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Chapter 37

A Perceptive Woman


The year 1884, six years into Leo XIII’s pontificate, a fifty-seven-year old woman, Ellen Harmon White published a book entitled Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 4, Pacific Press, Oakland, California. It was a book remarkable in many ways. White was a diligent and careful student of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation and also of the history of the Christian Church. She was not an alarmist, nor did she venture into flights of fancy as so many would-be prophetic exegetists have been prone to do. Hers was a prayerful daily study, comparing Scripture with Scripture and pursuing the study of the works of credible historians.

White was a patriotic American, born in 1827 in one of the New England states, Maine, where most of the population was devoutly Protestant. She, herself, was raised in the home of a Methodist lay-preacher. Since our maternal ancestors were Methodists, we share an understanding of her spiritual background. Despite her loyalty to her nation this woman correctly identified the second beast of Revelation 13 as her homeland, the United States. It was a painful realization and went contrary to her patriotic instincts.

Further, as she recognized that the prophecy was plainly indicating that the Papacy and the United States would unite in the last day persecution of Christ’s flock, this concept ran totally contrary to the evidence of her day. While her Methodist background caused her no surprise in the specified prophesied deeds of Rome, the complicity of the United States was entirely a different matter. It tested her fidelity to Scripture, a test she withstood.

There were numbers of reasons in 1884 for rejecting outright the declarations of the prophecy. We shall examine these.

First, the United States was the bulwark of religious liberty. Her nation in adding the First Amendment to its Constitution had guaranteed not only religious liberty, but the separation of church and state. It was an example to the nations of the world. Our own nation, Australia, in 1901 when the states federated, adopted the very concepts of the United States’ First Amendment as Article 116 of its constitution. This Article had incorporated both the non-establishment clause and the free exercise clause from the First Amendment of the United States’ Bill of Rights.

Richard Ely, Professor of History at the University of Tasmania, himself a Presbyterian minister, recorded in his book "Unto God and Caesar," pages 26, 42, 78, 122, 136, Ellen Harmon White’s efforts to promote the adoption of Article 116 in the Australian Constitution of 1901. Mrs. Harmon White resided in Australia from 1891 to 1900. Our grandmother once met her just prior to her departure for the United States. Roger Williams was the founder of the state of Rhode Island, which was the first state in history to specifically guarantee religious liberty in its constitution. Roger Williams had written in The Bloody Tenet of Persecution,

[It is] a monstrous paradox, that God’s children should persecute God’s children, and then they hope to live together eternally with Christ Jesus in the heavens, should not suffer each other to live in this common air together. (Later published in 1848 by the Hanserd Knollys Society of London, p. 370, note 1.)

In 1884, despite the apparent groundswell of support to impose Sunday laws by enactment of the United States Senate, the efforts of the leader of this movement, Senator Blair of New Hampshire, proved fruitless. Americans still valued their stand on religious freedom. Yet Ellen Harmon White wrote,

Protestantism will yet stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of Spiritualism; she will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, our country [the United States] will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience. (Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 405)

Only a person absolutely true to Scripture could have written such a prediction concerning the United States almost 120 years ago. Without divine prophecy the claim would have been absurd.

Here we see foretold a fourfold union, consisting of the three actors above—Apostate Protestantism, Spiritualism and Roman Catholicism—together with the political power of the United States.

We have already documented the "Holy Alliance" between the United States and the Vatican (see chapter "The Final Unholy Alliance") and between Evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics (see chapter "The Religious Right"). The Bakersfield Californian, July 2, 1994, published a full color cartoon of Uncle Sam stretching his hand across the "gulf" of the Atlantic Ocean to the Pope. It was an uncanny depiction of that which White had written precisely 110 years earlier, seventeen years after the United States had broken off diplomatic relations with the Vatican in response to Pius IX’s issuing his offending Syllabus of Errors.

In his book, The Ambassador’s Story, published in 1994, Thomas P. Melady, the second United States Ambassador to the Vatican, 1989—1993, wrote that the long period of the breach in diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican, 1867—1984, a period of 117 years coincided with "a period of strong anti-Catholicism in the United States." President Ronald Reagan had resumed diplomatic relations with the appointment of William Wilson to the post in 1984.

