D. M. Canright 


Part 5

D. M. Canright was a strange man. In his books, published in 1889 and 1919, he violently attacked the Seventh day Adventist Church and Ellen White personally. And yet in his "Review" articles, while still a leader in the Church, he reveals clear, calm reasoning that is quite different.

In the year 1877, Dudley Canright presented in the "Review" a series of ten articles. These appeared between March 15 and June 14. This series of ten articles was issued under the general title of -"A Plain Talk to the Murmurers— Some Facts for Those Who Are not in Harmony with the Body."

Then, in 1885, just half a year before his final break with the Church, and two years before his "Seventh-day Adventism Renounced" was published, he penned a powerful article that appeared on February 10, 1885 in the "Review." This article, entitled "To Those in Doubting Castle" was well written, and, as with the ten articles preceding it, clearly was written to himself. (Both in 1877 and in 1885 he had just returned to the body from a dark cloud of several months in separation from them.)

Here now are major excerpts from all eleven of these articles. First, we shall consider the 1877 articles, as a whole. Then, we shall examine much of the 1885 article.



By Eld. D. M. Canright

Among the most dangerous of the places which pilgrims had to pass in the days of Bunyan was Doubting Castle. Many a poor pilgrim was caught on these grounds, shut up in this terrible old castle, and finally destroyed by the keeper, Giant Despair. But some were finally lucky enough to make their escape. That same old castle still stands by the way, as grim, and dark, and dreadful as ever. Every now and then some poor pilgrim, venturing too near, is caught. Some are rescued, but many are not. Hoping to help some of these, and to warn others, I write these lines.

Twenty-five years ago I embraced this message. The complete system of truth which it presented seemed to me something wonderful and very glorious. The study of the Bible was a continual feast to me. To preach it to others, and see them embrace it, filled my heart with gladness and peace. But at length things came up which threw me into doubt on some points, and finally were the occasion of my ceasing to preach the message. As the same things have affected others more or less, and will be liable to affect still others in the future, I wish to give a few of the reasons why I still think that the work is all right, that the Lord is in it, and that these doubts are not well founded.

But even the gospel is not so plain that objections cannot be raised against it if men try hard to find them. Well informed infidels even raise many objections against the Bible itself,—objections which are difficult to answer, and which they claim never have been satisfactorily answered. And so they go on scoffing and disbelieving. But Christians don’t give up their faith for all that. The evidence on the other hand is too clear and too abundant to be overbalanced by a few seeming objections.

From the very beginning God’s work has been doubted by some who have had a full knowledge of it and a close connection with it. . By faith Noah condemned the world. Heb. 11:7. He had the same evidence which the world had. He believed, they disbelieved. . No man ever came from God with better evidences of his divine mission than Moses; and yet right among his own people and followers and co-workers doubters were constantly springing up. . The same spirit of fault-finding and of doubt was continually cropping out during the whole forty years. Yet at the same time there was the pillar of cloud always with them, the manna falling day after day for forty years, besides many other miracles. In the face of all this, a few objections which they could not, or would not, understand outweighed everything else. The fact is that God has never at any time given so much light and evidence that man had to believe whether he wanted to or not. Nor has he been careful to remove all objections out of the way of those who have believed and embraced his truth.

Notice what God says of Christ: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense." Rom. 9:23. Didn’t God know that man would stumble over Him? Yes; and so He knows that they will also stumble over other truths just as they always have done, and always will do. But those who seek God humbly and with tears will not be left to fall. God would send every angel from heaven before one such should miss the way. All these facts apply with equal force to the cause of God in our day, to the third angel’s message, and to all connected with it.

But I wish more especially to apply this to the testimonies. What evidence do we have that they are of God? Every argument in favor of the third angel’s message is an argument in favor of the testimonies. Why? If it be a fact that the time has come for a special warning to the world on the advent near, the law of God, and other truths which we hold, then we may be sure that God would prepare the way for that message by raising up proper persons to give it.

