Some 700 pages had by now been published in attempts to deny the need of denominational repentance for 1888. Another 700 pages came in 1971, Movement of Destiny, by L. E. Froom. According to the author, “no volume in our history has ever had such magnificent pre-publication support” (p. 8). When first published, 1500 copies were sent out as gifts to church leaders around the world. The acclaim accorded it make it obviously the most authoritative word on 1888:
Initiated and commissioned by former General Conference president A. G. Daniells back in 1930, as the search went on it was approved by five General Conference presidents in succession, and many consultants. … It was read critically by some sixty of our ablest scholars-specialists in denominational history and Adventist theology. By experts in the Spirit of prophecy. By key Bible teachers, editors, mass communication men, scientists, physicians (p. 8).
Thus it is evident that Movement of Destiny represents the summum bonum pronouncement of the General Conference and responsible church leadership on the issue of 1888. The author assures his readers of his utmost fidelity in response to A. G. Daniells’ charge,
with special emphasis upon the developments of “1888” and its sequel. He urged that I set forth the results in a comprehensive portrayal—one that would honor God and exalt truth, … both complete and forthright, and documented for serious worldwide worker study. … Daniells admonished me to be fair and faithful to fact, comprehensive and impartial in treatment, and to present the full picture in balance … [and] avoid any superficial type of treatment. … A true and trustworthy picture was imperative. Truth, he insisted, is never honored by shading or shielding. … Plumb the depths, … record faithfully (p. 17, 18).
Other “veteran leaders” urged him
to answer certain puzzling questions … And above all to be faithful to fact and unswerving in fidelity to the full truth, … to get to the bottom of the fads, to reveal the resultant findings, and to be candid and undeviating in my presentations (p. 22).
Movement of Destiny represents a vast amount of labor, written by the most prestigious historical scholar in the church. He was blessed by God with many rich talents. His monumental volumes on the history of prophetic interpretation and conditionalism are awesome contributions to the literature of the Adventist movement. However, according to at least one reviewer, his last book is not “dependable history” (Seminary Studies, Andrews University, January 1972, p. 121).
There are serious problems:
(a) It takes the opposite view of the 1888 history from that of Daniells’ book, Christ Our Righteousness, and yet it was Daniells who commissioned it. The contrast is readily seen in the two following excerpts:
The epochal Minneapolis Session stands out like a mountain peak, towering above all other sessions in uniqueness and importance. It was a distinct turning point. … It introduced a new epoch. … 1888 therefore came to mark the beginning of a new note and new day. … 1888 was not a point of defeat but a turn in the tide for ultimate victory. … The 1888 … battle [was] hard fought and the victory dearly won (Froom, pp. 187, 191).
The message has never been received, nor proclaimed, nor given free course as it should have been in order to convey to the church the measureless blessings that were wrapped within it. … Back of the opposition is revealed the shrewd plotting of that master mind of evil, the enemy of all righteousness, … to neutralize the message. … How terrible must be the results of any victory of his in defeating it (Daniells, pp. 47, 53, 54).
(b) No one has been able to see any of Froom’s collected “affidavits” supposedly attesting leadership acceptance of the message, for to date they are still unavailable for study. Our author tells us that they were provided by the “actual participants in the 1888 Minneapolis Conference,” “recitals [that] have been held in trust since 1930,” “signed declarations, written out in the spring of 1930” (pp. 8, 237, 238).
But in the two chapters featuring these “affirmations” (pp. 237-268), not once is the reader permitted to see even one of them. And three “eyewitness” reports that are in existence are not quoted. They contradict his thesis. Thus we are told on the authority of invisible witnesses that the 1888 message was accepted by the church leadership, while three visible eyewitnesses say the opposite. (We, will cite them in a moment.)
The “affirmations” were provided by “some twenty-six able and representative men and women who were actual participants, observers, or recorders at the crucial Minneapolis Session of ‘88” (p. 239). Of the total number provided, only 13 were by persons actually in attendance, so that there could only be 13 “eyewitnesses.” Careful count indicates that 64 references are made to these 26 persons and their letters or interviews. One is mentioned 14 times.
