Setting Dates for Christ's Return

NOTE 2. PAGE 225.--THAT A WRONG USE IS OFTEN MADE OF THE

TEXT (MATT. 24:36), IS EVIDENT FROM THE CONTEXT. ONE QUESTION

OF THE DISCIPLES WAS CONCERNING THE SIGN OF CHRIST'S COMING AND

OF THE END OF THE WORLD. THIS QUESTION JESUS ANSWERED. IN

VERSE 29 HE GAVE SIGNS, AND SAID, "WHEN YE SHALL SEE ALL THESE

THINGS, KNOW THAT IT IS NEAR, EVEN AT THE DOORS." VERSE 33. ONE

SAYING OF THE SAVIOUR MUST NOT BE MADE TO DESTROY ANOTHER.

THOUGH NO MAN KNOWETH THE DAY NOR THE HOUR, WE ARE INSTRUCTED

AND REQUIRED (FOR IT IS IN THE IMPERATIVE) TO KNOW WHEN IT IS NEAR,

EVEN AT THE DOORS. AND WE ARE FURTHER TAUGHT THAT IT WILL BE AS

FATAL TO US TO DISREGARD HIS WARNING, AND REFUSE OR NEGLECT TO

KNOW, AS IT WAS FOR THOSE WHO LIVED IN THE DAYS OF NOAH NOT TO

KNOW WHEN THE FLOOD WAS COMING. VERSES 37-39. AND VERSES

44-51 SHOW IN WHAT LIGHT CHRIST, WHEN HE COMES, WILL REGARD AND

REWARD THOSE WHOM HE FINDS WATCHING AND TEACHING HIS COMING,

AND THOSE DENYING IT. "BLESSED ARE THOSE SERVANTS, WHOM THE

LORD WHEN HE COMETH SHALL FIND WATCHING." LUKE 12:37.


p. 496, Para. 3, [4SP]

“No man knoweth the day nor the hour,” was the argument most often brought forward by rejecters of the Advent faith. The scripture is, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only.” [Matthew 24:36]. A clear and harmonious explanation of this text was given by those who were looking for the Lord, and the wrong use made of it by their opponents was clearly shown. Thewords were spoken by Christ in that memorable conversation with his disciples upon Olivet, after he had for the last time departed from the temple. The disciples had asked the question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” [Matthew 24:3, 33, 42-51]. Jesus gave them signs, and said, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” [Matthew 24:3, 33, 42-51]. One saying of the Saviour must not be made to destroy another. Though no man knoweth the day nor the hour of his coming, we are instructed and required to know when it is near. We are further taught that to disregard his warning, and refuse or neglect to know when his advent is near, will be as fatal for us, as it was for those who lived in the days of Noah not to know when the flood was coming. And the parable in the same chapter contrasting the faithful and the unfaithful servant, and giving the doom of him who said in his heart, “My Lord delayeth his coming,” shows in what light Christ willregard and reward those whom he finds watching, and teaching his coming, andthose denying it. “Watch therefore,” he says; “blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” [Matthew 24:3, 33, 42-51]. “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on these as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour Iwill come upon thee.” [Revelation 3:3.] {GC88 370.2}

Paul speaks of a class to whom the Lord’s appearing will come unawares. “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, ... and they shall not escape.” But he adds, to those who have given heed to the Saviour’s warning, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” [1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.]{GC88 371.1}

Thus it was shown that Scripture gives no warrant for men to remain in ignorance concerning the nearness of Christ’s coming. But those who desired only an excuse toreject the truth closed their ears to this explanation; and the words, “No man knoweth the day nor the hour,” continued to be echoed by the bold scoffer, and even by the professed minister of Christ. As the people were roused, and began to inquire the way of salvation, religious teachers stepped in between them and the truth, seeking to quiet their fears by falsely interpreting the Word of God. Unfaithful watchmen united in the work of the great deceiver, crying, Peace, peace, when God had not spoken peace. Like the Pharisees in Christ’s day, many refused to enter the kingdom of Heaven themselves, and those who were entering in, they hindered. The blood of these souls will be required at their hand. {GC88 371.2}

