Throughout the long, dismal centuries of papal dominion, covering the Middle Ages, which we have traversed in these studies, the Bible was kept locked in the Latin tongue, or in the original Hebrew and Greek in which it had been written. Thus it was unavailable to the masses in their mother tongue. Its study was not encouraged, and especially was delving into its prophecies regarded unprofitable and improper.
The unspiritual ecclesiastics were baffled by the mystic symbolism of the prophetic books of Daniel and John. But this obscurity served as a divinely appointed means of preserving the prophetic word. The real intent of these messages from God was providentially concealed by these very symbols in the days when the truth of God was well-nigh suppressed among men.
But in time the Spirit-impelled Wycliffe began to translate the Scriptures into the language of the people, and to encourage their reading and study. By the time of the flood tide of the Reformation, Luther and others brought forth the Bible in several of the common languages. Once again the Scriptures were lifted to their rightful place as the very word of God. They were accepted as the foundation of all true faith and doctrine, the arbiter for every theological difference, and the end of all controversy. They were exalted as revealing the mind and lofty purpose of God. They were received as recording the past without error, and as divinely portraying the present and the future.
As a result of the Reformation, the veil that had obscured the hallowed pages of Holy Writ began to be lifted. There soon came a wide rift in the cloud that concealed its divine symbols, and the simpler and more fundamental of the outlines of prophecy began to be understood and explained. Noted scholars like the illustrious Joseph Mede (1586-1638), who made long strides in reviving interest in prophecy and laying the foundations for sound interpretation; the celebrated dissenter, Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680), who advocated the indispensable year-day principle
ciple of interpretation; the great philosopher and scientist, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), whose understanding of the prophetic symbols was remarkably clear for the time in which he lived and wrote; and Johann Albrecht Bengel, the eminent German theologianthese were among the great pioneer students and interpreters of Bible prophecy in the seventeenth century, and on to the threshold of the eighteenth.
Slowly the list grows throughout the eighteenth century, until we come to the predicted time of the end, concerning which it was foretold that men should run to and fro in the book of Daniel that had been sealed until the hour should come for those features of its divine message, applicable to the last days, to be understood and applied. There then followed a most remarkable bursting forth of exposition of Bible prophecy. Thus it came literally to pass that men ran to and fro in the prophecy, comparing part with part and principle with principle.
With the dawn of the nineteenth century there came a spontaneous awakening in several continents, and in both hemispheres. This centered in the recovery of the lost expectation of Christ's second advent, as based on the predictions of these same prophets. In South America, under Lacunza, the pathfinding book, The Coming of the Messiah, appeared, and was translated into the leading languages of Europe.
One compiler made an amazing list of twenty-one hundred writers whose articles or treatises on prophecy were issued in English, French, and German, during the years from the Protestant Reformation up to 1835,with most of them appearing near the close, within the indicated time of the end.
Thus the advent hope was revived in the hearts of multitudes by the predicted study of the prophecies. This, in turn, led to the deepest searching of heart as people who understood and believed the prophecies prepared to meet their God. Hans Wood, Lewis Way, Archibald Mason, James Hatley Frere, Edward Irving, Joseph Wolff, Henry Drummond, Robert Chalmers,
James Begg, and Matthew Habershon, McNeil, Pym, Hutchinson, Bayford, Frye, Noel, Vaughan, and Cuninghame are but a few out of the galaxy of names in Great Britain. Thus an amazing prophetic literature was developed in the Old World.
In North America, Miller, Litch, Hale, Himes, and many less conspicuous men wrote out and preached their convictions upon the prophecies. It was here that the advent movement came to its glorious culmination for the time, as setting forth the near return of Christ.
In Great Britain a remarkable event took place in connection with the names, mentioned in that country. More than a score of these godly, learned menmostly ministers from the various churcheshad begun to study and to write upon the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. Feeling the need of exchanging thought upon these subjects of common interest, and of counseling upon their common problems, a Prophetic Conference was called to meet in 1826, at the home of Henry Drummond, M. P., at Albury Park, Surrey. Over twenty of these expounders of prophecy were assembled there. They spent eight days in earnest study. Their conclusions were embodied in a remarkable threevolume report. They were united in expecting the Lord to come within a very few years. Representing, as they did, different denominational viewpoints on the topics under study, the united conclusions reached on the imminence of the second advent are nothing short of amazing.
Following the principle of interpretation laid down by Hans Wood of Rossmead, Ireland, in 1787, they concluded that the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24 were indeed cut off from the beginning of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14. In other words, they understood them to begin simultaneously, the seventy weeks, or 490 literal years, comprising the first section of the full period, which they understood would terminate between 1843 and 1847. They further understood that the midst of the seventieth weekthe cutting off of the Messiah for the sins of the peoplesealed
with divine certainty forever the beginning and, consequently, the ending of the full prophetic time period, the longest recorded in the Bible.
