As Adventists circulated many falsehoods concerning Canright during his lifetime, so did they after his death. Among these were the reports that he regretted leaving them, that he repudiated his writings against Adventism, that he recanted, and that he even asked to be reinstated in the church he had left. I will consider these before presenting others of a different nature.
Immediately after Canright’s death, it was rumored that, when near his end, he had weakened in his opposition. This so incensed his daughters that they called on E.S. Ballenger "to consult over the advisability of bringing suit for libel against the denomination for reporting he had recanted." (G.C., vol. 33, no. 4, p. 13) Much as the Adventists have denounced Ballenger, they have him to thank for averting the threatened litigation. He says: "I feel quite certain that if I had given them [Canright’s daughters] any encouragement, they would have entered suit for libel. I advised them to drop the matter rather than go to law."(Ibid., vol. 37, no. 2, p.14)
The following year, Canright’s daughter wrote to Mr. O.E. Payne of Hanna, Alberta, Canada:
"Father was more firm in his conviction of the error of their teaching the longer he lived, in spite of Adventist claims that he repudiated his writings against them. I tell you this in anticipation of your having such falsehoods to meet." (The Christian Standard, Oct. 16, 1920)
In the first part of 1921, Mrs. Dey wrote the following letter to the Rev. Howard C. Fulton, then pastor of the Berean Baptist Church of Grand Rapids:
April 18, 1921
Rev. Howard C. Fulton
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Dear Mr. Fulton:
Your letter with enclosure from the lady inquiring about father is just received and I wish to thank you for your kindness. It is surprising how persistent the Adventists are with their lies. There seems to be quite an epidemic of them recently. We didn’t hear much about them for some time but almost every day brings something new.
"It may be due to a claim that I was notified about from California recently, that it is being told that my cousin [Alta] who was very kind to father and also to us at the time father was in the hospital at Battle Creek, has stated that father confessed to her that he repudiated his writings against Adventism. According to her written reply in regard to this she stated that as much as she wishes it were so, as she is a devoted Adventist, there is absolutely no ground for any such statements and she even says that she would like to know who is telling such a falsehood. I am telling you this so that you will understand what to say if that rumor reaches you.
"We wish to thank you for your kindness in regard to these repeated accusations that the Adventists are sending out."
(Signed) Genevieve C. Dey."
Some years later, Dr. VanOsdel, pastor of the Wealthy Street Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, wrote an article on "D. M. Canright and the Seventh-day Adventists," wherein he said: "The Seventh-day Adventists are continually reporting that D. M. Canright returned to the Adventist faith before he died. This is utterly untrue The present writer was acquainted with him for years, visited him when he was ill, and participated in his funeral service. .... The Adventists have never been able to answer him and therefore they have attempted to misrepresent him. We have gotten letters from all over the world asking us whether the statements the Adventists are making about him are true, and we have been compelled, in the interests of truth and right, to say that Adventists are unfortunate in being unable to give a truthful representation of the case." (Baptist Temple News, Apr. 30, 1932) Then VanOsdel reproduced Canright’s affidavit, mentioning that its original had been placed in his hands and was deposited in a safety vault in Grand Rapids. (I have seen it and have had photostatic copies of it made.)
In the latter part of 1939, Rev. Howard A. Keithley, then pastor of the Berean Baptist Church, sent out a letter to some Baptist ministers who had known Canright, seeking data for publication about him. I now quote from three of the answers he received from men who, like Dr. VanOsdel, had taken part in Canright’s funeral service twenty years before.
"November 8, 1939
"My dear brother:
"Your recent letter regarding Dr. Canright and the Adventists received.
"Yes, I was one of several Baptist pastors who officiated at Dr. Canright’s funeral service. He was a true believer in Christ as held by the Baptists, at the time of his death."
Very sincerely yours
(Signed) Rev. Clyde E. Wood"
"November 9, 1939
"Dear Brother Keithley:
"So you are having inquiries about our good old brother Canright. Well, I used to have them quite frequently when I was pastor at Berean.
