Interwoven with Canright’s account of his activities in Adventism are various allusions to, and descriptions of, his difficulties with doubt. In the present chapter, I will gather these together, that the reader may have an opportunity to judge for himself concerning Canright’s reason for leaving the movement.
Up to the time of his ordination by Mr. White in 1865, Dudley says he "had not had a doubt about the truthfulness of our faith." (SDAR, p. 38) But then his confidence weakened: "As I now began to see more of Elder White and wife, and the work at headquarters, I learned that there was much trouble with him. I saw that he ruled everything, and that all greatly feared him. I saw that he was often cross and unreasonable. This troubled me a little, but not seriously." (Ibid., pp. 38-39)
When he returned from Maine to Battle Creek to be married in the spring of 1867, he says: "There was great trouble with Elder White, and many church meetings were held to investigate the matter. It was clear to me that he was wrong, but Mrs. White sustained him in her ‘Testimonies’ and severely blamed the church. Elder Andrews and a few others proposed to stand up for the right, and take the consequences. My sympathies were with them; but others feared, and finally all wilted and confessed that ‘we have been blinded by Satan.’ This was signed by the leading ministers, and humbly adopted by the whole church. See Testimonies, Vol. 1, page 612. This shook my faith a good deal, and I began to question Mrs. White's inspiration. I saw that her revelations always favored Elder White and herself. If any dared question their course, they soon received a scathing revelation denouncing the wrath of God against them." (Ibid., p. 39) That October, the Whites came east for a church conference, and stayed in Canright’s home. Early the next year (Feb. 25, 1868) he contributed an article to Review and Herald, wherein he expressed his confidence in Mrs. White’s supernatural gifts.
About a year and a half later, when again in Battle Creek (for the month of May, 1869) Canright’s doubts returned. "Things were in bad shape. Elder White was in trouble with most of the leading men, and they with him. I was well convinced that he was the real cause of it all, but Mrs. White sustained him, and that settled it. They were God's chosen leaders, and must not be criticized or meddled with. I felt sad. I was working hard to get men into ‘the truth,’ as we called it; to persuade them that this was a people free from the faults of other churches; then to see such a state of things among the leaders disheartened me greatly. So far, I myself had had no trouble with any one, and Elder White had been very cordial to me." (Ibid., p. 40) But, again Canright swallowed his doubts, and went on, thinking that to give up Adventism was to give up Christianity itself.
It was just after this that Canright was transferred to Iowa, where he labored with G.I. Butler. Butler tells of Canright’s further doubts there, in 1870:
"In the last of December of that year, he held a debate with Eld. Johnson, Presbyterian, in Monroe, Iowa. The writer was present. Eld. C. Was not feeling in good spirits through the debate, though he presented his arguments quite clearly and met with success. The night following the debate I occupied a room with him. I was greatly astonished to find him under powerful temptations to give up religion and the Bible, and become an absolute infidel. I labored with him all night long; neither of us slept a wink. In the morning he seemed more calm, and a few weeks later he came to the General Conference at Battle Creek, Mich. [on March 15], made some confessions of his feelings, and went away in a much happier state of mind. He went on quite zealously for two or three years." (R&H E, p. 3, col. 1)
Canright continues the story:
"Wherever Elder White and wife went they were always in trouble with the brethren, and the best ones, too. I came to dread to meet them, or have them come where I was, for I knew there would be trouble with some one or some thing, and it never failed of so being. I saw church after church split up by them, the best brethren discouraged and maddened and driven off, while I was compelled to apologize for them continually. For years about this time, the main business at all our big meetings was to listen to the complaints of Elder White against his brethren. Not a leading man escaped - Andrews, Waggoner, Smith, Loughborough, Amadon, Cornell, Aldrich, Walker, and a host of others had to take their turn at being broken on the wheel. For hours at a time, and times without number, I have sat in meetings and heard Elder White and wife denounce these men, till I felt there was little manhood left in them. It violated all my ideas of right and justice, and stirred my indignation. Yet, whatever vote was asked by Elder White, we all voted it unanimously, I with the rest. Then I would go out alone and hate myself for my cowardice, and despise my brethren for their weakness.