This principle of interpretation was accepted and proclaimed by a score or more of outstanding British students of prophecy during the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Recent research has brought to light a literature remarkably penetrating and clear on the precise date of the ending of the 2300 years.
In the second decade of the nineteenth century, William Miller came independently to essentially the same conclusion in North America. Miller began public presentation of his convictions about 1831. He was soon joined by Fitch, Litch, Bates, Himes, and Bliss.
This stalwart band in America, increased rapidly by others, began to witness with a power and to an extent that are an astonishment to all who learn the facts. Beginning in the smaller towns, their message soon permeated the great cities. Books, tracts, and then periodicals were published in increasing number until there were more than forty papers issued in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, prior to October 22, 1844, devoted exclusively to heralding the approaching advent.
Public lecturers grew in number, drawn from the ministry of nearly all Protestant denominations. Conferences of Christians expecting the advent began to be held in 1840,general conferences for the public representatives, and local conferences for the laity. There were nearly a dozen of the former, and about forty of the latter, which were in instances attended by as many as two thousand persons. Important actions were passed by these general conferences that molded, unified, and greatly forwarded the whole movement.
Giant camp meetings were held, with thousands in attendance,thirty-one being held within the space of four months, in 1842, including several in Canada. One hundred twenty-four of these were held during 1843 and 1844, fourteen of which were
held in Great Britain. Tabernacle meetings and grove, or open air, meetings were also employed.
Then, resentment, ecclesiastical action, and persecution on the part of the nominal churches came into the picture to complicate and impede.
Thus we come to the end of Miller's predicted timeMarch 21, 1844, the close of the Jewish year 1843. There was keen disappointment that the Lord did not appear at that time, and there was considerable shrinkage in numbers as the more superficial dropped out.
The advent movement then entered a period of indifference called the slumber time. But in August, at the important Exeter, New Hampshire, camp meeting, evidence was presented that explained the error in time calculation by Miller. It was seen that 2300 full years would reach from the autumn of 457 B. C. to the autumn of 1844 A. D. The parable of the virgins helped to explain the nature of the disappointment. On the basis of the types in the sanctuary system of old, the antitypical Day of Atonement would fall on the tenth day of the Jewish seventh month,or, according to modern reckoning, on October 22, 1844.
This gripping truth swept over the advent hosts with a compulsion that carried all before it. Louder and louder swelled the cry, The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him. By voice and pen, men told of the expected Saviour. Public lecturers increased to the number of two thousand.
The advent presses began to run day and night to turn out the literature that flooded the country. Some of these periodicals were monthlies; others, weeklies; and, in instances, a few were published every other day, or even daily. They were hawked in the streets of the cities. They were sent in bundles to every post office in the country, and on shipboard to all the ports of earth.
The country was shaken by the mighty message. The Lord was expected. The dead were to be raised, the living saints translated, and the earththen thought to be the sanctuarywas
to be cleansed by fire, and so to become the abode of the saints forever. With holy joy men labored to spread the solemn warning and appeal. With deep searching they examined their own hearts for lurking sin and selfishness. They sold their possessions to obtain funds to spread the message of the expected King of kings. They believed so earnestly and honestly in their expectations that they left their crops standing unharvested, their potatoes in the ground undug. Such was the actual hope and sincere expectancy as October 22 drew on.
Never was there a more thorough preparation made to meet God. For ascension to meet their Lord they sought the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness; and for heart preparation, the forgiveness of God's grace. The great day drew on. The last paper was mailed out. The last sermon was preached. The last appeal was made. The last prayer was offered. Their work was done! Only the coming of their Lord, they thought, stood between them and their fondest expectations.
They waited,hopefully, solemnly. But to their utter consternation, their anguish, and bewilderment, the appointed day passed.
Disappointment filled their souls. In a daze they sought their bearings. They earnestly reviewed the past. They resurveyed the prophetic waymarks. The date 457 B. C. stood supported by reverent scholarship in Ireland, Scotland, England, continental Europe, as well as in North Africa. They traced anew the conclusions of Wood, Mason, Way, Frere, Irving, Wolff, McNeil, White, Pym, Cuninghame, Drummond, Habershon, Miller, and the many others who had declared the seventy prophetic weeks were cut off from the 2300 years, and, commencing together, constituted the first 490 years of that period with Christ's crucifixion in the midst of the seventieth week to seal the prophecy infallibly, and so to fix its termination.
On the basis of the types and the typical Day of Atonement, the great prophetic period must end on October 22, as they had
calculated. But their Lord had not come. The future was a blank, and the present was a puzzle. Sneers and taunts, hostility and persecution, greeted them on every hand. It was a terrible disappointment, a dagger thrust into their hearts. The meaning of it all, and the emergence from their misunderstanding, must be held for consideration in another chapter.