"The dear old brother was true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, to the very end. He did not recant on his deathbed. I used to call on him before he died and was present and took part in his funeral services....
(Signed) H. C. Fulton."
"Grand Rapids, Michigan
December 1, 1939
"To Whom It May Concern:
This is to certify:
"1. That I knew Rev. D. M. Canright intimately for over twenty-five years.
2. That he baptized me in the fellowship of the Berean Baptist Church of this city and was my pastor on two different occasions.
"3. That I knew all of his family and often went to see him in his last sickness.
"4. That I took part in his funeral service, and knew him to remain true to the Baptist faith to the end, and that he died peacefully trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
(Signed) I. Van Westenbrugge
"This is to certify that Rev. Isaac Van Westenbrugge appeared before me a Notary Public, that he swore to and subscribed before me this first day of December, 1939, the above statement to be true.
(Signed) John Bouwnia
Notary Public, Kent County, Mich.
On Jan. 2, 1910, Mr. Keithley issued a document containing these letters and other relevant material, prefacing the same with these words:
"The following information is presented because of the insistent and malicious reports of the Seventh-day Adventists relative to the late Dr. D.M. Canright. ... Each pastor who has been a successor to Dr. Canright at the Berean Baptist Church has received numerous inquiries from Christian brethren in many parts of the world where Adventists deliberately falsify relative to Dr. Canright, saying that ere he died he renounced his Baptist position and returned to Seventh-day Adventism. This brief record is designed to set forth certain undisputed facts in this case."
In concluding his document, Mr. Keithley says: "It is not the expectation of the present pastor of the Berean Baptist Church that the preparation of this brief statement will forever silence the Adventists, for error is not concerned with common honesty."
Canright’s son has referred to this matter in three of his letters to me. On Aug. 18, 1960, he wrote: "As he left the Adventists at about the time I was born, and the last year of his life I was in France, there are some things I do not know or remember. I do know, though, that after he left the Adventists and was a Baptist minister, — from there on he never remotely considered returning to the Adventists. He always had a great respect for all of them, but considered they were wrong in some of their beliefs. One thing he very much didn’t like about the Adventists was that they were always trying to induce members of other churches to leave and to join them." On Dec. 3, 1960, he wrote: "One thing I wish to make plain is that he never regretted leaving the Adventist Church." Once more, on May 23, 1962, he said:
"He thought very highly of most of his Adventist friends, but he certainly didn’t agree with them on their religion. As to his wanting to return to them at any [the word is underscored] time after he left them, I can say it is an absolute falsehood, if anyone makes that statement."
Now let us observe matters of a different nature in Adventism’s assault upon the deceased Canright.
Here we will assemble various literary efforts designed to undermine his witness against it. I do not profess to present a complete array of these, but what are presented constitute a good cross-section of them.
James McGeachey, Adventist missionary in Mesopotamia, wrote to F. M. Wilcox, Editor of the Review and Herald, for some information about the early teachings of the movement, relative to "the closing of the door of mercy" in 1844. Wilcox passed the letter over to W. A. Spicer, then President of the General Conference, who sent McGeachey a 12-page memorandum which the recipient did not consider a satisfactory explanation. It appears that it was McGeachey’s inquiry which induced Spicer to write a series of articles for the Review and Herald under the title of "Moments with old-time Volumes."
In the sixth article of this series, published on April 29, 1926, Canright is assailed as an opposer of Adventism. Spicer says:
"When first he engaged in this opposing work, it was thought by ministers of some of the churches that now they had a champion who could answer Seventh-day Adventists. He was called to the Pacific Coast to begin a campaign against Seventh-day Adventists, hailed as the man who would know how to persuade people not to accept our teachings.