"Elder and Mrs. White ran and ruled everything with an iron hand. Not a nomination to office, not a resolution, not an item of business was ever acted upon in business meetings until all had been first submitted to Elder White for his approval. Till years later, we never saw an opposition vote on any question, for no one dared to do it. Hence, all official voting was only a farce. The will of Elder White settled everything. If any one dared to oppose anything, however humbly, Elder White or wife quickly squelched him. . . .
"These, with other things, threw me into doubt and discouragement, and tempted me to quit the work. I saw many an able minister and scores of valuable men leave us because they would not stand such treatment." (Ibid., pp. 41-42)
I think it appropriate at this point to refer to two items, printed in the Michigan Pioneer Collections, which corroborate Canright’s account of James White’s positions in Adventism. On page 214 of Vol. 2, we are told that in 1877 James White was the president of the five leading Adventist organizations, viz., the General Conference, the Publishing Association, the Health Reform Institute, the General Tract and Missionary Society, and the Educational Society.
In the next volume of this series (p. 365) we find this said of Elder James White:
"He is, in fact, the founder of the Seventh-day Adventists, and there is probably no other man in the country who wields so strong an influence - amounting to almost unbounded power - over so many people as he does. No sect, save the Catholics, is so strongly organized as these Adventists, and Elder White lays down the laws for them all; the people look to him as their chief counselor in all matters of importance." (Detroit Press and Tribune, June 16, 1878)
"In July, 1873, myself and wife went to Colorado to spend a few weeks with Elder White and wife, in the mountains. I soon found things very unpleasant living in the family. Now my turn had come to catch it, but instead of knuckling down, as most of the others had, I told the elder my mind freely. That brought us into open rupture. Mrs. White heard it all, but said nothing. In a few days she had a long written "testimony" for wife and me. It justified her husband in everything, and placed us as rebels against God, with no hope of heaven only by a full surrender to them. Wife and I read it over many times with tears and prayers; but could see no way to reconcile it with truth. It contained many statements which we knew were false. We saw that it was dictated by a spirit of retaliation, a determination to break our wills or crush us." (SDAR, p. 42)
This ‘testimony,’ written Aug. 12, 1873, at Black Hawk, Colo., appears in volume three of Testimonies for the Church, under the heading, "To a Young Minister and his wife," who are addressed as "Dear Brother and Sister A." It covers somewhat over 25 page! A few quotations from it are in order. Mrs. White begins by saying, "For some months I have felt that it was time to write to you some things which the Lord was pleased to show me in regard to you several years ago" (p. 304). "I was shown that independence, a firm, set, unyielding will, a lack of reverence and due respect for others, selfishness and too great self-confidence, mark the character of sister A. ... In regard to brother A, I was shown that many of the things mentioned in the testimony to B11 applied to you. I saw that from a child you have been self-confident, headstrong, and self-willed, and have followed your own mind. You have an independent spirit and it has been very difficult for you to yield to anyone. When it was your duty to yield your way and your wishes to others, you would carry matters out in your own rash way. You have felt that you were fully competent to think and act for yourself independently" (p. 305). "God has been pleased to open to me the secrets of the inner life and the hidden sins of His people. ...the angel of God has spoken to me" (p. 314). "According to the light that God has given me in vision, wickedness and deception are increasing among God’s people who profess to keep His commandments" (p. 324).
"For awhile we were in great perplexity, but still my confidence in much of the doctrine and my fear of going wrong held me; but I was perfectly miserable for weeks, not knowing what to do. However, I preached awhile in Colorado and then went to California, where I worked with my hands for three months, trying to settle what to do. Elders Butler, Smith, White and others wrote to us, and tried to reconcile us to the work. Not knowing what else to do, I finally decided to forget all my objections, and go along as before. So we confessed to Elder White all we could possibly, and he generously forgave us! But from that on my faith in the inspiration of Mrs. White was weak." (SDAR, pp. 42-43)
The next few years, following 1873, seem to have gone pretty well, and so Canright says nothing about being troubled by doubts. In fact, he waxed strong in his professions of confidence in Mrs. White’s inspiration, as a reference to the second and third of his articles on "A Plain Talk to the Murmurers" will show. These appeared in the April 19th and 26th issues of Review and Herald for 1877. In the former one he thanks God for the "inestimable blessing" of the testimonies; in the latter, he goes so far as to say: "I pronounce the testimonies to be of the same Spirit and of the same tenor as the Scriptures."
