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I Was Canright's Secretary
by Carrie Johnson

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19. Hard and Trying Years

ON JULY 16, 1915, the woman who had counseled, prayed, and worked with D. M. Canright, the one who had predicted his downfall, and wept when it happened, died in California. Ellen G. White, messenger of the Lord, would no longer, in person, be with those for whom she had given a lifetime of devotion and hard work. Funeral services were held in both California and Michigan. On July 24, with his brother, Jasper, D. M. Canright attended the services at Battle Creek. Several eyewitnesses have described the touching experience of Mr. Canright's last parting from Ellen White. G. B. Thompson, who served as honor guard at the funeral, told me of Mr. Canright's uncontrollable grief, which marked him to people who did not know him as the chief mourner at the bier.

At the close of the funeral service, after the first visit to Mrs. White's casket as a part of the long line of mourners, Dudley Canright suggested a return to the front of the Tabernacle for one last farewell. Jasper wrote: "We joined the passing throng, and again stood by the bier. My brother rested his hand on the side of the casket, and with tears rolling down his cheeks, he said brokenly, 'There's a noble Christian woman gone.'" Others also remembered these words.

In spite of these words he soon reverted to type and ere-long was again engaged in his tirade against Seventh-day Adventists and Mrs. White. It had been many years since he had served his Baptist friends, under whose flag he had chosen to sail his craft.

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Canright had been an efficient evangelist, and earnest student of the Word of God, a minister with experience as an executive. It is reported that he had been received with open arms by the Baptists at the age of forty-six, and held—as affirmed by repeated published attestations and affidavits—in high esteem by them. Why they advanced him to no post beyond that of local pastor, and then for only forty-five months, is a question that all might well ponder. Why, when in reasonably good health and still active till his seventh-fifth year, he was not employed in remunerative ministerial work beyond the age of fifty-seven is still another significant question.

Even though Mr. Canright's books were bought and circulated widely, and even though the pastors of a number of Protestant churches invited him to fill their pulpits in attempts to "expose" Seventh-day Adventists, his crusade against the Adventists did not bring him the popularity he so sedulously sought. Of this, his Adventist friend D. W. Reavis wrote in a personal letter:

"Elder Canright soon found that instead of the public following him in greater numbers as he withdrew from the Adventists and their teachings, it seemed to lose confidence in him, and to give more careful consideration to the things previously taught by him."—D. W. Reavis letter to G. L. West, undated.

Somehow his preaching had grown stale. His evangelistic fire was gone. His financial support was irregular and uncertain.

The annual Baptist convention which met in Grand Rapids in October, 1896, conferred upon Mr. Canright the title Pastor Emeritus, in recognition of his two and one-half years as pastor of the Berean Baptist church of Grand Rapids, which he had helped to establish. The convention statement specified that the title carried with it no pastoral assignment and no salary. He was issued credentials and preached occasionally, but bore no other responsibilities.

Royalty income from his books fell far short of meeting the needs of his family. To gain a livelihood, Mr. Canright turned to door-to-door selling of religious books.

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In 1897 he and his family lived in Toledo, Ohio and the following three years in Adrian and Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in South Bend, Indiana.

In 1900 Canright returned to Grand Rapids, not to pastor the church, but to engage in operating a garden and orchard. It appears that for a three-year period beginning with 1904, the Baptists allowed his credentials to lapse.

At this time Elder Butler, now president of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, referred to the man:

"Poor Canright, where is he? If ever I pitied a man, I do him. He looks to me like a poor, seedy, used up old man, and he thought he was going to do grand missionary work."—Letter to J. H. Kellogg, Aug. 12, 1904.

Alluding further to this experience, Butler warned Kellogg:

"No man in the Cause, believing . . . as you have believed, can take your stand right against what the Testimonies say and maintain your spirituality."—Ibid.

As I have shown, Canright's heart seemed to be warmed as he met Adventist church members, and when he associated with his former brethren in the ministry. One such incident occurred shortly before Mrs. White's funeral. On that occasion, early in 1915, one of our denominational leaders, Elder L. H. Christian, called on Canright in his Grand Rapids home. Elder Christian was president of the Lake Union Conference at the time. Of this visit he wrote:

In 1915 I was urged to visit D. M. Canright, who at one time was prominent in our church. He lived then on a poor little farm near Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was eager to tell about his past experiences and seemed to regret that he had ever left the advent people. He talked like a discouraged, disappointed man. As we talked about old-time Adventists, he began to tell about Mrs. White.

He said, "I knew her very well. For some time, as a young man, I lived in her home, and for eighteen years was intimately acquainted with the White family. I want to say to you that I never met a woman so godly and kind and at the same time so unselfish, helpful, and practical as Mrs. White. She was certainly a spiritual woman, a woman of prayer and deep faith in the Lord Jesus."

I asked him what he thought would happen to people if they followed the Testimonies of Mrs. White.

