Adventist Pioneers on The Trinity Doctrine
ere I have enclosed a letter I wrote to an Adventist friend of mine regarding the writings of the pioneers of our faith concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. I have kept my own comments as brief as possible – and in blue for display as HTML – letting the authors speak for themselves.
Sorry it’s taken me a while, but this week has been a busy one :)
I think, to be honest, that some of the people who have access to this information put a bit too much focus on certain aspects of it. I myself have found that when people embrace Christ fully, and come to the place where they decide that they will let Him lead them always, consistently away from willful sin, they come to understand this much more easily. This is not the Gospel in its fullness, but I believe it is an integral part of being able to fully grasp It, especially if we expect to be translated without seeing death. Mrs. White once referred to the revealed nature and character of the Father and Son saying that this knowledge was “everything to us as a people,” quoted below. I fully believe that.
So then, my earlier statements were not meant to downplay the work of those who have looked into this. They have done a lot of research, and I’m certain these quotes can be verified from more than a few other places. I can also send a scan-in of a snippet from an old Review and Herald, where the quote from James White originated, and a copy of the old Adventist version of “Holy, Holy, Holy” which originally contained the line, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” SDAs altered that line in order to be able to sing it while being true to their beliefs. Let me know if you’d like those.
Anyway, here’s at least one statement from every SDA pioneer I have ever heard of, and several I did not know by name before; please note that these are only excepts, and are often taken from lengthy and careful articles and dissertations that deal with this issue. It was not a passing error held by our pioneers to be cleared up by progressive revelation (some trinitarian SDAs claim that when seeing a couple of these statements, and refuse to see any more). It was a deeply rooted pillar of their entire theology, including a full understanding of the Sabbath, the atonement, and the separation of church and state, as you’ll see below. I’ve been meaning to put these together into one place for a little while now anyway, so this is going to be lengthy.
Joseph H. Waggoner – “Many theologians really think that the Atonement, in respect to its dignity and efficacy, rests upon the doctrine of the trinity. But we fail to see any connection between the two. To the contrary, the advocates of that doctrine really fall into the difficulty which they seem anxious to avoid. Their difficulty consists in this: They take the denial of a trinity to be equivalent to a denial of the divinity of Christ. Were that the case, we should cling to the doctrine as tenaciously as any can; but it is not the case. They who have read our remarks on the death of the Son of God know that we firmly believe in the divinity of Christ; but we cannot accept the idea of a trinity, as it is held by Trinitarians, without giving up our claim on the dignity of the sacrifice made for our redemption. (J. H. Waggoner, 1884, The Atonement In The Light Of Nature And Revelation, pp 164, 165)
The elder Waggoner then goes on to explain how both Trinitarianism and Unitarianism end up offering only a man on the Cross, quoting from their own works to prove his point, prefaced by the statement, “A few quotations will show the correctness of this assertion.” (Same as above, p 165)
“1John 5:20 is quoted as containing most conclusive evidence of a trinity and of the Supreme Deity of Christ. A person must be strongly wedded to a theory who can read this verse and not see a distinction therein contained between the true God and the Son of God.” (Same, p 167)
“Much stress is laid in Isa 9:6, as proving a trinity, which we have before quoted, as referring to our High Priest who shed his blood for us. [a brief argument later...] It is very plain that this text has no reference to such a doctrine.” (Same, p 168) As you can see, a whole section of this book was devoted to explaining the SDA view of the Godhead.
Joseph Bates – “Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being. I said to my father, ‘If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father and you are my son, then I can believe in the trinity.” (Joseph Bates, 1868, The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates, p 204)
“This, without a doubt in my mind, is owing to their* previous teaching and belief in a doctrine called the trinity. How can you find fault with their faith while you are teaching the very essence of that never – no never to be understood, doctrine? ... We believe that Peter and his master settled this question beyond controversy, Mat 16:13-19; and I cannot see why Daniel and John has not fully confirmed that Christ is the Son, and, not God the Father.” (Letter from J. Bates to William Miller, 1848, as recorded in Past and Present Experience, p 187)
*The term “their” refers to a group of individuals who had fallen away from the SDA faith and had become Shakers.