However, after the death of his wife in 1879, a further trial came to Canright’s faith. He writes:
"At the general conference at Battle Creek in the fall, things were in a bad shape. Elder White was cross, and Mrs. White bore down heavy on several ministers. Harshness, fault-finding and trials were the order of the day. I felt that there was very little of the spirit of Christ present. I got away as quickly as possible. I saw more and more clearly that a spirit of oppression, criticism, distrust and dissension was the result of our work, instead of meekness, gentleness, and love among brethren. For the next whole year these feelings grew upon me, till I began to fear we were doing more harm than good. My work called me among old churches, where I could see the fruit of it. Generally they were cold and dead, backslidden, or in a quarrel, or nearly extinct, where once they had been large and flourishing churches. I lost heart to raise up more churches to go in the same way. One day I would decide to quit them entirely, and the next day I would resolve to go on and do the best I could. I never suffered more mental anguish in my life." (Ibid., p. 46)
"In the fall of 1880 I resolved to leave the Adventists, and, if I could, go with some other church." (Ibid., p. 46-47) He goes on to tell of his attending the annual Ohio State Conference at Clyde, intending to leave the denomination when it was over. Though he protested against his re-election as president of the Conference, he was voted in at Mrs. White’s insistence. "The next week I resigned, went east, and wrote Elder White that I would go with them no longer. Then she [Mrs. White] sent me a long written revelation, denouncing me as a child of hell, and one of the wickedest of men, though only two weeks before she thought me fit to be president of a conference!" (Ibid., p. 47)
The long written revelation which Canright mentions appears on pages 162-170 in book two of Mrs. White’s Selected Messages. In it she says:
"Satan is full of exultant joy that you have stepped from beneath the banner of Jesus Christ, and stand under his banner." Canright is said to be a "soul who chose darkness rather than light, and presumptuously placed himself on Satan’s side, in the ranks of the enemy." She tells him: "I do not ask an explanation of your course. Brother [C.W.] Stone wished to read your letter to me. I refused to hear it. The breath of doubt, of complaint and unbelief, is contagious; if I make my mind a channel for the filthy stream, the turbid, defiling water proceeding from Satan’s fountain, some suggestion may linger in my mind, polluting it. ...the very atmosphere surrounding a man who dares to make the statements you have made is as a poisonous miasma." (pp. 162-163, 166).
"For three months I taught elocution. I knew not what to do. I talked with ministers of other churches, but they did not seem to know how to help me. I could settle on nothing. I held on to my Christianity and love for Christ and the Bible, and preached and worked as I had opportunity. I was glad I had decided to leave the Adventists, and felt much better. Finally I met my present wife, who was an Adventist. Then I had a long talk with Elder Butler, Elder White, Mrs. White and others, and was persuaded that things were not as I had imagined. They said I was in the dark, led by Satan, and would go to ruin." (Ibid.)
Butler tells us:
"When he gave up preaching he began to lecture on elocution, and traveled considerably in Wisconsin and Michigan, holding classes. He told me himself that for a time he then ceased to observe the Sabbath, though he still believed it to be obligatory as the Bible Sabbath. He thought then quite seriously of preaching for the Methodists. ... But the Elder’s conscience troubled him greatly at times. He wrote me, desiring to see me and have a long talk. We met in Battle Creek the following January , and had some fifteen hours’ conversation. The poor man was in great distress of mind, and our sympathies were deeply enlisted for him." (R&H E, p. 3, col. 1)
"All the influence of old friends, associations, habits and long cultivated ideas came up and were too strong for my better judgment. I yielded, and resolved again to live and die with them. In my judgment and conscience I was ashamed of the surrender I had made, yet I tried to feel right and go on."(SDAR, p. 47)
But with all his trying, Canright did not feel right. By the fall of 1882 he was thoroughly miserable. Hear him:
"I was unhappy; I could not get over my doubts; I had no heart in the work. Several leading ministers in the State felt about the same. I then decided to quietly drop out of the ministry and go to farming. This I did for two years, but retained my membership with the church and worked right along with them. But I was in purgatory all the time, trying to believe what I could not. Yet I was not settled on any other church, and feared I might go wrong and so stood still."(Ibid., p. 49)
Says Butler: "During this time he had little or no faith in the peculiar doctrines of S.D. Adventists." (R&H E, p. 3, col. 1) On Dec. 9, 1883, he wrote thus to "Dear Brother Long [probably A.C. Long, of Marion, Ia.]: I have entirely given up preaching, and have no intention of ever engaging in it again. My faith in the whole thing has been shaken. As far as I can see at present, much of it may be true or it may not be. I do not feel positive about any of these speculative points as I used to. I am a member of the church still, and do all I can to help it. But if I were situated differently, would just as soon join some other church." (Quoted by W.H. Branson, In Defense of the Faith, p. 342)
The sequel is told in detail by Canright in Review and Herald for Oct. 7, 1884:
"A short time since, I attended the Northern Michigan camp meeting with Elder Butler. Here we had a long time for consultation, prayer, and careful examination of my difficulties. I began to see that, at least, some of my objections were not tenable, and that I myself was not right and in the light. Coming to the Jackson camp meeting [in September, 1884], we continued the investigation and carefully read over and examined my testimonies. I saw that I had put a wrong meaning on some things, and that other things were certainly true. If these were true, then I had certainly been wrong all the way through. Light came into my mind, and for the first time in years I could truly say I believed the testimonies."
