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In his books published in 1889 and 1919 D. M Canright attacks the doctrinal structure of Seventh-day Adventists. He also attacks Ellen G. White, who with her husband was closely connected with the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
What Canright as an experienced and responsible Seventh-day Adventist leader wrote relative to the church and to Elder and Mrs. White makes interesting and profitable reading. His calm, logical presentation based on his personal knowledge stands in bold contrast to his erratic and at times irresponsible declarations made after severing his connections with the church. In 1877 he presented in the Review and Herald, between March 15 and June 14, a series of ten enlightening articles.
Under the title "A Plain Talk to the MurmurersSome Facts for Those Who Are not in Harmony with the Body," he discusses at length the inception of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its early leadership and the value of the visions. He then reviews the experience of individuals and groups who, because of dissatisfaction with the organization of the church, its leaders, and the visions, had withdrawn and attempted to start paralleling religious groups. The reading is informative and profitable, and provides a mass of data not easily found elsewhere, but too extended to include in its entirety here. We have selected for publication portions relating to certain initial steps in church organization and Canright's remarks concerning James and Ellen White. In this he presents his firsthand knowledge, and this after having suffered certain setbacks in his own personal experience.
Then in 1885 Canright wrote again for the "Review" in somewhat the same vein, but with a deeper significance because of his own experience of questionings and doubts. The single 1885 article is reproduced in full under the original title, "To Those in Doubting Castle." Excerpts from the first ten-article series, and the full article just referred to, follow.
A Plain Talk to the MurmurersSome Facts for Those Who are not in Harmony with the Body
By D. M. CANRIGHT
DEAR BRETHREN AND SISTERS: It is a sad, but well known fact, that during the whole history of this message from the first to the last, there have arisen here and there, now and then, among our own brethren and sisters, those who have taken occasion to murmur and complain, and find fault with various things in the work. Quite generally this murmuring has centered upon Bro. and Sr. White, or their labors in some way.
Several times even little parties of these disaffected ones have been formed in opposition to the body, and have drawn off by themselves. Others have not dared to go quite so far as that, but still they have not really felt satisfied, and now and then they show their dissatisfaction, though nominally remaining in harmony with the body. With such persons particularly, I now wish to have this plain talk. Come, let us reason together.
As you know, for the past dozen years or more, I have had an extensive acquaintance with every part of this work. I have traveled and labored in every State [sic] where we have churches, from Maine to California, from Texas to Minnesota. Have visited a large share of our churches, and known the most of our brethren personally. Especially have I been very familiarly acquainted with Bro. and Sr. White, both at home and in their labors. Furthermore, I am well acquainted with the most of those who have drawn off from us; have heard over and over, a thousand times, all the difficulties and objections and grievances which trouble these brethren so greatly.
Now I do not propose to start out by saying that there is no possible chance for such difficulties or objections to be raised. No; if this were so, it would be a new thing in the work of God. The Lord has never had a special work to do upon the earth, but that there was plenty of chance for men to doubt, and get into trial, and lose their faith in the work. Was it not so in the case of Moses? Of Nehemiah? Of Christ himself? Of Martin Luther? If men are disposed to give more weight to a grain of sand than they are to a mountain, then they will always have plenty of things about which to get into trouble. This has always been so. What reason have we to expect that it will be different now?
SOME ARE SINCERELY TROUBLED
We are willing to assume, then, for the present, that the objections and difficulties which trouble you so greatly are real to you, and that you hold them honestly. Sometimes in the past, I myself have been troubled with these same things, and I have come near stumbling over them; but I am thankful to say, that after years of careful investigation, and a more thorough acquaintance with the work, these things are now all very clear and satisfactory to my own mind, so much so, that it seems to me that, with a fair chance, I can make any believer in the message see it.
Come, now, let us reason together. Certainly there are many great and fundamental pillars of our faith upon which we all agree. Let us name some of them.
1. We do all firmly believe, that we are now in the last days, even in the last generation. The fulfillment of numerous lines of prophecy and special signs of the second advent are so clear that we are compelled to believe this.
2. The Lord designs that the world shall have a solemn warning with regard to the second advent, the same as he has sent to the world on other and similar occasions, such as the flood, the fall of Sodom, the overthrow of Nineveh, and the first advent of our Saviour. Then, as Seventh-day Adventists, we all believe, and have good reasons for believing, that the time has come for the third angel's message to be given to the world. Rev. 14:9-16. This is the most awfully solemn message in the Bible. It is to be the last to a fallen world. It is to ripen the harvest of the earth. It is to prepare a people for translation. It is to prepare the wicked for the seven last plagues. It calls for a reformation.
God's people are now scattered hither and thither through a multitude of different sects, bred in error and breaking the commandments of God. 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 18:1-4. Just before the burning day of wrath, there will be a solemn message to gather God's scattered people, unite them in one faith, that they may be hid in the time of trouble. Zeph. 2:1-3. This last message is to be sounded to every nation, and even before kings. Rev. 10:11.
GOD'S PLAN CALLS FOR LEADERS
Now I call your special attention to the following propositions:
Whenever God has had a special work to do in the earth, he has always selected some one to begin that work, carry it on, and bring it to a successful termination. This proposition is based upon a well known and universally acknowledged fact; viz., that any important work, to be successful, must have a leader with recognized authority and proper ability. Even in the smallest affairs of life, where many persons are interested in the same thing, we all find it necessary to have some recognized authority and head, so that all may act in union.
Even in so small an affair as a district school, it has everywhere been found absolutely necessary to elect proper officers with authority to say what shall be done and how. Without this, our schools would be in utter confusionwould be a failure. Take the government of a city like Chicago.
It would not be possible for it to exist without a head, a mayor, or some chief officer. The order and peace of the city absolutely demand this.
