently repeated by those who seek to maintain the infallibility of the Testimonies. Let the reader take due note of the fact that not one scintilla of evidence from the documents of that early period is ever produced to justify this assertion. The reason for this is that there is none to produce. The early publications abound with evidence to the contrary, that from 1844 to 1851 all the pioneers regarded their “work for the world” as “finished forever”, and were giving their time to providing “meat in due season” for the “household” of faith.
In those early days the brethren regarded the first angel’s message as the last message to the world, fulfilled and closed in 1844; and the third angel’s message as the last message to the church, or “scattered flock” from 1844 to the end. Thus, in 1850, James White wrote of the first message, “This angel’s message represents the last message of mercy to the world; and it has been fulfilled.”43 In the same issue of the paper, speaking of the third message, he taught that “this angel declares the last message of mercy to the scattered flock; therefore it is the sealing message.”44
By “the scattered flock” the pioneers meant the Advent people. The Adventists were united up to 1844; but the great disappointment of that year threw them into confusion and “scattered” them. Sister White speaks of this as “the scattering time.” After discovering what they thought to be the true light on the sanctuary, the Seventh-day Adventists felt that they had a message that would once more unite the scattered flock, and spoke of this as “the gathering time”.
“During the scattering time we have passed through many heartrending trials, while we have seen the precious flock scattered, torn and driven; but, thank God, the time has come for the flock to be gathered into the ‘unity of the faith’”.45
Sister White’s labors, and those of her associates, were all directed toward this on end, the gathering of the “scattered” flock.
“The brethren sent in more means that was necessary to sustain the paper, which I have since used in traveling to visit the scattered flock.”46
“Brethren Holt and Rhodes returned to this city last week…. They felt that they cannot rest; but must go on as fast as possible, and hunt up the scattered ‘sheep’”…
“I think he will go in search of the scattered sheep, for the Lord is showing him his light and truth very fast.”47
“We want to hear, especially, from the dear brethren that travel, how the cause prospers, and of their success in searching out the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Such letters give interest to the paper, and cheer the ‘little flock’”.48
“I spent five days visiting from house to house; were I could find Advent believers.”49
“I saw that the quick work that God was doing on earth would soon be cut short in righteousness, and that the swift messengers must speed on their way to search out the scattered flock.”50
“We have but a little space of time in which to work for God. Nothing should be too dear to sacrifice for the…scattered and torn flock of Jesus.51
“Speed the messengers on their way to feed the hungry sheep.”52
“The Lord has often given me a view of the situation and wants of the scattered jewels who have not yet come to the light of the present truth, and has shown that the messengers should speed their way to them as fast as possible, to give them the light.”53
On page 62 of Early Writings Sister White speaks of “the last message of mercy that is now being given to the scattered flock”. This agrees precisely with James White’s statement that the third angel’s message is “the last message of mercy to the scattered flock”, in contrast with the first angel’s message, which he taught was “the last message of mercy to the world”, closing in 1844.
“The Lord has shown me that the message of the third angel must go, and be proclaimed to the scattered children of the Lord but it must not be hung on time.”54
“The Lord has shown me that precious souls are starving, and dying for want of the present, sealing truth, the meat in due season; and that the swift messengers should speed on their way, and feed the flock with the present truth. I heard an angel say, ‘Speed the swift messengers, speed the swift messengers; for the case of every soul will soon be decided either for life or for death.’”55
About two years after the brethren had given up the shut-door view, we find Sister White writings as follows:
“Do we believe with all the that Christ is soon coming? And that we are now having the last message of mercy that is ever to be given to a guilty world?56
But no such message as this from her pen is found in the records of the years 1844 to 1851.
How unwarranted then, and how misleading is the oft-repeated assertion that when Sister White wrote that “the time for their salvation is past” she herself “was laboring for the salvation of sinners”.
We must not leave the consideration of this passage in Early Writings (stating that “the time for their salvation is past”. E.W. p. 45) without noticing the significance of the eliminated sentences, reproduced (pp. 188-192) in bold-faced type. One of the sentences reads: “Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God’s people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black ever”. (See page 192.)
In what way would such seeming conversions be likely to “deceive God’s people”? The answer is that the believers might be deceived into thinking the door, must be open, and not shut.
Those sentences should never have been eliminated from the Early Writings. They help to fix the meaning of the context.
Having fully received the view that in 1844 Christ “rose up and shut the door” of the first apartment, “where he had been Mediator for all the world”, the pioneers could not credit the genuineness of revivals or of the conversion of sinners reported by the “Sardis” or “fallen” churches, or by the “Laodicean” Adventists. These were ether denied, or explained away, or attributed to Satanic agencies.
“Can any impenitent sinners be converted if the door is shut? Of course they cannot, though changes that men would call conversions may take place.”57
“The professed conversions, through the instrumentality of the various sects, are also urged as positive proof that the door is not shut. I cannot give up the clear fulfillment of prophecy, in our experience, which shows the shut door in the past, for the opinions, fancies and feelings of men, based upon human sympathy and superstitious reverence for early views.”58
“Many will point us to one who is said to be converted, for positive proof that the door is not shut, thus yielding the word of God for the feelings of an individual.”59
A favorite text with the pioneers, during those years, was Hosea 5:6,7. They regarded this passage as supporting their view of the shut door, and also as accounting for what they thought must be spurious conversion and revivals. Here is James White’s application of the text:
“The professed church, who rejected the truth, was also rejected, smitten with blindness, and now, ‘with their flocks and their herds’ they go ‘to seek the Lord’ as still an advocate for sinners; but, says the prophet, Hosea v. 6,7 ‘they shall not find him; he hath WITHDRAWN HIMSELF from them. They have dealt treacherously against the Lord; for they have begotten strange children.’
