The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists


by William H. Branson


ONE Of Mr. Canright's most bitter attacks is launched against the life and work of Mrs. E. G. White, who, until the time of her death, was a respected, beloved worker in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He devotes an entire chapter to her, and frequently attacks her in other chapters. Besides, there was published under his name, just about the time of his death, a volume of 201 pages devoted entirely to an effort to discredit her work.

We do not hesitate to say that Seventh-day Adventists recognize in Mrs. E. G. White's work a special manifestation of the gift of the Spirit spoken of in the Bible as the Spirit of prophecy. (See Revelation 19:10.) Nor is this a strange or new doctrine, since among the spiritual gifts promised to the church, and ranking with apostles, evangelists, teachers, etc., is the gift of prophecy, and its work has been recognized by the church in all ages.

Thus Paul speaks of these gifts as follows: Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God bath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:27, 28.

In speaking of the last stage of the church of Christ, John the revelator describes it and the experience of its members thus: The dragon was wroth with the woman [the church], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:17.

The church of God, here spoken of as a remnant, and against whom the dragon (Satan) will be especially angry in the last days, was foreseen as a commandment-keeping company who would have the testimony of Jesus Christ. if we inquire as to what is meant by the testimony of Jesus, we find an answer to our query in Revelation 19:10, where the angel, (Gabriel) clearly explained to John that the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. These two characteristics will therefore distinguish the true remnant church of God in the latter end of the history of the world. Its members will be commandment keepers, and the Spirit of prophecy will be manifested among them.

To this also agree the words of Paul' recorded in 1 Corinthians 1:54: That irk everything you are enriched by Him, in all utturance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let it be noted that as the church waits for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, she is to come behind in no gift. Therefore, all the gifts of the Spirit are to be found in her. And lest there should be a question about the gift of prophecy, this is especially mentioned by the inspired writer: Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you. Verse 6. And the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy, or the prophetic gift.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that this gift of the Spirit was early manifested among them through the work and writings of Mrs. White. They believe that just as in past ages God raised up prophets and messengers to perform a special work for the church, and to counsel and warn God's people in times of special peril and need, so He raised up Mrs. White and bestowed upon her the gift of prophecy; and that He has used her life and work to bless and unify the church.

Someone perchance may be ready to say, Then you have another Bible. We answer, No. That God sends special counsel, admonition, and help through some specially chosen servant is no evidence that the Bible is thus added to or taken from. Were there not prophets and prophetesses in the apostolic church who gave counsel and instruction to the church in their day, but whose writings did not become a part of the Bible?

Luke tells us of one 'Philip the evangelist, and says of his family, The same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. Acts 21:9. Here, then, in the early church, were four prophetesses from one family. And while it is definitely stated that they exercised their gift and did prophesy, yet no prophecy of theirs is recorded in the Bible.

In 1 Chronicles 29:29, 30, we read of two other prophets whom God raised up to do a work of local import, who wrote books, and whose influence extended over Israel and over all the kingdoms of the countries round about, and yet whose writings form no part of the Bible, which was handed down to succeeding ages. Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer, with all his reign and his might, and. the times that went over him, and over Israel, and over all the kingdoms of the countries.

Why should Nathan the prophet or Gad the seer have written books under inspiration of God, and then the books be allowed to be lost? We answer, Because God desired to give to the church in that day special counsel and instruction, warnings and entreaties that applied especially to that time and age, and that would not be present truth, to succeeding ages.

The Bible contains the revealed will of God, and if followed, is sufficient to furnish men thoroughly unto all good works. (See 2 Timothy 3:16,17.) It contains all the instruction necessary to salvation. But the difficulty is that men ate so prone to wander away from the written word and ignore its silent witness, that it has been necessary from time to time for God to raise up an Elijah to call the people back to the worship of the true God and the keeping of His commandments, and to destroy the heresies brought into the church by the priests of Baal. (See 1 Kings 18:17-4l).

Such is the work God has done through Mrs. White, and for this cause she was raised up. Her appeal was ever to the Bible. Her entire life was spent in a supreme effort to lead men to a clear understanding of the Book of God. She never claimed verbal inspiration for her writings; but she claimed that through the gift of the Spirit special light was shed upon the written word, and this has been written out in her own words and given to the church and the world for their edification.

We dare say that no candid person can read through one of the many volumes from her pen without being constrained to admit that thus many old familiar Bible texts are made to shine forth with new brilliancy and that many obscure passages have become clear and understandable. New rays of light are thus received, not because they are found in Mrs. White's writings, but because they now clearly shine forth from the Old Book. It is not a new or additional Bible that the church needs today, but inspired counsel that can help the befogged minds of the people of the world to grasp the glorious truths of the Bible we have.

