"Truth about Ellen White Writings"

Ellen White and Joanna Southcott

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), a self-proclaimed prophetess, had been a very prominent religious figure in the 18th century in England. As with Phoebe Palmer, Ellen White seems to have very much in common with Southcott in respect to her calling, personal life and ministry and message. Following are some of the striking parallels between the two prophets.

1. The call to prophetic office

Ellen White (1827-1915): “I have had no claims to make, only that I am instructed that I am the Lord’s messenger; that he called me in my youth to be his messenger, to receive his word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus…. My Saviour declared me to be his messenger. “Your work,” he instructed me, “is to bear my word. Strange things will arise, and in your youth I set you apart to bear the message to the erring ones, to carry the word before unbelievers, and with pen and voice to reprove from the Word actions that are not right. Exhort from the Word. I will make my Word open to you. It shall not be as a strange language. In the true eloquence of simplicity, with voice and pen, the messages that I give shall be heard from one who has never learned in the schools. My Spirit and my power shall be with you… Give the light I shall give you. The messages for these last days shall be written in books, and shall stand immortalized” (RH, July 26, 1906).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “I, Joanna Southcott, am clearly conceived my calling is of God, and my writings are indited by his Spirit… that all my writings came from the Spirit of the most high God” (Mrs. Joanna Southcott’s Works, Vol. 1: The continuation of the Prophecies of Joanna Southcott, p. 4, 1801-1812).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “In 1792, I was strangely visited by day and night, concerning what was coming upon the whole earth. I was then ordered to set it down in writing” (The Strange Effects of faith, p. 5, 1801).

“In 1792, at the age of forty-two, she first heard the voice of the Lord which came to her precisely as it came to Moses, Miriam, Deborah, or Huldah, Elijah, David, Isaiah or Amos… Leaving her work to look after itself, she faithfully recorded every word she heard without addition thereto or subtraction therefrom” (The truth about Joanna Southcott (Prophetess), 1919).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “Here I have faithfully given to the world the words Of The Lord, as delivered to me” (A warning to the world. Joanna Southcott’s prophecies, p. 100, 1804).

2. Spirit of prophecy

Adventist Church: “One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen. G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction” (28 Fundamental Beliefs, No. 18).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the only true Spirit of Prophecy. It is from this Spirit that Joanna Southcott writes” (Divine and Spiritual Communications, p. vii, 1809).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… spirit of prophecy given to the women, for the spirit of prophecy is the Spirit of Jesus” (Strange Effects of Faith, p. 102, 1801).

3. Inspired the same way as the Bible prophets

Ellen White (1827-1915): “The Holy Ghost is the Author of the Scriptures and of the Spirit of Prophecy.” (3SM, p. 30).

“We believe the revelation and inspiration of both the Bible and Ellen White’s writings to be of equal quality. The superintendence of the Holy Spirit was just as careful and thorough in one case as in the other” (The Ministry, October 1981).

“As Samuel was a prophet to Israel in his day, as Jeremiah was a prophet to Israel in the day of the captivity, as John the Baptist came as a special messenger of the Lord to prepare the way for Christ’s appearing, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today. And the same as the messages of the prophets were received in olden times, so her messages should be received at the present time.” (The Review and Herald, October 4, 1928).

Ellen White (1827-1915): “In ancient times God spoke through the mouths of prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the Testimonies of his Spirit” (5T, p. 661).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “The same Spirit that first inspired men to write the bible, hath inspired me in these last days to fulfil it, beyond the reach of human learning” (Mrs. Southcott’s Works, Vol. 3, p. 36, 1801; Vol. 1, 1801-1812).

4. Authority of their writings

Ellen White (1827-1915): “I saw the state of some who stood on present truth, but disregarded the visions—the way God had chosen to teach in some cases, those who erred from Bible truth. I saw that in striking against the visions they did not strike against the worm—the feeble instrument that God spake through—but against the Holy Ghost. I saw it was a small thing to speak against the instrument, but it was dangerous to slight the words of God. I saw if they were in error and God chose to show them their errors through visions, and they disregarded the teachings of God through visions, they would be left to take their own way, and run in the way of error, and think they were right, until they would find it out too late” (1SM, p. 40)

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… so blessed be the Lord of His unbounded mercies, that from the authority of the bible as well as The Prophecies made to me in my writings, that the lord will not now lay the iniquities of one upon the other, nor punish the innocent with the guilty” (Letters and communications, p. 123, 1804).

5. Power of the Lord comes upon them in their weak condition

Ellen White (1827-1915): “But I was suddenly taken ill and fainted…The brethren prayed for me, and I was restored to consciousness. The Spirit of God rested upon us…  I often fainted like one dead; but in answer to prayer, revived again” (Life Sketches of James and Ellen G. White, 1888, pp. 238, 239.

