Albion F. Ballenger Open Letter

Published in Gathering Call, 1910

Albion F. Ballenger At the outset, the writer wishes to testify to his belief that the writings of Sister White contain a great body of Scriptural, helpful teaching.  It is only when the claim is made that all she has published is inspired by the Spirit of God, and must be accepted as the testimony of Jesus as a condition of salvation, that the difficulty arises.  If her writings were handed to one with the statement that they contain a great help for the honest seeker after truth, and with the Scripture admonition, "Despise not prophesyings, (Greek: prophecies), prove all things, hold fast that which is good," they ought to be received by every real lover of truth with appreciation and thankfulness.  But when one is told that he must accept her published writings as the testimony of Jesus then the situation becomes serious.

Suppose there are errors in her writings, and one should accept them all as the inspired testimony of Jesus; then one would be forced to accept error as truth with no hope of being corrected.  However, if the great Protestant principle that the Bible and the Bible only be the standard of truth, and all other writings must be subjected to the Scriptures as a final test, then there is a chance of arriving at the truth and escaping the error.  And the Holy Spirit is promised to each individual to guide him in his search of the Scriptures that he may discover the truth.

It is not in the heart of the writer to emphasize these errors in Sister White's writings, but rather to emphasize the truth they contain.  And this tract is written to answer those who would like to know why the writer cannot accept, as inspired, all the published writings of Sister White.  This tract is not intended for indiscriminate circulation, but only to be handed to those who desire to know the writer's honest convictions on the subject, and the evidence in their support.

The writer was reared in the belief that the writings of Sister White were equally inspired with "the Scriptures of truth," and that therefore there was perfect harmony between them.  At the same time it was held that the proof of their inspiration lay in the belief that their teaching harmonized with the teaching of the Scriptures.  It was not believed that a conflict would ever arise between them, but in case it did, the teachings of the "testimonies" must give way to the teachings of the Bible.  For if the teachings of the Scriptures must yield to the teachings of the quot;testimonies" then the "testimonies" become the test in determining the inspiration of the Bible in which case the Bible would lose its place as the court of last appeal, and the "testimonies" would become the one final authority, in determining what is truth.

That there is a possibility that errors may appear in the prophecies of those who prophesy, is evident from Paul's admonition recorded in 2 Thess. 5:19-21.  (Emphatic Diaglott.)

Do not disregard prophecies (things prophesied, not the exercise of the gift) but try all things.  Hold fast the good.

In trying all things we must have something as the standard with which to try them.  Our readers will agree that "all things" must be brought to "the law and the testimony" of the Bible "if they speak not according to this word" there is no light in them.  Isa. 8:20.

An Error in Something She "Saw"

May 30, 1847, Eld. and Mrs. White published a pamphlet of 24 pages, entitled "A Word to the Little Flock."  On pages 18-20 there is printed a vision which Mrs. White had at Topsham, Maine, April 7, 1847.  In this published vision there appears thefollowing on page 19:

I saw that all that would 'not receive the mark of the Beast, and of his Image, in their foreheads or in their hands,' could not buy or sell.  (Rev. 13:15-17.)  I saw that the number (666) of the Image Beast was made up; (Rev. 13:18) and that it was the beast that changed the Sabbath, and the Image Beast had followed on after, and kept the Pope's and not God's Sabbath.

In 1851 this vision was published by Brother and Sister White in a work entitled The Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E. G. White (now the first part of Early Writings) under the heading, "Subsequent Visions."  But the paragraph containing the quotation about "the number (666) of the image beast" was left out.  If it had not been suppressed, it would appear between paragraphs five and six of the chapter in Early Writings entitled, "Subsequent Visions."

It will be noticed that this suppressed paragraph twice uses the important expression "I saw."  Then why was it suppressed?

