Adventist Pioneers on the Doctrine of the Trinity

On this page read quotes from the pioneers of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the doctrine of the Trinity. The pioneers seemed to have different ideas as to what the doctrine of the Trinity was. This is understandable being that it is a confusing doctrine and is hard to explain even by those who believe in the doctrine. Even so, it is very plain that the pioneers did not believe in the Trinity. Some would say that Ellen White never spoke against the Trinitarian doctrine. Her husband, James White, did along with the other pioneers. One would think if they were wrong for doing so there would be a written record of her correcting their views. The term "trinity" and the language of the trinity doctrine were never used in the doctrines of the SDA Church until after James and Ellen White and the other pioneers were deceased. This alone is very telling.


The Review and Herald Battle Creek Mich. Third-day, Nov., 1861
Questions for Bro. Loughborough.

Bro. WHITE: The following questions I would like to have you give, or send, to Bro. Loughborough for explanation.
W. W. GILES. Toledo, Ohio.

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.

These positions we will remark upon briefly in their order.

1. It is not very consonant with common sense to talk of three being one, and one being three. Or as some express it, calling God "the Triune God," or "the three-one-God." If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each God, it would be three Gods; for three times one is not one, but three. There is a sense in which they are one, but not one person, as claimed by Trinitarians.

2. It is contrary to Scripture. Almost any portion of the New Testament we may open which has occasion to speak of the Father and Son, represents them as two distinct persons. The seventeenth chapter of John is alone sufficient to refute the doctrine of the Trinity. Over forty times in that one chapter Christ speaks of his Father as a person distinct from himself.

His Father was in heaven and he upon earth. The Father had sent him. Given to him those that believed He was then to go to the Father. And in this very testimony he shows us in what consists the oneness of the Father and Son. It is the same as the oneness of the members of Christ's church. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." Of one heart and one mind. Of one purpose in all the plan devised for man's salvation. Read the seventeenth chapter of John, and see if it does not completely upset the doctrine of the Trinity.

To believe that doctrine, when reading the scripture we must believe that God sent himself into the world, died to reconcile the world to himself, raised himself from the dead, ascended to himself in heaven, pleads before himself in heaven to reconcile the world to himself, and is the only mediator between man and himself. It will not do to substitute the human nature of Christ (according to Trinitarians) as the Mediator; for Clarke says, " Human blood can no more appease God than swine's blood." Com. on 2 Sam. xxi, 10.

We must believe also that in the garden God prayed to himself, if it were possible, to let the cup pass from himself, and a thousand other such absurdities.

Read carefully the following texts, comparing them with the idea that Christ is the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Supreme, and only self-existent God: John xiv; 28 ; xvii, 3 ; iii, 16 ; v, 19, 26 ; xi, 15; xx, 19 ; viii, 50; vi, 38; Mark xiii, 32; Luke vi, 12; xxii, 69; xxiv, 29; Matt, iii, 17 ; xxvii, 46; Gal. iii, 20 ; 1 Jno. ii, 1; Rev. v, 7; Acts xvii, 31. Also see Matt, xi, 25, 27; Lube i, 32; xxii, 42 ; John iii, 35, 36; v, 19,21,22,23,25,26; vi, 40; viii, 35, 36; xiv, 13; 1 Cor. xv, 28, &c.

The word Trinity nowhere occurs in the Scriptures. The principal text supposed to teach it is 1 John i, 7 which is an interpolation. Clarke says. " Out of one hundred and thirteen manuscripts, the text is wanting in one hundred and twelve. It occurs in no MS. before the tenth century. And the first place the text occurs in Greek, is in the Greek translation of the acts of the Council of Lateran, held A. D. 1215."

3. Its origin is pagan and fabulous. Instead of pointing us to scripture for proof of the trinity, we are pointed to the trident of the Persians, with the assertion that "by this they designed to teach the idea of a trinity, and if they had the doctrine of the trinity they must have received it by tradition from the people of God. But this is all assumed, for it is certain that the Jewish church held to no such doctrine. Says Mr. Summerbell, " A friend of mine who was present in a New York synagogue, asked the Rabbi for an explanation of the word 'elohim.' A Trinitarian clergyman who stood by, replied, ' Why, that has reference to the three persons in the Trinity,'-when a Jew stepped forward and said he must not mention that word again, or they would have to compel him to leave the house; for it was not permitted to mention the name of any strange god in the synagogue."* Milman says the idea of the Trident is fabulous.