Does someone reason that this gift is no longer necessary to the church? We inquire then, What mean the words of Peter when he said: It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on My servants and on My hand maidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy? Acts 2:17, 18. Here is a positive statement that the gift of prophecy will be seen in the church in the last days.

And why not? Has God entirely removed Himself from His people? Is He not as able today as in former times to give them needed counsel, reproof, and encouragement? Has the channel of communication between heaven and earth become so obstructed that nothing more can flow through? We think not, for in these last days of abounding iniquity God will have, as He has had in former ages, a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but . . . holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27), and He promises to enrich it with all utterance, and all knowledge, through the full bestowal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus the church will come behind in no gift, as it waits for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 1:5-7.)

When Mr. Canright was preaching for the Seventh day Adventists, he was well aware that they made a distinction between the Bible and the writings of Mrs. White. And while still among them he wrote a clear testimony to that effect. Here it is:

Right here let me say that we do not throw away the Bible, and take Mrs. White's visions instead. No; if there is a class' of people under heaven who believe the Bible strongly, who love it devotedly, who study it and go to it for everything, it is Seventh-day Adventists. Here is our storehouse of doctrine and truth. We preach this everywhere and always. We have no other authority. We go to this to test and prove the genuineness of Sister White's labors and visions. If they did not harmonize with this in every particular, we would reject them. It is wicked for men to cry, 'The Bible, the Bible, the Bible,' and profess to follow that implicitly when they reject one of the plainest doctrines of the Bible, -the doctrine of spiritual gifts. Of course, I have no time here to take up an argument on spiritual gifts, or enter into a lengthy statement of her [Mrs. White's] labors, their nature, etc. We believe, however, that no doctrine of the Bible is plainer than that of the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, and particularly that these gifts are to be restored in the last days. Joel 2:28-32; Rev. 12:17; 19:10; 1 Thess. 5:1-21, etc. D. M. CANRIGHT in Review and Herald, April 19, 1877.

In his later statement that they [Seventh-day Adventists] have another Bible, just the same as the Mormons have Adventism Renounced, p. 136), Mr. Canright stands convicted by his former testimony. It seems difficult to believe that he was not willfully misrepresenting the facts as to the distinction well understood by the Seventh-day Adventists between the Bible and Mrs. White's writings.

Mrs. White has published to the world her own estimate of the absolute and final authority of the Scriptures, and of the 'relationship of her writings to the Bible. The following is from her pen:

In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. 'Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.' 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, R.V.

Yet the fact that God has revealed His will to men through His word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and the guiding of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Spirit was promised by our Savior, to open the word to His servants, to illuminate and apply its teachings. And since it was the Spirit of God that inspired the Bible, it is impossible that the teaching of the Spirit should ever be contrary to that of the word.

The Spirit was not given-nor can it ever be bestowed -to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. Says the apostle John, 'Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are, gone out into the world.' 1 John 4:1. And Isaiah declares, 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' Isa. 8:20. The Great Controversy, p. vii.

Mrs. White always emphatically declared that her writings were not to be, considered an addition to the Word of God, and that anyone who claims this for them puts them in a false light. Her Testimonies were intended to bring men to a clearer understanding of the Scriptures. On one occasion she wrote: `Brother R. 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.' 'The word of God is sufficient to enlighten the most beclouded mind, and may be understood by those who have any desire to understand it. But notwithstanding all this, some who profess to make the word of God their study, are found living in direct - opposition to its plainest teachings. Then, to leave men and women without excuse, God gives plain and pointed Testimonies, bringing them back to the word that they have neglected to follow.' 'The word of God abounds in general principles for the formation of correct habits of living, and the Testimonies, general and personal, have been calculated to call their attention more especially to these principles.' Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 663, 664.


In his book Mr. Canright makes damaging statements regarding the character and personality of Mrs. White. Before quoting some of these, let us note a former statement regarding her character and work, written by him before he left the ' Seventh-day Adventists. The following was written by Mr. Canright in 1877, while he was still an Adventist:

As to the Christian character of Sister White, I beg leave to say that I think I know something about it. I have been acquainted with Sister White for eighteen years, more than half the history of our people. I have been in their family time and again sometimes weeks at a, time. They have been in our house and family many times. I have traveled with them almost everywhere; have been with them in private and in public, in meeting and out of meeting, and have had the very best chances to know something of the life, character, and spirit of Brother and Sister White. As a minister, I have had to deal with all kinds of persons, and all kinds of character, till I think I can judge something of what a person is, at least after years of intimate acquaintance.

