Did Ellen White say we can’t know whether we’re saved?
Ellen White did write, “Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved” (Christ’s Object Lessons, 155). However, a closer look at her cautions regarding this subject reveals that, in context, she wasn’t speaking against the certainty of a believer’s present standing with God. Instead, she was warning against the presumptuous “once saved, always saved” teaching of eternal security—against claiming “I am saved” while continuing to transgress the law of God. Here is her full statement:
Peter’s fall was not instantaneous, but gradual. Self-confidence led him to the belief that he was saved, and step after step was taken in the downward path, until he could deny his Master. Never can we safely put confidence in self or feel, this side of heaven, that we are secure against temptation. Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading. Everyone should be taught to cherish hope and faith; but even when we give ourselves to Christ and know that He accepts us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation. God’s Word declares, “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried” (Dan. 12:10). Only he who endures the trial will receive the crown of life (James 1:12) (Christ’s Object Lessons, 155, emphasis added).
That Ellen White understood the proper basis for true Christian assurance is evidenced by the following remark she made before the church’s General Conference session: “Each one of you may know for yourself that you have a living Saviour, that He is your helper and your God. You need not stand where you say, ‘I do not know whether I am saved.’ Do you believe in Christ as your personal Saviour? If you do, then rejoice” (The General Conference Bulletin, April 10, 1901).
To a woman who was struggling with doubts, Ellen White wrote,
The message from God to me for you is “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). If you have nothing else to plead before God but this one promise from your Lord and Saviour, you have the assurance that you will never, never be turned away. It may seem to you that you are hanging upon a single promise, but appropriate that one promise, and it will open to you the whole treasure house of the riches of the grace of Christ. Cling to that promise and you are safe. “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Present this assurance to Jesus, and you are as safe as though inside the city of God (Manuscript Releases, 10:175).
So there you have the more complete picture. Mrs. White did advise against a “once saved, always saved” viewpoint. But she knew how to present a biblical assurance to those plagued with doubt.