“The reason why they do not find the Lord is simply this, they seek him where he is not; ‘He hath withdrawn himself’ to the Most Holy Place. The prophet of God calls their man-made converts, ‘STRANGE CHILDREN’; now shall a month devour them, and their portions’.”60
Joseph Bates gives this text the same application:
“But it is said they have converts. Yes, but they are strange ones because they come after the house of Israel have their names borne into the Holiest. Hence says the prophet, ‘He hath withdrawn himself from them, now shall a month devour them with their portions’.”61
David Arnold applies the passages in the same way, in the Present Truth for December, 1849.
Did Sister White share with the brethren this view of the meaning of Hosea 5:6,7, involving as it did the shut door teaching? She speaks thus for herself:
“The excitements and false reformations of this day do not move us, for we know that the Master of the house rose up in 1844, and shut the door of the first apartment of the heavenly tabernacle; and now we certainly expect that they will ‘go with their flocks’, ‘to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he halt withdrawn himself (within the second veil) from them’. The Lord has shown me that the power which is with them is a mere human influence, and not the power of God”.62
“I saw false reformations everywhere. The churches were elated, and considered that God was marvelously working for them, when it was another spirit.”63
It is exceedingly regrettable that these facts should have been covered up for many years, denied, or explained away so that our people generally, and the great body of our workers have not been acquainted with them. The present writer finds no pleasure in reviewing such items of past history, nor in discussing what he believes to be the mistaken course of those who have subscribed to the policy of preventing them from becoming generally known. This unpleasant task becomes a duty, however, in the present circumstances. Thousands have been taught to regard the sanctuary teaching as now held as having the authority of a divine revelation; whereas it has no such authority. The shut door teaching was the aftermath of William Miller’s mistake in preaching that Christ’s second advent would take place in 1844. The present sanctuary teaching is the aftermath of the mistaken shut door doctrine of 1844 to 1851. The mistakes of the past have led on to the mistaken teaching of the present. The present erroneous views regarding the sanctuary are being assiduously taught to our children and young people, and thus passed on to another generation. It becomes the duty of Christ’s ministers, when they become aware of these things, to speaks out and let the facts be known.
The darkest page in our denominational history is not that which records the mistakes of the Miller movement; nor that which records the shut door teaching of subsequent years; but that which records an effort to cover up the facts of the past.
Most of the early Adventists (not the Seventh-day Adventists) frankly acknowledged that they had taken mistaken positions. Joseph Bates refers disapprovingly to this in an article contributed to the Review and Herald in December, 1850. He quotes J.V. Himes as saying, “We are free to confess that we have been twice disappointed in our expectations in the time of our Lord’s advent”. Joseph Bates then says, “After this, hundreds of others followed in confessions, in the two leading papers; and in their confessions….acknowledged that they were mistaken about the shut door view.”
It is to be deeply regretted that our own pioneers did not follow the same commendable course, when, late in 1851, or thereabout, they in turn gave up the shut door teaching.
In the Review for March 17, 1853, the editor, James White, quotes form the “Harbinger” a statement in which O.R.L. Crozier said that he understood the Seventh-day Adventists now disclaimed the doctrine of the shut door. Brother White then makes the curt rejoinder, “On the above we will first remark, that as C. has informed the readers of the Harbinger that we disclaim the doctrine of the shut door, that paper should no longer reproachfully call us ‘shut door Sabbatarians’”.
Seeing that the pioneers taught the shut door so long and so emphatically, and so unsparingly reproached the other Adventists for giving up that doctrine, the editor of the Review should have voluntarily and frankly acknowledged the mistake, and should not have left it to “C”, or anyone else, to “inform the readers of the Harbinger”, and other interested persons, of the change of convictions.
There is one outstanding reason for this reluctance to acknowledge openly the mistakes of the past. Sister White had participated in the shut door teaching, and had related and published visions which supported it. When these visions were re-published in the form of “Experience and Views”, in 1851, and again in 1854, some statements teaching the shut door were omitted entirely. Had they been retained, the conclusion would have been inevitable that they taught the shut door. In their “Preface to the second edition”, after referring to the addition of several dates, and two dreams, the publishers went on to say:
“Aside from these, no changes from the original work have been made in the present edition, except for the occasional employment of a new word, or a change in the construction of a sentence, to better express the idea, and no portion of the work had been omitted. No shadow of change has been made in any idea or sentiment of the original work, and the verbal changes have been made under the author’s own eye, and with her full approval.”64
It was not true that no portion of the original work had been omitted. The writer of the preface (if he knew of the omissions) may have satisfied his conscience by thinking of the publication of 1851 as the “original work”; but he must have known that the readers of his preface would understand him as referring to the visions as originally published. There were considerable omissions from the contents of the original documents when the visions were first re-published in 1851, and among them statements that undoubtedly taught the shut door. Even after the omissions were made, there still remained passages that could lead to no other conclusion than that the visions taught the shut door. Instances of these have already been given in preceding pages.