But the inscrutable mystery is why the author, after making such impressive claims, does not allow them to speak. With one exception, not a single sentence is quoted from any of the entire 64 references, eyewitnesses or otherwise.
Reason demands that testimonies said to prove so much be made visible in support of the claim. Froom states categorically in his italics, “There was no denomination-wide, or leadership-wide rejection, these witnesses insisted” (p. 256). And then we are left without a single sentence from any one of them that supports that statement.
There is not a court or jury in the free world that would accept this kind of inference without evidence. And when supposed evidence so obviously contradicts the testimony of Ellen White, Seventh-day Adventist church members should very earnestly demand that they be permitted to see such evidence.1
One of the 26 letters referred to (p. 248) had always existed in the White Estate files. The five- page letter written by C. C. McReynolds (1853-1937) entitled “Experiences While at the General Conference in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1888” is indexed as “D File 189.” The letter closes with these two sentences:
I am sorry for anyone at the Conference in Minneapolis in 1888 who does not recognize that there was opposition and rejection of the message that the Lord sent to His people at that time. It is not too late yet to repent and receive a great blessing.
R. T. Nash’s “Eyewitness Report of the 1888 General Conference” is also available. Likewise, it presents evidence in rather straight-forward language:
The writer of this tract, then a young man, was present at that conference meeting , and saw and heard many of the various things that were done and said in opposition to the message then presented. … When Christ was lifted up as the only hope of the church, and of all men, the speakers met a united opposition from nearly all the senior ministers. They tried to put a stop to this teaching by Elders Waggoner and Jones. They wanted the discussion of this subject to cease.
A third “eyewitness” report is also in the Ellen White Vault, written by A. T. Jones: “All the time in the General Conference Committee and amongst others there was a secret antagonism always carried on, and which … finally gained the day in the denomination, and gave to the Minneapolis spirit and contention and men the supremacy” (Letter to Claude Holmes, May 12, 1921).
None of these eyewitness statements found its way into Movement of Destiny. Instead, the reader is constantly assured that invisible “affidavits” say the opposite.
(c) Froom devotes two chapters to the idea that Ellen White stands supreme in assessing 1888 (pp. 443-464). Her writings “particularly since 1888” should settle “for every reasonable mind” questions concerning this history (p. 444, emphasis original). This is eminently true. But in eleven pages devoted to her witness (443-453) there is not one quotation from her pen to support his premise.
(d) In the next chapter (pp. 454-464) is a list of over 200 items taken from her writings of 1888- 1901, which he says “forms the undergirding for the over-all presentation of this volume” (p. 456). But careful reading of the “titles” year by year yields a surprise. They have no specific connection with captions of published articles, but are solely the comments of the author to suit his thesis.
(e) Beginning on page 221 and continuing for 12 pages, there is an array of isolated words and phrases from Ellen White, again with no source given. Over 100 fragmentary words or phrases and half-sentences leave out vital meaningful portions, omitting contextual information which would give quite a different meaning and would nullify the “victory” theory. Words and phrases from her Minneapolis sermons are surrounded and smothered with the author’s interjections, leaving Ellen White’s real message indiscernible.
(f) Of the “hundreds of priceless source documents” said to have been obtained from an array of sterling contributors, not one is used to support the thesis. And yet the book contains 700 pages.
(g) Even if the “affidavits” were available (which they are not), to cite the opinions of sincere brethren who say they thought that the 1888 message was accepted does not prove that it was. A century of history indicates that the latter rain was not accepted, in spite of these supposed claims that it was. But Froom and the other authors cited would pit uninspired observers against the inspired testimony of one who exercised the gift of prophecy. Even a thousand uninspired “acceptance” testimonials can not successfully negate one inspired testimony from the Lord’s messenger.
(h) As with Olson’s book, Froom exonerates the ministers and the post-1888 leadership and blames the laity for delaying the finishing of the gospel commission: “The Holy Spirit—ready, willing, and able—could not do His allotted work because of the unpreparedness of the membership” (p. 582). “What now remains is entrance of His people into full provision of God for the finishing of the Great Commission” (p. 613).
In fact, what now remains is a leadership acceptance of the message, for it was leadership rejection of the message of the loud cry, says Ellen White, that was the initial cause of the long delay (cf. 1 SM 234, 235).
