The Case of D.M. Canright

Chapter 10 - The Prolonged Conflict


Elder Butler discloses that Canright did not hastily take up his weapons of defense against the Adventists; he did son only after "no less than eight articles" had appeared in the Review and Herald, which he considered related to himself. (R&H E, p. 1, col. 3) This demonstrates that when he did begin to reply, he had duly weighed the matter, and had calmly decided it was time to do something. Accordingly, his action was not passionate, but deliberate.

Butler says that Canright began by lecturing from place to place to expose the fanaticism of the Adventists, and he suggests that perhaps the poor man needed some extra cash, seeing the Baptists were paying him a "very moderate salary." (Ibid., p. 2, col. 1) His next move, so Butler affirms, was to contribute articles to various denominational papers, wherein he held up his former brethren to ridicule and tried to make it appear that they were "ignorant, narrow-minded, bigoted, and doing much harm in the Christian world", and that their doctrines were ‘utterly unworthy of confidence." (Ibid., p. 1, col. 1) These articles were copied and sent to Europe, where they were translated into various languages, and published anew. The same thing was done for the islands of the Pacific. "We have full knowledge of these things being copied and extensively circulated," says Butler, "in Australia, New Zealand, and other countries on the other side of the world." (Ibid., p. 2, col. 1)

But that which incited the Adventists to "begin" assailing Canright was what occurred in Grand Rapids, Michigan, soon after. Butler charged that Canright’s efforts there became "so personal, vindictive and unreasonable," that forbearance could no longer be though virtuous. (Ibid., p. 1, col. 1) This is his account:

"In the latter part of September we had a large camp-meeting appointed in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had a city mission there, and a tent meeting had been held last summer with a good interest. A little previous to the time of our camp meeting, Eld. Canright came to the city and visited most of the newspaper offices, to obtain the privilege of inserting articles in the city papers against us. These articles began to appear as our meeting was about to convene, and were designed to prejudice the minds of the citizens against us, to destroy as far as possible their interest to attend. Hand-bills containing these articles were circulated broadcast over the city, and extensively among the crowds of people attending the ‘West Michigan Fair.’ After seeing the determined spirit to wage war upon us in this personal manner, we deviated from our course hitherto pursued, and published a moderate statement concerning him and his course, in one of the city papers. This he followed up with a bitter personal attack upon Mrs. White and myself, which was circulated through the city in the form of a hand-bill, and thousands of copies were scattered on our camp-ground on his Sunday Lord’s Day, a day which his church regards as sacred to religion." (Ibid., p. 2, col. 1)

This account needs to be cross-examined. In the first place, did Canright make a trip from Otsego to Grand Rapids – a distance of about forty miles – to solicit the newspaper offices? The first of his articles, which appeared in the Daily Democrat for Sept. 18, is introduced by the paper itself, in these words: "At the request of several ministers and church members the Democrat presents the following from D.M. Canright of Otsego." This shows that there were pastors and people in the city of Grand Rapids itself who were concerned about the progress of Adventism in their midst. The previous year, beginning on Sept. 20th, a similar camp-meeting had been held on the same spot, namely, Sherman St., between the city and Reed’s Lake to the east. If the effects of the preceding year’s camp were deemed injurious, it is not hard to see why those who were concerned asked Canright, recently turned from Adventism, to write some articles for their use. It is evident that the initiative came, not from Canright, but from his fellow ministers.

Secondly, did Canright’s articles appear in "most" of the newspapers of Grand Rapids? The files of the Eagle, the Leader and the Herald Telegram for September have been searched without finding any of these articles. The Daily Democrat alone seems to have carried them.

Thirdly, what evidence is there that Canright had anything to do with either the publication or distribution of the handbills? The likelihood is that the churches in Grand Rapids, represented by the pastors and members mentioned, saw to these things. Butler himself says that their circulation was effected through some ministers. (G.R. Daily Democrat, Sep. 25, 1887, p. 2, col. 1) Certain it is that Canright had nothing to do with the deplorable scattering of handbills on the camp-ground itself on Sunday, for he was preaching Otsego that day.

