An Inquirer writes: I have seen a brief printed document, dated June 29, 1851, entitled, "The Camden Vision." It bears the signature, "E. G. White," and the words, "Copied by R. R. Chapin." Then follows a statement to the effect that 'Rid. J. N. Loughborough who knew all about this 'vision' stated that it is authentic." Mrs. White is here alleged to have stated that Jesus was "a mediator in the outward apartment for the whole world; but now His Spirit and sympathy were withdrawn from the world; and our sympathy must be with Jesus, and must be withdrawn from the ungodly." Is this authentic, and a correct statement of her views at that time?'
There are a number of floating statements existent which purport to be copies of early visions. Some of these seem consistent with other writings of the time, and are said to have been copied by persons of good repute. Inasmuch as they are not found in printed form or in the files of the manuscripts at the office of the Ellen G. White Publications, they cannot be accepted as authentic statements made by her. On the other hand, it might be difficult to disprove them. With this document, credited to the copying of R. R. Chapin, however, the case is different. It is not found among the publications of that period ; moreover, it is not among the writings accepted by the pioneers, and there are ample reasons for impugning the accuracy and authenticity of this alleged "Camden Vision." Some of these reasons are as follows:
1. Character of R.R. Chapin. In the issues of the Review and Herald from 1850 to 1852, the name of R. R. Chapin occurred several times among the list of those from whom letters had been received. One letter from him, printed in the issue for March 23, 1852, indicated that he was at that time in good standing among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists. The last evidence of his union with that body was a notice of a letter from him in the Review of December 23, 1852.
The next mention of R. R. Chapin's name occurred about a year later, when three members of the church at Clarkson, New York, reported having labored with him for the "wrong course pursued by him." Reference was made to the fact that at a recent conference in Rochester a committee had been appointed to address "a letter of admonition" to Mr. Chapin. "With sorrow" the committee reported that he "manifests wholly an evasive spirit and altogether against the gathering work of the third angel and the faith of Jesus."---Review and Herald, Jan. 10, 1854.
About this time there developed the first marked apostasy from the Sabbath-keeping Adventists, characterized by bitter opposition. Chapin was mentioned as being associated with others in a determined effort to "make division among the churches in that State [Michigan], . . . to divide the flock, and raise up a party at all hazards." Regarding this group of men, of whom Chapin was one, it was stated editorially in the Review:
"From what we know of these men, and their present excited state of feeling, we may expect from them the most gross misrepresentations, and shameful abuse. They have been sources of severe trials to the churches for a year or two past ; while their brethren have suffered much from them, and have labored patiently and faithfully with them. And now, as they are set aside by the churches, they are determined to injure them as much as possible."—August 22,1854.
Soon these disaffected ones started a paper called The Messenger of Truth. The publishing committee of the Review and Herald referred to this paper with its "unfavorable statements," and gave reasons why they had decided not to make reply to its bitter attacks against the church. In the past, they asserted, they had deemed it their duty to meet their critics "in the spirit of candor and show the fallacy of their arguments." But now they were facing another kind of attack, "one that exhibits far greater malice than any former effort on the part of our enemies." To engage in a controversy with such person "would be to leave the work of God, and come down to the same level with those who are engaged in this attack." The course of these apostates had been such that these representatives of the Review charged: "There is nothing to which they will not stoop; and that they are never likely to be out of scandal with which to assail those who have incurred their displeasure."—Review and Herald, Nov. 7, 1854. (Italics mine.)
2. Nature and Course of Messenger Party. Notwithstanding these initial good resolutions to meet the misrepresentations of apostates with silence, the attacks became so bold and abusive that it seemed some reply must be made in the interests of the truth. By June of 1855, according to Elder J. N. Loughborough—
"Five of us—Brethren White, Waggoner, Cornell, Frisbie, and the writer—had each decided upon a line of attack we would make on the slanderous things placed in the Messenger. This had been decided among ourselves, without counsel with Sister White." —"Sketches of the Past," No. 99, Pacific Union Recorder, June 30,191o, p. I.
