In Questions on Doctrine, beginning at page 661, there is a collection from the writings of Ellen White on the subject of the Atonement, 30 pages in all. It claims to be a “comprehensive assemblage” of Ellen White’s teachings on the Atonement. From the use of the word comprehensive, I expected to find a full and extensive collection. But in consulting this material, I was disappointed in its lack and one-sidedness. I found it to be a very incomplete and meager collection, leaving out numerous quotations that rightly belong even in a small compilation, not to say a comprehensive one. Strangely enough, quotations that were omitted were such as much on no account be left out.
First of all, I wanted to know what Sister White had to say of the date 1844, which is the “crisis year.” I wanted to know if it had anything particularly to do with the Atonement, or if it could safely be left out. I found that the author had omitted it. So I looked in turn for other quotations, not one of which I found in the assemblage. I looked for the statement: “At the termination of the 2300 days in 1844 . . . our great High Priest . . . enters the holy of holies, and there appears in the presence of God, to . . . perform the work of the Investigative Judgment and to make an Atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.” This is said to be the “great day of final Atonement.” The Great Controversy, 480. [All Emphasis supplied.] This important statement was not there. I looked for the parallel statement: “At the termination of 2300 days in 1844, Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of Atonement preparatory to His coming.” Ibid., 422. I did not find it. I looked for this statement: “This is the service which began when the 2300 days ended. At that time, as foretold by Daniel the prophet, our High Priest entered the most holy, to perform the last division of His solemn work—to cleanse the sanctuary.” Ibid., 421. I could not find it. I looked for the statement: “The end of the 2300 days in 1844 marked an important crisis.” Ibid., 49. I did not find it. I looked for other statements, such as: “The sacred work of Christ (that) is going on at the present time in the heavenly sanctuary,” “The atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary,” “Today He is making atonement for us before the Father.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 520; White Board Minutes, 1483; Manuscript 21, 1895, quoted in Ministry, February, 2957, 30. I found none of these.
At first I thought that this book Questions on Doctrine did not have room for these texts, nor did the Ministry. But I had to abandon this reasoning when I observed that it was only a particular kind of statement that was omitted. The omitted quotations all clustered about the important “crisis” date, 1844, the Investigative Judgment, Christ’s entering into the most holy for the final Atonement, His making Atonement now, His making Atonement “today before the Father.”
One thing that kept our men from going overboard, body and soul, to the Evangelicals, was doubtless, Mrs. White’s writings. She is very emphatic on the question of the sanctuary; and it would not be easy to convert our people to the new view, as long as they had the Testimonies to sustain them in the old position. The faith of our people in the Spirit of Prophecy must be weakened, or better yet, destroyed, before much headway can be made in bringing in the new view. The Ministry article serves well for this purpose.
It was the editor himself, who in his research had “become acutely aware of the E. G. White statements which indicate that the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary.” White Minutes, 1483. This did not at all fit in with the new view that the atonement was made on the cross, so he suggested that footnotes or appendix notes might appear to clarify what she meant. He suggested haste in the “preparation and inclusion of such notes in future printings of the E. G. White books.” When the plan became known, it was abandoned. The author of the article in the February, 1957 Ministry then took over and had the article printed which we are considering.
The author asks this question, “Why, in the early days, in the light of all this, did not Mrs. White point out and correct the limited or sometimes erroneous concept of some of the early writers concerning the atonement? And why did she employ some of their restricted phrases? How could this be explained? The answer, which the author gives, is the most astonishing and astounding answer that has ever been given to such a question.
“In answer: it is essential that we first of all remember this basic fact: No doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation ever came to this people initially through the Spirit of Prophecy—not in a single case.” [Emphasis his.]
Read those words again, keeping in mind that this is an article which claims to give the true meaning of the atonement, the official interpretation, and that it has the approval of the administration and that the editor passed it. Also, it has not been retracted or changed. It stands.