This doctrine of the trinity was brought into the church about the same time with image worship, and keeping the day of the sun, and is but Persian doctrine remedied. It occupied about three hundred years from its introduction to bring the doctrine to what it is now. It was commenced about 325 A. D., and was not completed till 681. See Milman's Gibbon's Rome, vol. iv, p. 422. It was adopted in Spain in 589, in .England in 596, in Africa in 534. Gib. vol. iv, pp. 114, 345; Milner, vol. i, p. 519.

James White

The "mystery of iniquity" began to work in the church in Paul's day. It finally crowded out the simplicity of the gospel, and corrupted the doctrine of Christ, and the church went into the wilderness. Martin Luther, and other reformers, arose in the strength of God, and with the Word and Spirit, made mighty strides in the Reformation. The greatest fault we can find in the Reformation is, the Reformers stopped reforming. Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of Papacy behind, such as natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sunday-keeping, the church would now be free from her unscriptural errors. {February 7, 1856 JWe, ARSH 148.22}

"The way spiritualizers this way 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." Letter from Bro. White,,'' The Day-Star, IX (January 24, 1846), 25.

"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."

˜The Faith of Jesus,'' Review & Herald, III (August 5, 1852), 52

J.N. Andrews

"And as to the Son of God, he could be excluded also, for he had God for His Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days. So that if we use Paul's language in an absolute sense, it would be impossible to find but one being in the universe, and that is God the Father, who is without father, or mother, or descent, or beginning of days, or end of life. Yet probably no one for a moment contends that Melchizedek was God the Father.' "Melchisedec,'' Review & Herald, XXXIV (September 7, 1869),84

E.J. Waggoner

"The Scriptures declare that Christ is "the only-begotten Son of God." He is begotten, not created. As to when He was begotten, it is not for us to inquire, nor could our minds grasp it if we were told .... There was a time when Christ proceeded and came forth from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:42; 1:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning."
"Christ and His Righteousness" - (From the section entitled, "Is Christ a Created Being?")

R.F. Cottrell

I never believed the doctrine of the trinity, nor ever professed to believe it. But I do not think it the most dangerous heresy in the world ... men have gone to extremes in the discussion of the doctrine of the trinity. Some have made Christ a mere noble man, commencing his existence at his birth in Bethlehem; others have not been satisfied with holding Him to be what the Scriptures so clearly reveal Him, the pre-existing Son of God, but have made Him the God and Father of Himself .... I would simply advise all that love our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to believe all that the Bible says of Him, and no more ...." " ...We understand that the term trinity means the union of three persons, not offices, in one God; so that The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Are three at least, and one at most."
"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 Trinity,'' Review & Herald, XXXIV (July 6, 1869), 10,11.

"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 the popedom, does not say much in its favour. This should cause men to investigate it for themselves; as when the spirits of devils working miracles undertake the advocacy of the immortality of the soul. Had I never doubted it before, I would now probe it to the bottom, by that word which modern Spiritualism sets at nought." Ibid.

W.W. Prescott

"As Christ was twice born, - once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father, and again here in the flesh, thus uniting the divine with the human in that second birth, - so we, who have been born once already in the flesh, are to have the second birth, being born again of the Spirit, in order that our experience may be the same, - the human and the divine being joined in a life union."

˜The Christ for Today,'' Review & Herald, LXXIII (April 14, 1896), 232

More Quotes from the Pioneers

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 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. {1858 MEC, FT 76.1} Merritt E. Cornell

The cause of the fall of Babylon is thus stated: "she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Her fornication was her unlawful union with the kings of the earth. The wine of this, is that with which the church has intoxicated the nations of the earth. There is but one thing that this can refer to, viz., false doctrine. This harlot, in consequence of her unlawful union with the powers of earth, has corrupted the pure truths of the Bible, and with the wine of her false doctrine, has intoxicated the nations. A few instances of her corruption of the truths of the Bible must suffice: {1855 JNA, TAR 54.1}