Accordingly, Butler reports: Canright "came out and publicly took his stand with us once more, making a very affecting confession before a thousand people, which moved the whole congregation to tears. He confessed his great darkness of mind which he had felt for a long time, and said that now all was clear to him." (R&H E, p. 3, col. 1)
Here are the last two paragraphs of Canright’s article in the Review and Herald Extra for Oct. 7, 1884:
"Friday, Sept. 26, while on the camp-ground at Jackson, Michigan, I felt in my heart the most remarkable change that I ever experienced in all my life. It was a complete reversion of all my feelings. Light and faith came into my soul, and I felt that God had given me another heart. I never felt such a change before, not even when first converted, nor when I embraced the message, nor at any other time. I believe it was directly from Heaven, - the work of the Spirit of God. I now believe the message as firmly and more understandingly than ever before; and I want to say to all my friends everywhere, that now I not only accept, but believe the testimonies to be from God. Knowing the opposition I have felt to them, this change in my feelings is more amazing to myself than it can be to others.
"Such nearness to God, such earnest devotion, such solemn appeals to live a holy life can only be prompted by the Spirit of God. Where that is, there I want to be. 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. And here I take my stand to risk all I am, or have, or hope for, in this life and the life to come, with this people and this work."
It is to be noted, in particular, that Canright here declares that he not only accepts, but believes, Mrs. White’s "testimonies to be from God."
Referring to the Jackson camp meeting, in his book which was written a few years later, Canright says:
"Here I met old friends and associations, tried to see things as favorable as possible, heard explanations, etc., etc., till at last I yielded again. I was sick of an undecided position. I thought I could do some good here anyway; all my friends were here, I believed much of the doctrine still, and I might go to ruin if I left them, etc. Now I resolved to swallow all my doubts, believe the whole thing anyway, and stay with them for better or for worse. So I made a strong confession, of which I was ashamed before it was cold. Was I satisfied? No. Deep in my heart I was ashamed of myself, but tried to feel that it was not so. But soon I felt better, because I had decided. Gradually my faith came back, till I again really felt strong in the whole doctrine, and had no idea I should ever leave it again." (SDAR, pp. 49-50).
Exactly eight weeks after Canright made his confession at Jackson, Mich., a three days’ meeting of the Adventists was begun in Otsego, on Nov. 21st. Mrs. White gives an account of it in the Review and Herald for Dec. 2, 1884, exactly eight weeks after the confession had been published in the same periodical. In the course of reporting the meeting for Saturday afternoon, she says: "How my heart rejoiced to see Bro. Canright, all interest, heart and soul in the work, as he used to be in years past!" (p. 762) At the close of her report, she has more to say about Canright: "The most of our time was spent with the family of Eld. Canright. We were made very welcome at their pleasant and comfortable home, which is conveniently furnished, yet with simplicity. It is indeed a home. All was done that could be done for our ease and comfort. ... I felt that peace rested in the plain but comfortable home of Bro. And Sr. Canright."
