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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    IV. Formulating a Harmonious System of Truth

    In these conferences the participants were not assembling an aggregation of detached, isolated, disconnected points of faith. As they studied they found this feature or that, which had been obscured by tradition, coming into view as part of a harmonious and integrated system of truth. They literally prayed and studied their way into light. For example, James White in his first tract, in 1847, began his exposition with the statement of a concept that was new to most of the group:PFF4 1031.8

    “For more than one year, it has been my settled faith, that the seven last plagues were all in the future, and that they were all to be poured out before the first resurrection.” 21James White. A Word to the “Little Flock,” p. 1.PFF4 1032.1

    This soon came to be generally accepted.PFF4 1032.2

    So they here began to build up a system of truth from the foundations—the prophecies, climaxing with latter-day events, the signs of the coming of Christ, the order of events at His coming, the heavenly judgment hour, the close of probation, the nature and manner of Christ’s coming, the bestowal of immortality through the first resurrection and the translation of the righteous living, the slaying of the living wicked, the binding of Satan, the reign of the saints with Christ in heaven during the thousand years, the descent of the New Jerusalem at its close, the second resurrection, the loosing of Satan, the final destruction of all the wicked, the earth made new, and the eternal inheritance. Now note the larger issues, the fundamentals of this faith.PFF4 1032.3


    The blessed hope of Christ’s return had been the chief target of Satan’s attacks through the centuries, from both within the church and without. The advent hope had become contused and muddled, first through the vagaries of Jewish eschatology, then by the heresies of early Christian theologians and by the departures of more recent times. The plain promises and simple prophecies of the Word had been twisted by some to fit the developing concept of a secret coming or spiritual rapture. With others it was the “glory burst of death,” or the diffusion of Christianity in the world. During the Millerite movement, skeptics and philosophers, materialists and infidels, had ridiculed a literal resurrection and the personal return of Christ in glory as unreasonable or impossible.PFF4 1032.4

    Holding to the accepted verities concerning the first advent, the second, personal, premillennial advent of Christ in power and glory, with its attendant resurrection of the righteous, was boldly reaffirmed in these 1848 conferences. That had been the position of primitive Christianity, declared alike by Christ, apostle, and prophet. But it had long been lost from view, or been kept out of sight. And because of the great Latin apostasy in the church, the initial fervor of the early centuries had been submerged under the dominant errors of the Dark Ages. However, the Protestant Reformation had brought it forth again. And all the Reformers were expositors of the prophecies culminating in the second advent. And most of the early nineteenth-century expositors, as well, had held the same, in both the Old World and the New.PFF4 1033.1

    On this platform the conferences stood without wavering. The imminent second advent was not an extraneous concept, brought tardily into the Christian church, but was an integral part of its historical body of doctrine—the logical end, or goal, of the gospel. It was a legacy of the centuries, and now it was pre-eminently “present truth.” They were assuredly Adventists.PFF4 1033.2


    They likewise held tenaciously to the tenet of immortality only through Christ, introduced into the Millerite movement chiefly through George Storrs. This involved repudiation of the belief, popular among most Christians, of an eternally burning hell of torture for the damned, based on the concept of the innate If immortality o* all men. Instead, they took the position that God “only hath immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16), that death is a dreamless sleep (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Job 14:11-15), that the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised to judgment by the resurrections in the last day, the righteous then to receive their immortality in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17), the wicked later to suffer destruction in the second death (Revelation 20:12-14). This very position led them to reject the budding of modern Spiritualism, the first “raps” of which were just being heard around Rochester, New York. Such was another solid plank in their platform.PFF4 1033.3

    The Millerites believed that they were helping to herald the message to Mankind, Portrayed under the graphic symbolism of a flying Angel, to help men to get ready for the great judgment day. By 1843 they became suddenly aware of the fact that a second angel, Warning of babylon’s fall, Was due and was beginning to take its flight. The third angel they did not yet see
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    They remembered the profound conviction that had given the Millerite Adventists their crusading zeal and devotion-the conviction that they were fulfilling the prophecy of the flying angel with the judgment-hour message (Revelation 14:6, 7)—the prophet John, in holy vision, had seen three moving objects in the heavens, like “pin points of glory,” that increased in size and brilliance as they drew near, sweeping through the heavens. Coming sharply into view, they appeared as angels, proclaiming their appointed messages, one after the other—the first one heralding the judgment hour. It was tremendously impressive, symbolic of a message being delivered to mankind.PFF4 1035.1

    They recalled that the same consciousness of fulfillment was true with reference to the message of the second angel, on the moral fall of popular Babylon. Strong opposition had developed to the Millerite declaration that the 2300 years would close with fiery judgments at the second advent, and the creation of the new heaven and earth. Most of their opposers believed that, instead of a cataclysmic end of the age, there would be a regeneration of the world by a gradual improvement of men and of moral and material conditions. Both were manifestly wrong.PFF4 1035.2

    But many Millerites had been cast out of their respective churches, or at least warned not to witness publicly to their belief in the second advent. Widespread ridicule and opposition from press and pulpit, and even mob violence, was common during the climax of the movement. The second message-of separation—had been proclaimed, and a great host had been called out of the opposing churches. But while the failure of their October expectations was tauntingly tossed into their faces, somehow no one had seemed to notice the third angel that was to follow, with another message, or to grasp its intent, with the possible exception of Josiah Litch. 22See Josiah Litch, “Cleansing of the Sanctuary,” Midnight Cry, June 22, 1843, pp. 126, 127. Some British Adventists as William Cuninghame (Prophetic Faith, Vol. III, p. 371), believed likewise.PFF4 1035.3


    The conference participants now saw that to prepare a people for the supreme event of the ages-the glorious second advent-these three mighty angels of heaven appear, in symbol, proclaiming the call through the preaching of men, to worship the God who created heaven and earth, to come out of spiritual Babylon, and to refuse to worship the Beast or his image or receive his dread mark. They came to see that the threefold message began with the proclamation, in the years shortly before 1844, of God’s imminent judgment hour, each symbolic angel adding his special emphasis, until their combined voices swell into a loud cry just before the second appearance of Christ Jesus the Lord in power and great glory. But this dawned upon them only gradually. 23See James White, “Our Present Position,” Review and Herald, December 1850, p. 15; J. N. Andrews, “Thoughts on Revelation XIII and XIV,” May 19, 1851, pp. 81, 82.PFF4 1036.1

    The first thought of this “little flock” was to seek to rally the old 1844 Adventists, who had proclaimed the first and second messages, to a realization that a third message was due—to accept the Biblical fact that “the third angel followed them,” gathering up and enforcing the truths of the first and second messages, investing them with a meaning and a content not before perceived, adding the newly recovered truth of the Sabbath, and continuing thenceforth as a threefold advent message. This led them later to see that a sealing message (Revelation 7:1-3), involving the Sabbath, was to go to the world.PFF4 1036.2

    The group believed stanchly in the full inspiration of the Old Testament, as well as of the New. So they looked upon its wonders of creation and its Sabbath rest, its sad record of disobedience and estrangement, its gleam of hope in the promised Seed, and its Old Testament church watching through the centuries for the first coming of Christ. They found the fulfillment of promise and prophecy in the New Testament message of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, a present salvation for the true Israel of God, and its culmination in the restitution of all things-all these as parts of the “everlasting gospel.” Thus they felt that they were restoring truths that had largely been obscured or abandoned, in part or in whole, by the church of the Middle Ages, and likewise in more recent times.PFF4 1036.3

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