At the close of a class recently, an earnest and convinced student came to me holding in his hand the book Evangelism by Ellen G. White. "I regret to tell you this," he said, "but there was a time when I had some doubt concerning the value of Ellen G. White's writings. I wondered if God had spoken to us through her ministry. However, since I have been in this class, as well as in other faith-inspiring classes in this institution, all doubts regarding Mrs. White as a special messenger of the Lord have vanished."
"What brought you confidence in place of doubt?" I asked. Holding the book Evangelism almost reverently, he explained, "It is this book. Could you write a book as perfect in counsel and as comprehensive in its coverage of evangelistic techniques as this book Evangelism? Why, every sentence has value! Really, I am thrilled. Here's what I mean: You are an evangelist, and the Lord has been good to you and your work. You know how to do things in this modern day, but could you write a book like this?"
"No, no, of course not," I interrupted. "I could not prepare a paragraph that could match the beauty, the truth, the power, contained in this book. And what is more, I am confident that all the evangelists in the denomination together could not produce one chapter comparable to any portion of this volume. Of course, this is a compilation of her writings on the subject."
Thoughtfully, the young man looked into my eyes as he continued, "And to think that this was written fifty to eighty years ago! How did Mrs. White know the science of modern evangelism that would fit the demand of today's complex problems? How could she understand the challenge of great metropolitan areas? It seems to me that everything needed for all phases of soul winning is here in this book. Nothing is missing. There is only one answer—she could not know this of herself," he said slowly. "God directed her to write so that we who live today could do His work efficiently and successfully. If our people would only prayerfully read her writings they would soon believe. I am going to study all her books as soon as I can."
To read all of Mrs. White's writings will indeed be a major task, but a spiritually profitable one. There are fifty-three books in current circulation, over 22,000 pages. Besides the published volumes there are some 4,500 articles from her pen that have appeared in various periodicals. Within these publications is found a positive, clear, simple, and vital presentation of Christan truths.
One thing is certain, the writings carry their own credentials. Never have I known a sincere praying man or woman who after reading such books as Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, Christ's Object Lessons, or The Ministry of Healing has remained doubtful as to the inspiration of these spiritual treasures.
Speaking of herself, Mrs. White humbly said, "I have written many books, and they have been given a wide circulation. Of myself I could not have brought out the truth in these books, but the Lord has given me the help of His Holy Spirit."—The Review and Herald, July 26, 1906.
Her spirit was ever one of great humility. While writing The Desire of Ages she said, "I walk with trembling before God. I know not how to speak or trace with pen the large subjects of the atoning sacrifice. I know not how to present subjects in the living power in which they stand before me. I tremble for fear lest I shall belittle the great plan of salvation by cheap words. I bow my soul in awe and reverence before God, and say, 'Who is sufficient for these things?' "—Quoted in W. A. Spicer, The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement, p. 44.
A revival of spiritual blessing would come among us if our workers and church members would dedicate more of their time to studying diligently the counsels of the Lord. Whatever problem arises in human experience, whatever darkness clouds life's pathway, whatever knowledge is needed for the future—the principles for the solution, the light, the truth, are legible to all who will search these spiritual treasures.
"O taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8). We may speak with enthusiasm about the flavor of some particular food, we may describe its savoriness with many expressive adjectives, but another can never, know whether one is telling the truth about the food until he tastes it for himself. If a man will read for himself, he will find sustenance for his soul. But is it not a tragedy that some people have not yet "tasted," and therefore do not know that the Lord is good in giving this people the Spirit of Prophecy—a general phrase often used to describe the combined writings of Ellen G. White. As custodians of these writings a great responsibility rests upon our leaders.
They Point the Reader to the Bible
God took a mere girl, without formal education, strengthened her physically, and used her to call attention to the great truths of His Word. These counsels are as a great searchlight illuminating divine truth. A careful scrutiny of all her volumes gives ample evidence that every fundamental doctrine of God's Word is emphasized and taught as essential in the plan of salvation. Her clear enunciation of gospel truth as revealed in the canon of holy Scripture has given assurance that she served under divine appointment for the seventy years of her ministry.
Her writings are constantly pointing the reader to the Bible. "If you had made God's word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourself with God's inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings....
"The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed. Man's duty to God and to his fellow man has been distinctly specified in God's word; yet but few of you are obedient to the light given. Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given and in His own chosen way brought them before the people to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse. . . .
"The Testimonies are not to belittle the word of God, but to exalt it and attract minds to it, that the beautiful simplicity of truth may impress all."—Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 605, 606.