Fourthly, what proof is there of Canright’s "determined spirit to wage war upon" the Adventists? Butler, earlier in the column, describes Canright as "enraged." The impartial reader can judge for himself whether Canright was full of fury. Here is the opening paragraph of his initial contribution: "By urgent request, I will write a few articles giving briefly my reason for renouncing the Seventh-day Adventist faith. I will do it in kindness and candor. They should not object to this, as they invite people to investigate, and as they have for weeks given their views in sermons and articles. I have been a Seventh-day Adventist for 28 years, and a minister for 22 years, have preached that doctrine widely over this continent, made hundreds of converts to it, written extensively in its favor, and am thoroughly familiar with all its proofs and its workings. But, finally, I became profoundly convinced that the doctrine was an error, and productive of evil. As a people, they are sincere, and teach some excellent things, but I am sure they are misled on some important point, which do harm." Again, he says: "The majority of those who keep Saturday are excellent people and Christians." Later on, in his first post-Adventist book, he wrote: "They believe in the Bible, in conversion, in purity of life, in rigid temperance, in strict morality, and in other good things common to all churches. There are many excellent persons among them. In character they are not to be compared with the spiritualists, infidels, etc., as is sometimes unjustly done." (SDAR, p. 26)

Fifthly, was Butler’s statement in the press concerning Canright "moderate"? In it he charges that Canright had "wickedly misrepresented" the Adventists, terms him a traitor and an apostate, and declares him to be a man ambitious, boastful and bitter. Nothing comparable to this appears in Canright’s articles.

Sixthly, was this "moderate statement" published in only "one of the city papers"? It appeared in the Daily Democrat on Sept. 25, and in the Telegram Herald on the 27th. Canright’s articles, we have observed, appeared in the former of these papers alone.

Lastly, can that be termed a "bitter personal attack upon Mrs. White" which contains the following items? "In justice to Mrs. White, I will say that she does all this [teaches faith in God and the Bible, and advocates a pure life] and never countenances one wicked thing." "Is Mrs. White honest? And does she believe in her own inspiration? Yes, thoroughly. This is her power." (G.R. Daily Democrat, Sep. 23, 1887, p. 9)

Butler’s reply to Canright was inserted in the columns of the Telegram Herald (p. 2) under the caption, "Our Advent Friends," and was introduced thus by the editor: "In respect to the strictness which D.M. Canright, who recently renounced the Adventist faith, and who has been publishing in the papers, defamatory articles, the sect have but little to say. This little is raised in a letter written by Eld. Geo. I. Butler."

From this time on, neither side hauled down its flag. In November of 1887 (and again in December of that year) the Adventists put out an Extra of the Review and Herald, entitled, "Reply to Eld. Canright’s attacks on S.D. Adventists." It consisted of nineteen pages of small type, covering 8" x 11˝", in three columns. There are 22 items, large and small, all but one of which were written by G.I. Butler, president of the General Conference, and Uriah Smith, editor of the Review and Herald.

This Extra was re-issued as a book of over 200 pages in 1888 (and again in 1895), under the title, "Replies to Eld. Canright." Elder Arthur L. White, writing to me on Dec. 8, 1961, stated: "The 1888 book is almost entirely a line for line reprint of the Review and Herald Extra of December 1887. The one exception to this is the lengthy presentation on ‘Who changed the Sabbath?’ and the printed book contains about twice as much material in this chapter as is presented in the supplement."

It will be well at this point to present something of the part which Mrs. White took in the controversy with Canright. Her last meeting with him had been in Worcester, Mass., on Aug. 6, 1885, when she was en route to Europe. As she was away for two years, she did not return until August of 1887, six months after his defection. It appears that early in 1887, she was informed of his intention to leave the movement, and sent him her "testimony" entitled "An Impressive Dream." (Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 571-573) The dream itself is rehearsed in the following words:

"I thought that you were on a strong vessel, sailing on very rough waters. Sometimes the waves beat over the top, and you were drenched with water. You said: ‘I shall get off; this vessel is going down.’ ‘No,’ said one who appeared to be the captain, ‘this vessel sails into the harbor. She will never go down.’ But you answered: ‘I shall be washed overboard. As I am neither captain or mate, who cares? I shall take my chances on that vessel you see yonder.’ Said the captain: ‘I shall not let you go there, for I know that vessel will strike the rocks before she reaches the harbor.’ You straightened yourself up, and said with great positiveness: ‘This vessel will become a wreck; I can see it just as plain as can be.’ The captain looked upon you with a piercing eye, and said firmly: ‘I shall not permit you to lose your life by taking that boat. The timbers of her framework are worm-eaten, and she is a deceptive craft. If you had more knowledge, you would discern between the spurious and the genuine, the holy and that appointed to utter ruin.’"