Merritt E. Cornell – “Protestants and Catholics are so nearly united in sentiment, that it is not difficult to conceive how Protestants may make an image to the Beast. The mass of Protestants believe with Catholics in the Trinity, immortality of the soul, consciousness of the dead, rewards and punishments at death, the endless torture of the wicked, inheritance of the saints beyond the skies, sprinkling for baptism and the PAGAN SUNDAY [his caps] for the Sabbath; all of which is contrary to the spirit and letter of the New Testament. Surely there is between the mother and daughters, a striking family resemblance.” (M. E. Cornell, 1858, Facts For The Times, p 76)
James S. White – “Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one as he was one with his Father. This prayer did not contemplate one disciple with twelve heads, but twelve disciples, made one in object and effort in the cause of their master. Neither are the Father and the Son parts of the “three-one God.” They are two distinct beings, yet one in the design and accomplishment of redemption.” (James White, 1868, Life Incidents, p 343)
“The way spiritualizers have disposed of or denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ is first using the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed viz., that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, though they have not one passage to support it, while we have plain scripture testimony in abundance that he is the Son of the eternal God.” (James White, Jan 24 1846, The Day Star)
“The inexplicable Trinity that makes the Godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough; but that ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse. Did God say to an inferior, ‘Let us make man in our image?’” (James White, Nov 29, 1877, Review and Herald)
“To assert that the sayings of the Son and his apostles are the commandments of the Father, is as wide from the truth as the old trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God.” (James White, Aug 5, 1852, Review and Herald – Vol. 3 No. 7 P 52 Par 42)
“As fundamental errors, we might class with this counterfeit Sabbath other errors which Protestants have brought away from the Catholic church, such as sprinkling for baptism, the trinity, the consciousness of the dead, and eternal life in misery. ... can it be supposed that the church of Christ will carry along with her these errors till the judgment scenes burst upon the world? We think not.” (James White, Sep 12 1854, Review and Herald, Vol. 6, No. 5, P 36, Par 8)
“Here we might mention the Trinity, which does away the personality of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, and of sprinkling or pouring instead of being “buried with Christ in baptism,” “planted in the likeness of his death:” but we pass from these fables to notice one that is held sacred by nearly all professed Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. It is, the change of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment...” (James White, Dec 11 1855, Review and Herald, Vol. 7, no. 11, P 85 Par 16)
Alonzo T. Jones – “Another, and the most notable of all the victims of Calvin’s theocracy, was Servetus, who had opposed the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and also infant baptism; and had published a book entitled “Christianity Restored,” in which he declared his sentiments.” (A. T. Jones, 1891, The Two Republics, p 801)
A. T. Jones wrote this book The Two Republics largely about the history of the Trinitarian doctrine, including its origin, and how it was forced upon believers by the Roman church, even many of its own bishops, using the threat of excommunication and exile.
A. J. Dennis – “What a contradiction in terms is found in the language of the Trinitarian creed: “In unity of this head are three persons, of one substance, power and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” There are many things that are mysterious, written in the word of God, but we may safely presume the Lord never calls upon us to believe impossibilities. But creeds often do.” (A. J. Dennis, May 22, 1879, Signs of The Times)
J. M. Stephenson – “We are prepared at this point of the investigation to understand [how] the relation the sacrifice of Christ, or the atonement, sustains the law of God. In presenting this part of the subject, I shall compare what I understand to be the Bible view, with the two theories upon this point, believed by most of Christendom. They are true Unitarian and Trinitarian views. These views occupy the two extreme points... Now, I understand the truth to be in the medium between these two extremes.” (J. M. Stephenson, Nov 21, 1854, Review and Herald, Vol 6, No. 15, P 114, par 1-6)
I took this from a long passage in that publication. Stephenson repeatedly refers to those who hold alternate views to the SDA ones as “Trinitarians,” putting a difference between himself and them, and he goes in to much detail in that work, reaching conclusions such as, “To say that the Son is as old as his Father, is a palpable contradiction of terms.” And “... hence, we [SDAs] have a Divine sacrifice, in contradistinction to the Trinitarian and Unitarian views, which make it only a human sacrifice.” (p.105, P.114 respectively)
He also gives a table of 16 differences between the beliefs of Christ and His Apostles vs. Trinitarianism on p. 123 of that document.
Uriah Smith – “The terms ‘Holy Ghost,’ are a harsh and repulsive translation. It should be ‘Holy Spirit’ (hagion pneuma) in every instance. This Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ; the Spirit being the same whether it is spoken of as pertaining to God or Christ. But respecting this Spirit, the Bible uses expressions which cannot be harmonized with the idea that it is a person like the Father and the Son. Rather it is shown to be a divine influence from them both, the medium which represents their presence and by which they have knowledge and power through all the universe, when not personally present.” (Uriah Smith, Oct 28, 1890, Review and Herald)
Some will hold up a quote by Mrs. White where she says, “The Holy Spirit is a person,” in an attempt to counter all of this, particularly Uriah’s above statement, but they didn’t read all she wrote about the Spirit. I’ll get to that soon; saving her for two sections at the end.