Mrs. White also says:
"We listened with deep interest to remarks made by Eld. Canright at the close of the [Sunday] morning meeting, which were reported by Eld. [E.P.] Daniels." This report appears on the next page and the one following. In some places Canright’s words are almost identical with those found in the Oct. 7 issue of Review and Herald. It will be fitting to make a few quotations: "It seems to me, dear brethren, that my whole soul is now bound up in this present truth." Looking back over the preceding tow years, when he was farming instead of preaching, he says: "I myself wanted to know what was right," and then proceeds: "Now I want to say that I have been changed right around in my feelings and convictions." Towards the close, we read: "Brethren, I will say this: So far as I am concerned, I will start right here; and all that I have, all that I am, I will never do this backing up anymore; and I believe that if I ever go back from this, I am lost. All I have I will give to this cause."
It would seem, then, that there was no discrepancy between the remarks in the Otsego church and those made in Jackson about two months before. However, such was not precisely the case, for at one point in this later confession, Canright conceded: "I do not say I am fully satisfied in everything"; and at another, he could go no further than to say: "I want to come right where I will believe the testimonies with all my heart."
Here I must pause to admire the patience which the Adventists exercised over Mr. Canright. Especially to I wish to pay tribute to Elder Butler’s forbearance. In Monroe, Iowa, at the end of 1870, he put in the whole night laboring with his brother. In 1873, he was one of those who wrote to him in California, and tried to reconcile him to the work. (Ibid., p. 43) In the fall of 1880, he spent fifteen hours of conversation with him. And then, Canright say: "In the fall of 1884, Elder Butler, my old friend, and now at the head of the Advent work, made a great effort to get me reconciled and back at work again. He wrote me several times, to which I made no answer. Finally, he telegraphed me and paid my fare to a camp meeting." (Ibid., p. 49) There, continues Canright, "we had a long time for consultation," etc. (R&H E, p. 13, col. 2) Later, at the Jackson camp meeting, Butler carefully went over with Canright the testimonies of Mrs. White which had disturbed him. Surely, the most prejudiced anti-Adventist must do honor to the patient, kindly spirit of this man.
In the beginning of 1885 Canright’s revived belief in Mrs. White’s inspiration produced a couple of articles for Review and Herald. In the issue for January 6th, he had this to say about her book, The Great Controversy, which had been put out the previous year:
"The ideas concerning the nature and attributes of God, the character of Christ, and the rebellion of Lucifer in heaven, carry with them their own proof of inspiration." The issue for Feb. 10, 1885, contained his lengthy article entitled, "To those in Doubting Castle," in which he presented various reasons for believing in Mrs. White’s "testimonies." He concluded it by asserting that any who doubt them, do so because of "a proud, unconverted heart, a lack of real humility, and unwillingness to submit to God’s way of finding the truth."
In 1886 Canright was selected to debate with the Disciples, in Des Moines, Ia., with Prof. D.R. Dungan, president of Drake University. Writing about this not long afterward, Dungan said: "I have for a number of years been referred to Mr. Canright as the man that could defend their [the Adventists’] doctrine against anything that I might bring against it. At the very mention of debate last summer in this city, he was the choice of all men who were heard to say anything on that side of the subject." (SDAR, preface of 2nd ed.)
Referring to this debate, Canright says,
"I made every possible effort to be ready. That preparation did much to convince me of the unsoundness of some of our positions on the covenants, the two laws, etc. In our General Conference that fall, a sharp division occurred between our leading men over the law in Galatians. One party held it was the ceremonial law, the other the moral law - a square contradiction. After a long and warm discussion the conference closed, each party more confident than before. There was also much disagreement over other points of doctrine, and a good deal of warm party feeling. This, with other things, brought up my old feelings of doubt, and decided me that it was time for me now to examine and think for myself, and not be led nor intimidated by men who could not agree among themselves.
"I used every minute I could get for several weeks, carefully and prayerfully examining all the evidence on the Sabbath, the law, the sanctuary, the visions, etc., till I had not a doubt left that the Seventh-day Advent faith was a delusion." (Ibid., pp. 50-51)
Having reached this conclusion, Canright now did not merely cease preaching, but withdrew from the Adventist church in February of 1887.