Now, admitting that ours is a special message from God designed to warn this generation, look at its history. Sr. White and her work have not only been connected with the message from the very first, but she has had a leading influence in that work, has stood front and foremost, and with voice and pen has done more to guide and mold the message than any other half dozen laborers now in the cause. From the beginning her teachings have been accepted by all the leading ministers and believers as light from God.

Now would it not be the very height of absurdity to accept the message and the work as the truth and God’s work, and yet reject the very one who had done the work? A deceiver, an impostor, a false teacher stand at the head of God’s special work for forty years! No, that will never do. We must either reject the message or receive the testimonies. They stand or fall together. So I repeat that every argument in favor of the main doctrine of our faith is an argument in favor of the testimonies.

Another argument in favor of the testimonies is the fact that all those parties who have drawn off from our people in opposition to the testimonies have come to naught, or at best have had only a feeble existence. Time and again this has been tried by different persons proposing to preach all the message except the testimonies. Now if that position is right, why don’t [sic] God prosper them? Why don’t they succeed better than those who hold and teach them?

Another evidence in favor of the testimonies is the fact that those who have accepted them have always stood together, and have perfectly agreed in faith and practice; while those who have opposed them have disagreed in doctrine and discipline, and have split up into little factions.

And still another evidence is found in the fact that those who remain among us, and still oppose the testimonies, soon lose their love for the message, their spirituality, their devotion, their zeal for God and for the salvation of souls. I have seen many such cases, and have never yet known an exception to this rule. Why is this so? If they are right, why does it always have this effect? On the other hand, the most devoted and zealous members in all our churches are those who have the strongest faith in the testimonies.

It seems to me now that no one who has ever felt the power of the Spirit of God upon his own heart can candidly read through the four volumes of "Spirit of Prophecy" without being deeply convicted that the writer must live very near to God, and be thoroughly imbued with the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, and animated the apostles and prophets. Such lofty thoughts of God, of heaven, and of spiritual things cannot come from a carnal heart, nor from a mind deceived and led by Satan. I have not a shadow of a doubt about the sleep of the dead, the annihilation of the wicked, the Sonship of Christ, baptism by immersion, etc.; and yet there are scriptures, such for instance, as the rich man and Lazarus, which are as difficult for me to harmonize with these plain Bible doctrines as it is for me to explain the hardest passage in Sr. White’s writings. Peter admitted that there were some things in the Scriptures hard to be understood. 2 Peter 3:16. He says that some wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. And that is just what some are doing with the testimonies.

When we consider how extensive these writings are, extending over a period of nearly forty years, embracing ten bound volumes besides many smaller works, it would be a wonder indeed if in all these there should not be anything in the wording, the sentiment, or the doctrine, hard to understand and explain, or on which a sharp opponent could not make a plausible argument. We know that God’s revelations in the past have not been given free from all obscurity and difficulties. Neither will they be now.

If a man reads the Bible on purpose to find objections, as Tom Paine did, and as Ingersoll does, he will find plenty of them to satisfy his unbelief, and confirm him in his infidelity. But if, like thousands of others equally learned and intelligent, he goes to the Scriptures to find light and God and salvation, he will find them full and clear, to the joy of his soul. I am profoundly convinced in the depths of my soul, after an experience of twenty-five years, that the same thing is true of the testimonies.

And now I want to reason awhile with those among us who are holding off and living in doubt about the testimonies. I believe that your course is not only wrong, but that it is unsatisfactory to you here, and will be unsatisfactory at the Judgment.

My brethren, my sisters, are you willing to let your short life slip by year after year, and finally come up to the searching test of the Judgment in this way? Beware! Many will land in perdition who do not intend to. Shut your eyes to it as you may, such a course must inevitably end in disaster.

But you say, "I would like to believe and have full confidence in the whole work if I only could; but I am afraid I shall believe an error." Well, let us see if there is really any danger in going this way.