The most humble and devoted in the churches were usually the first to receive the message. Those who studied the Bible for themselves could not but see the unscriptural character of the popular views of prophecy, and wherever the people were not controlled by the influence of the clergy, wherever they would search the Word of God for themselves, the Advent doctrine needed only to be compared with the Scriptures to establish its divine authority.{GC88 372.1}

Many were persecuted by their unbelieving brethren. In order to retain their position in the church, some consented to be silent in regard to their hope; but others felt that loyalty to God forbade them thus to hide the truths which he had committed to their trust. Not a few were cut off from the fellowship of the church for no other reason than expressing their belief in the coming of Christ. Very precious to those who bore this trial of their faith were the words of the prophet, “Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified. But he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” [Isaiah 66:5.]{GC88 372.2}

Angels of God were watching with the deepest interest the result of the warning. When there was a general rejection of the message by the churches, angels turnedaway in sadness. Yet there were many who had not yet been tested in regard to the Advent truth. Many were misled by husbands, wives, parents, or children, and were made to believe it a sin even to listen to such heresies as were taught by the Adventists. Angels were bidden to keep faithful watch over these souls; for another light was yet to shine upon them from the throne of God. {GC88 372.3}

With unspeakable desire those who had received the message watched for the coming of their Saviour. The time when they expected to meet him was at hand. They approached this hour with a calm solemnity. They rested in sweet communion with God, an earnest of the peace that was to be theirs in the bright hereafter. None who experienced this hope and trust can forget those precious hours of waiting. For some weeks preceding the time, worldly business was for the most part laid aside. The sincere believers carefully examined every thought and emotion of their hearts as if upon their death-beds and in a few hours to close their eyes upon earthly scenes. There was no making of “ascension robes;” [See Appendix, Note 4.] but all felt the need of internal evidence that they were prepared to meet the Saviour; their white robes were purity of soul,—characters cleansed from sin by the atoning blood of Christ. Would that there was still with the professed people of God the same spirit of heart-searching, the same earnest, determined faith. Had they continued thus to humble themselves before the Lord, and press their petitions at the mercy-seat, they would be in possession of a far richer experience than they now have. There is too little prayer, too little real conviction of sin, and the lack of living faith leaves many destitute of the grace so richly provided by our Redeemer.{GC88 373.1}

God designed to prove his people. His hand covered a mistake in the reckoning of the prophetic periods. [See Diagram Opposite p. 328; also Appendix, Note 3.] Adventists did not discover the error, nor was it discovered by the most learned of their opponents. The latter said: “Your reckoning of the prophetic periods is correct. Some great event is about to take place; but it is not what Mr. Miller predicts; it is the conversion of the world, and not the second advent of Christ.” [See Appendix, Note 5.]{GC88 373.2}

The time of expectation passed, and Christ did not appear for the deliverance of his people. Those who with sincere faith and love had looked for their Saviour, experienced a bitter disappointment. Yet the purposes of God were being accomplished: he was testing the hearts of those who professed to be waiting for his appearing. There were among them many who had been actuated by no higher motive than fear. Their profession of faith had not affected their hearts or their lives. When the expected event failed to take place, these persons declared that they were not disappointed; they had never believed that Christ would come. They were among the first to ridicule the sorrow of the true believers.{GC88 374.1}

But Jesus and all the heavenly host looked with love and sympathy upon the tried and faithful yet disappointed ones. Could the veil separating the visible from the invisible world have been swept back, angels would have been seen drawing near to these steadfast souls, and shielding them from the shafts of Satan.{GC88 374.2}

Chapter 21—A Warning Rejected

In preaching the doctrine of the second advent, William Miller and his associates had labored with the sole purpose of arousing men to a preparation for the Judgment. They had sought to awaken professors of religion to the true hope of the church, and to their need of a deeper Christian experience; and they labored also to awaken the unconverted to the duty of immediate repentance and conversion to God. “They made no attempt to convert men to a sect or party in religion. Hence they labored among all parties and sects, without interfering with their organization or discipline.”{GC88 375.1}