I know Sister White to be an unassuming, modest, kindhearted, noble woman. These traits in her character are not simply put on and cultivated, but they spring gracefully and easily from her natural disposition. She is not self-conceited, self-righteous, and self important, as fanatics always are. I have frequently come in contact with fanatical persons, and I have always found them to be full of pretentions, full of pride, ready to give their opinion, boastful of their holiness, etc. But I have ever found Sister White the reverse of all this. Any one, the poorest and the humblest, can go to her freely for advice and comfort without being repulsed. She is ever looking after the needy, the destitute, and the suffering, providing for them, and pleading their cause. I have never formed an acquaintance with any persons who so constantly have the fear of God before them. Nothing is undertaken without earnest prayer to God. She studies God's word carefully and constantly. I have heard Sister White speak hundreds of times, have read all her Testimonies through and through, most of them many times, and I have never been able to find one immoral sentence in the whole of them, or anything that is not strictly pure and Christian; nothing that leads away from the Bible, or from Christ; but there I find the most earnest appeals to obey God, to love Jesus, to believe the Scriptures, and to search them constantly. I have received great spiritual benefit times without number, from the Testimonies. Indeed, I never read them without feeling reproved for my lack of faith in God, lack of devotion, and lack of earnestness in saving souls. If I have any judgment, any spiritual discernment, I pronounce the Testimonies to be of the same Spirit and of the same tenor as the Scriptures.

For thirty years these Testimonies have been believed and read among our people. How has it affected them? Has it led them away from the law of God? Has it lead them to give up faith in Christ? Has it led them to throw aside the Bible? Has it led them to be a corrupt, immoral people? I know that they will compare favorably with any other Christian denomination. One thing I have remarked, and that is, that the most bitter opponents of the visions of Sister White admit that she is a Christian. How they can make this admission is more than I know. They try to fix it up by saying that she is deceived. They are not able to put their finger upon a single stain in all her life, nor an immoral sentence in all her writings. They have to admit that much of her writings are excellent, and that whoever would live out all she says would be a good Christian, sure of heaven. This is passing strange if she is a tool of the devil, inspired by Satan, or if her writings are immoral or the vagaries of her own mind. Review and Herald, April 26, 1877.

This earnest tribute to the character of Mrs. White, based on an intimate acquaintance of eighteen years, was written by Mr. Canright in 1877. In 1885 he again bore testimony to his confidence in the integrity of Mrs. White's work:

The tendency and influence of the Testimonies is not, like the teachings of Spiritualist mediums, to lead away from the Bible, away from God, and away from faith in Christ; nor, like Mormonism, to lead to sensuality, dishonesty, and crime; but they lead to faith in the Holy Scriptures, devotion to God, and a life of humility and holiness. Can a corrupt tree bear good fruit? Jesus said not. What is a tree known by? Its fruit. Here is a tree which has been standing among us for forty years, and bearing fruit. What has been the nature of that fruit? What have been its effects upon those who have partaken the most of it?

It seems to me now that no one who has ever felt the power of the Spirit of God upon his own heart can candidly read through the four volumes of 'Spirit of Prophecy' without being deeply convicted that the writer must live very near to God, and be thoroughly imbued with the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, and animated the apostles and prophets. Such lofty thoughts of God, of heaven, and 'of spiritual things cannot come from a carnal heart, nor from a mind deceived and led by Satan. . . .

You certainly know that our people hold all the cardinal doctrines of salvation, -faith in God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, repentance, a holy life, etc. Isn't this safe? You know that Sister White and all our ministers not only so teach, but exert all their influence to have our people live lives of devotion, of honesty, of purity, of love, of plainness, of sacrifice, and of every Christian virtue. You know that every sin is condemned among our people, and the most solemn warnings are constantly given against even the appearance of evil. You know that in almost every church of our people there are at least some who are living blameless Christian lives. You know that there is not one immoral doctrine taught or practiced by our people. Bad men and poor examples there are, to be sure; but they are such in spite of all our efforts to make them better. You know that if any man will strictly live up to the teachings of the Testimonies and our people, he will certainly be saved. Ibid., Feb. 10, 1885.

These testimonials regarding Mrs. White and her writings express the sum of his convictions resulting from twenty-six out of the twenty-eight years of his labors among the Seventh-day Adventists.

What shall we say regarding the consistency of entirely opposite statements, when we are asked to accept his derogatory caricature of this same individual, written just a few years later? At that time he declared:

I long studied Mrs. White to determine for myself her real character till her case is clear to my mind. Seventh day Adventism Renounced, p. 137.

Let us note a few of his most flagrant contradictions on this point. From his volume under review we quote the following statements published in 1889. Mr. Canright the Baptist speaking:

She has a harsh, uncharitable spirit.... Her severity and harshness have driven many to despair.' Ibid., p. 160.

In 1877 Mr. Canright the Adventist said:

I know Sister White to be an unassuming, modest, kindhearted, noble woman. These traits in her character are not simply put on and cultivated, but they spring gracefully and easily from her natural disposition.

In 1889 he said she is simply a religious enthusiast, and a fanatic, and is always telling what great things she has done. Hear her laud herself.