You certainly know that our people hold all the cardinal doctrines of salvation,—faith in God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, repentance, a holy life, etc. Isn’t this safe? You know that Sr. White and all our ministers not only so teach, but exert all their influence to have our people live lives of devotion, of honesty, of purity, of love, of plainness, of sacrifice, and of every Christian virtue. You know that every sin is condemned among our people, and the most solemn warnings are constantly given against even the appearance of evil. You know that in almost every church of our people there are at least some who are living blameless Christian lives. You know that there is not one immoral doctrine taught or practiced by our people. Bad men and poor examples there are, to be sure; but they are such in spite of all our efforts to make them better. You know that if any man will strictly live up to the teachings of the testimonies and our people, he will certainly be saved.

Now will it not be better for you,—better in this life and safer in the next,—to believe and labor heartily with this people than it is to believe nobody, be in harmony with no church and have no settled system of doctrine? Of all the miserable, unsatisfactory places to be in, that is the worst.

My friend, is this your condition? How long have you been there? One year? five years? ten years? Haven’t you settled it yet? Then give it up, and come in with those who have settled it, where there is faith and hope and zeal and active work for God and man.

Look at the grand truths which our people hold,—the new earth, the beautiful city, the resurrection, the real life hereafter, the literal coming of Christ, the sleep of the dead, the destruction of sin and sinners, the law of God, all those grand lines of prophecy unmistakably pointing to the end near. Can you give these all up, forget them, and shut them from your heart? Can you once more have confidence in intangible spirits, eternal hell, sprinkling for baptism, Sunday-Sabbath, or the millennium? Pshaw! strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel!

I find that there is peace and joy, hope and confidence, love for souls, and the blessing of God in giving full confidence to the whole message; and these I have never found in doubting it, nor have I ever seen any one who did find them that way. All admit that we have truth enough, if lived out, to save us. We know that all other churches have many errors. How shall we gain anything, then, by going there? Start a new church of our own? Well, the success of those who have left us and tried that has not been very encouraging.

No, the real trouble lies close at home, in a proud, unconverted heart, a lack of real humility, an unwillingness to submit to God’s way of finding the truth.--Review & Herald, February 10, 1885.




By D. M. Canright

The Lord has never had a special work to do upon the earth, but that there was plenty of chance for men to doubt, and get into trial, and lose their faith in the work. Was it not so in the case of Moses? of Nehemiah? of Christ himself? of Martin Luther? If men are disposed to give more weight to a grain of sand than they are to a mountain, then they will always have plenty of things about which to get into trouble. This has always been so. What reason have we to expect that it will be different now?.

Do we not all agree that the second advent is near, and the world is now to be warned concerning it? Do we not all agree that in the providence of God, special light is now being given upon the subjects of the second advent near, the kingdom, the new earth, the sleep of the dead, the destruction of the wicked, the doctrine of the trinity, the law of God, God’s holy Sabbath, etc.? All Seventh-day Adventists will agree in these things. The time has come that these truths must be preached to the world; and the third angel’s message of Revelation 14:9-12 is a prophecy of this work.

We go back to the close of the first and second messages in 1844; in the following year our good Father Bates began to keep the Sabbath and teach this in connection with his Advent views. In a few months’ time Brother and Sister White also received the Sabbath, and united its observance with the Advent doctrine. They very soon received the light upon the subject of the Sanctuary, the sitting of the Judgment in Heaven, and all those kindred truths which explain the disappointment in 1844. Here they received light upon the third angel’s message, and took the position there and then, that the time had now come for the third angel’s message to be given, after the close of the other two, and thus finish the last warning to the world.

