The Life of Ellen White by D.M. Canright

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Seventh-day Adventists regard Mrs. White as a prophet, and her writings as inspired. They make long arguments from the Bible to prove that there should be "gifts" in the church, the same as do Mormons, Shakers and others for their churches. They do this to substantiate their claim for the one "gift of prophecy," which they say was possessed by Mrs. White.

The Bible says: "Beware of false prophets" (Matt. 7:15). "There shall arise false Christs and false prophets" (Matt. 24:24). "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits: . . .because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

In every generation many have arisen claiming to be prophets. All have found followers, more or less. All they had to do was to firmly believe in themselves, and make extravagant claims, and they soon had followers. Mohammed, who arose in the sixth century A.D., with his two hundred millions of followers today, is a notable example. Let us notice a few prominent ones near our own times.


Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, 1688, and died in 1772. He was a favorite with the king and royal family. He was of the purest character, and devoutly religious. Not a stain rests on his moral character.

At the age of fifty-five, according to Schaff-Herzog's Encyclopedia, from which we condense this sketch, he began to have visions of heaven, hell, angels, and the spiritual world. He says: "I have been called to a holy office by the Lord himself, who most mercifully appeared to me, his servant, in the year 1743, when he opened my sight into the spiritual world and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels." Exactly like what Mrs. White claimed. This work he continued for thirty years, during which time her wrote about thirty inspired volumes. He made some remarkable predictions, which his followers claim were exactly fulfilled.

He founded a new church based upon his revelations. The Bible is sacredly taught, and holy living enjoined. The church has steadily increased, till it has societies in all parts of the world. They publish several periodicals, besides many books. His followers believe in him just as implicitly as do Mrs. White's followers in her, and are very zealous in propagating their faith.

Ann Lee and the Shakers

The Shakers are so well known in America that little need be said about them. Ann Lee, their leader, was born in England in 1736; died, 1784. Like Mrs. White, "She received no education." She joined a society the members of which were having remarkable religious exercises, and soon began "to have visions and make revelations," which, like Mrs. White, she called "testimonies." "Henceforth she claimed to be directed by revelations and visions" (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, article "Ann Lee"). She was accepted as leader and as "the second appearing of Christ." Like Mrs. White, she required "a peculiar kind of dress," and "opposed war and the use of pork" (Johnson's Cyclopedia, article "Shakers"). Her followers have no intercourse with other churches, and are renowned for their purity and devotion. In proof of Mrs. White's inspiration, Adventists cite the high moral and religious tone of her writings. They say her revelations must either be of God or Satan. If of Satan, they would not teach such purity or holiness. The same reasoning will prove Mrs. Lee also a true prophetess, for she exceeds Mrs. White in this line, so that "Shaker" has become a synonym for honesty.

Mrs. Joanna Southcott

This noted woman was born in England in 1750, of poor parents, and was wholly uneducated. She worked as a domestic servant till over forty years of age. She joined the Methodists in 1790. In 1792 she announced herself as a prophetess, and "published numerous [over sixty] pamphlets setting forth her revelations" (Johnson's Cyclopedia, article "Southcott"). She had trances the same as Mrs. White, and announced the speedy advent of Christ. (See Encyclopedia Americana, article "Southcott.") She carried on a lucrative trade in the sale of her books, as did Mrs. White. Strange as it may appear, many leading ministers in England believed in her, and thousands became her followers, until in a few years they numbered over one hundred thousand. "The faith of her followers," says the Encyclopedia Americana, "rose to enthusiasm."

She "regarded herself as the bride of the Lamb, and declared herself, when sixty-four years of age, pregnant with the true Messiah, the 'second Shiloh,' whom she would bear Oct. 19, 1814. . . Joanna died in her self-delusion Dec. 27, 1814; but her followers, who at one time numbered a hundred thousand, continued till 1831 to observe the Jewish Sabbath" (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia). "A post-mortem examination showed that she had been suffering from dropsy" (Johnson's Cyclopedia). "Death put an end to both her hopes and fears. With her followers, however, it was otherwise; and, although for a time confounded by her decease, which they could scarcely believe to be real, her speedy resurrection was confidently anticipated. In this persuasion they lived and died, nor is her sect yet extinct" (Encyclopedia Americana, article "Southcott").