Before this question is answered let the reader carefully examine the paragraph, and it will be seen that it contains three errors which Eld. and Mrs. White and the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination came to see were errors as early as August, 1851, when the testimony was published without this paragraph.  The three errors are as follows:

  1. The number 666 is not the number of the "image beast," but the number of the beast.  Rev. 13:17,18; 15:2.

  2. The "image beast" was not "made up" in 1847.

  3. The "image beast" was not made up of 666 backslidden Protestant churches as this statement implies.

To understand this statement it must be remembered that in 1847 the denomination was teaching that the "beast" was the Roman Church, and the image of the beast was "made up" of 666 backslidden Protestant churches.  Any one wishing to verify the truth of this statement, let him write to Eld. J. N. Loughborough whose address can be found in the SDA Year Book.

Inasmuch as they were then looking for the coming of the Lord in "a few months" (Early Writings, p. 57), they must find an image of the beast already "made up," and could not wait for the United States to form an image by the union of church and state, which their later teaching called for.

A feeble and unworthy effort has been made to save Sister White from this mistake by stating that the "(666)" was inserted in the testimony by Eld. Bates who first published this testimony.  But this effort falls flat when the fact is known that Eld. and Mrs. White published the testimony in A Word to the Little Flock with this number in it.  If it ought not to be there why did they not omit that number?  And if it ought not to have been placed there, then will some one tell us what is "the number of the Image Beast" which number was "made up" in 1847?

And furthermore will some one tell us why this whole paragraph, twice prefaced with the vital words "I saw" was suppressed when the vision was republished by Eld. and Mrs. White in 1851?

The present view of the image of the beast, taught by the SDA Denomination and endorsed by Mrs. E. G. White, is found on page 445 of The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, edition of 1911, and reads as follows:

When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy...

Thus it is seen that the image of the beast which Mrs. White "saw" was "made up" as early as 1847, and so stated in the suppressed paragraph, was not yet made up in 1911, according to the paragraph last quoted.

In view of the facts it is plain why this paragraph was suppressed.  If it had been retained it would have been evident to all, in view of Mrs. White's present teaching, that sometimes even when she says "I saw" she has testified that which is not true.

Now let not the reader swing like a pendulum to the other extreme and conclude that all is false because of this error.  "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good."

Mrs. White Changes Her Teaching

The reader is next cited to the teaching of Mrs. White regarding the second angel's message of Rev. 14:8, which reads as follows:

And another, a second angel, followed saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great, which hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Revised Version.

From the beginning of Mrs. White's teaching until 1911, a period of more than 55 years, she has persistently taught that Babylon the Great of the second message [second angel's message] referred to the moral fall of the Protestant churches which rejected the announcement that Christ was coming to destroy the wicked and cleanse the earth by fire, Oct. 22, 1844.  Among her first printed writings appears the following published in Early Writings, under the chapter heading, "The Sins of Babylon."

I saw that since the second angel's message proclaimed the fall of the churches they have been growing more and more corrupt.

During all these years the Protestant churches opposed this application of the prophecy and cited the testimony of the early reformers in proof that Babylon the Great applied to the Roman church, and her "fall" was an announcement of her everlasting destruction.

This was met by Mrs. White in the following statement found, until 1911, on page 33 of The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan:

The message of Revelation 14, announcing the fall of Babylon, must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt.  Since this message follows the warning of the judgment, it must be given in the last days; therefore it cannot refer to the Roman church, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries.

Before calling attention to the radical change which Mrs. White made in this statement in the edition of 1911, let the reader examine the scripture evidence on the disputed point.

"Babylon the Great" is mentioned by this name in chapters fourteen, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen of Revelation, but explained only in the seventeenth, where she is declared to be "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth."  Rev. 17:5, 18.

Mrs. White has always taught that Babylon the Great of this seventeenth chapter is a symbol of Rome.  On page 382 of Great Controversy she declares that this Babylon the Great "is Rome," "the haughty see of Rome."

But since "Babylon the Great" of the 17th chapter is Rome, "Babylon the Great" of the 14th chapter is Rome, for both are given the same name and are charged with the same sins.