Writing of a brother in the church she said, "Brother J would confuse the mind by seeking to make it appear that the light God has given through the Testimonies is an addition to the word of God, but in this he presents the matter in a false light. God has seen fit in this manner to bring the minds of His people to His word, to give them a clearer understanding of it."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 246.
Some have erroneously stated that Seventh-day Adventists have a second Bible in the writings of Ellen G. White from which they build their doctrines. This is not true. The Bible and the Bible only is the rule of authority in the church's doctrines. No other book or set of books takes
the place of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible stands supreme. Any other writing must conform to the Word of God or it is rejected.
"The Bible, and the Bible alone is to be our creed. . . . Let us lift up the banner on which is inscribed, The Bible our rule of faith and discipline."—ELLEN G. WHITE in The Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1885, p. 770.
Seventh-day Adventists recognize, however, that the Lord has used Ellen G. White as a special messenger, and they believe that her writings are indited by the Spirit of God. While these writings do not constitute another Bible, they do present counsel that is not only valuable but essential in these last days of earth's history.
A Convincing Experience
Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, for many years a national evangelist for the AATCTU, was a godly woman and a devout Bible student. She became a Seventh-day Adventist. However, she was somewhat disturbed with regard to the writings of Mrs. White. She recognized that her books were unusual in nature, of a different quality, deeply spiritual, and fundamental in Bible teaching. Nevertheless the question arose, What place do these writings have in the church?
During a special meeting in the city of Chicago, before a number of the leaders of the church she said, in effect, "Brethren, the time has come for me to know for myself whether these writings are of the Lord." Several of the men attempted explanations, but none of them seemed to clear the ma t-ter in her mind.
With an anxious look upon her face she said, "Brethren, let us pray. I have come to the place where this matter must be settled." They knelt down, and after several prayers had been offered, Mrs. Henry herself began to plead with God for light. Suddenly her pleading ceased, and after a moment's hesitation she began to thank and praise God. When she arose the look of anxiety had disappeared from her face. She was radiant with joy and gratitude, and said, "While I was praying with God, suddenly a huge telescope appeared before my vision, turning to the sky. This was all I needed. It is sufficient to make plain to me the place occupied by the writings of Mrs. White. With the naked eye we are able to see many stars in the heavens on a dark night, but," she continued, "with the aid of a telescope we can discern hundreds of thousands where the naked eye could see but one. The telescope does not add one star; it merely enables us to see those which are actually there and to see them more clearly and more beautifully. Yes," she went on, "the writings of Ellen White are like a huge telescope. They do not bring out additional truth and light; they do, however, clear spiritual vision and enable us to appreciate the truths already revealed in the Bible." *
A wholesome and human picture of Mrs. White has been given to us by the late William A. Spicer, a former president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who knew her personally. It is as follows:
The possession of the prophetic gift does not make the human agent a strange and different kind of person. In personal life, my childhood memory very clearly pictures a kindly, motherly neighbor, for whom I used to do errands. She was a good mother in Israel. . . . Mrs. White loved the home duties, and might be heard singing to herself as she worked about the house. Naturally the constant demands upon her time in the work of the cause left her less time for the common duties that other homekeepers generally have.
There was nothing of the pretentious about her bearing, no attitude of officiousness. There was no assumption of personal authority, or suggestion of personal wisdom about everything. But when the Spirit of the Lord impressed her to give counsel, there was an inflexible courage to speak the message needed, in the fear of God and in the spirit of Christ. Leading brethren might come for counsel regarding this problem or that. She might say that no light had been given her concerning it; the brethren would have to seek God, and do their best. Again, it might be, she had just the light needed. She had been shown the very situation presented, and had counsel from the Lord as to what should be done. Often this counsel would be found written out in those journals in which she would write, write, morning by morning and day by day, as the Spirit recalled to her mind things shown, perhaps in the night season.—The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement, pp. 31, 32.
Spiritual growth and blessing will always result from our searching the Scriptures, and truth will become clear under the illumination of these inspired messages, for they magnify the glorious truths of salvation contained in God's Word.
Such helpful books as the following show the place of this gift in the Advent Movement.
There Shines a Light, A. W. Spalding (96 pages).
The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement, W. A. Spicer (128 pages).
His Messenger, Ruth Wheeler (192 pages). Written for juniors.
The Abiding Gift of Prophecy, A. G. Daniells (378 pages).
The Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts, L. H. Christian (446 pages).
More recent books by T. H. Jemison, Denton Rebok, and Arthur L. White are especially helpful.