For many years Elder J.N. Loughborough occupied a position tantamount to that of historian to the denomination. Brother Loughborough went farther than to deny that Sister White taught the shut door: he stoutly maintained that it was not taught by Seventh-day Adventists at all.
After quoting Sister White’s statement that “Adventists were for a time united in the belief that the door of mercy was shut”, he says, “In this quotation Mrs. White states the position taken by First-day Adventists. She does not even intimate that she believed it.”65
On page 230 of the same book he writes:
“Even as late as the year 1848, there remained here and there an individual who held that there was no more mercy for sinners. These, however, were not Seventh-day Adventists.”66
Sufficient evidence has already been presented in preceding pages to demonstrate the utter falsity of these statements. The reverse is the truth, that the First-day Adventists early gave up the doctrine, and the Seventh-day Adventists doggedly maintained it.
Joseph Bates, referring to Sister White’s visions, wrote, in 1847:
“I believe the work is of God, and is given to comfort and strengthen his ‘scattered’, ‘torn’, and ‘peeled people’, since the closing up of our work for the world, in October, 1844."67
How does Brother Loughborough deal with a passage like this? He simply drops out the words “for the world”, and makes the passage read,
“since the closing up of our work…in October, 1844”.68
How does Brother Loughborough deal with James White’s statement that the Lord showed Sister White in vision that she and all the band in Portland had fallen into error in having “given up the midnight cry and shut door as being in the past”? He simply omits the words, “and shut door”, and makes the sentence read, “had given up the ‘midnight cry’ as being in the past.”69 Here he gives no indication that any words have been omitted.
This is a serious offence, for the clauses omitted from both the quotation above referred to are key phrases, the omission of which is calculated to keep the reader in ignorance of the fact that the pioneers taught that doctrine; facts that Brother Loughborough categorically denies in the book in which he makes these mangled quotations.
In the Review and Herald for June 11, 1861, there was published a conference address signed by a number of the leading brethren. The address read as follows:
“If we go back to a period of from six to nine years ago, we find the believers in the third angel’s message few in number, very much scattered, and in no place assuming to take the name of a church. Our views of the work before us were then mostly vague and indefinite, some still retaining the idea adopted by the body of Advent believers in 1844, with William Miller at their head, that our work for ‘the world’ was finished, and that the message was confined to those of the original Advent faith. So firmly was this believed that one of our number was nearly refused the message, the individual presenting it having doubts of the possibility of his salvation because he has not in ‘the ’44 move’. Such things may seem strange to most of our readers, but they serve well to illustrate our proposition that many crude and erroneous views ware entertained …
“And according to our views of the work we had to do, was our method of labor. As individuals would go scores and even hundreds of miles to present the truth to one or two who had been believers in the first message, so would the laborers go long distances to visit, to comfort, and to strengthen the scattered ones who had embraced the faith.”70
This conference address was signed by J.H. Waggoner, James White, J,N. Loughborough, E.W. Shortridge, Joseph Bates, J.B. Frisbie, M.E. Cornell, Moses Hull, and John Byington.
Brother Loughborough, then, was a signatory of this address and was indeed himself the ‘one of their number” referred to who was “nearly refused the message” because of doubts entertained as to the possibility of his salvation, seeing he was “not in the ’44 move”. And yet, knowing all this, Brother Loughborough has dared to deny in his book that Seventh-day Adventists taught the shut door during the early years of their history!
It is a thousand pities that the degree of candor exhibited in this 1861 conference was not maintained and extended during subsequent years. It is an honor to a people as well as to an individual frankly to acknowledge mistakes, and to retract them. But this degree of candor was not maintained, the said conference address being apparently only a sporadic manifestation of that quality. And the chief reason for this reticence with reference to the early mistakes is that Sister White is involved in them, and the authority of the Testimonies is at stake.
This effort to clear the pioneers, and especially Sister White of the responsibility of teaching the shut door has been continued by denominational leaders right up to the present time. In the Review and Herald, during April, 1926, Elder W. A. Spicer, then president of the general conference, and associate editor of the Review, published a series of articles with that end in view. The following passages are extracted from the articles referred to:
“So far from the shut door meaning to those believers that probation closed in 1844, the new view of the shut door and the Sabbath truth was an incentive to got out and work for the salvation of others.”71
“On the contrary, the record shows that the spirit of prophecy was ever calling the pioneers to shape their plans to carry the gospel message to sinners in every land. And all through those years Sister White herself was out preaching the gospel and seeking to save sinners.”
“And mark this, all the time, from the very beginning, the spirit of prophecy was not only setting forth an open door, but was telling these pioneers of a great world-wide work of which they had little idea.”72
Brother Spicer does not bring any evidence from the early publications to warrant these statements. We have already seen that the records of the early years tell a very different story from that which our brother would have us believe. In the face of all this evidence, how can anyone conscientiously maintain that “all the time, form the very beginning, the spirit of prophecy was…setting forth an open door”, and telling the pioneers of the “great world-wide work of which they had little idea”?