Of Babylon the Great of the 14th chapter it is written that "she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."  v. 8.

Of Babylon the Great of the 17th chapter it is written that "the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication."

Since Babylon the Great of this 17th chapter is Rome, and since it is declared that she has made the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication, there is no room for another different Babylon the Great to make all nations drunk with the wine of her fornication.  Manifestly there is but one Babylon the great in the book of Revelation, and that one is "the mother of harlots," "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth."  This Babylon the Great is the mother of harlots, but these harlots are never called Babylon the Great.  That name God applies alone to the mother of harlots.

The writer saw this plain Bible truth while in England, and after a bitter struggle accepted it in the face of the positive statement of Mrs. White, that

The message of Rev. 14, announcing the fall of Babylon, must apply to the religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt.  Since this message follows the warning of the judgment, it must be given in the last days; therefore it cannot refer to the Roman Church, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries.

Reader, do you condemn me for accepting the true testimony of Jesus on this subject, in opposition to the testimony of Mrs. White? Most of my SDA brethren would have done so prior to 1911, but not since 1911, for in the new edition of Great Controversy of that date the author has changed the quotation, so that as it now reads, Babylon the Great does refer to the Roman Church.  As changed, it reads, "it cannot refer to the Roman church alone, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries."  The one word, "alone," has been added.  Now the message [of the second angel] can and does refer to the church of Rome, but not to it alone, whereas, for all the years Mrs. White unqualifiedly declared, "It cannot refer to the Roman Church."

I am ashamed to say that there are a few who still insist that the addition of the word "alone" makes no change in the statement.  If a man was on trial for his life, would a jury verdict which read "not guilty" be the same as one reading "not guilty alone"?  The reader knows that the difference between the two is the difference between freedom and death.

In harmony with this radical change the denomination has made a complete change in its latest teaching on the second angel's message.  Babylon the Great is now declared to be Rome and her fall is proclaimed to mean her doom as pictured by the millstone which the angel cast into the sea, "saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon the Great city, be cast down, and be found no more at all."  Rev. 18:21 RV.  See the Sabbath School Quarterly for the third quarter of 1908 and "The Three Angels' Messages -- Extra No. 16" issued by the Review and Herald, Tacoma Park Station, Washington, DC.

If the reader would like to understand why the message reads "is fallen," and why men are called out of Babylon after the announcement that she "is fallen" (if it be a doom and not a moral fall), let him read chapter 24 of the new pamphlet "Before Armageddon," where this matter is clearly explained.

From the foregoing facts it must be clear to the fair-minded reader that the writings of Mrs. White cannot be accepted as equally inspired with the scriptures of truth.  At the same time the writer bears testimony to the many priceless treasures of truth to be found in her writings.

"Quench not the Spirit.  Do not disregard prophecies; but examine all things.  Hold fast the good."  1 Thess. 5:19-21.  Emphatic Diaglott.

An Historical Mistake

As a further proof that the writings of Sister White contain mistakes, the reader is cited to Early Writings, chapter entitled, "The Resurrection of Christ," paragraph 10, which reads as follows:

Herod's heart had grown still harder; and when he heard that Christ had risen, he was not much troubled.  He took the life of James; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews he took Peter also, intending to put him to death.  But God had a work for Peter to do, and sent his angel to deliver him.  Herod was visited with the judgments of God.  While exalting himself in the presence of a great multitude, he was smitten by the angel of the Lord and died a most horrible death.

Here we have an innocent historical error.  Sister White was not a historian and supposed that the Herod who killed James was the same Herod who took part in the trial of Christ.  But he was not.  It was Herod Antipas who took part in the trial of Christ, and Herod Agrippa who put James to death.  Agrippa was nephew and brother-in-law to Antipas.

When the brethren discovered this mistake, instead of honestly and frankly admitting that it is a mistake, an unworthy effort was made to show that it was not a mistake.  But why try to cover up an error so manifest?  Because if it be admitted that Mrs. White has made a mistake, even in a matter of history, her writings are not all inspired.