(i) The reader is told that she “rejoiced in the growing acceptance” of the 1888 message (p. 605), and that “the nineties were marked by a succession of powerful revivals,” and “tremendous gains” (p. 264). We must look at an interesting example of the contrast between what she actually said and Froom’s portrayal of the post-1888 General Conference leadership.
He rightly says that “the leading post-1888 mold on the Movement was, of course, largely given by the incoming General Conference president. We must consequently look chiefly to him for determinative evidence.” In other words, the attitude of Elder O. A. Olsen as General Conference president will “chiefly” determine the truth of the message being accepted or rejected by the church leadership. This is true. We continue with Froom:
Now, the record of [O. A.] Olsen’s spiritual leadership is clear and loyal. … Olsen seemed to sense the spiritual bearings of the question at issue, and gave quiet but effective leadership to their solution. …
The years of Olsen’s administration saw a real revival and reformation, … a time of awakening from Laodicean self-satisfaction … through the growing acceptance of the message of Righteousness by Faith. …
So it cannot, with any show of right, be said that Olsen personally rejected or subdued the message of Righteousness by Faith, or led or aided or abetted in such a direction. …
Clearly, Olsen did not reject the message (pp. 354-358).
Froom offers no Ellen White evidence to support these statements. The reader merely assumes that such emphatic statements are backed up somewhere by inspired evidence. Such is totally lacking in his book, the reason being that such does not exist in her writings. This is something that the “sixty of our ablest scholars” who endorsed the book did not notice.
We must now consider in contrast what Ellen White said in retrospect, eight years after president Olsen took office:
I feel very sorry for Brother Olsen. … He has not acted upon the light given. The case is a mysterious one. … Notwithstanding the light which has been placed before him for years in regard to this matter, he has ventured on, directly contrary to the light which the Lord has been giving him. All this confuses his spiritual discernment, and places him in a relation to the general interest, and wholesome, healthy advancement of the work, as an unfaithful watchman. He is pursuing a course which is detrimental to his spiritual discernment, and he is leading other minds to view matters in a perverted light. He has given unmistakable evidence that he does not regard the testimonies which the Lord has seen fit to give His people, as worthy of respect, or as of sufficient weight to influence his course of action (Letter, August 27, 1896, to A. O. Tait).
Froom’s contradiction of her is alarming, especially in light of the official support that his book enjoys. Ellen White’s context is crystal clear:
I am distressed beyond any words my pen can trace. Unmistakably Elder Olsen has acted as did Aaron, in regard to these men who have been opposed to the work of God ever since the Minneapolis meeting. They have not repented of their course of action in resisting light and evidence. …
The disease at the heart of the work poisons the blood, and thus the disease is communicated to the bodies they [General Conference leadership] visit ( ibid.).
Ellen White did not go behind Elder Olsen’s back; she had earlier written him the same things on November 26, 1894. Again she wrote him on May 31, 1896:
I have communications which have been written for one and two years, but I have felt that for your sake they ought to be withheld until some one could stand by your side who could clearly distinguish Bible principles from principles of human manufacture, and who, with sharp discernment could separate the strangely perverted, human imaginations, which have been working for years, from things of divine origin. …
Brother Olsen, you speak of my return to America. For three years I stood in Battle Geek as a witness for the truth [1888-1891]. Those who then refused to receive the testimony given me by God for them, and rejected the evidences attending these testimonies, would not be benefited should I return. …
To a large degree the General Conference Association has lost its sacred character, because some connected with it have not changed their sentiments in any particular since the Conference held at Minneapolis. …
I have been shown that the people at large do not know that the heart of the work is being diseased and corrupted at Battle Creek.2
Ellen White later wrote to I. H. Evans saying that her only regret was that she had entrusted vital communications to president Olsen instead of sending out testimonies to the field that the people themselves might know what was going on in Battle Creek. Elder Olsen had “rejected” the trust placed with him, according to the autographed copy of the letter in the White Estate file (Letter E51, 1897). In another autographed carbon copy in a private collection, she crossed out the word “rejected” and wrote in her own handwriting, “neglected.” What was the mysterious reason that motivated this continued official resistance/neglect of the Holy Spirit?
