Considering The 1863 Chart, Part 1
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” Proverbs 3:5
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8
“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Isaiah 2:22
It is the duty of every Christian to study the scriptures to show themselves approved unto God (Proverbs 15:28). Speculation or man’s opinion should never form the basis of a Christian’s beliefs as they rob the individual of the experience they may gain through the study of God’s word. Not only that – they are thus prepared to accept false positions that would turn them out of the way to eternal life. The Bible warns:
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:” Exodus 23:1, 2
Often times we as GOD’s people are tempted to accept an argument or teaching because “a multitude” accepts it as truth. It is human nature to find comfort in numbers. And in the words of scripture, we often rush on to “raise a false report” either about a particular teaching or about an individual whose beliefs do not conform to the popular view. But the LORD instructs us contrary to this course stating the following:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” 1 Peter 3:15
Of the righteous in the last days Christ says:
“Have not I written unto thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?” Proverbs 22:20, 21
Our Lord has written “excellent things” for the benefit of every man that whosoever will may know the “certainty of the words of truth.” A Christian need not lean on another’s faith, conviction, or position on a particular teaching; but should ask for wisdom from Him who gives “to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5).
These thoughts are significant as the question at the center of the Great Controversy is who we are going to listen to and obey – man or Christ? If Christ has communicated something to us through the prophets, can we accept it as it reads? What if it cuts against our preconceived notions and ideas? What if you can point to learned and respected men who speak contrary to the word’s of our Saviour on one point or the other? Will you accept the words of man and settle into unbelief regarding the words of inspiration? Or will we accept the word of God and count as secondary the words of men?
Consider the following:
“God was the strength of Judah in this crisis, and He is the strength of His people today. We are not to trust in princes, or to set men in the place of God. We are to remember that human beings are fallible and erring, and that He who has all power is our strong tower of defense. In every emergency we are to feel that the battle is His. His resources are limitless, and apparent impossibilities will make the victory all the greater.” Conflict and Courage, 217.5
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Mercy and love and wisdom are to be found in God; but many who profess to know Him have turned from the One in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, and have educated themselves to depend upon their erring and fallible fellowmen. They are crippled spiritually when they do this; for no man is infallible, and his influence may be misleading. He who trusts in man not only leans upon a broken reed, and gives Satan an opportunity to introduce himself, but he hurts the one in whom the trust is placed; he becomes lifted up in his estimation of himself, and loses the sense of his dependence upon God. Just as soon as man is placed where God should be, he loses his purity, his vigor, his confidence in God’s power. Moral confusion results, because his powers become unsanctified and perverted. He feels competent to judge his fellowmen, and he strives unlawfully to be a god over them.” Testimonies to Ministers, 376.2
The 1863 Chart
The foregoing points strike at the heart of a controversy that is raging within Adventism today. This controversy centers around the 1863 chart published by James White, and the argument that the omission of the 2520 on this chart proves this time prophecy to be false. The pioneer brother went further to write against the 2520 in the Review and Herald, of June 1863. These points, coupled with the statement from the pen of inspiration that “angels of GOD assisted and had oversight of the paper”, have been accounted strong arguments against the teaching of the 2520.
In this and in all situations – what is the honest believer in truth to do? Christ provides the answer in Luke 10:26:
“He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?”
Christ points us to the Word as supplying the answers for all controversies – He points us to inspiration. And inspiration makes the following statements regarding the 1843 and 1850 charts:
“I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as He wanted them; that His hand was over and hid a mistake in some of the figures, so that none could see it, until His hand was removed…” Early Writings, 74
“As early as 1842, the direction given in this prophecy, to “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” had suggested to Charles Fitch the preparation of a prophetic chart to illustrate the visions of Daniel and the Revelation. The publication of this chart was regarded as a fulfillment of the command given by Habakkuk. No one, however, then noticed that an apparent delay in the accomplishment of the vision—a tarrying time—is presented in the same prophecy. After the disappointment, this scripture appeared very significant: “The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. . . . The just shall live by his faith.” The Great Controversy, 392.2
Of the 1850 chart:
“On our return to Brother Nichol’s, the Lord gave me a vision and showed me that the truth must be made plain upon tables, and it would cause many to decide for the truth by the third angel’s message with the two former being made plain upon tables.” Manuscript Releases Vol. 5, 202-203
“I saw that God was in the publishment of the chart by Brother Nichols. I saw that there was a prophecy of this chart in the Bible, and if this chart is designed for God’s people, if it [is] sufficient for one it is for another, and if one needed a new chart painted on a larger scale, all need it just as much.” Manuscript Releases Vol. 13, 359.1
Thus the Spirit of Prophecy clearly endorses the charts and the messages on them. And the 2520 is portrayed on both the 1843 and 1850 charts. God’s word sets forth the principle that a thing is established upon the testimony of two witnesses (Deut 19:15, 2Cor 13:1). Therefore the 1843 and 1850 charts constitute two (of many) witnesses to the truthfulness of the messages on the charts – including the 2520.