But there was another factor to be logically anticipated in the advent movement at this point, in view of the uniform experience of the past. With the great revival of neglected truth there had early come into the hearts of many a conviction that the apostolic gifts should appear with the renewal of the apostolic faith. Such persons prayed much about it, and wrote about it, but as yet they had no clear understanding of it.
Let us pause, for a moment here, to look at another side of the picture. Satan, the relentless opposer of every truth and provision of God, not only knows well these uniform operations of the past as regards the gift of prophecy,such as have been traced through the pages of this volume,but he has long known and hated God's promised restoration of the gift to the remnant church. This bestowal by our heavenly Father was for the purpose of counseling, guiding, and steadying His loyal followers through the unprecedented perils and apostasies of the last hour.
The archenemy of God is, alas, a keener student of divine prophecy than are most meneven many within the church. He knows and fears God's power from of old. His is the fury of desperation. He uses this evil knowledge and long experience in an attempt to thwart the acceptance of God's provisions, so far as lies within his power. This is attempted with the spirit of prophecy, for example, by anticipating its appearance according to promise, and producing preliminary counterfeits to deceive, if possible, the expectant ones. By extreme fanaticism and false manifestations, he seeks to disgust men generally, and thus to frustrate the purpose of the gift. In this way he causes disrepute to be cast upon all manifestations of the gift, true or false, and
renders it difficult to credit the true when its appearance is made. It is his age-old scheme of opposition.
Thus it came literally to pass in the days of the English advent movement. When the expectation of the Saviour's appearance failed, a brilliant leader like Edward Irving, dissatisfied with the formalism of the nominal churches, and looking for the manifestation of the gifts, withdrew from the ecclesiastical body with which he had been connected. But he was faced with strange manifestations in his own congregation, so that he died in bewilderment and disappointment.
But this enmity on the part of Satan, together with the object of his subtle attacks, and his final course of action, were not only all fully foreknown to God, but were foretold in prophetic outline for the knowledge and safeguarding of His people. Hence confusion or deception was neither necessary nor inevitable.
In North America the publication of alleged visions in certain of the advent journals led to recorded actions against all visions. Thus from Charles Fitch's periodical, The Second Advent of Christ, published in Cleveland, Ohio, in a Declaration of Principles adopted By the Adventists Assembled in Boston Anniversary Week, May, 1843, and signed by N. N. Whiting, S. Bliss, T. F. Barry, J. Litch, and C. Fitch, we read:
We have no confidence whatever in visions, dreams, or private revelations. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. We repudiate all fanaticism, and everything which may tend to extravagance, excess, and immorality, that shall cause our good to be evil spoken of.Issue of June 21, 1843.
A little later, John Starkweather, well educated and able speakerthe ministerial associate of J. V. Himes in his Boston churchlooked for the restoration of the gifts. But fanaticism came briefly, though locally, in the years 1843 and 1844, to deceive and disappoint his immediate followers.
Finally, in direct connection with the great expectation of October 22, 1844, an extremist on the fringes of Millerism, by
the name of Dr. C. R. Gorgas, claimed that by vision God had commissioned him to call out the faithful from Philadelphia to a camp outside the city, and on printed handbills predicted that Christ would come at three o'clock in the morning.
This wild move created disgust, and brought forth emphatic repudiation by the leaders of the movement, immediately following the disappointment, as these words testify:
The Encampment!!!It seems to be a common impression that this was the result of our doctrine. By no means. Only from one to two hundred, out of nearly three thousand believers (at Philadelphia) were deluded by this. The rest felt that they were not required to do anything of the kind; but saw that those favorable to it were led astray, and were grossly perverting the Scriptures. The arrangements for the encampment were made so hastily that those opposed had no opportunity to consider and try to counteract it. Now for the origin of this measure a Dr. C. R. Gorgas of York County, in this State, pretended to have been inspired about three weeks ago, and that it was revealed to him that the advent would take place at three o'clock in the morning of the 22d. Charts to this effect were sent to Baltimore and to this city. The brethren in both places immediately opposed it. Dr. Gorgas first went to Baltimore, but gained no converts. He then came to this city, and from that time the meetings here lost much of their solemnity and interest . Joshua V. Himes, the chief publisher of advent papers, came to this city and strongly opposed Dr. Gorgas, as also Josiah Litch, well known as one of the first and most prominent among the advent preachers . Brother Himes also went to New York and arrested the publication there of the Doctor's chart, which the New York brother, before mentioned, had commenced. The five or six converts here, were also distributing his charts very freely, and the public therefore receives the impression that these charts set forth the expectation of second advent believers generally, who on the contrary rejected in toto the pretended inspiration.