"However, very quickly the ministers of other denominations found that they had made a mistake. The moment our brethren declared the plain word of the Lord, our former associate found himself helpless. The public did not appreciate his representation of Seventh-day Adventists, whom they knew to be generally earnest, conscientious, God-fearing Christians, good neighbors and good citizens. Many of the public did not appreciate the spirit of the attacks upon Sister White whom they knew by her writings, and some of them by her life, to be an earnest Christian woman whose pen for many years had written books and articles that appealed to every good sentiment in the human heart. The whole program collapsed, and, as far as I can recall, D. M. Canright was never commissioned again by the churches to conduct any general public campaign of opposition to Seventh-day Adventists."
Now I have already pointed out that when Canright left, in January of 1889, for the West Coast, to give lectures under the auspices of the Ministers’ Union, he expected, according to the Otsego Union, to be away ‘‘from six weeks to two months"; but that nearly three months elapsed before he returned. I have now to quote three statements, proceeding from Healdsburg, Calif., which expressed appreciation of his ministry there. The first two appeared in the Otsego Union on March 15, 1889, when he was in the midst of his western ministry:
1. A Testimonia1 to Eld. Canright
The following testimonial, signed by 336 ladies of this city and vicinity, was presented to Eld. D.M. Canright on last Sunday evening as a token of their appreciation and esteem for his faithful and devoted labors during the last few weeks in this city. Owing to the short time that was taken in preparing the testimonial, comparatively few names were obtained. Had another half day been added to the time the number of signers could easily have been doubled or trebled. It shows the hearty appreciation with which Mr. Canright was welcomed and his labors received in the city.
Healdsburg — Mar. 3, 1889
Rev. D.M. Canright:
Dear Brother: — We the undersigned ladies of Healdsburg, who observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day, desire to extend to you our sincere thanks for your earnest labors among us, and the able manner in which you have explained the holy Scriptures to our spiritual good, thereby strengthening our belief and inspiring us to a more faithful observance of the sacred day. Our best wishes will attend you wherever you go, and when the ‘earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved’, may we meet with you and all of the faithful in Christ in that heavenly home where congregations never break up and Sabbaths have no end."
2. "An Expression of Esteem."
The following letter was sent to Mrs. D. M. Canright of Otsego, Mich., by the Pastors’ Union of this city:
Healdsburg, Mar. 4, 1889.
Mrs. D. M. Canright,
My Dear Sister: — Enclosed I hand you a draft on New York for $26; the proceeds of a plate offering made last evening at the close of a sermon preached by your husband, Rev. D. M. Canright, of Otsego, Michigan, to a congregation composed of five of the evangelical churches of our town. Please accept the same for yourself as a slight token of the great esteem with which the Christian people of Healdsburg hold your husband.
Brother Canright was with us over three weeks and his stay in our community will ever be remembered. His masterful defense of the truth as held by all evangelical Christians was most convincing and satisfactory, while the sermons he delivered, four in number, showed that he could not only defend the faith once delivered to the saints, but was also a most able preacher of the Gospel of Christ. The attendance which greeted Brother Canright at his every appearance was very large and enthusiastic, frequently numbering over a thousand, while the interest was most intense. The expense of the meeting, railroad fare, salary, hall, etc., were cheerfully met by our people and community without difficulty. The Christian people of Healdsburg and also many who are not in the churches are very enthusiastic in regard to Bro. Canright and his labors among us, and knowing that a knowledge of this fact would gratify you, they take this method of informing you.
If an effort had been put forth to increase the amount of this draft, it could easily have been done, but as it was entirely impromptu...we are sure that you will measure the value of this act, not by its intrinsic worth but by the spirit which prompted it.
Yours very truly,
Healdsburg (Cal.) Enterprise, March 6."
3. The third document, issued by the Pastors’ Union in Healdsburg, and reproduced in the Preface to the second edition of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced (on Aug. 1, 1889), ran thus:
"We cheerfully recommend Bro. Canright as a spiritual minister of the Gospel of Christ, and as an able exponent of the points at issue between the evangelical churches and the Seventh-day Adventists. Rev. H. B. McBride, Presbyterian Church; Rev. W. E. Towson, M. E. Church, South; Rev. J. C. Webb, Baptist Church; Rev. F. L. Tuttle, M. E. Church; Elder Hiram Wallace, Christian Church."