It was just at this time that there was given to Mrs. White at Oswego, New York, a vision regarding the nature of those constituting the Messenger party and the wisdom of refusing to engage in controversy with them. We quote in part her statement of this vision:
"The Messenger party has arisen, and we shall suffer some from their lying tongues and misrepresentations, yet we should bear it all patiently. . . . Christ is coming, and the great work of the last message of mercy is of too much importance for us to leave it and come down to answer such falsehoods, misrepresentations, and slanders as the Messenger party have fed upon and have scattered abroad. . . . Said the angel, 'Jesus knows it all.' In a little from this their day is coming."—"Testinionies for the Church," Vol. 1, PP. 122, 123.
The brethren then abandoned their plans and decided to make no further allusion in the Review and Herald to the bitter charges brought against them in the Messenger. The course of the opposing paper and its supporters was short-lived. Their unity was soon broken by dissensions among themselves, and the party was entirely dissolved. In less than three years, James White, in tracing the progress of the cause of present truth, made reference to the Messenger party, and gave information regarding the course of the leaders. One had been rejected by his party for a crime and had become a town charge. Another had been fined $25 for threatening a pupil in school with a gun. Another had become a Spiritualist. Mr. Chapin and another one of their preachers had left the ministry and were engaged in secular work—Chapin as clerk in a clothing store, the other as a fisherman. ( See Review and Herald, Jan. 14, 1858, p. 77.)
With this background, it is evident that any statement made by R. R. Chapin or his associates, after their apostasy, in which they allegedly quote Mrs. E. G. White, may well be viewed with suspicion. There are other reasons, too, for questioning the authenticity of this document purporting to be "The Camden Vision."
1. Chapin's Statement not accepted by pioneers. We have had access to no documents which would indicate when and where Mr. Chapin first published this alleged vision, in which Mrs. White is said to have stated that "the sympathy and spirit of Jesus were withdrawn from the ungodly." However, it must have been after he had become disaffected and had united with others in opposing the work of the Sabbathkeeping Adventists, and especially the claims of Mrs. White. The statements already quoted from the Review regarding the work of these opposers, clearly indicate that our leading brethren challenged the truthfulness of many of the statements made by Chapin and his associates.
2. Disproved by the Date. The document cited bears the date, June 29, 1851. We have positive proof that Mrs. White was not at Camden at that time. In the Review and Herald of May 19, 1851, there are to be found appointments for conferences at Camden, New York, for June 20, and at West Milton, New York, beginning June 27. In the issue of June 9, 1851, James White stated that he and Mrs. White would attend these conferences, and that they would receive their mail at West Milton from June 23 to 30. In the next issue of the paper, he mentions their being present at both these meetings, "according to appointment." This indisputable documentary evidence that on June 29 Mrs. White was not at Camden but at West Milton, constitutes another convincing reason for questioning the accuracy not only of the date but of the content of the vision alleged to have been given at that time.
3. Facts regarding actual Camden Vision. Elder and Mrs. White were at Camden at one time, previous to this, and while there Mrs. White did have a vision. There were certain facts in connection with this visit to Camden and the vision given there, which made it possible for the statement in question to be put forth with a certain degree of credence. The exact date of the meeting cannot be ascertained, but it is placed by Mrs. White in her autobiography as "early in 185o"—or more than a year prior to June 29, 1851. The story is told by her in "Life Sketches," pages 129, 130. The time of this meeting is confirmed by an unquestionable contemporary source. James White makes mention of it in a portion of a report, as follows :
"We have recently visited the precious band in Camden, who have lately embraced the Sabbath, &c. They have been scattered and torn by Spiritualism, and other errors ; but God is uniting and healing them, and making them valiant for His truth."— Present Truth, May, 1850, p. 80.
It was during this meeting that Mrs. White had a vision, the circumstances and results of which united the company in faith and confidence that the Lord had truly spoken through His messenger. As set forth in Mrs. White's autobiography, prior to her visit to Camden, she had been shown in vision the company of believers there, and among them she saw a woman who professed much piety, but who was a deceitful hypocrite.
Sabbath morning this woman came into the meeting, and Mrs. White recognized her immediately. During the testimony meeting she-spoke at length of her great love, holiness of heart, perfect peace, and complete submission to the will of God. After the meeting, Mrs. White asked concerning this woman and learned that she seemed to be the most zealous among the company and that she had the complete confidence of the members. Mrs. White therefore was troubled and feared that they would not receive her testimony if she should make public what she had seen regarding this woman.