What are we to make of this repeated rise and fall of Canright’s faith? From 1859 to 1865 he was all faith. Then he experienced a minor disturbance, but was soon as free of doubt as before. In 1867 he suffered a greater setback, but again recovered, seemingly without so much as a misgiving remaining. In 1869 a third relapse into doubt was followed by a third committal to Adventist belief. At the end of 1870, he suffered a much worse decline of confidence, from which he made some sort of a comeback a few weeks later. During the summer of 1873 came another serious resurgence of doubt, which carried him right out of the ministry for three whole months. But he again regained his balance, and was stronger than ever, if we may judge by his articles on "A Plain Talk to Murmurers." 1879 saw him again plunged into questionings, which persisted over a long period, and finally led him to resign from the work in the fall of 1880. However, after teaching elocution a few months, he again was reconciled to the work. Towards the close of 1882 he had a severe attack of unbelief in Adventism and went to farming. From this he recovered at Jackson in Sept. 1884. But immediately afterward, he felt ashamed of his confession, and only gradually regained his old confidence in the movement. However, it did not last, for in 1886 his faith, for the ninth time, grew shaky, and in the end he left Adventism completely, early in 1887.
I have never found even one Adventist expression of commendation for Canright’s long continuance in Adventism, in spite of those grave doubts that beset him repeatedly and with such force. It would seem that he was deserving of some praise for his tenacity, but it has never been bestowed.
What was the root cause of Canright’s recurring doubts? Mrs. White attributed them largely to ambition. Writing to him at the time of this dropping out of the ministry in the fall of 1880, she said:
"Keep away from our people, do not visit them and talk your doubts and darkness among them. ... You have ever had a desire for power, for popularity, and this is one of the reasons for your present position. ... You have wanted to be too much, and make a show and noise in the world. ... Your ambition has soared so high, it will accept nothing short of elevation." (Selected Messages, vol. 2, pp. 162-163)
The same charge appears in the last "testimony" Mrs. White sent Canright, on April 20, 1888. In it she spoke of an earlier temptation that had come to him "through false and ambitious hopes to become greater away from our people than with them," and warned against the sin of seeking "through disobedience to rise to greater heights, to gain some flattering position." (Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 621, 625) D.W. Reavis, in his book, I Remember, reports that Canright once told him that he believed he could become a great man were it not for the unpopular message of Adventism.
A very telling refutation of this explanation appeared in the opening chapter of Canright’s 1888 edition of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, under the ironical title, "How I sought position and popularity after leaving them." He wrote: "They said I must have left them for popularity, position, and pay. Did they know my heart? Had they any evidence of this? No, they made it up and said it because they could say nothing else. It was utterly false; for the truth is, I really feared I should be ruined financially by the change. But as soon as I had left them I received warm invitations from ten different denominations to unite with them, promising me good positions. But in Otsego, where I had lived for six years and was well-known, there was a small Baptist Church, in debt and unable to hire a pastor. They invited me to preach for them, but said they could offer me next to nothing as a salary. Here was a church needing help, just such as I felt I could give. I rejected all the other offers and accepted this and have been their pastor ever since. I leave honest men to judge my motives." (Chapter 11 contains confirmation of this). Moreover, G.I. Butler, at the close of 1887, intimated that Canright was finding it hard to "keep the wolf from the door," because of the small pay he got from the Baptist church of Otsego. (R&H E, p. 2, col. 1)
Butler, accordingly, had another explanation. It was that Canright was temperamental. He says: "When everything went pleasantly, he could usually see things with clearness. When he was ‘abused,’ as he always thought he was when things did not go to suit him, the evidences of our faith began immediately to grow dim. Dark clouds of unbelief floated over his mental sky, and he felt that everything was going by the board. Here was the Elder’s special weakness." ((Ibid., p. 3, col. 1) But Mr. Butler fails to recognize that those dark clouds had a real existence, even when not floating over Canright’s sky. In other words, the disheartening occasions only served to reveal Canright’s doubts; they did not produce them. They were lodged deep within, all the time. Untoward circumstances merely fanned into a flame the questionings that were already in his mind.
Now if Canright’s doubts are not traceable to either his ambition or his temperament, how are they to be explained? Answer: in precisely the same way that anyone’s doubts about anyone or anything are to be explained. They arose from what appeared to him to be a lack of evidence. The human mind is so constituted that it cannot actually believe without what, to it, are adequate reasons.