In 1951 President Harry Truman failed in his effort to have the United States Senate affirm his appointment of General Mark Clark as Ambassador to the Vatican. The thirty-three years between Truman’s abortive effort and Reagan’s success included the pontificate of John XXIII. In the chapter entitled "John XXIII" it will be seen that John successfully allayed Protestant fears concerning the Papacy.

Melady, a Roman Catholic as was also William Wilson, stated in his book that,

Suspicion of the Vatican had significantly diminished largely as a result of positive interreligious relations involving the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. (The Bakersfield Californian, op.cit.)

It is not without significance that this review of Melady’s book was written by Rabbi Rudin, National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee. He noted the part played by Melady in the creation of diplomatic ties between Israel and the Vatican. After all, didn’t Scripture foretell that all the world would wonder after the beast? (Revelation 13:3, emphasis added).

The long years of anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States make Mrs. Ellen Harmon White’s predictions in 1884 all the more remarkable.

In 1888 Ellen Harmon White authored a book which she entitled The Great Controversy. There, quoting Revelation 13:3, she stated,

The prophecy of Revelation 13 declares that the power represented by the beast with lamb-like horns shall cause "the earth and them which dwell therein" to worship the papacy—there symbolized by the beast "like unto a leopard." The beast with two horns is also to say "to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast;" and, furthermore, it is to command all, "both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond," to receive "the mark of the beast." [Rev. 13:11—16.] It has been shown that the United States is the power represented by the beast with lamb-like horns, and that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the United States shall enforce Sunday observance, which Rome claims as the special acknowledgment of her supremacy. But in this homage to [the] papacy the United States will not be alone. The influence of Rome in the countries that once acknowledged her dominion, is still far from being destroyed. And prophecy foretells a restoration of her power. (The Great Controversy, pp. 578, 579, 1888 ed.)

It was a brave declaration, one indicative of the author’s profound trust in the divine inspiration of Scripture, when it is considered that Protestant America seethed with anti-Catholic sentiment at the time she penned her conclusion.

In 1846, when Ellen Harmon White was nineteen years old, Samuel J. Cassels, a Presbyterian minister of Norfolk, Virginia, published a book entitled Christ and Antichrist. The alternative name printed in the title page of the book was Jesus of Nazareth Proved to be the Messiah and the Papacy Proved to be the Antichrist Predicted in the Holy Scriptures. This book was published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication, Philadelphia. Leading clerics of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian churches gave the book their endorsement. This Protestant view of the Papacy extended throughout mainstream American Protestantism until the end of the nineteenth century and persisted to a considerable extent to the end of the twentieth century. While American anti-Catholic sentiment prevailed, the future alliance of the United States and the Vatican was a chimera. Yet White was not turned from Biblical pronouncements by this situation.

Second, in her 1884 book on this subject written only fourteen years after Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of Papal Infallibility, Ellen Harmon White referred to the long tradition of this claim and wrote concerning future Protestant complacency, not as if writing in the nineteenth century, but rather in our century, the twenty-first. The ecumenical movement has led to Protestants becoming lulled into a sense of amnesia. They have, in general, lost all memory of Papal history. Even when John Paul II in 1998 threatened "whoever,"—not just the Roman Catholic faithful—whoever did not abide by Roman Catholic dogma would be "punished as a heretic," (Apostolic Letter, Ad tuendum fidem)—we Protestants slept on in a state of somnolence akin to a deep coma. Thus Ellen Harmon White’s words, so perceptive, rooted in her study of Revelation, are a wake-up call for us today. They, too, speak to the hearts of Roman Catholics and non-Christians. It is high time to heed the Apostle Paul’s admonition:

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Romans 13:11)

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)

Read Ellen Harmon White’s perceptive words with care.