Still more recently, in a pamphlet entitled “The Shut Door and the Close of Probation”, Elder A.G. Daniells reviews some of the early teaching of Sister White on this subject. Brother Daniells’ pamphlet is a welcome departure form the policy followed by our publishers in the past, in two respects; first, in that it acknowledges that our pioneers “continued for a period to believe that salvation for sinners was past; and second, in acknowledging the fact that certain important passages had been eliminated from Early Writings, and even in reproducing and discussing some of them. The object is kept in view throughout, however, of clearing Sister White of having taught the mistaken doctrine. We quote the following from Brother Daniells’ pamphlet:
“In the very nature of the case, as the time came, and for a short period thereafter, they [Seventh-day Adventists] believed that their work for sinners was at an end… But while, after the passing of the time in 1844, they continued for a period to believe that salvation for sinners was past and that Christ would quickly appear, there was no statement from Mrs. E. G. White to the effect that it had been revealed to her that probation for the world had closed and that there was no longer salvation for the unsaved. There is a vast difference between holding a personal belief regarding a question, and declaring that this belief had been obtained by a direct revelation for the Lord.”73
Proceeding to examine some of the eliminated passages, Brother Daniells writes: “The one sure and satisfactory way of arriving at the truth of the question under consideration is by a careful examination of the published utterances of Mrs. White during that period.”74
Concluding this review, Brother Daniells says that: “In all that was printed from the pen of Mrs. White during eight years—-1844-1851-—we find three statements so worded that two different and conflicting interpretations can be placed upon them. … The writer believes…that there is no evidence that Mrs. E. G. White ever taught this error.”75
In order to test the soundness of Brother Daniells’ conclusion let us consider briefly one of the three statements to which he refers,--“It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected.” Of this sentence Brother Daniells says that he sincerely believes that it “does not, taken apart from the context, express the view of the author as clearly as was intended.” “This opinion”, he continues, “is strengthened by the action of Mrs. White when, in revising the printed message, she eliminated this sentence”.76 No one suggests, however, that this sentence be “taken apart from its context”. We want it with its context, where it rightly belongs. It was “separated from its context” when Sister White eliminated it.
Brother Daniells asks,--“Is it exactly fair to take a single brief sentence from its context, and place a meaning upon it which makes it conflict with the document as a whole?”77 The sentence under consideration, whether taken apart from or with its context, does not at all conflict with the document as a whole. If it were in conflict with the message of the document as a whole, it would obviously never have been written in the first place. The statement is harmonious with its context, and with the general teaching of Sister White and the other pioneers of the time. It would be difficult to “place a meaning upon” the sentence other than that which stands out upon the very face of it. Let the reader read the passage once more, and see if this is not the case. “It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected.”
Brother Daniells asks again, “Is it not more reasonable and consistent to conclude that the wording of the sentence is not clear—that it does not express fully, and without possibility of misunderstanding, just what the writer had in mind?”78 But the sentence is clear; uncompromisingly clear: it does express “without possibility of misunderstanding just what the writer had in mind.”
In seeking a way out of the difficulty, Brother Daniells pleads that this and other passages are “so worded that two different and conflicting interpretations can be places upon them.”79 No attempt is made to show how these conflicting constructions could be arrived at.
Speaking of Sister White’s first vision (of which the particular passage under discussion formed a part), Brother Daniells says,--“It is plainly evident that this view revealed a great evangelical movement in operation throughout the world until the coming of the Lord”.80 This claim is based on Sister White’s repeated reference to the 144,000, a number of believers which Brother Daniells affirms was nowhere in sight at the time. This argument loses its force, however, when one knows that the Adventists influenced by the Miller movement were estimated to exceed that number, and these were the ones that Sister White and her associates were so diligent in searching out. Moreover, Joseph Bates, discussing the question of the 144,000 at the time, declared that he believed them to be already in existence. He published a 70-page pamphlet, entitled, “The Seal of the Living God - A Hundred and Forty-four Thousand of the Servants of God being Sealed”, in 1849.
The editor of the Review and Herald, Elder F. M. Wilcox, in closing a series of articles on “The Shut Door and Close of Probation”, says, in speaking of Sister White’s writings:
“There are two or three statements which, because of their ambiguity of expression, some have charged taught the shut-door doctrine.”81
Why does Brother Wilcox speak of “ambiguity of expression” in connection with these statements? Brother Daniells uses similar terms, as we have already seen. He says “the wording of the sentence is not clear”, --that it “does not express fully, and without possibility of misunderstanding”, etc., and that these things “might have been expressed more clearly”. He speaks again of “the obscurity of the phrase.”
The truth is that there is nothing either ambiguous or obscure about the statements referred to. Sister White said of the backsliding Adventists, “it was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected.” Where is “the obscurity of the phrase?”
She said again, that “if one believed, and kept the Sabbath, and received the blessing attending it, and then gave it up, and broke the holy commandment, they would shut the gates of the Holy City against themselves as sure as there was a God that rules in heaven above.” Where is the “ambiguity of expression” that Bother Wilcox speaks of?
In a chapter headed “The Open and the Shut Door”, Sister White wrote, “My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past.” Is “the wording of the sentence not clear”?
Place this statement from Sister White parallel with a sentence from Brother Daniells’ book, thus: and note that one is a direct rebuttal of the other:
|Brother Daniells’ pamphlet, p. 5||Early Writings, p. 45|
|“There was no statement from Mrs. E.G. White to the effect that it had been revealed to her that probation for the world had closed, and that there was no longer salvation for the unsaved.”||“My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but I could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past.”|
When Sister White wrote to Eli Curtis in April, 1847: “The Lord has shown me in vision, that Jesus rose up, and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies, at the 7th month, 1844”; and when she related another vision in 1850, in which she said, “I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after He arose, and they were left in perfect darkness”; did she not express herself “fully, and without possibility of misunderstanding”?