In view of these three documents, the reader will have no difficulty in evaluating the statement of President Spicer in the 1926 issue of Review and Herald. It is pure fabrication, devoid of even a vestige of truth.
In 1933, Mrs. White’s son, W.C. White, gathered together Documents relating to the Experiences and Utterances of D.M. Canright. The introductory article explains: "Shortly after Mr. Canright’s apostasy, answer was made to his false statements and misleading arguments in numerous articles, in the Review and Herald and in tracts. Now the tracts are out of print and the volumes of the Review are accessible to only a few of our people." This collection contains Spicer’s 1926 article, referred to above, Butler’s second contribution to the Review and Herald Extra of December 1887, Mrs. White’s second "Testimony" to Canright, seven of Canright’s articles (in whole or in part) which had appeared in the Review and Herald in 1877, 1884 and 1885, Spicer’s report of Canright at Mrs. White’s funeral, and F. M. Wilcox’s account of his conversation with Canright. Most of these have been cited in whole or in part, in the preceding chapters of my book.
Another publication in 1933, designed to damage Canright, was W. H. Branson’s In Defense of the Faith. The author acknowledges in his Introduction that Canright "was the most logical of all the various opposers of the teachings of Seventh-day Adventists" (p. 10). Shortly after the appearance of Branson’s book, E. S. Ballenger wrote this about it: "Why do they [the Adventists] not publish a book in reply to the questionings of such men as L.R. Conradi or W.W. Fletcher? These men have both put out some very striking publications, and these men are still living" (G.C., vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 22-23, italics supplied). Canright had been dead for fourteen years.
In his first chapter, Branson would have his readers understand that, because Adventism teaches many Christian doctrines, Canright, in renouncing it, had renounced them also. Another Adventist leader, in conversation with me, warmly supported Branson’s charge. But no fair-minded person, on being told, for example, that someone had renounced Roman Catholicism, would conclude that he had renounced the Apostles’ Creed as well as Rome’s distinctive teachings.
Branson also tries to make out, in the first part of his book, that Canright taught the abrogation of the moral law at Calvary. But he did nothing of the sort. What he taught was that the Jewish edition of that law was abolished there — not that the law per se was abolished. Listen to him: "God’s eternal law of righteousness existed before the law of Sinai was given. This proposition is self-evident. Surely God had a law by which to govern His creatures, both angels and men, long before Sinai. But ‘the law’, as worded in the decalogue and in ‘the book of the law’ was not given till Moses, 2,500 years after creation. Hence moral obligation did not begin with that law, nor would it cease if that law was abolished." (SDAR, p. 322, italics supplied) "Moral duties ... exist in the very nature of things." (Ibid., p. 170) God’s great moral law is unchangeable." (Ibid., p. 336)
Whether or not Canright was correct in all this is irrelevant; it is clear to the unprejudiced that he did not teach that the moral law was abrogated by the death of Christ. Yet Branson accuses him of doing so, page after page.
What he has to say about Canright’s vacillations between believing and not believing Adventism has I submit, already received adequate answer in chapter 6, on "Recurring Doubts." His attempts to make Canright the Adventist refute Canright the Baptist on one point after another, is impressive at first reading, but a thorough study of the case discloses how gravely Branson has misunderstood both Canright’s character and teaching.
Nevertheless, he was subsequently advanced to be President of the General Conference (1950-54).
In 1945, W.A. Spicer had an article in the Review and Herald for June 21st, on "A Baptist who remembered when he was an Adventist." Again, I make some quotations from E .S. Ballenger. But first it is necessary to state that, though Ballenger had lost faith in Mrs. White’s inspiration, he continued to hold to the Adventist doctrines about the nature of man, death, hell and the Sabbath. At the death of his brother, Albion, he became pastor of the Seventh-day Baptist Church in Los Angeles, a position he occupied for seven years. Now for his remarks on Spicer’s articles (G.C., vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 12-14):
"A great variety of stories have been told about D.M. Canright, and similar stories have been told about many other ministers who have left the denomination.
