The Life of Ellen White by D.M. Canright


Mrs. E.G. White, the prophetess, leader, and chief founder of the Seventh-day Adventists Church, claimed to be divinely inspired by God the same as were the prophets of the Bible. Defining her position, she says: "In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the testimonies of his Spirit" ("Testimonies for the Church," Vol. IV., p. 148; Vol. V., p. 661; No. 88, p. 189) that is, by her through her writings.

Every line she wrote, whether in articles, letters, testimonies or books, she claimed was dictated to her by the Holy Ghost, and hence must be infallible.

Her people accept and defend these claims strongly. Her writings are read in their churches, taught in their schools, and preached by their ministers the same as the Holy Scriptures. Their church stands or falls with her claims. This they freely admit. She stands related to her people the same as Mohammed to the Mohammedans, Joseph Smith to the Mormons, Ann Lee to the Shakers, and Mrs. Eddy to the Christian Scientists.

Hence these high claims are a subject for fair investigation, to which her followers, who have freely criticized other claimants to divine inspiration, can not reasonably object. They have published several books bearing on her life and work, in which they have gathered together and construed everything possible in her favor. From reading these books one would never know that she ever made a mistake, plagiarized, practiced deception, or wrote alleged inspired writings which had to be suppressed. In narrating the lives of inspired men God does not thus cover up their failures and pass by their mistakes and shortcomings.

The public, therefore, has a right to know the other side of the life of Mrs. White.

The writer is perhaps better qualified to give the facts regarding that phase of her life than any other person living, as he united with her people almost at their beginning, now nearly sixty years ago, when they numbered only about five thousand. He has all the writings of Mrs. White in those early days. Some of the most damaging of these have been suppressed. Neither the public nor their own people, except a few officials, know of these old "revelation." His intimate association with Mrs. White gave him an opportunity to know and observe her as no one without such association could possibly have.

Why I Once Believed Mrs. White Inspired

I once accepted Mrs. White's claim to inspiration for the same reason that most of her followers do. I first accepted the Sabbath, and then other points of the faith, until I came to believe it all.

Once among and of them, I found all stating in strong terms that Mrs. White was inspired of God. I supposed they knew, and so took their word for it; and that is what all the others do as they come in, deny it as they may.

I soon found that her revelations were so connected with the whole history and belief of her church that I could not consistently separate them any more than a person could be a Mormon and not believe in Joseph Smith, or a Christian Scientist and not believe in Mrs. Eddy.

I believed the other doctrines so firmly that I swallowed the visions with the rest, and that it is what all do.

When I began to have suspicions about the visions I found the pressure so strong that I feared to express them, or even to admit them to myself. All said such doubts were of the devil and would lead to a rejection of the truth and then to ruin. So I dared not entertain them nor investigate the matter; and this is the way it is with others.

I saw that all who expressed any doubts about the visions were immediately branded as "rebels," as "in the dark," "led by Satan," "infidels," etc.

Having no faith in any other doctrine or people, I did not know what to do nor where to go. So I tried to believe the visions and go along just as thousands of them do when really they are in doubt about them all the time. This leads them to practice deception, and pretend publicly to believe what inwardly they do not believe, or at best what they doubt. See Uriah Smith's case in the chapter dealing with his view.

Over forty years ago, in my early ministry and while yet a firm believer in all the Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, I wrote a strong defense of Mrs. White. During all the years since, nothing so forcible has been produced by any of her defenders. This is proved by the fact that it has been copied by them in her defense, but omitting my name. Also in their writings against me they quote this as contradicting what I now say. I do not blame them; but my answer is this: "A wise man changes his mind seldom, a fool never."

At the time I wrote that defense of Mrs. White, forty years ago, I had never seen a copy of her early visions contained in "A Word to the Little Flock," 1847, and in Present Truth, 1849 and 1850; nor Elder Bates' pamphlets at the same date. They had been so effectively suppressed that I did not know they ever existed. These contain the most damaging evidence against her inspiration. All these came into my hands later. As the years went by, other evidences kept gradually accumulating, until I was compelled to change my mind.

During his early years in Parliament, Mr. Gladstone, the great statesman of England, made speeches strongly defending the side to which he belonged. Later he changed his views and joined the opposing side. Then a member of his old party arose and read one of Mr. Gladstone's speeches strongly condemning the views he now advocated. At the close all eyes were on Mr. Gladstone. What could he say? He arose slowly and said: "That was a long while ago, and many things have happened since." That was all. The House cheered him lustily. He had effectually answered his opponent. My answer to the Adventists is the same: "That was a long while ago, and many things have happened since."

The facts presented in this book give some of the reasons why I gave up faith in Mrs. White's claim to inspiration. The facts are indisputable; the conclusions based on them must, therefore, in the very nature of the case, be inevitable.

In performing this task, the writer, knowing the frailties of human nature, has used as mild language and shown as much charity as the facts in the case would permit. But, knowing the errors and deceptions which have been connected with Mrs. White and her work, he has felt it a duty which he owed to the Christian world to state the facts.

The Author.

My Present Standing

Since I withdrew from the Adventists, over thirty years ago, they have continued to report that I have regretted leaving them, have tried to get back again, have repudiated my book which I wrote and have confessed that I am now a lost man. There has never been a word of truth in any of these reports. I expect them to report that I recanted on my deathbed. All this is done to hinder the influence of my books. I now reaffirm all that I have written in my books and tracts against that doctrine.

Several Adventist ministers have rendered valuable aid in preparing these pages. Once they were believers in Mrs. White's divine inspiration, but plain facts finally compelled them to renounce faith in her dreams.

D.M. Canright,

Pastor Emeritus of the Berean Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Imposture shrinks from light,
And dreads the curious eye;
But sacred truths the test invite,
They bid us search and try.
O may we still maintain
A meek, inquiring mind,
Assured we shall not search in vain,
But hidden treasures find.
With understanding blessed,
Created to be free,
Our faith on man we dare not rest,
We trust alone in Thee.

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