Why do our leading brethren use their influence to persuade the church that such expressions as these; bold, clear, and uncompromising in their definiteness and outspokenness; are obscure and ambiguous? Sister White well knew how to say what she meant; and she certainly did not fail in these and other similar instances.
In the Review and Herald for January the 14th, 1932, there was published a photographic reproduction of a letter written by Mrs. E.G. White to Elder J.N. Loughborough, relating to the shut-door teaching of the early years. The letter reads as follows:
Battle Creek Mich., Aug. 24, 1874.
Dear Bro. Loughborough:
I hereby testify in the fear of God that the charges of Miles Grant, of Mrs. Burdick, and others, published in the CRISIS is not true. The statements in reference to my course in forty-four is false.
With my brethren and sisters, after the time passed in forty-four I did believe no more sinners would be converted. But I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted. And am clear and free to state no one has ever heard me say or has read from my pen statements which will justify them in the charges they have made against me upon this point.
It was on my first journey east to relate my visions that the precious light in regard to the heavenly sanctuary was opened before me and I was shown the open and shut door. We believed that the Lord was soon to come in the clouds of heaven. I was shown that there was a great work to be done in the world for those who had not had the light and rejected it. Our brethren could not understand this with our faith in the immediate appearing of Christ. Some accused me of saying my Lord delayeth His coming, especially the fanatical ones. I saw that in ’44 God had opened a door and no man could shut it, and shut a door and no man could open it. Those who rejected the light which was brought to the world by the message of the second angel went into darkness, and how great was darkness.
I never have stated or written that the world was doomed or damned. I never have under any circumstances used this language to any one, however sinful. I have ever had messages of reproof for those who used these harsh expressions.82
The publication of this letter may be regarded as a very belated acknowledgment of the truth concerning certain matters referred to in this article. The acknowledgment, however, both on the part of the writer of the letter and of those who now publish it, is only partial, and is entirely inadequate. Let us consider first of all the significance of the acknowledgments made, and then review the evidence that something more far reaching is called for by the facts in the case.
Sister White states in this letter that “after the time passed in forty-four”, she, in common with the brethren and sisters of the time, “did believe that no more sinners would be converted”. This is an important admission, because the denomination has for many years sough to maintain the very opposite. Brother Loughborough declared that those who held such views “were not Seventh-day Adventist.” Speaking of Sister White he wrote that “she does not even intimate that she believed it.”83 It makes one blush for Brother Loughborough to reflect that when he published these statements he had in his possession the very letter now reproduced by the Review and Herald in which Sister White makes the solemn assertion (no mere “intimation”) that she and the other pioneers did believe that doctrine. Provided of course that our brother actually received the letter. The Review speaks of it as being found among Sister White’s old letters and documents. In any case, however, Brother Loughborough had access to all the information it contains, and much more.
Brother Loughborough is not the only one to appear in an unfavorable light as a result of the publication of this letter. A grave reflection falls upon Sister White herself. She must have known that a false representation regarding these matters was being made to our people, not only in Brother Loughborough’s book, but also in other publications including notes and prefaces in her own Early Writings, and yet did nothing to prevent it. These things could not possibly have continued in the face of her direct and expressed disapproval. Her silence or inaction involves her deeply in responsibility for the course so long followed by the denomination in this connection.
More than eighty years have expired since the close of that early period of “shut-door” teaching. The letter under consideration was itself written almost fifty-eight years before its recent publication. During all this time a wrong impression has been given our people. A grave reflection falls not only upon Sister White and Brother Loughborough, but upon all who, closing their eyes to the very evident facts in the case, have persisted in maintaining that impression.
Now that we have Sister White’s own acknowledgment that she and the other pioneers “did believe that no more sinners would be converted”, what will the ex-president of the general conference say, who in 1926, writing professedly in review of the evidences contained in the early documents, maintained in our leading church paper that “so far from the shut door meaning to those believers that probation closed in 1844, the new view of the shut door and the Sabbath truth was an incentive to go out and work for the salvation of others”?84 How will the same writer justify his assertion that “all through those years Sister White herself was out preaching the gospel and seeking to save sinners”? (Ibid. April 15, 1926). For how could Sister White and the pioneers work for the salvation of sinners when it was their firm belief that “no more sinners would be converted”?
What will the editor of the Review and Herald say, who in the January 30, 1930, number of that paper wrote that “We have no evidence that Mrs. White had the same idea about the work to be done as her associates”, and that “her instruction to the church through all the years is definite and decided in presenting an open door of mercy to any and every penitent of every race and nation who would seek salvation in Christ Jesus”? For how could Sister White be so “definite and decided in presenting an open door of mercy” during the period in which according to her own admission she believed the door was shut, and “no more sinners would be converted”?
We turn now to consider the evidence that a more far-reaching acknowledgment is called for than is furnished by the letter under consideration. Sister White here affirms that she “never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted”. It seems that our sister must have written this sentence with certain mental reservations. She may not have related a vision in which it was said in so many words that “no more sinners would be converted”; but she did relate a vision in which it was declared that “the time for their salvation is past”, and that such so-called conversions or “reformations” as were then being seen were only “from bad to worse”; and another declaring that it was “impossible” for “all the wicked world which God had rejected”, or for Adventist backsliders to “get on the path” and “go to the City”; and another in which she was shown that “Jesus rose up and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies at the 7th month, 1844”; and another which she “did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after He arose, and they were left in perfect darkness”; and still other visions of the same purport and to the same effect. It is idle for Sister White and to the defenders of her inspiration to maintain that these visions did not teach that no more sinners would be converted.
