As the circumstances connected with the giving of the visions were diverse, and not subject to any one fixed pattern, so also the manner in which the light was imparted to God's messenger varied greatly. The prophets of old did not become automatons mechanically recording or speaking the messages received. They were not deprived of the use of their ordinary faculties in connection with their work as God's messengers.
It has been supposed by some that in Mrs. White's experience she wrote while in vision. This is not true. Some have concluded that when she wrote she was recording words which she heard repeated to her by an angel. This, too, is erroneous, except in rare instances when short, direct quotations are given of what the attending angel said. Some have been of the opinion that there was a mechanical force which guided the pen which she held in her hand. Such a view is also entirely out of harmony with the facts.
The revelation consisted in the enlightening of the mind, and then when not in vision it was the task of the prophet—with the aid of the Spirit of God, of course—to pass on to others instruction, admonition, and information of divine origin which he had received. A wide range of subjects was covered in the visions. Often the matters revealed were of general interest and concern, but frequently, too, specific messages were given for individuals. In this article we shall deal with the manner in which the messenger received such divine illumination. While several Bible instances will come to the mind of the reader,* we shall confine this article to a number of concrete illustrations drawn from the Ellen G. White books and manuscripts, setting forth typical cases in her experience.
Seemingly Present, Participating in Events
Note the simplicity of the language used by Ellen White in a description of how light came to her in her very first vision:
"While I was praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell upon 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 tip high above the world. On this path the advent people were traveling to the city, which was at the farther end of the path."—Early Writings, p. 14.
Analyzing this statement we observe that the vision is accounted for in the words, "The Holy Ghost fell upon me." In our last article brief allusion was made to the physical phenomena in connection with this first vision. To Ellen Harmon it seemed that—
(1) She was rising above the world.
(2) She turned to look for something.
(3) She could not locate that which she sought.
(4) She heard a voice speaking to her.
(5) She obeyed the command of that voice.
(6) Raising her eyes, she observed the advent people traveling.
(7) She viewed their destination.
(8) Later she seemed to be with them as they enjoyed their reward.
Thus it is clear that it seemed to her she was seeing, feeling, hearing, obeying, and acting, employing her ordinary faculties, while in reality she was not ; but it was in this vivid way, seemingly through the utilization of the ordinary organs of sense, that the truths and information were forcefully impressed upon her mind. This she later related or wrote out in her own words.
Broad Panoramic Views Given
At times the events of the past, present, and future were opened up to Ellen White in panoramic view. It seemed to her that she witnessed in rapid succession the vivid enactment of the scenes of history. We quote here a few sentences from the author's Introduction to The Great Controversy, giving us a glimpse of this means of the enlightenment of her mind:
"Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of the long-continued conflict between good and evil have opened to the writer of these pages. From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy between Christ, the Prince of Life, the Author of our salvation, and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin, the first transgressor of God's holy law. . .
"As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His Word, and the scenes of the Past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed,—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to present it as to shed a light on the fast approaching struggle of the future."—Pages 1, (Italics mine.)
Angel Explains the Significance
Instruction came at times not only through the witnessing of the occurring of events but also through the words of the accompanying angel, explaining the meaning of that which was seen. Notice this significant experience, related in Volume IX of the Testimonies:
"While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified. . . . The awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted, and that the judgment day had come.
"Terrible as was the representation that passed before me, that which impressed itself most vividly upon my mind was the instruction given in connection with it. The angel that stood by my side declared that God's supreme rulership, and the sacredness of His law, must be revealed to those who persistently refuse to render obedience to the King of kings. Those who choose to remain disloyal, must be visited in mercy with judgments, in order that, if possible, they may be aroused to a realization of the sinfulness of their course."—Pages 92, 93. (Italics mine.)
Conditions at Distant Institutions
Oftentimes while in vision it seemed to Ellen White that she was conveyed to one of our institutions, and then she would be conducted from department to department. Perhaps she would seem to be in the counsels which were held, would witness the actions of individuals, hear the words spoken, and observe the surroundings in general. An interesting account of one such vision appears in Counsels on Health. Mrs. White seemed to be at a certain institution, and "an angel of God" conducted her from room to room. She heard the conversation "in the rooms of the helpers."
"The frivolous talk, the foolish jesting, the meaningless laugh, fell painfully upon the ear. . . . I was astonished as I saw the jealousy indulged, and listened to the words of envy, the reckless talk, which made angels of God ashamed. . .
"From stilt other rooms came the most disagreeable sallies of low wit, and vain talk. Some were making sport of individuals, and even imitating the words uttered in meeting; sacred things were made the subject of jest."—Pages 412, 413.
Then other conditions were revealed. She was conducted into rooms "from which came the voice of prayer. How welcome was the sound !"—Id., p. 412.
In 1887, from across the Atlantic, Mrs. White wrote to one of bur workers of detrimental policies pursued in one of our institutions. Note how she received her information:
"I arose at three o'clock this morning with a burden on my mind. . . . In my dreams I was at __________ , and I was told by my Guide to mark everything I heard and to observe everything I saw. I was in a retired place, where I could not be seen, but could see all that went on in the room. Persons were settling accounts with you, and I heard them remonstrating with you in regard to the large sum chargefl for board and room and treatment. I heard you with firm, decided voice refuse to lower the charge. I was astonished to see the charge was so high."—E. G. White Letter 30, 1887.
Vivid View Revealing Perils
Another illustration of this character is presented. Mrs. White was at one time a guest at the home of one of our church members, but early during her stay she arose one morning at four o'clock to write out "some things presented" to her during the night. We quote from her account.