Smith also repeats and agrees with Mrs. White’s statements about the “three dignitaries,” or “three agencies,” as she calls the Godhead, but he did not see this as a contradiction with the SDA position that it (note the pronoun) was not a being – “You will notice in these few verses the apostle brings to view the three great agencies which are concerned in this work: God, the Father; Christ, his Son; and the Holy Spirit.” (March 14, 1891, General Conference Daily Bulletin, Vol. 4 pp 146,147)
J. N. Andrews – “The doctrine of the Trinity which was established in the church by the council of Nice, A. D. 325... This doctrine destroys the personality of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The infamous measures by which it was forced upon the church which appear upon the pages of ecclesiastical history might well cause every believer in that doctrine to blush.” (J. N. Andrews, March 6, 1855, Review and Herald, Vol. 6, No. 24, P. 185)
R. J. Cottrell – “That one person is three persons, and that three persons are only one person, is the doctrine which we claim is contrary to reason and common sense. The being and attributes of God are above, beyond, out of reach of my sense and reason, yet I believe them: But the doctrine I object to is contrary, yes, that is the word, to the very sense and reason that God himself implanted in us. Such a doctrine he does not ask us to believe. [...] But to hold the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much an evidence of evil intention as of intoxication from that wine of which all the nations have drunk. The fact that this was one of the leading doctrines, if not the very chief, upon which the bishop of Rome was exalted to popedom, does not say much in its favor.
Revelation goes beyond us; but in no instance does it go contrary to right reason and common sense. God has not claimed, as the popes have, that he could “make justice of injustice,” nor has he, after teaching us to count, told us that there is no difference between the singular and plural numbers. Let us believe all that he has revealed, and add nothing to it.” (R. F. Cottrell, July 6th 1869, Review and Herald)
D. W. Hull – “The inconsistent positions held by many in regard to the Trinity, as it is termed, has, no doubt, been the prime cause of many other errors. [...] And we can trace this doctrine no further back than the origin of the ‘Man of Sin,’ and as we find this dogma at that time established rather by force than otherwise, we claim the right to investigate the matter, and ascertain the bearing of Scripture on this subject.
Just here I will meet a question which is very frequently asked, namely, Do you believe in the divinity of Christ? Most unquestionably we do; but we don’t believe, as the M. E. church Discipline teaches, that Christ is the very and eternal God; and, at the same time, very man; that the human part was the Son, and the divine part was the Father.” (D. W. Hull, Nov 17 1859, Review and Herald)
Later in this document Hull examines just about every scripture passage claimed to be a “prooftext” by Trinitarians and upholds the SDA view against them at every turn.
J. N. Loughborough – Q & A – format QUESTION 1. What serious objection is there to the doctrine of the Trinity?
ANSWER. “There are many objections which we might urge, but on account of our limited space we shall reduce them to the three following: 1. It is contrary to common sense. 2. It is contrary to Scripture. 3. Its origin is pagan and fabulous.” During the expansion of these three he includes the remark, “The seventeenth chapter of John is alone sufficient to refute the doctrine of the Trinity.” (J. N. Loughborough, Nov 5 1861, Review and Herald, Vol 18, p 184, par 1-11)
“We learn by this language [Psa 139:7-10] that when we speak of the Spirit of God we are really speaking of his presence and power.” (J. N. Loughborough, Review and Herald, Sep 13, 1989, p. 690)
E. J. Waggoner – “Christ is the express image of the Father’s person. As the Son of the self-existent God, He has by nature all the attributes of the Deity... The angels are sons of God, as was Adam (Job 38:7, Luke 3:38) by creation; Christians are sons of God by adoption (Rom 8:14,15), but Christ is the Son of God by birth.” (E. J. Waggoner, 1890, Christ as His Righteousness, pp 11-13)
“Finally we know the Divine unity of the Father and the Son from the fact that both have the same Spirit. Paul, after saying that they that are in the flesh cannot please God, continues: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom 8:9) Here we find that the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ...” (ibid., pp. 23,24)
