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An Examination of Testimonies 1, Page 116

A passage written by Ellen White and published in Testimonies volume 1 (p116) has been used (in My Burden is Light) to lend supposed support for the idea that the Sabbath begins at sunrise. Here is the passage:

"I saw that it is even so: 'From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.' Said the angel: 'Take the word of God, read it, understand, and ye cannot err. Read carefully, and ye shall there find what even is, and when it is.' I asked the angel if the frown of God had been upon His people for commencing the Sabbath as they had. I was directed back to the first rise of the Sabbath, and followed the people of God up to this time, but did not see that the Lord was displeased, or frowned upon them. I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath. Said the angel: 'Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet.' Said the angel: 'If light come, and that light is set aside or rejected, then comes condemnation and the frown of God; but before the light comes, there is no sin, for there is no light for them to reject.' I saw that it was in the minds of some that the Lord had shown that the Sabbath commenced at six o'clock, when I had only seen that it commenced at 'even,' and it was inferred that even was at six. I saw that the servants of God must draw together, press together." (1T 116, written in 1855)
Following is a careful examination of this passage. Words quoted from it appear in red.

"I saw that it is even so:"
What is she referring to? To J.N. Andrews' study of the Sabbath in which he concluded that the Sabbath was to be observed from sunset to sunset as he determined that is what "even to even" meant. He had presented this 4 days earlier at a Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan. The big question at that time was when to begin the Sabbath. Their practise had been to do it from 6pm to 6pm following Joseph Bates understanding of the meaning of evening.

'From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.'
She is, in this statement, confirming J.N. Andrews' conclusion which was to observe the Sabbath from sunset to sunset.

Said the angel: 'Take the word of God, read it, understand, and ye cannot err. Read carefully, and ye shall there find what even is, and when it is.'
Ellen White had already, just a few days before, accepted the sunset start time. She was giving a message to confirm in the minds of Joseph Bates and the few who still held to the 6pm time what had already been established by J.N. Andrews' careful study of the Bible.

I asked the angel if the frown of God had been upon His people for commencing the Sabbath as they had.
She was in inquiring about God's attitude towards the many people who had been, till that time, observing Sabbath from 6pm to 6pm.

I was directed back to the first rise of the Sabbath, and followed the people of God up to this time, but did not see that the Lord was displeased, or frowned upon them.
This, of course, would be referring to the beginning of Sabbath observance among Adventists in the 1840s, not the beginning of the Sabbath in Eden.

I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath.
She was wondering why they had not been corrected before "this late day" from their earlier practise. She understood obedience. It was not a question of why they should start doing things right but why not earlier or, perhaps, why change when they were, in her perception, so close to the end.

Said the angel: 'Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet.'
Understand what? Well, what was her question? "I inquired why ... that at this late day we must change ..." The question here is not so much about the correction in their time of starting the Sabbath but about why so long before the correction; why didn't it come sooner? The angel's answer confirms this.

Said the angel: 'If light come, and that light is set aside or rejected, then comes condemnation and the frown of God; but before the light comes, there is no sin, for there is no light for them to reject.'
The answer was about light (understanding) coming on a subject, not specifically regarding the Sabbath.

I saw that it was in the minds of some that the Lord had shown that the Sabbath commenced at six o'clock, when I had only seen that it commenced at 'even,' and it was inferred that even was at six.
Evidently, some people had concluded that she had been shown that even was a reference to 6pm. But this was merely an inference on their part. She had only been shown "that it commenced at 'even,'" but they had thought this to be 6pm.

Notice: "... I had only seen that it commenced at 'even ..." She said and wrote that she had seen, in vision, that Sabbath commenced at even. When "it was in the minds of some that the Lord had shown that the Sabbath commenced at six o'clock" it was because they were understanding that "even" in what "the Lord had shown" her was 6pm. They attached 6pm to even, the Lord did not. But "the Lord had shown" her, in vision, ("I had ... seen") that the Sabbath "commenced at even."

This was given in confirmation of the study by J.N. Andrews. God did not give them this earlier because He desired them to get it from study of the word. That is the part they did "not yet" understand.

I saw that the servants of God must draw together, press together."
In the context, this statement seems to be in reference to their time of observance of the Sabbath. It also points out the importance of God's people being united. Better to be united rather than have some starting at 6pm and some at sunset. At some times of year, this could be a difference of two hours.

This correction, given by the Lord in vision to Ellen White, was to help unite the people in their practise ("... the servants of God must draw together, press together.") The result was as stated by James White (Review and Herald, Feb. 25, 1868):

"It is also known that in the autumn of 1855, the Review taught that sunset was the Bible time to commence the Sabbath, and that our people generally changed from six o'clock to sunset."

Some have taken this whole passage to mean that Ellen White did not yet (and the people of God would not until some future time) understand when even - the time to start the Sabbath - was. There is now a desire by some to understand the time to start the Sabbath to be sunrise (which is certainly not even).

This misunderstanding comes largely from:

  1. an interpretation of Genesis 1:1-5 which fails to recognize that words can have multiple meanings. This is dealt with beginning at: www.jesus-resurrection.info/word-meanings.html
  2. a practise of focussing on any verse which seems to promote the sunrise theory (Many of these are based on the false premise that "day" refers only to the light hours of a 24-hour period.) while ignoring scripture that clearly shows that "day" can also be understood (as we use it) to refer to the whole 24-hour day.
  3. incorrectly using the passage from Testimonies volume 1, p116 to suggest that the start of the Sabbath was not yet understood in Ellen White's time. It implies that the incorrect keeping of the Sabbath from 6pm to 6pm was "corrected" by God to sunset to sunset (another incorrect time in the sunrise-start view) only to be later corrected again to sunrise to sunrise or even sunrise to sunset.

God does seek to correct us - our practise and our understanding. He might not do it all at once - He may give new light a little at a time as we are able to handle it. According to James White, God first (in 1847) corrected the idea of "sunrise to sunrise" to "even to even" without specifying that even meant sunset. Later, additional light was found by the diligent study of J.N. Andrews and confirmed in vision by Ellen White to the understanding that even meant sunset. The result was unity among the people in their Sabbath observance.

Here is a question to think about: Would God, in vision, give an incorrect time to start the Sabbath (or any incorrect information) to His people? I don't think so. He might not reveal everything at once knowing we could only handle so much truth and change at once. But He is certainly not going to present error!

 


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