The import of this "testimony" is patent. Canright is viewed as resolved to leave the ship of Adventism for another vessel. The captain, who is supposed to be Christ, tells him that it is his ship, and not the other vessel, that will make the harbor. Mrs. White writes: "I am deeply concerned for your soul." One would have thought that there was no need for that, seeing the captain had twice declared – and the latter time "firmly" – that he would not permit Canright to leave ship. However, she proceeds: "This may be the last trial [i.e. test] that God will grant you. Advance not one step in the downward road to perdition. ... If you yield to impressions, you will lose your soul. ... Satan is taking advantage of everyone who is not fully established in the truth. ... Every defect in the character, unless it is overcome by the help of God’s Spirit, will become a sure means of destruction."

Mrs. White’s last "testimony" to Canright, sent in answer to a letter receive from him, bears the date of April 20, 1888, and was, therefore, written more than a year after his withdrawal. (Ibid., pp. 621-628) In it, Mrs. White assures him that his first wife, who had died over nine years before, had told her that she had implicit faith in the "testimonies." Since he had declared that Lucretia had died disbelieving them, she charges him with not telling the truth. She even mentions a letter received from his wife, which stated that she "had the fullest confidence in the ‘testimonies’" (but she does not offer to show it to him.)

In the course of her letter, Mrs. White says:

"And now, Brother O [Canright], you who have had so great light...go not onward and upward with those who will triumph with the truth at last. You now take the side of the first great rebel, to make void the law of God. ... Through various devices...you have worked...trying to make others believe you are an honest man in leaving the light of truth. Are you so? No, no. It is a deception, a terrible deception. What can you answer to God in that day? ... You will stand guilty and condemned. ... I know, my brother, whom I expect to meet in the day of judgment, that you will have no words of excuse for your late defection."

Even Mrs. Canright, who wept at leaving Adventism, comes in for dishonorable mention, in these words: "Your present wife has had no deep religious experience in self-denial, in self-sacrifice, in communion with God, in belief of the truth." How far this appraisal was wide of the mark may be seen by referring to Canright’s obituary of her which appears in chapter 12. The reader is advised, however, to weigh carefully, at this point, the nature of the spiritual authority wielded by the "Spirit of Prophecy." He is also asked to consider whether the tone of Canright’s criticisms even approximated the severity of Mrs. White’s?

Now I resume the account of Adventism’s public assault on Canright. The literary attack was accompanied by numerous spoken disparagements of him. These not only precipitated the statement prepared by the fourteen leading citizens of Otsego on Feb. 21, 1888 (see chapter 4), but also a commendatory letter from Dr. Theodore Nelson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Saginaw, Mich. On March 2, 1888, Dr. Nelson wrote: "I take pleasure in saying I have known Rev. D.M. Canright, late of the S.D. Advent denomination for 23 years, and that I regard him as a man of most excellent gifts, as a preacher, studious, earnest and efficient; that he has an unblemished character and is eminently worthy of the confidence and sympathy of ministers and people of all denominations. (SDAR, 1st ed., Ch. 1)

The Baptist church in Otsego likewise did its part in vindicating Canright. On May 6, 1888, the following letter was authorized: "This is to certify that Rev. D.M. Canright has been a faithful and efficient pastor for us the past year and that God through him, has accomplished a glorious work for our church. He won the love and confidence of his people. We were glad to secure his services for another year. Done by order of the church. Mrs. Ida M. Wheeler, clerk."