M. C. Wilcox – “The Holy Spirit is the mighty energy of the Godhead, the life and power of God flowing out from Him to all parts of the universe, and thus making living connection between His throne and all creation. [...] It thus makes Christ everywhere present. [...] Thus, the Spirit is personified in Christ and God*, but never revealed as a separate person. Never are we told to pray to the Spirit; but to God for the Spirit. Never do we find in the Scriptures prayers to the Spirit, but for the Spirit.” (M. C. Wilcox, 1911, Questions and Answers Gathered From the Question Corner Department of the Signs of the Times, pp 181, 182)
*Another clear passage explaining what the writers mean when they refer to the Person of the Spirit. He spells this out below:
“The reason why the Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit as a person, it seems to us, is that it brings to us, and to every soul that believes, the personal presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (M. C. Wilcox, Questions and Answers Vol. 11, 1919, 1938 versions – pp 37-39)
“The presence of God is therefore His Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is therefore the life of God.” (M. C. Wilcox, Signs of the Times, June 2, 1989)
G. W. Amadon – “With these passages we dismiss the point [raised by Rev 1:8], as it can serve no purpose to the trinitarian, and to us seems so plain that the wayfaring man need not err therein.” (G. W. Amadon, Sep 14, 1861, Review and Herald, Vol. 18, p 136, par 1-10)
E. Everts – “... we find some who were keeping the Sabbath, who appear to delight in so-doing; but O how deformed they appear with their errors, of the “Spirit-Land,” the conscious, living dead, and a “Triune God.” How incomprehensible to attempt to comprehend living dead men; and, Father and Son, one person!” (E. Everts, Mar 20 1856, Review and Herald, Vol. 7, no. 25, p 199)
J. S. Washburn – “The doctrine of the Trinity is a cruel heathen monstrosity, removing Jesus from his true position of Divine Savior and Mediator. It is true we can not measure or define divinity. It is beyond our finite understanding, yet on this subject of the personality of God the Bible is very simple and plain.
“This monstrous doctrine transplanted from heathenism into the Roman Papal Church is seeking to intrude its evil presence into the teachings of the Third Angel’s Message...
“Seventh Day Adventists claim to take the word of God as supreme authority and to have ‘come out of Babylon,’ to have renounced forever the vain traditions of Rome. If we should go back to the immortality of the soul, purgatory, eternal torment and the Sunday Sabbath, would that be anything less than apostasy? If, however, we leap over all these minor, secondary doctrines and accept and teach the very central root, doctrine of Romanism, the Trinity, and teach that the Son of God did not die, even though our words seem spiritual, is this anything else or anything less than apostasy, and the very Omega of apostasy?” (J. S. Washburn, a letter written in 1939.)
This letter was distributed by the conference president to 32 ministers for their consideration, and for good reason; the term “Omega of apostasy” is a direct link to an Ellen White statement I’ll quote for you below. I found it interesting how vehemently this one opposes the Trinity, considering it worse than Sundaykeeping as an obstacle for the Three Angels’ Message.
Ellen G. White (A): Before I give her quotes about this matter specifically, some objections to all that I quoted above claim that she believed in the Trinity, but was patient with the others, seeking to slowly lead them to the light. I don’t find a case of anything resembling progressive revelation here, though. As I pointed out in the beginning, she said this to someone (J. H. Kellogg) who was misrepresenting the character of the Almighty in a publication The Living Temple:
“You are not definitely clear on the personality of God, which is everything to us as a people. You have virtually destroyed the Lord God Himself.” (Letter 300, 1903)
Mrs. White made absolutely no compromises on the nature or character of our Father; if anyone, young or old, no matter how respected (Kellogg was a key player in the health reform movement) had made a statement during the years covered by those quotes above (1846 – 1939) she would, while she was alive, have used very direct language about it. We know this for certain, because that is exactly what she did in other instances of deviations from the nature of the Father and Son as she knew Them. We find her defending the SDA position from those like Kellogg, who were bringing in new ideas.