“In all my labors,” said Miller, “I never had the desire or thought to establish any separate interest from that of existing denominations, or to benefit one at the expense of another. I thought to benefit all. Supposing that all Christians would rejoice in the prospect of Christ’s coming, and that those who could not see as I did would not love any the less those who should embrace this doctrine, I did not conceive there would ever be any necessity for separate meetings. My whole object was a desire to convert souls to God, to notify the world of a coming Judgment, and to induce my fellow-men to make that preparation of heart which will enable them to meet their God in peace. The great majority of those who were converted under my labors united with the various existing churches.”{GC88 375.2}

As his work tended to build up the churches, it was for a time regarded with favor. But as ministers and religious leaders decided against the Advent doctrine, and desired to suppress all agitation of the subject, they not only opposed it from the pulpit, but denied their members the privilege of attending preaching upon the second advent, or even of speaking of their hope in the social meetings of the church. Thus the believers found themselves in a position of great trial and perplexity. They loved their churches, and were loth to separate from them; but as they saw the testimony of God’s Word suppressed, and their right to investigate the prophecies denied, they felt that loyalty to God forbade them to submit. Those who sought to shut out the testimony of God’s Word they could not regard as constituting the church of Christ, “the pillar and ground of the truth.” Hence they felt themselves justified in separating from their former connection. In the summer of 1844 about fifty thousand withdrew from the churches. {GC88 375.3}

About this time a marked change was apparent in most of the churches throughout the United States. There had been for many years a gradual but steadily increasing conformity to worldly practices and customs, and a corresponding decline in real spiritual life; but in that year there were evidences of a sudden and marked declension, in nearly all the churches of the land. While none seemed able to suggest the cause, the fact itself was widely noted and commented upon, both by the press and the pulpit.{GC88 376.1}

At a meeting of the presbytery of Philadelphia, Mr. Barnes, author of the commentary so widely used, and pastor of one of the leading churches in that city, “stated that he had been in the ministry for twenty years, and never till the last communion had he administered the ordinance without receiving more or less into the church. But now there are no awakenings, no conversions, not much apparent growth in grace in professors, and none come to his study to converse about the salvation of their souls. With the increase of business, and the brightening prospects of commerce and manufactures, there is an increase of worldly-mindedness. Thus it is with all denominations.”{GC88 376.2}

In the month of February of the same year, Professor Finney, of Oberlin College, said: “We have had the facts before our minds, that, in general, the Protestant churches of our country, as such, were either apathetic or hostile to nearly all the moral reforms of the age. There are partial exceptions, yet not enough to render the fact otherwise than general. We have also another corroborative fact,—the almost universal absence of revival influence in the churches. The spiritual apathy is almost all-pervading, and is fearfully deep; so the religious press of the whole land testifies. Very extensively, church-members are becoming devotees of fashion, joining hands with the ungodly in parties of pleasure, in dancing, in festivities, etc. But we need not expand this painful subject. Suffice it that the evidence thickens and rolls heavily upon us, to show that the churches generally are becoming sadly degenerate. They have gone very far from the Lord, and he has withdrawn himself from them.”{GC88 377.1}

And a writer in the Religious Telescope testified: “We have never witnessed such a general declension as at present. Truly, the church should awake, and search into the cause of this affliction; for an affliction every one that loves Zion must view it. When we call to mind how few and far between cases of true conversion are, and the almost unparalleled impenitence and hardness of sinners, we almost involuntarily exclaim, ‘Has God forgotten to be gracious? or is the door of mercy closed?’”{GC88 377.2}

Such a condition never exists without cause in the church itself. The spiritual darkness which falls upon nations, upon churches and individuals, is due, not to an arbitrary withdrawal of the succors of divine grace on the part of God, but to neglect or rejection of divine light on the part of men. A striking illustration of this truth is presented in the history of the Jewish people in the time of Christ. By their devotion to the world and forgetfulness of God and his Word, their understanding had become darkened, theirhearts earthly and sensual. Thus they were in ignorance concerning Messiah’s advent, and in their pride and unbelief they rejected the Redeemer. God did not even then cut off the Jewish nation from a knowledge of, or a participation in, the blessings of salvation. But those who rejected the truth lost all desire for the gift of Heaven. They had “put darkness for light, and light for darkness,” until the light which was in them became darkness; and how great was that darkness! {GC88 377.3}

