Are Ellen White’s writings a “lesser light”?
Here is the full paragraph:
The Lord has sent His people much instruction, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. Oh, how much good would be accomplished if the books containing this light were read with a determination to carry out the principles they contain! There would be a thousandfold greater vigilance, a thousandfold more self-denial and resolute effort. And many more would now be rejoicing in the light of present truth.
In context, the paragraph above is clearly talking about her own books as providing “much instruction” that “the Lord has sent His people” and as “containing this light”—an expression she used in the very next sentence after the famous quote about the lesser and greater light. The natural way to understand her reference here, it seems to me, is the way we have always done so: lesser light—the contents of her writings; greater light—the Bible.
This conclusion is strengthened, I think, by noting another place where Mrs. White explicitly spoke of the relationship between her writings and the Bible: Testimonies for the Church, volume 5, pages 663–665.
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. . . .
It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves 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 Lord designs to warn you, to reprove, to counsel, through the testimonies given, and to impress your minds with the importance of the truth of His word. The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed.
There are important parallels between these two statements, the famous one you asked about and this one. Both refer explicitly to the Bible and to Mrs. White’s writings. Both make the point that Mrs. White’s books will help a person see the light. And in this second reference, it is clear that Mrs. White’s writings direct people’s attention to Scripture.