“The Great Controversy Between God and Man. Its Origin, Progress, and End” H. L. Hastings (1861)
As a book, this work, while clearly showing the biblical truth that God will take vengeance on the earth, is not an extraordinary work. What makes this book so extraordinary, is the title itself.
I first learned of the existence of this book a couple of years ago on the internet, by some people who were disaffected with the Seventh-day Adventist church, and who were trying to show how Ellen White copies her greatest work from someone else (Hastings). What is so striking, is that Hastings came out with his book in the spring of 1858, dating his Preface “January, 1858”, from Rochester N.Y. Ellen White had her “Great Controversy” vision at Lovett’s Grove, Ohio in May of the same year, giving credence to the view that perhaps she copied the title or even the contents when producing her own book.
But the contents of this book are very different from “The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels”. This book is focused on only one thing – showing how mankind has often rebelled against God, and how God has shown mercy in giving warnings to repent, and then, when the warnings go unheeded, how God destroys the rebellious. This one, single point is similar to Ellen White’s book, but her book is so much more comprehensive, showing the total view of sin in the universe before it started to after it is eliminated, that it is difficult to even compare the two. How anyone could believe that somehow Ellen White “copied” anything from this book is beyond rational thot.
The book reviewed here was downloaded and printed for me by a friend who found it in Google Books. It carries a published date of “1861”, and says “third thousand” on the cover, making me think that perhaps this is the third edition. It says it was “Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by H. L. Hastings” which makes me wonder then if the book was first printed in 1860, as it is unusual for a second or third edition to be entered. Currently, i do not know. I do know that this book has been reprinted and bound together with Ellen White’s book by the above-mentioned disaffected parties, and is available on Amazon.com.
The title itself clearly shows the theme — there is a “controversy” between God and man. Rightly so, even the Bible mentions a controversy God has with the nations in Jeremiah 25:31. And the book stays true to its theme thruout – showing how mankind must repent and turn to God, or God will destroy him – that these are the only two possible outcomes of the great controversy.
The book seems to be written to combat the prevailing error among Christians of his day, that the world was getting better and better and then would naturally usher in a millenium of peace here on this earth. Writing this in 2009, i really doubt that hardly any Christians believe in this error today. It is just too clear that things are not generally getting better morally, but worse. So while the message contained is still correct, the object of writing an entire book showing that, yes, God will destroy this earth one day, is a foregone conclusion among nearly all Christians now.
On the other hand, Ellen White’s book is so much more comprehensive, that it is almost impossible to compare the two. She writes first of Satan in heaven before his fall, the fall of Adam and Eve, how the plan of salvation was devised, Christ’s life, the disciples, the Christian church thru the centuries, the Advent movement, the particulars of the Sanctuary and the 3 Angel’s Messages, Satan’s plans for the end time in making his angels appear before us, the Shaking, how important the Sabbath is, the Loud Cry, the death decree, God delivering his people, the saints going to heaven, returning to this earth after the 1000 years, the last struggle by Satan and his followers, the lake of fire, and the never-ending enjoyment of the righteous in a universe completely free from sin. I’ve read Ellen White’s book 250 times or more, and wish to read more as i find something new just about every time i go thru it, but Hastings’ book is enough with just one reading.
For a few quotes showing the tenor of the book: (talking about pharoah’s destruction) “And so was closed up the controversy of God with the ruler of Egypt,–closed as all other controversies had been closed, not by submission, not by artitration, not by mercy, but closed on the one hand by unmitigated and stubborn rebellion, and on the other hand by sudden and overwhelming and exterminating vengeance…. Thus were judgments executed which magnified God, honored his law, vindicated his government, delivered his people and destroyed his foes”.
One long passage will suffice to show why i don’t particularly enjoy the writing prose of this book: “They are rebellious as at the beginning. They are disobedient as they ever have been. They will not acknowledge Christ as their sovereign Lord. Men advance, but not toward God. Men progress, but not in holiness. Men become wise, but not in the wisdom of God. Men become polished, but not as stones for the diadem of Jehovah. Men become refined, but not with that fire that purges away the dross of sin. Men become elevated, but they disdain the meek humility of the Son of God. They love the world. They revere not Jehovah. They delight not in his law. They receive not his spirit. They reject his word. They oppose his will. They despise his followers. Pride and vain glory, envyings and strifes, worldliness and luxury creep in among those who once were the humble sharers in the sufferings of their Saviour. Among all the churches that bear the name of Jesus, where is to be found the chaste virgin, the spotless bride? How few sigh and cry for the abominations that are in the land! How few mourn over the spiritual desolation around! How few have not defiled their garments, and are prepared to walk with Christ in white! How many have left their first love! How many have a name to live and are dead! How many are lukewarm and nauseous, because they are neither hot nor cold! How many boast of riches and increase of goods, while they are poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked! How many are at ease in Zion! How many say “to-morrow shall be as this day and more abundant!” How many join hands with the multitude and shun the cross of Christ! How many think more of earth than of heaven or hell! How many follow the multitude to do evil! How many despise the strait and narrow way! How many feast when they should fast, and robe themselves with purple when they should sit in sackcloth and ashes! How many are swayed by the lightest breath of popular censure or applause! How many forget that the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, and that they should pass the time of their sojourning here in fear! Ah, the world is still, as ever, the enemy of God. Satan is its God, and destruction its destiny.”
It seems that Hastings may have been an Advent believer. But it also seems that he had not accepted the Sabbath truth, or other doctrines that laid the foundation for the Seventh-day Adventist church either.
It doesn’t appear to me that there is even one sentence exactly the same between the two books, but, as is the case with any two books with overlapping subject matter, there are some sentiments which are the same. Being 167 pages, it is interesting to see that it is set in what looks to be the same type-face, and set to the same size page as the book by Ellen White.
While this book has a very interesting place in the history of the making of the Spirit of Prophecy books, my personal conclusion is that Satan worked out a way to try and discredit the true “Great Controversy” that would point the finger of guilt directly at himself, and get people to doubt the real “Great Controversy” that shows clearly that the controversy is between himself and Jesus.