What would our nation do without a president, without some head? Were all men left every one to do what was right in his own eyes, confusion and anarchy would soon be the result. So generally is this fact felt that all nations without an exception, appoint themselves some head, either a king, emperor, president, or the like. What could we do in a war without a commander-in-chief, a general who should have absolute command over all the army? If every soldier were allowed to go by himself, to fight as he pleased and when he pleased, any army would soon be defeated.
Now if order, union, and government, are so very necessary in human affairs, why not in the work of God? We believe that they are, and that the Lord has always recognized this fact in every great work he has done on earth.
SOME WHOM GOD CHOSE
Was the world to be warned of the deluge? God chose a fit man to give that warning, to prosecute the work. Evidently this was a greater work than it now appears to us at this great distance of time. . . .
Take another familiar case, the exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. This also required a leader peculiarly adapted to the circumstances. . . .
Just so again when the Jews were to be delivered from their Babylonish captivity, and Jerusalem was to be rebuilt, some man must be raised up who had influence with the Persian king, some one who had authority with the Jews. Ezra was the man qualified for this great work, a strong, energetic, benevolent, large-minded man. . . .
So at the first advent, when a message was to be sent before the Messiah. The Lord did not wait till the hour had arrived for the message to be given, and then select a man at chance. The Lord does not do his work in this manner. His plans were laid long beforehand. Gabriel was sent to Zechariah, even before John the Baptist was begotten, to inform his father what kind of a son he would be, and how he should be raised, what he should be named, &c. The Lord was not mistaken. John fulfilled the prediction in every particular.
Who does not believe that it was by a special providence of God that Martin Luther was raised up to do the mighty work which he did. . . .
What Adventist does not believe that father Miller was the special agent of God to arouse the world upon the great question of the second advent, and give the first angel's message. Rev. 14:6, 7. All who are familiar with his labors know that he was just the man for the place. . . .
THERE MUST BE A LEADING
We do not argue that any of these chosen servants of God were faultless and perfect in all their ways. In most cases it is very evident they were not. But in every case it will be seen that some things were absolutely necessary to the successful accomplishment of the work.
1. There must be a leading mind in the work. But is not Christ the leader of his people? Yes. And was not he the leader of his people in the days of Moses, Nehemiah, Luther, Wesley, Miller, etc.? Yes. Did those men usurp the place of Christ? No; and yet the Lord did place them in a leading position in his work on earth. This is what we claim for this message and nothing more.
2. This person must be a man of more than ordinary capacity, not a man of second or third rate ability. 3. He must be a man naturally constituted to be independent and to lead in his work. 4. He must be specially adapted to the peculiar work to be done. Hence as the nature of the Lord's work varies at different times, so men differently constituted are chosen by the Lord. John the Baptist could scarcely have filled the place of Moses or of Luther, neither could they have filled the place of John the Baptist.
Review and Herald, March 15, 1887
APPLYING IT TO SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS
Now let us apply these facts and principles to our work. Admitting that the time has come for the third angel's message to be given to the world, the question arises, Has the Lord forgotten to attend to it? Is he not able to find proper men to do the work? Or has this message actually begun, and has somebody been engaged in giving it? Or we might ask, What is present truth? . . .
Do we not all agree that the second advent is near, and the world is now to be warned concerning it? Do we not all agree that in the providence of God, special light is now being given upon the subjects of the second advent near, the kingdom, the new earth, the sleep of the dead, the destruction of the wicked, the doctrine of the trinity, the law of God, God's holy Sabbath etc.? All Seventh-day Adventists will agree in these things. The time has come that these truths must be preached to the world; and the third angel's message of Rev. 14:9-12 is a prophecy of this work.
To come a little closer, we ask, If these truths are now being published to the world, by whom are they heralded? . . .
We go back to the close of the first and second messages in 1844; in the following year our good Father Bates began to keep the Sabbath and teach this in connection with his Advent views. In a few months time Brother and Sister White also received the Sabbath, and united its observance with the Advent doctrine. They very soon received the light upon the subject of the Sanctuary, the sitting of the Judgment in Heaven, and all those kindred truths which explain the disappointment in 1844. Here they received light upon the third angel's message, and took the position there and then that the time had now come for the third angel's message to be given, after the close of the other two, and thus finish the last warning to the world.
Shortly, Eld. J. N. Andrews joined them in this work. So these brethren began to preach this message to the world; but they were without means, without position, without churches, without influence, and everything in the message was new, and it had to be searched out and defended. Yet their
faith in the message was then as strong as it is now, and their confidence in its final triumph was expressed in very strong terms. To all human appearance, they had no hope of success; but still they went to work in the fear of God, studying, preaching, traveling, and meeting all kinds of objections and opposition. Elder Bates wrote the first little book in favor of the Sabbath, which was ever published by an Adventist Sabbath-keeper.
In 1849, Brother White, by a great exertion, published the first paper advocating the third angel's message, the Sabbath, and the Advent united. Of course I have not space to relate all the struggles, sacrifices, and arduous labor they put forth to advance the work of this message. Suffice it to say, that all the Sabbath-keeping Adventists, from the start, looked to Brother White as the leading mind in the work. None were more hearty in this feeling than Father Bates.
THE WORK BEGINS TO MOVE
The first Conference ever held by Seventh-day Adventists was appointed and attended by Bro. White, Elder Bates, Elder Andrews, and other faithful men, co-operating with him, and Sister White also uniting her labors with his. They went everywhere, exhorting the brethren, encouraging the churches, counseling the ministers, and pushing on the work. They moved the paper from one place to another. While the REVIEW was published at Rochester, N.Y., Brother Uriah Smith embraced the truth.
In 1855 Brother White moved the REVIEW office to Battle Creek, Michigan. Here, by his advice, the first S. D. A. meeting house was built. To us now, it is rather amusing to know that some zealous brethren opposed that as a move in the wrong direction, as a denial of our Advent faith, as a long stride towards apostasy! But what would our work have amounted to now, had that fanatical view carried?