Now this Dr. Gorgas professed to have a revelation that destruction was to be as in the days of Lot, and that all who would be saved must flee from the cities. The influence he had exerted over a few, and then their influence over others, led to the encampmenta most unhappy step
over which none can grieve more bitterly than the advent preachers and advent believers generally. It was the result of following a mere man, instead of the inspired word of the living God. Thanks be to Him for His unerring word; and thanks be to Him also for keeping the great body of those who love His appearing from being led astray by such an unholy influence. Lewis C. Gunn.The Midnight Cry, Nov. 7, 1844, p. 147.
At the Mutual Conference of Adventists at Albany, New York, called for April 29, 1845, a committee of twelve was appointed to draw up a plan of future operations and to present a declaration of principles in the defense of which we have labored, and consult respecting our future association. In the series of resolutions submitted and adopted without a dissenting voice, was this significant action, the import of which is very easily discernible:
Whereas, In every great religious movement, there have been among the wise and sober-minded advocates of the truth, others who have risen up, striving about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers, making great pretensions to special illumination and whereas, in connection with the doctrine of Christ's near appearing, as in all previous religious movements, some of this class have risen up, calling themselves Adventists, teaching for doctrines that with which we can have no sympathy or fellowship, with many unseemly practices, whereby the word of God has been dishonored, and the doctrine of Christ's appearing brought into contempt; therefore
Resolved, That we can have no sympathy or fellowship with those things which have only a show of wisdom in will worship and neglecting of the body, after the commandments and doctrines of men. That we have no fellowship with any of the new tests as conditions of salvation, in addition to repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and a looking for and loving His appearing. That we have no fellowship for Jewish fables and commandments of men, that turn from the truth, or for any of the distinctive characteristics of modern Judaism.The Advent Herald, and Signs of the Times Reporter, May 14, 1845, p. 107.
At the New York City Conference, May 6, 1845, the Doings of the Mutual General Conference held at Albany, which commenced
menced April 29th, 1845, were unanimously approved. After Sylvester Bliss, who was a member of the Albany Committee of twelve, had declared that the Gorgas affair he regarded nothing but mesmerism, and had referred to it as the delusion of the Gorgas vision, the following action was passed at New York:
Resolved, That we have no confidence in any new messages, visions, dreams, tongues, miracles, extraordinary gifts, revelations, impressions, discerning of spirits, or teachings, etc., etc., not in accordance with the unadulterated word of God.The Advent Herald, May 21, 1845, p. 118.
Finally at the important Boston Conference, May 26, Josiah Litch said:
With regard to the state of things in Philadelphia. A portion had been induced, contrary to all his remonstrances, to obey the vision of Dr. Gorgas, and fled from the city on the 10th of the 7th month. And some of them had not yet been able to get the hallucination from their minds. The results had been most disastrous. It had served to disgust the mind of the community there, so that they were laboring under the greatest embarrassments.The Advent Herald, and Signs of the Times Reporter, June 4, 1845, p. 135.
Then as a conference they declared:
We are happy to accord our most hearty approval of the doings of the late Mutual Conference at Albany. The important truths there expressed, we regard as scriptural, and are the ones for the maintenance of which we have labored from the beginning.Idem.
These actions were taken by the First-Day group of Adventists. This body stood in contradistinction to the group beginning to accept the seventh-day Sabbath truth and, shortly thereafter, the sanctuary light. It should be distinctly understood in this connection that this minority group of Adventists, because of accepting the true Sabbath of the Bible, and because of their better understanding of the second advent of Christ through the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary, came to be known later,
and now continue to be known, as Seventh-day Adventists. They should in no way be confused with the First-day Adventists, who were in the majority at that time, and who have continued to the present day, though now in far smaller number than the Seventh-day Adventists.
From the historical incidents recited above, it can be clearly seen that we are brought, amid unfavorable circumstances, to the divinely appointed hour when the true gift of prophecy was to be manifest in the remnant church that had just begun to stress the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Its beginning was under the severe handicap of prejudice, adverse conference actions by the main body of Adventists, and popular disgust over manifestly false visions fostered by the evil one to hamper the true manifestation that had just made its appearance. This true manifestation came at the appointed hour, to bear its early testimony of counsel and warning, instruction and entreaty, to the remnant church. It was submitted to the divinely appointed tests of the word and to examination by its fruits, as we shall see.
Accepted because it met every test specified by the
Scriptures of truth, the spirit of prophecy was received by this
Sabbath-keeping company as the third of the three great distinguishing marks
disclosed in the word as identifying the true church for the last days. Its
blessed influence upon the life and expansion of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church is the theme of the closing section of this book.