The Life of Ellen White by D.M. Canright

Chapter 18 - Broke the Sabbath Nine Years

Jews and Seventh-day Baptists keep the Sabbath as the Bible teaches, from sunset to sunset (Lev. 23:32; Mark 1:32). Elder Bates led Mrs. White and her husband to accept the Sabbath in 1846. He had been a sea captain, and by nautical time began the day at 6P.M. So he began the Sabbath that way. By him Mrs. White was led to keep it the same way until 1855 - nine years.

In a pamphlet published at New Bedford, Mass., 1850, entitled "The Sabbath Controversy," pages 80-82, Elder Bates wrote an article headed "The Beginning of the Sabbath." He says: "Here, also, we can not be too particular; God claims every moment of his day." Then he argues for the 6P.M. time, and says: "Therefore by the same rule (and no other) we regulate the weeks, and must of necessity begin the Scripture day at 6P.M." In another pamphlet, entitled "The Sealing Message," published in 1849, at the same place, he says: "Friday evening, 6P.M., the Sabbath commences; all other figuring is lost time" (p. 38).

So Mrs. White blindly followed Bates in this unscriptural practice for nine years. This was not satisfactory to all, and a discussion arose over it. Some argued for sunrise time and some for sunset time. A division was feared. But Bates' influence was in the lead, and held them to 6P.M.

In 1868, Elder U. Smith published a pamphlet entitled "The Visions - Objections Answered," 144 pages. On page 90 he quotes Elder White thus: "Mrs. White has in two visions been shown something in reference to the time of the commencement of the Sabbath. The first was as early as 1847, at Topsham, Maine. In that vision she was shown that to commence the Sabbath at sunrise was wrong."

If the Lord gave her this visions, how natural and easy it would have been for him to tell her that sunset was the right time. Why simply tell her sunrise was wrong, and leave the whole church in error eight years more as to what time was right? The answer is easy. Bates was still in the lead, and opposed sunrise time, and she "saw" through his glasses; that was all.

In Early Writings, by Mrs. White, edition 1882, pages 25-28, is an account of this same vision at Topsham, Maine, 1847. She says: "I saw an angel flying swiftly to me. He quickly carried me from earth to the holy city." There she was taken by Jesus into the Holy of Holies and shown the ark. Jesus opened the ark and showed her the Ten Commandments. She says: "The fourth, the Sabbath Commandment, shone above them all. . . I saw that the holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers." Then right along, page after page, she has vision after vision very frequently. She goes to heaven often, talks familiarly with Jesus and angels. She is told over and over about the Sabbath, how holy it is, and that it is the seal of God, and that people "are being tested on the Sabbath question" (p. 35). Why was she not told in some of these visits that she was beginning the Sabbath wrong, keeping part of two days? But not a hint of it was given her.

How did she finally find out? This way: A division among them was arising over this question. So Elder J. N. Andrews, the best scholar they then had, was requested to study the subject and present his conclusion to the conference held at Battle Creek, Mich., Nov. 16, 1855. This he did, and decided that sunset was the Scriptural time to begin the Sabbath. The conference voted to accept his view, and then the whole denomination changed from 6P.M. to sunset, after nine years of error on this vital question.

This is all told fully by Smith in "The Visions - Objections Answered," pages 88-93. Then, four days after Andrews and the conference had settled it, Mrs. White had a vision in which and angel told her that sunset was the right time!!! Smith says: "After the conference, November 20, the vision was given, establishing those undecided on the sunset time" (p. 93). This put Mrs. White in a bad fix. So in that vision she complained to the angel and asked for an explanation. She says: "I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath. Said the angel, 'Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet'" ("Test.," Vol. I., p. 116).

That was over sixty years ago; Mrs. White is dead; but the promised explanation has never been given. So I will give it now: In her visions she saw just what Bates taught her. When Andrews had the lead, then she changed her views and saw just what he and the conference taught. That is the whole of it, and the like of that is the source of all her revelations.

Notice the importance of this blunder. For nine years they all began the Sabbath at 6P.M. Friday. In June the sun at 6P.M. would be two hours high when they began the Sabbath. They kept two hours of Friday, two hours on which they now work. At 6P.M., with the sun two hours high on Saturday, they all went to work - plowing, washing, etc. They worked on two hours of the Sabbath, holy time as they now believe. In December it went the other way; they worked two hours on Friday after the Sabbath began, and kept two hours Saturday evening after the Sabbath ended! So they actually broke the Sabbath every week for nine years. All this with Jesus and angels frequently talking with Mrs. White about the sacredness of the holy Sabbath! Did she not mistake Bates and Andrews for angels?

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