From first to last, a good share of the trials which the brethren have had with Brother White has been on such points as this. He has always been crying "broader plans," while others have pulled back, and felt great alarm at such moves. Time was too short, this was too much like the world and the nominal churches, &c. And because their fanatical, narrow-minded views were not heeded, they turned to fault-finding, and some of them have done nothing else for the last quarter of a century.
[Elder Canright then discusses the development of church organization, the publishing work, the medical work of the church, pointing out the foresight and leadership of Elder James White.]
Review and Herald, April 12, 1877
OTHER STEPS IN ADVANCE
I believe I can truthfully say that there is not an institution among us, not an organization, no advance step has been taken in this cause, but that which has been accomplished through the counsel and earnest labors of Eld. White. Now that these institutions, these organizations, have been established, and are in working order, we all see the great importance and utility of them, and we thank God for them. We would not know how to
carry on the work without them. In the work of this message, to all human appearance, if it had not been for the counsels, the enlarged plans, the earnest labors of Eld. White, and the continual warning of the testimonies through Sister White, . . . the third angel's message would not have accomplished to this day a hundredth part of what it has.
We have all been inclined to have too narrow views, too small plans, and to neglect the very means necessary to the prosecution of this work. . . .
ELLEN G. WHITE AND THE VISIONS
Thus far I have purposely omitted to say much about Sr. White and her visions and their influence upon the cause. I will now briefly refer to them as this is a great stone of stumbling with some.
Right here let me say that we do not throw away the Bible, and take Mrs. White's visions instead. No; if there is a class of people under heaven who believe the Bible strongly, who love it devotedly, who study it and go to it for everything, it is Seventh-day Adventists. Here is our store-house of doctrine and truth. We preach this everywhere and always. We have no other authority. We go to this to test and prove the genuineness of Sr. White's labors and visions. If they did not harmonize with this in every particular, we would reject them.
It is wicked for men to cry, "The Bible, the Bible, the Bible," and profess to follow that implicitly when they reject one of the plainest doctrines of the Bible,the doctrine of spiritual gifts. Of course I have not time here to take up an argument on spiritual gifts, or enter into a lengthy statement of her labors, their nature, &c. We believe, however, that no doctrine of the Bible is plainer than that of the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, and particularly that these gifts are to be restored in the last days. Joel 2:28-32; Rev. 12:17; 19:10; 1 Thess. 5:1-21; &c.
From the very start of this message, Sr. White has been intimately connected with it. Ever since 1845, she has had her visions frequently, and they have had an important bearing upon the work. Everywhere that Eld. White has gone preaching, advising, planning, and directing in the work, she has gone, and stood side by side with him.
She has always attended our large gatherings, our Conferences, and our camp-meetings, preaching, exhorting, and bearing her testimony, and her influence has been very great indeed. Not a move of any importance has ever been made in any department of the work but she has spoken in the testimonies supporting it, either before or after it was started, and as her testimonies have been generally believed and received by this people, they have necessarily had a great influence upon the action of our people. I am thoroughly satisfied that without the testimonies it would have been utterly impossible to sustain many movements of great importance which have now proved a complete success in this work. When the testimonies have spoken upon the subject, it has at once put an end to strife and division of sentiments and complaints among our people, and they have taken hold unitedly to prosecute the work.
To the very same source we are largely indebted for the union in faith and doctrine which prevails among us, and for our escape from the confusion, discord, wrangling, and bickering, which everywhere characterize the other bodies of Adventists. Shall we not thank God for such great benefits as these? Let others think as they please, we are thankful for this inestimable blessing, and we are not ashamed to say so.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE TESTIMONIES
The point which I wish to make is to call the attention of our brethren to the important position and great influence which Sr. White and her testimonies have ever held in this work. There are no half dozen men in our ranks who have really influenced the faith, the practice, and the different important moves in this work so much as Sr. White and her testimonies.
As long as this is an undeniable fact, let us look at the inevitable conclusion which one must draw from it. Here is a special work to be done,a special message to be given. The time has come for the Lord to move out a people to do the work. We see this very work commenced, and carried forward successfully. We look at the means which have been used to accomplish this work, and we find that from the very beginning, chief and very prominent among them are the labors of Br. and Sr. White.
She had traveled everywhere, and given her influence to the work with all her might as an able speaker. Many have been converted to this truth under her personal efforts. Her voice has been heard in our Conferences, and in the counsels of our people. Through her urgent appeals and strong entreaties, advance moves have been made, instructions for the prosecution of the work have been founded, and in every conceivable way her important labors for thirty years have been intimately connected with this work, and have done very much for its success.
Now, while all this proves nothing to men who do not believe the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, or the third angel's message, yet to those who do believe these doctrines, it seems to me that one conclusion is inevitable, viz., that Bro. and Sr. White must be servants of God, and that her testimonies must be from the Lord.
Look at it a moment. Here are certain great truthsa definitely foretold message, in the success of which we are all deeply interested. We believe that it is not only truth, but the present truth. These truths have brought us from darkness to light, from the fables of men to the commandments of God. They have made the Bible to us a new book. In the belief and practice of them we have been greatly blessed by the Lord. They are the joy and rejoicing of our souls. We believe they are destined to test the world and prepare it for the harvest of the great day. We rejoice in the prosperity of this work, in the spread of this truth.
Now consider: What means have been used by the Lord to bring out, to maintain, and publish this work to the world? What agents did God use to bring these blessed truths to our attention? First, foremost, and prominent among them all, as we have shown, are the untiring, life-long labors of Br. and Sr. White. We appeal to the common sense of every believer:
How can you consistently believe the work to be of God and the workmen of the devil? It is utterly inconsistent.