It suits the policy of Satan, that men should retain the forms of religion, if but the spirit of vital godliness is lacking. After their rejection of the gospel, the Jews continued zealously to maintain their ancient rites, they rigorously preserved their national exclusiveness, while they themselves could not but admit that the presence of God was no longer manifest among them. The prophecy of Daniel pointed so unmistakably to the time of Messiah’s coming, and so directly foretold his death, that they discouraged its study, and finally the rabbis pronounced a curse on all who should attempt a computation of the time. In blindness and impenitence, the people of Israel for eighteen hundred years have stood, indifferent to the gracious offers of salvation, unmindful of the blessings of the gospel, a solemn and fearful warning of the danger of rejecting light from Heaven.{GC88 378.1}

Wherever the cause exists, the same results will follow. He who deliberately stifles his convictions of duty because it interferes with his inclinations, will finally lose the power to distinguish between truth and error. The understanding becomes darkened, the conscience callous, the heart hardened, and the soul is separated from God. Where the message of divine truth is spurned or slighted, there the church will be enshrouded in darkness; faith and love grow cold, and estrangement and dissension enter. Church-members center their interests and energies in worldly pursuits, and sinners become hardened in their impenitence.{GC88 378.2}

The first angel’s message of Revelation 14, announcing the hour of God’s Judgment, and calling upon men to fear and worship him, was designed to separate the professed people of God from the corrupting influences of the world, and to arouse them to see their true condition of worldliness and backsliding. In this message, God had sent to the church a warning, which, had it been accepted, would have corrected the evils that were shutting them away from him. Had they received the message from Heaven, humbling their hearts before the Lord, and seeking in sincerity a preparation to stand in his presence, the Spirit and power of God would have been manifested among them. The church would again have reached that blessed state of unity, faith, and love, which existed in apostolic days, when the believers were of “one heart and of one soul,” and “spake the word of God with boldness,” when “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” [Acts 4:32, 312:47.]{GC88 379.1}

If God’s professed people would receive the light as it shines upon them from his Word, they would reach that unity for which Christ prayed, that which the apostle describes, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” “There is,” he says, “one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” [Ephesians 4:3-5.]{GC88 379.2}

Such were the blessed results experienced by those who accepted the Advent message. They “came from different denominations, and their denominational barriers were hurled to the ground; conflicting creeds were shivered to atoms; the unscriptural hope of a temporal millennium was abandoned, false views of the second advent were corrected, pride and conformity to the world were swept away; wrongs were made right; hearts were united in the sweetest fellowship, and love and joy reigned supreme. If this doctrine did this for the few who did receive it, it would have done the same for all, if all had received it.”{GC88 379.3}

But the churches generally did not accept the warning. Their ministers, who as “watchmen unto the house of Israel,” should have been the first to discern the tokens of Jesus’ coming, had failed to learn the truth, either from the testimony of the prophets or from the signs of the times. As worldly hopes and ambitions filled the heart, love for God and faith in his Word had grown cold, and when the Advent doctrine was presented, it only aroused their prejudice and unbelief. The fact that the message was, to a great extent, preached by laymen, was urged as an argument against it. As of old, the plain testimony of God’s Word was met with the inquiry, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed?” And finding how difficult a task it was to refute the arguments drawn from the prophetic periods, many discouraged the study of the prophecies, teaching that the prophetic books were sealed, and were not to be understood. Multitudes, trusting implicitly to their pastors, refused to listen to the warning; and others, though convinced of the truth, dared not confess it, lest they should be “put out of the synagogue.” The message which God had sent for the testing and purification of the church, revealed all too surely how great was the number who had set their affections on this world rather than upon Christ. The ties which bound them to earth were stronger than the attractions heavenward. They chose to listen to the voice of worldly wisdom, and turned away from the heart-searching message of truth.{GC88 380.1}

In refusing the warning of the first angel, they rejected the means which Heaven had provided for their restoration. They spurned the gracious messenger that would have corrected the evils which separated them from God, and with greater eagerness they turned to seek the friendship of the world. Here was the cause of that fearful condition of worldliness, backsliding, and spiritual death which existed in the churches in 1844.{GC88 380.2}