We must regretfully face the fact that Sister White was capable of writing very solemn statements with mental reservations such as that above suggested. She wrote:
“In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining form the throne.”85
How can one reconcile this bold claim with the fact that such a book as Sister White’s Sketches from the Life of Paul contained so much matter copied without acknowledgement from the well-known Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul by Conybeare and Howson, that the representatives of the latter threatened to bring suit against the Review and Herald Publishing Company for the plagiarism? Sister White’s book had to be withdrawn from sale on that account. Who, in this instance, received “the light shining from the throne”? Sister White, or Messrs. Conybeare and Howson?
There are other and numerous instances in which our late sister incorporated in her books passages copied from various authors without giving credits. It is difficult to imagine how she could conscientiously reconcile this wholesale unacknowledged appropriation of the writings of others, with the solemn assurance that she never even “wrote one article in the paper” except to convey “what God opened before her in vision—-the precious rays of light shining from the throne.”
Sister White says, “With my brethren and sisters…I did believe no more sinners would be converted.” That is just what the early record shows. She believed what the brethren at the time believed. But the records also show that she taught what they taught, even in the relation of the visions. Take, for instance, the following statements:
|Ellen White, Present Truth, December, 1849||Joseph Bates in tract published in 1850||Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 42, March 24, 1849|
|“I saw that in Brother Rhodes mouth there had been no guile in speaking against the present truth, relating to the Sabbath and the Shut Door.”||“The ‘Present Truth’, then, of this third angel’s message is THE SABBATH AND THE SHUT DOOR.”||“Then I was shown that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus, relating to the shut door, could not be separated.”|
Nothing could be clearer than that in these statements Sister White agreed with Brother Bates in teaching that the Sabbath and the shut door were the present truth.
In the letter under consideration Sister White says further:
“It was on my first journey east to relate my visions that the precious light in regard to the heavenly sanctuary was opened before me and I was shown the open and shut door.”
What light was this? The opening and shutting doors in heaven! Is that all? There is neither light, nor life, nor salvation in this theory of the pioneers relating to the doors of the sanctuary, either in the form in which they originally held it, or in the form in which they passed it in to us, and in which we are asked to pass it on to our children.
In his pamphlet, “The Shut Door and the Close of Probation”, Brother Daniells solemnly argues that “in not one of the five references to the shut door does Mrs. White state that the door of the second apartment of the sanctuary in which Christ ministers as High Priest or Mediator for a lost world was closed in 1844.”86 Why does Brother Daniells specify “the door of the second apartment”? Sister White taught that the door was shut, but she did not say that it was the door of the second apartment! Profound distinction! As though sinners could gain access to the inner door, when the outer door was closed against them!
William Miller made a grievous mistake in preaching that Christ would come in 1844. Our pioneers decided that Brother Miller was quite right in preaching the time, that God’s hand was in it, and that the mistake was only in the event that was expected to take the place.
From 1844 to 1851 the pioneers taught that the door was shut, and that probation for the world had closed. When it became evident that they were mistaken in this, instead of dropping the shut door theory altogether, they only modified it. They had not been mistaken in teaching that the door was shut; it was only a question as to which door was shut!
“While it was true that that door of hope and mercy by which men had for eighteen hundred years found access to God was closed another door was opened… There was still an ‘open door’ to the heavenly sanctuary”.87
Sister White, in her letter to Brother Loughborough, protests further:
“I never stated or written that the world was doomed or damned. I never have under any circumstances used this language to any one, however sinful.”
This may be quite true. Sister White may never have used these particular expressions. She has however made statements far more harsh, unwarranted statements, as following extracts from her writings will show:
“Said the angel…Satan has taken full possession of the churches as a body.”88
“I saw that since Jesus left the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, and entered within the second veil, the churches have been filing up with every unclean and hateful bird. I saw great iniquity and vileness in the churches; yet their members profess to be Christians. Their profession, their prayers, and their exhortations, are an abomination in the sight of God. Said the angel, ‘God will not smell in their assemblies’.”89
There is sense in which the world in departure from God is a doomed, lost world. Sister White would not have erred from the truth had she spoken of it as such. That would be very different from saying that “the time for their salvation is past”. For although it is true that the world is a lost world, it is also true that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost”. It is not true, however, that “Satan has taken full possession of the churches as a body”, and our Sister (partly excusable no doubt because of the fanatical “shut door” viewpoint of her early years) erred greatly in attributing those words to the angel of God.
The admissions contained in the letter under consideration are therefore entirely inadequate. Let not the reader be deceived. The documentary evidence coming down to us from those early years, reviewed in this treatise is not so lightly to be set aside.
There has been an effort by some to maintain the old ground, that the pioneers did not teach the shut door; but that effort has entirely collapsed. The endeavor now is to show that Sister White did not participate in the shut door view or at least that she did not teach it on authority of her visions. To establish this, however, the brethren must account for the numerous statements of Sister White that have been reviewed in this treatise. How do they do this? They ask us to regard these passages as “ambiguous” and “obscure”! Is this the best the brethren can do?