The defenders of popery declare that she has been maligned; and the Protestant world is inclined to accept the statement. Many urge that it is unjust to judge the Romish Church of today by the abominations and absurdities that marked her reign during the centuries of ignorance and darkness. They excuse her horrible cruelty as the result of the barbarism of the times, and plead that civilization has changed her sentiments. (Spirit of Prophecy, vol 4, p. 380)

Ellen Harmon White’s words are amply fulfilled today. Roman Catholic historians are excusing the cruelties and injustice of the Papacy. The Brisbane Courier Mail of November 2, 1998, reporting on the views of Roman Catholic historians, stated,

Modern scholars have for several decades been reappraising the Inquisition. Some now maintain that the justice it meted out, although brutal, was neither capricious nor unusual for the times.

What these scholars failed to declare was that the brutality of the times was the responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church which so dominated Europe that it set the trends, the standards and the atmosphere of the society. Even worse, it was this church which sanctified such brutality as a service to God.

Ellen Harmon White perceptively pointed to the Dogma of Papal Infallibility, proclaimed only fourteen years prior to authoring her book. She set forth the chilling implications of this dogma, implications which Scriptural prophecy in Revelation chapter 13 declares will be fulfilled just prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

Have these persons forgotten the claim of infallibility for eight hundred years put forth by this haughty power? So far from relinquishing this claim, the church in the nineteenth century has affirmed it with greater positiveness than ever before. As Rome asserts that she has never erred, and never can err, how can she renounce the principles which governed her course in past ages?

The papal church will never relinquish her claim to infallibility. All that she has done in her persecution of those who reject her dogmas, she holds to be right; and would she not repeat the same acts, should the opportunity be presented? Let the restraints now imposed by secular governments be removed, and Rome be re-instated in her former power, and there would speedily be a revival of her tyranny and persecution. (Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 381)

When those words were written it seemed quite impossible that the Papacy would ever again muster such worldwide power, unless—unless one believed the prophecy of Revelation. And this Ellen Harmon White manifestly did. That the United States would unite in persecution with the Papal power seemed impossible, but in the years following 1980 we have seen the growing Vatican-American alliance. Even today it is inconceivable in the minds of many that Rome would persecute again—but she will; and the United States will provide the power and authority for her to do so and aid her in this work. This Scripture declares.

Third, the United States in 1884 was a relatively weak nation as compared with the great European empires of Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia and Austria. Its foreign policy was dominated by the Monroe Doctrine. On December 2, 1823, President James Monroe, America’s fifth president (after whom Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia was named the previous year) issued the doctrine which bears his name. It led to an isolationist mentality in the United States.

Monroe simply codified that which, twenty-seven years earlier, George Washington stated in his farewell address, September 19, 1796. Monroe stated that,

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power.

In fact in 1823 much of North America was as yet unoccupied by western settlers, and other areas were in dispute. Britain, France and Spain all had their eyes on America, and in the Northwest the Tsar of Russia, who had claimed what is now Alaska, was thirsting for more American territory.

In 1845, President James Polk invoked the Monroe Doctrine against Britain and France who were scheming to take the Yucatan province of Mexico. With the United States distracted by the Civil War of the 1860s, Spain seized the Dominican Republic and France set up a member of the Habsburg family, the Archduke Maximilian, as Emperor of Mexico.

By 1870, with Ulysses S. Grant as President, the Doctrine was immensely popular in the United States. The view that "Europe and the Americas constitute two separate and distinct spheres of political activity and, politically speaking, should have as little to do with each other as possible," (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1963 edition, Vol. 15, p. 735) dominated American thinking. It was a thinking which foresaw no American influence outside the Western Hemisphere. The NATO of the twenty-first century then appeared light-years away.

But God had spoken and White believed. It was not until 1917, two years after Ellen Harmon White’s death, that the first breach in the Monroe Doctrine occurred. President Woodrow Wilson, the last of America’s eight presidents from Virginia, took the United States into the First World War as a belligerent.

But no sooner was the Treaty of Versailles signed, two years later in 1919, than America returned to her isolationist position, even refusing to join the League of Nations which was established at President Wilson’s initiative. While in the inter-war period the United States grew in population and military power, the crash of the stock market in 1929 kept it focused inward as first President Herbert Hoover and then President Franklin D. Roosevelt struggled to reestablish a vibrant economy. While initiatives of the administration and legislature made some progress in this direction, it took the Second World War to dispel the last vestiges of the Economic Depression.

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