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The Visions of Mrs. E.G. White

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    THE VISIONS: OBJECTIONS ANSWERED

    ONE of the most important subjects treated upon in the New Testament, is the doctrine of Spiritual Gifts. Paul gives it equal rank with the great question of the state of the dead, and says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” 1 Corinthians 12:1. He then proceeds to explain himself by saying that there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; that is, there are various operations produced by the Spirit of God, and a variety of manifestations that result from its presence; but all are wrought by the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. The apostle’s argument in the chapter already referred to, in Ephesians 4, and in other places in the New Testament, places it beyond denial that wherever the Spirit of God is present in sufficient measure, it will operate in some of the special ways which he has described; and to assert, as some do, that the age of miracles and spiritual gifts is past, so that it is impossible for the people of God to enjoy such privileges at the present time, is tantamount to an assertion that it is now, and has been ever since the so-called apostolic age, impossible for them to enjoy a sufficient measure of the Spirit to produce these results. But is there any limitation in this respect? Is it not the privilege of the church in one age to enjoy as much of the Spirit of God as in another? Did the Lord design that to his first disciples the supply should be continual and without measure, while to his followers in later and more degenerate ages, it should be intermittent and meager? Impossible! It is indeed a convenient excuse for living below one’s privilege to say that these manifestations were not designed to continue through the gospel age; but is not the lack of them in any age, in the words of Chrysostom, quoted by Mr. Wesley to Dr. Middleton, to be ascribed “to the want of faith and virtue and piety in those times?”VEGW 3.1

    But it is not our object to enter here into an argument for the perpetuity of these gifts in the present dispensation. This has already been done in Spiritual Gifts 1:5-16, and in Miraculous Powers, pp. 11-44, to which we would refer the reader. Nor shall we labor to show that all through this dispensation they have been more or less in exercise; as this is also shown in the work last mentioned, by numerous instances drawn from reliable sources. All that is to our purpose here, is simply to affirm that Seventh-day Adventists do believe in the Gifts of the Spirit as above set forth. They believe that the varied operations of the Spirit of God, having been once expressly “set in the church,” were designed to continue therein to the end, because they are not limited, and God has never withdrawn them from the church; just as they believe that the original blessing placed in the beginning upon the seventh day, is there still, because God never has withdrawn it, nor placed it upon any other day.VEGW 4.1

    To them, the doctrine of Spiritual Gifts, as set forth in the chapters referred to, is as much a special doctrine of Revelation, as is the Sabbath, the Sanctuary, the State of the Dead, or the Second Advent. Taking the Scriptures to be in deed and in truth the word of God, they cannot reject it. They can as easily explain away the Sabbath, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and many other prominent and scriptural doctrines, as the doctrine of Spiritual Gifts, and hence believe that to reject it, is to be guilty of error, and that to receive it, is essential to the unity of the faith.VEGW 4.2

    In addition to this theoretical view of the subject, and in addition to the ordinary operations of the Spirit of God, they believe that they have in their midst a special manifestation, answering to one at least of these gifts which have been placed in the Christian church. This is found in the visions of Mrs. E. G. White, as published in the works entitled Experience and Views, with Supplement, Testimonies to the Church, and Spiritual Gifts, Vols. 1-4.VEGW 5.1

    Every test which can be brought to bear upon such manifestations, proves these genuine. The evidence which supports them, internal and external, is conclusive. They agree with the word of God, and with themselves. They are given, unless those best qualified to judge are invariably deceived, when the Spirit of God is especially present. They are free from the disgusting contortions and grimaces which attend the counterfeit manifestations of Spiritualism. Calm, dignified, impressive, they commend themselves to every beholder, as the very opposite of that which is false or fanatical. The instrument is herself above jugglery or deceit.VEGW 5.2

    The influence is not mesmeric; for this people, reprobating the use of that agency, studiously refuse to learn the principles of its application, or to have aught to do with its practical workings; besides, the hallucinations of a mesmerized subject embrace only such facts and scenes as previously exist in the mind of the mesmerizing power; but the visions take cognizance of persons and things, and bring to light facts known, not only by no person present, but not even by the one through whom the visions are given.VEGW 5.3

    They are not the effect of disease; for no disease has ever yet been known to have the effect of repeatedly suspending the functions of the lungs, muscles, and every bodily sense, from fifteen to one hundred and eighty minutes, while in obedience to some influence which evidently has supreme possession of the mind, and in obedience to that alone, the eyes would see, the lips speak, and the limbs move.VEGW 6.1