Shortly, Eld. J. N. Andrews joined them in this work. So these brethren began to preach this message to the world; but they were without means, without position, without churches, without influence, and everything in the message was new, and it had to he searched out and defended. Yet their faith in the message was then as strong as it is now, and their confidence in its final triumph was expressed in very strong terms. To all human appearance, they had no hope of success; but still they went to work in the fear of God, studying, preaching, traveling, and meeting all kinds of objections and opposition. It is wicked for men to cry, "The Bible, the Bible, the Bible," and profess to follow that implicitly when they reject one of the plainest doctrines of the Bible,—the doctrine of spiritual gifts. Of course I have not time here to take up an argument on spiritual gifts, or enter into a lengthy statement of her labors, their nature, &c. We believe, however, that no doctrine of the Bible is plainer than that of the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, and particularly that these gifts are to be restored in the last days. Joel 2:28-32; Revelation 12:17; 19:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-21; &c.

From the very start of this message, Sr. White has been intimately connected with it. Ever since 1845, she has had visions frequently, and they have had an important bearing upon the work..

Not a move of any importance has ever been made in any department of the work but she has spoken in the testimonies supporting it, either before or after it was started, and as her testimonies have been generally believed and received by this people, they have necessarily had a great influence upon the action of our people. I am thoroughly satisfied that without the testimonies it would have been utterly impossible to sustain many movements of great importance which have now proved a complete success in this work. When the testimonies have spoken upon the subject, it has at once put an end to strife and division of sentiments and complaints among our people, and they have taken hold unitedly to prosecute the work.

There are no half dozen men in our ranks who have really influenced the faith, the practice, and the different important moves in this work so much as Sr. White and her testimonies.

We look at the means which have been used to accomplish this work, and we find that from the very beginning, chief and very prominent among them are the labors of Bro. and Sr. White.

She has traveled everywhere, and given her influence to the work with all her might as an able speaker. Many have been converted to this truth under her personal efforts. Her voice has been heard in Conferences, and in the counsels of our people. Through her urgent appeals and strong entreaties, advance moves have been made, institutions for the prosecution of the work have been founded, and in every conceivable way her important labors for thirty years have been intimately connected with this work, and have done very much for its success.

Look at it a moment. Here are certain great truths—a definitely foretold message, in the success of which we are all deeply interested. We believe that it is not only truth, but the present truth. These truths have brought us from darkness to light, from the fables of men to the commandments of God. Now consider: What means have been used by the Lord to bring out, to maintain, and publish this work to the world? What agents did God use to bring these blessed truths to our attention? First, foremost, and prominent among them all, as we have shown, are the untiring, life-long labors of Bro. and Sr. White..

We must either accept Bro. and Sr. White as God’s accredited servants, or we must reject the third angel’s message; and the facts show that this is just about what every one does. Those who commence by finding fault with Bro. White, and by rejecting the testimonies, sooner or later end by giving up the third angel’s message, and finally separating themselves from this people. This result is inevitable, and hence we warn our brethren before they start upon that path just where it will lead to. There has been no exception in the past, there will be none in the future.

As to the Christian character of Sr. White, I beg leave to say that I think I know something about it. I have been acquainted with Sr. White for eighteen years, more than half the history of our people. I have been in their family time and again, sometimes weeks at a time. They have been in our house and family many times. I have traveled with them almost everywhere; have been with them in private and in public, in meeting and out of meeting, and have had the very best chances to know something of the life, character, and spirit of Br. and Sr. White.

As a minister, I have had to deal with all kinds of persons, and all kinds of character, till I think I can judge something of what a person is, at least after years of intimate acquaintance.

I know Sr. White to be an unassuming, modest, kindhearted, noble woman. These traits in her character are not simply put on and cultivated, but they spring gracefully and easily from her natural disposition. She is not self-conceited, self-righteous, and self-important, as fanatics always are.