So we arrive at an impasse. Who do we believe on this point? James White – a champion of truth, a man led of God, but a “fallible and erring” man nonetheless; or the testimony of the prophet through her endorsement of Habbakuk’s two tables, as well as the Bible itself? Man’s words or the words of inspiration? This is the central question in this matter. The authority of the Spirit of Prophecy is tied to this question. It is therefore of paramount importance that the reader treads carefully in this matter. Especially when it is recalled that the last deception of Satan will be to make the testimonies of “none effect.”
“Satan is . . . constantly pressing in the spurious–to lead away from the truth. The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.– Letter 12, 1890.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, 48.3
Time and Place
The Lord’s prophet makes a very important point about how her writings are to be used:
“Regarding the testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but time and place must be considered. Nothing must be done untimely. Some matters must be withheld because some persons would make an improper use of the light given. Every jot and tittle is essential and must appear at an opportune time. In the past, the testimonies were carefully prepared before they were sent out for publication. And all matter is still carefully studied after the first writing.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, 57.2
“Time and place” are to be considered when interpreting her writings. The question then is under what circumstances – what “time and place” – was the statement made that angels “assisted and had oversight” of the Review and Herald? This statement was penned in 1850, around the same time that her husband wrote in support of the 2520. She wrote this testimony in the same year that James White was republishing and confirming the Millerite understanding of prophecy; including the 2520.
“Then I saw that the papers [The Review and Herald] would go and that it would be the means of bringing souls to a knowledge of the truth. I saw that James had not borne the burden alone, but that the angels of God had assisted and had oversight of the paper.” Manuscript Releases Vol. 8, 221.2
Below is an excerpt from the paper that “the angels of God” had “oversight of.”
“Our minds were directed to that point of time, from the fact that dating the several prophetic periods from those years in which the best chronologers assign the fulfillment of those events which were to mark their commencement, they all seemed to terminate that year. This was, however, only apparent. We date the “seven times” or 2520 years, from the captivity of Manasseh, which is, with great unanimity, placed by chronologers B.C. 677. This date is the only one we have ever reckoned from, for the commencement of this period; and subtracting B.C. 677 from 2520 years. There remained but A.D. 1843. We, however, did not observe, that as it would require 677 full years B.C. and 1843 full years A.D. to complete 2520 years, that it would also oblige us to extend this period as far into A.D. 1844, as it might have commenced after the beginning of B.C. 677.” The Advent Review, Volume 1, August 1850, 2.6
Thirteen years later James White wrote against the 2520. But if time and place are to be considered as has already been stated, what does inspiration have to say about the circumstances under which Brother White penned his rejection of the 2520?:
“I will here copy from another testimony, written June 6, 1863: …I was shown that our testimony is still needed in the church, that we should labor to save ourselves trials and cares, and that we should preserve a devotional frame of mind. It is the duty of those in the office to tax their brains more, and of my husband to tax his less. Much time is spent by him upon various matters which confuse and weary his mind, and unfit him for study or for writing, and thus prevent his light from shining in the Review as it should. “My husband’s mind should not be crowded and overtaxed. It must have rest, and he must be left free to write and attend to matters which others cannot do. Those engaged in the office could lift from him a great weight of care if they would dedicate themselves to God and feel a deep interest in the work.” Testimonies for the Church Vol. 3, 11-12
She wrote that her husband was overtaxed with the duties of his office and his light was hindered from shining in the Review and Herald as it should. In fact, she said he was in a state that rendered him “unfit” for “study or for writing.” She was calling for brethren to lift the burdens that were on her husband’s shoulders because they were unfitting his mind for the work God desired him to accomplish. And in this very same year, in the very same month that she voiced great concern for her husband in his overtaxed condition, he published the 1863 chart.
It may be true that one of the recognized champions of our faith (and others) eventually spoke against the 2520. But can the course of any human being, however led of God override the plain and positive testimony of the Holy Spirit which has spoken through the prophet?
The argument that the 2520 is false because men later rejected it is, at its core, a placing of trust in the word’s of fallible men over the words of God. And those who build their understanding on such a foundation are preparing themselves to receive the Mark of the Beast. If the words of men are accepted over the words of inspiration now – such a course will be even easier to follow in a time when every force within society will be arraigned against God’s people and against the truth.
Although the testimony of inspiration is clear, the question may still be asked as to why Brother White and others later rejected the 2520? If the 2520 is truly foundational to Adventism, did God not foresee the course these men would pursue? The answer is – yes He did. The rejection of the 2520 in 1863 is a subject of Bible prophecy. This and more will be covered in the next installment.