And since the "testimony of Jesus" which the remnant saints have, has been misinterpreted to be, not the testimony of Jesus found in the Bible, which it really is, but the writings of Sister White, it was feared to admit she made mistakes lest they lose the testimony of Jesus, and consequently the claim of being the remnant.

It was therefore decided that this historical mistake must not be allowed to be a mistake.  It must be shown some way that her statement is true.  But how can it be shown that the Herod that killed James was the Herod before whom Christ was tried, when he was not?  It was finally decided to claim that Sister White was not writing about individual Herods but about the "Herodian Dynasty."  And a note to this effect was placed at the bottom of the page.  It reads in part as follows:

It was Herod Antipas who took part in the trial of Christ, and Herod Agrippa I who put James to death.  Agrippa was nephew and brother-in-law of Antipas.  Through intrigue he secured the throne of Antipas for himself, and on coming to power pursued the same course toward the Christians that Antipas had followed.  In the Herodian dynasty there were six persons who bore the name of Herod.  It thus served in a measure as a general title, the individual being designated by other names, as Antipas, Philip, Agrippa, etc.  So we might say, Czar Nicholas, Czar Alexander, etc.  In the present instance this use of the term becomes more natural and appropriate inasmuch as Agrippa, when he put James to death, occupied the throne of Antipas, who, a little before (11 years) had been concerned in the trial of Christ; and he manifested the same character.  It was the same Herodian spirit, only in another personality.

From all this we are asked to believe that Sister White was not referring to any individual Herod, but to the "Herodian Dynasty" or "Herodian spirit."

Now if she is talking about the "Herodian dynasty" and not about any individual, her statement should be true when we insert the term "Herodian dynasty" in the place of "Herod" and "he" where they appear in the paragraph.  When this is done we have the following.

The Herodian dynasty's heart had brown harder; and when the Herodian dynasty heard that Christ was risen, the Herodian dynasty was not much troubled. The Herodian dynasty took the life of James; and when the Herodian dynasty saw that it pleased the Jews, the Herodian dynasty took Peter also, intending to put him to death.  But God had a work for Peter to do and sent his angel to deliver him.  The Herodian dynasty was visited with the judgments of God.  While exalting itself in the presence of a great multitude the Herodian dynasty was smitten by the angel of the Lord and died a most horrible death.

Truth can only be sustained by truth; and error can only be maintained by error.  Since Sister White's original statement is an error, every effort to make it to be the truth can but produce more error.  And what was originally only an innocent historical mistake, by the efforts of the brethren to make it appear to be truth, has been magnified into a ridiculous error.  The writer must not close without bearing testimony to the fact that there are ministers in the SDA church who reject this stupid effort to explain Sister White's mistake.  Far better allow it to stand unexplained than to attempt to explain it with such a manifest subterfuge.

Another Error

After the disappointment, Oct. 22, 1844, the Adventists still looked for the immediate coming of Christ.  But as the years came and went, it was felt that there ought to be some explanation of the delay.

Associated with Bro. and Sister White in those early days was Eld. Joseph Bates, a man of strong convictions and great energy.  Sister White had great confidence in Bro. Bates, and some of her earliest visions were sent to him and were first published by him.

It was Eld. Bates who first hit upon an explanation of the Lord's delay.  He preached, and afterward published, that the seven sprinklings of the blood on and before the mercy seat, by the high priest on the great atonement day, represented seven years that Christ as high priest would be engaged in making the atonement at the mercy seat in the true tabernacle.  This view was published in 1850 in a tract entitled The Typical and Anti-Typical Sanctuary, and reads as follows:

The seven spots of blood on the Golden Altar and before the mercy seat, I fully believe, represent the duration of the judicial proceedings on the living saints in the Most Holy, all of which time they will be in their affliction, even seven years; God, by his voice will deliver them, 'for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul' (Lev. 17:11).  Then the number seven will finish the day of atonement (not redemption).  The last six months of this time, I understand, Jesus will be gathering in the harvest with His sickle, on the white cloud.