I have frequently come in contact with fanatical persons, and I have always found them to be full of pretentions[sic] , full of pride, ready to give their opinion, boastful of their holiness, etc. But I have ever found Sr. White the reverse of all this. Any one, the poorest and the humblest, can go to her freely for advice and comfort without being repulsed. She is ever looking after the needy, the destitute, and the suffering, providing for them, and pleading their cause. I have never formed an acquaintance with any persons who so constantly have the fear of God before them. Nothing is undertaken without earnest prayer to God. She studies God’s word carefully and constantly.

I have heard Sr. White speak hundreds of times, have read her testimonies and I have never been able to find one immoral sentence in the whole of them, or anything that is not strictly pure and Christian; nothing that leads away from the Bible, or from Christ; but there I find the most earnest appeals to obey God, to love Jesus, to believe the Scriptures, and to search them constantly. I have received great spiritual benefit times without number, from the testimonies. Indeed, I never read them without feeling reproved for my lack of faith in God, lack of devotion, and lack of earnestness in saving souls. If I have any judgment, any spiritual discernment, I pronounce the testimonies to be of the same Spirit and of the same tenor as the Scriptures.

One thing I have remarked, is that the most bitter opponents of the visions of Sr. White admit that she is a Christian. How they can make this admission is more than I know. They try to fix it up by saying that she is deceived. They are not able to put their finger upon a single stain in all her life, nor any immoral sentence in all her writings. They have to admit that much of her writings are excellent, and that whoever would live out all she says would be a good Christian, sure of Heaven. This is passing strange if she is a tool of the devil, inspired by Satan, or if her writings are immoral or the vagaries of her own mind.

I could name half a dozen men whose writings you read with great delight, whose talent and ability you all admire, whose piety and doctrine none of you question, who have all confidence in her gift. By a long and intimate acquaintance with Sr. White and her writings, they have had a hundred-fold better chance to decide upon this question than ninety-nine out of a hundred lay brethren. They have seen Sr. White in vision, they have heard her deliver hundreds of testimonies to individuals whom they know. Indeed, they themselves have been reproved through them, and they have read and studied her writings over and over thoroughly. They are conscientious, God-fearing men,—men, too, who are close Bible students.

Another fact I have noticed: Impostors are always anxious to build up themselves. Any one who will support them they will flatter and praise and sustain; but I know it be just the reverse in this case. Those who have been the most often, and probably, the most severely, reproved through the testimonies, are those who have been the warmest supporters of Sr. White. This does not look like the policy of a deceiver.

Right in connection with this, I want to call your attention to that which has had a powerful influence upon my mind touching this question; viz., the failure and ruin which has every time overtaken those who have undertaken to hold on to the message and the present truth and still oppose the testimonies. Ever since the work began, persons have risen up here and there in opposition to the visions,

Now, says Gamaliel, this is the way it will always be. If the work is not of God, it will all come to confusion; but if it is of God, all the powers of hell cannot arrest it.

Now apply this undoubted principle to the history of those who have drawn off from the body of Seventh-day Adventists. I have known of them, and have been more or less acquainted with their history from Maine to California. Six different papers have been started in the interest of that rebellious work, and all, except one, have gone down.

. . Yet if the visions of Sr. White and the position of Eld. White are not correct, but are really displeasing to God, I ask you this one question: Why is it that God does not prosper and build up these opposers who have gone off from us upon this very issue?

Every time they have started out with simply leaving out the visions and opposing the work of Bro. White. Why does not God help them, and show that they are right and we are wrong? I maintain that the providence of God in the history of this work has settled the question that we must either accept the testimonies, and Bro. and Sr. White as God’s servants, or give up the third angel’s message entirely. If you proceed in that direction, you will land just where all others have who have tried it before you.

Brethren, you who believe these testimonies, do you read them and follow them as closely as you should? Do you love them and remember what they say? Do you try to drink in their spirit? Do you have them in your houses? Do you refer to them frequently? I know that nothing would be more profitable to you than these, next to the Bible.—Review& Herald, March 15, 1877; April 12, 1877; April 19, 1877; April 27, 1877; May 10, 1877; June 14, 1877.