In Revelation 14, the first angel is followed by a second, proclaiming, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” [Revelation 14:8.] The term Babylon is derived from Babel, and signifies confusion. It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion. In Revelation 17, Babylon is represented as a woman, a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church. {GC88 380.3}

In the Bible the sacred and enduring character of the relation that exists between Christ and his church is represented by the union of marriage. The Lord has joined his people to himself by a solemn covenant, he promising to be their God, and they pledging themselves to be his, and his alone. He declares, “I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.” [Hosea 2:19.] And again, “I am married unto you.” [Jeremiah 3:14.] And Paul employs the same figure in the New Testament, when he says, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” [2 Corinthians 11:2.]{GC88 381.1}

The unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in permitting her confidence and affection to be turned from him, and allowing the love of worldly things to occupy the soul, is likened to the violation of the marriage vow. The sin of Israel in departing from the Lord is presented under this figure; and the wonderful love of God which they thus despised is touchingly portrayed. “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.” “And thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee.... But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” “As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord;” “as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband.” [Ezekiel 16:8, 13-15, 32Jeremiah 3:20.] {GC88 381.2}

In the New Testament, language very similar is addressed to professed Christians who seek the friendship of the world above the favor of God. Says the apostle James: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”{GC88 382.1}

The woman, Babylon, of Revelation 17, is described as “arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness.... And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots.” Says the prophet, “I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” [Revelation 17:4-6.] Babylon is further declared to be “that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” [Revelation 17:18.] The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom, is Rome. The purple and scarlet color, the gold and precious stones and pearls, vividly picture the magnificence and more than kingly pomp affected by the haughty see of Rome. And no other power could be so truly declared “drunken with the blood of the saints” as that church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ. Babylon is also charged with the sin of unlawful connection with “the kings of the earth.” It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot; and Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the support of worldly powers, receives a like condemnation.{GC88 382.2}

Babylon is said to be “the mother of harlots.” By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificingthe truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world. The message of Revelation 14 announcing the fall of Babylon, must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt. Since this message follows the warning of the Judgment, it must be given in the last days, therefore it cannot refer to the Romish Church, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries. Furthermore, in the eighteenth chapter of the Revelation, in a message which is yet future, the people of God are called upon to come out of Babylon. According to this scripture, many of God’s people must still be in Babylon. And in what religious bodies are the greater part of the followers of Christ now to be found? Without doubt, in the various churches professing the Protestant faith. At the time of their rise, these churches took a noble stand for God and the truth, and his blessing was with them. Even the unbelieving world was constrained to acknowledge the beneficent results that followed an acceptance of the principles of the gospel. In the words of the prophet to Israel, “Thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.” But they fell by the same desire which was the curse and ruin of Israel,—the desire of imitating the practices and courting the friendship of the ungodly. “Thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” {GC88 382.3}

Many of the Protestant churches are following Rome’s example of iniquitous connection with “the kings of the earth;” the State churches, by their relation to secular governments, and other denominations by seeking the favor of the world. And the term Babylon—confusion—may be appropriately applied to these bodies, all professing to derive their doctrines from the Bible, yet divided into almost innumerable sects, with widely conflicting creeds and theories.{GC88 383.1}

Besides a sinful union with the world, the churches that separated from Rome present other of her characteristics.{GC88 383.2}

A Romish work—the “Catholic Christian Instructed”—makes the charge: “If the Church of Rome was ever guilty of idolatry in relation to the saints, her daughter, the Church of England, stands guilty of the same, which has ten churches dedicated to Mary for one dedicated to Christ.”{GC88 384.1}

And Mr. Hopkins, in a treatise on the Millennium, declares: “There is no reason to consider the antichristian spirit and practices confined to what is now called the Church of Rome. The Protestant churches have much of antichrist in them, and are far from being wholly reformed from corruption and wickedness.”{GC88 384.2}

Concerning the separation of the Presbyterian Church from Rome, Dr. Guthrie writes: “Three hundred years ago, our church, with an open Bible on her banner, and this motto, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ on her scroll, marched out from the gates of Rome.” Then he asks the significant question, “Did they come clean out of Babylon?”{GC88 384.3}