As soon as the day of atonement is ended, seven angels come out of the temple with the seven last plagues (vs. 5, 6).  This is the duration of the third angel's message in Rev. 14:9-13.  The Typical and Anti-Typical Sanctuary, pp. 10-13, 15.  The full title of the tract is, An Explanation of the Typical and Anti-Typical Sanctuary, with Chart, by Joseph Bates, New Bedford (Mass.), Press of Benjamin Lindsay, 1850.

The writer copied this from the tract, which is carefully preserved.

According to this teaching, Christ would be seven years making atonement, and six months of this time gathering the saints.  And since they taught that He began to make atonement Oct. 22, 1844, the seven years would end Oct. 22, 1851.  "This is the duration of the third angel's message."  And this will explain some statements by Mrs. White in Early Writings that have been mysterious.

On page 58 of Early Writings, chapter entitled "Duty in View of the Time of Trouble," we read this:

Some are looking too far off for the coming of the Lord.  Time has continued a few years longer than they expected, therefore they think it may continue a few years more, and in this way their minds are being led from present truth, out after the world...  I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was almost finished, and that time cannot last but a very little longer.

This vision was given in 1850, not long before the expiration of the seven years which would end in Oct., 1851.  At this time the Lord, according to the teaching, had been engaged in making the atonement in the most holy place about six years.  "Time had continued a few years longer than they had expected [six], therefore they think it may continue a few years more."  This is declared to be a mistake.  "I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was almost finished, and that time cannot last but a very little longer."

In view of the then published teaching that time would end on Oct. 22, 1851, this statement is made plain.

But the time for Christ to be in the most holy place was not "nearly finished" but only begun, according to her and the denomination's teaching, which is that Christ has been making atonement in the most holy place ever since 1844, and is still engaged in that work, a period of nearly 75 years.

And now I appeal to the honesty and candor of the reader.  Must I believe, in the face of this evident mistake, that Sister White was inspired by the "Spirit of Truth" to say in 1850, "I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was nearly finished, and that time cannot last but a very little longer"?  Are you willing to condemn me, now and in the judgment day, as a dangerous deceiver because I cannot believe that statement is inspired by the Spirit of God?

On page 64 of Early Writings, chapter entitled "The Mark of the Beast," we find these words at the beginning of the first paragraph:

In a view given June 27, 1850, my accompanying angel said, "Time is almost finished."

Then, in the middle of the last paragraph, we read these words:

Some of us have had time to get the truth, and to advance step by step, and every step we have taken has given us strength to take the next.  But now time is almost finished, and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months.

According to the tract published in 1850, not years but months only remained before the coming of Christ at the end of the seven years, or Oct. 22, 1851.  And this explains why, in June, 1850, the new members must "learn in a few months what others had been years learning."

The editors of the Gathering Call do not have it in their hearts to condemn those who made these mistakes.  Had we been living at that time and connected with that movement, we would most likely have believed these errors, like the rest.  But that which is so inexpressibly sad and serious, is that, in the face of these plain undeniable mistakes in Sister White's writings, it should still be insisted that these writings are equally inspired with the Bible, and that the one who does not accept this claim is committing the sin of rebellion like that of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; a sin so terrible as to justify his brethren in casting him out as unclean, and God in condemning him to the lake of fire at last.

On the other hand, for us to profess to believe and teach that the writings of Sister are inspired equally with the Bible, in the face of these manifest mistakes, would be a violation of conscientious convictions which would bring eternal ruin to our souls.  We must, therefore, endure the condemnation of our brethren and await the decision of the Judge of all the earth.  "We shall know each other better when the mists have cleared away."

One More Mistake

In 1864, Sister White published a small book dealing with creation, the fall, the flood, etc., entitled Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3.