"In the article we are reviewing, Elder Spicer tries to make it appear that Elder Canright regretted very much that he ever left the church. One of the evidences that they offered was that they could see in his face regrets for what he had done. The same stories have been told about myself. The people that told them thought they saw in my face what they wanted to see, and unquestionably they saw the same in D.M. Canright’s face.
"Of course, I never left the church. It turned me out because I was a true Protestant, and refused to take anything as authority aside from the Bible.
"It has been reported that the Baptists were disgusted with D.M. Canright and had no use for him; but the fact that the big Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, gave him a birthday party with congratulations and presents, shows that he stood very well with his people.
"I am not writing to defend D.M. Canright. I regret very much that he departed from the Bible truth of the Sabbath. My brother and I had a long talk with him about the Sabbath. He never tried to defend the observance of Sunday.
"We reproduce another statement from Brother Spicer’s article. He tells about the Elder selling off his books, but he kept a few of Mrs. White’s. An SDA brother wanted to buy them. We introduce Bro. Spicer’s account of this interview:
"‘One of his friends, a member of the SDA church, said to him: "I will take those books of Mrs. White’s if you wish to sell them." "No," said the Elder, "I will keep them. They are about all the books I have kept.’"
"I can cast some light on this statement. The books that Elder Canright refused to sell were the original copies of A Word to the Little Flock, Present Truth, Experience and Views, the first edition of Early Writings, 1851, and three booklets from the pen of Joseph Bates, all of which are very rare. Elder Canright had a purpose in keeping these books. They teach very definitely the ‘Shut Door’ which SDA’s deny. When Elder Canright thought he was going to die in the hospital...he called for me, and gave me all of these books."
On Feb. 21, 1949, Spicer published another article in the Review and Herald on Canright. Again Ballenger commented (Ibid., vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 13-14): "We have no desire to defend the attitude of D.M. Canright toward the Sabbath, and some other Bible truths; but we do object to publishing misrepresentations of his character.
"It has been reported many times that Bro. Canright was sorely pressed for even a day’s living. This we know to be absolutely false. Elder Canright located at Grand Rapids, Mich. He purchased quite a tract of land not far from the city; and Grand Rapids grew rapidly in his direction. He subdivided his acres in building lots, and sold them at a good profit. He was not poor by any means."
In the Review and Herald for Nov. 29, 1962, the Editor, F. D. Nichol, refers to Canright when he says:
"The major charges against her [Mrs. White] have long been listed and discussed in a hostile book that is still widely circulated and found in a great number of public libraries.
"Because of the continuing and growing inquiries from our people, both ministry and laity, as to how to meet the false and often scurrilous charges in this critical book, the General Conference finally decided that a book should be written in answer. A special editorial committee of General Conference brethren was chosen to aid the author, then a reading committee of more than 100 examined the manuscript, and finally the book was published" (p. 13). The title of the book produced is Ellen G. White and her Critics, which was put out in 1951, and is directed mainly against the witness of D.M. Canright (pp. 16, 679). "This is because he first and most fully set forth in print the major accusations against Mrs. White" (pp. 16-17).
It is not my object to consider the various controverted matters with which Nichol deals. To do this would unduly broaden the scope of the present treatise and thus obscure the special purpose of its writing. Nichol’s book is so voluminous that it has a distinct tendency to overwhelm the ordinary reader by its massiveness. Doubtless it constitutes a somewhat formidable answer to Canright’s naturalistic explanation of Mrs. White’s visions, in its imposing arguments in favor of their supernatural origin. However, it signally fails to prove that this supernatural origin was divine. On most of the other points, in spite of Nichol’s wordiness and casuistry, Canright’s position is impregnable.