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He answered, "Anyone who follows her writings, the Testimonies, as you call them, in prayer and faith will certainly get to heaven. She always exalted Jesus, and she taught true conversion and genuine sanctification as few others have. I have known a great many men and women who claim to be extraordinary in their imagined divine calling and gifts. I have always found them more or less arrogant and proud, eager to be recognized and often arbitrary and harsh in judging others. With Mrs. White I found the exact opposite. She was reserved and modest and seemed to have no desire at all to call attention to herself as someone great, or to her authority."

Some months after these visits, at the funeral of Mrs. White in Battle Creek, I met D. M. Canright again. There were six of us men who stood as a guard of honor while the people passed through the tabernacle to view Mrs. White as she lay in her plain casket. I noticed Mr. Canright as he came down the aisle toward the rostrum. He stopped at the casket and looked at Mrs. White quite a while. He reached down and took hold of her right hand, which had done all that immense amount of writing.

Later I asked him, "Now that she is dead, what do you really think of Mrs. White?"

He replied, "She was a most godly woman. All her life she lived near to Jesus and taught the way of living faith. Anyone who follows her instructions will surely be saved in the kingdom of God."—Fuitage of Spiritual Gifts, pp. 51-53.

From time to time pastors and leaders of certain religious groups opposed to Adventists still occasionally invited Mr. Canright to fire his salvos at the church to which he had once belonged. His books presented what were supposed to be unanswerable arguments and revealing insights. Surely, it was thought, the author would be the man to silence the Sabbathkeepers.

I remember an animated conversation between Mr. Cornell and Mr. Canright over an invitation, with expenses to be paid, that came to him to speak at one such meeting to be held in Davenport, Iowa, some months in the future. He was to speak on "The Faults of Seventh-day Adventists." This brought animation and zeal to Mr. Canright to again be recognized as master in this field. I have knowledge of several occasions when he was invited to address those who were seeking means to hinder the work of Seventh-day Adventists. The circumstances were always similar to those of the Davenport meeting. This information came to me from Elder R. J. Sype, whose grandfather was well acquainted with D. M. Canright, and who, early in his ministry, had

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corresponded with Canright, and from Elder H. O. Olson who passes on a report of the local elder of the Davenport church.

Elder Sype writes:

Early Spring of 1914, there was a ministerial meeting held in Davenport, Iowa. I believe it was a Union meeting of all denominations who wished to attend. It continued for a few days and various guest speakers were there. Among them was D. M. Canright, who was to address the convention on how the meet Adventism.

Elder A. R. Ogden was then president of the Iowa conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He was somewhat acquainted with Brother Canright and since this was a well advertised meeting at which all denominations were welcome, he decided to attend and incidentally to meet Elder Canright.

Elder Canright met him and seemed absolutely delighted to see him. He clung to him as to a long lost brother and proposed that they stay together in the hotel, which they did.

Elder Canright was to give his talk at the convention the following day. When it came his time to speak, his talk was exactly like that of Balaam when he went to curse Israel. It was a blessing instead of a curse. He told these ministers assembled that the Adventists were a wonderful Christian people, and that they would make a terrible mistake to approach the matter of Adventism in any other spirit than this. He then advised them that the best way to deal with the Adventists was to accept them as Christian brethren and to keep down all controversy with them.—R. J. Sype, in letter to Carrie Johnson, June 10, 1963.

In reporting the incident to Elder H. O. Olson, the elder of the Davenport church told of how he invited Elder Canright to speak in the Seventh-day Adventist church on the next Sabbath. He did so. Years before, he had labored in Iowa and was acquainted with the older believers. The Olson report continues:

When Canright stepped up to the pulpit and faced the audience, he began to cry. For some time he hid his face in his handkerchief and wept. After he composed himself, he said, "As I looked into the faces of my former brethren, I remembered former days. I remembered when Elder and Mrs. James White found me, a young man, a sinner, in the woods of New York State, and how they brought me to Christ and helped me to obtain preparation for the ministry. . . . I remember J. N. Andrews, Loughborough, Haskell, Uriah Smith, J. H. Waggoner, and others. Oh! Those were happy days! I wish those days could return again. You have the truth. You are happier than any other people on earth. Remain true to your denomination."

After the service, he went to the door, and as he shook hands with the brethren he again appealed to them to be true to this message.

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Elder W. E. Murray, long in executive work, remembers the Canright visit to the Davenport church when he was a young man, but thinks the visit took place a year or two earlier.

As long as D. M. Canright, with surrendered heart, fully accepted and preached God's Word, he was a man of power. But when he undertook to tear down what he, with God's help, had built up, his power was gone. The star of popularity he coveted was beyond his grasp.

It is small wonder that contradictory reports still persist, and there seems to be some confusion in the matter of what his true attitude toward the Adventists was. These are merely exhibits of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Canright.

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