Mrs. White claimed her gift to be the "testimony of Jesus" spoken of in Rev. 12:17, while Mrs. Southcott claimed to be the "woman" spoken of in verses 1 and 2 of the same chapter. Mrs. Southcott wrote "A Book of Wonders," while Mrs. White wrote a book called "The Great Controversy." Mrs. White's followers claim the latter to be the most wonderful book of the age. They have sold it by the carload, Mrs. White receiving a large royalty. A recent biographer of Mrs. Southcott says of her books: "She found the business very profitable, . . . and proceeded to rake in the money by selling her prophecies." This is exactly what Mrs. White did. Mrs. Southcott claimed to be called to "seal" the hundred and forty and four thousand of Rev. 7:1-4. Mrs. White claimed to have a message to seal the same hundred and forty and four thousand with the Sabbath. She seems to have patterned very much after Mrs. Southcott in various ways.

The following from Chambers' Encyclopedia (article "Southcott") is also applicable to Mrs. White and her followers: "The history of Joanna Southcott herself has not much in it that is marvelous; but the influence which she exercised over others may well be deemed so, and the infatuation of her followers is hard to be understood, particularly when it is considered that some of them were men of some intelligence and of cultivated mind. Probably the secret of her influence lay in the fact that the poor creature was in earnest about her own delusions. So few people in the world are really so that they are always liable to be enslaved by others who have convictions of any kind, however grotesque. On her death-bed Joanna said: "If I have been misled, it has been by some spirit, good or evil." Poor Joanna never suspected that the spirit which played such vagaries was her own."

Just so of Mrs. White. It is marvelous that, with all the proof of her failures, intelligent men are still led by her. But the cases of Joanna, of Ann Lee and others, help us to solve this one. All have earnestly believed in their own inspiration, and this fact has convinced others.

Here notice the terrible tenacity of fanaticism when once started. When Joanna died we would have supposed that all sane persons would have given it up, but they adjusted it in some way, and went right on. So with the followers of Mrs. White. No matter what blunders and failures she made, they fix them up, and go right on.

Joseph Smith and the Mormons

This prophet and his visions and revelations are so well known that we mention them but briefly. Smith was born in 1805, and died in 1844, the year Mrs. White began to have her revelations. He came out in a great religious awakening, as did Mrs. White in the Advent movement of 1843-4. Like Mrs. White, he was uneducated, poverty poor, and unknown. In 1823 he began to have "visions" and "revelations," and to see and talk with angels. The second advent of Christ was at hand, he said, hence the name, "Latter-day Saints." His mission was to introduce "the new dispensation." His followers are the "saints," and all other churches are "heathen," or Gentiles. Mrs. White's followers, likewise, are the saints; all other churches are "Babylon" and apostate.

As for having the "gifts" in the church, the Mormons far excel the Adventists. Besides having a prophet, they have apostles' work many miracles, as they strongly assert; have the gift of tongues, and can show, they claim, many predictions strikingly fulfilled. They also have a new Bible, a new revelation, have started a new sect, and will have nothing to do with others, but proselyte from all.

The Mormons began in 1831, only about fifteen years before Seventh-day Adventists did; but they now number over five hundred thousand, four times what Adventists do. They are increasing more rapidly than Adventists, who "point with pride" to their growth as proof that God is with them.

Seventh-day Adventists claim that they must be the true church because they have a prophet and are persecuted; but Mormons have a prophet and have been persecuted a thousand-fold more. Smith and others were killed; many have been whipped, tarred and feathered, rotten-egged, stoned, mobbed, run out of town and outlawed. So they must be the true church! In comparison, Seventh-day Adventists have suffered little. They have little idea what persecution is, though all along they have seemed anxious to pose as martyrs.

Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science

It is not our purpose in these few lines to discuss the character of either Mrs. Eddy or Christian Science, but simply to show how easily people are led and ruled by professed inspired prophets of God, no matter what they teach.

Mrs. Eddy was born July 16, 1821, in New Hampshire, and died Dec. 3, 1910, near Boston, being nearly ninety years old. Mrs. White was born in 1827, and died in 1915, at the age of nearly eighty-eight. Both lived during practically the same period of time. The religious systems of the two, however, are exactly the opposite. In Mrs. White's revelations the devil is a large, portly man with flesh and bones; the redeemed saints have wings, and fly like birds, live in silver houses, and in a world where gold trees with silver branches bear fruit. Everything very literal and very material. In the final destruction God tortures the wicked to the limit. Speaking of the destruction of the wicked, she says: "I saw that. . . some were many days consuming, and just as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed, all the sense of suffering remained" ("Early Writings," p. 154, ed. 1882).