In 1954, the fourth volume of L. E. Froom’s The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers issued from the Adventist press. Evidently esteeming discretion to be the better part of valor, the author restricted himself to just one reference to Canright, whom he unfairly designated "Mrs. White’s bitterest and most relentless critic" (p. 988). In doing so, he but trod in the steps of William A. Spicer, who so denominated him in 1937. (The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement, p. 127) Earlier still, in 1933, both W. C. White and W. H. Branson termed Canright’s attacks on Mrs. White as "bitter." (Documents relating to the Experiences and Utterances of D.M. Canright, p. 1, and In Defense of the Faith, p. 327.)
None of these writers seemed able to distinguish between a man’s spirit and his material. Canright’s material was certainly very detrimental to Mrs. White, but the spirit he displayed in writing was one of moderation, even of kindness. It is very plain that Canright "can’t win" with the Adventists. If he is generous, he is said to regret having left them; if he is forthright, he is accused of bitterness.
From June 1960 to July 1961 a series of articles, in reply to Walter R. Martin’s volume, The Truth about Seventh-day Adventism, was printed in the Adventist periodical, The Ministry. The series was later published in book form under the title Doctrinal Discussions. Chapter 11, on ‘‘Ellen G. White and the Spirit of Prophecy," was written by H.W. Lowe, Field Secretary for the General Conference, who had penned "A Statement’’ prefixed to Martin’s book (p. 15), wherein he misrepresented Adventist teaching on Eternal Life.
In this eleventh chapter, Lowe alludes to Martin’s words about Canright (pp. 141-4). He says that Martin "admits that, whereas Canright made much ado about alleged plagiarism by Mrs. White, he was himself flagrantly guilty of the same thing." Then he quotes Martin’s words: "Canright himself plagiarized not only some of the content, but even the title of a book written in 1863 by Moses Hull, also an Adventist and a predecessor of Canright in the ministry." (The Truth about Seventh-day Adventism, p. 103) Canright’s Preface is dated March 4, 1878.
Now there are a few things that have been overlooked regarding this matter. First, G. I. Butler informs us that Canright’s name was on the book because he had revised it. (R&HE, p. 4, col. 1) Secondly, it was the "Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, Battle Creek, Mich." that printed, advertised, sold and made money on the book. Thirdly, though I do not find that Mrs. White issued a reproving "testimony" to Canright for what he had done, I do find that he was advanced, that very fall, to the presidency of the Ohio Conference, and that two years later, when his term expired, she urged his re-election. Fourthly, Canright did not, as Mrs. White did, claim inspiration for what he wrote.
The third and final section of this chapter relates to aspects of the Canright controversy that have fallen within the compass of my personal knowledge. With their recitation I shall conclude my treatment of this part of the book.
In my Introduction, I quoted a letter I received from a leading Adventist on June 22, 1960, which contained an unprovoked attack on Canright. Let me here reproduce the relevant portions, and then proceed to deal with them. The letter speaks of Canright as "an apostate Adventist minister who three times left us, was ordained by the Baptists, cast out by them. ...each time he came back to us he repudiated his former attacks, but finally went out for good, I think, to all concerned. The man considered himself a lost soul who had turned from God and right."
Before proceeding with this matter, I should inform the reader of some further correspondence with the Adventist leader who made the above statements. On Sept. 3, 1962, he wrote me again:
"As to D. M. Canright, I rarely think of the man. I am not particularly interested in what others think about him. I have dug sufficiently into his past to know very well, indeed ... all I need to know about him." To this I replied on Sept. 13th that he was grievously mistaken about Canright, as was manifest from his previous statements, and I set forth a refutation of the points listed above. On Oct. 10, 1962, 1 received the following: "I...have read with care your various statements. Thank you for the pains that you have taken to present them." Then comes a long paragraph explaining that he was so busy that he had no time for further consideration of the matter. I leave it to impartial judges to say what they think of a man who will make charges against another, then decline to substantiate them when requested to do so, and finally, when positive disproof has been supplied in documentary form, plead that he is too busy writing a great work to pay any serious attention to what he cannot possibly answer.