“When the angel of God spoke to Ellen White in vision, she also often became weak, and then was strengthened as the power of God came upon her” (His Messenger, p. 69).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… just before the power of the lord came upon her, she said she sick unto death…” (Letters and Communications of Joanna Southcott, the prophetess of Exeter, p. 31, 1804).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “She was often sick as death” (Ibid., p. 48).

6. Angel guides

Ellen White (1827-1915): “In my dreams I was at—, and I was told by my Guide to mark everything I heard and to observe everything I saw” (3SM, p. 43).

Ellen White (1827-1915): “My Guide said, “Iniquity, adultery” (Ibid., p. 44).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… my guide told me to unhang it and throw it down” (A Warning to the World: Joan Southcott’s prophecies, p. 29, 1804).

7. Lucifer was jealous of the Son of God

Ellen White (1827-1915): “Because of the exaltation of Christ, the One equal with the Father, he allowed jealousy to arise in his heart” (ST, July 23, 1902).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “That… originated evil in his heart by his jealousy of the Son of God” (Truth about Joanna Southcott (Prophecies), p. 4, 1919).

8. Messenger of the Lord

Ellen White (1827-1915): “I have had no claims to make, only that I am instructed that I am the Lord’s messenger; that He called me in my youth to be His messenger, to receive His word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus. Early in my youth I was asked several times, Are you a prophet? I have ever responded, I am the Lord’s messenger. I know that many have called me a prophet, but I have made no claim to this title. My Saviour declared me to be His messenger” (1SM, p. 32).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… Joanna Southcott, who is the messenger forerunning and warning of that glorious event, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall appear a second time, as the hope of all his people…” (Mrs. Joanna Southcott’s Works, Vol. 4, 1801-1812).

9. Explanation of the failed prophecies

Adult Sabbath School lesson: Lesson 6, January 24-30, 2009: “The fulfillment of most prophecies (exceptions are the end-time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation) is dependent on the actions and attitudes of the people concerned. Jonah made the clear-cut statement, given him from God, that in 40 days Nineveh would be “overturned” (Jonah 3:4, NIV). Yet, it never happened. Was Jonah a false prophet? Of course not. Instead, the prophecy was conditional; its fulfillment depended upon how the people responded to the message God had given them. This principle may explain why a particular prophecy made by Ellen White in 1856 did not come to pass. In 1856, Mrs. White declared: “I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: ‘Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.’ ”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 131, 132. All who were alive way back then are now, of course, dead. How do we explain this? The answer is conditional prophecy. We must remember that she was told God’s kingdom could have come in her lifetime. In 1896 she wrote: “If those who claimed to have a living experience in the things of God had done their appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would have been warned ere this, and the Lord Jesus would have come in power and great glory.”—Review and Herald, Oct. 6, 1896. In the last volume of the Testimonies for the Church, published in 1909, she wrote, “If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. While men have slept, Satan has stolen a march upon us.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 29. If we apply the principle of conditionality to her 1856 vision, the problem disappears”.

R. Hann: “…since then [1792], Joanna has prophesied of the advent of the millennium, and have fixed the year when it would be; but the prophecies have not been fulfilled; therefore either Joanna, or the Spirit that visits her must be an imposter. Joan’s followers, notwithstanding the failure of the prophecies, will not acknowledge the imposture? And one of their arguments is, “The prophecies are conditional; this is very disingenuous: it is flying from the conviction, and taking refuge in ignorance. It proves the Proverbs of Solomon, “Of pride alone cometh contention,” and only shews that any subterfuge is better than owning self deluded… A prophecy is inseparably connected with the unalterable decrees of Heaven; and is only a prediction of what must infallibly come to pass; and the event must be unalterably fixed before the prophecy can be given. Hence that everlasting standard for Prophecies and Prophets in Deuteronomy XVIII: 22, “when a prophet speaketh in the name of the lord, if the followeth not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously.” … There is yet one thing that must not be omitted: the circumstances of Jonah and Nineveh affords no little support to this horrid delusion. Because of Jonah’s threatening was not executed on the city, according to his preaching; therefore, the failure of Jonah’s prophecies prove her not to be a false prophet. This argument is both fallacious and wicked; it manifests a disposition to delusion, even by the dreadful means of invalidating the Scriptures” (The remarkable life, entertaining history and surprising adventures of Joanna Southcott, Volume 2, pp. 13-16, 1810).

10. Freedom of choice

Ellen White (1827-1915): “The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all created beings depended upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love–homage that springs from an intelligent appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced allegiance, and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service” (GC, p. 493).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “… there must be a freedom of choice in all created beings, angels as well as men, and the happiness of all rests upon their obedience to the divine will; but there can be no such thing as compulsive obedience” (An Answer to the World, p. 24, 1806).

11. Many are unfamiliar with the Bible and the testimonies

Ellen White (1827-1915): “But there are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies. You are not familiar with the Scriptures” (5T, p. 665).

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814): “I am sorry to say, I believe the Clergy know no more of their Bibles, than they do of my writings” (Letters, and communications of Joanna Southcott, the prophetess of Exeter, p. 124, 1804).