It will be recalled that Froom sets forth the high ethical standard he was to follow, mandated by Daniells. His book was to be “one that would honor God and exalt truth” (p. 17):
Regrettable Ploy of Reconstructed History.—History has sometimes been reconstructed by attempted selectivity—that is, by using out of context or intent such citations as suit an objective— in an attempt to sustain a particular assumption or theory. But such a practice is neither ethical nor honest. … As men of integrity, we must have no part in such manipulation of historical episodes. Servants of the God of truth must ever use quotations, evidence, and lines of argument in such a way as to honor Truth and its Author (pp. 364, 365).
This of course is beyond dispute. Nothing is gained by expressing criticism of Dr. Froom’s work. But we can all learn a lesson in contrition. Multitudes of Christians in popular churches place undue reliance on preconceived judgments that cannot endure the test of truth. How can we Seventh-day Adventists help them unless we ourselves are loyal to truth, even at the cost of personal sacrifice or reputation?
Dr. Froom had charged the authors of this manuscript to retract publicly their insistence that the leadership rejected the 1888 message. His demand was openly recognized as directed specifically to these present authors (Seminary Studies, Andrews University, January, 1972, p. 121). It reads as follows:
An explicit confession is due the Church today by promulgators of a misleading charge, first of all against the names of the post-1888 leadership, now all sleeping. Moreover, it is likewise due those in the Church today who have been confused and misled by such an allegation. In the ultimate, then, it actually constitutes an impeachment of the dead. That is a gravely serious matter (p. 358).
The authors were duty-bound to respond to such an official demand from Adventism’s most noted scholar, especially when endorsed by the General Conference officers. In late 1972 they prepared their essay entitled, “An Explicit Confession … Due the Church.” They reiterated their conviction that the facts of our history constitute a clarion call to corporate and denominational repentance. Copies were personally delivered to General Conference officers, who urged that it not be published, and called a series of special committee hearings in Takoma Park to consider the evidence, which meetings took place over a period of several years. The officers and the committees considered the Ellen White evidence and were impressed by it, but again urged that Explicit Confession not be published. Then after suppressing Explicit Confession they republished Movement of Destiny with no change in its basic thesis.
Two significant developments in particular grew out of this aroused interest in the 1888 history.
For two years following these special committees, the Annual Councils issued very serious appeals to the world church, calling for revival, reformation, and repentance. There was an unusual earnestness and solemnity evident in them. However, candor requires us to recognize that the results have been disappointing.
Committee appeals have seldom been effective in producing revival or reformation among either the ministry or the laity, because administrative policy can never effect reconciliation with Christ. However, in these Annual Council appeals there was a serious misreading of the fads of our denominational history, which logically defeated the objectives of the appeals. The problem appears on the surface to be minor, but it is significant. We quote from the 1973 Appeal:
In the four years following the historic Minneapolis General Conference, the fresh, compelling emphasis on “righteousness by faith” had aroused the Adventist Church in such a way that Ellen White could say that the “loud cry” had begun! (emphasis added).
The error here is not one of semantics. Ellen White never said that the 1888 message “aroused the Adventist Church.” She said the opposite: “Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit” (1 SM 234, 235). The message was never allowed to arouse the church.
But that is not the most serious problem of logic in this Appeal. There is a failure to identify correctly what was the “loud cry.” We mention this, not to find fault with sincere and earnest endeavors, but because the hour is too late to afford the same error again.
The “beginning” of the latter rain and the loud cry was not a subjective revival that supposedly “aroused the Adventist Church;” it was the objective message itself. This is evident even in the Ellen White statement quoted in the Appeal:
The loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth. (RH November 22, 1892; emphasis added).
Why this is so important can be readily seen:
(a) If the beginning of the loud cry was the “arousal” of the church, its dying out so soon becomes very bad news. It implies that a genuine revival is more elusive than a cure for cancer, and that when the Holy Spirit is allowed to work (as is supposed in the 1890’s), He Himself gets tired and abandons the revival. Why should an “aroused church fail to give the loud cry and finish the Lord’s commission?