“There are some, who upon accepting erroneous theories, strive to establish them by collecting from my writings statements of truth, which they use, separated from their proper connection and perverted by association with error. Thus seeds of heresy, springing up and growing rapidly into strong plants, are surrounded by many precious plants of truth, and in this way a mighty effort is made to vindicate the genuineness of spurious plants.” (This Day With God, 1906, p 126)
The statement Washburn referred to is found here, again dealing with errors about the nature of the Godhead:
“I am instructed to speak plainly. ‘Meet it,’ is the word spoken to me. ‘Meet it firmly, and without delay.’ But it is not to be met by our taking our working forces from the field to investigate doctrines and points of difference. We have no such investigation to make. In the book Living Temple there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies [pantheism]. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given.” (Selected Messages Book 1, page 200, paragraph 1)
Rather than reading of Mrs. White as bearing patiently with the nontrinitarian “errors” of her fellow-laborers, she says just the contrary, “One by one the pioneers are passing away. The word given me is, Let that which these men have written in the past be reproduced. [...] We are now to understand what the pillars of our faith are, – the truths that have made us as a people what we are, leading us on step by step. [...] Not one pin is to be removed from that which the Lord has established.” (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 25, 1905, paragraph 23)
“When men come in who would move one pin or pillar from the foundation which God has established by His Holy Spirit, let the aged men who were pioneers in our work speak plainly, and let those who are dead speak also, by the reprinting of their articles in our periodicals. Gather up the rays of divine light that God has given as He has led His people on step by step in the way of truth. This truth will stand the test of time and trial.” (Manuscript Releases Volume One, page 55, paragraph 1)
You get the idea :)
Ellen G. White (B): Okay, about Mrs. White’s statements about the Godhead specifically (she never uses the term Trinity, although the word does erroneously appear in subject headings added by later commentators):
“What a wonderful statement [John 17:20-23]! The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. In mind, in purpose, in character, they are one, but NOT in person. By partaking of the Spirit of God, conforming to the law of God, man becomes a partaker of the divine nature.” (S.D.A. Bible Commentary Vol. 5, page 1148, paragraph 3)
The Father and Son are two distinct Beings, and the Spirit is their divine nature, as the following statements reinforce:
“Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, page 36, paragraph 2)
“Christ the Word, the Only Begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father,--one in nature, in character, and in purpose,--the only being in all the universe that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God.” (The Great Controversy, page 493, paragraph 1)
Is God a three-part God because a man, created in His image, is of three parts? That’s a common Trinitarian argument. But the Spirit of man is only his life, and character; just as the “Holy Spirit is the life of Christ,” (as stated in This Day With God, p. 257), and the analogy to man is beautifully laid out here: “The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved.” (SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 6 p. 1093) The image of the human concept as an example of the Godhead is an applicable one, but it does not make a separate Person of the Spirit.
In many and diverse places, she says that Christ is the only “Being” that can know the mind and heart of God. If you compare that to what Paul says in 1Cor 2:10, we can see clearly that the Spirit, which is also a searcher of the “deep things” is simply that Spirit of Christ, and not a third Being.
“Never before had angels listened to such a prayer as Christ offered at His baptism, and they were solicitous to be the bearers of the message from the Father to His Son. But, no! Direct from the Father issues the light of His glory. The heavens were opened and beams of glory rested upon the Son of God and assumed the form of a dove, in appearance like burnished gold. The dovelike form was emblematical of the meekness and gentleness of Christ. . . .” (That I May Know Him, page 31, paragraph 4)
That this (and in the quote above it) is not referring to another Person is plainly said here:
“The work of the holy Spirit is immeasurably great. It is from this source that power and efficiency come to the worker for God; and the holy Spirit is the comforter, as the personal presence of Christ to the soul.” (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, November 29, 1892, paragraph 3)
This is also an answer to John 16:7, the only place in all the Bible where the personal pronoun “he” is used of the Comforter; even in the parallel verse John 14:26, the term “it” is used. The explanation is simple, Christ Himself is the person of that Comforter, as also said in 1John 2:1 – the word “Advocate” is the same Greek word used for “Comforter.” The statements that the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as “He,” is not true; it is a very biased translation of the word “ekeinos.”
“Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him. It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave,--not merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through faith, His life has become ours. Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal.” (Desire of Ages, p. 388)
“In the gift of the Spirit, Jesus gave to man the highest good that heaven could bestow. . . . It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon the church. . . . It is the privilege of every son and daughter of God to have the indwelling of the Spirit.” (Our High Calling, page 150, paragraph 3)
What about the statements wherein she said that the Holy Spirit was a Person? One of the few is found in Manuscript 66, 1899, and quoted extensively in other works which attempt to set her forth as Trinitarian. But when Kellogg used that statement to suggest that the Spirit was a Being in the sense that the Father and Son were independent beings, he was informed by another elder – G. I. Butler – that there was a disagreement between them (Kellogg and herself) about that.
