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 Ellen White's Inspiration; Authentic and Profound;

A personal Testimony and Tribute
By Robert J. Wieland


YOU FEEL PRETTY BAD when someone you have long trusted and even revered is attacked as a fraud. And when it's someone as closely intertwined with the existence of your church as Ellen G. White is, the attack becomes traumatic. Voices are being heard that purport to "expose" Ellen White: (a) she was sadly mistaken in the very basics of her faith—the sanctuary and the significance of 1844, for example, (b) she copied or plagiarised considerable portions of her books.

When I first heard of these charges. I got on my knees to ask the Lord for understanding. Ellen White seemed closer and dearer to me than my own loved ones. I had heard a "voice" speaking in her writings that 1 have never recognised so clearly in any of the other hundreds and even thousands of authors I have read over the past fifty years. I determined to study into the matter for myself. I wanted the facts, and 1 wanted to see them with my own eyes.

That meant finding William Hanna's "Life of Christ" and John Harris' "The Great Teacher," which she is alleged to have used so extensively. I went through as much as I could of Hanna with my "The Desire of Ages" open, side by side. I could not find a single sentence that she had copied. Thinking maybe I was blind, t asked some of the elders and others in my church each to take a volume of Hanna and compare it with "The Desire of Ages." Their report: they could not find a single sentence copied. We all recognised evidence that Ellen White had read Hanna, for there was an occasional similar phrase or thought, and sometimes the texts she used were the same as those Hanna used. But any writer on the life of Christ would have to use virtually the same texts. And because of the identical subject matter from the Gospels, sometimes thoughts would. of necessity, he similar.

But what impressed us all who studied Ellen White and William Hanna side by side was the contrast between the two. Ellen White's profound portrayal of the incidents in Christ's life is incomparably superior to Hanna's, even though his can be considered one of the best. One can easily see this for himself by comparing Hanna's chapter "The Anointing at Bethany" with Ellen White's "The Feast at Simon's House." If we were to republish Hanna's book today it would fall dead from the presses. It is now only a museum piece. Modern readers would find it dull, and its style, to borrow Luther's phrase. "tastes of the dish."

"The Desire of Ages" is still fresh and beautiful, like an unfading flower. Its style is transparency itself. When you hear a Beethoven symphony you feel you could not change a note: an editor feels he could not improve on "The Desire of Ages" by changing a word. No other life of Christ, aside from the Gospels themselves. so profoundly moves the human heart.

Writing it was an immense task, especially when we remember the heavy burdens the author carried when she was a missionary in Australia, pioneering medical and educational work and at the same time bearing the burden of the cause in her homeland and around the world. She was a human being, and an uneducated one at that (by human standards): yet the masterpiece she produced vastly outshines in human appeal and effectiveness all the learned tomes on the subject known in her day and ours. Viewed in its context, the book Is nothing short of a miracle.

We may never be able to retrace perfectly all the steps by which some of Ellen White's borrowed expressions found their way into books. But one thing is certain: the amount of "borrowed" material is actually small in proportion to her total output. One critic has printed some twenty-two pages of parallel passages, which he says demonstrate her "literary dependence" on other authors. (Some of his exhibits do not fairly demonstrate "dependence" at all.) But the has used a fine-toothed comb to cull as many as he could out of Ellen White's books. Her few books that he cites total some 9,700 pages. He lists twenty-two pages of "borrowing"—that's about .002 per cent "literary dependence" over a writing lifetime of nearly seventy years. Please show me any other nonfiction author who wrote as much as long as she did with anywhere near that small amount of "literary dependence."

It pretty well boils down to this: If what you are looking for is a hook on which to hang your choice to doubt, Satan will help you find one. He "stands at the head of the great army of doubters:'—"The Great Controversy," page 526. But the Lord has provided an overwhelming weight of evidence to confirm one's faith.

The foundation on which Ellen White's entire career was based was her early concept of the second-phase ministry of Christ as high priest in the most holy apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. She held this conviction until her death. If this is wrong, her entire lifework is built on error and marks her as a naive enthusiast (as all Seventh-day Adventists must then be also).

All the major teachings of Seventh-day Adventists have grown out of that sanctuary doctrine and the duty of the people on the Day of Atonement: the seventh-day Sabbath, the prophetic understanding of Daniel and Revelation, the nature of sanctification as a preparation for the Lord's coming, our understanding of the second coming, the millennium, the health-reform message—including abstinence from tobacco and alcoholic drinks, simplicity and modesty of dress, and nonuse of jewelry. Even the unique understanding of Seventh-day Adventists regarding justification by faith shows the relationship of Paul's idea to the Bible doctrine of the cleansing of the sanctuary. sanctuary.

If one were to distill Ellen White's vast ministry of writing into one drop of Scriptural inspiration, it could be this: "The love of Christ constraineth us. " 2 Corinthians 5:14. Her concept of the powerful motivation inherent in that New Testament idea of agape is the clearest and moist effective outside the Bible itself. To her, the fruitage of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is the spiritual restoration in man of the image of God, effective through the constraining power of that love of Christ. Consider one brief example: on one page alone of "Steps to Christ" you find this idea of the constraining power of Christ's love as revealed at the cross occurring seven times (page 27). That "voice" one hears in Ellen White's wrings has an authentic echo. It is the testimony of Jesus.

At the time of writing, Robert J. Wieland was the All-Africa Editorial Consultant, bated in Nairobi, East Africa. Published in the Australasian Record,  May 31 1982 p 9.

[Note:  This article is referenced by Arthur Patrick in his paper, " The Inspired and Inspiring Ellen White, Part 1: 1982 in Historical Perspective", in Footnote #16.

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