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16. "Our People"
I MUST ADMIT that when I, a new member of the Adventist church, first began to work with Mr. Canright in Mr. Cornell's office and was so directly exposed to his constant criticism of Seventh-day Adventists that I sometimes wondered if Mr. Canright might not be right after all. It had been only a few months before, that I told the Methodist preacher in Minnesota that if I should ever meet the author of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, that would be time enough to decide whether he was right or whether he was wrong. Now I was hearing this author daily pouring forth in dictation what purported to be the deceptions of Seventh-day Adventism. Day after day I had to listen to Mr. Canright's bitterness against the Adventist ministry and particularly against Mrs. Ellen G. White.
I learned from his dictation, that it was only the uneducated who accepted and held the doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism, and that it was his purpose to put his erstwhile brethren, whom he professed to love, straight, and "liberate" them from their severe bondage by helping them to escape from all he had suffered. I have often wondered how many Adventists Mr. Canright "rescued" and persuaded to leave the Adventist church.
During the time I was his secretary I also heard him state and restate many times that the denomination was going to pieces. He declared this would be the case because the leaders did not think for themselves. He predicted that within ten
years the church would become extinct. I continued to imagine that he might, possibly, be right. Yet I also began to see that some things he said simply didn't ring true. Finally I came to the realization that I was listening to only one man, and felt I should hear from others.
One of the things that struck me as odd as I worked from day to day for Mr. Canright was his frequent use of the term "our people" as he referred to Seventh-day Adventists. It puzzled me that a man who despised Seventh-day Adventists as much as Mr. Canright did should refer to them in these terms. It seemed to me that if he had repudiated the doctrines of the church, denounced its ministers as ignoramuses and stooges, written a book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, and was even now writing a book against Mrs. E. G. White, that he should hardly speak of them as "our people."
The letters he dictated to me also often spoke of "our people." One of them, which is typical, is his communication to E. G. Gates, dated September 4, 1913, in which he says:
"I regret exceedingly that my views compel me to separate from our people. I love them still, and the main doctrines of the Second Advent just the same as ever, but there are things in the faith which I do not believe as you know, if you have seen my book." (Italics supplied.)
In another letter he dictated, on May 15, to W. A. Colcord, he referred to our Sabbath Schools. (Italics supplied.)
Later, in my research, I discovered that as far back as 1887 he had had an article published at his request in a Review and Herald a few weeks after he was dropped from membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in which he used the same expression.
"It will always give me pleasure to regard our people and speak of them as an honest and devout people."D. M. Canright, in Review and Herald, March 1, 1887. (Italics supplied.)
I wondered, Why should he, who had been liberated from the people who he asserted were in such bondage, repeatedly identify himself as one of "our people." Strange as it may seem, his former "deceived brethren" were still, to Mr. Canright, "our people."
As I have said before, Mr. Canright was deeply interested in the forthcoming session of the General conference of 1913. How much he wished that he might attend that General Conference session, I knew only too well, firsthand. All this made a deep impression upon my mind.
It soon became clear to me that he was studying some way to make contact with the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church. But I wondered what his purpose might be.
I remember that in one of his letters addressed to his old friend D. W. Reavis, to which I have referred earlier, he asked him, if possible, to arrange to have the obituary of his wife published in the Review even though her death had occurred more than four months before. The wording of this communication was quite evidently prepared especially with a view to the coming General Conference.
While working as his secretary I noticed that Mr. Canright usually carried copies of the Review in his pocket. I also noticed that occasionally he would pull one out and read it. Frequently as he read tears would well up in his eye and he would groan audibly. Curiosity got the better of me, and when a favorable opportunity presented itself I read the items that seemed to affect him so much.
After I read these items my mental reservations concerning the church I had recently joined vanished. This is what I read:
In another issue I found the following testimonials:
As Mr. Canright read these stirring testimonies from his former ministerial brethren he seemed to long to be at the conference with "our people."
And I, as I secretly read these thrilling words, decided firmly in my heart that Seventh-day Adventists would always be "my people."