Although the false doctrine Kellogg embraced is described by the general term “pantheism” by Mrs. White, Kellogg himself said, “As far as I can fathom, the difficulty which is found in The Living Temple, the whole thing may be simmered down to this question: Is the Holy Ghost a person? You say no.” (J. H. Kellogg to G. I. Butler, Feb 21, 1904)
Butler’s reply, “God dwells in us by His Holy Spirit, as a Comforter, as a Reprover, especially the former. When we come to Him we partake of Him in that sense, because the Spirit comes forth from him; it comes forth from the Father and the Son. It is not a person walking around on foot, or flying as a literal being, in any such sense as Christ and the Father are – at least , if it is, it is utterly beyond my comprehension of the meaning of language or words.” (G.I. Butler to J.H. Kellogg, April 5, 1904)
The pioneers were fully aware of Mrs. White’s statements where she uses the term “person,” yet they understood it to mean exactly what Butler describes, the life of Christ made personality within the believers; the personal presence of Christ and His Father in the heart. (John 14:23)
She herself explains what she meant when she said, “We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds” as follows:
“Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore it was altogether for their advantage that He should leave them, go to His father, and send the Holy Spirit to be His successor on earth. The Holy Spirit is Himself, divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit, as the Omnipresent.” (Manuscript Releases Volume Fourteen, page 23, paragraph 3)
The quotes from both herself and the other pioneers whose work she supported and endorsed show exactly what they all meant when they referred to the Spirit of Yah as a “person.” They don’t seem to have used that term as we use it today, for they are consistent that it is not a person in the sense of an separate, independent “Being.” There was another quote I read from her once, saying – I believe – that the Spirit “becomes a person/personality” within the believer. I can’t remember the words to search for it, but I will add it to this list when I find it.
Sadly, this is not the end of the matter. I also have a picture of a photocopy made of one of Mrs. White’s manuscripts, wherein she made a correction from the word “person” to the word “personality,” in regards to the nature of the Spirit. Later Conference releases of that document have replaced it with the term Person, capitalizing it also. Similarly, in places like Desire of Ages, the once-used term “Third Person of the Godhead,” is modified from the uncapitalized term “person” [Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 19, 1904, paragraph 3, reprinted in the same publication, November 19, 1908, paragraph 5] which she uses in a more general sense, according to what she says in the statement above. She did not contradict her earlier statement about their being two Beings in council of Elohim with that single, though oft-repeated, phrase. She also repeatedly refers to the Spirit as “it,” in accordance with the Greek of the New Testament, which she didn’t know. But she knew the Spirit, because she was of that Spirit, and knew the Person of God – that very Spirit as manifest in Christ and the Father.
Similarly, Uriah Smith’s book Daniel and The Revelation, was modified after his death to remove the 18 unambiguously non-Trinitarian statements. Some researchers claim that literally “thousands” of minor alterations were made to the writings of Mrs. White and these others; I think that may be a bit extreme, but as a precaution, I tend to use the Manuscript Releases whenever possible, for I believe they are relatively untouched.
None of what the pioneers said is a big secret, even today: “The Trinitarian understanding of God, now part of our fundamental beliefs, was not generally held* by the early Adventists. Even today, a few do not subscribe to it.” (Adventist Review, Jan 6, 1994)
*To put it mildly – not one of the teachers did!
In a letter from Mrs. White’s son Willie, he claims that it is true some of his mother’s writings do not seem clear on the matter, but he does say directly: “The statements and the arguments of some of our ministers, in their effort to prove that the Holy Spirit is an individual as are God the Father and Christ the eternal Son, have perplexed me, and sometimes they have made me sad.” (W. C. White to H. W. Carr, 1939)
On a related subject...
As I’ve taken note of several times, the surest way to make an enemy of a Davidian SDA is to point out that the pioneers and Mrs. White were not Trinitarian, and were in fact dead set against what they considered a papal error that opposed the Gospel and personality of Christ. The reason they get so out of sorts at these statements is simple – whereas no prophet in the Bible, Church history or the early days of Adventism ever advocated the Trinity, and all taught there was in fact one God, (Deu 6:4, Mark 12:29) meaning exactly what it sounds like, their “prophet” Houteff DID embrace the Trinity. Thus, under this weight of evidence, Davidian theology suffers a mortal blow, but the faith of true Seventh Day Adventists, who understand the fullness and dignity of the Cross, the Atonement and the gift of Christ’s life given to us AS that Spirit, shines through, and will bring us into that perfect day, wherein it is promised, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see him as He is.” (1John 3:2)
Admittedly, this is a strictly “Adventist” argument. I rejected the Trinitarian view long before I knew about most of these quotes, and from an exclusively Biblical examination. I can show you that study also if you would like. Click here.