As the slanders continued, the church published the following resolutions early the next year:

"Whereas, since D.M. Canright left the Seventh-day Adventists and united with us, we have heard and read many things, which, if true, would injure his moral and Christian character; which reports we know to be false and malicious, therefore:
"Resolved, 1st: That we have the fullest confidence in Bro. Canright as a Christian gentleman of strict integrity, above suspicion, an earnest and faithful minister, a most excellent neighbor, and ardent lover of the truth, and an earnest defender of the same. We take pleasure in giving this testimony after having known him for many years as a neighbor, preacher and pastor, and still a member with us.
"Resolved, 2nd: That a copy of this be furnished to the local papers and the Christen Herald [Baptist paper], and that our other Baptist papers be asked to copy the same.
"Adopted at a regular and full church meeting by a unanimous vote.
March 2nd, 1889.
L.B. Fish, Pastor

On Oct. 16, 1889, the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of the State of Michigan, at their annual meeting, in Grand Rapids, unanimously adopted the following resolutions:

"Whereas, our Brother, Rev. D.M. Canright, who came to us a few years ago from the Seventh-day Adventists, is under continual unkind attacks from his former brethren, who seem to be seeking his injury by circulating injurious reports about his moral character; therefore
"Resolved, First, that we here express our fullest confidence in Bro. Canright as a man of purity and honor, a faithful Christian, and an earnest defender of the truth as it is in Jesus.
"Resolved, Second, that we commend him to the Christian public in all parts of the country and the world, and pray for God’s blessing to rest on the heaven-appointed work of his heart, voice and pen.
J. Snashall, Moderator
W.H. Bettyes, Secretary
G.J. Donnely
(SDAR, preface to 4th ed.)

It is evident that these five documents were not opposing mere shadows, but substantial misrepresentations of Canright. They stand today as mute but indisputable witnesses to the fact that some – not all – of the Adventists had been fabricating falsehoods which were designed to destroy the effectiveness of his testimony against the movement. So do those four documents which were issued by non-Berean men in Grand Rapids some twenty years later, which were also cited in chapter 4. All nine are to the everlasting disgrace of Adventism.

Early in 1889, Canright left for the West Coast on a lecturing trip. In this connection, Rev. L.H. Townbridge, the founder, and for more than 30 years publisher, of the Christian Herald, wrote: Bro. Canright, in my judgment, is worthy a cordial reception and support on the Pacific Coast, as he is a brother beloved in Michigan. The Adventists themselves were loud in his praise till he left them. ... His change of faith excepted, he is the same man now as then." ((Ibid., preface to 2nd ed.)

The entry in the Otsego Union for Jan. 25, 1889, reads, "Rev. D.M. Canright left this morning for the west...to California and Washington territory, where he has been engaged to give lectures under the auspices of the Ministers’ Union. He will be gone from six weeks to two months." "The Ministers’ Union" is plainly identical with "The Pastors’ Union of Healdsburg, Cal.," mentioned by Canright in Seventh-day Adventism Renounced (p. 139). Healdsburg was then an Adventist center, and the Pastors’ Union there was active in its opposition to its doctrines. (Testimonials to the success of this western trip will be given in Ch. 13).

On April 6, according to the Otsego Baptist Church record, "a cheering letter from Elder Canright [in California] was read." On the 19th, the Otsego Union says: "Letter from D.M. Canright in S. Dakota on way home from west coast." Thus well-nigh three months, instead of a mere six weeks, had been consumed on the lecture trip against Adventism, indicating that it had been crowned with good success.

It is now time to speak of Canright’s anti-Adventist literary productions. Already, in 1888, his first edition of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced had been published by the Kalamazoo Publishing Co., of Kalamazoo, Mich. Its introduction is dated Aug. 13, 1888. The Otsego Union of Sept. 14, 1888 declares: "Elder Canright’s new book ‘Seventh-day Adventism Renounced’ is just out and for sale at both bookstores"; and, "Elder Canright has resigned the pastorate of the Baptist Church in order to attend to his new book awhile" (p. 5). Other references to his book appear in the issues for Sept. 21 (p. 5) and Oct. 5 (p. 4). In the latter of these appears a large double-column advertisement concerning it.