1. The doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul. This was derived from the Pagan mythology, and was introduced into the church by means of distinguished converts from Paganism, who became "fathers of the church." This doctrine makes man's last foe, death, the gate to endless joy, and leaves the resurrection as a thing of minor importance. It is the foundation of modern spiritualism. {1855 JNA, TAR 54.2}

2. 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.- John Nevins Andrews

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. The mass who have held these fundamental errors, have doubtless done it ignorantly; but 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. "Here are they [in the period of a message given just before the Son of man takes his place upon the white cloud, Rev.xiv,14] that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." This class, who live just prior to the second advent, will not be keeping the traditions of men, neither will they be holding fundamental errors relative to the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. And as the true light shines out upon these subjects, and is rejected by the mass, then condemnation will come upon them. When the true Sabbath is set before men, and the claims of the fourth commandment are urged upon them, and they reject this holy institution of the God of heaven, and choose in its place an institution of the beast, it can then be said, in the fullest sense, that such worship the beast. The warning message of the third angel is given in reference to that period, when the mark of the beast will be received, instead of the seal of the living God. Solemn dreadful, swiftly-approaching hour! {September 12, 1854 JWe, ARSH 36.7} -James White in Review and Herald September 12, 1854

"Preach the Word"

"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." 2Tim.iv,1,2. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.3}

A more solemn charge cannot be found in the Book of God. It was given before God, before the Lord Jesus Christ, and in view of the judgment of the living and the dead. It was given under circumstances the most solemn. The great Apostle says: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.4}

The language of the text - "I charge thee therefore," - indicates that this solemn charge - "Preach the word" - was given in view of facts before stated, which facts are recorded in the previous chapter as follows: [verses 1-5:] "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affections, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away." This is the prophetic description of the professed church of Christ in the "last days." In view of this sad picture, the Apostle gives us the solemn charge, "Preach the word." The word exposes all these sins, and shows the duty of God's people in regard to those who are guilty of them. "From such turn away." The reason why these sins exist in the church is because Christ's professed ministers have not preached the word. They have not fearlessly rebuked those sins which the Scriptures rebuke in the plainest language. Says the Apostle. "Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.5}

Verses 3,4. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." Here the Apostle points forward to the "last days" which he had been describing; to these days when men will not endure sound doctrine taught by prophets, Jesus and apostles. "But after their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall be turned from the truth unto fables." Here we learn that the multitude of religious teachers in the last days are the choice of the people, instead of God's choice; and that the people in their choice follow their lusts. The man of God who will reprove them for their worldly lusts; will rebuke them for their sins, they do not want. They will not hear him. They rather "heap to themselves teachers" who - after they have followed the world, the flesh, and the Devil six days - will preach smooth things on Sunday, and touch their popular sins as lightly as possible. They will not endure sound doctrine. Should the meek and humble Man of Sorrows appear before them in his seamless robe, as he stood forth 1800 years ago, and reprove and rebuke the sins of professed Christian worshipers, as he reproved the professed pious of that day, a thousand voices would be raised against him. Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him! would be heard from every lip. Should men, filled with the Holy Spirit, stand forth with boldness, as did Peter and John and other of Christ's witnesses, and reprove sin in all its forms, they would meet like persecution. Human nature is no better now than then. The Devil, though he may profess piety, is not converted. When men "preach the word," when a pure apostolic gospel shall be preached, then will Bible Christians be persecuted as they were 1800 years since, and they will stand out separate from the world with apostolic faith, apostolic works, and apostolic power. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb.iv,12. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.6}

But it is a fact, which will not be denied, that apostolic faith, works and power cannot be found in the popular churches of this day. And what makes their condition still more hopeless is, they are taught that those things belonged to that age alone, and that God does not require the same sacrifice and consecration of the Christians of this day, and that to expect the faith and manifest power of God possessed and enjoyed by Christ's earliest witnesses, is heresy, is fanaticism. Thus the professed church of Christ is bound in chains of unbelief, and united to, and overcome by the world. Her ministers, instead of preaching the word, hold forth a powerless gospel, and thus daub Zion's walls with untempered mortar. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.7}

"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so, and what will ye do in the end thereof?" Jer.v,30,31. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.8}