"The angel of God said, 'Follow me.' I seemed to be in a room in a rude building, and there were several young men playing cards. They seemed to be very intent upon the amusement in which they were engaged and were so engrossed that they did not seem to notice that anyone had entered the room. There were young girls present observing the players, and words were spoken not of the most refined order. There was a spirit and influence that were sensibly felt in that room that was not of a character calculated to purify and uplift the mind and ennoble the character. . . .
"I inquired, 'Who are these and what does this scene represent?'
"The word was spoken, 'Wait.' . .
"I had another representation. There was the imbibing of the liquid poison, and the words and actions under its influence were anything but favorable for serious thoughts, clear perception in business lines, pure morals, and the uplifting of the participants. . .
"I asked again, 'Who are these ?'
"The answer came, 'A portion of the family where you are visiting. The great adversary of souls, the great enemy of God and man, the head of principalities and powers, and the ruler of the darkness of this world is presiding here tonight. Satan and his angels are leading on with his temptations these poor souls to their own ruin.' "—E. G. White Letter 1, 1893.
In connection with these scenes Mrs. White heard the young- men called by name as the heavenly visitor pointed out the dangers of card playing, gambling, and drinking. Much was said by the angel, which Mrs. White repeated in her earnest appeal to this family, as she placed before them that which had been revealed to her in this vivid way.
Seeing Buildings Not Yet Erected
There were times when institutions or buildings which in the future would constitute a part of our institutions, were shown to Mrs. White before they were erected, and at times before they were planned. She refers to one such instance in a letter written in 1903:
"I have been thinking of how, after we began sanitarium work in Battle Creek, sanitarium buildings all ready for occupation were shown to me in vision. The Lord instructed me as to the way in which the work in these buildings should be conducted in order for it to exert a saving influence on the patients.
"All this seemed very real to me, but when I awoke I found that the work was yet to be done, that there were no buildings erected.
"Another time I was shown a large building going up on the site on which the Battle Creek Sanitarium was afterward erected. The brethren were in great perplexity as to who should take charge of the work. I wept sorely. One of authority stood up among us, and said, 'Not yet. You are not ready to invest means in that building, or to plan for its future management.'
"At this time the foundation of the sanitarium had been laid. But we needed to learn the lesson of waiting."—E. G. White Letter 135, 1903.
Symbolic Representations Given
Two consecutive paragraphs from a personal testimony addressed to a prominent worker of earlier years illustrate how far-reaching experiences of life may be made plain in just a brief symbolic view:
"Many other scenes connected with your case have been presented to me. At one time you were represented to me as trying to push a long car up a steep ascent. But this car, instead of going up the hill, kept running down. This car represented the food business as a commercial enterprise, which has been carried forward in a way that God does not commend.
"At another time you were represented to me as a general, mounted on a horse, and carrying a banner. One came and took out of your hand the banner bearing the words, 'The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,' and it was trampled in the dust. I saw you surrounded by men who were linking you Up with the world."—E. G. White Letter 239, 1903.
Two Contrasting Views Presented
There were times also when two different or divergent views were presented to Mrs. White —one illustrating what would take place if certain plans or policies were followed, and in another view the outworking of other plans or policies. An interesting illustration of this point is found in Testimonies for the Church, Volume IX, pages 28 and 29, where two maps were seemingly exhibited. To Mrs. White it seemed that she was attending a large gathering. "One of authority was addressing the company."
Before them was a large map which "pictured God's vineyard." Lights were seen to appear as the work was conducted on right lines. Then the map was taken away and another, with but few lights, was exhibited. The audience was told that this illustrated the results of men "following their own course."
Another excellent illustration of this may be cited in connection with the locating of the health food factory at Loma Linda in the year 1906. The manager and his associates were planning for the erection of a large building very near the main sanitarium building. While plans were developing, Mrs. White, at her home in northern California, was one night given two visions. Of the first of these she says:
"I was shown a large building where many foods were made. There were also some smaller buildings near the bakery. As I stood by, I heard loud voices in dispute over the work that was being done. There was a lack of harmony among the workers, and confusion had come in."—E. G. White Letter 140, 1906.
She then saw J. A. Burden's distress, and his attempts to reason with the disputants to bring them into harmony. She saw patients who overheard these disputes, and who were "expressing words of regret that a food factory should be established on these beautiful grounds," so .near the sanitarium. "Then One appeared on the scene, and said: 'All this has been caused to pass before you as an object lesson, that you might see the result of carrying out certain plans.' "—Ibid.
Then the scene changed, and she saw the bakery "at a distance from the sanitarium buildings, on the road toward the railway." Here the work was being conducted in a humble way and in harmony with God's plan. The narration of this to the Loma Linda workers quickly settled the question of the food factory site.
This grouping of illustrations might be greatly enlarged, but sufficient is given here to form a good representation of the varied ways in which the light was imparted by God to the mind of Ellen White. In an illuminating statement made by her in 186o we 'find this terse description of how matters were revealed to her:
"As inquiries are frequently made as to my state in vision, and after I come out, I would say that when the Lord sees fit to give a vision, I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things. I can see no farther than the angel directs me. My attention is often directed to scenes transpiring upon earth.
"At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past."—Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, p. 292 (/86o, Battle Creek).
Thus it can be seen that in varied ways the messenger was informed and instructed through the visions by day or by night
*See Deut. 34:1-4, with comment in Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 472-477; Eze. 8 2-18 ; 37 :1-3; 40:3, 4; 41 ;1 ; Zech. 3 ; Rev. 13:21, 22.