(b) But if the “beginning” of the loud cry is faithfully recognized for what it was in fact, the 1888 message itself, immediately we have hope, for we can recover and proclaim the objective message as it is recorded in the existent sources. The power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in “the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2: 14; Romans 1:16).
However, the Annual Councils of 1973 and 1974 did nothing practical and effective to recover and promulgate the 1888 message itself. Rather, they inadvertently ensured that the vacuum would be filled with an infusion of Calvinist “Reformationism.” The 1888 message has never been freely and clearly proclaimed to the world church with full General Conference support.
The second outgrowth of this 1973-74 interest in 1888 was in consequence of the misunderstanding evident above. Recognizing that the church needs “righteousness by faith,” the General Conference convened the Palmdale Conference in 1976 where certain theologians dominated the discussions and demanded support for their “Reformationist,” Calvinist views of “justification by faith.”
They claimed that their views were a true revival of the 1888 message content, when in fact they were a denial of every basic essential of that “most precious message.” But their prominence in Australia and North America gave them wide influence throughout the world field. The general ignorance of the 1888 essentials plus an antipathy for “legalism” created the vacuum into which these “Reformationist” ideas rushed.
Time soon demonstrated how these views are incompatible with the Adventist truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary. If the General Conference and our publishing houses had appreciated the unique content of the 1888 message itself and faithfully published and upheld it, these views could never have taken deep root in North America, Europe, Africa, the Far East, and the South Pacific. Misreading the history of the 1890’s resulted in repeating that history, with even more tragic consequences. We can document the loss of hundreds of ministers, and no one knows how many laity and youth.
There is a root from which these Calvinist views of righteousness by faith can be traced: the General Conference and White Estate insistence for decades that the 1888 message was only a re- emphasis of popular Protestant views. Our theologians in the 1970’s were only building on a foundation laid for them beginning in the 1920’s.
Yet another publication was to deal with 1888, the biography of Ellen White, The Lonely Years, 1876-1891, by Arthur L. White. Elder White’s contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church is beyond an adequate estimate. During a long and distinguished career he has been an agent of the Lord in building confidence in the world-wide church in the Spirit of Prophecy. As the grandson of Ellen White he enjoys a unique distinction as the foremost authority on her writings. He is respected world-wide. In three chapters of this volume he discusses the 1888 history. But first “certain points of background and developments should be considered” (p. 394). Then follow 14 points, some of which probe to the foundation of our denominational mission (pp. 394-397). We will note briefly a few miscellaneous points from this section of the book:
“(1) The subject of righteousness by faith … was but one of many pressing matters that called for attention of the delegates.” Point (10) continues: “It would seem that disproportionate emphasis has come to be given to the experience of the Minneapolis General Conference session. “We would inquire: What is the true eschatalogical significance of the 1888 message? Is not the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry the one matter of paramount importance?
“(4) While the business of the conference … was broad and significant, the feelings and attitudes of those present were molded by the theological discussions.” Need we point out that in this lies the significance of the session then, and its abiding importance for the church now? Unless our “theological discussions” are sound, our business administration cannot accomplish the gospel commission and cannot be blessed.
“(6) Information concerning just what took place at Minneapolis … has come largely from the E. G. White documents and the memory statements of a few who were present.” Our present dilemma as a people stems from a failure to give due weight to that inspired perspective communicated through her ministry, and a disproportionate reliance on the uninspired opinions of others.
“(7) No official action was taken in regard to the theological questions discussed.” Thus the oft- repeated statement implies that no actual responsible rejection took place. As we have previously noted, such votes were taken “with uplifted hand” (GCB 1893, pp. 244,265)—but not recorded solely due to Ellen White’s veto.
We note the next statement in full:
(8) The concept that the General Conference, and thus the denomination, rejected the message of righteousness by faith in 1888 is without foundation and was not projected until forty years after the Minneapolis meeting, and thirteen years after Ellen White’s death. Contemporary records yield no suggestion of denominational rejection. There is no E. G. White statement anywhere that says this was so. The concept of such rejection has been put forward by individuals, none of whom where present at Minneapolis, and in the face of the witness of responsible men who were there (p. 396).