On page 75 of this work, paragraph 3, there appears this astonishing statement:

Every species of animal which God had created was preserved in the ark.  The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood.  Since the flood, there have been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in almost countless varieties of species of animal, and certain races of men.

In 1870 the matter of this little volume was republished, somewhat enlarged, under the title, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1.  This remarkable statement is repeated and is found on page 78, paragraph 3.

In 1890 the matter of this volume was re-written and enlarged and published under the title Patriarchs and Prophets.  But to the everlasting credit of the author, this astounding paragraph was cut out.  If it had hot been suppressed it would have appeared on page 107, paragraph 8.  But another paragraph was written and substituted for the objectionable one.

Now why was it cut out after having been published as the testimony of Jesus from 1864 to 1890, a period of 26 years?  For the simple reason that it was discovered that it contained a fundamental error of the doctrine of evolution.  According to this statement different species of animals could amalgamate and produce a new species, and species so widely separated as man and beast could and have commingled and produced almost endless varieties of species of animals which are part animal and part human, and "some races of men" which are a cross between man and beast.

If the varieties of animals that are part human are "most endless" it ought to be easy to name a score or more.  And if there are some races of men that are the result of the cohabiting of man and beast, what races are they?  And are they included in the plan of salvation?  Shall we send the gospel to them?  The good news is proclaimed "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6); and a great multitude "of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues," are seen "before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands."  Rev. 7:9.

This suppressed paragraph contains a fundamental error of evolution which all those who are loyal to the Bible record of creation, repudiate and show by scientific evidence to be absolutely false.

The evolutionists themselves are compelled to admit that it is a physical impossibility for the highest type of known animal to amalgamate with the lowest type of man.  And because of this defect in their theory, they have been searching on the earth and in the grave, among fossils and bones for the "missing link," but all in vain.  They have hunted in vain to establish a false theory which the paragraph under consideration declares to be true.

To sum up the situation; for nearly thirty years Sister White published as the testimony of Jesus, this fatal error.  But it was not the testimony of Jesus but an error of the evolutionist, as all the leaders now admit, and which the author finally admitted by suppressing it.  But the error was never openly repudiated, but only quietly suppressed.  And there are today hundreds of these little volumes in the homes of SDAs, which continue to present, as the testimony of Jesus, this fundamental error.

But says some one, since the author has suppressed the error and the denomination is earnestly combating it, why refer to it?

If I were a member of the Lutheran church and that church claimed that all the religious writings of Luther were divinely inspired, and one must accept that claim and interpret the Bible in harmony with his teaching, or be cast out as an enemy of the truth, it would be necessary for me to show wherein his writings were not divinely inspired, and in doing this I would be rendering valuable service to the cause of Truth.  Nor would I be fighting Luther or his work, but only the false claim concerning his writings.  I would still be a friend and admirer of his work.

In like manner when the claim is made that all Sister White's writings are divinely inspired, and that he who will not accept that claim, and interpret the Bible in harmony with her writings, must be condemned and cast out as an enemy of truth, the only proper thing to do is to show that all her writings are not divinely inspired.  In doing this, one is not fighting Sister White or her writings, but is only opposing a false claim and rendering a valuable service to the cause of truth.

And we are not enemies of Sister White and her writings when we call attention to these errors any more than we would be enemies of Martin Luther because we pointed out some of his errors.

We might cite other errors, but will not.  We wish we did not have to call attention to these.  And the only reason for citing these is that our honest brethren who feel we have missed the path of truth, may understand our spirit and attitude toward the writings of Sister White.

We are glad to testify here that we find in Sister White's writings a great body of good, spiritual, practical instruction; and we only say we cannot believe all she has published is divinely inspired.  If this view were admitted we would never again refer to the errors they contain, but only rejoice in their truth.  We are only obeying the Bible admonition:

"Despise not prophesyings (Greek: prophecies).  Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good."  (1 Thess. 5:19-21)


See also

Category: Pioneer Documents
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