“The Church of England,” says Spurgeon, “seems to be eaten through and through with sacramentarianism; but non-conformity appears to be almost as badly riddled with philosophical infidelity. Those of whom we thought better things are turning aside one by one from the fundamentals of the faith. Through and through, I believe, the very heart of England is honeycombed with a damnable infidelity which dares still go into the pulpit and call itself Christian.”{GC88 384.4}

What was the origin of the great apostasy? How did the church first depart from the simplicity of the gospel?—By conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the heathen. The apostle Paul declared, even in his day, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work.” [2 Thessalonians 2:7.] During the lives of the apostles the church remained comparatively pure. “But toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form, the first simplicity disappeared; and insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their children, along with new converts ... came forward and new-modeled the cause.” [Robinson, in History of Baptism.] To secure converts, the exalted standard of the Christian faith was lowered, and as the result “a pagan flood, flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols.” [Gavazzi’s Lectures, p. 290.] As the Christian religion secured the favor and support of secular rulers, it was nominally accepted by multitudes; but while in appearance Christians, many “remained in substance pagans, especially worshiping in secret their idols.” [Gavazzi’s Lectures, p. 290.{GC88 384.5}

Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself Protestant? As its founders, those who possessed the true spirit of reform, pass away, their descendants come forward and “new model the cause.” While blindly clinging to the creed of their fathers and refusing to accept any truth in advance of what they saw, the children of the reformers depart widely from their example of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. Thus “the first simplicity disappears.” A worldly flood, flowing into the church, “carries with it its customs, practices, and idols.”{GC88 385.1}

Alas, to what a fearful extent is that friendship of the world which is “enmity with God,” now cherished among the professed followers of Christ! How widely have the popular churches throughout Christendom departed from the Bible standard of humility, self-denial, simplicity, and godliness! Said John Wesley, in speaking of the right use of money: “Do not waste any part of so precious a talent, merely in gratifying the desire of the eye, by superfluous and expensive apparel, or by needless ornaments. Waste no part of it in curiously adorning your houses; in superfluous or expensive furniture; in costly pictures, painting, gilding.” “Lay out nothing to gratify the pride of life, to gain the admiration or praise of men.” “‘So long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak good of thee.’ So long as thou art ‘clothed in purple and fine linen, and farest sumptuously every day,’ no doubt many will applaud thine elegance of taste, thy generosity and hospitality. But do not buy their applause so dear. Rather be content with the honor that cometh from God.” But in many churches of our time, such teaching is disregarded. {GC88 385.2}

A profession of religion has become popular with the world. Rulers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, merchants, join the church as a means of securing the respect and confidence of society, and advancing their own worldly interests. Thus they seek to cover all their unrighteous transactions under a profession of Christianity. The various religious bodies, re-enforced by the wealth and influence of these baptized worldlings, make a still higher bid for popularity and patronage. Splendid churches, embellished in the most extravagant manner, are erected on popular avenues. The worshipers array themselves in costly and fashionable attire. A high salary is paid for a talented minister to entertain and attract the people. His sermons must not touch popular sins, but be made smooth and pleasing for fashionable ears. Thus fashionable sinners are enrolled on the church-records, and fashionable sins are concealed under a pretense of godliness.{GC88 386.1}

Commenting on the present attitude of professed Christians toward the world, a leading secular journal says: “Insensibly the church has yielded to the spirit of the age, and adapted its forms of worship to modern wants.” “All things, indeed, that help to make religion attractive, the church now employs as its instruments.” And a writer in the New York Independent speaks thus concerning Methodism as it is: “The line of separation between the godly and the irreligious fades out into a kind of penumbra, and zealous men on both sides are toiling to obliterate all difference between their modes of action and enjoyment.” “The popularity of religion tends vastly to increase the number of those who would secure its benefits without squarely meeting its duties.”{GC88 386.2}

Says Howard Crosby: “The church of God is today courting the world. Its members are trying to bring it down to the level of the ungodly. The ball, the theater, nude and lewd art, social luxuries with all their loose moralities, are making inroads into the sacred inclosure of the church; and as a satisfaction for all this worldliness, Christians are making a great deal of Lent and Easter and church ornamentation. It is the old trick of Satan. The Jewish church struck on that rock; the Romish church was wrecked on the same; and the Protestant is fast reaching the same doom.” {GC88 386.3}