Every man in his own soul does and must admit this. He may try to dodge and fight it, and fix it up some other way, but it is of no use. We must either accept Bro. and Sr. White as God's accredited servants, or we must reject the third angel's message; and the facts show that this is just about what every one does. Those who commence by finding fault with Bro. White, and by rejecting the testimonies, sooner or later end by giving up the third angel's message, and finally separating themselves from this people. This result is inevitable, and hence we warn our brethren before they start upon that path just where it will lead to. There has been no exception in the past, there will be none in the future.
Review and Herald, April 19, 1877
A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
As to the Christian character of Sr. White, I beg leave to say that I think I know something about it. I have been acquainted with Sr. White for eighteen years, more than half the history of our people. I have been in their family time and again, sometimes weeks at a time. They have been in our house and family many times. I have traveled with them almost everywhere; have been with them in private and in public, in meeting and out of meeting, and have had the very best chances to know something of the life, character, and spirit of Bro. and Sr. White.
As a minister, I have had to deal with all kinds of persons, and all kinds of character, till I think I can judge something of what a person is, at least after years of intimate acquaintance.
I know Sr. White to be an unassuming, modest, kind-hearted, noble woman. These traits in her character are not simply put on and cultivated, but they spring gracefully and easily from her natural disposition. She is not self-conceited, self-righteous, and self-important, as fanatics always are.
I have frequently come in contact with fanatical persons, and I have always found them to be full of pretentions [sic], full of pride, ready to give their opinion, boastful of their holiness, etc. But I have ever found Sr. White the reverse of all this. Any one, the poorest and the humblest, can go to her freely for advice and comfort without being repulsed. She is ever looking after the needy, the destitute, and the suffering, providing for them, and pleading their cause. I have never formed an acquaintance with any persons who so constantly have the fear of God before them. Nothing is undertaken without earnest prayer to God. She studies God's word carefully and constantly.
I have heard Sr. White speak hundreds of times, have read all her testimonies through and through, most of them many times, and I have never been able to find one immoral sentence in the whole of them, or anything that is not strictly pure and Christian; nothing that leads away from the Bible, or from Christ; but there I find the most earnest appeals to obey God, to love Jesus, to believe the Scriptures, and to search them constantly.
I have received great spiritual benefit times without number, from the testimonies. Indeed, I never read them without feeling reproved for my lack of faith in God, lack of devotion, and lack of earnestness in saving souls. If I have any judgment, any spiritual discernment, I pronounce the testimonies to be of the same Spirit and of the same tenor as the Scriptures.
For thirty years these testimonies have been believed and read among our people. How has it affected them? Has it led them away from the law of God? Has it led them to give up faith in Christ? Has it led them to throw aside the Bible? Has it led them to be a corrupt, immoral people? I know that they will compare favorably with any other Christian denomination.
One thing I have remarked, and that is, that the most bitter opponents of the visions of Sr. White admit that she is a Christian. How they can make this admission is more than I know. They try to fix it up by saying that she is deceived. They are not able to put their finger upon a single stain in all her life, nor any immoral sentence in all her writings. They have to admit that much of her writings are excellent, and that whoever would live out all she says would be a good Christian, sure of Heaven. This is passing strange if she is a tool of the devil, inspired by Satan, or if her writings are immoral or the vagaries of her own mind.
Another fact should have great weight with our Sabbath keeping Adventists. All the leading men among us, those of the very strongest minds and the best talents, and who have had every facility for more than a quarter of a century to become thoroughly acquainted with Sr. White and her writings have the strongest faith in her testimonies. This, with our people who kept the Sabbath and believe in the Advent doctrine, should have great weight.
I could name half a dozen men whose writings you read with great delight, whose talent and ability you all admire, whose piety and doctrine none of you question, who have all confidence in her gift. By a long and intimate acquaintance with Sr. White and her writings, they have had a hundred-fold better chance to decide upon this question than ninety-nine out of a hundred lay brethren. They have seen Sr. White in vision, they have heard her deliver hundreds of testimonies to individuals whom they know. Indeed, they themselves have been reproved through them, and they have read and studied her writings over and over thoroughly. They are conscientious, God-fearing men,men, too, who are close Bible students. Do those persons doubt the testimonies? No, not one of them.
We do not ask others to believe upon their faith; but we do say that others who have not had the opportunity to investigate this question as these men have, should feel some modesty in giving a different decision upon, or taking up opposition against, the same question.
CONTRASTED WITH IMPOSTERS
Another fact I have noticed: Impostors are always anxious to build up themselves. Any one who will support them they will flatter and praise and sustain;
but I know it be just the reverse in this case. Those who have been the most often, and, probably, the most severely, reproved through the testimonies, are those who have been the warmest supporters of Sr. White. This does not look like the policy of a deceiver.
But the special point which we wish our brethren to reconcile in their own minds is this: How they can believe the third angel's message, how they can believe that this is the special work of God, how they can believe that the time has come for these truths to be given to the world, and that in the providence of God they are being given, and still can believe that Sr. White is not the servant of God, and her testimonies are not from the Lord.
Consider the fact that for over thirty years these testimonies have been intimately connected with this work, that Sr. White has had a very prominent position in the work, and that her testimonies have had a good deal to do in shaping this work, and in sustaining and building it up,consider all these facts, and then reconcile this if you can with the supposition that the work is of God and the workmen are of Satan! Would God allow a deceiver, an impostor, to stand in so prominent a place in his work for so long a time? If this be so, we fearlessly challenge any one to point to a single example of a similar case in all the history of God's work upon earth.
Where did the Lord ever have a special work to be done for this church where a corrupt man has taken hold in that work, and stood at its head all the way through? The very idea is absurd. Do you find it so in the case of Noah? Of Moses? Of Elijah? Of the forerunner of the first advent? Or at the time of the Reformation? In the work of Wesley? Or of Wm. Miller? There is no case. God has never suffered it to be, neither will he now. No, dear brethren, we must either renounce the third angel's message, or accept those whom God has raised up to give it. And this naturally brings me to consider another notable fact in our history.