Objective evidence indicates that:
(a) The real issue is the acceptance or rejection of the latter rain and the loud cry, not the Protestant “doctrine” that the 1888 rejectors professed to believe.
(b) Ellen White herself at Minneapolis said the message was being rejected by “the ministers generally who have come to this meeting;” they “have come to this meeting to discard light;” “opposition … is the order of the day” (Letter B21, 1888; Mss. 9, 15, 1888).
(c) The 1893 Bulletin contains a number of statements of “contemporaries” who confessed that the message had been rejected and was being resisted still by the responsible leadership of the church—this was a mere four years later. No one raised his voice at the 1893 session to protest that the message had been accepted or was being accepted. The 1901 Bulletin contains similar statements.
But this is not all. The latest edition of Testimonies to Ministers has an addition that previous editions lacked—an “Historical Foreword” and “Appendix Notes” designed to help the reader avoid the clear conviction that reading Ellen White’s text brings: “These notes will aid the reader in ascertaining correctly the intent of the author in the messages here presented.”
How this works will be seen by an example. On page 468 occurs this clear 1890 statement: “It is the fashion to depart from Christ. … With many the cry of the heart has been, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ … Righteousness by the faith of the Son of God, has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected.” The Appendix note cautions the reader to be careful. Apparently he should not too readily believe what the text says: “While some took the attitude here referred to there were many who received the message and gained a great blessing in their own personal experience” (p. 533). This directly counters many statements in the text.
This can only breed dismay among thoughtful church members who have a right to expect literary integrity, for they can read the contradicting evidence for themselves in the full context of Ellen White’s words.
There is another denial of a straightforward Ellen White statement about the 1888 history. On March 16,1890 she said, “Christ …has a blessing for us. He had it at Minneapolis, and He had it for us at the time of the General Conference here . But there was no reception” (emphasis added). This statement is made available in Release No. 253, but a footnote counters it: “The wording of this sentence is clearly faulty for, isolated, it is out of harmony with what follows and other of her statements relating to the General Conference of 1889.”
However, the entire document in context clearly supports this statement as it reads. The context indicates that its wording cannot be faulty. Always the “some” who accepted were a few of lesser influence, while those who rejected were the “many” of influence.
But the matter does not end here. In 1980, Selected Messages, Book Three, was published with a 33-page chapter on “The Minneapolis Conference.” Seven pages are again taken up with additional inserted “Historical Backgrounds.” Although there was a “tragic setback,” a “gradual change for the better … ensued in the five or six years after Minneapolis” (p. 162). Yet Ellen White’s strongest testimonies of reproof for post-1888 unbelief are dated seven or eight years after Minneapolis. (Ellen White’s clear reference to a negative “vote” taken at Minneapolis is deleted from her Ms. 24,1888 document that forms the bulk of the chapter; cf. p. 176).
Again we are reminded that we must all seek the Lord’s guidance in our search for vital truth. It would seem that 1888 presents a problem unique in the long history of God’s confrontations with His people. There is a precious truth involved therein that seems more elusive than any in the history of past ages. How else could it be possible that scholars and leaders who possess the most outstanding opportunities for knowledge in all time should fail to recognize the obvious evidence? Repentance is incumbent on all of us; we should all inquire, “Lord, is it I?”
Incidentally, those who are confused about reports of Ellen White’s occasional literary borrowing would find the true 1888 history helpful in resolving their doubts. Her integrity and qualifications as an agent of the gift of prophecy are uniquely demonstrated in her role in that history. Without any human help whatever, she threaded her way unerringly through the theological pitfalls inherent in that difficult controversy. Her courage in standing alone against “nearly all the senior ministers” in a General Conference session is fantastic.
Her extemporaneous sermons were taken down in shorthand and transcribed for us today. Who else could preach ten sermons without notes in the emotional heat of theological battle with every word recorded, plus writing scores of extant letters and diary entries, and stand clear of the slightest embarrassment a hundred years later? There is not an unfortunate word in any of them. Her enthusiastic endorsement of the message, against great odds, is miraculously in harmony with the keenest, most competent theology of today. Never does that little lady stand so tall as in this 1888 history.