To return: On Dec. 3, 1960, Canright’s son wrote me thus:
"Now as to the question you ask about my father ever saying that he thought of himself as being a ‘lost soul,’ that is pure fiction, thought up by the Adventists who, at the time he left them, were very much against his leaving them." (I have cited earlier in the present chapter the son’s triple and emphatic denial that his father ever regretted the step he had taken in 1887.)
It is not difficult to see how this story arose. We have heard Canright say in his Confession, published in the Review and Herald of Oct. 7, 1884: "I am fully satisfied that my own salvation and my usefulness in saving others depend upon my being connected with this people and this work." (cited in chap. 6) He reinforced this in his testimony in Otsego on Sunday, Nov. 23, following, when he declared — after a fresh committal to the Adventist cause —"I believe that if I ever go back from this I am lost" (Ibid., italics supplied). A devout Adventist, seeing Canright afterward turn from Adventism, could, therefore, quote Canright himself as declaring himself a lost man!
Furthermore, Mrs. White, the trusted prophetess, had declared in her fourth "testimony" to Canright (in 1887): "I am deeply concerned for your soul. 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" (cited in chapter 10, italics mine). She reaffirmed this in her final "testimony" to him on April 20, 1888: "When I consider the infinite price paid for the redemption of individual souls, I think, ‘What if that soul is finally lost?’" (Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 624) and then she went on to say that in the day of judgment, he "will have no words of excuse for [his] late defection." (cited in chapter 10) It would be but a short step for an ardent follower of Mrs. White’s to fabricate a story such as Reavis told.
On July 20-22, 1960, I advertised in the Grand Rapids Press for persons who had known D. M. Canright to contact me; I had four responses. Accordingly, my wife and I went over to that city on July 28th for interviews. We talked with two parties, Mr. Fred Rudy and Mrs. Robert A. North, who had been close and intimate neighbors of the Canrights; and with two, Deacon Glen Bates (now deceased) and Mrs. Winnie Valkier, who had been well acquainted with Mr. Canright at the Berean Baptist Church. (The first of these four had taken some dictation from Canright when he was writing his later books.) Their testimonies were taken down by my wife, and written up the same evening. I then combined them into one document and all four subscribed to those parts in it which were severally contributed by them. The composite report is reproduced in the next four paragraphs:
Those who had been such friendly neighbors of Mr. Canright, knew nothing whatever about his feeling himself to be a lost man. The family, including at that time a son and two daughters, was a happy one which it could not have been had a cloud of depression hung low over its head. One of these neighbors, Mr. Fred A. Rudy, told us that he was converted through Mr. Canright’s ministry and nurtured by him in the church. He added that, to his knowledge, Mr. Canright never denounced SDA in any of his public ministry.
Those who knew Mr. Canright at the church seemed unable to express their high regard for him—he was too great a character for their powers to do him justice. One of these was Deacon Glen Bates (converted and baptized in 1907, under the ministry of Rev. Robert Gray) who said that the charges mentioned in the letter were "fabrications — pure fiction"; Mr. Canright pitied the Adventists as deluded people, but never denounced them. Mr. Canright was a man respected and consulted by other ministers. He was looked up to in the Grand River Valley Baptist Association as a true man of God. Dr. Oliver W. VanOsdel (whom I knew thirty years ago), when Moderator of that Association in 1910, joined with other prominent Baptists in acclaiming Mr. Canright as "an earnest, consecrated Christian man and a true minister of Jesus Christ." Congregational and Methodist ministers of Grand Rapids bore like testimony to him. Yet during the many years when Mr. Bates was an active deacon, Berean Church was continually receiving communications from Adventists, maligning him. Said he, "They persecuted him to his death."
When Mr. Canright was near his end, Deacon Bates and an older deacon, Mr. Valkier, called on him. The senior deacon asked the old man as to his hopes and got a strong testimony from him as to the saving and keeping power of Christ. Mr. Bates said that he would be as sure of Canright’s salvation as he was of his own!