When Canright began his ministry, he was thoroughly convinced that Mrs. White was a prophetess, and that Adventism was of God. But, as time went on, he encountered facts that were in conflict with these concepts. He simply could not fit the new information into the framework of his previous views. As he thought on these things, doubts sprang up, creating disturbances within and disruption without. Unable to satisfy his mind with appropriate solutions, Canright tried the common expedient of forcing it instead. He tells us: "I swallowed my doubts and went on"; "I finally decided to forget all my objections, and go along as before"; "In my judgment and conscience I was ashamed of the surrender I had made, yet I tried to feel right and go on"; "I was in purgatory all the time, trying to believe what I could not"; "Now I resolved to swallow all my doubts, believe the whole thing anyway, and stay with them." (SDAR 40, 43, 47, 49)
We may well inquire what induced him to resort to such an expedient. He himself informs us: there were certain emotional factors present, though not always the same ones. One of these was fear: "my fear of going wrong held me"; "I...feared I might go wrong"; "I might go to ruin if I left them." (Ibid., pp. 43, 49) Another emotional influence was love: he fell in love with Lucy Hadden, an Adventist. Again, he says: "All the influence of old friends, associates, habits and long-cultivated ideas came up, and were too strong for my better judgment";(Ibid., p. 47) and yet again: "I met old friends and associations, tried to see things as favorable as possible, heard explanations, etc., etc., till at last, I yielded again."(Ibid., p. 49) "I yielded my judgment to the entreaties of my brethren and the love I had for old associates."(Ibid., p. 14)
Nowhere does the emotional element stand out more prominently than in Canright’s account, which was published in the Review and Herald after his last restoration to Adventism. Though I have quoted the last paragraph of this account earlier in this chapter, I must quote them, in part, again. This is what the "Confession of Eld. Canright" says: ""Friday, Sept. 26, while on the camp-ground at Jackson, Michigan, I felt in my heart the most remarkable change that I ever experienced in all my life. It was a complete reversion of all my feelings. Light and faith came into my soul, and I felt that God had given me another heart. I never felt such a change before... this change in my feelings is more amazing to myself than it can be to others." (R&H E, p. 13, col. 3, italics supplied)
It is perfectly clear, then, what was the nature of Canright’s difficulty. His intellectual faculty was destitute of satisfactory evidence, and his will, being thus bereft of a rational director, came under the government of his emotions. This, only in the religious sphere; he was too wise to follow the same course in his ordinary life. Now, such an abnormal state of things, set up in violation of the very constitution of human nature, could not possibly continue without interruption. The tendency of the faculties to revert to their normal arrangement inevitably precipitated new seizures of doubt, time and time again.
Whenever Canright was doubting Mrs. White’s inspiration and Adventism’s divine authority, he was considered to have succumbed to Satanic temptation. A reference to the "testimonies," sent him at such seasons, reveals this. But doubts emanate from God as well as Satan. God instills them in the mind regarding error, as Satan instills them regarding truth. They are, therefore, to be entertained in the former case, and to be withstood in the latter only. Mrs. White herself made the tragic mistake of withstanding doubts she should have entertained. She tells us: "I was sometimes tempted to doubt my own experience." (Early Writings, p. 22)
When Canright finally reached the place where he refused to be swayed emotionally, and decided that it was time for him to examine and think for himself, he was not long in leaving Adventism. After several weeks of intensive investigation, during which he carefully and prayerfully examined the evidence, he had no doubts left that the movement to which he had given the best years of his life was only a delusion. It was a painful conclusion at which to arrive, but he who honestly seeks truth will surely find it.
Looking back upon his emergence from Adventism, Canright says:
"As soon as I took my stand firmly, to be a free man and think for myself, a great burden, which I had carried all these years, rolled off. I felt like a new man. At last I was out of bondage. I have never for a moment regretted the step I took." (SDAR., p. 51)
11 In her preceding paragraph she listed B’s defects: "He had not been disciplined, and his temper had not been subdued. He had been permitted to have his own head and to do very much as he pleased. He was greatly deficient in reverence for God and man. He had a strong, unsubmissive spirit, and but a very faint idea of proper gratitude to those who were doing their utmost for him. He was extremely selfish."