On the first page of his Introduction, Canright sets forth his reason for writing the volume:

"Being profoundly convinced that Seventh-Day Adventism is a system of error, I feel it my duty to publish what I know of it. I do it in the fear of God. Knowing the sorrow it has brought to my heart and to thousands, I must warn others against it. I do not question the honesty of the Adventists, but their sincerity does not sanctify their errors. I have had to speak plainly, but, I trust kindly. To avoid writing a large book, I have had to treat each subject briefly, and leave many untouched. I have taken up the main pillars of that faith; if these fail, the whole system must go down. I have put this book in this cheap form that it may have a wide reading.
"The Adventists, instead of answering my arguments, have attacked me personally. This has compelled me to defend myself. When Paul was attacked, he defended himself by recounting what he had done. He says, ‘Ye have compelled me; for I ought to have been commended of you.’ 2 Cor. 12:11. I have done as he did."

The first chapter of Canright’s book is on the doctrines and methods of Adventists. Chapter 2 gives an account of his long experience in the movement. (I have drawn heavily on it in writing chapters 5 and 6.) In the next two chapters, he presents, first the bondage of Adventism, and then its origin, history and failures. No less than 26 objections to it comprise chapter five. Chapter six deals with Rev. 13-14, and chapter seven strikes at the sanctuary teaching. After a chapter devoted to Mrs. White and her visions, come eight chapters pertaining to the Sabbath question, and four concerning the Law. In chapter 21, 47 prominent texts, used by Saturday-keepers, are examined, and the concluding chapter discusses the nature of man.

The second edition came out the following year. On July 26, 1889, the Otsego Union states: "Rev. Theodore Nelson, D.D., of Kalamazoo College, is writing an introduction to the new edition of Elder Canright’s book, which is now nearly completed. The Elder has just received a large order for his book from Australia." The preface is dated Aug. 1, 1889. Toward its close, Canright says: "The author has in his library about sixty different works on the Sabbath question, representing all the leading churches and every shade of thought on the subject. He has studied them all and drawn freely from them in preparing this work. ... May God bless what is right, and pardon what may be amiss." The boo, thoroughly re-organized and expanded, was now published by Fleming H. Revell Company. This expanded work passed through more than a dozen editions during Canright’s lifetime, and was translated into several languages. It has, perhaps, done greater injury to the Adventist cause than any other book ever published.

On Feb. 7, 1890, the Otsego Union recorded: "Rev. D.M. Canright left yesterday morning for Grand Rapids in the interest of his book." Early in 1893, a third edition was issued. In the preface, which bears the date of March 6th, we read:

"Up to this very date, I have been in constant receipt of letters from all parts of the country, saying that Adventist ministers everywhere state that I have left the Baptist Church, or have been turned out of it; am now an unbeliever and very miserable; that I have tried to get back among them, etc., etc. ... God pity the deluded men who have to resort to such infamous methods to sustain their cause.
"Since I left Adventism I have been a member in good standing in the regular Baptist church, and our relations have been most happy and satisfactory to me. Am now pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., my home. Am contented and happy in my faith, in my work, and in my religious associations. No consideration could possibly induce me to go back into the bondage and errors of Seventh-day Adventism.
"Six years’ experience out of the fog of Adventism and in the society and work of Evangelical Christians has strongly confirmed me in all I said of the errors and bad effect of Adventism when I first renounced it.
"By the grace of God, this is where I stand now, have stood for the six years since I left Adventism, and expect to stand to the end, all the reports of the Adventists to the contrary notwithstanding."

A year and a half later, the fourth edition of his book appeared. Its preface includes the following, written on Aug. 1, 1894:

"Here, at the last moment before going to press, I want to state that since I renounced Adventism seven years ago, I have never felt the least regret for doing so, nor have I ever had one though of returning to it, though Adventists have persistently reported everywhere to the contrary. But the longer I am out of Adventism, the more clearly I see how absurdly erroneous is that whole system. I rejoice daily that I am out of that bondage. I have not changed my faith nor my church relations since I united with the Baptist Church seven years ago, nor do I expect to."