In this tide of worldliness and pleasure-seeking, self-denial and self-sacrifice for Christ’s sake are almost wholly lost. “Some of the men and women now in active life in our churches were educated, when children, to make sacrifices in order to be able to give or to do something for Christ.” But “if funds are wanted now, ... nobody must be called on to give. Oh, no! have a fair, tableaux, a mock trial, an antiquarian supper, or something to eat, anything to amuse the people.”{GC88 387.1}

Governor Washburn, of Wisconsin, in his annual message declared “that church fairs, charitable raffles, concert lotteries for charitable and other purposes, prize packages, ‘grabbags,’ Sabbath-school and other religious chances by ticket, are nurseries of crime, inasmuch as they promise something for nothing, are games of chance, and are really gambling. He says that the pernicious spirit of gambling is fostered, encouraged, and kept alive by these agencies to a degree little known by good citizens; and that, but for them, the ordinary laws against gambling would be much less violated and much more easily enforced. These practices, he declares, ought not to be permitted any longer to debauch the morals of the young.”{GC88 387.2}

The spirit of worldly conformity is invading the churches throughout Christendom. Robert Atkins, in a sermon preached in London, draws a dark picture of the spiritual declension that prevails in England: “The truly righteous are diminished from the earth, and no man layeth it to heart. The professors of religion of the present day, in every church, are lovers of the world, conformers to the world, lovers of creature-comfort, and aspirers after respectability. They are called to suffer with Christ, but they shrink from even reproach. Apostasy, apostasy, apostasy, is engraven on the very front of every church; and did they know it, and did they feel it, there might be hope; but, alas! they cry, ‘We are rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing.’” {GC88 387.3}

The great sin charged against Babylon is, that she “made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” This cup of intoxication which she presents to the world, represents the false doctrines that she has accepted as the result of her unlawful connection with the great ones of the earth. Friendship with the world corrupts her faith, and in her turn she exerts a corrupting influence upon the world by teaching doctrines which are opposed to the plainest statements of Holy Writ.{GC88 388.1}

Rome withheld the Bible from the people, and required all men to accept her teachings in its place. It was the work of the Reformation to restore to men the Word of God; but is it not too true that in the churches of our time men are taught to rest their faith upon their creed and the teachings of their church rather than on the Scriptures? Said Charles Beecher, speaking of the Protestant churches: “They shrink from any rude word against creeds with the same sensitiveness with which those holy fathers would have shrunk from a rude word against the rising veneration for saints and martyrs which they were fostering.... The Protestant evangelical denominations have so tied up one another’s hands, and their own, that, between them all, a man cannot become a preacher at all, anywhere, without accepting some book besides the Bible.... There is nothing imaginary in the statement that the creed power is now beginning to prohibit the Bible as really as Rome did, though in a subtler way.”{GC88 388.2}

When faithful teachers expound the Word of God, there arise men of learning, ministers professing to understand the Scriptures, who denounce sound doctrine as heresy, and thus turn away inquirers after truth. Were it not that the world is hopelessly intoxicated with the wine of Babylon, multitudes would be convicted and converted by the plain, cutting truths of the Word of God. But religious faith appears so confused and discordant, that the people know not what to believe as truth. The sin of the world’s impenitence lies at the door of the church.{GC88 389.1}

The second angel’s message of Revelation 14, was first preached in the summer of 1844, and it then had a more direct application to the churches of the United States, where the warning of the Judgment had been most widely proclaimed and most generally rejected, and where the declension in the churches had been most rapid. But the message of the second angel did not reach its complete fulfillment in 1844. The churches then experienced a moral fall, in consequence of their refusal of the light of the Advent message; but that fall was not complete. As they have continued to reject the special truths for this time, they have fallen lower and lower. Not yet, however, can it be said that “Babylon is fallen, ... because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” She has not yet made all nations do this. The spirit of world-conforming and indifference to the testing truths for our time exists and has been gaining ground in churches of the Protestant faith in all the countries of Christendom; and these churches are included in the solemn and terrible denunciation of the second angel. But the work of apostasy has not yet reached its culmination.{GC88 389.2}