    Further, their fruit is such as to show that the source from which they spring is the opposite of evil.VEGW 6.2

    1. They tend to the purest morality. They discountenance every vice, and exhort to the practice of every virtue. They point out the perils through which we are to pass to the kingdom. They reveal the devices of Satan. They warn us against his snares. They have nipped in the bud scheme after scheme of fanaticism which the enemy has tried to foist into our midst. They have exposed hidden iniquity, brought to light concealed wrongs, and laid bare the evil motives of the false-hearted. They have warded off dangers from the cause of truth upon every hand. They have aroused and re-aroused us to greater consecration to God, move zealous efforts for holiness of heart, and greater diligence in the cause and service of our Master.VEGW 6.3

    2. They lead us to Christ. Like the Bible, they set him forth as the only hope and only Saviour of mankind. They portray before us in living characters his holy life and his godly example, and with irresistible appeals they urge us to follow in his steps.VEGW 6.4

    3. They lead us to the Bible. They set forth that book as the inspired and unalterable word of God. They exhort us to take that word as the man of our counsel, and the rule of our faith and practice. And with a compelling power, they entreat us to study long and diligently its pages, and become familiar with its teaching, for it is to judge us in the last day.VEGW 7.1

    4. They have brought comfort and consolation to many hearts. They have strengthened the weak, encouraged the feeble, raised up the despondent. They have brought order out of confusion, made crooked places straight, and thrown light on what was dark and obscure. And no person, with an unprejudiced mind, can read their stirring appeals for a pure and lofty morality,their exaltation of God and the Saviour, their denunciations of every evil, and their exhortations to everything that is holy and of good report, without being compelled to say, “These are not the words of him that hath a devil.”VEGW 7.2

    Negatively, they have never been known to counsel evil or devise wickedness. No instance can be found in which they have lowered the standard of morality. No one of their adherents has ever been led by them into paths of transgression and sin. They do not lead men to serve God less faithfully or to love him less fervently. They do not lead to any of the works of the flesh nor make less devoted and faithful Christians of those who believe them. In not a single instance can any of the charges here mentioned be sustained against them; and, concerning them, we may emphatically ask the question which Pilate put to the Jews in reference to the Saviour, “Why, what evil hath he done?”VEGW 7.3

    Yet with all this array of good fruit which they are able to present, with all this innocency of any charge of evil that can be brought against them, they everywhere encounter the bitterest opposition. They are the object of the blindest prejudice, the intensest hate, and most malignant bitterness. Worldlings and formal professors of all denominations, join in one general outcry against them of vituperation and abuse. Many will go a long distance out of their way for the purpose of giving them an uncalled-for and malicious thrust. And false-hearted brethren in our own ranks make them the butt of their first attacks, as they launch off into apostasy and rebellion. Why is all this? Whence all this war against that of which no evil can be said? From the example of Cain who slew his brother, of the Jews who clamored for the blood of the innocent Saviour, of the infidel who storms with passion at the very name of Jesus, and from the principle of the carnal heart which is at enmity with everything that is holy and spiritual, we leave the reader to answer.VEGW 8.1

    Some of those who so strenuously oppose the visions, have a series of objections which they offer in justification of their course. But before we look at these, let us for a moment survey the field, that we may, if possible, take in at a glance the cause, object, and aim, of this contest, and so be better prepared to put a just estimate upon the motives and efforts of the opposition. We believe, love, and defend the visions, on the grounds above set forth, their unvarying tendency to good, and because they so admirably answer the purpose for which the Scriptures assure us that the gifts were set in the church, namely, to comfort, encourage, and edify the saints, and bring them to the unity of the faith. On what ground can they be objected to? What is there in fact that a person among Seventh-day Adventists, a sincere Christian, has visions and has published them to the world, to excite all the stir and opposition that is everywhere raised over them? They do no hurt; what is the matter? They injure no one; then why not let the person enjoy her gift undisturbed, and those who choose to believe in it, believe in it in peace?VEGW 8.2

    But no! This work, innocent as it is of all evil, fruitful as it is of all good, must not be suffered to go on in peace. And again we ask, Why? We wish the reader carefully to consider this question. If we look at those who oppose this work and consider the ground they occupy, we shall be able to define pretty accurately the motives from which they act. There are two classes which may be described, with the motives that govern them, as follows:VEGW 9.1