Review and Herald, April 26, 1877
In all my acquaintance among the thousands of our people, and I have had a very extensive acquaintance with them, I have always noticed that those who have rejected the testimonies have largely lost their zeal in the cause, lost their faith in the work, their piety and devotion, and have become cold, unfeeling, and dark in their minds. . . . I now refer to those who have had a chance to become informed upon the question, and have taken their stand against the visions.
Of course there are a good many who know but little or nothing about them, and have taken no position one way or the other. I do not refer to them, but to those who have taken a decided stand against them. I know whereof I affirm, and I have yet to see one single exception.
Right in connection with this, I want to call your attention to that which has had a powerful influence upon my mind touching this question; viz., the failure and ruin which has every time overtaken those who have undertaken to hold on to the message and the present truth and still oppose the testimonies. Ever since the work began, persons have risen up here and
there in opposition to the visions, or perhaps to the work of Bro. White, and have taken their stand against them. They said that they believed the Sabbath, the advent doctrine, the messages, indeed, all parts of present truth except the testimonies. They claimed that the visions and the position of Br. White where a hindrance to the cause, and a stumbling block in the way of its advancement; that if these were removed, then the cause would progress finely. . . . They have generally begun by protesting that they were in harmony with all the truth except those points named. On several occasions not only individuals but even companies have started off on this track. [At this point Gamaliel's counsel to the Sanhedrin is presented.]
He says, Let these men alone; if this work or counsel be of God, it will stand, and you cannot overthrow it; but if it is of men, it will come to naught. Then he proves this by citing two cases. . . .
Now, says Gamaliel, this is the way it will always be. If the work is not of God, it will come to confusion; but if it is of God, all the powers of hell cannot arrest it.
Now apply this undoubted principle to the history of those who have drawn off from the body of Seventh-day Adventists. I have known of them, and have been more or less acquainted with their history from Maine to California. Six different papers have been started in the interest of that rebellious work, and all except one, have gone down.
Review and Herald, May 10, 1877
GOD'S PROSPERING HAND
But now in conclusion: The real point which I wish to make in the minds of our brethren and sisters is this: If the third angel's message, including the Sabbath, the second advent, the saints' inheritance, the nature of man, and these important points of faith,if this work is of God, and the time has come that these truths are to be preached, and yet if the visions of Sr. White and the position of Eld. White are not correct, but are really displeasing to God, I ask you this one question: Why is it that God does not prosper and build up these opposers who have gone off from us upon this very issue?
Every time they have started out with simply leaving out the visions and opposing the work of Bro. White. Why does not God help them, and show that they are right and we are wrong? I maintain that the providence of God in the history of this work has settled the question that we must either accept the testimonies, and Bro. and Sr. White as God's servants, or give up the third angel's message entirely. We warn you who are inclined to find fault and murmur and draw off. Be careful what path you are entering upon. If you proceed in that direction, you will land just where all others have who have tried it before you. . . .
Brethren, you who believe these testimonies, do you read them and follow them as closely as you should? Do you love them and remember what they say? Do you try to drink in their spirit? Do you have them in your houses? Do you refer to them frequently? I know that nothing would be more profitable to you than these, next to the Bible.
Review and Herald, June 14, 1887
To Those in Doubting Castle
By Elder D. M. Canright
Among the most dangerous of the places which pilgrims had to pass in the days of Bunyan was Doubting Castle. Many a poor pilgrim was caught on these grounds, shut up in this terrible old castle, and finally destroyed by the keeper, Giant Despair. But some were finally lucky enough to make their escape. That same old castle still stands by the way, as grim, and dark, and dreadful as ever. Every now and then some poor pilgrim, venturing too near, is caught. Some are rescued, but many are not. Hoping to help some of these, and to warn others, I write these lines.
Twenty-five years ago I embraced this message. The complete system of truth which it presented seemed to me something wonderful and very glorious. The study of the Bible was a continual feast to me. To preach it to others, and see them embrace it, filled my heart with gladness and peace. But at length things came up which threw me into doubt on some points, and finally were the occasion of my ceasing to preach the message. As the same things have affected others more or less, and will be liable to affect still others in the future, I wish to give a few of the reasons why I still think that the work is all right, that the Lord is in it, and that these doubts are not well founded.
EASY TO DOUBT
It is well for us to remember that it is always easier to doubt than to believe. Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the gospel. Those who should believe would be saved, but those who should not believe would be damned. He knew full well that only a few would believe, and such has been the case. The great mass of men from that day to this have rejected the gospel. They claim that the evidence is not sufficient to prove that the message is from God. Could not God have given more evidence, and clearer, to sustain the gospel had he thought best? He gave enough so that every one who really hungers and thirsts after light, who is willing to seek for it as for hid treasures, who is willing to humble his soul before God, and cry earnestly to him for direction, can find it to the complete satisfaction of his soul.
But even the gospel is not so plain that objections cannot be raised against it if men try hard to find them. Well informed infidels even raise many objections against the Bible itself,objections which are difficult to answer, and which they claim never have been satisfactorily answered. And so they go on scoffing and disbelieving. But Christians don't give up their faith for all that. The evidence on the other hand is too clear and too abundant to be overbalanced by a few seeming objections.
We must remember that there are always two sides to every question. Whatever position may be taken on any question, some one can be found to dispute it and to raise arguments against it. So generally has this been the case that the main tenet of one sect of the old philosophers was that we could not know anything certainly, not even our own existence. And yet for all that, common men go right on believing that they know some things.
THE PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE
It is the accepted rule in all the affairs of this life to decide the questions, even where life or death is at stake, by the balance, or preponderance, of evidence. The existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the truth of Christianity etc., are accepted and firmly believed upon these grounds. I firmly believe that the truth of our message can be just as clearly proved in the same manner. It is by ignoring this rule of evidence that men become skeptical concerning God, the Holy Scriptures, and all religious faith. In just the same way some of our people come to be doubters concerning our message, the testimonies, etc. They let a few light objections on one side outweigh a mountain of truth on the other.