In a later edition, published around 1907, Canright declared:

"During the twenty years now since I left them, they have had spies constantly on my track, who have watched and reported the least thing I have said or done, to torture it into evil, if possible. This they circulate to the ends of the earth, and it comes back to me in newspapers and letters. They have issued four different publications against me, and Mrs. White, in her last "revelation," has devoted three articles to myself! Yet I don't amount to anything; never did! "Sour grapes," you see. It has been widely reported that I was smitten with a terrible disease, had broken up my church, been expelled from the denomination, and more yet, concerning all which the Lord judge between us. The pastors of all the churches here, and public men of the place have had to make written statements to meet these attacks in distant states. Sometimes this has seemed hard to bear, but knowing that I was right, I have had grace and patience to keep steadily at my work, and leave the rest with God and my friends. I am in constant receipt of letters from all parts of the country, saying that the Adventists affirm that I have asked to be taken back among them! They will report it till I die, and long after."

Again he stated:

"They now report that I left them four or five times before, and then went back. This is entirely untrue. From the time I joined them, in 1859, till I withdrew, in 1887, I remained in good standing in that church. After I was licensed to preach in 1864, my credentials were renewed each year except one, when I was farming and did not ask for them. Till I left them, in 1887, I never preached nor wrote against them once; nor did I unite with any other church, nor teach any doctrine contrary to theirs. Let them deny any of these statements if they can." (Ibid., p. 51) "I withdrew from that church just once, no more, that was final. Their church records at Battle Creek and Otsego will show that." (Ibid., p. 13) "Feb. 17, 1887...was the first and only time I ever withdrew from the church nor was any charge ever made against me during the 28 years I was with them."(Ibid., p. 51)

In 1914, the fourteenth edition of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced was printed. On its very first page we have these sentences: "For twenty-eight years I was intimately associated with that people, as a member, minister, writer and author and aided much in building up that work. I joined them only fourteen years from their beginning, hence became will acquainted with all its founders, their early theories, and have all their first books published during the first forty years." On pages 7-8, we have these generous words:

"I design to be perfectly fair towards my Advent brethren. I was with them 28 years, from the age of nineteen to forty-seven, the most active years of my life. I was dearly loved by them and I loved them. I love them now. I have thousands of dear friends among them still. It was a terrible trial to break away from all these tender ties. Even now the tears fall fast as I write these lines. But truth and duty were dearer to me than social ties.
"Again I bear them record that they are a sincere, devoted, self-sacrificing people, thoroughly believing what they profess. They have many excellent qualities, and many lovely Christian people among them. Like all churches, they have their full share of undesirable members, not from any immoral teachings, but from human frailty, common in all churches. Daily I pray for them that the Lord may bless all that is good in them and forgive, and, in some way, overrule for good when they are in error. This is all I dare ask for myself."

Canright says further:

"God has preserved me to outlive nearly all the Adventist ministers with whom I began laboring. At seventy-five am full of faith in God and the hope of eternal life through our lord Jesus Christ.
"I love those brethren still and know that most of them are honest Christian people, but in error on many of their views. I would be glad to help them if I could." (p. 15).

Once more:

"The greatest majority of my former brethren have been very friendly to me and treated me kindly. A few, a very few, have done otherwise. Their object has been to counteract my influence against what they regard as God’s work. These few have started the report that I have been sorry I left Adventism, that I have said so, have tried to return to them, have confessed that my book was false, and some have said that I was poor, a physical and mental wreck, with no hope of salvation, etc. These reports are accepted as facts by honest brethren and repeated till they are believed by many Adventists the world over. I have denied them in every possible way, but they are still believed and repeated, and doubtless always will be. I leave God to judge between us.
"I now and here for the hundredth time solemnly affirm before God that I renounced Adventism because I believed it to be an error. I have never once regretted that I did so, have never intimated to any one that I have had the least desire to go back to that people. It would be impossible for me to do such a thing and be an honest man. I am now (1915) well in body and mind, have a good home worth $10,000 or $12,000, and have four grown children, of whom any man would be proud. (Ibid., p. 9)

Another production of Canright’s was entitled Adventism Refuted. This was a pamphlet of some eighty pages consisting of ten good-sized tracts. Madge Knevels Goodrich, A.M., indicated in her Bibliography of Michigan Authors (1928) that this publication appeared the same year as Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, though subsequently to it. Beneath the title of each chapter, these words appear in parenthesis: "The author of this tract was a prominent writer and preacher of Adventism for 25 years, hence he knows what he affirms."