Let the prophets answer. "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest." "Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left." Isa.xxiv,1-6. "And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground. Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock; for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel. And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape. A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and a howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the Lord hath spoiled their pasture." Jer.xxv,33-36. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.9}

But the expression of the Apostle, "they shall be turned from the truth unto fables," is worthy of especial attention. We will here briefly notice some of the popular fables of the age. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.10}

1. The world's conversion, and a thousand years of peace and holiness before the second coming of Christ. Those who cherish this hope, look for its consummation in the seventh Millennium, in the last days. But have the prophets, Christ and apostles, spoken of the last days as a period of peace, prosperity and holiness? Nay, verily. The prophets speak of the last days as a period that waiteth for the wrath and fierce anger of the Lord to "lay the land desolate, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it." Christ declares that as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at his coming; that the wheat and tares should grow together until the harvest, and that the harvest is the end of the world. The apostles speak in harmony with the prophets and Christ. Says Paul, "In the last days perilous times shall come;" etc. 2Tim.iii,1-8. Compare his description of the last days, with the picture of the good days to come, the golden age now opening before us, held forth from the pulpit and the religious press, and it will be seen that the popular churches are deceived by a false hope. Their ears are turned from the truth unto a pleasing fable. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.11}

2. The spiritual Second Advent. The majority of religious teachers hold forth that Christ's second advent is at death, or at conversion. In this case there are as many second advents as there are deaths or conversions, which is the greatest absurdity. Said the angels to the anxious disciples as they stood gazing at their ascending Lord from Mt. Olivet. "This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts i,11. "Behold! he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him." Rev.1,7. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.12}

3. The saints' inheritance "beyond the bounds of time and space," instead of the earth made new, when the kingdom "under (not above) the whole heavens shall be given to the saints." Dan.vii,27. "Blessed are the meek," says Christ, "for they shall inherit the earth." {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.13}

4. The natural immortality of the soul. The Word says that God "only hath immortality," [,15,16;] that it is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ; [,23;] that those alone who seek for it, will obtain it; [Rom.ii.7;] and that it will be given to those who are Christ's at the resurrection. 1Cor.xv,51-55. But the Pagan and Papal fable of natural immortality makes man's last enemy, death, the gate to endless joys, and leaves the resurrection as a thing of little consequence. It is the basis of modern Spiritualism. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.14}

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, {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.15}

5. The change of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment from the seventh to the first day of the week. The Pagan festival of Sunday has been substituted by the church for the sanctified Rest-day of the Creator. The Holy Sabbath is the divinely appointed memorial of Jehovah's rest on the last day of the creation week. But the church has changed this to the first day of the week to make it a memorial of the resurrection of Christ, in the place of baptism, which has been changed to sprinkling. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.16}

But is there no precept from the great Head of the church for Sunday-keeping? There is none. The New Testament is entirely silent in regard to a change of the Sabbath. The Sabbath of the Lord our God is trampled under foot every week by the professed servants of the Most High God, who hold forth the Pagan festival, Sunday, (substituted by Papists for the seventh day,) as the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. The only commandment for the weekly Sabbath found in the Book of God, says, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord our God." {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.17}

We might set down and mourn over a corrupted gospel and apostate church, but this would not mend the matter. Then what shall we do? Answer. "Preach the word." Brethren, put on the whole armor. Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and go forth in the name of the Master and "Preach the word." If fable teachers succeed in turning the masses away from the truth, still "Preach the word," and let those hear who have an ear to hear. A few can be reached and rescued. A remnant will hail a pure, living gospel with joy, and prepare for the coming of the Son of man. And those who faithfully "Preach the word," will receive a crown of life when the Chief Shepherd shall appear. J. W. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.18} Oswego Conference. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.19}

The Conference at Oswego will be one of the greatest importance to the cause in the State of New York. Bro. J. Hart of Vermont designs to be present. His plain testimony, at the Conference at this place, on many points relative to the present duty of the Church of God, did us all much good. There should be a general gathering of the male members of the church in the county, and delegates from other counties. {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.20} We hope there will be vigorous efforts made by the Church in that State to extend the present truth to new fields. James White {December 11, 1855 JWe, ARSH 85.21}