All the doubters and those troubled with unbelief have not been outside the church. Even some of the real children of God all along the ages have been troubled with unbelief. Jesus had to meet it in his disciples, till it saddened his heart. Thus he said, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." Luke 24:25. They had seen sufficient proof that Jesus was the Messiah; but when some things transpired which they had not expected, and could not understand, they let these outweigh the evidence which had been clear and satisfactory to them before.
Thomas belonged to this class of doubters; but it did not seem to profit himself, benefit the cause, or please his Master. All we ever hear of him is about his asking questions. When all his brethren positively assured him that they had actually seen Jesus, and had talked with him, Thomas refused to believe it. He must see for himself, and put his finger into the wounds in Jesus' hands, before he would be convinced. The Lord granted him the proof he demanded, and then said to him, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." John 20:29. Thomas thought he could not help his unbelief; for there were the stubborn facts, and what could he do with them? But the Lord thought differently; and evidently his reproof of the doubting apostle was designed also for all other of a like disposition in every age.
RESPONSE TO EVIDENCE
We must remember that we may demand too much evidence,more than God sees best to give. Take one case as an illustration; John the Baptist came with a solemn warning from God. Jesus says that the Pharisees, in rejecting him, rejected the counsel of God against themselves; but that the publicans and common people "justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John." Luke 7:29, 30. How did these justify God? Let us pass over to the Judgment. These Pharisees will be surprised to find themselves rejected. They will plead that they were honest, that they would have believed if John had only worked a miracle or had given sufficient evidence of his mission.
But the simple people who did believe John will rise up, and say, "We lived at the same time you did, and in the same town; we heard the same things that you heard, and we believed. The evidence was sufficient for us." Thus they will justify God, and condemn the unbelievers.
So will it be in every age. Those who have believed will rise up and testify that the evidence was sufficient if the heart had only been humble enough to submit to God's ways. Why is it that the word of God so often and so earnestly insists upon humility of heart and contrition of soul as necessary to a right understanding of his work? Let the boastful doubter think of this, and beware.
From the very beginning God's work has been doubted by some who have had a full knowledge of it and a close connection with it. Thus Abel by faith offered unto God an acceptable gift; but Cain's sacrifice was not accepted of God. For this Cain was angry,angry with God and with his brother. He thought that Abel was a fool, and God was unjust. From that day to this there have been the same two classes,the believing Abels and the doubting Cains. By faith Noah condemned the world. Heb. 11:7. He had the same evidence which the world had. He believed, they disbelieved. He was right, they were wrong.
No man ever came from God with better evidences of his divine mission than Moses; and yet right among his own people and followers and co-workers doubters were constantly springing up. It now seems to us that one or two clearly wrought miracles would forever settle our doubts as to the divine mission of the person working them. But look at this case. Consider the wonderful miracles which the people saw Moses perform,the river turned to blood, all the plagues in Egypt, the pillar of cloud constantly attending them day and night, the sea opened, etc. How strong their faith was then! How confident their song after their triumph at the Red Sea!
But they start on, and for several days in a hot climate there is not a drop of water for man or beast. Soon they begin to murmur, then to question, and finally to doubt whether the Lord was leading them. Doubtless they reasoned, "Didn't God know we must have water? If he were leading, would he have made such a terrible blunder?" "Is the Lord among us, or not?" (Ex.17:7)
was the all-absorbing question of debate in tents, by the camp-fires, and in little groups of earnest talkers. What about all the miracles they had witnessed, the faith they had expressed but a few days before? These were not quite as weighty and conclusive now as they had thought them to be.
The same spirit of fault-finding and of doubt was continually cropping out during the whole forty years. Yet at the same time there was the pillar of cloud always with them, the manna falling day after day for forty years, besides many other miracles. In the face of all this, a few objections which they could not, or would not, understand outweighed everything else.
Look at the remarkable occurrences related in Num. 16. Over two hundred and fifty leading men headed a rebellion against Moses. They said, "Moses, you promised to lead us right into a land flowing with milk and honey, and to give us possession; but you have done no such thing. Here you have led us round and round for twenty years. We are no nearer the promised land than when we started. Our brethren have died of hunger and thirst, and we are nearly worn out. You cannot deceive us any longer. We are going back to Egypt. Our mission is a failure."(See verses 12-14.) They thought they had a clear case.
But Moses proposed to appeal to God to decide who was right. They readily accepted his proposition, and boldly went out with their censers, and stood before God for him to answer. This showed that they were in earnest, and thoroughly believed that they were right. But when God did answer, they all went down into the earth in a moment, and perished. Just so now: fault-finders and doubters become so confident in their positions that they are willing to go up to God and to the Judgment with it. Take care! Korah and his sympathizers did that, and did it to their eternal ruin.
But what is more astonishing still, is that "on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, "Ye have killed the people of the Lord." Ver. 41. Was not that astonishing after all they had witnessed the day before? But such is the power of unbelief when once fortified in the heart. This should teach us great caution in rejecting manifest light and truth because of some seeming difficulties and objections connected with it.
ELIJAH, JOHN, AND THE DISCIPLES
The faith of even the best men has sometimes wavered when hard pressed. Elijah had a special work to do in reforming Israel in the days of Ahab. God wrought through him mightily. The priests of Baal were slain, and a great victory gained. Elijah was exultant. He thought that the king and queen and all the people were coming over to the Lord. But when it did not turn out so, and the queen threatened to kill him, he ran for his life, and went into the wilderness, and lay down requesting to die. 1 Kings 19:1-4. He thought his mission was a failure. And even when the Lord said to him, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" (ver.9) He was ready to argue his case, and defend his course, till the Lord convinced him that he was wrong.