We also called on Mr. Valkier’s widow, whose great esteem for Mr. Canright was moving. She was the first one that he baptized after Berean Church was founded. The baptism took place in 1892. When I read to Mrs. Valkier the charges made against her first pastor, it was difficult for her to he restrained. With some force she declared that he had never been thrown out by the Baptists and had never thought himself a lost soul. She called him "a godly man." He had often been in their home and they in his. She assured us that Berean Baptist had never had any difficulty with Mr. Canright in any way whatsoever. As we departed. she called after us, "You don’t need to worry about Mr. Canright!"
Other malicious reports about Canright were circulated by Adventists. I will mention one more which was told me by Mr. Clifton Dey, the son of Canright’s daughter, Genevieve. In 1927, while mowing his lawn in Ann Arbor, Mich., he was accosted by some colporteurs, who turned out to be Adventists. When he discovered their identity, he inquired if they had ever heard of D.M. Canright. "D.M. Canright?" said one of them, "that jail bird! that wife-beater! ..." When Mr. Dey stated that D.M. Canright was his grandfather, they beat a hasty retreat. In perfect harmony with this is a letter which I received from a former member of the Adventist church, written on Dec. 29, 1962. It says: "In SDA circles I always heard him [Canright] maligned in the most emphatic terms. ...there was never one kindly Christian expression about him from any of them. When I was an SDA, I thought Canright must surely be akin to Satan, from all that was told me about him."
Other reports are not malicious, but inaccurate. I give one instance. On June 14, 1962, I had a friendly chat with an Adventist leader at Emmanuel Missionary College, in Berrien Springs, Mich. He told me, in the presence of my wife, that a few years ago (he later wrote me that it was in the summer of 1955 or 1956), in a sermon delivered on the West Coast, he had made some disparaging allusion to Canright. At the close of the service, a man came to him, saying that he was Canright’s brother. In reply to the preacher’s inquiry regarding the propriety of what he had said, the stranger replied that he had not gone far enough! He elucidated by telling about a Methodist minister who had come to Canright to get material to win a debate with an Adventist on the subject of the Sabbath. When he had explained to D. M. Canright that he was prepared to spend three days in order to get the desired information, Canright, so it was said, replied that three minutes would be sufficient, because the Adventists had all the arguments.
I told my Adventist friend that I could not possibly credit the story, and asked him to procure for me the name of the Methodist minister, which he agreed to try to do. I later wrote him that I had been in touch with the son of one of Canright’s brothers who informed me that his father had died in 1928, and with the granddaughter of the other one who stated that her grandfather had died in 1931. It turned out that the stranger was a nephew of D.M. Canright, but he had recently died. Part of a letter from his daughter was relayed to me which said: "I have heard my dad say that D.M. Canright had told someone never to try to prove that Sunday was the Sabbath — because it couldn’t he done... . Perhaps [this] could have been the young Methodist preacher you mentioned."
The inquiry resulted, therefore, in the discovery that the party who spoke to the Adventist leader was not Canright’s brother, but his nephew; and that the point which was involved was not the whole Sabbath issue, but only the minor item as to whether the first day should be called "the Sabbath."
It seems appropriate at this point to quote from an excellent editorial which appeared in the Review and Herald for March 28, 1963, written by one of the associate editors, Kenneth H. Wood, Jr. The editorial recounts two stories that had been circulated — one of them regarding the editor’s wife — without any basis in fact. The closing paragraph runs thus: "If the habit illustrated by these stories were not fairly common, we would ignore it. Unfortunately it is widespread. Can we do anything about it? Yes. We can make certain of all the facts before repeating a story. We can question closely anyone who breathlessly recounts to us a story that he received secondhand. And when ever a story that we know is fictitious or distorted is repeated in our presence, we can spike it. We who claim to be staunch friends of truth should be friends in fact, not merely in theory’’ (p. 13). We can only add: "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them’ (John 13:17).