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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    VI. The Continuation of the Adventist Stream


    So, to return to the figure of the river used by the Millerites themselves, and noted at the outset of this chapter, the original stream of the Advent Movement split into three parts, when it lost its momentum and direction after the Disappointment. The climax of the Millerite movement, in the Midnight Cry of the seventh month, had been a broad, swift-moving torrent. But instead of reaching the ocean at the terminus of the 2300 years, it met this barrier that turned it aside into the sands of bewilderment and completely lost its old channel. As Nichol observes, there was much evaporation, and many of the little side streams into which it spread, soon dried up. And part of it went into the stagnant pools of fanaticism, pools that became brackish, ill smelling, and poisonous before they dried up.PFF4 842.2

    What seemed to be the remnant of the main stream, under the old leadership, continued for a time in a new direction through the hot sands, with considerable loss of momentum and beset by eddies and swirling cross currents. There were other rocks too, and promontories, to split this stream-time settings and the question of immortality. One smaller stream that branched off at one of these points later took its course through greener lands and outgrew its parent, which had dwindled in the sands and finally gave out completely.PFF4 842.3

    But the third branch, a small trickle at first, that escaped the brackish pools of fanaticism on the one hand and the thirsty sands of critical opposition on the other, became a stream continuing in the main direction of the old river. It long remained small in volume. It had its turns and its eddies, but it continued on until it became the largest of the streams that came from the original river, and flows on strongly in the same direction in which it started as it comes ever nearer to the ocean.PFF4 843.1


    Leaving the figure of the stream, we find that the Albany Conference group of Millerite Adventists developed into the Evangelical Adventist body and their more hardy offspring, the Advent Christian Church, both of which continued to regard the advent as near, but failed to advance into new phases of prophetic interpretation. Therefore, in continuing the present study from 1844 on, there is little reason to trace further the development of these groups than to discuss the third segment, which became the Sabbatarian Adventists. The latter, convinced that the earlier 1844 movement had been of God, and had borne witness to a definite fulfillment of prophecy, believed that its platform constituted a dependable foundation for further fulfillments; so they continued to place major emphasis on prophecy, and developed a fuller and more accurate prophetic interpretation, based on the further unfolding of the involvements of the cleansing of the sanctuary and related subjects that constitute the sequel of the master prophecy of the 2300 days. We shall soon, therefore, drop the tracing of the other Adventist bodies that stemmed from the Albany Conference.PFF4 843.2


    The Literalist interpretation, which was not connected with any of these Adventist bodies that came out of Millerism, did not develop noticeably in America until after the period covered in this volume. From the 1870’s onward, a distinctive school of thought of the Literalist type, developed through prophetic conferences and advanced by well-known evangelists influenced by the Plymouth Brethren, gradually permeated what came to be the Fundamentalist ranks, scattered through the various churches. But these were marked by a distinctive Futurist premillennialism, different from anything held before.PFF4 844.1

    However, full treatment of these premillennialists 28See Appendix F. would require another volume. An Epilogue at the close of Part III must suffice, tracing sketchily the persistence of the Historical School of Interpretation, and of Premillennialism, outside the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists. But in Part III we shall trace the line of descent that came from the historic premillennialists down to the 1844 movement in America, and on into the sequel of Seventh-day Adventist prophetic exposition.PFF4 844.2


    Preliminary to the more detailed discussion of this sequel in Part III, it may be well first to outline certain separate elements that rose in 1844 in the aftermath of the Millerite movement. Three key teachings, each developing independently, began to characterize the group which erelong became the Sabbatarian Adventists. And these features came to be regarded by them as interrelated in what they believed to be the prophetic charter of their mission. These three were: (1) The sanctuary, as embracing the special, or final, ministry of Christ in the holy of holies of the heavenly sanctuary, thus giving new meaning to the message, “the hour of God’s judgment is come”; (2) the Sabbath, that is, observance of the seventh day, as involved in the keeping of the “commandments of God,” and (3) the spirit of prophecy, or the “testimony of Jesus,” to be manifest in the “remnant” church, 29The passages referred to are the three consecutive messages of Revelation 14:6-12, involving the proclamation of “the everlasting gospel,” “the hour of God’s judgment,” the worship of the Creator, the warning against apostasy, and “the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Also, in another setting, “the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17), which, according to John the revelator, is “the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). or last segment of God’s church of the centuries. Their place of emphasis is shown above.PFF4 844.3