So also even John the Baptist, after being left in prison for a long time, and being threatened with death, became shaken in his faith in Jesus.
If Jesus was the Messiah, why did he leave him there to perish? He sends two of his disciples to inquire if after all he is really the Messiah? Luke 7:19. What a sad exhibition of human weakness this was after his strong faith in Jesus when he cried, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" John 1:29. When such men as these falter and doubt for a moment, no wonder that weaker ones yield to temptations, and apostatize entirely when trials and discouragements come upon the cause. So it always has been, and so it always will be.
Even Christ's disciples went through the same process of doubting and sifting and apostatizing; and that, too, after they had seen many and wonderful miracles wrought by him. When Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes, they were so moved that they proposed to take him by force and make him a king. John 6:9-15. The next day when Jesus rebuked them for seeking the things of this world, their faith suddenly cooled off, and they demanded of him another miracle that they might believe. Ver. 30. And when he rebuked them still more sharply, they said, "This is an hard saying: who can hear it?" Ver. 60. "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." Ver. 66.
We see them turning away with a sneer. They have been deceived and misled; but now their eyes are open, and they will be fooled no longer. Such is unbelief, such it always has been, and such it always will be. Luther's work developed hundreds of these doubters,men who were at first warm believers. Wesley found the same class. If God's work now does not develop them, it will be a new thing under the sun.
GOD DOES NOT REMOVE OCCASION FOR DOUBT
The fact is that God has never at any time given so much light and evidence that man had to believe whether he wanted to or not. Nor has he been careful to remove all objections out of the way of those who have believed and embraced his truth. In fact, he has evidently placed objections right in their way on purpose to test their faith and try their devotion to him. This is just what Moses said God did do to the Israelites. Deut. 8:1-3. It is just what he has always done, and always will do.
The gift of an immortal life in glory, purchased at the infinite price of the death of God's own Son, is too precious a boon to be lightly bestowed. God is willing, nay, anxious, that all men should have it; but they must first show their appreciation of it by carefully, humbly, earnestly, and prayerfully seeking after it. It must be to them like the hid treasures and the pearl of great price for which they are willing to give all. Such seekers do not miss the truth. A few obstacles or difficulties do not turn them back.
But when men become proud and self-sufficient, then the Lord leaves them to be filled with their own ways. Behold the haughty Herod demanding proof of Christ that he was the Son of God! How much did Jesus give him? He answered him not one word. He had not a ray of light for him. But now see our Lord at the well in Samaria. To that humble woman he opens his whole soul, and tells her plainly that he is the Messiah.
He purposely left the proud Pharisees to draw a wrong conclusion from his declaration that he could build the temple in three days, while he carefully explained all his parables to the humble fishermen.
Notice what God says of Christ: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone and rock of offense." Rom. 9:23. Didn't God know that man would stumble over him? Yes; and so he knows that they will also stumble over other truths just as they always have done, and always will do. But those who seek God humbly and with tears will not be left to fall. God would send every angel from heaven before one such should miss the way. All these facts apply with equal force to the cause of God in our day, to the third angel' message, and to all connected with it.
ELLEN G. WHITE AND THE TESTIMONIES
But I wish more especially to apply this to the testimonies. What evidence do we have that they are of God? Every argument in favor of the third angel's message is an argument in favor of the testimonies. Why? If it be a fact that the time has come for a special warning to the world on the advent near, the law of God, and other truths which we hold, then we may be sure that God would prepare the way for that message by raising up proper persons to give it.
God by his providence raised up Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. Before Jeremiah was born, God had set him apart to do the work before him. Jer. 1:5. So of John the Baptist. Before his birth the angel announced his mission. Luke 1. Who does not believe that Luther was a man of God's providence, raised up to do that special work? So of Wesley. Shall, then, the last closing message to the world fall due and God provide no fit instruments to proclaim it, and push it through to the end? That is absurd, and contrary to all God's doings in the past, as we have already seen.
Now, admitting that ours is a special message from God designed to warn this generation, look at its history. Sr. White and her work have not only been connected with the message from the very first, but she has had a leading influence in that work, has stood front and foremost, and with voice and pen has done more to guide and mold the message than any other half dozen laborers now in the cause. From the beginning her teachings have been accepted by all the leading ministers and believers as light from God.
Now would it not be the very height of absurdity to accept the message and the work as the truth and God's work, and yet reject the very one who had done the work? A deceiver, an impostor, a false teacher stand at the head of God's special work for forty years! No, that will never do. We must either reject the message or receive the testimonies. They stand or fall together. So I repeat that every argument in favor of the main doctrine of our faith is an argument in favor of the testimonies.
Another argument in favor of the testimonies is the fact that all those parties who have drawn off from our people in opposition to the testimonies have come to naught, or at best have had only a feeble existence.
Time and again this has been tried by different persons proposing to preach all the message except the testimonies. Now if that position is right, why don't [sic] God prosper them? Why don't they succeed better than those who hold and teach them?
Another evidence in favor of the testimonies is the fact that those who have accepted them have always stood together, and have perfectly agreed in faith and practice; while those who have opposed them have disagreed in doctrine and discipline, and have split up into little factions.
And still another evidence is found in the fact that those who remain among us, and still oppose the testimonies, soon lose their love for the message, their spirituality, their devotion, their zeal for God and for the salvation of souls. I have seen many such cases, and have never yet known an exception to this rule. Why is this so? If they are right, why does it always have this effect? On the other hand, the most devoted and zealous members in all our churches are those who have the strongest faith in the testimonies.
Again, the tendency and influence of the testimonies is not, like the teachings of Spiritualist mediums, to lead away from the Bible, away from God, and away from faith in Christ; nor, like Mormonism, to lead to sensuality, dishonesty, and crime; but they lead to faith in the Holy Scriptures, devotion to God, and a life of humility and holiness. Can a corrupt tree bear good fruit? Jesus said not. What is a tree known by?Its fruit. Here is a tree which has been standing among us for forty years, and bearing fruit. What has been the nature of that fruit? What have been its effects upon those who have partaken the most of it?