That night she dreamed of a secret closet filled with rubbish, and was told that it was her work to clear it out. Sunday morning during prayer with the brethren, she was again taken off in vision and saw the woman "in perfect darkness," with the frown of Jesus upon her and her husband. "She had acted the hypocrite, professing holiness while her heart was full of corruption."
After coming out of vision, Mrs. White faithfully, yet with trembling, related what she had seen. The woman calmly asserted that the Lord knew her heart, and boldly claimed innocence and holiness. At the close of thy meeting she assured Mrs. White that she had no. hard feelings and that she would pray for her. The new company of believers were perplexed. Some felt that Mrs. White had abused the woman. But the matter was soon cleared when a horrible fear seized the woman, and she began to confess from house to house. She had left a kind husband and a child in England, and the man with whom she had been living for years was not her husband. She confessed to dishonesty in dealing and to theft. Of the outcome, Mrs. White wrote :
"We could see the hand of God in this matter. He gave her no rest day nor night, until she confessed her sins publicly. This fully justified in the minds of the brethren and those also of their neighbors who sympathized with her for a time what God had shown. —"Life Sketches" (1888 edition), p. 268. (Italics mine.)
Early in 1884 Elder Loughborough visited Camden and talked with a Mr. Preston, at whose
home the 185o meeting had been held in Camden. Preston's story of that incident agreed exactly with the account given by Mrs. White.
In a Review article Elder Loughborough quoted Mrs. White's narrative, which he said was fully confirmed by Brother Preston. He then commented as follows:
"Our enemies quote from a document purporting to be the 'Camden Vision,' an expression concerning not having our sympathies with the wicked world whom God had rejected. Bro. Preston says that in the vision related at Camden they were reproved for sympathizing with this woman, and they were told that God had rejected her because of her sinful course; but there was no idea given at that time that sinners in general were rejected, and that there was no longer mercy for them. He said this woman professed to have a great burden of soul for sinners, but was told by Sister White that she had no true burden of soul for sinners because she had so long rejected truth that her own salvation was passed."—Review and Herald, March 24, 1885, p. 187.
In connection with the statement that shortly before his death Elder Loughborough had endorsed this "vision" as authentic, it should be noted that at the time of the experience in Camden Elder Loughborough was not yet connected with the Sabbathkeeping Adventists. All the information he received was later and from others. In view of his own words quoted above, citing this statement as "a document Purporting to be the Camden Vision," and circulated by "our enemies," we must conclude that his endorsement could cover only the facts in connection with the vision, for he was never in a position to verify the actual content verbatim.
6. Disqualifying Evidence Summarized. In the light of all these facts, it is evident that-
(1) The copying of this alleged "Camden Vision" is credited to a man who apostatized and whose regard for the truth was challenged by those who had labored with him.
(2) The Messenger party, of which he became a member, was the subject of a vision, and was represented as dealing in "falsehoods, misrepresentations, and slanders."
(3) Published statements show clearly that leading brethren among the pioneers challenged the truthfulness of many of the statements made by Chapin and his associates.
(4) On the date credited to this document, contemporary sources indicate that Elder and Mrs. White were not at Camden. In fact, the circumstances connected with the actual Camden vision occurred more than a year earlier than this.
(5) The record of the genuine Camden vision at an earlier date dealt with the case of an individual professing sanctification, but whose heart was vile. Despite the portrayal of her hypocrisy, some sympathized with the woman. An appeal was made to the believers to withdraw their sympathy from such a character, but Brother Preston, an eyewitness, testifies that he and the group at Camden understood that the appeal for the withdrawal of sympathy was for such persons as this woman and not for sinners in general.
(6) We have Elder J. N. Loughborough's reference to this statement as "a document purporting to be the Camden Vision," and one from which "our enemies quote." This positive statement, made in 1885, should be given due weight in the consideration of any alleged subsequent statement to the effect that any particular wording was "authentic."
It is therefore clear that the combined evidence constitutes an impeachment of the authenticity and reliability of the document allegedly "copied by R. R. Chapin."