Therefore some very unpleasant facts have been painfully pressed upon us. We have learned that vital passages teaching the shut door were eliminated from Sister White’s Early Writings; we have seen that despite this, the publishers for many years assured us in their “Preface” that “no changes from the original work had been made”, that “no portion of the work had been omitted”; and indeed that “no shadow of change had been made in any idea or sentiment of the original work”; we have learned that for a period of seven years after 1844 our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers were the dogged defenders of the shut door doctrine, and the stern denouncers of the Adventist who in 1845 renounced that theory; and yet for many years a large volume, purporting to be a historic account of the early days of our movement, has been circulated among our people, falsely accusing the First-day Adventists of being the propagators of that error, and just as culpably denying that our own pioneers taught it; we have been made painfully conscious of a weakness on the part of leading brethren over a long period of time, in relating only that which seemed favorable, and not telling us “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, concerning Sister White’s experiences, and the early days of the movement. But what can be said with regard to the “unpleasant facts” referred to above? It has been impossible to deny the charges so painfully pressed upon us!
There was a great stir in America, when William Miller and his associates preached that Christ would come on the 22nd of October 1844. So profound was the impression upon some, that even when the disappointment came, they still felt that the Lord was in the definite time preaching. They could not doubt the “experience” through which they passed in connection with that movement. One reads that over and over again in the early records. It was this every attitude of mind, in which they felt bound to justify their experience of the past, that led our pioneers to hold so tenaciously to the shut door theory.
Some took a wiser view, and followed a wiser course. One of them wrote thus to the “Voice of Truth”, some eighteen months after the disappointment:
“I believe it was a sincere, honest, human mistake, and it would have been an honor to anyone to confess it”, and “not lay it up to the Lord.”90
Seventh-day Adventists are in danger today of holding on blindly to a misinterpretation of prophecy, because they feel that so much of their past experience in the things of God must stand or fall with it. In this we have received our impressions from Sister White and the pioneers, a relic of similar impressions that led them to persist in a mistaken position some eighty years ago. Let us beware of reaping the results of their error, and passing them on to perplex the minds of our children, and to make faith difficult for them.
We have not been mistaken in cherishing the blessed hope of Christ’s soon-coming. I would exhort the reader not to relinquish this hope, but to cherish it with increasing earnestness. God has light for us on the prophecies, light that is increasing more and more. And the light will continue to increase, unto the perfect day.
As for the sanctuary teaching that we have held for so many years, let us bid it an unregretful farewell. Let us not harshly judge any of the brethren, past or present, for the mistakes and wrongs that have led either to its inception or its perpetuation; but let us kindly say, with the brother who wrote to “The Voice of Truth” so many years ago, “I believe it was a sincere, honest, human mistake”; let us regard it as “an honor to anyone to confess it”, and “not lay it up to the Lord.”
What are God’s people to do in these circumstances? There is only one thing to do. Let us get back to the Bible, and the Bible only as the rule of our faith. In that word we are exhorted not to despise prophesying, but to prove them, and to hold fast only that which is good. God has given us in the Holy Scriptures the true norm, not only of Christian doctrine, but also of Christian experience. In her warfare in this world, the church is likely to be perplexed through the extravagances in experience of some of her children. It is not always possible to explain or account for the mistaken impressions and conviction of apparently fervent and spiritually-minded Christians. We do not have to do that. We do not need to do it. Our responsibility and our safety is to get back to the Bible, and rely upon that sure word, both for teaching and for experience, whether we can account for the experiences of the other Christians or not.
In declining to accept Sister White’s testimonies as a direct revelation from God, we do not have to account for all her exercises, and explain how an apparently earnest Christian could be mistaken in such claims as she made. It will be urged by some that the work must have been either wholly of God, or wholly of the devil. We are not bound to accept either alternative.
In the early publication referred to so frequently in these pages, A Word to the Little Flock, James White reproduced the statement of a friend concerning the visions, that is of interest to us today. The following is that statement:
“I cannot endorse Sister Ellen’s visions as being a divine inspiration, as you and she think them to be; yet I do not suspect the least shade of dishonesty in either of you in this matter. I may perhaps, express to you my belief in the matter, without harm--it will, doubtless, result either in your good or mine. At the same time, I admit the possibility of my being mistaken. I think that what she and you regard as visions from the Lord, are only religious reveries, in which her imagination runs without control upon themes in which she is most deeply interested. While so absorbed in these reveries, she is lost to everything around her. Reveries are of two kinds, sinful and religious. Hers is the latter. Rosseau’s, ‘a celebrated French infidel’, were the former. Infidelity was his theme, and his reveries were infidel. Religion is her theme; and her reveries are religious. In either case, the sentiments, in the main, are obtained from previous teaching, or study. I do not by any means think her visions are like some from the devil.”91
Whether this Brother’s diagnosis of Sister White’s condition in vision was correct or not we do not need to decide. His was at any rate a kindly and merciful view to take. Let us be as kindly and just as merciful. There doubtless was, at any rate at that time, “no shade of dishonesty” in Brother and Sister White in this matter. It is not so easy to take that view, when, later on, passages were eliminated from the writings, and gross misrepresentations permitted such as has been reviewed in these pages. It is not so easy to overlook the part played by others in continuing these misrepresentations. The responsibility for the misrepresentations is a grave one, for by them the church has been prevented from obeying the injunction to “prove all things”. Nevertheless we are bound in this instance also to take the merciful view. One of the characteristics of fanaticism is blindness. Very questionable things may be done by otherwise pious man in support of a claim they have come to believe to be as fundamental and essential as that of the inspiration of the Bible. And there has certainly been a degree of fanaticism manifested in the course followed by some, in their efforts to bolster up Sister White’s claim to direct revelation. Let us leave it at that. And let us at the same time turn anew to the Bible, and to the God of the Bible, and his son, our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. For my own part, I rejoice greatly in God my Savior. My faith in Him and in the promises of his world increases day by day. The blessed hope of Christ’s soon-coming is more precious to me than ever before.