    The sanctuary teaching appearing in New York state, the sabbath position in new hampshire, and the spirit of prophecy in maine, Soon began to touch each other, and to unite in emphasis. Thus a coordinated proclamation of the three teachings developed
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    These three teachings developed in three isolated and independent places. Hiram Edson and his associates, after group study in western New York, began proclaiming the sanctuary phase. Joseph Bates and others, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, started to advocate the Sabbath feature. At the same time Ellen Harmon-a girl of religious experience beyond her years, who, with her parents, had been disfellowshiped from the Methodist Church because of espousing the second advent views of the Millerites-had begun to display a singular spiritual activity. Her influence, establishing confidence in God’s past leadership, and in His future guidance in the Advent Movement, began to be felt by a sizable group around Portland, Maine. In time these three groups and teachings united.PFF4 845.1

    Picture 2: DANIEL: LEADING POSITIONS OF PRINCIPAL MILLERITE EXPOSITORS-1831-1844 (For Revelation See Next Opening)
    Careful analysis of this tabular chart, made by following the lines through, both vertically and horizontally, results in certain inevitable conclusions: (1) there was greater unity of belief among the leaders of the North American Advent movement than in the Old world advent awakening that slightly preceded it. (Cf. tabular charts, Vol. Ill, pp. 744, 745.) (2) there was startling similarity between the positions of Miller and his associates and those of many contemporary expositors in both the New World and the Old, including many of the most learned and illustrious interpreters of post-reformation and reformation times. There was even striking similarity to certain early church teachings.
    The general conclusion seems inescapable that the Millerites did not introduce new and strange interpretations. Every position they held was previously taught by other recognized scholars. They simply revived and unitedly stressed the standard, orthodox positions of past and contemporary writers.
    Specifically, they held the standard, established historical school interpretation of the outline prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 8, 11. Their list of the divisions of the Roman fourth empire was what scores, if not hundreds, of others had used. They applied the composite prophetic symbols of Antichrist to the Papacy-Antichrist, Man of sin, Son of Perdition, Mystery of Iniquity, Little Horn, Beast, Babylon, and Harlot. They were supported by hundreds of predecessors in applying the year-day principle to all the prophetic time periods of Daniel-the 1260, 1290, 1835, and 2300 year-days.
    They had been anticipated by scores in the Old World and in the New in recognizing the 70 weeks of years as the first part of the 2300 years, cut off for the Jews and beginning synchronously with the longer period in 457 B.C. The chief variance was the nature of the event expected to occur at the end of the 2300 years. Many liberals fondly expected their terminal point to mark the ushering in of a thousand years of spiritual triumph, world conversion, and universal peace, before the second advent.
    But scores upon scores of expositors across the years had held that the 2300 years would lead to the second advent, just as the Millerites universally believed. Like most interpreters before them, the Millerites first placed the cross in A.D. 33, at the end of the seventieth week. But others had likewise anticipated their later revised position in the seventh-month movement, and placed the cross in the “midst” of the prophetic “week,” in A.D. 31.
    There was an unparalleled uniformity in the Millerite dating of the 1260, 1290, and 1335 years. But here again there were numerous antecedents for each position. And the “Seven Times” of the Gentiles had been widely taught in the Old World Advent Awakening, as from 677 B.C. to 1843/4.
    It is therefore to be logically concluded that the basic positions on prophecy held by the Millerites were not in any sense original with them. Nor were they revolutionary or fanciful innovations, but they stood in the line of that honored and respected company of predecessors of high standing and orthodoxy in the various historic communions.
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    Millerite exposition of the book of Revelation was far more sketchy and incomplete than the exposition on the various prophecies comprising the book of Daniel. There were few conflicts in interpretation, but, rather, there were sections of omission of any exposition. There were but thirty-one major Miller-ite expositions of the Revelation in comparison with forty-five on the prophecies of Daniel. Only a half dozen deal with the seven churches, but these all indicate that they refer to the true church throughout the Christian Era, with Laodicea as the last phase. The rest evidently took this for granted but did not write upon it. The seven seals represented the developing of apostasy or corruption in the church during the same period. But the majority were interested in the seven trumpets, and without exception applied the first four to the barbarian scourges of Western Rome. The fifth was applied to the Saracen affliction for the five prophetic months, or 150 years, from 1299 to 1449, and the sixth, to the Mohammedan Turkish power for 391 (the hour day month and year) years, calculated from 1449 to August, 1840. On the two witnesses there was an almost unanimous belief that these were the old and new testaments, with the 1260 year-days uniformly given from 538 to 1798 (paralleling the papal period), and the 3i/£ prophetic days of the slaying of the Two Witnesses, or Testaments, from 1793 to 1796. The earthquake of Revelation 11 was the French Revolution, and the tenth part of the city was France. There was likewise great unanimity in the symbolism of Revelation 12. The woman symbolized the true church, and without exception the child was designated as Christ. The dragon was always pagan Rome, with the 1260 days, of 3y£ times, from 538 to 1798. In all this there was marked similarity to the antecedent Old World Advent Awakening (see Volume III), and with many of the greatest expositors of the pre-Reformation, Reformation, and post-Reformation periods, as well as some in the early church prior to the blackout of interpretation.
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    These three primary teachings—the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and the Spirit of prophecy, along with the old basic, established, and fundamentally evangelical positions, as well as immortality only in Christ and the foundational Adventist teachings on the second advent and the Bible prophecies—formed the basis for the emergence of a new theological system, balanced in form and Scriptural in emphasis. Slowly the doctrinal framework of the Sabbatarian Adventists took definite shape. Their convictions were crystallizing as the thinking of different leaders began to be published in 1846 and 1847-the writings of Hiram Edson, O. R. L. Crosier, and F. B. Hahn, Joseph Bates, James White, and Ellen Harmon.PFF4 848.1