It is interesting to note that, so far as we can tell, Canright’s literary efforts against Adventism occurred at the beginning and ending of the second major period of his life – just after he had left Adventism, and just before his death. About the time that he prepared the fourteenth edition of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, his volume, entitled, The Lord’s Day from neither Catholics nor Pagan," was copyrighted. In its Preface he tells how, prior to publication, he had submitted typewritten copies of his manuscript to "five well-informed ministers, requesting each one to spare no criticism nor pass over any questionable point" (p. 22). The names of four of these men are given: John T. Husted, Congregationalist; O.W. Van Osdel, Baptist; M.H. McLeod, Presbyterian; and W.H. Phelps, Methodist.

The name of the other man is not give for obvious reasons. Says Canright:

"Then I selected a Seventh-day Adventist minister, one of the most critical students in their ranks. He kindly consented to criticize my manuscripts. He did a thorough job, cutting out, or adding words and sentences, or pointing out what he thought were objectionable statements. I gladly accepted nearly all the criticisms he made and omitted some things which he questioned. I greatly valued his review of the work. I did not expect him to agree with all my conclusions nor recommend the book. He could not do this and remain a Seventh-day Adventist. His criticisms were all made in a friendly tone, showing that a kindliness of spirit is not all on one side.
"For myself, after thorough research, I am profoundly satisfied that the Christian Church has been right in observing the Lord’s Day. I have written this work with constant prayer that I might be fair and kind in my statements. I have a high regard for my Advent brethren, and the most kindly feeling towards them.
"I know they are sincere, but am sure they are mistaken in their views about the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day. Their widespread and aggressive agitation of these subjects will result in a better understanding of these questions. ...
"Every page of this work has been written with earnest prayer that the tender spirit of the Master may breathe through it all. None of us is infallible. All are liable to make mistakes. Hence, we need to be charitable towards those who have the misfortune to be misled" (pp. 23-24, 26).

The book itself is weighty. After defining Adventism in his opening chapter, Canright, in his next, exposes the fallacy of its assertion that Sunday laws are both unconstitutional and a curtailment of religious freedom. Chapter three demonstrates that it was the primitive "Catholic" church – not the Roman Catholic Church – that changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. In the fourth chapter, proof is adduced that the Romish Church itself places the changes back with the Apostles. The next chapter shows that the ancient pagan Romans and Greeks, from whom Adventism had declared the Sunday worship day was derived, had no weekly day of rest or worship. Chapter six presents historical evidence that Sunday has been observed from Apostolic times; and chapter seven, that this observance originated in the Eastern or Greek Church, not in the Western or Roman. Chapter eight is a masterly analysis of Constantine’s Sunday law of A.D. 321, while chapter nine demonstrates how fatal to Seventh-dayism was the pronouncement of the first ecumenical council in A.D. 325, and how untenable was the claim that the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364) was Romanism’s alteration of the sacred day. The tenth chapter proves the historical irresponsibility of those (like Mrs. White) who maintain that the observance of Sunday originated with the Papacy; and the eleventh shows that the mark of the beast cannot be the observance of the first day of the week, even if it could be shown (which it cannot be) that the beast is Romanism. The final chapter is not an integral part of the discussion. This volume should, by all means, be republished. I shall consider Adventism’s vain effort to discredit it in chapter 13.

The year after Canright published The Lord’s Day, he put out The Complete Testimony of the Early Fathers, a booklet of 64 pages, wherein he presented proof of "the universal observance of Sunday in the first centuries." In his preface he says: "After fifty years of careful study of the Sabbath question on both sides, I am thoroughly satisfied that Christians are right in observing Sunday as the Lord’s Day instead of the Jewish Sabbath." His first chapter sets forth "Eighty facts about Sunday Keeping." The other three chapters are reproductions, in whole or in part, of three found in The Lord’s Day.

At the end of his life, Canright prepared the Life of Mrs. E.G. White (published after his death), which has also been very damaging to Adventism. Of this book a former Adventist has said: "We have compared practically all of his quotations with the originals, and we have never found a single quotation defective or garbled in any way."