With Mrs. Eddy there is no such thing as matter; all is only mind, spirit, principle. There is no personal God, no devil, no angels, no sin, no evil, no disease, no hell, no eternal punishment, no lost souls, Jesus only human, no resurrection, no second advent, no day of judgment, parts of the Bible only myths and misleading, God never answers prayer.

Yet these two prophets; with such opposite theories, find ready followers. The disciples of each believe their own prophet with equal devotion, and the writings of each as inspired and infallible. These writings are their Bibles, telling what God's Bible means.

Christian Scientists, as a class, stand high morally and socially. In these respects they excel Adventists. If teaching purity of life proved Mrs. White to be an inspired prophet of God, it proves the same thing for Mrs. Eddy.

The fact is that neither of these women leaders was inspired either by God or by Satan, but by their own inherited highly wrought religious reveries molded by the dominant influences which came into their lives. It is not necessary to believe that Mrs. Eddy was dishonest. She was simply a religious enthusiast, carried away with her own mental delusions, the same as Mrs. White. Adventists point to their success as proof that Mrs. White was a true prophet. But the believers in Mrs. Eddy outnumber them ten to one, though beginning their work over twenty years later.

"Pastor" Russell

Speaking of Mr. Russell shortly after his death, the New York Watchman-Examiner of Nov. 9, 1916, says:

"When Charles T. Russell, who styled himself 'Pastor' Russell, died, a remarkable man passed out of the world. We should unhesitatingly place him in a class with Alexander Dowie, and Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Keen-witted, eloquent and a master dialectician, he played the mountebank so successfully that he gathered multitudes of followers, in many instances deceiving even God's elect. He built around him a great organization of men and women, who responded to his leadership as the Mormons obey the commands of the prophet. A stream of gold poured into his coffers, and was used in a world-wide advertising propaganda. He was without training, and was never ordained to the ministry, and yet he spoke to unnumbered multitudes by voice and pen, and won to his erratic views many from all denominations. This success came despite the fact that his own life was a reproach to Christianity. It still seems to be true that men like to be fooled, and 'Pastor' Russell fooled multitudes.

"It is announced that his death will in nowise interfere with the propagation of his views, and the promotion of 'Millennial Dawnism.' Indeed, it is highly probable that the fanaticism that possessed many of his followers will manifest itself in a new propaganda. Already thousands of women tread the streets of our great cities distributing the literature of Russellism. People are hungry for the knowledge of the unknown and mysterious future. Mr. Russell capitalized this deep longing of the human heart, and with unparalleled dogmatism gave the most minute and exact information concerning the unborn future."

Mr. Russell set various times for the world to come to an end, the latest being in 1914. In October of that year he said the "times of the Gentiles" would be fulfilled. His followers claim that he was the greatest man that has lived since the apostles, and that his sect is the only true church. All others are Babylon. Mr. Russell lived right along at the same time with Mrs. White and Mrs. Eddy. The followers of each one accept their leader as the only infallible oracle of God. Can they all be right?

Alexander Dowie

Here in our day was another claimant to divine inspiration - the second Elijah. For years he attracted wide notoriety. It was claimed that he performed hundreds of miraculous cures. The devotion and enthusiasm of his followers were unbounded. Money flowed in freely. Like Mrs. White and Mrs. Eddy, he was dogmatic and arbitrary. His word was law. He required an austere religious life, exceeding even Mrs. White. The sect still lives on at Zion City, Chicago.

Notice what a crop of false prophets the last century has produced. It seems to be in the air of the age.

Not one of those here mentioned, except Mrs. White, is regarded by Seventh-day Adventists as a true prophet. They call Swedenborg a Spiritualist. Joseph Smith they regard as an impostor, and his writings as a fabrication. Against Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science they have written extensively. Against "Pastor" Russell and his teachings they publish a work entitled "The Darkness of Millennial Dawn." None passes muster with them. All are false. The only true prophet of modern times is their own.

The object of this book is to investigate the claims of Mrs. White, the prophetess of Seventh-day Adventists, and, from documentary evidence, plain facts and incontrovertible proofs, allow the reader to judge for himself whether or not she should be classed with the other false prophets of the age here noted.

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