    As the merging of views began to take place, and the adherents of the Edson view of the sentuary and the Bates view of the Seventh day Sabbath first began to coalesce, there was as yet no semblance of an organization, much less of an emerging denomination. But in this way, in three separate places in three different States, and all by the close of 1844, these three distinctive teachings that were to become major doctrinal features, in a distinctive Sabbatarian Adventist setting and movement, now reached out and touched each other.PFF4 849.1

    Continuing to summarize the Millerite positions, we find that the first beast of Revelation 13 is uniformly given as the Papacy, except by Miller, who made it the secular phase of Rome. The seven heads are always the seven forms of the Roman Government, with the Papacy as the seventh. And without exception the ten horns are interpreted as the ten divisions, or kingdoms, of Europe, with the 42 months as dated from 538 to 1798. Concerning the second beast there was general uncertainty or silence-the time had obviously not yet come for certainty or accuracy of identification. And similarly with the image. The first flying angel of chapter 14 was uniformly the human heralding, in Old World and in New, of the judgment-hour message, as scores had expressly interpreted it in Great Britain. The second angel was but slowly perceived as calling for separation from nominal “Babylon.” Unanimity prevailed concerning the woman and the Babylon of Revelation 17. Without exception Babylon was identified as the Papacy, or mother church of Rome. And it was broadened to include certain Protestant “daughters,” who retained the mother church characteristics. The ten horns were the same secular kingdoms of Europe that upbore her, and the seventh head was the Papacy. Revelation 18 was the portrayal of the coming papal overthrow. And Revelation 20 was universally premillennial, with the thousand years literal, and extending from the first resurrection (of the righteous) to the second resurrection (of the wicked), with the battle for the city and the executive judgment upon the wicked marking the close. Here again we find marked similarity of exposition with many of the illustrious Old World Advent Awakening expositors, and stemming back, in fact, to Reformation times. And here again we must conclude that the Millerites were not visionary innovators or heretics in exposition. Rather, they held and proclaimed the soundest and most orthodox exposition on the Revelation extant. Their teachings should therefore be evaluated in the light of their conformity with the soundest canons of interpretation built up over the centuries. By such a criterion, they were eminently sound and sane, and historically orthodox in exposition of the Revelation.
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    A series of six Sabbath conferences, held in 1848, with an aggregate of several hundred in attendance, was the next step. Here these three distinctive features, with their already established positions, began to be forged into a single unified body of belief. And before long the essentials of an integrated system of evangelical, doctrinal, and prophetic truth were developed as held by Seventh-day Adventists around the world. 30See William A. Spicer, Pioneer Days of the Advent Movement, chap. 4. All this, here sketched in brief preview, will now be taken up in greater detail and logical progression.PFF4 850.1

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