In 1877 he testified of her:

She is not self-conceited, self-righteous, and self-important, as fanatics always are. .'. . I have ever found Sister White the reverse of all this.

Of her writings he said, in 1889:

These inspired 'Testimonies' now embrace ten bound volumes. Thus they have another Bible, just the same as the Mormons have.' Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, p. 136.

In 1877 he said of these same writings that there is nothing that leads away from the Bible, or from Christ; and in 1885, just four years before he wrote his renunciation of Adventism, he added: The tendency and influence of her Testimonies is not, like the teachings of Spiritualist mediums, to lead away from the Bible, away from God, and away from faith in Christ; nor like Mormonism.

Now we submit to our readers that Mr. Canright could not have been sincere in both instances when these conflicting statements were made about the character and work of the same person. If he was sincere in his published utterances regarding Mrs. White in 1877, when he claims to have had eighteen years' acquaintance with her, and in 1885, at which time his acquaintance had lengthened to twenty-six years, then he could not have been sincere in 1889 when he clearly contradicted all that he had previously written of her. On the other hand, if he was sincere in his later statements, it surely proves insincerity on his part in what he had formerly said.

Mr. Canright, after renouncing Adventism, also said of Mrs. White:

Mrs. White received no school education, except a few weeks when a child. She, like Joanna Southcott, Ann Lee, and Joseph Smith, was wholly illiterate, not knowing the simplest rules of grammar. Ibid., P. 35.

What he failed to tell in connection with his portrayal of Mrs. White's gross ignorance, is how such a person managed to produce ten bound volumes which he calls the Seventh-day Adventist Bible. Usually persons in such a terrible state of mind and body, and with only a few weeks' schooling, do not become great authors.

After Mr. Canright published his book, this same woman continued to write and publish until the number of volumes produced by her increased to thirty-six, besides hundreds of articles published in religious journals, and many tracts and pamphlets. Her published volumes include some enlarged revisions of earlier publications, and when laid flat and stacked one on top of another, make a column higher than a man's head.

Many of her writings are highly regarded by Christians of all denominations. Her little volume Steps to Christ ranks among the best sellers of religious books published in modern times, and has been translated into more than a score of languages. Her large Conflict of the Ages Series-Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, The Desire of Ages, Acts of the Apostles, and The Great Controversy -are studied by many ministers of other churches, and pronounced by them to be among the most helpful commentaries. 

Her work Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, has brought blessings to thousands. Her volume Gospel Workers insists upon a standard of purity and holiness for the ministry unsurpassed by any other publication, and the volumes of counsels to the church, of which Mr. Canright speaks, have brought light and courage, as well as instruction and reproof, to their many readers.

Mrs. White's books on the principles of Christian education, written for the guidance of teachers in the denominational colleges and schools, have been commended by educators of the world. The head of one training college for teachers, in one of the world's greatest cities, gave many copies of the book Education to his graduates, recommending it as the best book he knew on educational principles. In one country the staff of the university brought out the book Education in part, translating it from the English, and the university issued it for the benefit of educators.

Strange, this! An ignorant, sickly woman, with a bad temper, starts on a mission of deception, gets a following of People as illiterate as herself, and then, behold, she becomes a well known author, producing some of the most prized religious books; goes on long lecture tours through many countries of the world, where thousands hang on her gracious words and are led to Christ through her labors. And stranger still, these ignorant followers of hers start colleges in all continents, conduct a Grade A medical school, operate sanitariums and large publishing houses in many lands, become noted for their piety, and extend their missions to nearly all countries of the earth. One would hardly have expected such excellent results from such an inauspicious beginning.

Shortly before Mr. Canright's change of church affiliation from the Seventh-day Adventist to the Baptist, he gave the following unsolicited testimonial for one of these books:

I have read many books, but never one which has interested me so intensely and impressed me so profoundly as Volume IV of 'The Great Controversy,' by Sister White. . . . The historical part is good, but that which was of the most intense interest to me, was the last part, beginning with 'The Origin of Evil.' The ideas concerning the nature and attributes of God, the character of Christ, and the rebellion of Lucifer in heaven, carry with them their own proof of inspiration. They moved the depths of my soul as nothing else ever did. I feel that I have a new and higher conception of the goodness and forbearance of God, the awful wickedness of Satan, and the tender love of Christ. I wish everybody could read it, whether of our people or not. Get it, brethren, and read it care fully. Review and Herald, Jan. 6, 1885, P. 9.

We believe that to the unbiased reader it will already be apparent that in his eagerness to deal Seventh-day Adventists a fatal blow, Mr. Canright has caricatured the picture of Mrs. White. The things he says of her now, and the facts of her life work and influence as recognized by himself in earlier years, cannot be harmonized.