These are bold, almost unbelievable words and are utterly untrue. To assert that Sister White never, not even in a single case, initially contributed any doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation will not be believed by her thousands and millions of readers who all have been benefited by her works. The reader will have noted that the author does not say that Sister White never contributed any doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation. He says that she never contributed anything initially; that is, she never made any original contribution. She got it from somebody else; she “lifted” it. Our enemies have made that assertion for years, but I never thought that such would be announced to the whole world with the consent of the leaders; but here it is. Whatever Sister White wrote, be it the counsel of Father and Son in eternity or Satan’s inmost rebellious thoughts, “somebody told her.” She never contributed a thing, initially. Never in a single case! Let me produce a single case. The following is taken from Testimonies, Series B, No. 2, 56, 57.
“Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who after the passing of time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible in order that we might know its meaning and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, ‘We can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me. I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus, light was given that helped us to understand the Scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God was made plain to me, and I gave others the instructions that the Lord had given me.” Review and Herald, May 25, 1905.
In this case, there was no human intermediary. Unless we are to believe that Sister White did not tell the truth, she got her instructions from above. In this case, the instruction concerned “Christ, His mission, and His priesthood,” the very subjects we have now under consideration. Whatever we may or may not be sure of, we know now that the instruction that came to Sister White on the subject of Christ, His mission, and His priesthood came direct from God. This means that the sanctuary question, as our forefathers taught and believed it, has God for its Author. It came as a result of a vision, which I do not believe can be said of any other doctrine that we hold.
We have reached a crisis in this denomination when leaders are attempting to enforce false doctrine and threaten those who object. The whole program is unbelievable. Men are now attempting to remove the foundations of many generations and think that they can succeed. To make the plain statement that “Christ is making atonement now” means that He is making application now is indefensible on grammatical, philological, theological or common sense ground. To go farther and upon such false interpretation build a new theology to be enforced by sanctions is simply out of this world. Undue assumption of authority coupled with over-confidence in the virtue of bestowed honors have borne fruit; and the fruit is not good.
The present attempt to lessen and destroy confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy and establish a new theology may deceive some, even many; but the foundations upon which we have built these many years, still stand; and God still lives. This warning should not go unheeded:
“If you lessen the confidence of God’s people in the testimonies He has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 66.
From the booklet, A Word to the Little Flock, dated April 21, 1847, Sister White says: “I believe the sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days is the New Jerusalem temple of which Christ is a minister. The Lord showed me in vision more than a year ago that Brother Crosier had the true light on the cleansing of the sanctuary, etc., and that it was His will that Brother C. (Crosier) should write out the view which he gave us in the Day Star Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord to recommend that Extra to every saint. I pray that these lines may prove a blessing to you and to all the dear children who may read them. Signed, E. G. White.”
As I write this, I have before me a Photostat copy of the Day Star Extra from February 7, 1846. On pages 40 and 41 of that issue, I read Brother Crosier’s article. Brother Crosier observes, “But again, they say the atonement was made and finished on Calvary when the Lamb of God expired. So men have taught us, and so the churches and the world believe; but it is none the more true or sacred on that account, if unsupported by Divine authority. Perhaps few or none who hold that opinion have ever tested the foundation on which it rests.
- If the atonement was made on Calvary, by whom was it made? The making of the atonement is the work of a priest, but who officiated on Calvary? Roman soldiers and wicked Jews.
- The slaying was not making the atonement; the sinner slew the victim. (See Leviticus 4:1–5, 13–15, etc.) After the priest took the blood and made the atonement. (See Leviticus 4:5–12, 16–21.)
- Christ was the appointed High Priest to make the atonement and certainly could not have acted in that capacity until after His resurrection and we have no record of His doing anything on earth after His resurrection which could be called the atonement.
- The atonement was made in the sanctuary, but Calvary was not such a place.
- He could not, according to Hebrews 8:4, make the atonement while on earth. ‘If He were on earth, He could not be a priest.’ The Levitical was the earthly priesthood; the Divine, the heavenly.
- Therefore, He did not begin the work of making the atonement, whatever the nature of that work may be, until after His ascension, when by his own blood, He entered the heavenly sanctuary for us.”
This, then, is the “true light” which the Lord showed Sister White in vision, had His approval, and which she felt fully authorized to recommend to every saint. Only as we downgrade Sister White can we reject this testimony of hers. We are not ready to do this.