It seems to me now that no one who has ever felt the power of the Spirit of God upon his own heart can candidly read through the four volumes of "Spirit of Prophecy" without being deeply convicted that the writer must live very near to God, and be thoroughly imbued with the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, and animated the apostles and prophets. Such lofty thoughts of God, of heaven, and of spiritual things cannot come from a carnal heart, nor from a mind deceived and led by Satan.
DIFFICULTIES NO OCCASION FOR REJECTION
But are there not difficulties in these writings hard to explain? Passages which seem to conflict one with another, or with some passage in the Bible, or with facts? I freely grant for myself that there are some passages which bother me, and which I do not know how to explain. But I believe them for all that just as I do the Bible. There are many passages in the Bible which I should have to admit I could not explain nor harmonize. If any man says that he can explain and reconcile all the statements of the Scriptures, he simply shows his self-conceit and ignorance. Yet I profoundly believe the Bible for all that.
I have not a shadow of a doubt about the sleep of the dead, the annihilation of the wicked, the Sonship of Christ, baptism by immersion, etc.; and yet there are scriptures such for instance, as the rich man and Lazarus,
which are as difficult for me to harmonize with these plain Bible doctrines as it is for me to explain the hardest passage in Sr. White's writings. Peter admitted that there were some things in the Scriptures hard to be understood. 2 Pet. 3:16. He says that some wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. And that is just what some are doing with the testimonies.
When we consider how extensive these writings are, extending over a period of nearly forty years, embracing ten bound volumes besides many smaller works, it would be a wonder indeed if in all these there should not be anything in the wording, the sentiment, or the doctrine hard to understand and explain, or on which a sharp opponent could not make a plausible argument. We know that God's revelations in the past have not been given free from all obscurity and difficulties. Neither will they be now.
If a man reads the Bible on purpose to find objections, as Tom Paine did, and as Ingersoll does, he will find plenty of them to satisfy his unbelief, and confirm him in his infidelity. But if, like thousands of others equally learned and intelligent, he goes to the Scriptures to find light and God and salvation, he will find them full and clear, to the joy of his soul. I am profoundly convinced in the depths of my soul, after an experience of twenty-five years, that the same thing is true of the testimonies.
AN EARNEST PERSONAL APPEAL
And now I want to reason awhile with those among us who are holding off and living in doubt about the testimonies. I believe that your course is not only wrong, but that it is unsatisfactory to you here, and will be unsatisfactory at the Judgment. You take very little interest in the progress of the cause, you carry a very light burden in the work of the church, you take but little part, if any, in the Sabbath-school, you do next to nothing in the missionary work, you pay no tithes, you give nothing anywhere, you have no burden for the salvation of souls, or if you have you never show it; if you say anything at all it is mostly in raising queries and objections.
My brethren, my sisters, are you willing to let your short life slip by year after year, and finally come up to the searching test of the Judgment in this way? Beware! Many will land in perdition who do not intend to. Shut your eyes to it as you may, such a course must inevitably end in disaster.
But you say, "I would like to believe and have full confidence in the whole work if I only could; but I am afraid I shall believe an error." Well, let us see if there is really any danger in going this way.
You certainly know that our people hold all the cardinal doctrines of salvation,faith in God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, repentance, a holy life, etc. Isn't this safe? You know that Sr. White and all our ministers not only so teach, but exert all their influence to have our people live lives of devotion, of honesty, of purity, of love, of plainness, of sacrifice, and of every Christian virtue. You know that every sin is condemned among our people, and the most solemn warnings are constantly given against even the appearance of evil. You know that in almost every church of our people there are at least some who are living blameless Christian lives. You know that there is not one immoral doctrine taught or practiced by our people. Bad men and poor
examples there are, to be sure; but they are such in spite of all our efforts to make them better. You know that if any man will strictly live up to the teachings of the testimonies and our people, he will certainly be saved.
Now will it not be better for you,better in this life and safer in the next,to believe and labor heartily with this people than it is to believe with nobody, be in harmony with no church, and have no settled system of doctrine? Of all the miserable, unsatisfactory places to be in, that is the worst. There is no comfort in it, there is no strength in it, there is no usefulness in it. Better to believe something, better to run in somewhere, rather than to stand out there in the storm all alone. A hut, a hovel, is better than that. What a pitiable condition a man must be in at this day when there are so many churches and kinds of doctrine, who can neither believe nor work with any of them! Such a person must be badly befogged some way.
My friend, is this your condition? How long have you been there? One year? Five years? Ten years? Haven't you settled it yet? Then give it up, and come in with those who have settled it, where there is faith and hope and zeal and active work for God and man.
Look at the grand truths which our people hold,the new earth, the beautiful city, the resurrection, the real life hereafter, the literal coming of Christ, the sleep of the dead, the destruction of sin and sinners, the law of God, all those grand lines of prophecy unmistakably pointing to the end near. Can you give these all up, forget them, and shut them from your heart? Can you once more have confidence in intangible spirits, eternal hell, sprinkling for baptism, Sunday-Sabbath, or the millennium? Pshaw! Strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel!
I find that there is peace and joy, hope and confidence, love for souls, and the blessing of God in giving full confidence to the whole message; and these I have never found in doubting it, nor have I ever seen any one who did find them that way. All admit that we have truth enough, if lived out, to save us. We know that all other churches have many errors. How shall we gain anything, then, by going there? Start a new church of our own? Well, the success of those who have left us and tried that has not been very encouraging.
No, the real trouble lies close at home, in a proud, unconverted heart, a lack of real humility, an unwillingness to submit to God's way of finding the truth.
Review and Herald, Feb. 10, 1885