| Ellen G. White Estate

Miscellaneous Statements

The Apocrypha

In a document titled "A copy of E. G. White's vision which she had at Oswego, New York," January 11, 1850, an unusual statement appears concerning the Apocrypha, also known as "the hidden book":

"I then saw the Word of God, pure and unadulterated, and that we must answer for the way we received the truth proclaimed from that Word. I saw that it had been a hammer to break the flinty heart in pieces, and a fire to consume the dross and tin, that the heart might be pure and holy. I saw that the Apocrypha was the hidden book, and that the wise of these last days should understand it. I saw that the Bible was the standard Book, that will judge us at the last day. I saw that heaven would be cheap enough, and that nothing was too dear to sacrifice for Jesus, and that we must give all to enter the kingdom" (Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, p. 34).

If what we have is a correct copy of what she wrote, the meaning and significance of this statement is unclear. At no subsequent time did Ellen White make reference to the Apocrypha, call upon Adventists to study it, or urge its reading. Nor did she include this statement in any of her publications. Whatever one makes of the statement, it should be observed that the Apocrypha is not described as inspired, but is contrasted with the Scriptures which are called the "standard Book, that will judge us at the last day."

Extra-Biblical Descriptions

The question is whether later inspired writers may include added details about persons and events described in the Bible. Additions in terms of details, from one privileged to view in vision scenes of Biblical history, is no more surprising than the fact that one finds details mentioned by one Gospel writer that are omitted by another describing the same event. Paul identifies the Egyptian magicians by name (2 Tim. 3:8), whereas in the book of Exodus they are nameless. Jude describes a prophecy of Enoch (Jude 14, 15) that is nowhere recorded in Genesis. Similar insights by Ellen White complement the Biblical record, which remains the unique, authoritative, revelation of God's will.

God's Love for Erring Children

A few have wondered about certain expressions Ellen White used in some letters to her children in the early 1860s. In her tender love, she appealed to their souls in many ways. In 1860 she was speaking to children between ages 6 and 13. Trying to make the big picture clear in simple language, this 33-year-old mother used language at times that was more like theological shorthand, especially when she wrote that the Lord loves children "who try to do right" but "wicked children God does not love." [1]

Just as we must consider some difficult Biblical texts within the total Biblical context, we must do the same with Ellen White. For example, in Deuteronomy 7:9, 10, we note that God "repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them." In Psalm 11:5 we read, "The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates." By themselves such statements sound harsh, but when placed in the context of the whole Bible (including such texts as Isa. 1:18-20; Jer. 31:3; John 3:16, 17; John 14-17) their true meaning becomes clear.

Note the larger context of Ellen White's counsel to parents (1892): "Jesus would have the fathers and mothers teach their children . . . that God loves them, that their natures may be changed, and brought into harmony with God. Do not teach your children that God does not love them when they do wrong; teach them that He loves them so that it grieves His tender Spirit to see them in transgression, because He knows they are doing injury to their souls. Do not terrify your children by telling them of the wrath of God, but rather seek to impress them with His unspeakable love and goodness, and thus let the glory of the Lord be revealed before them." [2]

In other circumstances, she clearly made a difference between God's loving a person and endorsing what that person may be doing. [3] In clear theological terms, she set forth the fact that character determines destiny. Even a loving God will not refashion people's character after their death in order to redeem them. [4]

Yet, how much theology can a six-year-old understand? God had the same challenge when He instructed the recently freed Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. He used kindergarten language and methods--including the sandbox illustration of the desert sanctuary service--for that was the only language level they could understand. Sometimes the threat of disapproval and punishment can get the attention of six-year-olds and recently delivered Israelites when "love talk" would have no impact.

Ellen White used both methods when dealing with her boys, apparently with good effect. The record contains numerous instances in which she talked to her sons about a friendly God, on many occasions praying with them about their spiritual growth. If young Ellen were to be confronted with a possible misunderstanding of her words, she would quickly say what, in substance, she would later write out more completely: "What I meant--and I believe what the boys understood--was that God will not condone disobedience, even though He always loves little boys and girls, good or bad. Disobedience has tough consequences, and God, in love, doesn't want them to experience the costs of disobedience." [5]

Ellen White did not always express her thoughts perfectly in her first attempt, and her later statement indicates that she found a better way to present both God's displeasure and His love.

Notes

[1] An example of letters from Ellen White to young, six-year-old Willie revealed her motherly attempts to keep him focused on cheerful obedience: "You must be a good, sweet, little boy, and love to obey Jenny [Fraser] and Lucinda [Hall]. Give up your will, and when you wish to do anything very much, inquire, Is it not selfish? You must learn to yield your will and your way. It will be a hard lesson for my little boy to learn, but it will in the end be worth more to him than gold."* "Learn, my dear Willie, to be patient, to wait others' time and convenience; then you will not get impatient and irritable. The Lord loves those little children who try to do right, and He has promised that they shall be in His kingdom. But wicked children God does not love. He will not take them to the beautiful City, for He only admits the good, obedient, and patient children there. One fretful, disobedient child, would spoil all the harmony of heaven. When you feel tempted to speak impatient and fretful, remember the Lord sees you, and will not love you if you do wrong. When you do right and overcome wrong feelings, the Lord smiles upon you.