The Bible declares that before the coming of the Lord, Satan will work “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness;” and they that “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” will be left to receive “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” [2 Thessalonians 2:9-11.] Not until this condition shall be reached, and the union of the church with the world shall be fully accomplished, throughout Christendom, will the fall of Babylon be complete. The change is a progressive one, and the perfect fulfillment of Revelation 14:8 is yet future. {GC88 389.3}

Notwithstanding the spiritual darkness, and alienation from God, that exist in the churches which constitute Babylon, the great body of Christ’s true followers are still to be found in their communion. There are many of these who have never seen the special truths for this time. Not a few are dissatisfied with their present condition, and are longing for clearer light. They look in vain for the image of Christ in the churches with which they are connected. As these bodies depart farther and farther from the truth, and ally themselves more closely with the world, the difference between the two classes will widen, and it will finally result in separation. The time will come when those who love God supremely can no longer remain in connection with such as are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”{GC88 390.1}

Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6-12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the people of God, still in Babylon, will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message is the last that will ever be given to the world; and it will accomplish its work. When those that “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” [2 Thessalonians 2:12.] shall be left to receive strong delusion, and to believe a lie, then the light of truth will shine upon all whose hearts are open to receive it, and all the children of the Lord, that remain in Babylon, will heed the call, “Come out of her, my people.” [Revelation 18:4.]{GC88 390.2}

Chapter 22—Prophecies Fulfilled

When the time passed at which the Lord’s coming was first expected,—in the spring of 1844,—those who had looked in faith for his appearing were for a season involved in doubt and uncertainty. While the world regarded them as having been utterly defeated, and proved to have been cherishing a delusion, their source of consolation was still the Word of God. Many continued to search the Scriptures, examining anew the evidences of their faith, and carefully studying the prophecies to obtain further light. The Bible testimony in support of their position seemed clear and conclusive. Signs which could not be mistaken pointed to the coming of Christ as near. The special blessing of the Lord, both in the conversion of sinners and the revival of spiritual life among Christians, had testified that the message was of Heaven. And though the believers could not explain their disappointment, they felt assured that God had led them in their past experience.{GC88 391.1}

Interwoven with prophecies which they had regarded as applying to the time of the second advent, was instruction specially adapted to their state of uncertainty and suspense, and encouraging them to wait patiently, in the faith that what was now dark to their understanding would in due time be made plain.{GC88 391.2}

Among these prophecies was that of Habakkuk 2:1-4: “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” {GC88 391.3}

As early as 1842, the direction given in this prophecy, to “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” had suggested to Charles Fitch the preparation of a prophetic chart to illustrate the visions of Daniel and the Revelation. The publication of this chart was regarded as a fulfillment of the command given by Habakkuk. No one, however, then noticed that an apparent delay in the accomplishment of the vision—a tarrying time—is presented in the same prophecy. After the disappointment, this scripture appeared very significant: “The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.... The just shall live by his faith.”{GC88 392.1}

A portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy also was a source of strength and comfort to believers: “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God: ... The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision.... I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged.” “They of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done.” [Ezekiel 12:21-25, 27, 28.]{GC88 392.2}

The waiting ones rejoiced, believing that He who knows the end from the beginning had looked down through the ages, and, foreseeing their disappointment, had given them words of courage and hope. Had it not been for such portions of Scripture, admonishing them to wait with patience, and to hold fast their confidence in God’s Word, their faith would have failed in that trying hour. {GC88 392.3}

The parable of the ten virgins of Matthew 25, also illustrates the experience of the Adventist people. In Matthew 24, in answer to the question of his disciples concerning the sign of his coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out some of the most important events in the history of the world and of the church from his first to his second advent; namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church under the pagan and papal persecutions, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. After this he spoke of his coming in his kingdom, and related the parable describing the two classes of servants who look for his appearing. Chapter 25 opens with the words, “Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be likened unto ten virgins.” Here is brought to view the church living in the last days, the same that is pointed out in the close of chapter 24. In this parable their experience is illustrated by the incidents of an Eastern marriage.{GC88 393.1}

 

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