This is a book of 291 pages, wherein Canright presents some of the reasons why he gave up faith in Mrs. White’s claim to inspiration. In the preface we read: "The writer is perhaps better qualified to give the facts regarding that phase of her life than any other person living, as he united with her people almost at their beginning, now nearly sixty years ago, when they numbered only about five thousand. He has all the writings of Mrs. White in those early days. Some of the most damaging of these have been suppressed. Neither the public nor their own people, except a few officials, know of these old "revelation." His intimate association with Mrs. White gave him an opportunity to know and observe her as no one without such association could possibly have." Canright closes his preface with these sentences: "In performing this task, the writer, knowing the frailties of human nature, has used as mild language and shown as much charity as the facts in the case would permit. But, knowing the errors and deceptions which have been connected with Mrs. White and her work, he has felt it a duty which he owed to the Christian world to state the facts."

There is a brief sketch of Mrs. White’s life in the fourth chapter, which tells of her birth, of her childhood injury at the hands of an angered schoolgirl, of her connection with the Millerite movement in the early 1840’s, of her many visions supposed to contain divine revelations, of her marriage to James White in 1846, of the founding and conduct of Seventh-day Adventism, of her extensive travels, numerous writings and assorted trials, and, finally, of her death on July 16, 1915, at the age of eighty-eight. The other twenty chapters review a variety of matters, including things serious and trivial, but all contributing to her disparagement as a prophetess. Canright, however, did not attribute her visions to Satanic influences; he ascribed them to her physical and nervous condition. "The woman was simply deceived herself to the real nature and cause of her visions" (p. 187). "That she meant to be a Christian, and that her works contain many things good in themselves, need not be denied. Her motives we may safely leave with God. But her high claims are not defensible" (p. 291).

On page 15 there appears a simple statement, headed, "My present standing." Here we read: "Since I withdrew from the Adventists, over thirty years ago, they have continued to report that I have regretted leaving them, have tried to get back again, have repudiated my book which I wrote and have confessed that I am now a lost man. There has never been a word of truth in any of these reports. I expect them to report that I recanted on my deathbed."

I conclude this chapter by calling attention to Canright’s moderation. It is well displayed in the following account, given by F.M. Wilcox, editor of the Review and Herald, in that periodical for Aug. 22, 1940, and later appended to Documents relating to the Experience and Utterances of D.M. Canright, which had been prepared by W.C. White, a son of James and Ellen G. White, seven years before. Wilcox says:

"I recall an interesting conversation which I had with D.M. Canright some time before his death. I was attending a general meeting held in Battle Creek, Michigan. Elder Canright was at the Sanitarium taking treatment. He attended some of our meetings.
"One day I say down beside him, and after a pleasant greeting, we had the following conversation: I said, ‘Elder Canright, you may not recall that you organized the little church to which I first belonged in northern N.Y. I have followed your work through the years, and have regretted to see that you have separated from your former brethren. I am not engaged in the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist church, and I would like to ask what your counsel is to me. Shall I do as you have done?’" [We ask, Was this question sincere?]
"He dropped his head and meditated for a full minute. Then he inquired, ‘Do you believe the things you preach?’
"I said, ‘I do with all my heart.’
"He then asked, ‘Are you in difficulty with any of your brethren?’
"I said, ‘Not in any way. I have always worked very harmoniously with my associates.’
"Then he said, ‘My counsel to you is to remain right where you are.’"

That was wise counsel. Wilcox’s comment is a distortion: "It seemed to me that this was significant advice from one who had spent years in fighting the cause which he once espoused. ... He did not feel free to advise another to follow his steps." Of course he did not; for he could not advise anyone to follow in his actions who did not also follow in his convictions.

Another instance of Canright’s moderation should be recounted. When he had become an Adventist in 1859, he influenced his mother to become one also. This cause him bitter tears after he had been delivered from the movement. But he did not feel it was necessary to burden his now aged mother with the controversy. Accordingly, when some over-zealous Baptist women tried to tell her what he had written against Adventism, "he told them to stay away from her." (According to his niece, Mrs. Jennings.) This stands in sharp contrast to the persistency with which Adventists usually pursue those who have departed from them, seeking to induce them to return.

Question: How many denouncers of Canright have read, with open mind, all of his productions, and shown the moderation he did?


Previous Chapter Next Chapter BACK HOME