    The first class is composed of those who believe, or did believe at the time their opposition commenced, the views held by Seventh-day Adventists, but in whom, or in some one with whom they sympathized, wrongs were pointed out and reproved by the visions. These same individuals had no doubt often prayed, Lord, show us our wrongs. The Lord answers their prayers in his own way, and chooses to point them out in vision. Now if they object to this, they show at once that there was no sincerity in their petitions; for they cannot sincerely wish to know their faults, if they are not willing to have them pointed out except in a way of their own choosing. They should rather be grateful that they are made known to them in any manner, and that time and opportunity are given them to put them away before it is too late. But here too many rebel; and here comes in the first class of objectors to the visions. Not being dead to sin, they give way to the promptings of their still dominant carnal heart, and set to work, not to repent of their wrongs which they cannot deny, but to break down that which has kindly, yet plainly, pointed out their wrongs, that they may see and put them away before the Judgment. They would prefer that the church should be without eyes, rather than that any of their wrongs would be seen and exposed.VEGW 9.2

    The other class consists of those who are the avowed and open opponents of all the distinguishing views held by Seventh-day Adventists. Their opposition springs from a different motive from that of the first class. Not having been reproved themselves by the visions, they have no ground for opposition in this respect; but they hate that system of truth with which the visions stand connected, and they attack the visions as the most sure and effectual way of hindering the progress of that truth. In this they acknowledge the efficiency of the visions in advancing this work. They know them to be one of the great elements of its strength and prosperity. And do they not by such a course plainly tell us, who love the truth, how we should regard the visions? If the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of the light, so the opponents of the truth are wiser than some of its professed friends. The old adage, “It is lawful to learn even from an enemy,” may be put in practice by us here. If those who would gladly see this work come to nought, attack the visions as the most effectual way of accomplishing this, should not those who desire the work to advance and prosper be equally zealous in loving, living out, and defending the visions, as one of the most effectual means of securing this result? Consistency forbids that they should be esteemed of less importance by their friends than by their foes.VEGW 10.1

    This covers the whole ground of the opposition; for we have never known any objection to arise which could not be traced to one or the other of these two sources. The opposer is always a person who has either been reproved for wrongs himself, or is in sympathy with those who have been so reproved, or he is a person who is openly hostile to the positions of S. D. Adventists as a whole. But neither of these positions is, in our mind, very well calculated to enlist the sympathy of any sincere lover of honesty and uprightness, or any true friend of the cause.VEGW 11.1

    Having thus seen who oppose the visions, and why they do it, we are prepared to look at the objections, through which they would fain exhibit some shadow of a foundation for their incessant and zealous warfare. But a singular fact meets us at the outset: At one time the opposers of the visions cry out against them as presenting nothing new. They are, it is claimed, in the main, in harmony with a previously-received theory or impression. The view is first decided upon, and then the visions fall in with it. And this is urged as proof that they are dependent on human opinion, and hence are of human origin. At another time they accuse them of leading out and adding to the word of God. So that, as presented by the objector, the matter stands thus: At one time the visions contain nothing new, and then they are founded on human opinion; at another time they do present new things, and then they are an addition to the word of God. At one time the theory is first formed, and the visions fall in, or, in other words, are led by human opinion; at another time they determine the theory, and we are a deluded, vision-led people. So they will not be satisfied either way. But these two claims devour each other; for if the visions are determined by preconceived views, we lead them, not they us. But if they lead us, as they are more commonly accused of doing, then they are not governed by any predetermined opinions or views. Now our opponents would greatly oblige us by deciding which of these two positions they will take. They cannot retain them both; and when they determine which they will surrender, we are ready to enter upon the work of answering the other.VEGW 11.2

    But we proceed to a more particular examination of the objections offered. In these the objectors everywhere betray a consciousness of a painful scarcity of material; and hence there is throughout a labored effort to make the most of every little point that can be seized upon, and present it in a greatly magnified or perverted light. And finding even these limited, to make their objections appear respectable as to numbers, they go still further, and finding acts in the course of individuals which they construe to be contrary to the testimony of the visions, they incorporate them in as objections to the visions themselves! With this class of objections, of course, we have nothing to do, in answering objections to the visions; for though every believer in them should grossly violate their teaching, it would have no bearing whatever on the question of their authenticity.VEGW 12.1

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