How can we explain the almost superhuman official efforts since 1950 to contradict the inspired Ellen White evidence about 1888? Could it be that the enemy of the plan of salvation has a vested interest in covering up this significant truth? Could it be that knowing the real truth has a definite bearing on our personal and corporate relationship to Jesus Christ, and Satan knows this?
Our mishandling of the evidence is more serious than financial fiascoes. Were our enemies to research this history, we would be embarrassed. Our poor relation to truth keeps us in an unrepentant, lukewarm Laodicean state. The simple solution is an honest faith that includes a belief of truth and an open, contrite recognition of it. The hour is late, but thank God it is not too late for a new spirit of fidelity.
We have been told that the unfallen universe is watching. The honor of the Lord Himself is at stake. We know that someday there must be a people in whose “mouth [is] found no guile” (Revelation 14:5).
To consider “righteousness by faith” as merely the Protestant doctrine is to miss the point. Yet this has been the constant official approach to 1888. An example of far-reaching spiritual blindness is a quotation from A. W. Spalding (Origin and History, Vol. 2, p. 281). Note how this position contradicts the heart of the 1888 message itself:
Justification by faith, the foundation truth of salvation through Christ, is the most difficult of all truths to keep in the experience of the Christian. It is easy of profession, but elusive in application (quoted in The Lonely Years, p. 415).
No one who understands the 1888 message could possibly express such a thought, for it contradicts our Lord’s words that His “yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). If Spalding’s statement is in any way true, we face a terrible problem. The message of “justification by faith … is the third angel’s message in verity” (RH April 1, 1890). So we have the awesome task of proclaiming to the world “the most difficult of all truths,” the most “elusive in application’‘—bad news! Yet the third angel’s message is first of all “the everlasting gospel,” good news which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
It is this distorted understanding of the 1888 message which makes us “modern ancient Israel.”
Our history is as much a part of the great sacred record of the battle between truth and error as is the crossing of the Red Sea by Israel, and their descendants’ stoning of Stephen many centuries later. The root fads of our last century’s history are now beginning to filter through to the world-wide church. The question now is, Will we accept our history, or will we also “stone Stephen”?
After a century of delay, it is time to see how the cause of God is imperiled. We have already witnessed the first-fruit of the 1888 rejection in the “alpha” pantheistic crisis of the early 1900’s. Now we are in the time when the “omega” is due. The “alpha” was “received even by men who …had long experience in the truth, … those whom we thought sound in the faith” (Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 37). “The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given” (No. 2, p. 50). The great controversy continues and the dragon is wroth with the “woman” and will spare no efforts to win.
We were told in the “alpha” days that the truth would be discarded; books of a new order would be written; a system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced; the Sabbath would be lightly regarded; the leaders would concede that virtue is better than vice, but they would place their dependence on human power (cf. Series B, No. 2, pp. 54, 55).
We see these words fulfilled today.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1). He has told us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). The beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry was not Madison Avenue strategy and demographics; it was a clear understanding of good news, an actual message itself, something which every believer however humble could employ efficiently.
Inherent in that beautiful, heart-appealing “good news” message is the experience of the final atonement. The blood of Christ is to purge the conscience from dead works. The message is not merely to prepare a people for death, but for translation, and the power is in the objective message itself. Billions of dollars spent on the latest electronic and graphics communications will never lighten the earth with glory until “the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth” is wholeheartedly, humbly received and appreciated.
The Lord’s method of true and lasting church growth is simplicity itself. Note how a true message of righteousness by faith will be the “light” that will do the work:
We shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love [agape], we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love [agape] (Ephesians 4:14-16, TEV).
Meanwhile, good angels are commissioned to restrain the terrible winds of strife that will someday soon break loose. They are straining their powers to hold back the impending ruin that comes with drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual immorality and infidelity, crime, idolatrous materialism, corruption, and fearful pestilences. The most important work in the world is the work of that angel who seals the servants of God preparatory to the coming of Christ (Revelation 7:14). What little time of peace and prosperity we still have left is borrowed time, ours only for finishing His work. And world stability depends on the fidelity of God’s people to the truth, to their message and their mission.