1. J.N. Loughborough, Rise and Progress of the Advent Movement.
2. Author is referring to the publications of Ellen White critics A.G. Ballenger and F.E. Belden.
3. The Ministry, June 1926. Article “Easy Steps in Personal Work.”
4. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 429.
5. A. Hale, Review and Herald, September 16, 1851; editor, James White, husband of Ellen White.
6. James White, Editorial on the Sanctuary, 2300 days and “The Shut Door” in The Present Truth, for May, 1850.
7. James White in “A Word to the Little Flock”, p. 2, (1847).
8. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 4, p. 271.
9. James White, article “Who Has Left the Sure Word?”
10. E.P. Butler, Review and Herald, January 1851. Emphasis his.
11. E.P. Butler, Review and Herald, February 1851.
12. Letter from “A Second Advent brother to his Son.” Review and Herald, February, 1851.
13. Ellen White, Present Truth, December, 1849.
14. Joseph Bates, unspecified tract, emphasis his.
15. George Needham, “The voice of Truth”, March 19, 1845, p. 12.
16. J.B. Cook, Advent Review, pp. 30-34.
17. Joseph Bates, “The Laodicean Church,” Review and Herald, November, 1850. Emphasis throughout by Joseph Bates.
18. Joseph Bates, “Midnight Cry in the Past”, Review and Herald, December 1850.
19. Joseph Bates, “The Sealing Message”, p. 56, (1849).
20. Joseph Bates, Review and Herald, August 19, 1851.
21. David Arnold , Present Truth, December 1849.
22. Ibid., p. 44.
23. Hiram Edson, “An Appeal to the Laodicean Church”, Advent Review extra, 1850.
24. James White, Review and Herald, April 7, 1851.
25. Joseph Bates, Review and Herald, January, 1851.
26. James White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 22, (1847).
27. Ellen White, A Word to the Little Flock, p.14.
28. Ellen White, A word to the Little Flock, p. 19.
29. Ellen White, A Word to the Little Flock, pp. 11,12.
30. O.R.L. Crozier, quoted in Review and Herald, March 17, 1853.
31. James White, Review, March 17, 1853.
32. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 42.
33. Ellen White, Present Truth December, 1849.
34. Ellen White, Early Writings, pp. 54.
35. Ibid., p. 55.
36. Ibid., p. 56
37. Ibid., p. 55.
38. Advent Review, p. 18.
39. Ellen White, Present Truth, August, 1849.
40. New edition of Early Writings, page 45.
41. James White, Present Truth, May, 1850.
42. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 271.
43. James White, Present Truth, April 1850.
45. Ellen White, Present Truth, December, 1849.
46. James White, Ibid.
47. S.W. Rhodes, Present Truth, November, 1850.
48. James White, Ibid.
49. Joseph Bates, Report of labors at Baltimore, Review and Herald, October 7, 1851.
50. Ellen White, Present Truth April, 1850, article entitled, “To the Little Flock”.
51. Ellen White, Early Writings, p.47, written in 1849.
52. Ibid. p. 50.
53. Ibid. p. 61.
54. Ibid. p. 75, written in September, 1850.
55. Ellen White, Present Truth, September, 1849.
56. Ellen White, Review and Herald, February 17, 1863.
57. A. Hale, Review and Herald, September 16, 1851.
58. David Arnold, Present Truth, December, 1849.
59. Ibid. Letter from Brother Holt.
60. James White, Present Truth, May, 1850.
61. Joseph Bates, Review and Herald, August 19,1851.
62. Ellen White, Present Truth, March,1850.
63. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, vol.4, p, 172.
64. Publishers, Early Writings, preface to the 2nd edition.
65. J.N. Loughborough, Great Second Advent Movement, p. 222.
66. Ibid., p. 230.
67. Joseph Bates, A World to the Little Flock, p. 21.
68. Loughborough, Great Second Advent Movement, p. 263.
69. Ibid. p. 264.
70. Review and Herald, June 11, 1861.
71. Review and Herald, April 1, 1926.
72. Ibid. April 15, 1926.
73. A.G. Daniells, The Shut Door and the Close of Probation, p. 5.
74. Ibid., p. 6.
75. Ibid., p. 26.
76. Ibid., p. 15.
79. Ibid., p. 26.
80. Ibid., p. 12.
81. F.M. Wilcox, Review, Jan. 30, 1930.
82. Ellen White letter to J.N. Loughborough as printed in Review and Herald, January 14, 1932.
83. Loughborough, Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 234, 222, 223.
84. A.G. Daniells, Review and Herald, April 1, 1926.
85. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 67.
86. A.G. Daniells, The Shut Door and the Close of Probation, p. 26.
87. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 430.
88. Ellen White, Early Writtings, p. 273.
89. Ibid., p. 274.
90. Quoted in Advent Review, p. 84.
91. A Word to the Little Flock, p. 22.