"Although He is in heaven, and you cannot see Him, yet He loves you when you do right, and writes it down in His book; and when you do wrong, He puts a black mark against you. Now, dear Willie, try to do right always, and then no black mark will be set down against you; and when Jesus comes He will call for that good boy Willie White, and will put upon your head a wreath of gold, and put in your hand a little harp that you can play upon, and it will send forth beautiful music, and you will never be sick, never be tempted then to do wrong; but will be happy always, and will eat of rich fruit, and will pluck beautiful flowers. Try, try, dear boy, to be good. Your affectionate Mother." [*"By the blessing of God and his mother's instruction, Willie has overcome the impatient spirit which he sometimes manifested when quite young, and he now possesses a most affectionate, amiable, and obedient disposition."--A.P.P.] (Ellen G. White,An Appeal to the Youth, pp. 62-63). A careful look at the whole letter (and her total writings on child guidance) suggests strongly that when Ellen White wrote that "wicked children God does not love," she meant that ultimately children who continue to be "wicked" will not be taken to heaven.

[2] Signs of the Times, February 15, 1892; "His [Jesus'] heart is drawn out, not only to the best behaved children, but to those who have by inheritance objectionable traits of character. Many parents do not understand how much they are responsible for these traits in their children. . . . But Jesus looks upon these children with pity. He traces from cause to effect" (The Desire of Ages, p. 517).

[3] See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 558-565, for a sensitive letter to an indulged teenager.

[4] Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 74, 84, 123; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 355, 356.

[5] See previous footnotes, citing Signs of the Times, Feb. 15, 1892, and The Desire of Ages, p. 517.

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 59, 60.]

God's Providence in the 1843 Prophetic Chart

In 1850 Ellen White wrote that she "had seen that the 1843 [prophetic] chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as He wanted them; that His hand was over and hid a mistake in some of the figures, so that none could see it, until His hand was removed." [1]

At first glance, one could wonder why God would want to hide a mistake! Those who begin with the presupposition that Jesus did not enter the closing phase of His mediatorial work in 1844 ridicule this Ellen White reference.

But those who have found meaning in these events, whether on earth or in heaven, also realize that God's ways are often cast in human language where circumstances that God permits are described as events that God causes. When the author of Exodus wrote of God's conversation with Moses, he portrayed God as the Agent who "hardened" Pharaoh's heart (Ex. 10:1). However, the same writer also wrote of Pharaoh's responsibility for hardening his own heart (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34).

We think of Biblical circumstances where knowledge was "withheld" from dedicated men and women. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus joined two devastated disciples but they did not recognize Him because "their eyes were restrained" (Luke 24:16). A few hours later, while eating with their traveling Companion, "their eyes were opened and they knew Him" (Luke 24:31). If their eyes had been "opened" prematurely while walking toward Emmaus, they would have missed a great experience that God wanted them to share.

For reasons that God alone can explain best, Bible students in 1843 needed the experience of 1843-1844. Obviously God could have "stepped in" and guaranteed every date, every line of reasoning, when Charles Fitch and Apollos Hale prepared their chart. But that kind of divine intervention has been rare throughout history. Permitting men and women to work through their problems, learning special lessons that would not have been experienced otherwise, seems to have been God's general plan. [2]

What would have happened if William Miller had preached the true significance of 1844? What kind of public response would he have received if he had proclaimed the truth about a change in Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary instead of emphasizing His imminent return? No one would have listened to him; no one would have been stirred to read the Bible. After the disappointment of October 22, a group of his followers restudied their Bibles to discover the real meaning of 1844, an interest that never would have developed if Miller had not focused their attention on the Bible and its prophecies prior to 1844.

Notes

[1] Early Writings, p. 74. This chart, designed in 1842 by Charles Fitch, Congregational pastor, and Apollos Hale, Methodist preacher, was approved by the Millerites in their Boston General Conference of May, 1842. The chart's graphic symbols and time periods became a well-known trademark of Millerite preaching as they endeavored to simplify in an attractive manner the time prophecies focusing on 1843. (See L. E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. IV, pp. 538, 616.)

[2] See Matt. 11:25; Mark 4:33; John 16:12; 1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:11-14.

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), p. 490.]

Some Slaves Not Resurrected

In 1858 Ellen G. White wrote that "the slave master would have to answer for the soul of his slave whom he has kept in ignorance. . . . God cannot take the slave to heaven, who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master's lash, and not holding so elevated a position as his master's brute beasts. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He lets him be as though he had not been." [1]

However, a few pages later she reported that she "saw the pious slave rise [in the resurrection] in triumph and victory." [2] In many places she referred to the terrible conditions imposed on slaves in the South, treated "as though they were beasts." [3] Nevertheless, she was equally emphatic that "many of the slaves had noble minds." [4]

In these statements Ellen White was distinguishing between the "pious" slave and the "ignorant" slave who knows "nothing of God." Regarding the latter, she stated with prophetic insight that the most compassionate act for a just God would be to let such slaves remain in their graves, not to be resurrected for judgment.

Some object to this statement because the Bible says that "all who are in the graves will . . . come forth" (John 5:28, 29). A few chapters later, John quoted Jesus: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32). Here we have two examples among many where Bible writers used all-inclusive language but with very definite restrictions. No one but Universalists argue that everyone, sooner or later, will be redeemed, regardless of character or desire. Not all people will be drawn to Jesus because not all are willing to be drawn!

Another example of a general, all-inclusive statement is John the Revelator's description of the Second Advent: ". . . every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne'" (Rev. 6:15, 16). Obviously, not all slaves and not all free men are going to be lost!

Prophets, as well as everyone else, use inclusive language at times, and most people understand the implied restrictions. The next question is, How does God deal with those who are neither among those "who have done good," or "those who have done evil" (John 5:29)? The best we can do is to join Abraham, the father of the faithful, and believe with confidence: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25).

Notes

[1] Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 193 (Early Writings, p. 276).

[2] Ibid., p. 206 (Early Writings, p. 286).

[3] Review and Herald, Dec. 17, 1895.

[4] Ibid.

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 489, 490.]

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