Something must happen in the end-time that has never happened before. Millenniums of defeat must be reversed. This is the only way the cleansing of the sanctuary can be completed. Daniel’s prophecy declares that it “shall” be done (8:14). The Lord will purify His church so that it may give the last message to lighten the earth.
God’s work can be finished in an incredibly short time. But it will require the repentance of the ages, an understanding of truth for which, in our imagined prosperity and success, we have not felt a hunger and thirst. It will require the correction of theological confusion and a humbling of hearts. It will require the abandonment of worldly policies and their man-made strategies. It will produce a true and lasting unity and harmony among believers. Discordant “pluralism” will vanish. Every species of legalism will die. Fanaticism will discredit itself and die away.
Finally, the ultimate experience awaiting the church is like that which Jesus went through at Gethsemane. Only His very own will be willing to accept it, but He has staked the honor of His throne on His confidence that they will.
Facing the cross is what Peter would not accept, until he was converted. He denied his Lord; only a similar modern denial of Christ can account for the supreme self-centered motivation that continually expresses the concern that “I get to heaven.” It was heaven that Christ forsook with no assurance that He would ever return—so that sin and death might be eradicated from the universe. True faith in Him is not centered on our receiving a reward.
Now the last, the seventh church, is on the scene, and we are surely in the last moments that can be allotted to her. There is no eighth.
When His people gladly accept all the truth that He has for them, they will fulfill the same role that Christ filled when He was on earth. That “short period of three years was as long as the world could endure the presence of the Redeemer” (DA 541).
When the power of Satan is broken among the Lord’s people, the unbelieving world will not be able longer to endure their presence. They will have demonstrated true righteousness by faith, that closer intimacy with the world’s Saviour that He still offers as He continues knocking at our door.
How much longer will He knock?
1 Dr. Froom wrote to the present authors on December 4, 1964, before the publication of his Movement of Destiny, demanding a retraction of the positions they had taken in 1888 Re-examined. We were required to “make a public and published disavowal … of certain conclusions advanced by you [that is, that the 1888 leadership rejected the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry]. … Ere long the full, documented story of the 1888 episode will doubtless be put into print. And unless you have modified your presentation, you may find yourself in a most unenviable position. The contrast will be marked.” On April 16, 1965 he wrote to us further: “In my view, you had better act first, and without much delay. … Your contention … stands out like a sore thumb, conspicuously alone, and in conflict with the virtually unanimous verdict of our scholars. … You have a lot of temerity to contradict the findings of this whole group of men. … I … feel … no obligation to share any further evidence with you. … Your unhappy plight makes me think of Elijah’s situation. … He sharply disagreed with the historians and the experts in Israel about the situation. He was right, he felt, and they were all wrong. He only was loyally left, and was maligned and persecuted because of his claims and conclusions. … Elijah thus actually defamed and vilified Israel, and gave a misleading and blackening report. He bore an untrue witness, casting aspersion upon Israel and its leadership [Ahab and Jezebel?]. … You should cease, retreat, and retract.” He claimed that he spoke with the authority of the General Conference behind him, as indeed their unprecedented endorsement of his book soon demonstrated.
One of us replied on May 10, 1965: “To retract on the basis of fear without inspired evidence would hardly … be the right thing … to do. … The Lord has never asked a man to do such a thing. In fact, a man can very well ruin his soul by yielding to a pressure of fear and anxiety, and cravenly retracting, without evidence, what he has held in good conscience.” On November 10, 1965, the same author wrote to Dr. Froom: “I have repeated my willingness to retract if you will let me see clear evidence from the Spirit of Prophecy. You have categorically refused to let me see such evidence. … It seems strange to me and to others that you should demand I ‘retract’ while at the same time you deny me evidence which you say you have in unpublished Ellen G. White material that would require of an honest conscience such a retraction. … My prayer is that in the final outcome of this matter [God’s] name be honored.” When Movement of Destiny appeared in print, the documentary “evidence” was completely absent. [return to text]
2 These documents were placed in Dr. Froom’s hands on February 21, 1965, before he published his book and receipt acknowledged. They were also placed in the hands of General Conference leadership in 1973 before they republished it. One General Conference president has withdrawn his endorsement from the revised edition. [return to text]